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Rupert Sheldrake on learning by doing, cancel culture and the moral vacuum at the heart of education





Rupert Sheldrake
Image: BBC

Rupert Sheldrake is a biologist and author of more than 100 scientific papers and 9 books, and the co-author of a further 6 books. His books have been published in 28 languages. And on ResearchGate, the largest scientific and academic online network, his Research Interest Score places him in the top 4% of scientists.

It’s fair to say that Rupert is something of a controversial figure. This can be seen in the response to his first major work A New Science of Life, published in 1981, in which advanced the hypothesis of morphic resonance, the idea that there’s a kind of memory in nature. As we discuss in this episode, this book was described somewhat illiberally – on the front cover of Nature, no less – as a “book for burning”.

It’s also fair to say that the controversy surrounding Rupert’s work has not really abated since then. Rupert’s work largely focuses on asking questions that probe at the edges of the materialist understanding of reality. This can be seen in his later books ‘seven experiments that could change the world, dogs that know when their owners are coming home, and the sense of being stared at.

In this conversation we mainly discuss Rupert’s two most recent books, Science and Spiritual Practices and Ways to Go Beyond And Why They Work. This is a fascinating conversation in which we discuss:

  • the rather peculiar penchant within science education for using the passive voice - 'a test tube was taken', rather than 'I took a test tube'…

  • The horrors of being a biophile working in animal vivisection

  • The way in which nature is structured as a hierarchy of nested wholes

  • The way in which materialism eats itself

  • What Rupert describes as the moral vacuum at the heart of education

  • And the fact that cancel culture is nothing new, and has in fact existed within science for several decades

Lots to pack into just over an hour!

Let me know what you make of this episode - see below for links.



The Rethinking Education podcast is hosted and produced by Dr James Mannion. You can contact him at, or via a social platform of your choosing:


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