Giving Up on Darwin, in Search of Alien Life, and When Hunter S. Thompson Ran for Sheriff
David Gelernter, the well-known professor of computer science at Yale, grew up believing Darwin’s theory of the origin of life. Well, he doesn’t believe it any more: “There’s no reason to doubt that Darwin successfully explained the small adjustments by which an organism adapts to local circumstances: changes to fur density or wing style or beak shape. Yet there are many reasons to doubt whether he can answer the hard questions and explain the big picture—not the fine-tuning of existing species but the emergence of new ones. The origin of species is exactly what Darwin cannot explain.”
When Hunter S. Thompson ran for sheriff: “In 1970, between publishing Hell’s Angels and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the gonzo journalist, longtime Rolling Stone contributor, and Louisville, Kentucky, native Hunter S. Thompson ran for sheriff of Pitkin County, Colorado . . . Under his Freak Power Party ticket, his platform included relaxing drug-offense penalties and replacing asphalt with sod. His campaign nearly worked: Thompson lost by only 468 votes to the incumbent, Carrol D. Whitmire.”
England’s earliest known Christian tomb: “The tomb was first discovered in 2003, but it was mired in more than a millennium’s worth of earthen crust, which blocked researchers from performing a properly detailed assessment. In this absence of evidence, there was even some speculation that the tomb may have been Saeberht’s own, but now we know better: It predates his death by anywhere from about 10 to 35 years, with researchers dating the tomb to between the years 580 and 605.”
Chris R. Morgan reviews Bret Easton Ellis’s first collection of essays. The novelist should stick to fiction.
A Reader Recommends: Sean C. Hadley recommends Harry Sylvester’s novel Dayspring: “Sylvester was a prominent Catholic author of the 20th century, who subsequently left the Catholic Church to join the Quakers. Dayspring was published in 1945 and initially declared to be an indication of great things to come. Though he is largely unknown today, all of his novels (plus his 150 short stories of which only a few have been collected and reprinted) deliver on this early assessment. His works at once praise and critique, offering a balanced view of the culture at large as well as the Church’s role in said culture. Dayspring, in particular, places the little known Penitente Brotherhood against the secular view of academics at large. It is a piercing chronicle of the modern mind confronted with ancient truths, offering a beautiful story of conversion and repentance. It is the easiest of his novels to acquire, though I heartily recommend them all.”
Essay of the Day:
It is not uncommon for scientists to believe that there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. After all, if “the ingredients for life are everywhere, and there are astronomically large numbers of stars and planets where it’s possible for life to have arisen, then we’d expect many instances in which intelligent aliens rose to prominence well before the advent of human life on Earth.” But maybe that’s all wrong. Maybe life is extremely rare, Ethan Siegel writes, and maybe it doesn’t exist anywhere else in the complexity that it exists on Earth:
“While we certainly owe it to ourselves to look for their presence with all the resources we can muster, we must confront the possibility that perhaps we’ve got it all wrong about just how common life in the universe is. Perhaps the ingredients and conditions on Earth don’t inevitably lead to life arising on a potentially habitable world beyond our planet. And even if life does arise elsewhere, it may be the case that it frequently fails to thrive. Maybe it’s the case that even successful life only rarely becomes complex, differentiated, or intelligent as we understand those terms. Or, quite possibly, it’s exceedingly rare that even intelligent life becomes technologically advanced. In all of space, as far as intelligent life goes, perhaps humanity is truly alone.”
Poem: Devin Johnston, “Dragons”
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