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The debate about Rupert Sheldrake's talk

Please use this space to comment on the debate around Rupert Sheldrake's TEDx talk, as described here:

http://blog.ted.com/2013/03/19/the-debate-about-rupert-sheldrakes-talk/

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Closing Statement from TED

Thanks to all who participated in this conversation on TED's decision to move Rupert Sheldrake's talk from YouTube to TED.com. It was scheduled as a 2-week conversation, and has now closed. But the archive will remain visible here.

We'd like to respond here to some of the questions raised in the course of the discussion.

Some asked whether this was "censorship." Now, it's pretty clear that it isn't censorship, since the talk itself is literally a click away on this very site, and easily findable on Google. But it raises an interesting question about curation. Should TED play *any* curatorial role in the content it allows its TEDx organizers to promote? We believe we should. And once you accept a role for curatorial limits, you have to accept there will be times when disputes arise.

A number of questions were raised about TED's science board: How it works and why the member list isn't public. Our science board has 5 members -- all working scientists or distinguished science journalists. When we encounter a scientific talk that raises questions, they advise us on their position. I and my team here at TED make the final decisions. We keep the names of the science board private. This is a common practice for science review boards in the academic world, which preserves the objectivity of the recommendations and also protects the participants from retribution or harassment.

Finally, let me say that TED is 100% committed to open enquiry, including challenges to orthodox thinking. But we're also firm believers in appropriate skepticism, or critical thinking. Those two instincts will sometimes conflict, as they did in this case. That's why we invited this debate. The process hasn't been perfect. But it has been undertaken in passionate pursuit of these core values.

The talk, and this conversation, will remain here, and all are invited to make their own reasoned judgement.

Thanks for listening.

Chris Anderson, TED Curator

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  • Mar 22 2013: making it clear that sheldrake's talk is not something TED can endorse as being either scientifically or philosophically coherent is simple the responsible thing to do.

    the accusations of censorship are an unfortunate consequence.

    handling this in the way that you have is admirable in that you have transparently responded to the initial outcry and your perhaps unskillful managing of the problem.

    sheldrake is widely evaluated as a pseudoscientist with an anti science agenda, supernatural proclivities, paranormal claims and a position on the wrong side (says the data) of the materialsim vs idealism debate in philosophy.

    the 10 dogmas he lays out are not only mostly laughable, but rooted in that cynical piece of rhetoric used by so many postmodernists, sophisticated theologians, new age hucksters, and religious apologists - use religious language like "dogma," "heresy," "faith" etc to describe the scientific or materialist worldview.

    this is not only completely inappropriate and dishonest, it also seeks to erase the differences between science and religion, the massive breakthrough represented by scientific method, and in so doing, elevate unevidenced religious, paranormal and magical claims to being on a par with those based in evidence and reason.

    he (and others like chopra and b. allan wallace) is not unlike climate change deniers or "creation scientists" in that they demand that their minority and fringe opinion be given equal standing alongside widely accepted scientifically evidenced arguments.

    when they are called out on their pseudoscience, logical fallacies, and irrational beliefs they then begin the hysterical journey toward conspiracy theory, starting with crying censorship and claiming the faceless mainstream corporate machine has it in for them because they are threatening the status quo.

    scientists are not threatened by folks like sheldrake, but science education and well-informed public opinion are...

    good job TED team.
    • Mar 22 2013: On the contrary, when called out Sheldrake provided peer-reviewed science papers to support his claim and TED had to cross out everything they had said - didn't you know. Moreover, he offered to debate anyone from TED's science board on any of the issues discussed, but we have so far heard nothing back. This often happens, and then those on the side of the falsified reductionist model start throwing around insults (or rather continue throwing around insults) and repeat exactly the same stuff that had to be crossed out only moments before when it was shown to be made up nonsense.
    • Mar 22 2013: Hi Julian. Sheldrake took the time to rebut all of the charges TED made against him. I think anyone who wants to honestly and fairly debate whether what TED has done is right should take a look at what Sheldrake said here: http://blog.ted.com/2013/03/14/open-for-discussion-graham-hancock-and-rupert-sheldrake/

      Finally, I'm curious if you've read any of his scientific papers on these issues- or if you've only read what people who share your belief system have said about him/his work? If you're interested in educating yourself and reading some of them just check out his website.
      • Mar 24 2013: See you later this evening for an in depth response.
    • Mar 23 2013: You state that "Making it clear that Sheldrake's talk is not something TED can endorse as being either scientifically or philosophically coherent is simply the responsible thing to do." I wasn't aware that TED was supposed to be endorsing the views of every speaker. I thought TED was a neutral platform for the sharing of ideas in the hopes of generating more inquiry and discussion. Apparently, I was wrong. Furthermore, I heartily disagree with your sidelong attack on Sheldrake's talk as being philosophically and scientifically incoherent. There are thousands of people who have viewed the talk and found it perfectly coherent on both counts. It's a mystery to me what you found so hard to understand.
      • Mar 23 2013: first of all - sure, TED is a platform, but pseudoscience is a tricky problem because of it's intentional or unintentional dishonesty. so this puts them in a difficult position.

