Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Rupert Sheldrake, fully Alfred Rupert Sheldrake

English Biochemist, Developmental Biologist, Telepathy Researcher, and Author who proposed a non-genetic account of morphogenesis

"We don't see that we don't see."

"Basically, morphic fields are fields of habit, and they've been set up through habits of thought, through habits of activity, and through habits of speech. Most of our culture is habitual..."

"All of us want to see the details of any legislative plan if there’s going to be a legislative response, but Congress, I believe, is in the mood to do whatever it takes to win this war against terrorism."

"A lot of us have all sorts of ideas, and we select some rather than others and give expression to those... and some works of art are more successful than others. Some languish in obscurity and are never heard of again, while others form the foundation of a whole school of art."

"Because a truly skeptical position would be a very uncertain one."

"In practice, the goal of skepticism is not the discovery of truth, but the exposure of other people's errors. It plays a useful role in science, religion, scholarship, and common sense. But we need to remember that it is a weapon serving belief or self-interest; we need to be skeptical of skeptics. The more militant the skeptic, the stronger the belief."

"Not every good idea survives. Not every new form of art is repeated. Not every new potential instinct is successful. Only the successful ones get repeated. By natural selection and then through repetition they become probable, more habitual."

"Most of nature is inherently chaotic. It’s not rigidly determined in the old sense. It’s not rigidly predictable."

"Machines are designed not to be random. When you call up a word processing program on your computer, you don't want it to be different every time you call it up. You want it to stay the same."

"I’m talking about science on the leading edge, where it’s not clear which way things are going be cause we don’t know, and I’m dealing with areas which we don’t know about."

"Creativity gives new forms, new patterns, new ideas, new art forms. And we don't know where creativity comes from. Is it inspired from above? Welling up from below? Picked up from the air? What? Creativity is a mystery wherever you encounter it..."

"Right now, any opinion anyone has about whether dogs can or cannot really tell when their owner is coming home by some unknown means… nobody knows. The weight of evi dence suggests they can."

"Of the seven experiments, the ones that have been most investigated so far have been the pets. The dogs who know when their masters for coming home, and the sense of being stared at."

"Now the whole point about machines is they are designed not to be random. When you call up a word processing program on your computer, you don't want it to be different every time you call it up. You want it to stay the same."

"The assumption that the laws of nature are eternal is a vestige of the Christian belief system that informed the early postulates of modern science in the seventeenth century. Perhaps the laws of nature have actually evolved along with nature itself, and perhaps they are still evolving. Or perhaps they are not laws at all, but more like habits."

"The biggest bursts of speciation that we know about in the history of the earth are soon after great cataclysms, like the extinction of the dinosaurs, which create new opportunities, and all sorts of new forms spring up... So, quite often, the reasons for creativity depend on accidents or disasters that prevent the normal habits being carried out."

"The idea is that there is a kind of memory in nature. Each kind of thing has a collective memory. So, take a squirrel living in New York now. That squirrel is being influenced by all past squirrels."

"The cumulative nature of the evolutionary process, the fact that memory is preserved, means that life grows not just through a random proliferation of new forms, but there's a kind of cumulative quality..."

"The universe is not in a steady state; there's an ongoing creative principle in nature, which is driving things onwards."

"There's a certain kind of skepticism that can't bear uncertainty."

"Unfortunately, at present, practically no one under thirty goes to workshops. It's a system of education entirely for the middle aged."

"When people see one of these new forms of art for the first time, often they can't make sense of it. Then, if it's around long enough, a lot of people get used to it and it becomes assimilated into culture. So there's a morphic field both for the kind of art and for the appreciation of it."

"All research scientists know that writing in the passive voice is artificial; they are not disembodied observers, but people doing research."

"Bad religion is arrogant, self-righteous, dogmatic and intolerant. And so is bad science. But unlike religious fundamentalists, scientific fundamentalists do not realize that their opinions are based on faith. They think they know the truth."

"Becoming an expert is a pretty simple procedure; tell people you're an expert. After you do that, all you have to do is maintain appearances and not give them a reason to believe you're not."

"First, some physicists insist that quantum mechanics cannot be formulated without taking into account the minds of observers. They argue that minds cannot be reduced to physics because physics presupposes the minds of physicists"

"For more than 200 years, materialists have promised that science will eventually explain everything in terms of physics and chemistry. Believers are sustained by the faith that scientific discoveries will justify their beliefs."

"A lot of what comes through channellers is colored by their own mind."

"Are the laws of nature fixed? Is matter unconscious? Is nature purposeless? Are minds confined to brains?"

