If you’re not familiar with the work of Dr. Rupert Sheldrake it may help to know that his most popular experiments were featured on British television in the form of specials that you can view, at least in part, on youtube, under titles like “Dogs that know when their owners are coming home.” and “Telephone telepathy.”
The topic is relevant to the latest posting by Patrick Lockerby “Thinking Machines and Semantic Quagmire” because of his definitions of “reality” and the discussion of influence upon it. Patrick brings up the concept of “everything being real,” and also talks about the necessity of perception for the “I” in “I am” to exist. (Sense.) Sheldrakes’ work clouds the arenas of the known, accepted and measurable in ways that may or may not be empirical, I leave that up to you. (Assignee’s Prerogative.)
Morphogenetics is a coming into form. (Morpho (logy) + Genesis) It is the architectural plan that tells “it” what “it” is. For instance, receptors and effectors are the two categories of proteins that effect cells. They do so by an environmental signal that is acknowledged by the membrane, (not the nucleus) of a cell that calls the cell into action. (The nucleus in charge of reproduction and/or change. The membrane is the sensory device for the input of the signal to reproduce or change. Dr. Bruce Lipton refers to this as the “skin is the brain, the nucleus is the gonad.”) The proof of this is: Remove the nucleus of a cell and it will keep on functioning as it was “set up” to do so before the removal. It will keep on “ticking” until it needs to change, then with no nucleus, it is unable to. If you were to remove the cellular membrane, you have only a broken down goo. (No more cell.) Therefore cells have perceptive awareness of environment through physical sensation. This, apparently, although I don’t truly understand how or why, means that our 50 year old ideas about DNA and RNA have grown to include the influence of environment. Lipton refers to it as “the biology of belief,” and suggests two conclusions from his findings, 1.) Perception can be mistaken and therefore is only a belief. 2.) Perception can rewrite genes, for benefit or detriment. I needn’t go on to the implications of Dr. Lipton’s work to explain Dr. Sheldrakes but if you would like to know more click Lipton's link above.
The relevance of cellular affectation bleeds into Morphogenetics as the means. In the interest of saving biologists from wasting their time explaining counterarguments to this theory, let me say two things: 1.) Appreciate what is meant by not having assigned value to this determination. 2.) By Lipton’s own admission, this concept applies to individual cells. Once cells start grouping into communities they must follow the community rules which are established by the brain. (The most fascinating aspect of Lipton’s is that cells can either grow or protect. Both actions take energy, so Survival equals Growth divided by Protection. A rule, he claims, works in all systems.) Having said that, if anyone would like to correct either Dr. Lipton or Dr. Sheldrake, by all means, fly at it here in the comfort of my safe blog...
Sheldrake claims that Morphogenetic Fields exist. Surrounding everything with energetic proponents these fields represent, in unaffected environments, the wholistic ambition of the entity. They are unable to be divided. You cannot take a slice of the field. His argument seems sound as it is repeated in physical nature: Magnets, plant cuttings, embryonic division, etcetera as well as universal nature: Fractals, Mandelbrot, perhaps, I submit, holographs or light itself. The fields are hierarchies yet contain all parts. A “whole-archy” with ascending and descending levels of organisation.
Sheldrake is attempting to detect these fields by using amputees. (I’m not sure of his methodology here, he didn’t really explain himself...) But he believes that he should be able to detect the morphic field of the missing limb. He is seeking out “proof of planning.” (Which is a digression that while I’m sure at least two or three people here would like to discuss, I am not prepared, at this instance to do so.) Rupert uses the following to illustrate: “Remove the lens from an eye of a newt. It will form a new one. The important thing to note is that it does so in a completely illogical, dare I say it, improbable and unnatural way. The physicality of the biological explanation is far beyond my ability to comprehend at this point, but Dr. Sheldrake sums it up, “As if the cells responsible for lens creation are not being instructed to replace or recreate the lens, but are “told” what a complete eye requires and to "find a way" to “make it happen.” Attractors lie in wait in the available possible forms spelled out in the morphogenetic field of any “thing” to attract cellular change. The attractors are a slice of the complete “thing.” But the attractors can be instructed to use only a portion of their ability, if I'm understanding him correctly.
Sheldrake’s Morphogenetics are for the most part being studied in terms of biology but he does argue that behaviour fields and social fields are morphic too. (Running the risk of contemplating that which is outside my forte... again, “whoops, too late.”) Quantum physics says, “There are high levels of interdeterminancy - chaos. Sheldrake says, “morphic fields are determiners. Everything is probablistic and morphic fields impose pattern on probable processes. Developing organisms, nervous systems, societies...” He asks us to think of it like TV. It is made up of parts, technically it works, but without a signal, it “does” nothing.
Morphogenetic Fields evolve via morphic resonance: the influence of particular patterns of activity on subsequent similar patterns of activity. (Collective memory.) So, if you can create a “new” thing, such as a crystal there is no resonance for that thing yet. If you keep making them and as you make more, they get easier to make. Bigger, better, stronger, faster. (The practice of existing makes one better at it?) It’s like a habit, building up in nature. These final considerations I find to be his most philosophic. Sheldrake uses Morphic Resonance to explain the unexplainable: Phenomenon such as the hundred monkey hypothesis, or the overall increase in the average IQ of an American. (His joke, not mine...) He sums it up as “the Extended Mind” and has done experiments in pursuit and made some seemingly relevant observations in forms such as: A flock of starlings move as a field. There seems to be no leader or decision being made, just morphic action. He does telephone telepathy experiments with a group of siblings because the familial comfort and experience strengthens the field via morphic resonance. (Telepathy = distant feeling.) He has one of four sisters phone one of the others and before answering the sister must announce who she thinks is calling. The results are indicative of something other than a chance determining. The siblings “shared” field and locality are imperative. The results go in the tank with strangers separated by great distances invited to the same experiment.) This apparent distance has less relevance when considering our friends, the social beasts, canus (or feline for that matter.) For instance, when wolves leave their young to go hunting. The young exhibit no distress and seem to “get active” when expecting the return of their parents with food. Sheldrake says this is morphic resonance exemplified via the stretching of the field to compensate for the distance. (Quantum entanglement/Non-locality?)
Similarly, Sheldrake’s most popular experiment involved having dog owners leave their homes, (saying “goodbye” to dear old “Spot” as per their normal routine) but at an unusual, unspecified time. They then film the dog with hidden cameras as the owners go shopping, for tea, or whatever else it is that might fill up there time. At a random time, they instruct the owner he or she can now decide when to go home. When they do the dog reacts, often by getting up from his nap and going to the door or window, waiting, expectantly. The dog doesn’t do so for any provable physical reason, for instance, he is not smelling the owner nor can her hear the car coming. In fact, it doesn’t even matter if the person is actually in the process of returning home. The only thing that matters, the totality of the effect occurs, when the owner decides to go home. The dog can sense the owner’s intent!
It all leads me to wonder, what is the domain and definition of the real?