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 "The Science Delusion: Freeing the Spirit of Enquiry" by Rupert Sheldrake

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Anne

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PostSubject: "The Science Delusion: Freeing the Spirit of Enquiry" by Rupert Sheldrake   Tue Mar 06, 2012 10:29 am

:-) Following Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, it was perhaps inevitable that someone would write a book of this title, and there is at least one other, with a different qualifier, by Peter Wilberg (The Science Delusion: Why God Is Real and ‘Science’ is Religious Myth).

In The Science Delusion: Freeing the Spirit of Enquiry, Rupert Sheldrake examines “ten core beliefs that most scientists take for granted” which “make up the philosophy or ideology of materialism, whose central assumption is that everything is essentially material or physical, even minds”:
1. Everything is essentially mechanical. “Dogs, for example, are complex mechanisms, rather than living organisms with goals of their own. Even people are machines…with brains that are like genetically programmed computers.”
2. All matter is unconscious. It has no inner life or subjectivity or point of view. Even human consciousness is an illusion produced by the material activities of brains.
3. The total amount of matter and energy is always the same (with the exception of the Big Bang, when all the matter and energy of the universe suddenly appeared).
4. The laws of nature are fixed. They are the same today as they were at the beginning, and they will stay the same for ever.
5. Nature is purposeless, and evolution has no goal or direction.
6. All biological inheritance is material, carried in the genetic material, DNA, and in other material structures.
7. Minds are inside heads and are nothing but the activities of brains. When you look at a tree, the tree you are seeing is not ‘out there’, where it seems to be, but inside your brain.
8. Memories are stored as material traces in brains and are wiped out at death.
9. Unexplained phenomena like telepathy are illusory.
10. Mechanistic medicine is the only kind that really works.

Rupert Sheldrake is a biologist and author of many technical papers and ten books. He was a Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge (England), where he was a Director of Studies in cell biology, and was also a Research Fellow of the Royal Society (which, in the words of its website, is “a fellowship of the world's most eminent scientists and is the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence”). From 2005 to 2010 he was the Director of the Perrott-Warwick Project for research on unexplained human abilities, funded from Trinity College, Cambridge. Currently he is a Fellow of the Institute of Noetic Sciences (founded by former astronaut Edgar Mitchell) in California, and a visiting Professor at the Graduate Institute in Connecticut. His website is http://www.sheldrake.org/

From the sleeve-notes of the book:
“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 this 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…Sheldrake examines these dogmas scientifically, and shows persuasively that science would be better off without them: freer, more interesting, and more fun.”

Rupert Sheldrake writes that the materialist belief-system became dominant within science in the late nineteenth century and is now taken for granted: “Many scientists are unaware that materialism in an assumption: they simply think of it as science, or the scientific view of reality, or the scientific worldview. They are not actually taught about it, or given a chance to discuss it. They absorb it by a kind of intellectual osmosis…In the spirit of radical skepticism, I turn each of [the ten core] doctrines into a question. Entirely new vistas open up when a widely accepted assumption is taken as the beginning of an enquiry, rather than as an unquestionable truth. For example, the assumption that nature is machine-like or mechanical becomes a question: ‘Is nature mechanical?’ The assumption that matter is unconscious becomes ‘Is matter unconscious?’ And so on...”

In his prologue on “Science, Religion and Power”, Rupert Sheldrake refers to The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, an influential book (pub 1962) by science historian Thomas Kuhn, who argued that “in periods of ‘normal’ science, most scientists share a model of reality and a way of asking questions that he called a paradigm. The ruling paradigm defines what kinds of questions scientists can ask and how they can be answered. Normal science takes place within this framework and scientists usually explain away anything that does not fit. Anomalous facts accumulate until a crisis point is reached. Revolutionary changes happen when researchers adopt more inclusive frameworks of thought and practice, and are able to incorporate facts that were previously dismissed as anomalies. In due course the new paradigm becomes the basis of a new phase of normal science.” He refers also to the work of sociologists of science, such as Bruno Latour, who “observed that scientists routinely make a distinction between knowledge and beliefs. Scientists within their professional group know about the phenomena covered by their field of science, while those outside the network have only distorted beliefs. When scientists think about people outside their groups, they often wonder how they can still be so irrational.”

