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Did Rupert Sheldrake make a factual error?

An editor at TED seems to suggest that Rupert Sheldrake made a factual error in his talk "The Science Delusion" when he said governments "ignore complimentary and alternative therapies." She writes:

"Sheldrake says that governments do not fund research into complementary medicine. Here are the US figures on NIH investment in complementary and alternative medicine 2009-2010: http://nccam.nih.gov/about/budget/institute-center.htm "


At the NIH link we find that the NIH invested $441,819, 000 in complimentary and alternative medicine in 2011.

But the total NIH budget is about $31,000,000,000 or $31 billion.


This means the NIH invested about 1.425% of its budget in complimentary and alternative medicine in 2011.

To what extent have other governments funded research in complimentary and alternative medicine?

progress indicator
  • Apr 8 2013: Of course Sheldrake made a factual error. He thought (ludicrously enough) that an organisation that touts itself as believing "in open enquiry and the challenging of orthodox views" was telling the truth. And since nothing, in fact, could be further from the truth, this was quite a factual error.
  • Apr 9 2013: The so-called factual errors were trumped up because Sheldrake disagreed with the materialist dogma and favored a scientific approach instead.

    A double standard was applied. Because Sheldrake disagreed with materialism, they went looking for "factual errors." But we could find the same sort of things and probably a lot worse in other TED videos. The "factual errors" were never the point.

    The point was always that Sheldrake had disagreed with materialism. The TED science board couldn't debate him on that issue because they knew he would expose them as dogmatists, so they trumped up these "factual errors."

    That is how dogmas are defended -- by distracting people from the real issues, ad-hominen remarks, and straw-man arguments, all of which we saw on display here.

    It's okay that TED and its science board have different views; that's their right. But I think they could have treated Sheldrake and Hancock a lot more fairly.
    • Apr 9 2013: Disagreeing with Sheldrake (and Hancock) is all well and good. I'd hope that any talk would open up issues for disagreement and debate. That people, like Jerry Coyne, sought instead to silence them speaks volumes. It shows fear.

      Worse, when TED advanced reasons to justify pulling the lectures and those reasons were demonstrated to be fallacious, Chris Anderson refused to address their wrongness for days, but then did so by crossing them all out. TED's reasons were thoroughly refuted and he conceded that. He has yet to demonstrate any errors that would justify the lectures being pulled. No one from TED has even attempted to address the substance of the talks since. They've also refused to put anyone forward to debate the authors, despite offers from both. In the final analysis TED has pulled these lectures for no reason at all that they are wiling to identify. I'm left to assume that they don't actually know why they pulled them.


      The other "error" identified by TED, and later crossed out, was that Sheldrake raised questions about the measured speed of light. Jerry Coyne misrepresented him as saying that he claimed the speed of light was falling. Coyne posted an explanation of the issue by physicist Sean Carroll who ended up validating Sheldrake's statements about the variations in the data and about speed of light having been fixed by definition. This was what TED put forward as "careful analysis" in its justification for pulling the talk. They apparently didn't notice that it validated, but did not refute Sheldrake. Sheldrake was further validated by two new studies that show fluctuations in the speed of light. http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2013/0325/Scientists-examine-nothing-find-something

