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[merged] Militant atheism under fire +


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#1    White Crane Feather

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Posted 09 April 2013 - 02:38 PM

I get updates I'm my email about certain things, and I wanted to share this one. Rupart Sheldrake and Grahm Hancock were invited to do talks on their work for a program called TED talks. Then they were subsequently censored because their work challenges dogmatic beliefs held by fundamental materialists. I found it an interesting revelation. What do the rest of you think.

http://blog.ted.com/...pert-sheldrake/





Edited by Seeker79, 09 April 2013 - 03:01 PM.

"I wish neither to possess, Nor to be possessed. I no longer covet paradise, more important, I no longer fear hell. The medicine for my suffering I had within me from the very beginning, but I did not take it. My ailment came from within myself, But I did not observe it until this moment. Now I see that I will never find the light.  Unless, like the candle, I am my own fuel, Consuming myself. "
Bruce Lee-

#2    eight bits

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Posted 09 April 2013 - 03:55 PM

Here's what I read at your link:

Quote

We’re not censoring the talks. Instead we’re placing them here, where they can be framed to highlight both their provocative ideas and the factual problems with their arguments. See both talks after the jump.

All talks on the TEDxTalks channel represent the opinion of the speaker, not of TED or TEDx, but we feel a responsibility not to provide a platform for talks which appear to have crossed the line into pseudoscience.
That seems like responsible editorial action to me. I know that other views are possible.

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#3    ouija ouija

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Posted 09 April 2013 - 04:43 PM

I've only watched the Rupert Sheldrake talk so far. I think he's great! So calm and centred ....... always seems to talk a lot of sense.

Life is all too much ............................................. and not enough.

It is only when you form your question precisely and accurately that you receive the true answer.

#4    White Crane Feather

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Posted 09 April 2013 - 06:35 PM

View Posteight bits, on 09 April 2013 - 03:55 PM, said:

Here's what I read at your link:


That seems like responsible editorial action to me. I know that other views are possible.
The problem of course is that the label of pseudoscience is being used as an adhominim. Nothing said is actually pseudo science. There seems to be a stiff resistance to any new ideas that do not fit into the dominant and authoritative  philosophy. This is practically the definition of dogma. Ironically this is what sheldrake was speaking about.

In the link sheldrake gives a point by point rebuttal to the claims against his accuracy, and if you listesn to Hancock, he never gives any definate scientific statements, he is very careful not to. He merely proposes a new way of approaching the study of conciousness absent of preconceived attitudes.

"I wish neither to possess, Nor to be possessed. I no longer covet paradise, more important, I no longer fear hell. The medicine for my suffering I had within me from the very beginning, but I did not take it. My ailment came from within myself, But I did not observe it until this moment. Now I see that I will never find the light.  Unless, like the candle, I am my own fuel, Consuming myself. "
Bruce Lee-

#5    ouija ouija

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Posted 09 April 2013 - 08:09 PM

Just watched the Graham Hancock talk. Also very interesting; he makes good points, but I feel somewhat detached from what he said because I don't feel comfortable with consciousness-altering substances.

Life is all too much ............................................. and not enough.

It is only when you form your question precisely and accurately that you receive the true answer.

#6    White Crane Feather

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Posted 09 April 2013 - 08:12 PM

View Postouija ouija, on 09 April 2013 - 08:09 PM, said:

Just watched the Graham Hancock talk. Also very interesting; he makes good points, but I feel somewhat detached from what he said because I don't feel comfortable with consciousness-altering substances.
I agree totally. It should not be taken lightly. Nor should morphine, or other important but dangerous substances. The question to ask yourself is why are you not comfortable with it? I detest what opiates do to people, but as a medicine it has it's place.

Edited by Seeker79, 09 April 2013 - 08:16 PM.

"I wish neither to possess, Nor to be possessed. I no longer covet paradise, more important, I no longer fear hell. The medicine for my suffering I had within me from the very beginning, but I did not take it. My ailment came from within myself, But I did not observe it until this moment. Now I see that I will never find the light.  Unless, like the candle, I am my own fuel, Consuming myself. "
Bruce Lee-

#7    ouija ouija

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Posted 09 April 2013 - 08:24 PM

View PostSeeker79, on 09 April 2013 - 08:12 PM, said:

Not do I. It should not be taken lightly. Nor should morphine, or other important but dangerous substances. The question to ask yourself is why are you not comfortable with it?

