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The Sense of Being Glared At -- What Is It Like to be a Heretic?

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In September 1981 the prestigious scientific journal Nature carried an unsigned editorial (subsequently acknowledged to be by the journal's senior editor, John Maddox) titled 'A book for burning?' (Maddox, 1981). It reviewed and damned Rupert Sheldrake's then recently published book A New Science of Life: The Hypothesis of Causative Formation (Sheldrake, 1981) and raised a storm of controversy whose fall-out is still very much with us. Up to this time Sheldrake was a well-respected up-and-coming plant physiologist and the recipient of academic honours including a fellowship at his Cambridge college. The furore that grew out of the assault in Nature put an end to his academic career and made him persona non grata in the scientific community. Over twenty years later this journal still runs the risk of ostracism by publishing his work. What can explain this deep and lasting antagonism?

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2005

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