Tag: Rupert Sheldrake

207. Rupert Sheldrake Censored by TED Conference’s Anonymous Scientific Board

Interview with Dr. Rupert Sheldrake about censorship of his Science Set Free lecture. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Dr. Rupert Sheldrake author of, Science Set Free: 10 Paths to New Discovery.  During the interview Sheldrake talks about the controversy: Alex Tsakiris:   The irony of this is, if not hilarious, certainly inescapable. A reputable Cambridge biologist publishes a book claiming  science is dogmatic.  He’s then censored by an anonymous scientific board.  You can’t script that any better. What does this say about how science can be dogmatic without even realizing it’s dogmatic? Dr. Rupert Sheldrake:   I think this whole controversy and the people who have weighed-in in favor of TED’s actions do indeed confirm what I’m saying. These dogmas are ones that most people within science don’t actually realize are dogmas. They just think they’re the truth. The point about really dogmatic people is that they don’t know that they have dogmas. Dogmas are beliefs and people who have really strong beliefs think of their beliefs as truths. They don’t actually see them as beliefs. So I think this whole controversy has actually highlighted exactly that. The other thing that is highlighted is that there are a lot of people, far more than I imagined actually, who are not taken in by these dogmas, who do want to think about them critically. One of the remarkable things about these discussions is lots of people are really up for the discussion of these dogmas. They really want it to happen, far more than I’d imagined, actually. I’m impressed by that and I think this TED debate has actually helped show that the paradigm is shifting. There’s no longer a kind of automatic agreement by the great majority of people to dogmatic assertions by scientific materialists. Dr. Rupert Sheldrake's Website Click here for YouTube version Click here for forum discussion Play It  Listen Now: Download MP3 (31 min.) Read It: Today we welcome Dr. Rupert Sheldrake back to Skeptiko. Many of you know the work of Cambridge biologist, Dr. Rupert Sheldrake, including his latest book, Science Set Free. But now you may have heard that this book has seemed to have struck quite a nerve because Dr. Sheldrake has found himself in the middle of a controversy surrounding the censorship of a video lecture that he presented and that was then posted on the very popular TEDx YouTube channel. It was then removed after—and get this—an anonymous scientific board deemed it unscientific. Rupert, welcome back to Skeptiko. Thanks for joining us. Tell us what’s happened here. Dr. Rupert Sheldrake:   Well, you summarized it more-or-less. I gave a talk at the TEDx series of talks in London in Whitechapel. The organizers were young women, students at London University, who organized a very lively event. It was called Challenging Existing Paradigms. They asked me to talk about challenging existing paradigms, which seemed just the right theme for my book, Science Set Free. So I did a TEDx talk for it. It was extremely popular; the event was sold out. There was a lot of lively discussion that was really fun. It went up on the TEDx website, as these TEDx talks often do, and all was well until it was denounced by two of America’s leading militant skeptics, PZ Myers and Jerry Coyne, who didn’t like it because it upset their rather dogmatic materialist worldview. So they called for it to be taken down and they said it discredited itself, etc. They put enormous pressure on TED and then they got armies of their supporters to send emails to TED and put comments on websites.


184. Dr. Rupert Sheldrake Sets Science Free From Dogma

Interview examines how scientific assumptions about materialism and consciousness have constrained us. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with biologist and author Dr. Rupert Sheldrake about his new book, Science Set Free: 10 Paths to New Discovery.  During the interview Sheldrake explains his post-materialist worldview: Alex Tsakiris: I think that’s part of the problem. I think all these questions of the spiritual are not buried deep in these scientific questions you pose -- they’re right there under the paper-thin surface of them.  Take survival of consciousness, if we just look at the data and we say, “That seems to suggest that consciousness survives death,” well, for any man on the street, as well as any scientist, that proposition immediately launches us into deep questions of the spiritual. I don’t know how you can get around that. Dr. Rupert Sheldrake: I think it’s quite important to decouple these.  Although the science is very relevant to these issues it doesn’t map in such a way that to be an Atheist you’ve got to be a Dawkins-style materialist or to be a religious person you’ve got to be a dualist. I think what we’re heading for is a post-materialist worldview which is what my book is trying to point the way towards. We could have a holistic way of looking at things, a scientific investigation into things, which leaves these bigger questions open. For example, in one chapter of the book where I’m dealing with the dogma that memories are stored as material traces inside the brain that becomes the question, are memories stored as material traces in the brain? I’m not confident memories are stored in brains. I think that brains are more like tuning devices, more like TV receivers than like video recorders. Now that’s really a scientific question, how is memory stored? We can do experiments to try and find out how memory works. So for materialists it’s a simple two-step argument. Memories are stored in brains; the brain decays at death, therefore, memories are wiped out at death. Whereas, if memories are not stored in brains then the memories themselves are not wiped out at death. They’re potentially accessible. That doesn’t prove they are accessed, that there is personal survival. It just means that’s a possibility whereas with materialism it’s an impossibility. So one position leaves the question closed and the other leaves it open. Rupert Sheldrake's Website Click here for YouTube version Click here for forum discussion Play It: Listen Now: Download MP3 (38 min.) Read It: Alex Tsakiris: Today we welcome back to Skeptiko biologist and author, Dr. Rupert Sheldrake. He’s here to talk about his latest book, The Science Delusion. If you’re here in the U.S. you’ll find it at Amazon under the title, Science Set Free. Rupert, welcome back and thanks for joining me. Dr. Rupert Sheldrake:  It’s very good to be with you again.


