A New Cold War

In 1949 the Cold war officially began. This was marked by a distrust between the great powers (US & USSR) and their respective treaty organisations (NATO and Warsaw Pact). The tension was heightened by the nuclear capability of both, yet, paradoxically the international situation was made more stable by the doctrines of Massive Retaliation and Mutually Assured Destruction. In 1991 the USSR disintegrated and ‘the end of history’ was celebrated. Certainly there is very little yearning, except for ultra conservatives in both camps for the ideological differences of the past, yet the Ukraine crisis has demonstrated Russia’s return to realpolitik. In truth this desire to maintain the status quo of the near abroad, a Russian policy going back to at least Catherine the Great, probably was behind much of USSR’s policy during the Cold War, yet was interpreted by the west as an ideological crusade, leading to fears of the domino effect.

Clausewitz, in ‘Von Kreig’ demonstrated that ‘war is a continuation of politics’. Therefore the question is what politics would require the use of nuclear weapons or WMD. Previously, under the twin doctrine of MR & MAD, the answer would be none except for the most ardent believers in the inevitability of history. Such people rarely have the pragmatism to get to places of such power that they can influence strategic decision making.

The fact that the US has publically stated that its nuclear weapons are no longer specifically targeted means that MR & MAD are now redundant. With the temporary disappearance of MR & MAD, has the world become a more dangerous place? Could Obama’s hesitation over the Ukraine be interpreted as a refutation of both? Not really, as the Ukraine was never a part of NATO and so did not fall into those doctrines. Nonetheless, the realpolitik such as we have seen recently, ‘a 19th century land grab’, has exposed weaknesses within the west which may lead to mission creep, and a willingness on the behalf of Russia and other states to push the boundaries. It is unlikely, although not impossible, that this will lead to a war between the superpowers by itself, but heightened tensions between such states will, as they did in the Cold War, lead to mistakes; political (Cuban Crisis) and operational (U2).

Russia’s growing weakness (demographic pressures, an economic/political structure that restricts it to primary resources that are dropping in value) may, paradoxically, make it more dangerous. The present crisis came about because Putin has very little political/economic options, only military. This will be combined with Russia’s traditional paranoia and growing ecological pressures. This must be considered with the very public determination of Russia to keep to a first strike policy.

Nuclear proliferation has its own dangers. As the number of states with nuclear capability increases, the potential for conflict correspondingly increases. This must be allied with the growth of radical groups for whom Armageddon will be a continuation of their politics’. Their limited capability will mean limited results; nonetheless, any WMD strike on their behalf may lead to mistakes/actions on behalf of those states with greater capability.

The nuclear threat has not disappeared with the end of the Cold War; rather it has evolved. We are no longer living in a world split by ideological rivalry, but rather in a world where it is conceivable that the two great superpowers, US and Russia, may become adversaries rather then partners, to the detriment of us all.

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‘The Bunker’ – Half price for one day only!

50% OFF – For 24 hours this Thursday, ‘The Bunker’ will be HALF PRICE. If you want to find out about the lovechild of Stephen King and Ramsey Campbell, head over to http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006XW9OMO to pick up a copy

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Has Quantum proved God’s existence?

No physical world exists behind the apparent elementary sense impressions subjected to the reflection of the mind. George Berkley Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge 1710

In short, no. As Nietzsche said, science cannot explain, it can only describe. This is because, as a purely materialistic philosophy, it lacks any teleological dimension. Thus it is extremely good as saying how something works, but fails with what the purpose of that object, concept or phenomenon may be. Kant also commented on this, saying that science is limited by our pre-programmed preconceptions: space, time causality. Anything that is outside those preconceptions, we as humans, and therefore science, are not well designed to compute. Therefore science can only hope to describe the reality we experience, not the ‘ultimate reality’.

However, science, in particular quantum, has pointed to the existence of a supernatural, intelligent, conscious observer which (who?) exists outside of the universe. This would be, in most people’s book, be God, or at least a god. The experiment which points to this external observer is, of course, the infamous double slit experiment.

For those who are unfamiliar with this, Jim Al Khalili has a very good video briefly describing this (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9tKncAdlHQ). One of the conclusions he draws from the experiment is that an electron choses to behave as a wave or a particle depending on whether it is observed. In fact, some interpretations state that the electron does not really exists, but is instead a wave of probability until it is observed, at which point it decides how and where to exist. This is known as collapsing the wave function. ‘The electron seems to spring into existence as a real object only when we observe it!’ Heinz Pagel, 1981. This is part of what is known as the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum physics.

All well and good, you might say, but what has some esoteric experiment got to do with the real world in which we live. Well of course, the experiment is very much part of the outside world. Everything is made up of atoms, all of which have electrons. We, as people are made of, among other things, electrons. If the existence of electrons is dependent upon an external observer, how are we then called into being? Presumably interactions with the world outside the observer. And what makes the world outside the observer real? Presumably the universe observing the world. Take the Copenhagen Interpretation literally, and you can state that a single speck of dust exists because the entire universe is observing it.

But what makes the universe real? Some cosmologists, including Stephen Hawking in his book, A Brief History of Time, worry that this implies that there must be ‘something’ outside of the universe observing it in order to collapse it’s probability wave function. As I have mentioned earlier, this ‘something’ sounds an awful lot like what most people would call God.