        sheldrake is a purveyor of pseudoscience. he does not add to the inquiry, he adds to the new age noise of misinformation designed to make it seem as if paranormal and supernatural assertions are more plausible than they are.... because he and his ilk don't have good evidence for what they want to believe, their only recourse is to try and discredit scientific method itself.

        lastly, it is not that i found his talk hard to understand, it is that i found it filled with logical fallacies, riddled with a problematic agenda, and willfully distorting of science in several ways.

        those who want to believe in consciousness as transcendent of biology, paranormal powers and other such notions unsupported by any evidence have to make materialism seem cold, mechanistic and inhuman, and of course utilize the language of religion to (ironically) make is seem as if a scientific materialist worldview is a kind of superstitious dogma.

        nothing could be more topsy turvy.
        • Mar 23 2013: Have you got an actual example of any of this? For example, where are the logical fallacies? These accusations are oft thrown out but seldom backed up.
        • Mar 23 2013: Julian, you have not read a single scientific paper or book by Sheldrake, you've listened to none of his debates with his critics (available at his website), yet you feel confident in making these sweeping assertions. It's remarkable. I provided you with a link to the charges TED made against him and his response. I don't think you even bothered to read those! How can someone so ignorant about what Sheldrake has said be so confident in their opinion about the man? It's like you're living in a bubble and you won't allow anything to penetrate it.
        • Mar 23 2013: For one who appears to place a high value on science I note a profound lack of evidence being cited in defense of your claims.
        • Mar 23 2013: I take great offence to you calling "sheldrake is a purveyor of pseudoscience". As a peer-reviewed published scientist, I think he would take offence too, as he fully supports and abides by the scientific method. Yet you continue to resort to unscientific pejorative labels.
        • Mar 23 2013: They don't have good evidence? Read up on the matter a bit more dude.
        • Mar 23 2013: For the record, there is much of Sheldrake's theories that I do not accept. But I completely support his right to present his findings.
        • Mar 23 2013: I agree with you that pseudoscience is problematic in its dishonesty. However, you make a completely false connection between Sheldrake's talk and pseudoscience. He was not purveying pseudo-scientific views. Rather, he was questioning and deconstructing the prevailing dogmas of science. Sheldrake is merely pointing out the rise of a dominant worldview that has essentially become its own religion. Questions are just too uncomfortable for some people to sit with. Questions and uncertainty make one feel vulnerable. The materialist worldview offers the illusion of certainty, which must be a great comfort to those who don't want to question. Give me topsy turvy any day.
      • Mar 24 2013: Everyone in this thread, I will be back later tonight for a full point by point refuting of the sheldrake talk. See you then! All the best.
    • Mar 23 2013: @Julian Walker: TED has not been transparent. It claimed that Sheldrake made factual errors, and gave one ambiguous examples. I'm still waiting to see the other alleged errors, if they exist at all. No scientist would label another as a "pseudo-scientist", the pejorative label has no agreed scientific definition. Only children resort to name-calling. "climate change denier" is another example of name calling, implying that no criticism may be offered. I have a scientific background, and am ashamed that scientists would suppress the talk of another scientist, and then try and justify their actions. TED does not have to endorse Sheldrake's talk, nor anyone else's, but of science publishes only papers with which it agrees, then we have a very sorry state of affairs.
      • Mar 23 2013: all criticism is welcome and encouraged! this does not mean that climate change deniers should be seen as on equal footing and deserving of equal audience as those relying on actual science.

        so to with sheldrake, chopra, and those with their agenda.

        it is not so much about publishing only papers with wich they agree, as it is having a standard for papers. sheldrake is dishonest in claiming to be presenting an argument that seriously challenges the edifice of science.
        • Mar 23 2013: If all criticism were welcome, then TED would not have suppressed Sheldrake's talk.

