Talk:Rupert Sheldrake/Archive 2

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Archive 1 Archive 2 Archive 3

Sources for biography

I don't quite master referencing yet, but I found two sources that should fulfill WP:BLP; his autobiography: http://www.sheldrake.org/intro/ http://www.sheldrake.org/About/biography/biography2.html —Preceding unsigned comment added by Benjaminbruheim (talkcontribs) 14:24, 5 January 2008 (UTC)

They'll do fine for the basics -- year/place of birth, schooling, etc. Preference is to find third party sources for potentially controversial stuff (but don't know if anything in his bio counts as this until I go through it in detail). Thanks :) HrafnTalkStalk 14:41, 5 January 2008 (UTC)
Done, though they don't cover quite a few details (schooling, wife's profession, where they live). HrafnTalkStalk 15:10, 5 January 2008 (UTC)

Stabbed recently

Source. Reinistalk 13:11, 10 April 2008 (UTC)

Weird. It's probably notable, but I'm not entirely certain. Anyway, wait a bit for it to appear in a more mainstream source before putting it in. I'm not entirely confident of the fact checking of boingboing.net. Jefffire (talk) 13:17, 10 April 2008 (UTC)
I have just received Rupert Sheldrake's latest Newsletter. The stabbing is mentioend. Rupert's own account is at [1].
That arose day I after I came across the unfortuantely successful results of a bullying campaign agaisnt the BBC Complementary Therapy pages on the Corporation's Web Site [2], quite apart from the charmlessly naive "Victor Dammit" [3] approach; absolutely no connection I am sure. RichardKingCEng (talk) 16:25, 10 April 2008 (UTC)

The Presence of the Past Section & NPOV

This section presents Sheldrake's claims as fact, in violation of WP:FRINGE (and most probably WP:NPOVFAQ#Pseudoscience as well). It also presents no balancing from the mainstream scientific view (per WP:UNDUE). HrafnTalkStalk 03:03, 27 May 2008 (UTC)

I agree that the wording of this section can be changed to be more neutral, but I think you are going a bit too far in purporting Sheldrake's work to be fringe or pseudoscience. If there are reliable sources that challenge Sheldrake's theories and would balance this presentation, then put them in. It seems the entire criticism section does just that. If there are specific critiques of this book, then let's add them in. Indeed, let's change the wording so that this new section does not give the impression that Sheldrake's views are proven or anything more than suggestive.
In my view, Sheldrake's theories are alternative theoretical formulations "which have a following within the scientific community" and thus "are not pseudoscience, but part of the scientific process". Sheldrake gave a plenary presentation at the recent Tucson 2008 Consciousness Conference on his work on telepathy in animals and humans which was well received. Finally, I don't think you can argue giving undue weight to Sheldrake's theories in an article about Sheldrake himself, unless you propose to delete the entire article itself. --EPadmirateur (talk) 05:43, 27 May 2008 (UTC)
Parapsychology: "Parapsychology is a fringe science because it involves research that does not fit within standard theoretical models accepted by mainstream science." This article offers virtually no balancing information from the scientific mainstream (and the The Presence of the Past section contains none at all). It is built almost entirely from Sheldrake's own claims (hence the 'primarysources'-template). I would also suggest that WP:V#Exceptional claims require exceptional sources applies to the claims made in this section. HrafnTalkStalk 09:53, 27 May 2008 (UTC)
I think you are confusing the article fringe science with the WP policy WP:FRINGE. The policy states "all significant views are represented fairly and without bias, with representation in proportion to their prominence". This article is about Sheldrake. Therefore his views and claims need to be fairly and adequately represented to achieve a level of neutrality. If there are reliably sourced criticisms, put them in. As editors we don't need to prove his claims with exceptional sources, we just need to report them, as claims. (There is nothing exceptional about the fact that Sheldrake made these claims: the fact that he made them is easily verified by reading his books.) You don't have to agree with Sheldrake to report him fairly, but if you cut out reporting of his claims, you are exercising the worst form of non-neutral bias, one that says Sheldrake's views need to be censored and suppressed from Wikipedia. --EPadmirateur (talk) 13:29, 27 May 2008 (UTC)
Are you claiming that "fringe science" is not a subset of "fringe theories" and thus not covered by wikipedia policy on the latter? If so, the claim would appear to be tendentious. The most 'prominent' view is that of the scientific mainstream, which sees no value to Sheldrake's claims -- yet this view gets scant attention in this article. As for WP:RS, how much of Sheldrake's 'research' has been subjected to peer-review? For the parts of it that haven't, WP:FRINGE#Parity of sources would appear to apply. The original version of the section reported Sheldrake's [[extraordinary claims as though they were factual, based solely on his writings: "Sheldrake presents experimental evidence in favor of morphic resonance from numerous lines of research." HrafnTalkStalk 14:06, 27 May 2008 (UTC)

I have tried to locate all of the articles critical of Sheldrake's overall theory of morphic fields. I could not find any new ones not already cited in the article, although I'm sure there are some. I found that Shermer's critique of the staring experiment had not been included which I added, but I also found quite a number of researchers who cite Sheldrake's theory as a basis or at least a point of reference in their own work. And indeed they called it a "theory". (I guess they have all been rather sloppy in their terminology.) I included 4 such references citing Sheldrake, but there were several others. So I don't find your case for Sheldrake as "fringe science" to be terribly compelling: his theory is cited as serious work by quite a few researchers and the criticism of his overall theory, while at times vociferous, is actually somewhat sparse. I invite you to find more sources of criticism and add them to the article. In the meantime, I think your objection of "unbalanced" is not justified. --EPadmirateur (talk) 04:57, 28 May 2008 (UTC)


"So I don't find your case for Sheldrake as "fringe science" to be terribly compelling..."

  • He publishes in Giuseppe Sermonti's notorious Rivista di Biologia/Biology Forum -- a well known purveyor of articles ranging from fringe science into outright pseudoscience (and always willing to give any half-baked creationist idea an airing).
  • Even articles who cite him favourably admit that "the hypothesis is not accepted by some scientists who consider it a pseudoscience."
  • Science or Pseudoscience: Magnetic Healing, Psychic Phenomena, and Other Heterodoxies by Henry H. Bauer compares his ideas (p162) to Wilhelm Reich's discredited claims of Orgone energies, in a chapter entitled 'Beyond the Pale'.
  • The New Age: Notes of a Fringe-Watcher by Martin Gardner has a whole chapter on Sheldrake which states (p112): "Almost all scientists who have looked into Sheldrake's theory consider it balderdash."
  • The papers you cite are themselves on the very fringe of science (one of them being from a journal that is explicitly on the putative crossover of neuroscience & quantum mechanics), and appear to have little or no hard scientific content.
  • His claims on Morphogenetic fields also have the doubtful honour of being defended by the Sokal hoax article -- giving a strong indication that they have a degree of notoriety.

I think it is time to flag this article on WP:FT/N. It also doesn't help having the criticism of his work split off as a section of its own at the end, rather than worked into the article as a whole. HrafnTalkStalk 08:13, 28 May 2008 (UTC)

This is great! That's just what I was looking for. I will try to work all of these citations in. I have to say that one person's "fringe" science can truly be another person's "real" science. For myself, I don't particularly buy Sheldrake's ideas, for various reasons, but I think they deserve a neutral presentation in Wikipedia. --EPadmirateur (talk) 13:17, 28 May 2008 (UTC)
Hrafn, I think we have achieved the balance you were seeking in this article. I propose that we remove the "unbalanced" tag now. Any objections? --EPadmirateur (talk) 02:01, 29 May 2008 (UTC)
The article is better balanced, unfortunately that wasn't what I templated for unbalance. The section cites exactly one source -- and guess what that is -- Sheldrake's own website. Is that balanced? Further at least one paragraph in it is of highly dubious accuracy (another issue highlighted by the template) -- see below.HrafnTalkStalk 03:51, 29 May 2008 (UTC)
No, the source for the section is his second book, which, by coincidence, is the subject of the section. So what's in the book needs to be in the section. BTW, this second book appears to be the elaboration of his theory which is most cited in all of the research work referenced in the Reception section. Which is all the more reason that it be presented fully and fairly, and balanced, in this article. --EPadmirateur (talk) 05:16, 29 May 2008 (UTC)
The only viewpoint on Sheldrake's claims is thus Sheldrake's own, and the section is thus unbalanced, hence the template. HrafnTalkStalk 06:08, 29 May 2008 (UTC)

Problematic paragraph

Unlike electromagnetic resonance, which is based on similarity in electric charge, morphic resonance, if it exists, is based on similarity of form. Where electromagnetic resonance operates across space, morphic resonance would be a kind of memory in that it operates across time. Rather than resonating with a particular, previous individual of its kind, an organism would resonate with an averaging of many individuals of its kind. Rather than being strictly determined by morphic resonance, the organism would merely be brought under its probabilistic influence, remaining free to develop novel behaviors and bodily forms in response to survival pressures. Because these novel attributes would be subject to inheritance by descendants via morphic resonance, the creativity of individuals could therefore influence evolution. Sheldrake makes the case that his hypothesis is thus in keeping with Darwin's original vision of evolution.

  1. "electromagnetic resonance, which is based on similarity in electric charge" -- this is a highly dubious claim -- electromagnetism is considerably more complex than "similarity in electric charge", it affects opposite as well as similar charges, and changes in magnetic fields create electrical fields and vice versa. The analogy seems to have no basis.

Obviously when the charges are opposite there is no resonance. Electromagnetic resonance is based on similarity of charge. The analogy holds up. Note that it is only an analogy, not a homology. Alfonzo Green (talk) 18:43, 29 May 2008 (UTC)

  1. "an organism would resonate with an averaging of many individuals of its kind" -- the use of "averaging" is again meaningless. "Averaging" is a verb, the noun is "average". Further, an average is a mathematical construct and has no physical existence. It is thus impossible to "resonate" with them.