      It's no wonder TED won't debate Sheldrake. He makes them look like rank amateurs. And all the nitpicking and semantic quibbling in this discussion doesn't change that.
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    Mar 21 2013: I think it's completely ridiculous how some have focused so much on one word "ignored" as the crux of an argument for nixing a TEDx talk. Ah, if he'd only said "mostly ignore". One little qualifier and we would have been spared all this silly hairsplitting. Seriously people.
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    Apr 9 2013: It is fascinating how – despite the passage of time - history repeats itself. This recent act of removing Dr Sheldrake's talk from TEDx website, as a result of pressure from the militant atheists, mirrors the actions of Spanish inquisition of middle ages. Then the catholic priests, convinced of their infallible knowledge of what true Christianity was, became the zealots – the self-proclaimed guardians of the Catholic Faith. The militant atheists of today, similarly convinced in their infallible knowledge of what is and is not science, are assuming equally zealous role as the guardians of the scientific truth. By their intolerance of any world-view that challenges theirs, and their preparedness to go extremes, both are characterised by proclaiming the information that challenges their view as heresy; in today's parlance it is the equivalent of proclaiming Dr Sheldrake's Talk 'a pseudo-science'. This is followed by destroying the information, which, at the time of Spanish inquisition, involved the torture of the infidels (to make her retract the heresy). Finally, there was the ritual burning at the stake*, - the final act of destroying the source of information, in order to prevent it polluting the other innocent souls. This behaviour, exhibited both by the guardians of Christian Dogma of Middle Ages (Spanish Inquisition) and the guardians of Scientific Dogma of 21st century (scientism) is well understood in human psychology. It comes under several names most common of which are: militant narcissism, paranoia, character disorder. They are all characterised by aggression, bordering on violence, towards the alternative view that may undermine the carefully protected image of the sufferer. The paradox is that this behaviour of these, usually, 'big egos', is rooted in their low self-esteem! It's time that these 'guardians of true science' are exposed and that the science which they are so jealously trying to protect is set free from their suffocating clutches.
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    Mar 18 2013: I am shocked to find there has been a controversy about Rupert Sheldrake, and then the debate is about the minutiae of what he said, rather than the broad thrust of his argument. The whole point about complimentary medicines is that it is treated not as the Cinderella of approaches to healing, but as one of the ugly sisters. If homoeopathy is taken as an example, there are regular articles, in the serious press, by commentators, about how "this approach cannot be treated seriously" because there is no physical agent operative after all the dilutions. In other words the dogma of science, the point Sheldrake was making as his opening, is used a priori, to show homoeopathy cannot work.

    Sheldrake's whole view of science is different - and not without an evidential basis. He may not be correct in all aspects, but then are all TED talks subject to this level of scrutiny, for every jot and tittle. What Sheldrake is doing is questioning the orthodoxy. It appearrs that the Orthodoxy Strikes Back. Shame on TED for stifling what should be a really interesting debate.
  • Mar 15 2013: Ted has removed the video from YouTube:


    But as I said in my previous post, the Ted science board actually makes a number of factual and/or interpretive errors of its own and doesn't show that Sheldrake made any.

    The board, for example, says that Sheldrake claims "scientists have ignored variations in the measurements of natural constants" and that this constitutes a factual error.

    But what Sheldrake actually said, at about 9:50, was this:

    “I want to focus on the constants of nature. Because these are again use [sic] assumed to be constant.”

    He is saying they are "usually" assumed to be constant, which is true.

    More to the point, those that hold the raw data on big G, for example, and refuse to publish it think G is constant -- they are dogmatic on the issue, and it is their voice that counts most here since they hold the data.

    The board also says Sheldrake made an error in saying that scientists believe animals don't have consciousness when there is a consensus they have some form of consciousness. But Sheldrake's point is that materialists reduce consciousness to matter, which is an assumption he wants to question, so this is a semantic/scientific difference rather than a factual error.

    Finally, the board says that "Sheldrake claims to have 'evidence' of morphic resonance in crystal formation and rat behavior" when the studies have "never appeared in a peer-reviewed journal." But immediately following that remark, at 9:45, Sheldrake says, "Anyway that’s my own hypothesis in a nutshell of morphic resonance.”

    "Hypothesis" -- so the context makes it clear he's not claiming it as a proven fact, but rather as something to suggest further study.

    Sheldrake does cite replications of these experiment in his book The Presence of the Past, beginning on page 199, so why not simply open a discussion about it and let Sheldrake respond?
  • Mar 20 2013: Yes, Rupert got the facts better than myself, TED, and everyone else here, didn't he? I read his response last night and was going to add his figures here tonight.

    Maybe we should all be more careful in our fact checking before we go accusing or correcting people on alleged factual errors.

