• TED revokes license for TEDx West Hollywood event

    Jerry Coyne reported this recently. It follows in a line of items in the news about TED and their speakers being somewhat unscientific. Well, in relation to this, TED have pulled their licence on a TEDx to have taken place in Hollywood. As Coyne reports:

    Oh boy, get ready for an explosion of wrath from Sheldrake-ians, woomeisters, and other pseudoscience boosters who are ready at a moment’s notice to cry “censorship.” My inbox is yearning for the hate mail!

    Alert reader Jay just informed me that TED has revoked the license for the entire upcoming TEDx West Hollywood event, that is, the execrable parade of self-help and numinosity called “Brother can you spare a paradigm?” (See my posts on it herehere, and here.)

    The official notice is on this site, and is announced as follows (note the new name and plea for dosh):


    Coyne continues:

    An angry pro-PSI blog has published excerpts of an email from a representative of TED to organizer Suzanne Taylor, explaining their decision (Taylor’s credentials included making a video about how aliens produce crop circles):

    “… 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 is a nice victory for rationalism, and big plaudits go to TED and TEDx for making this decision. They’re gonna catch a lot of flak for this, and many accusations of “censorship”, but what they did was to stand up for science.

    And don’t forget to keep an eye open for TEDx events in your area (there are hundreds worldwide), and report it to the TEDx organizers (and me) if you see anything really wonky, including pseudoscience or antiscience.

    I can only agree with Jerry Coyne in saying that this can only do TED’s brand some good. Challenging the norm is fine as long as it is rational.

    Category: Skepticism


    Article by: Jonathan MS Pearce