The defining moment of my life came when I witnessed the Apollo 8 lunar circumnavigation on TV, just after my sixteenth birthday. Humanity had taken a leap in consciousness, had stepped back to see itself from a distance for the first time in history, and I too first became self-aware in that December.
I became involved with Christianity for a while, but eventually decided it was manifest nonsense. We human beings were all supposed to have individually participated in original sin, otherwise our present fallen state would be inexplicable, yet I had no knowledge of ever having rejected God.
I reacted strongly against Christianity for a while, before gradually coming round to my present tolerance of it as an earlier stage in the evolution of ethical consciousness. Although fudged with dismal magic and dogma, its enlightened doctrines of human equality before God, forgiveness towards one's enemies and the purposeful flow of history have been essential rocks supporting our civilisation's adolescence over many centuries. This is a legacy to be thankfully built upon rather than rejected.
I studied physics at Lancaster University, 1971--1975, but failed to obtain a degree due to personal problems. I came away with the enduring insights that relativity must be explained with so-called "imaginary" numbers in order to make sense, whereas in quantum mechanics the "imaginary" numbers are not really significant. Since the textbooks say the exact opposite, this has always presented a barrier to my ever going back to physics.
I learnt Russian instead. Today my Russian is fairly good, my German less so, though I have good A-levels in both languages. I became very excited reading Pushkin's epic poem "The Bronze Horseman", which describes the creation of St Petersburg by Peter the Great and then the flood which devastated the city in 1824. To build a city in the wilderness, to dare nature to do its worst, to suffer disaster and soldier ahead anyway to triumph in the end --- isn't this the eternal story of mankind defiantly living life to the utmost?
Today I live in Oxford and work as a self-employed academic typesetter. I used to do a lot of ice-skating; the big rotation jumps were always beyond me, but I can't wait to try them out in one-sixth gravity!
I joined the British Interplanetary Society in 1987, and became a Fellow. I belong to what one might call the "gung-ho" wing of opinion, believing that making drastic alterations to the planets is our choice and our privilege. I would argue, for example, that providing the Moon and Mars with breathable atmospheres and living, human-compatible ecologies is a realistic possibility within the next few thousand years, that it will probably happen and it will be right and good if it does happen. Bulldoze the craters? Let's do it! Indigenous microbes in the way? Bottle them! They've had their chance; now it's our turn.
(This is in contrast to what we might call the "softly-softly" wing of opinion, which believes that human intervention off the Earth should obey the maxim: "take only photographs, leave only footprints", expounded recently in Spaceflight, April 1998, p. 135.)
In the December 1995 issue of Spaceflight (p. 426) I introduced the term Astronism for the general philosophy of human expansion into space as a natural and beneficial part of the workings of the universe. I maintain that this philosophy has the potential to become one of the major sources of social, political and ethical inspiration in coming centuries, replacing the old religions and the failed 19th-century ideologies of Marxism and Freudianism, and subsuming and revitalising the relatively successful traditions of democratic liberalism.
This is in fact only part of a much broader scientific revolution typified by the writings of Ilya Prigogine and Eric Lerner, through which we are now living. By drawing attention to complex systems, chaos and the spontaneous self-organisation of order from disorder, a new scientific philosophy is appearing which reveals human activities to be the leading edge of the innate creativity of the physical world. (This overthrows the old view that modern science reveals only futile purposelessness and the alienation of man from nature.)
I am the author of a script for a stage play, "Advent Day", in which the Earth is visited by an interstellar alien civilisation (from Eta Cassiopeiae). I believe my script is unique in that it portrays violent conflict between the aliens and the humans arising logically out of the fact that the aliens are friendly. The conflict is eventually resolved because the Cassiopeians are more advanced than we are not only technologically but ethically, thus pointing the way for human progress in coming centuries.
My script would be suitable for adaptation to TV or film, and be relatively cheap to produce. It contradicts the ideology of anti-progress advanced by the popular film "Independence Day".
We started off Space Age in order to complement the activities of the British Interplanetary Society, which do not stretch to promoting networking among their membership. I hope to continue to campaign in my own small way towards raising awareness of Astronist ideas and optimism about the future.
Last revised 19 April 1998 / 29th Apollo Anniversary Year
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