"Good science, like good religion, is a journey of discovery, a quest. It builds on traditions from the past. But it is most effective when it recognizes how much we do not know, when it is not arrogant but humble."

"Contemporary science is based on the philosophy of materialism, which claims that all reality is material or physical."

"How can our brains be conscious if matter is unconscious?"

"I don't claim to explain all these things or to understand them. I say, here's what seems to be going on."

"I do vote but I don't think that any political party represents my point of view."

"I have been a scientist for more than 40 years, having studied at Cambridge and Harvard. I researched and taught at Cambridge University, was a research fellow of the Royal Society, and have more than 80 publications in peer-reviewed journals. I am strongly pro-science."

"I think hard work is what gets most people to the top."

"I think that creativity depends on having sufficient indeterminacy around for a new pattern to arise up within it."

"I said something just now about heredity and the genes, but take matter and energy, that the total amount is always the same, except at the moment of the Big Bang, when it all appeared from nowhere ? that's the usual assumption. Well, it turns out that physicists have discovered that there is a huge amount of so-called dark matter and dark energy. We don't have a clue what they are, but they now make up 96 percent of reality, and they've been added over the last 30 years. Now if the total amount of matter and energy is always the same, is the total amount of dark matter and dark energy always the same? No one has a clue. Actually, the total amount of dark energy seems to be increasing as the universe expands. You know, the whole thing is in shambles, really. What we all learned at school and thought of as fixed laws turns out to relate to only to 4% of the matter and energy in the universe. And we don't know the relationship between that 4% with the rest."

"I learnt about plants from my father, who was a herbalist and an amateur microscopist."

"I still say the 'Lord's Prayer' every day. It covers a lot of ground in our relation to the world."

"I think in fact our minds extend far beyond our brains. They're a bit like cell phones, in the sense that cell phones have an electromagnetic field which is inside the phone but which extends far beyond the cell phone. That's why cell phones work, because of this influence that stretches out beyond them. What I'm suggesting is that our minds are a bit like that. Of course they are in the brain, but they stretch out far beyond the brain, far beyond our bodies in the very act of perception. Every time we look at something with an intention, when we have an intention to do something, that intention reaches out. For example, if I have an intention to make a phone call to somebody, my intention precedes me making the call. What often happens is that people start thinking about someone for no apparent reason, then that person calls and they say, "That's funny, I was just thinking about you." I think that's because they pick up the intention before the call is actually made. It's in fact a kind of telepathy."

"I think that the mind extends far beyond the brain. With every perception it stretches out. In addition, I think we also have access to collective memories. I think that mystical experiences of various kinds, shamanic and otherwise, involve our mind contacting other mental realms or mental realities ? which are not inside other people's brains or even inside animal brains. Well, they are inside of them, but they stretch out beyond them. Psychic abilities like telepathy and mystical experiences have all to do with extensions of the mind, and contacting other minds. Mystical experience, I think, has to do with contacting higher forms of consciousness in the world. I think that the Earth itself has a mind, that the sun has a mind, the whole solar system ? the whole galaxy. We live in a living world and there are many levels of consciousness."

"I went through the standard scientific atheist phase when I was about 14. I bought into that package deal of science equals atheism."

"If there is no randomness in the universe, then what do we mean by chaos?"

"I think that the 'laws of nature' are also prone to evolve; I think they are more like habits than laws."

"In both religion and science, some people are dishonest, exploitative, incompetent and exhibit other human failings."

"It?s almost as if science said, Give me one free miracle, and from there the entire thing will proceed with a seamless, causal explanation.?17 The one free miracle was the sudden appearance of all the matter and energy in the universe, with all the laws that govern it."

"In no other field of scientific endeavor do otherwise intelligent people feel free to make public claims based on prejudice and ignorance. Yet in relation to psychic phenomena, committed materialists feel free to disregard the evidence and behave irrationally and unscientifically, while claiming to speak in the name of science and reason. They abuse the authority of science and bring rationalism into disrepute."

"I'm talking about science on the leading edge, where it's not clear which way things are going because we don't know, and I'm dealing with areas which we don't know about."

"In the Enlightenment ideal, science was a path to knowledge that would transform humanity for the better. Science and reason were the vanguard. These were, and still are, wonderful ideals, and they have inspired scientists for generations. They inspire me. I am all in favor of science and reason if they are scientific and reasonable. But I am against granting scientists and the materialist worldview an exemption from critical thinking and skeptical investigation. We need an enlightenment of the Enlightenment."