…This reminds me of my earlyish days in Zen training, when I was sure that I did not need beliefs but relied entirely on direct experience… I was comparing this with religious frameworks that seemed to rest on belief rather than experience; but checking myself on this, I came upon a rather radical conundrum of my own: I realised that I did not really know that anyone else existed, that what I experienced as ‘others’ was not product of a surprisingly unselfserving imagination (I am sure I would have enjoyed life more if it had been more self-serving!) No matter how I looked for it, I could not prove as definitive truth that there really was anyone else! I could see three ways to go: to continue in the lonely vein of decided non-committal either way, or to decide in favour of believing there are others, or to decide in favour of believing that there are not others. The last one seemed likely to get me into more trouble (as, even if imagination, I definitely couldn’t rely on getting my way!), and I really didn’t like the lonely prospect of continuing on the fence. Wanting to resolve my unhappy situation, I reflected that the postulate “there are others” did not seem unreasonable to me, even if I couldn’t prove it…and quite conscious of what I was doing, I leapt into the world of faith, to take the premise that others exist as my ‘working hypothesis’. As well as feeling really chuffed to have made this choice, I felt a lot less self-congratulatory about belief after that rather radical leap of my own...and there was something very enjoyable about that conscious ‘sky-walk’! Very Happy Anyway, back to the book…

In this review I am able to touch on only a few of the very many interesting points and examples that Rupert Sheldrake presents.

For example, he highlights a general problem in scientific research: results that agree with expectations are readily accepted, while those that do not are dismissed as flawed. In his chapter “Is the Total Amount of Matter and Energy Always the Same?”, among examples he gives of challenges to the ‘law of the conservation of energy’, he mentions the case of Satimata, a woman he met in India. When her husband died in 1943, she had wanted to immolate herself on his funeral pyre but was prevented from doing so, Instead, she vowed never to eat again. When Rupert Sheldrake and his wife visited in 1984, she was supposed to have lived for over forty years without food or drink, and without producing faeces or urine. He writes, “While we were there she had a cold and had to blow her nose several times. So she seemed to be defying not only the law of conservation of energy but also the law of conservation of matter, generating mucus but taking no food or water.” At first, he assumed she must have been eating and drinking secretly but later changed this view. “I later found that she was not unique: other holy men and women in India were supposed to have lived without food for years. Some had been exposed as frauds, but others had been investigated by medical teams who found no evidence of secret eating.” The phenomenon of inedia has been documented elsewhere.

Playing with the ‘computer metaphor’ often used in the mechanistic view of living organisms, in his chapter “Is Nature Mechanical?” Rupert Sheldrake describes attempts to explain organisms in terms of their chemical constituents as “rather like trying to understand a computer by grinding it up and analysing its component elements, such as copper, germanium and silicon...” Observing the vitalist language sometimes used among biologists who favour mechanistic explanations, he writes, “Mechanists expel purposive vital factors from living animals and plants, but then they reinvent them in molecular guises. One form of molecular vitalism is to treat the genes as purposive entities with goals and powers that go far beyond those of a mere chemical like DNA. The genes become molecular entelechies...The most popular use of a vitalist metaphor in the name of mechanism is the 'genetic program'...[which] implies that plants and animals are organised by purposive principles that are mind-like, or designed by minds…If challenged, most biologists will admit that genes merely specify the sequence of amino acids in proteins, or are involved in the control of protein synthesis. They are not really programs; they are not selfish, they do not mould matter, or shape form, or aspire to immortality. A gene is not ‘for’ a characteristic like a fish’s fin or the nest-building behaviour of a weaver-bird..."

In his chapter “Are the Laws of Nature Fixed?” he asks “how constant are the ‘fundamental constants’?” Among these are the velocity of light, c; the Universal Gravitational Constant, known to physicists as Big G; and the fine structure constant, α (aleph), which is a measure of the strength of interaction between charged particles, such as electrons, and photons of light. The values of the constants of nature cannot be calculated by mathematics alone but depend on laboratory measurements. Rupert Sheldrake writes that the values given in handbooks of physics change from time to time, being continually adjusted by international committees of experts known as metrologists; but also he cites examples suggestive of these ‘constants’ being variable in actuality.