This type of idea tends to be deeply unpopular with large segments of the scientific community. Thus J G Cramer’s transactional interpretation which states that, in essence, the electrons knows whether to behave like a wave or a particle due to signals it is receiving from the experimental apparatus sent back in time, at one point received a great deal of support. Of course, time travel is widely believed to be impossible as to do this the particle would have to break the speed of light which would require an infinite amount of energy. However, this is only true if the velocity of the particle starts at below the speed of light. If it is already travelling at the speed of light, then it would take an infinite amount of energy for it to slow down to below the speed of light. Thus, crudely speaking, it is already travelling backwards in time. Again a good video of this is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyFuMy344yw.   However, Cramer’s interpretation does only apply to the delayed choice version of the double slit experiment. It does not explain the original thought experiment, nor the updated quantum eraser version of the experiment.( http://arstechnica.com/science/2012/05/disentangling-the-wave-particle-duality-in-the-double-slit-experiment/) It has also attracted criticism for perceived inconsistencies. (http://arxiv.org/pdf/quant-ph/0603018.pdf)

My main point, however, is that transactional quantum is merely another interpretation of the facts. With respect, there is no more evidence for Cramer’s hypothesis for the Copenhagen Interpretation, which is why John Gribben, even though he supported Cramer’s idea, described it as a myth for our times (In Search of Schrodinger’s Kittens). Two hundred years ago the Copenhagen Interpretation with its implications for a supernatural being would have been accepted. In two hundred years’ time it may be accepted once again, but as knowledge is a social construct, in a secular age I suspect that society will chose a version of the truth which fits more closely to its current ideas.

With transactional quantum, Cramer reduced the problem to concepts we know, albeit a new take on them. The Copenhagen Interpretation uses concepts we do not know, such as non locality, observer based reality and complementarity. Although we do not necessarily understand time (as St Augustine said, the more I try to define it, the less I understand it,) it is at least a familiar concept and one that does not challenge our secular preconceptions and prejudices. The concept of observer dependent reality does.

But what lies beyond the borders of human knowledge has always fascinated me, even as we grab tantalising glimpses of what may be. As Hamlet said, ‘There is more in heaven and earth than your philosophy can even dream of, Horatio,’ and this is why Mark, the hero of my own novel, The Bunker’, learns that what we think we know about the world is often flawed. For myself, the question is whether human knowledge can, or indeed does, ever move forward to solving the great, immortal problems that have always faced us if we are forced to continually recycle concepts that sit within the limits of our understanding, and do not have the courage, or indeed the ability, to look outside these parameters. Although science has brought great benefits to mankind (as well as great horrors), to be trapped into a purely materialistic view of the universe means limiting our own ideas and our own knowledge to our own detriment.

Nothing is real – John Lennon

 
When I was a child
I caught a fleeting glimpse
Out of the corner of my eye
I turned to look but it was gone
I cannot put my finger on it now
The child is grown
The dream is gone
Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb
 
 
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Eighteen years ago, in a picture perfect village in the Kent countryside, William, an innocent child was kidnapped. For all that time Mark has been haunted by one thought; that even as Brendan Rogers rammed the barrel of a shotgun in his mouth and told Mark never to come back, he could have saved William. But when Mark does return to Wantsum to try to make amends, yet more horror awaits as the evil that has been waiting for all those years is unleashed, bringing ruin upon the village.
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‘The Bunker’ – First Chapter FREE

Chapter 1

Mark had been sitting on the top deck of a number ‘49’ bus when he looked down and saw the top of his own head. It had been raining that evening and Mark watched himself as he traced random patterns in the condensation on the window of the bus. He stared, uncomprehending, sure that he was imagining this, that he would blink or something and be back in his body, the body he was floating above. He felt he was watching a film, except this was real, as real as anything he had ever experienced.

‘………….Billy…..’

…all around were these voices, whispering, murmuring. Yet the words that appeared in his mind were not heard, but felt, chalked up on the blackboard of his consciousness.

‘………..Your mother never loved you, Billy….’

Mark could see that there was a woman sat behind him, so large she took up an entire seat. To his left sat an old man with a red border terrier lying on his feet. The voices grew stronger. Static popped and crackled in his ears, but Mark could make out the words if he concentrated hard enough. It was like listening to a radio that was not quite tuned in.

‘….You belong to me, now…’

He was lightheaded, he was floating, slipping, falling into blackness. All he could hear was his own hoarse, ragged breathing and the blood thumping in his temple. The blackness became stable, his feet were on solid ground. He stood, momentarily disorientated and then, with one deep breath, he stepped forward, his hands held out in front of him.

The air was cool around him. Refreshing even. His shoulders brushed against rough concrete walls. Each foot step made a slight echo that reverberated along what seemd like a long, narrow passageway. From somewhere far away bird song followed him faintly into the blackness, the sound muffled and distorted as if he were underwater, yet before him was nothing but cold, black air. Mark took a step forward. And another, and another. And then his hands had come up hard against concrete and he expelled all his breath in a gasp of relief. There was nothing here; it was a dead end. Wherever he  was, there was no-one and nothing here.

But as he stood there in the darkness, a thin sheen of perspiration on his face despite the cold air, he thought he could hear a whimper, a faint gurgling on the edge of his hearing. His left hand moved from the pitted surface of the concrete in front of him, to his side and found smooth, brushed steel. A door.

And then, on the other side of the door, there was another whimper. A murmur that grew into the sound of crying, a baby crying, and then countering it, a woman’s voice, soft and comforting. ‘Hush, Billy, hush.’

Further down was a handle and then his knuckles barked against something hard and heavy that nonetheless moved. His fingers discovered a large padlock that hung open from its hasp. He fingered curiously, and then jumped as it slipped from his grasp to clang against the steel door.

The whimpers stopped immediately. Mark stood still, crazy shapes and colours dancing on the margins of his sight as he stared into nothing. He felt the blackness sucking him in and then there came a faint slap from beyond the door. Then came another, and into Mark’s head came the image of his grandmother, her slippers slip slapping against her kitchen lino. Again it came, and then there was a metallic grinding at the door.

For a second he had the sense of being connected with something else, a fleeting sensation of another mind touching his, and then he was back in his body. He found himself gazing down at damp finger tips and realised he had missed his stop. He climbed unsteadily to his feet and found a child sitting beside him; an infant he had tried to forget about for almost two decades.

