Received: by alpheratz.cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk id SAA15931 (8.6.9/5.3[ref email@example.com] for cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk from firstname.lastname@example.org); Sat, 18 Aug 2001 18:32:50 +0100 Subject: Re: "Newage sewage" Date: Sat, 18 Aug 2001 13:28:52 -0400 x-sender: email@example.com x-mailer: Claris Emailer 2.0v3, Claritas Est Veritas From: "Wade T.Smith" <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: "Memetics Discussion List" <email@example.com> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="US-ASCII" Message-ID: <20010818172852.AAA12703@firstname.lastname@example.org> Sender: email@example.com Precedence: bulk Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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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