In the New Scientist magazine, Rupert Sheldrake has been commended as “an excellent scientist: the proper, imaginative kind that in an earlier age discovered continents and mirrored the world in sonnets.” I found this an extremely interesting book, well presented with good sense and appropriate examples (of which I have presented but a trace), and enjoyable. (-:
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PostSubject: Re: "The Science Delusion: Freeing the Spirit of Enquiry" by Rupert Sheldrake   Tue Mar 06, 2012 12:59 pm

Anne wrote:


In The Science Delusion: Freeing the Spirit of Enquiry, Rupert Sheldrake examines “ten core beliefs that most scientists take for granted” which “make up the philosophy or ideology of materialism, whose central assumption is that everything is essentially material or physical, even minds”

The redeeming value of science is its willingness to accept that things exist which it cannot explain. Many of the assumptions about the nature of the universe break down when examined closely. When the theories are pushed to the limit paradoxes appear and you realize that the current functional models are not provable in an ultimate way. Scientific insight has evolved to the point where it is no longer valid to believe that matter is "real" yet the mechanistic paradigm persists, perhaps because no one can figure out what to replace it with :-)
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PostSubject: Re: "The Science Delusion: Freeing the Spirit of Enquiry" by Rupert Sheldrake   Tue Mar 06, 2012 3:45 pm

Anne, this is great! I assume (since you would have indicated otherwise) that you wrote this review. And that, even though we are a highly discerning community here on OBC Connect, the fact that you have been more thorough in your report and documentation than even we demand ;-) suggests that you wrote the review for a yet wider audience!

I certainly agree with Sheldrake's points (so much so that I have included the 10-point summary again below). The one observation that I would make (and Sheldrake may have clarified this somewhere in the book) is that even though Scientific Materialism--also known as Scientism or Scientific Reductionism--may permeate the culture of science, and has been adopted by some (but by no means all) scientists, it actually has nothing to do with science itself (which is, after all, Sheldrake's main point anyway, I think).

Full on scientific reductionism would add an 11th Core Belief: only assertions of truth that can be confirmed through physical measurement can be considered to be true. All other epistemological methodologies (including reason and mystical experience) are therefore invalid by virtue of this core belief.

The root flaw in Materialism, embodied by Core Belief 11--is that it's foundational belief cannot be proven through physical measurement--the methodology that scientific materialism insists is the only valid means of determining truth!

Anne wrote:


In The Science Delusion: Freeing the Spirit of Enquiry, Rupert Sheldrake examines “ten core beliefs that most scientists take for granted” which “make up the philosophy or ideology of materialism, whose central assumption is that everything is essentially material or physical, even minds”:
1. Everything is essentially mechanical. “Dogs, for example, are complex mechanisms, rather than living organisms with goals of their own. Even people are machines…with brains that are like genetically programmed computers.”
2. All matter is unconscious. It has no inner life or subjectivity or point of view. Even human consciousness is an illusion produced by the material activities of brains.
3. The total amount of matter and energy is always the same (with the exception of the Big Bang, when all the matter and energy of the universe suddenly appeared).
4. The laws of nature are fixed. They are the same today as they were at the beginning, and they will stay the same for ever.
5. Nature is purposeless, and evolution has no goal or direction.
6. All biological inheritance is material, carried in the genetic material, DNA, and in other material structures.
7. Minds are inside heads and are nothing but the activities of brains. When you look at a tree, the tree you are seeing is not ‘out there’, where it seems to be, but inside your brain.
8. Memories are stored as material traces in brains and are wiped out at death.
9. Unexplained phenomena like telepathy are illusory.
10. Mechanistic medicine is the only kind that really works.

In his prologue on “Science, Religion and Power”, Rupert Sheldrake refers to The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, an influential book (pub 1962) by science historian Thomas Kuhn, who argued that “in periods of ‘normal’ science, most scientists share a model of reality and a way of asking questions that he called a paradigm. The ruling paradigm defines what kinds of questions scientists can ask and how they can be answered. Normal science takes place within this framework and scientists usually explain away anything that does not fit. Anomalous facts accumulate until a crisis point is reached. Revolutionary changes happen when researchers adopt more inclusive frameworks of thought and practice, and are able to incorporate facts that were previously dismissed as anomalies. In due course the new paradigm becomes the basis of a new phase of normal science.”

I think that Kuhn's description (the second part of what I've quoted from you above) of the impact, on scientists, of whatever the current, dominant, paradigmatic framework of reality is--is a perfect description of religion in general, and Buddhism in particular. I would propose that we are in the middle of just such a paradigmatic revolution right now--in western Buddhism--and on this site!

