TED Talks: Graham Hancock and Rupert Sheldrake, a fresh take

For those of you who took TED to task for taking down the Rupert Sheldrake and Graham Hancock TEDx talks, you’ve partially succeeded: TED has at least addressed the censorship issue (below), saying

The goal here is to have an open conversation about:

- the line between science and pseudoscience

- how far TED and TEDx should go in giving exposure to unorthodox ideas

But they haven’t restored the videos themselves. Yet.

The hardest line to draw is science versus pseudoscience. TED is committed to science. But we think of it as a process, not as a locked-in body of truth. The scientific method is a means of advancing understanding. Of asking for evidence. Of testing ideas to see which stack up and which should be abandoned. Over time that process has led to a rich understanding of the world, but one that is constantly being refined and upgraded. There’s a sense in which all scientific truth is provisional, and open to revision if new facts arise. And that is why it’s often hard to make a judgement on what is a valuable contribution to science, and what is misleading, or worthless.

Some speakers use the language of science to promote views that are simply incompatible with all reasonable understanding of the world. Giving them a platform is counterproductive. But there are also instances where scientific assumptions get turned upside down. How do we separate between these two? We have done two things as a tentative answer to this question:

- we’ve issued a set of guidelines to TEDx organizers.

- and we’ve appointed a board of scientific advisers. They are (deliberately) anonymous, for obvious reasons, but they are respected working scientists, and writers about science, from a range of fields, with no brief other than to help us make these judgements. If a talk gets flagged they will advise on whether we should act or not.

When Sheldrake and Hancock’s talks were flagged, the majority of the board recommended we remove them from circulation, pointing out questionable suggestions and arguments in both talks. But there was a counter view that removing talks that had already been posted would lead to accusations of censorship. It’s also the case that both speakers explicitly take on mainstream scientific opinion. This gives them a stronger reason to be listened to than those who simply use scientific sounding language to make nonsensical claims. So we decided we would not remove the talks from the web altogether, but simply transfer them to our own site where they could be framed in a way which included the critique of our board, but still allow for an open conversation about them.

What happened next was unfortunate…

[continues at the TED blog]

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  • BuzzCoastin

    TED has cred with the mainstream
    that’s enough to damn it right there

    who pays $6K for a membership?
    not Joe Sixpack or even those who like Hancock & Sheldrake
    it’s an elitist forum with an elite membership
    that likes to go slumming from time to time with the likes of Hancock & Sheldrake
    only to repudiate them when they’ve had their fun with them

  • BuzzCoastin

    TED has cred with the mainstream
    that’s enough to damn it right there

    who pays $6K for a membership?
    not Joe Sixpack or even those who like Hancock & Sheldrake
    it’s an elitist forum with an elite membership
    that likes to go slumming from time to time with the likes of Hancock & Sheldrake
    only to repudiate them when they’ve had their fun with them

    • rtb61

      Mental masturbation for the rich and greedy so they can pretend that greed equals intelligence, the greater the greed the greater the intelligence.

    • rtb61

      Mental masturbation for the rich and greedy so they can pretend that greed equals intelligence, the greater the greed the greater the intelligence.

  • jnana

    I don’t think Hancock made any totally outlandish, obviously unscientific claims. he upset people for “encouraging illegal drug use” because DMT is illegal, even if it is endogenous(is that the word, not gonna look it up, will wing it and stake my intellectual pride)
    of course, he did bring up a very good question for the scientific community that they simply are unwilling to face for some reason. are consciousness altering plants, specifically the entheogenic sort, beneficial? if so, why and how? if not, why not and how are they not? the scientific community seems unwilling to attempt to answer this question. WHY IS THAT?
    I may disagree w/ Hancock, I may not cause I haven’t read much by him, but I will say he’s deserving of respect, in my opinion. this may be going out on a limb, but I think its possible to make comparisons b/w the persecution of those who advocate consciousness expansion through the aid of plant entheogens and the persecution of the early Christian church by the Roman Empire. I admire the Native American Church and perhaps those who truly believe in the sacred plants’ value should demand the free exercise of their 1st Amendment Rights. Perhaps develop sacred settings and sacred rituals and pray for Divine Guidance in this matter. But if plant entheogens really are a gift of God, I would advise those who enjoy that gift to remember “the Empire has never ended” and blessed are the persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for so they persecuted those prophets who came way before you.

  • jnana

    I don’t think Hancock made any totally outlandish, obviously unscientific claims. he upset people for “encouraging illegal drug use” because DMT is illegal, even if it is endogenous(is that the word, not gonna look it up, will wing it and stake my intellectual pride)
    of course, he did bring up a very good question for the scientific community that they simply are unwilling to face for some reason. are consciousness altering plants, specifically the entheogenic sort, beneficial? if so, why and how? if not, why not and how are they not? the scientific community seems unwilling to attempt to answer this question. WHY IS THAT?
    I may disagree w/ Hancock, I may not cause I haven’t read much by him, but I will say he’s deserving of respect, in my opinion. this may be going out on a limb, but I think its possible to make comparisons b/w the persecution of those who advocate consciousness expansion through the aid of plant entheogens and the persecution of the early Christian church by the Roman Empire. I admire the Native American Church and perhaps those who truly believe in the sacred plants’ value should demand the free exercise of their 1st Amendment Rights. Perhaps develop sacred settings and sacred rituals and pray for Divine Guidance in this matter. But if plant entheogens really are a gift of God, I would advise those who enjoy that gift to remember “the Empire has never ended” and blessed are the persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for so they persecuted those prophets who came way before you.

    • http://www.sacredgeometryinternational.com/ Camron Wiltshire

      War on Consciousness indeed.

    • kowalityjesus

      I think plant entheogens are the inevitable societal bombshell that futurists most grievously overlook.

  • Jesse

    I was a little questionable of Hancock at the opening
    he made a few broad accusations which were ‘uncouth’ for the setting
    pulled it together nicely by the end
    it created a great tension for the message to sink in
    the ‘ideas WORTH spreading’ should have been the first sign it was to their judgement scale

    Sheldrake seemed pretty on the money
    anything scientific in a British accent sounds legitimate

  • Jesse

    A good scientist is one who has freed his mind of concepts
    and sees the world as it is
    Drugs are part of that
    They been a part of our history for too long to not be a topic of legitimate discussion
    DMT isn’t something you do every Friday night
    Its potential benefits far out-way its known negatives
    the message that it’s necessary might be true for our current situation
    certainly would expidite a change of some kind
    But it’s messages can be drawn for all of life if you pay attention

  • echar

    The after what happened next part sounds way too convenient.

    some of the specific examples we gave were less than convincing.

    like this attempt to make themselves look good.

  • http://www.facebook.com/flaxorcist Matt Flax

    Eddie Huang said on the Joe Rogan Podcast that spending time at a TED conference is akin to being under Cult control.
    Fuck TED. Hancock and Sheldrake rule!

  • http://www.facebook.com/flaxorcist Matt Flax

    Eddie Huang said on the Joe Rogan Podcast that spending time at a TED conference is akin to being under Cult control.
    Fuck TED. Hancock and Sheldrake rule!

  • JoiquimCouteau

    “The hardest line to draw is science vs. pseudoscience”

    Yeah, which is why they’ve never drawn it before. “Science” consists of parroting NIH decrees and Bill Gates’ vision for the world; “pseudoscience” is anything that might possibly contradict the worldview of NIH officials and Bill Gates.