Rupert Sheldrake and the Rise of Neo-Lysenkoism (Scientism Critique: Part 2)
This booklet is part two of a three-part series on my scientism critique. The first was called: Richard Dawkins and the Rise of Atheist Scientism (Scientism Critique: Part 1), and the third is called: Gregg Braden and the Rise of New Age Scientism (Scientism Critique: Part 3).
Rupert Sheldrake (and scientism) was presented in the first text on Richard Dawkins, and the present booklet can therefore not be fully understood, without having read the Dawkins text first.
The booklet is divided into the following parts (in the PDF version you can find page numbers):
2) Paradigm Shifts and the Abuse of Thomas Kuhn
3) The Sources of Sheldrake´s Ideas
4) Panpsychism: a Confused Theory of Mind
5) The Myths of Quantum Mysticism
6) The Evolution of Consciousness
7) Sheldrake´s Dispute with Skeptic Robert Carroll
8) Sheldrake´s Reductionism
9) Panpsychism, Atheist Spirituality and Transhumanism
10) The New Lysenkoism
Recently I stumbled over an article by Rupert Sheldrake, where he openly supports some kind of Neo-Lysenkoism. This was quite a shock for me, and I knew I couldn´t let it go. I realized that my previous article on Sheldrake had to be revised, and that I had to do a bit more research. Then I discovered his almost complementary relationship with Richard Dawkins. Remember: Dawkins´s most notorious work is called The God Delusion. As an answer to this Sheldrake has written a counter-work: The Science Delusion. Richard Dawkins is a head figure in the skeptical movement (which claims to represent real science), and Sheldrake has in fact created a counter-skeptical movement, consisting of New Agers (the new, real scientists, according to him).
Who is Rupert Sheldrake? On his website he is described like this:
Rupert Sheldrake, PhD, is a biologist and author best known for his hypothesis of morphic resonance. At Cambridge University he worked in developmental biology as a Fellow of Clare College. He was Principal Plant Physiologist at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics in Hyderabad, India. From 2005 to 2010 he was Director of the Perrott-Warrick project for research on unexplained human and animal abilities, funded by Trinity College, Cambridge.
The fact is that Rupert Sheldrake is a former scientist (very former, as in not doing science any more) who, since the 1980s, has preferred to promote his own theory of everything called "morphic resonance". Sheldrake believes that "memory is inherent in nature" and that "natural systems, such as termite colonies, or pigeons, or orchid plants, or insulin molecules, inherit a collective memory from all previous things of their kind", and that this "morphic resonance" also explains "telepathy-type interconnections between organisms". He has written several books targeted at the general public.
In his book, Science and Spiritual Practice, he writes:
When I was thinking that about how morphogenetic fields might be inherited, a new idea occurred to me: there might be a kind of memory in nature giving connections across time from past to present organisms, providing each species with a kind of collective memory of form and behavior. I called this hypothetical transfer of memory morphic resonance (page 6).
Sheldrake has devoted much thought and speculation towards trying to find causes for some of life's more peculiar and spooky occurrences: such as how dogs seem to know their owners are coming home, how separated siblings sometimes seem to experience symptoms of the other's illness despite living in a different continent, and how it takes bloody ages to try and get a protein to crystallize, but once one lab manages it, lots of others seem to be able to with ease.
Science generally has no explanation for observations of such happenings, and indeed scientific knowledge could suggest there can be no causal reason for them and they are simply flukes and/or people seeing patterns which are not there. Sheldrake, however, has developed the concept of the "morphic fields" in an attempt to "explain" them.
According to his 1981 book A New Science of Life, such a field would make it so that once a species has evolved, the next species to evolve would look something like it, apparently due to the Universe having a memory since it is alive.
Morphic resonance is extremely vague and ill-defined, and can only really be described as whatever Sheldrake says it is. Crucially, it is not falsifiable, and therefore not testable (although some have tried). It is therefore an example of pseudoscience.
1) Sheldrake describes himself as having been a "Research Fellow of the Royal Society". The Royal Society's Research Fellowship — essentially a grant for researchers in the early stages of their research career — can easily be confused with the highly prestigious election to the Fellowship of the Royal Society. Sheldrake has not been elected FRS.
2) Some of Sheldrake's work has been funded by the Perrott-Warrick Project, a fund set up in the early-20th century to fund research in parapsychology, which Sheldrake points out is "administered by Trinity College, Cambridge". However, the involvement of Trinity is limited to organising the finances — nobody at Trinity has any involvement with the committee that decides how the money is spent, and consequently Sheldrake has held no position on the faculty at Trinity. The then-Master of Trinity, Lord Rees, has on the record disowned Sheldrake and distanced him from Trinity, playfully suggesting that as a former fellow of Clare College, it was Clare that should receive "undiluted credit" for his work.
3) Sheldrake claims to have authored "more than 80 articles in peer-reviewed journals" [https://www.sheldrake.org/about-rupert-sheldrake/frequently-asked-questions]. However, excluding articles in pseudojournals that clearly weren't peer reviewed, the true number is actually less than half (helpfully they're on his website so you can count 'em). He hasn't published any peer reviewed research since the mid-1980s.
These facts don't stop media organisations from incorrectly referring to him in inaccurate and flattering terms. Even the BBC, who should know better, referred to him as "Professor Rupert Sheldrake". The Daily Mail, who often don't know better referred to him as a "Cambridge University Biologist". His own publishers referred to him as "one of the world's most preeminent biologists".
RationalWiki is itself, however, probably one the “skeptical” medias which Sheldrake doesn´t like (see the ebook on Dawkins, or below).
2) Paradigm Shifts and the Abuse of Thomas Kuhn
Robert Carroll (another skeptic Sheldrake doesn´t like) writes in The Skeptic´s Dictionary:
Morphic resonance is a term coined by Rupert Sheldrake in his 1981 book A New Science of Life. He uses the expression to refer to what he thinks is "the basis of memory in nature....the idea of mysterious telepathy-type interconnections between organisms and of collective memories within species."
Among his early influences Sheldrake cites The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn (who is a philosopher of science). Sheldrake says that the book led him to view contemporary scientific understanding of life as simply a paradigm, which he called "the mechanistic theory of life". Reading Kuhn's work, Sheldrake says, focused his mind on how scientific paradigms can change.
It can sound confusing when I speak about New Age as part of the anti-science movement, since New Age seems obsessed with science, and call everything they think and do, for science. But that is because they demand so-called “alternative sciences”, which breaks with “old-fashioned science”. As an alternative to atheist scientism, New Age offers a “New Science”, which basically is a kind of “New Age Scientism”. We simply have to do with George Orwell´s concepts of “old-thinking and new-thinking”. This is not a baseless comparison, as we shall learn in this booklet. The reason for this is to be found in postmodernism, which is the intellectual background for New Age. I will return to this.
Therefore, they are also obsessed with the concept of paradigm shifts.
The concept of paradigm shifts comes from the philosopher of science: Thomas Kuhn. And Sheldrake reads Thomas Kuhn in the same way as numerous other New Agers, namely as if he provides a model, blueprint, or seal of approval, for creating paradigm shifts! Combined with postmodern subjectivism and relativism, this means that everything is allowed, and everything can be stated as being science.
Example: one of the founders of Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) John Grinder denies, that his and Bandler´s work is an eclectic hodgepodge of philosophy and psychology, or that it even builds from the work of others. He believes that what he and Bandler did was “create a paradigm shift.”
The following claim by Grinder provides some sense of what he thinks NLP is:
My memories about what we thought at the time of discovery (with respect to the classic code we developed – that is, the years 1973 through 1978) are that we were quite explicit that we were out to overthrow a paradigm and that, for example, I, for one, found it very useful to plan this campaign using in part as a guide the excellent work of Thomas Kuhn (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions) in which he detailed some of the conditions in the midst of paradigm shifts. For example, I believe it was very useful that neither one of us were qualified in the field we first went after – psychology and in particular, it´s therapeutic application; this being one of the conditions which Kuhn identified in his historical study of paradigm shifts. Who knows what Bandler was thinking?
One can only hope that Bandler wasn´t thinking the same things that Grinder was thinking, at least with respect to Kuhn´s classic text.
Kuhn did not promote the notion that not being particularly qualified in a scientific field is a significant condition for contributing to the development of a new paradigm in science. Furthermore, Kuhn did not provide a model, blueprint, or seal of approval, for creating paradigm shifts! His is an historical work, described what he believed to have occured in the history of science. He made no claim that anything similar happens in philosophy and he certainly did not imply that anything NLP did, or is doing, constitutes a paradigm shift (read more about the inspiration from Kuhn in my article Constructivism: the postmodern intellectualism behind New Age and the self-help industry - postmodernism is also Rupert Sheldrake´s intellectual background, as we shall see).
The bridge between science and spirituality is an expression you hear all the time within New Age. And they try to create “alternative sciences” all the time. Each new number of a New Age magazine or New Age promoting website with respect for itself, must contain at least one new “revolutionary” new “scientific” theory, which is the beginning to a “paradigm shift” in science. The number of new forms of “alternative sciences” within New Age is therefore today almost comically large.
So, the “bridge” in New Age is built of sand, namely pseudoscience grounded in anti-intellectualism and anti-science.
But could you in fact talk about such a bridge? Yes, and that is philosophy. I have tried to point that out several times, with minimal success (read more in my article The Bridge Between Science and Spirituality).
3) The Sources of Sheldrake´s Ideas
Sheldrake's early career showed a lot of promise. A grammar school boy, he went to Cambridge University to study biology. A degree was followed by a Ph.D., and then some post-doctoral work; he was elected a Fellow of Clare College. Had he continued along the standard career path, and engaged in conventional research, he may well have become a quite respected professor.
However, in mid-career, and over a gradual period starting in the late-1970s and finishing in the mid-1980s, Sheldrake dropped out of engaging in the scientific process. He has held no academic positions since then.
The dropping out process started with a career break travel to India, where he spent some time in a Christian monastery. Then, instead of returning to his original research programme, he wound up doing crop physiology research for an agricultural institute in India — considerably less prestigious than world-renowned Cambridge.
He also discovered that instead of doing real science, writing books about New Age woo was much more profitable.
However, this is not a fair, or precise description (RationalWiki delivers good material, but also a lot of distortions – for example their use of the words “woo” and even “bullshit” is so irrational as it can be). Sheldrake´s works are in my view brilliant examples of writing, but it is also a fact that he is a child of the counterculture, and is a hard bitten left-wing ideologist. His works are postmodernist ideology, and, as we know, postmodernism is old University Marxism and Stalinism in new clothings. Sheldrake is an open advocate of Neo-Lysenkoism. We shall return to this.
Sheldrake says that although there are similarities between morphic resonance and Hinduism's akashic records, he first conceived of the idea while at Cambridge, before his travel to India where he later developed it. He attributes the origin of his morphic resonance idea to two influences: his studies of the holistic tradition in biology, and French philosopher Henri Bergson's book Matter and Memory. He says that he took Bergson's concept of memories not being materially embedded in the brain and generalized it to morphic resonance, where memories are not only immaterial but also under the influence of the collective past memories of similar organisms.
In the same style as with other New Age "scientists", none of Sheldrake's ideas are his own (this is by the way also the case with Richard Dawkins). In his book A New Science of Life the reader can get a good understanding of where he has pulled his paranormal ideas from. He was influenced by the "organismic" philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead, the vitalism of the biologist Hans Driesch who proposed the existence of a life-force in organisms called "entelechy" (pp. 48-50) and the Lamarckism of the psychologist William McDougall (pp. 188-194).
In 1960, Ninian Marshall published a paper titled ESP and Memory: A Physical Theory. In the paper he proposed a hypothesis of "resonance", which basically said there is some kind of mysterious energy in nature that can explain biological mysteries and telepathic experiences. It's clear that Sheldrake's "morphic resonance" was influenced by this paper. In his book Sheldrake mentions the Marshall paper only in a footnote (p. 210) but admits that his own idea is similar to it in "several important" ways.
While his colleagues at Cambridge were not receptive to his idea, Sheldrake found the opposite to be true in India. He recounts his Indian colleagues saying, "There's nothing new in this, it was all known millennia ago to the ancient rishis." Sheldrake thus characterizes morphic resonance as a convergence between Western and Eastern thought, yet found by himself first in Western philosophy. This is an example of the same thing which Gregg Braden does. The so-called “bridge between science and spirituality”, which Sheldrake and other New Agers claim to be creating, is in reality a reduction and distortion of the sources they have their ideas from. In Braden´s case I would call it cultural appropriation.
Sheldrake has also noted similarities between morphic resonance and Carl Jung's collective unconscious, with regard to collective memories being shared across individuals and the coalescing of particular behaviours through repetition, described by Jung as archetypes. However, whereas Jung assumed that archetypal forms were transmitted through physical inheritance, Sheldrake attributes collective memories to morphic resonance, and rejects any explanation of them involving what he terms "mechanistic biology".
4) Panpsychism: a Confused Theory of Mind
Sheldrake also advocates a philosophy of mind called panpsychism. It is a particular variant of the general double-aspect theory of mind. Philosophy of mind is actually one of his central issues when he is participating in documentaries, etc. It is here his objection to materialism is seen (materialism denies the existence of consciousness). And that is praiseworthy.
But Sheldrake´s advocacy of panpsychism is problematic.
Panpsychism is a part of the so-called double-aspect theory. In philosophy of mind, double-aspect theory is the view that the mental and the physical are two aspects of, or perspectives on, the same substance. It is also called dual-aspect monism.
Panpsychism is the view that mind or a mind-like aspect is a fundamental and ubiquitous feature of reality. Panpsychism is one of the oldest philosophical theories, and has been ascribed to philosophers including Thales, Plato, Spinoza, Leibniz, William James, Alfred North Whitehead, Galen Strawson and David Chalmers.
During the nineteenth century, panpsychism was the default theory in philosophy of mind, but it saw a decline during the middle years of the twentieth century with the rise of logical positivism. The recent interest in the hard problem of consciousness has revived interest in panpsychism.
Panpsychism in its modern version has nothing to do with the pre-modern versions. Let me explain.
As I have described on my page, Meditation as an Art of Life, Greco-Roman philosophy was a spiritual practice. The different schools of philosophy in antiquity were schools of enlightenment. This has been completely distorted by modern philosophy.
In his book, Philosophy and Theurgy in Late Antiquity, Algis Uzdavinys writes:
Ancient Hellenic and modern European ’philosophy’ have nothing in common but the name. Ch. C. Evangeliou therefore contents the uncritical assumption that ancient Hellenic philosophy is the origin of Western or European ‘philosophy’, arguing instead that the Socratic tradition, to which Plato and Aristotle belong, has more affinity with the Egyptian wisdom and the ‘remote philosophies of India and China’.
Within Christianity these schools of enlightenment continued in Christian Mysticism. Officially, religion and philosophy were divided into theology and science. So, science is a direct result of the meeting between Greco-Roman philosophy and Christianity. Philosophy itself developed hereafter into the abstract discourse, which we know today. The only direction within modern philosophy which slightly reminds about philosophy in its original meaning, is existentialism. But existentialism has cut the spiritual aspects away.
In Greco-Roman philosophy there therefore existed a notion of enlightenment, precisely as in Eastern philosophy.
In his book, Philosophy as a Rite of Rebirth – From Ancient Egypt to Neoplatonism, Algis Uzdavinys gives an idea of it:
According to Aristotle (De Philosoph, fr. 8), wisdom (Sophia) covers any ingenious invention and conception (all of which ultimately are gifts, sent down by the gods); therefore to do any thing well, skillfully, according to the divine paradigms and models, is to follow the way of “wisdom” which finally leads to the highest metaphysical goals, to the noetic realms where Wisdom itself, the graceful goddess, dwells. No wonder that every nation loves wisdom and has certain “lovers of wisdom” [philosophers], be they goldsmiths, artists, healers, singers, priests, or magicians.
The concept of enlightenment was removed from both official (exoteric) Christianity and philosophy. Today, Western philosophy only works with the ordinary mind. It has no notion of the enlightened consciousness. It therefore also only works with two ways of attaining reliable knowledge: by reason (rationalism) or sensation (empiricism), or both (realism), They don´t work with the third notion: meditation. In European philosophy there has been, as a result of the above, a strong tradition for only accepting these two ways of attaining knowledge: sensation and reason. In the same way in philosophy of mind. The mind, which Western philosophers of mind is talking about, is the ordinary mind, not the enlightened consciousness. In Western philosophy of mind, the concept of enlightened consciousness simply doesn´t exist anymore after Greco-Roman philosophy. But even the descriptions of Greco-Roman philosophy are based on modern reductive and selective thinking. Greco-Roamn Philosophy is described by the means of positivism, as the first naive attempt of moving from religion (childish superstition) to science (adulthood).
