Re: "Newage sewage"

Date: Tue Aug 21 2001 - 08:33:02 BST

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    On 20 Aug 2001, at 14:13, Dace wrote:

    > 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.
    Form is not simple, as is mass and charge (more or less of one
    thing), but complex and informational. Any attempt to equate
    or otherwise draw analogies between them is therefor illegitimate.
    > 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 Dictionary.
    Actually, every thing about it is newage sewage.
    > > **********
    > >
    > > 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 in nature.
    No, cyclical repetition applies to such systems, and these
    repetitions (with mutational, modification) are, in living systems,
    genetically mediated.
    > > 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.
    "Morphic" has to do with form, not behavior; this is one confusion.
    Another confusion is equating differing times (the present and the
    past, for instence). If such an Edenic position were indeed true,
    then it would have to be equally true that the future would be found
    within the present; IOW, lockstep superdeterminism. The entire
    history of the universe, including who swatted which gnats last year
    in the Serengeti and what they thought about it, would have to be
    written in the fabric of the big bang, meaning that you were
    destined to argue for your position, which actually means that you
    can't freely argue for it; if your position were to be true, your
    arguments would have to be meaningless, for they could not be
    freely chosen, and instead be as foreordained as the ignition of a
    star when sufficient gas gathers. It would also fail utterly to explain
    novelty and diversity; if it were true, the universe should still be
    superheated plasma, as 'morphic resionance from its prior states
    > > 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.
    Bullus shittus; I've listed some of his book titles and collaborators.
    He's an anecdotal just-so storyteller, nothing more.
    > > 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.
    His morphic resonential god is a mystery? How convenient!
    Actually, though, mataphysics is a dead discipline in serious
    philosophical circles; people look beneath rather than beyond the
    physical world (for beyond verification is the realm of belief, not
    knowledge), and have thus rejected metaphysics in favor of
    ontology, the consequences of which CAN be tested. But there is
    not a single extant successful test for the existence of morphic
    fields, just a lot of speculative fiction possessed of varying degrees
    of literary cachet.
    > > '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.
    And yet he can present no empirical evidence whatsoever of what
    he nevertheless must insist is an immanent, rather than
    transcendent, field - only wishful interpretations and anecdotes
    reminiscent of the psi-power variety. How very sad for him.
    > > 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.
    This 'form contagion' just doesn't wash, especially when one
    considers that many of the particles formed have never come into
    contact with any others, and they are too basic and primordial to
    own receivers of such instructions, especially during their
    formation, even if there could be such a thing as a universal
    transmitter at this point - or any point; but now, Sheldrake would
    require many different ones - and how were they formed? Not by
    morphic resonance. And how do they work? Unknown - no
    mechanism can be found. And how is novelty and diversity
    explained? They aren't. Or, they are considered to be the result of
    random happenings. And of course, the regularization of random
    happenings via environmental pressure into self-reproducing
    automata (genetics) is pooh-poohed, even after all the work that
    Von Neumann and Manfred Eigen (STEPS TOWARD LIFE), just to
    mention two of many, have done in the area.
    > > He
    > > 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
    > physics.
    There's no such thing as repetition memory in physics.
    > > 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.
    And how? No answer is forthcoming. There is no mechanism that
    can be found. this makes the entire concept metaphysics, and
    within the realm of belief, rather than knowledge. Of course the
    most pernicious beliefs are those that masquerade as knowledge
    to their true believers (who erroneosly consider themselves to be
    harbinger knowers).
    >Current organisms are stabilized by
    > morphic fields, which in turn are stabilized by resonance with past,
    > similar organisms.
    And WHAT and WHERE are these morphic fields? No answer is
    forthcoming; we're just supposed to become uncritically enthralled
    with the taste of the term. No dice.
    > > 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.
    Form is embodied in matter, and matter is Einsteinianly equivalent
    to enrergy; as Wade pointed out, this is a blatant and horribly
    damning error (among many).
    > 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.
    It is not mysterious; messenger RNA, Chaperones, the linkages
    are increasingly well understood. What IS magically mysterious to
    the point of ludicrousness is a field that can't be found affecting
    empirical things in informationally rich ways.
    > At least morphic resonance posits a principle of
    > conveyence, i.e. "like-affects-like."
    Yeah, and so did medieval herbology; it's called the doctrine of
    signatures, and it's a crock, too.
    > The genetic model offers no
    > explanation whatsoever for the remote control of genes over the body.
    The genetic model is mediated by mechanisms that have been
    isolated and implemented to successfully create chosen changes;
    you can't get much more empirical than that.
    > There isn't even a hypothesis for how it might occur which could then
    > be tested and falsified.
    Sure, it's been tested, and the genes for bioluminescence in
    jellyfish make gene-spliced mice glow green, as the gene for
    Vitamin A (carotene) in carrots causes gene-spliced rice to turn
    yellow with it.
    > It's pure faith, pure mysticism.
    Genetics is pure science, in that when it's tested or implemented,
    it WORKS! MR cannot even be tested, because no one can find
    the frigging thing (bacause it doesn't exist).
    > > 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.
    You've got that backwards; we drew from natural models to create
    that technology.
    > > 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.
    > >
    > >
    > 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 resonance.
    Actually, it was a trenchant, decisive and devastating critique; but
    presented to a morphic creationist, logic and evidence count for
    little or nothing when weighed against their wishful fantasies.
    > 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.
    The hit the mark with a bulls-eye; you just can't bring yourself to
    admit it because it's your memebotic ox that is getting lethally
    > Ted
    > ===============================================================
    > This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    > Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    > For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)
    > see:

    This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
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    For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)

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