Talk:Rupert Sheldrake/Archive 10

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Archive 9 Archive 10 Archive 11

4th paragraph of lead

The lead is supposed to be an overview of the article. The fourth paragraph of the lead is a description of Sheldrake's popularity in the new age movement. However, the body of the article does not contain any content regarding such. I recommend that the 4th paragraph be deleted as per WP:LEAD. Thoughts? Annalisa Ventola (Talk | Contribs) 00:24, 17 October 2013 (UTC)

Good point, Annalisa Ventola. I suggest we either add a section about New Age reception or delete the mention in the lead. I think the lead is too long as is and support deleting the comment. It's a blurb that contributes little to the following sections. The Cap'n (talk) 00:46, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
It appears that Sheldrake is commonly thought of as a New Age writer, so the bit in the lead was just meant to clear up a common confusion. Considering that many people will just read the lead, if they are there to learn about that cool New Age writer then perhaps they should be informed that he's not so New Agey. In any case that was the rationale; it doesn't matter much to me. vzaak (talk) 00:59, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
His popularity among new age readers can be covered in the section on his books. Whether we just move the content from the lead down, or copy the content from the lead and expand with more detail would be the question. -- TRPoD aka The Red Pen of Doom 01:12, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
I'm looking at the references and I see one author referring to him as such without explanation, and another author saying that Sheldrake is admired by New Agers but not a New Ager himself. These references are conflicting and don't really provide much to expand on. Unless someone else wants to take a shot at it and provide a section on "Sheldrake the New Ager" to justify mention in the lead, I suggest deletion. However, if there are enough sources to establish Sheldrake as a New Age author - and say something substantial about it - I would certainly be curious to read it. Annalisa Ventola (Talk | Contribs) 01:51, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
The first two refs [25][26] describe him as a New Age author. The next two refs [27][28] say that New Agers like him. The penultimate ref [27] clarifies that he's not a New Ager. The conflict is the interesting part. He's called a New Age author, but he's not a New Ager. There's more New Agey stuff to find, such as Alan Sokal referring to "a bizarre New Age idea due to Rupert Sheldrake" [1].
The New Age bit was moved to the Books section once; it can be moved again, no problem. Or it can be expanded in the body, no problem. But I don't see a good reason to remove this clarification of a common misconception. vzaak (talk) 02:32, 17 October 2013 (UTC)

The new age stuff isn't in the body of the article. Therefore it shouldn't be in the lead. The references are not the body of the article. The new age stuff needs to be in the article, or it needs to be deleted from the lead. I'm in favor of putting it in the article. I prefer a separate section rather than burying it in with other stuff. Lou Sander (talk) 02:48, 17 October 2013 (UTC)

If we're looking for New Age stuff, it's worth looking at "The Physics of Angels" by Matthew Fox and Rupert Sheldrake. One of the Amazon reviews says "this book is a bizarre amalgam of New Age speculation and exploration of the writings of Dionysius the Areopagite, Thomas Aquinas and Hildegard of Bingen" From the small amount I was willing to read it seems like a fair assessment. Dingo1729 (talk) 03:13, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
Has anyone here actually read the book? Annalisa Ventola (Talk | Contribs) 03:57, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
Well, this is just my opinion, of course, not a sentence we can put into wikipedia articles or anything, but I'm pretty confident Sheldrake has read the book.[citation needed]      :-)     Here is what he says about his atheism from ~1956 through sometime in college, his experimentation with Hindu/Sufi/etc stuff which he specifically went to India to pursue, his being drawn to Christianity again in the late 1970s, and his recent work on Angels with Fox. One thing we *already* cite using WP:ABOUTSELF is that Sheldrake spent 18 months living in an ashram in Tamil Nadu, and during that time (prolly 1980/1981 maybe also some 1979 but the self-pub-page does not say) wrote his first book. However, the sentence about the ashram is in the wrong place -- it is under Academic Career right now, when in fact it should be in the first paragraph of Origin Of Morphogenetics. This sentence also ties in with the new-age thing; Sheldrake may not be a New Ager in the usual sense, but part of the reason[citation needed] his books are popular in that market is prolly because he wrote the first one while living in an ashram, albeit a Christian-oriented one run by a Benedictine monk, somewheres near India.

"Another [one of my main concerns] is[when?] exploring the connections between science and spirituality, and I am particularly thankful for the opportunity to do this with [co-author of two 1996 books] Matthew Fox."[2]

"The main reason for taking the job in Hyderabad was that I wanted to be in India. I had already become interested in Indian philosophy and had started doing transcendental meditation. I was drawn to the Hindu traditions. English Benedictine monk who lived in a small ashram right in the very south of India. It was a Christian ashram, bridging the Christian and Eastern traditions. ...During my time in India [1974 and later] I’d been involved with various Hindu gurus and ashrams, and also with Sufis... I could never really become a Sufi because you have to become a Muslim... I couldn’t become a Hindu because I couldn’t be an Indian... I began to find new meaning in the Christian tradition that I’d rejected [as an atheist since age ~14 circa 1956] for so long."[3]

Currently the article is *very* sparse on this stuff. It lists the books with Fox, says he does not[when?] consider himself a new-ager, and that he is currently anglican.

Sheldrake has been described as a New Age author[98][99] and is popular among many in the New Age movement who view him as lending scientific credibility to their beliefs.[100][84] Sheldrake has not endorsed this description nor these views.[100]

He has a Methodist background, identified himself as an atheist for a time and found himself drawn back to Christianity during his time in India; the biography on his website now identifies him as Anglican.[27]

We can definitely use WP:ABOUTSELF for the quoted explanation Sheldrick gives on his homepage, talking about himself and his motivations, and put this quotation into the article -- prolly we ought to methinks. What we have right not is full of vague weasel words, that do not give the chronology, nor the motivations Sheldrick had. Those are not things we can cut from the article, without misrepresenting Sheldrake's spirituality... definitely not a good thing to do, to a BLP, or to anyone for that matter. HTH. (talk) 00:56, 26 October 2013 (UTC)

This article already establishes Sheldrake as an Anglican. If you're going to establish him instead as New Ager - there really ought to be a clear basis for doing so - keeping in mind that this a WP:BLP, of course. Annalisa Ventola (Talk | Contribs) 04:02, 17 October 2013 (UTC)

The lead formerly said something like: "People call him new age. He disagrees. After some evolution of his religious beliefs, he's an Anglican." I liked that, because it seemed to summarize important stuff about him and his ideas. I didn't check if it was in the body of the article (where it needs to be if it's in the summary/lead). Lou Sander (talk) 04:37, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
Is it common for BLP's to pigeon-hole someone into a particular belief system in the lead? Annalisa Ventola (Talk | Contribs) 04:42, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
I don't know. I don't see pigeon-holing here, since he is apparently open about his beliefs. It's like somebody saying "Moe sounds a lot like a Wiccan," and Moe saying "No, I'm a Methodist." Lou Sander (talk) 04:56, 17 October 2013 (UTC)

One doesnt have to be a New Ager to be popular amongst New Ager reading public. Just because one is a New Ager doesnt mean that one is not also Methodist (or Anglican or whatever). But what exactly is the point under discussion for inclusion or removal from the article? -- TRPoD aka The Red Pen of Doom 10:40, 17 October 2013 (UTC)

Annalisa Ventola, the point of the New Age sentence is not to establish him as a New Age author. The point is to clear up the fact that although he's called a New Age author, he's not a New Ager. The original wording said "not a New Ager but a committed Anglican", which I thought was better. vzaak (talk) 12:24, 17 October 2013 (UTC)

Clarifying the New Age bit

  • The purpose of this sentence is to dispel the common misunderstanding that Sheldrake is a New Ager. He is not a New Ager, despite what the New Age movement thinks. This is important to mention somewhere in the article, whether in the lead or not I don't care. In addition, I would rather restore the original wording to make it absolutely clear: "...not a New Ager but a committed Anglican".
  • The refs are very clear on this issue. This information is not the least bit controversial or contentious; everyone can agree that clarifying that Sheldrake is not a New Ager is a good thing.
  • You can easily find the BBC episode in [28] by googling 'Sheldrake heretic'. The youtube video you will find is likely a copyright violation, which is why no link is given.

vzaak (talk) 14:34, 17 October 2013 (UTC)

It's good that most editors are keen to clarify this, and seem to feel the same way, but we still need to get the sourcing right. What we have is not "very clear", and if you think 28 is OK then you need to re-read the policies on reliable sourcing. The idea of giving an obscure reference because the source used might not be legitimate is as ridiculous as the suggestion that we've given enough of a hint for the reader to find the video on Google if they use the search term that you'd use. Maybe we should include that search engine hint in the ref, and point out that we're not sure we should be quoting this and that's why we're not giving away too many details -? I did actually want to check that information before I commented, but even with a desire to track it down, I don't expect to waste my time trawling through an entire video to find the comment that is supposed to support our content. If we are going to draw reference from broadcast programmes then we need full publication and transmission details, and we need to reference the time-frame of the footage referred to (just like we need to reference the source of quotes by pages in books and not just book titles). There needs to be a rethink of the approach taken towards sourcing on this page, because the silly insistence that some obviously adequate references cannot be allowed is looking very hypocritical set against the argument that other, obviously crappy references, are perfectly fine. Tento2 (talk) 15:34, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
It's the first google hit. New Age is at 19:35 - 20:00. Linking to a copyrighted video would prevent Good Article status per wp:good article criteria. The ref isn't even needed. I see nothing wrong with it myself, but if you don't like it then take it out, no problem. (Obviously it must remain for the paragraph which discusses the broadcast.) That he has New Age followers is not a contentious or controversial matter. In any case, none of this bears on the other references in the article. vzaak (talk) 16:44, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
Sheldrake gives a link to this video from his own site where he lists his books and recording ( so I would presume the one he links to is legitimately obtained and that we should link to the same source at rather than the dubious Youtube video. I'll put the details here for reference since no one can edit the page at the moment:
Heretics of Science, episode 3, 'Rupert Sheldrake – Morphogenetic Fields', broadcast 19 July 1994. Runtime 30 mins. Publisher: BBC. Producer: Tony Edwards.
We don't need to give a link to the video if we provide the full publication details, although it is useful for the reader that we do. To be completely covered it would be best to keep this reference separate from the other reference to the same video and quote the remarks given around 19th-20th minute inside the footnote: "In America, Sheldrake found himself attracting disciples from the New Age movement. Morphic resonance appealed to their mystical philosophy of life, which they saw Sheldrake, a scientist, appearing to endorse." — Preceding unsigned comment added by Tento2 (talkcontribs) 08:13, 18 October 2013 (UTC)

Straw Poll

Please indicate your preference with "Support", "Oppose", "Can live with"

Option 1- Remove from the article the 4th paragraph in the lead (about his following among New Agers)
  • oppose fully sourced, reflecting an important aspect of Sheldrakes real world impact. -- TRPoD aka The Red Pen of Doom 10:53, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
  • oppose - that is, I oppose a suggestion to remove the comment entirely, though I definitely agree it should be removed from the lede until it is developed in the main body of the article. Tento2 (talk) 11:54, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
  • oppose per Tento2, above. Lou Sander (talk) 12:54, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
  • support - though I would be fine with the material returning if it becomes a substantial part of the article at a later date (I find it curious that the opposers above are saying the same thing). Annalisa Ventola (Talk | Contribs) 13:49, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
  • support - How New Agers view him is irrelevant. Pretty much anyone talking about human potential is seen as a New Ager to new Agers. Tom Butler (talk) 17:02, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
  • oppose --Roxy the dog (quack quack) 20:34, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
  • support -- Gunther[4] is an appalling source, he is a self-published author, making his opinion irrelevant here, and the source fails WP:RS. Frazier's reference[5] should actually be attributed to Ron Amundson's article "The Hundredth Monkey Phenomenon" which actually comes from the Skeptical Inquirer vol. 9, 1985, 348-356[6] who mentions Sheldrake in passing, with no sources. There is no indication that Amundson represents the New Age, or that we even no what he means. The use of the passive voice (ie "has been described") suggests the sentence is used as a form of "weasel word" phrase. --Iantresman (talk) 22:21, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
  • oppose It's supported and it's important. MilesMoney (talk) 04:35, 18 October 2013 (UTC)
  • oppose per TRPoD. Capitalismojo (talk) 15:18, 18 October 2013 (UTC)
  • support I don't see how his standing among New Agers is a relevant enough topic or has enough content behind it to justify mentioning in the lead. The segment feels ad-hoc and out of place. The Cap'n (talk) 18:54, 18 October 2013 (UTC)

Option 2- Move the 4th paragraph in the lead (about his following among New Agers) to the body of the article as part of the intro under Rupert_Sheldrake#Books
  • can live with -- TRPoD aka The Red Pen of Doom 10:53, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
  • oppose - as it stands, its not appropriately sourced. Ref 28 is inadequate and gives no way for the user to verify that what we have stated is correct; and the short comment "although Sheldrake has not endorsed these interpretations" fails to summarise the points the author is making in ref 27, so that needs more attention and development. Tento2 (talk) 11:54, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
  • oppose, in general agreement with Tento2. There are many problems with the references in this article, e.g., finding references that only tangentially apply, then using them as hammers to hit Sheldrake with. An example of that is in the one in Rupert_Sheldrake#Books, which slams him on peer review. Peer review doesn't apply to books, as is said in the reference itself. Lou Sander (talk) 13:12, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
  • 'oppose as per the comments on inadequate sourcing above. Annalisa Ventola (Talk | Contribs) 13:49, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
  • Oppose, Again, how new Agers view him is irrelevant. Pretty much anyone talking about human potential is seen as a New Ager to new Agers. Tom Butler (talk) 17:07, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
  • can live with --Roxy the dog (quack quack) 20:34, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
  • can live with It really belongs in the lede, but if we need to move it out to keep the lede small, that's acceptable. MilesMoney (talk) 04:35, 18 October 2013 (UTC)
  • supportThis is where the discussion of New Age reception belongs; it's information pertaining to his books, not a section in itself. The Cap'n (talk) 18:54, 18 October 2013 (UTC)

Option 3- Copy the 4th paragraph in the lead (about his following among New Agers) to the body of the article as part of the intro under Rupert_Sheldrake#Books and look for more sources to more fully expand this aspect of Sheldrakes impact
  • support-- TRPoD aka The Red Pen of Doom 10:53, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
  • support- refs need looking at. I have no idea what ref 28 substantiates because it's impossible to check from the reference information given. I can see that there is more to the issue than a reader would gleam from our content, when checking what the author of ref 27 has to say about the matter. Tento2 (talk) 11:54, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
  • oppose, in general agreement with Tento2. Many Refs here are problematic. The material in Paragraph 4 summarizes important stuff about Sheldrake. That stuff needs to appear somewhere in the article, in expanded and properly-referenced form. Just finding more sources won't suffice, particularly if they are tangential, don't apply, etc. Lou Sander (talk) 13:12, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
  • oppose - again, if someone can expand this with better sourcing, then it may be relevant to the article, but not as it stands. Annalisa Ventola (Talk | Contribs) 13:49, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
  • Oppose, Again, how new Agers view him is irrelevant. Pretty much anyone talking about human potential is seen as a New Ager to new Agers. Tom Butler (talk) 17:07, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
  • support --Roxy the dog (quack quack) 20:34, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
  • can live with Prefer the lede. MilesMoney (talk) 04:35, 18 October 2013 (UTC)
  • OpposeIf it's already been said in one place it shouldn't be copied in another. It deserves to be said, just under his books, not in the lead. The Cap'n (talk) 18:54, 18 October 2013 (UTC)

