Oy vey: TEDx continues the woo—now with more self help!

Alert reader barenormality called my attention to what looks very much like another TEDx quackery-and-woo event in West Hollywood, California, on April 14.

I am not making this up: April’s TEDx West Hollywood conference is called “Brother, can you spare a paradigm: making the quantum leap.” And the description is just as bad as you’d imagine (my emphasis):

Brother, Can You Spare a Paradigm? will deal with the need to change our fundamental value system or worldview to one in which humanity pulls together, superseding the current worldview where whoever has the most toys wins. The new ideation will be based on what science tells us is a quantum universe, with everything being interconnected and interdependent — one organism that needs to function for the good of the whole. A new science-based vision won’t take hold, though, unless people know it exists, and bringing about a new cultural understanding is what some presentations will focus on. Other presentations will provide models for what we would do if we were thinking along different lines. Given TED’s outreach, hopefully our program will impact the world’s thinking about who we are as humanity, and impress everyone with practical programs and technologies that can be implemented in communities everywhere.

And check out the speakers: pretty much as dire as you’d imagine. Most have NOTHING to do with quantum mechanics, and of course quantum mechanics says nothing about everything being “one organism that needs to function for the good of the whole.”

Witness, brothers and sisters, some of the speakers who will convey the new “science-based vision” to the denizens of Hollywood:

  • Marianne Williamson, self-help speaker, “Love restores reason, not the other way around.”
    Summary: “Humanity is trying to evolve beyond the mechanistic, Newtonian perspective of the 20th century–past data and metrics to a more relational, even spiritual worldview. From competition to collaboration, from ambition to inspiration, from sales to service, from me to we–we’re being called to a radical change in humanity’s basic operating principle from economics to humanitarian values as our bottom line. Anything less, and the human race is in peril.”

Here’s the blurb on Amazon for Williamson’s latest bookThe Law of Divine Compensation. It sounds to me like Creflo Dollar and the prosperity gospel (my emphasis):

Marianne Williamson is a bestselling author (Return to LoveHealing the Soul of America), a world-renowned teacher, and one of the most important inspirational thinkers of our time. In The Law of Divine Compensation, she reveals the spiritual principles that help us overcome financial stress and unleash the divine power of abundance. A guru to anyone interested in spirituality, Williamson’s words ring with power and truth as she assures us that, with faith in God’s promise of prosperity for all, we need never fear the future.

  • Russell Targ: physicist, ESP advocate, and promoter of Uri Geller. “The reality of ESP: a physicist’s proof of psychic abilities.” (Proof?)
    Summary: “Targ, co-founder of this psychic research program that was highly classified until its termination in 1995, will present a summary of the very best evidence for extrasensory perception and precognition. He also will describe the close relationship between remote viewing, the non-locality of modern physics, and thei eighth century teaching of “Self-liberation through seeing with naked awareness.”
  • Larry Dossey, M.D. The Revolution in Consciousness: “The Global Community is Now”
    Summary: “Dr. Dossey will provide evidence that consciousness is infinite or nonlocal in space and time, and is therefore eternal, immortal, and one with all other minds. This sets the stage for a communal, planetary ethic that is crucial for our survival.”
  • Marilyn Schlitz, Ph.D.  Social anthropologist and writer. “How do we shift our paradigm? The science and practice of transformation.”
    Summary: “How do we change our minds? When and why do transformations in our worldviews occur? What helps to catalyze positive and enduring shifts in our consciousness and our sense of who we are in the rapidly evolving world? Based on decades of her own empirical research, Schlitz will use these questions to guide her presentation about the ways that consciousness transformation matters to each of us, now and for the future.
  • Daphne Rose Kingma, self-help writer on love. “The shrinking emotional body and the emotional power of love.”
    Summary: ” . . . We sit awake till all hours pinteresting, tweeting, be-and un-friending, spilling our whole lives out on the screen, while having only a screen to speak back to us. We are more informed and in one way more connected than ever; we also are excruciatingly unconnected and alone. Into this matrix of lives suspended in the Cybercryonosphere, I propose that love, as usual (though differently in these times) is the solution.”

    Cybercryonosphere?

  • Reverend Paul E. Nugent, New Age Anglican. “The missing link is in our future, not in our past.”
    Summary: “All of creation is evolving, leading us on an exponential journey of discovery. Now, we are on the verge of a quantum leap into the unknown, to become not just what we should be but what we truly are.”

    Quantum leap into the unknown??

This is just a sample; the rest sound just about as bad. There’s not one talk I’d want to hear. But the salient points are three. First, there’s no real science: just sciencey-sounding woo.  Second, there is nothing about quantum physics at all, just the usual expropriation of quantum mechanics in the form of “quantum leaps” and so on. Not a single talk is based on reconciling the “quantum universe” with human values—a fool’s errand if ever there was one. The talks have nothing to do with the conference’s theme. Third, there’s a high titer of self-help talks here, but no meat. It’s for those rich Hollywood types whose money hasn’t bought them “spirituality.”

