Sheldrake's new book, SCIENCE SET FREE, and challenging the ten core beliefs of science

JParker

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Dr. Sheldrake challenges readers, and his colleagues, in his new book. I'd like to post from comments he makes on the "ten core beliefs of science:
In my new book Science Set Free, to be published on September 4, I argue that science is being held back by centuries-old assumptions that have hardened into dogmas. The sciences would be better off without them: freer, more interesting, and more fun. The biggest scientific delusion of all is that science already knows the answers. The details still need working out, but the fundamental questions are settled, in principle.
Contemporary science is based on the philosophy of materialism, which claims that all reality is material or physical. There is no reality but material reality. Consciousness is a by-product of the physical activity of the brain. Matter is unconscious. Evolution is purposeless. God exists only as an idea in human minds, and hence in human heads.
These beliefs are powerful not because most scientists think about them critically, but because they don’t. The facts of science are real enough, and so are the techniques that scientists use, and so are the technologies based on them. But the belief system that governs conventional scientific thinking is an act of faith, grounded in a nineteenth century ideology.
Here are the ten core beliefs that most scientists take for granted:
1. Everything is essentially mechanical. Dogs, for example, are complex mechanisms, rather than living organisms with goals of their own. Even people are machines, “lumbering robots”, in Richard Dawkins’ vivid phrase, 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 forever.
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 image of 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.
Together, these beliefs make up the philosophy or ideology of materialism, whose central assumption is that everything is essentially material or physical, even minds. This belief-system became dominant within science in the late nineteenth century, and is now taken for granted. Many scientists are unaware that materialism is 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 everyday usage, materialism refers to a way of life devoted entirely to material interests, a preoccupation with wealth, possessions and luxury. These attitudes are no doubt encouraged by the materialist philosophy, which denies the existence of any spiritual realities or non-material goals, but here I am concerned with materialism’s scientific claims, rather than its effects on lifestyles.
In Science Set Free, in the spirit of radical scepticism, I turn each of the ten dogmas of materialism 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?”
At the end of each chapter, I discuss what difference this topic makes and how it affects the way we live our lives. I also pose several further questions, so that any readers who want to discuss these subjects with friends or colleagues will have some useful starting points. Each of these chapters is followed by a summary.
This book is pro-science. I want the sciences to be less dogmatic and more scientific. The sciences are being held back by assumptions that have hardened into dogmas, maintained by powerful taboos. I believe that the sciences will be regenerated when they are set free..
I can recommend this book as a challenge to conventional wisdom and for those truly curious to seek answers to the great questions that have provoked human thought for eons. However, the style is accessible and personable.
You can buy the book and support HTF via this link:
http://www.amazon.com/?_encoding=UTF8&tag=htfamazonstore-20&linkCode=ur2&camp=1789&creative=390957
 

Aaron Silverman

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Ah, Sheldrake. . .challenging readers, colleagues, and, well, reality since getting high in India in the '60s. :)
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2009/feb/05/evolution
In it, Sheldrake describes "morphic resonance", which is the notion that there is a supernatural memory that is created, reinforced and inherited by repeated action. This, he claims, explains many phenomena including how newly synthesised chemicals become easier to make elsewhere in the world, how puzzles become easier once they have been done once, and paranormal powers, such as psychokinesis and telepathy. Alas, there is no evidence for morphic resonance. And as the phenomena listed are not real, no matter how real they may seem to people, there is no requirement for it.
Sheldrake is a sort of "God of the gaps" scientist. He sees gaps in knowledge, and inserts supernature as an explanation. There are three basic flaws with use of this tool. First is that it's just not scientific. To invoke an unfalsifiable concept to fill a knowledge gap is not parsimonious. It's much better and more scientific to simply say "We don't know" and move on.
Second, history has shown us that it would be even better to say "we don't know yet", as invariably those gaps are filled in time with genuine testable explanations.
Finally, more often than not, the gaps invoked actually have perfectly good, scientific explanations, which are ignored because the protagonist is not disinterested. Thus, proponents of intelligent design, that pseudoscientific form of creationism, invoke a designer where evolution will happily suffice, because they wish to promote God. It's impossible to establish exactly what Rupert Sheldrake is promoting, but one guess is that it's Rupert Sheldrake.
 

