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Presence of the Past: Morphic Resonance and the Habits of Nature Paperback – July 1, 2011
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- Publisher : Icon Books; 2nd Revised ed. edition (July 1, 2011)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 512 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1848313063
- ISBN-13 : 978-1848313064
- Item Weight : 14.8 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.08 x 0.59 x 7.8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #652,436 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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In this follow up book, The Presence of the Past, Sheldrake presents numerous phenomena and experiments supporting his ideas.
As he did in his previous book, he explains how genes are overrated and proposes morphogenetic fields as a possible solution to the question of what lies behind the different forms of different organisms. He also talks a bit about experimental evidence for the Lamarckian idea of acquired characteristics and explains how morphogenetic fields can help explain how said characteristics are passed down.
The different phenomena and experiments presented as evidence for morphic resonance are quite varied. As well as ones shown in the Morphic Resonance book, like crystal formation, milk bottle opening blue tits and human performances in IQ tests, there are also a number of others as well, such as the nest building behaviour of Paralastor wasps and experiments involving people using things like Russian typewriters and Morse code.
One particularly interesting aspect of Sheldrake's ideas is how they can be used to explain memory. The standard explanation is that there are specific parts of the brain storing memory, yet no such specific parts have been found. Sheldrake's explanation is that our brains act as receivers using morphic resonance to tune into ourselves in the past. Forgetting occurs when appropriate morphic fields are not established.
Morphic fields also explain how things like termite colonies and fish shoals manage to act almost like a single unit. Morphic fields link different members of a group, allowing them to perceive what their fellows perceive. This would also provide an explanation for the "paranormal" phenomena of telepathy.
In the context of evolutionary biology, morphogenetic fields explain how such things as atavism (when ancestral traits appear in an organism) and convergent evolution (when unrelated organisms bear noticeable similarities in their basic form), as a result of morphic resonance causing the morphic fields of an organism to tune into the morphic fields of other organisms from the past or present and reproducing aspects of those other organisms' forms.
Sheldrake shows how morphogenetic fields can be tested using various experiments. He also offers possible explanations for cases where morphic resonance is not detected, such as the possibility that morphic resonance on Earth could be swamped by the morphic resonance of other worlds in our universe (and perhaps even in other universes as well) where things that have occurred here already occurred long ago, and also the idea that maybe morphic resonance reacts with things from the future as well as (or even instead of) things from the past.
Overall, The Presence of the Past was at least as interesting, if not more so than Morphic Resonance. The arguments are persuasive and are presented in a clear and concise manner. And best of all, the ideas are testable. Hopefully Rupert Sheldrake's work will one day be recognised as a truly paradigm shifting chapter in the history of modern science.
Author Rupert Sheldrake writes in a dense scholarly way with extensive reference to the history of philosophy and sciece. Unfortunately he introduces too many terms that are not well explained--terms like morphic fields, morphic resonance, chreodes, and so on. He offers no real evidence for these concepts, and only a few rather weak experiments to support any part of his system. It took me several years to finish this book, and it was thought-provoking, but I still don't grasp, not really, the basic concepts.
Still, if you're open-minded and looking for the answers to everything, don't overlook this book. It's profound. It's deep. Too deep for this reader, but might be just what you're searching for. reviewed by Louis N. Gruber.
Sheldrake, a biologist, examines the many anomalous phenomena that seem to cut against some very basic beliefs about "how things work." The book integrates observations from many different fields of endeavor from physics to biology to psychology. The scope of this work as as wide as it is deep.
If you have ever read Thomas Kuhn's "Structure of Scientific Revolutions," this book will resonate along the same lines for you. Well worth your time and money.
Top reviews from other countries
But that's all history. In 2009, Rupert re-release "A new science of life" and two years later this book. In between and probably still after, he appeared in a number of TV and radio interviews, where he closely explains the concept. The interest in this particular approach has risen during last three decades, and the heated debate of scientists between reductionists and holistic approach is getting more and more commercialized. Rupert offers an explanation somewhere in the middle.
On one hand you have hard physicists with highly reductionist approach, who reject any holistic phenomena (like telepathy or accupuncture). On the other hand you have "sort of" holists, with quantum or dualistic or interactionist approach, who reject any reductionist approach, rendering it inefficient, if not useless and absolete. The concept of mophogenesis comes out of vitalist doctrine, where certain laws has been eblished some while ago, and is highly reductionistic. The terms like chreodes are here for a while holons, but as I said earlier, Rupert added a twist to it, and saw a system where reductionists saw only a parts. The concept of morphic fields is not really reductionistic at all. Quite an contrary, highly holistic and I would say spiritual, which could be translated as pseudo-scientific, as it brings the topics and explanations of phenomena, that are usually rejected by orthodox reductionists.
Morphic fields is very broad concept, bringing new terms and views, like motor fields (fields responsible for all movement) or mental fields(fields responsible for the consciousness). The concept has many valid points that somehow rule out some well-established rules within science generally. He explains the phenomena like telepathy, evolution, and memory by bringing into a bigger picture many more aspects of reality. The debate goes around most dubious concepts, like matter and energy (where is the line between them, if there is any), or brain and mind (phenomena of consciousness and memory), and offers usually simple, understandable, and effective explanation. The reading is very informative and compelling. Highly thought provoking too. Recommend to all spiritual scientists out there.
I find Sheldrake's writing a little variable. For example, his discussion of the philosophy of science is very well written. He clearly explains complex ideas and shows their limitations without being dismissive. The weakness in his writing comes when he discusses his own theories. He seems to tag them on as an afterthought. I found myself wanting him to put a bit more meat on the bones of his theories and to worry a little less about appearing as an observer who seeks evidence one way or the other to confirm or deny his hypothesis. Personally, I'd prefer him to write with belief rather than detachment.
Having not been hugely positive about the book, I must say I do have a great admiration for Sheldrake. This is partly why I've given 4 stars. The main reason for the score though, is that despite its flaws the book does point towards a new way of understanding reality. That's no small thing. I have the Science Delusion sitting on my shelf and will read that shortly, but I expect that to really get tune into Sheldrake's morphic field I'm going to have to read 'A New Science of Life'.
There is a possibility that the natural world and that includes everything that grows including us - has an ancient memory - a collective memory - which it is natural for us to draw on. He describes this fact as Morphic Resonance.
It is a book I keep near within reach and dip into regularly.