Ever hear of a gerund? Looks like a verb but functions as a noun (ends in -ing)? Guess not. Since the onset of statistical mechanics, introduced by Boltzmann and modified by Gibbs, thermodynamics has been fundamentally probabilistic. It's all based on averaging. Apparently the writer is as ignorant of basic science as he is of basic grammar. Alfonzo Green (talk) 18:43, 29 May 2008 (UTC)

  1. "Rather than being strictly determined by morphic resonance, the organism would merely be brought under its probabilistic influence, remaining free to develop novel behaviors and bodily forms in response to survival pressures. Because these novel attributes would be subject to inheritance by descendants via morphic resonance, the creativity of individuals could therefore influence evolution." -- this sentence is basically hand-waving bullshit, trying to claim a causal relationship but giving a copout if no causality can be found. It is an admission that there is no testable hypothesis.

The writer is ignorant of the scientific trend, dating back to the 19th century, toward probabilistic causation as against deterministic causation. That a cause is not deterministic doesn't mean it's not a cause. There is no admission that the hypothesis is not testable. It can be falsified by demonstrating that no gains appear over successive generations within a given population faced with a novel task. Alfonzo Green (talk) 18:43, 29 May 2008 (UTC)

  1. "Sheldrake makes the case that his hypothesis is thus in keeping with Darwin's original vision of evolution." -- Darwin's "original vision of evolution" was evolution by natural selection! Where is the natural selection in Sheldrake's claims? As I have stated in an edit-summary removing this material, Sheldrake's claims are Lamarckian in character, not Darwinian (whose hypothesis both contradicted and replaced Lamarckism). We should thus not give WP:UNDUE weight to Sheldrake's unreliable claims to the contrary.

Again, an incredibly ignorant statement. Darwin not only accepted the view that acquired characters are heritable, he insisted on it, going so far as to assert that there's literally no theory of "descent with modification" without such inheritance. He made this plain not only in The Origin of Species but in later books and letters. Like Darwin, Sheldrake accepts the premise that there's no evolution without creative input on the part of organisms that can be inherited, one way or another, by descendants. Alfonzo Green (talk) 18:43, 29 May 2008 (UTC)

This whole paragraph appears to be a collection of appallingly bad scientific reasoning -- imprecise (in both definition and claimed effect), using bad analogies and claiming completely contradictory scientific results as "in keeping". HrafnTalkStalk 03:51, 29 May 2008 (UTC)

Probabilistic causation is inherently imprecise. This does not mean that Sheldrake's discussion of it is imprecise. Alfonzo Green (talk) 18:43, 29 May 2008 (UTC)

Again, you are doing original research. Sheldrake's claims need to be reported fairly and not judged by us, as editors. If the article's wording implies that his claims are factual, proven, etc. then the wording should be adjusted. But we can't censor what Sheldrake claims, just because we don't agree with it. --EPadmirateur (talk) 05:07, 29 May 2008 (UTC)
All editorial decisions contain a degree of what would be WP:OR, if the reasoning was contained in the body of the article. Sheldrake's 'Darwinian' claim is patently false, from an unreliable source (he has no background in evolutionary biology) and it would be a violation of WP:UNDUE to mention it unless it was central to Sheldrake's hypothesis (which it is not). HrafnTalkStalk 06:08, 29 May 2008 (UTC)

Evolutionary biologists are well aware of Darwin's "Lamarckian" claim, as is anyone properly educated in biology. Sheldrake's hypothesis is biological. Obviously its implications for evolution are significant. Alfonzo Green (talk) 18:43, 29 May 2008 (UTC)

I suggest that you find more specific criticisms in reliable sources to make your points. Then, Sheldrake's claims and the criticisms can stand side by side. However, you can't just remove what Sheldrake said because you personally (or anyone else) disagree with it. --EPadmirateur (talk) 05:07, 29 May 2008 (UTC)
The trouble is that Sheldrake's main claims are so absurd that nobody bothers to debunk his ancillary claims. This means that we should not give them WP:UNDUE weight, not that we should present them unrebutted. HrafnTalkStalk 06:08, 29 May 2008 (UTC)

The use of "absurd" here is completely meaningless. The neuroscientist Steven Rose tried, and failed, to falsify Sheldrake's hypothesis. Alfonzo Green (talk) 18:43, 29 May 2008 (UTC)

So far, what you have provided in the way of criticism is good, but it just amounts to name calling ("pseudoscience", "magic", "heresy", "balderdash", "no better than orgone hypothesis"). All of that mud slinging is now in the article. Where are the real criticisms? If you can't produce them, then perhaps there aren't any? And perhaps there aren't any reliable sources available to balance Sheldrake's specific claims? If that's the case, then the "unbalanced" tag needs to come off. It will come off in either case (either we put reliably sourced balancing material in, or we can't find any). --EPadmirateur (talk) 05:07, 29 May 2008 (UTC)
The reason that the criticism doesn't have any substance is that there's no substantive content to criticise. We have no specification of what is affected (hence the "morphing"/averaging BS) or how it affects it (hence the vague "probabilistic" claims). In the words of a famous physicist Sheldrake's "not even wrong" -- because his claims have insufficient substantive content to disprove. HrafnTalkStalk 06:08, 29 May 2008 (UTC) Thus they can only be criticised on a more general level of parsimony/Occam's razor and lack of falsifiability -- all issues looked at in distinguishing between science & pseudoscience. HrafnTalkStalk 06:21, 29 May 2008 (UTC)

Absolutely false. Sheldrake makes specific, testable, refutable claims. His theory is clearly parsimonious. A knowledgeable critic might claim that it's too simple, what with natural memory sweeping away the causal primacy of complex genetic and epigenetic activities. Alfonzo Green (talk) 18:43, 29 May 2008 (UTC)

Sheldrake, Lamarck and Darwin

On the specific issue of Sheldrake's Lamarckian tradition, here are some sources:

  • Experiencing the Next World Now, Michael Grosso, p162
  • Motifs: The Transformative Creation of Self, Don J. Feeney, p55
  • Phenomenal World, Joan D'Arc, p49

I would not vouch for the reliability of any of these on an absolute scale but would claim that the have parity relative to Sheldrake's own (which isn't exactly saying much). HrafnTalkStalk 06:31, 29 May 2008 (UTC)

These are great references, citing Sheldrake and noting his views coincide with Lamarck. But the point is that Darwin's original views were also very much Lamarckian as well, as pointed out in these references and also in the articles pangenesis and Darwin from Orchids to Variation. So adding these references will give more balance, but they don't really contradict what was already said about Sheldrake's consonance with Darwin's views. We now have added references supporting the consonance between Sheldrake's ideas and the original Darwin. --EPadmirateur (talk) 22:37, 29 May 2008 (UTC)

Self-published and questionable sources in articles about themselves

I would also direct your attention to WP:V#Self-published and questionable sources in articles about themselves:

Self-published and questionable sources may be used as sources in articles about themselves, so long as:

  1. the material used is relevant to their notability;
  2. it is not contentious;
  3. it is not unduly self-serving;
  4. it does not involve claims about third parties;
  5. it does not involve claims about events not directly related to the subject;
  6. there is no reasonable doubt as to who authored it;
  7. the article is not based primarily on such sources.

The material in the section has been:

  • "contentious" (electromganetic analogy & Darwinian tradition)
  • "unduly self-serving" (Darwinian tradition)
  • "involve(ed) claims about third parties" --specifically the three biologists
  • "involve[ed] claims about events not directly related to the subject" -- claims about the nature of electromagnetism
  • "the article is ... based primarily on such sources" -- and the section is based purely on such sources

HrafnTalkStalk 06:51, 29 May 2008 (UTC)

Sheldrake's works are hardly self-published. They are published by mainstream publishers and in mainstream journals. Sheldrake presents his ideas at mainstream conferences. The book in question is not self-published. Sheldrake himself is not the author of this article or of the section in question. All of the cited sources in this article can be verified without going to Sheldrake's web site (although it is easier to go there -- still, they were published in other reference sources). Etc. This is not a credible argument in my opinion. --EPadmirateur (talk) 18:18, 29 May 2008 (UTC)

I would further suggest that the "relevan[ce] to [his] notability" of all the excised material is tenuous. He is notable for morphic fields, not the contention that those fields are analogous to electromagnetic fields, or that these fields are Darwinian in tradition. HrafnTalkStalk 07:01, 29 May 2008 (UTC)

Regarding notability, I think you don't have much of a case: this one book (The Presence of the Past) which is in question in this section, has been cited in more than 70 other places in scholarly literature. The derivation of Sheldrake's most notable ideas (morphic fields, etc.) deserve to be stated in this article, however distasteful or ridiculous or discredited others may view them. I suggest that you dampen your POV pushing here. (Sorry to be so frank here.) It is better to fix an unbalanced view by adding other reliably sourced critiques than to eliminate ideas that you would like to suppress from your own point of view. If the ideas are fairly presented, then we can let the readers make their own judgments. --EPadmirateur (talk) 18:08, 29 May 2008 (UTC)

Reliably sourced, detailed refutations of Sheldrake

Carrying on a specific part of an earlier conversation:

I suggest that you find more specific criticisms in reliable sources to make your points. Then, Sheldrake's claims and the criticisms can stand side by side. However, you can't just remove what Sheldrake said because you personally (or anyone else) disagree with it. --EPadmirateur (talk) 05:07, 29 May 2008 (UTC)
The trouble is that Sheldrake's main claims are so absurd that nobody bothers to debunk his ancillary claims. This means that we should not give them WP:UNDUE weight, not that we should present them unrebutted. HrafnTalkStalk 06:08, 29 May 2008 (UTC)
The use of "absurd" here is completely meaningless. The neuroscientist Steven Rose tried, and failed, to falsify Sheldrake's hypothesis. Alfonzo Green (talk) 18:43, 29 May 2008 (UTC)

Hrafn, you really need to come up with something more specific and citable to show how scientists view Sheldrake's ideas -- whether his main claims or ancillary claims. Does any reliable source say anything about the details of Sheldrake's theory, other than the name-calling I summarized earlier? Does anyone propose counter examples, tests for Sheldrake's hypotheses, etc.? If not, then the article needs to remain silent about opposing views other than in the "Reception" section.

