The 13.7 billion year old man

Have you ever stopped to think about how old you REALLY are? I don’t mean this arbitrary thing we call your date of birth – I mean how old you REALLY are.

Every atom in your body is old – REALLY old. Many of them, such as oxygen and carbon, are only produced via stellar nucleosynthesis – inside giant stars. The nuclei of these atoms is produced by whacking helium nuclei together under extreme heat, therefore the nuclei themselves, which hold most of our mass, are actually much older than those reaction. They were created in the Big Bang. Your current body just represents a different proximity and alignment of those nuclei. They’ve been around, in one form or another, for 13.7 billion years. That’s what we call the Law of Conservation of Mass-Energy – the total amount of mass and energy in the universe is constant.

The current estimate we have for the age of the universe is about 13.7 billion years. Therefore, it seems to me that my body is really about 13.7 billion years old. No wonder I’m feeling tired lately.

What is even more profound for me is the realization that I *had* to exist. Not only that, but I *had* to be who I am right now. It couldn’t have been any different. Yes, I’m a determinist.

When I’m having a debate with creationists about evolution, I usually hear, among their various standard arguments, something about evolution meaning we are all here through some random series of accidents. That strikes me as the complete opposite of the truth.

Think about it – 13.7 billion years ago, the Big Bang occurred. Everything that has happened since that point in time (which I guess was zero time, as time was created WITH the Big Bang) happened according to the laws of physics and chemistry, or let’s just bundle them up together and call them “Laws Of The Universe” (LOTU). Every single atomic reaction that has occurred since time started, happened as a result of LOTU. To suggest otherwise would be saying that sometimes LOTU can be broken which wouldn’t make them LAWS. From all of our investigation of the universe over the last few thousand years, we have come to understand that it does seem to operate according to certain laws. We don’t understand all of them yet and perhaps we never will. It does seem true, though, that laws are present everywhere we look.

What about quantum mechanics? Even QM, as mind-bending as it seems to be, appears to operate according to certain laws and, according to some, is probably also deterministic, even though we currently don’t understand all of the hidden variables and therefore it appears probabilistic. We’ve only been aware of the nature of sub-atomic mechanics for 100 years, it’s early days, but already we understand enough that much of our engineering is based upon the laws of QM as we currently understand them.

If we had absolute knowledge of every atomic and sub-atomic event that was happening one second after the Big Bang, and we completely understood LOTU, I’m certain we could predict everything – the entire course of our lives, the time and place of our death, and the end of the universe itself. Of course, we don’t have that information, and we probably never will, but it’s profound enough for me to sit here and contemplate that my very existence was determined by the Big Bang… that 13.7 billion years ago, the nuclei of the atoms that now form my body were created and a series of event began which lead, not only to my birth, but to the entire course of my life. Every thought and every action I’ve ever had or ever will have, are also the result of LOTU. Nothing could have been different. My life will play out the way it plays out. Every event which happens is the only possible event which COULD have happened. Nothing is wasted, nothing is in excess, nothing is superfluous. There is no reason to feel regret, or guilt, or worry. I am who I am, the only possible me I could be, and this is the only possible life I could live.

I could take it one step further and think about this particular combination of atoms that make up “Cameron”. Are they the same atoms that made up “Cameron” 37 years ago? Absolutely not. So which particular combination of atoms am I? Yesterday’s? Today’s? What makes me “me”? Is it a particular series of memories about events which happened to “me”? What if I had an accident and lost all of my memories? Would I still, then, be “me”? And, if so, why?

Perhaps this whole identity thing is just a fabrication, an illusion, a mental construct. Perhaps there is no such thing as a definitive “me”. Perhaps I shouldn’t limit the definition of “me” to this particular collection of atoms. Perhaps I should consider all of the atoms that have ever made up my body to still be “me”. But then… billions of those atoms are no longer part of my body. They came and went. Where did they go? Into the air, the soil, the water around me. They were, perhaps, absorbed by a nearby plant, which was eaten by an animal sometime later, which was then eaten by… another human. Is that other human, therefore, since they contain some of my previous atoms, also me?

This whole discussion of atoms gets weirder. Just imagine that you had eyes as powerful as an electron microscope. Now look at your skin. Which particles on there are you and which aren’t you? How go you decide which bacteria in and on your body are part of you and which aren’t you? Remove all of the bacteria in your body and you DIE. So surely they are you too. And we all know that atoms don’t have a hard shell. The electrons which are in orbit around the nucleus don’t form a hard shell, which is why physicists like Brian Greene like to say that we are mostly made up of space.

So… you are a 13.7 billion year old roving collection of atoms which are mostly made up of space and everything you have ever done, or ever will do, is 100% determined by the Laws Of The Universe.

Now tell me that isn’t at LEAST as profound and mind-boggling as anything you get from religion.

Some Christians Make Me Laugh

I know I should restrain myself, but I really can’t.

Back in January I wrote a post about how many people the Judeo-Christian god “Yahweh” killed according to their “Old Testament” or “Tanakh”.

So far it’s had 69 comments. Some of them are hilarious but none more than the most recent one left by teenage “Heather S”.