          Science is not biased towards climate change supporters or critics, their evidence must be assessed equally. Presupposing that one is less equal than the other is not scientific. The scientific method is very simple. A critic presents their evidence and makes their case, and someone else assess and possibly rebutts it.
    • Mar 23 2013: Well then....I wish they offered a THUMBS DOWN button on here.
      I have to say I DISAGREE with just about every single thing you write here.
      • Mar 23 2013: A thumbs down used to be offered, but it was removed due to abuse. Ultimately the marketplace of ideas functions just fine under a 'if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all' rule - and perhaps better.
      • Mar 27 2013: Aimee, exactly :)
    • Mar 23 2013: Isn't it ironic that you have no qualms about using that same language in a post condemning everything you consider heterodox? If anything that lends credibility to the movement to label such beliefs as dogmatic, since your comment is arranged around an argumentum ad populum fallacy.
      • Mar 23 2013: established scientific evidence and reasoned arguments based on what is most likely about what we don't know given what we don't know is not argumentum ad populum!

        this sentence did not add up - can you rephrase: "Isn't it ironic that you have no qualms about using that same language in a post condemning everything you consider heterodox?"
        • Mar 23 2013: Censorship (or suppression) is not "established scientific evidence and reasoned arguments".
        • Mar 23 2013: In other words: a widely held opinion. Science should not have anything to say on the matter, if done right. Sheldrake and Hancock merely expose that there are those that pretend that it does.

          Here is what you said: "sophisticated theologians, new age hucksters, and religious apologists". It's clear to me that you're trivializing Sheldrake's work as "anti-science" though the reasons for this claim are not made explicit. Bad company fallacy?
        • Mar 23 2013: But what Sheldrake's saying about ESP, to take one example, is that you haven't bothered looking for it, and you have ignored those who have looked because you know a priori it's impossible. Thus all the accusations of pseudoscience and dishonesty etc. I mean, why not just ask the question (some have), and why not just admit the evidence is puzzling and that at the moment nobody really knows how to account for it? That is the situation after all. Very strange things have been found and nobody knows what to do about it. That's science for you. All Sheldrake is saying is please don't shut your eyes.
        • Mar 23 2013: It's pointless to argue with Julian. He's read nothing Sheldrake has written, he won't even read Sheldrake's rebuttal to TED's criticisms, yet he's absolutely certain he's correct. He knows what he knows and can't be bothered with the facts. Ever tried to have a rational discussion with a fundamentalist about the Bible? I suspect it's similarly impossible to have a rational discussion with Julian about Sheldrake. In effect, Julian is a true believer.
    • Mar 23 2013: Could you describe the specific logical fallacies made by Rupert Sheldrake in his talk?
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      Mar 23 2013: Slandering an invited speaker at a TEDx event is hardly the kind of thing anyone should be proud to support. It's one thing to respond to a complaint. It's quite another thing to respond inappropriately to an unfounded complaint. TED still hasn't justified it's behavior.

      As it stands, TED is still hiding behind an anonymous "science" board that doesn't even have one member with the backbone come forward and debate Dr Sheldrake in a fair public forum.

      Secret boards, censorship, libel... that's not something to be proud of at all.

      TED still owes Sheldrake and Hancock apologies.
      • Mar 23 2013: That point should never be forgotten. These were guests not gatecrashers. It's not their fault that some of TED's new friends don't like them.
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          Mar 23 2013: I wish I had some thumbs up left to bestow upon you, Steve!
    • Mar 23 2013: Julian, your argument is very persuasive, but please try to understand that not all of us are convinced that your worldview is leading us down the wisest path. All of the fantastic advances in science and technology have represented amazing accomplishments, but they have also been coupled with tremendous sacrifices to our earth. Many of us feel that we have used our scientific prowess irresponsibly, leading to enormous environmental consequences, such as the Gulf oil spill, the Canadian tar sands, The Fukishima meltdown, and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch just to name a few without even mentioning global warming. I see these events as a failure of science to differentiate between the best interests of economic will and the public good. We are looking for answers to questions of sustainability that science has been unable to provide. We are looking for fresh perspectives on our humanity. I feel that materialist science has led to a crisis in the human condition rooted in sustainably unsound perspectives on the nature of reality. Sheldrake is not demanding that we abandon the scientific method or deny ourselves the advantages that scientific inquiry provides, he is simply asking for a moment of introspection to evaluate our assumptions.
    • Mar 23 2013: "Sheldrake is widely evaluated as a pseudoscientist with an anti science agenda" Sheldrake can hardly be accused of 'anti-science'. He not only adheres to the rules of the scientific process as demanded by contemporary mainstream science, but opens up to a wider definition of science.
      So who are the final arbiters of what science is?
      The Science Council (whoever that is) has spent a year working out a new definition os science. See this Guardian article here http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/blog/2009/mar/03/science-definition-council-francis-bacon
      A challenge to the prevailing dogma is hugely welcome. Sheldrake has resonated with those of us who love science but dislike being forced into the evidence-based science versus religion dichotomy.. We are capable of a far more nuanced and complex mode of question and analysis.
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      Mar 23 2013: May I applaud Julian Walker for astutely identifying the core issue I find in Sheldrake's presentation.

