Archive for the ‘Rupert Sheldrake’ Category

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Lipton Meets Sheldrake Part 3 — The Mystery of Morning Wood

July 11, 2015

I should have written this post ages ago, but I didn’t. I couldn’t. This post deals with a single sentence about science that Bruce Lipton uttered during his discussion with Rupert Sheldrake, (see the first post in this series). But it was so stupid that I just didn’t know how to approach it. Should I simply post the sentence — it is mercifully short — and abandon the reader to deal with it as best they can, or should I indicate what is wrong with it and wind up writing an encyclopedia length article, only stopping when I run out of expletives? 

I am beginning to think that stupidity is not the polar opposite of intelligence, down the other end of a scale, but rather a creative force that works independently of intelligence. Both these fellows, Lipton and Sheldrake, have Ph.D’s, so they clearly have some intelligence. But if it was possible to measure one’s Stupidity Quotient, they would also both be high achievers.

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So for this post, I have decided to call upon our two heroes who appeared in Part One of this series — the cartoon stars, Beavis and Butthead — to help illustrate the stupid, stupid, stupid sentence that Dr Bruce Lipton Ph.D said.

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In one episode of Beavis & Butthead, our heroes are told by their teacher to choose a topic and do a science project. 

The boys explain to their teacher that– 

“We’re not going to do it. It sounds too hard.”

Their teacher, Mr van Dreesen, tries to coax them into learning something. “Come on guys,” he says, “this should be easy. There’s mysterious things happening around us every day. For example, this morning, would there anything you didn’t understand…”

Butthead chuckles behind his hand to Beavis,

“Heheheh…..He said morning wood… Heheh.”

Van Dreesen thinks that this was their suggestion, and after considering it, allows them investigate the topic of morning wood, as long as they “approach it from a scientific standpoint.” As we shall see, both Beavis and Butthead demonstrate a better grasp of how science works than Bruce Lipton does.

Beavis: What do you think makes it happen?

Butthead: Uh, I dunno. That’s why we’re doing this, dumbass.

Note how Butthead reserves judgment, and maintains a clear sense of the purpose of the project, as well as a dedication to unbiased methodology.

Beavis: Because I was thinking, like, maybe there’s, like, a Morning-Wood Fairy, you know, like the Tooth Fairy.

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In fact, this is not so far away from the kind of answers Sheldrake comes up with. But instead of accepting it out of hand and then interpreting all sorts of results according to it, Butthead recognizes the importance of not succumbing to premature conclusions.

Butthead: Dammit, Beavis, quit screwing around. We’ve got scientific work to do. Besides, there is no such thing as fairies…. Fairies are for dillholes.

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The experiment they have designed is deceptively simple. They are going to remain awake all night in front of the TV, and try to avoid getting what Butthead terms an “artificial stiffy”. (He even confiscates a magazine from Beavis which might have spoiled the experiment. — Again, we see these young boys showing more commitment to experimental method than those clowns Lipton and Sheldrake.)

Unfortunately the boys fall asleep in front of the television. They are awoken next morning by the sound of the national anthem coming from the TV. They discover that the phenomenon being studied has already occurred, without the chance to record any data. Their experiment is a failure.

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Butthead: Maybe morning wood is supposed to be a mystery. It’s like the secret is too dangerous…

Beavis: I’m just glad it happens.

Butthead: Yeh. I never wanted to be a scientist anyway. Science sucks.

Just like Lipton and Sheldrake in parts one and two of this series, the boys have failed to understand a fairly uncomplicated piece of science, and wrongly declare it a mystery. In two junior high students with learning difficulties, this is an entirely understandable failure. In two people who hold Ph.D’s in the very subject being studied, it is beyond a joke.

Beavis and Butthead have intuited that they are out of their depth and decide they don’t want to be scientists. But this is where the similarity ends. Lipton and Sheldrake have also decided that “science sucks” — a conclusion they base on exactly the same degree of comprehension as our heroes — but unlike our heroes, they have decided that the fault lies with scientific method, rather than with their own stupidity. Beavis and Butthead have managed — like Socrates before them — to admit their own ignorance. Lipton and Sheldrake have not.

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Making Beavis and Butthead appear Socratic demonstrates the genius of Lipton’s stupidity. 

