Yesterday I saw part of the www.tedxvalenciawomen.com event via streaming. I always thought TED was a science-friendly venue, with its share of less-than-stellar topics or speakers, but all in all based in reality.
Yesterday I found I was wrong. The TEDxValenciaWomen event was an utter disgrace. And so I wrote this letter to TED:
The TEDxWomen event celebrated yesterday in Valencia (Spain), which can be found on http://www.tedxvalenciawomen.com and was hashtagged in Twitter as #TEDxVLCWomen or #TEDxValenciaWomen, was a sad disappointment and reflects very poorly on TED’s image and reputation. The event disregarded completely this part of the TED rules in particular:
"Speakers must be able to confirm the claims presented in every talk — TED and TEDx are exceptional stages for showcasing advances in science, and we can only stay that way if the claims presented in our talks can stand up to scrutiny from the scientific community."
I watched most of TEDxValenciaWomen’s afternoon session via streaming. While a few of the speakers gave engaging, thought-provoking and intellectually sound presentations, most of the event (including the parallel events) was a pathetic mix of pseudoscience and wishy-washy superficial pseudo-feminist spirituality, with lots of mentions to “The Mother” and an abundance of unsubstantiated claims on the healing powers of LOVE, sacred geometry, goddesses, and in general easy sentimentalism, shaky psychology, and shakier neuroscience. The speakers’s bios were rife with holistic healing, Reiki, experts in “Bio-Energetic and Holistic Techniques”, “Egyptian Psycho-Aromatherapy”, “Rebithing”, “plasmatics”… You get the idea.
I am from Valencia, I am a woman, and I have a scientific background and a fierce love for science. TED talks have always been a great way for me to find interesting, challenging and fascinating topics to learn about, all of them soundly based in facts. I used it as a very welcome counterpoint to the onslaught of magical, mystical, woo-filled events that seem to crop up everywhere these days.
I hoped that in TEDxValenciaWomen I could listen to people talk about good science and interesting social topics. I hoped I could learn about feminism without all that “mother-goddess” nonsense. I hoped I could learn about neurobiology without someone insulting my intelligence with a talk that told me about the “masculine” left brain and the “feminine” right brain. I hoped I could learn about social inequality without someone suggesting that we should simply open our hearts to the healing power of LOVE for all our troubles to be over.
I hoped, in summary, for a TED event, anchored in reality. What I got was a mockery, loosely put together out of wish fulfillment and half-backed ideas that hurt, in this order, TED, Valencia, Women, Science, and common sense.
I had to tell you this hoping that you’d be able to prevent such shameful events in the future. They don’t do justice to the TED logo and to a concept I dearly love.