She has some ripper statements like:

In the bible, God pretty much said do what he says and you shall live a great life.
So if those retards back then didnt listen. When they had prophets plain as day telling them what God is telling them to do. And from what your saying. “God Murdered Them.”
well, hello. If he brought you into this world, he sure as hell can take you out.


i didnt read all of the reply thingys…
who said they believed in evolution????
OMG! Are you serious?
mmk, so you think you came from a fucking monkey?
so someone in your family tree screwed an ape? honestly.

and my favourite:

Cameron you seem like a funny sad, sick, slightly mental little person.

At least she got that part correct.

God bless you Heather S. You made my afternoon.

Creationists Sue Critics To Shut Them Up

I heard about this on a recent episode of the Skeptics Guide To The Universe Podcast. Some guys calling themselves the Extant Dodos have been taking videos posted to the web by the Creation Science Evangelism organisation which “prove” creationist theories and then debunk them, putting the re-edited videos on YouTube. The CSE people don’t like criticism, so they have apparently threatened to sue the Dodos for infringement of copyright and have demanded YouTube take down the Dodos’ videos. The last recourse of people who can’t win an argument must be to sue your critics. The classic bit is that on their website, the CSE folks originally had this clause: “None of the materials produced by Creation Science Evangelism are copyrighted, so feel free to copy those and distribute them freely.”

Read more here.

Mother Teresa was a fake

While recording a new episode of the Advaita Show podcast today, my co-host Steve mentioned the recent book that has been published with Mother Teresa’s letters to her spiritual mentors which point out what a big bloody faker she was.

Check it:

Yet no sooner did Teresa start her work in the slums of Calcutta than she began to feel the intense absence of Jesus—a state that lasted until her death, according to her letters.

“The paradox is that for her to be a light, she was to be in darkness,” Kolodiejchuk said.

In a letter estimated to be from 1961, Teresa wrote: “Darkness is such that I really do not see – neither with my mind nor with my reason – the place of God in my soul is blank “There is no God in me” when the pain of longing is so great” I just long & long for God.  The torture and pain I can’t explain.”

And this:

“Lord, my God, who am I that You should forsake me? The child of your love—and now become as the most hated one. You have thrown away as unwanted unloved So many unanswered questions live within me afraid to uncover them  because of the blasphemy If there be a God please forgive me I am told that God loves me, and yet the reality of darkness & coldness & emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul.

Note: “If there be a God…”

And this:

The whole time smiling sisters and people pass such remarks they think my faith, trust and love are filling my very being. … Could they but know and how my cheerfulness is the cloak by which I cover the emptiness and misery, she wrote.

What a big bloody faker. All the time pretending she was spiritually “with it”, and yet underneath she was a mess.

But… I hear you say… what does it matter? Look at the good she did?

Did she? By lying? By faking? By pretending? By letting the world believe her good works were inspired by her belief when really she was devoid of belief?

Imagine, instead, how much good she might have done had she had the courage to be honest and forthright about her lack of belief, and yet had continued to do her good works regardless??

We’ve seen it before – the bigger the poseur, the bigger the fake. Remember that lesson kids.

Atheists Out!

Aaron Heath sent me this image:

Atheists out

Reminds me of the Point of Inquiry podcast I listened to this morning with Peter Irons. Irons is “a noted constitutional scholar, historian, and lawyer, he is the author of the bestselling May It Please the Court; The Battle for the Constitution; War Powers: How the Imperial Presidency Hijacked the Constitution; and A People’s History of the Supreme Court. His newest book is God on Trial: Dispatches from America’s Religious Battlefields.” In the podcast he mentions that the “Founding Fathers” of the US were very clear that the country was NOT based on Christianity or any other religion. They were fighting FOR separation of church and state and yet, somehow, many Americans seem to have turned that on its head.

For all our problems (and, having just watched BLOOD DIAMONDS, we don’t have many), Australia is at least not run by the religious right. Not yet, anyway.

Aaron also has this video on his blog. Nicely done.

G’DAY WORLD #265 – Chris Summerfield, Why Be A Christian?

My guest today is Chris Summerfield. Chris works for Drug Arm WA, writes an intelligent blog called “A Churchless Faith” and recently took me up on my challenge to Christians to answer the question “What would it take for you to become an atheist?”. We talk a little about the striking similarities between the key points in the Jesus myth and the mythologies of other saviour gods such as Horus (3000 BCE), Mithra, etc. We also examine the troubling lack of first-hand eye-witness reports of Jesus (surely someone walking around raising people from the dead would have caused some interest from contemporary scholars) and the fact that the Jesus Seminar concluded that only 18% of the supposed saying of Jesus in the New Testament have any chance of being authentic or original.

  • The Zeitgeist Movie
  • Parallels between Jesus and Horus
  • Jesus and the other God-men are personifications of the Sun
  • Other saviour gods that pre-date Jesus, such as Mithra, Dionysus and Orpheus
  • The Jesus Seminar
  • The Historicity of Jesus
  • Why Are The Ancient Historians Silent About Jesus?
  • Become part of the G’Day World conversation.

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