Suvremeni se znanstvenici sve češće približavaju misticima, metafizičarima i književnicima te odvažno iznose sve bizarnije teorije o svojstvima svemira, života i svijesti.
Ponekad se čini da su mitologijsko-religijske teorije svemira zapravo skromne i "realistične" spram bombastičnih, fantastičnih i fantazmagoričnih znanstvenih hipoteza.
Robert Lanza primjerice iznosi teoriju biocentričnog svemira: u temelju svega (pa i života i svijesti) nisu fizikalni zakoni, nego obratno, život i svijest stvaraju fizički svemir. Život je na početku a ne na kraju lanca. I ne samo to. Slijedeći neke ideje/interpretacije kvantne fizike, tvrdi da svijet i ne postoji ako ga nitko ne opaža (stablo u šumi i nije palo ako to nitko nije vidio). Promatrač doslovce stvara svemir, sve što postoji zapravo je "u našoj glavi".
Znanstvenici su danas sf-teolozi.
Radikalnu kritiku scijentističkog redukcionizma i tezu da je u temelju svega svijest iznosi u svojoj novoj knjizi i slavni filozof Thomas Nagel (o tome više ovdje).
Every now and then, a simple yet radical idea shakes the very foundations of knowledge. The startling discovery that the world was not flat challenged and ultimately changed the way people perceived themselves and their relationships with the world. “If the earth were really round,” it was argued, “Then the people at the bottom would fall off.” For most humans of the 15th century, the notion of Earth as ball of rock was nonsense. The whole of Western natural philosophy is undergoing a sea change again, forced upon us by the experimental findings of quantum theory. At the same time, these findings have increased our doubt and uncertainty about traditional physical explanations of the universe’s genesis and structure.
Biocentrism completes this shift in worldview, turning the planet upside down again with the revolutionary view that life creates the universe instead of the other way around. In this new paradigm, life is not just an accidental byproduct of the laws of physics.
Biocentrism takes the reader on a seemingly improbable but ultimately inescapable journey through a foreign universe—our own—from the viewpoints of an acclaimed biologist and a leading astronomer. Switching perspective from physics to biology unlocks the cages in which Western science has unwittingly managed to confine itself. Biocentrism shatters the reader’s ideas of life, time and space, and even death. At the same time, it releases us from the dull worldview that life is merely the activity of an admixture of carbon and a few other elements; it suggests the exhilarating possibility that life is fundamentally immortal.
Biocentrism awakens in readers a new sense of possibility and is full of so many shocking new perspectives that the reader will never see reality the same way again.
From the Back CoverPraise for Robert Lanza’s essay “A New Theory of the Universe,” on which Biocentrism is based:
Like “A Brief History of Time” it is indeed stimulating and brings biology into the whole. Any short statement does not do justice to such a scholarly work. Almost every society of mankind has explained the mystery of our surroundings and being by invoking a god or group of gods. Scientists work to acquire objective answers from the infinity of space or the inner machinery of the atom. Lanza proposes a biocentrist theory which ascribes the answer to the observer rather than the observed. The work is a scholarly consideration of science and philosophy that brings biology into the central role in unifying the whole. The book will appeal to an audience of many different disciplines because it is a new way of looking at the old problem of our existence. Most importantly, it makes you think.” —E. Donnall Thomas, 1990 Nobel Prize winner in Physiology and Medicine
“It is genuinely an exciting piece of work…. The idea that consciousness creates reality has quantum support … and also coheres with some of the things biology and neuroscience are telling us about the structures of our being. Just as we now know that the sun doesn’t really move but we do (we are the active agents), so [it is] suggesting that we are the entities that give meaning to the particular configuration of all possible outcomes we call reality.” —Ronald Green, director of Dartmouth College’s Ethics Institute
“Robert Lanza, a world-renowned scientist who has spanned many fields from drug delivery to stem cells to preventing animal extinction, and clearly one of the most brilliant minds of our times, has done it again. ‘A New Theory of the Universe’ takes into account all the knowledge we have gained over the last few centuries … placing in perspective our biologic limitations that have impeded our understanding of greater truths surrounding our existence and the universe around us. This new theory is certain to revolutionize our concepts of the laws of nature for centuries to come.” —Anthony Atala, internationally recognized scientist and director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine.
From the Paperback“An extraordinary mind . . . Having interviewed some of the most brilliant minds in the scientific world, I found Dr. Robert Lanza’s insights into the nature of consciousness original and exciting. His theory of biocentrism is consistent with the most ancient traditions of the world which say that consciousness conceives, governs, and becomes a physical world. It is the ground of our Being in which both subjective and objective reality come into existence.” —Deepak Chopra, Bestselling Author (heralded by Time magazine as one of the top heroes and icons of the century).
“This is a brave new book. Instead of placing life as an accidental byproduct, the authors place life at the apex of universal existence and purpose. It is a very thrilling and disturbing read. While the proposals made in Biocentrism seem radical and counter-intuitive at first, a bit of reflection will soon make the images clearer and place us on the pathway to a better and more commonsensical mindset” —Michael Gooch, Author of Wingtips and Spurs
“. . . both interesting and worth the effort of reading it . . . From the way Lanza chooses to present his arguments, it’ss clear he has a solid grasp on esoteric disciplines . . . His style is conversational and his sense of wonder is as infectious as it is delightful.” —Midwest Book Review
From Other Scientists“It’s a masterpiece — truly a magnificent essay. Bob Lanza is to be congratulated for a fresh and highly erudite look at the question of how perception and consciousness shape reality and common experience. His monograph combines a deep understanding and broad insight into 20th century physics and modern biological science; in so doing, he forces a reappraisal of this hoary epistemological dilemma. Not all will agree with the proposition he advances, but most will find his writing eminently readable and his arguments both convincing and challenging. Bravo” —Michael Lysaght, Professor of Medical Science and Engineering, Brown University and Director of Brown’s Center for Biomedical Engineering
“As an astrophysicist, I focus my attention on objects that are very large and very far away, ignoring the whole issue of consciousness as a critical part of the Universe. Reading Robert Lanza’s work is a wake-up call to all of us that even on the grandest scale we still depend on our minds to experience reality. Issues of “quantum weirdness” do have a place in the macroscopic world. Time and space do depend on perception. We can go about our daily lives and continue to study the physical Universe as if it exists as an objective reality (because the probabilities allow that degree of confidence), but we do so with a better awareness of an underlying biological component, thanks to Dr. Lanza.” —David Thompson, Astrophysicist, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
“Biomedical researcher Robert Lanza has been on the frontier of cloning and stem cell studies for more than a decade, so he’s well-acclimated to controversy. But his book Biocentrism is generating controversy on a different plane by arguing that our consciousness plays a central role in creating the cosmos. ‘By treating space and time as physical things, science picks a completely wrong starting point for understanding the world,’ Lanza declares. Any claim that space and time aren’t cold, hard, physical things has to raise an eyebrow. . .Other physicists point out that Lanza’s view is fully in line with the perspective from quantum mechanics that the observer plays a huge role in how reality is observed.” —Alan Boyle, Science Editor, MSNBC
“So what Lanza says in this book is not new. Then why does Robert have to say it at all? It is because we, the physicists, do not say it—or if we do say it, we only whisper it, and in private—furiously blushing as we mouth the words. True, yes; politically correct, hell no!’” —Richard Conn Henry, Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Johns Hopkins University
“One of the most interesting books to cross my desk this summer was Biocentrism, written by Dr. Robert Lanza, who is probably best known for his groundbreaking work with stem cells. The book is an out-and-out challenge to modern physics. I found the attack on physics to be pretty compelling” —Eric Berger, Science Editor, Houston Chronicle
“Now that I have spent a fair amount of time the last few months doing a bit of writing, reading and thinking about this, and enjoying it and watching it come into better focus,
And as I go deeper into my Zen practice,
And as I am about half way through re-reading Biocentrism,
My conclusion about the book Biocentrism is:
Holy shit, that’s a really great book! —Ralph Levinson, Professor, University of California, Los Angeles
Stem-cell guru Robert Lanza presents a radical new view of the universe and everything in it.
NASA/ESA/A. Schaller (for STScI)
The farther we peer into space, the more we realize that the nature of the universe cannot be understood fully by inspecting spiral galaxies or watching distant supernovas. It lies deeper. It involves our very selves.
This insight snapped into focus one day while one of us (Lanza) was walking through the woods. Looking up, he saw a huge golden orb web spider tethered to the overhead boughs. There the creature sat on a single thread, reaching out across its web to detect the vibrations of a trapped insect struggling to escape. The spider surveyed its universe, but everything beyond that gossamer pinwheel was incomprehensible. The human observer seemed as far-off to the spider as telescopic objects seem to us. Yet there was something kindred: We humans, too, lie at the heart of a great web of space and time whose threads are connected according to laws that dwell in our minds.
