My complaint to TED about TEDxValenciaWomenon Tuesday, December 4, 2012
This Saturday, December 1st, a TEDx event was held in Valencia: TEDxValenciaWomen. Two other TEDx events were held this weekend in Spain: TEDxGalicia and TEDxPonferrada on Friday, but I couldn't pay attention to those two because it was a weekday, I'll wait for the videos to be published.
TED events are a set of conferences where speakers can talk about different topics. Originally these were mostly technological topics, as the name suggests. Later they were opened to some other topics having as objective dissemination and science. Then more topics where allowed and nowadays they cover a lot of issues and their current slogan is "Ideas worth spreading". Although opinions have emerged lately that say TED principles have gradually been corrupted to accommodate other ideas that do not deserve so worth spreading.
But apart from the events held by the organization, it also grants licenses to local organizations so they can carry out their own events under their principles and the TED brand without being directly organized by TED. These are the so-called TEDx events. The x clarifies that it is an unofficial TED event. However, while they have to take the x and explain in their advertisements (both digital and printed) that it is an independent event, they must comply with several rules in order to get a license, ensure that they conform to TED principles and taking care they don't harm the TED brand. These rules explicitly include TEDx talks can not be used to promote spiritualism and religion and that the ideas presented in the talks must be based on demonstrable facts and be able to withstand scientific scrutiny.
Well, the event held in Valencia under the TED brand was the opposite. From the first time, the promotional banner warned that they would address issues such as spiritualism and anti-scientific therapies, which goes directly against the rules for organizing a TEDx event. But if we keep reading about what we could expect from the event, we could see some parts of the program and activities are based on religious fundamentals of Hinduism, paganism and other religions (cool religions, of course, nothing about Christianity or Judaism) and it supports therapies that not only have not demonstrated their scientific validity, but have been proved false. The ridiculous moment came when, as reported by Mauricio Schwarz by Twitter (elnocturno), a band composed entirely by women went to a feminist conference to sing Billie Jean. C'mon... have you read the lyrics?
I could go on explaining what I think is wrong about TEDxValenciaWomen and why their license should be revoked, but this is something I've already done on Saturday on an e-mail sent to TED so I paste it here. You can do whatever you want with it: copy it, modify it, ... even sending it to TED.
Today, Saturday, December 1st, a TEDx event was carried out at Valencia: TEDx Valencia Women <http://tedxvalenciawomen.com/>
I think that it was totally against the spirit of TED.
Not only it supported anti-scientific ideas that I think that are dangerous and promote ignorance and should not be supported by a TEDx event, but it also goes against some rules that apply to get a TEDx license, for example:
TEDx events may not be used to promote spiritual or religious beliefs, commercial products or political agendas.
Claims presented in our talks can stand up to scrutiny from the scientific community. TED is also not the right platform for talks with an inflammatory political or religious agenda
Among the topics covered by that event, you can find non-scientific therapies, paganism, new age, religion and spirituality
This is why I think that an event like this inflicts serious damage to the TED brand in Spain. It was an error to grant a TEDx license to this event and should be revoked and would be a great mistake and very irresponsible if TED continues to support this kind of events.
You can see English tweets about this event at https://twitter.com/search?q=#TEDxVlcWomen lang:en and check the damage this event has made to TED. If you want to recover some of the reputation you have lost today, I think that you need not only to revoke this TEDx license but also to clarify that you don't support this kind of events.
Following, some proofs of the kind of talks that you can find at TEDx Valencia Women. Sorry that all of them are in Spanish.
- Their banner, announcing spirituality and alternative therapies: http://tedxvalenciawomen.com/files/2012/10/12-temas2.jpg
- Their program for families based in holistic and Vastu Shastra Hinduism principles: http://tedxvalenciawomen.com/tedxvalenciawomenfamily/ It includes "spaces built with sacred geometry" and was closed with prayers to Gaia.
- Here you can find other activities organized by this TEDx event, which include Ayurveda, energy medicine, aromatherapy, magnet therapy, sacred geometry, yoga, tandava (Hinduism), paganism:
- Here you can see the list of speakers: http://tedxvalenciawomen.com/category/ponentes-2012/
- An expert in alternative, "bio-energetic" and holistic therapies, aromatherapy and homeopathy: http://tedxvalenciawomen.com/2012/09/29/adoracion-ferreres/
- Energy medicine, Bach flowers, rebirthing, reiki and other non-scientific therapies developed by herself: http://tedxvalenciawomen.com/2012/09/29/aura-kupper/
- Holistic therapies, reiki, reconnective healing, zen, crystal healing: http://tedxvalenciawomen.com/2012/09/29/jose-rius/
- You can also check their Twitter timeline at https://twitter.com/TEDxVlcWomen
To conclude, I want to bring up an opinion I read on Twitter that it was something like “Why don't you let everyone believe what they want?”.
Right. Free speech, live and let live, I am entitled to my opinion and all that, right? OK, yes and no.
First of all, if it turns out that I have evidence that your opinion is wrong, could not I feel a moral obligation to make you see your error?
And yes, you are entitled to your opinion and to express it. And I have the right to have and express mine. And it turns out that my opinion is that yours sucks and I say so. Because being entitled to your opinion does not mean I have to accept it, I only have to respect your right to express it.
And finally, the main problem here is the use of the TED brand. A brand that for years has managed to carve out a reputation based on quality and solid talks (now in decline, apparently) and has been used by a group of charlatans to get prestige in some talks that directly contravene TED rules to make use of the brand. That is, a fraud.
Other people that have also sent their own letters to TED:
- daurmith from Escéptica: TEDxValenciaWomen, o Cómo ser contraproducente
- puratura from Enchufa2: Mi carta a TED
- verdewek: TEDx talks turned to self-help