And it’s a huge step downhill for TEDx. Have a look at the agenda. Would you go?

There’s a forum here where you can weigh in with opinons, you can make inquiries at info@tedxwesthollywood.com, and there’s a note on the site to this effect:

Any inquiry regarding TED should be sent to:

Melody Serafino
TEDx Media Liaison
TEDxPR@groupsjr.com

I’ll be calling this event to the editors of TED.com, just to let them know.

By the way, in the last week I’ve been inundated with emails and posts by supporters of Rupert Sheldrake and Graham Hancock after TEDx removed their talks from its website and sequestered them elsewhere. No other post I’ve done has elicited so much private email—many of it full of obscenities, name-calling, and so on. What it’s made me realize is not just that so many people are susceptible to the brand of pseudoscience pushed by Sheldrake and Hancock, but also that many people have a low opinion of  “mainstream science”, resenting it for imposing its authority on the quackery they see as good research. When I suggested to one Sheldrake supporter, for instance, that if Sheldrake wanted credibility, he should publish his astounding results in good mainstream journals, I was told that he would then be forced to obey the rules of “the club”.

Two points here:

1.  The “club” is what determines acceptable science, and rightly so, for it enforces procedures (peer review, blind testing, replication, etc.) designed to verify claims.  Would someone recommend taking prescription drugs that had not been thoroughly tested for efficacy and safety by a double-blind test? What counts as good science is in fact the result of a consensus, based on published work, by the scientific communities who use those procedures. Yes, renegade scientists can be right (though they usually aren’t!), but their results have to be verified by others. Remember that many hypothesis, like the Big Bang, plate tectonics, and mitochondria as descendants of bacteria, were once outside the mainstream scientific consensus, and were doubted by scientists. But they eventually gained acceptance because further research and evidence supported them. That is not the case with the work of people like Hancock and Sheldrake, nor with earlier claims about Piltdown man, cold fusion, and faster-than-light neutrinos.

Good science is not determined by the court of public opinion, which largely accepts on what people would like to be true.  Science becomes accepted wisdom when it’s tested and verified by those in the scientific community.

This summary, from one of Hancock’s talks, shows the craziness that some readers have defended as “good science”:

Judging from the abundant evidence of ancient cave art from all parts of the world, encounters with aliens and UFO’s are nothing new. Humanity has been visited, taught and nurtured by non-terrestrial beings for at least 35,000 years, construing them according to different cultural frameworks as “spirits”, “elves” or “fairies”, “angels” or even “demons”, and most recently as “aliens”. The same beings and vehicles depicted in the cave art also occur in the much more recent art of surviving shamanistic peoples still living today in remote regions such as the Kalahari and the Amazon jungle. Even more mysteriously, similar experiences and imagery are reported by Western lab volunteers, placed experimentally under the influence of hallucinogens such as DMT, psilocybin, mescaline and LSD. The growing popularity in the West of the Amazonian visionary brew Ayahuasaca (where the active ingredient is DMT) has opened up these experiences of parallel realms and their inhabitants to an ever-growing constituency of North Americans and Europeans. The common factor, which is also fundamental to all forms of shamanism, appears to be altered states of consciousness and, crucially, this does not suggest that these experiences are in any way “unreal”. On the contrary the evidence supports the hypothesis that in deeply altered states of consciousness the receiver wavelength of the brain is altered to allow us to tune into and interact with beings from other levels and dimensions of reality.

If you think that’s good, credible science, or even a reasonable scientific theory, welcome to the asylum.

2.  Hancock and Sheldrake’s talks were not “censored.” TEDx and TED are private organizations that give platforms to people, and it’s entirely up to them whom they choose to promote or not promote. Both Hancock and Sheldrake have published extensively and have their own websites, so can you really cry “censorship” if a single organization chooses not to promote their work?  Besides, TEDx did not remove their videos—they just relegated them to a “website of shame.” And that’s exactly where they belong.

85 Comments

  1. Posted March 22, 2013 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    Told you so – TED couldn’t care less about science: http://www.skepticink.com/avant-garde/2013/03/17/ted-science/

    Could you please, Jerry, denounce TEDxBogotá as well?

    Cheers!

    • Grania Spingies
      Posted March 22, 2013 at 8:13 am | Permalink

      Just to be clear – TED and TEDx are not exactly the same. TED on the whole are a great deal more careful about who they invite to give a talk.

      • Duncan
        Posted March 22, 2013 at 8:16 am | Permalink

        Unfortunately they’ll tarred with the same brush if they can’t exert some control. The branding isn’t different enough for the uninitiated to see the difference.

        • Duncan
          Posted March 22, 2013 at 8:16 am | Permalink

          or even ‘be tarred’

        • Posted March 22, 2013 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

          Yup. I had no idea there was any significant difference. I’m not saying I don’t believe Grania when she says that there is, only that most people probably don’t know, either.

