Rupert Sheldrake

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RUPERT SHELDRAKE

JOHN PETROZZI: Hi. Welcome to Living is Easy. I’m John Petrozzi. It’s great to have you with us again today.

Well, today, I’m really pleased that I’ll be interviewing a man you may not have heard of before, or yet. He’s a biologist and an author. He’s written about 80 scientific papers and 10 books. His name is Dr. Rupert Sheldrake. He’s joining me on the phone today from the UK.

Hi, Dr. Sheldrake, and thanks for joining us today.

DR. RUPERT SHELDRAKE: A pleasure.

JOHN PETROZZI: Rupert, I’ve read your book, “A New Science of Life,” a little while ago. I had a bit of a chuckle as I read the back cover, because there are a few third-party reviews on the back there. There was one review from Brain Mind Bulletin, and it says that your work is “as far-reaching as Darwin’s Theory of Evolution,” which is pretty huge. Another comment from Nature, which is, “This infuriating tract is the best candidate for burning there has been for many years,” which I thought was quite a nice, opposing balance in the reviews.

You’ve got some really different views and theories and ideas on evolution and a whole lot of stuff. I’d really like you to talk to us a bit about your Theory of Morphic Resonance and Formative Causation, if you could, and maybe in some layman terms.

DR. RUPERT SHELDRAKE: All right. Well, it’s basically an evolutionary theory that says, “The whole universe is evolving.” The basic idea is the kind of memory in nature, so each species has a kind of collective memory. Each individual draws upon it and contributes to it. So it goes beyond existing evolutionary theory.

Conventional evolutionary theory says, “Biology evolves,” and it tends to see the universe as rather static. But of course, we now have a Big Bang Cosmology, the whole universe is evolving. The evolution of the whole universe, I think, like biological evolution, is ultimately a fundamental process. If the whole universe is evolving, what about the laws of nature? Most people assume that all the laws were fixed at the moment of the Big Bang, but if we believe in the evolution of the universe, I think the laws could evolve, too. So essentially, what I’m saying is there’s a memory in nature. Memory is not just amnesic, like it is assumed to be within regular science, but this is a fundamental part of the evolutionary process.

And it pretty makes lots of predictions, some of them quite dramatic and certainly easy to understand. For example, it predicts that if you train rats to learn a new trick in Sydney, then rats all over the world should be able to learn the same thing quickly, just because the rats in Sydney have learned it.

JOHN PETROZZI: Yeah. I know you’ve got a lot of different examples in your papers about an animal’s displaying this sort of actions. This is something that’s really strange. Just the other day, I was having some breakfast here at home with my wife, and I decided to cut a tomato and I scooped the insides out. I plunked a raw egg inside it and I decided to fry it up. I said to Suzy, “Look at this: I’ve seen it before but it’s a new idea.”

Maybe it’s morphic resonance that’s going to be put forward into the future and maybe a shift across the other side of the road might be doing this exact same thing in the next couple of days. Is that how morphic resonance works? A new idea comes into somebody’s head or maybe they pick up from something else and then a habit developed, so then the future habits, I suppose, are molded in that sense. Is that how it works?

DR. RUPERT SHELDRAKE: Yes, more or less. The spread by morphic resonance depends on how many people do it, so just you putting an egg inside the raw tomato might have a fairly small effect. If a hundred people did this, it should be a bigger effect. If a thousand people did this, it should be bigger still. So it’s a quantitative phenomenon. The more, the greater it becomes.

I mean, it’s like habit. When you do something just once, you don’t really create a habit. If you do it lots of times, it becomes more and more habitual. So it’s a kind of quantitative thing. The other way you could help try and you could start off this new egg-frying mode is by doing it every morning, so you then give it a much bigger boost than just doing it once.

JOHN PETROZZI: Okay. So, are your theories always speaking about the sign or the power of a thought? The power of a thought over many times or through repetition, like you just mentioned, has some sort of push behind it that develops into an action that’s then, I suppose, propagated throughout biology?

DR. RUPERT SHELDRAKE: Yes. But it’s not just thoughts. The theory also applies to, let’s say, the greater plants, its placed biological form, hence, the way animals and plants develop. So it’s not necessarily to do with conscious thought; it’s really to do with all the unconscious habits of nature as well, which includes the habits of form.

