Rupert Sheldrake & The Science Delusion
There has continuously been controversy and debate between skeptics and mystics: science vs. art, the classic, violent collision of dualities. TEDx has been facing controversy and turbulence due to their “radical” new speakers on topics such as shamanism, the use of hallucinogenic plants, psychic development, the evolution of consciousness, and other realms of inquiry that are typically viewed as hocus pocus. The debate that it caused was quite dramatic and TED decided to remove these videos, causing even more problems for creative and intuitive people. You can find at least a handful of blogs out there that discuss the way people who advocate scientific understanding bully or go to war with mystic people or ideas (Guerilla Skepticism). These skeptics take over Wikipedia, discussion forums, and other places where we share ideas and information, like TED. But, these skeptics don’t just hang out online, they also exist and operate everywhere in society, influencing education, medical practice, legislation, etc. Sometimes they accurately assess lack of research on “fringe” topics, but usually they refuse to acknowledge or coherently discuss any research that does exist. Skeptics devote tons of time and energy to negating beliefs and practices of the mystical nature, stubbornly refusing to address subjective experiences or the legitimate research of revolutionary scientists who have begun to sew these two opposing extremes together. Rupert Sheldrake gives a refreshing perspective of scientific inquiry in his book, The Science Delusion: Freeing the Spirit of Enquiry. Too often science-minded people abhor the idea of creativity or philosophy intermingling with their serious business of empirical research. But science has lost its passion and curiosity, the very nature of scientific inquiry. The question arises whether scientific interpretation belongs to the philosophers because the expertise of a scientist is procedure based, and they are not able to transcend the confines of scientific value in their interpretation of findings and their influence on human experience or health.
“The science delusion is the belief that science already understands the nature of reality; the fundamental questions are answered, leaving only the details to be filled in. In his book, Dr Rupert Sheldrake, one of the world’s most innovative scientists, shows that science is being constricted by assumptions that have hardened into dogmas. The ‘scientific worldview’ has become a belief system. All reality is material or physical. The world is a machine, made up of dead matter. Nature is purposeless. Consciousness is nothing but the physical activity of the brain. Free will is an illusion. God exists only as an idea in human minds, imprisoned within our skulls. Sheldrake examines these dogmas scientifically, and shows persuasively that science would be better off without them: freer, more interesting, and more fun. Rupert Sheldrake shows that our understanding of what science can do is old-fashioned and itself a delusion.” (Description of his book from Amazon) Dr. Rupert Sheldrake is a biologist and author of more than 80 technical papers and 10 books. He was a Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge, where he was Director of Studies in cell biology, and was also a Research Fellow of the Royal Society. From 2005-2010 he was the Director of the Perrott-Warrick Project for research on unexplained human abilities, funded from Trinity College, Cambridge. He is currently a Fellow of the Institute of Noetic Sciences in California, and a Visiting Professor at the Graduate Institute in Connecticut. So here they are, the 10 dogmas of science that limit inquiry, analysis and interpretation.
The 10 Dogmas of Science
Default delusions in worldview held by educated people all over the world & people in positions of power or influence.
1. Nature, the universe, animals, and plants are like machines.
2. There’s no consciousness in planets, stars, animals, plants, etc. The universe is made up of unconscious matter. (So then, why would humans be conscious?)
3. Laws of nature are constant & will remain constant.
-The Big Bang Theory was discovered and documented in the 1960′s, when people believed that the universe was eternal, governed by eternal laws. This theory recognizes that the earth is 14 billion years old and is constantly changing and radically evolving. In an evolutionary universe, why shouldn’t laws evolve too? Isn’t the only fixed law Change?
-Physics has established “fundamental constants” such as the gravitational constant or the speed of light. But are they really fixed? Rupert found by comparing new physics textbooks to old physics textbooks, that the speed of light has changed numerous times. When he questioned a reputable meteorologist on the matter, he told Rupert that he had discovered the biggest error within his realm of science. They had considered these calculations to be incorrect and tried to cover up any evidence that it had changed, skewing the results to match the fixed rate. He described this behavior as “intellectual phaselocking”. Maybe scientists are acting from a place of wishful thinking.
4. Energy never changes in total quantity. (What about the Big Bang Theory?)
-This assumption continued to be accepted as law even though the discovery of the Big Bang Theory itself revealed that the world changed and created a massive amount of energy at one time – the earth/solar system.
5. There is no purpose or direction to existence, evolution, or nature.
6. Biological heredity is material; everything we inherit is in our genes, epigenetic modifications of genes, or cytoplasmic inheritance.
7. Memories are stored inside of our brain in modified nerve endings and phosphorylated proteins. (Despite the fact that nobody actually can explain how this works).
8. Your mind is inside your head. All your consciousness is the activity of your brain and nothing more.
9. Psychic phenomena such as telepathy are impossible; your thoughts and intentions can’t have any effect at a distance because “your mind is inside your head”. Therefore, all evidence for psychic phenomena is “illusory”. The experiences that people have with psychic phenomena just “don’t know enough about science, are deceived by coincidence, or partaking in wishful thinking.”
10. Mechanistic medicine is the only kind that works. That’s why governments only fund research into mechanistic medicine, and ignore complementary and alternative therapies. Alternative therapies are considered to only appear to work because people would have “gotten better anyway” or because of the “placebo effect”.
Are laws of nature really fixed/constant? Only humans & civilized societies have laws. The movements of plants, trees, planets, & stars change, despite their lack of established laws. Perhaps these behaviors can be more accurately described as evolving “habits” of nature, rather than fixed and constant laws. Charles Sanders Peirce (often known as C.S. Peirce) (1839 – 1914) was a 20th Century American philosopher, logician, mathematician and scientist, and is considered among the greatest of American minds. Rupert discusses his theory of Morphic Resonance, which proposes the following curious hypotheses:
- Everything in nature has a collective & vibrational memory, even trees, water, or crystals
- Resonance occurs because of similarity (for example, as a fetus grows, it tunes into the frequency of that species and therefore grows into that species)
It is comforting and wonderful to see people from the science community embracing new ways of thinking; marrying their intense analytical skills with concepts that are more abstract. I’m not attempting to pick on people who enjoy and do well with scientific analysis. My main goal is to point out that relying on one perspective alone becomes uninteresting, maybe even dangerous. For example, I understand that my abstract, creative, mystical nature needs to be grounded and articulated with details and specifics. I don’t necessarily have to Change who I am, but maybe I decide to work with someone who enjoys that part, and try to listen and learn from them. I highly recommend the book and those of other mystic-scientists. Hopefully someday this sense of balance and integration can exist in the minds of people everywhere, as they carry out their work and personal lives. Society isn’t out there, its right here, its who we are. We don’t all have the same talents and gifts, and we don’t all think the same way. I think that makes the world very exciting and fun. Instead of trying to figure out who’s right, maybe we can just work together, appreciate that one way of thinking is no better than the other, and combine our skills to pursue meaning, understanding, and development.