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The Rupert Sheldrake we all want to talk to

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And friend James Barham did:

The materialist ideology promotes a high degree of conformity in scientific thinking because it is indeed ideological, and materialists are unforgiving towards heretical deviations from this belief system.

Over the course of the twentieth century, the atmosphere within biology became increasingly intolerant, at the same time as physics opened up a wider range of possibilities. There are still great limitations on what professional physicists can think, but there is a toleration of alternative interpretations of quantum mechanics, divergent interpretations of cosmology, the question of whether there is one universe or many, and so on.

Charles DarwinAnother reason for the greater uniformity of thinking is the professionalization of science. In the nineteenth century, many of the most creative scientists were not professionals. For example, Charles Darwin was an amateur naturalist living on a private income, with no academic post or government grant. He was much freer as a result.

Now, the vast majority of scientists rely on salaries and are far more aware of peer-group pressure. In fact, the peer-review system for jobs, grant applications, and publication of papers in journals means that peer pressure dominates their lives. In the nineteenth century, there were fewer constraints on creative and independent thinking.

Readers will recall this episode, of course, Sheldrake seeing off East Coast culture bore Daniel Dennett.

Also, how Sheldrake got over Darwin here.

11 Replies to “The Rupert Sheldrake we all want to talk to

  1. 1
    LarTanner says:

    Take this statement:

    The materialist ideology promotes a high degree of conformity in scientific thinking because it is indeed ideological, and materialists are unforgiving towards heretical deviations from this belief system.

    Does the speaker mean something like —

    Materialist ideology is just as bad as Christian ideology in promoting conformity and unforgivingness to heretical deviations.

    or this?

    Materialist ideology promotes conformity and unforgivingness to heretical deviations…but Christianity (or [insert preferred religion/ideology here]) is much worse.

    Just curious, News.

  2. 2
    Axel says:

    The short answer is: No.

    The longer answer is as follows:

    We take a ‘lashing and loading’ course, aka study the catechism, before we load our ‘vehicles’ (or ‘ve..hick..les’, if you are American); all very coherently-loaded and well-balanced.

    However, yours are just loaded higgledy-piggledy and even fall off the cart in a not very orderly way.

    You can write a theology of conjectural tosh, as long as you don’t teaching it in a Catholic institute of higher learning, for which you would need the Church’s imprimatur. Because what the church approves very much tends to be not conjecture, as you fancifully picture it, but the end product of the profound understanding of many scholar-saints down the centuries.

    You wouldn’t even be classified as a heretic, as long as you didn’t persist in attacking the church rancorously because it forbore from deferring to ‘your own brilliance’.

  3. 3
    bFast says:

    My sense of Rupert Sheldrake is that he is trying to distance himself as much as possible from ID. I think he’s trying to have his cake and eat it too. He wants science to think outside the box, but he wants to be in the box at the same time — no, no, my theory is not teleological.

    I think Rupert Sheldrake would do himself better by inviting more than just his theory to to the table — to open the table to all hypotheses.

  4. 4

    @LarTanner #1

    “Materialist ideology is just as bad as Christian ideology in promoting conformity and unforgivingness to heretical deviations.”

    There was a substantial amount of truth to that statement 500 years ago. Since then Christianity has evolved into a “Let a hundred flowers blossom” mode, with very substantial doctrinal differences between even major denominational groups such as Catholics or Baptists. As an example, services in liturgical churches are quite different than in non-liturgical ones.

    As for “heretical deviations,” church discipline is virtually non-existent nowadays except within cultish denominations. Most people vote with their feet and leave for other churches or stop going if they arrive at different perspectives. The more motivated set up forums to share their experiences and criticisms, such as for former Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc. Even among the faithful attenders you can find significant differences of opinion when you get to know people well.

    I can say as a retired university professor, I was much more afraid of not getting tenure than any conceivable sanctions in the various churches of which I have been a member. Despite that, I allowed my name to be used in Easter advertisements in our campus newspaper. I decided that if that became an impediment to getting tenure, so be it. But then I had several papers accepted in a top-tier publication in my field. Despite my very limited social skills and as a result of some very unusual circumstances, I was also recognized in a student vote as an outstanding teacher. So I was awarded tenure anyway. Hallelujah!

  5. 5
    not_querius says:

    “The materialist ideology promotes a high degree of conformity in scientific thinking because it is indeed ideological, and materialists are unforgiving towards heretical deviations from this belief system.”

    A bold assertion. But a false one. If you were to say that certain ideas and concepts develop result in a type of inertia that resists change, you might be correct. But these tend to be ideas that are supported by overwhelming evidence. Very weak theories such as ID or IC do not develop this inertia.

    There is no conspiracy, of ideology involved. It is just the result of overwhelming evidence.

  6. 6
    Robert Byers says:

    I think that in the past it simply was the upper class/upper educated class that only got involved in sciency things. So they were more intelligent. these days average people can get involved by squeaking out a few more marks then someone else.
    People are smarter today but I think the upper class today doesn’t get in as much and so we lag behind in a curve. a rising curve always but still a interference kicks in.
    I don’t like the words creative etc. its just about intelligence.
    today , as evolution shows, there is a lack of it in higher education.
    Pound for pound. Also remember in the old days they were dealing with the more simple stuff. Newton/Einstein stuff was entry level. today we must go farther to get like results in accomplishments.
    We are smarter today but our smartest potential is held back by many motivations in society.

  7. 7
    Mung says:

    > Take this statement:
    > Does the speaker mean something like –
    > or this?

    Yes! Exactly!

  8. 8
    Mapou says:

    not_querius:

    There is no conspiracy, of ideology involved. It is just the result of overwhelming evidence.

    Funny. I take the exact opposite view. There is a conspiracy. There is ideology. And the evidence is extremely weak.

  9. 9
    Andre says:

    What evidence? Just so stories are not evidence

  10. 10

    @not_querius #5

    “It is just the result of overwhelming evidence.”

    Really?

    Please provide examples of “overwhelming evidence” in the form of reproducible proof-of-concept demonstrations which confirm the hypotheses that random processes can:
    1-generate complex functional mechanisms, and/or
    2-change existing complex functional mechanisms into other functional ones with substantially different structures and functionality.

  11. 11
    bFast says:

    not_querius “There is no conspiracy, of ideology involved. It is just the result of overwhelming evidence.”

    In response to this, I think of James Shapiro and “the third way” (http://www.thethirdwayofevolution.com/). He and his are well qualified scientists who refuse to consider ID, yet find the evidence to be anything but “overwhelming”.

    What is his/their response to ID? “One way is Creationism that depends upon intervention by a divine Creator. That is clearly unscientific because it brings an arbitrary supernatural force into the evolution process.” Note the philosophical, rather than evidentiary, dismissal of the ID hypothesis. What part of “there is no part of … ideology involved” are you willing to support?

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