    But the important thing is that we, together, as a group --TED, materialist dogmatists, Sheldrake, and everyone else-- get the facts right in the end. As Hilary Clinton once wrote, it takes a village.

    As any mature editor understands, no one editor will catch every mistake or clarify every point him- or herself, let alone every author or speaker on their own. Why be so quick to elevate oneself and put others down over minor factual errors?

    We need to take more of a process-oriented view where we are all in this together, all working on this together, as one group, rather than looking to go one-up on each other over minor details.

    Sandy, Edward, Pandelis, Bill, and Murray, thank you for your comments.

    Murray, I think you make a really important point when you say, "I am shocked to find that . . . the debate is about the minutiae of what he [Sheldrake] said, rather than the broad thrust of his argument."

    This is how the dogmatists of all stripes tend to go about their business, I have noticed -- ad-hominem remarks, one-upmanship, and nitpicking, as if showing that Sheldrake or someone didn't cross their t's or dot their i's somewhere means we are all justified -- nay, obligated! -- to dismiss all their work.
  • Mar 11 2013: As well as looking at the percentage of money spent, one also needs to know whether the researcher applying for money to test an alternative claim was in favour or opposed to the alternative claim being tested. The fact of the matter is that many conventionally trained doctors wish to see alternative claims banned.

    Many drug medicines come from plants. The pharmaceutical companies create synthetic forms with the goal of a patentable product for higher profits. These are not tested compared to the original plant extract but to a placebo instead. There are biases like this in the methods.

    Another fact is that alternative practitioners, seldom treat patients with a single therapy at a time and for example may drastically change the patients diet. Conventional medicine does not do this when testing, it is generally reduced to a test of a specific single aspect compared to a drug or placebo, seldom a whole lifestyle change.

    For example, if one were to test a how a seed grows on a lab bench by testing water, light, soil, etc. all in isolation, one at a time, one could present a claim none of these work

    Sheldrake has suggested in past the following solution to avoid biased medical tests, to avoid putting theories before empirical evidence and focussing on the actual outcome.

    '...“In terms of medical research, the placebo-controlled double blind procedure is still standard, but a far better method is to compare different treatments looking at outcomes. For example, people with persistent migraines could be allocated at random to acupuncturists, osteopaths, physiotherapists, homeopaths,allopaths and anyone else who claimed to be able to cure it. With reasonably large randomized samples, the question would then be, what works best? This would give theory-free, pragmatic, evidence-based medicine, and would be the best method for evaluating alternative therapies..' - Rupert Sheldrake
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    Mar 9 2013: Interesting, I watched the talk and read the info on the NIH website. I would like TED and Emily to respond to this interpretation. I would have expected the computational correlation to have been made by TED reps before allowing the controversy surrounding Rupert's talk to get this far. And may I remind you all, TED stands on it's laurels as an open forum for "outside the box" thinkers to engage in unorthodox conversations and share "ideas worth spreading" about a very wide range of topics not the least of which would be pushing back at the ongoing representation of science as dogma. Science is and must remain evolutional.
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    Apr 8 2013: The related discussion regarding the exTED West Hollywood event was closed down early, and many of the comments criticizing TED were censored by TED. But thankfully, the event will still be held... without censorship!

    And without TED!

  • Mar 15 2013: Thank you Katie and Edward for your comments.

    Katie I think you make a very important point about pharmaceutical "science" -- when they exclude all non-patentable agents for research money a priori it begins to look more like profiteering than research into the very best medicine.

    I also think you make an important point when you say:

    "One also needs to know whether the researcher applying for money to test an alternative claim was in favour or opposed to the alternative claim being tested. The fact of the matter is that many conventionally trained doctors wish to see alternative claims banned."

    It may be that every bit of the $441 million that the NIH spent, or most of it, was dedicated to finding fault with alternative therapies or at least applying them in a mechanistic fashion. We would have to really get into the details to know.

    Edward, I think you make a reasonable argument that spending $441 million on research doesn't amount to "ignoring," even if it is merely 1.425% of the budget. But that is assuming that it was sincere research into the efficacy of alternative treatments, as Katie points out.

