Staring at a blank page under the title ‘My Story’ is just about the scariest blank page I've ever seen. It’s not that I have nothing to write, it’s just that out of all of the things there are to say and explain, how does one selectively pick the right elements to give the appropriate impressions without over-sharing or giving away too much to read into the books?
Here are some things which should invoke a total lack of surprise given the content of ‘Launch’:
I am from British Columbia, Canada. I grew up in the Greater Vancouver Area, but on the other side of the river as I sometimes say, meaning the outer suburbs. I was born and grew up in Richmond, and then later spent many years in the Surrey/North Delta area before coming to the Okanagan Valley to go to school. I attended Okanagan College where I took all of my prerequisite courses to enter the science program, and due to meandering interests essentially wound up taking every first year science course they offered.
My interests gravitated strongly towards psychology and philosophy though, and after transferring to the University of British Columbia – Okanagan, I focused on obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in Psychology and a minor in Philosophy, but with a very strong general sciences background. I'd found that I wasn't the kind of person who could ever be happy with the focused diligence required to actually do science, but the experience of learning about the products of science ignited in me a strong passion for knowing and understanding in general.
Out of a mind swirling with the ideas of science, space, psychology, and philosophy, New Horizons was born.
Religion and Skepticism
I was raised in a Mormon home, but it didn't stick. I’m not one of those people who claim that they never believed any of it right from the start though, I certainly did. As described in my books, the ideas of religion were presented to me as facts of the world. Water is wet, God exists, we live on Williams road, you have an immortal soul. I was never given the opportunity to partition facts and dogma into different domains of knowledge. It was all the same to me.
As I grew up, I never learned how to create that partition. I was unable to have different knowledge folders for real knowledge and religious knowledge. I was unable to create a bifurcated worldview. So, when I noticed contradictions I concerned myself with them. My earliest memory of such a case was in elementary school. It came up that I had a perception of people living longer in the past because I remembered hearing about bible figures who had lived to be a thousand years old. I remember a teacher staring at me blankly and informing me that in fact people today lived much longer than they were ever able to in the past. I logged the error.
This is how the next couple decades went for me. It didn't take me long to realize that a strict literal perspective on religious teachings was impractical due to the accumulated errors between doctrinal information and factual information, and not long afterwards I realized that all religious institutions were poor places to turn for the truth. I was certain that it mattered though, that what the truth was really mattered. It was important for me to find out what life and the universe was all about, where it all came from, and what made it all go. As I kept investigating, I kept incorporating more and more information from more and more sources. I had yet to discover skepticism, so I accumulated beliefs far more rapidly than I was able or inclined to remove any. As a result I had this comically over bloated worldview which included everything from modern cosmology to astrology, and I had these elaborate astrological reincarnation narratives to make it all fit together in my head. I imagined each astrological sign to be something like a level in a video game that you had to keep playing until you got it ‘right’, before you could move onto the next sign level, or... whatever. It got pretty silly, and of course since I was still the centre of all creation in my own mind , I was naturally at the end of this process, and had now come back to be a prophet, or... something. It was really quite a mess.
It was an unstable structure, and when it could no longer support itself, it all came crashing down. The trigger, was a conspiracy theory movie called 'Zeitgeist'.
My skeptically minded friends who are aware of the movie laugh when I tell them this, but like I said, it was only the trigger. I was incredibly weed high, and my friend and I for some reason got to watching this movie. The second and third parts are the really conspiratorial bits, but the first part opened my mind to a fundamental reality which I was only then finally ready and willing to see. Essentially, it exposed me for the first time to the blatantly pagan origins of Christianity (including all of the astronomical and astrological symbolism in the bible), and the other assorted pre-Christian mythological elements which were incorporated into the Jesus narrative. For the first time, religion in general was presented to me as a fiction developed and employed as a system of control, as a way to influence the behaviour of societies. At the end of this first section, it showed the World Trade Center towers collapsing, and eluded some connection. The next segment of the movie went into standard 9/11 conspiracy theory about the attacks being a false flag operation to create a public license to initiate wars of aggression in the Middle East, and for about two weeks I completely bought into all of it hook, line, and sinker. The third section of the movie was about the money system, and how it’s all rigged and fake, all mixed with very unsophisticated new age metaphysics.
When the towers fell on the screen before all that though, behind my eyes my entire epistemology was collapsing. My already shaky world view crashed down and was reduced to rubble. This is why for a brief time I was a conspiracy theorist. In the vacuum, I had no basis to believe or disbelieve anything. I was completely epistemologically unbound, which I’m sure was the aim of the movie. I refer to these event in the narrative of my life as the Zeitgeist Incident, and in many ways I separate my life into the time before it happened, and the time after. For years the world view I'd inherited from my childhood had been progressively weakened until that night the decrepit structure finally toppled over.
As I said, for a time I was epistemologically rudderless, but as I fell ever deeper down the conspiracy theory rabbit hole, I finally got down to things that gave me serious pause, namely alien involvement. I had to ask myself how I could believe in anything now. By what measure could I now separate things into true, and untrue piles. In researching that question, I stumbled upon scientific skepticism. I picked up my first issue of Skeptic Magazine, and I began a new phase of my life. That day I became a skeptic.
I read some Michael Shermer books, and I watched Carl Sagan’s Cosmos and James Burke's Connections. I read Dawkins and Dennett; for a time I was voracious. I discovered an impossibly inspiring narrative, the stunning history of humanity, of life, and of our Solar System. I discovered the grand cosmic narrative which it is all a part of. On my own I learned everything I could about history, which was at least as much as I was learning about psychology and philosophy in classes at school. Out of the ruins of my previous world view, I built a new scaffolding in space and time, from the sub-atomic to the cosmic, and from the big bang to the present and into the future. I discovered the beautiful grand cosmic narrative which methodical science and skepticism had revealed.
That in a very real way, is what ultimately led to the New Horizon series. Tracing all of those lines form the beginning to the present, I couldn't help but speculate about where those lines might continue on into the future. New Horizons is what I foresee as one possible future for humanity. It is certainly not the most likely future, nor may it even be a probable one, but I stand by my assertion that it is a possible one. It is the future available to us, if as a species and as a global society we can demonstrate that we are worthy of it.
It is the fate available to us, if we can deserve it.