Option 4 by Barney the barney barney - the new ages stuff should be mentioned - this is referenced and needs mentioning, but I don't think it's important or relevant enough to be in the lead. IMHO it should go with the "origins of morphic resonance" section.
  • Support - sounds sensible to me. Annalisa Ventola (Talk | Contribs) 04:23, 18 October 2013 (UTC)
  • Weak Oppose -- I think it belongs in the lede but I guess I can live with it elsewhere in the article, if it works better that way. MilesMoney (talk) 04:35, 18 October 2013 (UTC)
  • Support I was under the impression that none of the options allowed the content to remain in the lede. Don't feel strongly about where it goes; only that iit needs to come out of the lede and be developed within the article to good article standards Tento2 (talk) 07:19, 18 October 2013 (UTC)
  • Support. The fourth paragraph could be moved in its entirety to the end of the "origins of morphic resonance" section. Editors could expand on it there if they think it is important. If and when that section expands, probably it should be summarized in the lead, maybe replacing what is now in paragraph 4. Though WP:AGF is still working for me here, I have a concern that editors might use this opportunity to demean Sheldrake in his BLP, along the lines of "look at these stupid beliefs and the stupid people that hold them, and here is why they are stupid (with references)", or to remove the material unilaterally because "I don't think this stuff is important". All that is avoided if editors discuss their edits before making them. Lou Sander (talk) 13:03, 18 October 2013 (UTC)
  • Conditional support - All of what skeptics call "fringe" articles are likely to have a "New Age" following. It is fine to mention it in the body as long as it is not used in an another attempt to make Sheldrake look silly. My support is also on the condition that the subject is not used as another place to pile on with numerous, repetitive references. Tom Butler (talk) 15:15, 18 October 2013 (UTC)
  • can live with It seems more logical to place it under the section on his books, but any edits that clean up that lead are A-OK in my book. The Cap'n (talk) 18:54, 18 October 2013 (UTC)
The Cap'n: If one looks at the "origins and philosophy" section, one sees a bunch of Eastern thinking stuff, Jung stuff, etc. I'm thinking that the new age stuff is similar to that, and that all those things belong together. "Origins and philosophy" could do with a better name, IMHO -- maybe something that includes Eastern, new age, etc. Renaming might be part of cleaning it up and expanding it. Lou Sander (talk) 20:42, 18 October 2013 (UTC)

clarifications about why you placed your !votes where you did

  • Tom Butler (talk · contribs) - can you clarify "how new Agers view him is irrelevant."? If he was merely spouting his nonsense in his basement he would not be notable. However, he is not merely spouting it in his basement, he is publishing books and living off the lecture tour based on the fact that many many many new agers view him as something they are willing to pay for. Without the new agers= no books about his concept. Without the books about his concept =no reaction from the mainstream academic community that it is nonsense. No reaction from the mainstream community = fail Notability and no article. It seems that the opinions of New Agers are vital in the equations.-- TRPoD aka The Red Pen of Doom 18:57, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
You are assuming there is a coherent New Age community. There is not. It is more a set of mostly unrelated ideas which come together as the search for personal improvement. Frankly, saying "New Agers support him" only demonstrates a lack of understanding about the culture. Look instead for a broader desire for information about things outside of mainstream thought that is not provided by mainstream academia.
Surly, you have seen the surveys. "Poll: Majority Believe In Ghosts" is just one of them. Search for "believe" in our Media Watch and you will find links to many more such surveys. people buying the books are seeking better understanding. "New Age" is something of a red herring. Tom Butler (talk) 20:18, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
So you again are looking at coverage of his popularity from an alternative framework than what the mainstream coverage of his popularity does.-- TRPoD aka The Red Pen of Doom 20:32, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
I wasn't originally going to take part, thinking my relative inexperience in how a wiki page comes into being means my opinion wasn't worth much, but then I thought, no, I have as valid an opinion as anybody else. Tom Butler said "You are assuming there is a coherent New Age community. There is not. It is more a set of mostly unrelated ideas which come together as the search for personal improvement." The sceptic community is no more organised than that. --Roxy the dog (quack quack) 20:34, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
we should stay focused on how the sources cover the subject of the article and how we can accurately reflect what the reliable sources present. -- TRPoD aka The Red Pen of Doom 20:56, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
  • One reference is self-published and fails WP:RS. The other reference is from a skeptic and is clearly using "New Age" as a weasel word. --Iantresman (talk) 22:28, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
  • I just changed my vote after realizing that I'd written oppose to all three options originally given. Didn't mean to do that, my mistake after cutting and pasting text to make sure I got the formatting right (sorry). To clarify, I'm opposing option 1, which I interpret as meaning that we take the comment out of the article altogether, and not just that we take it out of the lede. (Taking it out of the lede is a no brainer as it breaks the policy on lede content needing to briefly highlight the most important points in the body of the article). I'm opposing option 2 on the assumption that it means simply moving the content but leaving the text as it is. I'm supporting option 3 on the assumption that it means moving the content, but also giving it critical assessment and development, both in terms of what is said (to get the arguments across correctly), and the references used to support it.
I hope I have interpreted the poll options correctly. If I am confused then maybe other's are too. Tento2 (talk) 07:14, 18 October 2013 (UTC)


Blocked editors do not get to !vote
The following discussion has been closed. Please do not modify it.

It should be noted that one of the probable yes votes was just banned! Tom Butler (talk) 21:13, 17 October 2013 (UTC)

can you clarify? it looks to me like everyone who has !voted in the straw poll is an eligible commentator. -- TRPoD aka The Red Pen of Doom 21:17, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
Sorry, I should have been more specific. I am pretty sure Tumbleman would have voted to delete the paragraph. From my experience, too many discussions like this have been settled by eliminating balanced editors. Tom Butler (talk) 21:45, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
Yes, but which balanced editors have been eliminated? --Roxy the dog (quack quack) 21:48, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
Unless you are psychic and can read his mind to know which position he would have taken .... but even then, since his editing privileges HAVE been removed, whatever position he may have supported is completely inconsequential. He is not allowed to participate and his voice is no longer to be considered when we look to determine whether or not a position has consensus. We certainly don't reward disruptive editors who are blocked indefinitely by giving them ghost !votes.-- TRPoD aka The Red Pen of Doom 21:58, 17 October 2013 (UTC)
And pointing out a disruptive editors position is likely to influence any editor coming fresh into this discussion cause to pause and consider whether or not the position advocated by a disruptive blocked editor is one they really want to support. I am going to close this. -- TRPoD aka The Red Pen of Doom 22:15, 17 October 2013 (UTC)

How is this poll being concluded?

I'm wondering what the point of this poll was. Is there going to be some kind of conclusion based on the responses? I see the comment has been removed from the lede and placed elsewhere with no attention given to the criticism of the refs. Was this because of the result of the poll or disregard to it? Tento2 (talk) 12:08, 25 October 2013 (UTC)

To me, the purpose was to see if some sort of civil consensus could be found. It took a long time, but in the end most people agreed on what to do. Most people who responded did so thoughtfully and on topic. There weren't many responses that were nothing more than somebody's opinion about what another editor had said. Some editors didn't respond at all, maybe for the best. Lou Sander (talk) 12:57, 25 October 2013 (UTC)

First subsection of Books

Due to historical accident, this subsection has two supportive quotes. The Roszak review was originally misapplied to the first book; Roszak actually reviewed the second book (both books were re-issued years later in green covers with "morphic resonance" in the title). After discovering this I fished around for something else to counterbalance Maddox, and found Josephson. However the Roszak review was kept and applied to the second book. Thus this section now depicts a false-balance "controversy", when there isn't actually a controversy. There's a social/public controversy -- thanks in part to Maddox -- but not a scientific one.

The Roszak review is inexplicable; when New Scientist saw themselves quoted on the cover of Sheldrake's book, their reaction was "Did we say that?" and "Eh?".[7] Since this anomalous review is not representative of the reactions from the scientific community, there would seem to be undue weight on it. (Missteps by New "Darwin Was Wrong" Scientist are not without precedent.)

I don't know how to fix this in a non-apparently-contentious way. vzaak (talk) 22:15, 20 October 2013 (UTC)

Just leave this here for a day or two and see what people say about it. Lou Sander (talk) 23:39, 20 October 2013 (UTC)
I think we should start by abandoning the cherry picking that Sheldrakes publishers did. Start with Roszak 's summary showing one aspect of the reception at the time of the initial release "[ books such as this are the life's blood of science: bold, speculative efforts that seek grand unities]" then place that in the context of Back then, Roszak gave Sheldrake the benefit of the doubt. Today, attitudes have hardened and Sheldrake is seen as standing firmly on the wilder shores" . Then got into the fact that the reprint that that has the two quotes picked from Roszak on its cover, and then the New Scientist again with their pointing out that the comments on the jacket are from the original review 20 years earlier. -- TRPoD aka The Red Pen of Doom 00:14, 21 October 2013 (UTC)

discussion of process

Red: You may have some good points here, but people might not read them when you start by accusing a publisher of cherry picking. If your points are good, they don't need that. Lou Sander (talk) 00:25, 21 October 2013 (UTC)
When the publishers choose to use one review quote on their book cover and use one from 20 years ago on the cover of a book that is supposed to be a "fully revised and updated" version - to call that anything BUT "cherry picking" would be obfuscation of nearly criminal levels. -- TRPoD aka The Red Pen of Doom 00:37, 21 October 2013 (UTC)
Red: You may have some good points here, but people might not read them when you start by accusing a publisher of cherry picking, then go on and on about why it's justified. If your points are good, they don't need that. Lou Sander (talk) 01:02, 21 October 2013 (UTC)
its seeming to me that you are taking every possible opportunity to divert the discussion in every section away from content. is that on purpose? -- TRPoD aka The Red Pen of Doom 01:39, 21 October 2013 (UTC)
Red: No. In this particular small section, I'm trying to let an editor know, politely, that they may have some good points, but that it is hard to get to them when that editor's presentation starts with accusations. The accusations may or may not be accurate, but the act of making them draws attention away from the points the editor is trying to make. Lou Sander (talk) 16:55, 21 October 2013 (UTC)

back to the main topic

Vzaak: I've read your material about the historical accident, but I don't know what you are talking about. There's a lot of history, and a lot of description of your personal thought processes, but for the life of me, I don't know what you are suggesting. It may be something wonderful, but it's just too hard to figure out what it is.

Regarding the "first subsection of books", I can't tell precisely what you are referring to, but I imagine it includes the material headed A New Science of Life and The Presence of the Past. I notice that the material about A New Science of Life contains six lines about the book itself, and eleven lines about a single editorial that was written in response to its publication. Those eleven lines contain fourteen references and four wikilinks, all seeming to be dismissive of Sheldrake's work. I do not see that as balanced coverage from a neutral point of view. Sheldrake has many thoughtful critics; I don't think we need to quote and explain every one of them. Better might be to summarize. Lou Sander (talk) 17:40, 21 October 2013 (UTC)

WP:VALID (yet again) -- TRPoD aka The Red Pen of Doom 17:46, 21 October 2013 (UTC)

Must our treatment of this living fringe theorist differ from our treatment of his theories?

Let's try to come to consensensus about this topic and how it might apply to this article. David in DC (talk) 02:34, 21 October 2013 (UTC)

i am not sure what you are suggesting here: are you suggesting a straw poll on the oft mentioned "one article about Sheldrake - one article about his theories" split? -- TRPoD aka The Red Pen of Doom 02:45, 21 October 2013 (UTC)
Is Sheldrake even notable without his fringe theories? If not, then his biography will be a stub, while all the real meat will be in (redact)theories of Rupert Sheldrake or whatever it's called. MilesMoney (talk) 03:01, 21 October 2013 (UTC)
I'm not suggesting anything other than what I asked. If the answer to the question "[m]ust our treatment of this living fringe theorist differ from our treatment of his theories?" is no, that will guide the rest of how we structure the article.
If it's yes, that will too.
FWIW, I think the POVFORK idea is a bad one. I think there IS tension between BLP and FRINGE. And I think the solution is to keep the lead, early life and education sections factual, without derogatory comment and the books and public appearances sections replete with sources providing the context that the content of these books and appearances, "morphic resonance", is not science. I also think it might be useful, on a page seeking consensus, to foreswear words like (redact). Fringe and psuedoscience convey the same meanings. David in DC (talk) 11:39, 21 October 2013 (UTC)
Describing morphic resonance in the lead without including criticism of it would not be in line with WP:NPOV, in particular WP:PSCI (no need to even mention WP:FRINGE here). (Could we please not dramatize this as "derogatory"? It is criticism. You wrote the criticism paragraph in the lead, and I presume you didn't write it for the purpose of being derogatory.) vzaak (talk) 12:38, 21 October 2013 (UTC)
The answer to the vague theoretical question is "All content about every subject must be treated according to policies". Given the eternal sprawl of this talk page I really do not see any possible advantage of initiating yet another theoretical discussion to encourage people to vent yet again their opinions in a forum and format that cannot possibly lead to any real determination of consensus. In all of the endless muck on this page, the only thing that has lead to any actual consensus on article content is the highly organized Talk:Rupert_Sheldrake#Straw_Poll. Any "discussions" that lack form and structure are surely simply going to devolve into yet another time sink and waste of precious pixels. -- TRPoD aka The Red Pen of Doom 12:51, 21 October 2013 (UTC)
Yes, I think the focus should be on specific and concrete issues. vzaak (talk) 13:09, 21 October 2013 (UTC)
I agree with vzaak on that. There are some difficulties with accomplishing it on this page. For example, when editor A says "I think we should discuss specific and concrete matter X," editors B, C, or D, or some combination, say "That's a really stupid idea. Don't you know M, or N, or P? And by the way, I think you are really trying to do Q". Lou Sander (talk) 17:05, 21 October 2013 (UTC)
allowing WP:SOUP is part of the problem on this page. -- TRPoD aka The Red Pen of Doom 18:12, 21 October 2013 (UTC)

David in DC: I believe that what you are trying to do is exactly what you say in the title to this section. I agree with your idea that we shouldn't use nasty words. Maybe it would be useful to seek consensus that Sheldrake is a living fringe theorist (or something like that), and that there is widespread virulent criticism of his ideas among scientists. IMHO, nobody who edits here seems to doubt that. Also IMHO, some editors seem to think that other editors DO doubt it. Further, IMHO, some editors here seem to be weak in the skills of coming to consensus. Getting some sort of basic consensus would help on that end, too. Lou Sander (talk) 17:56, 21 October 2013 (UTC)

