Last week, Jerry Coyne called out TED for the Rupert Sheldrake‘s TEDx conference saying speed of light was dropping (go figure!). My fellow SINner, Jonathan MS Pearce added his voice to the denunciation.
A few days later, Coyne warned about more woo and anti-science at TEDx due to the Graham Hancock‘s speech decrying materialism and spouting woo and pseudoarchaeology.
Now, TED pulled the talks and everyone is celebrating and I am as well. Jerry Coyne called it a victory for science -and it is-, but I’m afraid it is more of a victory for PR and an attempt to keep TED’s name in a good light. It was a stunt, a move the did, not because they care about science -no matter what they say-, but because they want to keep a good reputation and this was the fastest way to do so.
How can I say this?
Well, I wrote a post calling out TEDxBogotá organizers because of their promotion of woo and anti-science stances (‘organic’ farming, and messianic chosen ones by the Universe!). So far, TED hasn’t been even remotely interested in what’s happening down here (after all, we don’t have big evolution authors or really strong voices who care about science). Hey, maybe I’m misjudging TED here. Who knows? Maybe they didn’t actually get the message when I posted about it a year ago, neither when I called them out again by the end of 2012, nor when I translated that last post and tweeted them about it.
It is possible they never got the message. Then I read about how this one TED editor, Emily McManus, had contacted Jerry Coyne telling him they were looking into Sheldrake’s talk in order to decide what to do about it. So, hey, this was a long shot, but one can never be too careful. I sent a message to McManus from her TED profile. It went like this (keep in mind it only allows for 1000-characters messages):
I read you were taking care of the Sheldrake affair so I’d like to draw your attention to TEDxBogotá.
I attended 2011 TEDx and it promoted pseudoscientific, not-evidenve-based stances, so I chose not to attend last year’s TEDx.
But I followed the topics to see if they kept on promoting junk science, and as a matter of fact, they did: http://www.skepticink.com/avant-garde/2012/12/14/oops-they-did-it-again/
I tweeted it, denounced it on Facebook but no one seemed to care. It looked like TED only cares if there’s a big name involved (Jerry Coyne) or if it draws tons of bad PR (Women Valencia).
I guess this is the last resource I have left in order to make sure you guys know what’s going on with TEDxBogotá and take necessary measures to enforce your own policy.
Just because here there isn’t as much as scientific interest, nor organized skeptic movements, doesn’t mean it isn’t as important to get accurate, evidence-based messages than anywhere else.
– David Osorio
This was before Sheldrake’s and Hancocks’ talks were taken down, and so far, I haven’t got a response and I’m guessing I won’t be getting any.
They never cared about science, nor they care about promoting people who claim water has memory (TEDxBogotá 2011). They just care about getting good press and looking good.
It would be a wise thing not to consider TED as allies or worthy partners in the fight against pseudoscience and the irrational. After all, if there’s no shitstorm coming their way, they’ll regard all kind of woo as ‘ideas worth spreading’ – it helps the business, you know!