It even applies to crystals; the way a chemical crystallises is, I think, a kind of habit as well. If you make new chemicals that has never existed before and it’s notoriously difficult to crystallise them; you have to wait weeks or months before you can get crystals. But the more often people crystallise them, the easier it gets all over the world. I think another example is morphic resonance.

JOHN PETROZZI: And that’s a scientific fact, that it does take time, sometimes years, to crystallise a new synthetic form of a chemical.

DR. RUPERT SHELDRAKE: Yes. So it’s a well-known fact or tenet. I mean, this has been learned for many years.

JOHN PETROZZI: So is that why boiling temperatures tend to change over years, because a pure form comes out of it?

DR. RUPERT SHELDRAKE: Well, melting points can change, yes. The melting points of new compounds can go up, because the new form becomes more stable and it’s harder to melt; I mean, because it’s more stable, you need a higher temperature to melt it.

And this is a very surprising fact. Most people are brought up to believe that melting points are completely constant. Ice melts at nought degree Centigrade, that kind of thing. For compounds that have been around for millions of years, they are pretty constant; their habits are very stable. But when you’re looking at new compounds, their new habits are building up. It turns out that the melting points do actually go up. In the new edition of my book, “A New Science of Life,” I give quantitative data on this phenomenon.

JOHN PETROZZI: It’s just incredible, especially when it’s taught at universities that there’s a specific melting point for something and it’s never going to change, and it uses in particular mathematical formulas to derive an answer. Because essentially, what you’re saying here is it could mean that the whole world of medicine maybe sort of viewed different – that disease doesn’t come from genetics; disease comes from other things.

DR. RUPERT SHELDRAKE: Oh, yeah.

JOHN PETROZZI: Can you tell us a bit about genetics?

DR. RUPERT SHELDRAKE: Yes. I think that, I mean, one of the radical implications to this day of formative causation and morphic resonance is that a lot of what we inherit comes by morphic resonance, through this collective memory, and it’s not all in the genes. So I think genes are greatly overrated and they don’t do make the things that people imagine they do. What we know they do is to code for the sequence of amino acids and proteins. Some genes are involved in the control of protein synthesis. But that’s a far cry from having them shape the body and program the instinct, that kind of thing.

JOHN PETROZZI: Yeah.

DR. RUPERT SHELDRAKE: I think that genes have a limited role, much more limited than people usually think, and that mainly inheritance depends on morphic resonance.

JOHN PETROZZI: Again, is it just because a gene’s been turned on habitually for a generation or two that you get brown eyes?

DR. RUPERT SHELDRAKE: Well, brown eyes are one of the things that genes can help extend, because genes help you to make particular proteins, including the enzymes for making the eye pigment. That’s one of the cases where the genes provide a reasonably good estimation. It’s when it comes to shape and behaviour that the link between genes and what’s happening becomes very tenuous.

For example, here in England, cuckoos are migratory birds from Africa. Being cuckoos, the parents lay egg in the nest of other species, so the young cuckoos grow up never meeting their parents. Then, towards the end of the summer, all the adult cuckoos fly back to Africa. Months later, the baby cuckoos, which have never met their parents, gather together and they fly back to the right path of Africa. Now, they do that without any adult showing them how to do it. They have to fly thousands of miles across the Sahara Desert, among other things. And somehow, they know how to do that; that’s an instinct, a migratory instinct.

Now, to say that that’s programmed in the genes basically means that changing a few amino acids in the protein is going to lead these cuckoos flying over back to Africa. Well, you see, this is a huge leap. There’s a huge gap between the gene and the behaviour. I don’t think the gene actually programs this at all. I think all it does is enable them to make the right proteins so they can see and fly and so forth. But where they’re flying and how they behave depends on the selective memory of morphic resonance.

JOHN PETROZZI: So, where—I’ve got so many questions in my head at the moment, but I think one of the ones I’ll ask is: Where does the morphogenetic resonance sort of leave? Can we see it? Can we measure it?

DR. RUPERT SHELDRAKE: Well, we can measure its effects. We can’t see it any more than people can see the radio waves where program depends on. I mean, we’re used to the idea that the world is full of invisible interconnections—every mobile phone, every radio, every television—works on invisible interconnections. Every GPS device connects to satellites and enables you to know where you are. The world is filled with invisible interconnections. What I’m saying is that morphic resonance is another of these invisible links with works, in this case, across space and time.