      • Posted March 22, 2013 at 8:19 am | Permalink

        Sure, they’re not exactly the same, but TEDx is supposed to abide TED’s rules and TED is supposed to enforce it’s own policy.

        Neither of that is happening!

      • Posted March 22, 2013 at 9:29 am | Permalink

        TED has in fact claimed that TEDx are expected to keep to the same rules, and that this sort of thing is going to stop. So this is probably a good time to stop making excuses for them.

        • Grania Spingies
          Posted March 22, 2013 at 11:07 am | Permalink

          Who is making excuses for them?

  2. MKray
    Posted March 22, 2013 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    Maybe it’s just as well that Thomas Kuhn is not around to see yet another hijacking of the word `paradigm’.

    • Hempenstein
      Posted March 22, 2013 at 9:11 am | Permalink

      Whenever I see ‘paradigm’, I take it as a signal that someone’s trying to inflate the importance of whatever they’re writing about. At least, this one give the clue right up-front.

      • Posted March 22, 2013 at 10:47 am | Permalink

        And when “paradigm” is paired with an illegitimate use of “quantum”, well, you can’t ask for a bigger red flag.

  3. Dave
    Posted March 22, 2013 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    It’s sincerely sad to see the melting of TED: from an admirable, necessary platform, to one of white noise.

  4. Pablo
    Posted March 22, 2013 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    Let’s not forget what TED stands for:

    Technology
    Entertainment
    Design

    Since when did they become the curators of good science? They’re not a scientific conference and I believe it’s presumptuous to expect or demand otherwise.

    • Posted March 22, 2013 at 8:21 am | Permalink

      Let’s not forget, either, TED’s policy is to not promote any kind of unscientific stances.

      So, they kinda parade themselves as curators of good science… something they utterly fail at.

      • Grania Spingies
        Posted March 22, 2013 at 8:27 am | Permalink

        TED may not stand for being curators of actual science. But it also doesn’t stand for being purveyors of Bollocks.

        I don’t think Hancock et al. would take too kindly to being slotted in under Entertainment either.

    • Dave
      Posted March 22, 2013 at 8:26 am | Permalink

      But TED is robing itself as a promoter of good science when its stages and programming are littered with science-imagery, historical props, and portraits of the greats.

      Its (ever-hollowing) motto remains, “Ideas Worth Spreading.” Such a claim surely demands accountability.

      • Pablo
        Posted March 22, 2013 at 9:01 am | Permalink

        I’ve seen all kinds of wacky stuff showcased at TED conferences. They typically accommodate a wide range of silly or plainly wrong ideas from almost every discipline under the sun (especially economics and public policy). The only strict requirement is to appear “inspirational” or “cool”.

        Perhaps you’re giving them way too much credit because they had Dawkins, Dennett and Harris at some point. It’s an interesting venue but again, it’s not a scientific conference. Why should we care if they fail to stick to their own made-up charter 100% of the time? Why not let the wackos go on stage with their fluff and then expose and denounce them without the presumption of becoming the unsolicited TED police?

        • gbjames
          Posted March 22, 2013 at 9:11 am | Permalink

          We should care for the same reason we should care if our newspapers are full of sound reporting or contrived nonsense.

          I’d put the question back to you this way: Why should we be quite when we see woo and nonsense presented in public?

        • Kevin
          Posted March 22, 2013 at 10:24 am | Permalink

          Because they started out by trying to establish themselves as having concern about presenting only credible science.

          And are now trading on that hard-earned credibility to present nonsense.

          People will believe it if it’s a TED presentation precisely because of their rules. “I saw it on TED, so it must be true”.

          They’re pulling the old switcheroo con.

          It’s about as odiously wrong as you can get.

        • Posted March 22, 2013 at 11:24 am | Permalink

          But “exposing and denouncing them” is what Jerry is doing.

          And how would one “expose and denounce” TED presentations without acting, by definition, as the TED police?

          • Pablo
            Posted March 22, 2013 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

            I share Jerry’s views on the content of the conference but I find it petty and annoying when people “call the editors” in order to suppress any form of speech that they object to. I say let them have their TEDx New Age fest so we can take it apart later.

            What’s even more vexing in this case is the assumption of certain standards that elevate TED to something it’s never been.

            • truthspeaker
              Posted March 22, 2013 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

              The standards aren’t assumed, they were set forth by TED.

            • gbjames
              Posted March 22, 2013 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

              The standards being violated are TED’s. Why is it annoying and vexing for people to point out when they are violated?

              • Pablo
                Posted March 22, 2013 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

                That’s my point. Their standards are not what you think. They’re fairly loose. It’s in their mission statement available at ted.com/pages/about.

                You have to delve deeper into the requirements for organizing a TEDx conference to find a reference to scientific integrity, which by the way is only applicable to science talks (pretty much anything goes for philosophy, economics, business, storytelling, religion, etc.)

                They’ve even invited Rick Warren and Karen Armstrong to speak at TED and spread some nonsense. That’s why I don’t get this sudden indignation and meddling in TED’s practices. Especially from someone who’s so protective of his own turf.

