Re: "Newage sewage"

From: Wade T.Smith (
Date: Sat Aug 18 2001 - 18:28:52 BST

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    Hi Joe -

    >> Okay, Wade. What is it about morphic resonance that makes it an
    >> example of "idiocy?" In what way is it "spiritual" or "new age?" I'd
    >> like to know.
    >Let fly, Wade; I cede the pleasure to you.

    Well, I've just come back from a totally tantric vacation high in the
    California coastal mountains in the Russian River Valley/Sonoma County
    area, so, I'm not ready for dealing with the 'spiritual' or 'newage'
    idiocies, since I have no desire for any vitriolic fluids at this point.
    I'll wait until I'm back at work for a few days....

    This is from the Skeptic's Dictionary, and can be found at
    and the answer to the question at hand can be found in the last paragraph
    of this entry.

    Sheldrake adds his doleful voice to the seemingly endless tirade of
    noises banging about metaphysics.

    It is completely and totally part of the pseudoscience of all newage
    beliefs, because morphic resonance is a religious add-in to nature,
    another new god in the already deifically overburdened cosmos, another
    incompetent witness, who, having really seen nothing, decides to save
    time and energy with the invention of an intelligent designer, because,
    one cannot have morphic resonance without a primal morphic resonator.

    The music of the spheres joins homeopathy in Sheldrake. Like many other
    newage non-thinkers, he's made a royal hash of any possible empirical
    evidence, and gone for the easy fix.

    Memetically, well, beliefs are the little virii we've failed to immunize

    - Wade


    morphic resonance

    Morphic resonance is a term coined by Rupert Sheldrake for what he thinks
    is "the basis of memory in nature....the idea of mysterious
    telepathy-type interconnections between organisms and of collective
    memories within species."

    Sheldrake has been trained in 20th century scientific models--he has a
    Ph.D. in biochemistry from Cambridge University (1967)--but he prefers
    Goethe and 19th century vitalism. Sheldrake prefers teleological to
    mechanistic models of reality. Rather than spend his life, say, trying to
    develop a way to increase crop yields, he prefers to study and think in
    terms outside of the paradigms of science, i.e., inside the paradigms of
    the occult and the paranormal. His latest book is entitled Dogs That Know
    When Their Owners Are Coming Home: And Other Unexplained Powers of
    Animals. He prefers a romantic vision of the past to the bleak picture of
    a world run by technocrats who want to control Nature even if that means
    destroying much of the environment in the process. In short, he prefers
    metaphysics to science, though he seems to think he can do the former but
    call it the latter.

    'Morphic resonance' (MR) is put forth as if it were an empirical term,
    but it is no more empirical than 'engram', L. Ron Hubbard's term for the
    source of all mental and physical illness. The term is more on par with
    the Stoic's notion of the Logos or Plato's notion of the eidos [eidos]
    than it is with any scientific notion of laws of nature. What the rest of
    the scientific world terms lawfulness--the tendency of things to follow
    patterns we call laws of nature--Sheldrake calls morphic resonance. He
    describes it as a kind of memory in things determined not by their
    inherent natures, but by repetition. He also describes MR as something
    which is transmitted via "morphogenic fields." This gives him a
    conceptual framework wherein information is transmitted mysteriously and
    miraculously through any amount of space and time without loss of energy,
    and presumably without loss or change of content through something like
    mutation in DNA replication. Thus, room is made for psychic as well as
    psychical transmission of information. Thus, it is not at all necessary
    for us to assume that the physical characteristics of organisms are
    contained inside the genes, which may in fact be analogous to transistors
    tuned in to the proper frequencies for translating invisible information
    into visible form. Thus, morphogenetic fields are located invisibly in
    and around organisms, and may account for such hitherto unexplainable
    phenomena as the regeneration of severed limbs by worms and salamanders,
    phantom limbs, the holographic properties of memory, telepathy, and the
    increasing ease with which new skills are learned as greater quantities
    of a population acquire them.*

    While this metaphysical proposition does seem to make room for telepathy,
    it does so at the expense of ignoring Occam's razor. Phantom limbs, for
    example, can be explained without adding the metaphysical baggage of
    morphic resonance. So can memory, which does not require a holographic
    paradigm, by the way. And, in my view, so can telepathy. The notion that
    new skills are learned with increasing ease as greater quantities of a
    population acquire them, known as the hundredth monkey phenomenon, is

    In short, although Sheldrake commands some respect as a scientist because
    of his education and degree, he has clearly abandoned science in favor of
    theology and philosophy. This is his right, of course. However, his
    continued pose as a scientist is unwarranted. He is one of a growing
    horde of "alternative" scientists whose resentment at the aspiritual
    nature of modern scientific paradigms, as well as the obviously harmful
    and seemingly indifferent applications of modern science, have led them
    to create their own paradigms. These paradigms are not new, though the
    terminology is. These alternative paradigms allow for angels, telepathy,
    psychic dogs, and hope for a future world where we all live in harmony
    and love, surrounded by blissful neighbors who never heard of biological
    warfare, nuclear bombs, or genetically engineered corn on the cob.

    This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
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