In Sheldrake´s books, you will hear the distorted claim, that the concept of panpsychism is compatible with enlightenment and the experiences of the mystics. It isn´t. Sheldrake comes to his idea because panpsychism “sounds like” something he has read about mystical experiences. It is also due to that he wants a philosophy of mind which seems to fit his biological ideas. This is the same misunderstanding that has led New Agers to confuse George Berkeley´s concept of subjective idealism with the enlightened consciousness (read my ebook: The Tragic New Age Confusion of Eastern Enlightenment With Western Subjective Idealism). Panpsychism, in its modern version, is just a variant of materialism.
The question What is consciousness? is about one of the central problems of philosophy, maybe even the central philosophical problem. It is about the human nature. Who am I? What is the I, the subject? What is its ontological status? Wherein does its identity consist? How is its role in connection with the question of personal identity or rather the criteria for personal identity? It is a problem which is related to a number of other philosophical problems, for example the psycho-physical problem (mind-body problem), the problem of the external world, the idealism-materialism problem and the problem about determinism contra free will.
But it has also connection to psychology, for example to the problem of multiple personalities, and to law and ethics. In what sense can a person be made responsible for a crime, which lies behind him in the past? Anyone changes with time, some in a high degree, others little, new experiences are coming, some viewpoints are being changed, etc. Is there anything constant in a course of life? If yes, what does it then consist of? If no, when has a person then changed so much that he can´t be made responsible for a previous committed crime? And the problem has of course also a relevance for religious viewpoints. If you believe in a life after death, disembodied, or reincarnated, then an articulation of this faith must give an explanation of what consciousness is, what ontological status it has. You can´t be a materialist and at the same time believe in a life after death.
Furthermore: it has an implication on the concept of meditation, which per definition is training of consciousness, and a rediscovery of the nature of consciousness: the Enlightened Consciousness.
With Descartes, the problem of mind gets a sharp profiling and since his time the philosophical market has been flooded with suggestions of the solution of the problem, or rather, its resolution. For some reason most people today are reductionists, and hate the thought that consciousness could have a special ontological status, despite that this opens ups for an enchanted world.
In philosophy of mind there generally are four theories:
1) Dualism. This is Descartes´ position. The actual mind-body-problem is actually the problem about dualism. The main problem of dualism is the difference between soul (consciousness) and body. What is the causal connection between these two? Nobody has, so far, a solution to this. Therefore, none of the below theories have a solution.
2) Double-aspect theory. This is also called the identity hypothesis, which is about that mind and matter basically aren´t different, but only are two ways in which the same is appearing, or are two forms of appearances of one form of being. The problem with the double aspect theory is that it can´t explain what the one being is. It lacks a third factor (which I will try to supply it with below). Therefore, it constantly slides over in dualism, materialism or idealism. It is a confusion of these three theories. And, as mentioned, it doesn´t explain what the causal connection between mind and matter. Panpsychism is a materialist variant of the double aspect theory.
3) Materialism, which denies the existence of the mind, and claims that everything, also the mental life of humans – is material. This is an absurd theory. It denies the existence of the direct subjective experience, which is the primary way we all constantly is experiencing the world. Moreover, in itself, it is completely nihilistic. Therefore, the advocates always supply it with some kind of secular humanism (Dawkins), or with a particular version of the double aspect theory (David Chalmers and Sheldrake).
4) Idealism, which denies the existence of the matter, and claim that the whole of reality is a product of the mind. This is also an absurd theory. But it is the theory which makes New Agers confuse it with the Enlightened Consciousness, because it “sounds like” something they have read in Eastern literature. But it is based on the ordinary mind, and therefore ends in solipsism, a completely unacceptable theory in any serious philosophical discussion. Solipsism is the theory that only I, or rather: only my mind - is existing.
I have myself developed a version of dualism combined with the double aspect theory (inspired by pre-modern views). It takes into account the concept of the Enlightened Consciousness. The following is a completely non-religious description of this theory. I give it in order to show where the Western theories fail (I have also described it in the Dawkins ebook).
The first metaphysical principle is simply the concept of The Wholeness. The next principle is the concept of the Negation Principle. The third principle is Spaciousness. Altogether: The True, The Good and the Beautiful.
And now to the concept of Consciousness, or rather: enlightened Consciousness. I have suggested, that a human being seems to have two aspects: an energy-aspect and a consciousness-aspect. Seen from the energy-aspect lawfulness rules: your body (and the material world – yes, it exists) is subject to the physical laws of nature (both classical laws and quantum laws); your psychic system is subject to the lawfulness of the energy fields and of the energy transformations: compensatory karma. The psychic system is what I refer to when I talk about thoughts and mind.
Seen from the consciousness-aspect, then a human being seems to be akin to the Wholeness, to be transcendent in relation to these laws (also the quantum laws). The Wholeness is one and the same as Reality. So, in my view, consciousness (Enlightened Consciousness!), Wholeness and Reality are one and the same. They are connected through the principles of Negation and Spaciousness. If you are aware in the Now, the Now, and therefore life itself, expands.
Spaciousness is also the principle behind objectivity. It is therefore a fundamental mistake to confuse subjective idealism with Enlightened Consciousness.
But, as suggested: all Western concepts of consciousness is based on the energy aspect. They only talk about the ordinary mind. The dualists talk about mind and body as separated, and can´t explain the causal connection between them. The double aspect theorists talk about mind and body as two expressions of the same, but can´t explain what this “same” is, since they don´t have a third principle. The materialists only accept the existence of the body (matter), and the idealists only accept the existence of the mind. But none of them works with the third principle: namely the Enlightened Consciousness which is akin to the Wholeness.
The Wholeness itself can´t be put in opposition to anything. It is therefore indescribable. This is also what the Taoists meant by their concept of Tao. Tao is the indescribable. Note that neither Eastern philosophy, nor pre-modern Western philosophy, work with modern Western names such as mind and consciousness. In Greco-Roman philosophy, for example, they used concepts such as spirit, soul and body.
Enlightened Consciousness is akin to the Wholeness. It is therefore neither mind or body. It is a complete negation. It is present in a human being as Awareness, as Primary Presence. But it´s not the mind. Though I´m not fully a supporter of naive realism, I believe that naive realism (common sense) should be a starting point. We should start with our own primary presence (the first personal inside-and-out perspective on reality). We must start with, that the trees, the birds, the mountains and the rivers are the primary reality. Due to the spaciousness of consciousness, we experience in Wholeness, not in parts. We don´t experience atomic particles (Materialism), or energy fields (panpsychism). Both Dawkins and Sheldrake are reductionists. They both end in some kind of biologism. Sheldrake is just supplying his own biological theories with quantum mysticism, Neo-Lysenkoism and postmodernism, primarily social constructivism. He tries to solve the problem of the external world, which both dualism and materialism end up in, and he does so by claiming that the mind is an aspect of energy fields (The Science Delusion, page 213-14), and that this somehow is affirmed by quantum mechanics. This is standard New Age stuff. Gregg Braden has his own version, which he calls The Divine Matrix. He talks about a mysterious “field” as the first principle (God). This is a biologism, a reductionism. Despite its vitalist character, it is still a talk about the very, very small. It doesn´t explain that we experience in Wholeness. It doesn´t explain our direct subjective experience (naïve realism), which Sheldrake himself talks about all the time. This is an example where he slides back to dualism.
Panpsychists often begin by expressing themselves as dualists. This happens for example when David Chalmers is talking about the hard problem of consciousness. I won´t go into the more difficult discussions of philosophy of mind, but will, since it is relevant, mention that there both are an ontological and epistemological variant of panpsychism. It is typical that the advocates of the theory present it as ontological; that is: as a theory about the nature of reality. But as they are explaining the concept in details, they reduce it to an epistemological principle. This vagueness (or “slippage”) can be seen already in the formulation of the main thought behind the theory, which says that the substance “appears” as respectively mind and matter. But who does it appear to? Does this not imply that it only can appear to a conscious being – and, in that case, have you not introduced a new dualism, namely between the consciousness, which has different “points of views”, and the substance, which it has a point of view of? And, when quantum mysticism is introduced, it ends in subjective idealism, where only your mind exists (more about quantum mysticism below). A quite clear example of a slippery from materialism, into dualism, and finally into subjective idealism, can be seen in another New Age biologist, Robert Lanza (see my article: A Critique of Robert Lanza). Transhumanists are doing it in another way.
Our direct subjective experiences are experiences in Wholeness. We experience birds, trees, flowers, mountain stars, not atomic particles or energy fields. We experience in Wholeness, despite how narrow and absent it can be. The solution to the problem of the external world is therefore the spaciousness of consciousness.
Sheldrake´s theory is consciousness reduced to the energy aspect. How can that explain the problem of personal identity? What is an ”I” or a ”Self”? I wake up in the morning, and I know, that I am the same as yesterday or ten years ago, in spite of the fact that my body since then has changed look and that the content of my thoughts in many ways has become something else. What is this ”Me”? Sheldrake talks about mind as an aspect of energy fields. But energy fields are impermanent. What is the permanent “me” experiencing all this? He can´t explain it. Materialists end in the same problem.
It is not my body, because then I should each morning go out in the bathroom and look in the mirror, in order to find out who I am. Nor is it the content of my consciousness, my thoughts and my memories, because then I first had to evoke a line of memories each morning, before I knew who I am. The whole of the total science, hereunder Sheldrake´s theories, have no explanation of, what a ”Self” is, or what personal identity is.
The explanation is that the Enlightened Consciousness is present in the individual as the Awareness Witness, or a Primary Presence. The Enlightened Consciousness is unaffected by the energy aspect, and therefore by impermanence. There is something permanent in the individual, and Sheldrake´s theory fails to explain this.
In this there lies another factor, namely the question about the free will, the possibility of Man consciously to decide on his own present condition and within some limits to make a free choice. Also here Sheldrake´s theory fails. And so does materialism.
However, in a spiritual practice the basic naïve realism would, through many years of training, widen out into some kind objective idealism, but that´s not my starting point. We must accept that our direct subjective experience is our starting point.
Within the energy aspect everything is determined by the negation principle. Everything is determined by oppositions; that is: good is defined by evil, subject by object, etc. Everything within the energy aspect is therefore accentuated by dualism. We must therefore accept a mind-body dualism in order to be able to talk meaningful.
Furthermore: the energy aspect is accentuated by cyclic movements: up-cycles and down-cycles. Small cycles within large cycles, etc. Movement is not a one-way, linear movement, in the way evolutionism describes it. I will return to this in connection with “The Evolution of Consciousness”.
Finally, the energy aspect is accentuated by images (my version of objective idealism). The Wholeness seems to depict itself symbolically. It so to speak sacrifices itself in a Great Vision, which again is splintered into a multitude of images. This happens through the negation principle. You could talk about personal, collective and universal images. Due to the spaciousness of Enlightened Consciousness, these images both exists within you, and without you, in the actual movement of nature. They are a kind of form-formations of energy. Even physical forms are in that way images. The personal and collective images are human made. The universal images are not human made. They are very close to the Wholeness, a kind of holistic mandala and yantra fields. I therefore also supply my philosophy of mind with a kind of cyclic moving objective idealism. A kind of cyclic moving Platonism (not Hegel´s evolutionism, and not Jung´s subjective idealism).
Dualism is a necessary viewpoint. I have talked about the Nondual bias. Nondual bias arises when you describe something as nondual, while forgetting that you can´t describe anything without implying the negation of it.
The only thing that can be said to be nondual is the Wholeness. According to the Taoist teaching of Yin and Yang there isn´t anything beyond the world. You can´t see the world from outside. You are in the world and you can only describe something from its opposition. What is the good? This you understand if you know what the evil is. You can´t say anything about the world as a whole, because you can´t put the Wholeness in opposition to anything. The Wholeness is therefore the indescribable (Tao).
So clear thinking, and therefore clear communication, involves, according to Taoism, an epistemological, a so-called gnoseological, dualism (Yin and Yang). Clear, or unambiguous, description, has the distinction between subject and object, image and reality, as a necessary precondition. We have to discriminate between subject and object, image and reality, in order to communicate unambiguous. And we have to discriminate between a long line of other oppositions as well: under one called Yin and Yang. And this discrimination is characterized by the knowledge that oppositions are complementary to each other, because they mutually exclude each other and at the same necessarily must supplement each other. If your thoughts slip out in one extreme you must remember the other extreme and bring it in. If you confuse oppositions, you must separate them (read more about complementarity in my article Quantum mechanics and the philosophy of Niels Bohr – all of the above is inspired by the philosophy of Niels Bohr).
Unclear, or ambiguous, thinking, or communication, arises when you either are confusing the oppositions (double aspect theory), or are thinking in one extreme of a pair of opposites (idealism and materialism).
In meditation circles they often commit the Nondual bias by saying that meditation is to be completely without thoughts, because the Enlightened Consciousness is without thoughts. This is without doubt a comforting thought for many people who might have had bad experiences within the area of thinking (for example education). They can then attack, for example critical thinkers, for being dual (that is: on a lower plane of consciousness), while themselves being nondual, and therefore on a higher level of consciousness. They just forget that they themselves are using thinking in order to communicate this, and that in a very unclear and ambiguous, even insulting way. In this way the Nondual bias is used in combination with thought distortions such as Ego-inflation and Truth by Authority. An actually enlightened master would never do this, because he knows he must think in order to communicate. And when thinking he uses the complementarity principle, and the art of discrimination.
Therefore: always first look at how unambiguous/ambiguous so-called spiritual teachers, gurus, New Agers, and other people, etc., look at their communication, thought distortions, etc., before taking their claims seriously.
There are also many people caught in spiritual crises of different types, or clairvoyants, mediums, channelers, etc., who experience non-ordinary phenomena, and where images and reality in their descriptions flow together in one big confusion. It can be very flattering to hear, and sound very “nondual”, but in reality, they express themselves, not only unclear and ambiguous, but directly obscure. So instead of taking them seriously, you should remember that obscurantism means hostility towards enlightenment, or simply: darkness. So, who knows what it is that expresses itself through them.
You can also see the Nondual bias in action when New Agers claim that their techniques, systems, therapies, methods, etc., etc., are nondual, or holistic, which is another word for nondualism. This is precisely what Sheldrake proposes. He calls his new science: “Holistic Science”. Here it is also often used as attacks on critics. The most known example is the so-called “integral” method of Ken Wilber (see my article A Critique of Ken Wilber – Updated).
The Nondual bias is active in monistic theories of mind such as materialism and idealism. Panpsychism constantly slides over in either materialism or idealism. There is a certain degree of doublethink in it, a cognitive dissonance.
I have recently discovered a valuable three-fold model of nondual reality, developed by the Advaita Vedanta teacher, Timothy Conway, when he discovered how Western Neo-Advaita teachers are confusing Eastern enlightened consciousness with Western subjective idealism. I will reproduce it here.
Conway´s three levels of discrimination are:
3 - Conventional level
2 - Psychic-Soul level
1 - ONLY GOD
Now, for an alternate, "bigger picture" context, in a hopefully-clarifying threefold model I have presented elsewhere [click here to read more extensively], we can say it is 1) Absolutely true that "nothing is really happening," that all manifestation is "dream-like" and ultimately "empty" because there is only God, only Absolute Being-Awareness-Bliss, the One Alone, the all-transcending and unmanifest Spirit. 2) A step down from this strictly nondual "Absolute-truth level" (paramarthika-satya) of the ONE Alone to the "blessed many" is what we might call the "psychic-soul" truth-level in which "whatever happens in the manifest worlds is perfect," because all souls are sooner or later coming Home to perfect virtue and Divine awakening from soul-hood into Spirit, so that there's fundamentally nothing "wrong" or "problematic." 3) Finally, more pragmatically and usefully, there is the mundane, "conventional-truth level" (vyavaharika-satya) involving the play of opposites, crucially including justice-injustice, true-false, good-evil, appropriate-inappropriate, skillful-unskillful. All three of these levels (Absolute truth, psychic-soul truth, and mundane conventional truth) are simultaneously true within this overall Nondual (Advaita) Reality. One level is Absolutely True, the other two levels are "relatively true" or "experientially true" within the play of the many.