I have asked myself this quite a lot over the years. It's probably relevant that I mention I'm including alcohol and cigarettes and 'prescription' drugs in my mind-altering substances list. I think I have two reasons: one is that they are not natural(this can be argued against, I realise!), and  secondly, I've always felt only lightly attached to consciousness and struggle on an almost daily basis to 'work with it'.

Life is all too much ............................................. and not enough.

It is only when you form your question precisely and accurately that you receive the true answer.

#8    White Crane Feather

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Posted 07 May 2013 - 01:12 PM

A contriversy arose when tedtalks tried to sensor Rupart sheldrake, and grand Hancock for their out of the box presentations. The under belly of the very unscientific militiant atheism movement is being exposed.

Quote

The flap is over two videos of TEDx talks delivered in the UK in January that were summarily removed from TEDx's YouTube channel (TEDx is the brand name for conferences outside the main TED events that are allowed to use the TED trademark, such as TEDxBoston or TEDxBaghdad -- so far, about 5,000 such events have used the name). This amounts only to semi-censorship because the videos were reposted on TED's blog site. Yet the reputations of the two presenters, Rupert Sheldrake and Graham Hancock, were besmirched. In a letter to all the TEDx organizers, Chris Anderson, the head of TED, proposed certain "red flag" topics, among them health hoaxes and the medicinal value of food but also the general area of pseudoscience. The response has been decidedly negative -- scientists don't like the suppression of free thinking -- and among the thousands of comments aired on the Internet, one pointed out that Sheldrake and Hancock spoke at a TEDx conference explicitly dedicated to ideas that challenge mainstream thinking.


http://www.huffingto..._b_3104049.html

More backlash to censorship

http://www.huffingto..._b_3119890.html

Quote


You can see that happening here.  Deepak Chopra et al have no fear of Anderson or TED.  They know that the skeptics have no answer, no legitimate argument; no science to fall back on.  Everyone can march right up to their gates and debate them with only the most feeble responses in return.  Sheldrake and Hancock knew this when they challenged the science board to a debate.  Everyone knows what cards the skeptics hold:  They’ve got nothing.  They can’t give a good explanation of their actions, they can’t debate Sheldrake or even Hancock; they won’t respond to the open letter by Ken Jordan and they have no real answer to Deepak Chopra’s criticism beyond bland corporatese assurances that say all the right things but have no substance at all.
http://weilerpsiblog...-down-anderson/

Edited by Seeker79, 07 May 2013 - 01:34 PM.

"I wish neither to possess, Nor to be possessed. I no longer covet paradise, more important, I no longer fear hell. The medicine for my suffering I had within me from the very beginning, but I did not take it. My ailment came from within myself, But I did not observe it until this moment. Now I see that I will never find the light.  Unless, like the candle, I am my own fuel, Consuming myself. "
Bruce Lee-

#9    Emma_Acid

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Posted 08 May 2013 - 10:53 AM

Chopra, Sheldrake and Hancock are known cranks. This doesn't "expose the unscientific militant atheists" in any way.

It demonstrates how much higher a standard of evidence the scientific community demands compared to the pseudo scientific.

The names above do not understand the areas they claim to, and this is a demonstrable fact.

This thread is the same pseudo scientific whinge again and again, we've heard it so many times.

Edited by Emma_Acid, 08 May 2013 - 10:54 AM.

"Science is the least subjective form of deduction" ~ A. Mulder

#10    aquatus1

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Posted 08 May 2013 - 12:03 PM

There is a difference between experts in a field who understand the theories and processes of their fields, having an objection to the conclusions presented by their fields, and people who have little to no understanding of the fields they challenge, whose only defense of their challenge is that there is a possibility that they are right.  In all honesty, it wouldn't really matter if you were.

Basically, no one cares if you are right by accident.  Unless you can argue your case intelligently and explain why your explanation is better (and, assuming there is some contradiction with existing theory, why the opposing theory would not apply), no one is going to be interested in listening to you.  Why would they?  You haven't shown yourself worthy of being listened to.

If you have a topic that challenges science, great.  If your challenge has been met and countered, but you insist that it hasn't, and you don't address the counters to your challenge, and continue claiming that no one is listening to you, don't expect to be taken seriously.

The point when you stop addressing challenges and simply fall back to denying that you are being challenged is where you cease being a skeptic and turn into a obsessive.


