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Marks of good science:
- It makes claims that can be tested and verified
- It has been published in a peer reviewed journal (but beware… there are some dodgy journals out there that seem credible, but aren't.)
- It is based on theories that are discussed and argued for by many experts in the field
- It is backed up by experiments that have generated enough data to convince other experts of its legitimacy
- Its proponents are secure enough to accept areas of doubt and need for further investigation
- It does not fly in the face of the broad existing body of scientific knowledge
- The proposed speaker works for a university and/or has a phD or other bona fide high level scientific qualification
Marks of bad science:
- Has failed to convince many mainstream scientists of its truth
- Is not based on experiments that can be reproduced by others
- Contains experimental flaws or is based on data that does not convincingly corroborate the experimenter’s theoretical claims
- Comes from overconfident fringe experts
- Uses over-simplified interpretations of legitimate studies and may combine with imprecise, spiritual or new age vocabulary, to form new, completely untested theories.
- Speaks dismissively of mainstream science
- Includes some of the red flags listed in the two sections below
These are not “banned” topics by any means — but they are topics that tend to attract pseudo-scientists. If your speaker proposes a topic like this, use extra scrutiny.
Barrages you with piles of unrelated, over-general backup material, attempting to bury you in data they think you won’t have time to read
Holds a nonstandard degree. For instance, if the physics-related speaker has a degree in engineering, not physics; if the medical researcher does not have an M.D. or Ph.D.; if the affiliated university does not have a solid reputation. This is not snobbery; if a scientist truly wishes to make an advance in their chosen field, they’ll make an effort to engage with other scholars
Claims to have knowledge no one else has
Sends information only from websites they created themselves; there is little or no comment on them in mainstream science publications or even on Wikipedia
Provides data that takes the form of anecdotes, testimonials and/or studies of only one person
Sells a product, supplement, plan or service related to their proposed talk — this is a BIG RED FLAG
Acts oddly persistent about getting to your stage. A normal person who is rejected for the TEDx stage will be sad and usually withdraw from you. A hoaxer, especially one who sees a financial upside to being associated with TEDx, will persist, sometimes working to influence members of your team one by one or through alternative channels
Accuses you of endangering their freedom of speech. (Shutting down a bogus speaker is in no way endangering their freedom of speech. They’re still free to speak wherever they can find a platform. You are equally free not to lend them the TEDx platform.)
Demands that TEDx present “both sides of an issue” when one side is not backed by science or data. This comes up around topics such as creationism, anti-vaccination and alternative health
Acts upset or hurt that you are checking them out or doubting them
Accuses you of suppressing them because TED and TEDx is biased against them and run by rich liberals
Threatens to publicly embarrass TED and TEDx for suppressing them. (The exact opposite will happen.)