The Human Wonders Science Can’t Yet Explain But Must Explore
When confronting scientific authorities it can be daunting to have the results of your own personal experience and inquiry questioned.
I am frequently accused of being “woo woo” when I suggest that the only thing we know for sure is that we exist. As I mentioned in my article on the amazing evening at the Shrine Auditorium with Deepak Chopra and Eckhart Tolle, I was privileged to attend a reception with some folks I did not anticipate ever meeting — renowned skeptics and critics of the notion of consciousness, and devotees to scientific thought as the paragon of knowledge and wisdom. I met briefly with Leonard Mlodinow, a co-author with Deepak taking the scientific perspective in a book they shared: War of the Worldviews: Where Science and Spirituality Meet — and Do Not. Dr. Mlodinow also co-authored the books A Briefer History of Time and The Grand Design with Stephen Hawking. He has his PhD in theoretical physics from UC/Berkeley and is now at Caltech. If you watch the short video above you will hear Dr. Mlodinow’s eloquent descriptions of the laws of physics and at the end a very warm exchange of their mutual intellectual and personal respect. After our brief meeting I looked up some of Dr. Mlodinow’s work, notably this quote: He says, “I believe in a kind of God. I think all scientists, in a way, believe in a certain God, in a certain order of nature.” One has to wonder — if the universe has order, does not that imply intelligence – and with that, Consciousness? Here is what I would have liked to pursue directly with this noted physicist from a logical and scientific perspective: Dr. Mldodinow, you are presumably both conscious and intelligent. So clearly consciousness and intelligence are properties of a human. And how can there be order and intelligence without a Mind? Without a mind to conceive and interpret what is “order,” how can the reality of order even exist? Of course order is a concept articulated by language, but if a physicist detects it as ineffably a property of nature, cannot that same adjective be applied to nature itself? DNA’s properties are identical to those of software — something that thus far has only been created by conscious and intelligent humans. Doesn’t this strongly suggest that DNA is the product of conscious intelligence? How can science account for its existence without coming to one of three conclusions? An essential property of DNA is that it “executes code” as does software. (This is the main point of the video on TED by geneticist Juan Enriquez.) If software is found (which it has been according to the Enriquez video) to be the model for DNA, isn’t it appropriate to then examine what we know about the properties of software? But doesn’t that mean that DNA must be the product of intelligence – since we know of no software that came into being without human programmers? Also at Deepak and Eckhart’s event was Michael Shermer, who publishes Skeptic Magazine and is a monthly columnist for Scientific American, a regular contributor for Time magazine, and a Presidential Fellow at Chapman University. I asked Michael a bit about my basic premise: “If DNA is software, who wrote the code?” and he smiled benignly and went through a brief description of natural selection. As many others might, he also seemed to assume that he was debunking “Creationism” – which is not something that I am suggesting at all. It is not Creationism or any sort of fundamentalism to notice that DNA must be the product of intentional intelligence and to then ask where or how such a property arose as the basis for life in the absence of human intervention. No one here is arguing with evolution – which is another property of life – or natural selection. But to simply bypass the inevitable issue of from where the property of intelligence – inextricably linked to existence of coded instructions within our cells – arose or came to BE — has nothing to do with evolution. Evolution and Natural Selection are descriptions or concepts.
They are not explanations or causal agents. When one considers the question of qualia, or how any experience, much less intelligence, can arise from what is presumed inanimate matter, this question becomes deep and profound. Renowned biologist Dr. Robert Lanza says: There is nothing in modern physics that explains how a group of molecules in a brain creates consciousness.
The beauty of a sunset, the taste of a delicious meal, these are all mysteries to science — which can sometimes pin down where in the brain the sensations arise, but not how and why there is any subjective personal experience to begin with. And, what’s worse, nothing in science can explain how consciousness arose from matter. Our understanding of this most basic phenomenon is virtually nil. Interestingly, most models of physics do not even recognize this as a problem. Natural selection and evolution describe the processes of life but not its very existence — they are not explanations and indeed science has no explanation for how anything is alive — or how qualia or experience can come into being. Dr. Lanza has coined the term “Biocentrism” to suggest that the consciousness behind life is the primary organizing aspect of nature. Similarly to Dr. Mldodinow’s need to address the issue as believing in “a kind of God,” it would simply seem to me that the concept of God in any “form” is unnecessary once science expands to the point of acknowledging the FACT of consciousness. This would simply be another way to perceive Intelligence and Consciousness impersonally as the essence of Being so that, for example, good and evil only exist within the paradigm of the (human) Self which modern neuroscience has also unmasked as a phantom entity resulting from complex dynamic neural networks reinforced by societal conditioning.
There is no inherent evil in a wolf eating a sheep – just a natural order being expressed. Similarly neuroscience has been unable to find a “self” in the brain. Without the existence of a self there is no more “self interest” — and complete devotion, altruism, and submission to the apparent nonhuman intelligence behind Life are not only possible, but almost requisite for anyone who encounters such a truth. In the face of these facts, existence itself would become a subject of required awe and reverence. Similarly the notion of “order” as a human overlay onto existence would now be exposed as an observable and felt property of reality; thereby making it obvious that there must be an immense intelligence of which we are simply a part or result. To me this resonates with the beliefs of the Platonists and Pythagoras; the perfection of geometry and mathematics manifests a profound perfection.
The constants Pi and Phi, which we have “discovered,” are also an ineffable part of this apparently intelligent order which science attributes to its own perception but is now revealed to be the essence of being itself. In this way an anthropomorphic or any other fundamental or mentally projected “God” becomes unnecessary, and science and the reality of consciousness can begin to co-exist in a humanistic, as opposed to purely academic or theoretical, space. Listening to Eckhart and then Deepak with their views of science as a methodology of description rather than explanation, it would seem that the now uncontroverted description of DNA as software yields an unmistakable conclusion: the properties we attribute to our brains (intelligence) are present without our participation in nature.
Therefore at a minimum, life is active intelligence. As Deepak explained at the Science and Nonduality conference, modern science has hit a wall and its proponents use terms like “woo woo” to dismiss ideas that open us to the mystery rather than shut the door on a deeper experiential inquiry. Every wisdom tradition encourages an inquiry based on personal experience. Of course scientific inquiry fits very well into this tradition, but only within the context of what many modern scientists overlook — the “facticity” of consciousness within which all inquiry takes place. While it may not bring tenure at a university, becoming comfortable with this truth can bring peace — and as my friend Michael Jeffreys says, wouldn’t you rather be happy than right? .
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