I have come to the conclusion that Buddhist teaching contains significant gaps, or missing links, that have resulted in a subtle yet significant misunderstanding of what suffering is, the causal dynamic by which it comes about, and what is required for its healing and transformation.
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PostSubject: Re: "The Science Delusion: Freeing the Spirit of Enquiry" by Rupert Sheldrake   Wed Mar 07, 2012 9:45 am

I was raised in the Christian Science church and am extremely skeptical of a world view that holds that the material world is not "real." My limited understanding now is that quantum mechanics does not deny that the material world is "real," but that physicists know that the world is comprised of quanta of energy that can be measured. In any event, a world view that holds the material world is not "real" leads to absurd consequences in the practical everyday world where we live. I have seen adherents of Christian Science suffer needlessly from disease and even death because they insisted on denying the reality of the material world.
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PostSubject: Re: "The Science Delusion: Freeing the Spirit of Enquiry" by Rupert Sheldrake   Wed Mar 07, 2012 11:47 am

Anne, excellent essay and book review! Thank you.
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PostSubject: Re: "The Science Delusion: Freeing the Spirit of Enquiry" by Rupert Sheldrake   Wed Mar 07, 2012 12:29 pm

Carol wrote:
I was raised in the Christian Science church and am extremely skeptical of a world view that holds that the material world is not "real." My limited understanding now is that quantum mechanics does not deny that the material world is "real," but that physicists know that the world is comprised of quanta of energy that can be measured. In any event, a world view that holds the material world is not "real" leads to absurd consequences in the practical everyday world where we live. I have seen adherents of Christian Science suffer needlessly from disease and even death because they insisted on denying the reality of the material world.

Agreed. It's about balance, like so many things. Quantum mechanics reveals that physical reality is actually insubstantial. For instance "solid" matter is mostly space. The notion of solidity is created by forces at the atomic level. However understanding this doesn't make us less subject to the experience of objects as solid - we can't walk through walls. What I takeaway from quantum mechanics is material reality is conditional, not ultimate. The problem with some religions is they see the inadequacy of scientific materialism as somehow validating their own mythologies. As you saw in the Christian Science Church people were not less subject to the consequences of illness just because they denied the reality of illness.
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PostSubject: Re: "The Science Delusion: Freeing the Spirit of Enquiry" by Rupert Sheldrake   Wed Mar 07, 2012 5:47 pm

:-) I am completely won over by the flattery, Kozan, and must admit that the review was just a little something I threw together for the discerning OBCC community! Cool ...I had hoped to look blushingly flattered but 'cool' may be the best I can manage! ;-)

With 342 pages (excluding notes, references and index), I regret that my selection from the book cannot represent its scope, but Rupert Sheldrake does indeed both directly and indirectly make the same point as you have…that materialist reductionism (a rose by any name…) is not inherently intrinsic to science (for example: “It is not anti-scientific to question established beliefs, but central to science itself. At the creative heart of science is a spirit of open-minded enquiry. Ideally, science is a process, not a position or a belief system. Innovative science happens when scientists feel free to ask new questions and build new theories.”)

He describes the development of scientific materialism as arising historically as a rejection of mechanistic dualism, “which defined matter as unconscious and souls as immaterial…Scientific orthodoxy has not always been materialist. The founders of mechanistic science in the seventeenth century were dualistic Christians…This mechanistic dualism is often called Cartesian dualism [after René Descartes]. It saw the human mind as essentially immaterial and disembodied, and bodies as machines made of unconscious matter…” In due course, however, “No one could satisfactorily explain how non-physical minds could interact with material brains, and materialists rejected the existence of these mysterious immaterial entities, leaving only unconscious matter. But since we ourselves are conscious, this elimination of minds created a big problem for materialists, who have tried to explain human consciousness away or dismiss it as illusory…” Of course, “mechanistic dualism” had its ‘before’ as well!...“Before the seventeenth century, almost everyone took for granted that the universe was like an organism, and so was the earth. In classical, medieval and Renaissance Europe, nature was alive…”

Kozan wrote:
I think that Kuhn's description...of the impact, on scientists, of whatever the current, dominant, paradigmatic framework of reality is--is a perfect description of religion in general, and Buddhism in particular. I would propose that we are in the middle of just such a paradigmatic revolution right now--in western Buddhism--and on this site!
I have seen this on a smaller scale also in my own training..."Anomalous facts accumulate until a crisis point is reached" (indeed even before I thought in terms of training) and "Revolutionary changes happen when researchers adopt more inclusive frameworks of thought and practice, and are able to incorporate facts that were previously dismissed as anomalies"!