And now on to that sentence. (Again I must both forewarn and apologize to readers for transcribing a portion of Lipton’s atrocious verbiage, but I have highlighted the important part for easier reading.)

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Over to Dr Lipton — former biology lecturer — to explain scientific method:

….And the joke for me was, that when I finally got to the [sic] awareness and I was already a tenured faculty member, I realized I was teaching religion, er, as much as I was teaching science. 

And that’s because I was just teaching dogmatic beliefs based on what everybody, you know like, show of hands — how many people want to believe in this? Oh that’s enough people, so that’s a rule.”

If science was a person, it could sue Lipton for defamation.

Tell me Dr Bruce, when a surgeon removes an inflamed appendix, was it decided by a show of hands which body part is really the appendix? Do you think that the reason a plane can fly is because scientists took a vote on the laws of aerodynamics? Is the milk in your fridge still fresh because of a consensus of scientific opinion declaring that it must be? 

This is why both Lipton and Sheldrake have contributed exactly the same amount to modern science as have Beavis and Butthead. Like Beavis and Butthead, they are there to be laughed at. However, Beavis and Butthead know when to stop. They have wasted nobody’s time, nor sold anyone a bogus cancer cure.

(Part Four is now complete — “Bruce Lipton Gets His Own Teachings Wrong”.)

Posted by Yakaru

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Primal Physics (Lipton meets Sheldrake Part 2)

February 17, 2015

Physics,

says Dr Bruce Lipton,

is the primal science.

Not “primary”, but “primal”. And in Dr Lipton’s hands, primal is exactly what physics becomes — it bubbles up unrelentingly from the chaotic primordeal depths of his unconscious, randomly mixing self-invented physics and New Age trigger words. It can also illicit a primal scream from the listener, proportional in strength to their degree of science literacy.

However, there is something to learn from Dr Bruce here. While Deepak Chopra buries his errors unter an avalanche of meaningless jargon, Lipton’s errors are surprisingly uncomplicated. He is so ignorant that he doesn’t even know he needs to cover his footsteps. The fundamental errors that all New Age anti-physicists make are thus candidly revealed.

And what the physics says is that it’s not the physical reality where the information is. It’s in the field, the invisible stuff, and all of a sudden that jumped me from my mechanical material world idea into entertaining the concept of the invisible forces being more powerful.

So, Lipton thinks that “physical reality” stops where quantum physics starts.

We saw in Part 1 how Rupert Sheldrake doesn’t understand that the simplest laws of chemistry are perfectly good for explaining simple plant growth. For him atoms are inert billiard balls that need a divine intelligence to tell them what to do. For Lipton, the laws of quantum physics explain how this occurs. It’s all there in the physics text books, but the other biologists don’t understand physics. They are “still trapped in the Newtonian materialist reductionist world”. They don’t realize that physicists have “proven that matter doesn’t exist” and that quantum physics is the study of the spiritual realm.

This stupidity leads to a remarkably stupid version of physics, but also to a quite strange version of spirituality as well. They haven’t thought through the implications of this in slightest; nor have their fans.

Yes, quantum physics strikes our everyday understanding of the world as incomprehensibly weird. Yes, ideas about the spiritual realm also strike many as weird. But it does not follow that therefore the laws of quantum physics prove the existence of a spiritual realm. Do Lipton and Sheldrake really want to try this?

Our world view based on our experience of everyday life is ill-suited to conceiving events in the sub-atomic realm. But the language of mathematics can describe them without trouble. The weirdness is a product of the cross-over from mathematical to verbal language, but the mathematical model of it is nonetheless, rock solid (if I can be excused a dreadful metaphor).

Apart from their almost complete ignorance of physics, Lipton and Sheldrake have also failed to ask themselves if they really want to believe in a spirit realm that rigidly obeys mathematical laws.

Surely they must regard spiritual beings as having some independent volition; of being capable of doing something unexpected. But this kind of guided intention is one thing that is by definition absent from events that have been discovered to exist only because of their mathematical predictability.

