Watching Rupert Sheldrake's TED Talk
is a little bit painful.
He says this:
"...there's conflict in the heart of science between science as a method of inquiry based on reason, evidence, hypothesis, and collective investigation, and science as a belief system or a world view. And unfortunately, the world view aspect of science has come to inhibit and constrict the free inquiry which is the very life blood of the scientific endeavor."
I find this disingenuous because people who understand science (i.e. most actual scientists and lay-people who have actively invested time to understand) get that all knowledge is tentative and based on increasing piles of evidence. Other people may not know this and just accept the word of "experts" because you can't be current and knowledgeable about everything. Some people accept science as a world view because they see the advances made by science and attach their wagon to that horse. If I can paraphrase Chris Hardwick
, "Religion always updates and struggles to adapt their dogma when science makes new discoveries, and it *never* goes the other way."
Some people just accept the scientific world view; is that right? No, but you can't get everyone to understand the nuanced position that science has in society and the world.
Sheldrake wrote a book called, "The Science Delusion"
(catchy title...I wonder where he got that from?) where he takes, the ten dogmas of science and turn(s) them into questions."
These 10 dogmas, as he calls them, are:
1. Nature is mechanical, or machine-like.
2. Matter is unconscious.
3. The laws of nature (Nature?) are fixed.
4. The total amount of matter and energy is always the same.
5. Nature is purposeless.
6. Biological heredity is material.
7. Memories are stored in your brain as material traces.
8. Your mind is inside your head.
9. Psychic phenomenon like telepathy are impossible.
10. Mechanistic medicine is the only kind that really works.
He makes some mildly disparaging remarks while listing these, like mentioning that governments only invest in researching mechanistic medicine and not complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) because they can't possibly work because they're not mechanistic. Apparently, he's never heard of Senator Tom Harkin or the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM).
Sheldrake goes into some detail on a couple of these "dogmas", starting with number 3, that the laws of nature are fixed. He calls this a "hangover" from an older world view. He quotes Terrence McKenna regarding science saying, "Give us one free miracle and we'll explain the rest."
to the chuckles of the audience. I guess he's been too busy to check out Lawerence Krauss' A Universe From Nothing
He says that in a universe that is evolving (a slight misuse of the term, but hey, who's counting?), why shouldn't the laws evolve? He makes the odd comparison that human laws evolve, so why not the laws of nature? Seems weird to me that he misunderstands this point - human laws change because we are involved in a constant dialogue with each other to figure out the best way to interact with each other, the planet, and its resources; natural laws are simply us trying to figure out how best to describe, document, and predict the observed actions in the universe. But what do I know?
He segues into his hypothesis of "morphic resonance"
, which is not supportable by much and has not been independently replicated by anyone. Dogs supposedly knowing when their owners are coming home and people supposedly knowing when they're being stared at do not good research papers make. In fact, there is a good deal of pseudo-scientific tap dancing with respect to Sheldrake, as evidenced by this article
from Scientific American, which concludes:
(Sheldrake says)...skeptics dampen the morphic field, whereas believers enhance it. Of (scientist and skeptic Richard) Wiseman, he remarked: "Perhaps his negative expectations consciously or unconsciously influenced the way he looked at the subjects."
Perhaps, but wouldn't that mean that this claim is ultimately nonfalsifiable? If both positive and negative results are interpreted as supporting a theory, how can we test its validity? Skepticism is the default position because the burden of proof is on the believer, not the skeptic.
Exactly. Let's go with Karl Popper on this one, shall we? Unfalsifiable = unscientific.
He then says that, "Genes, in my view, are grossly over-rated. They only account for the proteins that the organism can make, not the shape or the form or the behavior."
I will let the more educated biologists take this sentence apart for the nonsense that it is. He asserts immediately after this that, "Every species has a collective memory, even crystals do."
I would *really* like to see ANY evidence for this, especially before he gets to assert it in front of a TED audience (sure, it's TEDx, so the standards are lower - obviously - but still, come on). We're at the almost 9 minute mark of the talk now and the woo is starting to flow like a river.
He gets into nonsense about rats who learn a new skill in London will somehow make it easier for rats anywhere else in the world to learn the same skill - he attributes this to morphic resonance, but we're more familiar with the Hundredth Monkey Phenomenon
Sheldrake then moves on to the constants of nature. He seemingly makes much of the changing of the speed of light from 1928 to 1945, and then again in 1948. For a take-down of this stupid claim (and it *is* stupid) by Sean Carroll via Jerry Coyne, check out the latter's blog-post at Why Evolution Is True
Sheldrake goes into a phenomenally misguided attempt to say that, because physicists have gotten different answers to universal constants (the speed of light and the gravitational constant), perhaps those constants are not "constant" after all. What if they're changing? (Never mind that instrument precision has gotten unfathomably better in the last 90 years) What if the Earth goes through, "patches of dark matter"
as it goes around the Sun and that alters these measurements? He posits that because the scientists who measure these things are "dogmatic" and have set these numbers, there is no further inquiry; but he also, in the same breath, says that scientists are constantly re-measuring these constants and comparing them with each other all over the world. So, which is it?
He starts to wrap up by stating that, "Science simply can't deal with the fact that we're conscious."
I would say that scientists are studying and trying to "deal" with the idea of consciousness and they are doing it in a much more tangible and helpful way than people like Sheldrake just making shit up to explain it. It's the difference between scientists (Einstein, in particular) tweaking Newton's idea of gravity as an invisible force that attracts masses into the theory that gravity is actually acceleration through curved space-time, and the other people who just made up "the Ether".
He says (I would go so far as to say "blathers") that we think our minds are inside our heads, but he believes that our mind projects outward and that our minds are outside our heads. Think about that over a nice spiced rum and coke for a spell. You might just faint dead away from the dumbness. No, our vision isn't light reflected off of material objects in the world that enters our eyes and is processed via receptors and nerves to our brains where they are interpreted...that's stupid. Your eyes are projectors!
Sheldrake then says that there is a, "great deal of evidence"
that people can feel one another's gaze from behind. He says that, "...as we question these dogmas that have held back science so long, science will undergo a re-flowering, a renaissance."
Yes, think about how much science has been "held back". Just in my grandmother's lifetime, she has seen the Model T Ford (came out in 1927) turn into a Lamborghini; a Sopwith Camel turn into spacecraft and an International Space Station with rotating crew; and phones that looked like this
- I think her phone number was 6 (she was an "early adopter") - to the iPad and the Samsung Galaxy s4, which must be like magic screen windows to other parts of the world. Yep, science has certainly been held back.
This was a horrible TEDx talk. Disgraceful. I'm sure you'll die of not-surprise to see that Deepak Chopra said it was, "Brilliant"
. Sure, if you think that way. But, if that's the case, you probably think round is funny."
You know what, I take back my opening sentence. Watching this was a LOT painful.
Labels: anti-science, bogus, bullshit, crazy person, Deepak Chopra, dishonest, dumb, horseshit, hundredth monkey, idiots, ignorant, morphic resonance, nonsense, physics, Rupert Sheldrake, science, stupid, TED talks, woo woo