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Rupert Sheldrake: An early non-Darwinian biologist looks back on it all


The Science Delusion

In “Rupert Sheldrake: the ‘heretic’ at odds with scientific dogma” (The Guardian Observer, February 5, 2012), a comparatively sympathetic portrait of Rupert Sheldrake at 70, Tim Adams offers,

It is not often, in liberal north London, that you come face to face with a heretic, but Rupert Sheldrake has worn that mantle, pretty cheerfully, for 30 years now. Sitting in his book-lined study, overlooking Hampstead Heath, he appears a highly unlikely candidate for apostasy; he seems more like the Cambridge biochemistry don he once was, one of the brightest Darwinians of his generation, winner of the university botany prize, researcher at the Royal Society, Harvard scholar and fellow of Clare College.

But then he doubted, and became an outcast. For him, it was animals, the way they often seem to know things – including things not accessible to the human intellect – that are not fully explained by their conventional senses.

Indeed, Richard Dawkins, guardian of Darwinian correctness, made a point of hounding Sheldrake, and at one point had to be shown out of his lab. Of Dawkins, Adams notes,

Sheldrake is the same age as Dawkins – 70 this year – and though their careers began in an almost identical biochemical place, they could hardly have ended up further apart. If Sheldrake’s ideas could be boiled down to a sentence, you might borrow one from Hamlet: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Richard, than are dreamt of in your philosophy…”

Of his new book, he suggests,

scientists are prone to “the recurrent fantasy of omniscience”. The science delusion, in these terms, consists in the faith that we already understand the nature of reality, in principle, and that all that is left to do is to fill in the details. “In this book, I am just trying to blow the whistle on that attitude which I think is bad for science,” he says. In America, the book is called Science Set Free, which he thinks is probably a better title. “They were aware that if they called it The Science Delusion it would be seen as a rightwing tract that was anti-evolution and anti-climate change. And I want no part of that.”

Though he remains at best a contentious figure, and to some an irredeemable charlatan, Sheldrake sees some evidence that this old opposition is breaking down, that doubt and wonder might be returning to science.

“I think one of the reasons why my book has – so far – been well received is that times are changing,” he suggests. “A lot of our old certainties, not least neoliberal capitalism, have been turned on their head. The atheist revival movement of Dawkins and Hitchens and Dennett is for many people just too narrow and dogmatic. I think it is a uniquely open moment…”

His hope is that there will be a “coming out” moment in science. “It’s like gays in the 1950s,” he suggests. “I think if people in the realm of science and medicine came out and talked about the limitations of purely mechanistic and reductive approaches it would be much more fun…”

Sheldrake reminds us a bit of Wallace, who broke with Darwin, and was a similarly unconventional thinker.

See also: Dawkins vs. Sheldrake

More on Britain’s “be grossly intolerant” science czar’s demands of scientists

Hat tip: Stephanie West Allan at Brains on Purpose

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Some of these names are from when British achievement was supreme. However its no longer the case or likely the future. My point is that one should go with the winners and North America opinions generally matter more. Creationism is best here as it would be where error meets the most resistance because of the degree of intelligence. An equation that has worked well. So even these useful critics are not really needed and just bring in the old presumptions whose time has passed. Creationist thought is here and not there. I wish them well and presume they contribute more then Europe. Robert Byers
paragwinn, well Rupert has developed repeatable rigorous scientific testing for the causal power of mind, even scientific testing made available over the internet to anyone who doubts the results he has gotten so that they can check for themselves and know for certainty, whereas his testing against the myth of molecular reductionism is, I believe, not nearly as pervasive as that. bornagain77
ba77: "Personally, I find Rupert’s work in this particular area of ‘mind’ to be his strongest scientific work" Please elucidate this for us. paragwinn
Gays should come out of the closet only if they stop being gay
Hilarious! You can come out as gay as long as you are no longer gay.
Do British people really contribute to the modern civilization or is over for the old ones.? Creationism doesn’t need these people.
Ah! I see the problem. Darwin, Wallace, Fisher, Haldane, Hamilton, Dawkins ... limeys one and all. Well, one was a Scot and another born in Kenya, but ... glossing over the numerous American contributors to evolutionary theory, we can pretty much forge a New American philosophy, and get rid of that pernicious Old World influence marching bravely forward into the new millennium. And closets ... well, have you heard the way they talk? Chas D
Eh? Bydand
Gays should come out of the closet only if they stop being gay and capitalism did win. Do British people really contribute to the modern civilization or is over for the old ones.? Creationism doesn't need these people. If they were not smart enough most of their life to see the truth on these issues they put their minds too then why have they anything to contribute now just because they smell the times-they-are-a-changing. Robert Byers
Also of interest: The Case Against Molecular Reductionism - Rupert Sheldrake and Bruce Lipton - video http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4899469 The entire video may be viewed here: Rupert Sheldrake and Bruce Lipton - A Quest Beyond the Limits of the Ordinary (Part 1 of 10) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yurzNF_Z3ec bornagain77
Well to plug this video one more time since the topic is on Rupert: (Personally, I find Rupert's work in this particular area of 'mind' to be his strongest scientific work) The Mind Is Not The Brain - Scientific Evidence - Rupert Sheldrake - (Referenced Notes) http://vimeo.com/33479544 bornagain77

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