Thursday, April 26, 2007

Taboos in science. . .

Here is Rupert Sheldrake talking about taboos in science:

I hope Lewis would also say something about that because … I think it is a taboo subject. It’s an extraordinary thing that scientists who claim to be rational or rationalists, get extraordinarily irrational when it comes to the subject of telepathy. The belief in evidence just goes out of the window. It often arouses deep emotions, and I often wonder, why is it that people get so upset at the possible existence of telepathy? Why is it something so deeply disturbing?

I think the reasons are historical. They go back at least as far as the ‘enlightenment,’ when the idea of the agenda was to push forward the science and reason and reject religion and superstition, credulity, folklaw and so forth. Somehow, telepathy - at that time, not called telepathy - but somehow, these psychic phenomena got put into the compartment of ‘superstition,’ and ever since then, rational people have been supposed not to believe in them. I think that’s why (as a sociological fact) you won’t find serious articles about this in broadsheet newspapers or on Horizon programmes on BBC, because these are beyond the pale of rational discourse, and educated people - not just scientists, but most university graduates - know that they’re meant to be part of this ‘enlightenment’ project, and at least in public, are supposed to deny telepathy, or at least, not talk about it. The penalty for doing so is to be thought credulous, superstitious or stupid and no one wants to lose intellectual cast.

So, I think that this taboo got established quite early on and it’s somehow been in place ever since then. If you look at the controversies in the late 19th century, they were the same as today, the same kinds of arguments. The people in favour, said, “Here’s all the evidence.” The people against, said, “It’s impossible, the evidence is all not credible, etc.” It’s very strange in science that some new ideas are perfectly acceptable. For example, David Deutsch who is a Physicist in Oxford has written a book on Time Travel. He’s also written a book on Multiple Universes, the idea that every time a physical observation is made, the universe splits, and there’s billions, trillions, quadrillions of parallel universes, completely unobserved. He holds down a respectful position in Physics in Oxford. There’s no evidence at all for this postulate, and yet, this is quite tolerable within Physics. However, when it comes to the subject of telepathy, David Deutsch says very much the same as Lewis Wolpert. “It’s total rubbish, not a shred of evidence.” I know he hasn’t studied the evidence, but somehow the same person can have totally wild theories about parallel universes and yet, this complete taboo against telepathy, co-existing in the same person. . .

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