The Science Delusion: Feeling the Spirit of Enquiry by Rupert Sheldrake
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I have the rational intelligence to be a scientist, but it’s not in my personality to fill in cracks in established mental models. I seek anomalies that open cracks.
Quickly becoming one of my favourite quotes.
Jimmy Wales tells “energy workers” that Wikipedia won’t publish woo, “the work of lunatic charlatans isn’t the equivalent of ‘true scientific discourse'” [link]
Jimmy Wales’ statement is as revolting as the discussion under it. I would suggest that you read it, but only if you have the stomach for tens of “skeptics” parrotting the mainstream opinions about woo, parapsychology etc, claiming the truth and the high ground of knowledge as they usually do. Even the article itself is taking clear sides without shame.
Do these people know anything about the subject? Does Jimmy Wales know anything about the subject, he who with one broad swath pigeonholes so many people as lunatic charlatanes? I don’t know whether this technique in particular has had successes, explicable or inexplicable, in doing what it says it does, I haven’t looked into it to be honest, but I’ve seen the same discussion surrounding “pseudoscience” too many times to count.
Why this hate? Why this elitism? Why this aversion to exploration of the fringes? When did science become all about defending what’s already known? I thought the opposite was the main idea. Is materialist science, peer-reviewd journals, wikipedia, Richard Dawkins and the rest, parts of a bulletproof world theory anyway?
No, they’re not. Far from it. And if you want to know why, you should absolutely read The Science Delusion (title insisted upon by publisher) by Rupert Sheldrake. His main idea is that science and the scientific method are generally good at giving answers about our world, but, just like organised religion 500 years ago did, it has become too inflexible, too bulky, too dogmatic, too rid of assumptions, too sure of itself and too dismissive to be of any real use today. Meanwhile, it’s hindering research that could further our understanding of the world in unimaginable ways.
What’s interesting is that Sheldrake in this book provides us with -what’s normally considered as- hard evidence for a world that cannot be explained materialistically. That includes results of real peer-reviewed experiments that point to the reality of things like brainless memories, statistically significant telepathy and many more chin-stroke-worthy phenomena that truly test mainstream science’s beliefs of what should or shouldn’t be possible.
After reading the book, I checked Rupert Sheldrake’s Wikipedia entry just to see reactions to his work from the scientific communituy. Not surprisingly, the discussion was not much more sophisticated than what I witnessed in the link at the top of this review: accusations of pseudoscience, charlatanism etc pervaded the articles, indications that the skeptics hadn’t really comprehended the criticism aimed at their methodology and worldview, didn’t follow up on the bibliography, plainly assuming that there must have been something wrong with it (confirmation bias), or that they simply didn’t even read the book. Richard Dawkins has said, after all, that he doesn’t want to discuss evidence when it comes to inexplicable phenomena, raising questions about whether he’s really interested in the truth or not – in my personal experience, most skeptics do not have furthering their understanding of our world at the top of their priorities.
In any case, I find the accusations against Sheldrake, and this book in particular, hollow: The Science Delusion has close to 40 pages of notes and bibliography of actual experiments to back it up and Sheldrake’s style and prose themselves are lucid as well as restrained. Even in the parts in which he discusses the inability of science to interpret the phenomena, where he proposes his own theory of morphing resonance as a possible explanation -the parts I enjoyed the least because I cannot exactly grasp the concept of morphic resonance-, he does so without conviction, but rather with the spirit of the curious researcher. A true scientist in my book. The skeptics’ reaction to his work seems to disregard all of this completely; they treat him like they would any old fraud.
But I understand: scientists are also people. What would it have been normal for them to do in the face of rejection of their entire lives’ work plus a few hundred years of tradition? Accept their failure? Accept their dogmatism? Just as scientists are people, science is also a human activity, and as most of human activities do, it also suffers from the same problems human beings generally have, only in a larger, more chaotic scale.
Finally, one more reason I appreciated this book so much was that it was… tender. At the other side of the raging skeptics and this blind rejection there is investigation, there is respect, there is a belief in a state of things that resonated deeply with me. Maybe it’s because Sheldrake’s main field of research has been biology that he shows such love for plants, animals and life in general. For whatever reason, it warmed my heart and made me think that if I ever was a real scientist, Sheldrake would be my rold model: a fighter for truth against the faux fighters for truth, the romantic gardener who everybody calls a hippie but he alone sees what everybody else is too blind to see.
Third five-star review in a row after Μίλα μου για γλώσσα and
Small Gods (lol). Am I becoming softer or just more grateful?
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