Friday, 25 September 2015

The Daily Planet

I am often told that stargazing is a fanciful hobby, a distraction from real life, happening now on Earth.

As I try to enthuse about the current progress being made by NASA and ESA, and any other space agency pushing our frontiers of knowledge at great expense, I'm often peer pressured back to the notion that what's going on "out there", in space, hasn't a great deal of relevance to my day to day life.

I suppose, if you have your "head down" and you're fighting your way through the technical jungles of modern life, trying to keep the bills paid, the children clothed and fed, your career afloat, then the contents of outer space have very little to do with your worldly struggle.

However, for a brief moment, if we can stop plodding through our Earthly rut and look up and take in what's beyond our shell-like atmosphere, we can see what's out there!

With the increased speed of information dissemination these days, we can take in the most current imagery from the front lines of our scientific efforts to glimpse what's out there.

These images ARE important to us, not only because they hold a wealth of scientific data to be mined for truths about the Universe, but also because they put our place in the Universe in context. A context of reality. One which allows us to turn the focus back on ourselves. Our place. Our presence here. And what we are doing to it.

To see the desolate planets in our solar system, the barren wastelands and toxic plains, the swirling gases and icy fissures, is to appreciate what has blossomed here on Earth. Compare and contrast. How unique is it that life was able to struggle its way through the dust and mud and come to fruition via evolution, so that it can peer upon these planetary images captured by scientific endeavour, and contextualise itself!

Detailed images of Pluto, are beautiful and awe inspiring in their own right, but for me, it's the context and perspective shift it bestows on us, that really makes taking in an hourly comet chaser snap, or a daily planet satellite exploration, or a weekly galaxy shot seen through the eye of Hubble, a worthy enlightening pursuit amidst our trek through our short but precious lives.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Breathe in every breath

It's been a while since I last posted here, and mainly its because I've just been living an Atheist life. Trying my very best to exert humanism into my views.

I saw this clip, and felt I had to post it.. it succinctly lays out the ways in which we try to deal with The Death Problem. A problem that has been very real for me over the years.

The stages of trying to reconcile death:

The RELIGION  - fairy tales to placate those who chose to relinquish reason and evidence for a comforting story.

The ROMANCE - placing a burden of deity upon your loved one, "she will save me". A burden they can NEVER carry.

The REALISATION (or 'Dawning Enlightenment') - reality is such a beautiful thing, at some point, using experience, knowledge (Cosmology, Evolution, Scientific fact) and reason, you can come to understand the whole process.

You can "see" where you fit into this process, one which has been going on for millions of years. And you can realise, YOU are the Universe! Experiencing itself! You play your part in it! Then, in this relay run of life, you pass the baton on, to your children. Your genetic code is mixed with another person and grows into new life that can experience the Universe afresh.

Powerful stuff.
This knowledge/perspective/enlightenment SHOULD be passed down the generations, so that those who come next don't have to waste their time treading through the previous two futile pursuits to answer the Death Problem. 
So they can enjoy a full lifespan, with the beauty of the reality of it all staring at them directly. Clear and bright and vivid.
Breathe every breath down. Soak in the view. Marvel at this life you have. For it is the only one you'll get.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

A Part of Reality

I've been reading P.Z. Myers book The Happy Atheist recently, and its well worth a read. It's amusing and enlightening in equal amounts. Theres a part of the book that goes on to explain how its difficult for Atheists to break the Father-Child bond that religion holds at its centre. A religion tainted world view is built upon loyalty and servitude to a 'Heavenly Father' figure and trying to pry that relationship open to question by reason and reality is no trivial task. Like say, debunking the myth of another Fatherly heavy relationship all children worship at Christmas time. This loss of a close and personal relationship (with a fictional Father) could be a big part of why the religious see Atheism as so bleak and devoid of hope.

