For those who want to plough through intricacies in the history (his-story) of still ongoing battles in “science” and the “philosophy of science” between those who believe in only “bodies,” and those who also believe in “souls,” but can’t figure out how to combine the two, Sheldrake offers s a long, wonderful introduction that then segues — whew! breath a sigh of relief! — into his (and others’) third alternative, “panpsychism,” which itself has many variants. That Sheldrake was banned from TED is one argument for the validity of his claim that “normal” science is crammed full of materialistic prejudice.
**Editor’s Note: Reprinted with permission from Rupert Sheldrake, the ideas in this article are further explored in Rupert Sheldrake’s book, Science Set Free: 10 Paths to New Discovery. Please also visit his website, Sheldrake.org, for more of his fascinating articles and insight into nature and human consciousness. **
The “scientific worldview” is immensely influential because the sciences have been so successful. No one can fail to be awed by their achievements, which touch all our lives through technologies and through modern medicine. Our intellectual world has been transformed through an immense expansion of our knowledge, down into the most microscopic particles of matter and out into the vastness of space, with hundreds of billions of galaxies in an ever-expanding universe.
Yet in the second decade of the 21st century, when science and technology seem to be at the peak of the power, when their influence has spread all over the world, and when their triumph seems indisputable, unexpected problems are dis-rupting the sciences from within. Most scientists take it for granted that these problems will eventually be solved by more research along established lines, but some, including myself, think that they are symptoms of a deeper malaise. Science is being held back by centuries-old assumptions that have hardened into dogmas. The sciences would be better off with-out them: freer, more interesting, and more fun.
The biggest scientific delusion of all is that science already knows the answers. The details still need working out, but the fundamental questions are settled, in principle.
Contemporary science is based on the claim that all reality is material or physical. There is no reality but material reality. Consciousness is a by-product of the physical activity of the brain. Matter is unconscious. Evolution is purposeless. God exists only as an idea in human minds, and hence in human heads.
These beliefs are powerful not because most scientists think about them critically, but because they do not. The facts of science are real enough, and so are the techniques that scientists use, and so are the technologies based on them. But the belief system that governs conventional scientific thinking is an act of faith, grounded in a 19th-century ideology.