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Controversial TED Talk: The Science Delusion

Rupert Sheldrake

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Correct title: The Science

Correct title: The Science Delusion

The correct title gives more understanding to his speech.


Very thought provoking.

SteveMT's picture

If known constants change what does that tell you?

Answer: Nothing is constant.

However, pi seems to be very stable.

Pi is not a fundamental physical constant

its a mathematical constant. You would have to redefine mathematics to change the value of PI!

Of cours it is

Who doesn't like pi(e)?

Conscience does not exist if not exercised

"No matter how cynical you get, it's impossible to keep up!
---Lily Tomlin

This lecture was banned by

This lecture was banned by TED Talks; they deleted the video off their main page and deleted it from their youtube account.




.. the parts that are not demonstrably wrong are new-agey gibberish.

Ĵīɣȩ Ɖåđşŏń

"Fully half the quotations found on the internet are either mis-attributed, or outright fabrications." - Abraham Lincoln

Probably because it was

Probably because it was pseudo science. He's basically hypothesizing, but a hypothesis is not the same as a theory. A theory in the scientific sense is not the same as a theory used in common language. A hypothesis only evolves into a theory after it has been extensively tested. This guy provided no such thing.

He basically states that the dogma's in science are flawed and this might indeed be the case. But you need to develop a theory (and not just a hypothesis) if you want to prove such a thing. One that is TESTABLE and VERIFIABLE.

Personally, I do not find it an improbable hypothesis that constants might change overtime. However, instead of gathering the data about changing constants himself (which should be perfectly possible in the world we live in today), he expected other people to do it for him.

And from what I gather is that science is a PROCESS. New insight allow for formulas and theories to be altered and perfected. It shouldn't be surprising that the constants in science books changed overtime, seeing as how scientific instruments measuring these constants (and other insights) become more sophisticated as time passes.

And regarding gravity being a constant, this is only being called a constant for convenience. Because we do know that the earth is slowly losing and gaining mass (nuclear emission in the core of the earth causing the earth to lose mass and space matter falling down to earth allowing the earth to gain mass).

But I don't hear any of the above arguments being used by him, giving me the impression that he doesn't understand science at all. Science is a work in progress. Most real scientist realize that the calculations today are probably inexact and they strive to increase the accuracy. But that he didn't even think of alternative explanations shows that he first made his conclusions even BEFORE he asked the question.

Make no mistake, I did find his presentation very interesting. And it's probably true that scientists are somewhat dogmatic. But I don't see him providing any meaningful solutions.

You are confused about the

You are confused about the definition of hypothesis/theory. In scientific terms, an hypothesis is a proposition about a relationship between two or more variables or elements, and a theory is a set of related hypotheses or propositions. What he is presenting here is a theory, and several hypotheses within that theory. Much of science (e.g. nearly all of psychology) is theoretical, and yet accepted as the current understanding among the scientific community. None of it has to be "proven" per se, it is only understood that an accepted theory has not yet been disproven.

But all of this is besides the point because TED is supposed to be about sharing new perspectives and ideas, and that is exactly what he is doing. Even if no one in the scientific community yet accepts a theory, it is conferences like this where they can be first introduced for debate and testing. So there was no reason for them to censor it unless he outright lied or misrepresented facts. And even then, I would say they should not take it down but include a disclaimer and some references.

I think you are the one that

I think you are the one that is confused. It may be that you provided a more detailed explanation behind the definitions of a hypothesis and a theory, but the definition about a theory being extensively tested before it is accepted as a theory is the most wellknown distinction in science. Without that particular detail, your definitions are incomplete and misleading:

Sheldrake's propositions can hardly be called theories. If they were, they wouldn't have been able to censor him so easily. They could censor him, because he was still in the hypothesis stage. I'm not even sure if he framed his hypothesis in such a way that it can be tested. Otherwise, you can't even call it a (scientific) hypothesis.

Regarding your point about TED not taking it down, I do agree with that somewhat. A disclaimer that this is not actual science should have been good enough.


It is psudo science. He's embracing a personal opinion and philiosphy and then passing it off as legitamate words with very clever language.

It's not about questioning things, it's about putting down a theory or science based not on evidence but just because he didn't like it.

The world is round. Well I don't think it is round, I say it isn't round, I think it is square, why should I have to say it is round, why shouldn't it be square? I am going to say it is square and flat and because I said it cleverly that makes it a good argument.

No science is an exact science anyway it doesn't pretend to be - it's only what we currently know at this point in time, what we currently believe to be the fact at the time. It doesn't mean we aren't free thinking.

I'm not convinced by the lecturer in everything he says, but...

"Philosophy" and "legitimate words" are not mutually exclusive. Anyone who thinks they are has no idea what philosophy is.

What is wrong with pointing out where there's a lack of falsifiability in the establishment, and suggesting that non-establishment ideas should not be precluded? I think he makes good points about the high priests of academia.

Solutions to what?

Solutions to what?

He thinks that current

He thinks that current science has a problem (by being dogmatic). He wrote a book to adress that problem. I don't see that it will help, because I get the impression his arguments are cherry picked. Of course, this is only my gut telling me, I would need to read his book to make sure.

I suppose I agree with him then.

New insight has slowed to a snail's pace. I've personally been frustrated since 1979.

"New insight allow for formulas and theories to be altered and perfected."

More importantly, new insight allows for new formulae and new theories.

His solution then is to do exactly what he's doing, speaking to audiences, writing books [he's written over 30], doing what he can to help break people from their molds.

I find a new science paradigm movement paralleling the liberty movement. I personally believe that we're close to the precipice of overturning the bulk of a hundred years of imaginative yet hollow, unsubstantiated theory.

A few comments below you will find links to more Sheldrake chit-chat.
The first two link to his lecture at a conference attended by fellow outliers. Here are talks from a few of those attendees...

Thanks for sharing this.

Quite interesting. Funny that we still know so little about something so basic and fundamental as consciousness...maybe even the most basic aspect of life.


No individual has full information regarding any one thing, even the most basic. This presents a huge problem for anybody who thinks to "know" anything.

ALWAYS maintain an open mind. The maybe-state of thought seems to be a powerful anti-virus.

He's certainly not one of the

He's certainly not one of the more dynamic or enthused speakers to hit the TED stage. He is the penultimate of droll, and his overall subject matter is far less than typical TED-sexy. Nonetheless, I find this TED talk to be the most fundamentally essential I've ever heard. Sheldrake waxes eloquently regarding important fallacies built deeply into our current foundational paradigm. I butt heads even here at the DP when regarding such flaws.

He typically speaks on two unrelated issues. One is the bulk of what he's known for lately, commentary on the current state of science in general. Two is his own study of what he calls "morphic fields".

another hour of Sheldrake lecture... part one part two

an interesting interview... about 20 minutes

SteveMT's picture

Having an observer changes the experimental result.

Excellent talk. Thanks for posting.