For me, I spent very little time in the holy water of faith. So you think I wouldn't have been so affected by the ideas of religion. However, regardless of whether you actively take part in Religion, it is a global disease spreading absolute lies about human insecurities that everyone will identify with. So passively soaking up of religion is possible. Without comforting Faith to bury my fears into, I had to cover them up, shroud them in a veil of distraction and alcohol. For years I subdued my thought processes, hiding under a blanket of ignorance. Looking downwards and seeing no answers, feeling so acutely the despair, and only hearing faint whispers of hollow comfort from the religious majority.

When I finally came to lift the veil, turn my head upwards and look out into reality - the revelation wasn't about meaningless loss, or even staunch bravery against the gritty truth of a Heavenly Father-less existence. It was about inclusion. It was about being a part of it all. The whole story. From the big bang, birth of stars and our precious planet, through the meandering evolutionary climb of Mount Improbable towards Humanity where we stand today. We are part of it. All of us. Characters in the extraordinary narrative. We are a Part of Reality itself! This is our comfort. This is our purpose. To grow, to live, to learn, to experience, to share and then to die. We don't need a phantom Father, we have the whole Universe!

Friday, 29 August 2014

Coming Out

I'm an Atheist. Here's my story.

Even though my background is that of a scientist, culminating in an honours degree in Biology, most of my emotional life has been haunted by superstition, the supernatural and religious terror.

In my early 20's I went on a quest, to apply my scientific reasoning to religion, to seek the answers to the big questions, once and for all. Rather than the calm and logical reasoning I had imagined, I found the mechanism to open up my Pandora's box of fears about my own mortality. I suffered badly from panic attacks, emotional instability, sleep deprivation, delusions about supernatural intent. Jesus wasn't my saviour, he was my torturer.

I stepped into the realm of religion, into Christianity, with a questioning mind, and fell out the other end, an emotional and psychological wreck.

For many years, I medicated myself with alcohol and worldly pursuits. When I lost my father, I held it together for my mothers sake. When I lost my mother, I lost it totally. I would cling to mysticism, fortune telling, or clairvoyants. Desperately trying to make sense of the loss.

Time wore on, and I still suffered from panic attacks and hypochondria. Superstitious behaviours and supernatural thinking underpinning my thought processes. Many imagined delusions about an afterlife. I suppose I spent a lot of time in a state of mortal terror, obsessed with death and my demise.

In my late forties, I stumble upon a video by Sam Harris. I watch it, feeling uneasy because it talks about Death. Everything he said just made sense. I tentatively watch more of his material.

Around the same time, I began watching the TV show Wonder of Life by Professor Brian Cox. I'd not watched his other Wonder series, but this one show connected my childhood fascination with Astronomy (that had lapsed since my early teens) with my biological education to degree level. In six episodes Brian had pieced together the vastness of space with complexity of life on Earth. It just made sense to me, and re-kindled both my love for Biology and fascination with Astronomy at the same time.

Finally with my new found interest in these sciences, I began watching material by Richard Dawkins. An eminent evolutionary biologist, and a man who strongly believes in the "Poetry of Reality" based on evidence. I vociferously guzzled down Richard's work, and now truly understood the evolution of life, our place on the planet and in the Cosmos itself. He just made sense to me.

This site was founded upon what I call my Dawning Enlightenment. It's taken a long time to come to fruition, but with the help of these men and their discussions, books and TV shows, I have come a long way from the emotional and psychological wreck that I once was.

If I'd have only known that my grounding in science was ultimately the key to my understanding "Life, the Universe and Everything", I could have saved myself so many years of self-torment, so many wasted years shrouded in depression.

Sam lit the candle, Brian illuminated the Cosmos and Richard grounded me in the evolutionary tree of life.

Since my personal enlightenment I have gone on to read many other important people (Hitchens, deGrasse Tyson, Krauss, Feynman, Ray, Sagan etc.) having equally important things to say about the reality of life and what's actually out there NOT what is imagined to be out there.

Atheism for me was a gradual climb, but one which I am now relieved and a little proud to be a part of. The shift of perspective is incredible. Science makes you care more for the people and the planet than any fabled laws written down could.

