The Rupert Sheldrake Course: The Big Questions in Science

The Rupert Sheldrake Course: The Big Questions in Science

Course Website: /// Should science be a belief-system, or a method of enquiry? In the skeptical spirit of true science, Rupert Sheldrake turns the ten fundamental dogmas of materialism into exciting questions, and shows how all of them open up startling new possibilities for discovery. This course will radically change your view of what is real and what is possible.

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In a multitude of ways we can’t even begin to describe, the sciences have developed in our modern world in a way that has transformed our lives. Yet, this enormous prestige means that a fundamental problem goes ignored. And that problem is that the foundations on which contemporary science rests are extremely questionable.

In this course, Rupert Sheldrake asks the big questions in science, and endeavours to show the ways in which science is being constricted by assumptions that have, over the years, hardened into limiting dogmas. These assumptions belong to the ideology of mechanistic materialism, coming from the scientific revolution of the 17th century, and they are a set of powerful beliefs, not because most scientists think about them critically, but because they do not.

Scientists assume that nature is machine-like, and mechanical. That the laws of nature are fixed and changeless. That the total amount of matter and energy appeared out of nowhere and has remained the same ever since. That all matter is unconscious and that human consciousness is an illusion. That nature has no purpose, no teleology, that its processes are random. That there must be a material basis for everything: biological inheritence, memory storage, and that everything you’re seeing is in your mind. That psychic phenomena are merely illusory and that mechanistic medicine is the only kind that works.

Questioning all of this has essential implications for the doing of science: physics, biology, chemistry. But more important than that, questioning reveals so-called “alternative” perspectives that allow us to arrive at a more holistic truth. It also has implications on how we connect with our bodies, with each other, with the more-than-human world, and how we understand the universe and how it works. We will sit with growing chasms in these scientific fields, and unlock new ones and possibilities for research that could revolutionise science.

At the heart of this inquiry that we will be on together, we will address the crisis of conscience and confidence within the scientific world, move forward more holistically, and ultimately make the case for all of us to be optimistic about what science, reinvigorated, has to offer, and we will all be better for it.

Course structure#

This course runs from 29th June - 14th September 2022. It takes the form of lectures, live Q&As and forums, along with further reading and resources provided.

The main content of the course consists of 12x pre-recorded 40-minute video lectures released on a weekly basis via email, with transcripts available. Each lecture explores a different dogma that lies at the heart of scientific materialism. The course will be accompanied by 2x live Q&A discussions with Rupert Sheldrake enable participants to bring questions to Rupert and inquire into the course ideas in more depth. Each lecture also has an associated Forum hosted on our communication platform, where participants can post comments and questions, and discuss the themes and ideas of the course.

Scroll to the end of this page to explore the sessions in more detail.

Learning outcomes#

On completion of the course, you should be able to:

  • To understand how the natural world is alive, more like a living organism than a machine.
  • To know how to put key questions to materialist friends or family members. They may refuse to answer them, but if they engage the discussions could be really helpful in expanding their understanding and your own.
  • To recognise that the belief system that underlies modern scientific orthodoxy is just that, a belief system, sustained by ten dogmas, none of which hold up to sceptical scrutiny.
  • To understand that memory is inherent in nature. The laws of nature may be more like habits than fixed eternal ordinances.
  • To see that memories may not be stored inside brains. Instead brains may tune into them.
  • To see that the total amount of matter and energy may not be fixed.
  • To understand that genes explain only part of biological inheritance. Some inheritance depends on epigenetic modifications of the genes, giving an inheritance of acquired characteristics, and some may depend on collective memory.
  • To recognise that your mind is more extensive than your brain and stretches out into the world in every act of perception.
  • To see how phenomena like telepathy may be real and not illusory. Orthodox materialists preserve a taboo on this subject because the existence of psychic phenomena does not fit in with their worldview.

