Rupert Sheldrake | The Sociology of Religion

The question in the first assignment of this course is all about science, and in particular the closed minded quality of elite scientific discourse like that found in the “big gun” journals like Nature and Science. You’d never think that you’d find high priests decrying heretics and calling us to burn books, but here you have it. It is part of the ideologically rooted “thought control” that silences open scientific debate on core spiritual ideas (for an example, see my article on Scientists and Spirituality.

by Jon Anderson

Upon publishing his book “A New Science of Life,” Rupert Sheldrake was immediately ousted by his community of peers. In fact, John Maddox went so far as to say “Sheldrake is putting forward magic instead of science, and that can be condemned in exactly the language that the Pope used to condemn Galileo, and for the same reason. It is heresy.” Sheldrake put fourth the idea of Morphic Resonance, which attempts to ascertain the idea that the behaviors of the pas shape the living organisms of the future. Sheldrake states his belief that “memory is inherent in nature.” It is this idea, which was given the label of “Pseduo-Science.” John Maddox in his editorial criticizing Sheldrake’s ideas stated that “A New Science of Life” was a book, which should be burned. Rather than using the traditional scientific method to learn more about new ideas, Maddox viewed Sheldrake’s work as heresy, which should not be discussed, and further should be completely destroyed, as there is no redeeming thought or idea that should even be on the table for discussion.

Sheldrake has worn his title of “Heretic” quite well in that he has had the opportunity to reveal some of the flaws of the scientific community. Sheldrake points out the difference between science as a method of inquiry and science as a belief system. He feels the scientific community has become more of a belief system, and so to go against the grain of what is accepted scientifically is to be ostracized from the scientific community. It is in fact exactly what would happen in a religious setting. If a bishop was to question or deny what is accepted to be Biblical Truth, they would be kicked out of the Church and given the label “heretic.” The scientific community, in Sheldrake’s view has become the same. Rather than being a community where new ideas should be embraced as an opportunity of potential for new knowledge, new ideas that go against what is already accepted are simply given the label “heresy” and therefore are disregarded. This does in fact group the Scientific Community with the medieval church who ostracized Galileo for his groundbreaking beliefs…especially since he turned out to be correct.

Throughout history, people have come along with new ideas, which at first have been completely disregarded, and oftentimes even mocked. However these new ideas over time have become accepted as fact. With this in mind, it is scary to think that the same process is still happening today. With new ideas being presented, the scientific community needs to consider the possibility, and in an unbiased manner, discuss and experiment, in order to discover whether or not the new thought has any truth. To simply disregard new thought because it goes against what is believed as truth means we are inevitably going to reject thought, which could in the future be considered as universal truth. The scientific community, because of this, is worse than the medieval priests who sanctioned Galileo for daring to speak outside the boundaries of Church canon, because they have obviously not learned from the past. The medieval church is often criticized and mocked for its rejection of what is now believed to be fact. Who is to say that decades from now our most brilliant minds won’t be mocked for the very same reason? In order for science to maintain if not regain its credibility, it needs to be a community where new ideas are embraced as an opportunity for learning, rather than being cast out as new thoughts, which might upset the status quo of what, is accepted in the community as truth.


Adams, Tim. Rupert Sheldrake: the ‘heretic’ at odds with scientific dogma. 5 February 2012. The Guardian. 22 September 2014 .

Rupert Sheldrake – The Science Delusion BANNED TED TALK. Dir. Ted Talks. Perf. Rupert Sheldrake. 2013.

—. Sir John Maddox – Book for Burning. 22 September 2014 .