Alfonso Green, do you have a reference to Steven Rose's work? I find a paper by him from 1992 (PMID 1341837) titled: So-called "formative causation". A hypothesis disconfirmed. Response to Rupert Sheldrake. Rivista di Biologia - Biology Forum 85 (3/4), 1992, 445-453. I haven't read it all but Rose claims "The trouble with the Sheldrake hypothesis is that it fails on all of these criteria." All of this looks very interesting. Why do you think Rose failed to falsify Sheldrake when he claims he did? This could be the necessary refutation we need for "balance". --EPadmirateur (talk) 23:35, 29 May 2008 (UTC)

Sheldrake is a "questionable source" in an "article about himself"

WP:V#Self-published and questionable sources in articles about themselves applies. "I suggest" that you read that policy. Sheldrake's "claims" can legitimately be "removed" when they fall afoul of that policy. HrafnTalkStalk 03:44, 30 May 2008 (UTC)

Yes, let's go back to the policy: it's about verifiability. The sources used in this article are all eminently verifiable, that is, "whether readers are able to check that material added to Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether we think it is true". (emphasis added). Can readers verify the papers, books, news reports, etc. cited here? Yes, frequently by checking on-line. In particular they can verify whether the statements made about Sheldrake's book are verifiable? Yes, they can see that the book is readily available for sale and can buy it themselves.
Are these sources reliable? Yes, they are "credible published materials with a reliable publication process; their authors are generally regarded as trustworthy or authoritative in relation to the subject at hand." (emphasis added) In particular, Sheldrake's book is published by a mainstream publishing company and Sheldrake is certainly authoritative on his own ideas.
Are these sources questionable? No, they are not "those with a poor reputation for fact-checking. Such sources include websites and publications that express views that are widely acknowledged as extremist, are promotional in nature, or rely heavily on rumors and personal opinions." In particular, Sheldrake's book is well checked and referenced, as is all of his scholarly writing.
Are these sources self-published? No, they are not "self-published books, newsletters, personal websites, open wikis, blogs, forum postings, and similar sources". Again, Sheldrake's book is published by a mainstream publishing company. (Even if some cited references were self-published by Sheldrake, they would be acceptable because "self-published material may, in some circumstances, be acceptable when produced by an established expert on the topic of the article whose work in the relevant field has previously been published by reliable third-party publications". (emphasis in original))
So, how do we come to be discussing Sheldrake's book under the heading self-published and questionable sources in articles about themselves? Sorry, this doesn't make sense. Perhaps you are confusing self-publishing = writing about your own theory, with self-publishing = putting your theory on a blog on the Internet. Perhaps you are confusing questionable = an idea not accepted widely by the scientific community, with questionable = not fact-checked, purely opinion. If you are confusing these two concepts, then I understand why you are raising this point, but then I think your reasoning is flawed. Under the definitions of self-published and questionable in this policy, Sheldrake's book passes. And by simple logic, you just can't exclude or censor the description of a theory from an article or section about the theory. --EPadmirateur (talk) 04:56, 30 May 2008 (UTC)
Sheldrake's writing are not a WP:RS outside the very strict limits placed by WP:V#Self-published and questionable sources in articles about themselves. Specifically, he is not a reliable source on the History of Science. They are not "credible published materials with a reliable publication process; their authors are generally regarded as trustworthy or authoritative in relation to the subject at hand." That they are "published by a mainstream publishing company" is irrelevant -- mainstream publishing companies publish all sorts of tripe at times. They have not been peer-reviewed by any serious scientific journal, and certainly not by any journal with sufficient gravitas to support his extraordinary claims. You will notice that I did not, at any stage claim that Sheldrake was "self-published", only that his reliability was (to say the least) questionable. That his writings are a questionable source is established by the opinions of scientists & science writers already cited, as well as the opinions of a considerable number of editors on this talkpage over the last couple of years. Were his questionable claims discussed by more reliable sources, this would not be such a problem, however frequently he is simply ignored or is dismissed in very general terms. HrafnTalkStalk 05:26, 30 May 2008 (UTC)
OK, sorry I misunderstood where your emphasis was placed (not on self-publishing, but on reliable sources). I'm afraid Sheldrake's book is a reliable source, because the subject here is not established facts of science but rather Sheldrake's theory of morphic resonance. Is Sheldrake's book a reliable source for Sheldrake's theory? Yes. Is author Sheldrake authoritative with respect to his theory? Yes. Whether Sheldrake's ideas are pseudoscience or heresy or magic or balderdash is completely irrelevant. We are writing an encyclopedia article about his ideas and we have to be thorough and neutral in the presentation, regardless how wacko you or others may view them. If your logic prevailed, then we would need to suppress or severely censor all kinds of articles in this encyclopedia. Your argument just does not hold. Using it to excise significant parts of the article is not sufficient justification. Sorry. --EPadmirateur (talk) 06:24, 30 May 2008 (UTC)
But he is neither an expert, nor a reliable source, on the History of evolutionary thought or on electromagnetism. So should we include his false analogy that electromagnetic fields work on similar electrical charges (when in fact we know as a fact that they also work on opposite charges, as well as the fact that changes in electrical fields create magnetic fields and vice versa -- all elements that are completely lacking in Sheldrake's claimed analogy to morphic fields), his claims as to Darwin & Weiss? No we should not -- unless and until these issues are discussed by a source that is reliable on these issues. Even when we are talking directly about Sheldrake's central claims, it is unclear as to his value as a source -- otherwise we wouldn't still be dealing with the "morphing"/"averaging" garbage -- which rather strongly implies that he hasn't offered a lucid explanation of exactly what a morphic field is meant to act upon. HrafnTalkStalk 07:37, 30 May 2008 (UTC)
Yes, we should include all this and any other ideas relevant to his theories that you and others might consider wacko. I will say again: you are engaging in original research when you make a judgment as to what's correct and what's wacko and then use that judgment to exclude material because in your opinion it should not be exposed to readers. Even if there were reliable sources that addressed his theories in detail and completely criticized them just as you are doing, we would still need to include all of Sheldrake's ideas and then report the criticisms. We are editors which means we are reporters of reliable sources, not purveyors of our personal opinions. BTW, I think the Steven Rose/Rupert Sheldrake experiment should be included in this section, because it is an experimental test of the theory described. Rose does give a critique and claims the theory was "disconfirmed" but Sheldrake also responds. --EPadmirateur (talk) 13:40, 30 May 2008 (UTC)

Sheldrake and Darwin

Neither Dace nor Darwin make any direct connection (either explicitly or implicitly) to Pangenesis in connection to Darwin's shepherd comments in On the Origin of Species: Dace:

“I think there can be no doubt,” he writes in Origin, “that use in our domestic animals has strengthened and enlarged certain parts, and disuse diminished them; and that such modifications are inherited.”6 He cites many examples, such as young shepherd dogs that know, without training, to avoid running at sheep,7 domesticated chickens that have no fear of cats or dogs as a result of their ancestors having grown accustomed to house pets,8 and ostriches that can’t fly because their predecessors learned to kick predators instead of taking flight.9 He was skeptical that cases such as these — and there are countless more — could all result from a mysterious and random process taking place in the remote depths of the body. “Everyone knows that hard work thickens the epidermis on the hands; and when we hear that with infants, long before birth, the epidermis is thicker on the palms and the soles of the feet than on any other part of the body… we are naturally inclined to attribute this to the inherited effects of long-continued use or pressure.”10

Darwin:

The possibility, or even probability, of inherited variations of instinct in a state of nature will be

strengthened by briefly considering a few cases under domestication. We shall thus also be enabled to see the respective parts which habit and the selection of so-called accidental variations have played in modifying the mental qualities of our domestic animals. A number of curious and authentic instances could be given of the inheritance of all shades of disposition and tastes, and likewise of the oddest tricks, associated with certain frames of mind or periods of time. But let us look to the familiar case of the several breeds of dogs: it cannot be doubted that young pointers (I have myself seen a striking instance) will sometimes point and even back other dogs the very first time that they are taken out; retrieving is certainly in some degree inherited by retrievers; and a tendency to run round, instead of at, a flock of sheep, by shepherd-dogs. I cannot see that these actions, performed without experience by the young, and in nearly the same manner by each individual, performed with eager delight by each breed, and without the end being known,--for the young pointer can no more know that he points to aid his master, than the white butterfly knows why she lays her eggs on the leaf of the cabbage,--I cannot see that these actions differ essentially from true instincts. If we were to see one kind of wolf, when young and without any training, as soon as it scented its prey, stand motionless like a statue, and then slowly crawl forward with a peculiar gait; and another kind of wolf rushing round, instead of at, a herd of deer, and driving them to a distant point, we should assuredly call these actions instinctive. Domestic instincts, as they may be called, are certainly far less fixed or invariable than natural instincts; but they have been acted on by far less rigorous selection, and have been transmitted for an incomparably shorter period, under less fixed conditions of life.