Some of these responses are regrettable. Others help shed some light. As to vzaak's point, I did indeed write the paragraph in question, which I think is, incrementally, better than what came before. I think the "Note" device does a great job of summarizing the various grounds on which Shaldrake's concept draws criticism.
I'm sad that experienced wikipedia editors find the basic question I started this thread with "theoretical." It's not theoretical at all. It's a real-world problem that occurs every time we write about a living person who is not a saint. I agree that articles should be written according to policy. When policies conflict, civil, nuanced editorial judgments must be made.
WP:BLP is a core policy - at the top of the WP:BLP page, it says: "This page documents an English Wikipedia policy, a widely accepted standard that all editors should normally follow. Changes made to it should reflect consensus."
WP:Fringe theories is not. at the top of the WP:FRINGE page, it says: This page documents an English Wikipedia content guideline. It is a generally accepted standard that editors should attempt to follow, though it is best treated with common sense, and occasional exceptions may apply.
WP:NPOV, like WP:BLP, is a core policy and bears the same top-of-the-page legend as WP:BLP. Skepticism is a point of view.
I do not expect to convince editors who dismiss even the usefulness of the question I've posed. But it does make me dispair about how far we've fallen from an ethic that is supposed to make sure that the dignity of living people should be of paramount importance. It's very hard for me to see how anyone might be misled by an article that seperated the biography of a person from full-throated, sourced criticism of his theories.
I'll repeat, I crafted the paragraph that vzaak says I did, and I think its enough, especially as improved by vzaak's note. But, I think the "conservation of energy" and "perpetual motion" stuff is simply unnecessary to a biographical lede about Rupert Sheldrake. It screams "Not only is his principle notable theory non-science, he also believes in a whole bunch of outre things and really ought to be dismissed as a nut job." And it reflects a level of vehemence that makes this talk page a black mark on wikipedia. David in DC (talk)
^see, your concerns are actually specifically identifiable and actionable. the vague "Must our treatment of this living fringe theorist differ from our treatment of his theories?" is not. -- TRPoD aka The Red Pen of Doom 20:03, 21 October 2013 (UTC)
WP:PSCI, also known as Wikipedia:Neutral point of view#Fringe theories and pseudoscience, is a part of WP:NPOV; there's no need to refer to WP:FRINGE in this case. The policy (not guideline) is also common sense, because not mentioning how certain fringe ideas are viewed by the scientific community would have the effect of misinforming readers (even if it's a sin of omission rather than a sin of commission).
For the lead, is the dogma paragraph your only objection? vzaak (talk) 19:58, 21 October 2013 (UTC)
I don't think the nonsense about the perpetual motion machines/conversation of energy belongs in the lead section either. The science as dogma nonsense however does. Barney the barney barney (talk) 20:19, 21 October 2013 (UTC)
I don't disagree, but I don't know of any viable alternatives. If we remove the conservation of energy bit and leave just the "series of dogmas" bit, then it's not clear to the reader what "series of dogmas" really means. Is it the central dogma or what? Mentioning conservation of energy efficiently pinpoints what Sheldrake is getting at. We have but one reaction to Science Set Free from mainstream science -- the brief New Scientist review -- and "woolly credulousness" / "uncritically embracing all kinds of fringe ideas" are not appropriate for the lead. Thus we can't address "series of dogmas" generally, so we have to do it specifically. vzaak (talk) 21:30, 21 October 2013 (UTC)
I agree that the example is a good idea, IRWolfie- (talk) 23:27, 21 October 2013 (UTC)

David in DC "When policies conflict, civil, nuanced editorial judgments must be made." Not all editors are capable of that. Not all editors are even capable of sticking to a subject, or of thinking clearly about things outside their own feelings and beliefs. That used to upset me more than it does now; implementing THIS was a lot of help. Lou Sander (talk) 21:04, 21 October 2013 (UTC)

any decision about what to do when "policies conflict" will depend entirely upon the sources and the policy and the suggested article content at the time "policies conflict". No general theorizing about "what should we do when policies conflict?" will ever be appropriate to any specific time when it happens.
The only way this article will advance is specific content with specific sources, being applied per specific intersections of appropriate polices as determined by the content and the sources. -- TRPoD aka The Red Pen of Doom 21:17, 21 October 2013 (UTC)
  • The "it's only a guideline" argument is not one I expect an established editor to make. David, if you want to make a specific proposal, then make it. General questions don't belong here. This page has had enough irrelevant distractions. IRWolfie- (talk) 23:29, 21 October 2013 (UTC)

If the only thing one draws from my posting is "its only a guideline"... well, it suggests an interesting blindness to the rest of what I've typed. The diktat "General questions do not belong here." is silly. Of course they do. This particular "general question" defines the different approaches to editing being followed by those editing from a skeptical POV and those editing from an approach that elevates concern for BLP over the mythical danger that someone could read this article and fail to understand that morphic resonance is not reliable science. Belief in that myth betrays a true disdain for the elementary intelligence of our readers.

We do not have to beat our readers over the head, at every possible instance, with the skeptic's POV.

The desperate, zealous need to do so says more about the editors editing from a skeptical POV than it does about Sheldrake.

"is not one I expect an established editor to make. David," is a tautology. It is self-evident. I will never meet your expectations. And I praise the Flying Spaghetti Monster every day that this is so.David in DC (talk) 00:51, 22 October 2013 (UTC)

It eventually comes down to practical questions in any case. Is the dogma paragraph your only problem with the lead? How could it be fixed? vzaak (talk) 06:30, 22 October 2013 (UTC)

Determining level of consensus

How should the mainstream view of "science has become a series of dogmas" be addressed in the lead?

Do we pick a dogma such as conservation of energy and provide the mainstream view of that? Or do we quote from a source that that directly address the issue, e.g. "woolly credulousness"? Or something else?

  • [your bullet point here]

questions and clarifications about people's positions

  • We shouldn't address it at all. We should say somethng like "Sheldrake questions several of the foundations of modern science, arguing that science has become a series of dogmas rather than an open-minded approach to investigating phenomena." We could possibly give an example or two, such as conservation of energy, with maybe a few words about why he questions it/them, for the purpose of being more particular about his challenges/thoughts. There is no need to defend the foundations of modern science, or any one of them (they stand in mighty eminence on their own, and the link to conservation of energy, if there is one, will let readers see for themselves how foundational it is). There is no need to point out how stupid Sheldrake is for questioning such obvious truths. All that stuff, if it is done at all, could/should be done in the body of the article. Lou Sander (talk) 23:22, 21 October 2013 (UTC)
Hello Lou, I think you are slightly mis-stating Sheldrake's position... he does not so much question several of the foundations of modern science, as he questions the validity of modern science-manufacturing infrastructure (decisions on grant monies / decisions on university tenure / et cetera) which is often used to stifle particular lines of research, including Sheldrake's own morphic resonance, but also historical subject like perpetual motion machines (the conservation of energy thing), and so on. I have no topic-knowledge of Sheldrake, but from my quick read, I doubt he thinks conservation of energy is wrong, but rather, wants the $$$cash$$$ to pursue his research into morphic resonance, and therefore is making a more general argument, namely, that politicians and deans and the textbook review committee of the local school board should *not* have any say in what research projects scientists ought, or can, undertake. For a modern controversy, unrelated to Sheldrake or perpetual motion, where both sides claim the other side is mis-using the cash-grant-power and dean-policy-power to Push An Agenda, see anthropogenic catastrophic global warming. For an older but of course still ongoing controversy, see the argument that professors of philosophy and religion and similar subjects should be granted lifetime tenure, so as to insulate them from getting their funding yanked by some petty dean or grant-making-agency, should the professor's publications fail to toe the current line that politicians and pooh-bahs demand. Anyhoo, although Sheldrake definitely is making his scientists-are-too-dogmatic claims from a definite POV stance, which would result (in theory) in giving Sheldrake's work a direct cash infusion, should his argument be successful in changing the infrastructure... it is not fair to say "Sheldrake questions modern science". That's a paraphrase, which ends up being very misleading. HTH (talk) 16:37, 24 October 2013 (UTC)
  • Erm what is this and why is this in such a strange format. Discussions should be accompanied by sources. We don't make decisions in the absence of sources, IRWolfie- (talk) 23:25, 21 October 2013 (UTC)
  • We are stating Sheldrake's views, not claiming that science really is dogmatic. All we need do is point readers to the article on dogma for more details. The perceived dogmatic nature of science is not a question considered by science, but by the philosophy of science. --Iantresman (talk) 09:30, 23 October 2013 (UTC)
Stating the views of Sheldrake, as documented in his books/blog/whatnot, is fine, per WP:ABOUTSELF. However, the article has to make clear *that* they are Sheldrake's views (as distinct from mainstream biochemist views or whatever the context demands), and furthermore, has to be careful about not giving any of Sheldrake's particular (sourced&documented) views undue weight relative to each other. If he makes an offhand comment about $foo at some point in his career, it should not be blown up into a huge portion of his BLP article... unless the comment blew up into a huge Real Life Controversy, as documented by WP:RS repeatedly mentioning said comment. Definitely a complex balancing act. (talk) 16:37, 24 October 2013 (UTC)
  • I agree completely, Lou Sander. That particular paragraph reflects what I feel is a distracting trend in the lead to treat Rupert Sheldrake's BLP as a platform to defend a perceived attack on the legitimacy of science. The reference to his views contradicting basic principles of physics is a good case in point; none of those views are described without an immediate refutation. I think the underlying assumption that needs to be challenged is that one man's biography page is the best place to justify scientific consensus. I read the sources and sections regarding those views and they appear to simply be specific instances of Sheldrake's broader position of questioning accepted scientific conclusions. As mentioned above, the links to the topics being referenced will provide the reader with any tangential information they want, so there's no need to spend undue and inappropriate time debunking someone's views on their own BLP. As far as sources go, sources don't make arguments, they support them; one could make the sources on this page say many different viewpoints. The fact that sources exist that deride Sheldrake's views does not mean they need to be given equal weight to actual biographical information and referenced in the lead. By FSM's great noodly appendage, let's strip down this lead! The Cap'n (talk) 10:53, 23 October 2013 (UTC)
WP:FRINGE/WP:NPOV is that we provide the mainstream contextualisation in the article. We don't expect people to hunt references down to get it, IRWolfie- (talk) 07:25, 24 October 2013 (UTC)
Sure. But there's a difference between differentiating Sheldrake's view on X from the mainstream biochemist's view on X, where the topic X is in fact important to the BLP article about Sheldrake (i.e. that Sheldrake has spent considerable time and energy and published-pages devoted to topic X thereby proving it is an important part of his views), and by contrast mis-using the BLP article to bring up Y and Z and a hundred other things, merely for the purpose of knocking them down. See my comment above, concerning giving-topic-Z-undue-weight-relative-to-the-bulk-of-Sheldrake's-work-during-his-lifetime. (talk) 16:37, 24 October 2013 (UTC)
  • I don't think we need to go into great detail here. The lead should summarise the article. It may be worth mentioning that he claims science is a series of dogmata and that this is not uncontroversial. Barney the barney barney (talk) 12:49, 24 October 2013 (UTC)
Agree, per my comments above. (talk) 16:37, 24 October 2013 (UTC)


There were 54 threads open, so I archived the older ones and left 7. Bot seems to not be working, I tried to fix the template, not sure if it will make any difference, IRWolfie- (talk) 23:23, 21 October 2013 (UTC)


David just added this title. Since the source was an article Sheldrake wrote, I replaced it with a news article about the stabbing.

Under the parapsychologist refs: the first ref is from Nature and says "parapsychologist" without mentioning biologist/biochemist/etc; the second ref is from New Scientist and says "biochemist-turned-parapsychologist"; the third ref is from Nature and says "former biochemist".

It would seem that he is viewed as a parapsychologist and former biochemist by his peers, while he views himself as a biologist. I thought the situation before David's change was a good compromise: call him a biochemist/cell biologist/plant physiologist for the years shown without explicitly saying "former biochemist". vzaak (talk) 06:20, 22 October 2013 (UTC)

Biologists research biology and publish that research as part of the scientific process. Sheldrake hasn't done any biology since the mid 1980s. Barney the barney barney (talk) 10:10, 22 October 2013 (UTC)
People in a field do not need to do research or publish in journals to be members of that field. Consider teachers of biology in small liberal arts colleges. Lou Sander (talk) 12:28, 22 October 2013 (UTC)
The University of Binghamton refers to him as a biochemist,[8] and the University of Cambridge also acknowledges his Ph.D[9] as does the University of Edinburgh,[10]. He is also referred to as a biologist by the University of London,[11] the University of Arizona,[12] and the Open University,[13] What academic sources do we have that describe him as anything else? --Iantresman (talk) 12:54, 22 October 2013 (UTC)
The fact that some sources are inaccurate in their language doesn't mean Wikipedia should be. Biology teachers are biology teachers, but Sheldrake doesn't teach any more either. Barney the barney barney (talk) 12:57, 22 October 2013 (UTC)
I thought we went with the sources. The part in the article I supplied that calls him a biologist is not in his voice. It's in The Ecologist's explanation of who he is. Written this month. "A biologist does biology" is not and observation about what the source says. David in DC (talk) 13:00, 22 October 2013 (UTC)
The job of an editor is to say things appropriate to an encyclopedia, from a neutral point of view, and based on published sources. There is judgment involved. If it is appropriate to call him a writer or a biologist or a parapsychologist, it's not necessary to comb through lots of sources to find people who call him that. Neither is it necessary to list every thing that every source has called him. Lou Sander (talk) 13:28, 22 October 2013 (UTC)
David, nobody is contesting that there are sources that say he's a biologist. But of all the sources, the weakest ones would be those written by Sheldrake himself. Editors tend to ask authors how they wish to be described. Using an independent source makes your claim stronger, not weaker. (Did you realize I didn't delete "biologist", but only substituted an independent source?) vzaak (talk) 13:31, 22 October 2013 (UTC)
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a biologist is "An expert or specialist in biology; a student of biology" which is met by Sheldrake's doctorate. Those who call Sheldrake a "parapsychologist" are not independent peers, but skeptics who are clearly trying to discredit him. I would venture:
"Sheldrake is an author with a Ph.D in biochemistry, who has undertaken research in biology, and more recently in the field of parapsychology."
--Iantresman (talk) 15:11, 22 October 2013 (UTC)
That's not bad, but maybe could be better. I wish I had the words. In the first short paragraph I think we need to say that he's an author and lecturer (his main recent and notable activities, briefly stated). We should clarify that by somehow saying he's a legitimate scientist (from his education and early work) who has moved into areas that are legitimately challenged by legitimate scientists (parapsychology is one of them, but there might be better, less controversial, words to describe what he's into now). That might be enough for the first paragraph. Lou Sander (talk) 16:27, 22 October 2013 (UTC)

Sheldrake is not notable as a biologist. As has been pointed out, he massively fails WP:PROF. It would be somewhat like describing Maggie Thatcher as a chemist, when her chemistry career did not make her notable, but something else did. Barney the barney barney (talk) 17:52, 22 October 2013 (UTC)

