Review, and some thoughts for an experiment.
The Science Delusion by Rupert Sheldrake.
I found this book rather disappointing, it seems to contain little that he hasn’t mentioned in his previous books and it has the feel of a career summation by a man disappointed himself that the scientific community has not taken him more seriously. In places the writing seems trite and clichéd and weary.
Sheldrake returns to the theme of crystallography and again makes the point that once a crystal of a novel compound has crystalised, further samples can sometimes seem to crystalise more readily. If this suggests the action of some sort of morphic field at work then it suffers from a falsifiability problem because Sheldrake asserts that morphic fields persist forever once created, so it becomes impossible to ever repeat the experiment with the same, no longer novel, compound.
I’ve always had a problem with the idea of the indefinite persistence of morphic fields. I rather suspect that Sheldrake harbours the belief that they provide some sort of mechanism for life after death.
Sheldrake then goes on to regurgitate familiar material about experiments that show that people seem to have some psychic ability to know when other people stare at them from behind and to guess correctly which of their friends has just rung them on the telephone before they pick it up to answer. Such experiments tend to give results above statistical chance, but not startlingly so.
Sheldrake has written an entire book called The Persistence of the Past.
However such parapsychological results do not seem to find an obvious explanation in terms of morphic fields that persist forever. If thinking about someone creates a morphic field that persists forever then why don’t people who can detect this remain irritated by the gaze or impending phone calls of others for the rest of their lives?
Sheldrake’s assertion that the sequencing of the human genome has so far failed to provide the medical breakthroughs promised remains true, however his further assertion that the genetic code of organisms cannot possibly completely specify their entire physical structure and that they will need additional morphic fields to develop properly seems highly questionable. The human genome has a huge size, we haven’t really decoded it yet, we haven’t the faintest clue what most of it does yet, and we know that chromosomes need the vastly complex environment of the cellular cytoplasm in which to do anything useful, and we haven’t really decoded that yet either.
I propose a fairly cheap and simple experiment to test the persistence of morphic fields.
Set up two chemical laboratories as identically as possible. Have a chemist prepare a warm solution of a completely novel compound; organic chemical compounds would probably prove the easiest option here.
Divide the solution into 2 equal portions and place each under reflux in the separate laboratories. Allow one to cool and record the time to crystalisation. Then allow the other to cool and record the time to crystalisation also.
Keep repeating this experiment until you find a compound that crystalises significantly faster the second time.
Then, and here comes the important bit, when you have a compound that appears to have demonstrated the morphic field effect, boil both samples to re-dissolve the crystals so that none exists and then re-time the crystalisation to see if it depends on actual crystals remaining in existence somewhere.
If this works then you have not only a repeatable experiment, but also, astonishingly, a method of non-local signalling that would have the quantum physicists and cryptographers leaping up and down in ecstasy.