Not-for-profit talks and performances organisation TED have come under fire for the apparent censorship of talks by writer Graham Hancock and controversial scientist Rupert Sheldrake. Sheldrake was discussing his brilliant 2012 book, The Science Delusion, which criticises hidden dogmas in contemporary thinking about science, whilst Hancock was examining our understanding of consciousness, but they have both been pulled from the TEDx YouTube, and yesterday reposted instead on the TED blog, under the title ‘Open for discussion’
The talks were not from any official TED event, but from the TEDx affiliate programme – TEDxWhitechapel and TED say they took the decision “after due diligence, including a survey of published scientific research and recommendations from our Science Board and our community.”
TED have been adamant that they are “not censoring the talks”, pointing out that they are simply attempting to reframe them “to highlight both their provocative ideas and the factual problems with their arguments”. Online commenters however have countered by arguing that TED are attempting to hide the talks away from their 268,000 YouTube subscribers. If that is what they were trying to do, the 391 comments (and counting) suggest that the ploy has failed.
Graham Hancock, in comments on the blog, has also taken issue with the veracity of TED’s criteria for the film being removed, asking TED to identify exactly where he has stated what they have claimed he has stated. Certainly, their rationale suggests that they haven't actually watched the talks particularly carefully. Chris Anderson, Curator at TED, replied, citing the might of Wikipedia, whilst simultaneously apologising for being very busy: “We’ll try to get you some more detailed comments early next week,” he wrote.
For any follower of Sheldrake’s work, such controversy will come as no surprise – he has routinely been shunned by the ‘scientific community’, Nature describing his 1981 book A New Science of Life in which he outlines his theory of morphic resonance, as no less than “a book for burning”. Now TED have tarred Sheldrake and Hancock with the same ‘pseudoscience’ brush, and in the process potentially damaged their own reputation for openness to alternative ideas. Which is ironic, given that Hancock's talk ends with a passionate invocation of "the hard-won right of freedom of speech"...
Click here to watch the videos and read the reaction in full.
Read Graham Hancock's open letter to Chris Anderson.