#11    White Crane Feather

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Posted 08 May 2013 - 04:56 PM

View PostEmma_Acid, on 08 May 2013 - 10:53 AM, said:

Chopra, Sheldrake and Hancock are known cranks. This doesn't "expose the unscientific militant atheists" in any way.

It demonstrates how much higher a standard of evidence the scientific community demands compared to the pseudo scientific.

The names above do not understand the areas they claim to, and this is a demonstrable fact.

This thread is the same pseudo scientific whinge again and again, we've heard it so many times.
It certainly does. The mere fact that you choose to use an ad hominim to describe them only furthers the point. Putting people into groups and using slang to discredit them is the hallmark of being intolerant even threatened. Why not address the points and issues in the links rather than resort to fallacy.

Thank you Emma, you have contributed quite nicely.

"I wish neither to possess, Nor to be possessed. I no longer covet paradise, more important, I no longer fear hell. The medicine for my suffering I had within me from the very beginning, but I did not take it. My ailment came from within myself, But I did not observe it until this moment. Now I see that I will never find the light.  Unless, like the candle, I am my own fuel, Consuming myself. "
Bruce Lee-

#12    Liquid Gardens

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Posted 08 May 2013 - 05:51 PM

View PostSeeker79, on 08 May 2013 - 04:56 PM, said:

Why not address the points and issues in the links rather than resort to fallacy.

She didn't resort to a fallacy, she resorted to an insult; ad hominem is not the same as an insult.  She explained why they were supposedly 'censored':  the standard of evidence for the scientific community is higher than what they can provide.  Must TED allow creationists and flat-earthers to present also or it's also 'censorship'?  Here's what wiki says about Sheldrake:

"At TEDxWhitechapel on January 13, 2013, Rupert Sheldrake gave a talk in which he suggests that the modern scientific worldview has become associated with ten dogmas, and makes the case that none of them hold up to scrutiny. According to him, these dogmas — including, for example, that nature is mechanical and purposeless, that the laws and constants of nature are fixed, and that psychic phenomena like telepathy are impossible — are holding back the pursuit of knowledge.

TED’s scientific advisors have questioned whether his list is a fair description of scientific assumptions, and suggested several of the dogmas are actually active areas of science inquiry (including whether physical ‘constants’ are really unchanging), and believe there is little evidence for some of Sheldrake’s more radical claims, such as his theory of morphic resonance, and his suggestion that there had been significant differences in the measurement of the speed of light. They recommended that the talk should not be distributed, resulting in the removal of the videos from the TEDx YouTube channel"

In response Sheldrake whined about how his dissenters are aligned with materialism and the usual excuses that are supposed to distract I suppose from the lack of scientific evidence supporting Sheldrake's ideas. The TED conference subtitle is 'Ideas worth spreading"; apparently they thought their ideas were not worth spreading, because they thought part of what they presented were either unsupported or false.

I just find these 'censorship' accusations to be so incredibly weak. TED is a private conference and it's organizers have as much right to deny speakers or take down speeches that potentially misrepresent them as any other private institution.  This whole 'holding back the pursuit of knowledge' is an irrelevant complaint, and not a very accurate one; there is absolutely nothing preventing them from continuing to do their research and develop better, supported arguments for their ideas, they have to put in as much work as any other scientist developing their evidence and argument.  Nothing is stopping them from continuing to develop their ideas outside of a materialistic framework, a good start would be to demonstrate that the non-material exists.  You seem to not be factoring in the very good possibility that they were rejected not because the organizers are a bunch of biased materialists, but because Chopra's and the others' arguments and points were not very good.  And I know in Chopra's case, it definitely wouldn't be the first (or tenth, or hundredth) time that his assertions were not supported.

"You can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into"
"That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence" - C. Hitchens
"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool" - Richard Feynman

#13    White Crane Feather

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Posted 08 May 2013 - 07:45 PM

It's an association fallacy, a type of ad hominim

Placeing people into like groups to discredit them is a grievous error. Especially when ones creates a derogatory term to encompass the a fallaciously created group. And yes last time I checked most people put in to a group and given a label like "crank" are insulted. It's rather jr highschoolish actually and reveals the bully like and illogical nature of the militant atheists that use such terms. So once again Emma only added credibility to my op.

Chopra and Hancock are not scientists last time I checked, they are philosophers. Philosophy is the starting point for science and deserves every bit as much of a venue do that it can point the way for science like it always has. To restrict science to philosophical materialism is to stiffen the spirit of discovery, especially when it has been shown to be a false.

