By Deepak Chopra, M.D., Menas C. Kafatos, Ph.D., P. Murali Doraiswamy, MBBS, Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D., Neil Theise, MD
If you propose that Truth with a capital T might return into our lives, like a speck on the horizon that gets bigger and bigger, many would prefer to swat the speck away. For one thing, Truth veers uncomfortably close to God. When Stephen Hawking was promoting his most recent book, The Grand Design, he held a press conference that created a headline shot around the world: “Science Makes God Unnecessary.” Hawking’s popular authority gave weight to a common sentiment. Even among scientists who are devoutly religious, nobody claims that God is necessary when it comes to doing science. (This assumes, as many religions do, that God is an external being, in essence an independent force outside the forces that physics study.)
But ruling out an independent, controlling Creator God-in-the-Sky doesn’t keep the speck on the horizon from steadily getting bigger. The speck is consciousness, which will become the basis of Truth with a capital T if human knowledge keeps unfolding as it has been. Science at its core is a mental activity, but scientists traditionally have shown a persistent aversion to discussing the mind, relegating the topic to philosophers and, most recently, to brain researchers, who claim that they are examining what appears to be the physical vessel of mind.
Physicists make theories about and measure external reality as such; for them, the “real” begins with the observable and quantifiable universe. Measurable physical quantities exist within space and time, into which are embedded all manner of things, such as elementary particles. They of course hold the view that physical universe won’t evaporate into clouds of fantasy or metaphysics. The constituents of the physical universe don’t depend on what you or I think. But, you might counter, isn’t thinking what consciousness is all about?
There’s a sound reason for why the speck on the horizon showed up in the first place. The universe, like a comic-book superhero, needs an origins story. God once provided the best possible origins story, since an omniscient Creator in the sky could explain not just the beginning of the universe, but good and evil, life after death, reward and punishment, and why sex causes problems. For modern science, an origins story isn’t remotely so thorough. It is actually just one piece in a jigsaw puzzle. A host of other pieces are already in place, specifically the mathematics that explains electromagnetism and the strong and weak force – three of the four fundamental forces in nature, awaiting only gravity to complete the picture. As these calculations were being refined – a century’s worth of brilliant work – the origins story of the cosmos was jiggered to fit.
So far, consciousness still remains out of the picture of a physical universe, which most scientists are willing to consider. The evidence for the Big Bang (as a theory to how the universe began) is overwhelming, and even though we don’t have good evidence regarding the exact instant of the expansion, its beginning – currently held to be 13.7 billion years ago – set the cosmic clock ticking. There’s your origins story, an unimaginable explosion of space-time, in Einstein’s general relativity, that started the mighty expansion that created all matter and energy.
In any case, modern cosmology, a branch of physics, has been triumphant in telling the story of creation, so with a little patience researchers using billion-dollar machines will accumulate more data like the highly publicized proof of the Higgs boson, or “God particle,” hoping that, then, the picture will be complete. But this begs the question of what came before the Big Bang – a topic, like consciousness, that most scientists relegate to being inappropriate for study by others than philosophers. But shouldn’t scientists themselves be intensely curious to find out what happened before time and space began?
For some far-seeing thinkers, however, this is a “not so fast” moment. What does it mean to complete our picture of the universe? Are we simply missing a few pieces of a largely completed jigsaw puzzle? Have we reached the end of science where everything but a couple of nagging questions remain? Or have we actually failed to account for a vast and significant piece of the universe – consciousness – because the topic wasn’t placed on the scientific “to do” list? Perhaps their difficulty arises because consciousness and “what came before the Big Bang” might be related subjects.
Stay tuned for Part 4!
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Deepak Chopra, MD is the author of more than 70 books with twenty-one New York Times bestsellers, including co-author with Sanjiv Chopra, MD of Brotherhood: Dharma, Destiny, and The American Dream, and co-author with Rudolph Tanzi of Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-being (Harmony). Chopra serves as Founder of The Chopra Foundation and host of Sages and Scientists Symposium – August 16-18, 2013 at La Costa Resort and Spa.
Menas Kafatos, Ph.D., Fletcher Jones Endowed Professor in Computational Physics, Director of the Center of Excellence at Chapman University, co-author with Deepak Chopra of the forthcoming book, Who Made God and Other Cosmic Riddles. (Harmony)
P. Murali Doraiswamy, MBBS, FRCP, Professor of Psychiatry, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina and a leading physician scientist in the area of mental health, cognitive neuroscience and mind-body medicine.
Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D., Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology at Harvard University, and Director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), co-author with Deepak Chopra of Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-being. (Harmony)
Neil Theise, MD, Professor, Pathology and Medicine, (Division of Digestive Diseases) and Director of the Liver and Stem Cell Research Laboratory, Beth Israel Medical Center — Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York.www.neiltheise.com