    In any case, it has been shown that in Denmark they do truly ignore alternative medicine, and the same appears to be true for the UK, Sheldrake's home country, and Sheldrake's remark was about governments in general, not merely the U.S.

    We're still waiting for data from other countries. But while you can argue it both ways, I don't think anyone can strongly claim Sheldrake made a factual error here. In fact, he is largely correct, even in the U.S.

    But the bigger news is that Ted has removed the video from YouTube, citing factual errors:


    However, it turns out that Ted's board of scientists actually makes several errors of their own. More on that in my next post.
  • Mar 11 2013: Oh, that's a very good catch, Theodore. I will take some solace in the fact that you missed it the first time as well. :) Thank you. With any luck, I will never again forget to look at the top of those charts to check for that.

    So the NIH devotes 1.425% of its budget to alternative medicine. As Theodore said without exaggeration, this is "a thousand times better" than my original calculation suggested.

    Thank you all for your comments, Julie, Theodore, TL, Ed, Barry, Daryl, Fritzie.

    So, I think Barry's point that this can be argued both ways is a good one. The word "ignore" is arguably an absolute, so if the NIH or any other governmental agency invests even a dollar (or a Euro or a Yen) in alternative medicine, Sheldrake has arguably made a factual error.

    On the other hand, since the budgets are probably all so skewed toward "mechanistic" (or allopathic, pharmaceutical, conventional) medicine, we could also say that he was largely correct in what he said.

    We might also subtract 1.425 from 100 and say Sheldrake was 98.575% correct in what he said, at least with regard to the U.S.

    I was kind of hoping we would have an international gathering and people would pop in with numbers from Denmark, Sweden, the UK, Japan, Germany.

    Thank you for the university numbers from Alberta, Ed. We might not hold that against Sheldrake because his comment referred to governments, and the policy of University of Alberta, while in part publicly funded, may not qualify as public policy. But it sounds like a very progressive university.

    I have made some attempt to find the numbers for the UK. I think I may have the right document for 2011/12 here:


    But I haven't been able to find anything about alternative medicine in there. Perhaps the MRC really does "ignore" such medicine.

    I have a few more things to say, but I will have to leave it for another post as I am running out of room and time.
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      Mar 11 2013: "To err is human.." as Alexander Pope reminded us.
      However my algebra teacher urged me to always double check my math. :-)
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    Mar 10 2013: So profitability is the criterion for good science?
  • Mar 9 2013: IMO, this is a judgment call.

    TECHNICALLY, yes, Sheldrake said "ignored", implying that the number is zero and the number is not zero.

    HOWEVER, we ALL say things like this. If the figure for the actual research budget had been only $1,000 Sheldrake still would have been technically wrong, but I doubt very much that anyone would have called him on it.

    His talk was not primarily about budgets; his talk was not about therapies. Sheldrake was just using this as an example, and for the purpose of making his point, his statement is true enough. Compared to the enormous amounts that governments and drug companies invest in mechanistic medicines, you could properly say that governments ignore complimentary and alternative therapies. That is, in my judgment.

    Since your original question does not limit the topic to that one example, I must bring up his much longer treatment of the speed of light. On that subject, his statements were definitely erroneous and misleading. I am not a scientist, but I know enough about measurements to understand that there is a margin of error, and Sheldrake did not even mention the concept. Furthermore, the instruments used to measure the speed of light were improving during that time period, and he failed to mention that factor. In my judgment, this is a more serious factual error.
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    Apr 8 2013: "God delusion", "Science delusion". The message always seems to be "These other people are delusional. How can they be so blind to the truth that is so obvious to me and every other intelligent person?" The greatest delusion, is, perhaps, that we are more intelligent than other people (or a Pavlov's dog for that matter) or that there is any "truth" to see.