                I’d rather err on the side of free speech.

              • truthspeaker
                Posted March 22, 2013 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

                Sheldrake was making scientific claims, so those standards apply.

              • gbjames
                Posted March 22, 2013 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

                Free speech has nothing to do with it. The concept of free speech and censorship is meaningful in the context of government restrictions. People are free to say what they want on TED stages. And we are free to criticise RED for representing themselves as a science and clear-thought forum and then allowing all manner of woo to be spread in their name.

                Don’t try to shut down criticism in the name of free speech. The irony burns.

              • Pablo
                Posted March 22, 2013 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

                Criticism and ridicule are fine by me. I’ve been clear about that. Contacting TED editors and encouraging them to pull certain talks from their Youtube channel does not constitute criticism. Hope you can tell the difference.

              • gbjames
                Posted March 23, 2013 at 7:04 am | Permalink

                Hope you can tell the difference

                Yes, one has a better chance of making a difference.

      • Posted March 22, 2013 at 9:40 am | Permalink

        Indeed, even if they don’t claim to about science per se, pseudoscience is *not* worth spreading, hence …

  5. gbjames
    Posted March 22, 2013 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    Gak.

    There are a lot of people out there who have such a poor understanding of science and the scientific method that they credulously accept this stuff as legitimate.

    My otherwise intelligent and successful architect brother is quite willing to fall for sciencey-sounding stories about inventors who discover how to power their cars with water. He seems convinced that we’d have unlimited power available in our homes if only entrenched interests would stop preventing these breakthroughs from being made available. There is always some grain of truth in the stuff he will fall for but his bullshit sensing unit is somehow broken and he can’t seem to afford a replacement implausibility detection module.

    • TJR
      Posted March 22, 2013 at 9:55 am | Permalink

      I’ve got an implausibility detection module here which I can sell him for only a hundred dollars……

      • gbjames
        Posted March 22, 2013 at 10:00 am | Permalink

        Powered by water?

        • TJR
          Posted March 22, 2013 at 10:02 am | Permalink

          Powered by love……

          • gbjames
            Posted March 22, 2013 at 10:04 am | Permalink

            Cool. It must be one of the newer models. Won’t rust!

            • Posted March 22, 2013 at 10:07 am | Permalink

              And it goes at the speed of light! (Y’all know it’s dropping, right?)

              xD

  6. KP
    Posted March 22, 2013 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    Larry Dossey, M.D. The Revolution in Consciousness: “The Global Community is Now”
    Summary: “Dr. Dossey will provide evidence that consciousness is infinite or nonlocal in space and time, and is therefore eternal, immortal, and one with all other minds…”

    Deepak?

  7. JBlilie
    Posted March 22, 2013 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    Wonderful post, thank you sir!

  8. Robert Bray
    Posted March 22, 2013 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    ‘the current worldview where whoever has the most toys wins’

    Brings to mind a teeshirt I saw on a recent trip: ‘The man who dies with the most toys still dies.’

    As for the TEDx talks highlighted in this post, I’m more and more of the opinion that more and more of western humanity feels a desperate emotional, psychological and just plain human need for transcendence. As we come to realize there ain’t none, the more helplessly we grab on to delusive notions of permanence.

    • JBlilie
      Posted March 22, 2013 at 10:50 am | Permalink

      And: What do you call the lowest-ranking graduate of their medical school class (last place)?: Doctor.

  9. David Duncan
    Posted March 22, 2013 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    I’ve never heard of any of those presenters.

  10. matt
    Posted March 22, 2013 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    this sounds like a Scientology conference to me.

  11. will
    Posted March 22, 2013 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    Oh, yes, Marianne Williamson, the priestess of the New Age. I remember in the early 1990s she was teaching gay men that they could cure AIDS with divine love. “A Return to Love”, the Course in Miracles, her “miracle mindset”, her universal spiritual themes and eternal truths…. blargh.

    Her website is a hoot: http://www.marianne.com/

    • Posted March 30, 2013 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

      Her names rings a bell with me. She wrote a book in the early 80s that was very popular. (It had an Escheresque trifoil on the cover) It was written in such impenetrable woo that I studied it seriously for some months, and it may have been shaking that off that kick-started my journey away from all but the most austere “spirituality”. Can anyone remember that book? It doesn’t seem to be listed in her output any more.

  12. NewEnglandBob
    Posted March 22, 2013 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    One small point:

    Would someone recommend taking drugs that had not been thoroughly tested for efficacy and safety by a double-blind test?

    Yes, unfortunately. Nut jobs do recommend bogus drugs and many take them. Go to any pharmacy to see hundreds of examples.

    • Kevin
      Posted March 22, 2013 at 10:21 am | Permalink

      With the small print statement: Not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or condition. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.

      You’re right, billions and billions of dollars are spent on this stuff.

