Comments: My first book,”The Alternative Life”, was written between 1993 and 1994, but I didn’t succeed in getting it published till 1996. It is a radical, scientific reappraisal of evolution theory. Below is an extract from Chapter One, which sets out what each of the other chapters is about. “The Alternative Life” is still available, to order, from good bookshops at the publisher’s price of £14.50. Alternatively, you can order it directly for only £10.00 (including post and packing in Britain) by contacting me.
CHAPTER ONE: CHANCE INTRODUCTION (Extract)
Conventionally, the introduction to a book appears before Chapter One and summarises what the rest of the book is going to tell you. Though that will certainly be the partial function of this chapter, it is also an appropriate title because I wish to introduce you to yourself in a way that you may have never viewed yourself before. That may seem a little ambitious considering I’ve never met you but there are many things I know about you that you may not know. There are also some things that I am convinced I know, concerning the chapter of accidents which has led to your existence, that hardly anybody knows – until I wrote this book. This chapter is also concerned with the part that chance has played in your creation.
If we were to meet, my eyes would tell me that you are an irregular-shaped piece of solid matter (most probably surrounded by separate pieces of material) which can, at will, change shape within certain limitations, maintain balance and move position. My knowledge of chemistry would tell me that all matter is made of chemicals. In other words, you’re a chemical machine. In Chapter Two, “Finding Common Bonds”, I’ll be analysing chemicals – what they are made of, what they do and why they do it.
All machines need a continuous supply of energy. If I watched you closely enough, I’d probably be able to observe that you inhale and exhale air in a rhythmical pattern. I may also notice you putting solid or liquid matter into your mouth. My knowledge of nutrition would tell me that those behaviour patterns are part of a regular punctuated process designed to ensure that your machinery’s requirements for energy and nutrients are constantly met. In Chapter Three, “Wining and Dining”, I shall be taking stock of the things you ingest – what happens to them, what effects they can have and why their ancestral composition may have had a major influence in creating your chemical machinery.
My ears would probably tell me that you also can, at will, emit air oscillations which my brain would interpret as an attempt to impart (and possibly request) coded information. In Chapter Four, “Codes of Conduct”, I shall be delving into coding systems – how they arise, why they are incredibly useful and why they must always have an entry and an exit. In particular, I shall be inspecting the chemically-coded information in your genes, which determine the particular chemical abilities that your machinery has, and considering the probable origin of genes as an example of cause and effect mechanisms.
All of your genes are located in your chromosomes which exist in each of the 60 trillion (or so) co-operative cells from which my knowledge of biology would tell me you are constructed. (Reluctantly, I adopt conventional scientific usage of the words trillion and billion, meaning million million and thousand million respectively). In each of those cells, you have half of your mother’s genes and half of your father’s. All of your cells are replicas of just one cell, which was originally formed from two half-cells, called gametes, when your parents had unprotected (or inadequately protected) sex. In its broadest sense, sex is about donating genetic information to another organism, which is also within the scope of asexual organisms. In Chapter Five, “Sexual Chemistry”, I shall be exploring sex – how it all got started, why it progressed so nicely and why it got out of control and messy.
Unless there have been significant developments in the communication practices of chimpanzees since I wrote this (or the presence of literate extra-terrestrials on this planet is a hitherto-unconfirmed reality), my knowledge of taxonomy would tell me that your cells present an exterior aspect which is characteristic of the species, homo sapiens. The study of the distribution of body cells to form characteristic shapes, colour patterns and internal organs is called morphology. In Chapter Six, “Shaping Up”, I shall be surveying morphological development – what causes it, what changes it and why it is usually so well-tailored to the lifestyles of its possessors. I’ll be inferring that the process is neither random nor determined by genes.
The ways in which you might change your shape could convey subliminal information which would be additional (and possibly contradictory) to the coded air oscillations that you emit. In Chapter Seven, “Body Language”, I shall be contemplating some alternative communication systems – where they appear to occur, how they may work and why they have a major effect upon human culture. In particular, I’ll be looking into the possibility that hitherto-unconfirmed communication systems may be responsible for morphological development, behaviour, memories and life itself.
Some of the finer details of your shape would give an indication of the duration of your existence. In Chapter Eight, “Prolonging the Date”, I shall be studying some of the dating techniques that are used to try and determine the ages of things – how they originated, why they supposedly work and why you shouldn’t take the slightest bit of notice of them. In the process, I shall be investigating the origin of the universe and the formation of the chemical elements in the factories called stars.
In common with all other organisms, you are the product of a long, slow process of evolution, through countless millions of ancestors in a continuous lineage all the way back to the origin of life on earth. The study of your recent ancestors is called anthropology. In Chapter Nine, “Establishing Past Histories”, I shall be observing some of those ancestors – what they were like, where they lived, how they were affected by the weather and why they evolved in such a way that they ultimately produced you.
The history of the planet itself has undoubtedly had a major effect upon the evolution of all the living organisms that have inhabited it. In the final Chapter, “Making the Earth Move”, I shall be reviewing the violent history of this planet – what provoked it, how it responded and the repercussions that remain to this day. I shall also be looking into the possible ways in which your earliest ancestors could have found themselves on this planet, and even many others throughout the universe.
