Category Archives: secularism

Alexander selected to serve on Fulbright Specialist roster, 2018-2020

Victoria Alexander has been selected for a three-year term as a Fulbright Specialist, available to serve institutions in over 150 countries worldwide. Alexander is an expert in Vladimir Nabokov’s non-gradualist approach to the evolution of insect mimicry.

“As the number of students interested in arts and humanities programs declines worldwide, my work has focused on showing how these disciplines are vital to developing critical and creative thinking skills. My specialty, biosemiotics (the study of signaling and sign-use in living systems), combines the fields of poetics, complexity science, philosophy of language, aesthetics, and biology to investigate the nature of creativity, adaptation, learning, and intentionality.”

The Fulbright Specialist program is supported by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) and World Learning, Non-US institutions interested in hosting Dr. Alexander can apply at https://fulbrightspecialist.worldlearning.org/eligibility-host-institutions/

 

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

May 11, VN Alexander on Nabokov at Library in Rosendale, NY

rosendale WEDNESDAY, MAY 11 7 PM FREE

“Vladimir Nabokov and Insect Mimicry: The Artist as Scientist”

Victoria N Alexander

Public Scholars, NY Council for the Humanities: In collaboration with the NY Council for the Humanities, the Rosendale Public Library presents a slide/lecture on the controversial novelist and lepidopterist, Vladimir Nabokov, that reveals his insights into the mysteries of mimicry and how the scientific community responded to his studies. Fantastic images of insect mimicry will be used as examples of how important art is to good science. This event is made possible through the Public Scholars program with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

rosendalelibrary

 

The Science of Making Choices

What happens in your body when you choose to go right or left?  What makes your choices? your Self? What does the word “choice” really mean?

VN Alexander, PhD discusses the science of making choices from a complexity science-biosemiotics perspective. From “Science, Art and Biosemiotics” series, produced and directed by Lucian Rex.

To read more about this topic see The Biologist’s Mistress: Rethinking Self-Organization in Art, Literature and Nature. 

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Atheists sue over WTC cross

Statues of mythological and/or fictional characters and themes can be found in state and federal parks all over the country, like this statue of Neptune at a city park in Virginia Beach.  As far as I know atheists don’t try to get these removed. The American Atheist Organization is suing to remove a cross from the WTC memorial.  The “cross” is actually a section of welded I-beam that was found sticking up from the rubble after 9/11.  Witnesses found the coincidental resemblance to Christ’s cross significant. While I don’t agree that such coincidences are supernaturally caused, I think they are interesting. Significant coincidences are at the heart of all “chance” phenomena which lead to the emergence of life, language, and art. (That’s my natural philosophy in a nutshell.) I could no more reject public tributes to Christianity than I could to any great work of fiction. Somehow it just doesn’t piss me off.  I understand it as art. It doesn’t bother me that others take it differently.  (I even have a portrait of a black Madonna hanging in my home.  It’s a really cool painting that my great-grandmother brought over from Poland.)  That’s why I think there is something up with AAO’s president David Silverman who isn’t able to detach himself emotionally from the power of religious symbolism.  He released this statement about the WTC cross Continue reading

Naked Singularity now on Kindle

My second novel may not get quite as much attention as my other two novels (with pretty females on their covers), but Naked Singularity is my personal favorite and I’m happy to announce that it’s finally available on Kindle.  The subject is dark — euthanasia — but heavy as it is, it’s also darkly comic. Here’s a thoughtful review from poet Gerrit Henry published when the novel first appeared in 2003.

Alexander, Victoria N. Naked Singularity.The Permanent Press, 2003, Sag Harbor. 189 pp. One of the many dark beauties of Victoria N. Alexander’s new novel is that, not only is it the proverbial good read, it is also a proverbially brilliant one. Alexander–holder of a PhD–has dished up a heart-stoppingly beautiful heroine who holds similar degrees in teleology (the study of why) and she thinks, and writes, like a dream. Witness this sample from a soliloquy by Hali on death: “You had thought death would at least be romantic, but now you realize there is nothing to be thankful for–how vacuous, how colorless, how without pity, how without regard for your intentions . . . . ” This, from a piece of popular fiction, is almost asking too much in the matter of sheer, unabused style. Continue reading

Writer Dorion Sagan on What Now

Dorion Sagan, a good friend of mine, science writer, thinker, novelist, was recently interviewed on Ken Rose’s radio program “What Now? Extended interviews with accomplished thinkers, writers, artists, farmers and scientists addressing the global crisis” on KOWS in California.

Click here to download the mp3. It’s a wonderful, long interview. It starts slow, but keep listening. Dorion gives a surprising answer to Rose’s question about whether or not the human is likely to survive as a species and in what form. He talks about his books The Sciences of Avatar: from Anthropology to Xenology, Notes from the Holocene, Dazzle Gradually, which he wrote with his mother Lynn Margulis, Death and Sex, which he wrote with Tyler Volk, Cooking with Jesus: From the Primal Brew to the Last Brunch, and many others. Dorion also plugged my 2003 novel, Naked Singularity. Thanks Dorion.

Death and Sex

Death and sex are literature’s subjects, not science’s. What we care most about is what these subjects mean to us—not what they, in fact, are. When scientists attempt to enlighten us on these matters, they often fall to recounting certain metabolic processes, generally missing the point, while we readers sigh or snicker, wondering if the researcher has any experience out of the lab. This is not the case with Death and Sex by Tyler Volk and Dorion Sagan. See my review in New York Journal of Books.