Thursday, November 1, 2012

The November Issue

Have you seen the November 2012 issue yet? 

Here is the Letter from the Editors to acquaint you to our mission and purpose of the magazine. 

For those of you who are new to Empirical magazine, we want to emphasize, as we have in previous issues, that we believe a new sense of the term "empirical" is required as we move forward in the twenty-first century. Unlike the purely physical, sense-based empiricism that was the darling of the old twentieth century positivism, we embrace the type of "radical empiricism" that was promoted by William James and Alfred North Whitehead. (It was James who actually coined the term.) 

The death knell to the old positivistic approach was actually sounded as early as the seventeenth century by the Scottish philosopher and historian David Hume, who knew that on this basis, neither practical life nor science as most people think of it-i.e., an inquiry into the truth-were possible. On the basis of sense impressions alone, we cannot know there is such a thing as causation, a foundational principle to science and practical life. Nor can we know that there are bodies, minds (other than our own), or even a world outside of our thoughts. George Santayana pointed out that the problem was really worse than Hume had imagined, saying that on Hume's view, we're caught in a "solipsism of the present moment," where all we know is what we're sensing right now in any given moment. We cannot know that we even have continuity of our own minds from one second to the other. But even bad ideas sometimes have their value and have to play themselves out before they're roundly rejected. 

Science went on about its business as if Hume had never come to his skeptical conclusions. Especially within the realm of Newtonian physics, this materialistic approach had real value. Then, with the advent of electromagnetic, relativity, and quantum theories, everything changed. 

Nineteenth-century idealists had offered another model for thinking of our relationship to the world by suggesting that we are ourselves individual minds that are an extension of an original and universal mind. But using this theory, philosophers paid little attention to science. 

James and Whitehead, however, scientists themselves, sought another path. They offered a radical form of empiricism that embraces science and its central principle that our beliefs should stand up to tests in the world of experience. But the idea of experience should not be limited to mere sense impressions (narrowly defined as the data that comes to us through the five physical sense organs). Memory, for example, is an inheritance of experience from one moment to the next that does not come to us through the five physical senses. Feelings of the "withness of the body," as Whitehead termed this feeling of the experiences of our own bodies, are other examples of experience beyond that given by the five physical senses. Experience, it turns out upon deeper reflection, has a much broader basis than earlier empiricists had thought. 

As is often the case, there were ulterior motives that drove many materialists to insist, despite the evidence available to them, that we should restrict ourselves to the five physical senses. One reason was that they wanted to distinguish themselves as better truth-finders than those who worked in the much greyer areas of the humanities, including religion. This approach worked well within the realm of Newtonian mechanics, but has not worked so well when applied to the more complex relationships of quantum mechanics, biology, and human psychology. 

One of the positive ramifications of a radically empirical approach to understanding our world, therefore, is that the humanities, including religion and spirituality, is brought back to the table of discussion with the sciences. Empiricalmagazine honors this radically empirical tradition, in part, by bringing together the voices of artists, scientists, philosophers, theologians, Buddhist writers, psychologists, social workers, architects, short-story writers, poets, photographers, and many others. The truth is too complex for any one, finite approach to have the one and only answer. All of life is a call to be open to the many voices of experience. We learn from those voices. We develop a better-rounded worldview through being open and sincerely listening to those voices. 

In the November 2012 issue of Empirical, you will again find a wide range of voices reflecting the experiences of our age. We are honored to include in our pages, for the first time, the voice of award-winning economist and author Herman Daly. He has written something that should have appeal to both ends of the political spectrum-an idea for ending the Federal Reserve Bank and the International Monetary Fund in one fell swoop. His idea involves "Nationalizing Money" as the title tells us, thereby taking the power of printing money away from the Fed and putting this power into the hands of elected officials who should be held accountable by the electorate. 

Investigative journalist Emanuel Stoakes brings us a reflective update on the war in Syria, and he includes some background on how the problems arose in the first place. 

Randall Auxier builds off of a Machiavellian theme as he discusses "Three Kinds of Soldiers." In particular, he relates this discussion to the highly debated death of an officer in the US Army, Colonel Ted West­husing. Auxier does not so much present a case for or against the official story that Westhusing's death in Iraq was a suicide, as he uses the occasion of this honorable man's death to discuss the relationship of ethics to soldiering, and more particularly, the relationship of ethics to aspects of the Iraq War. 

Historian Mustafah Dhada looks at the rise of neoconservativism in the US, and asks "America: Have We Crossed the Rubicon?" Dhada, who himself contributed to the constitution of his native Mozambique, challenges us through a suggestive inquiry into whether the US Constitution has been circumvented in a range of areas including elections, the censorship and control of media, and corporate influence over our elected officials. 