Losing the capacity to distinguish these three levels is a mark of great folly, not enlightened wisdom. And so, for instance, to excuse or overlook injustices occurring in the Rajneesh movement or elsewhere on this planet because "whatever happens is perfect" or because "this is all a dream, there's only God" is a tragic confusing of levels, and makes a mockery of the courageous work of all those who have ever endeavored to bring truth in place of lies, healing in place of harm, justice in place of injustice.
5) The Myths of Quantum Mysticism
Sheldrake is right when he claims that materialism is old-fashioned. As we saw in the Dawkins ebook, quantum mechanics has made materialism invalid. But in postmodernism and New Age, quantum mechanics has developed into quantum mysticism, another reductionist extreme.
As mentioned: like dualism, the double aspect theory can´t explain what the causal link is between mind and body. Due to the above-mentioned nondual bias, and the three-fold model of nondual reality I don´t think we ever can, and therefore I have chosen a clear dualism, instead of the obscure double-aspect theory (panpsychism). However, advocates of panpsychism claim that quantum mechanics might have a solution to the combination problem.
Philosophers such as Alfred North Whitehead have drawn on the indeterminacy observed by quantum physics to defend panpsychism. A similar line of argument has been repeated subsequently by a number of thinkers including the physicist David Bohm, anesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff and philosophers such as Quentin Smith, Paavo Pylkkänen, and Shan Gao. The advocates of panpsychist quantum consciousness theories see quantum indeterminacy and informational but non-causal relations between quantum elements as the key to explaining consciousness.
Besides the obvious reductionist elements, the theories are due to a widely misunderstanding of quantum mechanics. It is called quantum mysticism.
Quantum mysticism is a pseudoscientific version of quantum mechanics. The pseudoscience shows in the following two postulations:
1) Einstein´s theories of relativity, and quantum mechanics, prove that relativism and subjectivism are valid points of views.
2) Quantum mechanics and Einstein´s theories of relativity prove that classical physics (the age of enlightenment, rationalism) is not valid anymore.
1) Einstein´s theories of relativity, and quantum mechanics, prove, that relativism and subjectivism are valid points of views.
Subjectivism and relativism claim, that there doesn’t exist any objective truth, or reality. Truth, or reality, is something we create ourselves, either as individuals or as cultures, and since there doesn’t exist any objective truth, there doesn´t exist any objective scale of truth. All truths are therefore equally true and equally valid, and if one person´s truth, or one culture´s truth, try to intervene in the truths of other individuals or cultures, then this is considered as an aggression.
There both exists an individual version of relativism, and a collective version. The individual version is called subjectivism (this is the case of both Dawkins´s brain subjectivism, or gene-subjectivism, and subjective idealism). This version is often connected with a right-wing liberalism, or progressive neo-liberalism. The latter takes into account both right-wing and left-wing positions (Yuval Noah Harari). The other version is a collective relativism, cultural relativism, which often is connected to a left-wing socialism. However, both are common in distorting both science and human rights. Both are demanding “alternative” views of science, and for example also human rights. And both are introducing intellectual apartheid in different ways.
In The Science Delusion, in chapter 11: Illusion of Objectivity, Sheldrake exposes his postmodernist ideology. The chapter is opened with one of Sheldrake´s numerous self-contradictions. He writes:
In the course of this book, I have shown that the materialist philosophy or “the scientific worldview” is not a vision of undeniable, objective truth. It is a questionable belief-system superseded by the development of the sciences themselves. In this chapter I look at the myths of disembodied knowledge and scientific objectivity and the ways in which they conflict with the obvious fact that scientists are people. Sciences are human activities. The assumption that the sciences are uniquely objective not only distorts the public perception of scientists, but affects scientists´ perception of themselves. The illusion of objectivity makes scientists prone to deception and self-deception. It works against the noble ideal of seeking truth (page 291-292).
Well, relativism and subjectivism completely destroy any attempt of seeking truth, since they claim that truth is subjective or relative. In a postmodern context you consider concepts such as good an evil, true and false, beautiful and ugly, as something we have created ourselves, and which therefore don´t exist objectively. Therefore claims of objective truth are being rejected as premodern superstition, as expressions of old thinking. And since postmodernism, in it´s progressive neo-liberalist version, also means individualism, yes, then such a rejection ends up in a global seen unique narcissism, which defends itself with phrases such as: “I have my truth. You have your truth. I want to be allowed to do what I want. You should be allowed to do what you want. Tolerance! New thinking!”
However, the ideology fails, because truth escapes it, and returns to it as a kind of hubris-nemesis (which indicates, that truth does exist objectively). Two crucial arguments can namely be put forward against it:
1) The argument about self-refutation. The theory can in accordance with its own built-in relativism not itself be regarded as true. For that reason it is followed by a long line of self-contradictions.
2) The Reductio ad Absurdum-argument: If you preach relativism and believe, that everything is relative, and for that reason equal true, you have thereby accepted, that nazism, fascism, dictatorship, popular murder, terror and violence is as equally great blessings for mankind as democracy, negotiation and dialogue. It's a fact that many totalitarian ideologies, paradoxically enough, today have begun to use relativism as justification of their business. Sheldrake, with his Neo-Lysenkoism, is very close to this. Then you have no basis in order to criticize, because you don´t even have a rational frame to begin from. You can´t criticize anyone for argumentation-bungling, or to replace arguments with machineguns, because this assumes, that there is a rational ground in your arguments.
I have examined postmodernism several places, mainly in my article: Constructivism: The Postmodern Intellectualism Behind New Age and the Self-help Industry. Today postmodernism is especially seen in the reductionism called social constructivism. The first time I was introduced to the strange world of social constructivism, was by my professor in philosophy, David Favrholdt, and I could hardly believe my own ears.
The above-mentioned article is inspired by Favrholdt´s celebration lecture November 2, 2001, in the occasion of the end-of-master celebration on Centre for Philosophy, University of Southern Denmark.
When talking about social constructivism we ought to speak about a sociologism, but the dance was opened in 1967 with Berger and Luckmann´s work The Social Construction of Reality. A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge. And the term ”social constructivism” has been stuck and is used with much pleasure by the followers of the movement.
In today´s literature, social constructivism occurs in a weak and in a strong version. The weak version is about, that a line of institutions in society have been produced, and have to be explained, only from social/sociological causes. Examples on such institutions are legislation, for instance about traffic, monetary matters with everything that this include of banks, credit institutions, stock markets etc., standards of behaviour, ethical systems, religion and much more, but not scientific results such as the explanation of the periodic system of the elements, of the chemical connections, or of the laws of gestalt psychology, just to mention some examples.
The strong version - which among others are framed by the Edinburgh sociologists David Bloor, Barry Barnes and Steven Shapin, and since followed up by a long line of others, among these Bruno Latour and Steve Woolgar - is about, that not just the mentioned institutions, but also all scientific results and discoveries, are social constructions.
With the words of Favrholdt, then we here speak about a reductionism, which conclusions are so rabid and stark raving stupid, that we hardly can give an account of them without immediately becoming accused of having distorted them – what Favrholdt at that time also was by colleagues on the philosophical institute on University of Southern Denmark.
Already on page 26 in The Science Delusion Sheldrake praises, well, precisely Bruno Latour. On page 296, he returns to Latour, whereafter he goes into other social constructivist views of science. I won´t go into detail about Sheldrake´s difficult account. It is difficult for the very reason that he constantly contradicts himself. This is due to that he isn´t a thinker. Like Ken Wilber, he puts other people´s thoughts together, in a way that seems to support his own ideology. But this causes an incoherence. Spiritual seen, the most blatant self-contradiction is that he, at the same time as he supports spiritual views, gives support to philosophies that can´t accommodate any kind of spirituality at all, as for example social constructivism, which is atheist from beginning to end. And, we have already seen that his panpsychism can´t be combined with any disembodied views of consciousness, which rules out enlightenment, shamanic journey´s, and life after death all together. Furthermore: his praise of the noble goal of seeking truth, is contradicted by his support of subjectivism and relativism, that deny any such possibility. So, instead I will explain his point of views in another way.
The above-mentioned Edinburgh-sociologists represent - inspired by among others Thomas Kuhn (whom Sheldrake mentions frequently in all his articles and books) - social constructivism in the strong version. It says: to any scientific theory applies that it is a social product. The possible truth or falseness is not determined from whether it is consistent with reality or not, because reality is – as they claim – also a social construction. So here there is no need for drawing a line between the absolute and the conventional. As Mary Douglas formulates it, then there are some, who think, that logical and mathematical truths are indisputable, and others, who think that, quote: ”the physical world is real and thought is a process of coming to know that real external reality”. Absurd talk, according to her. What we need is ”a theory of knowledge in which the mind is admitted to be actively creating its universe.” What is worth researching in - for historians of science and theorists of science - is how theories become produced in the different societies, why they become produced and why they become accepted.
Sociologists such as H.M. Collins, Bruno Latour and Steve Woolgar, have taken the consequence of this program and have carried out studies of scientific environments in the same way as ethnographers study primitive people, or as animal psychologists study the behaviour of packs of wolves. Famous is Latour´s and Woolgar´s work Laboratory Life. The Construction of Scientific Facts, which is a close study of the work on The Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California. In the book there is a careful account with illustrations of the institute´s arrangement, the behaviour of the individual researchers, the titles of the books which are lying on their desks, who eats lunch together, who talks with who, which microscopes, there are used etc. The book reproduces taped conversations, but the only thing, which isn´t an object for Latour´s and Woolgar´s investigations, is the scientific content of the conversations, the articles, the experiments and the microscopic investigations. They only register the external circumstances in connection with what they call ”a construction of a fact”, and they state, that what some considers true only shows in a consensus among the colleagues of the institute. The scientific results appear by negotiation, is their claim.
It is in accordance herewith, that Latour and Woolgar in the rest of their works not are able to discriminate between discoveries and inventions. Latour thinks for instance that it can´t be true, that newer investigations of Ramses 2´s mummy shows, that he died of tuberculosis. Because how should he be able to die of a bacillus, which first was discovered, and therewith social constructed, by Robert Koch in 1882? Because, as Latour writes: ”Before Koch the bacillus had no real existence”. This absurd claim he follows up with a presumption about, that Ramses 2 must have died of a tuberculosis-like sickness, without making himself clear, that such a sickness, according to his own theories, also must be a social construction. And the same must by the way apply to the whole of the Egyptian antiquity. And to both Ramses 2 and Robert Koch.
A similar absurdity we meet in Woolgar´s book Science. The Very Idea in which it is claimed, that America didn´t exist before Columbus discovered America. He tries to show, that our concept about America is a social construction, and that Columbus and Amerigo at that time disagreed highly about what it was they had discovered, and on basis hereof he claims, that there wasn't any physical land – what we now call America – before Columbus discovered it in 1492. His thesis is, that it is not the physical, which is represented in the discovery, but the representation, which is creating the physical data. H.M. Collins agrees and writes, among other things, “It is not the regularity of the world that imposes itself on our senses but the regularity of our institutionalized beliefs that imposes itself on the world.”
The strong version of social constructivism often uses quantum physics as a kind of “proof” for its claims, but this is based on another great lie in our time. I have shown this in my article Quantum Mysticism and Its Web of Lies. Favrholdt has himself made account for it in his work with Niels Bohr´s philosophy. This you can read about in my article Quantum mechanics and the philosophy of Niels Bohr.
Alan Sokal, a physics professor at New York University, was also shocked to see the absurdity in social constructivism and its abuse of quantum mechanics. In the autumn of 1994 he submitted an essay to Social Text, the leading journal in the field of cultural studies. Entitled “Trangressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity,” it purported to be a scholarly article about the “postmodern” philosophical and political implications of twentieth-century physical theories. After review by five members of Social Text´s board, Sokal´s parody was accepted for publication as a serious piece of scholarship. It appeared in April 1996 in a special double “Science Wars” issue of the journal devoted to rebutting the charge that cultural studies critiques of science tend to be riddled with incompetence. At that time, the journal did not practice academic peer review and did not submit the article for outside review by a physicist.
On its date of publication (May 1996), Sokal revealed in the journal Lingua Franca that the article was a hoax, identifying it as “a pastiche of Left-wing cant, fawning references, grandiose quotations, and outright nonsense...structured around the silliest quotations (by postmodern academics) he could find about mathematics and physics”.
The article was stiched together so as to look good and to flatter the ideological preconceptions of the editors.
Sokal´s hoax is today acquring the status of a classic succés de scandale, with extensive press coverage in the United States and, to a growing extent, in Europe and Latin America.
Sheldrake's work was amongst those cited in the faux research paper (see my article The Sokal Hoax).
It is no coincidence that we constantly see Sheldrake in company with various New Age gurus. We namely see the same postmodern claims in the New Age environment. In the New Age movie What the Bleep do We Know we see a combination of documentary-style interviews, computer-animated graphics, and a narrative that describes the spiritual connection between quantum physics and consciousness. The plot follows the story of a deaf photographer; as she encounters emotional and existential obstacles in her life, she comes to consider the idea that individual and group consciousness can influence the material world. Her experiences are offered by the filmmakers to illustrate the movie´s thesis about quantum physics and consciousness.
Some of the ideas discussed in the film are:
In the narrative segments of the movie, Marlee Matlin portrays Amanda, a deaf photographer who acts as the viewer´s avatar as she experiences her life from startlingly ned and different perspectives.
In the documentary segments of the film, interviewers discuss the roots and meaning of Amanda´s experiences. The comments focus primarily on a single theme: We create our own reality. David Albert, a philosopher of physics and professor of Columbia University, who according to a Popular Science article is “outraged at the final product” because the film makers interviewed him about quantum mechanics unrelated to consciousness or spirituality but then edited the material in such a way that he feels misrepresented his views. The same trick is used in another New Age movie The Secret (see my article The New Thought movement and the law of attraction).
The director, William Arntz, has described What the Bleep as a movie for the “metaphysical left”.
In the film, during a discussion of the influence of experience on perception, Candace Pert (a neuroscientist, who discovered the cellular bonding site for endorphins in the brain, and in 1977 wrote the book Molecules of Emotion) notes a story, which she says she believes is true, of Native Americans being unable to see Columbus´s ships because they were outside their experience. According to an article in Fortean Times by David Hambling, the origins of this story likely involved the voyages of Captain James Cook, not Columbus, and an account related by Robert Hughes which said Cook´s ships were “...complex and unfamiliar as to defy the native´s understanding”. Hambling says it is likely that both the Hughes account and the story told by Pert were exaggerations of the records left by Captain Cook and the botanist Joseph Banks. Historians believe the Native Americans likely saw the ships but ignored them as posing no immediate danger.
It is also very likely that Candace Pert has heard about Steve Woolgar´s book Science. The Very Idea.
The movie has been described as “a kind of New Age answer to The Passion of the Christ and other films that adhere to traditional religious teachings.” It offers alternative spiritual and scientific views, characteristic of New Age philosophy, including critiques of traditional science, as well as critique of religion´s moral values (New Age practice of cultural appropriation and colonialism).
In New Age pseudoscience it is not (yet) so much a political agenda that distorts science, but occult and religious point of views (read my article The Pseudocience of New Age and Reductionism). In the works of Fritjof Capra, though, you see the beginning of the combination (Sheldrake is completely into a political agenda). Fritjof Capra (born February 1, 1939) is an Austrian-born American physicist. He is a founding director of the Center for Ecoliteracy in Berkeley, California, and is on the faculty of Schumacher College.
Capra is the author of several books, including The Tao of Physics (1975), and The Turning Point (1982). Quantum mysticism seems to have originated with Capra in his book The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels Between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism. The book´s first two parts are excellent expositions on ancient religions and modern physics. The third part, which tries to connect the two is an abysmal failure. Nevertheless, it has been this third part, which has influenced numerous New Age advocates to claim that quantum mechanics proves the reality of everything from chi, prana, ESP, etc., etc., – to time travel.
His other book, The Turning Point, shows the ideology in it, where he combines quantum mysticism with reductionism, especially reductionisms such as historism and sociologism (though he, like Sheldrake, is very aware of the reductionism of the “old” mechanical worldview).