Now sheldrake is a different story, he is an educated scientist and has legitimate problems with said dogmas and eleitism. He has seen first hand the stonewall resistance to anything outside of the box of mainstream materialism and as mentioned in my links has the baking of notable scientists and philosophers. I have seen the rebuttles against his work myself, while no experiments are fullproof, it usually amounts to nothing more than creative criticism. If one has tge command of words you can make anyything look bad. Fortunatly sone people can see through the phikibustering.

The Ted organization certainly has the right to censor what ever they wish, but don't sit there and try to convince the rest of it that it's not censorship. Sure they threw it back up somewhere else while completely ignoring the facts of what was presented, and in hancocks case ironically being influenced by religous sentiments against his subject matter.


"I wish neither to possess, Nor to be possessed. I no longer covet paradise, more important, I no longer fear hell. The medicine for my suffering I had within me from the very beginning, but I did not take it. My ailment came from within myself, But I did not observe it until this moment. Now I see that I will never find the light.  Unless, like the candle, I am my own fuel, Consuming myself. "
Bruce Lee-

#14    Copasetic

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Posted 08 May 2013 - 08:20 PM

An article worth reading by Steven Novella:

Confusing Standards for Censorship – Chopra Edition


Quote

TED is a prestigious biannual conference whose brand is, “Ideas Worth Spreading.” (TED originally stood for “Technology, Entertainment, Design,” but its scope has since expanded.) It has spawned TEDx – regional independent TED style conferences that are allowed to use the TED brand as long as they strive for the same level of quality.
Deepak Chopra apparently thinks that TED’s logo should be, “Let’s throw any crap against the wall and let the audience sort it out.” Of course that is what all self-styled gurus and purveyors of pseudoscience want, no real scientific standards so that they can present their crackpot ideas as legitimate.
This conflict of vision recently came to a head when TEDx directors (Lara Stein, TEDx Director and Emily McManus, TED.com Editor) wrote an open letter to TEDx organizers giving them guidance on how to avoid accidentally promoting bad science. The letter is an excellent primer on pseudoscience and I recommend reading it in its entirety. The letter was a response to several dubious TEDx talks and the backlash that resulted. Early in the letter they make clear its purpose and their philosophy.


“It is not your audience’s job to figure out if a speaker is offering legitimate science or not. It is your job.”

The philosophy here is clear. TED is an outlet that heavily filters its content to provide only the best quality – ideas worth spreading. In this way it is like a peer-reviewed journal, or a University. It has standards. Pseudoscientists are very keen to cover themselves in the trappings of legitimate science, which means they will energetically pursue anything that can provide this for them. As soon as giving a TED or TEDx talk became a credential worth having, the cranks descended.
Deepak Chopra and others have now written an open letter to the TED organizers criticizing them for “semi-censorship.” They take exception to the partial removal of two TEDx videos by Rupert Sheldrake and Graham Hancock (I will have to explore these videos in a separate post), the ones which prompted the backlash and the subsequent letter advising how to avoid bad science. Chopra et al, after some strained and gratuitous analogy to the Game of Thrones, characterize the entire event this way:


“What the militant atheists and self-described skeptics hate is a certain brand of magical thinking that endangers science. In particular, there is the bugaboo of “non-local consciousness,” which causes the hair on the back of their necks to stand on end. A layman would be forgiven for not grasping why such an innocent-sounding phrase could spell danger to ‘good science.’”

They would have you think that legitimate attempts to maintain scientific quality is just a ploy by atheists and skeptics who are just too closed-minded to accept the cutting edge science of consciousness. The cranks have been increasing their attacks on skeptics over the last few years. Skeptics have developed a finely-tuned bull**** detector, and spend their time keeping up with the tactics and antics of the pseudoscientists, and then publicly exposing and dissecting them. Pushback is to be expected.
They continue:


“The reason becomes clear when you discover that non-local consciousness means the possibility that there is mind outside the human brain or even outside material reality, that a conscious mind is in some way intrinsic to the quantum universe, and that we all are quantum entangled.”

What is deliciously ironic is how, even in this letter, Chopra and his fellow authors trigger many of the red flags of bad science that the TEDx directors warned about in their letter. For example, one of their red flags is:


“Uses over-simplified interpretations of legitimate studies and may combine with imprecise, spiritual or new age vocabulary, to form new, completely untested theories.”