andrew markworthy

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I haven't got time to deal with these arguments in detail, but just to deal quickly with three of the assertions that caught my eye.
Quote:
Unexplained phenomena like telepathy are illusory.
This is a clever playing with words. Just ignore the insertion of the 'like telepathy' example, and we have the following phrase:
Unexplained phenomena are illusory.
The sentence now looks kinda dumb, doesn't it? But it is still essentially the same sentence. It's like saying 'cars usually have four wheels' rather than 'cars like the Lexus usually have four wheels'. Does Sheldrake HONESTLY think that any scientist dismisses unexplained phenomena as illusory? No, of course they don't. It's exploring unexplained phenomena that keeps most scientists in jobs. So what does he mean? Basically, he is saying something quite different - namely, that phenomena that some people think exist are dismissed by scientists as being illusory.
In the case of telepathy, this is plain wrong. There is a branch of psychology called parapsychology that examines paranormal mental activity using rigorous methods [just put the guys on Ghostbusters out of your mind; the real subject is very intellectually demanding, believe it or not). Skills such as telepathy are not treated as illusory, but as potentially real entities that, if they exist, can be measured. The simple fact is that nobody has been able to demonstrate telepathy under rigorous conditions. Does that mean it is dismissed out of hand? No it isn't. The same goes for a lot of topics that Sheldrake and other critics think are airily dismissed out of hand by the established scientific community.
Quote:
Minds are inside heads and are nothing but the activities of brains. When you look at a tree, the image of the tree you are seeing is not “out there”, where it seems to be, but inside your brain.
I don't think that this is a core concept of science. This is something that the 18th century philosophers got hung up about (look up the work on idealism and immaterialism if you are desperately keen). And they got bored with it.
Again:
Quote:
Memories are stored as material traces in brains and are wiped out at death.
If they aren't solely stored in the brain then conditions such as dementia could not exist, because presumably loss of the physical store could be compensated for by the surviving memory in whatever alternative memory store Sheldrake thinks exists. The fact that physical changes in the brain exactly match mental changes does rather disprove the mind-body divide that Sheldrake seems to want to support.
I never before realised that there were exactly ten core beliefs, but if there are, Sheldrake has missed the most important one of the list - falsifiability.
 

Type A

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The laws of nature are fixed. They are the same today as they were at the beginning, and they will stay the same forever.
This statement implies that these "fixed" laws are understood, when in fact they are not...
A warp drive would manipulate space-time itself to move a starship, taking advantage of a loophole in the laws of physics that prevent anything from moving faster than light. A concept for a real-life warp drive was suggested in 1994 by Mexican physicist Miguel Alcubierre, however subsequent calculations found that such a device would require prohibitive amounts of energy. Now physicists say that adjustments can be made to the proposed warp drive that would enable it to run on significantly less energy, potentially brining the idea back from the realm of science fiction into science.
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/science/2012/09/17/warp-drive-may-be-more-feasible-than-thought-scientists-say/?fb_action_ids=522605251089521&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_source=aggregation&fb_aggregation_id=246965925417366#ixzz28BCr3Dhh
 

