Re: "Newage sewage"

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Sat Aug 18 2001 - 19:04:29 BST

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    Subject: Re: "Newage sewage"
    Date: Sat, 18 Aug 2001 14:04:29 -0400
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    >From: "Wade T.Smith" <>
    >To: "Memetics Discussion List" <>
    >Subject: Re: "Newage sewage"
    >Date: Sat, 18 Aug 2001 13:28:52 -0400
    >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.
    Oh dear. That the author of the above credits Hubbard with the term engram
    makes me a little concerned about his knowledge of the history behind this
    term. Crediting engrams to Hubbard is not unlike crediting morphogenetic
    fields to Sheldrake.

    My guess is that Sheldrake probably knows more of the history of the engram
    concept than the author of the above (and probably much more than I). As a
    matter of fact, Sheldrake lists Lashley's article "In search of the engram"
    AND Semon's book _The Mneme_ in the references section of his book _The
    Presence of the Past_.

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