Friday, June 24, 2011

Rupert Sheldrake A New Science of Life

Rupert Sheldrake has a video set on called, "A New Science of Life" and "Seven Experiments that could change the World". He has written a bunch of books and is a pretty interesting guy.

Robert Sheldrake

My son found it and I watched it. Very interesting stuff. Now my son is little more "out there" on new technologies and ways of thinking, physics and all that kind of very fascinating stuff. He is into now, the kinds of things I was into at his age, in his early twenties. But we have new things to be fascinated by now.

Still, I find sometimes that my son is a little too out there for me, either because I know that eventually he is going to come back from a dead end (and probably one I've been down myself, or a similar one), or simply because I do not understand what it is he is ruminating about. But this is very rewarding for us both. In some cases he is going down paths I went down and had thought were worthy to venture down, but later realized this was simply yet either another charlatan selling his or her wares, or they were simply interesting ideals with no real foundation in anything worthy of further pursuit.

Still, he came up with this guy: Rupert might seem a little nuts at first, but he has some very valid points. Like science is, and always has been, by design and by necessity (to some degree) and therefore, rather stodgy.

Rupert said that he had Richard Dawkins, one of my heroes, visit his home one day and at their request for a filmed event, but in the end, Rupert had to ask them to leave. It was because he said, Richard was simply too closed off and too much the skeptic. One should be skeptical, but not to the exclusion of seeing what is actually there. Or, may be. Richard just responded that science is seeing the fewest possible things.

Rupert gave examples of having done a study on ESP (you must know that means Extra Sensory Perception, yes?). The review he sent it to said you must be joking, or some such thing. He pointed out that originally Galileo couldn't get "scientists" of his time to look through his telescope. And the editor responded, I think I'll take the chance. A funny story, but it exemplifies the closed attitude of science.

I agreed with him, however, I still didn't know what he was about. Then he started talking about the dog study, which I found very interesting. Not only because of what he found, but also because he found someone who said his study was nonsense and then did his own study to prove him wrong, only to prove the original research as accurate, yet even more so.

What this study was about, was why a dog will go and wait for their owner, when the owner is on the way home from work (or wherever) for the day. Is it psychic? Is it what we call, paranormal? Well it seems that way. Still, couldn't it be a routine, after all, animals have a very good sense of time of day; couldn't it be that the other person in the house is "telegraphing" that someone is on the way home: couldn't it be that it is a simple coincidence and the animal is merely looking out the window as they do off and on, all day long?

Well, the study accounted for all of that and still they had relevant, let's say, a statistically relevant finding. Interesting, yes?

"I have carried out many trials with return-anticipating dogs, especially with Jaytee, a dog belonging to Pam Smart, in Ramsbottom, Lancashire. To start with, we recorded Jaytee's anticipatory behaviour on 100 occasions when Pam was absent for a wide range of times, some as short as an hour, others as long as long 12 hours. Jaytee anticipated her returns on 82 percent of these occasions, both with short and long absences (Sheldrake & Smart, 1998). He also anticipated her returns at least 10 minutes in advance when she was travelling in unfamiliar vehicles, such as taxis."

"Subsequently, in a series of 100 videotaped trials, the place at which Jaytee waited by the window was filmed continuously on timecoded videotape throughout Pam's absences. These films were evaluated "blind" by independent scorers, who recorded all the times at which Jaytee was by the window. The data showed that he was waiting by the window very significantly more when Pam was on her way home from destinations at least 5 miles away than in the main period of her absence (Sheldrake & Smart, 2000a).

"Marks suggested that the anticipatory behaviour of the Pam Smart's dog Jaytee could be explained by the dog learning when Pam could be expected home, and signalling accordingly. But if he had read our published papers he would have know that this hypothesis had already been refuted. Jaytee responded to Pam's homecomings after absences of very different durations. We tested for the possibility of learning effects by comparing Jaytee's behaviour after short, medium and long absences. His anticipatory behaviour was similar in all cases, ruling out the learning hypothesis (Sheldrake & Smart, 2000a, Figure 4)." Rupert Sheldrake

They gave one example of a son, coming home from the military, no routine, no usual car sound coming down the street as he used a train and then taxi, the mother didn't know the son was coming home, but the dog sat there waiting for him to walk in the door.

In the research they showed that the dog would wait for the owner to come home, before they were on the way home, but this was explained as the person deciding to come home, and the dog, feeling that, and getting ready, which, if you think about it, really makes perfect sense and almost proves the point due to the unexpected timing. If the dog responded as the person left work, wouldn't that be a little too pat and all neat and tidy? In a way, this is the exception proving the rule.

Sheldrake invokes morphogenetic fields to achieve the inheritance of experiences. Figure 1 is from The Presence of the Past and illustrates how morphogenetic fields relate to conventional genetics.

In his book Seven Experiments That Could Change the World, Rupert Sheldrake explains why "big questions don't [necessarily?] need big science."

I kind of like how this guy thinks.

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