Posted: Oct 26, 2010 1:57 pm
by campermon
First of all I must apologize for the long delay in posting this response and secondly I will ask for your indulgence!! In defense of my tardiness, I can only say that my work associated with the beginning of the school year has dominated virtually every waking hour since the beginning of September. The work load has begun to ease off now, which means I have a little more time to devote to other stuff, such as living!!

I ask for your indulgence because this post may appear, at first, to veer off topic as I tell you the story of how I came to be where I am; both in terms of my position in this debate and literally! Are you sitting comfortably? Excellent, I shall begin........

My story begins a long, long time ago. I would like to add ‘in a galaxy far, far away’ because I’m a ‘Star Wars’ nerd, but I can’t because this story begins way long before any galaxies existed.

Let’s miss out the very beginning of the universe, because that is quite tricksy ( ;) ). Instead, let us zoom ahead to around 10-37seconds later when the universe was a broiling plasma out of which the first elementary particles began to condense and the matter dominated the anti-matter.

Several minutes later the first atoms of He, along with protons (H atoms) begin to form. Electrons have got their act sorted out and the forces have decided their future careers. The universe is in a position to become even more interesting, as far as the making of Campermon is concerned.

To save time, I’ll fast forward through an absolutely humungous amount of it; Thus we jump ahead by about 9 billion years from t=0 and arrive at approx 4.5 billion years ago. To summarize, in the meantime; the universe had expanded and cooled by many orders of magnitude; gravity has condensed huge amounts of H and He gas which under contraction has heated it enough to fuse and form the first stars; the first stars have gone nova, thus spreading the goodies made via nucleosynthesis far and wide; there’s now an abundance of heavier, more ‘versatile’ elements, just hanging around in clouds waiting for gravitational collapse to shape them into second generation stars leaving just a little extra matter over to grow planets.

Ok, we’re 4.5 billions years ago now and the Earth, to be honest, is in a right state – high temperatures, impacts from space and all sorts of crazy chemistry occurring. Certainly not the sort of place you’d want to go for a visit. We need to wait for another half billion years before some very clever chemistry gets going and thus we have the first semblance of self replicating ‘life’. We need to stick around another half a billion until we get something that may resemble our most ancient ancestors.

.....I’m not going to dwell on the details of what happened over the proceeding eons of time (I understand that one or two books have been written about it…), but I will summarize it thus with a quote from Dawkins with the addition of a few words of my own;

“Life results from the non-random survival of randomly varying replicators” and the interplay of ‘non-random’ selection and ‘randomly varying’ variation begat a whole host of interesting (although now largely extinct) organisms which eventually led to our species arising about 100-150 000 years ago. From the loins of these early humans it is only a short hop and skip (in geological time) to a pair of 20th century gonads which are crucial to the arrival of Campermon on the cosmic scene…

1942 was not a good year for many. The Japanese were attacking the US, the Nazi’s were shifting the holocaust into top gear and war raged across every continent on the planet. It was, however, a fantastically good year for both Enrico Fermi and I. Good for Fermi because he managed to create the first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction in a nuclear pile built on the racquet courts of the University of Chicago. Even better for me, because during that year another, far more complex, self sustaining system was quietly constructing itself out of some basic elements (C, O, H, N and a few trace elements) as the bombs were deconstructing Europe. Whilst the rest of the world was descending into the madness of total war, one particular specialized cell quietly got on with its job of migrating to a suitable place on it’s ‘building site’. Once there, it began the process of meiosis which subsequently halted, waiting for the right moment to proceed……

.......Something similar had happened in another ‘construction site’ in 1938. But for the ‘potential’ me, things didn’t start to get interesting until the 1950’s and we have to wait until the 1960’s, 1969 to be precise, until the real action begins.

They say that if you remember the 60’s then you weren’t there. I was there, but unfortunately I didn’t have the apparatus to ‘not even’ remember them. Moving on; about the same time that Judy Garland was thinking of killing herself by an overdose, one particular spermatocyte favourably positioned in Pa Campermons gonads began, for whatever reason, the process of dividing itself to form a haploid cell. Over the next couple of months, this cell quietly got on with what it was doing. Meanwhile; Prince Charles got invested, a couple of blokes landed on the moon and the halfpenny became obsolete. By about August time, the real action began. I’ll miss out the details, I can imagine that all of us find it at the very least mildly distasteful to think of our own parents getting up to such stuff…. Let’s just say, that around the time that the Woodstock festival was in full swing, two tiny, insignificant haploid cells (one that had been sitting around for nearly three decades and the other ‘freshly minted’ if you will), managed to fuse and thus brought about the potentiality that would become ‘Campermon’. Yay! If it had been any other two (after all there were millions of each gamete to choose from), ‘I’ wouldn’t be writing this. That’s quite an incredible thing to think about… ( ;) )

The Autumn / Winter of ’69 and the Spring of 1970 was a fairly busy time for me, after all I was constructing myself, quite unconsciously, from a few basic ingredients using some remarkable biological software (open source of course!). Even more remarkable, it only took approximately 40 weeks for me to fabricate for myself the various apparatus which in the future would enable me to do all sorts of neat stuff like; detect radiations, sense pressures, orient myself in a gravity field, respire and so on.

