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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 "

http://www.ted.com/conversations/16894/rupert_sheldrake_s_tedx_talk.html

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.

http://www.nih.gov/about/budget.htm

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?

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  • 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.
        http://undsci.berkeley.edu/images/us101/sciencerecipe.jpg

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