Sheldrake is notable as a person. A biography of Margaret Thatcher that made no mention of her training as a chemist would need an edit adding that fact.
Kevin Trudeau is a convicted scam artist. An article about him without mention of his role in the world of billiards would be incomplete.
Dr. Joyce Brothrs' article would be incomplete without a reference to her stint as a boxing expert on a 1950's game show. David in DC (talk) 18:12, 22 October 2013 (UTC)
Providing proper context is necessary, i.e. former biologist/biochemist/plant physiologist. He no longer works in academia. Barney the barney barney (talk) 18:30, 22 October 2013 (UTC)
I would suggest:
"Sheldrake is an author and lecturer with a Ph.D in biochemistry, who has undertaken research in biology, and more recently in the field of parapsychology."
Our subsequent paragraphs then make it clear that he is no longer in academia. --Iantresman (talk) 20:28, 22 October 2013 (UTC)
  • Ian, individuals at a university using a label does not mean the university endorses it. Universities do not review subpages belonging to institutes and individuals. For example, you have again cited Brian Josesphon, well known for his support of cold fusion, bubble fusion, telepathy and homeopathy "researchers", and his "mind-matter project" as "the university of Cambridge. That is highly misleading as you are very much aware, IRWolfie- (talk) 20:36, 22 October 2013 (UTC)
  • The Perrott-Warrick Lecture by Dr. Rupert Sheldrake[14] is published by the University of Cambridge. There is no suggestion that the University officially endorses Sheldrake's or Josephson's views, and no University would endorse the views of any lecturer. I would imagine that if the University thought there was any impropriety, adverse publicity, or even "pseudoscience", then they would drop the listing for the lecture like a hot potato. The University shows Sheldrake as Dr. Rupert Sheldrake because he has a doctorate in biochemistry from the University of Cambridge, and no matter how many times editors wish to associate him (or his colleagues) with minority views, he will remain a doctor in biochemistry.
  • You will also note in my suggested wording above, that I avoided using an academic job label, in deference to the very criticism you are making. --Iantresman (talk) 21:33, 22 October 2013 (UTC)

Somehow we need to convey the idea that he has legitimate scientific credentials, especially since his scientific work raised doubts that led to his infamous hypothesis and to his book that challenges many scientific dogmas. It is not helpful to lecture other editors, or to point out that his scientific credentials are insufficient in themselves to make him notable. Lou Sander (talk) 21:18, 22 October 2013 (UTC)

Indeed. This is a biography. If he has a doctorate, or thinks dogs are capable of telepathy, as long as we have WP:RS, we should include it. Tertiary academic qualifications are a significant and relevant part of any person's biography. --Iantresman (talk) 21:41, 22 October 2013 (UTC)
Er, not indeed. The opening sentence needs to explain WHY he's in the encyclopedia. Claiming that he's a biologist when he doesn't meet the criteria for academics (WP:PROF), is just yet more wishful thinking from fans. Barney the barney barney (talk) 21:50, 22 October 2013 (UTC)
WP:PROF states whether an individual is a notable academic for an article, not whether individual facts are included or excluded. But independent sources suggest otherwise (note that notability is not temporary, per WP:NTEMP):
  • Gale's "Notable Scientists from 1900 to the Present: N-S" (I can see no axe to grind), states:[15] "Rupert Sheldrake, a British biochemist..", putting him in context before noting his controversial hypothesis.
  • New Scientist, which some editors used as a source to support his description as a "parapsychologist"[16] has also not only described him as "Cambridge biochemist"[17], but appears to have endorsed his research, and another New Scientist article describing Sheldrake as "an excellent scientist"[18]
  • An Oxford University Press book published only 2 years ago (2011) described Sheldrake as "research biologist and biochemist"[19] --Iantresman (talk) 22:20, 22 October 2013 (UTC)
This is all reminiscent of Tumbleman. It's not productive to discuss personal reasons why Sheldrake's legitimate credentials shouldn't be mentioned. Lou Sander (talk) 22:35, 22 October 2013 (UTC)
Repeat. Just because some people are sloppy and inaccurate with their descriptions doesn't mean we have to be.
  • He's included in the Gale book, but so what? That's their editorial judgement - our standards are WP:PROF - and Sheldrake fails on them.
  • The New Scientist quote is from 1982, back then, he could be described as a scientist with a straight face. Also, we have seen from the positive review of Sheldrake's book that New Scientist was a little more tolerant of such things back then - after all they are principally concerned with entertaining their readers, not publishing original research.
  • The final book is a book on Ethnomusicology, which I cannot see of being any relevance to this article whatsoever. This really is scraping the barrel, isn't it now?
Don't cherry pick references. Barney the barney barney (talk) 22:42, 22 October 2013 (UTC)
The notability guideline does not apply to article content; it is used to "decide whether a topic can have its own article". See Wikipedia:Notability#Notability guidelines do not limit content within an article.
"Repeat. Just because some people are sloppy and inaccurate with their descriptions doesn't mean we have to be."
"Don't cherry pick references."
You should take your own advice. Articles on Wikipedia are based on reliable sources. The University of Cambridge is a reliable source, as are the other universities referenced above. You don't get to cherry pick the references that support your view while excluding the ones that don't. --Joshua Issac (talk) 22:50, 23 October 2013 (UTC)
Going not by !votes or !vehemence, but rather by mention in reliable sources, I think Joshua Isaac above and ScaryMary below make the best policy-based points. The rejection of nearly every citation to reliable sources for "biologist" --- both here and in the archives Mary's been directed to --- adds up to "any source that says so is wrong, he's a psuedo-scientist, dammit. He's left science." The source you cite is wrong. Or it's too old. Or it's unreliable.
Every answer in the book except: "Gee, I'm quite certain he's not a scientist, but my steadfast certainty is not a reliable source. A sufficient number of unrelated, recent, reliable sources having the temirity to disagree with what I personally know to be the WP:TRUTH have been proffered; I guess I'll bow to the rule that we hew to the sources. Our work in making sure readers know that "morphic resonance" is not biology is pretty complete. There's ample room in the "book" sections to refute Sheldrake's theories and place them in a context far removed from modern science. By gum, I think we've done it so well and carefully that, as a matter of biography, it's O.K. to keep calling him a biologist, the same way William Shockley still gets to be called Doctor and Kirk Douglas still gets to be called "actor". David in DC (talk) 05:34, 24 October 2013 (UTC)
Neither the nodal damage to Julie Andrews' vocal nodes, nor Linda Rondstadt's Parkinson's render them former singers, or ex-singers. And you'd best not call very-late career Sinatra a former singer or an ex-singer. At least not in some of the circles I've been known in which to travel. Try that last one at a Teamsters convention and let me know how it works out for you.
Editors with a skeptical POV should re-read the totality of the sources they're rejected both on this current talk page and in the threads being shoveled off into the archives Mary's being asked to search. Are they really all too unreliable, too old or too plebeian. Isn't it just barely possible that what they are is contrary to the WP:TRUTH David in DC (talk) 05:55, 24 October 2013 (UTC)
The question is: What do we do when faced with conflicting sources? Discussing the "controversy" in the opening sentence is not feasible, of course, so we must decide. The problem of "picking the sources you like" cuts both ways. One criteria would be to use the strongest, most respected sources, and on that criteria Nature is the winner. Moreover, the article already treats the matter delicately, calling him a biochemist/cell biologist/plant physiologist in the years active while avoiding descriptions like "former biochemist". vzaak (talk) 06:41, 24 October 2013 (UTC)
If a reliable source says he is a biologist, Wikipedia can say he's a biologist. If another says he is NOT a biologist, the sources are in conflict, and Wikipedia needs to be careful about calling him a biologist. If another RS says he is an Anglican, but says nothing about biology, Wikipedia can call him both a biologist and an Anglican; the sources do not conflict. If a reliable source says he is a really stupid man, or has bad personal hygeine, WP:BLP says Wikipedia needs to be careful about mentioning it. Lou Sander (talk) 13:03, 24 October 2013 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────I believe this is a truthful statement, although in fact the opening couple of sentences would probably be fine. "Barney wrote: The opening sentence needs to explain WHY he's in the encyclopedia." Currently, that article says "Sheldrake (1942-) is an English author, lecturer, and parapsychologist." Methinks we can usefully change that to say biochemist-and-now-parapsychologist.

explanation of why that particular phrasing captures the essence of Sheldrake -- and in particular why that phrase explains his controversial author status

The central fact about Sheldrake is that he has strong scientific credentials, from good schools in the UK plus his fellowship at Harvard... but that after a decade of wholly-respectable scientific work on plant morphology, he concluded that the current state of biochemical research is too paltry to explain the phenomena he wants to explain, and came up with the admittedly-speculative-more-research-needed idea that perhaps subquantum interactions are responsible. (See my paragraph below on how Penrose the famous physicist came up with the admittedly-speculative-more-research-needed idea that perhaps quantum-level wave-collapse explains consciousness.)

Since that time, his Kuhn-inspired break with the current dominant paradigm of science, Sheldrake has been denied grant-funding, was driven from academia by the ridicule of his peers, and thus is funding his ideas by commercially popularizing them, at which he has apparently been quite successful. Same as Penrose once again, actually, except without the driven-from-academia part. So, the first sentence is correct to start off with 'author/lecturer' because that is Sheldrake's main job right now. But there is a very good reason he is in demand as an author/lecturer. Partly it is because he advocates something which can be interpreted colloquially as telepathy, and something which appeals to religious folks. That's not all, though; because he spent all those years as a Solid Scientist, doing Good Science, there is a special attractiveness to Sheldrake -- because even people that refuse to admit it out loud, realize that science is one of the pinnacles of success in the modern world.

Were somebody famous as an actress to espouse subquantum kinda-telepathy, few would care. Ditto for a football star... beeeeee the balllll.... few would care. Even a famous politician, or a billionaire investor, would not be able to get away with promoting some sort of physical theory that looks a lot like telepathy. Because they don't have the traditional academic credentials. But in the case of Sheldrake, he *has* the credentials. That is why Barney and TheRedPenOfDoom are so insistent, that is why this page is such a WP:BATTLEGROUND. Sheldrake might just be right, after all; he worked for years on plant morphology, and failed -- but instead of blaming himself for the failure, he blamed the academic-gatekeepers who control the grant funding, and prevent speculative research projects, and the stodgy traditional stuck-in-a-rut true-scotsman scientists -- and *that* is fundamentally why he came up with morphic resonance, which in turn got him shunned in academia (not to mention on his wikipedia BLP).

Just like clockwork, getting shunned by academia led directly to his career as a commercial biochemist researcher in Hyderabad, and this in turn led to his career as an authorer/lecturer, famous in New Age circles, but still also respected to some degree -- albeit warily -- by folks like Sokal. Therefore, the key to the first sentence is this: "Sheldrake (1942-) is an English biochemist[1][2][3]-and-now-parapsychologist[4][5][6], notable as a controversial[7][8] author/lecturer."

Given that, the follow-on explanation of how he got that way, should just roll off the tongue.

Sheldrake (1942-) is an English biochemist[1][2][3]-and-now-parapsychologist[4][5][6], notable as a controversial[7][8] author/lecturer. After an academic university career from 1960-1973, including a master's at Clare College, fellowship at Harvard, and Ph.D from U. Cambridge, as well as post-doctoral work as a biochemist and cell biologist, (professorship? teaching?), and publication of several peer-reviewed papers, Sheldrake began to question in YYYY[when?] whether existing biology/chemistry/physics theories could explain plant morphology (the shape which mature plants eventually assume during growth), and came up with his initial concept of morphogenetics in the early 1970s. Shortly afterwards, he left academia in 1973, spent five years as a commercial researcher (principal plant physiologist) at ICRISAT in Hyderabad, then began his book-publishing career with A New Science of Life in 1981. Since then, he has authored six additional books, and co-authored six more, most recently in 2012. Sheldrake was a psychical researcher of Trinity College in Cambridge from 2005 to 2010.

(new paragraph) Since the 1980s, Sheldrake's books and experimental work have centered on morphic resonance. (explain morphic resonance in two NPOV sentences -- mention Sheldrake's view that academic gatekeepers are hindering a Kuhnian-style revolution in science)

(new paragraph) (explain controversial nature of morphic resonance in two NPOV sentences -- mention that critics see Sheldrake's position on overturning the academic-gatekeepers as self-serving)

  1. early life (move 'university education' paragraph into academic career section below ... postdoc research is nothing like getting your 4-year B.A., it is part of your academic career)
  2. academic career (including later academic interactions -- see true-scotsman section being cut below)
  3. origin and philosophy of morphic resonance (moved up... this is where it belongs chronologically, between academia & books)
  4. book-publishing career (is there a good reason books are doubled-up? super-long headers are really a distracting layout ... why no co-authored books mentioned?)
  5. post-academia lectures and public appearances
  6. cut POV "interaction with true-scotsman scientists" section right out -- move sentences into 'academic career' subsection above
  7. personal life (maybe cut this, and add the couple sentences as a fourth paragraph in the intro? no meat here)
  8. bibliography (can this be folded into book-publishing-career section above? or ISBNs too distracting?)

Although it is only kinda-sorta grammatical, I think if we want to have a hope of writing the intro-sentence in a way that captures Sheldrake, we have to use the awkward biochemist-and-now-parapsychologist. That phrasing prevents POV descriptions like 'former scientist' or like simply eliding any mention of his scientific street-cred. It also cuts to the heart of *why* Sheldrake is a 'controversial author' ... because he does work that can be classified as parapsychology and in particular colloquial telepathy ... but also because he has the harvard fellowship, the u.cambridge phd, and the other top-notch credentials. Hope this helps. (talk) 03:00, 25 October 2013 (UTC)

New Age sources

Perhaps Sheldrake is New Agey after all. In The Rebirth of Nature he addresses "the topic of New Age consciousness",[20] and Sheldrake himself says he was influenced by New Age.[21] The source in the article[22] mentions the Hundredth monkey effect, but Sheldrake is only sceptical of that particular anecdote, not the effect itself.[23] The source in the article also makes a guess ("seems to be a sceptic") about Sheldrake's take on "critical mass", which shouldn't be reported as fact. Maybe the New Age bit should be removed until this is sorted out. vzaak (talk) 13:24, 22 October 2013 (UTC)

Removing it would lessen people's understanding of Sheldrake. Lou Sander (talk) 14:02, 22 October 2013 (UTC)
Timing is everything. People's perspectives can (sometimes) change given changes in the world around them. in '88 sources wonder if Sheldrake appreciates his New Age fan base with the implication that he sees it as a distraction. It may be necessary to parse his personal acceptance of being "one among the New Agery" or just seeing them as "a market that will buy his works" based upon particular points in history. (of course, such will depend upon what the sources say - with self-identification being an important lens.)-- TRPoD aka The Red Pen of Doom 16:24, 22 October 2013 (UTC)
Please see above, there are some explicit quotes from Sheldrake about his changing spirituality over time, which we can cite per WP:ABOUTSELF. Since the section where I posted is terribly long, I suggest you use ctrl+f in your browser and find the string "pretty confident Sheldrake has read the book". It is up in the discussion of 4th paragraph of the lede. HTH. (talk) 01:17, 26 October 2013 (UTC)

Invitation to comment

All editors are invited to comment on How should the mainstream view of "science has become a series of dogmas" be addressed in the lead?

