The Problems with Rupert Sheldrake’s TEDx Talk

Rupert Sheldrake has stood on stage at a TEDx conference and listed the 10 dogmas of science:

  • Dogma 1. Machinistic Universe
  • Dogma 2. Matter is unconscious (not even we are)
  • Dogma 3. The laws of nature are fixed
  • Dogma 4. The total amount of matter and energy is always the same
  • Dogma 5. Nature is purposeless
  • Dogma 6. Biological heredity is material
  • Dogma 7. Memories are stored inside your brain as material
  • Dogma 8. Your mind is inside your head
  • Dogma 9. Psychic and Telepathy is impossible
  • Dogma 10. Mechanistic medicine is the only kind that really works

He didn’t have time to go in to all of these dogmas, but he does expand upon two of them briefly – Dogma 3, and then Dogma 2 – with a story about his brief library-based-research and discussion with a professor to attain his understandings of these ‘dogmas’.

Perhaps he explains this in his book, but in this talk Dr Sheldrake completely fails to explain why it is that science has come up with these dogmas. I mean, religions have dogma because their truths come from a static holy book, or a leader of some kind. But why did ‘Science’ – whatever entity that is exactly – somehow pick and choose its dogmas?

Let’s look at his story about the speed of light. He explains that there were different speeds in the past, and then over time they settled on a speed, and just fixed it at that speed and said it couldn’t change. He doesn’t explain WHY they would arbitrarily decide that the speed of light was constant. There is no holy book to decree it. There is no leader of science who forces scientists to believe it. Why do scientists believe it to be the case? More importantly, why would they ignore the evidence to the contrary which they must surely all by uncovering in the millions of experiments which have been done on light over the last 10 or 20 decades of increasingly sophisticated technological sophistication?

Sheldrake does the same thing with the Gravitational constant. Another story, another accusation of tampering for the purposes of maintaining the dogma, but no explanation for what motivation there is behind the dogmatic belief. WHY would anyone subscribe to a belief like this without a reason? Why would such a claim be set up dogmatically in the first place?

Sheldrake states that “scientists are now wholly owned subsidiaries of the materialist world view” and I think as the talk progresses, he reveals the chasm between the Science, and his position. Because while he wants to paint scientists as brainwashed citizens controlled by a materialistic dogma, the idea that materialism requires Science to dogmatically claim that there are constants is completely absurd. Obviously our materialistic science also involves the theory of evolution, continental drift, and expanding universe to name just a few non-constants. Now if we juxtapose the way Sheldrake has framed Science against Sheldrake’s claims in this talk, you can see that Sheldrake is simply insisting that his ignorance, his personal feelings, and his pre-conceived conclusions are more informing, more important and more accurate than the conclusions reached via the process of scientific concensus over the course of decades.

He complains that scientists don’t even consider that the speed of light may vary. Sadly this claim comes from his ignorance, not from his understanding. He is a biochemist, not a physicist nor even a historian of science.  Just like the scientists who are creationists tend to never be biological scientists, and the scientists who are critical of Climate Science are never climatologists, here we have a Biochemist being critical of fundamental physics. The only evidence we really have that all of these scientists who have investigated the speed of light over the years have ‘assumed’ it is a constant is because Dr Sheldrake THINKS that that is what they have done.

This problem is rife in his talk. He regularly declares that scientists has made ‘assumptions’ though in reality it seems to mostly be based on the fact that Dr Sheldrake doesn’t know why it is that scientists reached their conclusions, and has therefore assumed that they assumed it. A little googling will provide you with numerous resources which explain why it is that science has settled on the claim that light and the gravitational constant are indeed constants. This article was particularly good: Have Physical Constants Changed with Time? I like it mostly because of this quote:

Over the past few decades, there have been extensive searches for evidence of variation of fundamental “constants.” Among the methods used have been astrophysical observations of the spectra of distant stars, searches for variations of planetary radii and moments of inertia, investigations of orbital evolution, searches for anomalous luminosities of faint stars, studies of abundance ratios of radioactive nuclides, and (for current variations) direct laboratory measurements.