Is the web possible without the spider? Are space and time physical objects that would continue to exist even if living creatures were removed from the scene?
Figuring out the nature of the real world has obsessed scientists and philosophers for millennia. Three hundred years ago, the Irish empiricist George Berkeley contributed a particularly prescient observation: The only thing we can perceive are our perceptions. In other words, consciousness is the matrix upon which the cosmos is apprehended. Color, sound, temperature, and the like exist only as perceptions in our head, not as absolute essences. In the broadest sense, we cannot be sure of an outside universe at all.
For centuries, scientists regarded Berkeley’s argument as a philosophical sideshow and continued to build physical models based on the assumption of a separate universe “out there” into which we have each individually arrived. These models presume the existence of one essential reality that prevails with us or without us. Yet since the 1920s, quantum physics experiments have routinely shown the opposite: Results do depend on whether anyone is observing. This is perhaps most vividly illustrated by the famous two-slit experiment. When someone watches a subatomic particle or a bit of light pass through the slits, the particle behaves like a bullet, passing through one hole or the other. But if no one observes the particle, it exhibits the behavior of a wave that can inhabit all possibilities—including somehow passing through both holes at the same time.
Some of the greatest physicists have described these results as so confounding they are impossible to comprehend fully, beyond the reach of metaphor, visualization, and language itself. But there is another interpretation that makes them sensible. Instead of assuming a reality that predates life and even creates it, we propose a biocentric picture of reality. From this point of view, life—particularly consciousness—creates the universe, and the universe could not exist without us.
MESSING WITH THE LIGHT
Quantum mechanics is the physicist’s most accurate model for describing the world of the atom. But it also makes some of the most persuasive arguments that conscious perception is integral to the workings of the universe. Quantum theory tells us that an unobserved small object (for instance, an electron or a photon—a particle of light) exists only in a blurry, unpredictable state, with no well-defined location or motion until the moment it is observed. This is Werner Heisenberg’s famous uncertainty principle. Physicists describe the phantom, not-yet-manifest condition as a wave function, a mathematical expression used to find the probability that a particle will appear in any given place. When a property of an electron suddenly switches from possibility to reality, some physicists say its wave function has collapsed.
What accomplishes this collapse? Messing with it. Hitting it with a bit of light in order to take its picture. Just looking at it does the job. Experiments suggest that mere knowledge in the experimenter’s mind is sufficient to collapse a wave function and convert possibility to reality. When particles are created as a pair—for instance, two electrons in a single atom that move or spin together—physicists call them entangled. Due to their intimate connection, entangled particles share a wave function. When we measure one particle and thus collapse its wave function, the other particle’s wave function instantaneously collapses too. If one photon is observed to have a vertical polarization (its waves all moving in one plane), the act of observation causes the other to instantly go from being an indefinite probability wave to an actual photon with the opposite, horizontal polarity—even if the two photons have since moved far from each other.
In 1997 University of Geneva physicist Nicolas Gisin sent two entangled photons zooming along optical fibers until they were seven miles apart. One photon then hit a two-way mirror where it had a choice: either bounce off or go through. Detectors recorded what it randomly did. But whatever action it took, its entangled twin always performed the complementary action. The communication between the two happened at least 10,000 times faster than the speed of light. It seems that quantum news travels instantaneously, limited by no external constraints—not even the speed of light. Since then, other researchers have duplicated and refined Gisin’s work. Today no one questions the immediate nature of this connectedness between bits of light or matter, or even entire clusters of atoms.
Before these experiments most physicists believed in an objective, independent universe. They still clung to the assumption that physical states exist in some absolute sense before they are measured.
All of this is now gone for keeps.
WRESTLING WITH GOLDILOCKS
The strangeness of quantum reality is far from the only argument against the old model of reality. There is also the matter of the fine-tuning of the cosmos. Many fundamental traits, forces, and physical constants—like the charge of the electron or the strength of gravity—make it appear as if everything about the physical state of the universe were tailor-made for life. Some researchers call this revelation the Goldilocks principle, because the cosmos is not “too this” or “too that” but rather “just right” for life.
At the moment there are only four explanations for this mystery. The first two give us little to work with from a scientific perspective. One is simply to argue for incredible coincidence. Another is to say, “God did it,” which explains nothing even if it is true.
The third explanation invokes a concept called the anthropic principle, first articulated by Cambridge astrophysicist Brandon Carter in 1973. This principle holds that we must find the right conditions for life in our universe, because if such life did not exist, we would not be here to find those conditions. Some cosmologists have tried to wed the anthropic principle with the recent theories that suggest our universe is just one of a vast multitude of universes, each with its own physical laws. Through sheer numbers, then, it would not be surprising that one of these universes would have the right qualities for life. But so far there is no direct evidence whatsoever for other universes.
The final option is biocentrism, which holds that the universe is created by life and not the other way around. This is an explanation for and extension of the participatory anthropic principle described by the physicist John Wheeler, a disciple of Einstein’s who coined the terms wormhole and black hole.
SEEKING SPACE AND TIME
Even the most fundamental elements of physical reality, space and time, strongly support a biocentric basis for the cosmos.
According to biocentrism, time does not exist independently of the life that notices it. The reality of time has long been questioned by an odd alliance of philosophers and physicists. The former argue that the past exists only as ideas in the mind, which themselves are neuroelectrical events occurring strictly in the present moment. Physicists, for their part, note that all of their working models, from Isaac Newton’s laws through quantum mechanics, do not actually describe the nature of time. The real point is that no actual entity of time is needed, nor does it play a role in any of their equations. When they speak of time, they inevitably describe it in terms of change. But change is not the same thing as time.
To measure anything’s position precisely, at any given instant, is to lock in on one static frame of its motion, as in the frame of a film. Conversely, as soon as you observe a movement, you cannot isolate a frame, because motion is the summation of many frames. Sharpness in one parameter induces blurriness in the other. Imagine that you are watching a film of an archery tournament. An archer shoots and the arrow flies. The camera follows the arrow’s trajectory from the archer’s bow toward the target. Suddenly the projector stops on a single frame of a stilled arrow. You stare at the image of an arrow in midflight. The pause in the film enables you to know the position of the arrow with great accuracy, but you have lost all information about its momentum. In that frame it is going nowhere; its path and velocity are no longer known. Such fuzziness brings us back to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, which describes how measuring the location of a subatomic particle inherently blurs its momentum and vice versa.
All of this makes perfect sense from a biocentric perspective. Everything we perceive is actively and repeatedly being reconstructed inside our heads in an organized whirl of information. Time in this sense can be defined as the summation of spatial states occurring inside the mind. So what is real? If the next mental image is different from the last, then it is different, period. We can award that change with the word time, but that does not mean there is an actual invisible matrix in which changes occur. That is just our own way of making sense of things. We watch our loved ones age and die and assume that an external entity called time is responsible for the crime.
There is a peculiar intangibility to space, as well. We cannot pick it up and bring it to the laboratory. Like time, space is neither physical nor fundamentally real in our view. Rather, it is a mode of interpretation and understanding. It is part of an animal’s mental software that molds sensations into multidimensional objects.
Most of us still think like Newton, regarding space as sort of a vast container that has no walls. But our notion of space is false. Shall we count the ways? 1. Distances between objects mutate depending on conditions like gravity and velocity, as described by Einstein’s relativity, so that there is no absolute distance between anything and anything else. 2. Empty space, as described by quantum mechanics, is in fact not empty but full of potential particles and fields. 3. Quantum theory even casts doubt on the notion that distant objects are truly separated, since entangled particles can act in unison even if separated by the width of a galaxy.
UNLOCKING THE CAGE
In daily life, space and time are harmless illusions. A problem arises only because, by treating these as fundamental and independent things, science picks a completely wrong starting point for investigations into the nature of reality. Most researchers still believe they can build from one side of nature, the physical, without the other side, the living. By inclination and training these scientists are obsessed with mathematical descriptions of the world. If only, after leaving work, they would look out with equal seriousness over a pond and watch the schools of minnows rise to the surface. The fish, the ducks, and the cormorants, paddling out beyond the pads and the cattails, are all part of the greater answer.
Recent quantum studies help illustrate what a new biocentric science would look like. Just months ago, Nicolas Gisin announced a new twist on his entanglement experiment; in this case, he thinks the results could be visible to the naked eye. At the University of Vienna, Anton Zeilinger’s work with huge molecules called buckyballs pushes quantum reality closer to the macroscopic world. In an exciting extension of this work—proposed by Roger Penrose, the renowned Oxford physicist—not just light but a small mirror that reflects it becomes part of an entangled quantum system, one that is billions of times larger than a buckyball. If the proposed experiment ends up confirming Penrose’s idea, it would also confirm that quantum effects apply to human-scale objects.
