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Rupert Sheldrake - The Science Delusion BANNED TED TALK

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    The science delusion is the belief that science already understands the nature of reality in principle
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    leaving only the details to be filled in.
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    This is a very wide spread belief in our society.
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    It's the kind of belief system of people who say
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    I don't believe in God, I believe in science.
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    It is a belief system which has now been spread to the entire world.
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    But there's a conflict in the heart of science between science as a method of inquiry
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    based on reason, evidence, hypothesis, and collective investigation
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    and science as a belief system or a world view.
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    And unfortunately the world view aspect of science has come to inhibit and constrict
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    the free inquiry which is the very lifeblood of the scientific endeavor.
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    Since the late 19th century, science has been conducted
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    under the aspect of a belief system or world view
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    which is essentially that of materialism. Philosophical materialism.
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    And the sciences are now wholly-owned subsidiaries of the materialist world view.
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    I think that, as we break out of it, the sciences will be regenerated.
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    What I do in my book 'The Science Delusion' - which is called 'Science Set Free' in the United States -
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    is: take the ten dogmas or assumptions of science and turn them into questions,
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    seeing how well they stand up if you look at them scientifically.
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    None of them stand up very well.
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    What I am going to do is first run through what these ten dogmas are,
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    and then I will only have time to discuss one or two of them in a bit more detail.
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    But essentially the ten dogmas which are the default world view
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    of most educated people all over the world are,
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    first that nature is mechanical or machine like, the universe is like a machine,
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    animals and plants are like machines, we are like machines.
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    In fact, we are machines.
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    We are "lumbering robots" in Richard Dawkins' vivid phrase,
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    with brains that are genetically programed computers.
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    Second, matter is unconscious, the whole universe is made up of unconscious matter.
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    There is no consciousness in stars, in galaxies, in planets, in animals, in plants,
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    and there ought not to be any in us either, if this theory is true.
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    So a lot of the philosophy of mind over the last hundred years
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    has been trying to prove that we are not really conscious at all.
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    So the matter is unconscious, then the laws of nature are fixed. This is the dogma three.
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    The laws of nature are the same now as they were at the time of the Big Bang
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    and they will be the same forever.
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    Not just the laws but the constants of nature are fixed which is why they are called constants.
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    Dogma four: the total amount of matter and energy is always the same.
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    It never changes in total quantity except at the moment of the Big Bang when it all sprang
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    into existence from nowhere in a single instant.
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    The fifth dogma is that nature is purposeless, there is no purposes in all nature
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    and the evolutionary process has no purpose or direction.
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    Dogma six: the biological heredity is material, everything you inherit is in your genes
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    or in epigenetic modifications of the genes, or in cytoplasmic inheritance. It is material.
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    Dogma seven: memories are stored inside your brain as material traces.
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    Somehow everything you remember is in your brain in modified nerve endings phosphorylated proteins.
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    No one knows how it works,
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    but nevertheless almost everyone in the scientific world believes it must be in the brain.
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    Dogma eight: your mind is inside your head.
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    All your consciousness is the activity of your brain and nothing more.
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    Dogma nine, which follows from dogma eight: psychic phenomena like telepathy are impossible.
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    Your thoughts and intentions can not have any effect at a distance
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    because your mind is inside your head.
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    Therefore all the apparent evidence for telepathy and other psychic phenomena is illusory.
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    People believe these things happen but it is just because they don't know enough about statistics,
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    or they are deceived by coincidences or it is wishful thinking.
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    And dogma ten: mechanistic medicine is the only kind that really works.
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    That is why governments only fund research into mechanistic medicine
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    and ignore complementary and alternative therapies.
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    Those can't possibly really work because they are not mechanistic,
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    they may appear to work because people would have got better anyway or because of the placebo effect.
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    But the only kind that really works is mechanistic medicine.
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    Well, this is the default world view which is held by almost all educated people all over the world,
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    it is the basis of the educational system, the national health service, the Medical Research Council,
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    governments, and it is just the default world view of educated people.
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    But I think every one of these dogmas is very, very questionable
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    and when you look at it, it turns they fall apart.
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    I am going to take first the idea that the laws of nature are fixed.
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    This is a hangover from an older world view before the 1960's when the Big Bang theory came in.
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    People thought that the whole universe was eternal, governed by eternal mathematical laws.
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    When the Big Bang came in, then that assumption continued,
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    even though the Big Bang revealed a universe that is radically evolutionary about 14 billion years old.
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    Growing, and developing, and evolving for 14 billion years.
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    Growing and cooling and more structures and patterns appear within it.