JParker

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If they aren't solely stored in the brain then conditions such as dementia could not exist, because presumably loss of the physical store could be compensated for by the surviving memory in whatever alternative memory store Sheldrake thinks exists. The fact that physical changes in the brain exactly match mental changes does rather disprove the mind-body divide that Sheldrake seems to want to support.
Yes, and if your HD TV is hit by lightning and doesn't work, then obviously all source content is within the TV and cable, satellite, etc. don't exist. These critiques without reading the actual facts presented and argument are interesting in the quality of the reasoning displayed.
And Simon Berkovitch, a professor in Computer Science of the George Washington University, has calculated that the brain has an absolutely inadequate capacity to produce and store all the informational processes of all our memories with associative thoughts. We would need 1024 operations per second, which is absolutely impossible for our neurons.37
37. Berkovich SY. On the information processing capabilities of the brain: shifting the paradigm. Nanobiology 1993;2:99-107.
See also:
http://structurevisualspacegroup.blogspot.com/2010/10/holographic-model-of-human-memory-and.html
The best that neuroscientists can say for the moment is that human memory is a stored pattern of connections between neurons in the brain. Each neuron makes about 5,000 to 10,000 synaptic connections with other neurons. Such a structure is not an effective computer engineering apparatus, but now Yasser Roudi and Peter Latham at University College London [10] have found that even with 10,000 connections per neuron, a network could only store about 100 memories – regardless of how many neurons were in the network. Current explanation of the brain attracts the Long-Term Potentiation to strengthen synaptic connections for the task of memory. However, switching times in neuron processing are about 10-2 sec and covalent modifications of proteins for LTP last minutes [11]. These time scales are absolutely incompatible with the speed of brain operations. As to other performance characteristics, notably, reliability and fault-tolerance, the pattern of connections between neurons cannot be even thought of to match human memory. Hence, workings of human brain tend to be attributed to perplexing quantum world or problematic non-Turing computations (see, e.g. [12]).
 

andrew markworthy

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Quote:
These critiques without reading the actual facts presented and argument are interesting in the quality of the reasoning displayed.
James, you really should be careful about making yourself such a hostage to fortune. In support of your argument, you quote a secondary source - did you read the primary sources quoted by Sheldrake and Berkovitch? No? Then to quote your own words you have criticised me whilst taking on face value their opinions 'without reading the actual facts presented'.
So let's examine what you claim to have found.
(1) Sheldrake quotes Berkovitch's paper about the inadequacy of processing space. It was an interesting paper when published - back in 1993. The neurosciences have moved on a lot since then, and this argument was long long ago shown to be erroneous.
(2) In the quotation from Berkovitch's own writing, the Roudi and Latham reference is to an article in New Scientist (a respectable publication for the general public, but a secondary source). If you read Roudi and Latham's scientific peer-reviewed papers, you will see that instead of refuting conventional science, they support it by devising new models to replace the old one.
(3) The evidence on LTP also appears to be muddled or taken out of context (and again, the proof is taken from a secondary source, not the original findings).
(4) The justification for the last statement in your quotation is taken from a book by Roger Penrose (again, a secondary source). Unfortunately, unlike Roger Penrose, my mind has remained shackled to the tedium of using established scientific method, but amongst my fellow drones in psychology and the neurosciences, I cannot recall anyone thinking that the human brain is best explained in the 'perplexing quantum world or problematic non-Turing computations'.
(5) The Berkovitch reference you supply appears to be to a non-refereed web page. There are good reasons why traditional science relies on accepting only work that has been peer-reviewed.
I'm sorry to twist the knife further, but alas, what you claim to be a refutation of my original argument is a non sequitur.
I'd be interested to see your response to the rest of my critique of Sheldrake, or does your silence on the matter indicate you think I'm right?
 

JParker

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I'd be interested to see your response to the rest of my critique of Sheldrake, or does your silence on the matter indicate you think I'm right?
No, I don't waste time debating dogmatists. As to your authority, whom you adore, see here:
http://www.thedailybell.com/4313/A-Village-of-Scientists
How many scientists does it take to make a discovery? ... The era of the lone genius, as epitomised by Albert Einstein, has long gone ... Ask people to conjure up an image of a scientist and Albert Einstein is most likely to pop into their head. The iconic image is of a lone genius beavering away in some secluded room until that familiar equation – E=mc2 – crystallised in his brain sufficiently to be written down. I very much doubt doing science was ever quite like that, but it is even more unlikely to apply now. – UK Telegraph
Dominant Social Theme: It takes a village to build a scientific breakthrough.
Free-Market Analysis: Once again, we find the dominant social theme proposed that many scientists are necessary to make an invention in the modern era.
We've written about this meme before. It is part of the larger promotion to impress upon people that they are no longer capable of understanding their world without the machinery of big science.
This mania for bigness extends throughout society at this point. In the US, for instance, healthcare has turned into Obamacare. Sports are defined by mega events such as the Olympics. Even politics is pursued on the gigantic stage of the United Nations...
In fact, what ought to cause the Nobel Prize Committee a good deal of head pain is the idea that the Higgs boson itself and the tale of its discovery is questionable to begin with. Here's what GQ wrote just last week:

