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Jerry
2019-May-20, 03:47 PM
My wife gave this book to me more than four years ago, and it had a profound effect upon me.

But not in the way she anticipated.

For at least a decade, I published strong criticisms of modern cosmology and even some of the most basically accepted physical science theories.

Then I read Sheldrakes book. Or tried to. I have been unable to finish the book, stopping many times mid-chapter, just to fume. Scientists should be critical. They should not leverage the weaknesses in our current understandings in order justify authoritative crap.

What is troubling, is the slithering.

In the preface, Sheldrake posts strong scientific credentials. But the book is a non-scientific wag, written perhaps to score points toward the Templeton Prize.- created to fuse the gap between science and religion. It is an ugly step backward.

The root problem with the book, the Templeton Prize and nearly every religious attempt to define science, is how they go about filling the voids in scientific knowledge.

The voids are there, the gaps are there, and an honest scientist will admit some of the gap fillers – such as ‘dark energy’ and ‘dark matter’, are poor substitute for a robust theory of everything. Good science admits that even the most basic assumption may need to be revisited in order to move forward.

But Sheldrake is not a good scientist. He is not objective, he distorts, he elevates straw men, he argues from authority, and he appeals to that least scientific of all concepts: Common sense.

My working definitions of Science and Religion help explain why I think Sheldrake is a quack:

Science, or scientific knowledge and wisdom, is the body of human knowledge that is continuously vetted by a controlled process in order to eliminate errors.

Religion, broadly, is a method of preserving traditions, rituals, myths and historical explanations that may or may not include scientific determinations.

Given these definitions, I really do not need to go further: Science is a winnowing process designed to eliminate mistakes, religion is a preservation process that in many cases eschews scientific explanations.

But Sheldrakes went out of his way to muddy the water, and in the process, he used many logical fallacies: Strawman arguments, appeals to authority, reliance on antidotal evidence; and that universal harbinger of logical fallacy, common sense.

I will give just one example: An amazing part of the building of a new complex creature is the erection of a protein scaffolding next to a germ cell that outlines the basic physical form of virtually all animal species. It has taken decades to discover this mechanism, and the fact that this scaffolding is the same for all animals is highly confirmational of the evolutionary process. But Sheldrake turns this around, arguing that since we have not (yet – in 2011) advanced the understanding of this amazingly complex process significantly, it is evidence to him that non-biological interventions are necessary to form bodies, minds and souls. Make no mistake: Sliding through the cracks in established scientific knowledge in order to rely on magical solutions is both logically dishonest and counterproductive.

Finally, Sheldrake takes many of the conundrums facing cosmologists today, and injects them into his telescoping fallacies to justify magical, deistic forces.

I too am a vocal critic of the standard cosmology. But as in any line of scientific enquiry, reliance on magic (including the magic of ‘dark energy’) to make sense of the cosmos is defeatism. Science should start-and-end with the presumption that everything that happens demonstrates causal relationships, and all theories included in the scientific body of knowledge should include testable hypotheses and provable mechanisms. Theories should provide a roadmap for future investigations. Angels dancing on the heads of pins do not cut it.

Strange
2019-May-20, 04:51 PM
But Sheldrake is not a good scientist. He is not objective, he distorts, he elevates straw men, he argues from authority, and he appeals to that least scientific of all concepts: Common sense.

I'm shocked. Shocked, I tell you.


I too am a vocal critic of the standard cosmology. But as in any line of scientific enquiry, reliance on magic (including the magic of ‘dark energy’) to make sense of the cosmos is defeatism. Science should start-and-end with the presumption that everything that happens demonstrates causal relationships, and all theories included in the scientific body of knowledge should include testable hypotheses and provable mechanisms. Theories should provide a roadmap for future investigations. Angels dancing on the heads of pins do not cut it.

I don't see how labelling the, currently unknown explanation, for accelerating expansion with the term "dark energy" (because the simplest mathematical description is an energy term in the equations) is "reliance on magic". Or how attempting to further understand and explain the observations is somehow undermining the principles you lost.

As for dark matter, the more evidence we gather the more certain it seems that it is some form of matter rather than, say, a flaw in our understanding of gravity. But, again, the question is open. There isn't the dogmatism that you seem to imply. (It took a long time to "directly" detect neutrinos after the initial evidence was seen. It is, inevitably, taking longer to detect "direct" evidence for dark matter.)

When people rail against "dark matter" and "dark energy", I have to wonder: what are you looking for? What sort of proposed explanation would not be objectionable?

Jerry
2019-May-20, 07:40 PM
I'm shocked. Shocked, I tell you.


