Pseudoscience Activism – The Week in Review

I’m posting in segments this week because I’m running behind.

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I keep jockeying around the title of this section – sometimes I call it creationism, sometimes I call it anti-science, sometimes it’s intelligent design – because every week there’s a different twist of news in this arena that requires me to tweak it.

This week pseudoscience is the news because TED has revoked the license of a TEDx event that was to have happened in West Hollywood. There was too much woo on the program, according to excerpts from an email from TED to the TEDxWest Hollywood organizer that was posted to another blog site:

…[W]hen 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. …[W]hen 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 revocation of licensure comes on the heels of TED pulling videos of the TEDxWhitechapel talks Rupert Sheldrake and Graham Hancock gave because their content blurred the line between science and pseudoscience.

TED remains one of the most mind-expanding places on the Internet. One of the first videos I ever saw there hooked me, but good: Sue Savage-Rumbaugh and her sexy, fire-using, literary bonobos. If you haven’t seen it, watch it. Then stick around the site and discover more amazing TED talks.

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Got a legal question? Email me at anne@aramink.com. I’m a lawyer, but there’s only a 2% chance I’m licensed in your state. Whether I answer your question or not, sending me an email or reading this blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship between us. I’m on Twitter as @aramink, and you can see my regular blog at www.aramink.com, where I write book reviews, ruminate on Life, the Universe, and Everything, and occasionally – frequently – rant about Stuff.

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About Anne

Civil rights activist Anne Orsi is one of the spokespeople for the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers and is the primary organizer of Reason in the Rock, a conference on science, secularism and skepticism. Got a question? Email her at anne@aramink.com. She's a lawyer but may not be licensed in your state. Sending her an email or reading her blog posts does not create an attorney-client relationship. Find Anne on Twitter as @aramink, and read her regular blog at www.aramink.com.


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