September 5th, 2012 Alex Tsakiris
Interview examines how scientific assumptions about materialism and consciousness have constrained us.
Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with biologist and author Dr. Rupert Sheldrake about his new book, Science Set Free: 10 Paths to New Discovery. During the interview Sheldrake explains his post-materialist worldview:
Alex Tsakiris: I think that’s part of the problem. I think all these questions of the spiritual are not buried deep in these scientific questions you pose — they’re right there under the paper-thin surface of them. Take survival of consciousness, if we just look at the data and we say, “That seems to suggest that consciousness survives death,” well, for any man on the street, as well as any scientist, that proposition immediately launches us into deep questions of the spiritual. I don’t know how you can get around that.
Dr. Rupert Sheldrake: I think it’s quite important to decouple these. Although the science is very relevant to these issues it doesn’t map in such a way that to be an Atheist you’ve got to be a Dawkins-style materialist or to be a religious person you’ve got to be a dualist.
I think what we’re heading for is a post-materialist worldview which is what my book is trying to point the way towards. We could have a holistic way of looking at things, a scientific investigation into things, which leaves these bigger questions open. For example, in one chapter of the book where I’m dealing with the dogma that memories are stored as material traces inside the brain that becomes the question, are memories stored as material traces in the brain?
I’m not confident memories are stored in brains. I think that brains are more like tuning devices, more like TV receivers than like video recorders. Now that’s really a scientific question, how is memory stored? We can do experiments to try and find out how memory works.
So for materialists it’s a simple two-step argument. Memories are stored in brains; the brain decays at death, therefore, memories are wiped out at death. Whereas, if memories are not stored in brains then the memories themselves are not wiped out at death. They’re potentially accessible. That doesn’t prove they are accessed, that there is personal survival. It just means that’s a possibility whereas with materialism it’s an impossibility. So one position leaves the question closed and the other leaves it open.
Rupert Sheldrake’s Website
Download MP3 (38 min.)
Alex Tsakiris: Today we welcome back to Skeptiko biologist and author, Dr. Rupert Sheldrake. He’s here to talk about his latest book, The Science Delusion. If you’re here in the U.S. you’ll find it at Amazon under the title, Science Set Free.
Rupert, welcome back and thanks for joining me.
Dr. Rupert Sheldrake: It’s very good to be with you again.
Read it if you so desire.