Nor does the article on Pangenesis indicate that it was present prior to The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication or was anything other than a "provisional hypothesis" on heredity ancillary to his main hypothesis of evolution by natural selection, which was presented in On the Origin of Species and which required some form of heredity, but was quite permissive as to the form that this heredity would take. To claim that this is either "original" or Darwin's "vision of evolution" is a gross misrepresentation. HrafnTalkStalk 04:16, 30 May 2008 (UTC)

Yes, the wording I added was that this idea was "later called pangenesis". We can leave out pangenesis in the text, although I thought having a link in the text would help readers to understand that Darwin's ideas were more complex than is usually understood, since Sheldrake is attributing the Lamarckian ideas to Darwin in Origin of Species. In any case, Sheldrake's morphic resonance is not a form of physical heredity but can explain the same things Darwin was citing (atavisms, etc.) --EPadmirateur (talk) 05:23, 30 May 2008 (UTC)
Lacking pangenesis, have you any connection between Sheldrake & Origin of Species? Lacking a genetic model of heredity, Darwin may be argued not to have broken entirely from Lamarckism, but he was certainly moving in that direction. His innovation was natural selection -- so unless a connection to this innovation can be made, it is a misrepresentation to link Sheldrake to Darwin, rather than to Lamarck himself, who originated these ideas. HrafnTalkStalk 05:35, 30 May 2008 (UTC)
I think the Dace quotations (and your more specific extract, thanks) are sufficient to make the case. Leaving out the pangenesis material, the statement was "Sheldrake makes the case that his hypothesis is thus in keeping with Darwin's original vision of evolution, as expressed in On the Origin of Species, with a reference: See excerpts from Origin of the Species cited in (Dace). For example, Darwin cited muscle use in domestic animals strengthening and enlarging certain parts with such modifications being inherited (p. 175), young shepherd dogs that know, without training, to avoid running at sheep (p. 324), domesticated chickens that have no fear of cats or dogs as a result of their ancestors having grown accustomed to house pets (p. 326), and ostriches that can’t fly because their predecessors learned to kick predators instead of taking flight (p. 111)."
All we need to show here is how Sheldrake makes the connection, not whether you or others may agree with Sheldrake's interpretation. Sheldrake's morphic resonance theory is in keeping with Darwin's original (Lamarckian) vision of evolution where specific characteristics are passed on. We are citing numerous cases of this from Darwin. --EPadmirateur (talk) 06:03, 30 May 2008 (UTC)
Except we have no indication that this single paragraph of fairly generalised observation in any way encapsulates "Darwin's original vision of evolution" -- and we have a vast array of information that states that this "original vision of evolution" was in fact natural selection, which is confirmed by the full title of the book itself -- On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (my emphasis). At best we can say that "Sheldrake's hypothesis is not contradicted by a single paragraph of observation out of Darwin's 247 page (at least in the electronic version) book."
"All we need to show here is how Sheldrake makes the connection..." No. We need to know that the passage meets the minimal standards of WP:V#Self-published and questionable sources in articles about themselves -- which it fails as (i) it is self-serving (ii) it is contentious & (iii) it makes claims about a third party (namely Darwin, in an attempt to illegitimately make claim to Darwin's coattails). HrafnTalkStalk 07:26, 30 May 2008 (UTC)

RfC: reliability of Sheldrake's claims in 'The Presence of the Past'

Underlying question: can Sheldrake's works be considered to be a WP:RS beyond the limited scope of WP:V#Self-published and questionable sources in articles about themselves, especially on issues relating to electromagnetism and the history of evolutionary thought? If it does not, do any of the numbered restrictions in that section apply to claims made in Rupert Sheldrake#The Presence of the Past? WP:FRINGE#Sourcing and attribution may also be applicable.

Specific questions:

  • Is it accurate to characterise "electromagnetic resonance" as "based on similarity in electric charge"?
  • Can Sheldrake hypothesis of morphic resonance be legitimately characterised as part of the tradition of holism in science, let alone "established" as being part of that tradition?
    • What would be an accurate characterisation of holism's level of acceptance by the scientific community?
  • Can Sheldrake be legitimately characterised as "[f]ollowing the philosopher Charles Peirce" in "posit[ing] an evolutionary universe in which static "laws" are replaced by probabilistic rules or habits which are capable of evolving along with the phenomena they influence"?
    • Can Peirce be legitimately characterised as "influenced by Charles Darwin" on this point?
  • Does "averaging" and "morphing" have a well-defined meaning in the context of "an organism would resonate with an averaging or "morphing" of many individuals of its kind." -- when an "average" doesn't have a physical existence (it's a mathematical construct) and "morphing" means "to change"?
  • Can Darwin's observations on 'shepherd dogs' etc be legitimately described to be his "original vision of evolution as expressed in On the Origin of Species" -- when his "vision of evolution" contained in that book is widely considered to be natural selection (as is clearly demonstrated by that book's full title)?
  • What degree of scientific legitimacy does the scientific community deem William McDougall and Mae-Wan Ho's experiments to have?
  • Is it legitimate to state as fact the book's claim that it "expands on the first, placing his hypothesis in historical context, providing further evidence for it and demonstrating its wide-ranging explanatory efficacy"?

HrafnTalkStalk 15:10, 30 May 2008 (UTC)

The question is: are Sheldrake's books reliable sources for the content of his theories, not whether his books are reliable sources for current scientific thinking. I think the answer is yes, they are "credible published materials with a reliable publication process; their author is generally regarded as trustworthy or authoritative in relation to the subject at hand." The "subject at hand" here is Sheldrake's theories and Sheldrake is certainly authoritative on his own theories. Whether his theories pass muster in scientific circles is the subject for other reliable sources, not for original research done by WP editors. WP is an encyclopedia, and an article about Sheldrake's theories needs to be a thorough and neutral presentation of those theories, regardless how wacko others may view them. If the logic presented above prevailed, then we would need to suppress or severely censor all kinds of articles in this encyclopedia. Shall we go back and eliminate the description of Newton's laws of motion and gravity because the Principia Mathematica is clearly not a reliable source for the scientific view of gravity? --EPadmirateur (talk) 16:55, 30 May 2008 (UTC)
Given that Sheldrake's hypothesis contains no claims about electromagnetism, holism in science, Charles Peirce, Charles Darwin, or Paul Alfred Weiss, your response is irrelevant and non-responsive. HrafnTalkStalk 17:03, 30 May 2008 (UTC)
Also your example is infelicitous as Principia Mathematica is a reliable source for Newtonian mechanics and gravitation, which is still widely (one could probably even say ubiquitously) taught in introductory Physics as a good approximation of reality under normal conditions (i.e. speeds that aren't a significant proportion of the speed of light, etc). HrafnTalkStalk 13:28, 31 May 2008 (UTC)
Well, that's my point: The Presence of the Past is a reliable source for Sheldrake's theory, it is verifiable, non-self-published and non-questionable, and therefore your entire argument fails. We are describing Sheldrake's theory in a neutral, balanced way, using a reliable source. All of the requirements for an acceptable WP article are met. Shall we let others comment now? --EPadmirateur (talk) 14:21, 31 May 2008 (UTC)
No it is NOT a reliable source. (i) It is written by somebody outside the field he was trained in (biochemistry), (ii) it claims have not been peer-reviewed by any reputable scientific journal and (iii) it has been widely rejected as pseudoscience. This makes it blatantly unreliable. The only, minimal, acceptability it has is under WP:V#Self-published and questionable sources in articles about themselves, and under the restrictions that apply under that policy. It is not only "questionable", it has been repeatedly questioned and derided by a the scientific community. Beyond this point, the section is still GROSSLY POV in that it repeatedly presents Sheldrake's controversial (and at times outright fallacious) claims as though they were facts. HrafnTalkStalk 16:04, 31 May 2008 (UTC)

His books are not RS, but they are RS for what he thinks. And that's all you need here. If anyone is doing anything besides reporting what Sheldrake thinks and a bit about what his critics think, then it isn't NPOV. The problem is it's a bio. Have to treat it with special care. No, we should not report Sheldrake's claims as facts, but as his views. We should not report his critic's claims as facts, but as their views.

Please stop the argument about what is or is not true. It doesn't matter. What matters is the sources. It doesn't matter a whit if Sheldrake is a pseudoscientist. It only matters what he says, and what his critics say, and what his proponents say. Doesn't matter what we think, so why not stop arguing over it? ——Martinphi Ψ Φ—— 21:37, 1 June 2008 (UTC)

That is a bogus argument. If "Sheldrake is a pseudoscientist" he is an unreliable source. As such, his self-serving claims to the coattails of a laundry-list of historical scientific figures, great and small should not be included per WP:V#Self-published and questionable sources in articles about themselves. "[T]reat[ing] it with special care" means not including self-serving claims! HrafnTalkStalk 07:46, 2 June 2008 (UTC)

Sheldrake is notable and authoritative on physiology and his opinions on evolution and development should be represented properly. He is not self-published. However, I would question reliance on a popular and controversial book for sourcing material that ought to be easily found elsewhere, and such a book should not be looked to for a rigorous treatment of general physics. The question about Peirce should, surely, first be resolved with respect to Peirce? Redheylin (talk) 19:28, 13 June 2008 (UTC)

Rivista di Biologia

Rivista di Biologia is a reliable source by WP standards. It is a refereed journal publishing articles in "the fields of theoretical biology, in its broadest sense." It has published articles by "many prestigious Italian and international authors (such as E. Giglio-Tos, D. Rosa, J. Eccles, B. Goodwin, G. Webster, R. Thom, F. Varela, A. Lima-de-Faria)." There are over 1100 scholarly articles and 100 review articles from this journal indexed in PubMed. It is listed among the notable journals for theoretical biology. On the basis of this evidence I am removing all of the "verify credibility" tags associated with this journal in this article. --EPadmirateur (talk) 20:03, 31 May 2008 (UTC)

Rivista di Biologia is a grossly unreliable source. As the article on its editor Giuseppe Sermonti states:

Since 1979, Sermonti has been Chief Editor of Rivista di Biologia/Biology Forum, one of the oldest extant biology journals in the world (founded in 1919), which, prior to Sermonti's assumption of the role of Chief Editor was considered to be respectable journal. Since Sermonti took over, however, it has published papers which would be regarded as pseudoscience by the scientific community, particularly articles by creationists such as Jerry Bergman, Richard Sternberg, Jonathan Wells, as well as articles by Morphogenetic field advocate Rupert Sheldrake and holistic scientist Mae-Wan Ho.[2] History and Philosophy of Science professor John M. Lynch, says that Rivista di Biologia largely publishes only research outside the general scientific consensus. Lynch said of Rivista: "While there may be interesting ideas here, there is no indication that they represent mainstream thought in biology. And while this might be an 'internationally respected biology journal' within certain (anti-Darwinian) communities, it cannot be considered so among the majority." and "the influence of Rivista, we see that - as one would expect from the above - the journal is of negligible importance at best ... in the case of Rivista could not reasonable be called 'internationally respected'."[3]

Your quotation is to the journal's own publisher, and is thus of zero probative value. That the journal is still listed in PubMed is most probably due to its pre-Sermonti respectability. HrafnTalkStalk 05:54, 1 June 2008 (UTC)

Andrea Bottaro, University of Rochester Medical Center, reproduced on the National Center for Science Education website:[4]

Much of the newfound enthusiasm is, I suspect, due to his editorship of Rivista di Biologia/Biology Forum, a third-tier but historical and, importantly, ISI-indexed biology journal which he has turned into a haven for all sorts of creationist and anti-Darwinian material. Sermonti’s Rivista provides “intelligent design” advocates a much-needed back door to the “mainstream scientific literature” without the inconvenience of proper peer-review — a unique opportunity that they have already started to exploit.

