News Briefs 22-04-2008

Happy birthday Mr Doppelganger!

Quote of the Day:

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.

Dwight Eisenhower (1961)

Richard Dawkins and the God-Like Aliens

Now that's a title I've been wanting to write since...oh, at least my teenage years. In an L.A. Times op-ed, biologist (and outspoken atheist) Richard Dawkins comments on a topic I've been wanting to see him discuss for some time: the "advanced-aliens-as-gods meme". His comments come in the wake of him broaching the topic in his interview for the controversial "intelligent design" documentary, Expelled - to his detriment...

Intelligent design "theorists" (a misnomer, for they have no theory) often use the alien scenario to distance themselves from old-style creationists: "For all we know, the designer might be an alien from outer space." This attempt to fend off accusations of unconstitutionally importing religion into science classes is lame and disingenuous. All the leading intelligent design spokesmen are devout, and, when talking to the faithful, they drop the science-fiction fig leaf and expose themselves as the fundamentalist creationists they truly are.

Nevertheless, despite their notorious dishonesty, I sometimes hand an olive branch to these people by pretending to take their "space aliens" political ploy seriously. Unrealistic as the space alien theory is, it constitutes intelligent design's best shot...

Creationists...never miss a trick. When I have raised the science-fiction olive branch to try to argue against them, they have twisted it -- most recently in a movie scheduled to open this week -- in order to proclaim loudly, "Dawkins believes in intelligent design after all." Or "Dawkins believes in little green men in flying saucers." Or "Dawkins is a Raelian." It's called "lying for Jesus," and they are completely shameless.

As is usual, Dawkins's article is a mix of the excellent - such as his clarification of evolution being down to luck ("In fact, natural selection is the very opposite of a chance process") - and the not-so-good. In this latter group, you have disingenuous qualifications such as in the sentence "The distinguished molecular biologists Francis Crick and Leslie Orgel advanced a version of the notion, probably tongue in cheek, called 'Directed Panspermia.'" (surely Dawkins knows that Orgel and Crick were deadly serious at the time, though decades later they may have had reservations in light of newer research on the origins of life on Earth).

Once again, also, the 'God' of Richard Dawkins appears to be some long-bearded dude with a flowing white robe. To be fair, that is also the conception of many of those that he is arguing against, so it is understandable to a point. But more intelligent people do have ideas about a 'God' as being more related to consciousness or energy, rather than some simplistic 'mega-man'. And returning to the 'aliens as gods' argument, it may also be completely wrong to consider their development as being related to our own in any way. To say "they still had to have evolved like us" is a fallacious argument, if such creatures actually did create life and evolution itself...it would be arguing from a false premise. Furthermore, contra to Dawkins claims that such creatures would not really be 'gods' because they didn't create the Universe, there is also the 'Universe as a simulation' argument (from people like Nick Bostrom) to consider...which basically does entail a "creator" of some description, however (relatively) 'mundane'.

Anyhow, I'm glad that Richard Dawkins brought the topic up, because I find it fascinating. The commentary above isn't meant as a rebuttal to him, or as support for ID proponents...more just a kicking around of some very interesting ideas. For more reading on the 'aliens as gods' topic, I definitely recommend astrobiologist David Grinspoon's book Lonely Planets, which discusses some possibilities in the later chapters.

News Briefs 21-04-2008

Apocalypse now!

Quote of the Day:

We must act as if the apocalypse has already occurred.

Terence McKenna

Alien Worlds #2

Issue 2 of Alien Worlds magazine has been released, and there is some fabulous content within. Paul Devereux details his research into 'earth lights', Nick Redfern offers an update on his 'Saucer Spies' research, and Stuart Miller interviews 'circlemaker' and documentary producer John Lundberg about the making of his UFO-intelligence agency film "Mirage Men". Much more besides, check out the website for details - well worth supporting this mag, which seems to be pushing 'ufology journalism' in some decent directions.

News Briefs 18-04-2008

Butterfly wings will be flapped at half mast today... Vaya con Dios, Mr. Lorenz...

Quote of the Day:

"There are two ways to live your life: one as though nothing is a miracle; the other as though everything is..."

Albert Einstein

Attack of the Crystal Skulls

As expected, the 'mystery of the crystal skulls' is becoming more and more a hot topic in the lead-up to the new Indiana Jones movie, slated for release next month. As mentioned in the news briefs earlier this week, Archaeology.org have posted quite a detailed and interesting feature about the crystal skulls, which I recommend anyone interested have a good read of. As mentioned in the article, and previously here on TDG, most of the mystery/controversy revolves around the provenance of the "Mitchell-Hedges skull" - and there is a good website devoted to that topic, the official Mitchell-Hedges website. Lastly, we also now have a Red Pill entry about the skull, kindly provided by our good friend, researcher Filip Coppens.

News Briefs 17-04-2008

Is Absence of Evidence Evidence of Laziness?

Danke, Herr Rick

Quote of the Day:

”We are participators in bringing into being not only the near and here but the far away and long ago. We are in this sense, participators in bringing about something of the universe in the distant past and if we have one explanation for what's happening in the distant past why should we need more?”

John Wheeler

Bush's War

I love history. And I'm a sucker for historical documentaries, which reveal how things unfolded, action by action. So, I just have to point you towards the recent Frontline documentary "Bush's War". It's just a wonderful, concise but insightful look at a defining part of our history - told by many of those who were there. On the Frontline website you can view the complete documentary (4 hours or so), which charts developments from 9/11 through to the modern day, as well as loads of extra content: complete interview transcripts, background articles, extra video content, timelines, etc. It's sad and enlightening, all at once.

I'm very sorry to have hardly heard anything about this documentary in the news or online. A sad state of affairs when something of this importance is ignored, but everyone clambers for their dose of celebrity gossip. What have we become...

Sci-Am Expelled

Following in the footsteps of the Dawkins-Myer 'gatecrash' of the anti-evolution movie Expelled, Scientific American has now posted a multi-part feature debunking the controversial film. Except this time, it was anything but a gatecrash, with the movie's producer actually approaching Sci-Am:

You wouldn't expect Scientific American to take a particularly positive view of a movie that espouses intelligent design over evolutionary biology. Then again, you wouldn’t expect the producers of said film — in this case, Ben Stein’s Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed — to offer the editors of said magazine a private screening.

Associate producer Mark Mathis showed up at our offices with a preview of Expelled in hand. That's right, the unexpected screening happened. The unexpected positive reviews did not.

Reviewers included the ubiquitous Michael Shermer (so much so, he's even in this film), Sci-Am editor in chief John Rennie (who attacks the movie's attempts to link the theory of evolution to the Holocaust), and Steve Mirsky who sums everything up with "Six Things in Expelled that Ben Stein Doesn't Want You to Know".

So all in all, another good day of publicity for the makers of Expelled...

News Briefs 16-04-2008

I'm so sick I've completely lost my voice. I can only make wheezing sounds not unlike a Victorian mansion's rusty iron gate blown by chilly winds off moonlit, fog-shrouded moors. My head feels like it's filled with congealed porridge, so I'll have to watch out for Scottish zombies. It could be a gypsy curse, or because a cat sneezed in my face last week. I may be feverish, but said cat is right now telling me to get on with the news...

Thanks Greg.

Quote of the Day:

Descartes believed the only kind of mind was the conscious mind. Then Freud reinvented the unconscious. Then Jung said it's not just a personal unconscious but a collective unconscious. Morphic resonance shows us that our very souls are connected with those of others and bound up with the world around us.

Rupert Sheldrake, from an interview with Salon (Nov. 23 1999)