William gazed at Mark with calm blue eyes, podgy legs dangling from the seat.

Mark was sure William had not been there when he had boarded the bus. And he was sure of that because for William to have been there, no, wait, for William to be here now, one thumb rammed into his mouth, a thin drool slipping down his chin, would mean that time had stood still for eighteen years.

William gazed into Mark’s eyes, there was a musty smell, damp, as if of being underground and then William was gone and the old man with the dog was staring at him, bemused and concerned.

“You alright, mate?”

Mark fled at those words, tripping over the border terrier. Its yelps pursued him as he stumbled off the bus.

***

He had no memory of getting home. He sat on his unmade bed and tried to understand what had happened. He had just taken a normal bus journey home, he started to tell himself……

……and  hovered against the ceiling of the bus, just over the heads of the passengers below.

That was mental. Crazy. If a friend had told him about this, he would have thought that they had taken a little too much acid. But Mark had never touched drugs; his upbringing had been so straight laced that it made the Quakers look like a synonym for hedonism. It was only from that day he began to drink, so that he would no longer see William. He was terrified of that little boy, for reasons buried deep in the sludge of his unconscious. Where he wanted them to stay.

So instead he went to his doctor and explained he thought he was having a breakdown. The doctor took Mark’s pulse and looked into his eyes with some kind of flashlight. When he had finished Mark asked what he thought was wrong.

“Nothing,” the doctor replied. “Nothing at all. You’re absolutely fine.”

“But the bus? What happened there?”

The doctor looked at him for a moment. He closed the cardboard file and then getting up, carefully placed the folder in the filing cabinet by the door. Mark felt the doctor’s hand come down on his shoulder, and flinched. But the doctor’s voice was gentle as he said, “This is more in the line of, say, a priest, than mine.”

Mark sat for a few moments, thinking before he rose and quietly left. He only knew one priest and he was sure as hell was not going to talk to him.

***

Mark tried to forget the incident. He knew it had happened; he just preferred to ignore it. He managed to push William Matthews into one of the cellars of his mind. There William sat like an infantile Mrs Rochester, safe behind a bolted door. One Mark was determined to keep closed. Yet at the subconscious level, where the bad things grow, he was afraid. So when he reached his flat that evening he made sure that each window and door was securely locked. Then he sat down to stare the long night out.

It was close to midnight when Mark, dragged by a fascinated terror from his sleepless bed, finally twitched aside his curtains to see a small child standing in the middle of the road, oblivious to the traffic that hurtled alongside him. William Matthews gazed up at him with blue eyes set deep within cherubic cheeks, and Mark felt nausea swim in his gut. The cellar door had been well and truly busted open. Mrs Rochester was on the loose and amassing kindling.

***

The next day Mark drove to work; he didn’t want to risk  another …., he struggled for the right words to explain what he had experienced on the bus and then gave up. Besides, he had finally got his car back from the garage yesterday. Something to do with the alternator, the mechanic had said. He would need a new one sooner or later, Mark thought, but right now there was no way he could afford it. For now, patching up and offering a small prayer to the gods of the road seemed the way forward.

It was towards the end of his shift when Mark rubbed sleep deprived eyes, looked up at the clock and felt his chest tighten. Another half an hour and his shift would end. Then it would be time to go back to his flat, back to where William waited for him.

Mark looked around the room that suddenly seemed so appealing. When the charity he worked for had bought the house they had knocked through the living room and dining room to make one large communal area. The décor was beige and cream, bland and sterile. The TV was blaringly loud; it had to be for Liz who was partly deaf. John, eighty-six and with the mind of a small child conducted an imaginary orchestra as he listened to his iPod. Warren sat on the sofa beside him, staring into space.

“Hey Warren,” Mark said softly. Warren turned those dead eyes upon him for a moment and then back to the wall. Mark had no idea what, if anything had passed through Warren’s mind just then.  His job title was support worker, but often he felt more like a parent. Without him to cook and clean, to wake them up in the morning and to put them to bed, to give their medication, these people could simply not live. But Mark felt no satisfaction; this job was a penance.

‘Penance’. Mark frowned. That was a strange choice of words. Penance for what? True, he wasn’t perfect but he hadn’t done anything particularly awful. Had he? He shook his head as if to clear it, as if to shake loose the question that he didn’t want to answer, but even so, a vague and formless guilt rose within him. Rising he padded his way to the tiny office under the stairs. As he opened the door one of the cards that stood on every surface of the office fluttered from the filing cabinet. Mark read its inscription as he bent to pick it up. ‘We are both so grateful for what you do for our son.’

He kept all the cards he received. But no matter how many cards he collected from grateful relatives, no matter how much love he cascaded down onto those in his care, he still felt like a fraud. Atonement could not be earned through good works, apparently. Sometimes he wanted to stand in the middle of the street and scream this nameless, unknowable guilt he felt. But instead he took a slow, deep breath, sat down, and started to gather together the papers that littered the office desk, filing the interminable paperwork for the disability benefits the clients claimed. This was the part of the job he hated, the part that he usually left until last but he was quickly learning problems did not simply go away.

***

As if to prove this, William was standing outside Mark’s block of flats the following night. Mark watched William as he wandered around the overgrown courtyard, small feet scuffing against the debris of city life. Mark knew that the main doors to the flats were always locked, but still he was afraid.

