Tonight the SyFy Channel begins its new line of dark "reimaginings" of classic fairy tales with an original "movie," Beauty and the Beast. I put "movie" in scare quotes because critical reaction has not been kind. I'm not looking forward to this one.
This morning's edition of Salon featured an interview with the authors of What Darwin Got Wrong, a book that questions the theory of evolution "scientifically." In the interview, the authors discuss the fact that "Darwinism" assumes that traits are inherited individually, whereas in the real world some traits are linked genetically and inherited together. This, therefore, disproves evolution as currently understood because there is no way for contemporary observers to know which of the linked traits the environment selected for and which went along for the ride.
The real problem the authors have is with the idea of "just-so" stories used to explain the emergence of traits. For example, the proposal that peacocks grew large tails to impress females, or zebras developed stripes to confuse lions. These types of stories, they say, can't be proved and cast doubt on Darwinism, especially in cases where linked traits cannot be separated and treated as independent variables.
I'm afraid I don't follow the logic. Just because one trait hitches its wagon to another does nothing to disprove the notion of natural selection. Even if we can never really know which traits the environment acted upon, our epistemological conundrum has absolutely zero impact on the actual world where the environment is acting on real, living organisms. It is rhetorical sleight of hand to claim that just because we cannot know something 100% we cannot know it at all.
Oh, and nobody but creationists talks about "Darwinism." Contemporary evolutionary theory has made many leaps and bounds since Darwin (who, after all, knew nothing of genes or DNA).
Newsweek has a nice article on the Gobekli Tepe site in Turkey, the ancient temple complex whose discovery was announced last year. The impressive stone temple site dates back 11,500 years, making it the oldest known human ceremonial center--6,000 years older than Stonehenge.
There has never been a truly great adaptation of a Lovecraft story (and I think it is possible, despite suggestions to the contrary), but somehow they keep making stuff like this. Good, awful? I'm not sure.
My science-fiction/horror story "The Writing on the Wall," about an expedition to a distant planet and the enigma it uncovers there, was picked up by Lame Goat Press for its forthcoming anthology No One Can Hear You Scream, due out later this year.
This morning's New York Times reports that archaeologists have found traces of ancient sea-farers who arrived on Crete sometime between 100,000 and 700,000 years ago, pushing back the first-known human maritime voyages by tens of thousands of years. Previously, the earliest known voyages were those that brought humans to Australia roughly 60,000 years ago.
The other day I received an email from a reader who informed me that she had begun receiving visits from spiritual beings from another dimension and wanted to know if I was interested since I had written so eloquently on the topic of aliens. While the reader clearly believes she is in contact with these beings, I wonder how she came to write to me, since I like to think I have made it clear that I have yet to see any evidence of the supernatural. I must say that I am at a loss for how to respond.
I’ve received quite a bit of criticism recently for my suggestion in articles and in Knowing Fear that supernatural fiction is not an anti-scientific plot to turn the population into believers in ghosts and psychics. (I was amazed to learn that some people feel guilty for enjoying supernatural fiction for fear of endorsing the untrue.) For my efforts I have been accused of contributing to child abuse (by allegedly encouraging exposing children to the supernatural) and for betraying the cause of science and reason. Many have seriously suggested that skeptics and rationalists work to remove horror and the supernatural from mass entertainment to protect children from unreason.
Here is my proposition for everyone who thinks ghost stories are rotting young (and old) minds. If you want to take away my ghosts, vampires, and werewolves because they are not real, then you must give up your warp drives, hyperspace, and time machines. I have news for you: Star Trek isn’t real, either, and all that “fake” science may well be warping just as many young minds. Just because you like the impossible stuff in sci-fi and dislike the impossible stuff in horror, one is not ipso facto more legitimate than the other. We call these things fiction for a reason. Live and let live.
A new book of essays on Robert Bloch, the author of Psycho, name checks me and links my theory on the development of the horror genre to Bloch's body of work. Thanks to Rebecca Janicker, who has reviewed my work in Science Fiction Studies, for including me in her essay, "'Better the House than the Asylum': Gothic Strategies in Robert Bloch's Psycho" in Benjamin Szumskyj's The Man Who Collected Psychos: Critical Essays on Robert Bloch (McFarland, 2009).
Lionsgate Films has bought the rights to The Last Exorcism, a documentary-style movie following an evangelical minister during his final attempt to cast out a demon, described as "The Exorcist shot in the style of Paranormal Activity." I suppose that by dint of the plot description the movie is a few rungs more ambitious than Paranormal Activity, but I'm not sure what these pseudo-documentaries offer that The Blair Witch Project didn't do back in 1999. The takeaway lesson is that movies need to be about something first and foremost, and exercises in style once there is a story worth telling.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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