    At this point, I'm not sure what's causing more brouhaha - the talks themselves or TED's quashing them. None of this nonsense looks like intelligent behavior to me. How can you, people, be so blind to this obvious truth? :-).
  • Apr 8 2013: Thank you for your responses, Crystal. You make some valid points. However, I don't think Sheldrake's talk should be interpreted as describing "all scientists," but rather just the dogmatic ones who stand in the way of scientific inquiry. Interpreted like this, he didn't make factual errors.
  • Apr 8 2013: Sheldrake made many factual errors. What he posits as scientific prejudices or dogmas held by "almost all of educated people" is nothing more than a series of "strawman" logical fallacies.

    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’s vivid phrase, with brains that are like genetically programmed computers.

    >>> Mechanism actually refers back from the object or process, along some chain of causation. No description of mechanism is ever complete. The function of the object or process looks forward along some chain of causation to a *goal or evolutionary success.

    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.

    >>> Um, he obviously isn't up to date on scientific advances. He should totally check out VS Ramachandran, a popular neuroscientist who has been and is on the case.
    • Apr 8 2013: Citing the odd person who disagrees is to say nothing of what the overwhelming majority think. You will note the word "almost" in the quote you picked - this makes a difference.
      • Apr 9 2013: Ah, the ambiguity of language. I want to know how he determines what *almost all of educated people think.

        What percentage is "almost all?"
        Who does he consider "educated people?"
        Most importantly... What does he consider "think?"
        • Apr 9 2013: There's no requirement for a definite percentage - such phrases are well know. Educated people will mean something like people who have gone through a school and university education in, eg, the US or Europe and if you don't know what "think" means in this context then I can't help you.

          You are making the mistake of trying to find fault by pretending not to understand English very well. What Sheldrake meant is obvious enough.
      • Apr 9 2013: You are making the mistake of assuming that I am trying to find fault by pretending not to understand English very well. I noted the word "almost," well before you pointed it out. That's why I included it in the quote. See.

        I didn't say it required a definite percentage (as if that could somehow be achieved — let's just forget the term "limits" altogether). Vagueness is sketchy. Pseudoscientists often use the tactic of vague and/or exaggerated claims and ambiguous language.

        I think I know what "think" is; However, Sheldrake is uncertain. He thinks it has a little something to do with the brain. Really? OK. Yeah, it has a little something to do with the brain. Thank you, Sheldrake. I feel so learned now. Maybe that's what he means by educated people.
        • Apr 9 2013: You included it in the quote but then ignored the fact it existed by suggesting one person thinking otherwise refuted his claim. You say you didn't ask for a definite percentage but you did, you said "What percentage is "almost all?"" Re the stuff about "think" - now you're mixing up the discussion of what kind of scientific account we can give of thinking and what the word means in normal discourse where we are talking about, eg, what people think, irrespective of what scientific account of thinking we end up giving.

          The main point here though is that your questions about my post amounted to nothing. A request for a %age you now deny making. Complaints about ambiguities in language which are completely irrelevant to the issue at hand. And then a request for a definition of "think" in a context in which you understand full well what it means. Thus it's hard to take your complaints about the talk or your complaints about my response seriously.
      • Apr 9 2013: "You included it in the quote but then ignored the fact it existed by suggesting one person thinking otherwise refuted his claim."
        >>> Where did I ignore the fact that it existed or say that only one person refuted his claim?

        "Re the stuff about "think" - now you're mixing up the discussion of what kind of scientific account we can give of thinking and what the word means in normal discourse."
        >>> His mantle is what "think" means. That's why I question what he means by "think." I was merely staying on topic and used the term pejoratively, hoping you would make the connection. I didn't mean to offend you.

        "A request for a %age you now deny making."
        >>> I didn't deny making a request for a percentage. Please stop putting words in my mouth. I said that I didn't say it required a *definite percentage (since that's impossible to achieve — see the definition of the limit of a function).

        "Complaints about ambiguities in language which are completely irrelevant to the issue at hand."
        >>> Oh, but it's completely relevant. Real science doesn't deal in ambiguity. It does deal in limits, however.