      " ... rhetoric used by so many postmodernists, sophisticated theologians, new age hucksters, and religious apologists - use religious language like "dogma," "heresy," "faith" etc ... to erase the differences between science and religion ... elevate unevidenced religious, paranormal and magical claims to being on a par with those based in evidence and reason."

      I'm sure there is a valid context of inquiry for questions about things like physical constants, the significance of variations in measurement etc, Well and good for a scientist to suggest further study. But Sheldrake subordinates the potential scientific interest of such questions to an ideological message, of a fatal flaw in entire scientific paradigm in crisis.

      Among foundations of the presentation , one to me eye seems a 'rigorously uncritical' oversight of key distinctions. For example, science and scientism. Meanwhile, dichotomies on which he builds his case - a general one about science in crisis, 'conflict at the heart' - appear fatally flawed. I'm sure science entails a duality - as a body of systematically gathered knowledge of the physical world (nature, natural phenomena) - and as method(s) on the other. But how could that pose some tectonic fault or oppositional conflict splitting the 'paradigm'? The duality would seem to me complementary like two sides of a coin. The matter of 'belief' or 'faith' in a scientific worldview isn't a term in that equation, seems to me. Whatever specific questions of theoretical importance can stand - neither scientific knowledge, nor methodology, stand on personal belief or disbelief.

      I'm troubled by precedent comparisons, too close for comfort - ex. Sheldrake's use of speed of light question, and equivalent propagandistic use by the religious right. For example: www.khouse.org/articles/1995/58/

      My blood chills at what I hear in that presentation.
      • Mar 23 2013: "I'm sure there is a valid context of inquiry for questions about things like physical constants, the significance of variations in measurement etc, Well and good for a scientist to suggest further study. But Sheldrake subordinates the potential scientific interest of such questions to an ideological message, of a fatal flaw in entire scientific paradigm in crisis."
        Right - this is why Sheldrake's talk is more philosophy-of-science than science.

        "Among foundations of the presentation , one to me eye seems a 'rigorously uncritical' oversight of key distinctions. For example, science and scientism. "
        Sheldrake did make this this distinction at the beginning of his talk, saying: "there's a conflict in the heart of science between science as a method of enquiry based on reason, evidence, hypothesis and collective investigation, and science as a belief system or a worldview"
        Sometimes he uses the word 'science' to mean inquiry ("I'm a total believer in the importance of science") and sometimes he uses the word 'science' to mean philosophical materialism ("the ten dogmas or assumptions of science"). I think this homophony leads to confusion. One lesson I've learned from this incident is to never give materialism the label 'scientific'; it creates confusion, and allows defenders of materialism to accuse their opponents of being anti-scientific.
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          Mar 25 2013: Conor, you make many important points I can only affirm, if in different light. You definitely help clarify the issue. I don’t take that for granted, from my sense of most of the liveliness here.

          You’re right about Sheldrake’s dual, split use of ‘science’ – along with its true definition, he uses it to mean a “belief system or worldview.” That goes to my observation, of his failure to distinguish science, as such, from materialism (or scientism, ‘radical secularism’ etc.) He categorically confuses them - as I find reflected in the quote you cite above.

          Sheldrake renders this crucial distinction implicit not explicit – obscuring rather than clarifying it. The literal meaning of ‘science’ is ‘knowledge;' and that, not belief / disbelief, is the product of its method(s). But Sheldrake makes no mention of knowledge as distinct from 'belief or worldview' - in effect, passively conflating them.

          Its a common mistake, a confusion in popular currency, Sheldrake easily builds on it by simply saying nothing to address it as such. Due to ideological aspects implicated in such 'casual' oversight of fine critical nuance, this is a key point. You perceptively noted how, by exactly such carelessness - ‘scientific’ materialists can call non-materialists ‘unscientific.’

          Thing is - its not just materialists who can exploit that false equation. By a reverse play, it also enables religious interests to scorn science as dogmatic, call it a religion of ‘godless atheism’ etc.

          Alas, that's close to Sheldrake’s message. Though its left-fringe, rightwing pseudoscience provides a necessary critical comparison standard, simply because its well known and exposed - compared to its counterparts (in Western hermetic and esoteric currents, including psychedelicism).

          (W. Hanegraaff" ...almost no research has been done into this phenomenon as such, its origins, its theoretical underpinnings, the authors responsible for it, or the current of alternative spirituality ...")
      • Mar 24 2013: Brian I will,be back later today to do a full point by point refuting of the sheldrake talk, as these more structural observations are met with predictable (if sincere) reactions. Hope to see you in the mix!
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          Mar 25 2013: Thanks Julian, I stay tuned with interest and appreciation for your input. Seems like a lot of unfocused attention and energy here, so its good to see some genuine discussion from guys like you, and Conor.