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    But the idea is, all the laws of nature were completely fixed at the moment of the Big Bang,
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    like a cosmic Napoleonic Code.
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    As my friend Terence McKenna used to say,
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    “Modern science is based on the principle: give us one free miracle and we’ll explain the rest."
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    And the one free miracle is the appearance of all the matter and energy in the universe
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    and all the laws that govern it from nothing in a single instant.
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    Well, in an evolutionary universe, why shouldn't the laws themselves evolve?
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    After all human laws do, and the idea of the laws of the nature is based on a metaphor with human law.
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    It is a very anthropocentric metaphor: only humans have laws, in fact only civilized societies have laws.
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    As C. S. Lewis once said,
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    "To say that a stone falls to earth because it is obeying a law makes it a man and even a citizen."
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    It is a metaphor that we got so used to, we forget it is a metaphor.
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    In an evolving universe I think a much better idea is the idea of habits.
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    I think the habits of nature evolve, the regularities of nature are essentially habitual.
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    This was an idea put forward at the beginning of the 20th century
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    by the American philosopher C. S. Peirce.
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    And it is an idea which various other philosophers have entertained,
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    it is one which I myself have developed into a scientific hypothesis,
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    the hypothesis of morphic resonance
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    which is the basis of these evolving habits.
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    According to this hypothesis, everything in nature has a kind of collective memory.
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    Resonance occurs on the basis of similarity.
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    As a young giraffe embryo grows in its mother's womb,
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    it tunes in to the morphic resonance of previous giraffes,
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    it draws on that collective memory, it grows like a giraffe,
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    it behaves like a giraffe because it is drawing on this collective memory.
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    It has to have the right genes to make the right proteins, but genes in my view are grossly overrated.
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    They only account for the proteins that the organism can make, not the shape, or form, or the behavior.
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    Every species has a kind of collective memory. Even crystals do.
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    This theory predicts that if you make a new kind of crystal for the first time,
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    the very first time you make it, it won't have an existing habit.
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    But once it crystallizes, then the next time you make it there will be an influence from the first crystals
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    to the second ones all over the world, by morphic resonance it will crystallize a bit easier.
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    The third time there will be an influence from the first and second crystals.
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    There is in fact good evidence that new compounds get easier to crystallize all around the world,
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    just as this theory would predict.
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    It also predicts that if you train animals to learn a new trick,
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    for example rats learn a new trick in London,
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    then all round the world rats of the same breed should learn the same trick quicker
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    just because rats have learned it here.
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    And surprisingly, there is already evidence that this actually happens.
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    Anyway, that is my hypotheses in a nutshell of morphic resonance,
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    everything depends on evolving habits not on fixed laws.
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    But I want to spend a few moments on the constants of nature too.
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    Because these, are again, assumed to be constant.
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    Things like the gravitational constant, the speed of light are called the fundamental constants.
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    Are they really constant?
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    Well, when I got interested in this question I tried to find out.
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    They are given in physics handbooks.
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    Handbooks of physics list the existing fundamental constants and tell you their value.
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    But I wanted to see if they've changed, so I got the old volumes of physical handbooks.
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    I went to the Patent Office Library here in London,
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    and they are the only place I could find that kept the old volumes,
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    normally people throw them away. When the new values come out, they throw away the old ones.
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    When I did this I found out that the speed of light dropped between 1928 and 1945
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    by about 20 kilometers per second.
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    It's a huge drop because they were given with the errors of any fractions, decimal points of error.
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    And yet, all over the world it dropped
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    and they were all getting values very similar to each other with tiny errors,
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    then in (1945) 1948 it went up again,
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    and then people started getting very similar values again.
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    I was very intrigued by this, and I couldn't make sense of it,
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    so I went to see the Head of Metrology,
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    at the National Physical Laboratory, in Teddington.
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    Metrology is the science in which people measure constants.
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    And I asked him about this, I said:
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    what do you make of this drop in the speed of light between 1928 and 1945?
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    And he said, "Oh dear",
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    he said "you uncovered the most embarrassing episode in the history of our sciences."
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    I said well, could the speed of light have actually dropped, and that would have amazing implications if so.
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    And he said, "no, no, of course it couldn't have actually dropped, it is a constant!"
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    Oh, well then how do you explain the fact that everyone was almost finding
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    it going much slower during that period?
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    Is it because they were fudging their results to get what they thought other people should be getting
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    and the whole thing was just produced in the minds of physicists?
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    "We don't like to use the word fudge."
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    I said, well what do you prefer?
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    He said, "well we prefer to call it intellectual phase-locking."
