Evolving the Evolution Debate

I’ve been reflecting on the evolution debate lately, and my frustration with the mainstream, either/or bickering carried on between the Neo-Darwinist’s and their Creationist opponents has reared its head again. How it is that people think these questions can be so clearly defined will baffle me forever.

What is Enlightenment dedicated Issue 35 to all things evolutionary, which is available in its entirety at their website. The articles "The Real Evolutionary Debate" and "A Brief History of Evolutionary Spirituality" are very thought provoking, and there’s several other resources that are worth a look. The following excerpt from the latter article regarding Friedrich Schelling’s insights intrigued me, personally:

"Expanding on a century’s worth of evolutionary thinking and the idealist philosophy of J.G. Fichte (who’d been a student of Immanuel Kant), Schelling proposed an alternative to the encroaching materialism so dreaded by his Romantic friends: an evolutionary idealism. As the opposite of materialism, the philosophy of idealism held that consciousness, not matter, was the ultimate basis of reality. And once combined with a scientific understanding of evolution, Schelling realized, idealism would represent a force with which all serious thinkers of the Enlightenment would have to contend.

"Envisioning an epic process of cosmic evolution in which an unmanifest realm of pure consciousness, or absolute spirit, is actively manifesting itself as the world of time and space through a series of increasingly complex and conscious forms — from matter to life, to mind and beyond — Schelling wrote:

News Briefs 04-02-2008

With apologies to Kuato... Open your mind. Open your mind! Open your mind!

Quote of the Day:

I'll admit that I wasn't excited about running the initial story of the mysterious sightings when it came to us last week. I was even less excited the next day when I opened the paper and saw the word “UFO” in the headline. (That's what I get for leaving the office early.)
At first glance, I screamed. Then I said a couple of bad words. I'm not a fan of tabloids and I was worried that we looked like one.
Since the story broke, and spread across the world, I've been contacted by four editors in the country congratulating me for having the “guts” and “good sense” to go with the story.
“You are listening to what the citizens are telling you, and newspapers don't do much of that any more,” one wrote.

Sara Vanden Berge, Managing Editor of the Stephenville Empire-Tribune, in this January 18 editorial.

Banachek on Project Alpha

Michael Prescott has another interesting post on his blog (one of my favourite stopovers) - mentalist Banachek (Steve Shaw) emailed Michael with a few corrections and personal thoughts on the infamous Project Alpha, which Michael has previously criticised based on a paper by Michael Thalbourne. Banachek disputes some of Thalbourne's memories of Project Alpha. What is great to see, however, is the professional and courteous manner in which he presents his side of the story - hopefully not just a one-off. Nice to see 'discussion' on these topics, rather than rhetoric.

Weekend Roundup 02-02-2008

A few things to keep you busy over the weekend...


Treasure Wars Video Collection

I mentioned last week that National Geographic was beginning a video feature titled "Treasure Wars". You can now view all of the videos in the series at the NG site, which cover topics from Nazi plunders to secret societies guarding Afghanistan's ancient treasures, and lost riches of Machu Picchu. Good stuff.

Afterlife Conference Review

SFGate.com has a good article looking at the recent conference on 'the afterlife' hosted by the Forever Foundation in San Francisco. Presenters included Loyd Auerbach, Dean Radin, Bruce Greyson, Julie Beischel and Gary Schwartz:

These academics take their paranormal work seriously; they also risk ridicule on campus and struggle to find sources of funding to investigate what happens after we die. One of the issues they face is whether an afterlife is provable by scientific method. Some, like Julie Beischel, who co-founded Arizona's Windbridge Institute for Applied Research in Human Potential, think it is.

"This is how science works," Beischel said. "There's a question and science investigates it. You can't draw a line and say, no, that's outside of science. Science doesn't have any boundaries in what it can investigate."

Nice to see sensible, open media coverage of the event.

News Briefs 01-02-2008

Little bit late today. What can I say, I try to have a life every now and then...

Quote of the Day:

About the million dollar prize, I would be worried if I were you because of the fact that we have perinormal possibilities.

Richard Dawkins, to James Randi

Bazooka Jones: New snapshot from the upcoming Indy 4 movie

For those die-hard Indy fans out there, here's this new pic of our favorite archeologist (Lara who?) wielding some serious fire power; I only hope he gets the chance to use it this time, not like in Raiders when he cowed from destroying the Ark of the Covenant.

Follow the links and you'll find an interview with Producer Frank Marshall. Harrison Ford and Shia LaBeouf (who plays the part of Indy's son Mutt... what's with George Lucas and dogs anyway??) are also appearing in February's cover of Vanity Fair magazine, and there's also a behind-the-scenes video of the photo-shoot.

-So, Doctor Jones, what was the topic of your Doctorate thesis anyway?

-Use of ordnance as a tool in archeological digs

Randi's Million

I've always wondered about the James Randi "Million Dollar" prize for his paranormal challenge - rumours have flown that there is no million dollars, while others say it's there in cash waiting. Welp, in his latest newsletter Randi has given evidence for the prize, via a PDF image taken from the prize account's financial statement. Unfortunately, I don't really have the accounting knowledge to understand some of the terminology: I understand the $4K in cash, and can take a guess at the $52K in cash equivalents. But can anyone fill me in on what the $1 million in "Investment Grade Fixed Income" means? It certainly seems that this is 'actual' money of some sort, considering the $4K in interest earned during December. But I'd appreciate clarification.

By the way: stand by for more information about the actual challenge part...I've found out some interesting things and will be posting an article soon about it all.

From Sphinx to Psi

Our good friend Robert Schoch has a new book released today, although this time around it's nothing to do with the Sphinx, pyramid cultures, or even archaeology. Instead, the new book is an anthology which looks at The Parapsychology Revolution (available now from Amazon US, or preorder from Amazon UK):

Grounded in both scientific acumen and constructive inquiry, this anthology shines a rare, clarifying light on the controversial realms of psychical and paranormal research, surveying reports, essays, and arguments from more than a century of investigation into matters such as clairvoyance, telepathy, and past-life regression.

In the past one hundred and twenty-five years-despite a relative paucity of funding and the troubling persistence of fraud-serious inquiry into the paranormal, particularly as it relates to clairvoyance and psychical perception, has successfully entered the scientific age.

Studies in the modern laboratory, employing rigorous methodology and peer-reviewed oversight, have conclusively detected statistical anomalies that suggest the presence of some not yet understood faculty of the human mind. In The Parapsychology Revolution, Robert M. Schoch, Ph.D.-a scholar widely known for his geological theories that question the conventional dating of the Great Sphinx-and researcher Logan Yonavjak introduce and anthologize core writings that underscore the range and continuing challenges of psychical research.

The book's extensive introduction and the editors' commentary on individual essays and sections highlight milestones, feuds, and key players that mark the nascent history of this fascinating and important field of research. Finally, The Parapsychology Revolution addresses and clarifies the all-important question: Is there legitimate evidence for a world beyond the ordinary?

I'll be taking a look at the book next week and reporting back, and will probably talk to Robert as well, exclusively to TDG.