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How to think about science. Part 9

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  • "In 1981 British biologist Rupert Sheldrake published A New Science of Life. The book argued that genes alone were not enough to account for life's intricate patterns of form and behaviour. There must be, Sheldrake suggested, some sort of form-giving field that holds the memory of each thing's proper shape - he called it a morphogenetic field. This intriguing idea was widely discussed in the months after the book's publication. Then the editor of the prestigious scientific journal Nature, Sir John Maddox, wrote an editorial in which violently denounced Sheldrake's work and called it "the best candidate for burning there has been for many years." Years later in an interview with the BBC, he defended his denunciation on the grounds that Sheldrake's view was scientific "heresy." Maddox's attack stuck Sheldrake a reputation for flakiness that still lingers. A few years ago Nobel physicist Steven Weinberg was still referring to the theory as "a crackpot fantasy." But, for Rupert Sheldrake, this zealous policing of the boundaries of science only proved that scientific materialism had hardened into a rigid and inhibiting dogmatism. He carried on with the research program he had put forward in A New Science of Life. Today on Ideas he shares the story of his journey with Ideas producer David Cayley."

  • "How to think about science. Part 9"