Sheldrake is defending and supporting different kinds of New Age “sciences”. Let´s look at astrology in combination with postmodernist intellectualism. In The Skeptic´s Dictionary entry on Astrology, there is a section called Astrology on the Attack. Carroll writes:
Don't be surprised if we next hear from the astrologers demanding their "rightful" place in our universities. Ivan Kelly, foremost critic of astrology, sent me a copy of a troublesome article by astrologer Valerie Vaughan. "Debunking the Debunkers: Lessons to Be Learned," appeared in The Mountain Astrologer (Aug/Sept 1998 issue). Vaughan claims that astrologers are persecuted by establishment science. That is why astrologers can't get "access to research funding." And that is why astrologers fail to design "research protocols and run controlled tests in order to supply evidence for their art." Yet, in the same article Vaughan also claims that "astrology is not a science in the same sense as chemistry or physics....At most, it might be considered a social science."
Having firmly established that astrology is a social science, she then notes that "other social sciences, such as history, are not regularly attacked for their failure to apply scientific methodology in a laboratory setting."
Vaughan's article is primarily a call to action. She urges astrologers not to sit back and be persecuted by Science. She advises that astrologers try to get astrology into the public school curriculum under the guise of "multicultural frameworks."
She begins by, among others, giving some example of how Richard Dawkins and The Skeptical Inquirer debunks astrology. She writes:
First, we must distinguish debunkers from the other types of critics and opponents of astrology. Debunkers are not the historians and philosophers of science who are open to considering astrology as an alternative paradigm and recognize its importance in past cultures, but who believe it has since deteriorated.
The historians and ”philosophers of science” she is talking about, is Thomas Kuhn and Paul Feyerabend (see her notes). Paul Feyerabend is a notorious postmodernist. In his books Against Method and Science in a Free Society, Feyerabend defended the idea that there are no methodological rules which are always used by scientists. In his article, How to Defend Society Against Science, he wrote:
And it is of course not true that we have to follow the truth. Human life is guided by many ideas. Truth is one of them. Freedom and mental independence are others. If Truth, as conceived by some ideologists, conflicts with freedom, then we have a choice. We may abandon freedom. But we may also abandon Truth.
Feyerabend once famously said that because there is no fixed scientific method, it is best to have an "anything goes" attitude toward methodologies. Feyerabend felt that science started as a liberating movement, but over time it had become increasingly dogmatic and rigid, and therefore had become increasingly an ideology and despite its successes science had started to attain some oppressive features and it was not possible to come up with an unambiguous way to distinguish science from religion, magic, or mythology. He felt the exclusive dominance of science as a means of directing society was authoritarian and ungrounded. Promulgation of the theory earned Feyerabend the title of "the worst enemy of science" from his detractors.
This is, of course, itself scientism (and therefore ideology) at its worst. However, Dawkins, and atheist scientism as such, are doing their best to fulfill Feyerabend´s enemy image. They are betrayers of science.
Social constructivism is in fine harmony with both Derrida´s deconstructivism as well as Lyotard´s postmodernism. “Who decides the conditions for that something is true?” Lyotard asks. His answer is, that the only ”proof” of, that the rules of science are good, is the agreement of the experts, concensus. Therefore truth must be replaced by force.
These things are taught on universities all over the world. In Pakistan and other Islamic countries, notably Egypt and Saudi Arabia, we now see the state-sponsored movement of “Islamic Science” (for instance around Ziauddin Sardar, a Pakistani émigré living in Britain, and Munavar Ahmad Anees, a US-based biologist and Islamist).
This movement tries to “Islamicize” science, and create a new universal science in which the facts of nature would be different, derived solely from the conceptual and ethical categories of Islam. They find attempts by modern science to bring modern science to bear on specific values and problems of Muslims as misguided, if not actually a crime against Islam. Explicitly they are citing the work of Western radical feminists.
In turn, the radical feminist, Sandra Harding, cites Sardar and associates among the “progressive” postcolonial critics of science.
Recently, demands for specifically Islamic (and also Hindu, Confucian, and African) conceptions of human rights have also been put forth (read more in my booklet: Feminism as Fascism).
Or, take the chaos magician Peter Lamborn Wilson (aka Hakim Bey), who in his book Taz: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism is speaking about Poetic Terrorism. Wilson advocates some kind of postmodern Sufism, and the book can be seen as an intellectual justification of Islamic terrorism. In postmodernism, there is namely no discrimination between fiction and fact. Wilson has also written postmodern justifications of pedophilia. He is very much into sex with small boys. In fact, he just follows a long line of other postmodernists justifying pedophilia: Wilhelm Reich, Gilles Deleuze, Daniel Cohn Bendit, Tony Duvert, Gabriel Matzneff, René Schérer, Michel Foucault. Just to illustrate what postmodern “logic” can be used for. Perhaps the Catholic priests accused of pedophilia have read too much postmodernism on their studies. That might sound surprising. What´s not surprising, to me, is when we find out how many of the Islamic terrorists in fact are highly educated from Western Universities, where postmodernism rules everything (read more in my article: Peter Kingsley – Another Story Waiting to Pierce You).
Back to Vaughan. Vaughan´s claim is that since every culture in the world has developed a form of astrology, it is inherently diverse. A possible tactic is to approach the school authorities about admitting Western Astrology as a valid cultural tradition, and see what happens.
Another approach, she says, is to try to take advantage of "a new educational craze which emphasizes student participation."
The idea here is that, if students show an interest in a particular question (no matter how unrelated it is to the established curriculum), teachers are supposed to follow the direction of inquiry and incorporate it into the lesson. In other words, if students in an astronomy class show an interest in astrology, the new standards stipulate that the teacher shouldn't say that this is a topic students are not supposed to be learning. It will be interesting to see how this kind of situation is handled, because it is in direct confrontation with the standards that allow science teachers to debunk astrology under the guise of instruction in science history, 'critical thinking,' and scientific method. Replace the concept of Astrology with any other concept you could make up, as for example Gregg Braden´s fascistic concept of The God Code. In his book The God Code, Braden claims that our DNA sequence, when read by assigning Hebrew characters to the base sequence, spells out God’s signature in Hebrew. Such science fiction fantasies would be “justified” in the same way, as science.
Knowledgeable readers might shrug and laugh at Vaughan's notions and suppose that astrologers aren't going to get that close to any school curriculum. Think again. Astrologers have children and can belong to the P.T.A. Their kids can bring them to school for show-and-tell. Or, they could have credentials like Vaughan. She has a master's degree in Information Science and is the director of a science education library, where her duties include staying current with "guidelines and trends in science teaching, and to review the latest curriculum materials available." I wish I were kidding, but it gets worse. Astrologers now have their own college.
Kepler College was established in Seattle, Washington, in 1999 and has been granted the power to issue both bachelor's and master's degrees in astrological studies. Upon launching their website, the folks at Kepler announced:
“Kepler College is the first institution of its kind. Kepler College serves those who are pursuing careers in astrology, as well as those who seek to develop or upgrade their skills and incorporate them into other professional practices. To enhance these experiences, and to further astrology as an academic discipline, we consider research and academic interaction with other colleges and universities to be major priorities....
”As a Kepler College student you will acquire academic credits in a number of areas while you study one major theme --- astrology. You will earn credits in astronomy as you study the mathematics of the sky. You will earn credits in history as you explore astrology’s ancient past. You will earn credits in psychology as you probe the psyche of a chart and see it reflected in life. Throughout this process, you will learn about life.”
Kepler College has held distance learning symposia and it is to be expected that it will engage in outreach programs, perhaps fulfilling Vaughan's dream of a grass roots infiltration of curricula in public schools.
Note how there is referred to diploma mills and fake science journals - see the Matrix Dictionary entries on Diploma Mills and Predator Open Access Publishing). All of this would also be “justified” by postmodernism as fully valid scientific projects. However, the whole thing looks like a Stalinist destabilization program: destroy Western science.
A fight has erupted in Norway after the country’s higher education regulator agreed to accredit courses in astrology, meaning students will be able to use government loans to look for meaning in the stars. Norwegian scientists have criticized the decision, but the Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education (NOKUT) said that in making the ruling it was only following the law and blamed the government for not heeding its calls for stricter academic criteria. NOKUT accredited three courses at the Oslo branch of Herkules, an 18-year-old astrology school with sites in four cities across Norway, triggering a wave of criticism (see: In Norway, Student Loans for Astrology).
It is just the beginning. And all this is what Sheldrake is promoting.
(A side remark: what´s wrong with astrology? What´s wrong is, that it, in the same way as personality typing and divination techniques, turns your focus to The Four Philosophical Hindrances rather than The Four Philosophical Openings. It creates an existence-philosophical problem, where you in your opinion formation and identity formation strive towards being something else than what you are, where you imitate others, are a slave of other´s ideas and ideals, and where your actions are characterized by irresoluteness and doubt – see my articles: The Four Philosophical Hindrances and Openings, Some Critical Comments to Astrology, and Personality Typing is Refined System of Prejudice).
Let´s return to postulation 1 of quantum mysticism: Einstein´s theories of relativity, and quantum mechanics, prove, that relativism and subjectivism are valid points of views.
It is a sophistication to assert, that Einstein´s theories of relativity should imply, that there is no objective or true description of the physical reality. This is a confusion of physical relativity with epistemological relativism, which corresponds to a similar misunderstanding of quantum mechanics as subjectivistic. Quantum mechanics is not subjectivistic in the sense, that it is the human consciousness, which produces the phenomena. It is not the consciousness of the physicist (the subjective), which makes the electron behave as a wave. It is the macrophysical (material) experimental devices, which affects the electron in such a way, so that you unambiguous know, that if you work with this type of apparatus, then the electron will always behave as a wave.
In the same way: the theories of relativity, epistemological seen, give no background for any relativism about, that ”everything is relative”. The seen does not depend of the eyes that watch when it comes to physical phenomena, neither in quantum mechanics, nor in relativistic physics.
However, it is actually possible to use quantum mechanics to support both philosophical and spiritual point of views. Niels Bohr was in his philosophy very inspired by Taoism. His coat of arms is showing the yin and yang symbol. The paradox is, that his philosophy/spirituality, which of course is grounded in quantum mechanics, directly pulls the carpet away under quantum mysticism. Quantum mechanics shows namely, that it is the order of nature that decides how we shall use our thoughts and language, it is not us that can create in reality as it fits us (again: see my article Quantum mechanics and the Philosophy of Niels Bohr).
This confusion in quantum mysticism (and in the New Age environment as such) arises because it is neither quantum mechanics, nor spirituality, that are the background for the theories, but the postmodern intellectualism, today especially represented by social constructivism.
And now to postulation 2 of quantum mysticism:
Quantum Mechanics and Einstein´s theories of relativity prove, that classical physics (the age of enlightenment, rationalism) is not valid anymore.
This misunderstanding is especially based on an misunderstanding of Thomas Kuhn´s work The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, where he shows the development of physics – implemented in the concepts: normal science, anomalies, crisis, revolution and the creation of a new paradigm.
The use of the concept of paradigm shifts is very popular in the postmodern intellectualism and its more common spiritual movement New Age, where a lot of different “spiritual” systems (new-thinking), often contradictory, are claiming, that it from now on is impossible to think in “old” ways anymore, without accepting their systems. The failure is due to their constructivistic ways of thinking; that is: subjectivism and relativism.
The phrases old-thinking and new-thinking are also very popular within the so-called postmodern intellectualism, which is the background for what I consider as a wrong spiritual turn within the more popular, common movement of New Age (Sheldrake systematically uses the concept: old-fashioned).
The phrases old-thinking and new-thinking are often used as a weapon against critique, and I see them as a signal of the rising of a dangerous ideology.
The name Newspeak is the name George Orwell gave the language, which the rulers in his dystopian novel 1984, had created. The intention with it was to control thinking, to make some ideas impossible to think, including concepts such as good and evil, true and false, beautiful and ugly. In this connection they used concepts such as old-thinking and new-thinking, so that people get a feeling of guilt, everytime they use concepts within old-thinking.
Today, after having passed 1984, we live in a so-called postmodernistic dystopia, where eternal values such as goodness, truth and beauty fall more and more away – and where we have been invaded by the ideology of relativism, which rulers, in creeping ways, use the same phrases as the rulers in Orwell´s novel, as if they had used it as inspiration.
This new language accepts the use of thought distortions, as for example rhetoric, ad hominem move, sophistry. Often you hear postmodern intellectuals use the following bullying of critics:
“that they are hewing to the ´objective´ procedures and epistemological structures prescribed by the so-called scientific method.”
They typically assert that this “dogma” has already been thoroughly undermined by the theories of general relativity and quantum mechanics and that physical reality has been shown to be “at bottom a social and linguistic construct.”
This is used to term critics as old-thinkers, for example that their critique is part of a
“patriarchal, racist, colonistic, eurocentric, cultural dominion discourse.”
Relativists typically deride critics and scientists for continuing to cling to the “dogma imposed by the long post-Enlightenment hegemony over the Western intellectual outlook, that there exists an external world whose properties are independent of human beings, and that human beings can obtain reliable, if imperfect and tentative knowledge of these properties by hewing to the `objective´ procedures and epistemological structures prescribed by the so-called scientific method.”
And: “How can a self-perpetuting secular priesthood of credentialed ´scientists´ purport to maintain a monopoly on the production of scientific knowledge?” – (already in the prologue to his The Science Delusion, Sheldrake has a section called: “The Scientific Priesthood” (page 13)).
Therefore they demand alternative sciences (and alternative views of human rights), what I call the Illuminati-aspect of The Matrix Conspiracy, because science can´t be mixed with spiritual or political concepts. If this happens, then it is not science anymore. The same is the case with relativistic and subjectivist views of human rights; then it is not human rights anymore.
Postmodern intellectualists are, through this use of language, trying to get a political agenda forced through. If you change the political terms with spiritual terms, though, the same language is used in New Age circles. An example is the famous American New Age guru Deepak Chopra, who has invented the concept of quantum healing, which again is based on the misunderstanding of quantum mechanics, that the mind can control everything. When Chopra is going into discussions with skeptics, he is precisely using the above-mentioned language. It is more or less the same rhetoric as Sheldrake´s.
On ABC's Nightline Deepak Chopra entered a week-long debate against arch atheist Dr. Michael Shermer. The debate was organized as a part of Nightline's "Face Off" event series, and was incited by a public challenge issued by Chopra.
Joined by New Age guru, Jean Houston (who is called a “religious scholar”) and atheist fundamentalist and, neuroscientist, Sam Harris, the group gathered at the California Institute of Technology to settle a long-time argument regarding the ultimate question: Does God have a future?
The debate was heated from the get-go, with Chopra issuing a rousing appeal to his audience of scientists and students: "One of the things we have to do is stop being the Jihadists and Vatican of conservative, orthodox science, which is not relevant anymore."
Shermer snapped back by claiming that Chopra's opening remarks were "the very embodiment of woo woo," a term Shermer uses to describe what he considers dangerous pseudoscience. Not a very good philosophical argument. It smells a bit of Dawkins.
Initially, the debate centered around accusations of misrepresenting contemporary theories of quantum physics to serve either religious or atheistic ends. Harris criticized Deepak's identification of God/Nature as "infinite potentiality," calling his interpretation "unprincipled." Chopra made the claim that Harris' conception of science was dogmatic and closed off to alternative interpretations.
In the final days, the debate gravitated around whether spiritual experiences should be explained in material or immaterial terms. Eventually, the debaters could not agree on the issue of whether such experiences originate within the body or outside of it.
Watch the debate on the playlist of my YouTube channel
Chopra´s view is in reality about the second postulation of quantum mysticism: Quantum Mechanics and Einstein´s theories of relativity prove, that classical physics (the age of enlightenment, rationalism) is not valid anymore.
However, the emergence of quantum mechanics has not made classical physics invalid; it is still valid, but Planck´s constant (the quantum postulate) has given it a limited scope of application.
According to Niels Bohr, quantum mechanics is a generalization of classical physics, and the complementarity principle is a generalization of the classical causality principle. In the same way: the theory of relativity is a generalization in another direction of the classical physics.
You can´t – as Niels Bohr points out – replace classical physics with quantum mechanics, because the validity of classical physics is a necessary precondition for, that you can describe the quantum mechanical phenomena and make account for the macroscopic (”classical”) experimental arrangement. In a famous discussion contribution against Einstein, who didn't want to accept, that the causality principle has no validity in nuclear physics, Bohr writes:
”…the account for all experiences – regardless how far the phenomena are lying outside the reach of classical physics – must be expressed in classical concepts. The reason is simply, that we by the word ”experiment” refer to a situation, where we can tell others what we have done and what we have learned, and that the experimental device and measuring results therefore must be described in the usual language with appropriate use of the terminology of classical physics.” (Niels Bohr: ”Atomfysik og menneskelig erkendelse”, Schultz´ Forlag, København 1957, s. 53).
