Rupert Sheldrake Discusses Morphic Resonance and Animal Telepathy with Scientific American

Rupert Sheldrake

The website of Scientific American currently has an excellent feature and interview with 'maverick biologist' Rupert Sheldrake, via science writer John Horgan. Though he considers himself a 'psi skeptic', Horgan's piece is warm and open-minded (we find out that Sheldrake does a good impression of his late friend, Terence McKenna) - very pleasant to see these 'heretical' topics discussed in such a convivial manner for a change.

The article covers many topics, but I thought Rupert's description of his theory of 'morphic resonance' was a very good summary for anybody not intimately familiar with, so have excerpted the relevant parts below. Make sure you head on over and read the entire piece though:

Morphic resonance is the influence of previous structures of activity on subsequent similar structures of activity organized by morphic fields. It enables memories to pass across both space and time from the past. The greater the similarity, the greater the influence of morphic resonance. What this means is that all self-organizing systems, such as molecules, crystals, cells, plants, animals and animal societies, have a collective memory on which each individual draws and to which it contributes. In its most general sense this hypothesis implies that the so-called laws of nature are more like habits.

...The idea of morphic resonance came to me when I was doing research at Cambridge on the development of plants. I was interested in the concept of morphogenetic, or form-shaping, fields, but realized they could not be inherited through genes. They had to be inherited in some other way. The idea of morphic resonance came as a sudden insight. This happened in 1973, but it was a radical idea, and I spent years thinking about it before I published it in my first book, A New Science of Life, in 1981.

...There is a lot of circumstantial evidence for morphic resonance. The most striking experiment involved a long series of tests on rat learning that started in Harvard in the 1920s and continued over several decades. Rats learned to escape from a water-maze and subsequent generations learned faster and faster. At the time this looked like an example of Lamarckian inheritance, which was taboo. The interesting thing is that after the rats had learned to escape more than 10 times quicker at Harvard, when rats were tested in Edinburgh, Scotland and in Melbourne, Australia they started more or less where the Harvard rats left off. In Melbourne the rats continued to improve after repeated testing, and this effect was not confined to the descendants of trained rats, suggesting a morphic resonance rather than epigenetic effect. I discuss this evidence in A New Science of Life, now in its third edition, called Morphic Resonance in the US.

...I would like there to be much more research on morphic resonance and I would like to see a lot more evidence for it. If there were, it would not necessarily refute materialism, but could expand the materialist worldview, which has become excessively dogmatic, as I show in my recent book Science Set Free (called The Science Delusion in the UK). I think something like morphic resonance is necessary to make sense of inheritance, memory, the evolutionary nature of nature, and many other phenomena. Lee Smolin, the theoretical physicist, recently put forward a similar idea, which he calls β€œthe principle of precedence,” and perhaps his hypothesis might mesh in better with established science, since it is formulated in the context of quantum physics. The main question is whether or not the effects predicted by the hypothesis of morphic resonance – or the principle of precedence – actually happen.

P.Z. Myers and company getting frothy at the mouth in 3, 2, 1...

Link: Scientific Heretic Rupert Sheldrake on Morphic Fields, Psychic Dogs and Other Mysteries

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emlong's picture
Member since:
18 September 2007
Last activity:
23 hours 49 min

I'm not sure we need the term to be "morphic" resonance. Probably just "resonance" alone suffices, and it tastes more of the vibrational which is the master organizing principle behind everything anyway. It's true that there are probably also non-hertzian forces at play, but nobody seems to have any handle on that yet. We might as well focus on what we know about vibrational resonance.

red pill junkie's picture
Member since:
12 April 2007
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2 days 12 hours

I believe Sheldrake derived the name from the Greek 'Morphos' which means shape; so maybe he wanted to distinguish the resonance in charge of attributing form to an object, from other types of resonances (like hertz frequencies for example).

It's not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me...
It's all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

Red Pill Junkie
_______________
@red_pill_junkie

billy mavreas's picture
Member since:
1 March 2013
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1 year 44 weeks

am i unduly encouraged by this development ?

i know that the columnist,john horgan, certainly does not speak for the entirety of scientific american but wow, this is a respectful article and interview. the comments so far are thoughtful and respectful. the orcs haven't scaled the walls yet.

That it leaves off egging a debate between that weenie, shermer and mister chillax himself, sheldrake, is an extra added bonus.

emlong's picture
Member since:
18 September 2007
Last activity:
23 hours 49 min

I can understand prefixing with "morphic," but I am arguing the case that vibration should be more acknowledged in these phenomena. Letting harmonics feature more in the theorizing might be very instructive.

billy mavreas's picture
Member since:
1 March 2013
Last activity:
1 year 44 weeks

"P.Z. Myers and company getting frothy at the mouth in 3, 2, 1..."

well, so far, crickets.

ok folks i'm confused. this sheldrake guy is often trotted out as public enemy number one. now, here is a respectful take on a big science blog and.....nothing !

heck, not even much interest here outside of the ideas around morphic resonance....but no discussion as to what it means that a week passes by and the trolls have hardly even noticed...is it a matter of time ? are there bigger fish to fry ? is sheldrake all of a sudden no big deal ?

is everyone bored to tears of skeptical shenanigans ? even the skeptics ?

i think this is fascinating and note worthy. and so must you Greg for posting this....but is that it ? it stops here ?

thanks for indulging me.

emlong's picture
Member since:
18 September 2007
Last activity:
23 hours 49 min

Morphic Resonance has been thoroughly sliced and diced by this blog before. It's been hashed out by now, so there must be a bit of fatigue on both sides and the middle plus it's summertime and everyone is on the beach if not literally then figuratively.