Which of course completely contradicts Dr Sheldrake’s entire claim – that scientists don’t question the dogmas. Sorry Dr Sheldrake, but just because the questioning of the ‘dogma’ continues to yield the same results over and over, and just because you don’t WANT those results, does not mean that no one is questioning them.

“Why don’t Laws of nature evolve in an evolving universe? “

Because that is not what we have found. No one arbitrarily decided to make it that way. There was no meeting of the head conclave of the sciences, where they all sat down and decided “Lets tell everyone the laws of our evolving universe are constant! That will be hilarious!” Evidence is why scientists are quietly confident that the laws are constant. They haven’t changed! Simple as that.

Morphic Resonance

I’m not going to spend much time on this. I don’t even need to take a position on it – he wants it to be scientific, so all it needs is to be falsifiable, and then do research which could falsify it. Find a way to block the morphic field, and then bring an animal to gestation without it. Or much simpler, actually demonstrate the example he gave on stage of rats on the other side of the planet learning a trick faster, because a rat near you learned a trick. Simple. DO the research, prove it beyond statistical error and confirmation bias, allow other people to repeat the proof. Done. Nobel prize secured.

Science is simple, and it works. Frustratingly, when people like Dr Sheldrake decide that their hypothesis MUST BE TRUE, then the scientific method continues to contradict their pre-chosen conclusion, instead of giving up on the hypothesis, they start attacking science. Very sad. Very destructive.

Sensing things looking at you

Shortly after saying that consciousness doesn’t “Seem” to be in your head – a great method of discerning reality from what is just, you know, in your head – Dr Sheldrake then explains how he ‘thinks’ that our perceptions are projected out and touch the things which are being perceived. He thinks it probably evolved in a predator-prey relationship, where those that could sense better will survive better. What a great falsifiable hypothesis! Shame it lacks any supporting evidence once again!

Of all the species studied, never once have any of them been identified which react because of being gazed upon. Think of Lions stalking a herd of Buffalo. That pride of Lions lay there looking at the buffalo for a long time and the Buffalo don’t react until they see the Lions. Think of the creatures like frogs, lizards and fish who carefully line up its prey, then shoot a tongue or spout of water at them – that prey certainly doesn’t seem to be put off by the predator looking at them.

Worse than that though, if you consider the notion that perhaps just some species evolved this sensing trait – then the predator species trying to hunt them will most likely have to evolve a counter-trait. Hunting with their eyes closed, for example. They could change to Sonar – now there is a sense which definitely does touch the prey…nothing the prey can do about it though, they are flying or swimming as fast as they can already! Maybe instead they could rely on hearing and smell – something dogs do a lot of. But I don’t know of any species which relies exclusively on smell and hearing, except for situations where there is no light. So there doesn’t seem to be any benefit to not using light to see with for predator species – as would be expected by Dr Sheldrake’s projection-sensing hypothesis.

But it FEELS like it should be there to him. So he feels justified arguing that it is right, and all of science is wrong until it agrees with his feelings and conclusions.

So when he finishes his talk by observing that the Dogmas are holding science back, what he really means is that the conclusions reached on the decades of research and consideration done by the many thousands of specialised scientists who have come before him are holding science back from simply agreeing with his feelings, and his chosen conclusions. And his own experimentation designed to prove his conclusions, haven’t been compelling enough for other scientists to join him, so clearly Science itself is at fault.

This is what is wrong with Rupert Shaldrake’s TEDx talk.

 

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One thought on “The Problems with Rupert Sheldrake’s TEDx Talk

  1. When I first saw this video, which was just a few moments ago, at first I was thinking this was just a joke being played by a scientist who wanted to bring some laughs to the audience. But as I saw further I was astonished at the shear stupidity of it. You said many things that anyone with a half a brain could have said as well after not only seeing this video, but also looking around them and seeing what science has provided them with.

    If I could see Mr Rupert and say one thing to him, it would be a quote from that great physicist Professor Richard Feynman. While giving a lecture on QED Professor Feynman says, “… It’s the way nature works… You don’t like it, go somewhere else. To another universe, where the rules are simpler, more philosophically pleasing, more psychologically easy…”

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