TED: The banned talks and what we can learn from them

How the review process works

  • It makes claims that can be tested and verified.
  • It has been published in a peer-reviewed, credible journal.
  • 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 the 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, or has a PhD or other bona fide high-level scientific qualification.
  • 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 hypotheses.
  • Speaks dismissively of mainstream science.
  • Includes some of the red flags listed in the sections below.
  • “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]”: For whatever reason, talks with this start to the title have attracted a lot of bogus speakers. The organizers have been set to high-alert for applications with this title.
  • The misuse of language about quantum physics. Quantum physics is certainly mysterious. Many other things are mysterious too. Some speakers can’t resist arguing that, somehow, quantum physics has proven the truth of their particular mystery. It’s bad logic and a big red flag.

Is the model rigorous enough?

The banned talks

  • The talk gets flagged by a viewer (or viewers). As soon as it is flagged, TED organizers will review the talk. The research will be checked, and if it is questionable, it will be reviewed by experts in the field.
  • The talk can also be pulled by the TED curators if they feel the content is questionable or inflammatory.
  • The speaker can ask for their talk to be pulled, which was the case when a very controversial talk was posted, and the speaker requested it to be removed because she had concerns about her own safety.

1. Graham Hancock

Talk name

The video:

Why it was banned

What can we learn from this

2. Rupert Sheldrake

Talk name:

The video:

Why it was banned

What can we learn from this

3. Sarah Silverman

Talk name

The video:

Why it was banned

What can we learn from this

4. Nick Hanauer

Talk name

The video:

Why it was banned

What can we learn from this

5. Randy Powell

Talk name

The video:

Why it was banned

What can we learn from this

Conclusion: What we can learn from banned TED Talks

Want to find out more about TED and getting on the TED stage?

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