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    So if this was going on then, how can we be so sure it is not going on today,
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    and that the present values produced by intellectual phase-locking?
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    And he said, "no, we know it is not the case."
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    I said, how do we know?
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    He said, "well, we have solved the problem". I said well how?
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    He said, "well we fixed the speed of light by definition in 1972".
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    So it might still change.
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    He said, "Yes but we'll never know because we defined the metre in terms of the speed of light,
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    so the units have changed with it".
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    So he looked very pleased about that, they'd fixed their problem.
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    But I said, well then what about Big G?
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    The gravitational constant known in the trade as Big G, it is written with the capital G.
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    Newton's universal gravitational constant. That has varied by more than 1.3 per cent in recent years.
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    And it seems to vary from place to place and from time to time.
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    And he said, "well there is a chance of errors, and unfortunately there are quite big errors with the Big G.
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    So I said, what if it is really changing, perhaps it is really changing.
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    And then I looked at how they do it: what happens is that they measure it in different labs,
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    they get different values on different days, and then they average them.
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    And then other labs from around the world do the same
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    and they come out usually with a rather different average.
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    And then the International Committee on Metrology meets every 10 years or so
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    and averages the ones from labs from around the world to come out with the value of Big G.
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    But what if G were actually fluctuating? What if it changed?
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    There is already evidence actually that it changes throughout the day and throughout the year.
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    What if the Earth, as it moves through the galactic environment, went through patches of dark matter
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    or other environmental factors that could alter it? Maybe they all change together.
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    What if these errors are going up together and down together?
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    For more than 10 years I have been trying to persuade metrologists to look at the raw data.
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    In fact, I am now trying to persuade them to put it online on the internet,
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    with the dates and the actual measurements,
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    and see if they are correlated; to see if they are all up at one time, all down at another.
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    If so they might be fluctuating together and that would tell us something very, very interesting.
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    But no one has done this, they haven't done it because G is a constant.
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    There is no point in looking for changes.
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    You see, here is a very simple example of where a dogmatic assumption actually inhibits inquiry.
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    I myself think that the constants may vary quite considerably.
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    Well within narrow limits, but they may all be varying.
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    And I think the day will come when scientific journals like Nature have weekly reports on the constants
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    like stock market reports in the newspapers.
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    This week Big G was slightly up, the charge on the electron was down, the speed of light held steady,
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    and so on.
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    So, that is one area, just one area where I think thinking less dogmatically could open things up.
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    One of the biggest areas is the nature of the mind,
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    this is the most unsolved problem as Graham has just said.
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    Science simply can't deal with the fact that we are conscious.
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    And it can't deal with the fact that our thoughts don't seem to be inside our brains.
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    Our experiences don't all seem to be inside our brain.
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    Your image of me now doesn't seem to be inside your brain.
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    Yet the official view is that there is a little Rupert somewhere inside your head
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    and everything else in this room is inside your head.
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    Your experiences is inside your brain.
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    I am suggesting actually that vision involves an outward projection of images,
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    what you are seeing is in your mind but not inside your head.
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    Our minds are extended beyond our brains in the simple act of perception.
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    I think that we project out the images we are seeing and these images touch what we are looking at.
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    If I look at you from behind and you don't know I am there, could I affect you?
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    Could you feel my gaze?
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    There is a great deal of evidence that people can.
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    The sense of being stared at is an extremely common experience,
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    and recent experimental research actually suggests it is real.
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    Animals seem to have it too.
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    I think it probably evolved in the context of predator-prey relationships.
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    Prey animals that can feel the gaze of the predator would survive better than those that couldn't.
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    This would lead to a whole new way of thinking about ecological relationships between predators and prey,
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    also about the extent of our minds.
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    If we look at distant stars, I think our minds reach out in the sense to touch these stars
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    and literally extend out over astronomical different distances.
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    They are not just inside our heads.
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    Now it may seem astonishing that this is a topic of debate in the 21st century.
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    We know so little about our own minds that where our images are
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    is a hot topic of debate within consciousness studies right now.
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    I don't have time to deal with anymore of these dogmas, but every single one of them is questionable.
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    If one questions it, new forms of research, new possibilities open up.
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    And I think as we question these dogmas that have held back science so long,
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    science will undergo a re-flowering, a Renaissance.
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    I am a total believer in the importance of science.
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    I have spent my whole life as a research scientist, my whole career.
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    But I think by moving beyond these dogmas it can be regenerated.
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    Once again it will become interesting, and I hope life affirming.
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    Thank you.
Title:
Rupert Sheldrake - The Science Delusion BANNED TED TALK
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Video Language:
English
Duration:
18:20

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