The MWS Podcast 59: Rupert Sheldrake on Science as an Integrative Practice

Rupert Sheldrake is a biologist and research scientist and author of more than 80 technical papers and numerous books. He’s perhaps most well known for his book ‘The Science Delusion’ and his morphic resonance hypothesis. These will be the topic of the discussion today as well as exploring the idea of science as an integrative practice.

MWS Podcast 59: Rupert Sheldrake as audio only:
Download audio: MWS_Podcast_59_Rupert_Sheldrake

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About Barry Daniel

I live in the Lake District in the UK where I run a guesthouse with my partner Kate and my cat Manuel. I enjoy painting, hillwalking, reading, visiting and entertaining friends, T’ai Chi and playing the guitar. I’m engaged to a certain degree in the local community, as a volunteer with Samaritans and I’m a fairly active member of the local Green party. I’ve had a relatively intuitive sense of the Middle Way most of my adult life but it found a greater articulation and a practical direction through joining the society. It’s also been interesting and great fun engaging with other people with a similar outlook. My main contribution to the society is conducting the podcast interviews, something that gives me a lot of satisfaction and that I’ve learnt a lot from.

One thought on “The MWS Podcast 59: Rupert Sheldrake on Science as an Integrative Practice

  1. It’s good to have Rupert Sheldrake up here. As Barry underlined at the end here, he’s of great value as a scientific gadfly, whatever conclusions you may reach about the morphic resonance hypothesis. I think that hypothesis deserves the kind of further investigation Rupert described, and I’ve come across far too many commentators on the internet who just instantly dismiss it without reading ‘The Science Delusion’ or understanding it properly. Too many commentators also don’t seem to understand the provisionality of a hypothesis and feel they have to come down one way or the other: personally I think it’s entirely appropriate to reserve judgement and say “OK, Rupert, sounds interesting – keep working on it.”

    One point where I disagreed with Rupert was where he said that the materialist view of the universe was depressing, and that if morphic resonance proved correct it could open up a universe of positive values (I hope he’d accept that paraphrase). Yes, materialism is depressing, but so is moral absolutism, natural law or any other metaphysical view that assumes values have to come from a view of the universe itself rather than an integrated response to it. What makes it functionally depressing, I’d suggest, is an over-reliance of over-dominant left hemisphere thinking, and the remedy is not to seek refuge in the opposite, but to find that balance in our own response. There’s an important difference between an Aristotelian ‘Golden Mean’ view where ultimate value is assumed to arise from a cosmic balance in the universe, and the Middle Way, which draws value from experience in the way in which we engage with it.

    I guess this raises an accompanying aspect of the kind of scientific dogmatism Rupert attacks, which is over-specialisation. When one raises broader philosophical issues, many scientists may shrug their shoulders and say “that’s not my field”, but the inability to see a bigger picture beyond that field and its assumptions seems to me an important aspect of the dogmatism. Obviously there are practical limitations to what any of us can engage with, and for those (like me) who focus more on the philosophical side, there are limits to how far we want to go into scientific technicality. However, given that philosophy is both the glue that holds other disciplines together and the solvent that can help us question their assumptions, I really think it’s a reasonable demand that scientists should have somewhat better philosophical training. Given the importance of the philosophical issues he has raised, I also think it would be helpful for Rupert to engage with them more fully.

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