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morphic fields

Ideas of Thinkers Worth Thinking About

Sheldrake and his Concept of Morphic Resonance

In this spot, I'll periodically be inviting you to consider the ideas of various present and past writers and thinkers who have tweaked my imagination, or inspired, or influenced me in some way. Even ideas which are diametrically opposed to my own, can sometimes be a fertile ground for new thinking.

Let me warn you here and now that I'm an irredeemable skeptic and a staunch proponent of the scientific method. Since my awakening at the age of twelve, doubt in all its forms has permeated my blood and bones. It drives my restlessness, it inspires my hope, it brings moments of despair, and yet, I value it more than gold. As I gaze at the world with a questioning eye, I'm always willing to consider altering my views in the face of new evidence. Notwithstanding my skeptical attitude and my insistence on examining the facts, I unabashedly acknowledge the ineffable mystery of our existence.

Morphic Resonance: A Rejuvenation of Wonder

Has familiarity eroded our sense of wonder? Has science become too complacent, too infatuated with itself? These are questions that spring to mind when pondering some of the intriguing notions Rupert Sheldrake, biologist, sets forth with his theory of morphic fields and morphic resonance to explain some fundamental mysteries in science.

Sheldrake's thought provoking and controversial theory of morphic fields and morphic resonance offers an alternative paradigm to explain a number of profound and baffling questions in biology, genetics, and other sciences, which up to this point, no one is anywhere near to solving. While on the surface, these questions may seem trivial, once you begin to think about them, you realize how complex, and mind-boggling they are. My intention here is not to expound at length on Sheldrake's theory, but to tweak your interest in thinking about the puzzles of life which he examines. One of these deep questions has to do with how the form of an organism develops. For example, how does the specific shape of an oak tree develop from an acorn seed? Or, take the example of a developing embryo; how is it that we come to develop arm-shaped appendages in our upper body, and leg-shaped appendages in our lower body, even though the chemicals, the nerve cells, the muscle cells, and the skin cells that make up arms and legs are the same? What determines the shape of the one and the other? No scientist alive today, knows the answer to that question. Once you appreciate the importance of the question, the world of living organisms begins to look different. More awe-inspiring.

Another important question explored by Sheldrake is this: how are the unique behaviors of animal species passed on from one generation to another? For example, what prompts a young salmon to swim downriver to the sea, when it has never done so before in its life? Or take the case of the Monarch Butterfly. What governs its behavior of flying hundreds of miles from Canada to a specific winter resting place in Mexico, never having taken that flight before in its life?

While I think the scientific support for his theory of morphic resonance is weak, Sheldrake has, at the very least, been instrumental in heightening our awareness of a serious lacuna in our scientific understanding, which geneticists and other researchers seem to either ignore, or have faith will be inevitably bridged with reductionistic explanations, once the mysteries of DNA have been completely unlocked. Sure, DNA codes for proteins, but proteins are a long way off from ending up as arm and leg-shaped appendages. The question is worth repeating. How does form come about? What is the organizing principle governing the shape of things? The questions which Sheldrake explores have a value beyond science. Sheldrake has something to offer the poet as well as the philosopher and scientist. His ideas invite us to recapture our sense of wonder about the world in which we live--a worthy pursuit, regardless whether or not his theory will ultimately survive. As we grow older, and the world becomes too predictable and familiar, our senses become jaded. We lose our sense of wonder. I invite you to read some of Sheldrake's ideas, and look more closely at the world around you. You may surprise yourself. Life is strange and wonderful. Every now and then, I too have to remind myself of that.

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