HrafnTalkStalk 07:53, 1 June 2008 (UTC)

Citation of Sheldrake in WP:FRINGE sources

The excised material made reference to:

  • An article called Semetic rings: towards the new concept of mimetic resemblances which purports that "In order to better understand mimicry and similar phenomena, we introduce the concept of seme as means of horizontal (i.e. trans-lineage) transfer of images. Together with horizontal exchange of genes and epigenetic signals, semes complete the triad of powerful channels enabling synchronous communication across the biosphere." The trouble being that "semetic rings" is virtually unheard of outside of this article, and semes are "the smallest unit of meaning recognized in Semantics" -- so the article appears to be an idiosyncratic attempt to marry biology and semantics using a concept that they cooked up themselves.
  • An article (in a journal devoted to the intersection of neuroscience and quantum mechanics -- an idea that is itself on the outer fringe), which compares Sheldrakes 'morphic fields' to other "nomaterial [i.e. pseudoscientific] fields".
  • A paper in the Proceedings of the Alternative Natural Philosophy Association -- a publication with virtually non-existent profile, from a distinctly fringe-sounding group.
  • A paper in an Anthropological anthology that asks "Is death the same everywhere?", which makes only tangential mention of Sheldrake's morphic fields as an alternative to genetics. Given that genetics is well-founded science, it wouldn't seem to demand much in the way of an alternative.
  • The computing paper that we already cite which admits that Sheldrakes ideas are regarded as pseudoscientific, which additionally appears to be on a topic unrelated to Sheldrake's parapsychological/biological claims.

What this sentence amounted to was WP:UNDUE weight to fleeting and/or tangential mentions in mainly fringe publications. The only purpose it appears to serve is to give Sheldrake's pseudoscience a gloss of respectability that closer examination of the cited sources fails to substantiate. HrafnTalkStalk 11:12, 1 June 2008 (UTC)

Sorry, all of this is really original research and personal editorial opinion. All of these cited sources are valid reliable sources. Please stop your POV editorializing regarding material presented in good faith. WP articles need a "fair, analytical description of all relevant sides of a debate, including the mutual perspectives and the published evidence". An editor can't use the undue weight argument to eliminate material from a neutral presentation. --EPadmirateur (talk) 19:29, 1 June 2008 (UTC)
No, Hrafn is correct. Indeed, saying that he's been passingly mentioned in generally non-notable (and for that matter very much not reliable sources) is a quintessential example of UNDUE. JoshuaZ (talk) 20:08, 1 June 2008 (UTC)

I went through most of the article as you can see by the edits. I didn't find major problems. I think the main thing is, just use careful ATT, and you don't have a problem. Is there really much that needs to be added to this article? ——Martinphi Ψ Φ—— 02:44, 2 June 2008 (UTC)

Sheldrake's self serving claims

  1. Sheldrake has no qualifications in the history of science or developmental biology.
  2. Sheldrake has been widely described as a psuedoscientist.

Thus Sheldrake is not a WP:RS on the subjects of the history of science or developmental biology, and his claims on those subjects are only admissible as a 'questionable source' in the context of WP:V#Self-published and questionable sources in articles about themselves.

The article contains these four claims:

  1. "Sheldrake writes that his hypothesis of morphic resonance falls into the latter tradition, building on the work of theorists such as Alfred North Whitehead, Arthur Koestler, Hans Driesch, Rene Thom and Ilya Prigogine."
  2. "Sheldrake says that the reductionist model has failed to explain how an organism emerges from an egg"
  3. "Sheldrake traces the history of the concept of morphogenetic fields in biology, which was proposed in the early 1920s by, among others, the Austrian-American embryologist Paul Alfred Weiss."
  4. "Sheldrake says that his hypothesis is thus in keeping with Darwin's vision of evolution, as expressed in On the Origin of Species."

All these claims would appear to be "unduly self-serving" (criteria 3). Also claims 2 & 4 would appear to be "contentious" (criteria 2). Additionally, as Sheldrake is not notable for his claims (pseudoscientific, questionable or otherwise) on the history of science or developmental biology, these claims are not "relevant to [his] notability" (criteria 1).

I will therefore be seeking the removal of all these claims, unless and until they can be sourced to (and preferably discussed by) a source that is genuinely WP:RS. To do otherwise would be to give WP:UNDUE weight to opinions that are neither reliable nor noteworthy. HrafnTalkStalk 08:05, 2 June 2008 (UTC)

They are highly relevant to Sheldrake's ideas, and since he and his ideas are central to this article, they are appropriate. They would not be appropriate if they were not attributed, but since they are, there is nothing wrong with them. We could as well eliminate everything Sheldrake says.

Anyway, you are completely up the wrong tree about policy: You might be right if these claims were taken from Sheldrake's website or blog, and had not been published formally. But self published doesn't apply to books published by a non-paid house, nor to papers on journals. Published books and papers by Sheldrake are very legit sources for what Sheldrake thinks. ——Martinphi Ψ Φ—— 19:17, 2 June 2008 (UTC)

Really this is a matter of whether we want the article to start half of it's sentences with "Sheldrake thinks..." or "Sheldrake says...". Whilst it's important to describe his beliefs, this simply isn't the place to go over them in depth. I don't see how it's relevant to the article if Sheldrake thinks his ideas are in fitting with Darwin for example, but it is arguably relevant that Sheldrake think that the "reductionist model" cannot explain embryogenesis. All in all, we should keep the "Shelldrake says..." type sentences to a bare minimum, but there are a few cases where they are necessary. Jefffire (talk) 11:05, 4 June 2008 (UTC)
Jefffire: my concern is that letting them in would allow a 'Gish Gallop' of unreliable claims into the article that are too numerous and insufficiently prominent for any scientist to have bothered to rebut them specifically (and mentioning any non-specific rebuttal would likely be considered WP:SYNTH). I do not think that this is in keeping with WP:V, WP:RS & WP:DUE. HrafnTalkStalk 11:32, 4 June 2008 (UTC)
I entirely agree. The only claims that should be left in are those which are most central to his views. Jefffire (talk) 11:46, 4 June 2008 (UTC)
Martinphi: Could you please point to where I cited WP:BLP#Using the subject as a self-published source. A policy that I didn't cite doesn't apply -- so what? The relevant policies are WP:QS & WP:SELFANDQUEST. HrafnTalkStalk 11:32, 4 June 2008 (UTC)

QS refers to this, which I questioned on the BLP talk page, and found out that yes, Sheldrake is a fine source for what Sheldrake thinks. Anyway, there is no requirement that we need to limit what we say about Sheldrake because no one has refuted it. Nor is WP paper: we can put in plenty of information. It isn't appropriate to remove well-sourced information just because you don't think it is scientific. In this case, good sources for what Sheldrake thinks include his books and articles. Sheldrake is definitely not a questionable source for his own views. And he has views on mainstream issues. No sweat. ——Martinphi Ψ Φ—— 00:57, 5 June 2008 (UTC)


There are non-specific rebuttals which are about Sheldrake, and therefore not synth: for example "Sheldrake’s ideas have been subjected to extensive discussion in some journals and newspapers. Henry Bauer compared Sheldrake's ideas to Wilhelm Reich's generally discredited claims of orgone energies." That's pretty good, and the Nature article is also generalized criticism from a highly reliable source. This is sufficient. ——Martinphi Ψ Φ—— 01:01, 5 June 2008 (UTC)

Excessive tags and personal commentary

are inappropriate in the mainspace. That's what the talk page is for. One "totally disputed" tag is more than sufficient. Inline comment tags are likewise inappropriate. This isn't someone's personal article. It's an article shared by a community of editors. Hrafn, if you'd like to create an itemized list here on the talk page, I'd be happy to address each of your concerns individually. The mainspace is not the place to do that. --Nealparr (talk to me) 15:56, 4 June 2008 (UTC)

Alternatively, if you'd like to add personal commentary to identify areas you'd like addressed, a sandboxed version can be created in your userspace. I'd be happy to look at it there as well. The point is, the article doesn't have to be decorated like a Christmas tree for us to know that you dispute the entire thing. --Nealparr (talk to me) 16:05, 4 June 2008 (UTC)
I tagged these issues in preference to edit-warring over them. I gave detailed explanations for them in hidden comments because they kept getting deleted -- including the original headline "totally disputed" template. HrafnTalkStalk 03:07, 5 June 2008 (UTC)

Sourcing of the 'Experimental test of the formative causation hypothesis' section

Sheldrake's writings on morphic fields have been branded as pseudoscience. This makes him a WP:QS on the subject. This means that WP:SELFANDQUEST applies to using him as a source on this subject. This policy forbids sourcing an article "primarily on such sources" -- which this section does as the vast majority of it is sourced to Sheldrake.