Note, that Bohr here speaks about the usual language (everyday language) supplemented with the terms of classical physics. This is due to, that he regards the concepts of classical physics as a more explicit formulation of everyday language. In that sense everyday language is a necessary precondition for all natural scientific epistemology. Nor can everyday language be replaced by an unambiguous and formalised, logical scientific language.
My professor in philosophy, David Favrholdt, has developed this important theme in Bohr´s epistemology further in his own philosophy. He works with, what he calls The Core in everyday language.
Favrholdt asks us: please observe following concepts: Time – object – space – logic – body – person – experience – memory.
The phenomenalist/idealist claims, that we only with certainty can know, that the here italicized concepts stand for something real; that is to say: something from the concepts different: Time – object – space – logic – body – person – subject – experience – memory.
The materialist claims, that we only with certainty can know, that the here italicized concepts stand for something real; that is to say: something from the concepts different: Time – object – space – logic – body – person – subject – experience – memory.
Favrholdt claims, that since these concepts are interdependent, they all represent something. Together they are what he calls The Core in everyday language. That they are interdependent means, that they have to be used in a certain way in relation to each other, if we at all want to talk meaningful. The relations between them are not established by arbitrary definitions. We have discovered, that we shall respect the relations between them, if we want to describe something, whether we want to describe, that there is lying a phone book on the desktop, or that we have an experience of the phone book.
What we must say is as follows: When we as ordinary people – before we have heard anything about philosophy – orientate in life, we form a concept about reality. We associate with humans and animals and plants and non-living things in our daily lives, and we learn to discriminate between, what is dream and reality, - and what is lie or illusion, and reality.
Any human being understands, what we mean by saying, that the witness explained in the court, that the thief had a pistol, but in reality, the thief was unarmed. We also learn to talk about the poetic reality, about the experienced reality etc. We learn to talk about things, which exist, despite that no one experiences them, or have consciousness about them. When they found the Golden Horns at Gallehus, they found something, which no one knew were there. But they found them. Is wasn' t so, that they arised, because they were experienced.
Then certain philosophers are coming and saying, that we don't know, whether there is anything behind our experiences. What can you do but ask them about, what they mean with ”experiences”. Then they explain this. But it turns out, that they only can do this by using the whole of The Core. And in this set of fundamental concepts is included the concept ”object” or ”thing” which represent ”things, which exist whether they are experienced or not”.
This is included as a necessary precondition for, that we can define or explain, what we shall understand by experience. So, because they have explained, what they mean by ”experience” - so that we know the correct use of this concept - they have already accepted, that we in our description of reality must assume a correct use of the concept ”things, which exist, whether they are experienced or not”.
The reason why the conceptual relations in the The Core not are conventional or accidental, but unavoidable as the relations in the number theory, is precisely because Reality - the from our experiences (thoughts, mind) independently existing Reality - is included in the determination of, how we have to use our concepts in order to be able to realize it, and describe it. It is not us who put Reality in order, it is Reality which puts us in order.
In accordance with Taoism there is nothing beyond the world. You can´t see the world from outside. You are in the world, and you can only define something from its opposition. What is the good? This you understand, if you know what the evil is. You can´t say anything about the world as a Whole, because you can´t put the Wholeness in opposition to anything.
We can choose not to describe it and instead soak ourselves in Hinajana Buddhistic meditation (or music), but if we want to describe it, if we want to find out, what is subjective and objective, if we want to achieve realization within physics, biology, psychology etc., then we must use our fundamental concepts in a correct, non-arbitrary way.
This involves, not an ontological dualism, but an epistemological, a so-called gnoseological dualism. Unambiguous description has the distinction between subject and object as a necessary precondition. And the fact itself, that we have to discriminate between subject and object in order to communicate unambiguous, actually indicates logically, that both materialism (the scientific bias) and idealism (the New Age bias) are mistaken point of views.
So, truth is objective, and discovered.
Conclusively: Sheldrake talks about the necessity of many different sciences and different methods. But he advocates a relativistic pluralism, which allows any kind of science, hereunder pseudoscience This is of course just postmodernist ideology. Instead I have proposed what is called ontological pluralism. I won´t go further into that here. It was explained in the Ebook on Richard Dawkins.
6) The Evolution of Consciousness
In evolutionism, the concept of evolution is applied to all kinds of areas where it is used out of context. New Age has especially applied it to consciousness. It is very difficult to see, that this isn´t a materialist point of view. But, as mentioned, panpsychism is a confusion of dualism, materialism and idealism. It can´t explain in any unambiguous and clear way, how something can be both matter and mind (matter is quantitative while mind in qualitative) It is necessary with a dualist point of view when we experience and talk on a certain level of epistemology.
I have especially shown the problem of applying (reducing) consciousness to evolution in my critique of Ken Wilber. If evolution should be applied to consciousness this would imply that you need to reduce consciousness to the energy aspect. This would mean that the above-mentioned concept of enlightened consciousness would be eliminated. How strange it might seem to people that believes that Wilber must be a spiritual person, a believer in enlightenment, this is what he does. Wilber has simply redefined what enlightened consciousness means. In the same way as atheist materialists, he doesn´t believe in the traditional concept of enlightened consciousness. And it seems like Sheldrake is following him in this. It is as if they say that consciousness has to be defined by science. The traditional definition is beyond science and any other description.
On page 153-155 in The Science Delusion, Sheldrake gives an account of the evolution of consciousness. He describes how all religions assume that human consciousness plays an essential role in the world and in human destiny. Humans have the potential to participate in ultimate Being, or God, or cosmic consciousness, or divine life, or nirvana. All religions, he writes, started with a direct experience of this connection – through the ancient Indian seers or rishis, through the Buddha´s enlightenment, through the Hebrew prophets, through Jesus Christ, and through Muhammad.
He writes that experiences of unity with a greater being, or mystical experiences, are surprisingly common.
Hinduism and Buddhism traditionally assume that lives and universes continue in endless cycles. They are repetitive rather than progressive. However, individual humans can escape by a kind of vertical take-off through establishing a connection with the universal mind or spirit.
Let me explain this by using the already explained theory of enlightened consciousness in relation to the concept of karma. The mind´s partial consciousness (the energy aspect) is part of a greater Wholeness (the enlightened consciousness), which is the Now, life itself. And life itself is the life in the Now, where you are present and active using the pure awareness, the innermost in you, and using the heart-fullness, which is the whole of yourself; what we could call your spiritual essence (the Soul), because the life-fulfilment, which life itself contains is so absolute, so complete, that there herein is something eternal and endless.
The concept of karma (sin and divine providence) has therefore primarily to do with the development process (not evolution!) of your spiritual essence (your Soul) - and only secondary and indirectly with the mind´s process; that is: with your personal time and life-situation in the energy aspect. Admittedly it is the mind´s actions out on the scene, which leaves karmic tracks. Karma is the unconscious consequences of the mind´s actions. Each time the mind acts - and thereby changes the balance in the Wholeness – then the structures and power lines in your spiritual essence changes, in the unconscious.
When your Soul is sleeping, karma is automatically. The mind´s pendulum swings in one life out in an extreme. Hereby gathers in the Wholeness, and in your Soul, momentum to, that the pendulum in a future life will swing out in the opposite compensatory extreme. This is the automatic compensatory karma (original sin and personal sin). In one life ascetic, in the next libertine, then inhibited and expelled, thereupon sybarite etc. with no end, because the mind has freedom continual to give new momentum and new course - within the karmic possible; that is to say: heredity and environment - to the mind´s pendulum.
However, when the mind decides to use its free energy, its existential option to begin to awake, then the karma structures changes. Then you begin to use and work with your spiritual dimension, your Soul. This dimension is not subject to the karmic structure, it is it, or it is over it. The Wholeness (enlightened consciousness, God, Brahman) is over, is transcendent, in relation to the laws and mechanisms, which regulate the infrastructures of the Wholeness. The Wholeness is not subject to the laws and energy transformations, which rule between the constitutive parts of the Wholeness.
When your Soul begins to dream, when the mind begins to bloom, to open itself, you discover the karmic lawfulness and can therefore relate to it. When your consciousness in extended state begins to sense the karmic structures, which after all not only rule between the many lives of your Soul, but all the same are known psychological mirrored from the mind´s dreams and the mind´s life - then you can change attitude.
Instead of swinging with the laws you can choose to observe. Instead of identifying yourself with impulses and incentives, emotions and thought tendencies, you can separate yourself, become a witness, become alert. And hereby you can break the karmic automatism (the automatism of personal sin and original sin).
Let me repeat what I already have investigated: Human beings have two aspects: an energy aspect and a consciousness aspect. Seen from the energy aspect lawfulness rules: your body is subject to the physical laws of nature (also quantum laws), your psychic system (the mind) is subject to the lawfulness of the energy fields and of the energy transformations. Seen from the consciousness aspect (the enlightened consciousness), then a human being seems to be akin to the Wholeness, to be transcendent in relation to these laws.
Human beings are in that way, seen from the view of the mind (not consciousness), inserted in two dimensions: 1) a continuum, where the streams are subject to laws; and 2) a discontinuum, where laws not seem to be effective when a leap happens.
The Wholeness, or the enlightened consciousness, is normally the discontinuous aspect; normally, because this is of course seen from the view of the mind. Seen from the view of your Soul, then the mind-continuum, with its sleep and awake, life and death, is the discontinuous aspect, and the Soul the continuous aspect. But the parts, the mind and its evaluations, is normally the continuous aspect.
When your Soul begins to dream and the continuum of the mind breaks and expands in a discontinuum (into the superior continuum of the Wholeness, or the enlightened consciousness), then the cosmic structure-pattern changes. Instead of mere compensatory karma (personal and original sin), a progressive karma (divine providence) will now be effective. That, which you through existential achievement have reached of spiritual contact in one life, will form a progressive karma, an opening for special providence.
This is what the original wisdom traditions always has said (of course with different concepts and choice of words). Neither Hinduism nor the original forms of Buddhism are intrinsically evolutionary; indeed, in Hindu cosmology, in each cosmic cycle there are four ages, and we are currently in the last, the Kali Yuga, a time of strife and discord, when civilization degenerates and people are as far as possible from God. This is also my philosophy.
Sheldrake is now trying to redefine this. And he does this because his goal is science and not philosophy. He mentions Tibetan Buddhism, who see a progressive process: enlightened beings come back in new incarnations to work for the liberation of all sentient beings. They will continue to do so until all have been liberated from the cycles of birth and death. But this doesn´t imply that consciousness is evolutionary as Sheldrake wants us to believe.
Sheldrake now brings in the Indian philosopher Sri Aurobindo, who created the concept of integral yoga. It is from him, Ken Wilber has his concept of integral life. Sheldrake claims that Aurobindo adopted a vision of spiritual as well as material evolution, and pointed towards a transformation of humanity, bringing about “divine life on earth”. I will note that the yuga teaching consists of a theory of up-cycles and down-cycles. There are small cycles within large cycles, etc. This theory does in fact allow an enormous up-cycle towards more and more enlightened yugas, but it is not evolutionary, since the up-cycle will be exchanged with another enormous down-cycle, which again is ending with the Kali Yuga (also see Wikipedia: Spiritual Evolution).
Let´s look at what the word evolution means. Evolution refers to change in a biological population's inherited traits from generation to generation. All species on Earth originated by the mechanism of evolution, through descent from common ancestors. Evolution occurs as changes accumulate over generations. Charles Darwin recognized evolution by natural selection, also called "descent with modification", as the fundamental process underlying all of life, whether viewed at a large scale above the level of species (macroevolution - in terms of formation of new species, changes within lineages, and extinction), or at a small scale within a species (microevolution - in terms of change in gene frequency). In a nutshell, evolution by natural selection can be simplified to the following principles:
In modern genetic terminology, variability of traits in a population is the expression (phenotype) of heritable traits (genes), which (at least on Earth) are stored in DNA (or sometimes in RNA or in proteins). Variability of traits ultimately originates from mutation, and new combinations of genes are continually produced via recombination as part of sexual reproduction. The result of natural selection is adaptation, like a "hand in glove" fit between organism and environment. Evolution, defined in population genetics as change in gene frequency in a population, can be influenced by other processes besides natural selection, including genetic drift (random changes, especially in small populations) and gene flow (wherein new genes come into a population from other populations). In a sense, mutation is an innovative process of expansion in which new possibilities come into existence (most of which don't work so well), and this is balanced by natural selection, a process of contraction that reduces the possibilities to those that work best in a particular environment.
This is what the term evolution refer to. Today, it has become a trend to apply the concept of evolution to all kinds of non-biological processes, such as (for example) universe formation, evolutionary algorithms in computer science and the development of languages. The study of etymology is one component of analyzing how languages have evolved, and parallels biological evolution (for example) in the way the same language diverges over time into two different languages when two populations that speak the same language become geographically isolated.
Another example of non-biological evolution is the “evolution” of technology and innovation, which, while being (mostly) intelligently-designed, is (mostly) not random. James Burke studied, authored books, and hosted television programmes on the evolution of technology through a historical context. The application of evolutionary concepts to technology is quite central in transhumanism, as exemplified by Ray Kurzweil.
Models of cultural evolution, such as memetics, have been devised and applied over the years with varying degrees of success.
Somewhat confusingly, some “scientists” use the word "evolution" in a way that has no relation to the biological concept whatsoever. When an astronomer speaks of "stellar evolution", (s)he is taking about the changes that happen to a star over very long periods of time, as it progresses from gas cloud to protostar to main-sequence star to post-main-sequence (super)giant to stellar remnant. When a cosmologist speaks of "cosmic evolution", (s)he is talking about the changes in the size/shape/nature of the Universe over time, sometimes on very long time-scales, and sometimes at very brief time-scales (such as fractions of a second after the Big Bang).
Neither of these uses of the word "evolution" has anything to do with populations, heritable traits, selection criteria, descent, or any of the other hallmarks of "evolution" as the term is used in biology.
Creationists consequently confuse the biological and non-biological meanings of the word "evolution" and they claim that the Theory of Evolution - catchily mis-summarized as "molecules-to-man" - includes the origin of the universe and the origin of life. The biological theory of evolution as proposed by Darwin and others has nothing to say about either the origin of the universe or the origin of life on Earth, though some biologists have extended the theory to the very beginning of life. But this is what we see in both atheist scientism and new age scientism. And this approach is called evolutionism.
I will repeat what I already has said in the ebook on Dawkins: in my ebook, Evolutionism – The Red Thread in The Matrix Conspiracy, I wrote that evolutionism was created in the 19th century, but the background is to be found in the Renaissance, not least in the scientific breakthrough from approximately 1550 onwards. Evolutionism is an ideology, and has nothing to do with evolutionary biology. It is no secret that I consider this ideology to be one the greatest tragedies in modern history of ideas.
It is an ideology which we still celebrate in the Western world. We find it natural to talk about progress, development, growth, renewal, innovation, visions, whether it's economic, political, social conditions, spiritual - and also when it comes to art. It is a linear view of history where it is about being constantly progressive, revolutionary, dynamic, unconventional, without rest, without end. Evolutionism is so close-knitted in our minds that we find it very difficult to imagine that it could be different.
But evolutionism is a newer Western phenomenon. In the rest of the world, it did not exist before the Europeans. All pre-modern societies had a cyclic view of history. In the society of today it is stated in all areas that we must move on, develop ourselves, renew ourselves and the institutions, companies, develop trade, exports, imports. In the cyclic societies concepts such as gods, providence and destiny were central. But such concepts have long been replaced with ideas of growth and progress. In business, innovation and expansion have become key words. Evolutionism has gone so much into the blood that it also characterizes our view of spirituality.
In the Ebook on evolutonism I described the different variations of evolutionism, as for example historicism and reductionism, as well as its current popularity in America, with transhumanism and its dreams about the future merging of humans and machines. The ultimative expression is scientism and the following complete elimination of philosophy (love of wisdom) and religion.
My intention was to show how evolutionism makes us blind for a number of relationships, as for example down-cycles, the shadow side of life, negative consequences, and most important: the wisdom of the past. I consider evolutionism to be the beginning of a long period of human decline. Precisely as in the Yuga teachings.
However, Sheldrake wants this ideology to fit on consciousness. He mentions the Jesuit biologist Teilhard de Chardin, who thought that the entire evolutionary process was moving towards an end-point of “maximum organized complexity”, which he called the Omega point. The Omega point was the attractor of the entire cosmic evolutionary process, and through it consciousness would be transformed.