Kozan wrote:
The root flaw in Materialism, embodied by Core Belief 11--is that it's foundational belief cannot be proven through physical measurement--the methodology that scientific materialism insists is the only valid means of determining truth!
I like your logical judo! Yes, a crack where the light gets in! (-:
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PostSubject: Re: "The Science Delusion: Freeing the Spirit of Enquiry" by Rupert Sheldrake   Thu Mar 08, 2012 4:44 am

:8) (blushingly flattered) :8| (blushingly apologetic if you've come here to check up on the new post)
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PostSubject: Re: "The Science Delusion: Freeing the Spirit of Enquiry" by Rupert Sheldrake   Thu Mar 08, 2012 6:46 pm

No worries, Anne. Your comments are always cool--not to mention deeply insightful--and much appreciated!

I should also mention, since I was in too much of a rush to do so when I wrote my last comment, that I've read several variations of what I described as "the root flaw in materialism", expressed in different ways, by at least two or three authors, one of whom was Ken Wilbur.
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PostSubject: Re: "The Science Delusion: Freeing the Spirit of Enquiry" by Rupert Sheldrake   Sat Mar 10, 2012 11:02 am

I enjoyed your book review too Anne .Thank you, this sounds fascinating.
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PostSubject: Re: "The Science Delusion: Freeing the Spirit of Enquiry" by Rupert Sheldrake   Wed Mar 28, 2012 3:00 am

Scientists at CERN recently apparently measured particles moving faster than light. This violated Einstein's special relativity, which is one of the most comprehensive and "sacred" models that physicists currently have.

Did they destroy this result, or try to hide it? No. What they told the physics community was (effectively) "Here is our data. Everyone is invited to figure out where we might have gone wrong. Otherwise we may have just found an amazing new result." Unless I'm mistaken, YOU can also downloaded their data and take a look at it, if you choose to do so.

In other words, not only was the (absurd! appalling! thrilling!) crazy result NOT suppressed or ignored, it was disseminated widely, so that as many people as possible could review it.

(I assume that the opinions of those who have actually done the hard work of educating themselves in modern physics probably will be given more weight than those attributing the unexpected result to leprechauns. But if so, the Leprechaunists will be very upset at the Anti-leprechaun physicists for their close-mindedness.)

I think that this is the real, normative routine: scientists have a model of how things work that seems to explain a lot of experimental results. If something comes along that doesn't conform, well, surely sometimes it isn't obvious enough, or the scientist isn't curious or clever enough to notice, and it gets discarded. But if a result is weird enough that it stands out, then many scientists will take it VERY seriously, regardless of whose holy grail they could risk smashing. And if it's an exciting enough prospect, many other scientists will gladly jump on board, because they live for exciting new discoveries and the opening of new horizons. IT WILL ALMOST CERTAINLY NOT BE SUPPRESSED.

***************************************

As far as I'm concerned, the guy who honestly thinks that someone has lived for decades without taking in any nutrition or liquid has simply declared himself a credulous mark. Beware [admin delete] mystics...they know how to play for money. Check out Sathya Sai Baba sometime, or Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. Millions of dollars raised. Millions of followers. Total [admin delete].

e of Richard Dawkins's co-thinkers on many subjects) tells a very funny story about a bunch of rich Americans that he knew who imported a VERY spiritual, charismatic, and beautiful young Indian man. This young guru eventually convinced them that he had to transmit his "teaching" by having relations with all of their wives (one suspects that the word "darshan" was used a lot). He finally crossed the line, however, when he developed a taste for Haagen-Dazs and was demanding that it be served for breakfast. The premium ice cream was the last straw...! That was too carnal, too obviously of the pleasures of this world, and they sent him packing.

***************************************

The record on mystics, psychics, and gurus is so spotty that I think the operating rule of thumb should be "Protect your mind and your wallet!" rather than "Keep an open mind". All any of these people would need to do is go into the laboratory with a good experimental design and skeptical investigators. If they could do their magical thing, the results would not be suppressed, and the world would be in for an interesting treat.

