Morphic resonance

Rupert Sheldrake again. What about those experiments he does? Pretty rigorous, are they? Well, here’s what he says in one paper:

The experimenter (either R.S. or P.S.) telephoned the randomly selected callers in advance, usually an hour or two beforehand, and asked them to call at the time selected. We asked callers to think about the participant for about a minute before calling…A few minutes after the tests, the experimenter rang the participant to ask what his or her guess had been, and in some cases also asked the callers. In no cases did callers and participants disagree.

Uh…that doesn’t count? Look – suppose you set up an experiment in which you phone me and tell me to fly from here to Calgary and back. A few minutes after the test, you ring me to ask me if I did it; I say yes indeed. Would you then rush to a scientific jamboree and say you’d conducted experiments that show people can fly? I don’t know, maybe you would, maybe you’ll do anything for attention. But you get my drift – asking people if they guessed correctly is not a very rigorous kind of experiment, is it.

Sheldrake thought deeply about this problem, and he has solved it.

What about deliberate cheating? Perhaps participants and their callers simply lied about the guesses, falsely reporting incorrect guesses as correct…The cheating hypothesis is implausible for three main reasons. First, it is very improbable that a large majority of the participants would have cheated.

Okay…so if you set up an experiment in which you phone 63 people and tell them to fly to Calgary and back and then a few minutes later phone to ask them if they did it – it will be very improbable that a large majority of the participants would have told whoppers; therefore, if 45% of them say yes, some people can fly. Hmm…I’m not sure I’m convinced.

He did get a clue eventually.

Third, as we describe in a separate paper (Sheldrake & Smart, 2003), we carried out further series of experiments in which the participants were filmed continuously on time-coded videotape, starting 15 minutes before each trial. We selected the caller at random only after the filming had started.

Bingo! Well done! But surely the experiments that were not filmed are just plain worthless. Phoning people up and asking them ‘Who’dja guess?’ doesn’t cut it.

Never mind, it’s all morphic resonance, maybe.

Sheldrake prefers teleological to mechanistic models of reality. Rather than spend his life, say, trying to develop a way to increase crop yields, he prefers to study and think in terms outside of the paradigms of science, i.e., inside the paradigms of the occult and the paranormal…He prefers a romantic vision of the past to the bleak picture of a world run by technocrats who want to control Nature and destroy much of the environment in the process. In short, he prefers metaphysics to science, though he seems to think he can do the former but call it the latter…In short, although Sheldrake commands some respect as a scientist because of his education and degree, he has clearly abandoned science in favor of theology and philosophy. This is his right, of course. However, his continued pose as a scientist is unwarranted. He is one of a growing horde of “alternative” scientists whose resentment at the aspiritual nature of modern scientific paradigms, as well as the obviously harmful and seemingly indifferent applications of modern science, have led them to create their own paradigms. These paradigms are not new, though the terminology is. These alternative paradigms allow for angels, telepathy, psychic dogs…

And the ability to fly to Calgary and back without breaking a sweat.

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