This is a view that doesn´t allow the concept of enlightened consciousness as I have described. If you accept the concept of enlightened consciousness, you can´t at the same time accept the concept of the evolution of consciousness. They are logically incompatible. Besides what already explained, let me give another example. The concept of “The Evolution of Consciousness”, try to say that the mystical experience of enlightenment can be understood, if you see it as part of an evolutionary tendency, which is planted in Man towards higher consciousness. Against that theory you could then say, that if you look at it from the point of enlightened consciousness, then the enlightened consciousness, which the evolution theory claims we are developing towards, has always been present: it is, as explained, a continuum. The question then pops up, whether we at all can talk about evolution. In the concept of evolution lies that we speak about some kind of growing degree of complexity, where you all the time look back to earlier, primitive states, where the end goal still hasn´t been accomplished. This would imply the absurdity (if you actually believe in the enlightened consciousness) that Buddha and Jesus were on a low level of enlightenment, if they at all could be said to be enlightened. In fact, it implies that you not at all can talk about earlier enlightened beings.
It therefore seems like New Age is eliminating the traditional concept of enlightenment, and altogether any meaningful concept of spirituality, since spirituality must imply an absolute truth. In the Danish New Age magazine, Nyt Aspekt, the editor, Steen Landsy, wrote in his newsletter for April 2020:
The wise [?] says, that the development moves from religious to atheist/non-religious and further on to non-dogmatic spiritual. From this group comes the future´s spiritual interested people.
Landsy is, as you might sense, a Ken Wilber admirer.
The New Age idea of “the evolution of consciousness” (or spiritual evolution) seems to have originated in Theosophy, probably with Helena Blavatsky (and developed further by Alice Bailey). Mircea Eliade suggested that Blavatsky´s theory of “spiritual evolution” contradicts the entire spirit of Eastern tradition, which is "precisely an anti-evolutionist conception of the spiritual life". Also remember what a true enlightened master, Krishnamurti, wrote in his “The Core of the Teachings”:
[…] Freedom is without motive; freedom is not at the end of the evolution of man but lies in the first step of his existence […] There is no psychological evolution.
Sheldrake´s quantum mystical speculations involves the elimination of the enlightened consciousness in two other ways. On page 10 in The Science Delusion, he writes (in an attack on materialism):
First, some physicists insist that quantum mechanics cannot be formulated without taking into account the minds of observers. They argue that minds cannot be reduced to physics because physics presupposes the minds of physicists.
Seen from a certain angle this is of course true. But what the quote refers to is what I already have shown: namely subjectivism. Subjectivism doesn´t allow the absolute enlightened consciousness, only the relativity of ordinary minds. It is interesting that he actually doesn´t go into the factual reason for why quantum mechanics breaks with materialism (as already explained), but promotes the widespread misunderstanding of the observer problem.
Sheldrake then goes on to the pseudoscientific M-theory:
Second, the most ambitious unified theories of physical reality, string and m-theories, with ten and eleven dimensions respectively, take science into a completely new territory. Strangely, as Stephen Hawking tells us in his book The Grand Design (2010): “no one seems to know what the ‘M’ stands for, but it may be ‘master’, ‘miracle’ or ‘mystery’”.
I feel it irresistible to add the concept “Matrix”. It is not far out, since Hawking speaks in favor of the so-called Simulation Theory, without knowing that he in that case is moving from materialism to idealism. More about that later. Sheldrake continues:
According to what Hawking calls ‘model-dependent realism’, different theories may have to be applied in different situations. ‘Each theory may have its own version of reality, but according to model-dependent realism, that is acceptable so long as the theories agree in their predictions whenever they overlap, that is, whenever they can both be applied.’
String theories and M-theory are currently untestable so ‘model-dependent realism’ can only be judged by reference to other models, rather than by experiment. It also applies to countless other universes, none of which has ever been observed. As Hawking points out:
“M-theory has solutions that allow for many different internal spaces, perhaps as many as 10500, which means it allows for 10500 different universes, each with its own laws…The original hope of physics to produce a single theory explaining the apparent laws of our universe as the unique possible consequence of a few simple assumptions may have to be abandoned.”
One might add, that it seems that the M-theory itself is an attempt to create such a “theory of everything”. And then we must return to the Wholeness. Where is the Wholeness in all this? It sounds like the theory is splitting the Wholeness up in an almost endless number of “Wholenesses” (universes) which is a contradiction of the concept of Wholeness itself. So, the theory must abandon every concept of enlightened consciousness, but it must also abandon any philosophy of mind, hereunder panpsychism. But, if you are a materialist, and don´t like the concept of mind, then the theory also must abandon the concept of Wholeness. It breaks the Wholeness up in an almost endless labyrinth of universes. But the problem is that you can´t leave the concept of the Wholeness out. It is not logical possible, no matter what you say. Moreover, again we see how a materialist fantasy, seems to slip over in idealism, the very theory it is in opposition to. The M-theory sounds like a short story by the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges. Borges created most of his work as a play with idealism, especially subjective idealism. They are about the logical and philosophical problems of idealism. His stories are filled with mirrors, masks, endless series and regresses, labyrinths, doppelgängers, time, parallel universes, solipsisms and dreams – read about Borges in my essay: The Strange World of Jorge Luis Borges.
The M-theory is pure pseudoscience, and is based on a confusion of thoughts and reality. Nietzsche declared that God is dead. Hawking declared that philosophy is dead. Hereafter he spend most of his life trying to do what he just had declared dead: philosophy. I have examined Stephen Hawking in my article: A Critique of Stephen Hawking.
7) Sheldrake´s Dispute with Skeptic Robert Carroll
The skeptic philosopher, Robert Carroll, is writing in the Skeptic´s Dictionary:
Sheldrake has been trained in 20th century scientific models--he has a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Cambridge University (1967. Sheldrake prefers teleological to mechanistic models of reality. His main interests are in the paranormal. One of his books is entitled Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home: And Other Unexplained Powers of Animals. One of his studies is on whether people can tell when someone is staring at them. (He says they can; others have been unable to duplicate his results.) Another tests the telepathic powers of a parrot. He prefers a romantic vision of the past to the bleak picture of a world run by technocrats who want to control nature and destroy much of the environment in the process.
In short, he prefers metaphysics [a philosophical discipline] to science, though he seems to think he can do the former but call it the latter. Perhaps it would be fairer to say that he sees no borderline between science and metaphysics.
'Morphic resonance' (MR) is put forth as if it were an empirical term, but it is no more empirical than L. Ron Hubbard's 'engram', the alleged source of all mental and physical illness. The term is more on par with the Stoic's notion of the logos, Bergson's notion of the élan vital, or Plato's notion of the eidos than it is with any scientific notion of the laws of nature. But still he doesn´t see himself as doing philosophy, and not science.
What the rest of the scientific world terms lawfulness--the tendency of things to follow patterns we call laws of nature--Sheldrake calls morphic resonance. He describes it as a kind of memory in things determined not by their inherent natures, but by repetition. He also describes MR as something which is transmitted via "morphogenetic fields." This gives him a conceptual framework wherein information is transmitted mysteriously and miraculously through any amount of space and time without loss of energy, and presumably without loss or change of content through something like mutation in DNA replication. Thus, room is made for psychical as well as physical transmission of information.
Sheldrake is quoted:
“Thus, it is not at all necessary for us to assume that the physical characteristics of organisms are contained inside the genes, which may in fact be analogous to transistors tuned in to the proper frequencies for translating invisible information into visible form. Thus, morphogenetic fields are located invisibly in and around organisms, and may account for such hitherto unexplainable phenomena as the regeneration of severed limbs by worms and salamanders, phantom limbs, the holographic properties of memory, telepathy, and the increasing ease with which new skills are learned as greater quantities of a population acquire them.”
While this metaphysical proposition does seem to make room for telepathy, it does so at the expense of ignoring Occam's razor. Telepathy and such things as phantom limbs, for example, can be explained without adding the metaphysical baggage of morphic resonance. So can memory, which does not require a holographic paradigm, by the way. The notion that new skills are learned with increasing ease as greater quantities of a population acquire them, known as the hundredth monkey phenomenon, is bogus.
I´m not agreeing with everything Carroll is saying. He was a member of the Skeptical Movement, and his entire work is based on debunking all kinds of extraordinary claims, without giving any alternatives, as any serious philosopher is committed to. It is easy to sit and use your text book on logic and theory of argumentation. It is more difficult when it comes to the act of actually thinking. It more often than not ends the thought distortion called “That´s a Fallacy”, the manoeuvre of vaguely/falsely accusing someone of committing a fallacy. It is a form of rhetoric which can be particular pernicious, since the charge is extremely vague, if the skeptic can´t spell out precisely why he or she believe it is a fair charge. This is especially relevant when the skeptics don´t offer alternatives, but only are pointing out people´s “fallacies”. Often it is a smokescreen for inducing the skeptical movement´s hidden right-wing political agenda: neo-liberalism, liberalism or conservatism. And often it ends in “Dawkins Rhetoric”, where they themselves are declining to name-calling, emotional language, straw man attacks, etc. It is incredible easy to fall into the “That´s a Fallacy Fallacy”. On Wikipedia you can easily find a list of fallacies, which spares you of thinking for yourself, and therefore also of self-reflection.
On SCEPCOP, a website critical of skeptics, they have made their own list of “Pseudoskeptical Fallacies”, a website which itself is without thinking and self-reflection (more about that website below).
However, Carroll does his debunking with clarity and logical argumentation. Very few flaws. And he is absolutely right in many things. I have quoted him many times. But his ideological underpinnings were exposed in his review of Richard Dawkins´s The God Delusion. Where Carroll was a master in finding logical flaws in his opponents, he was unable to find such in Dawkins´s work, despite that they are so extremely obvious (read the review here).
Rupert Sheldrake has apparently read Carrol´s entry, and Carroll has published his reply to him: Click here.
8) Sheldrake´s Reductionism
Everything Rupert Sheldrake is saying is repeated in New Age as revolutionary new scientific facts. Not surprisingly, since pseudoscience in New Age is considered alternative sciences for the openminded and examples of the coming paradigm shift.
Sheldrake has directly been described as a New Age author and is popular among many in the New Age movement who view him as lending scientific credibility to their beliefs, though Sheldrake does not necessarily endorse certain New Age interpretations of his ideas. Psychic Sylvia Browne, while channelling her spirit guide "Francine", said that morphic resonance carries emotional trauma and physical ailments from past lives which may be released through affirmations.
In the 2011 "Miracle Day" season of Doctor Who spin off Torchwood, morphic resonance is given as the reason that all humans have suddenly become immortal.
The morphogenetic field plays a large role in the Nintendo DS game Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors. Experiments in the game's back story involve putting pairs of siblings under extreme circumstances and trying to get them to telepathically send puzzle answers to each other in order to survive. So, Sheldrake is famous in popular culture.
The most absurd use of Sheldrake I have read, is in the book, Wild Magic – The Wildwood Tarot Workbook, by Mark Ryan and John Matthews. I´m myself using The Wildwood Tarot for its visual power. As mentioned above, I said, that the first-personal direct subjective experience, always is a visual experience of wholeness/spaciousness, no matter how absent in mind we can be. We don´t experience visually in fragments. A visual experience is a subjective experience of wholeness/spaciousness. And it is an experience which can be opened further up through meditation so that the superior Wholeness begins to dream (objective idealism), and eventually wake up (metaphysical naturalism). The Wildwood Tarot is supposed to be a doorway to such visual experiences, especially in relation to nature. However, one of the authors, Mark Ryan, is writing some introductory texts where all this is reduced to, and I quote:
“quantum physics, Jungian psychology and a whiff of Rupert Sheldrake´s brilliant concept of morphic resonance” (page 31).
Most absurdly, he is talking about this as an alternative to “the cold, technocratic twenty-first century” (page 30). His own account seems more than anything to be an example of such a cold, technocratic view, where any first-personal visual experience is reduced to third-personal scientific concepts. He claims that science has caught up with magic (a direct subjective experience). He talks about neuroscience, multicellular battlefields, pathogens, immune system, lymphatic endothelial cells, cerebrospinal fluids, cervical lymph nodes (page 33). He is then claiming that “science is rediscovering the body´s physical pathways and mechanisms that the ancient shamans and medicine men professed to know for centuries and that were available to them as healers” He concludes:
“The researchers outlined here may seem a long way from the study and practice of tarot, but if we consider for a moment how the mysteries of human consciousness are being uncovered daily [by science], we can see the possibilities of a scientific approach to such mystical concepts that will keep us fully engaged for many ages to come” (page 35).
This is written in connection with a visual tarot card system, where the whole idea is to turn us towards the visual experience of the forest; that is: our first-personal subjective experience. It is new age scientism in a nutshell. It turns the first-personal subjective experience of Wholeness and spaciousness into a third-personal reductive description in words. It sounds like something Gregg Braden could have written.
And this leads me towards Sheldrake´s own reductionism, which is somewhere in between biologism (morphic resonance) and sociologism (postmodernism/social constructivism). I will here refer to the ebook on Dawkins, where Sheldrake´s reductionism also is described. However, I will repeat it shortly.
Sheldrake is very quick in drawing the reductionist card towards skeptics. He is doing this everytime someone is critical (so did Fritjof Capra). But he obviously doesn´t know what reductionism is, since he is doing reductionism himself. He must have been sleeping when attending the philosophy of science classes he claims to have attended. This is an important issue. I am in no way trying to criticize people´s free thoughts. I myself is practicing this. If Sheldrake was forwarding his work as philosophy, I wouldn´t have criticized it. What I´m criticizing is that he is forwarding his work as science, and therefore is trying to establish a truth by authority which seeks to remove the responsibility for philosophical argumentation.
The reductionisms observe Man from fragmented viewpoints, for example as organism, as physical-chemical system, as society being, as psyche, as producer and user of language and meaning. But what becomes of the Wholeness? What unites all this knowledge to a total image of Man? The reductionisms´ explanations of this always end up as philosophical shipwrecks. Reductionisms are philosophical viewpoints, which under cover of being science seek to answer the question of Man, or reality as such. But no single branch of science gives anything else than a limited perspective on Man or reality. If the reductionisms should be taken seriously, then they shall contain a unifying perspective on all knowledge about Man.
What can be a serious problem in the future, is that a new kind of pseudoscience is trying to unite New Age pseudoscience with some of the pseudoscience of reductionism.
There are two versions of reductionism. This is important since it seems that these two versions are in war with each other:
The first version for example claims that Man fully can be described and explained with the methods of natural science. This happens in various forms of Naturalism, Positivism and Behaviourism.
The second version claims, that psychology, sociology or history can give the total and superior understanding of, what a human being is. These viewpoints are described respectively as Psychologism, Sociologism and Historism. It is particular this version which openly claims to be a supporter of anti-science, and accuses the other part of being reductionistic, wherefore it demands so-called alternative sciences. Postmodernism belongs to these kinds of reductionism (read more about this in the Matrix Dictionary in the entries: Anti-intellectualism and Anti-science and Bridge between Science and Spirituality).
Sheldrake's book, The Science Delusion, is an anti-scientific rant in which he applies postmodernist hyperscepticism to conventional science, accusing mainstream scientists of adhering to "scientific dogmata", such as the constancy of the speed of light. Again: the book is brilliantly written, but if you want to be lured into postmodernist propaganda and eventually Neo-Lysenkoism, then it is also the book for you. Ironically, Sheldrake fails to apply any sort of scepticism to his own ideas, which he promotes uncritically, despite there being no evidence for them. This is quite weird to witness, since he openly talks about that scientific theories must be testable, etc. But Dawkins is as less critical when it comes to his own concept of “selfish genes”.
Sheldrake has an entire section of his website dedicated to "skeptics", that is, people critical of his ideas (click here – a link is in the end of Sheldrake´s introduction). And, again, I must refer to my ebook on Dawkins, where I already has examined Sheldrake´s attack on skeptics. But again, I will repeat some central things below.
Sheldrake has a FAQ section, which includes various half-truths, including claiming support from the scientific community. But if the scientific community is suppressing his ideas, which community is he talking about?
In The Science Delusion he concludes modern science has turned into materialism and is being constricted by assumptions that have hardened into dogmas. The book promotes a conspiracy theory that the scientific community is made up of materialist skeptics who have deliberately ignored evidence for psychic phenomena and other paranormal topics. He correctly claims that materialism is not a scientific validated theory (it is a reductionism), but he fails when claiming that the entire science of today is one and the same as materialism (although a great part of it is). It is also quite weird to hear his critique of scientists and science, when he himself is so science obsessed, that he claims that science must be turned into a new revolutionary science (an omniscience), precisely what he criticizes when it comes to materialists. His view is also paradoxically anti-religious and atheist, despite that he so many places is speaking about the wisdom traditions. For example, as explained, the confused concept of panpsychism is supported by materialists and atheists, who are seeking an alternative to pure materialism.
