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While John Michell has a brief break from this page,another living legend will be taking his place. Dr Rupert Sheldrake is a biologist and the author of The Sense of Being Stared at: And Other Aspects of the Extended Mind (Hutchinson, 17.99)
His website is Jonathan Cainer

Archive for Thursday 22nd January 2004 - Dogmatic scepticism by Rupert Sheldrake

Last week I took part in a public debate on telepathy at the Royal Society of Arts in London. My opponent was Professor Lewis Wolpert, a pillar of the science establishment.

Prof Wolpert claimed that telepathy did not exist. He provided no evidence for this opinion. He just kept repeating it, implying that those who disagreed with him must have something wrong with them.

When I summarised evidence for telepathy from thousands of scientific tests and showed a video of recent experiments he looked away from the screen. He did not want to know.

Over 80 per cent of the audience disagreed with him. The great majority had experienced telepathy themselves, particularly in relation to phone calls, thinking of someone who then rang. There is a similar situation in the country as a whole. Most people believe in psychic powers because they have experienced them personally, or seen them in their pets. Yet a minority claim these abilities are impossible, and dismiss them as superstition. Usually they have never taken the trouble to look at the facts. Like Prof Wolpert, they believe they know the truth already. But science is not about dogma, but about evidence. As I have discussed in this column over the last two months, the facts strongly support the existence of psychic abilities. It is scientific to accept these abilities on the basis of evidence, and unscientific to deny them on the basis of ignorance. Of course scepticism is necessary and healthy, and we would be foolish to believe everything we are told. But genuine scepticism is about open-minded enquiry, not denial (see the excellent website

Why are some people so afraid of telepathy? Perhaps because they fear that others will invade their mental privacy, or know what they are thinking. Some people also reject telepathy because it goes against their belief that the mind is confined to the inside of the head, and is nothing but the activity of the brain. Telepathy implies that we are interconnected with the people and animals we feel close to. For most people this is reassuring, not frightening.

Rupert Sheldrake would like to hear about people and animals who sense when someone is about to call on the phone. Email Rupert Sheldrake's researcher, with subject heading: Rupert Sheldrake.

Rupert Sheldrake

John Michell would love to hear about your experience of any unusual or unexplained phenomena.
If you have a favourite mystery subject - from spontaneous human combustion to ancient Celtic ritual sites, write to John, suggesting a theme. And if you have any answers or theories about the mysteries John will be highlighting, he would particularly like to hear from you.

Email mystery@cainer.comwith subject heading: John Michell
Please note, we regret that due to time restrictions personal replies may not be available.

John Michell is a prolific author. Below are just two of John's books which might interest you:

The Rough Guide to Unexplained Phenomena
John Michell and Bob Rickard - A fascinating collection. Look up anything from urban legends to recorded unexplained phenomena - to the existance of ghosts. All presented in an organised, easy to follow manner, in related categories. A complete index and accompanying pictures with each entry. Excellent reference - excellent read.
Who Wrote Shakespeare?
Was the most famous poet and writer of all time a fraud and a plagiarist? Was Shakespeare the "upstart crow" described by Greene as strutting in borrowed feathers, or Jonson's "Poet-Ape" who patched plays together from others' work? John Michell's witty investigation of the theories and claims reads like a series of detective stories. By the end of the book even the most faithful disciples of the Bard will find themselves asking, "Who Wrote Shakespeare?"

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