      Barnum was off by a factor of 60 at least. There’s a sucker born at least every second.

  13. Kevin
    Posted March 22, 2013 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    Any mention of the word “quantum” outside of the world of … well … quantum physics is an iron-clad guarantee of weapons-grade, 100% pure bullshit.

    Whenever I see it, I let out a little sigh of relief, because I know that I don’t have to waste my time on that paper/post/video/whatever.

    • JBlilie
      Posted March 22, 2013 at 10:52 am | Permalink

      Well said. I’m using that.

  14. Posted March 22, 2013 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    Quite aside from issues with TED(x), why do so many folks feel the need to attempt to justify noble behaviors and goals with these kinds of horrible misrepresentations of science? As if fostering solidarity and charity need justification beyond the golden rule and/or “a rising tide lifts all ships.”

    They comes across as people who desperately want to go down in history as “discovering” the idea that we should be nice to each other. Which is an idea we should all be having every day.

    • gbjames
      Posted March 22, 2013 at 11:00 am | Permalink

      Most people don’t understand science at all. But they recognize the products of science that make their lives better. And some people have learned that this provides a perfect social context in which to make a living.

      Con artists, many of whom believe the con themselves, think that the truth of their messages is demonstrated by the success of the con.

  15. Posted March 22, 2013 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    If it walks like a quack, and quacks like a quack, it probably is a quack.

  16. Posted March 22, 2013 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    I would not put “cold fusion” into the same basket as the “Piltdown Man”, a deliberate attempt to deceive. Pons and Fleischman put $100K and six years into their experiments, yet were unfortunately at the mercy of the University of Utah’s publicity scheme:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Fleischmann

    Even NASA is exploring the descendant idea:

    http://futureinnovation.larc.nasa.gov/view/articles/futurism/bushnell/low-energy-nuclear-reactions.html

  17. will
    Posted March 22, 2013 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    ALternative medicines, holistic medicine, Ayurveda medicine… Universal Love… “Quantum healing”… Cosmic (or Christ) Consciousness… Angel therapy, Chakra balancing, the Beatles and Kabbalah..

    blargh!

    • JBlilie
      Posted March 22, 2013 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

      And the wheels on the bus go ’round and ’round …

  18. truthspeaker
    Posted March 22, 2013 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    This part is actually laudable, IMHO:

    will deal with the need to change our fundamental value system or worldview to one in which humanity pulls together, superseding the current worldview where whoever has the most toys wins.

    But then it’s followed by this:

    The new ideation will be based on what science tells us is a quantum universe, with everything being interconnected and interdependent — one organism that needs to function for the good of the whole.

    Which is too bad, because you could use the findings of science to talk about our value systems. Which societies tend to have happier people? Which tend to have healthier people? What are the variables that are different in their societies from those that are less happy or less healthy?

    That would require actual work and research, though.

  19. will
    Posted March 22, 2013 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    Hope appropriate. Wikipedia explains how many of these New Age gurus have their origins in Franz Mesmer and Madame Blavatsky.

  20. JBlilie
    Posted March 22, 2013 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    Stretching the reactionary, 20-century restrictions of the scientific paradigm to access the quantum ground-being of the evolving universal mind of the cosmos and elevate its plausibility to the certainty of reality and overcome the artificial boundaries imposed by post-modern materialistic thought patterns.

    Hey, I can do this shit! I need to set up as s self-help guru … er .. swami … er… saddhu.

    [I knew I could squeeze paradigm in there!]

    • will
      Posted March 22, 2013 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

      the evolving universal mind!… that damned Christ consciouness.

      As if we were projecting onto the impersonal universe a social agenda of peace, harmony and welfare.

      When the moon is in the Seventh House
      And Jupiter aligns with Mars
      Then peace will guide the planets
      And love will steer the stars

  21. Posted March 22, 2013 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    The most offensive thing about it, to me, was the decision to title the thing “Brother, Can You Spare a Paradigm?” When “Brother, Can You Paradigm?” was right there in front of their noses. YOu can even sing that one in the original tune:

    “Once I prayed a prayer
    to a quantum state,
    No need for reason
    Or for rhyme . . .

    My guru said I’d be made
    Great by fate . . .
    Brother, can you paradigm?”

    • Dawn Oz
      Posted March 23, 2013 at 1:28 am | Permalink

      Thank you for your creativity.

    • Occam
      Posted March 23, 2013 at 4:36 am | Permalink

      Agreed. “Brother, Can You Paradigm?” is brilliant. Even if it’s been re-hashed a thousand times.
      “Brother, can you spare a paradigm?” is just lame. Insipid. Hobbling like a PDQ Bach menuetto. TED-esque.

      Incidentally, the first appearance of this pun in print, in the title of a scholarly paper, dates from 1972: a political science classic by Jack L. Walker, “Brother, Can You Paradigm?” PS, Vol. 5 (Fall 1972), pp. 419-422. (If anyone finds an earlier example, I’d be grateful to know.) I’ve seen it cited many times in treatises on Kuhn, often for no better reason than its catchy title.