But this is typical New Age, which talks about a world without religions. Spirituality must be integrated with (=reduced to) science: New Age scientism, that is.
Sheldrake is the owner of the anti-skeptic site "Skeptical About Skeptics" which claims to debunk skeptics. It is actually a New Age haven for all kinds of weird ideas and pseudoscience. The website claims psychokinesis, fraudulent mediums (such as Eusapia Palladino), ghosts, reincarnation, telepathy and other New Age topics have all been scientifically proven. New Agers featured on the website included Craig Weiler, Victor Zammit, Guy Lyon Playfair and Chris Carter. It also has a section entitled "Links to Outstanding Websites" which links to dubious sites such as SCEPCOP owned by Winston Wu.
Sheldrake is frequently featured in New Age documentaries, documenteraries, which are promoted as science documentaries. The newest I have seen is called: The Creative Play of Consciousness. The film is obvious about philosophy of mind, but there is no single philosopher featured in it, and there is no proper introduction to philosophy of mind. All the persons in the movie are featured as scientists; that is: if you believe that New Age scientists are real scientists. One of the speakers is for example Bruce Lipton. You can find the documentary on New Paradigm Films (note the website´s name).
In January 2013, Sheldrake and the pseudohistorian Graham Hancock gave lectures at the TEDxWhitechapel in East London. In his lecture, Sheldrake criticized modern science, listing what he called "ten dogmas of modern materialist science" that he feels are assumptions without evidence. He also advocated a conspiracy theory that the scientific community have ignored and suppressed evidence for psychic phenomena and other paranormal topics because they are materialists. A video of the Sheldrake lecture was published on the TEDx YouTube channel which later received criticism from various scientists for promoting pseudoscience. In response, the TED staff issued an official statement explaining that TED's scientific advisers have questioned whether Sheldrake's list of ten dogmas "is a fair description of scientific assumptions" and said "there is little evidence for some of Sheldrake’s more radical claims, such as his theory of morphic resonance". The advisors recommended that Sheldrake's TED talk "should not be distributed without being framed with caution".
The video of the talk was moved from the TEDx YouTube channel to the TED blog, accompanied by framing language and a cautionary introduction. New Agers such as Craig Weiler quickly accused TED of "censorship" and repeated the conspiracy theory that the scientific community is suppressing Sheldrake's ideas. In his blog post on March, 2013 entitled "The Psi Wars Come To TED" he accused the TED staff of being atheists and deliberately censoring Sheldrake, prompting the TED staff to issue a statement that, "The reason people are upset is because they think there has been censorship. But it's simply not true. Both talks are up on our website." (read more).
In September 1981, Nature published an editorial about A New Science of Life entitled "A book for burning?" Written by the journal's senior editor, John Maddox, the editorial said:
”... Sheldrake's book is a splendid illustration of the widespread public misconception of what science is about. In reality, Sheldrake's argument is in no sense a scientific argument but is an exercise in pseudo-science ... Many readers will be left with the impression that Sheldrake has succeeded in finding a place for magic within scientific discussion – and this, indeed, may have been a part of the objective of writing such a book”.
In my Dawkins book I have already investigated, and debunked, the skeptic thought police which use concepts such as “a book for burning”. However, as Carroll correctly says:
In short, although Sheldrake commands some respect as a scientist because of his education and degree, he has clearly abandoned conventional science in favor of magical thinking. This is his right, of course. However, his continued pose as a scientist on the frontier of discovery is unwarranted. He is one of a growing horde of "alternative" scientists whose resentment at the spiritual nature of modern scientific paradigms, as well as the obviously harmful and seemingly indifferent applications of modern science, have led them to seek their own paradigms in ancient and long-abandoned concepts. These paradigms are not new, though the terminology is. These alternative paradigms allow for angels, telepathy, psychic dogs and parrots, alternative realities, and hope for a future world where we all live in harmony and love, surrounded by blissful neighbors who never heard of biological warfare, nuclear bombs, or genetically engineered corn on the cob.
What is wrong with Sheldrake´s “philosophy”? Besides the obvious distortion of science and philosophy in popular culture, then we know from history that the mix of biology and romantic religious mysticism based on subjectivism and feelings, is an explosive cocktail. The tendency is towards hard bitten ideology. And that is precisely what is happening.
9) Panpsychism, Atheist Spirituality and Transhumanism
In his article, The New Scientific Revolution, Sheldrake writes:
In consciousness studies, materialism is being challenged by a new version of animism or 'panpsychism', according to which all self-organizing material systems, like electrons, have a mental as well as a physical aspect. In his recent book, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False, the atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel argues that a shift to panpsychism is necessary for any viable philosophy of nature that does not need to invoke God.
Materialist science seemed simple and straightforward. But old-style material reality has now dissolved into multi-dimensional virtual physics; increasing numbers of philosophers and neuroscientists are moving towards panpsychism; and biologists are having to think about 'systems' and 'emergent properties' that cannot be reduced to the molecular level.
Kuhn's insights, and the subsequent developments in science studies, are not merely of historical relevance, looking at revolutions in the past. Hopefully we can learn from them today. We are in the midst of a new revolution.
In The Science Delusion, Sheldrake is mentioning another materialist, Galen Strawson, who is in favor of panpsychism. Sheldrake writes:
Galen Strawson shares the frustration of many contemporary philosophers with the seemingly intractable problems of materialism and dualism. He has come to the conclusion that there is only one way out. He argues that a consistent materialism must imply panpsychism, namely the idea that even atoms and molecules have a primitive kind of mentality or experience. (The mind). - (page 114-15).
Is Sheldrake himself a materialist and atheist? As we have seen until now: it could seem so. In his book, Science and Spiritual Practice, he writes:
In 1971, I learned Transcendental Meditation, because I wanted to be able to explore consciousness without drugs. At the Transcendental Meditation Centre in Cambridge, there was no need to accept any religious beliefs. The instructors presented the process entirely physiological. That was fine by me; it worked, I was happy doing it, and I did not need to believe in anything beyond my own brain. I was still an atheist and I was pleased to find a spiritual practice that agreed with a scientific worldview, and did not require religion (page 6).
Sheldrake then describes how he later rediscovered Christian faith, and was confirmed in the Church of South India (page 9).
There is an inconsistency here in Sheldrake. As already mentioned: panpsychism is, as shown, not compatible with any notion of a life after death. If you believe in a life after death (or out-of-body experiences, shamanic journeys, etc), you must be a dualist in order to have a consistent philosophy.
Furthermore: Meditation is a practice aiming at enlightenment, and there will be no enlightenment without a kundalini awakening. All traditional meditation practices are therefore, in different ways (and with different concepts and names), teaching pre-kundalini meditation and post-kundalini meditation.
Pre-kundalini meditation is the preparatory practice aiming at kundalini awakening. Pre-kundalini meditation ought to be fixed curriculum for all beginners of meditation. Unfortunately this is not so in the modern, "scientific" versions of meditation.
Post-kundalini meditation is the preparatory practice aiming at enlightenment. A Kundalini awakening has three phases. Post-kundalini meditation is the practice, which is handling the occurring phenomena during these three phases.
My page, The Kundalini Files, naturally involve a cultural criticism, since cultural (philosophical/religious) questions/phenomena will rise in post-kundalini meditation (and therefore also is a part of pre-kundalini meditation). There will, for example, be discussions of the modern "scientific" mindfulness movement, and how it has removed all of the above-mentioned preparatory practices because they aren´t "testable", and have "unfortunate philosophical and religious undertones". One result of this development is a rise of spiritual crises in relation with meditation practices (Transcendental Meditation is the “scientific” based meditation which are causing most examples of spiritual crises). Another result is cultural appropriation - (see my article: Mindfulness and the Loss of Philosophy). The final result will be the complete elimination of philosophy and religion, and therefore also spirituality - see my article: The Matrix Conspiracy.
Sheldrake´s book, Science and Spiritual Practices, is basically about the common New Age theme: that spirituality needs to be integrated with science. In the book I found the surprising information, that the atheist fundamentalist, Sam Harris, not only is a long time practitioner of meditation, he is also an initiated Dzogchen master; meaning: an enlightened master! How is that possible? But after having gone a bit into it, I quickly realized that Harris has joined the long line of "enlightened masters" within the neo-advaita movement, as well as the mindfulness establishment (also called secular Buddhism). He has even written a book about it. It is called: Waking Up: Searching for Spirituality Without Religion.
Harris is simply teaching mindfulness without mentioning pre-kundalini meditation and post-kundalini meditation which, in different forms, are central in all traditional meditation practices (he probably don´t even know what it is, and if he does, he certainly wouldn´t believe in it). He simply believes that enlightenment is reduction of stress! He preaches the self-help trend of "being in the now". But he doesn´t go beyond all images and ideas, since he at the same time is introducing his ideology: atheist scientism. Mindfulness is in that way used as a hypnotic means of inducing his ideology into you. And when he at the same time is claiming to have Dzogchen teachers, and to have had the enlightenment experience transferred by a Tibetan master, he joins the New Age (American!) trend of cultural appropriation.
Atheist fundamentalists have in that way joined New Age in the attempt of destroying the original wisdom traditions. Like New Thought, atheist fundamentalists are now replacing traditional teachers with their own. It sounds like a Chinese controlled action. Remember, the atheist fundamentalist, and transhumanist, Yuval Noah Harari, is also a meditation teacher, who "integrates spirituality with science". And he doesn´t hide the profetic associations in his name (Noah).
In a traditional meditation mentoring practice both pre-kundalini meditation and post-kundalini meditation must be taught. This simply means that a beginner must know what the goal of meditation is: namely enlightenment. This also means that you aim at the awakening of kundalini, and how to meditate after this has happened. You must be educated in both goals, paths, dangers and pitfalls. In that way pre-kundalini meditation is a preparatory practice.
This is not the case with mindfulness, where post-kundalini practices, and therefore also preparatory practices, have been removed (because they are not scientific testable). The untestable aspect is the philosophy/religion aspect. This means that these practices in their original form can´t be integrated with science. According to the mindfulness movement, they therefore need to be changed. The whole claim of a "bridge between science and spirituality" is therefore a rhetorical swindle number covering over cultural appropritation. If people within these new "scientific" mindfulness environments actually are having an awakening experience, they will be lost. Most absurdly, they will probably be categorized as people with "psychiatric problems", and therefore "not suitable for meditation". A good way of hiding genuinely awakening people away.
The transhumanist, and atheist, Yuval Noah Harari, says Vipassana meditation, which he began whilst in Oxford in 2000, has "transformed my life". He practises for two hours every day (one hour at the start and end of his work day, every year undertakes a meditation retreat of 30 days or longer, in silence and with no books or social media, and is an assistant meditation teacher. He dedicated Homo Deus to "my teacher, S. N. Goenka, who lovingly taught me important things", and said "I could not have written this book without the focus, peace and insight gained from practising Vipassana for fifteen years.” He also regards meditation as a way to research. S. N. Goenka´s teaching emphasized that the Buddha's path to liberation was non-sectarian, universal, and scientific in character.
We can talk about atheist spirituality as secular buddhism. Secular Buddhism—sometimes also referred to as agnostic Buddhism, Buddhist agnosticism, ignostic Buddhism, atheistic Buddhism, pragmatic Buddhism, Buddhist atheism, or Buddhist secularism—is a broad term for an emerging form of Buddhism and secular spirituality that is based on humanist, skeptical, and/or agnostic values, as well as pragmatism and (often) naturalism, rather than religious (or more specifically supernatural or paranormal) beliefs. The problem arises of course, if the practitioners should be so “unfortunate” to experience what meditation actually is designed for, namely a kundalini awakening. Then they suddenly are in the midst of everything they don´t believe in. The result is probably a psychiatric hospital, because no teachers would be able to help them.
Panpsychism is a popular theory of mind among transhumanists. Sheldrake himself mentions David Chalmers (page10 in The Science Delusion). Sheldrake is not a transhumanist, and he is not speaking about transhumanism, but he is supporting the same theory of mind which transhumanists are advocates of. It is also notable that the New Age guru, Ken Wilber, has begun speaking favorable about transhumanism – see the text: A Critique of Ken Wilber – Updated.
I will therefore shortly go into transhumanism, which Sheldrake and New Age as such, is pointing towards. Central in transhumanism is the concept of The Matrix, here understood in combination with the simulation theory. This theory indicates that reality is, or could be “evolved” into: a computer simulation.
New Agers believe that the Matrix is a living organism, or simply reality itself. But one should remember that they are advocates of subjectivism and relativism, or otherwise said: they are subjective idealists. I will repeat: in philosophy, subjective idealism is the group of philosophies which assert that reality, or reality as we can know it, is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial. Epistemologically, idealism manifests as a skepticism about the possibility of knowing any mind-independent thing. In a sociological sense, idealism emphasizes how human ideas—especially beliefs and values—shape society. As an ontological doctrine, idealism goes further, asserting that all entities are composed of mind or spirit. Idealism thus rejects physicalist and dualist theories that fail to ascribe priority to the mind. And, in Western philosophy we are talking about the ordinary mind. Western philosophy doesn´t work with any notion of enlightened consciousness as I have described above.
This is the reason why they can believe that the whole of reality, including the physical reality, is a mental construct. And from that it is also easy to infer to the idea that we could live in a computer simulation. You simply change the word mind with a new theory of mind: The Computational Theory of Mind. From there you go on to claim that all entities are composed by bits, and that the whole of reality is a computer simulation. This new form of idealism could be called digital idealism. And the people advocating it is called transhumanists. But basically, it is the same arguments as in subjective idealism. This is an example of how panpsychism suddenly can shift from materialism to idealism.
In his article, The Matrix as Metaphysics, the Australian philosopher and transhumanist, David Chalmers, suggests thoughts like the above-mentioned (the article is printed in the book, Science Fiction and Philosophy – From Time Travel to Superintelligence - edited by Susan Schneider). Chalmers is quite open about that his argumentation is similar to subjective idealism. He just don´t like the concept of the mind (he doesn´t believe in a soul, for example). So, he changes it with a computational theory of mind (what I call digital idealism). From describing the argument about how god created the world, he goes on to describing the argument about that the world is created by computers. He suggests that underneath the level of quarks and electrons and photons is a further level: the level of bits. These bits are governed by a computational algorithm, which at a larger level produces the processes that we think of as fundamental particles, forces, and so on (page 40). God is replaced by computers. The universe is at bottom some kind of computer.
There exist all kinds of versions of this absurdity. If you are human centered (anthropocentrism) you could argue that the whole of the universe is created by ourselves as we will be in the future: divine cyborgs (digital idealism has no problem with time travel). You could also argue that the universe is created by extraterrestrial computers, evil scientists, machines, ideologies, etc. You could also say, like Ray Kurzweil, that we ought to create a matrix, so that the universe can “awake” to its real destiny as a virtual reality. In that way, he claims, all our problems will be solved.
What´s peculiar about transhumanists like Ray Kurzweil and David Chalmers, is that they seem to move from a purely materialist (physicalist) standpoint into some kind of weird digital version of idealism. They simply replace concepts of mind with concepts from computer science and cognitive science. They therefore come to remind about New Agers, and New Age is in fact using a lot of the same arguments. It is the create-your-own-reality postulations repeated as if it was science.
But it is still idealism, and it is precisely the same absurd postulations as Bishop Berkeley came up with. And the absurd consequences are the same: infinite regress (you can´t build infinity), solipsism (only my own mind exists), as well as the polarization-problem (you are always faced with the negation of yourself and your theories).
If you should talk about a literary genre that depicts the problems of modern philosophy of mind, you could mention science fiction. And with science fiction you have transhumanism. In the book Science Fiction and Philosophy, the philosopher Susan Schneider writes an introduction to transhumanism:
…Transhumanism is a philosophical, cultural, and political movement that holds that the human species is now in a comparatively early phase and that its very evolution will be altered by developing technologies. Future humans will be very unlike their present-day incarnation in both physical and mental respects, and will in fact resemble certain persons depicted in science fiction stories. Transhumanists share the belief that an outcome in which humans have radically advanced intelligence, near immortality, deep friendships with AI creatures, and elective body characteristics is a very desirable end. Both for one´s own personal development and for the development of our species as a whole.
