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In this episode we’re going to be examining the assumptions of Western Science.

All science is based on assumptions. In order to isolate systems in experiments and standardise measurements of the target data, other variables need to be pinned down so scientists can form precise mathematical models, that can then be repeated accurately in the peer review process. Today we’re going to look at these assumptions, and establish if they indeed have become standard, fixed and unquestioned as some critics claim.


One of those critics is Cambridge educated biologist Rupert Sheldrake, who gave a TED talk in 2013 about the assumptions of western science, which was banned by TED’s anonymous board of scientific advisors for not being a ‘fair description of scientific assumptions’. Far from quieting the controversy, the ban caused outcries of censorship, and the ripped video was seen many millions of times on You Tube, probably many times more than had it been left to stand as one scientists opinion. Today I want to examine just how fair his description was.


Sheldrake starts by identifying a conflict between science as a method of enquiry, based on reason, evidence, hypothesis and collective investigation, and science as a belief system or world view. He argues that the belief system part, when it reaches evidence that contradicts its beliefs, rejects that evidence rather than updating the beliefs. Sheldrake argues that this goes against the very objective of free enquiry and scientific endeavour which is the search for truth, and tends towards an imposed Dogma, something we tend to associate more with religious worldview.

The main subject of today’s conversation is going to be Sheldrake’s book about all this, ‘Science set Free’ , provocatively called the Science Delusion by his Uk publisher, which has, despite doubling sales, sadly put off many professional scientists who would otherwise have supported many of his points. In it he lists 10 examples of assumptions of western science which most of us with scientific secular educations wouldn’t even doubt, and turns them into questions for us to scrutinise scientifically. 


To help us examine his claims is one of Rupert’s old friends and supporters, a specialist in the history and philosophy of science, an author and the program director of the Scientific and Medical Network, David Lorimer. He is also President of Wrekin Trust and Chief Consultant of Character Education Scotland.  He is also a former President of the Swedenborg Society, and Vice-President of the International Association for Near-Death Studies. Originally a merchant banker then a teacher of philosophy and modern languages at Winchester College, he is the author and editor of over a dozen books, most recently ‘The Protein Crunch’ (with Jason Drew) and ‘A New Renaissance’, and out this year his new book ‘a quest for wisdom’. He is the originator of the Inspire-Aspire Values Poster Programmes, which this year involved over 25,000 young people. 


What we discuss in this episode:


00:00 Compulsory philosophy and death

07:32 Examining Rupert Sheldrake’s 10 claimed assumptions of western science 

09:10 The ‘Life and nature are mechanistic’ assumption

19:30 The ‘Matter is unconscious’ assumption

29:40 ‘The laws of nature are constant’ assumption

38:26 The Galileo Commission - get everyone to look though the telescope

43:00 Reality is relational not relative - Apilla Colorado and Leroy Little bear

44:45 The ‘Nature is Purposeless’ assumption - teleology

52:30 ‘Biological heredity is only physical’ and ‘memory is in your Brain’ assumptions

55:00 Morphogenetic fields and memories of previous lives and birthmarks

1:01:45 ‘Your mind is in your head, your consciousness is correlated to your brain activity’ assumption

1:02:55 The brain as a possible filter or transducer of consciousness - William James and F.C.S.Schiller, Henri Bergson, Frederic W.H. Myers

1:05:30 ‘Psychic phenomena and telepathy are impossible’ assumption

1:09:00 You can’t have impossible experiences VS non-reproducibility in the lab

1:14:20 Resistance to evidence base due to a priori assumptions here mentioned


1:22:00 ‘Thinking Beyond the Brain’ David Lorimer

1:28:00 Irreducibility wave level primacy to particle level or vice versa

1:33:50 The Scientific and Medical Network - widening and deepening the scope of science beyond reductionalism 

1:37:30 A ‘flip’ from outside in to inside out perspective, Jeff Kripal 

1:41:00 Scientific discovery appropriation by the New Age

1:45:30 3rd person science has to assume 1st person perspective to gather data

1:50:00 Gnosis - knowledge by identification, inseparability between knower and known 

1:51:00 Criticism of SMN for trying to include spirituality in a scientific context

1:56:00 The weaponisation of the term ‘Pseudoscience’, Susan Gerbistch’s curating of Wikipedia’s entries of psi research and alternative medicine 

1:59:00 ‘A Quest for Wisdom’ David Lorimer 



Rupert Sheldrake ‘Science set free’

David Lorimer ‘A Quest for Wisdom’

David Lorimer ‘Thinking Beyond the Brain’

The Galileo Commission - get everyone to look though the telescope

The Scientific and Medical Network

‘Beyond the Brain’ Conference, produced by SMN and IONS

David’s podcast 'Imaginal Inspirations'

Bernard Carr - Hyperspatial theory

Apilla Colorado - The Worldwide Indigenous Science Network

Voltaire’s Shitting duck

Whitehead’s ‘Panexperientialism ’

Alfred Whitehead ‘Process and Reality’

Galileo quote ‘The laws of nature are written by the hand of god in the language of mathematics’

Nicholas Maxwell and R.G. Collingwood - we need assumptions

Thomas Kuhn - ‘The structure of scientific revolutions’

Alfred Russel Wallace, Darwin’s co-writer on the evolution paper, believed in spiritual evolution

Irvine Lazlo - An evolution towards complexity and consciousness

Ian Stevenson and Jim Tucker - ‘memories and birthmarks’ The division of perceptual studies, University of Virginia

Edward F Kelly ’The irreducible mind: Beyond physicalism’

Edward F Kelly ’Consciousness unbound’

Meta analysis of 70 years of psi research, Etzel Cardenya, Luntz University

Dean Radin ‘The Conscious Universe’

Michael Polanyii - ‘The Tacit Dimension’

Don Hoffman - Observable frequency bands

Peter Leggart and Max Paine book about evidence for reincarnation

Mystics and Scientists Conference

‘Yoga and Science, discipline inward and outward’, Ravi Ravinger, Dalhausy university, Canada

Sir Peter Medowar, ‘The Limits of Science’

Mary Midgely ‘What is philosophy for?’ and ‘Are you an illusion?’

Peter Atkins - the omnicompetence of science, it’s just a matter of time before science explains everything

Goethian Science, complementarity - ‘A science of qualities as complementary to a science of quantities’ 

The Mind and Life institute - Buddhism and Science. E.g. Alan Wallace

Andrew Powell, the Royal College of Psychiatry’s ’Spirituality and Psychiatry’ group

Schopenhaur ‘If only when one bought a book, you could buy the time to read it|’

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