About Rupert Sheldrake#

Rupert Sheldrake, PhD, is a biologist and author of more than 90 scientific papers and 9 books, and the co-author of 6 books. He is best known for his hypothesis of morphic resonance. His books have been published in 28 languages. He was among the top 100 Global Thought Leaders for 2013, as ranked by the Duttweiler Institute, Zurich, Switzerland’s leading think tank. On ResearchGate, the largest scientific and academic online network, his RG score of 33.5 puts him among the top 7.5% of researchers, based on citations of his peer-reviewed publications. On Google Scholar, the many citations of his work give him a high h-index of 38, and an i10 index of 102. For nine years running he has been recognized as one of the ‘most spiritually influential living people in the world’ by Mind Body Spirit magazine.

At Cambridge University he worked in developmental biology as a Fellow of Clare College. He was Principal Plant Physiologist at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics in Hyderabad, India. From 2005 to 2010 he was Director of the Perrott-Warrick project for research on unexplained human and animal abilities, funded by Trinity College, Cambridge.

“[Sheldrake] throws open the shutters to reveal our world to be so much more intriguing and profound than could ever have been supposed.” – Dr James Le Fanu, author of The Rise and Fall of Modern Medicine.


Session Details#

  • The Introduction. Released: Wednesday 29 June. In many ways, the sciences have been immensely successful. From jet engines to the internet, smartphones to modern dentistry, the way the sciences have developed in our modern world has transformed our lives. Yet, this prestige is so enormous that most people don’t question the foundations on which it rests: foundations that are extremely questionable. These foundations, derived from the ideology of mechanistic materialism, came from the scientific revolution of the 17th century, and a new “scientific priesthood” of the time, who saw themselves as the saviours of mankind. This ideology is one that claims all reality is material, or physical; that there is no reality but material reality; among many other dogmas that aren’t scientific fact, but rather hardened assumptions, that have shaped contemporary science as we know it. Now undergoing a credibility crunch, Rupert Sheldrake’s call is to question these dogmas: and we will all be better for it.
  • Is nature mechanical? Released: Wednesday 6 July. Since the 17th century, the sciences have been based on the assumption that nature is machine-like; mechanical. It is made up of parts that work together mindlessly: the whole is not more than the sum of its parts. In this module, Rupert Sheldrake explores the machine model that science has been and continues to be enraptured with and why, contrasting it against an animist perspective and holistic view, tracing it back to French philosopher Rene Descartes and its entanglements with religion, ultimately arriving at the fact that nature as machine can only be a metaphor, and not the whole truth.
  • Are the laws of nature fixed? Released: Wednesday 13 July. It’s assumed within science that the laws of nature are fixed and changeless: that they’ve been the same since the very beginning of the universe in the Big Bang, and that they’ll remain the same forever, as eternal mathematical laws. But context matters. What is the long intellectual history that lies behind these assumptions? What view of nature did this espouse and impose? Who decided on eternal laws, and what did that explain away? Are these laws actually merely anthropomorphic metaphors, and what are alternative ways of explaining self organising systems and how they work? Rupert Sheldrake introduces morphic resonance, the idea of habits, rather than laws in nature.
  • Is the total amount of matter and energy always the same? Released: Wednesday 20 July. The conventional assumption is that in the Big Bang all the matter and energy in the universe suddenly appeared from nowhere, and that the total amount has remained the same ever since. Modern cosmology supposes that dark matter and dark energy now make up 96% of reality, and dark matter actually emerged as an explanation to the unanswerable question of the expansion of the universe accelerating, rather than deccelerating; though no one knows how dark matter really works, nor how regular matter and dark matter interact. Discrepancies relating to energy conservation have been ignored ignored, and it seems there may be new forms of energy. In this module, Rupert Sheldrake explores these open questions and legitimate queries, to question our supposed sureness in matter and energy theories.