In the realm of religious thought for this issue, philosopher and theologian John B. Cobb Jr., co-founder of the Center for Process Studies in Claremont, California, (along with David Ray Griffin), has written "Good Idols and Bad." While noting that some people may have moved beyond idols entirely, as they claim, idols still serve an important role in religious people's lives around the world. Some of these idols, he suggests, are better for us than others. Drawing from his role in Christian-Buddhist dialogue, Cobb points to ways that the Christ idol is sometimes misrespresented and put to harmful uses, but argues that this need not be the case. In an age dominated by the idol of money, Cobb urges us to reconsider the liberating power of discovering the Christ within, comparing this to the Buddhist idea of discovering the Buddha Nature within. 

Scott Bontz, who works at the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas, has contributed an article on the Land Institute's work with the development of perennial crops. His article helps us to understand the connections between annual crops and soil erosion, and helps us to appreciate the fragile nature of the good top soil we need for farming. 

Ian Dees reports on a new religion called Kopimi. Dees helps us understand that the Kopimists, emerging in this high tech era, have strongly held ethical views that at first may seem counterintuitive. They argue for the free distribution of information around the globe, and against copyright protections. Dees helps us see the ways in which copyright protection law sometimes does not serve the public interest, and is often unreasonable. 

Rounding out this issue, we have an article in the arts by Richard Jones on the Canadian actress and director Tara Browne, whose Diversity Face Films puts a spotlight on diversity issues. As Jones tells us, "with seven ethnic streams jockeying for position in her DNA-Austrian, British, Scottish, Hawaiian, Philippine, Spanish, Chinese-she could hardly avoid the mantle of diversity." We also have an "NBA Preview" by our own Empirical Senior Editor, Dan O'Brien, and recipes from Sandra Stoakes and our Editor-in-Chief, Tara Grover Smith. 

As usual, we bring you the best in fiction and poetry, too. This month, Finn Kraemer has provided us with a compelling short story about a father and son on a hunting trip called "In My Father's Silence." We have poems on "Cycling" by Travis Laurence Naught, and "What I'd Ban," and "Molar" by Carol V. Davis. Last but not least, you will find the beautiful photography you've come to expect and enjoy from photographers around the globe. 

Have you subscribed yet to ensure you haven't missed a single issue? One of our fans says:

I've been looking for a magazine with this kind of range and diversity for a long time. Until Empirical came along, I could only find magazines that either had a fairly narrow focus in their own specialist field, or else felt random and directionless. Your focus on radical empiricism (an approach I share) as the "connecting theme" gives it a great focus without limiting the scope at all. 

--Simo Sakari Aaltonen, subscriber from Finland

If you'd like to buy back issues, please visit our website. August is sold out, so hurry!


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  2. Hey, there is nothing more eminently satisfying than this. In August this year long before the elections here is what I wrote:

    "At present, democrats do not appear to see this imperative; that the electoral contest is a battle in part over culture and values, not just over change; the battle is to empower women, a woman as President, women in equal numbers with men in Congress, women as leaders in all walks of life; the battle therefore is not solely against proponents of dogma, and faith-based policies. In the event of a resounding victory, the present administration may have an opportunity to redress the balance of socio-economic inequities - but it will have to act with lightening speed. Otherwise, the prospect of returning to gridlock will increase as we near mid-term elections, which will provide an opportunity for the conservative right to come back, and this time with renewed vigor.

    Should we be faced with another four years of gridlock, I wonder what is to become of us? With the rise of the net, the persistent bickering among politicians and party apparatchiks, an increasing social disconnect amidst us, and nation-wide disillusionment with politics there does seem to be a need for a paradigm shift.

    In days bygone it used to be “it is the economy, stupid.” We then gave change a chance. I wonder if today “it is culture, stupid.” If so, then the age of political ideology may well be over. If that is the case then should “we the people” of the United States of America, consider with the help of technology a magna vox populi? By that I mean bring 311,591,917 citizens of the Republic together as E Pluribus Unum Convention – to talk about who are we as a people and then perhaps also address some of the issues raised in this article. Of particular concern would be issues exacerbating the present state of our disunion: electoral reform aimed at direct democracy, finance campaign reforms, reform of the judiciary as a value and culture neutral bench with term limit appointments, civil personal and reproductive rights, right to bear arms perhaps, and the place for religious narratives in American public life and public policy."

    Well, I was right, I think - in part. The culture change has indeed started. Women have been elected in larger numbers to the legislature. We now need the reforms to follow.

  3. You know, is this sad or what, that it took only 12 women to accomplish what 400 plus men could not - acknowledge and celebrate and demonstrate the soul of America - diversity and inclusion….[In the immortal words of AAAAAAAaaaaanau'd who did not say this exactly. "We (men) are not going to make it, are we?"]