It’s hard not to suspect that they were thinking of Deepak Chopra when they wrote this line.
It gets better:


“Fearing that God is finding a way to sneak back into the kingdom through ideas of quantum consciousness, militant atheists go on the attack against near-death experiences, telepathy, action at a distance, and all manifestations of purpose-driven evolution. Like the guardians in “A Game of Thrones,” these militants haven’t actually looked over the wall, and given their absolute conviction that the human brain is the only source of awareness in the universe, you’d think that speculative thinking on the subject wouldn’t be so threatening. (Most people wouldn’t picket a convention of werewolves in their hometown. It’s not hard to tell what is fantasy.)”

First, if you are going to make a Game of Thrones reference, at least get it right. Previously in the letter they characterized the night’s watch (which they insist on calling “the guardians”) as a “hereditary” order, when in fact it is not. Now they say that the night’s watch never looks beyond the wall – that is, if you don’t count the groups of rangers who constantly explore north of the wall.
Chopra appears to be as unaware of the Game of Thrones and the Night’s Watch as he is of skeptics. But I’ll run with his flawed analogy – skeptics too range “north of the wall” that demarcates the boundary between legitimate science and pseudoscience. We explore it carefully and report back to those living comfortably south of the wall. It is a wild and untamed region, silly with magical thinking. We also defend against attempts by the denizens north of the wall to infiltrate civilization. Our warnings are often taken as seriously as the Night’s Watch’s  - those who have never looked north of the wall have a hard time believing the nonsense that goes on there.
Chopra would like nothing better than to have the wall go unguarded – meaning that there would be no effective quality control in science, or in what gets presented as science to the public. Keep in mind there is no censorship here. He and anyone are free to write as many books as they want, create web pages, organize their own conference – they seem to have no trouble distributing their nonsense without fear of any censorship.
This is about institutions that self-impose a level of quality control, including universities, journals, professional organizations, and TED conferences. There is also (or should be) certain publicly required quality control, such as what health care interventions should be covered by Medicare, or what gets taught as science in the public science classroom. These are all areas where there is purported to be some level of quality control, and the barbarians are rushing all of these walls. They want in, and one of their primary tactics is to argue that there shouldn’t be any walls at all – no quality control. Quality control to them is censorship.
Failing that, their alternate strategy is to argue that, OK, walls are fine, but we deserve to be let in because we are legitimate. To do this they try to present themselves not as cranks but as visionaries (all cranks think they are visionaries), and to do this they write:


“But TED took the threat seriously enough that Anderson’s letter warns against “the fusion of science and spirituality,” and most disappointing of all, it tags as a sign of good science that “it does not fly in the face of the broad existing body of scientific knowledge.” Even a newcomer to science knows about Copernicus, Galileo, and other great scientists whose theories countermanded the prevailing body of accepted knowledge.”

That’s right – the Galileo gambit, one of the most reliable indicators of a crank. Notice also his clever choice of words – “prevailing body of accepted knowledge.” At the time of Galileo there wasn’t much of an “existing body of scientific knowledge,” and those who were pushing back against Galileo were not exactly scientists. The analogy here is as bad as his Game of Thrones failure.
Chris Anderson from TED wrote a nice response to the Chopra letter, in which he points out:


“No one here claims that mainstream science is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It isn’t. But it’s the best starting point we have for judging new information. Yes a modern-day Galileo may be out there with paradigm-shifting ideas that will at some point overturn huge pieces of existing science. But he or she should expect to face a robust standard of proof before their ideas take hold. And for every Galileo, there are thousands of people who just have bad, unscientific ideas.”

Cranks refuse to accept or acknowledge that, unlike at the time of Galileo, we now have a substantial body of scientific knowledge. We are not starting from scratch with every new idea, and not all ideas are equally valid. We know stuff, and we can use that hard-won body of knowledge to make judgments about new ideas. Also, science has developed an elaborate set of methods and standards, and we can judge the activity of researchers based upon those standards.
We can therefore examine and then judge new ideas on these two broad lines – are the ideas plausible based upon currently well-established science, and are the methods of its proponents legitimate and rigorous?
The authors conclude:


“But the main flaw in TED’s position has been made abundantly clear. It isn’t the organizers’ job to exclude questionable science but a job shared between them and the audience. We’re all adults here, right? Any speculative thinking worthy of the name should make somebody in the audience angry, inspire others, and leave the rest to decide if a challenging idea should be thrown out or not. Any other approach casts shame upon tolerance, imagination, and science itself.”

