The DisinfoCast: Episode 33: Steve Volk, ‘Fringe-ology’

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Philadelphia journalist Steve Volk is here to talk bout his book Fringe-ology, which chronicles his exploration of “fringe” topics like psi research, UFOs and ghosts. Matt and Steve discuss the state of skepticism, spirituality and much more in this episode of the DisinfoCast.

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  • Monkey See Monkey Do

    Great interview Matt. You fleshed out some of the thought experiments we put ourselves through as human beings.

    Uncertainty itself seems naturally anxiety inducing so no wonder we use ideology to numb the senses. Our world-view probably unfolds like that from our first moment of existence.

    • Matt Staggs

      Steve Volk did the heavy lifting, Monkey. He’s a great guy, and I highly recommend his book.

  • http://twitter.com/TedHeistman Ted Heistman

    I just got this guys book today!

    • Matt Staggs

      I do hope that you enjoy it.

  • drokhole

    Great interview! I’ve been contemplating picking up this book for awhile now, and this just seals it. Steve’s approach is right up my alley, and I’m really enjoying some of the work on his site.

    These possibilities/areas of study weren’t even on my radar until about three years ago. Then, in the course of a week, I stumbled across Joseph Campbell’s “The Power of Myth” (a transcript of an interview with Bill Moyers) at a Goodwill and Robert Anton Wilson’s “Prometheus Rising” randomly at my parent’s house (mom bought it years before for no apparent reason), and my “reality tunnel” cracked wide open – particularly thanks to Bob’s book. Don’t even know what drew me to either of them (I had heard Campbell’s name in passing, and “Prometheus Rising” had a neat front cover and a solid description on the back), but I’m sure as hell glad they did. Bob’s also taken CSICOP down a few pegs in quite spectacular fashion (I believe he joked of it as standing for the Committee for Slander, Invective and Calumny against Open-minded People).

    I don’t know if Steve will get a chance to see these comments, but I was curious as to his opinion of the recently revealed NDE of that Dr. Eben Alexander. Not in terms of it being “proof” of “heaven” (not a fan of the title…but such is a publisher’s desire to push books), but maybe in terms of giving further support and credence to NDEs in general (not that the literature has been lacking…just with it coming from a neurosurgeon who had a pretty severe case of bacterial meningitis).

    Also, I did a little digging on his site, and saw the post “More Mushrooms” that referenced a Reality Sandwich article that pondered whether “hallucinogens don’t so much ’cause us to hallucinate, as to experience data our brain normally filters.” This is one of the areas of “fringe-ology” that I’m particularly interested in (really enjoy Alan Watts’s essays and Terence McKenna’s talks on the matter…among others), and was curious if it’s one that Steve had considered looking into further? Or maybe go the Graham Hancock route and partake in an ayahuasca ceremony itself? One of the reasons Humphry Osmond gave Aldous Huxley mescaline was because he knew Huxley had a mastery of language and was uniquely capable of conveying the experience in a way better than most others. Steve seems like a quite skillful writer/speaker and I’d be very interested to hear his take on the experience.

    • Matt Staggs

      Thank you very much, and I will make sure Steve sees your questions and (if possible) addresses them.

      • drokhole

        Thanks, Matt! And thanks again for the well-handled interview and the site in general!

        • Matt Staggs

          You’re very kind. I’ve emailed Steve, and he said that he’ll try to drop by soon to address your questions.

          • drokhole

            You rock, Matt! Very deeply appreciated.

    • Steve Volk

      Well, a couple of things. I am somewhat familiar with Dr. Alexander’s NDE and certainly consider it interesting. However, the problem with his NDE as with most others is that it is difficult to sort out when the experience took place, in relation to his illness and brain function. I haven’t had a chance to read his book, which I would assume will be a heavily detailed account. But I do know it concerns me that he admits some of the details occurred to him long after the NDE as he sat and thought about it and wrote material down. I also note he’s something of an outlier, statistically, in “coming back” from an NDE with a renewed commitment to a specific religion—in his case, Christianity. Most NDErs exit the experience with a more universalist view of religion and spirituality. Now, that said, I think adding Alexander to the list of experiencers is still a net positive—if only for the attention it brings—and I do look forward to reading over his entire account. —Best, Steve V.

    • Steve Volk

      Hi, the second thing—hallucinogens. In a word, yes. To expand on that, I’m very interested and at some point in the future you will see a Fringe-ology related project that explores them. I am familiar with the post you mention and am very glad to see there is more research being done in this area. We are constantly unconsciously sampling huge chunks of information that never rise to our conscious awareness. It’s worth wondering what information we’re missing. —Best, Steve V.

      • drokhole

        Thanks much for the response, Steve! When it comes to Dr. Alexander’s account, I am pretty much on board with everything you said, even after reading the book. One of the things I did find interesting – apart from him going into a bit more detail as to the extent of his condition – was his identification with the word/sound “Om” during his experience (given its distinctly Hindu association). Also, his “earthworm eye view” (which would precede his “journeys” to the more radiant “realm”) reminded me of the beginning stages of the type of shamanic journeying that Michael Harner detailed in his book “The Way of the Shaman.”

        As for hallucinogens, I’m very happy to hear that you will be exploring them, and anxiously await any material coming from your direction!

        Thanks, again!

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