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Top botanist deconstructs dogmas of science

By Sarah Mac Donald - 11 July, 2013

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Dr Shanida Nataraja, Professor Rupert Sheldrake and Dr Marian de Souza


Well known English scientist Professor Rupert Sheldrake has said if he had choose between God and evolution he would choose God.

He was speaking to CatholicIreland.net following his public lecture at All Hallows College, ‘The Science Delusion: Is it time to deconstruct the assumptions and dogmas of science and acknowledge the place of spirituality in human experience?’

The biologist and author of more than 80 scientific papers and ten books said that in his opinion it wasn’t necessary to make that choice between God and evolution.

“I think God works through evolution and the creativity of God works through the evolutionary process. That is the view that mainstream Catholicism, Anglicanism and Methodism has taken.”

Describing himself as a practising Christian, the Anglican scientist said he believed the reason for creationists’ hardline views was as a reaction to the dogmatic atheism of people such as Professor Richard Dawkins.

“Evolution as it is commonly portrayed by people like Richard Dawkins is entirely atheistic and it is designed to show there is no God. Since creationists are convinced there is a God, then the obvious conclusion for them is that evolution is wrong.” 

“I think it is in reaction against atheistic propaganda. The point is, Richard Dawkins and these American biblical fundamentalists are perfect poles apart. He is totally atheistic and completely militant and believes evolution refutes God, so they want to refute evolution. The interesting debate is in between those two dogmatic extremes.”

The 71-year-old botanist and writer is known for his work on plant hormones, crop physiology, and for his research into parapsychology. His books and papers have delved into topics such as animal and plant development and behaviour, memory, telepathy, perception and cognition in general.

In his lecture, which was part of the ‘Changing Boundaries: Mindfulness, Spirituality and Education’ international conference hosted by the Centre for Spiritual Capital, Professor Sheldrake tackled ten dogmas of modern science including the idea that nature is mechanical.

“In the 17th century the founding fathers of modern science were all devout Christians but they created a new theology as well as a new science with a new image of God as the supreme engineer or external designer,” he told the packed lecture hall

Mechanistic theology took over and ended up taking the soul out of nature he said.

It is a theme he explores in his latest book ‘The Science Delusion’ (2012) in which he considers the consequences of modern science’s emphasis on materialism and its assumptions which by now have become dogmas.

He believes that as science frees itself from materialist dogmas all sorts of new and exciting questions open up.

He told his audience, “As soon as you question any of these materialist dogmas, and look at them scientifically, science opens up. All sorts of new and exciting branches of research become possible. We are not talking about pseudo-science, non-science or anti science but science. These dogmatic denials and materialist theories are anti science and they actually block the progress of science.”

He said that when it comes to the question of spirituality the big question is the nature of consciousness. “The really big question is if consciousness is confined to human beings and some animals or are there other forms of consciousness in the universe – is there a supreme consciousness in which the entire world of nature has its being?”

All spiritual traditions would say yes, he explained, and he added that in the Christian tradition, the other forms of consciousness were recognised to be saints, the angels and incarnated human beings.

Discussing how creativity is one of the unsolved issues for science which tends to deal with repetition, he told CatholicIreland.net that creativity is “part of the world we live in, part of the human realm and part of the natural realm.”

“For me, the creativity that is going on in evolution is much more interesting that the debates about the big question of what happened at the beginning because we don’t know what happened at the beginning – it is all speculation. But we do know that creativity is happening now.”

“We don’t understand how human creativity happens. When creative people are asked how they do it, they say ‘it comes to me’ or some of them say ‘I felt I was just inspired’. People have always spoken in terms of it coming through them as opposed to from them.”

“I think there is a creativity at work in evolution and human evolution and I think, ultimately, it is the work of the Holy Spirit, which is that breathe of creativity and life that flows through all nature and all humans.”

“But it is manifested in many different forms. I see the creative activity of God working all the time not just at the beginning but working all the time in nature. That is why an evolutionary view is so exciting because it puts creativity as an ongoing process that is working through all our lives now,” he told CatholicIreland.net

By Sarah Mac Donald

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