Since about 1996, the James Randi Education Foundation (JREF) has been offering a cash prize of one million dollars to the person who can demonstrate psychic phenomena in a laboratory contolled setting. So far, no one has claimed the prize. You are, of course, entirely free to hold your breath until the prize is claimed if you so choose.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Randi_Educational_Foundation

**********************************

I think that what Sheldrake is offering may be helpful for practicing scientists to think through, although most of us ARE aware that any conception of "normal" is automatically confining. This is a fact that everyone, not just scientists, has to live with...you have normal driving conditions but then LOOK OUT someone just wrecked right in front of you, and your comfortable routine has to give way to reality.

However, I worry that Sheldrake is also providing an excuse for the lazy and the intimidated to dismiss scientific inquiry whenever they prefer something else. "Oh those scientists! There they go again!" That's what most people want out of something like this, I think...the right or excuse to ignore the data if it suits them, or the right to suppose that something hard to measure must surely be there. Those who imagine that rocks have subjectivity can go right on talking to them, reassured by Sheldrake that they secretly know better than those rigid, narrow geologists.

So I'll probably read Sheldrake's book, but I'll be surprised if he can do more than chip away at a few of the more cynical accretions in my thinking, and make me angry at the deliberate spreading of misinformation about the scientific method and community of scientists (if such misinformation is there). I once read a book "Why Religion Matters" by Houston Smith years ago, about scientism/materialism that I thought was flawed and annoying but certainly worth engaging. Maybe it's time I try another one of those.

*(Yes I'm picking on Indians...no I don't think their mystics are "worse" in any way than Western mystics)


Last edited by Lise on Wed Mar 28, 2012 1:43 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Violation / Rule 6 / racist comments and name-calling.)
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PostSubject: Re: "The Science Delusion: Freeing the Spirit of Enquiry" by Rupert Sheldrake   Wed Mar 28, 2012 12:13 pm

ddolmar wrote:
That's what most people want out of something like this, I think...the right or excuse to ignore the data if it suits them

This behaviour is sooooooo common, it worries me.

ddolmar wrote:
Those who imagine that rocks have subjectivity can go right on talking to them, reassured by Sheldrake that they secretly know better than those rigid, narrow geologists.

The practice of studying the physical attributes of rocks and the practice of getting nicely spazzed out of your pyjamas so that the whole world turns into a bliss-goddess offering you jugfuls of honeydew are two different, and not mutually exclusive, disciplines.

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PostSubject: Re: "The Science Delusion: Freeing the Spirit of Enquiry" by Rupert Sheldrake   Thu Mar 29, 2012 1:49 pm

:-) Aha! I'm glad I dropped you that PM re this thread, Dan. So thanks for looking in...

I hope you get a chance to read the book and don't find it too annoying. I don't believe the author intends to provide "an excuse for the lazy and the intimidated to dismiss scientific inquiry whenever they prefer something else", and the book doesn't strike me as lax in that regard; but of course people can make unintended inferences.

Concerning the prestidigitive Mr Randi, perhaps I am being somewhat inethical here, but my impression of him over the years has been that he may lack reliability or adequate scruples when it comes to the paranormal. Here is a related article by Rupert Sheldrake...

Quote :
James Randi - a Conjurer Attempts to Debunk Research on Animals

The January 2000 issue of Dog World magazine included an article on a possible sixth sense in dogs, which discussed some of my research. In this article Randi was quoted as saying that in relation to canine ESP, "We at the JREF [James Randi Educational Foundation] have tested these claims. They fail." No details were given of these tests.

I emailed James Randi to ask for details of this JREF research. He did not reply. He ignored a second request for information too.

I then asked members of the JREF Scientific Advisory Board to help me find out more about this claim. They did indeed help by advising Randi to reply. In an email sent on Februaury 6, 2000 he told me that the tests he referred to were not done at the JREF, but took place "years ago" and were "informal". They involved two dogs belonging to a friend of his that he observed over a two-week period. All records had been lost. He wrote: "I overstated my case for doubting the reality of dog ESP based on the small amount of data I obtained. It was rash and improper of me to do so."