This point also applies to much of the rest of the article. HrafnTalkStalk 03:17, 5 June 2008 (UTC)

This has been dealt with above. Repeating arguments doesn't help move the discussion along. ——Martinphi Ψ Φ—— 03:27, 5 June 2008 (UTC)
The discussion above was fairly brief and on the subject of WP:SELFANDQUEST #3 "not unduly self-serving", and as Nealparr has removed my {{verify credibility}}-tags and demanded that I take the issue to talk, I am explicitly raising it here. HrafnTalkStalk 05:06, 5 June 2008 (UTC)

Hrafn, we can go to mediation on this article, or we can put aside these arguments. I thought when I asked the question here that it would take care of things, but it seems that it hasn't. But I do believe that you are mistaken about policy, and so do the others on that page. ——Martinphi Ψ Φ—— 03:45, 5 June 2008 (UTC)

Hrafn, you've reverted again, in support of your ideas that the writings of Sheldrake are not RS for the opinions of Sheldrake, and apparently that non-controversial claims made by Sheldrake must be supported by outside sources. I will ask for mediation tomorrow unless I reconsider. I urge you to consider the opinions of other editors, myself, Nealparr, User:2005, EPadmirateur, Gwynand, [5] and others. ——Martinphi Ψ Φ—— 04:49, 5 June 2008 (UTC)

Martinphi: this revert were of "the opinions of Sheldrake" stated as fact (rather than an attributed opinion), in violation of WP:NPOV. The claims Sheldrake makes are not "non-controversial", as I stated in the revert, that he has legitimate "evidence" or that his hypthoesis has "explanatory efficacy" is most certainly controversial. HrafnTalkStalk 05:06, 5 June 2008 (UTC)
Hrafn, Are you actually disputing that Sheldrake puts his hypothesis in historical context? Did you even look at my edit, which took out what you say? [6] You should not edit war without even looking at the other person's edit. ——Martinphi Ψ Φ—— 05:29, 5 June 2008 (UTC)
Martinphi: read what I said: "that he has legitimate "evidence" or that his hypthoesis has "explanatory efficacy" is most certainly controversial." Does this mention "that Sheldrake puts his hypothesis in historical context"? No! Therefore your question was made in bad faith. In answer to your question, although I have not done so previously, I probably would dispute that Sheldrake puts his hypothesis into legitimate historical context. His claim to Darwin's coattails is absurdly tenuous. HrafnTalkStalk 05:55, 5 June 2008 (UTC)

(ec) I'm rather new to the article, so repeating is fine by me. Saves me the trouble of reading through everything on the talk page. Here's my take on the current dispute:

First, WP:QS. QS isn't even an issue, exactly because of WP:SELFANDQUEST. According to QS, "Questionable sources should only be used as sources about themselves as described below" and that's what we have in this section, a source about Sheldrake's views, from Sheldrake, in Sheldrake's article. QS is entirely a non-issue.

This is a nonsensical argument. It's the restrictions that WP:SELFANDQUEST applies that is at issue. HrafnTalkStalk 06:16, 5 June 2008 (UTC)
Wow, that's exactly what I said, WP:SELFANDQUEST is the issue, but I'm nonsensical? --Nealparr (talk to me) 07:17, 5 June 2008 (UTC)

I would also add that QS wouldn't even be an issue for the reason given above if it weren't all about WP:SELFANDQUEST. Above it was suggested that because Sheldrake's writings on morphic fields have been branded as pseudoscience, that makes him a questionable source on the subject. What's wrong with that statement is that the subject is morphic fields, a pseudoscience invented by Sheldrake. Saying that Sheldrake is a questionable source on his own invention is like saying L Ron Hubbard isn't reliable to talk about Scientology, also a pseudoscience. Sheldrake is a reliable source for describing his own views and his own made up term. He is not reliable for statements such as how those views have been received by others.

So every self-appointed expert is a WP:RS on the topic that they claim expertise on? This would seem to be nonsensical, and to render WP:DUE meaningless. HrafnTalkStalk 06:16, 5 June 2008 (UTC)
You're not making sense. Sheldrake isn't claiming expertise on something someone else came up with. Sheldrake has expertise on what he himself came up with. Morphic fields is his (discredited) theory. Who else would be an expert on his own theory? Incidentally, this is the second time you've referred to WP:DUE with me. Please do me the favor of explaining how Sheldrake's views aren't prominent in his own biographical article? --Nealparr (talk to me) 07:17, 5 June 2008 (UTC)

Drop the QS as it pertains to Sheldrake describing his own views. The only time one is not reliable in describing their own view is when other reliable sources show that they are either mentally ill or prone to dishonesty. Neither are demonstrated here, so just drop it and move on.

No. This is quite simply an end-run around WP:SELFANDQUEST. All claims made by questionable sources for which "there is no reasonable doubt as to who authored it" (#6) can be characterised as "describing [their] own views". HrafnTalkStalk 06:16, 5 June 2008 (UTC)
Again, you're not making sense. There is no reasonable doubt that Sheldrake authored it and no one's suggesting that it isn't Sheldrake describing his own view. What's the issue? --Nealparr (talk to me) 07:17, 5 June 2008 (UTC)

Regarding WP:SELFANDQUEST, there are clear requirements, seven of them which I'll list here along with my comments in italics:

  • the material used is relevant to their notability;

In this particular case (the experiment), it is relevant to his notability because it establishes 1) what his premise is, 2) how that premise was received, in detail, and 3) why he's a pseudoscientist. He did a study with a mainstream scientist and the mainstream scientist walked away feeling the experiment disconfirmed his hypothesis and he walked away feeling that although -no one else agreed with him- that the study actually confirmed his hypothesis. What's more telling than that? The section demonstrates that he is out of touch with mainstream science.

  • it is not contentious;

Contentious, or "likely to cause contention", is not at play because no one seriously disputes that Sheldrake has these views. There's no argument or quarrel that Sheldrake feels the way he does. People argue that his view is wrong, but no one disputes that he believes as he does.

It is not the fact that "Sheldrake has these views" that is contentious, it is the contents of these views. To take a "has these views" approach would render the restriction meaningless. HrafnTalkStalk 06:16, 5 June 2008 (UTC)
I think you are misinterpreting that restriction at a fundamental level. Wikipedia doesn't restrict reporting people's self-published views that are unpopular. For example, Hitler's Mein Kampf is a self-published source used to demonstrate his highly unpopular political ideology. The content of his views aren't restricted just because he was insane, or because people disagree with them. Contentious material is that which would cause contention. Eg. Someone posting self-published material by Hitler that has him saying he actually liked Jewish people. Obviously that would be contentious material because obviously Hitler didn't like Jewish people, even if he said he did. There is no serious contention that Sheldrake doesn't have the view he says he has, therefore saying as much is not likely to cause contention. --Nealparr (talk to me) 07:17, 5 June 2008 (UTC)
  • it is not unduly self-serving;

The section is not flattering to Sheldrake because it clearly shows that he is the only one who inteprets the results as he does. The two mainstream (respected) scientists -disagree- with him. It is in no way self-serving.

The claims about Alfred North Whitehead, Arthur Koestler, Hans Driesch, Rene Thom, Ilya Prigogine, Paul Alfred Weiss, and Charles Darwin are. HrafnTalkStalk 06:16, 5 June 2008 (UTC)
That's not in this section, so what's your point? We're talking about the sourcing of the experiment, not the article as a whole. --Nealparr (talk to me) 07:17, 5 June 2008 (UTC)
  • it does not involve claims about third parties;

There are no third parties in the section. The views of the second parties are alternately sourced.

See above. HrafnTalkStalk 06:16, 5 June 2008 (UTC)
See above. No third parties in this section. --Nealparr (talk to me) 07:17, 5 June 2008 (UTC)
  • it does not involve claims about events not directly related to the subject;

No claims not directly related to the subject and his work.

Are the writings of all of the above authors related to morphic fields? HrafnTalkStalk 06:16, 5 June 2008 (UTC)
And again, mixing it all up. We're talking about the sourcing of the experiment. You're the one who started the thread. Please stay on topic. --Nealparr (talk to me) 07:17, 5 June 2008 (UTC)
  • there is no reasonable doubt as to who authored it;

No reasonable doubt that Sheldrake's views come from Sheldrake himself.

  • the article is not based primarily on such sources.

The article needs some work, but it doesn't rely primarily on Sheldrake's material beyond sourcing Sheldrake's views. Views other than Sheldrake's are (or should be) sourced independently.

It falls over grossly on this point. Probably at least 3/4 of the material is sourced to Sheldrake himself. HrafnTalkStalk 06:16, 5 June 2008 (UTC)
That's easily fixed after we address this section and move on. --Nealparr (talk to me) 07:17, 5 June 2008 (UTC)

In this section, when making my revisions, I took the time to clearly separate what was Sheldrake's view and what was the view of Sheldrake's work independently from himself (the views of mainstream science). I didn't get a chance to finish my revisions on the entire article before the material was deleted, so I can't vouche for the sections I didn't get to. However, in this section I did clearly separate the views. After the revisions, the section is fully compatible with WP:SELFANDQUEST in the way that I describe above. --Nealparr (talk to me) 05:13, 5 June 2008 (UTC)

No you didn't -- the first sentence in 'The Presence of the Past' stated his opinion as fact, until I attributed it. HrafnTalkStalk 06:16, 5 June 2008 (UTC)
Again, apparently not reading what I write. My words, exactly, were: "In this section"! Also, the wording as I left it was "Sheldrake's second book expanded on the first, placing his hypothesis in a historical context, relating it to observations he felt had a wide-ranging explanatory efficacy."[7] His opinion was attributed. --Nealparr (talk to me) 07:17, 5 June 2008 (UTC)

(As I only directed restriction #7 against this section, I have taken the liberty to address replies to other restrictions to the article as a whole. WRT #7, this section is worse than the article generally, and is probably 90% based on Sheldrake. HrafnTalkStalk 06:20, 5 June 2008 (UTC) )

And again, as soon as you stop deleting, reverting, etc. we can move on and fix the rest of the article. That's what I was trying to do when you deleted it to begin with. I started participating in the article specifically to attribute Sheldrake's views to Sheldrake, find alternative sources so that the article as a whole isn't primarily sourced to him, and get some third-party material in there. I can't do that when you're reverting or deleting while I'm in the process of addressing -your- concerns. In fact, I could probably fix the article to your liking if you just sit it out for a week. In the very least, I won't have to ask you to please read what I write and not what you think I wrote. --Nealparr (talk to me) 07:17, 5 June 2008 (UTC)
I haven't deleted or reverted anything in the last 24 hours other than the absurd "morphing/averaging" crap and Alfonzo Green's Gardner WP:SYNTH -- do you really want to go into bat for either? And all that has happened in the meantime is removal of my legitimate tags. The only section that serious work has been attempted recently, Experimental test of the formative causation hypothesis, has gone from 100% Sheldrake to about 90% Sheldrake -- hardly a momentous shift. At this rate, the article may be in compliance with WP:SELFANDQUEST #7 before Sheldrake is dead and forgotten -- but I wouldn't count on it. HrafnTalkStalk 11:15, 5 June 2008 (UTC)

Is Sheldrake an RS for his own opinions?

