Parapsychology Journalism: The People, The Theory, The Science, The Skeptics
This is a follow up to two previous posts: The first was: The Psi Wars Come to TED The second was: TED Swings the Banhammer: It Rebounds Into Their Face
For those of you who are not Sci-Fi fanatics, here’s Wikipedia to the rescue:
Under unrelenting pressure soaring to over a thousand comments, as well as a great deal of negativity on the web where the psi blogosphere united to condemn the censorship, TED finally realized that it wasn’t going to blow over or go away and relented . . . sort of. They’re hoping to jump into their time machine for a do over. Here’s the relevant passage in the blog post TED put out today:
What happened next was unfortunate. We wrote to the TEDx organizer indicating our intention and asking her to take the talks off Youtube so that we could repost. She informed the speakers of what was coming, but somehow the part about the talks staying online got lost in translation. Graham Hancock put out an immediate alert that he was about to be “censored”, his army of passionate supporters deluged us with outraged messages, and we then felt compelled to accelerate our blog post and used language that in retrospect was clumsy. We suggested that we were flagging the talks because of “factual errors” but some of the specific examples we gave were less than convincing. Instead of the thoughtful conversation we had hoped for, we stirred up angry responses from the speakers and their supporters.
We would like to try again.
We plan to repost both talks in individual posts on our blog tomorrow, Tuesday; note a couple of areas where scientists or the community have raised questions or concerns about the talks; and invite a reasoned discussion from the community. And there will be a simple rule regarding responses. Reason only. No insults, no intemperate language. From either side. Comments that violate this will be removed. 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
We will use the reasoned comments in this conversation to help frame both our guidelines going forward, and our process for managing talks that are called into question.
“Army of passionate supporters?” Huh? TED seems to think Hancock has a bunch of groupies that follow him around and hang on his every word. Same with Sheldrake. While these are both fine gentlemen, I’m sure, and I would treat them to dinner if they ever came this way, (Buck’s Restaurant is way cool) I, and nearly every other protesting commenter were not motivated by our undying love for them. Rather, we were reacting to a clumsy and obvious skeptical power play hell bent on suppressing these two talks. That’s the real reason that everyone was so pissed off.
Sheldrake was not fooled either. In his response he wrote:
This discussion is taking place because the militant atheist bloggers Jerry Coyne and P.Z. Myers denounced me, and attacked TED for giving my talk a platform.
The original discussion area has been revised to include Sheldrake’s and Hancock’s full responses and cross out the criticisms for both Sheldrake and Hancock. Can’t argue with that response. It’s a pretty fair thing to do.
TED is also distinguishing between scientists, on the one hand and the community on the other. Just a head’s up TED; the rabble is amazingly well educated. That community is full of scientists.
The blog, if you take the time to read it, reeks of backpedaling and revisionist history.
Nowhere do they explain why their science board cooked up their ridiculous reasons for taking down the videos in the first place. I mean, seriously? None of these fine, exceedingly well educated people thought to, you know, go through the videos to see if their accusations were true? Or, here’s a thought, ask the presenters for more information? So poorly thought out were these reasons that Hancock destroyed them with two words: “Show me.” Unsurprisingly, Sheldrake was able to produce the mysterious studies that the science board believed didn’t exist. And on and on. The reasons for taking the videos down in the first place were pure crap and everyone knew it.
It is glaringly obvious that this “scientific board” decided first that the videos were unscientific based on their emotional prejudices, and then went looking for reasons to justify this action. It is not especially explainable any other way.
The good news is that TED is hopping in their time machine for a do over. The bad news is that they may be looking for other, more supportable, but ultimately crap reasons for taking the videos down. I say this because I have seen no hint of change in the overall condescending attitude. They will be back where they started if they do that, but they don’t know it yet.
To TED’s credit, they are continuing the dialog instead of just shutting it all down. Half-assed censorship is way better than full censorship and they deserve credit for that.
Either way, what has been happening is just incredible. First, a shout out to all the amazing blogs that have been covering this: (Thanks to Sandy for collecting a lot of these.)
(If I’ve missed any, let me know and I’ll add them.)
Second, here’s a shout out to all the people who have been commenting and have been pressuring TED to not kowtow to these skeptics.
We’ll have to do this again. And again, and again. Each time we’ll have more people on our side and we’ll make a little more noise. At some point, we’ll be loud enough that our wrath will be more unpleasant than allowing us a place at the table. It’s a long road, but we just took a big step. I’ve never seen anything like it.