Randi also claimed to have debunked one of my experiments with the dog Jaytee, a part of which was shown on television. Jaytee went to the window to wait for his owner when she set off to come home, but did not do so before she set off. In Dog World, Randi stated: "Viewing the entire tape, we see that the dog responded to every car that drove by, and to every person who walked by." This is simply not true, and Randi now admits that he has never seen the tape.
Unfortunately, I think that a fair amount of that may go on (a bit like dubious gurus); and here is a link to more articles on Rupert Sheldrake's website related to apparently unscrupulous 'skeptics': http://www.sheldrake.org/About/guide/skeptic.html

...And here is a short article by Rupert Sheldrake concerning skeptcism/scepticism...

Quote :
Skepticism

Healthy skepticism plays an important part in science, and stimulates research and critical thinking. Healthy skeptics are open-minded and interested in evidence. By contrast, dogmatic skeptics are committed to the belief that "paranormal" phenomena are impossible, or at least so improbable as to merit no serious attention. Hence any evidence for such phenomena must be illusory. Several such Skeptics have attacked my research on the unexplained powers of animals and on the sense of being stared at. Click on their names if you want to know what they said, and to read my replies. Most of them are associated with CSICOP, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, an organization devoted to debunking evidence for "paranormal" phenomena, and to promoting skeptical claims in the media. CSICOP publishes the Skeptical Inquirer, 'the magazine for science and reason'.

For more about these and other skeptics, see www.skepticalinvestigations.org
Concerning people alleged to have lived for an extraordinary duration on nil food/drink, in ?1999 I had the interesting opportunity to hear the stories of several people of different ages and walks of life who had independently (in ones or twos) followed a process that purportedly facilitated this. (Of course, saying it's so doesn't make it so; just as saying it isn't so doesn't make it not so.) None of them claimed that it depended on, or indicated, holiness (and one expressed apparently sincere disappointment that no wonderful mystic states arose as a result!) Unfortunately I've not kept my notes about this meeting but, as I recall, many said that they continued to refrain for a long while after completing the process but eventually began normal eating/drinking again for social reasons (e.g the family dinner). Roman Catholic nun Terese Neumann reportedly practised virtual inedia; here's a bit on it from Wiki...

Quote :
From the years of 1922 until her death in 1962, Therese Neumann apparently consumed no food other than The Holy Eucharist, and claimed to have drunk no water from 1926 until her death.

In July 1927 a medical doctor and four Franciscan nurses kept a watch on her 24 hours a day for a two-week period. They confirmed that she had consumed nothing except for one consecrated sacred Host a day, and had suffered no ill effects, loss of weight, or dehydration.
Rupert Sheldrake mentions other inedia cases in his book, for example...

Quote :
In 2010, a team from the Indian Defence Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences (DIPAS) investigated an eighty-three-year old yogi called Prahlad Jani...His devotees claimed that he had not eaten for seventy years. In the DIPAS study, he was kept for two weeks in a hospital under continuous observation and filmed on CCTV cameras. He had several baths and gargled, but the medical team confirmed that he ate and drank nothing, and passed no urine or faeces. A previous medical investigation in 2003 had given similar results. The director of DIPAS said, "If a person starts fasting, there will be some changes in his metabolism but in his case we did not find any."
Rupert Sheldrake goes on to say, "Many people will confidently predict that all cases of inedia will be found to be fraudulent or to have some other conventional explanation. They may turn out to be right. If they are, the conventional assumptions will be strengthened by new evidence. But if they are wrong, we will learn something new that may raise bigger questions that go beyond the biological sciences. Are there new forms of energy that are not at present recognised by science? Or can the energy in the zero-point field, which is recognised by science, be tapped by living organisms?..."