For all that they rage against “Newtonian materialism” they in fact share with Newton a mechanistic view of the spiritual realm. Newton, unable to explain how gravity acted at a distance, proposed God as agent of maintaining the regularity of the planets. It was even proposed at one point that the planets were driven along their course by angels beating their wings. Enchanting as such an image might be, do we really want to condemn angels to this ultimate drudgery throughout the entire universe? Surely when mystics search for some kind of consciousness in the universe, they are looking for irregularities, of the kind that helps us distinguish between a rock that’s being tumbled by the waves and a seashell with some little fellow living inside it.

There is something deeply dissatisfying about a spirit realm that coldly maintains mathematical laws. But this is the only kind of spirituality that can, as far as I can see, possibly be consistent with quantum physics.

I am, of course, leaving out an important detail. This is Primal Physics. Its defining characteristic is the complete absence of math. Remove math, and the door is suddenly kicked open for verbal language to take over. Without math, the same events which previously fitted an exact model, can be transported into the realm of verbal constructs, where they take on the appearance of spiritual occurrences — spooky actions at spooky distances, and all that.

Of course, removing math also removes the quantum physics in its entirety, but the highly prized brand-mark and all the fancy-sounding terminology remain. Freed from the tyranny of mathematically consistent laws, Primal Physics need only obey the laws of grammar.

We are indebted to Dr Bruce for explicating the hidden laws of Primal Physics, a mysterious product which has been promoted since at least the early 1970s by moderately smart people like Fritjof Capra, and horrid foul mouthed gimps like Deepak Chopra. Physicists, still clinging to their unfashionable mathematical concepts remain baffled by the concepts and workings of Primal Physics.

In Part 3 (link), Dr Lipton will explain scientific method.

Posted by Yakaru

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AAAAARRRRRGGGHHHHH: Rupert Sheldrake Meets Bruce Lipton (Part 1)

December 14, 2014

We have already met both Rupert Sheldrake and Bruce Lipton on this site. Both have PhDs in biology. Both present their idle speculations as fact. Both are utterly mystified as to why proper scientists ignore them. And in the following video, titled A Quest Beyond the Limits of the Ordinary, they both meet each other.

How will this go? Are we about to witness an inspiring fusion of groundbreaking new ideas? Or will this be more like an episode of the old MTV cartoon show Beavis and Butthead, only using quantum physics instead of toilet jokes?

bnbBeavis & Butthead not paying attention in high school

The action starts with Sheldrake suggesting that whereas Lipton’s work started at the cellular level and “worked upwards”, Sheldrake’s own work looks from the “top down”.

When I was working in developmental biology I got very interested in “organizing fields” — morphogenetic fields — which organize living systems, as it were, from the top down. 

This morphogenetic field, he informs us, was first postulated by Alexander Gurwitsch in the 1920s. He does not inform us, however, that its only known habitat is a fuzzy area inside his own head — and not in any place where it might influence other living organisms.

What’s more, Sheldrake presents this idea of an organizing field as if it’s radical, and a threat to modern science. But it’s not radical at all. It’s a completely mundane idea. We already know of such “top down” organizing principles — scientists refer to them as the laws of chemistry and physics.

When applied in the life sciences, these laws of chemistry and physics can be used to explain things which Sheldrake finds utterly mystifying. Like this:

If you take, say a hollyhock plant, the leaves, the flowers, the petals, have completely different structures and yet they have the same veins and the same chemicals…

This is basic high school botany. But Sheldrake, the fool, presents it to his audience as if it’s a baffling enigma. He continues:

…So the chemicals alone couldn’t explain it.

Well the chemicals alone do explain it perfectly well. Atoms are not like inert billiard balls rolling around aimlessly, needing an external hyper-physical organizing agent to boss them about. Living organisms are indeed extraordinarily complex, but the chemical processes governing their growth and development are extremely well understood.

What Sheldrake would need is some well documented anomalies that are not well explained by the known laws. But instead, what he offers his audience is the supposedly baffling mystery of how mushrooms grow. 

In hushed awe-struck tones, he describes how mushrooms send their threads out through the soil, and then “when the right moment comes”, the threads grow together and sprout miraculously up into a mushroom.

How on earth did these separate threads know what to do? They’re all [chemically] the same to start with, but some form the cap, some form the gills, some form the stem, some form the membrane at the top. How on earth did these cells know what to do, to harmoniously coordinate with the rest?