  • Is matter unconscious? Released: Wednesday 27 July. “All matter is unconscious: it has no inner life or subjectivity or point of view, and even human consciousness is an illusion produced by the material activities of brains.” The “hard problem” of this materialist philosophy, fortunately, can be dissolved with panpsychism, a concept that was new to philosophy and neuroscience, but one that has, in fact, old roots in shamanic, hunter gatherer societies, religions, and more. In this module, Rupert Sheldrake argues for us to take panpsychism seriously, without stopping at human brains, to ask: is the sun conscious? Is our entire cosmic network conscious?
  • Is nature purposeless? Released: Wednesday 3 August. One of the ten big questions in science, the answer from mechanistic materialism has been a no, since the 17th century. Accordingly, nature has no purpose: anything that happens within it, including evolution, involves no teleology. Processes are random. And yet evidences showing the opposite abound, from the micro level to the belief systems adopted by entire peoples: and still materialists and mechanistic scientists deny purpose, on principle. In this module, Rupert Sheldrake shows how this dogma not only seems to be plainly wrong, but also is simply not true.
  • Is all biological inheritance material? Released: Wednesday 10 August. In this module Rupert Sheldrake opens up the question of the nature of inheritance, and the degree to which material inherited through genes and epigenetics can explain it. At the heart of contemporary biology is the unchanging principle that inheritance must be material, that there must be a material basis for everything that’s inherited. Yet our ancestors didn’t assume so. The Human Genome Project too, which was to be one of the pinnacles of biology as a science, was a disappointment. Between the missing herxitability problem and epigenetics, the chasms have been growing: the seeming certainties provided by Dawkins type Neo Darwinism are just melting away.
  • Are minds confined to brains? Released: Wednesday 17 August. The materialist dogma is that matter is the only reality and that matter is unconscious, the whole universe is made of unconscious matter, our brains are made of matter, and, therefore, they ought to be unconscious like everything else. Unfortunately for the materialist theory, we’re conscious. In this module, Rupert Sheldrake asks: “Is your mind really all inside your head?” He proposes that everything you’re seeing is in your mind, but not in your brain: a question that unlocks entire new fields and possibilities for research that could revolutionise science.
  • Are memories stored as material traces? Released: Wednesday 24 August. Nobody knows exactly how memory works. But within the materialist framework, there is no alternative conceivable aside from the fact that memories must be stored through modified nerve endings and phosphorylated proteins, and are wiped out at death. Philosophers have proposed that memory works by a direct connection across time. In this module, Rupert Sheldrake explores the research on memory traces, interrogating the very concept of memory storage, and puts forth morphic resonance as an answer to the memory conundrum.
  • Are psychic phenomena illusory? Released: Wednesday 31 August. Whether or not telepathy is impossible or illusory is the best litmus test for dogmatic materialist worldviews. In this module, Rupert Sheldrake provides an overview of the scientific investigation of seemingly unexplained phenomena, proposes his theory of what is the science behind telepathy within the human, between the human and the more-than-human worlds, promising a paradigm-shift of minds as expanded, extended, and interconnecting us with our environments.
  • Is mechanistic medicine the only kind that really works? Released: Wednesday 7 September. According to the mechanistic materialist orthodoxy—the belief system or worldview we discuss in this series—the body is a machine, or a “lumbering robot” to use Richard Dawkins phrase. Thus, the body can be treated by medicine, chemically or physically. This ideologically drives the funding of medical research in most parts of the world. Taking us through evidence, historical, scientific, and otherwise, that suggests we need alternatives, Rupert Sheldrake questions the realm of medicine that affects so much of our lives.
  • The Conclusion. Released: Wednesday 14 September. Despite the fact that more is spent on science than ever before, the actual rate of innovation in science of true breakthroughs has decreased dramatically. What we have now is largely incremental improvements, overall leading to a crisis of conscience and confidence within the scientific world. In this concluding module, Rupert Sheldrake puts forth alternatives, which are not fringe movements, unknown pathways, or radically new perspectives, but rather ways forward holistically instead, and makes the case for all of us to be optimistic about what science, reinvigorated, has to offer.


All Events #