His chapter "Is Matter Conscious?" is of possible interest to rocks who wish that more people would talk to them, but I am not sure that Rupert Sheldrake can be held as instigator... He explains different views or theories on consciousness held by different materialists, e.g:
a) 'Eliminative materialism', in which view "consciousness is just an 'aspect' of the activity of the brain. Thoughts or sensations are just another way of talking about activity in particular regions of the cerebral cortex; they are the same things talked about in different ways."
b) 'Epiphenomenalism', which is seeing consciousness "as a functionless by-product of the activity of the brain, an 'epiphenomenon', like a shadow. T H Huxley was an early advocate of this point of view...People might just as well be zombies with no subjective experience, because all their behaviour is the result of brain activity alone. Conscious experience does nothing, and makes no difference to the physical world."
c) 'Cognitive psychology' of a form that "treats the brain as a computer and mental activity as information processing. Subjective experiences, like seeing green, or feeling pain, or enjoying music, are computational experiences inside the brain, which are themselves unconscious."
d) "Some philosophers, like John Searle, think that minds can emerge from matter by analogy with the way that physical properties can emerge at different levels of complexity, like the wetness of water emerging from large numbers of water molecules...The wetness of liquid water is not explained by water molecules in isolation, but through their organisation together in liquid water...Many non-materialists would agree with Searle that consciousness is in some sense 'emergent' but would argue that while mind and conscious agency originate in physical nature, they are qualitatively different from purely material or physical being."
e) Some "propose that consciousness emerged as a result of natural selection through mindless processes from unconscious matter. Because minds evolved, they must have been favoured by natural selection and hence they must actually do something: they must make a difference. Many non-materialists would agree. But materialists want to have it both ways: emergent consciousness must do something if it has evolved as an evolutionary adaptation favoured by natural selection; but it cannot do anything if it is just an epiphenomenon of brain activity, or another way of talking about brain mechanisms. In 2011, the psychologist Nicholas Humphrey tried to overcome this problem by suggesting that consciousness evolved because it helps humans survive and reproduce by making us feel 'special and transcendent'. But as a materialist, Humphrey does not agree that our minds have any agency; that is to say, they cannot affect our actions. Instead our consciousness is illusory: he describes it as a 'magical mystery show that we stage for ourselves inside our own heads'. But to say that consciousness is an illusion does not explain consciousness: it presupposes it. Illusion is a mode of consciousness."

Rupert Sheldrake goes on to say that the above theories "do not even convince other materialists, which is why there are so many rival theories"; and wrote of the philosopher Galen Strawson ("himself a materialist") who "shares the frustration of many contemporary philosophers with the seemingly intractable problems of materialism and dualism"...

Quote :
He has come to the conclusion that there is only one way out. He argues that a consistent materialism must imply panpsychism, namely the idea that even atoms and molecules have a primitive kind of mentality or experience. (The Greek word pan means everywhere, and psyche means soul or mind.) Panpsychism does not mean that atoms are conscious in the sense that we are, but only that some aspects of mentality or experience are present in the simplest physical systems. More complex forms of mind or experience emerge in more complex systems.

In 2006, the Journal of Consciousness Studies published a special issue entitled "Does materialism entail panpsychism?" with a target article by Strawson, and responses by seventeen other philosophers and scientists. Some of them rejected his suggestion in favour of more conventional kinds of materialism, but all admitted that their favoured kind of materialism was problematic.

Strawson made only a generalised abstract case for panpsychism, with disappointingly few details as to how an electron or an atom could be said to have experiences. But, like many other panpsychists, he made an important distinction between aggregates of matter, like tables and rocks, and self-organising systems like atoms, cells and animals. He did not suggest that tables and rocks have any unified experience, though the atoms within them may have. The reason for this distinction is that man-made objects, like chairs or cars, do not organise themselves, and do not have their own goals or purposes. They are designed by people and put together in factories. Likewise rocks are made up of atoms and crystals that are self-organising, but external forces shape the rock as a whole: for example, it may have been split from a larger rock as a boulder rolled down a mountain.

By contrast, in self-organising systems, complex forms of experience emerge spontaneously...
Some rocks may wish to counter the above with their own arguments but I regret I must leave it dangling there, as I must must must place a groceries order with Tesco and cannot take time to reproduce the whole book (plus there might be legal problems!); but to fast forward over another thirteen pages to the end of this chapter, Rupert Sheldrake's "Questions for materialists" are...

Quote :
Do you believe that your own consciousness is merely an aspect or epiphenomenon of the activity of your brain?

If your consciousness does nothing, why has it evolved as an evolutionary adaptation?

Do you agree with the materialist philosopher Galen Strawson that materialism implies panpsychism?

Is your own belief in materialism determined by unconscious processes in your brain, rather than reason, evidence and choice?
I don't think Rupert Sheldrake is trying to be a smart burro, or taking a pugnacious stance, by any of these questions: I don't personally know him but this is my impression from what I've seen of him in interviews.

All the best with the book, Dan, if you get to read it. I'd be interested to read of your thoughts on it afterwards. (-:
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