The question is posted HERE. There is a lot of interest in this topic, but so far only three comments that directly address the question. Lou Sander (talk) 12:30, 24 October 2013 (UTC)

please fix

Stupid page-protection.

Philosopher Martin Cohen, writing in The Times Higher Educational Supplement wrote that "Sheldrake pokes enough holes in such certainties to make this work a valuable contribution, not only to philosophical debates but also to scientific ones, too." although he did note that " a bit too far here and there"[60].


Philosopher Martin Cohen, in The Times Higher Educational Supplement, wrote that "Sheldrake pokes enough holes in such certainties to make this work a valuable contribution, not only to philosophical debates but also to scientific ones," although Cohen did note that Sheldrake went "a bit too far here and there."[60]

Thanks. (talk) 16:12, 24 October 2013 (UTC)

 Done Thanks vzaak. (talk) 21:57, 24 October 2013 (UTC)

POV screw-up

Stupid copy-protection.

In 1996 Sheldrake was prominently cited in Alan Sokal's preposterous paper which became known as the Sokal hoax.[72]


(empty string)

Rationale. Sentence is clearly POV, in the worst way. Zeroth off, the section itself, see below. First off, Sokal was *not* acting as a notable scientist, he was falsely using his credentials as a notable hard scientist (cf Sheldrakes biochem credentials) in order to expose the fact that various psuedo-scientists in the post-modernist-literature portion of academia (no relation whatever to Sheldrake). Second, the lack of any context in this one-sentence snippet is incredibly misleading. For those unfamiliar with Sokal, he is a physicist who hates post-modernist politics-masquerading-as-social-science. To expose the latter group as pretend-scientists, Sokal purposely wrote up a crazy, nutty, anti-scientific screed, prettied it up with 109 footnotes, supported by 182 citations. Sheldrake got two out of 182 cited works, and mention in support of three out of 109 footnotes. Thomas Kuhn got one cited work, but was used in support of two footnotes plus the main body of the text. Other citations were to Bohr, Einstein, Gödel, G.H. Hardy, Heisenberg, and I'm tired of looking so I'll stop at letter-H. Sheldrake must be a genius! Or maybe he belongs with Bourbaki, Derrida, and Feyerabend. Sheldrake must be... whatever those people archetypically represent! The point of the Sokal hoax was that the well-respected post-modernist journal where Sokal submitted his nonsense, called him back and asked him to cut out some of the references and footnotes (to save space in the journal for more advertising perhaps[citation needed]), but never called him on any of his utterly-crazy reasoning. They liked the conclusions, Sokal was a respected authority, they published the paper in their journal. It is a great story.[24][25] It has no bleepity bleep place in this article, unless somebody has an exact quote from Sokal stating that he specifically chose Sheldrake because a) first possibility aka Sheldrake is a genius just like Einstein, or b) second possibility aka Sheldrake was included along with Derrida et al to fool the post-modernists. Anything less, take the sentence out. (No, the current 'citation' which is to a book about the hoax-experiment that Sokal wrote, failing to cite a page number, is not good enough.) (talk) 17:23, 24 October 2013 (UTC)

p.s. Entire section strikes me as definitely POV -- note the section title is "interaction with notable scientists" as distinct from of course "interaction with other scientists" ... when of course the NPOV thing to do would be to move the sentences about Bohm, Durr (another person cited in the Sokal hoax btw), and Wolpert to the existing section about Sheldrake's academic career, where it belongs. You can quibble about whether to split the academic-career section into a pre-Hyderabad sub-section and separately a post-Hyderabad sub-section, or just to separate them by paragraphs. But splitting the stuff into an 'academic career' section and then a separate section called 'interactions with notable scientists after he became a leper to the true scientists' is utter crapola. Please fix. (talk) 17:23, 24 October 2013 (UTC)

you mean things like Sokal explaining his hoax "I was made aware of Sheldrake's bizarre theories" and the other recently added third party sources that note the prominent place that Sheldrake's "morphic fields" play within the Hoax paper? -- TRPoD aka The Red Pen of Doom 18:24, 24 October 2013 (UTC)
Yes, that is exactly what is required, methinks: a sentence written in *seriousness* by Sokal (i.e. not from the hoax-paper), with a page-number. But what is the page-number for your cite? (Aside: I hate google books. Not only does it not give page-numbers, it hides the page you are trying to see.) Here are the quotes that seemed relevant, but I don't have the page-numbers, for reasons previously mentioned. I'm also not sure which of these sentences are Sokal being serious, and which of them are Sokal making things up to spoof the post-modernists, and in fact whether these are even Sokal, and not him quoting somebody else (with the exception of the "Ross cites" bit which is clearly a quote-of-somebody-else).

...there is no evidence that 'morphogenetic fields' (in Sheldrake's sense) actually exist... Rupert Sheldrake's theory of 'morphogenetic fields', though popular in New Age circles, hardly qualifies as 'in general sound'. To call it 'occassionally speculative' is a massive understatement.(see note#77)... note#77. Biologist Rupert Sheldrake posits that there exists an as-yet-undiscovered 'subquantum' interaction linking 'patterns' throughout the universe. ...Ross[who?] cites approvingly Rupert Sheldrake's eccentric notion of "morphogenetic fields... operating on a subquantum level, linking every pattern in the universe".

Can somebody please provide some useful *complete* source-info which gives a page, and gives something Sokal says, which is most-definitely-not from the hoax-section, but rather from the serious-explanation section. Thanks. (talk) 21:33, 24 October 2013 (UTC)

"Prominently cited" refers to the section of Sokal's paper "Quantum Gravity: String, Weave or Morphogenetic Field?"[26], the several mentions of him in the footnotes, and the citations. vzaak (talk) 18:42, 24 October 2013 (UTC)

It doesn't take long to create an account. Sokal affair is relevant. I bet you can pick something else to have a frivolous moan about though. Barney the barney barney (talk) 20:05, 24 October 2013 (UTC)
Ignoring all the ranting by 74, I feel that being referenced in the hoax really doesn't say much. There are a lot of good papers referenced along with Sheldrake. The ancillary references make it clear that Sokal has a low opinion of Sheldrake's work, which might just be mentionable. I think the sentence should be removed, but I don't care all that much. Dingo1729 (talk) 20:33, 24 October 2013 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Ahh, wikipedia, where editors collaborate and are WP:NICE. Vzaak, yes, that's the hoax-paper, which has 'several' mentions of Sheldrake. Read what I wrote before: counts are relative. More crucially, *being* in the paper puts you in great company, or terrible company, depending on which side your work falls. Wikipedia editors cannot synthesize assumptions here; citation needed. However, the title of the paper does not include morphogenetic -- the title is "Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity" as you will see from the link you provided... which, of course, I also provided. And skimmed before providing it <grin> to count how many mention Sheldrake warranted compared to others, plus read it in full back in the day, the previous millenium now for all you kiddies lurking in the talkpage shadows, when it came out. The thing you mention is one word from the subtitle of one section of the hoax-paper:

  1. Intro (untitled). Einstein.
  2. Quantum Mechanics: Uncertainty, Complementarity, Discontinuity and Interconnectedness. Einstein.
  3. Hermeneutics of Classical General Relativity. Einstein.
  4. Quantum Gravity: String, Weave or Morphogenetic Field? Einstein, plus "biologist" (referring to Sheldrake but not by name... of course, if we count all uses of 'relativity' Einstein scores higher)
  5. Differential Topology and Homology. Kuhn.
  6. Manifold Theory: (W)holes and Boundaries.
  7. Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Liberatory Science.

So from that alone, Sokal's hoax-paper relies on Sheldrake (in the morpho section) about as much as it relies on Kuhn (in the homology-section), and relies considerably less on either than it does on Einstein (who is mentioned by name six times in the morpho section alone plus dozens of times elsewhere). Point being, the sentence in the article cherrypicks Sheldrake from the hoax-article, and is utterly POV, and nasty dishonest POV at that. If you feel the need to give Sheldrake a nasty dishonest smackdown, do it on your own blog, not on wikipedia. Just the facts please, NPOV, WP:BLP, all that jazz. And yes, except for considering myself to rant (I prefer the far more dignified WP:WALLOFTEXT as indicative of my sure-fire ability to stay fully within policy guidelines -- they even named one after my style of editing), I agree fully with Dingo1729. If we do use an ancillary ref in the article about a BLP, it needs a page-number, and no synthesizing adjectives out of nowhere. Thanks for improving wikipedia. (talk) 21:33, 24 October 2013 (UTC)

"Nasty dishonest POV" and "nasty dishonest smackdown"--those are, IMHO, well-turned phrases, and well-applied to much of what goes on here. Lou Sander (talk) 21:43, 24 October 2013 (UTC)
Well, if that is true, then, whomsoever is responsible for trying to make WP:BLP articles and WP:BLPTALK pages into their personal POV playground, might I strongly suggest please take a cold shower, look at themselves in the mirror, and decide whether they care more about wikipedia servers being shut down indefinitely, or more about WP:RGW. I show up on the page for the first time, and have to get somebody else to fix the obvious grammar-check-fail because the page is indefinitely censored... and it looks like the sockpuppet you banned last time was in fact WP:AGF. Disruptive, sure, edit-warring, sure, but were they correct on the merits? Look at the edit-summary.[27] Try and think long-term, here, folks. This is not junior high. (talk) 21:54, 24 October 2013 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Okay, some improvement.

Thanks to TheRedPenOfDoom.[28]

SectionTitle: Interaction With Notable Scientists. BodyText: In 1996 Sheldrake' morphic field featured prominently in Alan Sokal's preposterous paper which became known as the Sokal hoax.[1][2][3]

in which I pick apart the typo, the lack of page-nums in the cites, and the lack of directness (and NPOV-ness) in the sourcing

text Typo, you meant "Sheldrake's".

cite#1 Forgot to cite a page-number in [1]. Plus, obfuscated links to search-engines, while permissible as a way to give lazy readers like myself something to click on, are no substitute for a reference that somebody can look up in a library. Which means, as I seem to keep pointing out, a page number where what the sentence claims the source said, can with a physical copy of said source actually be verified to so say. In other words, you need a page number, because I say so. And because, more crucially, leaving out the page-number in a controversial sentence about a BLP can get wikipedia taken off the internet, indefinitely. Not just the Sheldrake page. The whole kit and caboodle. WP:BLPTALK. Give us the page number, please. Or equivalently, some sort of deeplink like cite#2 and cite#3, which allows us to see the page for ourselves, rather than just a link to the front cover. WP:V.

cite#2 The second cite, which was published in 2007 by a humanities prof, but apparently as a collection of essays written since the old-times, and thus hard to pin down, has the following sorts of things.

  1. pg25, "...Aronowitz, whom Sokal cites approvingly (tongue firmly in cheek)... whom Sokal cites at length for the fuzzy-headed claim that... The problem here, and Sokal is not shy about naming it, is that when Aronowitz tries to connect theories in physics to phenomena in the social world, he [Aronowitz] is severly hampered by the fact that he has no idea what he is talking about."
  2. pg26, "Irigaray, like Aronowitz, is an easy mark, nattering on about how..."
  3. pg26, "Rober Markley is scored for calling complex number theory a "postmodern" theory when in fact it dates from the nineteenth century, and for throwing it together with quantum physics, chaos, theory, and hadron bootstrap theory, the last of which was abandoned some time ago.
  4. pg26, Sokal slyly slips in a number of (admiring) references to the "theory of the morphogenetic field," which he describes as "closely liked to the quantum graviational field"(223) when it is in fact the creation of British biologist Rupert Sheldrake and posits the existence of biological fields that contain information about life forms; it is a theory to be found ont in departments of physics but in New Age wellness centers and healing-crystal emporiums. Social Text's failure to catch that one is every bit as bad as it looks.
  5. pg26, [later in a December 1998 publication concerning the 1995 paper, Sokal wrote] ...we [Sokal and friend] refer the reader to the Epilogue [of Fashionable Nonsense] for our real views...(265)
  6. pg27, (paraphrasing -- Sokal admits to cherrypicking one foolish comment of Derrida's out of the latter's vast body of work... which Berube & Brub call 'nevertheless disingenuous' ... because it is dirty pool.)

We are concerned here with quote number four... and note that I was able to extract a pagenumber despite opposition from google-books... which was skipped by TheRedPenOfDoom, and which I cannot of course correct. In quote number four, we see that Berube and Brub, in 2007, are calling Sheldrake a biologist in seriousness (despite criticizing his theory in seriousness they were not so weak as to commit libel). They go on to say that the hoax-paper made admiring comments about morpho, implying that this was faked-praise... but not actually quoting Sokal saying so. Further down, but still on the same page, Berube and Brub quote Sokal as saying that some of the ideas in the hoax-paper were not intended to be skewered, and gives a reference to a paper with Sokal's actual "real views". Point being, TLDR, the Berube-n-Brub quote is evidence that Berube-n-Brub firmly believed Sheldrake was on the getting-made-fun-of end of the stick, but failed to cite Sokal saying exactly that ("I was making fun of morpho") in something *serious* ... as opposed to, merely implying that *everything* in the hoax-paper must be ludicrous, simply by being included in the hoax-paper.

cite3 Which brings us to the third one. This is, once again, not a cite of Sokal... but an analysis of the hoax, by Bem and de Jong, who are apparently psychologists, according to google-books at least. This pair has very little to say about Sokal, and even less about Sheldrake. "Next to flirtations with 'morphogenetic fields', Rupert Sheldrake's 'bizarre' New Age idea, and ...Lacan [the postmodernist]... Sokal quoted 'controversial' philosophical pronouncements of Heisenberg and Bohr...." First of all, people that use that many scarequotes cannot be goddamn trusted.  :-)   Second of all, this cite adds nothing that cite#2 has not already provided us. We already have some humanities profs saying that Sheldrake's stuff is new-age, and alleging that Sokal was intended to poke fun at Sheldrake's work. The only thing cite#3 adds is the word bizarre... but that word is scarequoted, and Bem and de Jong are psychologists, so who knows what they meant. Suggest scrapping cite#3 entirely as not sufficiently relevant for wikipedia BLP article standards. Oh. If anyone thinks the cursory opinion of Bem + de Jong is super-crucial because that scarequoted-bizarre is the key to WP:RGW, then the page number is 134.