That fear was there when he woke after a troubled night’s sleep. It rumbled in his gut all through the next day, from when he left his flat to when he arrived at work. It was there in the evening when he stood at the window of his studio flat. He leant forward from behind the curtains, scanning the road below. His shoulders were tense and aching; occasionally the muscles in the hand that gripped the shabby curtain went into a brief spasm of anxiety. No matter how hard he looked, the street was empty, and Mark then knew that William Matthews was in the building. That night he sat, staring sightlessly into the darkness, listening to William climb the stairs, one slow step at a time. Though the staircase was on the other side of the tower block, with innumerable concrete walls between them, he heard each of William’s soft footfalls, his gentle breathing, his nails clicking against the metal banister.

Mark crouched with his ear pressed to the door of his own flat, waiting. He knew that he was imagining all of this. William could not have remained a toddler for almost eighteen years; whatever had happened to him, that was not possible. Mark slipped down to the floor, his back against the wooden slats of the door. He did not believe in ghosts, did not believe in anything that was not hard, scientific fact but at the same time he had to believe in what he saw. Which was impossible if you believed in the laws of time and space, of common bloody sense.

Then, as if on cue, a soft, caressing breath came through the keyhole, sweetly foul. It was cold with the darkness of subterranean prison, of depths and then Mark heard one small knuckle, tap, tap, tap, against the door and he wept. He wept for William Matthews and what he must have suffered, wept for the long wasted years, but above all Mark wept for himself.

Daybreak found Mark, hollow eyed, climbing into his car with the clear knowledge that he had to find out what had happened to William. The past had come back to haunt him, and to exorcise it, he needed to confront it.

He wound out through the narrow streets of  suburban Manchester to the motorway and headed south, the miles slipping past with glorious ease at this time of the morning. He drove, his fingers white as he hunched over the steering wheel. He was heading south back to Wantsum.

He was heading home.

 

I hope you have enjoyed the first chapter of my novel. Please click on the image to check out the whole book.

51Nb2AJHPVL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-52,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_Mark only believes in what he sees. He certainly believes in Brendan Douglas who rammed a shot gun in his mouth and told him never to come back to ‘The Hedgerows’.For eighteen years Mark kept his promise. But then he began to see the ghost of a small child who had disappeared all those years ago and Mark then knew he had to find the courage to confront his past.

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Are humans just super intelligent animals?

Contemporary thought would hold that the difference between man and animals is, as Darwin said, a matter of degree, not of kind. We are simply animals that happen to be more intelligent than other creatures. However, it would seem difficult to explain the obvious differences between humans and animals simply as resulting from a difference in degree in intelligence. Indeed, scientific research is constantly finding that certain animals, and not just the obvious ones like dolphins and chimps, but also crows and the humble sheep are far more intelligent than previously supposed, yet they clearly lack that essential ‘human’ quality. On the other hand supercomputers are obviously far more intelligent than us – they have the ability to process info far more quickly and efficiently than humans yet it is preposterous (not excepting Dennet’s attempts) to state that we are a poor cousin of the computer. Human achievements are driven more by a desire for meaning rather than purely survival; we do not need to explore space in order to help us survive on earth better but it is part of our drive to do this; our desire  to understand which has haunted us ever since Eve plucked the apple from the tree of knowledge.

There are several phenomena that are uniquely human and are not explained by the superior level of intelligence that we might possess. The first is art. No other living thing seeks to express itself through the medium of art; possibly because they have no soul which constantly rebels against its carnal prison and so seeks this expression of self consciousness. Again, there is no right or wrong in animals kingdom – there is killing but no murder. Animals do not seem to have created an equivalent moral code . There is, of course, the idea that being super intelligent animals, humans have rationally evolved a moral code as a result of seeing the effects of ‘bad’ actions.   This idea is a touching faith in human rationality to overcome impulses, desires etc which is sadly lacking in evidence in history. Intelligence does not lead to morality; Germany in the 20th Century was, according to the historian Eric Hobsbawm, one of the most civilized and cultured places on earth; yet it gave rise to National Socialism and the Holocaust. The most intelligent person, if left in a moral vacuum, would not choose good over evil. In fact, often doing the right thing makes little rational sense and those acts of self sacrifice which characterise world’s religions clearly do not, from a purely materialist and rational point of view, make sense. Societies with a moral code would not necessarily be at an evolutionary advantage anyway – being honest, peaceful and poor does not seem to offer any material advantage than being cheating, violent and rich.Poor morality tends to give rise to more poor morality, as we can see in those areas of the world which are afflicted by war and suffering.

No animal is guilty (or otherwise) of altruism and/or evil. The act of giving to charity is an act of altruism – and this happens every day, and as a cursory glance through the news headlines demonstrates, so does pure, gratuitous evil. People such as Dawkins, Hamilton and Wilson have attempted to explain altruism in evolutionary terms. I have not the time or space to go into the deep flaws of these arguments but will quote biologist James C. King of the University of New York who describes these as ‘a shocking attempt to ensnare us all in a pseudo scientific set of rules compounded of obsolete genetics and a cynical interpretation of social relations.’

No other animal has been observed to have a religion, yet evidence of human religion, from Stonehenge to Gaudi’s cathedral are a constant feature of civilization. This search for meaning has got to be unique to humans. Beyond the activities humans and animals have in common (eating, sleeping, mating, and defending), human beings have a fifth faculty: the intelligence to inquire into the truth of our existence:

  • Who am I?
  • Why am I here? What is the purpose of my existence?
  • Why am I suffering?
  • How can I liberate myself from this suffering condition?

It is this introspection—to question the meaning and purpose of our existence and endeavour to find a solution to human suffering—that sets humans apart from animals. As such, human language is recursive, a faculty that animal ‘langauge’ seems to lack. This is because humans are aware of ‘self.’ We think about ourselves. We think of what happens when we die; as the anti-hero Billy in my novel ‘The Bunker’ eventually finds out, death is not the end, but the beginning of another journey. We have an immortal soul which seeks to express itself through art, altruism and/or evil, morality, religion and introspection. The gap between humans and animals is so obvious it is hard to deny, and this gap is not a matter of degree but of kind, and this quality cannot be explained through a materialistic approach. As James Le Fanu has pointed out in his book, ‘Why Us’, materialism cannot solve those mysteries that make each of us uniquely human, whether we like it or not. These are the mystery of subjective awareness, the mystery of free will, the mystery of the richness of the memories we encode, the mystery of human reason, and the mystery of self. These are what make us truly unique.

