Credit: reality-choice.org

Credit: reality-choice.org

The blog began with a consideration of Upanishadic metaphysics culminating in Shankeracharya’s Advait philosophy of Transcendental Monism, – then moved to the metaphysics of science with David Bohm’s theory of an Implicate Order and we now reach metaphysics in biology with Rupert Sheldrake’s theory about Morphogenetic Fields and Morphic Resonance. While the first two were concerned with the cosmos ( and beyond) the last has more to do with manifest Nature.

 Sheldrake is an eminent biologist who had studied at Cambridge and Harvard, travelled widely attending conferences on holistic thought, science and mysticism, where Bohm and Capra represented physics and Sheldrake was the most prominent biologist. Renee Weber (see previous post) in her book ‘The Search for Unity’ extensively interviewed Sheldrake ( among others). Below I have sought to present the substance of her seminal dialogues with Sheldrake on his hypothesis on Morphogenetic Fields.

Rupert Sheldrake

Rupert Sheldrake

Like Bohm was dissatisfied with the lack of interpretations of quantum mechanics by scientists for us, being confined to math. and equations, so too Sheldrake was dissatisfied with the mechanistic – reductionist view of biology among physiologists, biochemists and biophysicists who he felt were more physicists and chemists than biologists. This he called a major internal crisis in biology. A dissident tradition was on the other hand looking for something going beyond such a view – this group consisted of developmental biologists and embryologist, according to him the true biologists with whom he identified. They dissented from the mechanist view that the DNA and chemicals in human organisms were the sole cause of their form and properties. Everything was attributed to DNA in the mechanistic model. He felt that this was grossly over-rated. DNA was attributed unexplained powers and properties which could not be specified in molecular terms at all. This he describes as the fantasies projected onto the DNA.

Like Bohm sought to make sense of quantum mechanics by proposing an Implicate Order (previous post), Sheldrake postulated Morphogenetic Fields to explain what the DNA clearly was not doing. All that the DNA did was to provide a code enabling cells to make certain proteins. How then the cells used the proteins, organized themselves into particular forms and grouped together in tissues of certain forms and shaped them into an organism of forms was still a mystery. He gave an example to explain. DNA gave us the bricks and mortar with which the organism is built but how these are assembled into patterns, shapes and structures remained beyond known capabilities of DNA.

Sheldrake said that primary forms are defined by two fields, gravity and electromagnetism. Gravity is a kind of formation field but at a lower level, creating forms like spheres. Electromagnetic fields are also simple in contributing form but neither can explain the complexity or multiplicity of forms of organisms. He explains that as animals and plants develop, the complexity of their structures becomes greater and greater – more form coming from less, defying physical explanations.

His theory of Morphogenetic Fields proposes that there is a field which is responsible for development of form (the things which the DNA evidently does not do ). The form pre-exists in the field which guides the developing organism and controls its form and development. Each organism has a field dedicated to it. The fields are derived from past organisms of the same species through ‘Morphic Resonance’. Past forms influence present ones through the field by a kind of resonance and present forms feed-back into the field in a two-way kind of on going evolution of the same form.

He explains ‘Morphic Resonance’ with the analogy of radio and TV. Wires and transistors receive transmissions from stations. The DNA of a chicken are the wires and transistors which receive the transmissions from the Morphogenetic field of Chickens. the present approach to biology is like looking at a picture on the TV screen and examining the transistors, wires and chemicals in the TV set without accounting for the fact that the transmissions are not coming from the box. Indeed he holds that Morphic Resonance can be tested. An example is that of rats learning a new trick in one place and the rats of the same breed then learning that trick more quickly all over the world (in a later post I propose to show numerous examples of scientifically tested cases of so-called Morphic Resonance).

Weber then asked Sheldrake about the nature and characteristics of Morphogenetic fields. He explained that the fields are invisible, and like gravity has spatial patterns. The spatial patterns of a magnetic field can be seen in the iron filings on the magnet. Therefore the fields are invisible but detectable only through their effects. Morphogenetic Fields are also invisible and undetectable directly but only through the Morphogenetic effects. However they are not ‘energetic’ like magnetic fields because they are outside space and time.

Credit: shift.is

Forms are not mere archetypes in the mind of God unlike what Augustine would have said. Sheldrake proposes that they are evolutionary not fixed. While they are affected by past forms of the same type of organism through a kind of cumulative effect, the field is also affected by existing forms – a kind of two-way process through a feed-back. This is similar to Bohm’s idea of the Implicate Order ‘unfolding’ and then ‘enfolding’.

He agrees that there is a kind of persistence of memory on a cosmic scale. He then approaches the God thought. He believes that Nature itself has a source beyond the natural world. Creativity within the universe and the universe itself can only be explained through a kind of idea of transcendence – some non-physical, trans-physical reality, spiritual in nature.

Once again I sat back to allow the mind-blowing concepts to settle in. Yet another scientist, a biologist this time had opened his mind to speak of science and metaphysics seeking this time to explain development of form, their multiplicity and evolution. When the circuits had stopped whirring and the alignments had been made, once again a new mind-set had evolved. Nature was indeed alive, intelligent with memory, intent and transcendental influences. No less important the fact that we are not merely products of nature but active participants in its evolution. As Bohm’s Implicate Order was affected and transformed every time we ‘enfolded’ back into it, so too Sheldrake’s Morphogenetic Fields evolved through our individual ‘contributions’.

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