  22. Posted March 22, 2013 at 1:04 pm | Permalink


    Summary: “All of creation is evolving, leading us on an exponential journey of discovery. Now, we are on the verge of a quantum leap into the unknown, to become not just what we should be but what we truly are.” Quantum leap into the unknown??

    I love the episode when the Reverend Nugent leaps into Joe Dimaggio’s body, and Ziggy can’t figure out why he’s there until it’s almost too late . . .

  23. JBlilie
    Posted March 22, 2013 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    Contest:

    Write the shortest possible grammatical (obviously sensible isn’t required) sentence that contains all of these words:

    quantum
    paradigm
    evolving
    science
    interconnected
    interdependent
    humanity
    mechanistic
    vision
    understanding
    inspiriration
    collaboration
    radical
    healing
    love
    exponential
    transformation
    overcome
    unlease
    abundance

    Ready, go!

    • JBlilie
      Posted March 22, 2013 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      inspiration
      unleash

    • Occam
      Posted March 22, 2013 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

      “The abundance and exponential transformation of healing love will overcome the mechanistic paradigm of quantum science and unleash a radical vision and understanding of interconnected, evolving humanity, providing the inspiration for interdependent collaboration.”

      Voilà! Sokal enough?

  24. Posted March 22, 2013 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    I think it would be worthwhile to consider the motivations held at TED that allow this nonsense to arise. Clearly, the fact that we ask them to denounce this stuff is because we have some kind of trust in their brand, but just think about why all this TEDx crap gets through with apparently zero vetting – obviously, TED has money in mind. TEDx is allowed to run rife because it lines their pockets, and they’re not going to give a damn about pseudoscience unless we kick up a fuss. Well that shouldn’t be our responsibility, and it demonstrates that their priorities are askew. TED has always been rather peculiar in its financial model, but here we see money’s defiling influence, and their less than virtuous motives.

  25. Robbie
    Posted March 22, 2013 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    This post is just full of anger, as is most of the responses I can see. Instead of ranting about the science behind these talks, what about the idea behind it, about us all being connected and trying to do good for others? Doesn’t seem too dangerous to me!
    As much as you can pretend otherwise, rallying ‘TED’ to remove a video is just trying to censor somebody who’s ideas you don’t like what else is it?
    As Jerry said himself ‘TEDx and TED are private organizations that give platforms to people, and it’s entirely up to them whom they choose to promote or not promote.’
    If you think that is the case, why rally to get these talks removed or flag them? Like you said, it’s their platform, not yours, or mine for that matter!

    • gbjames
      Posted March 23, 2013 at 7:41 am | Permalink

      If you think that is the case, why rally to get these talks removed or flag them?

      Because they say one thing and do another. And we are free to criticize them for that.

      • Robbie
        Posted March 23, 2013 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

        I never said anything about criticizing, people are free to offer up criticism, but rallying to remove a video is censorship, as much as Jerry may like to dress it up otherwise.
        Like Jerry said, it’s there platform and they can do what they like, so again, why is he rallying to have them removed?

        • gbjames
          Posted March 23, 2013 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

          why is he rallying to have them removed

          To make it better.

          • Robbie
            Posted March 24, 2013 at 7:06 am | Permalink

            Better to who? Not most people judging by the reaction to it!

            • gbjames
              Posted March 24, 2013 at 7:48 am | Permalink

              Better to those who care about facts, truth, honesty. You are right, though. It would be worse for hucksters and charlatans.

              • Robbie
                Posted March 24, 2013 at 9:53 am | Permalink

                First of all I wouldn’t say Rupert or Graham are telling lies or being dishonest, I think they genuinely believe in what they are doing and do the best they can, like we all try to!
                Whether or not what they is fact or not, I wouldn’t know yet, but I wouldn’t say they are lying or being dishonest.

    • Posted March 23, 2013 at 8:15 am | Permalink

      There’s nothing wrong with being angry when someone tells a lie. That’s a normal and reasonable reaction, particularly in cases where people are selling a lie. Deceiving and using people for a living is not a decent or honorable way to live.

      Also, if your audience (or customers, if you like) don’t feel ownership, you’re already in trouble. Selling to the public requires that you cultivate their feeling of investment in your product. If they perceive your product as fake or bogus, that’s a problem.

      • Robbie
        Posted March 24, 2013 at 10:03 am | Permalink

        Sorry for the late reply, I didn’t know you were replying to me!
        Like I said to gbjames, I wouldn’t say that Hancock or Sheldrake are telling or selling a lie, that would imply that they know they are wrong but carry on saying it anyway. With all the barriers they face and the work they’ve done, I highly doubt this is the case. I think they genuinely believe in what they are saying. Whether or not they are right is definitely up for debate but I wouldn’t say they are selling a lie.
        In terms of the second part, only a particular group of people like Jerry, PZ Myers and their followers felt that TED were allowing bogus ideas and that they should be removed. From looking at the debates on TED and the general reaction the feeling is that, even if you don’t agree with what Sheldrake and Hancock are saying, rallying for the removal of their videos and then removing them was a wrong thing to do.

