By now, much has been communicated regarding TED’s decision to remove Rupert Sheldrake’s talk from the TEDx Youtube channel. It’s a shame because the talk is a good one. If you haven’t heard it, it is available at the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKHUaNAxsTg
What makes this difficult is that TED generally presents topics that challenge our thinking and beliefs. Distancing themselves from Sheldrake is disappointing. What’s even more disappointing is the fundamentalist science that has targeted Sheldrake for some major discrediting. This removal from the TED website is but one in a series of attacks on his work.
Rupert Sheldrake is an English biochemist and author who is primarily known for his philosophy of morphic fields and for his research into parapsychology. Morphic fields are a non-material resonance that informs participants within that field regardless of distance. An example Sheldrake likes to give is that educating rats to run a maze in Australia has been demonstrated to improve performance of rats running a similar maze in the UK. Morphic fields are also given as a possible explanation as to how some pets find their way home from a distance over an unfamiliar route. They are informed of where “home” is without the need for instruction, experience, or environmental cues. Sheldrake’s work is profound and cannot be described adequately in this short essay. I would encourage anyone to read his work.
Now, I want to be clear. I love good science. The negative reactions against Sheldrake are, in my opinion, bad science. There are “scientists” aiming to discredit Sheldrake who have never read a single word of his work. They’ve not responded rationally to his attempts at civil discourse. It is clear they aim to debunk him. Sheldrake’s elucidation of 10 fundamentalist dogmas of current materialist science, which he calls the science delusion, is probably a rebuttal. Good science would welcome the skeptical spirit and opportunity for an intelligent exchange of ideas.
I’d like to explore some of the dynamics that go into maintaining the materialist status quo, forming their own morphic field that reinforces established norms of inquiry and perceptions. For illustration I’m going to expand on a story that aired on This American Life show #450: So Crazy It Just Might Work (http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/450/so-crazy-it-just-might-work) One day a successful cancer researcher named Jonathan Brody gave a talk at his alma mater, about how people in his field need to think outside the box if they’re going to find a cure. Afterward Brody’s old music teacher Anthony Holland shared an idea that was way out of the box: killing cancer cells with electromagnetic waves. The idea was intriguing, and given the nature of his talk Brody found he could not refuse to support exploration of the idea. Brody offered Holland the use of his lab in order to replicate results that could be published. But here’s the thing: Brody seemed to have expected that they would need to hit a home run. But that sort of thing rarely happens, and the initial results of their study were intriguing but inconclusive. Holland improved his lab technique, and thought he was close to a genuine solution. Listening to the story, it appears that Brody progressively raises the bar on what constitutes the type of research he’s willing to publish. Holland is both frustrated and running out of money. They have a falling out. And here’s why: Brody’s reputation with his colleagues would be at stake and he seems to feel he cannot afford to publish an “outside the box” result, unless that result far exceeds standard definitions of success, far beyond the possibility of reproach. Brody seems to feel that to do otherwise can get him negatively branded by his peers. And I literally mean “can’t afford,” because both the reputation of his lab and the approval of his peers has a direct affect on receiving grants and funded studies. It seems like a self-regulating system that rewards conformity. It’s difficult to make a living as a researcher thinking “outside the box.”
What seems ironic to me is that the rallying cry against “outside the box” thinking is credited to Carl Sagan: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” What makes this ironic is that Sagan’s worldview expanded following his dialogues with the Dalai Lama. It seems that the bond he formed with the Dalai Lama expanded Sagan’s field of perception. Sagan experimented with meditation and publicly came to the conclusion toward the end of his life (1995) that there were three areas of parapsychology that deserved serious study: small effect telekinesis, telepathy, and reincarnation.
Sheldrake seems like an honorable man, a careful and discriminating thinker, and a scientist with imagination. He deserves better than the prejudicial assaults of fundamentalists. Sheldrake isn’t asserting authority. He’s suggesting the potential of a wider view. I’m not going to suggest that the materialists leading the charge deserve our scorn or condemnation. That widens polarity. And it isn’t important that we blindly accept as Truth all of Sheldrake’s work. He himself admits that not every aspect of his theory may prove to be completely accurate. But he’s far enough along in his research to be taken seriously. I’d take a step further: it’s his life’s work and is worthy of both our admiration and further study.
I believe the appropriate response, for those of us who are not in a position to support or conduct research sympathetic to non-material views, is to grant relevance. I believe the proper response is to feed our field of perception with conscious awareness, and with our own experience and exploration into non-materialist realms. I believe the proper response is to positively add to the morphic field that recognizes non-material influences on our life and world. We may be reaching a tipping point of mass consciousness. Participation in the growth of mass consciousness is an adventure. Say yes to Open Mind. Aye!
Thanks to Frank DeMarco for providing the link to the Sheldrake “TED talk.”