It may have baffled Herr Professor Doktor Gurwitsch in the 1920s, but it’s not baffling to anyone today who’s capable of opening a high school botany text. This is all basic — really really basic — botany with a splash of genetics. And Sheldrake has been too busy gawping at mushrooms to realize it.

The focus now shifts to Lipton

Wooly, useless, ignorant, cognitively docile and Prince Charles-like as Rupert Sheldrake is, he’s not as poisonously stupid as his interlocutor, Dr Bruce Lipton. As we have seen elsewhere on this blog, Lipton is a cancer quack who promotes the healing power of analogies.

So what has this got to do with Sheldrake and his non-existent “morphogenetic fields”? Are Lipton and Sheldrake really looking at the same thing from different directions?

I am sorry, but before this can be considered, I must subject the reader to a sudden burst of Lipton talking about his research and half his fucking life story along with it. He regularly subjects his audiences to hours of this. Much of it uses New Age trigger words, so his audience has a kind of dim trance-like feeling that they know what he is talking about — which, I suspect is much more than Lipton has.

Lipton:

I was still stuck in the chemical world and I identified that on the cell membrane there are these structures called receptors and there’s an interesting parallel here and that is that we are made in the image of a cell, actually, so that if I talk about a cell or if I talk about a human we’re still talking about the same thing. So the skin of a cell is very much similar to yours in the sense that it’s a boundary that contains the inside but it also has the ability to read the environment because we have eyes and ears and nose and taste and all these other receptors. Cells have on them the same things but in micro form, in a sense, so they’re reading the environment and the truth is that actually my second grade image when I first saw cells I saw them as sentient beings, I didn’t see them as just moving around in the water. They were, like, the amoeba would go look at something and then back away and then move somewhere else, or the paramecium, and I saw them as people, and it turns out to be that here’s a very interesting relation if, you know, we talk about at some point in regard to fractals, that we are made in the image of the cell. Every function that is in our human body is already present in every cell and anything you can identify in here is in a cell, digestive, nervous, reproductive systems. Every cell has even got an immune system and so the relevance that was really fun for me is that my understanding of the nature of what the cells were reading in their environment, it changed their lives and then I started to recognize this because I was cloning these cells in a petri dish and the simple thing that you’ve learned right away in culturing cells is that sometimes the environment isn’t that good when you culture them and then you put the cells in these cultures and the next thing you know is they’re sick and dying and they don’t look very good, but I found if you take those cultures and then put them into a better environment the cells immediately recover, grow and start to flourish and then all of a sudden it hit me. I said Oh my goodness I realized this, that while we see ourselves as single individual entities that’s a misperception because the living things are cells. We are communities of cells about 50 trillion cells, it’s been suggested, are making us up. Why that’s relevant is that in a simple reality we are like skin covered petri dishes and if we put our petri dishes in a good environment then we flourish and do well and if we put it in a bad environment we start to reflect what was going on in that environment and that we can come back and then get back into a good environment and recover, and why this became important is for me it took the emphasis to understand the nature of health and vitality was to look outside the cell and not look inside the cell which became to me a physical complement of the world. So the cell becomes a complement of its environment and so then the issue is what is that environment and my conventional teaching only left me in the physical world of molecules and atoms and the material world and it was at some point after I left my conventional job that I picked up a book by Heinz Pagels called The Cosmic Code and it was about quantum physics…

Stop!!!

Okay…. Some deep breaths…

It’s over now. You won’t have to read that ever again.

But I would like to pick out some very small portions of it and take a closer look….. 

…..But we can do that next time, in Part 2, okay? 

You may use the comment section if there is anything you need to talk about.

(Part 2 is here.)

Posted by Yakaru

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10 Things New Agers Don’t Understand About Science #2 — Science is not a satanic ideology

May 30, 2013

Variations on a theme by various spiritual and religious ideologies see science as some form of satanic or “fallen” thinking that sees only a portion of reality. 

William Blake put it quite enchantingly, that when we see a butterfly, we are seeing merely the hem of the gown of a dancer, gliding and whirling across the floor of our three-dimensional realm. As he famously wrote, When the doors of perception are cleansed, we shall see things as they truly are – infinite.