        "Thus it's hard to take your complaints about the talk or your complaints about my response seriously."
        >>> Your logical fallacy is the fallacy fallacy: You presumed that because a claim has been poorly argued, or a fallacy has been made, that the claim itself must be wrong. Not, that I think it has been poorly argued, but you seem to "think" that.

        Sheldrake's overarching logical fallacy is burden of proof: that the burden of proof lies not with the person making the claim, but with someone else to disprove.
        • Apr 9 2013: You ignored it when you pointed to V S Ramachandran as if that one person - or a few like him - considering an issue did not mean that the issue was settled within the worldview Sheldrake was critiquing.

          You now deny you denied asking for a percentage, and yet here you say "I didn't say it required a definite percentage".

          You are mixing up the points about ambiguities in language and ambiguities in science. The ambiguities in language you are complaining about have no relevance here and are not ambiguities in the science of Sheldrake's claims in any event. It's unclear there really were any ambiguities in the way suggest in any event. I suspect you just said it because it sounded good to you.

          I've not concluded your complaints are wrong because they are poorly argued - I simply said they are grossly confused, wrong and poorly argued. Given that, it is hard to take them seriously.

          Re the preposterous claim that Sheldrake's overarching fallacy is the burden of proof. You appear to be just throwing out jargon in some scattergun (Gish gallop) attempt to confuse people sufficiently that they might believe there is actually a point in there somewhere.The fallacy you are making here is Occam's fallacy of affirming the begging of the consequent's question whilst simultaneously denying the wishfully thought antecedent via personal incredulity - or something.
      • Apr 9 2013: "You ignored it when you pointed to V S Ramachandran as if that one person - or a few like him - considering an issue did not mean that the issue was settled within the worldview Sheldrake was critiquing."
        >>> That was merely an example. I didn't realize I was responsible for offering a *definite percentage. Almost all educated people believe the Easter Bunny exists. Now you disprove.

        "You now deny you denied asking for a percentage, and yet here you say "I didn't say it required a definite percentage."
        >>> No. Again, I deny asking for a DEFINITE percentage. I placed an asterisk before the word, but maybe all caps will do the trick. You said "There's no requirement for a *definite percentage" and I agreed. What's the argument?

        "You are mixing up the points about ambiguities in language and ambiguities in science."
        >>> Ambiguity is ambiguity. "You are making the mistake of trying to find fault by pretending not to understand English very well."

        Either way, I have limited patience debating semantics. Taking the high road outta here.

