A delightful article, working around the provocative concept, “I think, therefore we all are?
A New Theory
of the Universe
Biocentrism builds on quantum physics
by putting life into the equation
By Robert Lanza
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.”
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.