September 15, 2012

Rupert Sheldrake’s Science Set Free: The Most Important Book of the Decade?.


When your mind and heart are truly open abundance will flow to you effortlessly and easily.

Writtem by  Matthew Fox.

Rupert Sheldrake's new book, Science Set Free in the United States and The Science Delusion in England, may well prove to be the most important book of the decade, surely one of the most important books. Why? Because everyone knows that Science is the “good housekeeping” approval for almost any intellectual effort in the West and Sheldrake has both the smarts and the balls to dare to challenge—not its hegemony—but its premises. And by “its” I mean the unexamined “dogmas” (Sheldrake's word) of modern science that we still have with us like haze after a fire or pollution after a coal train has sped by even though we imagine we have outgrown 19th century thought.

Sheldrake makes clear that he is writing his book for scientists; he is critiquing science by its own terms; after all he is a well established though controversial scientist and he shows great courage in daring to stand up to his own discipline and scientific super egos. Yet Sheldrake writes in so lucid a style that his arguments are for the most part easily understood even by non-scientists like myself. Nor does he just throw firebombs at the “unscientific” suppositions (ten of them), he offers calm (and sometimes humorous) alternatives to the stuck ideologies of modern (as distinct from post-modern) science that still rules and haunts the halls of academia and the media and the fund granters. Sheldrake has spent years creating scientific experiments on low budgets that in fact support many of his criticisms of dogmas, experiments such as those with dogs that know when their masters are returning home and with people who know when they are being stared at—findings that deconstruct some dearly held scientific shibboleths.

Sheldrake's work is so refreshing. If he is right—that ten dogmas are holding science back from doing its deeper work today—then exploring these ten shadows of contemporary culture could unleash tremendous vitality and possibility—even moral possibilities. Sheldrake, with courage and finesse, with scientific brilliance and a sharp wit, dares to take on the unexamined dogmas of today's (outmoded) scientific ideologies.

He closes the book with chapters on “Illusions of Objectivity” and “Scientific Futures.” His vision is laid out in the final chapter like this: “The sciences are entering a new phase. The materialist ideology that has ruled them since the nineteenth century is out of date. All ten of its essential doctrines have been superseded. The authoritarian structure of the sciences, the illusions of objectivity and the fantasies of omniscience have all outlived their usefulness.” He also adds another and significant observation: Science is now global, but materialistic ideology is uniquely European deriving from religious wars of the seventeenth century. “But these preoccupations are alien to cultures and traditions in many other parts of the world.” Just this one point makes clear how important this book is. The deconstruction of the ideologies behind science is an important part of keeping science itself relevant and alive on a global scale. Science needs to be ecumenical with various cultures (and religious world views) the world-over.

Though I am a Christian I am by no means a fundamentalist who wants to make war with science or use the Bible as proof texts about creation. I want to use science to understand creation better, whether we are talking about homosexuality among human tribes and among non-human species, or whether we are facing global warming and humanity's moral implications in contributing to the same, or whether we are talking about life on Mars or intelligent life elsewhere in the universe—for all these great questions I expect science to inform me. I come from the tradition of Thomas Aquinas who fought the fundamentalists of his day and brought in the “pagan” scientist Aristotle to do so. Aquinas says, “a mistake about creation results in a mistake about God.” Science therefore is integral to my theology and worldview and I am not only curious but eager to learn about creation from science; and therefore more about God. I am as anti-fundamentalist as any angry atheist. I am very critical of my own discipline as a theologian. Cannot scientists be equally critical of their own discipline? Should they not be?

Sheldrake is not arguing for theism; he is just making clear that an entire world view of materialistic science is reductionistic and rests on unproven assumptions. Why believe the unbelievable and/or at least the unproven? Why teach that the mind is limited to what goes on in the cranium? Why make that the basis of education and the basis of grant-giving and the basis of culture itself? Especially when that culture is so often revealing a less than dignified direction and preaches despair and pessimism so readily?

Sheldrake, like any prophet, dares to speak truth to power and science is powerful. “Its influence is greater than that of any other system of thought in all of human history.” This book is rich with the history of science and philosophy telling important stories of movements and persons and ideas that have shaped our scientific world often in conflict with our religious beliefs. In its quiet and gentle and sometimes humorous way this book pulls the rug out from under an entire culture, one that is already on the down-slide as neither education nor science nor economics nor politics nor religion nor media are doing their job today. They are not feeding the souls and spirits of the Earth or its peoples. They deny us a future. We can do better. Sheldrake lights the way.

Write Your Comment

  1. Xenu

    The Science Delusion in England - that`s Britain. Duh.

  2. Enrique Katalbas

    Matthew fox i salute u for ur works on christian mysticism

  3. Bruce Robinson

    plan to read it

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