From Resurgence & Ecologist, Jan/Feb 2016, page 56

I was an atheist when I was an undergraduate at Cambridge and for several years afterwards, yet I still went to choral evensong because I found it so inspiring and uplifting. Whatever your religious faith, or lack of it, no one is going to question you about your beliefs or your motives when you attend.


Nature, September 1, 2015. Reproduced by courtesy of Nature Publishing Group.

The world of science is in the midst of unprecedented soul-searching at present. The credibility of science rests on the widespread assumption that results are replicable, and that high standards are maintained by anonymous peer review. These pillars of belief are crumbling. In September 2015, the international scientific journal Nature published a cartoon showing the temple of “Robust Science” in a state of collapse. What is going on?

Drug companies sounded an alarm several years ago. They were concerned that an increasing proportion of clinical trials was failing, and that much of their research effort was being wasted. When they looked into the reasons for their lack for success, they realized that they were basing projects on scientific papers published in peer-reviewed journals, on the assumption that most of the results were reliable. But when they looked more closely, they found that most of these papers, even those in top-tier academic journals, were not reproducible. In 2011, German researchers in the drug company Bayer found in an extensive survey that more than 75% of the published findings could not be validated.

One of the biggest controversies in twentieth-century biology was about the inheritance of acquired characteristics, the ability of animals and plants to inherit adaptations acquired by their ancestors. For example, if a dog was terrified of butchers because he had been mistreated by one, his offspring would tend to inherit his fear. Charles Darwin wrote a letter to Nature describing just such a case. The opposing view, promoted by the science of genetics, asserted that organisms could not inherit features their ancestors had acquired; they only passed on genes that they themselves had inherited.

In Darwin's day, most people assumed that acquired characteristics could indeed be inherited. Jean-Baptiste Lamarck took this for granted in his theory of evolution published more than 50 years before Darwin's, and the inheritance of acquired characters is often referred to as "Lamarckian inheritance." Darwin shared Lamarck's assumption and cited many examples to support it in his book The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication (1875).

Resurgence & Ecologist 2013
by Rupert Sheldrake

When I was growing up in Nottinghamshire, I was fortunate to have not just one but two secret gardens. The first was from my earliest years. Near the centre of my hometown, Newark-on-Trent, there was a large walled enclosure owned by the parish church, which contained about six gardens. We had one of them, bounded on one side by the high wall between the garden and the street, and on the other three sides by tall hedges.

Read More...

Wikipedia is a wonderful invention. But precisely because it's so trusted and convenient, people with their own agendas keep trying to take it over. Editing wars are common. According to researchers at Oxford University, the most controversial subjects worldwide include Israel and God.

This is not surprising. Everyone knows that there are opposing views on politics and religion, and many people recognise a biased account when they see it. But in the realm of science, things are different. Most people have no scientific expertise and believe that science is objective. Their trust is now being abused systematically by a highly motivated group of activists called Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia.

Explore 2013; 9:211-218
by Rupert Sheldrake
PDF

Contemporary science is based on the claim 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. This view is now undergoing a credibility crunch. The biggest problem of all for materialism is the existence of consciousness. Panpsychism provides a way forward. So does the recognition that minds are not confined to brains.

Topics

  • The Scientific Creed
  • The Credibility Crunch for the “Scientific Worldview”
  • Is Matter Unconscious?
  • Minds That Deny Their Own Reality
  • Panpsychist Alternatives
  • Conscious and Unconscious Minds
  • Minds Beyond Brains
  • Scientific Futures

Read More... PDF

In the course of my research on the unexplained human abilities, more than 150 people have told me about an experience that I had never before seen discussed. To their surprise, they thought about a friend or acquaintance for no particular reason, and then shortly afterward met that person. No one thinks it strange if he meets someone he was expecting to meet, or someone he encounters frequently. It is with unexpected meetings that the phenomenon is so striking. For example, Andreas Thomopoulos, a film director from Athens, was visiting Paris with his wife. "Walking through the streets, we thought of a close student friend of mine in London. We wondered how he was nowadays since I hadn't seen him for over twenty years. Shortly after, on going around a corner, we bumped straight into him!" Mary Flanagan, of Hoboken, New Jersey, had a similar experience: "Walking down the street, I was thinking of someone I had not seen or spoken to for three years and who lives in a different city. I met her on the street about ten minutes after I started thinking about her."

The simplest and cheapest of all reforms within institutional science is to switch from the passive to the active voice in writing about science. Many people have already made this change, but some teachers in schools and universities do not realise that they and their students are free to write more naturally.

The idealized objectivity of science is reflected in the use of the passive voice in many science reports: "A test tube was taken..." instead of "I took a test tube." All research scientists know that writing in the passive voice is artificial; they are not disembodied observers, but people doing research. Technocrats also use the passive voice to give their reports an air of scientific authority, dressing up opinions as objective facts.