There it is – they do not want any standards. Let the audience decide for themselves. What, then, does the TED brand mean? Chopra and his ilk would cheapen the brand to allow in their preferred pseudoscience. They would cheapen the brand of science itself, muddy the waters, blur the lines, until it’s impossible to tell what is legitimate and what isn’t. That is an environment in which cranks and charlatans can thrive.
But it’s not good science.
Good on TED for holding the line against pseudoscience. Hopefully, in this entire affair, the Chopras of the world have revealed their hand. They do not appear to be interested in legitimate science, only giving their spiritual beliefs the appearance of scientific legitimacy, and they don’t care if they have to bring down the wall of scientific standards to do so.

Link

The start of another good article by Novella:

Quote

One persistent theme that skeptical investigators encounter is the fact that true-believers of various stripes often whine about the fact that they are not taken seriously by scientists and that their claims are dismissed out of hand. Ironically they often direct their whining at skeptics, even though we are the ones addressing their claims and investigating them. Mainstream scientists won’t taint themselves by even acknowledging their existence.

What the true believers repeatedly fail to appreciate, however, is that it is not necessarily their claims that relegate them to the fringe, but their atrocious methods. They giddily squander their credibility by accepting poor-quality evidence, making bad arguments, and dismissing perfectly reasonable alternative explanations.

In short, they are not taken seriously because they are not serious scientists. A version of the Dunning-Kruger effect seems to make them incapable of perceiving their own gross scientific incompetence, and so they have no choice but to whine about those “closed-minded scientists” and the conspiracy of silence against them.

Continue reading


#15    Copasetic

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Posted 08 May 2013 - 08:32 PM

Here's the letter on spotting bad science to the TEDx community:

Quote

Hello TEDx Community,

In light of a few suspect talks that have come out of the TEDx movement — some of which we at TED have taken action to remove, some being examined now — and this recent thread on Reddit [http://www.reddit.co...ugh_the_mud_in/], we feel it is important to reach out to all TEDx organizers on the topic of bad science and pseudoscience.

Please know this above all:
It is your job, before any speaker is booked, to check them out, and to reject bad science, pseudoscience and health hoaxes.

Vetting your speakers is hard work, and can lead to uncomfortable moments. But as TEDx organizers, your audience’s trust is your top priority, over and above any other personal or business relationship that may have brought this speaker to your attention. It is not your audience’s job to figure out if a speaker is offering legitimate science or not. It is your job.

The consequence of bad science and health hoaxes are not trivial. As an example, Andrew Wakefield’s attempt to link autism and vaccines was exposed as a hoax last year. But while his work was being investigated, millions of children went without vaccines, and many contracted deadly illnesses as a result.

We take this seriously. Presenting bad science on the TEDx stage is grounds for revoking your license.

The letter below has three sections, and is designed to spark conversation. It focuses on 3 areas:

1. A short definition of bad science / pseudoscience.

2. Common warning signs of bad science and health hoaxes — above and beyond the science itself — how can you spot trouble?

3. Topics to watch out for, because in the past they have attracted bad science to TEDx events

Please take the time to read this letter carefully and discuss it with your curation team. Feedback is welcome.

1. What is bad science/pseudoscience?
There is no bright and shining line between pseudoscience and real science, and purveyors of false wisdom typically share their theories with as much sincerity and earnestness as legitimate researchers. (Michael Gordin’s recent book, The Pseudoscience Wars, is a great overview.) Needless to say, this makes it all terribly hard to detect and define.

But here are some basic guidelines.

