Monday, February 22, 2010

The Paracast - Arguably the Most Interesting of the Paranormal Podcasts

Years ago, I did a post noting the importance of radio/podcasts to the paranormal community. When I did it, I give mention, but not much more, of The Paracast. That was because I had just discovered it. Over time, I think the show, hosted by Gene Steinberg and David Biedny, got better and better, as it got more and more examining and critical of some of the less-reliable or believable guests they interviewed. More intriguingly, there started to be a move towards falsifying and discarding certain elements that float around these various communities. The episode examining and then putting away MJ-12, for example, is a highlight. A recent interview with David M. Rountree made me at least intrigued by ghost hunting, a topic that usually does little to interest me. Last year's "wake" round tables after the deaths of Richard Hall, John Keel, and Mac Tonnies were depressing as you might imagine, but very informative (especially the Keel one on Keel's earlier years pre-Mothman) and demonstrative of the ability of The Paracast to get good guests and spark them to make good discussion, rather than just the usual sell-spiel.

For several weeks now, I've been meaning to make a "Check out The Paracast Archives" post, and haven't gotten around to it (partly because I got hung up on trying to recommend a top ten list of episodes; I've ultimately decided that mileage varies, so people should instead check out some of the episode discussions on The Paracast forums to see what they may or may not like).

But today news has reached me that one of the two creators/co-hosts, David Biedny, has left the show. Fans of the show know that dealing with the idiocy that these topics often attract had been increasingly exasperating Mr. Biedny. Any other reasons are his own. This is not an appeal for his return, simply a thank you for the time and effort he spent actually listening to and responding intelligently to the people interviewed on the show, whether this ultimately was something the interviewees preferred or not.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Cryptozoology and Religion - Interesting article and a comment

Interesting overview article on cryptozoology and religion, by Joe Laycock at Science and Religion Today, suggesting a parallel between fringe science efforts and religious fundamentalism. He argues that both attempt to re-sacralize a world stripped of mystery by science, specifically natural selection and evolution. Though perhaps sacralize isn't the proper term, more an issue of both approaching the sublime.

Laycock notes that Creationists have turned to cryptozoology to back up some of their beliefs. He does not discuss that some cryptozoological expeditions have a Creationist agenda to them, as attempts to find living Mesozoic reptiles such as dinosaurs or pteradons, in order to support Young Earth Creationism. But that's alright, it's not meant to be a tome.

But there is a bigger issue. Laycock doesn't really pinpoint why the two have started to cross paths. Yes, there is the sacralization thing, the sense of wonder. But that applies to many things, and it is why people who are interested in science issues can in many cases find common ground in activities rejected by mainstream science (like cryptozoology), as they focus on mystery and wonder. There is the Young Earth aspect or similar "prove the scriptures" elements (Bigfoot as Children of Cain in some ideologies, etc.).

But there's another aspect, and that's their nature vis-a-vis the mainstream: both are forbidden. In his book A Culture of Conspiracy, Michael Barkun uses the concept of stigmatized knowledge to explain how seemingly incompatible conspiracy memes transfer back and forth between religious, racist, political, and paranormal (specifically UFO) narratives and communities. One reason is that they are all labeled by the mainstream press, academia, science, and the political structure as being forbidden, rejected, or otherwise not just wrong, but excessively wrong. Once labeled as such, these concepts don't go away so much as start to transfer and hybridize within a pool of stigmatized knowledge.

Creationism is rejected by the scientific community, and forbidden by law (in the US where Creationism is most potent) in public schools. Cryptozoology isn't outlawed in public schools, but it simply wouldn't be taught, and it is rejected by the mainstream scientific community. Elements of both have particular beefs and interests in the fossil record and with evolution. Perhaps it isn't surprising that the two worlds have collided a bit, just as cryptozoology, once fully identified with secular materialist hunts for living species, has also developed an arm concerned with thought forms, UFOs, and psychic creatures.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Space War Against the Moon Nazis

The Space Review (a good solid science, politics, and history blog on space exploration) decided, possibly against its better judgment, to note that Richard Hoagland has graduated from the Face on Mars to the City on Mars to a Secret Alternative 3 style space war against the Nazi-driven Secret Space Program.

Hoagland's scenario is not quite as clear-cut as the SR post suggests (rather than being specifically Nazis, it suggests a secret elite using Nazi technology to colonize the Moon and dominate the Earth, not too far from the April Fool's Hoax gone wrong, Anglia Televison's Alternative 3 [video]), but it's not too far off. You can read the source material, but don't blame me if you got some Timecube flashbacks, that's all on you.