Sheldrake-Shermer, Materialism in Science, Opening Statements
Through the months of May, June, and July of 2015, TheBestSchools.org is hosting an intensive dialogue on the nature of science between Rupert Sheldrake and Michael Shermer. This first month, the focus is on materialism in science. Dr. Sheldrake will defend that science needs to free itself from materialist dogma; indeed, science misunderstands nature by being wedded to purely materialist explanations. By contrast, Dr. Shermer will defend that science, properly conceived, is a materialistic enterprise; for science to look beyond materialist explanations is to betray science and engage in superstition. For details about this dialogue, along with a complete guide to other portions of it, click here.
To give our readers context for this dialogue, Drs. Sheldrake and Shermer graciously provided the following interviews:
* * *
Sheldrake Opening Statement
We agree about many things. We both think that scientific research and the scientific method are of enormous importance. We both believe in evolution. We share an interest in the history of science. And we are both in favor of skepticism.
Where we differ is in our degree of skepticism. I am more radical than you. I think we need to question the dogmas of science itself. As the physicist Richard Feynman observed, scientists need to find out not only what might be right about their theories, but also what might be wrong with them.
For more than 150 years, scientific orthodoxy has been based on the philosophy of materialism, the claim that all reality is material or physical. All our own experiences are by-products of physical and chemical activities in our brains. Even God exists only as an idea in human minds, and hence in human heads. Brains are made up of unconscious matter and governed only by impersonal physical and chemical laws. Like all other features of living organisms, they have evolved through chance mutations and natural selection, without any purpose or direction.