Marks of good science:
  • It makes claims that can be tested and verified
  • It has been published in a peer reviewed journal (but beware… there are some dodgy journals out there that seem credible, but aren’t.)
  • It is based on theories that are discussed and argued for by many experts in the field
  • It is backed up by experiments that have generated enough data to convince other experts of its legitimacy
  • Its proponents are secure enough to accept areas of doubt and need for further investigation
  • It does not fly in the face of the broad existing body of scientific knowledge
  • The proposed speaker works for a university and/or has a phD or other bona fide high level scientific qualification
Marks of bad science:
  • Has failed to convince many mainstream scientists of its truth
  • Is not based on experiments that can be reproduced by others
  • Contains experimental flaws or is based on data that does not convincingly corroborate the experimenter’s theoretical claims
  • Comes from overconfident fringe experts
  • Uses over-simplified interpretations of legitimate studies and may combine with imprecise, spiritual or new age vocabulary, to form new, completely untested theories.
  • Speaks dismissively of mainstream science
  • Includes some of the red flags listed in the two sections below
2. Red flag topics
These are not “banned” topics by any means — but they are topics that tend to attract pseudo-scientists. If your speaker proposes a topic like this, use extra scrutiny. An expanding, depressing list follows:
Food science, including:
  • GMO food and anti-GMO foodists
  • Food as medicine, especially to treat a specific condition: Autism and ADHD, especially causes of and cures for autism
Because of the sad history of hoaxes with deadly consequences in the field of autism research, really look into the background of any autism-related talk. If you hear anything that sounds remotely like, “Vaccines are related to autism,” — RUN AWAY. Another non-legitimate argument: “We don’t know what works, so we have to try everything.” Pretty much all the time, this argument is designed to cause guilt in suffering parents so they’ll spend money on unproven treatments.

More:   
  • “Healing,” including reiki, energy fields, alternative health and placebos, crystals, pyramid power
  • “Free energy” and perpetual motion machines, alchemy, time travel
  • The neuroscience of [fill in the blank] — not saying this will all be non-legitimate, but that it’s a field where a lot of goofballs are right now
  • The fusion of science and spirituality. Be especially careful of anyone trying to prove the validity of their religious beliefs and practices by using science
Look carefully at talks on these topics: ask to see published data, and find a second source, unrelated to the speaker and a recognized expert in the field, who can validate the research.

3. Red flag behavior
You may not be an expert on the science your speaker presents — yet — but you can easily identify and counter some common tactics that science hoaxers will use to try to get on your stage. This list is inspired by and builds off Emily Willingham’s post on Forbes: “10 questions to distinguish real from fake science.”: http://www.forbes.co...m-fake-science/

Be alert if a potential speaker (or the speaker’s advocate on your planning team) does any of the following things:
  • Barrages you with piles of unrelated, over-general backup material, attempting to bury you in data they think you won’t have time to read
  • Holds a nonstandard degree. For instance, if the physics-related speaker has a degree in engineering, not physics; if the medical researcher does not have an M.D. or Ph.D.; if the affiliated university does not have a solid reputation. This is not snobbery; if a scientist truly wishes to make an advance in their chosen field, they’ll make an effort to engage with other scholars
  • Claims to have knowledge no one else has
  • Sends information only from websites they created themselves; there is little or no comment on them in mainstream science publications or even on Wikipedia
  • Provides data that takes the form of anecdotes, testimonials and/or studies of only one person
  • Sells a product, supplement, plan or service related to their proposed talk — this is a BIG RED FLAG
  • Acts oddly persistent about getting to your stage. A normal person who is rejected for the TEDx stage will be sad and usually withdraw from you. A hoaxer, especially one who sees a financial upside to being associated with TEDx, will persist, sometimes working to influence members of your team one by one or through alternative channels
  • Accuses you of endangering their freedom of speech. (Shutting down a bogus speaker is in no way endangering their freedom of speech. They’re still free to speak wherever they can find a platform. You are equally free not to lend them the TEDx platform.)
  • Demands that TEDx present “both sides of an issue” when one side is not backed by science or data. This comes up around topics such as creationism, anti-vaccination and alternative health
  • Acts upset or hurt that you are checking them out or doubting them
  • Accuses you of suppressing them because TED and TEDx is biased against them and run by rich liberals ;)
  • Threatens to publicly embarrass TED and TEDx for suppressing them. (The exact opposite will happen.)
While you’re not expected to become an overnight expert on all fields of science and health, here is how to start researching a topic you’re not an expert on:
Start with some basic web research. You should be able to understand at least the big issues in every field you present onstage. Wikipedia is your first stop to gain a basic background. Following primary-source links from Wikipedia, work out from there to university websites, science and health blogs, and databases of papers published in respected journals.

Ask your local university’s PR office to connect you to a professor you can speak to. Make sure it is someone totally unconnected with the potential speaker. Another place to start is the local university library, if you have access to that; a research librarian can help you find relevant journal articles.

If you have a team member who is a journalist, ask them to fact-check the speaker’s work to journalistic standards.

For an example of how to check out a possible health hoax, see this great blog post examining Dr. Oz’s promotion of green coffee beans for weight loss: http://www.scienceba...-pseudoscience/

Finally, you can always email the TEDx team at Link





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