Saturday, March 31, 2012

Complete Insanity in a Theater Built by Logic

The TED talks are just amazing.  They have been a constant in my life for the last several years.  The talks are inspiring, moving, informative and relevant.  Now it go bye-bye.

In an attempt to increase the audience of Great Ideas Worth Spreading the TED series opened up to local forums.  Anyone with a university, town, school, church, etc can organize a "TEDx" conference.  Such conferences allow invitations to local experts to share their information.  Sounds like a good idea, right?

The problem is that any idiot can now use the established and reputable forum of the TED brand to promote their agenda.  And it is happening.

TEDx - Validating Insanity Since 2010

Yesterday I wrote on a Robyn O'Brien's heartfelt rant on how GMO food was causing allergies and cancer.  The 18 minute, well delivered, warm discussion was an audience pleaser--- which is why it is so dangerous.  Ms. O'Brien did not produce any evidence to substantiate her claims.  No science.  And the crowd went wild. The pitchforks and torches were out and a mobilized throng was prepared to take down science.  Because someone told them how evil it was. With no evidence.

Others have since informed me of other bogus TEDx topics.  In TEDx Brussels, Lynn McTaggart  presented her nonsense in this forum.  McTaggart's delusionary background is detailed here. She claims to know science, yet she is a journalist at best. She starts out with the old quantum-physics garbage.  She then makes crazy descriptions about epigenetics. It lays a foundation for mystical woo-woo. She then gets audiences to "send intentions" to germinate seeds and claims it works.  She then starts into "healing water" (like @Lordes) and claims that she can change water pH and "molecular structure".  Ten minutes into this insanity I had to stop.

Complete insanity, in the theater built by logic.

Other pseudoscientific TEDx topics equally erode the integrity of the institution and tarnish its great tradition. I will review them in upcoming weeks.

The idea is a good one, but until they have some way to ensure that frauds are not co-opting the good name of TED talks, they need to discontinue the TEDx series.

Or else, it will be the death of TED.


Chris Anderson said...

Kevin, just so as you know, TED is committed to a scientific world view.

There are more than 12,000 TEDx talks on Youtube, and only a tiny handful have raised questions. Overall we're stunned at how diligent organizers have been in their speaker selections and prepping.

I appreciate your taking the time to post this. We'll look into it.

Roxanne Porozinski said...

That is how it works, it does take one bad apple to ruin the whole bunch.

Credibility and reputation can be ruined in one fell swoop.

Ask Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, Bill Clinton, John Edwards...

That is why it is important to protect a reputation so carefully built, you only get the one chance.

TedTalks, Tedx. Bait and switch.

Kevin M. Folta said...

Chris, thank you for checking in. As the reputation and credibility of TED continue to spread, increased diligence on speaker quality is necessary.

The forum gives instant credibility. Examples like Robyn O'Brien and Lynne McTaggart actually are damaging to real science.

Look at how that audience responded to Robyn O'Brien! That talk should be pulled from TEDx, or labeled as "These are personal opinions and may/may not reflect reality"

Bad ideas are not worth spreading.

w said...

Lynne Mc Taggart was an obscure American journalist on spiritual experiments who woke up one morning (September 15, 2009) and found her life completely changed. Dan Brown's book The Lost Symbol was about her ! On its first day the book sold one million copies. It was number one on the New York Times Best Seller list for the first six weeks of its release, and remained there until January 24 of the following year. It became the fastest selling adult novel in history.
It was a unique opportunity to have her speak at that point in her life. What does that do to a person? Will she experience the same sudden influx of attention the authors of Holy Grail got after Brown’s The Da Vinci Code popularized their “Jesus moved to France with Mary Magdalene” theory?
TED is about convergence. It is not only about Science and Technology, but also about artists and Entertainment, about life-changing moments and about people at crossroads and the choices they make. We are living in an age of information disruption. Thanks to Google, Information is no longer the power of an elite, it is now in the hands of the people. TED has made people benefit from the same disruption. Thanks to TEDx all over the world, the organisation, curation and scouting of inspiring talks are now in the hands of the people. This progressive movement will go into history next to the likes of Google and Wikipedia. It started with the Cathedral and the Bazaar, the prophecy of massive parallel development and evolvable systems. It is unstoppable.

Kevin M. Folta said...

YES W. Well put. It is also about art and entertainment, life-changing moments, as you put.

However, the POWER of the people is not the same as the WISDOM of the people. Power can corrupt, be misused, and that is the problem I state.

With WISDOM we can use power correctly.

Do we want power in the hands of the people? Not so much. Science is not a democracy. It is a meritocracy that protects us from idiocracy.

I agree with you, it is great that we now have these "unstoppable" forums. Unfortunately, these can be unsafe in the wrong hands.

In this case, a TEDx talk works against me and my mission, challenging my science-based teachings and guidance. That's dangerous territory.

Should we let the Young Earthers or the Holocaust deniers have a stage under the TED banner-- in the name of art or entertainment?

Kalen said...

Kevin (I've previously posted on your last topic as Anonymous), I think you and I agree on some points.

However, where you would censor the forum, I think my perspective is rather to educate people on how to tell the difference between the real deal and a huckster.

Critical thinking skills, and knowing when a person does not cite evidence but rather only anecdotes are far more valuable than censorship.

There will always be quacks and misinformation. Trying to combat them by removing their forums is like combatting malaria with a flyswatter. Yeah, it's one way to go about it -- but it's a losing battle.

That's why I'm a proponent of free information and better education.