http://www.gq.com/news-politics/newsmakers/201209/higgs-boson-rolf-dieter-heuer
So it's been a month...wait, no, it's been two months, and from the silence roaring suddenly out of Geneva one has to assume that physicists are still—still—trying to figure out if the subatomic particle lately glimpsed by the Large Hadron Collider really is the elusive "Higgs Boson" they've been hunting for half a century. Rolf-Dieter Heuer, the ABBA-looking dude who runs the Conseil Européene pour la Recherche Nucléaire, which built and maintains the LHC, was only comfortable saying in his July 4th press-conference that the new particle exhibits "Higgs-like" properties, but more research is needed—years of it, to be specific—before we'll know for certain that this is the submicroscopic speck that's famously not actually known as "The God Particle."
Given that no one so much as threw a shoe at Heuer during his maddening announcement, and that CERN's facilities remain untorched, even unvandalized, two months later, what it is not too soon to say, however, is that physics would appear to have gotten away with it: a decades-long campaign of hype, propaganda, and outright deception that saw a ragtag bunch of social misfits swindle the world out of billions of dollars, monies which as of this writing have not been returned. What follows is the story, if not of an outright hoax, then at least of the most audacious and effective PR campaign in the history of science.
For any one else who perhaps glories in the ability to think and reason, and whose brain isn't tuned into some cosmic Disney Channel, buy the book and have your preconceptions challenged. Reach your own conclusions using your own gift of reason.
As the Bell writers conclude:
The thrust of the GQ article is much the same as several other articles on the subject: Physicists have created elaborate scientific challenges as part of a full-employment.
What is driving big science, in other words, is not a quest for discoveries or even military reasons. It is the more mundane quest for a paycheck.
And it does turn out that the scientific community is now in aggregate admitting that even if Higgs has actually been found – as they say it has – it will only help account for some one percent of the universe's mass.
What's up next? A whole new family of particles and gigantic machines to track their energy signatures. Of course, we're not surprised. We never much believed that the current experiments would offer anything definitive. For more on this issue, search the 'Net for "Daily Bell" and "big science."
The universe, as we reported before, is electrical, or has electrical elements. It is not the weak force of gravity that organizes the universe but the strong force of electricity. Even nebulas are shaped by electrical currents.
Eventually, this will be recognized. It may take years, even decades. The scientific community will fight this sensible conclusion for as long as it can. In fact, that is always the way of science.
But in this era of bigness, the struggle will no doubt be even grimmer than usual.
Regards to all, especially the true thinkers out there.
 

Aaron Silverman

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When one desires to quote an authority on hard science, one can hardly do much better than an anonymous post on a Libertarian economics blog referencing a semi-satirical article in GQ. :)
 

andrew markworthy

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No, I don't waste time debating dogmatists.
What a brilliant reply - I congratulate you on your genius. A lesser man would have wasted time going through the argument piece by piece and finding factual and logical evidence to refute each point in turn. But that is not the James Parker way, no sir. If you disagree with your opponent, just call him a dogmatist and stick with the very same argument you started with, not budging an inch. And if people say anything about the pot calling the kettle black, just ignore them. And whatever you do, don't attempt to produce any hard evidence. If you feel you really have to reply, then restrict yourself to quoting more opinions (remember, never ever use facts or primary sources) that have zero relevance to the points first raised.
Quote:
For any one else who perhaps glories in the ability to think and reason, and whose brain isn't tuned into some cosmic Disney Channel, buy the book and have your preconceptions challenged. Reach your own conclusions using your own gift of reason.
Alas, I am rather stupid and closed-minded and as you have said, a dogmatist, so I am not fit to be amongst your number. Presumably that is why you express your intellect through your choice of reading and telling people on here what you think whilst I'm only a university professor advising governments. Golly gosh, if only I could think and reason like you. But there I am, tuned into the cosmic Disney Channel, too thick to spot when I'm patronised by people with the IQ of an intellectually disadvantaged slug. I guess I'd better get back to writing another research paper (or perhaps the next bit of a textbook; the last one has only been translated into 19 languages, which is a bit of a bad performance). It's all my poor dogmatic brain is capable of doing, I'm afraid. I'll leave you to take the intellectual high ground as clearly it'e beyond me. But don't worry about me - I and the rest of the quasi-communist scientific brotherhood can keep ourselves in cosy jobs by doing such nasty unfair things as insisting on proof and hard reason before we accept papers for publication. These are well-known devices for keeping out novel thinking and innovation.
Quote:
Regards to all, especially the true thinkers out there.
Absolutely.
 