Please click on the image below to check out my novel, ‘The Bunker’.

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Mark is haunted by the vision of a small child, Billy, that disappeared from his own village many years ago. Is it his ghost that Mark sees, and why is he haunting Mark?

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FREE Short Story – Mightier Than The Sword

Please click the link below to download a free PDF of my story, Mightier Than The Sword, in which literary jealousy leads to … well, you’ll have to find out. This story was first published in Mind’s Eye Magazine in Summer 2011.

Mightier_Than_The_Sword

All that week the sense of tense anticipation had grown inside Vicky until it had become a fizzing fever. She had woken at three that morning and stared into the darkness, watching the silent shadows flit around her bed and waiting for daylight to break her anxious vigil. When she had eventually got to work, the day had dragged until she walked out of the office at 5.30pm and was standing at the bus stop. She felt in her handbag to check the folder was still there, and as she felt its hard edged plastic, she felt fear. Maybe it was best if she didn’t go tonight. Maybe she could say she was ill, maybe they wouldn’t even notice if she didn’t turn up. But something stronger than her fear, ambition perhaps, or just stubborn pride made her board the bus, made her feet move in unthinking steps towards the church hall so that when she finally walked into the chill room on that Wednesday evening she looked around as if confused as to how she had got there. She found a chair on the edge of the group, balanced the folder upon her knees and waited for her turn to read. The words of the other readers were a meaningless rush of noise in her ears, the perspiration pricked at her skin until eventually the room fell silent, and she became aware that everyone in the room was looking at her.

I hope you enjoyed my story. If you wish to read more of my work, please click on the link below to check out my novel, ‘The Bunker’.

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Mark only believes in what he sees. He certainly believes in Brendan Douglas who rammed a shot gun in his mouth and told him never to come back to ‘The Hedgerows’.For eighteen years Mark kept his promise. But then he began to see the ghost of a small child who had disappeared all those years ago and Mark then knew he had to find the courage to confront his past.

Reviews on amazon say;

I would firmly agree that this deserves to be compared to Steven King and gives him a good run for his money.

Dark, compelling and beautifully written.

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Why Darwinian evolution is theory, not fact. (Update)

Update 10/12/13

The article below has attracted quite a lot of attention and comments, the majority of which are negative. I fear that I must take some of the blame for this as I had failed to make my position clear. This would include the heading, which I have now changed to, ‘Why the Darwinian interpretation of evolution does not make sense.’ Darwin would have been more than a man of science if his theory has been wholly complete and impregnable; he would have been a prophet. One of the most fascinating things about human knowledge is how it evolves (no pun intended), and how further research qualifies, modifies and adds to what we know, especially our interpretations of facts. An example of this would be Newton’s work; though his Laws are quite obviously still very much valid and in use today, the mechanistic interpretation of the universe we live in has been proved to be superseded to some degree by quantum mechanics. I believe that animals (including humans) adapt and change for a number of reasons, including environmental reasons, which I shall term ‘micro-evolution’. This much Darwin observed on the Galapagos islands. It is the interpretation and extrapolation of these facts which concern me, including using it as the basis for a wholly materialistic view of the universe as well as ‘macro-evolution’ – the belief that all life evolved from single cell organisms. I hope I shall make my thinking behind my conclusions clear below.

1)      It fails to explain how life started.  I have a plastic table in my garden. It is not alive. I find it inconceivable that at some point, no matter how many millennia pass, no matter how many protein rich soups of organic matter it is dipped it, it will change from being non alive to alive. Yet, according to the theory of evolution, at some point life is meant to have sprung from non-life. But how can an inanimate object become animate? I accept that strictly speaking this is not part of evolutionary theory; however, I thought it was worth pointing out the obvious problems with a purely materialistic view.

2)      Even if life does arise spontaneously and independently it needs to then consume and reproduce. To do this it must already have a ‘program’ written within its DNA that instructs it how to do this. Where does this teleological input come from? The first living cell must not only be alive; it must also have the instructions already encoded in its DNA to tell it to reproduce. To draw a parallel with a computer, it must not only have assembled its own hardware, and gained an energy supply, but must have also have the software which tells it what to do. Otherwise it would simply die without reproducing. For these three fairly miraculous things to happen spontaneously at the same time would be, well, miraculous. Evolutionary theory offers no explanation of how this could happen. This is also true for RNA.  Biologist Frank Salisbury says, ‘It’s nice to talk about replicating DNA molecules arising in a soupy sea, but in modern cells this replication requires the presence of suitable enzymes. … [T]he link between DNA and the enzyme is a highly complex one, involving RNA and an enzyme for its synthesis on a DNA template; ribosomes; enzymes to activate the amino acids; and transfer-RNA molecules. … How, in the absence of the final enzyme, could selection act upon DNA and all the mechanisms for replicating it? It’s as though everything must happen at once: the entire system must come into being as one unit, or it is worthless. There may well be ways out of this dilemma, but I don’t see them at the moment’. Frank B. Salisbury, “Doubts about the Modern Synthetic Theory of Evolution,” American Biology Teacher, 33: 335-338 (September, 1971). Moreover, as the atheist philosopher A Flew remarked in 2005, ‘the present physicist’s view of the age of the universe gives too little time for the theories of abiogenesis to get the job done

