Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Scientist can be soooo dramatic. Case in point. Rupert Sheldrake and Steven Rose in a contentious row over some chicks. -
1. INTRODUCTION The hypothesis of formative causation, which I first proposed in 1981 (SHELDRAKE, 1981) postulates that organisms are subject to an influence from previous similar organisms by a process called morphic resonance. Through morphic resonance, each member of a species draws upon, and in turn contributes to, a pooled or collective memory. Thus, for example, if animals learn a new skill in one place, similar animals raised under similar conditions should subsequently tend to learn the same thing more readily all over the world. Likewise, people should tend to learn more readily what others have already learnt, even in the absence of any known means of connection or communication. In the human realm, this hypothesis resembles C.G. Jung's postulate of the collective unconscious (SHELDRAKE, 1988). The hypothesis also applies in the chemical and physical realms, and predicts, for example, that crystals of new compounds should become easier to crystallize all over the world the more often they are made. There is already circumstantial evidence that this actually happens (SHELDRAKE, 1981; 1988). The hypothesis of formative causation raises many theoretical and philosophical questions, which I have discussed in detail in my books (SHELDRAKE, 1981; 1988; 1990), but as a scientific hypothesis, its value has to be assessed by empirical tests. Most experimental tests of this hypothesis to date have involved human learning, and results so far have supported it (SHELDRAKE, 1986; 1988; MAHLBERG, 1987; ERTEL, 1992). When I first proposed the hypothesis of formative causation in 1981, it aroused considerable controversy, and was attacked in an editorial in Nature entitled "A Book for Burning?" (ANON, 1981). As a result of this attack, Steven Rose of the Biology Department at the Open University in Britain, wrote to me offering facilities in his laboratory for testing the hypothesis in the learning of animals. We discussed this possibility soon afterwards, but for various practical reasons, nothing came of it. In 1988, as a result of an article I wrote on morphic resonance in The Guardian, a British newspaper, Rose wrote an attack on the concept and publicly repeated his offer to test this "seemingly absurd hypothesis" in his laboratory (ROSE, 1988). This time, it was possible to take up the offer. Funding was available, and a summer student, Ms Amanda Harrison, was appointed to carry out the experiment in the summer of 1990. She knew nothing of morphic resonance, and was deliberately not informed of the hypothesis being tested until the experiments were completed. Thus the experiment described below was performed blind. The design was agreed in advance by Rose and myself, and we both recorded our predictions before the experiment began. Rose predicted that the experiment would show no morphic resonance effects; I predicted that it would.

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St. Augustine, Florida, United States
I spill ink ,it collects here.