The passive style did not become fashionable in science until the end of the nineteenth century. Earlier scientists like Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday and Charles Darwin used the active voice. The passive was introduced to make science seem more objective, impersonal and professional. Its heyday in the scientific literature was from 1920 to 1970. But times are changing. Many scientists abandoned this convention in the 1970s and 1980s.


An excerpt from Chapter 11 of A New Science of Life

In mechanistic biology, a sharp distinction is drawn between innate and learned behaviour: the former is assumed to be 'genetically programmed' or 'coded' in the DNA, while the latter is supposed to result from physical and chemical changes in the nervous system. There is no conceivable way in which such changes could specifically modify the DNA, as the Lamarckian theory would require; it is therefore considered impossible for learned behaviour acquired by an animal to be inherited by its offspring (excluding, of course, 'cultural inheritance', whereby the offspring learn patterns of behaviour from their parents or other adults).

By contrast, according to the hypothesis of formative causation, there is no difference in kind between innate and learned behaviour: both depend on motor fields given by morphic resonance (Section 10. 1). This hypothesis therefore admits a possible transmission of learned behaviour from one animal to another, and leads to testable predictions which differ not only from those of the orthodox theory of inheritance, but also from those of the Lamarckian theory, and from inheritance through epigenetic modifications of gene expression.

Physics is based on the assumption that certain fundamental features of nature are constant. Some constants are considered to be more fundamental than others, including the velocity of light c and the Universal Gravitational Constant, known to physicists as Big G. Unlike the constants of mathematics, such as p, the values of the constants of nature cannot be calculated from first principles: they depend on laboratory measurements. As the name implies, the physical constants are supposed to be changeless. They are believed to reflect an underlying constancy of nature, part of the standard assumption of physics that the laws and constants of nature are fixed forever.

Are the constants really constant? The measured values continually change, as I show in my book Science Set Free (The Science Delusion in the UK). They are regularly adjusted by international committees of experts know as metrologists. Old values are replaced by new "best values", based on the recent data from laboratories around the world.

Before 2012 slips away it's worth remembering that this is the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Thomas Kuhn's hugely influential book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, which was itself revolutionary, and has sold more than a million copies worldwide. Almost every time you hear the word 'paradigm', Kuhn's book is in the background.

Kuhn made it clear that science is not simply devoted to the rational pursuit of truth, but is subject to human foibles, ambitions, emotions, and peer-group pressures. A paradigm is a theory of reality, a model of the way in which research can be done, and a consensus within a professional group. At any given time anomalies that do not fit into the paradigm are rejected or ignored, and 'normal science' goes on within the agreed framework. But at times of scientific revolution, 'one conceptual world view is replaced by another'; the framework itself is enlarged to include anomalies that were previously unexplained. Some well-known examples of major paradigm shifts are the Copernican revolution in astronomy, the Darwinian theory of evolution, and the relativity and quantum revolutions in twentieth century physics.

Resembling some vast extra-terrestrial printed circuit board, competition entries viewed from a helicopter. Some idea of the immense scale involved may be had by spotting the man on the ground, midway up the left of frame. The feeble effort by circle sceptic, arch-rationalist and future chairman of Northern Rock Matt Ridley is just about visible in the top left-hand corner. Photo by John Macnish.

Michellany: A John Michell Reader, (2010) pp72-76, Michellany Editions, London.
by Rupert Sheldrake

In 1992, John Michell and I helped organize the first and last International Crop Circle Making Competition. In the late 1970s, circular areas of flattened crops mysterious appeared in fields in southern England, especially in Wiltshire, and throughout the 1980s they were found in increasing numbers. By 1991 the annual count was about 800. A few appeared in other countries, but the great majority were, and still are, in England. By the late 1980s some of the formations had evolved a long way from the basic circle, with concentric rings, satellite circles and rectangular, triangular and wavy shapes. By 1990 the most complex formations were pictograms and ‘insectograms’. The forms evolved further in 1991, and the season ended with an astonishing fractal pattern, the Mandelbrot Set, in a field near Cambridge.

Every year, the New York literary agent John Brockman asks a big question of leading scientists, writers and futurists, garnering a variety of thoughtful answers which Andrian Kreye described as "One of the most stimulating pieces of (collective) writing ever."

What will change everything? 2009

The Credit Crunch for Materialism

Answers from others

What have you changed your mind about? Why? 2008

The Skepticism of Believers

Answers from others

What is your dangerous idea? 2006

A Sense of Direction Involving New Scientific Principles

Answers from others

What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it? 2005

Most of the So-Called Laws of Nature are More Like Habits

Answers from others

What are the pressing scientific issues for the nation and the world, and what is your advice on how I can begin to deal with them? 2003

Really Popular Science, New York Times, 2003

Answers from others