          Tried 'thumbs upping' your post just now - got some smart aleck error msg - "you've used up your thumbs-up quota for this poster, sorry, hah hah" or some such. Keep the fire burning, and kudos for your participation.
      • Mar 24 2013: "science entails a duality - as a body of systematically gathered knowledge of the physical world (nature, natural phenomena) - and as method(s) on the other. But how could that pose some tectonic fault or oppositional conflict splitting the 'paradigm'? The duality would seem to me complementary like two sides of a coin."
        Hi Brian, I've been thinking about this. The situation seems clearer to me if I think of science as having four elements, not two:
        1) Data. (i.e. "body of systematically gathered knowledge of the physical world")
        2) Methods
        3) Theories
        4) Philosophical assumptions (i.e. 'paradigm' in Kuhn's sense)
        When you model it like this, your question "how could that pose some tectonic fault or oppositional conflict splitting the 'paradigm'?" becomes easier to answer. The tension is between data and paradigm, not data and method.

        With apologies to Kuhn for collapsing his thought into a paragraph: Kuhn said that the paradigm determines the theory and directs the investigation. Sheldrake's example of this (from the talk) is that the Platonist paradigm implies the theory that constants are constant, and causes scientists to average measurements of big G rather than look for fluctuations. (Paradigm > theory > method.) But sometimes investigation throws up data that clashes with the paradigm (e.g. evidence of wave-particle duality, evidence of telepathy). For psychological reasons (to do with confirmation bias) this data is suppressed, ignored, ridiculed etc. It is certainly not published in the most respected journals. But eventually the data weighing against the existing paradigm becomes too massive and the paradigm has to crack.
    • Mar 24 2013: Firstly, thanks to Julian Walker and Brian Akers for representing the anti-Sheldrake position here, and doing it in a reasonable and polite way.

      "this is not only completely inappropriate and dishonest, it also seeks to erase the differences between science and religion, the massive breakthrough represented by scientific method, and in so doing, elevate unevidenced religious, paranormal and magical claims to being on a par with those based in evidence and reason."

      Personally, I think pointing out the irrationality, confirmation bias and human fallibility of scientists is a step forward for reason, not backward. The scientific method is a device for debugging human inquiry, hopefully making it rational. BUT it is never practised perfectly. I stress this because it is not recognized by believers in scientism: science as it is practised in universities, research companies etc. is FULL of irrationality, assumptions, and agendas motivated by confirmation bias and money. Earning a Ph.D does not root all the cognitive biases out of a person's brain. Might it not be very, very useful to sometimes remind scientists that they are as prone to dogma, superstition and faith as anyone else? What if shining the light of awareness on scientists' biases helps them to think more rationally? Does that "erase... the massive breakthrough represented by scientific method"? Or does it defend the scientific method against the natural unscientific thinking of human psychology?

      Sheldrake is entirely unlike a New Age anti-science agitator because he believes in the scientific method and spends his working life conducting controlled experiments. I think he makes it as clear as day that he is NOT out to attack the scientific method; he is out to use it to investigate materialism, to "take the ten dogmas or assumptions of [materialist] science and turn them into questions, seeing how well they stand up if you look at them scientifically".
      • Mar 24 2013: Thanks Connor for being reasonable too!
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          Mar 27 2013: Hi Noah (I hope this displays under your post to me, which shows no 'reply' queue ;-( !

          The nuance, as you rightly put it, is indeed the crucial zone of comprehension. Do you consider ideology categorically identical to philosophy - a synonym?

          I ask because of your express perplexity, as to why I might "think there's a difference between ideology and philosophy." Is such a notion, for you, that strange or new? No more than a thought someone is having (your humble narrator, moi)?

          Not knowing your background, education, specializations etc - have you looked into basic educated perspectives, from liberal arts and humanities, political or social sciences etc - about is meant by the term 'ideology'? I'm not much for arguing, I'm more interested in questioning, critical inquiry. I have everything to find out, to learn, to discover - nothing to prove.

          I believe you're on right track to ponder whether you've understood well. But may I suggest, look into these questions if you like. There's a massive legacy of study and educated inquiry, and any who'd look into it have homework to do. I can't task you, but kindly let me know if there is anything I can say to encourage you, Noah, to become an 'inquiring mind' - finding out. I'm more sponge than fountain. What have scholars and leading authorities in relevant fields (including philosophy) had to say, from their research and studies - about ideology, what it is, what defines it. That would be the work you take on, if you're interested in such questions.

