The Alien God

Those with less faith in God tend to have more in Aliens. I came to the conclusion, back when I was regularly writing about pseudo-science, particularly extraterrestrial encounters, that the believers were more alt-religious than anything else. Which meant it was a topic where you weren’t going to change very many minds.

But something seems a bit off about this essay. As I noted yesterday talking about the story of Gef!, there was obviously a lot of superstitious belief when people were plenty more religious. I will agree that there’s clearly been a rise in superstitions with scientific veneers in the last century. (I like to say that the three great myths of our time are “U.F.O., E.S.P. and W.M.D.” — hawhaw.) And all are clearly intertwined in a search for meaning beyond the mundane.

T-Shirt Memory Souvenirs: The Natural History Exhibit Hall

Sadly, I can’t even track down any leftovers about it on the Web, but for several years Livingston Montana featured The Natural History Exhibit Hall that emphasized dinosaur fossils (along with some wonderful super-rare photo books of fossils). I had long ago moved away, but it remains a comforting memory for me. I also recall when I was a little kid and visited my first real-life reconstructed dinosaur in a little town half a day’s drive away from Livingston. “Wow,” I thought, “I sure wish there was someplace like this at home. I’d be there all the time.”

The Natural History Exhibit Hall didn’t make it (as with many operations in town, the customer traffic was too seasonal) but I treasure the memory of it, and this t-shirt.

Superb Piece on Myths About AI and Chess

I’m thrilled by this review (and the existence of its subject) for a number of reasons.

First off, I referred to this very topic in a (dare I say) prophetic post early in this blog.

Second it busts forever more the bogus reputation of chess as a game that favors brilliant minds. I grew up soaked in this hooey, which I noticed was most loudly pronounced by chess nurds (which I forgave because almost all of them were stomped like insects in other aspects of their social and intellectual lives). But I also suffered from it because I was lousy at chess (“not really so smart, huh?”). By struggling unsuccessfully to get better, I did come to appreciate that the game had its appeal and virtues, but I’ve never heard them articulated as well as Master Kasparov does here.

Finally I get the thrill of a chill by confirmation, once again, that too many people prefer zippy bullshit to the truth.

LSD at Harvard in Space and Time

Dr. Andrew Weil wrote some of the most exciting books about drugs and mind liberation I ever read.

The Natural Mind was a coherent manifesto without dropout drapery that argued many cultures used psychedelic drugs to shape young minds and the upsides were notable. Included original research into native-culture ceremonies and many insights. I have not read this completely revised version. But to be blunt I would say his original expression, warts and all, beats it.

The thing that weirded me out about his followup — The Marriage of the Sun and Moon — is that he had obviously figured cashing in on New Age vibes would pay off more than a lonely crusade to make acid experimentation a more normal and controlled part of American psychology research. Like they say, the beginning of the end.

Now he turns up every few years like a wind-up interview toy and gives the same spiel, with modifications, over and over. It’s not incorrect, though misleading I think in parts, just such a sad step-down from the potent message on mind liberation he once articulated.

But then, there was the Harvard Drug Scandal. Here’s Weil’s self-serving version.  And here’s a more balanced look back.

The Most Lunatic Legacy of the Cold War

Why the U.S. Government and the Prez in particular are more important than what they govern.

From Dr. Strangelove onward, little bits of these horribles kept floating around as a nightmare undercurrent to my youth.

On Thermonuclear War, the creepiest book I know, was my most thorough exposure.

 

PS: Here’s a piece that explains how Kahn was one of the earliest “politically incorrect” tyrants.

Remember Biosphere 2?

I knew I’d seen Steve Bannon somewhere long ago.  I paid an intense but brief session of attention to the Biosphere 2 calamities more than 20 years back because it seemed like some muddled sci-fi story come to life. Biosphere 2 did not have clear, compelling explanations of its mission, and it seemed as much con job as science. Had no clue how common its tone and temperament would become in American culture and politics.