What we can do is detect the effects of morphic resonance, just like we can detect the effects of radiowaves. You can’t actually detect the radio wave as it moves through the air. We can only detect it through its effect. So for example, if we train rats to learn a new trick in Sydney, then we can detect the effects of that morphic resonance by finding that rats elsewhere learn the same trick quicker.

JOHN PETROZZI: Yeah.

DR. RUPERT SHELDRAKE: That’s how we detect it: through its effects. That’s how we detect all the kinds of fields in nature basically. We detect them mainly through their effects.

JOHN PETROZZI: Through their effects and through observation. I’ve got a question just in terms of morphic field and the auras that are spoken about by yogis and New Age thinkers, the aura around a body, or even the Kirlian photography that’s been done, where they slice the leaf in half and were able to still take a photo through different techniques and still see the image of the cut piece still there. Is that, in essence, still morphogenetic resonance or is that a morphic field?

DR. RUPERT SHELDRAKE: Well, I’m not sure. I mean, I think that the morphogenetic fields are within and around organisms.

JOHN PETROZZI: Yeah.

DR. RUPERT SHELDRAKE: When psychics say that they’re seeing an aura, maybe they are seeing it. But I think a lot of what they see depends on their own way of seeing. For example, I did an experiment with some psychics once, where there were two or three people in a room; one of them was me, another was John Cleese, the actor. We had a series of psychics come in and describe my aura, Cleese’s aura, and another person’s aura, and then they went out through another door. Then the next psychic came and described the auras. They all saw auras but they were completely different with different psychics, different colors and so forth.

So I think a lot is what they interpret themselves. When it comes to the so-called [0:13:38] effect, I’m just not sure how reliable—I’d love to believe that it’s true—I’m not quite sure how good the evidence is, because the [0:13:46] very Catholic. A lot depends on technical details of how you do it.

For example, Kirlian photography involves a high voltage discharge. It’s sensitive to moisture, so if you put a piece of blotting paper there, you get an aura around the blotting paper. So a lot of the effects may be just due to moisture. I just simply don’t know. I mean, I’d love those experiments to be real, but I’m a little bit skeptical about it.

JOHN PETROZZI: So Rupert, is the Darwinian Theory of Evolution incorrect or incomplete in your view?

DR. RUPERT SHELDRAKE: Well, the Darwinian Theory is fine as far as it goes; I mean, in what it says that organisms develop over time, and that ones that aren’t very good at surviving don’t survive as well as ones that are better at surviving. That’s all pretty straightforward.

JOHN PETROZZI: Yeah.

DR. RUPERT SHELDRAKE: I think where the theory is limited is when we’ve got, not so much what Darwin was saying, but what neo-Darwinism is saying. Neo-Darwinism is the current orthodox here in universities in biology departments. If differs from Darwinism in one main respect: Darwin believed that organisms could inherit habits from their ancestors, which is very much what I’m saying.

JOHN PETROZZI: Pretty much. Yeah.

DR. RUPERT SHELDRAKE: Neo-Darwinism says all we do is inherit genes, and the genes simply mutate at random. None of the effects of what happens to an animal or plant can be passed on to its offspring. Now, the so-called inheritance-acquired characteristics or Lamarckian inheritance is what Darwin believed in and neo-Darwinism denies.

So the question is “What’s really going on?” I think morphic resonance would enable acquired characteristics to be inherited. What’s more, in modern biology, there’s now a phenomenon called epigenetic inheritance that allows experiences to be passed on. That, again, goes against neo-Darwinism. So I think neo-Darwinism’s dogmatic emphasis on genes, and genes alone, has already been superseded with epigenetic inheritance, and morphic resonance goes even further than that.

JOHN PETROZZI: Really interesting. Actually, my next question I want to ask you about is “How are the effects of morphic resonance affected by epigenetics? And one step further, if genetic modification continues at the same rate, in terms of foods and possibly humans, how’s that going to affect morphic resonance, also for the future of the humans and biology and the planet?

DR. RUPERT SHELDRAKE: Personally, and that’s why the biogenetic modification in some people, partly because I think it’s just based on a false idea that greatly overemphasises the importance of the gene. It’s based on an ideology that the gene is everything. I think genes are overrated, as I said, so I think genetic modification is overrated, too.

