Sheldrake Claims Dawkins Got Interview through Misrepresentation

There was a bit of a storm a few months ago when news broke about Ben Stein’s film covering the sacking and persecution of scientists and supporters of Intelligent Design, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. A number of the Darwinists featured in the movie claimed that the interviews had been gained through false pretences. One of these, as I recall, was Richard Dawkins. However, from an article by Dr. Rupert Sheldrake in the February edition of the magazine of high weirdness, the Fortean Times, it appears that Dawkins himself, or rather his producers, used similar tactics in getting him to appear on camera. 

Sheldrake is a scientific maverick. A biologist, he became notorious for his theory of morphic resonance, a non-Darwinian theory that explained the emergence of new features, both physiological and behavioural, through probabilistic morphic fields. Nature magazine denounced his book expounding the theory, A New Science of Life, as ‘the best candidate for burning since Galileo’, and in the ensuing controversy he lost his academic tenure. This did not stop his research, however, which continued independently and included telepathy, which he felt morphic resonance could explain. It was because of his research into psi that he was contacted by a production company, IWC, who stated that Dawkins was interested in discussing his research. Sheldrake himself was reluctant, but agreed to an interview with Dawkins after being promised by the production team’s representative that it would be ‘an entirely more balanced affar than The Root of All Evil?‘, which was Dawkins polemic against religion.

Sheldrake was contacted by the production company shortly before the filming of Enemies of Reason, Dawkins polemic against the paranormal, and in the event the programme was as biased as Dawkins’ previous documentary. The interview duly went ahead, and Sheldrake and Dawkins talked about telepathy. Sheldrake states in the article that he had sent copies of some of his papers, giving the evidence from his research for the existence of telepathy, in peer-reviewed journal to Dawkins the previous week. However, when Sheldrake attempted to discuss the evidence with him, Dawkins looked uneasy, stated he didn’t want to discuss it, and said that it wasn’t what the programme was all about. At this point filming stopped. The director, Russell Barnes, confirmed that he wasn’t interested in evidence, and that the film was merely another piece of polemic by Dawkins. When Sheldrake complained that he had ‘made it clear from the outset that I wasn’t interested in taking part in another low-grade debunking exercise’, he got the reply from Dawkins, ‘It’s not a low-grade debunking exercise. It’s a high-grade debunking exercise.’

Sheldrake then stated that there had obviously been some serious misunderstanding, and produced the emails from Barnes’ assistant claiming that the interview would be balanced. Barnes apparently read them ‘with obvious dismay’, and said that the assurances he had been given were wrong. The production crew then packed up and left.

Now let’s be clear here: Sheldrake is not accusing either Dawkins himself nor the director, Russell Barnes, of gaining the interview with him through deceit. He is, however, stating that the production team’s assistant misled him, and that the interview with Dawkins went ahead because of this deception. Now, while Dawkins isn’t being personally accused of deception here, nevertheless it could be seen as hypocritical for him to be claiming to have been misrepresented in Stein’s movie when interviews for his films have also been gained through misrepresentation.

Anyway, if you want to read the whole story, see the article ‘Richard Dawkins Calls’ in the Fortean Times on page 55.

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One Response to “Sheldrake Claims Dawkins Got Interview through Misrepresentation”

  1. JOR Says:

    It’d be hypocritical of him, sure, but that doesn’t let Stein off the hook if Dawkins is telling the truth about Expelled.

    I don’t put it past either of them to engage in that sort of dishonesty. As for whether one or both of them has, I’ll let those more interested in these celebrity feuds sort out the details.

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