Blake opposed the materialistic science of his time which he characterized as single vision and Newton’s sleep. But what makes Blake’s work rise into the realm of great art is that his poetry arose from a creative vision, rather than an intellectual squabble. He was responding to some deep psychological tug in his being, informing him that there is more going on than we can perceive with our senses. His poetry survives the transition to a time of greater scientific knowledge, and steps easily into expressing a vision of a world of atoms dancing, forming, and recombining eternally.

The same cannot be said of modern spirituality in general. Where Blake used esoteric ideas and his creative insight to make great art, New Age ideology is driven mostly by marketability of ideas. Despite the sincerity of many New Age believers, it should not be overlooked that science poses a massive threat to the profits of all pushers of pseudo-science and sellers of magickal powers. The usual response to this danger is to misrepresent and attack science on ideological grounds. 

The numerous ideologies that see science as blind to spiritual phenomena, have a few common elements: for example, the view that there is indeed evidence for the spirit and it has been ignored or actively suppressed; and the view that science is blind to the spiritual, or has defined it out of reality. Later posts in this series will look at both these viewpoints more closely, but in this post I will especially focus on a third element: the idea that science is somehow alien to humanity, inhuman, or “unnatural”.

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Rupert Sheldrake’s Science Delusion — Part 2: Delusions of Dogma

October 27, 2012

If you haven’t read Part One, please do that first, because you’ll get a summing up of the whole thing in the first few paragraphs and you might decide Sheldrake has made such a mess of it that it’s not even worth bothering to read on!

Rupert Sheldrake, as we saw in Part One, claims that modern science is based on ten dogmas. Further, he claims these dogmas force scientists to exclude all evidence for spiritual phenomena regardless of merit. But before diving back into the list where we left off in Part One, I want to point out two more disastrous flaws in Sheldrake’s argument.

One is that it’s not just spiritual ideas that science has discarded over the last few centuries. A massive number of hypotheses that would perfectly fit into what Sheldrake sees as science’s “mechanistic dogma” have also been discarded. Why? Because they didn’t work. But why does Sheldrake think these mechanistic theories were discarded, if the only standard for proof he sees operating is adherence to a mechanistic dogma?

Obviously, if he will allow that strict and fair rules of evidence were applied to mechanistic theories, then why would these suddenly be suspended on ideological grounds for spiritual ideas? Such behavior would leave a very clear paper trail, wouldn’t it, Dr Sheldrake. Where is it, and why didn’t you discuss that in this lecture?

A second problem — even more immediate — is that he has failed to discuss real life scenarios where scientific “dogma” was seriously challenged. How do scientists react in such a case? Consider the neurtrino incident. The sequence of events is recounted here in a few newspaper headlines:

According to Sheldrake, the reporting scientists would simply be ignored or openly chastised for daring to question the dogma. Or the anomaly would have been ignored by the discoverers themselves, either through dogmatic blindness or fear of God, as Sheldrake argues below. But that’s not what happened, and Sheldrake does not discuss this incident.

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Rupert Sheldrake’s Science Delusion — Part 1: Dogma & Denial

October 21, 2012

Rupert Sheldrake recently published a book called The Science Delusion. It was accompanied by a public lecture tour of the same name, and this two part series of posts is based on one of these lectures.

As will be argued below, Sheldrake’s understanding of science is itself delusory. He grossly misrepresents the nature of modern science, and commits the very same errors he has accused science of making: defining things into and out of reality, dismissing evidence out of hand, and failing to question his own assumptions.

Sheldrake simply blanks out hundreds of years of the history of science, and completely ignores entire fields of scientific inquiry. Repeatedly, he presents the whole of modern science as if it is a minor and rather primitive branch of speculative philosophy, run by a cabal of cynical, incompetent and power-hungry priests.

He asserts that modern science is based on ten dogmas, all of which originated at a particular juncture in history several hundred years ago, and which have been blindly maintained ever since, without regard for evidence.

What his argument requires him to do, then, is to show that these dogmas:

a) really exist in modern science;
b) hinder scientific progress or skew research; and
c) show that his alternative would serve scientific advancement.

As will become clear below, he does the following instead:

a) fails to correctly identify the assumptions that science really uses;
b) ignores all research and all progress in all the sciences; and
c) simply demands the right to tinker philosophically with the theoretical foundations of science, without regard for evidence.

This post is based on an hour-long public lecture (which he won’t allow anyone to embed) in which Sheldrake presents the main arguments of his book.

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