Biocentrism should unlock the cages in which Western science has unwittingly confined itself. Allowing the observer into the equation should open new approaches to understanding cognition, from unraveling the nature of consciousness to developing thinking machines that experience the world the same way we do. Biocentrism should also provide stronger bases for solving problems associated with quantum physics and the Big Bang. Accepting space and time as forms of animal sense perception (that is, as biological), rather than as external physical objects, offers a new way of understanding everything from the microworld (for instance, the reason for strange results in the two-slit experiment) to the forces, constants, and laws that shape the universe. At a minimum, it should help halt such dead-end efforts as string theory.
Above all, biocentrism offers a more promising way to bring together all of physics, as scientists have been trying to do since Einstein’s unsuccessful unified field theories of eight decades ago. Until we recognize the essential role of biology, our attempts to truly unify the universe will remain a train to nowhere.
Biocentrism builds on quantum physics by adding life to the equation
While I was sitting one night with a poet friend watching a great opera performed in a tent under arc lights, the poet took my arm and pointed silently. Far up, blundering out of the night, a huge Cecropia moth swept past from light to light over the posturings of the actors. “He doesn’t know,” my friend whispered excitedly. “He’s passing through an alien universe brightly lit but invisible to him. He’s in another play; he doesn’t see us. He doesn’t know. Maybe it’s happening right now to us.” —Loren Eiseley
The world is not, on the whole, the place we have learned about in our school books. This point was hammered home one recent night as I crossed the causeway of the small island where I live. The pond was dark and still. Several strange glowing objects caught my attention on the side of the road, and I squatted down to observe one of them with my flashlight. The creature turned out to be a glowworm, the luminous larva of the European beetle Lampyris noctiluca. Its segmented little oval body was primitive—like some trilobite that had just crawled out of the Cambrian Sea 500 million years ago. There we were, the beetle and I, two living objects that had entered into each others’ world. It ceased emitting its greenish light, and I, for my part, turned off my flashlight.
I wondered if our interaction was different from that of any other two objects in the universe. Was this primitive little grub just another collection of atoms—proteins and molecules spinning away like the planets round the sun? Had science reduced life to the level of a mechanist’s logic, or was this wingless beetle, by virtue of being a living creature, creating its own physical reality?
The laws of physics and chemistry can explain the biology of living systems, and I can recite in detail the chemical foundations and cellular organization of animal cells: oxidation, biophysical metabolism, all the carbohydrates and amino acid patterns. But there was more to this luminous little bug than the sum of its biochemical functions. A full understanding of life cannot be found by looking at cells and molecules through a microscope. We have yet to learn that physical existence cannot be divorced from the animal life and structures that coordinate sense perception and experience. Indeed, it seems likely that this creature was the center of its own sphere of reality just as I was the center of mine.
Although the beetle did not move, it had sensory cells that transmitted messages to the cells in its brain. Perhaps the creature was too primitive to collect data and pinpoint my location in space. Or maybe my existence in its universe was limited to the perception of some huge and hairy shadow stabilizing a flashlight in the air. I don’t know. But as I stood up and left, I am sure that I dispersed into the haze of probability surrounding the glowworm’s little world.
Our science fails to recognize those special properties of life that make it fundamental to material reality. This view of the world—biocentrism—revolves around the way a subjective experience, which we call consciousness, relates to a physical process. It is a vast mystery and one that I have pursued my entire life. The conclusions I have drawn place biology above the other sciences in the attempt to solve one of nature’s biggest puzzles, the theory of everything that other disciplines have been pursuing for the last century. Such a theory would unite all known phenomena under one umbrella, furnishing science with an all-encompassing explanation of nature or reality.
We need a revolution in our understanding of science and of the world. Living in an age dominated by science, we have come more and more to believe in an objective, empirical reality and in the goal of reaching a complete understanding of that reality. Part of the thrill that came with the announcement that the human genome had been mapped or with the idea that we are close to understanding the big bang rests in our desire for completeness.
But we’re fooling ourselves.
Most of these comprehensive theories are no more than stories that fail to take into account one crucial factor: we are creating them. It is the biological creature that makes observations, names what it observes, and creates stories. Science has not succeeded in confronting the element of existence that is at once most familiar and most mysterious—conscious experience. As Emerson wrote in “Experience,” an essay that confronted the facile positivism of his age: “We have learned that we do not see directly, but mediately, and that we have no means of correcting these colored and distorting lenses which we are or of computing the amount of their errors. Perhaps these subjectlenses have a creative power; perhaps there are no objects.”
Biology is at first glance an unlikely source for a new theory of the universe. But at a time when biologists believe they have discovered the “universal cell” in the form of embryonic stem cells, and when cosmologists like Stephen Hawking predict that a unifying theory of the universe may be discovered in the next two decades, shouldn’t biology seek to unify existing theories of the physical world and the living world? What other discipline can approach it? Biology should be the first and last study of science. It is our own nature that is unlocked by means of the humanly created natural sciences used to understand the universe. Ever since the remotest of times philosophers have acknowledged the primacy of consciousness—that all truths and principles of being must begin with the individual mind and self. Thus Descartes’s adage: “Cogito, ergo sum.” (I think, therefore I am.) In addition to Descartes, who brought philosophy into its modern era, there were many other philosophers who argued along these lines: Kant, Leibniz, Bishop Berkeley, Schopenhauer, and Henri Bergson, to name a few.
We have failed to protect science against speculative extensions of nature, continuing to assign physical and mathematical properties to hypothetical entities beyond what is observable in nature. The ether of the 19th century, the “spacetime” of Einstein, and the string theory of recent decades, which posits new dimensions showing up in different realms, and not only in strings but in bubbles shimmering down the byways of the universe—all these are examples of this speculation. Indeed, unseen dimensions (up to a hundred in some theories) are now envisioned everywhere, some curled up like soda straws at every point in space.
Today’s preoccupation with physical theories of everything takes a wrong turn from the purpose of science—to question all things relentlessly. Modern physics has become like Swift’s kingdom of Laputa, flying absurdly on an island above the earth and indifferent to what is beneath. When science tries to resolve its conflicts by adding and subtracting dimensions to the universe like houses on a Monopoly board, we need to look at our dogmas and recognize that the cracks in the system are just the points that let the light shine more directly on the mystery of life.
The urgent and primary questions of the universe have been undertaken by those physicists who are trying to explain the origins of everything with grand unified theories. But as exciting and glamorous as these theories are, they are an evasion, if not a reversal, of the central mystery of knowledge: that the laws of the world were somehow created to produce the observer. And more important than this, that the observer in a significant sense creates reality and not the other way around. Recognition of this insight leads to a single theory that unifies our understanding of the world.
Modern science cannot explain why the laws of physics are exactly balanced for animal life to exist. For example, if the big bang had been one-part-in-a billion more powerful, it would have rushed out too fast for the galaxies to form and for life to begin. If the strong nuclear force were decreased by two percent, atomic nuclei wouldn’t hold together. Hydrogen would be the only atom in the universe. If the gravitational force were decreased, stars (including the sun) would not ignite. These are just three of more than 200 physical parameters within the solar system and universe so exact that they cannot be random. Indeed, the lack of a scientific explanation has allowed these facts to be hijacked as a defense of intelligent design.
Without perception, there is in effect no reality. Nothing has existence unless you, I, or some living creature perceives it, and how it is perceived further influences that reality. Even time itself is not exempted from biocentrism. Our sense of the forward motion of time is really the result of an infinite number of decisions that only seem to be a smooth continuous path. At each moment we are at the edge of a paradox known as The Arrow, first described 2,500 years ago by the philosopher Zeno of Elea. Starting logically with the premise that nothing can be in two places at once, he reasoned that an arrow is only in one place during any given instance of its flight. But if it is in only one place, it must be at rest. The arrow must then be at rest at every moment of its flight. Logically, motion is impossible. But is motion impossible? Or rather, is this analogy proof that the forward motion of time is not a feature of the external world but a projection of something within us? Time is not an absolute reality but an aspect of our consciousness.
This paradox lies at the heart of one of the great revolutions of 20th-century physics, a revolution that has yet to take hold of our understanding of the world and of the decisive role that consciousness plays in determining the nature of reality. The uncertainty principle in quantum physics is more profound than its name suggests. It means that we make choices at every moment in what we can determine about the world. We cannot know with complete accuracy a quantum particle’s motion and its position at the same time—we have to choose one or the other. Thus the consciousness of the observer is decisive in determining what a particle does at any given moment.
Einstein was frustrated by the threat of quantum uncertainty to the hypothesis he called spacetime, and spacetime turns out to be incompatible with the world discovered by quantum physics. When Einstein showed that there is no universal now, it followed that observers could slice up reality into past, present, and, future, in different ways, all with equal reality. But what, exactly, is being sliced up?
