Friday, March 10, 2006

(173) Peter Brent

At 1:15 p.m. on December 17th 2000 I glanced at some of the books in Robert Mucci’s second hand shop in Hastings Old Town High Street.
Atop a pile I saw The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, and lower in it was a hardback biography of him by Peter Brent.

Then, in an adjacent bookshelf, I noticed a paperback copy of this same, Brent book, published in 1981.
Lower down I saw a copy of Koestler’s The Roots of Coincidence, a book I had read over a decade earlier.
I opened it, and saw that in the flyleaf the name of Peter Brent was handwritten.
I pointed the coincidence out to both Robert and a customer with whom he seemed to be familiar.
The customer said "I should buy that".

I did, and also the paperback biography and the autobiography. Robert explained that he had recently bought a bunch of books as a single lot at an auction in Eastbourne. He reasoned now that the books written by Brent must have been from Brent´s private collection.

Koestler’s 1972 work also touches upon criticisms of Darwinism, or rather on pro-Lamarckian statements, as he refers to his own biography of biologist Paul Kammerer (The Case of the Midwife Toad)
whose experiments provided evidence for Lamarckian mechanisms of inheritance of acquired characteristics.

Kammerer also collected and published coincidences.

Indeed, Koestler points out that after Kammerer and his concept of Seriality, only Jung, who together with the physicist, Pauli, produced the idea of Synchronicity, attempted to come up with any kind of theory to explain meaningful coincidences.

Koestler noted a similarity between the claims of the Lamarckians and the parapsychologists:

... they were unable to produce a repeatable experiment. Cases of apparent IAC (Inheritance of Acquired Characteristics)... were rare, the phenomena were capricious; each apparently clear-cut case was open to different interpretations - and as a last resort, to accusations of fraud. Moreover, though the Lamarckians were convinced that IAC did occur, they were unable to provide a physiological explanation for it - as parapsychologists are unable to provide a physical basis for ESP.
This curious parallel seems to have escaped the attention of both Lamarckians and parapsychologists... Perhaps one heresy is enough for one man. Paul Kammerer shared both; yet he, too, seems to have been unaware of the connection between them."
(The Roots of Coincidence pp.134-135)

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