Parapsychology Journalism: The People, The Theory, The Science, The Skeptics
TED, the parent organization, is removing the license of TEDxWestHollywood only a couple of weeks before their planned event “Brother, Can You Spare a Paradigm?” after they had spent more than a year preparing. Tickets are already on sale. After summarily dismissing the program with no recompense at all for monies that had been expended, they amended their stance to offer a fraction of the operating costs in compensation and all because they deem the program to be . . . wait for it . . . unscientific. Does this sound familiar? It does indeed. This is the same charge that was leveled at Rupert Sheldrake and Graham Hancock when TED first pulled their videos. (Link here.)
In an email to Suzanne Taylor, the organizer of TEDxWestHollywood, a representative of TED outlined the objections:
(…) And when we look at your speaker line-up, we see several people who promote — as fact — theories that are well outside what most scientists would accept as credible. We’re not saying all the speakers are off-base. Perhaps you could make a case for each of them individually. But when we look at the program as a whole, it’s clear that it doesn’t meet our guidelines.The problem is not the challenging of orthodox views. We believe in that. We’ve had numerous talks which do that. But we have rules about the presentation of science on the TEDx stage. We disallow speakers who use the language of science to claim they have proven the truth of ideas that are speculative and which have failed to gain significant scientific acceptance.
More than 2000 TEDx events will take place in the year ahead. If your program is allowed to proceed, it will truly damage other TEDx organizers’ ability to recruit scientists and other speakers. (Indeed many in the TED and TEDx communities have already reached out to us to express their concern.)
We have reluctantly concluded that your program is not appropriate for TEDx, and we have to therefore terminate your license. You are of course welcome to still hold an event with these speakers. You just can’t associate it with TEDx. We are happy to work with you to figure out how to smoothly transition it into an event under a different name. I’ll be happy to speak with you directly to facilitate this.
This line in particular is telling:
Perhaps you could make a case for each of them individually. But when we look at the program as a whole, it’s clear that it doesn’t meet our guidelines.
It’s basically an admission that the parent organization is not prepared to argue their case factually. As science is, at its most fundamental level, about the facts and details, it’s rather curious that they would make a case for being on the side of science, but avoid addressing the science. It’s the same thing they’re doing with the Sheldrake/Hancock controversy. Sheldrake has asked for an opportunity to debate, but has been met with silence.
So what is the fuss all about? (here is her lineup of speakers.) Although TED refused to “name names” in their dismissal, whereby an argument could be made, it surely has to do with three of the speakers who are scientists, about whom they earlier had raised eyebrows asking for justification for their place on the program with the caution that if they weren’t pleased with the end results they would not post the talks on their YouTube page. Pulling the program was never brought up. The three are: Russell Targ, who will talk on the reality of ESP and Larry Dossey, who will talk on the revolution in consciousness and Marilyn Schlitz, who is a social anthropologist and psi researcher, speaking on “How do we shift our paradigm.” All three have the proper credentials along with ability to speak to the evidence and present their views using credible science. They, more than the other speakers, represent the real threat to the Materialists/skeptics at TED. However, in addition, TED also had objections to Marianne Williamson and Paul Nugent although neither was giving a science talk. This is the pertinent email to Suzanne Taylor:
We will be especially interested to hear about the ideas that Marianne Williamson, Russell Targ, Larry Dossey, Paul Nugent, and Marilyn Schlitz will be presenting.We feel that the pseudoscience struggle is an important one. TED and TEDx cannot be platforms that give undo legitimacy to false evidence and selective logic — regardless of brilliant packaging.
You can now add these speakers to the growing list of people that TED is using its influence to censor via withdrawing their support.
My best guess is that TED intends to take down the Sheldrake and Hancock talks at the end of the debate, but would not have much of a case if they went ahead and allowed the lineup of the TEDxWestHollywood event. Allowing Larry Dossey and Russell Targ, but censoring Sheldrake and Hancock would not make any sense at all. They seem to be on a slash and burn campaign dedicated to preserving their materialistic point of view, even though it has become increasingly indefensible over the years.
From a business standpoint, TED is destroying their brand with this nonsense. With their motto, “ideas worth spreading” it looks like the worst sort of hypocrisy to the people who disagree with them. It is a bad idea to piss off such a large section of their audience. This part of their audience by the way, is the demographic that seeks out novel ideas and experiments with new things. They are early adopters; the trend setters. This group, that TED is antagonizing, is the absolute sweet spot of marketing. If they abandon TED, the company will suffer disproportionally for their loss. And for what? To defend an ideology? It’s madness.
What these actions by TED mean to the large group of people, including myself, who support these ideas about consciousness and physics is that we are being totally disrespected. Our ideas are deemed unscientific for essentially nonsense reasons; we’re labeled anti-science, woo or other similar derogatory terms; they censor our popular speakers and won’t even to defend their position. The completely reprehensible action that TED is taking against TEDxWestHollywood is the most egregarious example of this. We have enough influence and power right now to make them regret this and this is a good place to draw that line in the sand. We don’t have to take it anymore.
Please show your support and help Suzanne Taylor get her program off the ground without TED. You can make your tax deductible donation at: www.TEDxWestHollywood.com
If any of the TEDxWestHollywood links fail, you can find the information at Theconversation.org.
Suzanne Taylor, the TEDxWestHollywood organizer, has added additional information in the comment section.