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This conscious universe
by Bob Berman
July 01, 2010 01:00 AM | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It's now almost a half-century since James Lovelock originated the Gaia Hypothesis. This, of course, maintains that our planet's biosphere is a single intelligent entity that self-regulates conditions for the mutual benefit of all. Though many mainstream biologists like Stephen Jay Gould hated it and many still do, Gaia resonates nicely with the essence of Eastern religion and pantheism - even if it does not go as far as Advaita Vedanta, which to me is the closest that human language comes to expressing reality.

But should we even stop there, at Earth? Why not the entire Cosmos? This was the thesis of my last book, Biocentrism, co-authored with Robert Lanza, MD, which explored the relationship between our consciousness and the external universe.

When we realize that everything we see is occurring inside our brain, and that no color or brightness is "out there" on its own (light waves are pulses of invisible magnetism and electricity), it truly seems as if we bring the universe into existence. Nature and consciousness are correlative: They go together and are inseparable.

Physicists have been heading down this path for a long time. We've now known for decades 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 just for us. Many are calling this revelation the "Goldilocks Principle," because the Cosmos is not "too this" or "too that," but rather "just right" for life. Others are invoking the principle of "Intelligent Design," because they believe that it's no accident that the Cosmos is so ideally suited for us - although this label is an unfortunate Pandora's Box that opens up all manner of arguments for the Bible and other topics that are irrelevant here or worse. By any name, the discovery is causing a huge commotion within the astrophysics community and beyond.

It would be nice if the debate changed from the contentious one about exchanging evolution for religion and switched to the more productive tack of asking whether science can explain why the universe seems exactly balanced and designed for life. The fact that it is is just an inescapable scientific observation - not an explanation for why.

At the moment there are only three explanations for this mystery. One is to say, "God did that," which explains nothing even if it is true. The second is to invoke the Anthropic Principle's reasoning that if living organisms are here, then they must observe the conditions that allow for life to arise; what else could we possibly see? The third option is that the universe is an entity that exists correlatively with our consciousness. No matter which logic one adopts, one has to come to terms with the fact that we are living in a very peculiar Cosmos.

By the late Sixties it had become clear that if the Big Bang had been just one part in a million more powerful, material would have blown outward too fast to allow stars and worlds to form. Result: no us. Even more coincidentally, the universe's four forces and all of its 200 constants are just perfectly set up for atomic interactions, the existence of atoms and elements, planets, liquid water and life. Tweak any of them and you never existed. Such life-friendly physical values are built into the universe like the cotton fabric woven into our currency.

But if an intelligent, conscious universe seems too preposterous, just consider the alternative, the mainstream view: That the entire universe popped into existence out of nothingness. Its constants and forces assumed values precisely tailored for planets and life. Then, by sheer dumb randomness, it produced conscious organisms. Their characteristics included creating cheesecake. Who in their right mind would accept such a thing?

Let me leave you with this thought from Cicero, two millennia ago: "Why will you not admit that the universe is a conscious intelligence, since conscious intelligences are born from it?"

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