Re: memetics-digest V1 #1552

From: Dace (
Date: Mon 09 May 2005 - 02:23:09 GMT

  • Next message: Derek Gatherer: "Re: memetics-digest V1 #1552"


    > >As you know, Sheldrake has a lot to say about the blue tits.
    > No! Sheldrake banned by order of moderator. Cease please.

    The moderator has not, to my knowledge, banned discussion of Rupert Sheldrake, though he did kindly point out some time back that this is not a forum for discussing morphic resonance.

    Funny, but I seem to recall having quite a courteous discussion with you about Sheldrake right here on the list. If you noted anything during our chat which might have cast fundamental doubt onto his scientific work, you refrained from mentioning it. Yet a couple months later, during an unrelated discussion, you made a passing comment equating Sheldrake to Velikovsky, a well-known pseudoscientist. Well, if that's what you thought, why didn't you bring it up during our talk? You could have explained your reasoning, and we might have hashed it out.

    But you didn't.

    As I mentioned in my post, the existence of a Jung-like mind shared by all members of a given species greatly complicates memetics as it allows a third way-- beyond genes and memes-- by which information can flow through populations. Being significant to memetics it ought to be available to us for consideration. Nothing potentially relevant should be off the table.

    Why do you cringe at the sound of Sheldrake? Why not Elsasser? As I've pointed out here, Walter Elsasser's notion of "holistic memory" is identical to Sheldrake's "morphic resonance." Both scientists published their views in 1981, Sheldrake in *A New Science of Life* and Elsasser in an article for the Journal of Theoretical Biology. Except for the fact that Sheldrake, years earlier, had read Elsasser's 1966 masterpiece, *Atom and Organism,* the two seemed to be completely unaware of each other. No "psychic" bond here, just two scientists arriving at the same conclusion at the same time because it made sense given what we then knew (and still makes sense given what we know now!) As there's zero possibility-- for a variety of reasons discussed by Elsasser-- of reducing organisms to either DNA or to physics generally, we must consider a complementary means by which morphological information is transfered from one generation to another. Both Elsasser and Sheldrake noted that DNA is essentially species memory and as such is not necessarily the only form such memory might take.

    Their divergent paths since 1981 tell us a lot. The physicist Elsasser (who formulated and then promoted against great opposition what is now regarded as the definitive theory of the earth's electromagnetic field) has simply been ignored. Not being a biologist, he has nothing to say! But Sheldrake is a prominent figure who for years ran the graduate cytology program at Cambridge. Well, if you can't ignore him, taboo him.

    A taboo is a meme that says, I'm sorry, but you're not allowed to talk about this. So even though we all know G. W. Bush is not in his right mind, we're not allowed to say so in public (at least not around here). Former Sex Pistols drummer Steve Jones, now an LA DJ, says that back in the 70s he was a big fan of Boston, just couldn't get enough of "More than a Feeling" and all that. But he couldn't tell anyone because if he had, he would no longer have been welcome among his fellow Sex Pistols. If you want to have friends, if you want to be accepted by the peer group, you must hate what is hated and love what is loved.

    Many practicing biologists-- not to mention legions of marginally educated laymen-- are in thrall to the metaphysical belief that organisms can be
    "reduced" (by way of DNA) to atoms and molecules whose behavior is fully explicable according to transcendent laws of physics. Part of why discussion of this is verboten is that it's such an absurd proposition that to consider it at all quickly reveals its theoretical and empirical bankruptcy. Sort of like allowing Noam Chomsky on CNN and the evening newscasts to talk about US foreign policy. Why, he'd give the whole game away!

    The taboo-meme exploits our need for social acceptance and approval. Some people resist it quite well while others-- weak in character and in constant need of admiration-- not only fall prey to it but attempt to score extra-credit approval points by hysterically ridiculing the object of the taboo at every available opportunity. The rest fall somewhere in the middle.


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