Are Sheldrake's writings reliable sources for Sheldrake's opinions? Are Sheldrake's opinions and writings appropriate subjects of this article? This has already been discussed above, and I asked here. The dispute seems to be over whether Sheldrake must be a RS in general to include his claims in the article. Also, it seems that people believe that claims by Sheldrake must not be included if they are not refuted [8]. ——Martinphi Ψ Φ—— 05:29, 5 June 2008 (UTC)

The section above will give you a quick summary of the issue. ——Martinphi Ψ Φ—— 05:33, 5 June 2008 (UTC)

Specifically are Sheldrake's works, which have been branded as pseudoscience, a WP:RS for claims beyond what is permitted under WP:SELFANDQUEST? Can the article feature material from him that is only tenuously related to his notability (in Parapsychology) (WP:SELFANDQUEST #1), "contentious" (#2), "involve claims about third parties" (#4), and where the article is "based primarily on such sources" (#7)? HrafnTalkStalk 05:49, 5 June 2008 (UTC)

For all the reasons in the above section, I believe you are misinterpreting several of those numbers. #7 refers to an article not set in stone. If the issue is that there are too many sources from Sheldrake and not enough outside sources, let's fix that. If, say, 75% of the article is sourced to Sheldrake, that doesn't require a reduction of the article by 75%, especially if 50% of that is solid, relevant material. That scenario requires augmenting the article with material that is not from Sheldrake so that the ratio is more balanced. #2 is a huge misinterpretation I feel (addressed above) and #4, where? If in the article Sheldrake makes claims about third parties that aren't expressed as his personal view about third parties (eg. he feels mainstream science is reductionary), then we can remove those statements. The difference between a claim and a view, for clarity, is as follows: If I were to say that Paris Hilton came to my house and had sex with me, that's a claim. If I said I think Paris Hilton is slutty, that's my personal view. One is prohibited (claim), the other isn't (view). --Nealparr (talk to me) 07:47, 5 June 2008 (UTC)
No. It is you who is misinterpreting WP:SELFANDQUEST. Where does it state that "#7 refers to an article not set in stone" as opposed to being a general rule? Where does it state that you need only add more material (where possible) rather than removing the preponderance of questionably sourced material (where the former solution is not possible)? #2 examples: claims about eggs, the existence of anomolies and about Darwin. Where is the "expressed as his personal view about third parties" exception that you use to completely gut this restriction? WP:SELFANDQUEST applies ONLY to questionable and self-published articles about themselves, so it is only about the subject expressing their personal view, so your interpretation would render this restriction (and most of the rest of WP:SELFANDQUEST) redundant. HrafnTalkStalk 08:04, 5 June 2008 (UTC)
I'm saying that this article is not set in stone. In other words, we fix it rather than appealing to #7. Eggs, Darwin, anomalies ??? You'll have to explain what you mean because I have no clue what you are talking about. My eg. above regarding #2 is that content that is unpopular isn't what "contentious" means. Contentious means just that, prone to causing contention. Sheldrake causes contention with his views. Wikipedia does not cause contention by reporting his views. --Nealparr (talk to me) 08:12, 5 June 2008 (UTC)
The "set in stone argument" would only hold water if there was reasonable expectation of finding significant quantities of balancing scientific material -- which seems unlikely. Most in developmental biology would contest "that the reductionist model has failed to explain how an organism emerges from an egg", the relevant fields would contest that "personal memory ..., atavism and parallel evolution" are "biological anomalies" requiring 'resolution', that Sheldrake's claims bear any substantive resemblance to Darwin's work is also contentious (as Darwin's work was on the evolution of an enormous range of species by natural selection, topics untouched upon by Sheldrake). If Sheldrake's views are contentious, it means that (as he is a questionable source) we should only discuss them if they are discussed in a secondary, reliable source. HrafnTalkStalk 08:24, 5 June 2008 (UTC)
Sheldrake is a public figure that has attracted a great deal of attention from skeptical commentators regarding his work. Sourcing those views and augmenting the article with second and third party material is not a difficult task.
Regarding his work being contentious, no kidding! He's a pseudoscientist. All of the pseudoscientists mentioned on Wikipedia have contentious views, and Wikipedia still reports them. There is a huge difference between reporting on other people's views and being contentious in stating those views as fact. It's not contentious to report people's views in biographies about them, and quote their self-published material in doing so. If it were, tons of biographies on Wikipedia dealing with controversial figures would be violating #2. It's simply not contentious to say he has those views, period. --Nealparr (talk to me) 08:36, 5 June 2008 (UTC)
It is contentious to rely mainly on them as a source for the article and to present many of these pseudoscientific claims without scientific context. And if and when these sources are found, the material will have to be substantially rewritten to reflect them in any case (as I very much doubt if they'd describe it in the same way Sheldrake would), so I see no harm in reducing the preponderence of Sheldrake material in the meantime -- and benefit in terms of reducing the chance of accidental WP:SYNTH due to accidentally retaining some of the Sheldrake-derived characterisation after re-sourcing. HrafnTalkStalk 08:50, 5 June 2008 (UTC)
I don't disagree that much of the article will change/be rewritten, nor that scientific context isn't important. In fact, that's my proposal, to balance the article by adding the scientific context, rather than subtracting Sheldrake's views which are also prominent in his own biography. That's where we disagree. You'd like to delete, I'd like to add. Honestly, I don't even want to bother working on the article if there's going to be a lot of deletes and reverts while I'm trying to add/edit material. It's not worth my time. So if that's what you plan on doing, please do me the courtesy of letting me know now so I can take my leave and not waste my time. --Nealparr (talk to me) 09:07, 5 June 2008 (UTC)
If you think you can do so, without considerable duplication, then you are welcome to try. However, your efforts on Experimental test of the formative causation hypothesis, haven't demonstrated that this is viable, as the vast majority of it is still sourced to Sheldrake (even in a situation with a direct scientific involvement), most of it in more detail than the reader really needs. If Rose is happy to characterise it as 'it happened ... it failed ... other scientists agree that it failed', then I don't see any point in going into minutiae such as "lithium chloride solution" & p-values based on a less reliable source. HrafnTalkStalk 09:17, 5 June 2008 (UTC)
I was interrupted in process of working on it and reverted more than once. Why would I finish what I was doing, then or now, under those conditions? Even after I provided alternate sourcing for some of it, and reworded it to present the mainstream view rather than just Sheldrake's, you still deleted it. I'm not going to waste time playing those type of games, especially when it takes hours to read sources and provide accurate information true to the sources. --Nealparr (talk to me) 17:10, 5 June 2008 (UTC)

No, that is not what I want a comment on. No one is disputing whether or not Sheldrake is or is not an RS for claims of fact. The RfC is as stated above. I want to know whether he is an RS for what he claims, as all the statements in the article are (can be) attributed. For example, Hrafn wanted to take out the attributed things listed in this section [9]. That section also gives a good idea of the dispute here. ——Martinphi Ψ Φ—— 05:58, 5 June 2008 (UTC)

I think you may have misunderstood the disagreement Martin. Jefffire (talk) 07:29, 5 June 2008 (UTC)
I think not, as what I say is exactly what he says. See the diffs, and the sections mentioned. ——Martinphi Ψ Φ—— 18:47, 5 June 2008 (UTC)

WP:SELFANDQUEST and attribution

Both Nealparr and Martinphi claim that WP:SELFANDQUEST's restrictions can be overcome simply by attributing the claims to Sheldrake. I would like to dispute this view.

WP:NPOV#Attributing and substantiating biased statements already covers the attribution angle. Thus if attribution was all that was needed, WP:SELFANDQUEST could be reduced to #6 "there is no reasonable doubt as to who authored it;" and a reminder as to the NPOV attribution policy. Clearly it is not merely stating that (and in fact it makes no mention of attribution at all). A reasonable interpretation would therefore be that the restriction applies to claims whether attributed or not. To interpret it any other way is to gut the policy. HrafnTalkStalk 08:11, 5 June 2008 (UTC)