          Perhaps you feel I've misunderstood your purport, i.e. that maybe ideology doesn't differ significantly from philosophy (or science?). I feel I understand what you say clearly, and find ground for question - deeply.

          Arguing's not much my cup of tea, however popular a sport. Here's an interesting 'google hit' - just came up. Easy to look into things, as what I like to do: www.differencebetween.net/miscellaneous/difference-between-philosophy-and-ideol
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        Mar 25 2013: Appreciation returned from loyal opposition, Conor. Your many good points and observations, helpful in many ways.

        Our disagreement is at the level of larger perspective - and that's where the I feel the actual problem lies. I'm glad you're willing to engage there, with intellectual integrity and purpose. As a basic consideration of complex issues in conflict, the mere possibility of communication depends critically on common purpose of opposed voices, in dialogue if possible - toward better mutual understanding, at least, if not agreement. You bring a multitude of important considerations to the table, which actually facilitates discussion - otherwise entangled by all kinds of red herrings, confusion, and questions of fundamental purpose. So - thanks for what and how you're doing.

        An overarching aspect of dilemma I ponder - is a need for hypothesis-testing inquiry, toward a fuller understanding in general, of factors operant in our ideologically tempestuous milieu. The paradigm level is where a lot of the action is, and needs better illumination.

        In our era, ideologies - not to be confused with philosophy, or with science - both left and right seem to have become ambitious, even aggressive. Pseudoscience, and pseudophilosophy, become ideal 'sheep's clothing' for purposes of staking out claims, to demand places in discussion arenas of broadly critical interests, that would question ideological movements and their assertions without disguise. There's a lot going on, many questions not yet asked much less answered.

        Overall - my perspective rests in some vital distinctions, such as an ostensible idea placed out on exhibit, and an operant idea it may harbor or conceal. Another nuance is to distinguish between philosophy proper, and ideology trying to philosophize or sound philosophical. That's why I linked that hardline Christian discussion - about the speed of light and how it means science is imperiled at its very core. That's not philosophy.
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        Mar 25 2013: Conor, you've wonderfully emphasized the key questions I consider of critical essence. Like science and other disciplines, philosophy is critical inquiry; New Age anti-science drum beating is not.

        Unlike yourself, as you clearly detail - I can only find Sheldrake's message, put to proper litmus test and analysis, in adequate theoretical light - proves to be the latter not the former. The very heart of the matter. He uses plenty of dissembling and rhetorical ploy to effect a contrary appearance, along lines you plead -- on many a worthy, reasonable consideration - in principle; whether or not in application, this case file.

        I feel part of our disagreement originates in context of what questions we’re asking, from what perspectives – methods of investigation or analysis, from what informed disciplines. Science both natural and social, is vital. But DRAGNET-like questions can shed a completely different light on what meets the eye in ‘funny theorizing.’ A ruse means to go undetected as such. Its one thing to realize a theory per se doesn't stand up as such. But it took legal process in Dover PA - with crack forensic work plus expertise in biology, to unmask Intel Design, as “not science, but an incredible simulation.”

        Quarrels of emergent neotradition with science are poorly known compared to old time religion’s. They pose an equal but ideological opposite’ type anti-science backlash, traceable to the ‘Romantic Counter-Enlightenment’ - bummed out thinking science spoils faith without offering an 'alternative' or substitute. I find study of subcultures and currents in our milieu and history indispensable as a crucial framework of inquiry, for discovering by methodical test - how and why Sheldrake’s talk doesn’t qualify as philosophy or science.

        A revealing moment in this regard, is Sheldrake’s recourse to an eloquently worded, blatantly ideological quote: “Give us one free miracle, and we’ll explain the rest.” Its skin-crawling (con't) ...
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        Mar 25 2013: (con't) That ‘one free miracle’ rationalization precisely echoes a notorious pseudo-critique of ‘Darwinism’ from "Sciencey" Creationism, for not explaining biogenesis - on pretense it must. The line goes: since natural selection doesn’t tell us how life started, its invalid - period. And so, as its sun sinks in the west, the ‘moral of the story’ is of an entire paradigm of science in crisis, headed for a big crash. Lyrics differ slightly in Sheldrake’s rendition but its quite the same song to my ear.

        Again, for valid analysis here - I can't sufficiently emphasize, from my perspective, how critically vital study of things like anti-science rhetoric of the religious right is (being so well known and exposed).

        The ‘logic’ alone - ahem (you be the judge) - marks Sheldrake’s message as ideology, not philosophy or science. But from a more specialized standpoint in my own studies, the 'intellectual authority' Sheldrake cites with that quote is a dead giveaway - a veiled genuflection to the name ‘Terence McKenna' - exalted charismatic icon of contemporary psychedelia, surrounded by cultish veneration and false claims of ‘contributions’ to science, philosophy, etc.