Despite its science fiction-like flavor, the future that transhumanism depicts is very possible: indeed, the beginning stages of this radical alteration may well lie in certain technological developments that either are already here (if not generally available), or are accepted by many in the relevant scientific fields as being on their way (Roco and Bainbridge 2002; Gerreau 2005). In the face of these technological developments, transhumanists offer a progressive bioethics agenda of increasing public import. They also present a thought-provoking and controversial position in philosophy of cognitive science, applying insights about the computational nature of the mind to the topic of the nature of persons, developing a novel version of one popular theory of personal identity: the psychological continuity theory.
In this chapter I shall amply science fiction thought experiments to discuss what I take to be the most important philosophical element of the transhumanist picture – its unique perspective on the nature and development of persons…(page 261).
And below is her introduction to the “leading theories” of the nature of persons:
1) The soul theory: your essence is your soul or mind, understood as a nonphysical entity distinct from your body.
2) The psychological continuity theory: you are essentially your memories and ability to reflect on yourself (Locke) and, in its most general form, you are your overall psychological configuration, what Kurzweil referred to as your “pattern.”
3) Brain-based materialism: you are essentially the material that you are made out of, i.e., your body and brain – what Kurzweil referred to as “the ordered and chaotic collection of molecules” that make up my body and brain (Kurzweil 2005: 383).”
4) The no self view: the self is an illusion. The “I” is a grammatical fiction (Nietzsche). There are bundles of impressions but no underlying self (Hume). There is no survival because there is no person (Buddha).” (Page 265).
Note the last distorted view of Buddhism, which I already have investigated. Also note that the whole thing is based on Kurzweil´s “philosophy”. In his book, The Singularity is Near, Kurzweil sketches a future world in which we (or perhaps our children or grandchildren) become cyborgs, and eventually entirely artificial beings. The creation of “superintelligent” AI brings forth beings with such advanced intelligence that solutions to the world´s problems are generated, rapidly ending disease and resource scarcity. “Superintelligence and Singularity” is not a work of science fiction, however; it is Kurzweil´s prediction of the shape of the near future, based on our current science.
But not enough with that: this superintelligence will, through nanotechnology, expand into the universe and make it “wake up” and become intelligent (according to Kurzweil the universe is not intelligent right now, and there is no life other than us). In other words: the whole universe will become a virtual reality, and we humans will be a kind of avatars in this virtual reality. A kind of gods, who can create and manipulate with the universe as we want to.
If we return to the above-mentioned theories of minds, then Schneider is correctly claiming that it is 2 (The psychological continuity theory), that currently is the most influential. She hereafter suggests that the Transhumanist adopts a novel version of the psychological continuity view; that is, they adopt a computational account of continuity. She writes:
First, consider that transhumanists generally adopt a computational theory of mind.
The Computational Theory of Mind (“CTM”): The mind is essentially the program running on the hardware of the brain, that is, the algorithm that the brain implements, something in principle discoverable by cognitive science (Churchland) (page 265).
…Note that proponents of CTMs generally reject the soul theory. One might suspect that the transhumanist views a brain-based materialism favorably, the view that holds that minds are basically physical or material in nature and that mental features, such as the thought that espresso has a wonderful aroma, are ultimately just physical features of brains. Transhumanists rejects brain-based materialism, for they believe the same person can continue to exist if her pattern persists, even if she is an upload [to a computer], no longer having a brain (Kurzweil 2005) (265-66).
I won´t go into the technological complex language here, just say that the computational theory of mind is a variant of panpsychism, and that this is what David Chalmers supports.
The idea is that reality either already is a simulated reality, or will be, in the future, be turned into a simulated reality.
Simulated reality is the hypothesis that reality could be simulated — for example by computer simulation — to a degree indistinguishable from "true" reality. It could contain conscious minds which may or may not be fully aware that they are living inside a simulation. This is quite different from the current, technologically achievable concept of virtual reality. Virtual reality is easily distinguished from the experience of actuality; participants are never in doubt about the nature of what they experience. Simulated reality, by contrast, would be hard or impossible to separate from "true" reality.
Both materialism and idealism are included in The Matrix Conspiracy, though idealism is the ruling philosophy. The reason why both is included is that they define each other; they are so to speak complementary to each other, because they mutually exclude each other and at the same necessarily must supplement each other. This is what panpsychism builds on. But it ends in an ambiguous language and thinking.
On the possibility of living in a simulation created by alien civilizations, Richard Dawkins says:
"Whether we ever get to know them or not, there are very probably alien civilizations that are superhuman, to the point of being god-like in ways that exceed anything a theologian could possibly imagine. Their technical achievements would seem as supernatural to us as ours would seem to a Dark Age peasant transported to the twenty-first century. Imagine his response to a laptop computer, a mobile telephone, a hydrogen bomb or a jumbo jet. As Arthur C Clarke put it, in his Third Law: 'Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.' The miracles wrought by our technology would have seemed to the ancients no less remarkable than the tales of Moses parting the waters, or Jesus walking upon them. The aliens of our SETI signal would be to us like gods ...
"In what sense, then, would the most advanced SETI aliens not be gods? In what sense would they be superhuman but not supernatural? In a very important sense, which goes to the heart of this book. The crucial difference between gods and god-like extraterrestrials lies not in their properties but in their provenance. Entities that are complex enough to be intelligent are products of an evolutionary process. No matter how god-like they may seem when we encounter them, they didn't start that way. Science-fiction authors ... have even suggested (and I cannot think how to disprove it) that we live in a computer simulation, set up by some vastly superior civilization. But the simulators themselves would have to come from somewhere. The laws of probability forbid all notions of their spontaneously appearing without simpler antecedents. They probably owe their existence to a (perhaps unfamiliar) version of Darwinian evolution ..."
Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006. 72-73. Print.
Also Sam Harris loves the simulation theory:
"Many people have noticed that there seem to be no new arguments for the truth of any of the world's religions. I recently stumbled upon one, however, and it has given me a moment's pause. ...
"Given these premises - that human consciousness is purely the product of computation; that our computing power will continue to grow; and that our descendants will build simulated worlds - it seems tempting to conclude that simulated people will eventually outnumber all the real people who have ever lived. Statistically, therefore, it is more likely that we are simulated ancestors, living in a simulated world, rather than real ancestors of the real, supercomputing people of the future.
"This is, of course, a very strange idea. And here is my own contribution: add to this strangeness the possibility that the supercomputing people of the future will build into their virtual worlds the truth of Mormonism, or some other faith that seems like it could not possibly be true at present. In which case, we may, in fact, be living in a world in which Jesus will return on clouds of glory to judge the living and the dead. Perversely, this could be a self-fulfilling prophecy: given how beguiled people have been by religious mythology throughout our history, our descendants might engineer specific religious doctrines into their virtual worlds just for the hell of it."
Harris, Sam. "Should We Be Mormons in the Matrix?" Sam Harris. 20 Apr. 2011. Web. 08 Aug. 2014.
The confused theory of panpsychism in a nutshell A move from materialism into idealism. The conclusion? Both materialism and idealism are absurd theories. And the advocacy of them will have absurd consequences: namely digital totalitarianism: a hybrid between Western Surveillance Capitalism and Chinese Communism – see my booklet: A Critique of the Simulation Theory and The Rise of Digital Totalitarianism.
10) The New Lysenkoism
As we have seen: Rupert Sheldrake advocates a kind of New Age scientism. This is peculiar enough seen as an opposition to another kind of scientism: materialism.
The problem is scientism itself: the idea that science is an ideology that should answer spiritual and philosophical questions. This is a misunderstanding of the scientific method itself, which is that a scientific theory should be testable. Not only has scientism nothing whatever to do with science, it is a distortion of the scientific method itself. It carries all the poisoning aspects of ideology. See my article: The Difference Between Philosophical Education and Ideological Education.
Already in my first article on this problem, The Matrix Conspiracy, I called scientism, The Illuminati, a term I find fully justified. In the beginning to my ebook on Dawkins I wrote:
”How, given the recent and unfortunate story of ideologically motivated conceptions of science – Lysenkoism in Stalin´s Soviet Union, for example, or Nazi critiques of “Jewish science” – could it again have become acceptable to behave in this way?”
It was therefore a mix between shock, and not being surprised at all, to find out that Sheldrake openly supports Lysenkoism (Stalinistic "science"). On his website you can find this article: Epigentics and Soviet Biology (if he decides to delete it, I have saved it on the Internet Archive: click here). He writes:
[…] Stalin favoured Lysenko, and geneticists were persecuted. This Stalinist approach increased the opposition to the inheritance of acquired characteristics in the West. The nature of inheritance became intensely politicized. Ideology, rather than scientific evidence, dominated the dispute.
The Western taboo against the inheritance of acquired characteristics began to dissolve around the turn of the millennium. There is a rapidly growing body of evidence that acquired characters can indeed be inherited.
In the mid-twentieth century, Lysenko and other Soviet biologists were demonized in the West for affirming an inheritance of acquired characteristics in animals and plants. Western biologists assumed that this Soviet research must be fraudulent. But in the light of epigenetics, can we be sure that almost all the papers on inheritance published in the USSR were wrong? Were all Soviet scientists totally brainwashed? Or were some of them sincerely reporting what they found? Among the many thousands of papers in Soviet biology journals, there may be seams of gold. No doubt these journals are still available in scientific libraries. If Russian-speaking biologists reviewed this literature they might unearth great treasures.
It should be noted that Lysenko´s ideas are pure pseudoscience. It is also thought provoking how similar Trofim Lysenko´s education is to Sheldrake´s own. Lysenko was an agronomist and biologist. As a student Lysenko found himself interested in agriculture, where he worked on a few different projects, one involving the effects of temperature variation on the life-cycle of plants. This later led him to consider how he might use this work to convert winter wheat into spring wheat. He named the process "jarovization" in Russian, and later translated it as "vernalization". Lysenko was a strong proponent of soft inheritance and rejected Mendelian genetics in favor of pseudoscientific ideas termed Lysenkoism.
Lysenkoism was a political campaign led by Lysenko against genetics and science-based agriculture in the mid-20th century, rejecting natural selection in favour of Lamarckism and exaggerated claims for the benefits of vernalization and grafting. Lysenko served as the director of the Soviet Union's Lenin All-Union Academy of Agricultural Sciences.
Joseph Stalin supported the campaign. More than 3,000 mainstream biologists were dismissed or imprisoned, and numerous scientists were executed in the campaign to suppress scientific opponents. The president of the Agriculture Academy, Nikolai Vavilov, who had encouraged Lysenko, was sent to prison and died there, while Soviet genetics research was effectively destroyed. Research and teaching in the fields of neurophysiology, cell biology, and many other biological disciplines were harmed or banned.
Other countries of the Eastern Bloc accepted Lysenkoism as the official "new biology", to varying degrees.
In Poland, all geneticists except for Wacław Gajewski followed Lysenkoism. He was not allowed contact with students, but was able to continue his scientific work at the Warsaw botanical garden. Lysenkoism was rapidly rejected from 1956 and the first department of genetics, at the University of Warsaw, was founded in 1958 with Gajewski as its head.
Czechoslovakia adopted Lysenkoism in 1949. Jaroslav Kříženecký (1896–1964) was one of the prominent Czechoslovak geneticists opposing Lysenkoism, and when he criticized Lysenkoism in his lectures, he was dismissed from the Agricultural University in 1949 for "serving the established capitalistic system, considering himself superior to the working class, and being hostile to the democratic order of the people", and imprisoned in 1958.
In the German Democratic Republic, although Lysenkoism was taught at some of the universities, it had very little impact on science due to the actions of a few scientists (for example, the geneticist and fierce critic of Lysenkoism, Hans Stubbe) and an open border to West Berlin research institutions. Nonetheless, Lysenkoist theories were found in schoolbooks until the dismissal of Nikita Khrushchev in 1964.
Lysenkoism dominated Chinese science from 1949 until 1956, particularly during the Great Leap Forward, when, during a genetics symposium opponents of Lysenkoism were permitted to freely criticize it and argue for Mendelian genetics. In the proceedings from the symposium, Tan Jiazhen is quoted as saying "Since [the] USSR started to criticize Lysenko, we have dared to criticize him too". For a while, both schools were permitted to coexist, although the influence of the Lysenkoists remained large for several years.
Almost alone among Western scientists, John Desmond Bernal, Professor of Physics at Birkbeck College, London, a Fellow of the Royal Society, and a communist, made an aggressive public defence of Lysenko.
In the 21st century, Lysenkoism is again being discussed in Russia, including in "respectable" newspapers like Kultura and by biologists. The geneticist Lev Zhivotovsky has made the unsupported claim that Lysenko helped to found modern developmental biology.
When looking at Sheldrake´s own obvious, political campaign, mixed with his pseudoscientific nonsense, it is thought provoking how close it is to the above description of Lysenkoism. And not surprising. Because Sheldrake is a child of the counterculture, and postmodernism is Stalinism in new clothings. And this is also the background for New Age.
Professor at the Vasilov Institute in St. Petersborg, Edouard Kolchinsky, warns, that the re-invention of the historical role of Lysenkoism is one of the most worrying tendencies in Russian science today. Read his article online: Russia´s New Lysenkoism (or download PDF version here).
Let me end this booklet with the same words as I ended my article: Yuval Noah Harari: A Neoliberal Marionet Puppet in the Dance Between Surveillance Capitalism and Chinese Communism. Harari is, as mentioned, both supporting atheist scientism and New Age scientism. The whole problem is therefore scientism as such. My end conclusion is therefore both a respond to Dawkins and to Sheldrake:
“Let us, for pedagogical reasons, and as a conclusion, repeat this Harari quote from Sapiens:
Scientists studying the inner workings of the human organism have found no soul there. They increasingly argue that human behavior is determined by hormones, genes and synapses, rather than by free will – the same forces that determine the behavior of chimpanzees, wolves and ants. Our judicial and political systems largely try to sweep such inconvenient discoveries under the carpet. But in all frankness, how long can we maintain the wall separating the department of biology from the departments of law and political science? (page 263)
“And my own answer in my Ebook, Yuval Noah Harari: The Historian Who Wanted to be Philosopher Instead of the Philosophers:
Think over that! Science needs to be politized! That´s precisely the scenario in Brave New World. This is simply scary. If Kurzweil´s [founder of the Singularity University, and “director of engineering” at Google], and therefor Harari´s, transhumanist theory of human nature, mixed with a relativism that removes the foundation of ethics and morals, is made into a political goal, we have a fascistic totalitarian scenario, were humans could be forced to undergo bioengineering experiments. In fact, as I will demonstrate in the end of this Ebook, this is already in progress. And this is the fundamental reason why Harari is carried to fame as he is, by an obscure Matrix elite.
“So, there is in fact, as Dr. Kai-Fu Lee pointed out, a New World Order emerging: the world of Alternative History, Alternative Physics, Alternative Medicine and, ultimately, Alternative Reality. How, given the recent and sorry story of ideologically motivated conceptions of knowledge – Lysenkoism in Stalin´s Soviet Union, for example, or Nazi critiques of “Jewish science” – could it again have become acceptable to behave in this way?
“Many transhumanists are atheists. Both Nazism and Communism were atheist ideologies [yes, also Nazism, despite its fascination with occultism - see my ebook on Dawkins]. An atheist should not be connected with these ideologies, but when we see how science now again is being abused as a means for reaching atheist ideological goals, the comparison should be made.
“It is unbelievable that an Israelian historian like Harari, who even is a professor, has learned so little from history. His alternative version of history is showing the end of Homo Sapiens (wise man), and the beginning of Homo Deus (divine man). I will agree that we are facing the end of Homo Sapiens. But the idea of Homo Deus is, as I have shown, based on both scientific and philosophical invalid premises. So, we are not entering the era of Homo Deus, but the era of Homo Stultus (stupid man). Just read this quote [from Harari]:
“This is the best reason to learn history: not in order to predict the future, but to free yourself of the past and imagine alternative destinies”.
“In his new collection, Homo Stultus, Taxiarchis Mermiris used ink to create a hoard of brilliantly stupid people who, within the context of many different environments, are ready to show off their power and domination. You are welcome to use this article on Harari as a presentation to the gallery. Visit the gallery on this link: Homo Stultus, by Taxiarchis Mermiris.”
Part one and three of this booklet:
Richard Dawkins and The Rise of Atheist Scientism (Scientism Critique: Part 1).
Gregg Braden and the Rise of New Age Scientism (Scientism Critique: Part 3)