From Resurgence & Ecologist, Jan/Feb 2016, page 56

I was an atheist when I was an undergraduate at Cambridge and for several years afterwards, yet I still went to choral evensong because I found it so inspiring and uplifting. Whatever your religious faith, or lack of it, no one is going to question you about your beliefs or your motives when you attend.


The world of science is in the midst of unprecedented soul-searching at present. The credibility of science rests on the widespread assumption that results are replicable, and that high standards are maintained by anonymous peer review. These pillars of belief are crumbling. In September 2015, the international scientific journal Nature published a cartoon showing the temple of “Robust Science” in a state of collapse. What is going on?

One of the biggest controversies in twentieth-century biology was about the inheritance of acquired characteristics, the ability of animals and plants to inherit adaptations acquired by their ancestors. For example, if a dog was terrified of butchers because he had been mistreated by one, his offspring would tend to inherit his fear. Charles Darwin wrote a letter to Nature describing just such a case. The opposing view, promoted by the science of genetics, asserted that organisms could not inherit features their ancestors had acquired; they only passed on genes that they themselves had inherited.

Wikipedia is a wonderful invention. But precisely because it's so trusted and convenient, people with their own agendas keep trying to take it over. Editing wars are common. According to researchers at Oxford University, the most controversial subjects worldwide include Israel and God.

In the course of my research on the unexplained human abilities, more than 150 people have told me about an experience that I had never before seen discussed. To their surprise, they thought about a friend or acquaintance for no particular reason, and then shortly afterward met that person. No one thinks it strange if he meets someone he was expecting to meet, or someone he encounters frequently. It is with unexpected meetings that the phenomenon is so striking. For example, Andreas Thomopoulos, a film director from Athens, was visiting Paris with his wife. "Walking through the streets, we thought of a close student friend of mine in London. We wondered how he was nowadays since I hadn't seen him for over twenty years. Shortly after, on going around a corner, we bumped straight into him!" Mary Flanagan, of Hoboken, New Jersey, had a similar experience: "Walking down the street, I was thinking of someone I had not seen or spoken to for three years and who lives in a different city. I met her on the street about ten minutes after I started thinking about her."

Anticipations of meetings even seem to occur with vehicles, rather than specific people. David Campbell had a job during the school holidays working on a construction project in County Durham, in the north of England. "We traveled to the site in the company's van, and for no good reason I memorized the registration number of the van, I can still remember it. Anyway, the job finished and I went back to school. A couple of years later I was out with the local cycling club one Sunday morning when for some inexplicable reason I started thinking about this builder's van and its number plate. About half a minute later the van passed me going in the opposite direction!"

The simplest and cheapest of all reforms within institutional science is to switch from the passive to the active voice in writing about science. Many people have already made this change, but some teachers in schools and universities do not realise that they and their students are free to write more naturally.

The idealized objectivity of science is reflected in the use of the passive voice in many science reports: "A test tube was taken..." instead of "I took a test tube." All research scientists know that writing in the passive voice is artificial; they are not disembodied observers, but people doing research. Technocrats also use the passive voice to give their reports an air of scientific authority, dressing up opinions as objective facts.

This is extracted from Chapter 11 of Rupert Sheldrake's book Morphic Resonance (in the US) and A New Science of Life (in the UK)

In mechanistic biology, a sharp distinction is drawn between innate and learned behaviour: the former is assumed to be 'genetically programmed' or 'coded' in the DNA, while the latter is supposed to result from physical and chemical changes in the nervous system. There is no conceivable way in which such changes could specifically modify the DNA, as the Lamarckian theory would require; it is therefore considered impossible for learned behaviour acquired by an animal to be inherited by its offspring (excluding, of course, 'cultural inheritance', whereby the offspring learn patterns of behaviour from their parents or other adults).

By contrast, according to the hypothesis of formative causation, there is no difference in kind between innate and learned behaviour: both depend on motor fields given by morphic resonance (Section 10. 1). This hypothesis therefore admits a possible transmission of learned behaviour from one animal to another, and leads to testable predictions which differ not only from those of the orthodox theory of inheritance, but also from those of the Lamarckian theory, and from inheritance through epigenetic modifications of gene expression.

Physics is based on the assumption that certain fundamental features of nature are constant. Some constants are considered to be more fundamental than others, including the velocity of light c and the Universal Gravitational Constant, known to physicists as Big G. Unlike the constants of mathematics, such as p, the values of the constants of nature cannot be calculated from first principles: they depend on laboratory measurements. As the name implies, the physical constants are supposed to be changeless. They are believed to reflect an underlying constancy of nature, part of the standard assumption of physics that the laws and constants of nature are fixed forever.

Are the constants really constant? The measured values continually change, as I show in my book Science Set Free (The Science Delusion in the UK). They are regularly adjusted by international committees of experts know as metrologists. Old values are replaced by new "best values", based on the recent data from laboratories around the world.

Before 2012 slips away it's worth remembering that this is the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Thomas Kuhn's hugely influential book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, which was itself revolutionary, and has sold more than a million copies worldwide. Almost every time you hear the word 'paradigm', Kuhn's book is in the background.

Kuhn made it clear that science is not simply devoted to the rational pursuit of truth, but is subject to human foibles, ambitions, emotions, and peer-group pressures. A paradigm is a theory of reality, a model of the way in which research can be done, and a consensus within a professional group. At any given time anomalies that do not fit into the paradigm are rejected or ignored, and 'normal science' goes on within the agreed framework. But at times of scientific revolution, 'one conceptual world view is replaced by another'; the framework itself is enlarged to include anomalies that were previously unexplained. Some well-known examples of major paradigm shifts are the Copernican revolution in astronomy, the Darwinian theory of evolution, and the relativity and quantum revolutions in twentieth century physics.