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Did You Psychically Inherit Society’s Learned Behavior?
Rupert Sheldrake’s Theory
The scientific community is often very rigid in its process and not always open to radical ideas. Rightfully so, that is the nature of science – strict scrutiny and skepticism. But what if it is limiting itself in this approach, in the sense that it has taken on some of the same parochial propensities of religion? Science is supposedly the antithesis of religion and meant to question everything with the goal of new discovery. While it is necessary to maintain skepticism to prevent charlatans from diluting the scientific process, there should be a certain level of tolerance for new ideas.
Rupert Sheldrake is one of those scientists that his community has largely shunned as a heretic. Despite studying at Harvard and graduating from Cambridge with a Ph.D. in biochemistry, the scientific community has dismissed his radical ideas as nonsensical and blasphemous. Sheldrake admittedly started his career in science as an atheist, but eventually had an epiphany about our consciousness that changed his outlook.
Sheldrake has proposed an idea he calls, morphic resonance. Essentially, the idea is that there is a collective consciousness within species that can impact disparate groups of organisms without them having to come into contact with each other. A sort of telepathic connectedness that can influence behavior and can be passed down through immediate generations.
The idea of learned behavior being inherited, or Lamarckian Inheritance, has been shown to be a pretty promising theory, if not proven. Although unsurprisingly, the scientific community doesn’t all agree on this. Regardless, this idea is fundamental in Sheldrake’s theory.
The evidence comes from a study in the 1920s, where rats were tested in a water maze which they had to escape from. The rats were electrically shocked when they chose one of two exits with one deemed to be the wrong exit. They eventually learned which exit was the right one over a trial of several hundred tests. As they got better, their offspring was tested and immediately showed quicker rates of improvement compared to their parents.
This was evidence of Lamarckian Inheritance, the learned behavior of the parent rats was passed on to their progeny. What was more astonishing, according to Sheldrake, was that when these experiments were conducted in labs in other countries and on the other side of the world, rats that had no contact with the original study, essentially picked up where the improved rats left off.
Rupert Sheldrake on Morphic Resonance
Biologist Rupert Sheldrake discusses morphogenetic fields and the experiments he has run to prove telepathy between humans and telepathy between humans and animals. Sheldrake explains that everything in nature has a morphogenetic field, an invisible pattern in space that contains the collective memory of that species, and that these fields are the organizing principles that apply to that species.
Does it come as any surprise that Sheldrake’s hypothesis has been flat-out rejected by most of the scientific community? He has been so often referred to as a heretic that it’s essentially a title in his name. But he takes it in stride and it’s actually the perfect insult coming from a community that he sees as being ironically dogmatic.
In his Ted-x talk, which was temporarily banned from the Ted website, he pokes fun at the scientific community saying, “give us one miracle and we’ll explain the rest.” Of course, referring to the Big Bang Theory and how it aims to explain the creation of the universe, but fails to explain causality. He sees the scientific worldview as materialist and refusing to admit that which they cannot explain. With that, there are ten dogmas that he sees the community limiting themselves to:
- Nature is mechanical and machinelike
- All matter is unconscious – science seeks to prove that we are unconscious
- The laws of nature are fixed
- The total amount of matter and energy are always the same
- Nature is purposeless – the evolutionary process has no direction
- Biological heredity is material
- Memories are materially stored inside your brain
- Your mind is inside your head – all your consciousness is activity of your brain and nothing more
- Psychic telepathy is impossible because your mind is inside your head
- Mechanistic medicine is the only kind that works and complementary or alternative therapies are ignored
Based on these dogmas, Sheldrake sees the majority of scientists ascribing to these world views either because they believe it or because the scientific world will call you, well, a heretic if you do not accept these tenets. When he put out his first book professing his radical ideas, some in the scientific realm said it should be burned and Sheldrake said he felt like an excommunicated pope. The ecclesiastical references are endless.
Despite conventional scientists labelling him persona non-grata, Sheldrake persists in his ideas. Other theories that fall within his spectrum include animal telepathy, like how your dog knows when you’re coming home, and joint attention in humans, where two people focusing on one object can achieve mental resonance. One central theory of his that coincides with mainstream science is that of evolution. His theory applies much more broadly though, even believing that laws of nature have the potential to evolve and are better termed as habits.
“Evolution involves an interplay of habit and creativity, so that at every level of the evolutionary process among humans, animals, plants, chemicals and in the physical world there’s an evolution of structure and patterns that hasn’t existed before.” – Rupert Sheldrake