Materialism, Schmaterialism

The mad scientist himself

Conservatives are, so the story goes, overly concerned with other people’s sexual mores, and they also hate science. To that end, I’d like to call attention to the rather thought-provoking work of biochemist Rupert Sheldrake, as Peter Leithart covers it in First Things. Sheldrake recently caused a stir in a TEDx talk when he suggested that science might, gasp, entail more than materialism. In other words, there might be more to the world, and to what we can be said to “know”, than just what we can deduce from our senses and the scientific method. As Leithart describes it, “What [Sheldrake] objects to—and quite rightly—is a commitment to materialism that determines what kinds of answers are possible before questions are ever asked and before any evidence is examined. And along the way he gives a tantalizing, mind-altering taste of what science might look like once materialist assumptions are shed.”

Science as it stands today, of course, can’t take immaterial considerations into account; hence Judge Korman’s demand for scientific evidence that an 11-year-old girl shouldn’t be taking the morning-after pill. But if Sheldrake is right, if science can get beyond its exclusively materialist lens, then the dichotomy I assumed in my post about Judge Korman’s override of the HHS limitations on access to the morning-after pill might be a false one. Maybe there could be a “credible scientific justification” to uphold limitations for 11-year-olds seeking access to the morning-after pill, since, I don’t know, there might be more to the 11-year-old girl than just her physical body. Better yet, science might even be able to talk about it.

Wild suggestion, but Sheldrake, it seems, might take it seriously.



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