        I leave you with one final image. Enjoy.
  • Mar 15 2013: I see here, as other places,the politically naive are commenting. Here is a quote from Dr. Kimble C. Atwood IV on the NCCAM.
    "We believe that NCCAM [National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine] funds proposals of dubious merit; its research agenda is shaped more by politics than by science; and it is structured by its charter in a manner that precludes an independent review of its performance. In view of the popularity of alternative therapies, it is appropriate to evaluate the efficacy and safety of selected treatments."
    Many therapies supposedly being studied by the NCCAM have been around for a very long time with already many private studies showing efficacy and yet the NCCAM has never found one therapy that was effective.. Maybe they aren't really wanting to find anything worthwhile.
    I have Dr. Sheldrakes book and I could find no reason to censor his remarks. Let those who made complaint debate Dr. Sheldrake if you really are interested in "ideas worth spreading". At least replace the video.
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    Mar 11 2013: Spending $441 million a year on something could hardly be characterized as "ignoring" it. Sheldrake stated that one of the 10 examples of delusions created by mainstream science today is that only mechanistic medicine works(#10). Was he wrong to use the word "ignore" (if, indeed he did)? Yes. Nearly half-a-billion dollars is NOT ignoring, even in government bookkeeping. Is that Sheldrake's point? I don't think so. I think his issue is with Science's promotion of the perception that only mechanistic medicine works. Factual error? No. Semantic error? Maybe.
    • Mar 14 2013: Agreed - spending $441 million would be significant if paltry, however the correct figure is $441 THOUSAND - beneath paltry - beneath trivial - beneath contempt.
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        Mar 14 2013: Wow! Something is rotten in the data barrel. The mccam.nih.gov website, linked in the OP, says the total NIH budget for 2011 was about $441M. The nih.gov website also linked in the post, says the NIH total investment in research is $30.9B. Do you get $441K for from one of those links? I think Mr. Marshall misinterpreted the figure as $441,819. It is actually in thousands of dollars so the correct number is $441,819,000 which is listed as the NIH annual expenditure total for 2011, NOT the expenditure for Complementary and Alternative medicine in 2011. That number is $107,113,000. If the NIH budget is $30.9B that is 0.34% of the total budget spent on Comp. & Alt. Medicine research. If the NIH budget is $441M then the percentage jumps to 24.3%. Thats about all I want to put into this.
        • Mar 18 2013: $441 million is still paltry, still trivial and still beneath contempt. 0.34% of the total budget is an appallingly repugnant commitment to the scientific investigation of complementary and alternative medicine a term that is itself insulting. Integrative medicine should have a much higher proportion of the NIH budget - instead of 0.34% - how about 34%? According to my calculations, 34% of the $30.9 billion is about $10.5 billion, a far more realistic figure for the advancement of science.
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        Mar 18 2013: RE: "$441M is still paltry. . . " Revisit the claimed factual error. The OP says Sheldrake claims C&A medicine is ignored. It is not possible to interpret that word "ignored" in any other way in Sheldrake's context than to be saying "C&A medicine is not even included as a budget item." Of course that is not true, or, to put it another way, it is a factual error, and, worse, it is a binary factual error. It is either 100% correct (C&A is ignored), or it is 100% false (C&A is not ignored), so partial credit is not permissible. Did Sheldrake demonstrate a factual error?. . . Yes. Had he included the word "virtually", he could plead not guilty. As it is, TED can dispense with him as they would a malicious, unqualified pretender. It's in the details!
        • Mar 18 2013: No, it's in the meaning. And you are reading your own meaning into Sheldrake's comment. You have set yourself up as judge, prosecutor and jury. Stop playing pedantic word games. Ad hominem attacks are below the level of discourse in scientific and peer-reviewed journals.
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        Mar 18 2013: RE: "No, it's in the meaning.. . " I intended no attack on Mr. Sheldrake. The adjectives I used are associated with the manner in which TED removed the talk, treating Rupert as if he were to be grouped with "malicious, unqualified pretenders". I make no pretense of being qualified to judge anything other than TED's assertion that there was a factual error in the talk. It is not in the meaning, as you hope, it is in the pedantic venue of semantic rules. "Ignore" has a very precise meaning. To say the NIH ignores C&A medicine is a FACTUAL ERROR. I favor Sheldrake's agenda, but this precise issue is in TED's favor.
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          Mar 18 2013: Rupert's response "This is a good opportunity to correct an oversimplification in my talk. In relation to the dogma that mechanistic medicine is the only kind that really works, I said, “that’s why governments only fund mechanistic medicine and ignore complementary and alternative therapies.” This is true of most governments, but the US is a notable exception. The US National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine receives about $130 million a year, about 0.4% of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) total annual budget of $31 billion.

          Obviously I could not spell out all the details of my arguments in an 18-minute talk, but TED’s claims that it contains “serious factual errors,” “many misleading statements” and that it crosses the line into “pseudoscience” are defamatory and false."
  • Mar 11 2013: According to the Wikipedia article on alternative medicine, the Dutch government funded research in alternative medicine between 1986 and 2003, and it formally ended such research in 2006.


    I've looked at more documents at the UK organization (MRC) website, but I haven't been able to find anything.

    I have more to say, but I'll save it for later.
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    Gail . 50+

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    Mar 10 2013: Governments fund mechanistic (drug) therapies because they are profitable, not because of a mechanistic worldview. That, in my opinion, is the factual error in that particular "Dogma" of his.
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    Mar 10 2013: Why not simply contact Rupert and ask him to address the points raised here?
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    Mar 9 2013: If I were researching this question, I might start by contacting NCCAM. Funding sources such as this one may well be aware of other organizations that fund the same areas.