So it was written, that whilst Swigert and Lovell reported hearing a ‘bang’ as they stirred the O2 tanks, a boy was born in Birmingham. What’s more, the boy was equipped with a neural net containing some basic firmware and, crucially, a certain plasticity that enabled it to ‘rewire’ itself based on stimulus gained from the environment via various sense organs.

The 70’s were really quite a poor decade for music (although Led Zep and the Floyd knocked out a few classics) but a great time for me. During the early part of the decade my brain worked out how to make sense of gigabytes of sensory data being chucked at it (I attribute my fondness for Autumn on the fact that my earliest dwelling was decorated in the oranges and browns that were most fashionable at the time ;) ). Once these fundamentals were wired in, I began to get to grips with language, walking, toileting myself etc... More crucially, my brain began to create the sense of self, ‘I’ became ‘me’ if you see what I mean. Every parent knows when this happens; it’s called the ‘terrible two’s’!

By the 1980’s (a truly appalling decade for music :nono: ) my neural machine was operating at full capacity, enabling me to do all sorts of neat stuff like synthesize knowledge and concepts. Let’s head to the 90’s and 2000’s. During this period I did lot’s of things to hamper the efficient operation of my control unit. However, the music did get slightly better and I also enjoyed taking part in the same sort of shenanigans that got me here…..

Let us come to the ‘now’, whatever that is, and see how the story of Campermon has a bearing on this debate.

A simple conclusion; this is where I am coming from; “I am, therefore I think!”. The ‘am’ that I am is what my body makes for me. That intricate arrangement of matter, made possible by Ma and Pa Campermon which in turn was made possible by the near endless precession of their ancestors which in turn was made possible by the complex chemistry on an early Earth which was made possible by the elements synthesized in stars which in turn was made possible etc…You get the idea.

It took approximately 13 700 000 000 years for the universe to create me! (and you too!). There is, and only will be, one Campermon (MrsC is always telling me that I’m ‘one of a kind’… :ask: ). I am constructed out of a collection of units and sub-units that will exist only once in this particular configuration, in this particular universe. The ‘I’ that is ‘me’, is an illusion conjured by the brain that I possess. It is such a convincing illusion that I can not imagine being no longer ‘I’. In essence, I have a delusion that ‘I’ am something separate from the arrangement of mainly C O N H that is ‘me’. Ultimately, the system which has been sustained by a constant throughput of mass and energized by photons from our Sun will fail. When it does, what is ‘Campermon’ will fail with it. I can assure you that there will be no ghosty Campermon following the tragic increase in entropy that will inevitably befall this bag of organic chemistry that I carry around. If anything remains of Campermon, it will be encoded in the fragments carried by his children or the arrangement of neural fibres of others for a short while.

Even though the story has such a sad ending ( ;) ), isn’t it such a great one? What makes this story even more remarkable is that it based on evidence gained from reality. Do we need to include trivialities such as ‘discarnate consciousness’ into this story? It’d suit me just fine if we could. After all, who likes the idea that one day they will cease to exist? It’s a much more pleasant thought to believe that after the body is gone, ones ‘spirit’ consciousness will persist in some state. Unfortunately, the evidence appears to be telling us that it just ain’t going to happen.

The story I have told (badly, I know! ;) ), is a tale which tells us that such things as ‘discarnate consciousness’s’ most probably don’t exist. To paraphrase Feynman, if you don’t like the story ‘then go somewhere else!’ because this is the way nature has revealed itself to us. Of course there are lots of gaps in this story. Making up stuff to fill them isn’t going to get us very far. This brings me to my final point.

Throughout the debate we have been presented with the ‘evidence’ in support of supernatural events. Repeatedly it has been shown that the ‘evidence’ is of poor scientific quality and that the investigators are trying to obtain evidence to fit their own conclusions. In doing so, they are attempting to shoehorn their particular (badly written) chapter into the ‘story’. I say to them; “Shame on you!”.

We live in a truly fascinating universe. A universe that has created bumble bees that solve complex problems that have confounded mathematicians for centuries. No really!; ... th-problem

With mysteries such as these, do we really need to bother ourselves investigating the clearly man-made ones such as ghosts and ghoulies?

I may have quoted the following before. I won’t apologize if I have because this quote always deserves an outing;

“Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?”

Douglas Adams


'A Universe From Nothing' by Lawrence Krauss, AAI 2009

Richard Feynman on doubt, uncertainty and religion

You don't like it? Go somewhere else! by Richard Feynman

Carl Sagan on Evolution ... an_problem

‘Entropy in Biology’