THE MORPHIC FIELDS
>Alfred Rupert Sheldrake(born 28 June 1942) is an English scientist and author. He is known for having proposed a scientifically unorthodox account of morphogenesis and for his research into parapsychology. His books and papers stem from his theory of morphic resonance, and cover topics such as animal and plant development and behaviour, memory, telepathy, perception and cognition in general. His publications include A New Science of Life (1981), Seven Experiments That Could Change the World (1995), Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home (1999), and The Sense of Being Stared At (2003), The Science Delusion: Freeing the spirit of enquiry (2012).
“Morphic field” is a term introduced by Sheldrake. He proposes that there is a field within and around a morphic unit which organizes its characteristic structure and pattern of activity.According to this concept, the morphic field underlies the formation and behaviour of holons and morphic units, and can be set up by the repetition of similar acts or thoughts. The hypothesis is that a particular form belonging to a certain group, which has already established its (collective) morphic field, will tune into that morphic field. The particular form will read the collective information through the process of morphic resonance, using it to guide its own development. This development of the particular form will then provide, again through morphic resonance, a feedback to the morphic field of that group, thus strengthening it with its own experience, resulting in new information being added (i.e. stored in the database). Sheldrake regards the morphic fields as a universal database for both organic (living) and abstract (mental) forms.
That a mode of transmission of shared informational patterns and archetypes might exist did gain some tacit acceptance, when it was proposed as the theory of the collective unconscious by renowned psychiatrist Carl Jung. According to Sheldrake, the theory of morphic fields might provide an explanation for Jung’s concept as well. Also, he agrees that the concept of akashic records, term from Vedas representing the “library” of all the experiences and memories of human minds (souls) through their physical lifetime, can be related to morphic fields,since one’s past (an akashic record) is a mental form, consisting of thoughts as simpler mental forms (all processed by the same brain), and a group of similar or related mental forms also have their associated (collective) morphic field. (Sheldrake’s view on memory-traces is that they are “non-local,” and not located in the brain.)
Sheldrake’s concept has little support in the mainstream scientific community. Members of the scientific community consider Sheldrake’s concept to be currently unfalsifiable and therefore outside of the scope of scientific experiment. The morphic field concept is believed by many to fall into the realm of pseudoscience.
Morphogenetic fields are defined by Sheldrake as the subset of morphic fields which influence, and are influenced by living things.
The term [morphic fields] is more general in its meaning than morphogenetic fields, and includes other kinds of organizing fields in addition to those of morphogenesis; the organizing fields of animal and human behaviour, of social and cultural systems, and of mental activity can all be regarded as morphic fields which contain an inherent memory.
—Rupert Sheldrake, The Presence of the Past (Chapter 6, page 112)
The term morphogenetic field generally referred to a “collection of cells by whose interactions a particular organ formed”
in 1920s and 1930s experimental embryology. “The genetics program of biology was originally in direct opposition to the concept of morphogenetic fields… an alternative to the gene as the unit of ontogeny.” Due to the success of genetics, the term fell into widespread disfavor in the 1960s, although it could be still be found in developmental biology literature regarding limb and heart fields. “In such instances, no claims are usually made other than that these areas of mesoderm are destined to form these particular structures”.Sheldrake commented on the distinction between his usage and that of the biologist, whom he said uses the term “morphic field” as a heuristic device, which is conceptually distinct from his own use of the term. He says that most biologists regard morphogenetic fields as “a way of thinking about morphogenesis rather than something that really exists.”
The Science Delusion
Sheldrake’s most recent title summarises much of his previous work and encapsulates it into a broader critique of modern materialism, with the title mimicking the controversial book by one of Sheldrake’s critics Richard Dawkins, who wrote The God Delusion. Sheldrake proposes a number of questions as the theme of each chapter which seek to elaborate on his central premise that science is predicated on the belief that the nature of reality is fully understood, with only minor details needing to be filled in.
This delusion is what Sheldrake argues has turned science in to a series of dogmas rather than a genuinely open minded approach to investigating phenomena, and that there exist many powerful taboos that circumscribe what scientists can legitimately direct their attention toward.