Space and time are not stuff that can be brought back to the laboratory in a marmalade jar for analysis. In fact, space and time fall into the province of biology—of animal sense perception—not of physics. They are properties of the mind, of the language by which we human beings and animals represent things to ourselves. Physicists venture beyond the scope of their science—beyond the limits of material phenomena and law—when they try to assign physical, mathematical, or other qualities to space and time.
Return to the revelation that we are thinking animals and that the material world is the elusive substratum of our conscious activity continually defining and redefining the real. We must become skeptical of the hard reality of our most cherished conceptions of space and time, and of the very notion of an external reality, in order to recognize that it is the activity of consciousness itself, born of our biological selves, which in some sense creates the world.
Despite such things as the development of superconducting supercolliders containing enough niobium-titanium wire to circle the earth 16 times, we understand the universe no better than the first humans with sufficient consciousness to think. Where did it all come from? Why does the universe exist? Why are we here? In one age, we believe that the world is a great ball resting on the back of a turtle; in the next, that a fairy universe appeared out of nowhere and is expanding into nothingness. In one age, angels push and pummel the planets about; in another age, everything is a meaningless accident. We exchange a world-bearing turtle for a big bang.
We are like Loren Eiseley’s moth, blundering from light to light, unable to discern the great play that blazes under the opera tent. Turn now to the experimental findings of modern science, which require us to recognize—at last—our role in the creation of reality from moment to moment. Consciousness cannot exist without a living, biological creature to embody its perceptive powers of creation. Therefore we must turn to the logic of life, to biologic, if we are to understand the world around us.
been taught that they are measurable. They exist. They’re real. And that reality has been reinforced every day of our lives.
Most of us live without thinking abstractly about time and space. They are such an integral part of our lives that examination of them is as unnatural as an examination of walking or breathing. In fact, many people feel silly talking about time and space in an abstract, analytical way. The question “Does time exist?” can seem like so much philosophical babble. After all, the clock ticks, the years pass, we age and die. Isn’t time the only thing we can be certain of? Equally inconsonant is the question of whether or not space exists. “Obviously space exists,” we might answer, “because we live in it. We move through it, drive through it, build in it, measure it.”
Time and space are easy to talk and think about. Find yourself short of either or both—late for work, standing in a stalled subway car packed with riders—and issues of time and space are obvious: “It’s crowded and I’m uncomfortable and my boss is going to kill me for being late.” But time and space as our source of comprehension and consciousness is an abstraction. Our day-to-day experiences indicate nothing of this reality to us. Rather, life has taught us that time and space are external and eternal realities. They bound all experiences and are more fundamental than life itself. They are above and beyond human experience.
As animals, we are organized, wired, to think this way. We use dates and places to define our experiences to ourselves and to others. History describes the past by placing people and events in time and space. Scientific theories of the big bang, geology, and evolution are steeped in the logic of time and space. They are essential to our every movement and moment. To place ourselves as the creators of time and space, not as the subjects of it, goes against our common sense, life experience, and education. It takes a radical shift of perspective for any of us to entertain the idea that space and time are animal sense perceptions, because the implications are so startling.
Yet we all know that space and time are not things—objects that you can see, feel, taste, touch, or smell. They are intangible, like gravity. In fact they are modes of interpretation and understanding, part of the animal logic that molds sensations into multidimensional objects.
We live on the edge of time, where tomorrow hasn’t happened yet. Everything before this moment is part of the history of the universe, gone forever. Or so we believe.
Think for a minute about time flowing forward into the future and how extraordinary it is that we are here, alive on the edge of all time. Imagine all the days and hours that have passed since the beginning of time. Now stack them like chairs on top of each other, and seat yourself on the very top. Science has no real explanation for why we’re here, for why we exist now. According to the current physiocentric worldview, it’s just an accident, a one-in-a-gazillion chance that I am here and that you are there. The statistical probability of being on top of time or infinity is so small as to be meaningless. Yet this is generally how the human mind conceives time.
In classical science, humans place all things in time and space on a continuum. The universe is 15 to 20 billion years old; the earth five or six. Homo erectus appeared four million years ago, but he took three-and-a-half million years to discover fire, and another 490,000 to invent agriculture. And so forth. Time in a mechanistic universe (as described by Newton and Einstein and Darwin) is an arrow upon which events are notched. But imagine, instead, that reality is like a sound recording. Listening to an old phonograph doesn’t alter the record itself, and depending on where the needle is placed, you hear a certain piece of music. This is what we call the present. The music before and after the song you are hearing is what we call the past and the future. Imagine, in like manner, that every moment and day endures in nature always. The record does not go away. All nows (all the songs on the record) exist simultaneously, although we can only experience the world (or the record) piece by piece. If we could access all life—the whole record—we could experience it non-sequentially. We could know our children as toddlers, as teenagers, as senior citizens—all now. In the end, even Einstein admitted, “Now [Besso—one of his oldest friends] has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us . . . know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” That there is an irreversible, on-flowing continuum of events linked to galaxies and suns and the earth is a fantasy.
It’s important here to address a fundamental question. We have clocks that can measure time. If we can measure time, doesn’t that prove it exists? Einstein sidestepped the question by simply defining time as “what we measure with a clock.” The emphasis for physicists is on the measuring. However, the emphasis should be on the we, the observers. Measuring time doesn’t prove its physical existence. Clocks are rhythmic things. Humans use the rhythms of some events (like the ticking of clocks) to time other events (like the rotation of the earth). This is not time, but rather, a comparison of events. Specifically, over the ages, humans have observed rhythmic events in nature: the periodicities of the moon, the sun, the flooding of the Nile. We then created other rhythmic things to measure nature’s rhythms: a pendulum, a mechanical spring, an electronic device. We called these manmade rhythmic devices “clocks.” We use the rhythms of specific events to time other specific events. But these are just events, not to be confused with time.
Quantum mechanics describes the tiny world of the atom and its constituents with stunning accuracy. It is used to design and build much of the technology that drives modern society—transistors, lasers, and even wireless communication. But quantum mechanics in many ways threatens not only our essential and absolute notions of space and time, but indeed, all Newtonian-Darwinian conceptions of order and secure prediction.
“I think it is safe to say that no one understands quantum mechanics,” said Nobel physicist Richard Feynman. “Do not keep saying to yourself, if you can possibly avoid it, ‘But how can it be like that?’ because you will go ‘down the drain’ into a blind alley from which nobody has yet escaped.” The reason scientists go down the drain is that they refuse to accept the immediate and obvious implications of the experimental findings of quantum theory. Biocentrism is the only humanly comprehensible explanation for how the world can be the way it is. But, as the Nobel laureate physicist Steven Weinberg admits, “It’s an unpleasant thing to bring people into the basic laws of physics.”
In order to account for why space and time were relative to the observer, Einstein assigned tortuous mathematical properties to an invisible, intangible entity that cannot be seen or touched. This folly continues with the advent of quantum mechanics. Despite the central role of the observer in this theory—extending it from space and time to the very properties of matter itself—scientists still dismiss the observer as an inconvenience to their theories. It has been proven experimentally that when studying subatomic particles, the observer actually alters and determines what is perceived. The work of the observer is hopelessly entangled in that which he is attempting to observe. An electron turns out to be both a particle and a wave. But how and where such a particle will be located remains entirely dependent upon the very act of observation.
Pre-quantum physicists thought that they could determine the trajectory of individual particles with complete certainty. They assumed that the behavior of particles would be predictable if everything were known at the outset—that there was no limit to the accuracy with which they could measure the physical properties of a particle. But Werner Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle showed that this is not the case. You can know either the velocity of a particle or its location but not both. If you know one, you cannot know the other. Heisenberg compared this to the little man and woman in a weather house, an old folk art device that functions as a hygrometer, indicating the air’s humidity. The two figures ride opposite each other on a balance bar. “If one comes out,” Heisenberg said, “the other goes in.”
Consider for a moment that you are watching a film of an archery tournament, with the Zeno’s arrow paradox in mind. An archer shoots, and the arrow flies. The camera follows the arrow’s trajectory from the archer’s bow toward the target. Suddenly the projector stops on a single frame of a stilled arrow. You stare at the image of an arrow in midflight. The pause in the film enables you to know the position of the arrow—it’s just beyond the grandstand, about 20 feet above the ground. But you have lost all information about its momentum. It is going nowhere; its velocity is zero. Its path is no longer known. It is uncertain.
To measure the position precisely at any given instant is to lock in on one static frame, to put the movie on pause, so to speak. Conversely, as soon as you observe momentum you can’t isolate a frame, because momentum is the summation of many frames. You can’t know one and the other with complete accuracy. There is uncertainty as you hone in, whether on motion or position.