I don't see how labeling the, currently unknown explanation, for accelerating expansion with the term "dark energy" (because the simplest mathematical description is an energy term in the equations) is "reliance on magic". Or how attempting to further understand and explain the observations is somehow undermining the principles you lost.The simplest mathematical way to increase the money in my budget is to add a few zeroes. Science is all about energy budgets. Pulling space and energy out of nowhere is an untestable hypothesis; and therefore magical. A more candid approach would be an admission that our current cosmic distance measuring tools are likely flawed.


As for dark matter, the more evidence we gather the more certain it seems that it is some form of matter rather than, say, a flaw in our understanding of gravity. But, again, the question is open. There isn't the dogmatism that you seem to imply. (It took a long time to "directly" detect neutrinos after the initial evidence was seen. It is, inevitably, taking longer to detect "direct" evidence for dark matter.)I think it was Wendy Freedman(?) who characterized 'Dark Matter' and 'Dark Energy' as " placeholders for something that we do not understand". I am comfortable with that. I am not comfortable with finding a discrepancy between the expected result of Supernova studies and the observations and resolving it with a direct appeal to authority (by reintroducing the discredited 'cosmological constant').




When people rail against "dark matter" and "dark energy", I have to wonder: what are you looking for? What sort of proposed explanation would not be objectionable?

If there is a holy grail in the cosmological sciences, it is a testable mechanism for a self-sustaining universe derived from observables. The current standard model is salted with two grossly non-conservative mechanisms: Dark Energy and the constantly re-parameterized 'Initial Event'. I find this as vexing as Sheldrake. In dumbed-down media presentations and entry level textbooks, MS writers often call Dark Energy 'mysterious'; but they do not call it speculative, which it is. I think that by cementing Dark Energy into the body of scientific knowledge with no more proof than a failed hypothesis [the failed hypothesis being that we know enough about supernova events to use them for accurate distance scaling], we are inviting the Sheldrakes into the fray.

Strange
2019-May-20, 08:06 PM
The simplest mathematical way to increase the money in my budget is to add a few zeroes.

That is a terrible analogy.


Science is all about energy budgets. Pulling space and energy out of nowhere is an untestable hypothesis; and therefore magical. A more candid approach would be an admission that our current cosmic distance measuring tools are likely flawed.

People have checked the distance measuring tools. In fact, some of the most recent research has been on exactly that; the errors in distance measurement have been reduced to produce a more accurate estimate of the Hubble constant.

Saying that the distance measure are flawed with no evidence to support could be considered magical thinking.


I think it was Wendy Freedman(?) who characterized 'Dark Matter' and 'Dark Energy' as " placeholders for something that we do not understand". I am comfortable with that. I am not comfortable with finding a discrepancy between the expected result of Supernova studies and the observations and resolving it with a direct appeal to authority (by reintroducing the discredited 'cosmological constant').

I am not sure what supernova studies you are referring to. Nor what you mean by "appeal to authority". (Nor for that matter, to the "discredited" cosmological constant.) So I can't comment. :-)


In dumbed-down media presentations and entry level textbooks, MS writers often call Dark Energy 'mysterious'; but they do not call it speculative, which it is.

That is a problem with popular science writing, not science. (Entry level textbooks always simply things and present things as being more certain than they are. They always have. In every subject. It is not really relevant.)

profloater
2019-May-20, 10:08 PM
I have not kept up with Sheldrake and this latest book, but I find some unfair thinking going on. Sheldrake is well away from mainstream but he usually suggests testable hypotheses, not magical thinking.
The fact that mainstream then rejects his ideas untested does not make him less of a scientist in my view. I do think his biological start point makes him less likely to spot cosmology flaws but I feel we do need out of the box thinking to jar our thinking not just sometimes but often. Perhaps I should read the book to test whether I still agree with myself?

Jerry
2019-May-20, 11:21 PM
That is a terrible analogy.
Mathematical solutions are abstractions. Whether one is inflating a bank account or inflating a universe, there must be a source to change the balance. In our local sphere, it takes a source of energy to expand against a gravitation system. Even quantum mechanics, which at times draw energy vectors from 'nowhere', conserve all energy budgets.


People have checked the distance measuring tools. In fact, some of the most recent research has been on exactly that; the errors in distance measurement have been reduced to produce a more accurate estimate of the Hubble constant.[/q]
Saying that the distance measure are flawed with no evidence to support could be considered magical thinking. The latest redo of the supernovae distance modules is in even greater tension with the latest and greatest massaging of the Planck-derived Hubble constant. Remember: Dark Energy was invented because it resolved both the problems in the distance estimates and the background data.