    Good luck in your research.
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    Apr 9 2013: @ Steve Stark RE: "So we have some interpretations. . . " Like most grumpy old men I am also a pedant. In the original context of Rupert's talk he stated an untruth when he chose the word "governments". TED says that constituted reason for removal. The question here is, "Did RS make a factual error?" That question can be answered in the affirmative so long as no qualifications are imposed. If the qualifier that Rupert meant the UK only, then it can be answered in the negative. My point is that TED acted on the unqualified context based upon his use of the plural form of the word "government". I understand it has since been clarified and rumor has it all is well. I do not know what the current situation is. As to your second question I expect the more prominent proponents of C&E medicine will be more likely than most to draw attention from the TED curators and gatekeepers. That's the slope of the playing field. Thank you!
    • Apr 9 2013: Well, as has been pointed out, if one was to be really pedantic, one could argue that the mere existence of two governments doing as Sheldrake says would be enough to make the plural appropriate. By contrast, to insist he means "all" governments would seem to be veering into interpretative territory unbecoming a pedant, however old and grumpy (and male) the pedant might be.
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        Apr 9 2013: Granted. There can be no reasonable assertion that Rupert meant to say "No government anywhere supports C&E medicine in any way." Regrettably he did use a sweeping generalization which allowed an interpretation that stopped just short of such an accusation. Rupert is the victim here, but he should learn to be very, very careful when venturing into certain neighborhoods. Be well sir.
        • Apr 9 2013: We have almost reached agreement. That can't be right.
  • Apr 8 2013: Regarding telepathy and similar issues, I'll settle for a "Let's wait and see" approach, that it would be dogmatic at this point to assert that it definitely is or isn't possible. I think it probably is, but I understand there may not be evidence to prove it yet. This is not an assertion, but rather openness and curiosity.

    Sheldrake is not making assertions in his talk. Rather, he is inquiring, in the spirit of C. S. Peirce, whom he mentions. The idea with inquiry is to apply the scientific method everywhere, even on dearly held assumptions that don’t have hard evidence to back them up, and not privilege any interpretation without reason or evidence.

    Notice that he asks, “What if . . . ?” five times in his discussion about Big G. He uses the language of inquiry in Science Set Free as well (emphasis mine):

    “MAYBE the constants fluctuate, too, and PERHAPS one day scientific periodicals will carry regular news reports on their latest values. The implications of varying constants WOULD BE enormous." (p. 93).

    This is a scientific attitude -- open, curious, non-dogmatic.
  • Apr 8 2013: 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).

    >>> Did someone say Higgs Boson? The (simplified) idea is this: energy can be neither created nor destroyed, but it can be transformed. Instead of zooming out into oblivion, elementary particles, which have no intrinsic mass, interact with the Higg’s field, causing them to slow and change their kinetic energy into mass-energy. There are many other models of the Universe that don't involve the Big Bang. Even Fred Hoyle, who coined the term on a radio broadcast, used the term pejoratively.

    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.

    >>> Science includes many principles at least *once thought to be laws of nature: Newton's law of gravitation, his three laws of motion, the ideal gas laws, Mendel's laws, the laws of supply and demand, and so on. Other regularities important to science were not thought to have this status. These include regularities that, unlike laws, were (or still are) thought by scientists to stand in need of explanation. These include the regularity of the ocean tides, the perihelion of Mercury's orbit, the photoelectric effect, that the universe is expanding, and so on.

    5. Nature is purposeless, and evolution has no goal or direction.

    >>> In science, teleology is a way of modelling a system's behaviour by referring to its end-state, or goal. Opinions divide over whether Darwin's theory of evolution provides a means of eliminating teleology from biology, or whether it provides a naturalistic account of the role of teleological notions in the science. Many contemporary biologists and philosophers of biology believe that teleological notions are a distinctive and ineliminable feature of biological explanations.