All of this makes sense from a biocentric perspective: time is the inner form of animal sense that animates events—the still frames—of the spatial world. The mind animates the world like the motor and gears of a projector. Each weaves a series of still pictures into an order, into the “current” of life. Motion is created in our minds by running “film cells” together. Remember that everything you perceive, even this page, is being reconstructed inside your head. It’s happening to you right now. All of experience is an organized whirl of information in your brain.
Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle has its root here: position (location in space) belongs to the outer world, and momentum (which involves the temporal) belongs to the inner world. By penetrating to the bottom of matter, scientists have reduced the universe to its most basic logic. Time is not a feature of the external spatial world. “Contemporary science,” said Heisenberg, “today more than at any previous time, has been forced by nature herself to pose again the old question of the possibility of comprehending reality by mental processes, and to answer it in a slightly different way.”
Twenty-five hundred years later, the Zeno arrow paradox finally makes sense. The Eleatic school of philosophy, which Zeno brilliantly defended, was right. So was Heisenberg when he said, “A path comes into existence only when you observe it.” There is neither time nor motion without life. Reality is not “there” with definite properties waiting to be discovered but actually comes into being depending upon the actions of the observer.
Another aspect of modern physics, in addition to quantum uncertainty, also strikes at the core of Einstein’s concept of discrete entities and spacetime. Einstein held that the speed of light is constant and that events in one place cannot influence events in another place simultaneously. In the relativity theory, the speed of light has to be taken into account for information to travel from one particle to another. However, experiment after experiment has shown that this is not the case. In 1965, Irish physicist John Bell created an experiment that showed that separate particles can influence each other instantaneously over great distances. The experiment has been performed numerous times and confirms that the properties of polarized light are correlated, or linked, no matter how far apart the particles are. There is some kind of instantaneous—faster than light—communication between them. All of this implies that Einstein’s concept of spacetime, neatly divided into separate regions by light velocity, is untenable. Instead, the entities we observe are floating in a field of mind that is not limited by an external spacetime.
The experiments of Heisenberg and Bell call us back to experience itself, the immediacy of the infinite here and now, and shake our unexamined trust in objective reality. But another support for biocentrism is the famous two hole experiment, which demands that we go one step further: Zeno’s arrow doesn’t exist, much less fly, without an observer. The two-hole experiment goes straight to the core of quantum physics. Scientists have discovered that if they “watch” a subatomic particle pass through holes on a barrier, it behaves like a particle: like a tiny bullet, it passes through one or the other holes. But if the scientists do not observe the particle, then it exhibits the behavior of a wave. The two-hole experiment has many versions, but in short: If observed, particles behave like objects; if unobserved, they behave like waves and can go through more than one hole at the same time.
Dubbed quantum weirdness, this wave-particle duality has befuddled scientists for decades. Some of the greatest physicists have described it as impossible to intuit and impossible to formulate into words, and as invalidating common sense and ordinary perception. Science has essentially conceded that quantum physics is incomprehensible outside of complex mathematics. How can quantum physics be so impervious to metaphor, visualization, and language?
If we accept a life-created reality at face value, it becomes simple to understand. The key question is waves of what? Back in 1926, the Nobel laureate physicist Max Born demonstrated that quantum waves are waves of probability, not waves of material as the Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger had theorized. They are statistical predictions. Thus a wave of probability is nothing but a likely outcome. In fact, outside of that idea, the wave is not there. It’s nothing. As John Wheeler, the eminent theoretical physicist, once said, “No phenomenon is a real phenomenon until it is an observed phenomenon.”
A particle cannot be thought of as having any definite existence—either duration or a position in space—until we observe it. Until the mind sets the scaffolding of an object in place, an object cannot be thought of as being either here or there. Thus, quantum waves merely define the potential location a particle can occupy. A wave of probability isn’t an event or a phenomenon, it is a description of the likelihood of an event or phenomenon occurring. Nothing happens until the event is actually observed. If you watch it go through the barrier, then the wave function collapses and the particle goes through one hole or the other. If you don’t watch it, then the particle detectors will show that it can go through more than one hole at the same time.
Science has been grappling with the implications of the wave-particle duality ever since its discovery in the first half of the 20th century. But few people accept this principle at face value. The Copenhagen interpretation, put in place by Heisenberg, Niels Bohr, and Born in the 1920s, set out to do just that. But it was too unsettling a shift in worldview to accept in full. At present, the implications of these experiments are conveniently ignored by limiting the notion of quantum behavior to the microscopic world. But doing this has no basis in reason, and it is being challenged in laboratories around the world. New experiments carried out with huge molecules called buckyballs show that quantum reality extends into the macroscopic world as well. Experiments make it clear that another weird quantum phenomenon known as entanglement, which is usually associated with the micro world, is also relevant on macro scales. An exciting experiment, recently proposed (so-called scaled-up superposition), would furnish the most powerful evidence to date that the biocentric view of the world is correct at the level of living organisms.
One of the main reasons most people reject the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum theory is that it leads to the dreaded doctrine of solipsism. The late Heinz Pagels once commented: “If you deny the objectivity of the world unless you observe it and are conscious of it, then you end up with solipsism—the belief that your consciousness is the only one.” Indeed, I once had one of my articles challenged by a reader who took this exact position. “I would like to ask Robert Lanza,” he wrote, “whether he feels the world will continue to exist after the death of his consciousness. If not, it’ll be hard luck for all of us should we outlive him” (New Scientist, 1991).
What I would question, with respect to solipsism, is the assumption that our individual separateness is an absolute reality. Bell’s experiment implies the existence of linkages that transcend our ordinary way of thinking. An old Hindu poem says, “Know in thyself and all one self-same soul; banish the dream that sunders part from whole.” If time is only a stubbornly persistent illusion, as we have seen, then the same can be said about space. The distinction between here and there is also not an absolute reality. Without consciousness, we can take any person as our new frame of reference. It is not my consciousness or yours alone, but ours. That’s the new solipsism the experiments mandate. The theorist Bernard d’Espagnat, a collaborator of Niels Bohr and Enrico Fermi, has said that “non-separability is now one of the most certain general concepts in physics.” This is not to say that our minds, like the particles in Bell’s experiment, are linked in any way that can violate the laws of causality. In this same sense, there is a part of us connected to the glowworm by the pond near my house. It is the part that experiences consciousness, not in our external embodiments but in our inner being. We can only imagine and recollect things while in the body; this is for sure, because sensations and memories are molded into thought and knowledge in the brain. And although we identify ourselves with our thoughts and affections, it is an essential feature of reality that we experience the world piece by piece.
The sphere of physical reality for a glowworm and a human are decidedly different. However, the genome itself is carbon-based. Carbon is formed at the heart of stars and supernova explosions, formative processes of the universe. Life as we know it is limited by our spatio-temporal logic—that is, the genome traps us in the universe with which we are familiar. Animals (including those that evolved in the past) span part of the spectrum of that possibility. There are surely other information systems that correspond to other physical realities, universes based on logic completely different from ours and not based on space and time. The universe of space and time belong uniquely to us genome-based animals.
Eugene Wigner, one of the 20th century’s greatest physicists, called it impossible “to formulate the laws of [physics] in a fully consistent way without reference to the consciousness [of the observer].” Indeed, quantum theory implies that consciousness must exist and that the content of the mind is the ultimate reality. If we do not look at it, the moon does not exist in a definite state. In this world, only an act of observation can confer shape and form to reality—to a dandelion in a meadow or a seed pod.
As we have seen, the world appears to be designed for life not just at the microscopic scale of the atom, but at the level of the universe itself. In cosmology, scientists have discovered that the universe has a long list of traits that make it appear as if everything it contains—from atoms to stars—was tailor-made for us. Many are calling this revelation the Goldilocks principle, because the cosmos is not too this or too that, but just right for life. Others are calling it the anthropic principle, because the universe appears to be human centered. And still others are calling it intelligent design, because they believe it’s no accident that the heavens are so ideally suited for us. By any name, the discovery is causing a huge commotion within the astrophysics community and beyond.
At the moment, the only attempt at an explanation holds that God made the universe. But there is another explanation based on science. To understand the mystery, we need to reexamine the everyday world we live in. As unimaginable as it may seem to us, the logic of quantum physics is inescapable. Every morning we open our front door to bring in the paper or to go to work. We open the door to rain, snow, or trees swaying in the breeze. We think the world churns along whether we happen to open the door or not. Quantum mechanics tells us it doesn’t.
The trees and snow evaporate when we’re sleeping. The kitchen disappears when we’re in the bathroom. When you turn from one room to the next, when your animal senses no longer perceive the sounds of the dishwasher, the ticking clock, the smell of a chicken roasting—the kitchen and all its seemingly discrete bits dissolve into nothingness—or into waves of probability. The universe bursts into existence from life, not the other way around as we have been taught. For each life there is a universe, its own universe. We generate spheres of reality, individual bubbles of existence. Our planet is comprised of billions of spheres of reality, generated by each individual human and perhaps even by each animal.