Again, please explain what claims you are talking about. A claim is a dubious fact (like in my example above where I claim that Paris Hilton came to my house and had sex with me). A view, or personal opinion, is not a claim. You can look up claim in the dictionary. It refers to facts or assertions of truth, not opinions. --Nealparr (talk to me) 08:16, 5 June 2008 (UTC)
I will, if first you (i) demonstrate that there is any hard and fast division between the two and (ii) demonstrate that the distinction has any relevance to WP:SELFANDQUEST, which makes no mention of "claims", "opinions" or "dubious fact" (or similar). On the first point, "that the reductionist model has failed to explain how an organism emerges from an egg" could be deemed to be either "an opinion" or "a disputed fact". HrafnTalkStalk 08:34, 5 June 2008 (UTC)
WP:SELFANDQUEST says "claims" in #4 and #5. In your opening sentence here, you said that I feel the restrictions can be overcome by attributing the claims to Sheldrake. I asked what claims are you referring to. That's the relevance. The distinction regarding views not being claims can best be described in your example: "... that the reductionist model has failed to explain how an organism emerges from an egg". That's a claim. If worded like that, it would entirely be conflicting with WP:SELFANDQUEST because Sheldrake is not reliable to turn that claim into a non-dubious fact. However, that's not how I worded it when I made my revisions. I changed it to "Sheldrake contends that the reductionist model has failed to explain how an organism emerges from an egg". That is his view, one that he "contends" (meaning heavily against opposition). The only fact there is that Sheldrake is contending it, which is a fact. Sheldrake's opinion isn't a fact itself, nor is it worded as such. As worded, it is not conflicting with WP:SELFANDQUEST. --Nealparr (talk to me) 08:48, 5 June 2008 (UTC)
Sorry, I missed those two. That only makes it relevant on two restrictions however, out of seven. I don't think you have distinguished between "claim" and opinion". "Sheldrake stated a claim that the reductionist model has failed to explain how an organism emerges from an egg" is a statement of a claim and is semantically equivalent to "Sheldrake expressed an opinion that the reductionist model has failed to explain how an organism emerges from an egg", the expression of an opinion. I have already explained why taking an 'attribution is sufficient' view would gut the policy. HrafnTalkStalk 09:08, 5 June 2008 (UTC)
I never said that attribution is sufficient. Those are your words, not mine. What I said -- regarding the section that I was talking about -- is:
  1. the material used is relevant to Sheldrake's notability
  2. it is not contentious (reporting on Sheldrake's views does not cause contention)
  3. it is not self-serving, in fact the opposite
  4. it does not make claims about third parties
  5. it is only directly related to the subject
  6. there's no doubt who authored it (here attribution is relevant)
  7. the article is under development and the sources will change, in fact I was changing them
That's what I said in the sections above. Attribution was only an issue regarding #2 (causing contention is sourcing Sheldrake as saying something contrary to what reliable sources indicate is his actual view) and #6 (attribution shows who authored it). As such, attribution doesn't gut the policy. I'm only concerned about that section, primarily because you want to delete it. The statement of Sheldrake's contention about science being reductionary isn't a concern to me. When I return to actually editing the article, I can source that independently from him. I was only copy editing when I was abruptly interrupted. I hadn't gotten to addressing the sources. I never said that if you attribute statements you can circumvent WP:SELFPUB. --Nealparr (talk to me) 10:19, 5 June 2008 (UTC)

<unindent>With respect to Experimental test of the formative causation hypothesis the only restriction I have raised is #7. Your counter, "the article is under development and the sources will change", is applicable to every article on wikipedia. Thus to permit it would gut the restriction. Further, as I have pointed out above, this section contains considerable irrelevant trivia (in my opinion at least, the section should be only half its current size, even if reliably sourced). Why is the "p-value" (meaningless to anybody who has not studied statistics) or the chemical composition of the injection (meaningless to anybody without a detailed knowledge of mammalian physiology) relevant? So why need we stoop to an unreliable source for it? HrafnTalkStalk 11:05, 5 June 2008 (UTC)

If I may interject, I think we are all getting a bit heated now. I think it may be productive to take a step back and consider some policy. Now, Neal is right that Sheldrake's opinions can be adequately cited to his own books provided they are attributed and notable. Hrafn is also correct that the current state of the article is pretty poor, and that this stems directly from giving large prominence to what I would consider minutia of things that Sheldrake believes about his work.

I think we also need to consider a degree of notability in this. For example, whilst "Sheldrake contends that the reductionist model has failed to explain how an organism emerges from an egg" does meet WP:NPoV, it isn't notable in the grand scheme of things on this subject, and just clutters up the article. If we remove things like these, but leave in his central claims, like his "morphic resonance" and such like, we wind up with a much improved article.

The most difficult part of this however is in decided amongst ourselves what is notable, and what is padding, and this will indeed take quite a lot of discussion and compromise. We should take the view that what we want at the end of this process is a first rate encyclopedia article. It does mean that a lot of text will get removed, but I feel we need to look at this like a sculpture, with the finished article being defined by what we remove. Jefffire (talk) 15:19, 5 June 2008 (UTC)

Just to avoid all the apparent drama surrounding the article, I'd be willing to sit back and let Hrafn remove all the stuff he is contesting, at least in a sandbox, just so that I know what I'm dealing with here. I don't want to spend time working on the article just to have stuff randomly deleted. What I'm wondering is that if we assume 75% of the article is problematically sourced to Sheldrake (not sure that is true, but for the sake of argument I'll assume it for the moment), and it's reasoned that all of that needs to be removed right this second per policy, what's left to work on? I'm not convinced there's a coherent article left after everything Hrafn wants removed is removed, but out of curiosity, or just to move things along, let's go ahead and do that now in a sandbox just to see what's left to build that isn't going to be contested. --Nealparr (talk to me) 17:00, 5 June 2008 (UTC)


Talk:Rupert Sheldrake/Sandbox Here it is. ——Martinphi Ψ Φ—— 18:45, 5 June 2008 (UTC)

Hrafn, can you go ahead and remove everything you want to remove in the above sandbox, so I can see what's left? --Nealparr (talk to me) 20:14, 5 June 2008 (UTC)
Done. HrafnTalkStalk 10:07, 6 June 2008 (UTC)
By done are you saying that if that version was in the mainspace, you wouldn't have any objections at all? --Nealparr (talk to me) 17:30, 6 June 2008 (UTC)
At the gross, chopping things out, level: yes. There are still a few lesser issues that I'm not perfectly comfortable over, especially in Experimental test of the formative causation hypothesis, e.g. whether the first sentence of that sentence overstates Rose's collaboration with Sheldrake (but lacking access to what Rose actually said about it, I can hardly state definitively that it is "wrong"). Also, the Experimental test of the formative causation hypothesis, possible section somewhere on Holism in Science, and Later work sections all need balancing scientific viewpoints -- but the new level of Sheldrake material isn't sufficiently bloated that its lack rings immediate alarm bells. HrafnTalkStalk 18:04, 6 June 2008 (UTC)
I don't see anything wrong with starting with that draft and moving from there. --Nealparr (talk to me) 13:41, 7 June 2008 (UTC)
It looks fine to me, but I'm not an expert on Sheldrake. Let's see what others have to say. I do think that Sheldrake's refutation paper in the Rose case deserves mention- I think you took that one out. ——Martinphi Ψ Φ—— 20:39, 6 June 2008 (UTC)
I think the presentation in the lede doesn't quite accurately reflect Sheldrake's position. From the Discover article (p. 3):

Sheldrake doesn't dispute that genes play a role in morphogenesis, but he insists that the notion that biochemistry will yield the whole story is naive. "Genes code for the sequence of amino acids in proteins, and some are involved in the regulation of the expression of other genes," he says. "But there is more to development than making the right proteins in the right cells at the right times." Sheldrake contends that the shapes cells assume and the forms of tissues, organs, and the whole animal--in other words, morphogenesis itself--are not explained by protein synthesis alone. Genes, he says, "tune" a system to one morphic field or another in much the same way that flipping a television's channel selector determines which programs it receives. Flipping the channel, he contends, does not prove that the show resides inside the TV--only that the channel selector played a part in the tuning process.

Hanegraaff (linked below) mentions that the New Scientist enquired, following Maddox' editorial, "whether this meant that Nature had abandoned the scientific method for 'trial by editorial'". I believe there were also some readers' letters to Nature itself complaining about the tone of the editorial, so a sentence or two about the controversy that followed should be added for balance. Jayen466 21:40, 6 June 2008 (UTC)

Regarding the use of primary sources, the book by Dürr et al. may be of (limited) help. For example, it mentions Driesch's entelechy hypothesis and the work of Alexander Gurwitsch as historical precursors of Sheldrake's hypothesis (p. 10). Thus there is no need to rely on Sheldrake's own statements in this regard, a secondary source is available. --Jayen466 22:04, 6 June 2008 (UTC)

That sandbox doesn't have to be just for one editor. If you think it's good for a start to work from, then we can form a consensus article, and replace the current one. So go ahead and edit. ——Martinphi Ψ Φ—— 02:11, 7 June 2008 (UTC)

Bohm and Dürr

I've added a note to the effect that both David Bohm and Hans-Peter Dürr have expressed an interest in Sheldrake's ideas (sourced to page 5, bottom, and page 6, top, of the linked Discover article, plus a reference to a book edited by Dürr and Gottwald promoting scientific investigation of Sheldrake's ideas, the introduction of which, co-authored by Dürr, is available on Sheldrake's web page). In addition, Hanegraaff mentions that Sheldrake and Bohm authored some sort of book or article together; Dürr et al. published a book in 2002 that references Sheldrake a number of times. Bohm and Dürr are (were, in the case of the late Bohm) eminent figures in their fields, so it's a significant minority position. Jayen466 18:23, 6 June 2008 (UTC)

The current version states:

Some quantum physicists such as the late David Bohm and Hans-Peter Dürr have seen potential merit in Sheldrake's hypothesis in bringing biology to terms with 20th-century breakthroughs in physics – which emphasize the primacy of fields and the indivisible nature of matter – and have sought to encourage further investigation.[31][32]

As far as I can see, that is a considerable exaggeration of what Lemley's article said about Bohm, which was:

Some physicists contend that other sciences haven't properly come to terms with this astounding fact. The late theoretical physicist David Bohm, for example, proposed that reality consists of two realms: a fundamental "implicate order" that transcends time and space and an "explicate order" comprising the familiar world of flowing time and discrete objects. Considering Sheldrake's theories in this context, Bohm proposed that "for every moment that is projected out into the explicate there would be another movement in which that moment would be injected or `introjected' back into the implicate order. If you have a fairly large number of repetitions of this process, past forms would tend to be repeated or replicated in the present, and that is very similar to what Sheldrake calls a morphogenetic field and morphic resonances." Bohm also noted that since the implicate order, by its nature, is not located anywhere, attempts to isolate or identify it would be futile.

Bohm did not state that "Sheldrake's hypothesis [brings] biology to terms with 20th-century breakthroughs in physics", just that it was consistent with Bohm's (apparently idiosyncratic) ideas on explicit and implicit order (which AFAIK isn't part of orthodox quantum mechanics). Nor could I find any mention of him seeking "to encourage further investigation" on Sheldrake's work.

Nor could I find anything in this article suggesting that Dürr was seeking "to encourage further investigation" on Sheldrake's work. If it is in the German citation, a translation demonstrating this fact needs to be provided. HrafnTalkStalk 14:53, 7 June 2008 (UTC)