So far, you could be any member of the species, homo sapiens, like any second-hand car of a particular make. What makes you different is a combination of idiosyncrasies, like the condition of your bodywork, the number of miles on your clock, the sophistication of your on-board computer, your other optional extras, your service history and the kind of handling to which you have been subjected. Many of those features can be put down to experience but some of the characteristics were included in the manufacturing blueprint contained in your 46 chromosomes. On your conceptionday, you were given 23 of them by your mother and you received 23 from your father.
44 of them are in similar pairs so that there are two No.1’s, two No.2’s and so on up to two No.22’s. In effect, each of a pair is essentially a duplicate copy of the same information. Each of the No.1’s is very similar in size, shape and function, but each contains little differences which cause your inherited idiosyncrasies. The same goes for all of the chromosome pairs. In fact, the same goes for all human chromosomes, which means that every human No.1 chromosome is very similar. Indeed, many of the chromosomes of your closest cousins – the gorillas and chimpanzees – have the same size, shape and function as yours and would be interchangeable with them without functionally-detrimental effect, like parts from different models of car.
The 23rd chromosome pair is different, since it either contains two similar chromosomes or two different ones. That difference makes quite a difference. One of the things I don’t know about you is whether you’re the Double 22 XY model, with semen injection system, or the Double 22 XX model, with expansive interior compartment and twin drinks dispensers for the kids. (I was tempted to say attractive drinks dispensers but that would certainly be rather presumptuous considering I’ve never met you). If you’re a comparatively recent addition to the fleet, the model-defining features may not be fully operational yet. When they are, you may discover in practice (as you should know in theory if you’re reading a book like this) that they have been incorporated in order to further the continuation of your lineage long after you have been pillaged for spares, provided fuel for micro-organisms and worms, or been catalytically converted to carbon dioxide, water and ash. Since 45 of your 46 chromosomes are geared towards your being female, it follows that maleness is an imposition over the natural tendency towards femaleness.
You exist because your mother and father had sex at a particular time. If they had not done so at the exact time that they did, you – or rather, the person who could be reading this book in your place – could very easily have been one of trillions of your potential brothers and sisters. If they had not had sex within a few days of the time they did, you would certainly not exist.
This is because each of your father’s sperms contained 23 chromosomes which were randomly selected from each of the 23 chromosome pairs in his sex-line cells. The number of combinations of 23 from 46 with a 50/50 chance on each pair is 8,388,608, so your father could make over 8 million different types of sperm. Half of them had an X as the 23rd chromosome and half of them had a Y. Since each of his sperm packages (or ejaculations) contained many millions of sperms, he would certainly have manufactured all of the 8 million different types and each of his sperm packages would have contained many duplicates of each type. Your mother could theoretically have made an equal number of different egg types, but in practice she didn’t so it is extremely unlikely that any two of her eggs were identical. Hence, you had to be conceived in the month that you were in order to stand any chance of being you. The fact that the sperm which caused your conception was the first to penetrate the egg may have been because it was the best of the bunch or it may have been a fluke. That sperm may have got there in the nick of time or it may have won the race by a clear margin. Whichever way, the fact that a sperm of that type managed to penetrate an egg during a fairly short period of a specific one of your mother’s ovulation cycles was the luckiest break you ever had.
Having built up a picture of your unlikelihood, and your uniqueness, it must be pointed out that many of your full potential of brothers or sisters would be very like you, in terms of appearance and personality, but they would not have been you. However, the unlikelihood of your existence is drastically increased when you consider that each of your two parents, each of your four grandparents, and so on, had an equal unlikelihood of existing. When you further consider the unlikelihood of each of those couples meeting to have sex at all, let alone at the specific times that they did, it becomes clear that you are phenomenally unlikely. However, since the same applies to every other living organism on this planet, there is no need to get big-headed about it. If evolution had needed to create you, the odds against it would have been almost infinite. As it is, you are just one of an infinite number of possibilities.
Beating phenomenally high odds is an everyday occurrence, when it’s not necessary. For instance, every time you shuffle a pack of playing cards, you create a sequence which has odds against it of 1 in 10 to the power of 67 (That’s a 1 with 67 noughts after it). That’s because there are that many different sequences that 52 cards can have and the sequence you create has to be one of them. Normally, it doesn’t matter what the sequence is, so the odds are meaningless. If you needed a particular sequence from a shuffled pack, those odds give the realistic likelihood, which is practically nil. If anyone does a card trick in which even part of a pack comes out in a predicted sequence, you know that the nature of the trick has rigged the sequence. The same is true in nature, as I shall show later in the book.
If any of your ancestors had died before reaching sexual maturity or failed to have sex at some of the particular times that they did, you would not exist. Within that obvious statement lies the essence of natural selection. There is nothing complicated or mysterious about natural selection; it is the entirely logical system of criteria for determining success, when success is measured in descendants. Every animal, plant, fungus and micro-organism on this planet today is alive because every one of its ancestors, right back to the first bacteria, stayed alive long enough to successfully reproduce. Every single ancestor was an evolutionary success.
In the case of mammals, such as yourself, reproduction has consisted of consciously-practised genital coupling between a male and a female of the same species. For many plants, it has consisted of scattering pollen to the wind and allowing chance to help it find the female targets. For micro-organisms, it has consisted of simple cell division. From the point of view of natural selection, it doesn’t matter how or why all those ancestors survived and reproduced – whether by luck, hard work, natural aptitude, determination or cheating – they did so and the proof lies in their contemporary offspring. Natural selection is not good or fair or politically correct; it is just inevitable..……………………….
Another extract from “The Alternative Life” can be found in “Transcription and Translation”.