97. Rupert Sheldrake and Richard Wiseman Clash Over Parapsychology Experiments

Lively debate between biologist Rupert Sheldrake and telepathy skeptic Richard Wiseman reveals wide rift between skeptics and psi proponents Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for a spirited debate between biologist, author, and telepathy researcher, Dr. Rupert Sheldrake, and noted researcher of anomalous psychology, and parapsychology skeptic, Dr. Richard Wiseman. During the 90-minute episode Sheldrake and Wiseman discuss the scientific evidence for telepathy and other psi phenomena. The debate covers a range of topics, but according to moderator Alex Tsakiris, the real friction began after the debate ended, "During the debate, Dr. Wiseman appeared eager to participate in collaborative research with parapsychologists.  He went to great lengths explaining why skeptics and psi proponents should team-up on experiments of telepathy and other psi phenomena.  But during an email exchange following the debate (published on the Skeptiko website), his stance took a radical change." According to Tsakiris, Wiseman stonewalled attempts to create a skeptics/proponents research forum,  "I contacted three very prominent psi researchers and convinced them to take Wiseman up on his offer.  They agree, but Wiseman would not.  He made various demands aimed at agitating the other researchers, and even balked at a mere one-hour initial dialog.  I was stunned, especially since I offered to fund the research." The discussion began with Professor Richard Wiseman offering a defense for scientific skepticism regarding psi phenomena, "In terms of my own research, some of it has looked at the notion that certain individuals possessing very strong psychic abilities, the mediums and the psychics and so on, and I'm very, very skeptical about that data. I don't think it shows anything particularly remarkable in terms of psychic ability going on. And then I've done a small amount of work, although other people have done a lot more, into the notion that psi is a more subtle signal. There, I'm fairly skeptical about the literature. I certainly wouldn't want to argue the case that psi definitely exists on the basis of that literature." But Sheldrake challenged the idea of relegating telepathy and other psi phenomena to the fringes of science, "I just want to go back a bit to what Richard called the Humian argument against miracles. Hume's argument against miracles was that miracles are extremely rare and it's more likely that people have been lying about them than that they actually happened. They so defy the common experience of humanity. Now, I think the argument is exactly reversed when it comes to phenomena like telepathy. They're not extremely rare. Whether it's 30 percent, 50 percent, 70 percent of the population who have had them, the details don't matter. The point is these things are very common.  Hume's argument was that commonsense, the kind of common experience of the bulk of humanity, is what gives credence to something. So I think it's completely inappropriate to apply an argument against miracles to phenomena which happen on an everyday basis to large numbers of people." Next, the discussion examined the institution of science itself.  Wiseman was asked to defend his statement, "I agree that by the standards of any other area of science that is proven. That begs the question do we need higher standards of evidence when we study the paranormal?". In defense of this, "extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof" argument, Wiseman stated, "I think that parapsychologists by not far from 100 years of research have failed to come up with that level of evidence. It's not to say they couldn't in the future, but to me there just hasn't been the level of progress that you would expect given the amount of work that's been put in... that strength of evidence simply isn't there." To which Sheldrake responded, "Again, I come back to the fact that what we're dealing with here is an ideological issue. I mean, what Richard calls mainstream science and there's a kind of materialistic faith that many scientists have, at least in public. Many of them in private have telepathic experiences and have quite different views. Nevertheless, he's right. There is a kind of materialistic ethos in science. I think that itself is something we need to question and look at because it leads to an extraordinary blindness. He said that if you said there's a car outside, you wouldn't need to look. If you said there's a spaceship, you would, because that's an incredible claim. So it's okay for cosmologists to claim there are entire universes out there, a whole lot of universes, not just one, but trillions. No one bothers to look. The reason that gets past the filters is it doesn't overturn a particular ideology. What's at stake is not science itself but ideology." Special thanks to Bruce Mann. Play it: Download MP3 (75:48 min.) Read it: Alex Tsakiris: We have a very special live dialogue today between Dr. Richard Wiseman, Professor of Psychology at University of Herefordshire in the UK. In addition to his job there at the university, Dr. Wiseman, as many of you know, is also a parapsychology skeptic and an author of many popular books such as Quirkology, which explores the quirky way our mind works.