Imagine again you’re on the stalled subway car worried about being late for work. The engineers get the thing running again and most of the other commuters soon disembark. What is your universe at the moment? The screeching sound of metal wheels against metal tracks. Your fellow passengers. The ads for Rogaine and tech schools. What is not your universe? Everything outside your range of perception does not exist. Now suppose that I’m with you on the train. My individual sphere of reality intersects with yours. We two human beings with nearly identical perception tools are experiencing the same harsh lighting and uncomfortable sounds.
You get the idea. But how can this really be? You wake up every morning and your dresser is still across the room from your comfortable spot in the bed. You put on the same pair of jeans and favorite shirt and shuffle to the kitchen in slippers to make coffee. How can anyone in his right mind possibly suggest that the great world out there is constructed in our heads?
To more fully grasp a universe of still arrows and disappearing moons, let’s turn to modern electronics. You know from experience that something in the black box of a DVD player turns an inanimate disc into a movie. The electronics in the DVD converts and animates the information on the disc into a 3-D show. Likewise your brain animates the universe. Imagine the brain as the electronics in your DVD player. Explained another way, the brain turns electrochemical information from our five senses into an order, a sequence—into a face, into this page—into a unified three-dimensional whole. It transforms sensory input into something so real that few people ever ask how it happens. Stop and think about this for a minute. Our minds are so good at it that we rarely ever question whether the world is anything other than what we imagine it to be. Yet the brain—not the eyes—is the organ sealed inside a vault of bone, locked inside the cranium, that “sees” the universe.
What we interpret as the world is brought into existence inside our head. Sensory information does not impress upon the brain, as particles of light impress upon the film in a camera. The images you see are a construction by the brain. Everything you are experiencing right now (pretend you’re back on the subway) is being actively generated in your mind—the hard plastic seats, the graffiti, the dark remnants of chewing gum stuck to the floor. All physical things—subway turnstiles, train platforms, newspaper racks, their shapes, sounds, and odors—all these sensations are experienced inside your head. Everything we observe is based on the direct interaction of energy on our senses, whether it is matter (like your shoe sticking to the floor of a subway car) or particles of light (emitted from sparks as a subway train rounds a corner). Anything that we do not observe directly, exists only as potential—or mathematically speaking—as a haze of probability.
You may question whether the brain can really create physical reality. However, remember that dreams and schizophrenia (consider the movie A Beautiful Mind) prove the capacity of the mind to construct a spatial-temporal reality as real as the one you are experiencing now. The visions and sounds schizophrenic patients see and hear are just as real to them as this page or the chair you’re sitting on.
We have all seen pictures of the primitive earth with its volcanoes overflowing with lava, or read about how the solar system itself condensed out of a giant swirling gas cloud. Science has sought to extend the physical world beyond the time of our own emergence. It has found our footsteps wandering backward until on some far shore they were transmuted into a trail of mud. The cosmologists picked up the story of the molten earth and carried its evolution backward in time to the insensate past: from minerals by degrees back through the lower forms of matter—of nuclei and quarks—and beyond them to the big bang. It seems only natural that life and the world of the inorganic must separate at some point.
We consider physics a kind of magic and do not seem at all fazed when we hear that the universe—indeed the laws of nature themselves—just appeared for no reason one day. From the dinosaurs to the big bang is an enormous distance. Perhaps we should remember the experiments of Francesco Redi, Lazzaro Spallanzani, and Louis Pasteur—basic biological experiments that put to rest the theory of spontaneous generation, the belief that life had arisen spontaneously from dead matter (as, for instance, maggots from rotting meat and mice from bundles of old clothes)—and not make the same mistake for the origin of the universe itself. We are wont to imagine time extending all the way back to the big bang, before life’s early beginning in the seas. But before matter can exist, it has to be observed by a consciousness.
Physical reality begins and ends with the animal observer. All other times and places, all other objects and events are products of the imagination, and serve only to unite knowledge into a logical whole. We are pleased with such books as Newton’s Principia, or Darwin’s Origin of Species. But they instill a complacency in the reader. Darwin spoke of the possibility that life emerged from inorganic matter in some “warm little pond.” Trying to trace life down through simpler stages is one thing, but assuming it arose spontaneously from nonliving matter wants for the rigor and attention of the quantum theorist.
Neuroscientists believe that the problem of consciousness can someday be solved once we understand all the synaptic connections in the brain. “The tools of neuroscience,” wrote philosopher and author David Chalmers (Scientific American, December 1995) “cannot provide a full account of conscious experience, although they have much to offer. . . . Consciousness might be explained by a new kind of theory.” Indeed, in a 1983 National Academy Report, the Research Briefing Panel on Cognitive Science and Artificial Intelligence stated that the questions to which it concerned itself “reflect a single underlying great scientific mystery, on par with understanding the evolution of the universe, the origin of life, or the nature of elementary particles.”
The mystery is plain. Neuroscientists have developed theories that might help to explain how separate pieces of information are integrated in the brain and thus succeed in elucidating how different attributes of a single perceived object—such as the shape, color, and smell of a flower—are merged into a coherent whole. These theories reflect some of the important work that is occurring in the fields of neuroscience and psychology, but they are theories of structure and function. They tell us nothing about how the performance of these functions is accompanied by a conscious experience; and yet the difficulty in understanding consciousness lies precisely here, in this gap in our understanding of how a subjective experience emerges from a physical process. Even Steven Weinberg concedes that although consciousness may have a neural correlate, its existence does not seem to be derivable from physical laws.
Physicists believe that the theory of everything is hovering right around the corner, and yet consciousness is still largely a mystery, and physicists have no idea how to explain its existence from physical laws. The questions physicists long to ask about nature are bound up with the problem of consciousness. Physics can furnish no answers for them. “Let man,” declared Emerson, “then learn the revelation of all nature and all thought to his heart; this, namely; that the Highest dwells with him; that the sources of nature are in his own mind.”
Space and time, not proteins and neurons, hold the answer to the problem of consciousness. When we consider the nerve impulses entering the brain, we realize that they are not woven together automatically, any more than the information is inside a computer. Our thoughts have an order, not of themselves, but because the mind generates the spatio-temporal relationships involved in every experience. We can never have any experience that does not conform to these relationships, for they are the modes of animal logic that mold sensations into objects. It would be erroneous, therefore, to conceive of the mind as existing in space and time before this process, as existing in the circuitry of the brain before the understanding posits in it a spatio-temporal order. The situation, as we have seen, is like playing a CD—the information leaps into three-dimensional sound, and in that way, and in that way only, does the music indeed exist.
We are living through a profound shift in worldview, from the belief that time and space are entities in the universe to one in which time and space belong to the living. Think of all the recent book titles—The End of Science, The End of History, The End of Eternity, The End of Certainty, The End of Nature, and The End of Time. Only for a moment, while we sort out the reality that time and space do not exist, will it feel like madness.
Will Biology Solve the Universe?
Aaron Rowe, Wired
"The answer to the universe is biology -- it's as simple as that," says Dr. Robert Lanza, vice president of research and scientific development at Advanced Cell Technology. He details his theory in The American Scholar's spring issue, published on Thursday. Lanza says scientists will establish a unified theory only if they radically rethink their understanding of space and time using a "biocentric" approach. His article is essentially a biological and philosophical response to Hawking's A Brief History of Time, in which he questions how we interpret the big bang, the existence of space and time, as well as many other theories -- assertions that might ruffle the feathers of some physical scientists.
But Lanza is used to controversy. The 2005 Wired Rave Award winner has seen plenty in response to his stem cell and cloning work at Advanced Cell. And he's ready for the scientific row his latest work is likely to engender.
"The urgent and primary questions of the universe have been undertaken by those physicists who are trying to explain the origins of everything with grand unified theories," says Lanza in his article. "But as exciting and glamorous as these theories are, they are an evasion, if not a reversal, of the central mystery of knowledge: that the laws of the world were somehow created to produce the observer."
At several points in his article, he argues that cosmologists are doing work that has been hijacked by creationists.
"In cosmology, scientists have discovered that the universe has a long list of traits that make it appear as if everything it contains -- from atoms to stars -- was tailor-made for us," he writes. "Indeed, the lack of a scientific explanation has allowed these facts to be hijacked as a defense of intelligent design."
Lanza argues that time is not the linear phenomena that we are comfortable with. Rather, our perception of time is a tool we use to understand the world around us. While it works well for the average person, it hampers our understanding of advanced physics. In this Wired News Q&A, Lanza explains more about the theory he calls his life's work .
Wired News: You call your theory of the universe a biocentric theory. What, exactly, does that mean?