3) Current models for how 1) & 2) occurred are flawed. Contrary to received wisdom, there is no viable mechanism that we currently know of for how the all-important ‘primordial soup’ was created. Granted, the Miller – Urey experiments were able to create amino acids, but did so using conditions that would be strikingly different from those that would have existed in the Earth’s early atmosphere. Contrary to the high amounts of reducing gases such as methane, ammonia and hydrogen, it is widely believed that the atmosphere was composed largely of nitrogen and carbon dioxide, neither of which support the synthetic pathways leading to possible monomers. Nick Lane, a biochemist at UCL stated that the primordial soup theory does not hold water., “Is It Time To Throw Out ‘Primordial Soup’ Theory?,” NPR, Feb 7 2010

4) RNA cannot fulfil the role it is given in current theories of evolution. RNA would, to fit current theories have to arise by unguided biological processes. However, as yet it has not yet been observed that this is possible. As New York University chemist Robert Shapiro says, ‘The sudden appearance of a large self-copying molecule such as RNA was exceedingly improbable. … [The probability] is so vanishingly small that its happening even once anywhere in the visible universe would count as a piece of exceptional good luck.’

5)      Given that 1),2),3) and 4) have happened, it is then a mystery how complex features in creatures arise. Darwin himself remarked that the problem of explaining how, for example, the eye arose turned him cold. The eye of made of several complex components (retina, lens, eyeball, nerves etc), each of which is useless by itself. This means that the owner of a single eyeball, for example, would gain no evolutionary advantage, would have no greater chance to reproduce more successfully than its competitors and would be as likely to become extinct as any other creature until the various parts of its eye had been created by chance. Given the timescale over which such evolutionary processes are meant to happen, this seems unlikely.      I used the example of the eye, but to be honest any complex organ within the human body would be a good example such as the heart. It has taken scientists 40 years of conscious effort, billions of dollars  and some of the best brains in the business to create an artificial heart that that weighs twice as much and is a fraction as efficient as the heart that beats in all our chests. To suggest that blind chance has succeeded, no matter what the timescale, where conscious intelligence has not, seems to be frankly incredible. It is worth bearing in mind that the heart is one of the simpler physiological systems.But to the eye. I argued that a retina without an eyeball, without a lens etc would be unworkable and confer no advantage upon the creature that has it, and therefore fail to the test of natural selection. On reflection, I feel that this point is not as watertight as I previously believed, although I still fail to see how much evolutionary advantage the ability to see a faint glimmer of light (as in the case of a creature with a very rudimentary retina) would confer. However, I accept that it is possibly conceivable that this might be the case. This is not the end of the story with the eye, however. For even the most rudimentary retina to function at all (and therefore confer any evolutionary advantage) three things need to happen simultaneously and spontaneously; the retina needs to be created, as well as the nerves that connect it to the brain and the sight cortex in the brain that interprets the information the retina is receiving. Therefore instead of a series of very gradual steps as described by Darwin in ‘The Origin of the Species’, three drastic modifications must have to happen in the evolutionary blink of an eye. Again, evolutionary has no explanation for this. Moreover they must have to be ‘positive’ ones, and as the atheist philosopher, Anthony Flew remarked in his book ‘Darwin and Evolution , Darwin put far too much emphasis on positive modifications. Genetic modifications tend to be negative or destructive for the organism involved.To clarify Darwin’s evolutionary case, Dawkins used the example of the limpet, which has a light sensitive spot, shellfish which have such a spot set in a cup, a deeper cup such as the mollusc nautilus has, leading up to the eye of the squid or the octopus which is very like the humans. However, this is not proof of evolution, as Dawkins himself says, these do not represent ancestral types. What would be proof of such evolution would be if we were to discover, say, the remains of an octopus with a less evolved eye (ie missing the lens, to give a simple example). No such single example has been found ever. What has been found, however, is that the very earliest marine creature, the trilobite which lived 450 million years ago, had an eye optimally designed for life underwater. This would seem to turn natural selection and evolution on its head. There are also 40 different forms of the eye; this would mean that the extremely fortuitous ‘numerous successive slight modifications’ that make up each eye would have to happen 40 different times. Not impossible, maybe, but surely highly improbable.

4)      Anthony Flew remarked in his book ‘Darwinian Evolution’ that changes brought about by gene mutation do not have to be beneficial; all that is required is that they do not disadvantage the bearer. Therefore we would expect to see a great number of anomalous and useless features on animals; Flew himself gave the exaggerated example of a pair of tiny and therefore useless wings upon a human being. This does not seem to be the case, however; each creature we see today seems to be specifically and supremely well designed to exist in its environment, despite the fact we would expect the number of anomalous effects to increase, not diminish as time went by. To me this is a minor point, but I have included it because I find it hard to refute it. Flew says that changes do not have to offer the possessor an advantage; all they have to do is not disadvantage the possessor. Therefore logically we would expect to find creatures with many useless features such wings. This is just spinning the natural selection argument on its head. Basically my argument in points 3 & 4 is that natural selection does not stand up whichever way you look at it; whether you believe it has to confer an advantage, or not. It represents a logical inconsistency in the Darwinian interpretation of evolution, not an absolute rebuttal of.