But hey, we were pointed in the right direction by Berube-n-Brub. We can get an exact read on Sokal's opinion of Sheldrake's work from the book Fashionable Nonsense on page 262 in fact: Sheldrake's theory of "morphogenetic fields", though popular in New Age circles, hardly qualifies as "in general sound". This is from Sokal's (serious) subsection titled Quantum Mechanics, and is a reference to footnote#27 in the hoax-paper which purposely-incorrectly-characterized Sheldrake's 1981 book as "occasionally speculative [but] in general sound". So at the end of the day, if we want Sokal's opinion on Sheldrake's stil-speculative theory -- even Sheldrake agrees about this fact btw -- concerning the possibility of subquantum interactions that could someday explain why legume crops of a specific species invariably take on a particular shape, we have got it. Sokal's view is, that the portion of Sheldrake's morphogenetic theory related to quantum physics, hardly qualifies as generally sound. And not only is that neutral, it is also NPOV.

Famous physicist Roger Penrose, peer of Stephen Hawking, respected yada yada yada, also has a theory that can only be characterized as sub-quantum, and speculative. Penrose admits it. There is no controversy. Sheldrake's credentials in terms of being a physicist are no match for Penrose's of course, any more than Penrose's credentials as a biochemist are a match for Sheldrake. Penrose has a BLP here on wikipedia, too. The controversy over his yet-to-be-experimentally-detected-quantum-consciousness stuff takes up about as much space as his work in 4D physics and such... but it's not *too* out of whack. People having trouble here, maintaining NPOV without taking cold showers constantly, should stop in at the following articles: Roger_Penrose, The_Emperor's_New_Mind 1989, Shadows_of_the_Mind 1994, and The_Large,_the_Small_and_the_Human_Mind 1997. Penrose is a super-genius. I argued (virtually) with him over the 1989 book, and decided that I had 'won' the argument, and Penrose was probably wrong. But I did not *prove* him wrong... that will take physicists and biophysicists years and years of work, maybe forever. The only way to prove Penrose wrong is to either build a computer with Strong AI, or to discover the actual mechanism of consciousness, and show that it is something other than the collapse of the quantum wave-function. Similarly, the only way to *prove* Sheldrake wrong is to discover the actual mechanism of plant morphology, and show -- indisputably rather than by handwaving -- that your mechanism is not just another name for the morphogenetic fields. While they do not have similar credentials, both Penrose and Sheldrake have something in common: they have published popular books, with speculative theories, about *unsolved* problems in science. The mechanism of consciousness for Penrose, and the mechanism of bio-morphology for Sheldrake.

in which I provide instructive examples that pollute the sentence with pro-Sheldrake POV-language, and then with anti-Sheldrake POV-language, as an instructive aid

Anyways, although adding source#2 was a mild improvement, and rewriting the text was a *definite* improvement, it is still strongly POV. Problems with the sources, see above. Problems with the current sentence: just like before, with the original sentence, merely being "featured prominently" in the purposely-preposterous hoax-paper says nothing about Sheldrake, or about his morpho theory. The way it reads now, the reader is misled into assuming that *merely* being in the hoax-paper, in and of itself, means that Sheldrake's work is in fact a hoax. (Same logic for Einstein? Same logic for Derrida? Do those folks have the exact same sentence in their wiki-bios?) Sigh. Maybe examples of what-not-to-do will help. Here is a pro-Sheldrake-POV rewrite. My sincere apologies to Sokal for twisting his intent, but given his sense of humor, I doubt he will care about the following paragraph. Hey, he might even like it. Apologies to Sheldrake for feeding the trolls... the below paragraph is WRONG, people, just wrong.

SubSectionTitle: Sheldrake's Collaboration With Einstein. BodyText: In 1996 Sheldrake's morphic field featured prominently in well-respected physicist Alan Sokal's paper, published in a multidisciplinary journal devoted to social sciences. Sheldrake's work was highlighted prominently in a crucial sub-section of the paper, along with Einstein, Bohr, and other luminaries of theoretical physics. In addition, Sokal tied the various modern theories of quantum (and in the case of morphic fields -- subquantum) reality into a discussion of Thomas Kuhn (incidentally an inspiration to Sheldrake's position regarding the vastly-dogmatic gatekeepers of modern scientific grant-giving institutions). Interestingly enough, Sokal's entire paper was intended to poke fun at the dogmatic nature of modern scientists, in particular the social sciences; his use of Einstein, Bohr, and Sheldrake was obviously intended as part of the spoof, using the genius of these three to give a plausible cover story for Sokal's jab at The Man; the incident was later dubbed the Sokal hoax, and brought Sheldrake's name considerable coverage in independent reliable third-party sources.

None of that is false, per se. Or not most of it. It's just extremely POV. Now let's go the other way. My sincere apologies to Sheldrake, should he read the following paragraph. I'm only trying to help. The following paragraph is WRONG, people, and furthermore, violates WP:BLPTALK. The paragraph needs to be removed, immediately, and I know better than to pretend it is anything but wildly incorrect, misleading, nasty, and just plain mean. It is a satirical hyperbolic expansion on the current sentence in the article, which I'm using to illustrate an argument, not for any other purpose. It will be wiped from this talkpage soon enough, but I feel it necessary to WP:IAR, because due to page-protection I am unable to correct the article's WP:BLP and WP:NPOV flaws myself directly. Sigh.

In 1996,[1][2][3] para-'psychologist' Rupert gee-my-name-is-funny Sheldrake's morphic field theory was prominently made fun of by a real scientist, well-respected actual physicist Alan Sokal, who called Sheldrake a 'biologist' (we here are wikipedia are sure it was sarcastically), and put Sheldrake's stupid morphic theories into juxtaposition with brilliant Einstein, as well as equally brilliant in other contexts Derrida, entirely to make fun of Sheldrake, that was Sokal's whole point, and Sokal then got his hoax-paper published in a major international journal, just to really get the goat of that dumb old Sheldrake, boy the hoax was on him, right? Sheldrake's shaming at the hands of oh-so-devilish Sokal was widely celebrated, and even made the New York Times. ((insert links covering the egg on SocialText's face... but pretend it was all about how Sheldrake got hoaxed... who verifies refs anyways, right? Actually, some people verify refs, we best strip out the page numbers, so this sentence will stay on wikipedia longer. Nobody can *prove* the search engines we cite don't contain what we claim they do!))

I hope my point is clear. Anything that smacks of disrespectfully and dishonestly trying to create a POV article about a BLP is Very Bad, m'kay?

Here's something NPOV.

(empty string)

If you cannot stomach that blankness... which, for those of you holding your stomachs, the fact that you are unable to stomach the removal of unsourced information which synthesizes adjectives that defame a BLP, should give you a very strong clue that you are not editing this article neutrally and objectively... if you cannot stomach that, then perhaps this is permissible, while remaining fully NPOV.

SubSectionTitle: Academic Career. BodyText: (same as what is already in that section now -- up through the 1990s where this is inserted.) In 1996,[1][2][3] Sheldrake's 1981 and 1991 works on his morphic field theory, along with a preposterous admixture of famous scientists like Einstein with famous post-modernists like Derrida, was prominently featured in the third section of Alan Sokal's purposely-falsified hoax-paper. The hoax-paper was written explicitly[citation needed] as an experiment to criticize sloppy science, in particular post-modernist sans-peer-review social science. Years later, on page 262 of his book Fantastic Nonsense detailing the hoax, Sokal gave the following serious explanation of his position on morphogenetic fields, in the subsection called Quantum Gravity: "Sheldrake's theory of 'morphogenetic fields', though popular in New Age circles, hardly qualifies as 'in general sound'."

Seems fair. Anybody have complaints about that version? Preferably, complaints that survive the taking of a cold shower? If you want to have a sentence, or a sentence fragment, about *why* Sheldrake was picked for the hoax-article, then feel free to present it. With a page number, from a reliable independent source, or preferably, from Sokal himself. No cherrypicking, no paraphrasing, no WP:UNDUE, please.

Hope this is getting through. We're moving in the right direction, and we *do* now have a solid quote, with a page-number, that actually says what Sokal thinks of Sheldrake's work in *seriousness*. Thanks. (talk) 00:45, 25 October 2013 (UTC)

some early dates are missing that should not be assumed

No mention in the article (at the moment -- I didn't check the edit-history) of what year Sheldrake became an undergrad, grad student, and postdoctoral researcher... what were the durations of these efforts? Is there overlap between his post-doc research, and his 1967-1973 biochem work? Was he a professor/TA/RA, or what exactly? Statistically, if he was born in 1942 he prolly was undergrad from 1960-1963, grad from 1964-1968, and postdoc for 1969-1971, but such assumptions are not what wikipedia should depend on. Presumably somebody here already knows the answers. Please fix the intro-paragraphs to reflect the years of university as a student ("After N years of college, from 1967 to...") which led up to his biochem jobs -- and specify what position slash title he held where appropriate. Most of the details should go into the early-life-and-education section, of course. What year (frosh/sophomore/postdoc/YYYY) did he get the fellowship to Harvard? Thanks (talk) 17:39, 24 October 2013 (UTC)

Citation sources for Sense of Being Stared At section

I added a reference to a confirmatory study from the Journal of Consciousness Studies and cited it. From my reading of the Wikipedia page on reliable references, the JCS meets the criteria for a first-tier source (a peer-reviewed journal with prominent academics on the editorial and advisory boards). My reference was removed; whereas references to disconfirmatory reports from second-tier sources (i.e., magazines; Viz. Scientific American, Skeptical Inquirer) are allowed to remain. This to my mind creates the appearance of bias. I suggest my addition be reinstated. User:Blacksqr

I've reinstated the reference as it's clearly relevant. Please do not remove again until discussing here first. Alfonzo Green (talk) 21:10, 24 October 2013 (UTC)
@Alfonzo: I appreciate the quick action, you reinstated the right reference but attached it to the wrong text in the article. You restored my edit to the Seven Experiments and Dogs That Know section, which I didn't request, rather than my edit to the Sense of Being Stared At section, to which the reference belongs. So right now, the restored edit cites the wrong reference. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Blacksqr (talkcontribs) 21:27, 24 October 2013 (UTC)
Do not edit war. If someone is reverted for an addition, they must seek consensus to include it, IRWolfie- (talk) 09:23, 25 October 2013 (UTC)

I've seen the "there may well be something going on" Wiseman quote before, and it's just out of context. Wiseman is talking about issues with the experiments themselves. He goes on about Sheldrake, "I think as is so much of his work, it’s very easy to look at it and go, yeah, a priori, that looks like there’s a cased something there, but things need to be done with a little bit more rigor and in this instance, that hasn’t happened." vzaak (talk) 22:15, 24 October 2013 (UTC)

I am not asking for that text to be restored. Alonzo appears to have done so in error. I am suggesting that the mention of the meta-analysis for the staring experiments published in JCS be restored. Blacksqr (talk) 22:49, 24 October 2013 (UTC)

There's an archive thread about Radin. Generally speaking, Wikipedia doesn't promote fringe views, as reflected in policies like WP:REDFLAG and WP:GEVAL. My own take may or may not be helpful. I've placed the policy header more prominently at the top of this talk page. vzaak (talk) 23:33, 24 October 2013 (UTC)

Restored the Radin reference to the Sense of Being Stared At discussion as well as the Wiseman reference to the section on Dogs That Know. In both cases, the previous version included only negative responses to Sheldrake's work despite the fact that actual responses have been mixed. Wiseman, incidentally, though in disagreement with Sheldrake, is careful to point out that his experiment replicated Sheldrake's results and that Sheldrake is a "competent scientist." Alfonzo Green (talk) 06:08, 27 October 2013 (UTC)


There is a neutrality notice on the article. It seems to be valid. Someone removed it, IMHO, before the "dispute was resolved."

Part of the dispute arises because some editors seem to want this to be a neutral BLP, while others seem to want to include negative material at every turn. It is made worse by some editors routinely disregarding the views of others, giving the appearance that they think they are the owners of the article.

There are also disputes over the suitability of some of the references provided, and even over the unchallenged facts of Sheldrake's scientific qualifications.

Resolution of the disputes is greatly hindered by the tendency of some editors to be sarcastic, argumentative, and unwilling to consider the viewpoints of others.

Things seem to be getting better, but the disputes remain. Lou Sander (talk) 13:29, 25 October 2013 (UTC)

