Rupert Sheldrake speaks at BPS event

Dr Stuart Whomsley is the new PR and Communications Lead for our Division of Clinical Psychology. Here he reports on a talk given by Dr Rupert Sheldrake, the biologist, author and parapsychological researcher, to the Annual Conference of the Society’s Transpersonal Psychological Section in Scarborough last week.

Dr Sheldrake gave a well-received lecture to an audience of 80, expounding on ideas from his recent book “The Science delusion: Freeing the Spirit of enquiry”. Sheldrake emphasised that he has no problem with scientific method: in fact, he embraces that method and has a passion for conceptualising and carrying out experiments. What he has problems with are the belief systems that have become attached to science. These are the beliefs of materialism and it is these that he seeks to question and expose as inaccurate.
He has identified 10 dogmas of science, all linked with materialism, that have been taken as absolute truth and not subjected to sufficient analytic enquiry. Sheldrake’s 10 include: “Matter is unconscious, consciousness is only located in the brain”, “Mechanistic medicine is the only kind that really works” and ”Nature is purposeless”. In his lecture, as in his book, Sheldrake sought to explore the evidence for each of these beliefs and for the materialism agenda that they support. He made a thought-provoking and coherent case which is worthy of further consideration and reflection by scientists of all disciplines, including psychologists.
There is hope for the future, according to Sheldrake, that science will be liberated from materialism. He put forward two reasons for his hope. First, the development of new technologies, notably the internet and now Iphone applications, has the potential to free scientists from the restraints of institutional orthodoxy. Second, the majority of the world’s young scientists are being trained in countries outside Europe and the USA. Sheldrake is hopeful that, being from different cultural heritages, they will have less investment in materialism.
Sheldrake remains committed to science and wants to see it liberated from current dogmas: “I am in favour of scientific reason as long as it is scientific and reasonable.” When he suspects that science is neither, he has the intellect and the courage to question it.