  26. Suri
    Posted March 22, 2013 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

    What the heck? This is sooo wrong on sooo many levels ….first of all trying to “sell” woo as science is absolutely dishonest and misleading.

    Second, woo is not as harmless as it seems, it only takes a little woo to initiate something like the antivaccine movement.

    “The new ideation will be based on what science tells us is a quantum universe, with everything being interconnected and interdependent — one organism that needs to function for the good of the whole..”

    Really? I would love to know where in the scientific literature does it say that.
    Are they not deliberately misinforming the public with stuff like this?

    “…A new science-based vision won’t take hold, though, unless people know it exists..”
    And you guys are definitely not helping.

    “Why is TED so successful in drawing people to live events? It can’t be just to learn.”

    Learn? You must be kidding me.

    “…Be prepared not only to be informed, but to share yourself as you engage with each other.”

    Informed?? I think misinformed is the right word.

    I mean, it seems like they have no idea of what they are doing. They can’t even follow their own rules. How unprofessional.

    Finally, I think there are lots of things that can be classified as entertainment but I think we all know that is not the case with this new age/Deepak/the secret nonsense… sooo low quality.

    • Posted March 23, 2013 at 7:37 am | Permalink

      Yes, very wrong indeed. And sadly not even remotely related to reality. It reflects very poorly on TED as a whole.
      It’s understandable how charlatans and cranks would want to use TED and be associated with it for the impression of “credibility” it gives, but I can’t see how any serious reality-based speaker would then want to continue being associated with it.

      “…everything being interconnected and interdependent — one organism that needs to function for the good of the whole…” is no different from saying the world/universe was made for us. I am reminded of creationist/IDiot drivel like how the banana was designed for the human hand to hold.

      In reality us humans have had to fight like Trojans against the “one organism that needs to function for the good of the whole” simply in order to feed ourselves, protect ourselves from disease and improve our chances of survival.

      I don’t believe the “Entertainment” part of of TED was ever intended to be used for fairy stories to be masqueraded as fact. Shame on TED staff for being so complacent and, in some cases I don’t doubt, woolly minded.

  27. Dawn Oz
    Posted March 23, 2013 at 1:26 am | Permalink

    Haven’t read the other comments, however just the list of speakers was nauseating. These people should get into poetry instead.

    Thanks Jerry for doing all the hard work.

  28. Posted March 23, 2013 at 3:06 am | Permalink

    Just a few thoughts.

    TED is the core organisation. TEDx are independently run “community” events. TEDx organisers have to hold themselves to a standard.

    As for TED not caring about this issue, it’s worth reading the note written by TED.com editor Emily McMagnus:

    http://sciblogs.co.nz/code-for-life/2012/12/04/help-ted-com-editor/

    My own feelings are that while it’s worth pointing out TEDx events which are below par, it would also be well worth suggesting practical ways they (TED and TEDx organisers) can avoid falling for pseudo-science. (For one example, I made some suggestions linked at the end of the article linked above.)

  29. Bruce S. Springsteen
    Posted March 23, 2013 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    The seeds of this always were lurking in the TED ethos. It’s not a commitment to knowledge so much as a commitment to left-leaning do-goodery. I’m a left-leaning do-gooder, but try never to let it lead or pervert my skeptical thinking. Reality is under no obligation to serve our wishes.

    This relates with to our beef against so-called “liberal” theism. You want the facts, however limiting or unpleasant they may be, or you want happy fantasies regardless of the facts. As a clever man supposedly said, no one can be the servant of two masters.

    • Bruce S. Springsteen
      Posted March 23, 2013 at 9:38 am | Permalink

      “relates to”

  30. Matt Bowman
    Posted March 23, 2013 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    Holy Shit! I took a gander at some of the other speakers at the link Jerry gave for one of the Hancock talks. The conference is called, The Prophets Conference (not a TED talk). One of the speakers is a woman named, Kiesha Crowther, “Little Grandmother.” I googled her and checked out a few of her videos. Wow! Check her out if you wanna hear some really insane stuff. There is no way for me to sum it up, other than to say they are the words of a seriously disturbed person.

  31. Posted March 23, 2013 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    I’ve got someone trolling my post on Reddit about this Sheldrake nonsense. I didn’t write about it. I made a graphic and linked to your site as a “I’ve had enough with TEDx” link.

    These people are ridiculous and blinded.

  32. Marvol
    Posted March 24, 2013 at 4:36 am | Permalink

    Also, ‘quantum leap’ always reminds me of this classic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic.

    http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=2628

    So true…

  33. WileyFOwler
    Posted March 31, 2013 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    If you could only recognize your stifling dogma. As if calling people crazy strengthens your argument…

  34. Posted April 1, 2013 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    An expert is the last person to expect to be open to new (or ‘strange’) developments in his/her field of expertise. This works great, until it doesn’t. The problem is telling which is which when both actions–successfully keeping the field free of pseudoscientific clutter, and inadvertently keeping the field from advancing with new information–are nearly identical in appearance; they both consist of the expert, confronted with some new information, eventually dismissing that information for some reason.

