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Rory
Post  Post subject: The Science Delusion  |  Posted: Wed May 07, 2014 1:35 pm
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Rupert Sheldrake, in The Science Delusion, posits that science is being held back by dogma, including ten core beliefs that scientists allegedly take for granted:

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1. Everything is essentially mechanical. Dogs, for example, are complex mechanisms, rather than living organisms with goals of their own. Even people are machines, 'lumbering robots', in Richard Dawkins' vivid phrase, with brains that are like genetically programmed computers.
2. All matter is unconscious. It has no inner life or subjectivity or point of view. Even human consciousness is an illusion produced by the material activities of brains.
3. The total amount of matter and energy is always the same (with the exception of the Big Bang, when all the matter and energy of the universe suddenly appeared).
4. The laws of nature are fixed. They are the same today as they were at the beginning, and they will stay the same forever.
5. Nature is purposeless, and evolution has no goal or direction.
6. All biological inheritance is material, carried in the genetic material, DNA, and in other material structures.
7. Minds are inside heads and are nothing but the activities of brains. When you look at a tree, the image of the tree you are seeing is not 'out there', where it seems to be, but inside your brain.
8. Memories are stored as material traces in brains and are wiped out at death.
9. Unexplained phenomena like telepathy are illusory.
10. Mechanistic medicine is the only kind that really works.


Immediate rebukes:

1. Not all mechanical systems are alive but all living organisms are essentially mechanical systems. If the mechanism in my watch were to confer upon it the ability to reproduce, to metabolise, and to process environmental information in such a way as to promote its own survival and reproduction, then it too could be regarded as living. It just so happens that its mechanism was the product of human invention and its end goal to tell the time, whereas humans are one product of evolution, whose 'end goal' (if you can forgive the tortured anthropomorphisation) is to promote propagation. I.e. life is not above the laws of nature.

How else might living organisms be understood, if not in mechanical terms?

2. Consciousness can be regarded as a state of 'awareness of awareness' and, as such, is not illusory. All of the known examples of consciousness in the world arise in living organisms, that is, highly complex and dynamic arrangements of matter. There is no evidence to suggest that matter not arranged in a way conducive to neuronal activity is conscious - and it does not help to assume otherwise.

3. Standard thermodynamics.

4. The laws of nature have been painstakingly deduced from empirical observations. Of course, therefore, they represent the most optimal model of reality in its current state. Technically, the future is unpredictable, but equally it does not make sense to assume that nature will begin to behave differently.

5. There is no obvious purpose, goal or direction as far as evolution or any other natural process is concerned. The most common suggestions, i.e. intelligent design, fail to explain the purpose, goal or direction of the designer.

6. 'Inheritance' may also occur at the social and behavioural levels, at least if the offspring is willing to mimic and/or learn from its parents.

7. 'Mind' is a loose term for the emergent properties of neurobiology. The term could be removed from the dictionary without loss of understanding with regards the nature of human thought. 'Nothing but the activities of brains'... this phrase is rather disparaging of processes that are highly complex and only today being studied in detail. Also, the brain may be a simulator of sorts, but this does not preclude the existence of objects in an ultimate reality.

8. Until the moment a dead person expresses a memory, this is a sensible assumption to make.

9. Given sufficient evidence, no doubt the scientific community would readily accept the phenomenon - it isn't the fault of the scientific community that the evidence is non-existent.

10. What other kind of medicine is there? Even herbal remedies, adopted by tribes wholly unconnected with modern medicine, work by one mechanism or other. Of course, to the tribes, the mechanism is irrelevant - the medicine is efficacious, and that is all that matters from their personal perspective - but that does not mean to say that the medicine is not 'mechanistic'. All of the kinds that do not work, by the way, are not medicine.

Sheldrake was a professional scientist associated with Cambridge University and has latterly worked to defend his concept of morphic resonance, or the 'memory inherent in nature'.

Is there anything useful worth taking from Sheldrake's criticisms of Science?

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SkinWalker
Post  Post subject: Re: The Science Delusion  |  Posted: Wed May 07, 2014 5:24 pm
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I think Sheldrake published his book and this list mostly out of some sort of spite since he's continually rejected by science.

In fact, I frequently see him referred to as a "former scientist," which is no doubt a personal dig at his qualifications however accurate the "former" part might be.

I think the 10 items above are the same as the items he used on his ill-fated TED talk, which was ultimately marginalized by the TED organization after the realized what a mistake they made in giving he and Graham Hancock a platform.

His recent publication is also an attack on the scientific establishment that refuses to accept his wacky ideas. He also engages in something I find fascinating, which is pseudo-skepticism. I'm at work, but I might be tempted to write more on this later.


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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: The Science Delusion  |  Posted: Sat May 10, 2014 3:52 am
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I think that science should always be open to criticism (and, in fact, tends to welcome it as an implicit part of the process), but that Sheldrake's points above fall far short of being valid or in any way helpful.

His ideas have largely been debunked or shown to be based on pseudoscientific methods. His conclusions tend not to be parsimonious. There are often far better explanations for the phenomenon he tends to describe.

