Lynn Margulis, Evolutionary ‘Naturalism,’ Chance and Conspiracy

“The endosymbiosis hypothesis is retrogressive in the sense that it avoids the difficult thought necessary to understand how mitochondria and chloroplasts have evolved as a series of small evolutionary steps.” -Thomas Uzzell and Christine Spolsky, 1974

The above old quote may make us chuckle now that Margulis’ theory has been vindicated by DNA analysis. Uzzell and Spolsky imply that endosymbiosis seemed to them too easy and naïve, like a myth describing how the first humans sprang from sown dragon’s teeth. Even though there was nothing prima facie impossible about the idea — no physical laws violated — these critics nevertheless felt that the endosymbiosis hypothesis was tantamount to a “revival of special creation.” [1] Symbiogenesis, the idea championed by Lynn Margulis, is here associated with the supernatural because it was considered to be a rare and too fortuitous event. Continue reading

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A Democracy is only as good as its Free Press.

Last week Professor Mark Crispin Miller invited me to speak to his culture in media class at NYU about my experiences as an author dealing with the problems of the shrinking book publishing industry and the loss of quality and increased (ensorshlp that followed as a result. I mostly talked about the problems. During my train ride home, I started thinking more about possible solutions.

Publishing involves a product, information, that is unlike any other product; information can be copied and shared. Partly because of this, and partly because information can be a public good, a human right, writers are often expected to work for free or for low pay. The problems of this industry are unique. So must be the solutions. I put together Wish List, that, if implemented, would make my life easier and the reading public smarter. Some things on my list involve nothing less than reorganizing the entire economy or getting society as a whole to change its expectations. But, hey, the first step on the way to a revolution is to imagine how things might be, however impossible such changes may seem from where we stand now. Continue reading

Terrordise Semi-Finalist in Edinburgh International Screenwriting Competition

Terrordise,” Screenplay by V. N. Alexander

The Schwartz-Johnson family can’t wait to get to their new home in Paradise, a high-security gated community in Dallas, believing it will be worth sacrificing their privacy for the ultimate in safety against any kind of terror threat—-until Mr. & Mrs. Schwartz-Johnson are accused of terrorism themselves.  Read more.

About Edinburgh Screenwriting Competition:  “We are the home of the entertainment industry’s Fringe. We are weird and we love it. Our city has a very long history of nurturing and showcasing the most creative, original and talented oddballs the entertainment industry has to offer, whether a high concept studio project worthy of Tim Burton or a little indie you are dying to see made by David Lynch. We support the arts, not only in Edinburgh, but around the world.”

 

 

The Artist as Scientist: Nabokov and Insect Mimicry, talk by VN Alexander

It’s a commonplace to say that good science requires imagination, yet scientist aren’t really encouraged to read poetry or to take up painting. Maybe they should. This talk presents the example of Vladimir Nabokov, renown Russian-American novelist and butterfly scientist who used his artistic knowledge to understand how evolution can work. He went against the prevailing theories of his day and was attacked for being unscientific, but recently some of his work has been vindicated by DNA analysis, showing that his artistic guesses were amazingly accurate and precise.

Nabokov didn’t think natural selection, a mere proofreader with no real creative powers, could make a butterfly look exactly like a dead leaf, complete with faux fungus spots. He didn’t think natural selection had gradually made the tasty Viceroy species butterfly look like the bitter tasting Monarch, allowing it to survive better. Although he believed that natural selection had shaped many of nature’s forms, he thought the one thing natural selection could not create was mimicry, which could be better explained by other natural mechanisms. This heresy infuriated scientists who thought insect mimics were the best illustration of the gradual powers of selection. More than fifty years later, Nabokov’s genius is finally being recognized. What was it about Nabokov’s way of thinking that allowed him to see what others could not? And how did his understanding of nature inspire his fiction?

Talk based on “Chance, Nature’s Practical Jokes, and the “Non-utilitarian Delights” of Butterfly Mimicry” by V N Alexander, in Fine Lines: Vladimir Nabokov’s Scientific Art. Eds. Stephen Blackwell and Kurt Johnson. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Terrordise, makes quarter finals in TinselTown Productions screenplay contest

My screenplay, Terrordise, has placed in five screenplay competitions this year, in London, Madrid, Oaxaca, and California. Today, Tinsel Town Productions, based in Canada and the UK, announced that Terrordise has made it to the quarter finals.  Read more about my funny and slightly surreal political satire about wall-building and government spying.

Terrordise selected for California Underground Film Festival

The California Underground Film Festival celebrates independent artists from around the world by curating outstanding multimedia experiences for our community.

Terrordise, a dark political comedy
screenplay by V N Alexander
The Schwartz-Johnson family can’t wait to get to their new home in Paradise, a high-security gated community in Dallas, believing it will be worth sacrificing their privacy for the ultimate in safety against any kind of terror threat—-until Mr. & Mrs. Schwartz-Johnson are accused of terrorism themselves. Read more.