JParker

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whilst I'm only a university professor advising governments.
Gored your Ox, didn't I? You're one of the feeders at the public trough, aren't you? BTW, Berkovich holds over 30 patents and none of his work has been refuted. What have you done?
First of all, the gravy train is ending. Second of all, I don't have to be a professor to know that your paradigm is less accurate than Ptolemaic epicycles. And finally, the flaws in the entire Higgs Boson debacle were discussed a long time ago. EU theory is part of the IEEE and the engineers make things, other than academic wind read to other bloviating buffoons.
Again, for any one with half a brain, look here and make up your own mind and write your politicians to de-fund these people; there are better uses for our borrowed money and tax dollars!
http://www.holoscience.com/wp/the-6-billion-lhc-circus/
The “God Particle” or Higgs boson was invented by Peter Higgs to explain why other particles exhibit mass. He starts with assuming the existence of a particle that has only mass and no other characteristics, such as charge. So the Higgs particle is like no other in our experience, since all normal matter is composed of electric charges that respond to electromagnetic influences. (Dark matter falls into the same category.) However, we observe that the mass of a charged subatomic particle is altered by the application of electromagnetic forces. At its simplest (and Nature is economical in our experience) it indicates that mass is related to the storage of energy within a system of electric charges inside the particle. That’s what E = mc2 is telling us. So how can a massive particle be constructed without electric charge? It shows the problem inherent in leaving physics to mathematicians — there is a disconnect between mathematical concepts and reality.
The notion that subatomic particles exhibit mass as a result of their interaction with imaginary Higgs particles occupying all of empty space like some form of treacle should have caused a sceptical uproar, if it weren’t for the appalling apathy of the public toward such nonsense. The ‘annihilation’ and ‘creation’ of matter is invoked when particles at particular points arise from ‘fields’ spread over space and time. Higgs found that parameters in the equations for the field associated with his hypothetical particle can be chosen in such a way that the lowest energy state of that field (empty space) is not zero. With the field energy non-zero in empty space, all particles that can interact with the Higgs particle gain mass from the interaction.
This explanation for the phenomenon of mass should have been stillborn if common sense was used. To begin, the annihilation and creation of matter is forbidden by a principle of physics. It is tantamount to magic. Second, field theory is a purely imaginary construct, which may or may not have physical significance. And third, it is not explained how the Higgs particle can have intrinsic mass but no charge and yet interact with normal matter, which has charge but is said to have no intrinsic mass. Rather than explain the phenomenon of mass, the theory serves to complicate and confuse the issue. The most amazing feature of this $6 billion experiment is the confused and illogical thinking behind it.
http://www.thunderbolts.info/wp/mm/
 

andrew markworthy

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Gored your Ox, didn't I? You're one of the feeders at the public trough, aren't you? BTW, Berkovich holds over 30 patents and none of his work has been refuted. What have you done?
You are now getting offensive. I've tried being light hearted over this, but you are clearly getting increasingly out of control. Perhaps I should not have got you annoyed, though if you cannot respond to just and reasoned criticism without getting angry, then perhaps you should not promote contentious views in the first place. Be that as it may, you clearly you cannot respond to our criticisms in a mature manner and are becoming more rattled with every post.
Thus, I am not arguing any more. There are replies I can give to all your points, but candidly, I think they would make you even more annoyed.
 

Ronald Epstein

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THE BOTH OF YOU WILL CEASE IMMEDIATELY.

ONE FURTHER BARB AT EACH OTHER WILL RESULT
IN BEING LOCKED OUT OF THIS THREAD.
 

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