dog wink

It is a phenomena that most pets owners have observed. Their dog or cat seems to know hen you or another familiy member is coming home. This doesn’t mean that it knows it is 6 pm and that you always come home at that time. It could be that it senses its owner arrival from a random errand. It’s not the sound of your car coming down the street or the sound of you walking up the path to the door. The animal just knows.

This has been called “animal telepathy.” The rather controversial biologist, Rupert Sheldrake, has been studying this for quite some time.

Sheldrake, a biologist and author, is probably better known for his theory of morphic fields and morphic resonance. If animal telepathy sounds like science at the fringe, then morphic resonance is beyond the fringe. It posits a vision of a living, developing universe with its own inherent memory and he gets lots of criticism for his theories that push beyond traditional science.

He worked in developmental biology at Cambridge University and he was Principal Plant Physiologist at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), in India.

In a podcast he says that modern science is mired in various dogmas – boundaries that trap thinking. These boundaries are the lines you’re not supposed to color outside of or cross. Doing so jeopardizes your standing in academia and your field.

Sheldrake does not believe that science is really the realm of free inquiry, or is very open to new ideas. He put forward this idea in his book, Science Set Free.

bookThis post’s title focuses on his followup book, Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home. That book covers his research into the telepathy he proposes existing between humans and animals, particularly dogs.

He believes that this kind of interspecies telepathy is real and that morphic resonance explains why it is possible.

In his 2003 book, The Sense of Being Stared At, he explored telepathy and precognition. In keeping with his view on the practice of science today, he feels that our mechanistic view of the world is a delusion.

He is quite a divergent thinker and has to take his punches for writing about “pseudo-scientific” theories. His distrust of science doesn’t win him many friends in science. His theories on the consciousness of atoms and stars are hard for scientists to accept. What seems to really annoy Sheldrake is that many of them refuse to even listen to his talks or read about his work. It is just dismissed outright.

I am not so much a proponent of his theories as I am a proponent of being open to this kind of very divergent kind of thinking. Morphic resonance means that memory is inherent in nature. That means that an ant colony or pigeons or tomato plants inherit a collective memory from all previous incarnation of their kind. It also posits that they have an interconnectedness. It is call “telepathy” for lack of a better term, but it really needs a better term because to the average person “telepathy” has connotations of mind-readers, ESP and other related-but-not-the-same phenomena.

Does Sheldrake encourage these associations? He does by the connections he makes to paranormal subjects such as remote viewing. His criticisms of traditional science and even his non-traditional explanations of standard subjects like memory and inheritance in biology work against his acceptance by the science ruling class.

And I don’t know if he much cares for their approval any more.

He has found support in the New Age movement with New Age voices (like Deepak Chopra), but those are people who also operate outside of conventional science and receive similar criticisms.

I first came upon his work in an article I read years ago on Carl Jung’s ideas about the collective unconscious. Jung believed that there are collective memories that are shared across individuals. This includes some of our behaviors which we inherit through repetition over generations. Jung called theses archetypes. Sheldrake takes this a step further. Jung assumed these archetypes were transmitted to the next generation through physical and traditional inheritance. Sheldrake attributes it to morphic resonance and rejects the explanation that they are passed on by “mechanistic biology.”

That is quite radical and, for many, dangerous thinking.

That means that your dog is learning from other dogs. And not just from the one next door and the ones at the dog park, but from those living thousands of miles away.

I have owned a number of dogs in my lifetime (none currently) and I know that I would be included in the group that feels they know much more than we do about certain phenomena. My mom  would tell me that my dog, Romper, would get excited five or ten minutes before I came home, and head for the door that I would enter. It wasn’t just the clock time, since that varies. (Though it would be amazing enough if the dog knew it was 6 p.m.)  It was not a crossed signal from a I-want-to-go-out moment she was having. It was something else.

As fringe as Rupert Sheldrake’s ideas may seem, others have suggested even further interconnectedness. I was watching a video on the “interspecies Internet” on a TED talk. Could there be an Internet that connects us with dolphins, apes, elephants and other highly intelligent species? Cognitive psychologist Diana Reiss, musician Peter Gabriel, computer engineer Neil Gershenfeld and Vint Cerf (one of the fathers of the Internet) talk about the idea. Their own interest cross in talking about Reiss’ work with dolphin communication via a keyboard, Gabriel’s casual experiment in playing music with a bonobo (a great ape), Gershenfeld’s work on the internet of things and Cerf’s work on the very earliest guiding principles of the internet.

I always remind my students that there is the Internet and there is the (World Wide) Web. And they are not the same thing.

Rupert Sheldrake’s website is