The Science Delusion by Rupert Sheldrake

John Greenbank is unconvinced by Rupert Sheldrake’s lively heresies.

Rupert Sheldrake has been a distinguished biochemist and cell biologist, but his latest book, The Science Delusion, is disturbingly eccentric. Fluently superficial, it combines a disorderly collage of scientific fact and opinion with an intrusive yet disjunctive metaphysical programme.

I was an undergraduate student of biological sciences at Cambridge at the same time as Sheldrake, and I remember his commenting on Peter Medawar’s review of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s book The Phenomenon of Man (1959) and laughing at the idea of Teilhard ‘vibrating’ with the universe. Medawar’s review had been merciless: “Teilhard habitually and systematically cheats with words. His work, he has assured us, is to be read, not as a metaphysical system, but ‘purely and simply as a scientific treatise’ executed with ‘remorseless’ or ‘inescapable’ logic; yet he uses in metaphor words like energy, tension, force, impetus and dimension as if they retained the weight and thrust of their specific scientific usages.

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