My hope is that with the almost rampant proliferation of information across the Internet, this enlightenment will spread and the Human race will grow up and see the world and life for what it is, a fantastically precious thing to nurture into the future. It's time to shift our perspective of concern higher than 'iron age fairy tales', territorial control, racial hatred to cherishing the life on earth and the planet itself.

I'm Ian. And I'm relieved to be an Atheist, grounded in reality.

Monday, 25 August 2014

The Answers

Long, long ago, when I was a superstitious, semi-spiritual, wishful thinker - in spite of an intense overwhelming fear of death - I used to imagine how at least in death, I would know the answers to everything. My spirit would ascend, and I would enter a realm where the answers would be revealed to me.

So eventually, I would find out what the spiritual entity behind the whole thing had planned for me. The answers would be my reward. The ultimate revelation. This notion can transcend any denomination. This imaginative and creative thinking, can comfort you because you only have to wait for death and then the answers will be bestowed upon you.

I spent many years with this fanciful notion at the heart of my faith in "something".

After my dawning enlightenment, using reality as my guide, I noticed that instead of waiting and having to physically die for these fabled answers to be gifted to me, most of them had already been given to me whilst I was alive! If only I'd used my mental faculties to seek the actual information out!

For many years, my terrified and fearful consciousness had postponed rational thought on the matter, and had sidelined the main questions for presumed/imagined answers after death!

How wonderful it is to have *some* of those big questions answered truthfully by human scientific endeavour during my lifetime!

I know my place in the bigger scheme of things. I see where I've come from, and ultimately where I'm going. My purpose on this planet is clear to me. To live. Here. Now. A biological machine, a genetic vehicle, to be a part of the story of life on this planet.

Not only can science reveal these truths about my immediate status - it can open my conscious mind (itself a product of evolutionary survival and refinement) up to truths that span many many lifetimes, and millions upon millions of years.

I am no longer willing to defer this knowledge to the vacuum of my death. I am using my biology, and our history of scientific discovery, to find the answers when I am in a state to comprehend them.

Bathe luxuriously in these truths now.

The story is so big, and we are so little, these answers are so precious to us.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Religious Phage

I've heard..

*Religion is Poison*, by Hitch

*Religion is a Delusion* by Dawkins

*Religion is an Iron Age Fairy Tale* by Harris

Recently-ish, the Dawkins inspired meme (memetic?) concept was fleshed out a little more to include the biological analogy that...

*Religion is a Virus* by Darrel Ray.

The God Virus

It's an interesting fit. One that is worth considering. As we move on, global concepts and ideas will proliferate, and this Globalisation will require a more detached objective view on geographically localised Religion. We need to make sure the thinkers of the future embrace the scientific reality of the world, and identify the cultures and delusional poisonous ancient fairy tales that still infect many people on this fragile planet.

For it truly is a Phage, a Devourer of reason and rationale. A vector for blatant ignorance and defiance of cumulative scientific discovery. If we are to embrace our period of enlightenment, we need to innoculate our newborn potential intelligences against this most destructive of viral diseases.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Atheist Cult?

I am quite disheartened, because my new found enthusiasm for reason and rational thinking, for embracing all that is real, and openly dismissing all that is related to the falsehood that is religion is annoying my close family.

They think I go too far.

They think I am a ranting zealot.

They think its some sort of cult.

And that atheism is the new fanatical religion in my life.

Nothing can be farther from the truth. However my enthusiasm and my emotional need to keep reaffirming my "beliefs" are obviously affecting them.

The thing is, I've been a hollow, emotionally volatile, wisp of a man for many years, medicating myself with alcohol for much of it, ultimately at the mercy of my fears towards death. Hypochondria. Panic attacks etc.

Death has so heavily exacted a toll on my life over the years, its claws are in every aspect of my being. My new found "enlightenment" in Atheism, Reason, Science and the Truth of Reality really is a kind of ongoing therapy for me. Self administered. I find myself easily slipping into superstitious ways, or hoping for salvation and an afterlife of some sort, or wishing reconciliation with my dead parents. These thought processes have been conditioned into me and nurtured by me, from an early age. They have kept me weak of will, with no personal integrity, no dignity, no backbone (if you like).

