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From: "Wade T.Smith"
> 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.
Does electromagnetic resonance imply a "primal electromagnetic resonator?"
Fields and resonance are an accepted aspect of scientific theory. Morphic
field theory merely replaces charge with form, as gravitational field theory
replaces charge with mass.
You've failed to point out anything "newage" about Sheldrake's hypothesis.
Now, let's have a look at that entry for morphic resonance in the Skeptic's
> 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 rejects vitalism. He argues that no special "force" animates
living matter. Morphic resonance applies to any regular, repeating system
> Sheldrake prefers teleological to
> mechanistic models of reality.
Sheldrake rejects teleology. Influences from the past, not the future,
account for goal-directed behavior in organisms. One could certainly
characterize his system as "morphic mechanics." It's just that his
mechanism is probabilistic, as in quantum mechanics, as opposed to the
determinism of Cartesian mechanics.
> 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.
Sheldrake works entirely within the confines of scientific method.
> 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.
Sheldrake is allergic to metaphysics. He offers no metaphysical explanation
of either origins or memory. He leaves these issues open.
> '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.
The bizarre attribution of engrams to L Ron Hubbard reflects an effort to
tar Sheldrake according to "guilt by association." Sheldrake makes very
clear that his approach is in no way Platonic. He is not advocating
self-existent "generative equations," as does Goodwin. Following Aristotle,
he rejects transcendent factors in favor of immanent organizing principles.
> 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.
The concept of eternal, mathematical "laws of nature" is clearly
transcendent, i.e. "metaphysical." Sheldrake regards physical laws as being
embedded in nature. Material existence is simply inconceivable without such
properties as entropy and the tendency toward equilibrium. But when it
comes to the physical constants and the forms of particles, these do not
follow from first principles and are therefore explainable according to
morphic resonance. Rather than being shaped by "God" or "eternal laws,"
electrons are stabilized by habit. The first electrons formed randomly and
then the template has been maintained ever since through resonance.
> describes it as a kind of memory in things determined not by their
> inherent natures, but by repetition.
"Inherent nature" is a metaphysical concept. There's no such thing in
> He also describes MR as something
> which is transmitted via "morphogenic fields."
They can't even get the terminology straight. Morphic resonance is not
transmitted by fields. This reflects a complete misreading of Sheldrake.
Rather, morphic resonance consists of the transmission of past forms to
current forms. Current organisms are stabilized by morphic fields, which in
turn are stabilized by resonance with past, similar organisms.
> This gives him a
> conceptual framework wherein information is transmitted mysteriously and
> miraculously through any amount of space and time without loss of energy,
Morphic resonance is based on form, not energy, so there couldn't be any
energy loss in the transmission across time. This is no more mysterious
than the genetic model, in which information is transmitted "mysteriously
and miraculously" from DNA to proteins to cells, to organs, etc. At least
morphic resonance posits a principle of conveyence, i.e.
"like-affects-like." The genetic model offers no explanation whatsoever for
the remote control of genes over the body. There isn't even a hypothesis
for how it might occur which could then be tested and falsified. It's pure
faith, pure mysticism.
> 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.
The "mechanistic" view of memory adds the unnecessary baggage of recorded
information, an obvious projection of human technology onto nature.
> 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.
Before we can take a critique seriously, the critic must at least
demonstrate a basic understanding of the material under review. What we
have here is an extended ad hominem attack punctuated with numerous factual
errors. It cannot possibly serve as an effective refutation of morphic
I'm surprised the Skeptical Inquirer sponsored this sloppy and irresponsible
passage. They do a lot of excellent work, including a great article in the
July-August issue on the myth of the polygraph as a "lie-detector" machine.
In this case, it looks like they fired without aiming first.
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