5)      Moving from a four legged stance to a two legged stance (as humans are said to have done when evolving from primates) requires a pretty massive redesign of the whole skeleton, muscles and nerves, which must happen more or less spontaneously as a gradual transformation would leave the hybrid creature with a shuffling, limping gait which would severely impede its attempts at hunting or avoiding being hunted.. For example, in learning to walk upright it would have to drastically redesign muscles, skeletal framework, nerves, perception. The (presumably) millenia that it would take to do that would leave it less well equipped to survive than in its original condition. Here I will cheat and quote from James Le Fanu Why Us? ‘The strengthening of the gluteus muscle was essential but this would have needed the simultaneous redesign of the bones of the pelvis and the upper thigh, the ligaments to lock the knees, the adaptation of the foot to standing upright etc.’ Now either these all happened simultaneously, rather in contradiction to the idea of slow evolutionary change, or any transitional species without this full set of anatomical changes would basically be crippled, and therefore unlikely to survive long enough to pass its genes on. Now people talk about chimps and bears being able to stand unsupported on their back legs for short periods of time (in order, for example to intimidate others) and point to these being hybrid species to bear out the four legged to two legged hypothesis. However, for these species to be truly hybrid, they would have to be as adept on two legs as on four legs. I have never seen any four legged animals run successfully on two legs, or vice versa, nor has evidence for any ever been discovered. The only other option would be an animal which lives in a strange, half crouching position somewhere between the stance of a four legged animal and a two legged one. The existence of such an animal has never been postulated, let alone discovered.

6) Homo sapien’s prodigious brain may make a Shakespeare possible, but it is difficult to see how it makes it more of a hunter than a wolf pack, who, with their (presumably) smaller and more limited brains, use the teamwork techniques that is so often vaunted as being an example of human ingenuity. For that matter, birds and primates also use tools, for example to break open nuts. It would appear that other creatures have developed the abilities that it is traditionally said are unique to man’s enlarged brain and therefore the reason for his evolutionary ascent. In fact, it is the size of his enlarged brain which makes birth so difficult amongst humans, and, until recently, the risk of death to mother and infant so high. Our large brains means we have a Darwin and a Leonardo Da Vinci, but not necessarily any evolutionary advantage. Mutations may not stop but they would no longer be beneficial. My point was that there are bottlenecks; to go from being ape (which, lets face it, is pretty well suited to its natural environment) to man the ape would have to take several evolutionary steps backwards. Further on this point, I was picked up on a rather throwaway remark I made that ‘our large brains means we have a Darwin and a Leonardo Da Vinci, but not necessarily any evolutionary advantage.’ To put it succinctly, I struggle to see why, if Darwinian evolutionary theory and natural selection is true, we have evolved to produce artists as I struggle to see what evolutionary advantage art can bring. The same is true of philosophy, or any of the humanities, bearing in mind that science is an offshoot of these branches of knowledge.  Furthermore, reflective thinking does not, in the short term, offer much in the way of evolutionary advantage. Mere survival would surely be better served by the quick as lightning instinctive reactions observable in creatures, rather than the slower, reflective thinking of humans. Of course, there is the argument that the use of tools (including fire) benefited early man and this is undoubtedly true, but a) many other animals also use rudimentary tools, and b) the cognitive abilities required for the use of these is not huge. Without wishing to be disparaging, you do not require a PhD in order to use a hammer or a shovel; therefore it would seem curious that human intelligence continued to evolve beyond what is necessary for survival. Moreover most animals have their own ‘tools’ in the shape of claws and teeth, in the face of which a stone axe would seem puny by comparison. These animals have these ‘tools’ without having to put in any extra labour; the amount of time and energy expended by early man in order to create a fire or an axe is by comparison huge. So rather than tools offering a huge advantage over competitors, they would instead seem to be an attempt to emulate these animals at the cost of much extra time and calories.

6)      To be fair, we have no idea how the mechanics of evolution work. The Human Genome Project has been successful in explaining how the genes ‘code for’ hormones, enzymes and proteins but ‘there is not the slightest hint in the composition of the genes of fly or man to account for why the fly should have six legs, and the human two. (p16, Why US, James Le Fanu, 2009, Harper press).My point is that the majority of DNA only codes for different enzymes, hormones and proteins that make up the cells; there is no overall blueprint. It is rather like having the instructions for making bricks, tiles, rafters etc without any architect actually drawing up a design for a house. DNA by itself does not explain the differences in shape, size and form between humans and apes, flies etc; there is nothing in our DNA or indeed any creatures DNA, as far as we can discover, that can explain the form, shape and size of us or other creatures. DNA codes for the building blocks, but has no blue print as to how these are put together. As historian of science Evelyn Fox Keller puts it, there is a large gap between genetic information (ie DNA) and biological meaning.(Making Sense of Life Harvard University Press 2002). Or as Elizabeth Culotta said in Science 2005 vol 309 pp1468-9, ‘the obvious differences between humans and chimps cannot be explained by genetics alone.’ Fair comment, but then what is the explanation? Often the close correlation between humans and say chimps, which share 98% of our DNA is held up as proof that we evolved from chimps; however, we also share many of our genes with flies, which presumably we did not evolve from. Darwin’s interpretation of Cuvier’s homology principle was that it was evidence of their originating from a common ancestor. However, this would evidently require that they originate from the same basic structures in the developing embryo. This is clearly not the case. Even to the untrained eye the pattern of division of the fertilised egg is quite different in amphibians, reptiles and mammals. ‘The similarity of structure cannot be pressed back to similarity of position of the cells of the embryo out of which these structures are ultimately formed. (Gavin De Beer, Homology, An Unresolved Problem, Oxford University Press 1971). Moreover the paucity of genes (the 1mm long blind roundworm C.Elgans with 959 cells comes in at 19,100 genes, only 6,000 less than humans,) their multitasking and master genes such as Pax 6 flatly contradict Darwin’s idea of natural selection acting on numerous small, random genetic mutations.