The notice has been going on and off like a traffic light for the last 6 weeks Lou. I've not been counting, but it has probably been a dozen times. It seems quite meaningless now. I agree with you however that editors tending to be "sarcastic, argumentative, and unwilling to consider the viewpoints of others" don't help. Woolly thinkers don't help much either, and canvassing them really doesn't help. Ah well, I suppose it is all part of life's rich tapestry. --Roxy the dog (quack quack) 14:06, 25 October 2013 (UTC)
It will always be the case that some editors routinely disregard the views of others, and disputes are always likely to remain. Sarcasm and insults betray a lack of impartiality by editors but few editors are impartial - for the neutrality of the article content to be in dispute someone needs to be specific and make a case for where (exactly) the content is being negatively affected by lack of neutrality. Talk page sarcasm is a problem, but not a justification for tagging the article. Tento2 (talk) 14:43, 25 October 2013 (UTC)
I don't think anyone has raised any serious objections in terms of policies and guidelines. The overall consensus is that these apply. Tumbleman (talk · contribs) thought that the page should have a special exception from WP:FRINGE. Others appear to simply not understand the policies and guidelines. Barney the barney barney (talk) 15:35, 25 October 2013 (UTC)
Please do elaborate, Barney, on which guidelines I've missed (or whoever you are vaguely talking about). I note that you hedge, and say no serious objections, and overall consensus. I definitely think this page deserves no exception from WP:FRINGE. But are you positive nobody here thinks this page is a special exception to WP:BLP and WP:BLPTALK? Cause to an outsider, it is a big fail on WP:NPOV. I know you are trying to keep wikipedia from being used as a vehicle to promote fringe theories as mainstream, and I thank you for you vigilance, but there is a difference between documenting a promoting, and a *very* big very crucial *legal* difference between neutrally portraying a scientist, and noting that their recent work is highly controversial, as distinct from gaming the system and using wikipedia as a hammer to debunk their views and destroy their credibility. Misuse of wikipedia to promote fringe views (Justin Bieber is the best musical artist of all time) will harm wikipedia's perceived reliability; but misuse of wikipedia to attack BLP subjects (Sheldrake is not really a scientist) will harm the wikimedia foundation's ability to continue to serve webpages in the state of Florida. The stakes are *very* high on this article, and we need to do it right. The current state is blatantly POV, and needs to be corrected, post-haste. What are your particular policy objections to fixing the page to be NPOV and satisfy BLP guidelines, plus just human decency and fairness, while *simultaneously* still keeping wikipedia well away from promoting WP:FRINGE as if it were mainstream, and from WP:SPIP, and similar pitfalls? Are you saying we have to pick WP:FRINGE *or* WP:BLP? Then I pick the latter, the consequences are too fatal to wikipedia's long-term viability. I'm saying we can do both, and moreover, it is not that hard. Where specifically am I wrongheaded? Thanks (talk) 17:40, 25 October 2013 (UTC)
The tag should NOT be removed until a consensus has been reached, if you dont believe there is a neutrality issue that is not a reason to remove the tag when others do♫ SqueakBox talk contribs 20:06, 25 October 2013 (UTC)
Consensus is that WP:FRINGE and WP:NPOV apply to Wikipedia articles. Some individuals who have written on this talk page are fans of Sheldrake's work and are seemingly incapable of accepting that community consensus. No serious objections have been made with reference to policy. Barney the barney barney (talk) 20:34, 25 October 2013 (UTC)
Some individuals think weasel words are seemingly great! Plus, besides the vague accusations of bad faith (WP:AGF), again with the hedging about serious objections. The policy-reference is WP:BLP. "This page in a nutshell: Material about living persons added to any Wikipedia page must be written with the greatest care and attention to verifiability, neutrality, and avoidance of original research." Emphasis added. That is the most serious kind of objection possible: if we screw up, and the article leads to WMF being the recipient of a successful defamation lawsuit, then our screw-up just killed wikipedia. That is the *definition* of serious, here in the wikiverse, is it not? Is your position that WP:FRINGE trumps WP:BLP, and that the current article *is* The NPOV Consensus, as clearly evidenced by the calm and quite debate here on the talkpage, discussing minor grammatical estoterics like whether the past second-person participle is the best way to clarify some tricky sentence, or if it should be just rewritten in third-person? Please. The cold shower. The balance of various goals. If your only goal is to smackdown Sheldrake as WP:FRINGE, then you are not helping wikipedia be more reliable, you are turning wikipedia into a non-neutral battleground, and while that is a mistake on *any* article, it is a trememdous existential risk on a BLP article, that can have very real-world consequences. Help me out here, I'm trying to work with you to improve the article, which is a basket-case right now, page-protected and the cause of edit-wars, not The Long Established Consensus Of All Right-Thinking People. That we are having this conversation, and that you and Tom are trading threats to call an admin, is as much evidence as you should need. (talk) 21:25, 25 October 2013 (UTC)
When I say consensus, Barney, I am talking about consensus on this article not on FRINGE and NPOV policies on wikipedia generally. I dont believe anybody who didnt believe NPOV applies to all articles would apply the tag to this article, it is here because there is a lack of consensus about NPOV on THIS article. As for FRINGE, this policy is Wikipedia:Fringe theories, Sheldrake isnt a theory, he is an individual, and so this is the article to give prominence to his theories as and only as his theories, whether wikipedia considers these theories fringe or not. His notability is not dependent on the scientific veracity of his theories. Personally I dont think anyone should ever IMMEDIATELY remove a neutrality tag unless they have in the meantime made clear efforts to address the neutrality issues of the eprson who posts the tag, bit like having your cake and eating it. ♫ SqueakBox talk contribs 22:06, 25 October 2013 (UTC)
Hello squeakbox, my understanding is that Barney does think the current state of the article is The Consensus, despite the talkpage, and tag-warring. Barney, please correct me if I am wrong in that assessment. And yes, squeakbox is 100% correct about the tag: nobody should remove it, until talkpage-consensus about neutrality is achieved. There are currently open discussions on the neutrality of the intro, the neutrality of the academic-career section, the neutrality of the interactions-section, the neutrality of the public-speaking section... and I doubt those are it, those are just the current disputes. Ignoring the disputes is *not* the same as having consensus, but is in fact behavior bordering on WP:IDHT. Obviously, there is no WP:DEADLINE, but please skim over the four or five disputes about neutrality currently visible here... there is no way the *article* as it currently stands is The Consensus. (talk) 00:57, 26 October 2013 (UTC)
    Squeakbox, I'm not sure I agree with one part you mentioned in the middle: "Sheldrake isnt a theory, he is an individual, and so this is the article to give prominence to his theories as and only as his theories." Apparently, there is a long-running dispute about whether to split the BLP from the MorphogeneticTheory article, but it was always a fail before, and is an apparently-very-controversial suggestion, although it makes perfect sense to me (sheldrake is notable as a controversial author... morphogenetics is notable as the subject-matter of a series of controversial books). If you want to propose a split in twain, I would support such a thing as prima facie a good thing, but maybe we should let User:TheRedPenOfDoom comment here, because I believe they know the history of arguments about splitting the article into a BLP-article and a distinct theory-article. I suspect the roadblock has to do with folks resisting giving a speculative theory that is WP:FRINGE an article devoted to itself. Anyhoo, appreciated your calm advice, thanks for improving wikipedia. (talk) 00:57, 26 October 2013 (UTC)
No i do not know anything about the history of these articles other than the past month or so. What I do know is that i have seen no evidence that Sheldrake is notable outside of the coverage of his morphic fields and that morphic fields have no coverage outside of Sheldrake. Hence to split them would be to cover the same thing in two articles. Any proposal to shunt the morphic fields and the criticism thereof off to a different article and leave the Sheldrake article void of any criticism is a WP:POVFORK and thus a non-starter. If the article were overly long, spinning out a daughter article would be an option, but the article is well within the standard parameters.-- TRPoD aka The Red Pen of Doom 01:07, 26 October 2013 (UTC)

I too do not believe that Sheldrake's morphic fields deserve their own articles - although (some of) his books might not fail WP:AFD and perhaps Jaytee (dog) might not too. Meanwhile, a problem with trying to explain things that are not inherently coherent, is that they cannot be coherently explained. Also, while it appears that Sheldrake's ideas are not dissimilar to previous ideas, unless a serious sociologist of science writes a paper giving a full background analysis, writing about these influences is sailing a little close to the WP:NOR wind. Barney the barney barney (talk) 18:37, 26 October 2013 (UTC)

I am fine to not have a separate article on morphic fields, which would have the issue of being a fringe theory. On the other hand Sheldrake seems to be thoroughly notable as a New age thinker, and has been for at least 20 yrs or more. We need to stop treating him as a possible scientist and start thinking of him as a new age thinker. Wikipedia is not a scientific encyclopeida but an encyclopedia which strives to cover all notable fields, and the New Age and its thinking is certainly a notable field for coverage, hence we have an article on Sheldrake♫ SqueakBox talk contribs 19:05, 26 October 2013 (UTC)

Be specific and make a case for where (exactly) the content is being negatively affected by lack of neutrality

Tento2 -- how about I see you that lack of neutrality, and raise you an anti-defamation? (Preceding sentence is a poker reference. If it makes no sense, please just ignore it.)

The intro-sentence is POV, exactly because it refuses to call Sheldrake a scientist/biologist/biochemist/physiologist/etc, and instead calls him only a parapsychologist, and makes no mention of his academic credentials. This is blatantly defamatory; contrast with Roger Penrose, which has no such neutrality problems.

"Barney wrote: The opening sentence needs to explain WHY he's in the encyclopedia." I fully agree. He is in the encyclopedia, because he promotes controversial subquantum theories, and has the academic credentials to back that up. He's not a hollywood celeb, sports star, teevee evangelist, politician, industrialist. He's a scientist. That is why he's in the encyclopedia: as a scientist, who promotes scientifically-controversial theories. Current sentence which lacks neutrality (character defamation), and furthermore fails to explain the real reason (good scientist-credentials) Sheldrake is an especially-notable parapsychologist:

Sheldrake (1942-) is an English author, lecturer, and parapsychologist.

Rewrite, which is more NPOV, and which does fully explain why Sheldrake is WP:N.

Sheldrake (1942-) is an English biochemist-and-now-parapsychologist, notable as a controversial author/lecturer.

Cites (which of course will be added back later) and BLP boilerplate (ditto) elided, for clarity of discussion. Sorry about the grammatically awkward sci-and-now-para. If anybody else can capture the essence, please feel free. Note that instead saying 'former' is POV, and saying 'turned' is especially POV, making Sheldrake sound like some kind of vampire-scientist. But the worst sort of POV -- the kind which violates WP:BLP and leads to defamation lawsuits against WMF -- is exactly what we have in the article now, an intro-sentence that completely obliterates the fact that Sheldrake is a scientist, with a PhD, from top-notch schools, and a decade of work in mainstream academia. Nothing says NPOV like cherrypicking how your opponent is labelled, right? There's more that needs fixing, see my fuller comment above somewheres, but let's try going one sentence at a time, in this subsection. (talk) 18:04, 25 October 2013 (UTC)

Although I don't think the existing comment is lacking neutrality (you have to assume an agenda to play down his scientific credentials), I prefer the rewrite you've suggested. It is important to highlight the reason for his notability and I agree with you - it is to do with the controversial nature of his work, and the reason it is controversial is because he has a background in biochemistry. Tento2 (talk) 18:48, 25 October 2013 (UTC)
Thanks, I appreciate your commentary. And might I say, since you prefer my rewrite, that must prove you are good-looking, highly-intelligent, and doubtless rich and powerful... perhaps we can form a cabal? (For those of you just joining, the previous sentence is a humourous attempt at levity, which not everyone here will find witty, nor filled with helium... the remainder is serious.)
    As for where we disagree, namely on whether the exclusion of Sheldrake's status as a scientist is quite purposely left out of the first sentence, we can easily see whether there is "an agenda to play down Sheldrake's scientific credentials" (although I'd *much* prefer to call it what it more likely is -- overzealous application of inapplicable policies like WP:PROF) which is also just known as failing to follow WP:NPOV.... I suggest putting the revised sentence into the article, and see whether it is reverted, and if so how fast, and by whom. Since the article has banned good-faith edits by anons, are you willing to put the revised sentence in, if I do the work to add in the sources? Or we can wait for more comments. And look, in fact, there seems to be a new section just below, discussing whether the U.Cambridge PhD and Harvard fellowship are in fact worthy and impressive and utterly impeccably respectable scientific credentials or not. Whatever you decide on the question of modifying the article to insert this revision, as a WP:BRD experiment, thanks for reading and replying. (talk) 20:24, 25 October 2013 (UTC)
You are only right on three of the points you made about me. Re your proposal - I might have been,but I'm more inclined towards the suggestion Dingo just made, so I'm interested in hearing the response of other editors to his post. Tento2 (talk) 11:10, 26 October 2013 (UTC)

On and off like a tart's drawers

Can somebody please explain why the Neutrality tag keeps getting placed on the page, without any explanation? --Roxy the dog (quack quack) 19:49, 25 October 2013 (UTC)

Roxy! Shocking! How dare you call me a tart, wait till I sic the nearest yada yada yada..... Sigh. Kidding, as you prolly guessed. Seriously, the answer is, edit war. Please see, WP:BATTLEGROUND, WP:NINJA, WP:IDHT. Two threats to bring in an admin, one by Tom from the pro-camp, one by Barney from the anti-camp, tut tut. Probably a conspiracy to get the article full-protected, so that nobody will be able to edit. At the moment, only I suffer from that restriction. Wikipedia, the encyclopedia anybody could-once edit, but nowadays very few want to, anymore. No real mystery why,[29] either. Best we change that, if we want WP:RETENTION. HTH (talk) 21:04, 25 October 2013 (UTC)

This is not serious...

it's simply a gift to anyone who think it doesn't hurt to lighten things up a bit. It's also the awesomest pseudoref ever. [30] David in DC (talk) 13:07, 22 October 2013 (UTC)

Can we all post funny links that involve Sheldrake now? IRWolfie- (talk) 20:38, 22 October 2013 (UTC)
I doubt we all can. Some of us appear to be lacking any discernable sense of humor. And I suspect that the real question is "May we...?" In any event, I'd suggest limiting such postings to this one thread.
Congrats on resisting canine Pavlovian response for a full 7+ hours. David in DC (talk) 02:10, 23 October 2013 (UTC)
Personally I'd prefer if people didn't post whatever they thought was funny related to Sheldrake here as that could possibly constitute a BLP violation, depending on the specifics, IRWolfie- (talk) 11:09, 24 October 2013 (UTC)
IRWolfie, methinks your spidey-senses are incorrect, in this particular instance. WP:BLPTALK and also the various exceptions listed in WP:TALK are careful to delineate that you can make you opinion known on talkpages, even if your opinion is extremely unpopular... but that if you say something that might be considered Slanderous or Libelous about a Living Person, either it must be *very* reliably sourced or it must be removed immediately. Technically, all David has done in this section is link to an external site, and they are the ones claiming such-and-such. (Well... presuming that David is not the author of the article to which he linked... if he is, then he'd probably be violating BLPTALK, if the case was taken to a jury trial.) And that *is* what WP:BLPTALK is all about -- avoiding getting the wikimedia foundation, on which all our servers depend, involved in a legal battle with high-powered lawyers claiming defamation. Merely linking to external criticism, without even describing the contents of that external site (beyond calling the site a pseudoref and not-serious), cannot legally be actionable as grounds for libel. Contrast with WP:COPYVIO, where there are some laws that merely linking to a youtube video which violates the RIAA or the MPAA or the Disney Cabal's government-granted monopoly privilege on cartoon mice with round black ears can get the WMF drug into court on conspiracy-to-infringe charges. That said, quite a lot of the discussion *elsewhere* on this talkpage -- not by David anywhere that I noticed but by several others -- definitely crosses the WP:BLPTALK line, and must please be removed immediately, and not put back until and unless a *really* WP:RS can be cited as saying so, in exactly so many words. Hypothetically, for instance, calling some credentialed scientist, say, 'wacky' or the equivalent, could get the wikimedia foundation sued into the ground. Resist the temptation. Gracias for your attention, carry on, thanks for improving wikipedia, folks. (talk) 15:58, 24 October 2013 (UTC)
Update, I redacted a couple words on this talkpage, violating the sanctity of comments made by other folks, which is a breach of WP:TALK etiquette, but fully justified by the exception listed at WP:BLPTALK. Sorry if this puts anyone out. Not able to fix the article, of course, since it is locked to prevent that. (talk) 17:44, 25 October 2013 (UTC)

Good grief! It's been staring us in the face all this time and none of us have seen it. Dr. Sheldrake's initials conclusively establish that he's right about everything. R.S.. Case closed. I never undershtood the phrazhe in vino veritas before, but now I totally shubshcribe to it. Garcon, keep 'em coming! I'm gonna shtart to work on the Arab-Israeli conflict now. David in DC (talk) 20:13, 2 November 2013 (UTC)

Parapsychologist? Er NO! He's a Biologist AND a scientist!

