The Science Delusion by Rupert Sheldrake - Science Delusion by Rupert... · The Science Delusion by…

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<ul><li><p>The Science Delusion by Rupert Sheldrake - review </p><p>We must find a new way of understanding human beings </p><p>Mary Midgley </p><p>The Guardian, Friday 27 January 2012 09.00 GMT </p><p>Dogs: do they really know when you're coming home? Photograph: Laurie and Charles/Getty Images </p><p>The unlucky fact that our current form of mechanistic materialism rests on muddled, outdated notions of </p><p>matter isn't often mentioned today. It's a mess that can be ignored for everyday scientific purposes, but for </p><p>our wider thinking it is getting very destructive. We can't approach important mind-body topics such as </p><p>consciousness or the origins of life while we still treat matter in 17th-century style as if it were dead, inert </p><p>stuff, incapable of producing life. And we certainly can't go on pretending to believe that our own </p><p>experience the source of all our thought is just an illusion, which it would have to be if that dead, alien </p><p>stuff were indeed the only reality. </p><p>The Science Delusion </p><p>by Rupert Sheldrake </p><p>We need a new mind-</p><p>body paradigm, a map </p><p>that acknowledges the </p><p>many kinds of things </p><p>there are in the world </p><p>and the continuity of </p><p>evolution. We must </p><p>somehow find different, </p><p>more realistic ways of </p><p>understanding human beings and indeed other </p><p>animals as the active wholes that they are, rather </p><p>than pretending to see them as meaningless </p><p>consignments of chemicals. </p><p>Rupert Sheldrake, who has long called for this </p><p>development, spells out this need forcibly in his </p><p>new book. He shows how materialism has gradually </p><p>hardened into a kind of anti-Christian faith, an </p><p>ideology rather than a scientific principle, claiming </p><p>authority to dictate theories and to veto inquiries on </p><p>topics that don't suit it, such as unorthodox </p><p>medicine, let alone religion. He shows how </p><p>completely alien this static materialism is to modern </p><p>physics, where matter is dynamic. And, to mark the </p><p>strange dilemmas that this perverse fashion poses </p><p>for us, he ends each chapter with some very </p><p>intriguing "Questions for Materialists", questions </p><p>such as "Have you been programmed to believe in materialism?", "If there are no purposes in nature, </p><p>how can you have purposes yourself?", "How do </p><p>you explain the placebo response?" and so on. </p><p>In short, he shows just how unworkable the </p><p>assumptions behind today's fashionable habits have </p><p>become. The "science delusion" of his title is the </p><p>current popular confidence in certain fixed </p><p>assumptions the exaltation of today's science, not </p><p>as the busy, constantly changing workshop that it </p><p>actually is but as a final, infallible oracle preaching </p><p>a crude kind of materialism. </p><p>In trying to replace it he needs, of course, to suggest </p><p>alternative assumptions. But here the craft of </p><p>paradigm-building has chronic difficulties. Our </p><p>ancestors only finally stopped relying on the </p><p>familiar astrological patterns when they had grown </p><p>accustomed to machine-imagery instead first </p><p>becoming fascinated by the clatter of clockwork and </p><p>later by the ceaseless buzz of computers, so that </p><p>they eventually felt sure that they were getting new </p><p>knowledge. Similarly, if we are told today that a </p><p>mouse is a survival-machine, or that it has been </p><p>programmed to act as it does, we may well feel that </p><p>we have been given a substantial explanation, when </p><p>all we have really got is one more optional </p><p>imaginative vision "you can try looking at it this </p><p>way". </p><p>http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/mary-midgleyhttp://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardianhttp://www.guardian.co.uk/science/physicshttp://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/mary-midgleyhttp://www.guardianbookshop.co.uk/BerteShopWeb/viewProduct.do?ISBN=9781444727920</p></li><li><p>That is surely the right way to take new suggestions </p><p> not as rival theories competing with current ones </p><p>but as extra angles, signposts towards wider aspects </p><p>of the truth. Sheldrake's proposal that we should </p><p>think of natural regularities as habits rather than as </p><p>laws is not just an arbitrary fantasy. It is a new </p><p>analogy, brought in to correct what he sees as a </p><p>chronic exaggeration of regularity in current </p><p>science. He shows how carefully research </p><p>conventions are tailored to smooth out the data, </p><p>obscuring wide variations by averaging many </p><p>results, and, in general, how readily scientists accept </p><p>results that fit in with their conception of eternal </p><p>laws. </p><p>He points out too, that the analogy between natural </p><p>regularities and habit is not actually new. Several </p><p>distinctly non-negligible thinkers CS Peirce, </p><p>Nietzsche, William James, AN Whitehead have </p><p>already suggested it because they saw the huge </p><p>difference between the kind of regularity that is </p><p>found among living things and the kind that is </p><p>expected of a clock or a calcium atom. </p><p>Whether or no we want to follow Sheldrake's </p><p>further speculations on topics such as morphic </p><p>resonance, his insistence on the need to attend to </p><p>possible wider ways of thinking is surely right. And </p><p>he has been applying it lately in fields that might get </p><p>him an even wider public. He has been making </p><p>claims about two forms of perception that are </p><p>widely reported to work but which mechanists hold </p><p>to be impossible: a person's sense of being looked at </p><p>by somebody behind them, and the power of </p><p>animals dogs, say to anticipate their owners' </p><p>return. Do these things really happen? </p><p>Sheldrake handles his enquiries soberly. People and </p><p>animals do, it seems, quite often perform these </p><p>unexpected feats, and some of them regularly </p><p>perform them much better than others, which is </p><p>perhaps not surprising. He simply concludes that we </p><p>need to think much harder about such things. </p><p>Orthodox mechanistic believers might have been </p><p>expected to say what they think is wrong with this </p><p>research. In fact, not only have scientists mostly </p><p>ignored it but, more interestingly still, two professed </p><p>champions of scientific impartiality, Lewis Wolpert </p><p>and Richard Dawkins, who did undertake to discuss </p><p>it, reportedly refused to look at the evidence (see </p><p>two pages in this book). This might indeed be a </p><p>good example of what Sheldrake means by the </p><p>"science delusion". </p>http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/peirce/http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/whitehead/http://www.sheldrake.org/Articles&amp;Papers/papers/morphic/morphic_intro.htmlhttp://www.sheldrake.org/Articles&amp;Papers/papers/morphic/morphic_intro.html</li></ul>