Lanza: This new theory presents a shift in world view with the perspective that life creates the universe instead of the other way around.
WN: I imagine that a lot of physicists will be rather upset by your article. How do you expect them to react?
Lanza: People are not going to be very happy with what this all means. This theory is going to invalidate their (some scientists) entire life's work. I will definitely get crucified.
We've got the scientific structure and framework incorrect. We need a theory that is internally consistent. We can't do this without creating a biological understanding of space and time. This will require restructuring science so that biology is above physics.
WN: Does that mean you think that big physics and astronomy projects should not be funded?
Lanza: Of course they should be funded. I don't think that everything should be changed. What I am saying is that there is a missing piece to the puzzle of how the universe works. The answer is biology. It is as simple as that. The biological picture of space and time must be integrated into our understanding of physics.
WN: Why do you think that there is such a deep misunderstanding of what time and space really are?
Lanza: Our minds are structured to think that way. Even Einstein avoided the question of what space and time are. He simply defined them as what we measure with clocks and measuring-rods. However, the emphasis should be on the "we," not the measuring.
WN: Do you expect that some people will read your article and think you mean that they can sit on a mountaintop and meditate to change the world around them with mind powers?
Lanza: We can't decide that we want to jump off the roof and not get hurt. However much we want, we can't violate the rules of spatiotemporal logic.
WN: In your article, you make the assertion that time and space do not exist. What do you mean by that?
Lanza: There is something very unusual about them. We can't put them in a marmalade jar and take them back to the lab for analysis. Space and time are forms of animal sense perception. Space and time are not objects or things -- they are forms of animal sense perception.
Thousands of articles and books have danced around the desire to toss off the current mechanical world view that has dominated Western culture for hundreds of years. While some imply that time and space may not in fact exist, this article diagrams, for the first time, such a universe -- a universe in which time and space do not exist as physical realities independent of humans and animals.
WN: You seem to disagree with how the world was created.
Lanza: There are serious problems with the current world view. We pride ourselves in our current beliefs and then we (scientists) say, and by the way, we have no idea why the big bang happened.
WN: Can you explain why we should doubt the things that are accepted as the truth in science classes everywhere?
Lanza: For the first time outside of complex mathematics, this theory explains the provocative new experiment that was just published in Science last month. This landmark experiment showed that a choice you make now can actually influence an event that has already occurred in the past.
Scientists continue to dismiss the observer as an inconvenience to their theories. Real experiments show that the properties of matter itself are observer-determined. A particle can go through one hole if you look at it, but if you don't look at it, it can actually go through more than one hole at the same time. Science has no explanation for how the world can be like that.
Theory of every-living-thing
ACT via IRG
Stem cell pioneer Robert Lanza says biology has to be part of any "theory of everything."
The quest to unify all of physics into one big framework called "the theory of everything" has inspired a host of way-out ideas, with the current leading concept involving a 10- or 11-dimensional universe. Now a pioneer in the field of stem cell research has weighed in with an essay that brings biology and consciousness into the mix.
Robert Lanza, vice president for research and scientific development at Advanced Cell Technology, sets forth his view on the quest for a unified cosmic theory in "A New Theory of the Universe," an essay appearing in The American Scholar.
In the past, the intellectual journal has published the provocative musings of such luminaries as Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell - and Lanza hopes his perspective on one of the biggest questions of the cosmos will make a similar splash.
Lanza argues that the debates over extra dimensions, unknowable multiverses and cosmic landscapes are heading down the wrong road:
"The urgent and primary questions of the universe have been undertaken by those physicists who are trying to explain the origins of everything with grand unified theories. But as exciting as these theories are, they are an evasion, if not a reversal, of the central mystery of knowledge: that the laws of the world were somehow created to produce the observer. And more important than this, that the observer in a significant sense creates reality and not the other way around. Recognition of this insight leads to a single theory that unifies our understanding of the world."
He points to recent research into retrocausality - the spooky idea that an observer can apparently decide the outcome of an event after it has occurred - as fresh evidence that observers create their own versions of reality. The idea goes back at least as far as Immanuel Kant's 18th-century philosophizing about space, time and other categories, and it also comes up as a new-age twist on quantum mechanics in the movie "What the Bleep Do We Know?"
So is Lanza's new theory actually a new-age spiritual tract rather than a scientific proposition? "Absolutely not," he told me Wednesday.
"Very real experiments show that space and time are indeed relative to the observer," he said, "and there are real experiments that also continue to show that the properties of matter itself are observer-determined. ... Science has to deal with these facts."
As physicists learn more about the constants that govern how the universe works - including the cosmological constant that appears to govern how fast the universe is expanding - they're starting to come around to the view that we've benefited from an astronomical stroke of luck that arranged things just right for life and consciousness to develop. Lanza, however, sees it a different way: that we observe these features in the universe because we are biologically built to see things in this particular way.
"Reality isn't a thing," he told me. "It's a process."
Many physicists may well protest that the "create-your-own-reality" mantra does nothing to reconcile the micro world of quantum mechanics with the macro world of general relativity - the stated aim of the quest for the theory of everything. But as far as Lanza is concerned, the contradictions and weirdnesses that arise from the quantum world serve as signals that a new approach is needed, with more weight given to the role of observers.
"Physicists have had 100 years of trying to resolve the conflicts in their foundations, and they've had no luck," Lanza said. "It's not because they're not bright. It's obviously because there's a part of the puzzle that's missing. And I think this is the answer: The answer is biology. Hopefully, if that message gets out, I think we'll be able to basically resolve the conflicts very quickly."
He said his ideas on "bio-logic" have put his own sometimes-controversial work with human embryonic stem cells in a new perspective.
"The very first thing that embryonic stem cells do, without any effort at all, is that they make neurons," Lanza observed. "They are assembling basically into the fundamental structures that are the building blocks of reality. ... If you look at embryonic stem cells, they can do anything - every cell of the body - but what they do, and every scientist who has studied this will tell you, is they make neurons. All the other cell types are a lot more problematic, they require more signaling. But this is what they do on their own without any external signals. I find that interesting, and I don't think necessarily it's an accident."
What next? Lanza said he's hoping to expand the essay into a book that goes into more of the "scientific nitty-gritty" behind his concept. In the meantime, I'd love to hear your reactions to Lanza's new theory. Please give the essay a read, then leave your comments below.
How biology is central to constructing a more complete and unified theory of the Universe
Our understanding of the universe as a whole has reached a dead-end. In our view, current physics-based theories of the material world do not work, and can never be made to work, until they fully account for life and consciousness. We call this new perspective linkurl:biocentrism.;http://www.amazon.com/Biocentrism-Consciousness-Understanding-Nature-Universe/dp/1933771690
may seem an unlikely source for a new theory of the universe. But at a
time when biologists believe they have discovered the "universal cell"
in the form of embryonic stem cells, and when cosmologists like
linkurl:Stephen Hawking;http://www.hawking.org.uk/ predict that a
unifying theory of the universe may be discovered in the next two
decades, shouldn't biology seek to unify existing theories of the
physical world and the living world? Our own nature that is unlocked
through the natural sciences that humans created and use to understand
the universe. Since ancient times, philosophers have acknowledged the
primacy of consciousness--that all truths and principles of being must
begin with the individual mind and self. Thus linkurl:Rene
Descartes's;http://www.renedescartes.com/ adage: "Cogito, ergo sum." (I
think, therefore I am.)
Our current scientific model claims that the universe was, until rather
recently, a lifeless collection of particles bouncing against each other
and obeying predetermined and mysterious rules. This view holds that
life harbors consciousness -- a concept poorly understood by science --
but it is of little relevance in describing the universe.
There's a problem with this supposition. Consciousness is not just a
pesky byproduct or irrelevant item, the way a buzzing mosquito might
interfere with a biologist's concentration as she skims algae off a
lake. No, consciousness is the very matrix upon which the cosmos is
comprehended. It is the movie screen upon which our worldview is
projected. If it is bent or distorted or contains some unsuspected
color, then all our perceptions of the cosmos seem fundamentally
Since May, 1926, when Nobel physicists linkurl:Werner
began to realize that the presence of an observer determined the
results of experiments, it's become even clearer that attempts to
explain the nature of the universe and its origins absolutely requires a
worldview in which our presence plays a key role. After all, it is the
biological creature that fashions the stories, that makes the
observations, and that gives names to things. As linkurl:Ralph Waldo
Emerson;http://www.transcendentalists.com/1emerson.html wrote in
__Experience__: "We have learned that we do not see directly, but
mediately, and that we have no means of correcting these colored and
distorting lenses which we are, or of computing the amount of their
errors." linkurl:George Berkeley,;http://www.iep.utm.edu/b/berkeley.htm
the Irish philosopher for whom the university and city were named, came
to a similar conclusion: "The only things we perceive," he famously
said, "are our perceptions."