        Invoking the name as an intellectual precedent or authority, is a note almost unheard by uninitiated ears. But its mere mention is inspirationally electrifying fanfare to an enraptured choir devoted to embroidering his iconic legend as a genius - ‘an unsung Newton’ (his phrase).

        This ‘alternate current’ has flown largely below radar of broader awareness, so far almost undetected. But among indicators: McKenna founded 2012ism (his "theory" of time)(http://wouterjhanegraaff.blogspot.com/2013/03/grand-theories-weak-foundations.html). He also crafted a new type evolutionary pseudoscience to rival that of the religious right. Mainly he founded a tradition of venerating his name, celebrating his ‘contributions’ as heralded in psychedelia – a cultic submilieu enthralled by a charismatic spell he uniquely cast.
        • Mar 27 2013: Hi Brian. I read your responses, and while I appreciate your thoughtfulness, and that you took the time to type out and share your concerns, I think you're just engaging in begging the question, albeit in sophisticated fashion.

          For instance, I can't tell why you think there's a difference between ideology and philosophy. You seem to just assume that philosophy is more honest, so you can put Sheldrake in the 'dishonest' category.

          Also, I'm at a loss as to how Sheldrake's friendship with the late Terence McKenna bears at all on this discussion. Your dislike for McKenna is evident, but his observation regarding the 'big bang' is, I think, a valid point about the limits of our knowledge. You seem to think Sheldrake's association with him discredits his work. But McKenna's character is not really at issue.

          I'm having a hard time understanding why it's so difficult to articulate an argument for discrediting Sheldrake without resorting to this kind of intellectual subterfuge other than the possibility you really want to believe it's true; that your belief (that Sheldrake is mistaken) is shaken, and you're trying to devise a means to convince yourself it's true. I don't mean to seem untoward. Maybe I've miscalculated. Perhaps I am unable to grasp the level of nuance in your comments. Maybe you can help me to understand what I'm not getting by speaking as to a layman.
        • Mar 27 2013: Hi Brian, I saw your post above and would like to share my impressions. I agree, the nested response structure here makes things a bit tricky:

          First, I think the link you provided is unsatisfactory because it's centered around what I consider to be an etymological fallacy. There are many uses of either word that currently overlap. Because the meanings of 'philosophy' and 'ideology' contain a degree of ambiguity, I reject many of the conclusions of that article, namely that philosophy is objective, or that deology is only concerned with the future. I am inclined to view this strategy as raising what I would call trivial objections.

          I would suggest it is philosophy's fundamental nonobjectivity -- it's unprovable nature -- as being what is at issue here. In that sense, 'philosophy' and 'ideology' are similar in that both are predicated on belief in some axiomatic truth, in my view.

          Anyway, thanks for clarifying your thoughts. We seem to both be devoted to critical inquiry, though we reach opposite conclusions.
    • Mar 27 2013: gee, isn't this what Sheldrake talked about in his TEDx talk that got yanked by TED? who woulda thunk? ;)

      "As a result, there is a theoretical possibility that the speed of light is not fixed, as conventional physics has assumed. But it could fluctuate at a level independent of the energy of each light quantum, or photon, and greater than fluctuations induced by quantum level gravity. The speed of light would be dependent on variations in the vacuum properties of space or time. The fluctuations of the photon propagation time are estimated to be on the order of 50 attoseconds per square meter of crossed vacuum, which might be testable with the help of new ultra-fast lasers.Leuchs and Sanchez-Soto, on the other hand, modelled virtual charged particle pairs as electric dipoles responsible for the polarisation of the vacuum."

      Speed of Light May Not Be Fixed, Scientists Suggest; Ephemeral Vacuum Particles Induce Speed-Of-Light Fluctuations
      ~ http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130325111154.htm
    • Mar 27 2013: Julian,

      first of, i'm glad to see you here on TED conversations. perhaps we can rehash our spirited and passionate debates we've had elsewhere (i.e. Facebook) :)

      based on what you wrote, i can only skratch my head in amazement/amusement with everything you said.

      i'm not sure if you've followed this TED fiasco since the beginning, or have read Sheldrake and Hancock's responses, or have read the open letter by TEDxwhitechapel who organized the event, or have even considered the massive support of most people in TED conversations behind Sheldrake and Hancock. i won't rehash my argument on this because i've already covered it on my blog. see
      http://www.c4chaos.com/2013/03/tedxwhitechapel-calls-out-ted-to-reinstate-sheldrake-and-hancocks-talks/

      in any case, i'll offer my two cents here to refute your series of poor arguments and logical fallacies. but since there's only limited characters for each comment, i'll break up my responses to you in a series of replies.

      please read my series of replies below.
    • Mar 27 2013: you wrote: "sheldrake is widely evaluated as a pseudoscientist with an anti science agenda, supernatural proclivities, paranormal claims..."

      really? just because some loud scientists "evaluated" Sheldrake as "a pseudoscientist" doesn't mean that it's true and well-argued.