What they can do with genetic modification is very limited. They can change usually one gene or maybe two genes in an organism. For example, Roundup Ready soybeans; they’re Monsanto product. It gives the soybean plants an enzyme that enables them to break down Monsanto’s weed-killer, Roundup. So when you spray Roundup on the plants, the soybeans can break it down, but the other plants can’t, so the soybeans survive, and the other plants are killed by the weed-killer.

Now, that’s just introducing one enzyme, and the Roundup-destroying enzyme. That’s the kind of thing it can do. It’s nothing like a new species. When the GN people claim that they’re going to transform agriculture—as they say, “We’re going to incorporate drought resistance and all those sorts of things into plants”—well, that would be okay if they could do it. But it rather presupposes that drought resistance depends on a single gene, and we know what that gene is. In fact, as anyone who writes an agriculture research would tell you, “It depends on lots of different genes, and we don’t know which ones they are or how they work in combination.” So it’s simply not going to be possible to do a lot of what they claim they’re going to do, and I said, we wouldn’t invest anything in a genetic engineering company based on the kind of qualities they are making.

JOHN PETROZZI: Yeah. It’s interesting—I’m a chiropractor and I have people coming in with a whole assortment of things that they want me to help them with and migraine tends to be one of them—I just saw a quick snippet on the news the other night that they found a gene that is the cause of migraines and sort of made me laugh a bit, because it’s like what we’re saying, there are many factors for migraine to come on and it’s not just a gene that’s going to be causing things. So I kind of understand where you’re coming from with genetic manipulation and genetic modification. It’s definitely not the end or the be-all and end-all of, I suppose, biology and changing our environment.

DR. RUPERT SHELDRAKE: Definitely not. I don’t know whether in your program you have discussed the so-called Missing Heritability Problem.

JOHN PETROZZI: No, not yet. Tell me more.

DR. RUPERT SHELDRAKE: This is a new discovery in the last couple of years. You know, they now a sequence lots of genomes, even genomes.

JOHN PETROZZI: Yup.

DR. RUPERT SHELDRAKE: They were hoping to be able to explain all sorts of things about people from their genomes. It turned out that even for simple characteristics like height, if you just measure the parents and their children with a tape measure, you can predict the height of the children with about 80-90% accuracy based on the parents’ height. That’s called 80-90% heritability.

But if you look at the genes of 30,000 different people and you know their heights and you kind of know which genes are responsible for height, there are about 30 genes that are involved in height, and then, if you try and predict people’s heights just based on their genes, you can only predict with about 5% accuracy. So the difference between the 5% you get from the genes and the 80-90% you got from just tape-measuring people, that huge gap that the genes don’t explain is called the Missing Heritability Problem.

It turns up in many diseases, many human characteristics, and the genes have far less predicted power than people assume. In fact, the whole human genome project is cast into dark, really, in its value, its medical value, by these findings. This is the crisis within biology at the moment: the Missing Heritability Problem. So I think that the genetic model is actually coming unravelled quite fast.

JOHN PETROZZI: So what’s next then? What’s next for, I suppose, the scientific community but also just the general global population, in which the understanding of disease is, “Okay, you’ve got the gene for it, then you must be susceptible to this cancer or you’re going to get it”? How do we get around this?

DR. RUPERT SHELDRAKE: Well, I think, first of all, we have to recognise that the predicted power of genes is much less than people used to think. Therefore, whether or not you’re going to get a disease depends on, even conventional biology would now turn on epigenetic factors as well as genes. So there are inherited effects over and above the genes, those effects of morphic resonance, I would say.

And then, of course, there are numerable environmental effects—how you live, what you eat—which clearly affect our health (everybody, more or less, knows that). The genes are only actually quite a small part in it. So I think that, I think, most people got this message that your health largely depends on what you’ve inherited. This also depends on how you live your life, whether you take exercise, what kind of diet you eat, and those sorts of things.

JOHN PETROZZI: Hm. I’m interested to see that space of health education, because I know that there’s a lot of money going into genetic research, and into medical research and pharmaceutical research, that’s gone down really farther in that path now. To do a big U-turn, that probably will forego a lot of profits. So I’m going to be really interested to see how that goes over the next ten years or so.

