The TEDTalks Woo-Woo Speech - The Science Delusion

When they first became publicly available, I instantly fell in love with TEDTalks (as you can tell from all the presentations I've posted in this blog). Having leading thinkers condense their various ideas and deliver them in powerful 18-minute presentations was a great way to introduce and inspire the general public with a vision of education, empowerment and cross-disciplinary cooperation from which everyone could benefit.

Unfortunately, since greatness and true innovation are limited resources, the day would come when TED would run out of the best and most interesting speakers, and would have to content itself with more questionable characters willing to deliver shoddy presentations that sacrifice truth and the discoveries of rigorous research for the sake of wanting to sound revolutionary, controversial or intellectually daring and interesting. And so the past year or two has seen a steep decline in the quality of their presentations, and it's gotten to the point, apparently, that they are happy to showcase the nonsensical pseudo-scientific views of a man who, aided by a pretty awesome British accent, willfully mischaracterizes serious science and philosophy in order to peddle his quackery about telepathy and crystals having memory...



In short: "woo-woo must exist because I can't explain some things and because I don't really understand how science works... even though I should, since I'm a scientist..."

Now, that's not to say that one cannot challenge science... nothing should be immune from question. but while we recognize science is the best means we have of attaining knowledge of the world, we also need to be aware of its limits precisely so that we can protect it from misuse and abuse by unscrupulous parties who demand of it that it do things outside of its proper domain. The consequence should be obvious: if we ask science to do things outside of its proper field of application, and science fails to get us those results, we are likely to make the mistake of assuming that such a failure is somehow science's fault. But this is a ridiculous position to adopt. It's as if you ask your plumber to perform brain surgery, the plumber botches the operation, and you think that obviously plumbing is useless...

It's one thing to criticize science, but it's quite another to mischaracterize it with straw man arguments in order to pretend to have beaten it into submission, and it's yet another to think you can replace it with pseudo-scientific bullshit simply because it doesn't conform to your woo-woo nonsense beliefs...

It would be awesome to see a real intellectual respond to Sheldrake in just the same way that Daniel Dennett took Rick Warren to task for his vacuous-driven talk... Can we rely on TED to deliver such a goodie?


Update: It looks like the folks at TED have listened to criticisms similar to mine, apparently from lots of people, and they have decided to pull Rupert's talk and one by Graham Hancock on consciousness. Let that be a lesson to anyone wanting to present: make sure you have done your homework, or be prepared to be ridiculed in the eternal land of the interwebs...
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