      Sheldrake is a hardcore scientist *not* a "pseudoscientist." if you want to play the credentials game, how about getting to know the credentials of Sheldrake? published on Nature, Research Fellow on the Royal Society, etc.

      your logical fallacy, it seems to me, is: https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/appeal-to-authority

      as for Sheldrake's morphogenetic field theory, there are circumstantial and anecdotal evidence to support it, as he claims. also, Sheldrake has proposed tests for his theory. Sheldrake's theory can be tested and falsified. he even invited other scientists to test his theory.

      it's one thing to disagree with Sheldrake's interpretation of data to support his theories. it's another to call the guy a "pseudoscientist." the former is a valid way of critique among scientists. the latter is just pure and simple character assassination via name-calling.

      your logical fallacy, it seems to me, is: https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/ad-hominem

      what's your understanding of "pseudoscience" anyway? i remember you labeling NDE (Near-Death Experience) research as "pseudoscience" before. do you still think that NDE is pseudoscience?
    • Mar 27 2013: (continued)

      Julian wrote: "the 10 dogmas he lays out are not only mostly laughable, but rooted in that cynical piece of rhetoric used by so many postmodernists, sophisticated theologians, new age hucksters, and religious apologists - use religious language like "dogma," "heresy," "faith" etc to describe the scientific or materialist worldview."

      oh, really? have you actually watched Sheldrake's entire lecture on the 10 dogmas or have read his book "Science Delusion"? i admit, i haven't read Sheldrake's book, yet. but i have watched his series of lectures on this subject.

      your logical fallacy, it seems to me, is: https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/strawman

      btw, for those who have actually watched Rupert Sheldrake's TEDx talk and think that TED doesn't really have a good reason to pull it out of the official distribution channel, here's the 1 hour and 15 minutes version of that talk. it's more nuanced. it's more awesome. you're welcome.

      Dispelling the Ten Dogmas of Materialism & Freeing the Spirit of Enquiry - DR RUPERT SHELDRAKE ~ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-XcfhGxdZ3Y
    • Mar 27 2013: (continued)

      Julian wrote: "he (and others like chopra and b. allan wallace) is not unlike climate change deniers or "creation scientists" in that they demand that their minority and fringe opinion be given equal standing alongside widely accepted scientifically evidenced arguments."

      oh, really? by name-dropping Chopra and B. Alan Wallace you are conflating Rupert Sheldrake with other personalities. this argument, it seems to me, is another red herring. it's a form of personality conflation/association and strawman attack. your logical fallacy is: https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/strawman

      and besides, i can turn your argument on its head and call you and other "skeptics" to be not unlike "climate change deniers" on the subject of psi.

      are you familiar with the Ganzfeld experiments?

      have you read Dean Radin's presentation of data in his book "The Conscious Universe" on the meta-analyses of psi experiments which yielded a significant result in favor of psi? (in fact, the meta-analyses results are more significant compared to the typical drug meta-analyses done in pharmaceutical research.)

      i'm sure you have seen the Persinger lecture i posted earlier where Persinger presented a summary of his published research (see PubMed) on his experiments with the late psychic Ingo Swann.

      here's the link again: Michael Persinger- No More Secrets: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9l6VPpDublg

      these are just some of the studies on psi i can cite right away. it should be more than enough for you to chew on. (if you really care about science, experiments, and data).

      so who's the "denier" now? :)
    • Mar 27 2013: (continued)

      Julian wrote: "scientists are not threatened by folks like sheldrake, but science education and well-informed public opinion are..."

      oh, really? if they are not threatened, then why did they (Jerry Coyne, PZ Myers) made a big fuss about Sheldrake's talk? gee, i wonder. um, maybe because Sheldrake's 18-minute talk challenged the very fabric of scientific materialism?

      and how come nobody has yet accepted Sheldrake's challenge for a debate? if Sheldrake is truly a "pseudoscientist" then it should be very easy for defenders of "real science" (this is Jerry Coyne's term not mine) to expose Sheldrake's ignorance of the scientific method. "real scientists" should take this opportunity take down Sheldrake and shame him for his "pseudoscience."

      as i wrote on one of my very first comments here on TED Conversations, i'd love to see a debate among peers (Sheldrake debating other scientists). good thing Sheldrake had issued his debate challenge. but so far, no takers. gee, i wonder why.

      that is all. i rest my case.

      ~C

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