So, I need to reinforce my current understanding of things, by watching leading scientists in their field present the arguments, offer up new viewpoints, by stating the realities of it all, and by being annoyed at the damage that has been done to the world over the years by religion, by supernatural twaddle, by pernicious pseudo-science. 

My inner strength, my growth, my rational adulthood needs frequent affirmation. These trains of thought are still new to me, the ability to drop all prejudice, all preconceptions, all sociopathic tribal hatred and to embrace the liberal secular views of Humanism is a major leap for me - going against everything I've been taught as a child, everything I've ever thought as a adult throughout my 20's and 30's.

Just a few years ago none of this would have been possible, I simply wasn't open enough to see the truth of the world. I was wrapped up in a supernatural superstitious semi-spiritual delusion. Perhaps John Edwards, or Colin Fry can bridge the gap and put me in touch with my parents, or confirm the presence of an afterlife, or a God that will meter out justice? Whilst others thought that it was just a "bit of fun", I seriously considered it as the truth!

I could convince myself that I was having a spiritual experience when my Father-in-Law George died, I felt his presence "in the corner of the room". I thought that was true! I was in a place where just thinking something could convince me it was true.

Hence, ridiculous phobias about connecting bad things with situations or inanimate objects. Watching the film Dragonheart (because thats what I was watching when my Mam phoned me and announced she had terminal Cancer). Watching the film Gallipoli (the night prior to my Dad's death). Wearing Dungarees (because I was very ill after I tried something new like wearing all-in-one trousers). Forming ways of behaving based around irrational pattern matching.  These are behaviours of an emotional child.

I feel I have taken a major step forward in terms of development and maturity, to get to the point where I only accept reality, I only trust evidence, and I am keenly trying to educate myself in the things that I now feel matter. The World. The Climate. Humanity. Our future as a species, bearing in mind the poisonous spread of religious fanaticism.

The Reality of it all has dawned upon me, by the help of scientific celebrities and their teachings.

I was once a scientist. I understood the scientific method. But I didn't know it held the key to my growth/recovery and ability to face up to my fears. I feel more grounded. Stronger. And more open to new ideas, new ways of thinking. To use Dr Steve Peter’s Chimp Paradox model, my chimp has hijacked my life for long enough, and now the sentient Human wants control.

Now I understand how this life will unfold. Now that I'm not waiting on some judgement, some supernatural justice. I want to enjoy whats left with my new perspective.

I haven't joined a cult.

I'm not brainwashed.

I've never been more "awake", mentally speaking.

I've never had this much control over my emotions and thought processes.

I'm no longer flailing about, like a lost child looking for a parents hand.

I accept my incoming death. I don't like it. But I understand the processes that are underway to bring it about.

My conscious self wants to enjoy as much life as I can.

I'm not totally there yet though.

I still have doubts.

And my seemingly constant barrage of anti-religious quips, jibes and taunts - is purely a self confirmation in my new mental perspective. I'm sure it will calm down. I'm sure I'll end up as a content and rather placid Atheist. But at the moment, the pain of the damage wrought upon me by superstition / supernatural / religious delusion still stings, and I have anger towards it. 40 odd years wasted in emotional torment. I simply have to shake my fist!

This is my journey.

And if its annoying, or amusing to you, and you think I'm mad, or have joined a cult, then so be it. I'll try and temper my fervour and reign it in as best I can. I am striving to be a better person than I was. To be more rational. To be an Adult. To be Human.

This "enlightenment" process is probably the best thing that has happened to me for many years, and I treasure it, and in doing so I'm probably coming across as fanatical, for that I apologise. It is VERY important to me though. It's not a fad. It's not a new toy that I will throw away. I see it as the answer to a lot of my emotional issues and phobias. Not some 12 step help book, but a real positive way to look at life and face the truth (and beauty) of reality.