The Liberation of Science
Are there dogmas in science? Rupert Sheldrake thinks so.
He talks about ten dogmas from which science needs liberation.
If he is right, a post-mechanistic science is in the making, and it looks
a whole lot like Whitehead's philosophy of organism.
The Liberation of Science
Rupert Sheldrake proposes that modern science is now shackled by ten dogmas, which we list on the right.
As it happens, these are dogmas of which process thinkers are critical, too. They believe that Whitehead's philosophy of organism provides a rational, scientifically informed alternative which can help scientists better interpret experimental data.
Let's be specific. Whitehead's philosophy shows (1) how the natural world of which humans are a part is organic not mechanistic, and how the "mechanisms" of nature can be understood within an organic worldview, (2) how matter carries within its depths unconscious experience, because energy itself is a form of unconscious experience; (3) how the laws of nature are recurring patterns which, in principle, may evolve over time; (4) how the total amount of matter and energy may change and even grow over time, since new experience is created over time; (5) how actual entities at every level, including the submicroscopic level, have aims of their own, which guide their behavior, and which are expressed in probabilistic forms of behavior, and how the universe as a whole may involve aims toward consciousness, complexity, and novel forms of community, (6) how there may be forms of inheritance which are not reducible to physical and chemical causation, (7) how memories can be stored within a human beings life in a collective unconscious which is more than the brain, (8) how the mind, understood holistically, is more than the brain, insofar as it receives input from the many parts of the brain and coordinates responses, (9) how mind-to-mind connections occur within living beings; and (10) how there are, and should be, a blending of different kinds of medicine (Asian and Western, for example) into a more global medicine.
For Whiteheadians, all of these ideas are worthy of exploration scientifically. Indeed, they can and should be tested. A post-mechanistic science opens the door for new kinds of experimentation which are too often neglected in more mechanistic approaches to life.
Of course, as they are tested, it is important to recognize that the very paradigms by which evidence is examined are interpretive. Mechanistic science is as interpretive as Whitehead's post-mechanistic alternative. There is no interpretive framework which is absolutely right. All interpretive frameworks -- mechanistic or organic -- should be criticized, revised, and, if necessary, rejected in light of evidence.
It is also important to recognize that sense-experience is not the only kind of experience which provides "evidence" for science. When it comes to learning about consciousness, for example, multiple states of consciousness should be explored, including those forms explored by Asian spiritual traditions and mysticism.
"Let the exploring begin!," say the Whiteheadians. Let science be widened in its horizons. As this occurs science can flourish, growing in its own understanding of the world and helping human beings arrive at more complete ways of understanding human life, life on the earth, and the universes beyond and within.
Ten Dogmas of Science
1. Nature is mechanical.
2. Matter is unconscious.
3. Laws of nature are fixed.
4. Total amount of matter and energy are always the same.
5. Nature is purposeless.
6. Biological inheritance is material.
7. Memories are stored as material traces.
8. Mind is in the brain.
9. Telepathy and other psychic phenomena are illusory.
10. Mechanistic medicine is the only kind that really works.
The Center for Process Studies
The Center for Process Studies in Claremont, California, (CPS) has a small but growing list of multi-media files, many of which feature talks by leading thinkers in process thinking: http://www.ctr4process.org/media/.
Not all of the thinkers are Whiteheadians, but many are inclined toward organic views of the world, not unlike that of Alfred North Whitehead. Rupert Sheldrake is an example. Below you'll find a description of Sheldrake's work offered on the CPS website. We hope you'll visit their website to see many excellent talks.
Science Set Free:
10 Paths to New Discovery
Rupert Sheldrake, one of the world’s most innovative biologists and writers, is best known for his theory of morphic fields and morphic resonance, which leads to a vision of a living, developing universe with its own inherent memory.
He worked in developmental biology at Cambridge University, where he was a Fellow of Clare College. He was then Principal Plant Physiologist at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), in Hyderabad, India. From 2005 to 2010 he was Director of the Perrott-Warrick project, funded from Trinity College, Cambridge.
His new book, Science Set Free: 10 Paths to New Discovery, is the American edition of his book The Science Delusion: Freeing the Spirit of Enquiry, which was published in the UK and Ireland.
On October 31 and November 1, 2011, CPS held a conference with Sheldrake featuring the then unpublished manuscript of his book, Science Set Free, which is being officially launched this September. The American version is expected to differ slightly from the British, as a result of discussions had during that meeting.
Overall, during this, and a previous visit to the Center we discovered that Sheldrake had come, independently of direct study of Whitehead, to many of the same conclusions. He provides us with up-to-date confirmation and reinforcement of many of our Whitehead-type criticisms of the dominant Cartesian metaphysics that still shapes so much of science.
As discussed in Science Set Free, the delusion of science occurs when scientific dogmas are treated as truths, rather than beliefs. He retorts that, science is much more interesting, much more fun, and much more free when you turn the dogmas into questions. And this is exactly what Sheldrake does in Science Set Free. A shift of this kind, he argues, will hopefully lead to new scientific discoveries, encouraged by free and open scientific inquiry. You can watch a video of Sheldrake introducing Science Set Free here; or order copies of the book on Amazon.