I am not sure what supernova studies you are referring to. Nor what you mean by "appeal to authority". (Nor for that matter, to the "discredited" cosmological constant.) So I can't comment. :-)

Any chemist will tell you that any extrapolations beyond measured endpoints are wrought with potential errors. The Supernova distance projects are based upon many assumptions, and the model of inflation that they were using required a measurable slowing in cosmic inflation AND an acoustic peak in the background. Neither prediction panned out. In their summarizing papers, Perlmutter and others showed that re-introducing "Einsteins constant" would solve the problem. (Calling it Einstein's constant was unwarranted appeal to authority.)

But does it really? Fermi, if he were alive today, would quickly point out that adding a new constant to cancel-out two failed parametric assumptions is hyperbolic. (Any two lines can be connected using a hyperbola.) Karl Popper would point out that Inflation was an auxiliary hypothesis to the Big Bang, and as such, a failure of this auxiliary hypothesis dooms the primary theory.

Bob Woodward wrote that he got a failing grade on a paper because his well-referenced conclusion was that a bare-footed King had indeed stood outside in subzero temperatures all-day while greeting soldiers returning from a battle. The professor failed him because, "Even kings cannot ignore the laws of physics".


What should the acoustic signature of Dark Energy be? Can one use dark energy to keep a king's feet warm and dry?


That is a problem with popular science writing, not science. (Entry level textbooks always simply things and present things as being more certain than they are. They always have. In every subject. It is not really relevant.)
I get to grumble because the crazies use the simplifications to ignite fires;) I also get to grumble because I am old, and a little bit crazy.

PetersCreek
2019-May-20, 11:52 PM
This is not the ATM forum, therefore: there are to be no ATM claims made, hinted at, or fiddled with about the edges. The next warning will likely come in the form of points.

Strange
2019-May-21, 06:53 PM
I have not kept up with Sheldrake and this latest book, but I find some unfair thinking going on. Sheldrake is well away from mainstream but he usually suggests testable hypotheses, not magical thinking.

He may suggest testable hypotheses. But that's it. He isn't interested in rigorous testing of these ideas.

Jerry
2019-May-21, 08:22 PM
I have not kept up with Sheldrake and this latest book, but I find some unfair thinking going on. Sheldrake is well away from mainstream but he usually suggests testable hypotheses, not magical thinking.
The fact that mainstream then rejects his ideas untested does not make him less of a scientist in my view. I do think his biological start point makes him less likely to spot cosmology flaws but I feel we do need out of the box thinking to jar our thinking not just sometimes but often. Perhaps I should read the book to test whether I still agree with myself?
I wish I could recommend that. Let me use another example: Sheldrake devotes an entire chapter the vision process. He goes through the historical debate as to whether the eye 'sends out' a ray or gathers light. (Which is interesting, because active sonar, active radar and echolocation all use sending processes. He then asks the reader if they can 'feel' when someone is starring at them (many people think they can); then provides a host of anecdotal accounts by 'experts" - police, soldiers and the like, and references a study or two that produced ambiguous results. This is something that good, double blind experiments debunked more than half a century ago. Is it really worth anybodies time to revisit this?

Jerry
2019-May-21, 08:47 PM
He may suggest testable hypotheses. But that's it. He isn't interested in rigorous testing of these ideas.

If he has a testable theory, it is that fine structure of biological entities is wave mechanical and not the result of protein sculpturing. He argues research progress is too slow in this area, and this is his justification for 'jumping ship'. Yes, it is the old "nature is to complex to have evolved' argument. We don't need that.

It is interesting that so much prenatal development is now attributable to the maternal environment fun-stuff, but certainly not debunking evolution.

A better title for the book than 'Science Set Free' would be, "If paranormal events are not real, why do we have so many quacks featured in the media?"

profloater
2019-May-22, 02:03 PM
Again my reading of the earlier books does not support the idea that Sheldrake rejects evolution. He suggested a shape field which he called morphic resonance which made later versions of a protein for example, easier to form than before the first one. From crystallography and mice learning mazes he had examples which at that time were not otherwise explained. As we know Lamarckian evolution through epigenetics has now been found and that is an alternative explanation which augments evolution as more complex than the neo Darwinists liked to shout about. Morphic resonance remains a hypothesis with no mechanism but it does still fit many observations. To tar him with the brush of "nature is too complicated" as a denier of evolution is just not a fair representation of his ideas. I only post this as a reader of his books, I wait to see what evidence is observed and do not take his views as correct. But he asks valid questions IMO.

Strange
2019-May-22, 10:15 PM
Morphic resonance remains a hypothesis with no mechanism but it does still fit many observations.

You can cherry-pick observations to fit pretty much any fairy tale. That is not how science works.

profloater
2019-May-22, 10:55 PM
You can cherry-pick observations to fit pretty much any fairy tale. That is not how science works.
that's not fair either, you make observations and search for hypotheses. Some observations are hard to explain, that's where science starts.