And this is one of the central themes of biocentrism: That the animal
observer creates reality and not the other way around. This view of the
world, in which life and consciousness are central to understanding the
universe, hinges on how subjective experiences interact with physical
Without perception, there can be no reality. Before applying this on a
universal scale, consider your own kitchen. Its contents assume all of
their familiar forms, shapes and colors, whether or not you are in it.
Or do they? At night you click off the light and leave for the bedroom.
Your kitchen stays the same all through the night. Right?
Wrong. The refrigerator, stove and everything else are composed of a
shimmering swarm of matter/energy. Quantum theory tells us that not a
single one of those subatomic particles actually exists in a definite
place. Rather, they merely exist as a range of probabilities. In the
presence of an observer--that is, when you go back in to get a drink of
water -- each particle's wave function collapses and it assumes a
position, a physical reality. Moreover, the shapes and colors known as
your kitchen are seen as they are only because photons of light, which
possess no inherent visual properties, bounce off objects and interact
with your sensory system.
Biocentrism is no minor perceptual tweak. Our entire education system
assumes that we perceive external pre-existing realities and play little
or no role in their appearance. Scientists and non-scientists alike
typically imagine an external world existing on its own; with an
appearance that more or less resembles what we see. By this reasoning,
the human eye and brain allow us to cognize the actual visual appearance
of things, and to alter nothing. Not so, says biocentrism.
Another strong argument for biocentrism is that the universe has a long
list of traits that make it appear as if everything from atoms to stars
were tailor-made just for us. There are over 200 physical parameters so
exact that it strains credulity to propose that they are random. These
fundamental constants of the universe are not predicted by any
theory--they all seem carefully chosen, often with great precision, to
allow for existence of life. Tweak any of them and you never existed.
Some scientists call this revelation the "Goldilocks Principle," because
the cosmos is not "too this" or "too that," but rather "just right" for
life. Eschewing teleological justifications, biocentrism posits that if
the universe is created by life, then a universe that doesn't support
life could not possibly exist.
Quantum experiments, showing that the results depend on whether anyone's
watching, make no sense at all absent a biocentric basis for the
cosmos. Oddly enough, so do space and time, which according to
biocentrism, are forms of animal sense perception. When we speak of
time, we inevitably describe it in terms of change. But change is not
the same thing as time. Everything we perceive is actively being
reconstructed inside our heads. Time in this sense can be defined as the
summation of spatial states--much like in a film--occurring inside the
mind. So what is real? If the next mental image is different from the
last, then it is different, period. We can award that change with the
word time but that doesn't mean there is an actual invisible matrix in
which changes occur. That is just our own way of making sense of things.
There is a peculiar intangibility to space, as well. We cannot pick it
up and bring it to the laboratory. Like time, space is not an external
object. It is part of an animal's mental software that molds sensations
into multidimensional objects. We have come to regard space as sort of a
vast container that has no walls. But this notion is false. By treating
space and time as fundamental and independent things, science picks a
completely wrong starting point for understanding the world. By
contrast, biocentrism offers a springboard to make sense of aspects of
biological and physical science which are currently insensible.
This brief synopsis of biocentrism is just the iceberg's tip. To grasp
its connotations is to abandon the shaky foundation underlying our
historical understanding of the universe. The 21st century is predicted
to be the Century of Biology, a shift from the previous century's focus
on physics. It seems fitting then to begin the century by employing
biology to unify all sciences. Let's stop leaning on the purely
theoretical, such as imaginary strings, and instead start with a much
simpler idea, the roots of which are buried in all of us.
Adapted from linkurl:__Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness are the
Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the
by Robert Lanza with Bob Berman, BenBella Books, Dallas Texas, May
2009. 224 pp. ISBN: 978-1-933-77169-4. $17.47.
__linkurl:Robert Lanza,;http://www.robertlanza.com/ M.D. is currently
chief scientific officer at Advanced Cell Technology, and a professor at
Wake Forest University School of Medicine. Lanza has worked with some
of the greatest thinkers of our time, including Jonas Salk, B.F.
Skinner, Christiaan Barnard, and Nobel laureates Gerald Edelman and
Rodney Porter. He has authored over 20 books, including __Principles of
Tissue Engineering and Essentials of Stem Cell Biology__, which are
considered definitive references in the field.__
__linkurl:Bob Berman;http://skymanbob.com/ is the most widely read
astronomer in the world. Author of over 1,000 published articles in
publications such as __Discover__ and __Astronomy__ magazine, where he
is a monthly columnist, he is also astronomy editor of __The Old Farmers
Almanac__. He is adjunct professor of astronomy at Marymount College,
and writes and produces a weekly show on Northeast Public Radio, aired
weekly during NPR's weekend edition.__
**__Related stories:__***linkurl:Biology's Gift to a Complex World;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/54988/
[September 2008]*linkurl:Physics Meets the Brain;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/36676/
[December 2006]*linkurl:String Theory;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/10517/
[7th January 1991]
**__Related stories:__***linkurl:Biology's Gift to a Complex World;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/54988/
[September 2008]*linkurl:Physics Meets the Brain;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/36676/
[December 2006]*linkurl:String Theory;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/10517/
[7th January 1991]
Reception to Biocentrism by Scientists & Scholars“… Robert Lanza’s work is a wake-up call to all of us”
—David Thompson, Astrophysicist, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
“The heart of [biocentrism], collectively, is correct…So what Lanza says in this book is not new. Then why does Robert have to say it at all? It is because we, the physicists, do NOT say it–or if we do say it, we only whisper it, and in private–furiously blushing as we mouth the words. True, yes; politically correct, hell no! Bless Robert Lanza for creating this book, and bless Bob Berman for not dissuading friend Robert from going ahead with it…Lanza’s remarkable personal story is woven into the book, and is uplifting. You should enjoy this book, and it should help you on your personal journey to understanding.”
—Richard Conn Henry, Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Johns Hopkins University
“It is genuinely an exciting piece of work…and coheres with some of the things biology and neuroscience are telling us about the structures of our being. Just as we now know that the sun doesn’t really move but we do (we are the active agents), so it is suggesting that we are the entities that give meaning to the particular configuration of all possible outcomes we call reality.”
—Ronald Green, Eunice & Julian Cohen Professor and Director, Ethics Institute, Dartmouth College
“[Biocentrism] takes into account all the knowledge we have gained over the last few centuries…placing in perspective our biologic limitations that have impeded our understanding of greater truths surrounding our existence and the universe around us. This new theory is certain to revolutionize our concepts of the laws of nature for centuries to come.”
—Anthony Atala, renowned scientist, W.H. Boyce Professor, Chair, and Director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Wake Forest University School of Medicine
“Having interviewed some of the most brilliant minds in the scientific world, I found Dr. Robert Lanza’s insights into the nature of consciousness original and exciting. His theory of biocentrism is consistent with the most ancient traditions of the world which say that consciousness conceives, governs, and becomes a physical world.”
—Deepak Chopra, Bestselling Author, one of the top heroes and icons of the century
“It’s a masterpiece…combines a deep understanding and broad insight into 20th century physics and modern biological science; in so doing, he forces a reappraisal of this hoary epistemological dilemma…Bravo”
—Michael Lysaght, Professor and Director, Center for Biomedical Engineering, Brown University
“Now that I have spent a fair amount of time the last few months doing a bit of writing, reading and thinking about this, and enjoying it and watching it come into better focus, And as I go deeper into my Zen practice, And as I am about half way through re-reading Biocentrism, My conclusion about the book Biocentrism is: Holy shit, that’s a really great book!
—Ralph Levinson, Professor, University of California, Los Angeles
From physicist Scott M. Tyson’s book
The Unobservable Universe
“I downloaded a digital copy of [Biocentrism] in the privacy of my home, where no one could observe my buying or reading such a “New Agey” sort of cosmology book. Now, mind you, my motivation was not all that pure. It was my intention to read the book so I could more effectively refute it like a dedicated physicist was expected to. I consider myself to be firmly and exclusively entrenched in the cosmology camp embodied by the likes of Stephen Hawking, Lisa Randall, Brain Greene, and Edward Witten. After all, you know what Julius Caesar said: Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” I needed to know what the other camps were thinking so I could better defend my position. It became necessary to penetrate the biocentrism camp.
The book had the completely opposite effect on me. The views that Dr. Lanza presented in this book changed my thinking in ways from which there could never be retreat. Before I had actually finished reading the book, it was abundantly obvious to me that Dr. Lanza’s writings provided me with the pieces of perspective that I had been desperately seeking. Everything I had learned and everything I thought I knew just exploded in my mind and, as possibilities first erupted and then settled down, a completely new understanding emerged. The information I had accumulated in my mind hadn’t changed, but the way I viewed it did— in a really big way.”