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February 2, 2007

Celebrating Open-Mindedness

A Journal For The Genuinely Curious

In these days when the spirit of true science appears to be disappearing, even from institutions that proclaim to defend it, and personal insult, questioning of motives, and the imposing of favored views as fact seems to be becoming the accepted way of responding to disagreement, it's refreshing to see a journal devoted to the impartial--some would say over- generous--assessment of topics and claims generally considered borderline or worse by the mainstream.

Henry Bauer, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry & Science Studies at Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University, and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Scientific Exploration doesn't agree with my take on Immanuel Velikovsky, as described in "Catastrophe of Ethics: The Case for Taking Velikovsky Seriously," contained in Kicking the Sacred cow. Nevertheless, he was gracious enough to respect it and write a review recommending the book as an example of the kind of issues that should be debated more in public forums and educational curriculums--see "Reviews" page at the above link. (Professor Bauer has also written a book, Beyond Velikovsky setting out his own position.)

Such an attitude aptly summarizes the policy of JSE, the journal of the international Society for Scientific Exploration. SSE's Mission Statement, from the introductory page of its web site, begins:

The primary goal of the international Society for Scientific Exploration (SSE) is to provide a professional forum for presentations, criticism, and debate concerning topics which are for various reasons ignored or studied inadequately within mainstream science. A secondary goal is to promote improved understanding of those factors that unnecessarily limit the scope of scientific inquiry, such as sociological constraints, restrictive world views, hidden theoretical assumptions, and the temptation to convert prevailing theory into prevailing dogma.

Which pretty much says it all. The subjects addressed in the issues that I've browsed through include some that I'm skeptical about too, for example UFO's, and surviving monster reptiles from prehistoric times, all the way through such contentious areas as Intelligent Design and measurable presentiment of near-term emotional events, to things like ball lightning that are ripe for wider discussion and systematic investigation. Interspersed with these are articles addressing matters of general relevance to the process of science, such as the interpretation of statistics, evaluation of evidence, and sources of bias. Each issue also contains a comprehensive book review section on a range of topics as diverse as would be expected, and a web site guide.

JSE, with links to complete list of back issues and contents: http://www.scientificexploration.org/jse.php

Society for Scientific Exploration web site: http://www.scientificexploration.org

The web site currently carries details of upcoming SSE meetings--open to the general public--to be held in Lansing, Michigan, at the end of May, 2007, and in Roros, Norway, in August, 2007.

 
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