Strange
2019-May-23, 12:04 AM
that's not fair either, you make observations and search for hypotheses. Some observations are hard to explain, that's where science starts.

But that isn't what Sheldrake does. He has a hypothesis (being generous) and he then cherry picks a few random observations that can be stretched to fit, and then claims it is thereby proved.

If you disagree, show us a proper scientific test of this hypothesis.

Even if there are things that currently have no other explanation but which could be explained by this hypothesis (which I don't believe is the case) that is still not evidence for the hypothesis. One can invent an infinite number of hypotheses to explain specific observations. I would start with the traditional invisible pink unicorns. They can explain anything that "morphic resonance" can. And they are far more plausible.

Jerry
2019-May-24, 04:25 PM
Again my reading of the earlier books does not support the idea that Sheldrake rejects evolution. He suggested a shape field which he called morphic resonance which made later versions of a protein for example, easier to form than before the first one. From crystallography and mice learning mazes he had examples which at that time were not otherwise explained. As we know Lamarckian evolution through epigenetics has now been found and that is an alternative explanation which augments evolution as more complex than the neo Darwinists liked to shout about. Morphic resonance remains a hypothesis with no mechanism but it does still fit many observations. To tar him with the brush of "nature is too complicated" as a denier of evolution is just not a fair representation of his ideas. I only post this as a reader of his books, I wait to see what evidence is observed and do not take his views as correct. But he asks valid questions IMO.

Sheldrake's primary thesis is that the unifying principle is 'morphic resonance'; a term that he created and defends, chapter by chapter, by restating that nature is too complex to trace all observations to assign causal roots, and he flatly contends that to continue to search for causal mechanisms is a blind quest that will remain fruitless.


The delusion that science has already answered the fundamental questions chokes off the spirit of inquiry. The illusion that scientists are superior to the rest of humanity means that they have little to learn from anyone else. They need other people's financial support, but they do not need to listen to anyone less sciientifically educated than themselves. In return for their privileged position, sciantist will deliver knowledge and power over nature, transforming humanity and the earth.

The materialist agenda was once liberating but is now depressing. Those who believe in it are alienated from their own experience; they are cut off from all religious traditions; and they are prone to suffer from a sense of disconnection and Isolation. Meanwhile, the power unleashed by scientific knowledge is causing the mass extinction of other species , and endangering our own.

I find this offensive at every possible level. First, he is malignantly identifying scientists as rude and egotistical. He is drawing a line between scientists and people who 'work' for a living; implying that Scientist is not a valued and skilled occupation. To say that moving in social circles that do not involve religious traditions is 'disconnecting and isolating' is gregarious at best. And there is nothing more offensive than stating 'scientists' are responsible for the technology that is causing mass extinction. Many, many scientists are involved in religious pursuit and many many causes that are morally equivalent. Sheldrake is not ignorant to this, and he is deliberately trying to isolate 'scientists' as amoral, non-spiritual and frankly less-than-human leaches.

My working definition of evil is the pretension of a virtue in order to perpetuate a vice. There is nothing virtuous about claiming scientists who reject religious traditions that have no proven merit are 'arrogant and dogmatic sycophants'.

Roger E. Moore
2019-May-24, 05:07 PM
Wikipedia has a strongly negative view of Rupert Sheldrake as a "scientist". I found the article enlightening as an introduction to "morphic resonance" as well.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rupert_Sheldrake

profloater
2019-May-24, 05:25 PM
it does seem to me that the further he strayed from biology the more tenuous his claims, and his is a case where being outlawed by the mainstream, he has become aggressive. Some of his original ideas might be explained by subsequent mainsteeam evidence. It's a pity in my opinion that when someone points to observations that have no mainstream cause, they are accused of magical thinking (a code for introducing religion which he does not do) rather than just a thorn in the side of thinking that we know everything. I cannot support his ideas on memory in the light of recent work but like evolution we do not know the complete picture yet. His experiments on dogs for example brought out both supporters (dog owners? and critics (observer bias).

Noclevername
2019-May-24, 06:35 PM
It's a pity in my opinion that when someone points to observations that have no mainstream cause, they are accused of magical thinking (a code for introducing religion which he does not do) rather than just a thorn in the side of thinking that we know everything. I cannot support his ideas on memory in the light of recent work but like evolution we do not know the complete picture yet.

The whole reason we have Science is because we don't know "everything" and never will. It's a process of investigation. The mainstream is that which has been confirmed repeatedly, nothing more.

And there are many flavors of magical thinking, not all of them involve religion.