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No. 31: Jan-Feb 1984

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The hypothesis of formative causation lives!

Rupert Sheldrake's hypothesis has been roundly condemned by many scientists, presumably because it departs so radically from current thinking. Basically, the hypothesis maintains that the forms of things (from crystals to life forms) and the behavior of organisms is influenced by "morphic resonance emanating from past events." Convergent evolution, wherein human eyes closely resemble squid eyes, might well be explained by the hypothesis.

Sheldrake has been testing his idea in various ways. One experiment involves the accompanying illustration containing a hidden image. Once the solution of this illustration is learned, it is hard to forget, but few people see the answer right off. The hypothesis of formative causation insists that once one or more persons learn the drawing's secret, the easier it will be for others to see the solution. Actual tests consisted of broadcasting the illustration and its solution (that is, the hidden image) on English television combined with before-and-after checks elsewhere in the world outside TV range. The results strongly supported the hypothesis, for it was far easier for people outside England to identify the hidden images after the broadcast.

(Sheldrake, Rupert; "Formative Causation: The Hypothesis Supported," New Scientist, 100:279, 1983.)

Comment. With all this prior publicity, the hidden image should pop immediately into the reader's mind. But if it doesn't, look under the Psychology Section -- an appropriate spot since telepathy might be involved rather than Formative Causation! Of course, Formative Causation can explain telepathy, too.

Illustration containing a hidden image
(Click on image to view hidden image)

From Science Frontiers #31, JAN-FEB 1984. 1984-2000 William R. Corliss