7)      Edith Heard, Head of Genetics and Developmental Biology at Institut Curie has discovered that genes can switch themselves on and off every couple of cell cycles. ‘You can take a cell that has made all sorts of decisions, stable decisions you would think, yet it can undo them all in a couple of cell cycles.’ Given that each living creature would have thousands of such cell cycles each lifetime, this rather goes against the idea of fortuitous gene mutations being slowly accumulated over millennia, as the mutation X that gave me so an advantage over my competitors (such as giving me excellent eyesight), may have changed into mutation Y by the time it is passed onto my son. Heard goes onto say that, ‘there is no good evidence that this can be heritable over several generation.’ Observer 23.613 Epigenetics is the study of gene expression independent of DNA mutations. Darwinism was in serious trouble by the 1940s owing to the ‘Cambrain explosion’ and the realization that advantageous genes would eventually be diluted out of existence, therefore failing the natural selection test. However, a Roman Catholic priest called Mendel came posthumously to the rescue with his work on plants a century before. His work gave rise to the idea of recessive and dominant genes which underpinned Darwin’s theory and especially the ideas of the new atheists such as Dawkins until they were contradicted very recently by the new work in epigenetics.Acting in a fashion that contradicts Mendelian inheritance, epigenome changes result from genes being turned off or on by certain environmental factors.

8) Most people assume that fossils provide important (evidence) in favour of the Darwinian interpretation of the history of life. Unfortunately, this is not strictly true,’ observes David Raup, of the Natural History Museum in Chicago. ‘Rather than the gradual unfolding of life… species appear in the sequence very suddenly, show little or no change during their existence in the record, the  abruptly disappear.’ David Raup, Conflicts between Darwin and Palaeontology’ Field Museum of Natural History Bulletins, 1979, vol 50 (1) pp22-9

To refute this people will quote the example of the eohippus, for example.  This is not proof of evolution from single cell organisms to the complex creatures we see today, but rather examples of ‘microevolution’; species adapting to their environment but essentially remaining the same. A mammal does not become a reptile; a hominoid does not become a goat.

Then people will say the fossil record is incomplete. This is true; by definition it is unlikely to include the fossil of every animal that ever walked upon the earth, but even in 1860, the year after when ‘The Origin’ was published, palaeontologist John Phillips would point out there was still more than enough evidence in the rich abundance of marine fossils of the Cambrian explosion to test Darwin’s hypothesis. It failed the test. Since 1860 the fossil record has become ever more complete but that ‘inconceivably great number of transitional species’ that Darwin himself said would be needed to verify his theory have not been discovered.

The origin of life itself, the evolution of the miraculous cell from which all things evolved is still poorly understood.’ Wolport, Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast, 78

I personally have no great problem with the theory of evolution from a religious or philosophical perspective. What annoys me is how uncritically it has been accepted and this is dangerous. It has become a sacred cow which no-one dare criticise without being labelled, ‘stupid, mad or ignorant’, as Professor Dawkins has put it. In fact what has happened is that, as Thomas Huxely, ‘Darwin’s bulldog’ as he was known, ‘heresy has become superstition’.

Please leave comments below; I am always interested in what people think. If I am wrong on any of the points above, please let me know. I would be most grateful if people could keep their comments civil; I am launching no personal attack on you, so please do not do the same to me.

In response to agnophile’s comment on 22/7/13.

I apologise; you were correct. I had missed your comment regarding point 1. Please find below an elaboration of this which I hope covers your point. If there is anything else I am missing, please let me know. This is very much a work in progress and so I really value yours, and others’, inputs. Thank you for your time and effort in responding to this and keep on rocking. If you know anyone else who has anything to add, negative, critical, or otherwise, please direct them this way.

‘Life is not a quality, it’s (in a strictly biological sense) simply a functional arrangement of matter.’ If this is the case, then surely we can simply synthetically manufacture matter and then place it in the correct functional arrangement, and whatever we wish will become alive? I am not aware that this can or has happened. Moreover, this does not explain why something things, such as a virus is alive, whilst a rock is not. I agree that for life to function the parts have to be in the right arrangement but what is it that makes these parts come alive? I’m not saying I have the answer; I am suggesting that neither does science. Something that is alive is by definition goal seeking, self replicating autonomous agents. This is much more than simply being a correct arrangement of cells. Science has yet to answer the question, ‘How can a universe of mindless matter produce beings with intrinsic ends, self replication capabilities and “coded chemistry”? (A Flew 2007)

By its very nature science is ill equipped to answer these questions. As Einstein said, ‘Scientists make poor philosophers’, and the famously atheistic philosopher Nietzsche said, ‘Science does not explain, it merely describes.’ At present people like Dawkins and Dennet get round this by denying such questions even exist. This is the equivalent of saying to a child, ‘It just is’, when the child is asking a question. As parents we have all done this, but it is remarkable how we use that response when we have reached the edge of our knowledge and understanding.

I believe that Carl Woese, a leader in origin of life studies, sums the problem up. Writing in the journal RNA, he says, ‘The coding, mechanistic and evolutionary facets of the problems now became separate issues. The idea that gene expression, like gene replication, was underlain by some fundamental physical principle was gone.’ (2001) Paul Davies adds to this; he observes that most theories of abiogenesis have concentrated in the chemistry of life, but says that, ‘ life is more than just complex chemical reactions. The cell is also an information storing, processing and replicating system. We need to explain the origin of this information and the way in which the information processing machinery came to exist.’He goes onto say.‘ The problem of how meaningful or semantic information can emerge spontaneously from a collection of mindless molecules subject to blind and purposeless forces presents a deep conceptual challenge.’ “The Origin of Life II; How did it begin?”

The first life wasn’t complex or refined, it was simply a self-copying collection of atoms, perhaps something akin to a simple virus inside a soap bubble in terms of complexity. ……….  But once you have replication and the ability to pass on structure you have natural select. Maybe, but what told it to do this? Why did it do this as opposed to simply dying? Moreover, no-one has the authority to say the first life was this or that, because no-one knows for sure. We can presume or guess, but this is all these are, presumptions.

And as we see from the fossil record life has been changing for a very, very long time. As you can see from point 8, not in a strictly Darwinian sense it hasn’t. There has been no gradual transition, rather sudden changes. .’

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