DR. RUPERT SHELDRAKE: That would be.

JOHN PETROZZI: Dr. Sheldrake, in terms of morphic resonance and habit and action, what comes first? Does an action have to develop or happen first through repetition and numbers to become habitual, then, form a morphic resonance and then change to develop into hereditary? What comes first?

DR. RUPERT SHELDRAKE: Well, yes, more or less. I mean, the thing is, let’s say, it doesn’t really explain creativity. Evolution must depend, in my view, on the interplay between habits and creativity. Habits enable what’s happened in the past to do with features, and most of the world is habitual and most of our own life is habitual. But with just habit, nothing new would ever happen. So there is a creative process in nature as well.

We see that when plants, for example, are put in new environments; they can adapt and adapt creatively. Put an animal in a new set of circumstances and some of them will adapt by developing new forms of behaviour. So there’s a kind of creativity inherent in plants and animals. Sometimes, it’s triggered by random genetic mutations, sometimes by just the creative way the animal or the plant responds to its circumstances. So the creativity is there in plants and animals and people.

But the kind of creativity happening is lots of creativity; I mean, people have lots of new ideas, there are lots of new inventions and patents all the time, but only some of them succeed. That’s where natural selection comes in. they’re not all creative successful. The successful creative breakthroughs are the ones that are repeated, becoming increasingly habitual through repetition. So there’s always a creative process many are just sifting out. It’s the same as market forces, new inventions, and new books. There are hundreds and thousands of new books published every year all around the world. Some of them sell well; others only sell a few copies. So there’s a kind of natural selection at work with creativity at all levels.

JOHN PETROZZI: It’s interesting. Dr. Sheldrake, we have to finish up soon. I just want to ask you a question that’s sort of been in my mind for a while. I don’t know if your Theory of Morphogenic Resonance can answer this or if you got other ideas. When someone walks into a place and they say, “Oh, I got good vibes. I really like this place” or “That place gives me the creeps. It’s got bad vibes,” how does the field of morphic resonance answer that? And how have you used it in your experiments with telepathy? Because I know that you’ve done some work on telepathy and the feeling of being stared at in some experiments, do you have any sort of correlation between those or some explanation for that question?

DR. RUPERT SHELDRAKE: Well, there are several different questions here.

JOHN PETROZZI: Yeah, there are.

DR. RUPERT SHELDRAKE: The atmosphere of a place, I think, can involve some kind of memory of what’s happened there before. When you enter a place, it could be a place of something scary or horrible has happened, or it could be a place where something wonderful has happened. For example, many of our great cathedrals here in Britain—and I suppose in Australia, too—where people have created and worshipped with beautiful music and have a kind of uplifting quality (I certainly find they do). I think what we do is tuning in to previous people’s experiences of that place resonating with things that have happened there before. That’s a kind of memory.

Now, telepathy is a different phenomenon, which depends on the way people are linked together in social groups. That’s a whole lot of conversation. We probably don’t have time to do it now.

JOHN PETROZZI: I wish I did have a lot of time.

DR. RUPERT SHELDRAKE: If anyone’s interested in that, especially my work on telephone telepathy, there’s a lot about it on my website, including YouTube videos and experiments I’ve been doing. So I hope anyone who’s interested will follow up by looking at my website, which is www.sheldrake.org.

JOHN PETROZZI: I’ve been on it. It’s a great site actually. You got a lot of really interesting articles on there. We’ve run out of time, Dr. Sheldrake. It’s a real shame; I could talk to you for ages. I really appreciate your time today. Yeah, it’s really been good speaking with you. So you got a new book out, isn’t it, the “A New Science of Life”?

DR. RUPERT SHELDRAKE: “A New Science of Life,” the new edition. It should be available in Australia. It came out in Britain last year.

JOHN PETROZZI: Great, Dr. Sheldrake. I really appreciate your time and thanks for speaking with us today.

DR. RUPERT SHELDRAKE: A pleasure.

JOHN PETROZZI: And that was an interview with Dr. Rupert Sheldrake. Please visit his site; it’s sheldrake.org.  If you’d like to listen to this interview again as a podcast, just go to our website, which is www.livingiseasy.com.au.

Well, thanks for joining us this week, and I hope to catch you all again next week. This is Living is Easy, and I’m John Petrozzi. Until next time, stay well and stay happy.