Re: "Newage sewage"

Date: Sun Aug 19 2001 - 07:06:59 BST

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    On 18 Aug 2001, at 14:04, Scott Chase wrote:

    > >From: "Wade T.Smith" <>
    > >Reply-To:
    > >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 for.
    > >
    > >- 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 bogus.
    > >
    > >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_.
    The presence of some rather minor historical inaccuracies vis-a--vis
    term etymologies does nothing to obviate or detract from a telling
    philosophical and logical critique of a bizarre and bogus faithist
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