Profiles in pseudoscience: Rupert Sheldrake

An unabashed purveyor of nonsense keeps getting invited to international conference on science and philosophy

by Massimo Pigliucci

“Sheldrake’s book [A New Science of Life] is a splendid illustration of the widespread public misconception of what science is about. In reality, Sheldrake’s argument is in no sense a scientific argument but an exercise in pseudo-science.” (John Maddox, then editor of Nature magazine)

Next week I will once again take part in the “How the Light Gets In” festival, a gathering of philosophers, scientists, poets, and musicians, to celebrate human knowledge and understanding. The upcoming version will take place in Hay (Wales), but the event is also sometimes held in London.

I’m very much looking forward to give a talk on “How to be a skeptic,” and to participate as a panelist in two discussions, one on “Getting Everything, Losing Everything” (about Zuckerberg-style virtual reality) and the second on “The Good and the Evil” (on whether these moral categories make sense, or are useful).

Unfortunately, I’m not looking forward to another regular feature of the HTLGI events: running into pseudoscience purveyor Rupert Sheldrake, who keeps being invited year after year by the organizers for perverse reasons that are beyond my understanding. I’m sure he will take this essay as yet more evidence that there is a worldwide conspiracy of scientists against him, because Sheldrake is not just the source of wide-ranging nonsense, he is also paranoid. … (continue at Medium)

5 Comments

  1. Hi Massimo,

    Quick question: do you feel the same way about the work of Sheldrake’s son Merlin? I have been reading the younger Sheldrake’s book “Entangled Life” and am interested if you have found that also problematic in terms of science…

    Thanks,

    Glenn

    I’m going to roll over, so please move, cricket.

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  2. RE Sheldrake’s magic dog, at least in more rural areas, there may be another factor not discussed by Wiseman, and that is a dog being able to distinguish the sound of different vehicles from far away. When I had moved back home with my dad for a while after seminary but not following his footsteps, we had a dog, living out in the country, that could here his pickup, as his, from a good mile away.

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  3. Well, Massimo, since you’re here and not Hucksterman, I’ll comment here more.

    One other note on that dog: One member of my dad’s church had a diesel pickup, which was pretty rare 20-plus years ago. She especially barked at it because, to her I suppose that it shouldn’t sound “that way.”

    She also especially barked the one time she found an armadillo on our North Texas back yard. I think that may have been because it walked differently.

    So, per biology and maybe a touch of ethology, no, there’s no need for morphic resonances.

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