I am very puzzled by this wiki page. May I ask why Mr Sheldrake is given the job title parapsychologist in the introduction, when it clearly states he is a biologist and scientist in his CV and on various websites. Even the ones that are critical of his views, don't deny the qualifications and titles that he has. I will change the intro tomorrow unless you can give me some jolly good reasons why not. You might not agree with his thinking, but his qualifications and experience, I would have thought need to be recorded correctly in an on-line encyclopedia, unless of course, there is some weird agenda going on?
here are the references to that effect:
BBC Biologist
Philosophy Now
The Independent:
"If Rupert Sheldrake was simply a commentator, sniping from a distance, his arguments might be swept aside. But he is a scientist himself, through and through: a botanist with a double first from Cambridge; a Fellowship at Clare College; a Royal Society Fellowship. For some years he was principal physiologist at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Hyderabad, India, where he helped to develop new varieties of pulses, key sources of protein."
The Guardian ...note is says on their site he is a BIOLOGIST and author but in case you want to argue here's the link
Even the US Science Mag gives him the proper credit

Best wishes Veryscarymary (talk) 19:10, 23 October 2013 (UTC)

scientists do not cling to magical proposals. -- TRPoD aka The Red Pen of Doom 19:49, 23 October 2013 (UTC)
Hello Mary. I wonder if you would read this Talk page, and the archives before you start adding stuff. Much of what you propose has already been covered. --Roxy the dog (quack quack) 19:59, 23 October 2013 (UTC)
Scientists are quite capable of investigating subjects that others consider pseudoscience, as is evidence by the University of Edinburgh's Koestler Parapsychology Unit, the University of Arizona's Division of Perceptual Studies Princeton's now closed PEAR. Ridiculing people is uncivil, unscientific, and unbecoming a Wikipedia editor. --Iantresman (talk) 22:53, 23 October 2013 (UTC)
Mary is correct in expressing her point and concern. "scientists do not cling to magical proposals." is not helpful. We are not editing in a vacuum. Like Mary, other editors will be coming by from time to time and some will ask the same questions, probably leading to edits. That is what I mean by the article not being stable as it is.
I have to agree that it is correct to say he is a biologist. Editors here do not get to decide otherwise just because they don't like his quest for new knowledge. Tom Butler (talk) 01:17, 24 October 2013 (UTC)
so you think that scientists DO cling to magical to magical proposals? -- TRPoD aka The Red Pen of Doom 23:21, 23 October 2013 (UTC)
Should you actually read what I said, you will see that I was complaining about how your sarcasm is unnecessary. If you want to insult the person, then go ahead and say he is thinking magically. I fell confident you can find a reference for that, just as I am sure you will be able to make such a statement a permanent part of the article since skeptics will see that it helps to assure that people will see Sheldrake as they do. Tom Butler (talk) 01:27, 24 October 2013 (UTC)
Of course scientists cling to magical proposals. Clarke's three laws are all you need know to understand this bedrock truth.
And before you dismiss Clarke as a science fiction writer, please check out who calculated the necesseary measurements to put a sattelite in geosychronus orbit. Or the history of how Robert Heinlein foiled any efort to patent the "water bed". Or Asimov's successful war to retain his tenure as a biochemist at BU.
You also might want to refresh your memory about the magical belief Albert Einstein devoted most of the 20th century to proving, the absolute and fatal flaws in quantum theory.David in DC (talk) 05:52, 24 October 2013 (UTC)

I would go for something like this, that covers all the bases:

Alfred Rupert Sheldrake (born 28 June 1942)[4] is a British biologist[31][32][33] who now researches,[34] writes and lectures[35] in the field of parapsychology[36][37] and the philosphy of science,[38] that have been the subject of controversy.[39][40]

--Iantresman (talk) 09:53, 24 October 2013 (UTC)

Hi Ian, that sounds fine enough to me and is much more respectful. There are PLENTY of scientists who have investigated and explored areas outside 'mainstream' thought, but to ignore and blatantly change their job title and qualifications is, to my way of thinking, insulting and demeaning.
Ian, would you please change the entry to read as you've suggested, it sounds a much better proposal. Even Galileo gets a better write up than this, and he was suggesting heliocentrism was the way forward and look how he was treated 'in his day' but was recognised much later. It's a similar issue with Mr Sheldrake's research, which I hasten to add IS research...
List of scientists who have investigated controversial issues:
George de la Warr in 1930
Walter Kilner
Oscar Bagnall
Nikola Tesla
Dr Edwin Babbitt
Dr Dean Radin
William Roentgen
1777 George Christian Lichetenberg
John Elliotson, founder of the University College Hospital London
Baron von Reichenbach
Wilhelm Röntgen
Dr Harold Saxton Burr
Dr. Frederick Northrop
Dr Leonard Ravitz
Hans Driesch
Nikolai Kalashchenko
Dr Louis Langman
Dr Victor Adamenko.....and more Veryscarymary (talk) 15:11, 24 October 2013 (UTC)
p.s. I am also highly confused why you/someone has described the poor man as a parapsychologist, and given 'new scientist' references from 2004 and 2006, crickey, this is 2013 and the references I have supplied are from current, peer publications, even the Independent doesn't call him a para-anything...and why only one source of reference???? that's terribly biased:( shame:( Veryscarymary (talk) 15:19, 24 October 2013 (UTC)

Veryscarymary: Like you, I am confused why they/someone(s) describe him as a parapsychologist. I think I have some insight into it, though. Lou Sander (talk) 15:53, 24 October 2013 (UTC)
Hello veryScaryMary... you actually seem quite nice by the way... but your username is quite appropriate for this time of year! You are correct that Sheldrake's credentials are being unfairly left out of this article, but there is also the case to be made that Sheldrakes books and/or experiments in the past several decades can be described as parapsychology. It is not a neutral term, as Lou pointed out elsewhere, but I'm not sure there *is* a neutral term that describes experiments in trying to detect events that most people would describe as telepathy. So, at the end of the day I think it's correct to say that Sheldrake is now a parapsychologist... at least until the English language permits a more descriptive and less loaded term for research that involves action-at-a-distance which is not strictly gravitational. That said, only a very POV editor would disrespect Sheldrake's PhD in biochem, and his other academic credentials. In fact, those high-grade credentials are exactly why Sheldrake is so controversial; if he were a swimsuit model, or a hillbilly, or a politician, or indeed *anything* but a highly-credentialed scientist, his BLP article would be far less painful to all concerned. Anyhoo, I've tried to rewrite the intro in NPOV fashion, see the section above this, using the phrase biochemist-and-now-parapsychologist. I think that captures his fame... or depending on your POV his notoriety :-)    ... decently. Thanks for improving wikipedia. (talk) 03:13, 25 October 2013 (UTC)

There is a much better word than "parapsychologist." It's already in the article. It's the title of an actual position he once held, making it BLP-friendly, but includes a form of the word "psychic" that ought to satisfy the editors who seem to think it's important to hammer readers over the head, repeatedly, with words to diminish, malign and generally heap scorn upon the Living Person who is the subject of this Biography. I give you the last sentence in the subsection covering Dr. Sheldrake's academic career

From September 2005 until 2010, Sheldrake was a Senior Researcher in psychical research, funded by a bequest (the Perrott-Warrick Fund) administered by Trinity College, Cambridge.[38]

I tried, a while back, to substitute "psychical researcher" for "parapsychologist." I got pretty good feedback that I was on the right track. Which is to say my edit was reverted faster than one can say WP:BATTLEGROUND. David in DC (talk) 03:43, 25 October 2013 (UTC)

Well, it does not sound that bad to me... but are there any other psychical researchers? Because if it is just a title that Sheldrake gave himself (equivalent to 'director of special projects') then it will prolly fail on the grounds that readers won't know what the heck we're talking about. At present[41] the word psychical is a redirect to the article on retail-storefront-variety-psychics, and has been since 2008. Before that, it was a redirect to parapsychology for about a year... and prior to that was an unsourced stub of three sentences, explaining that psychical was non-physical, non-measurable, and/or related-to-metaphysics-slash-mind-science, with parapsychology as the primary see-also. Point being, although psychical may exist as a term, it's a pretty weak one, which is basically just a synonym for parapsychology.
   Sheldrake is a type-three parapsychologist, interested in mind-science that could conceivably one day be justified experimentally. Storefront-retail psychics tend to be type-two parapsychologists. Ghostbusters tend to be type-one parapsychologists, as do most categories of mystics although prolly they don't think of themselves in those terms. Anyways, if you think it's worth trying to swap from biochemist-and-now-parapsychologist over to biologist-biochemist-physiologist-and-now-psychical-researcher-which-is-sometimes-dubbed-parapsychology ... then I'll probably be against it.  :-)     Maybe instead, add a short mention of the five-year stint, and the chosen title, a bit further down. I'll edit my suggested rewrite. thanks (talk) 05:09, 25 October 2013 (UTC)

=I read an article about Wiki editing, and it raised that some editors can blast other people out of the sky. I DO NOT need 'editors' to send me personal messages on my editing page. If you have something to say to me, please keep it here in the open. I do NOT just edit 'fringe' articles. My day job is a writer, and I recently edited the 'self-employment' page, can't see anything 'fringe' in that and WHY WHY WHY WHY is there such an allergy to anything that comes under the banner of 'fringe' anyway, as if investigating and researching morphic resonance is an illegal activity. Look at the paragraphs of comment since I asked a legitimate questions about the ABSENCE of Mr Sheldrake's actual qualifications and legitimate job title, which I have already stated. Crickey, some of you must get ulcers with all this confrontation. I was under the misguided belief that the page would be changed to what Ian had suggested: "Alfred Rupert Sheldrake (born 28 June 1942)[1] is a British biologist[32][33][34] who now researches,[35] writes and lectures[36] in the field of parapsychology[37][38] and the philosphy of science,[39] that have been the subject of controversy.[40][41] --Iantresman (talk) 09:53, 24 October 2013 (UTC)"

and all I find when I logged in tonight were rude messages on my personal page and reams of irrelevant discourse on the talk page. I DO NOT want to read what has been already discussed for the simple reason I would lose the will to live. I asked a perfectly, normal polite question and my question not only hasn't been answered but it's been written over in an extremely rude way....sigh....and people wonder why women don't want to edit on wiki. I've been helping, on here for a number of years....I'm not going anywhere. Mr Sheldrake's page is NOT correct and it's those incorrections I would like to address. Now I could have very easily just re-written what was missing but having been in wiki for this long I know that would have caused a riot, so I came to the 'talk page' to talk about how to improve the article and I have given MORE THAN ONE CURRENT REFERENCE to on-line info, which has been ignored. I'm not here, and neither are any of you, to discuss whether we like, or don't like Mr Sheldrake's views or agree with them in any way. As a writer, you have to write what's true, and I hate to point out that it's TRUE that Mr Sheldrake IS a scientist....and any further comments about 'magical thinking' as if magical thinking were illegal will be ignored. This article is NOT correct. The FACTS are Mr Sheldrake is a Scientist, IS a BIOLOGIST and IS a writer. Full Stop or 'period' as you say in the USA.. Veryscarymary (talk) 20:14, 25 October 2013 (UTC) Veryscarymary (talk) 20:16, 25 October 2013 (UTC)

Dr Sheldrake, Mary !!!!! --Roxy the dog (quack quack) 20:24, 25 October 2013 (UTC)
The magical thinking/supernatural criticism is well sourced. Sheldrake thinks the laws of nature are mutable. Barney the barney barney (talk) 17:58, 26 October 2013 (UTC)
Well-sourced does not imply a good source, or a definitive source. Source #1 is a biased opinion piece by John Maddox who appears to be less qualified than Sheldrake, and, Source #2 is a non-peer reviewed website blog which WP:RS considers "questionable". Conversely, all the other references provided that support Sheldrake's description a a bilologist/biochemist, are independent academic or journalistic sources. I doubt "Sheldrake thinks the laws of nature are mutable", any more than all the other scientists who questioned the then-current orthodoxy. --Iantresman (talk) 19:02, 26 October 2013 (UTC)

=Mr Sheldrake is still a Biologist and Scientist, we don't seem to be getting anywhere with this do we???
I have now read the whole history of this page, and it makes for very sorry reading. I have also checked ALL of your wikipedia listings, just to see who actually edits pages, and who just likes to get into fights on talk pages.
If, tomorrow, there is no reply to this message, I will change Mr Sheldrake's listing myself. I have already 'talked' about this here. User:Iantresman has already edited a number of pages, and has made a sensible suggestion to this page, which I would like first to get agreement for.
I think we should keep in mind this:
The method of principled negotiation is based on five propositions:
"Separate the people from the problem."
"Focus on interests, not positions."
"Invent options for mutual gain."
"Insist on using objective criteria."
"Know your BATNA (Best Alternative To Negotiated Agreement)" Getting_to_YES I also don't need anyone's 'permission' to correct an inaccuracy on wikipedia. Wikipedia is a volunteer sourced encyclopedia. It is not a slanging match and from what I have read (and it gave me nightmares) this page has become an open warfare zone. I repeat, the page is inaccurate. It does a LIVING person a dis-service. There is also the question of Libel [[42]] as it stands in UK law at the moment, this page could be referenced as libellous which has a key point of : "lowering someone in the estimation of right-thinking people generally. "
it doesn't matter a jot what your views are, the qualifications and training and experience of Mr (Dr) Sheldrake are not in doubt, this has been argued about enough already. What needs to happen now, to correct his page is a total of about 20 words or so. The PAGES of comment I've already read have gone NO further to add those 20 words.....which as I say, will be changed tomorrow, by the civilised people that we are:) Veryscarymary (talk) 21:13, 27 October 2013 (UTC)

Hi Mary, I bet reading all that stuff about peoples contributions and their talk pages was tiring, just to find out if people like to get into fights. Seems a bit pointless and antagonistic. I'm glad that you appear to have read my small comment above referring to Sheldrake, correctly addressed as Dr. It is incorrect to call him Mr (Dr.) Sheldrake though. As a writer such as you should know. Anyway, now that there has been a reply to your message as requested, there is now no need to edit Sheldrake's page tomorrow. --Roxy the dog (resonate) 21:31, 27 October 2013 (UTC)
Your list is pretty decent, Mary, although seems more suited to business negotiations. Currently folks here are stuck on step one, which is to separate Sheldrake the BLP from his (distinct) theories in the fields of phytomorphology, biochemistry, mammalian biology, physics, psychical research aka parapsychology, philosophy-of-science, philosophy-of-mind, theology, and probably a few more I forgot... each field deserving criticism by mainstream thinkers *of* that particular field, obviously. No conflating field_A with field_B, and no synthesis, and no conflating criticism of the theories with criticism of the BLP. (talk) 03:56, 30 October 2013 (UTC)

Well, I really don't understand how someone can go from 'being' a scientist, to a parapsychologist in less than 4 hours....can we have a decent reason why that edit was removed? It really looks as if there is a determined factor intent on portraying Mr Sheldrake in a unscientific manner, as if scientists 'only' work on blood cells or the material world....I've already given a number of links to prove his science background and Vzaak kindly added in the word scientist, and someone-who-should-remain-nameless has taken it out again!!!Madness!!! There are also now 189 people watching this page, 478 people have 'contributed' to the article, in the past 30 days there have been 554 'edits' and of the 478 people who have contributed to the article 42 people are 'fighting' to have 'their' edits remain. Doesn't sound like there's much in the way of consensus here, does there? May I remind you once again, that the person you are writing about is a living, breathing human being, who can easily read whatever you're writing here and every time you make a disparaging comment about Mr are adding to the article being at risk of libel. Please keep that firmly in mind with this whirl of edits and counter-edits. This is not World War Three, this is (supposed) to be 'discussion' about editing an on-line article, not a theory of theories....we're talking facts here: Mr Sheldrake IS a Scientist....End Of......sigh... Veryscarymary (talk) 16:11, 5 November 2013 (UTC)

throwing around claims of "libel", particularly to claims that are specifically made in reliably published sources by experts will not get you anywhere. -- TRPoD aka The Red Pen of Doom 16:25, 5 November 2013 (UTC)