    Not that I am defending the people in the West Hollywood list, I’m not. Much of it has a flavor of “raise your vibrations to the 6th Lemurian frequency” and I am, apparently, highly allergic to Lemurians; I would not be attending this conference even if they moved it out of Hollywood (another thing to which I am violently allergic).
    The physicist talking about psi might be interesting. Is he really a physicist? What kind?
    Also listed are a M.D. and a Ph.D., but along with all of the remaining speakers their subjects center on “left-leaning do-gooderism” as a previous commenter noted. Nothing wrong with do-gooderism per se, I only get worried when people seem to want to turn it into some kind of all-encompassing socio-religious structure that will solve all the world’s problems and make everyone totally equal and bring us all together in harmony and agreement in a perfect utopia to be completely and utterly bored, forever and ever, amen. One Ring to Rule Them All.
    I’m somewhat surprised that a Medical Doctor would subscribe to that, but only somewhat. As for the Ph.D., well, she’s a Social Anthropologist, a soft-science field which, based purely on personal observation, appears to consist of getting large government grants to go to exotic locales where you spend a number of years appearing in documentaries and/or newscasts as the resident cultural expert so that you can deliver politically correct proclamations from a position of respected authority, then eventually returning home to write a book on your observations and insights while in the field, all of which turn out to be rather fabulously wrong(as I said, this is just my opinion and could be in error. Some social anthros may get one or two things correct in their books).
    All in all, this does not look like a Ted(x) conference I would enjoy attending.

    But look! See what happened there? Given a choice, I looked it over, and made one. Some of you seem to be of the opinion that things would be better all ’round if a few wise folks keep a sharp eye out and ensure that I am not faced with the prospect of such a choice.
    However, having read through all the comments here, I noted that many of you see it not in that way, but rather that the TED brand, which is respected, is about promoting “ideas worth spreading”, and it is this sentiment that you propose to help protect.

    Well, ok. I certainly agree that not all ideas are worth spreading. But I absolutely do not agree that it is anyone’s business to arbitrate which ideas are worth spreading and which are not, or which Ideas I should believe or research and which I shouldn’t.
    Now one of you mentioned, and rightly so, imo, that this subject should not be characterized as a Freedom of Speech issue. It is definitely not, Freedom of Speech as a fundamental right is a restriction on Government (speaking about U.S. law here, I don’t know how it works elsewhere), and basically says the Gov shall not infringe on the right of anyone to say whatever the hell they want, when they are on their own property or on public lands. Once you enter property owned by someone else though, you no longer have the right to stand unmolested and say whatever comes to mind; the owners of the property can’t shut you up, but they can throw you out.
    There’s plenty of complications and details of the law (because lawyers) but that is the essence of it; Freedom of Speech does not mean you can go anywhere you want on private property and say whatever you want unmolested. Having been invited and then gone to speak at a private function where a digital recording of your speech was made and later uploaded to the web, Freedom of Speech does not prohibit that recording from being removed.

    So! The law has no bearing in this. TED is free to do whatever it wants with its programming, and cannot be charged with violating the Right of the Freedom of Speech if it chooses to remove this or that video, or if it outright refuses to host someone, or if it completely refuses to host anyone who would talk about some particular subject. TED is free to say it is a proponent of ideas worth spreading, and it is also free to arbitrarily (or rigorously or any other way) decide what that means exactly, and spread only approved, scientifically sound ideas, or only disapproved, Lemurian Vibrational Frequency non-science ideas. In short, TED can do whatever it wants with its content and programming format.
    Having said that, I note that people are also pretty much free to make up their minds about TED, and this is why I think it is not a good idea for TED to decide it knows better what is a good idea for people to hear, and what isn’t. TEDs reputation as an open exchange for new ideas, for giving those with little opportunity for large exposure of their ideas a place and a framework to do just that, was precisely why it had grown so amazingly, and why so many people loved it. A huge blow to that reputation took place because of TEDs actions re: Rupert Sheldrake and Graham Hancock. Of course TED was well within their rights to do as they did, they broke no laws, violated no contract. But people are free to view it as censorship of a kind, or infer that someone in TED thinks the decision to believe or disbelieve Sheldrake and Hancock should not be left up to the individual
    TED can do what it wants, but it should consider what its viewers want as well, if it wants to keep them.

    Lastly, I personally find the concept of a board of scientists and experts and “educated” people deciding what I can and can watch extremely distasteful.
    Because “…the more we learn, the harder it is to remember that we know almost nothing…and of what little we do know, 90% will turn out to be wrong within ten years.”

    Sorry for the tl;dr.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 30,049 other followers

%d bloggers like this: