Re: "Newage sewage"

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Sat Aug 18 2001 - 19:38:16 BST

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    Subject: Re: "Newage sewage"
    Date: Sat, 18 Aug 2001 14:38:16 -0400
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    >From: "Scott Chase" <>
    >Subject: Re: "Newage sewage"
    >Date: Sat, 18 Aug 2001 14:04:29 -0400
    >>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_.
    Looking at this link:

    it looks like the author realizes there's more behind the engram than what
    it seemed above.

    BTW, Schacter has re-released _Stranger behind the Engram_ as _Forgotten
    Ideas, Neglected Pioneers: Richard Semon and the Story of Memory_ (2001.
    Psychology Press. Philadelphia). He also has a new book called _The Seven
    Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers_ (2001. Houghton Mifflin
    Company, Boston) which collects dust on my shelf for now :-(

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