Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Graham and Rupert and TED and Science

Had I not visited the Graham Hancock *website* I would not have known about the videos of the TED talks by Graham Hancock and Rupert Shelldrake that were banned from the TED website.

After receiving a deluge of furious e-mails from Graham Hancock and Rupert Shelldrake supporters, the TED people reinstated the videos, but in a a little-visited area on the website, and preceded by health warnings.

Happily though, you can now watch the Hancock TED talk *here*, and the Shelldrake TED talk *here*.

I’m sure you’ll agree with me that both talks were entertaining and thought-provoking, and will make you aware that there’s actually, in our enlightened 21st century society, a war on the exploration of consciousness (Hancock), and will make you aware that the core beliefs of Official Science are wrong (Shelldrake).

These talks had run afoul of the TED organisation’s science advisory board, that consists of, one assumes, scientists who toe the Party Line. Their advice to TED to delete the videos, suggests that Official Science has an ideology as rigid as the ideology of any religion, and an attitude towards apostasy as intolerant as any church's.

While I’ve read some of Hancock’s books, I hadn’t read any of Shelldrake’s. Because of his TED talk I’ve now bought his latest book, “Science Set Free”. For introducing me to Shelldrake, I have the TED people to thank.


  1. Hancock's lecture dealt only with the phenoma associated with the partial closing-down of the brain and associated distortions under the influence of drugs. I understand how this might lead to concerns over resultant experimentation with drugs.

    Sheldrake's led to no such concerns and one can only attribute the banning to a rejection by a scientific clique.

    He defined ten scientific dogmas and discussed three aspects of them - the mechanistic dogma, the constants of nature and the nature of mind. I respect his scientific judgment that there needs to be an escape from the stagnation of some aspects of science if we are to investigate enigmas such as these. Yet I anticipate that freedom will very soon degenerate into its own set of dogmas. I do not say that a fresh path should not be trod, rather I would encourage it, but each of his three aspects exposes limitations on human scientific enquiry:

    a mechanistic view of the universe is inevitable since Nature appears to have consistencies; whether this accords with CS Peirce's idea of habit (an uncompromisingly anthropocentric view of the world, incidentally) as described in the lecture or with Sheldrake's own hypothesis of resonance or whether the laws of Nature vary is immaterial, save for the purposes of conventional science;

    the absolute constants, manifestations of nature's consistency, whatever they are, may or may not vary; we cannot know since we are part of Nature and our observations are therefore inevitably subject to them - the familiar constants are a function of mathematical modelling and unobservable in the absolute; it is a red herring to challenge the measurements, interesting though the measurements may be, since to do so is also within the realms of conventional science;

    mind, or consciousness, or awareness, the existence of which we are constantly aware, even though we may be told by others that it comes and goes, or we assume that it comes and goes rather than believing that there are sudden changes in our surroundings, cannot be investigated, for consciousness itself is the only tool we have to investigate it - we can only investigate its effects such as in the exercise of will.

    Sheldrake's lecture has more validity as a criticism of the conservatism of scientists rather than of the scientific method and its axioms, which are always open to question.

    I look forward to hearing from you with a review of the book.

    You and I have many shared interests and see eye-to-eye much of the time, though I lack your learning and insight. You may one day persuade me to switch to The Guardian even. :) I used to read it a lot years ago, not as “Outraged of Tunbridge Wells” but out of genuine interest in the views there expressed.

  2. Regarding the influence of drugs, you said “.........I understand how this might lead to concerns over resultant experimentation with drugs.........”

    Any government spokesman might well use these exact words. The fact is, though, that western societies today are drug addled societies. I, for instance, know no-one who isn’t on some prescription drug or other. “Give us this day our daily drug” is in effect our current creed.

    The truth is, governments are fine with medical drugs, but are terrified of consciousness-altering drugs like LSD or Ayahuasca, because consciousness-altering drugs are, for obvious reasons, a threat to the Established Order.

    While alcohol does alter consciousness, this altered state is only temporary, and leads to no changes of values on the part of the drinker that might cause him to ask the sorts of questions that threaten the Established Order. Hence governments are fine with alcohol.

    You attribute Sheldrake's banning to a ”......rejection by a scientific clique......”. I agree, because Sheldrake asks the sorts of questions that threaten the Established Order, in this case the scientific Established Order.

    But the Established Order, whether scientific or otherwise, is entwined with lots and lots of money. Whenever the Powerful do things that are puzzling, “....follow the money.....” is what I always say.

    At the beginning of both the Hancock and Shelldrake videos, you’ll have noticed, I’m sure, the names of corporations and foundations. I’ll assume they are among the financial supporters of the TED organisation, which therefore would want to present the right image, so not to frighten away these corporate sponsors. It follows that any association with pariahs like Hancock, and scientific excommunicants like Shelldrake, does nothing for the corporate image.

    You said that scientific freedom of the sort Shelldrake would like, would ”....very soon degenerate into its own set of dogmas.........”. I agree with this too. It’s just what people do, no matter how highly educated. This dynamic does, however, stimulate rebellion, which usually leads to further scientific breakthroughs later on.

    ”.....You may one day persuade me to switch to The Guardian even........”

    And I suppose I myself should dip into the Daily Telegraph more often!!