In my opinion, he's not challenging science itself. He's challenging those specific scientists that have shown his personal life's work to be mostly garbage.

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Rory
Post  Post subject: Re: The Science Delusion  |  Posted: Sat May 10, 2014 8:40 am
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Sheldrake's probably right insofar as scientists need to remain aware of the fact that some of their assumptions may turn out to be fallacious, and that a paradigm shift may occur at any given moment, but I think he goes too far in suggesting that scientists deny the above points, and it is not particularly helpful to suggest the replacement of solid science with untestable hypotheses.

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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: The Science Delusion  |  Posted: Sat May 10, 2014 1:44 pm
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That to me sounds eminently reasonable.

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marnixR
Post  Post subject: Re: The Science Delusion  |  Posted: Sat May 10, 2014 2:29 pm
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in which case, let me rephrase :twisted:

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bunbury
Post  Post subject: Re: The Science Delusion  |  Posted: Sun May 11, 2014 1:22 pm
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Quote:
4. The laws of nature are fixed. They are the same today as they were at the beginning, and they will stay the same forever.


Some scientists such as Paul Dirac have questioned this assumption, and others are actively engaged in research to validate or disprove this hypothesis. If Sheldrake thinks scientists take this for granted he is wrong. As a practical matter most scientists can safely take this as a working hypothesis without giving it a second thought, because it doesn't affect their particular area of work. This doesn't mean their minds are closed to the possibility that fundamental laws could vary in time and space.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dirac_large_numbers_hypothesis

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20120329-can-the-laws-of-physics-change

In general, far from agreeing with Shekdrake's accusation of closed-mindedness, I would think that this pragmatic contingent acceptance of current hypotheses combined with open minded skepticism is the standard for most scientists.


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marnixR
Post  Post subject: Re: The Science Delusion  |  Posted: Sun May 11, 2014 1:58 pm
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let's put it this way : the working hypothesis is that the laws of nature remain the same, but it's not a dogma

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kojax
Post  Post subject: Re: The Science Delusion  |  Posted: Fri Jul 04, 2014 6:06 am
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Rory wrote:
Quote:
1. Everything is essentially mechanical. Dogs, for example, are complex mechanisms, rather than living organisms with goals of their own. Even people are machines, 'lumbering robots', in Richard Dawkins' vivid phrase, with brains that are like genetically programmed computers.
2. All matter is unconscious. It has no inner life or subjectivity or point of view. Even human consciousness is an illusion produced by the material activities of brains.
3. The total amount of matter and energy is always the same (with the exception of the Big Bang, when all the matter and energy of the universe suddenly appeared).
4. The laws of nature are fixed. They are the same today as they were at the beginning, and they will stay the same forever.
5. Nature is purposeless, and evolution has no goal or direction.
6. All biological inheritance is material, carried in the genetic material, DNA, and in other material structures.
7. Minds are inside heads and are nothing but the activities of brains. When you look at a tree, the image of the tree you are seeing is not 'out there', where it seems to be, but inside your brain.
8. Memories are stored as material traces in brains and are wiped out at death.
9. Unexplained phenomena like telepathy are illusory.
10. Mechanistic medicine is the only kind that really works.


Someone should come up with 10 beliefs that creationists take for granted. I'll give it a try.

1. Life forms are fundamentally different from inanimate chemical processes. Although many non-living chemical processes are equally dynamic and chaotic (such as a fire, or the surface of the Sun), none of their behavior owes to them having a "soul".

2. There would be a fundamental difference between a computer that exhibited all the traits of consciousness and the mind of a human being. The computer does not have a "soul". Indeed, even if a human child were conceived and born, but God did not imbue that child with a "soul", the child might still survive on the basis of chemistry keeping its heart beating and the neurons in its brain firing off. It might even grow up and learn to speak. However, without a "soul" it would not be a person.

3. God is not bound by the law of conservation of energy. He only imposes that law on Earth in order to test human beings.

4. God is free to change the laws of nature at his whim. He only chose the set of laws we observe on Earth in order to test human beings.

5. The whole purpose of all of creation is to serve the will of a single creator. That creator, in turn, exists only to serve he/she/it's own will. He/she/it's will simply exists. It has no purpose.

6. Biological inheritance is contributed to both by chemistry, and by other, non-chemical, factors.

7. Minds are contained in souls. When you see a tree, your soul sees a tree. It doesn't attempt to convert the data into any kind of form that could be stored in a computer, biological or otherwise.

8. Souls are immaterial objects that possess all the traits a material brain would possess, except that they don't die when the body dies. The memory information stored in a soul is not stored by creating an analogue of the objects or events that were observed to create the memories. It is stored some other way.

9. Most unexplained phenomena, such as telepathy, are either illusory or are caused by Satan. However, on rare occasions god may choose to perform a miracle.

10. Faith healing should be taught in schools as an alternative to mechanistic medicine.


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Rory
Post  Post subject: Re: The Science Delusion  |  Posted: Sat Jul 05, 2014 12:57 pm
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Quote:
God is not bound by the law of conservation of energy. He only imposes that law on Earth in order to test human beings.


:lol: Not so smart without our ATPs

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