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Can the Truth Come Back With a Capital “T”? (Part 4)

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By Deepak Chopra, M.D., Menas C. Kafatos, Ph.D., P. Murali Doraiswamy, MBBS, Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D., Neil Theise, MD

Working physicists, including some of the most eminent, believe that they are merely completing a very complex jigsaw puzzle, although most acknowledge that our theories are also incomplete and need more creativity. But that won’t really suffice: the universe will be radically incomplete if that big unexplained chunk – the mind – is left out, along with the vast array of inner experiences – love, joy, hope, sorrow – that comes with the mind. The subjective world is where our lives are actually lived. To exclude it in favor of only objective data gather through the senses, is like collecting every message ever sent over the telegraph without knowing Morse code. You will have a complete set of dots and dashes, but the meaning of the messages hasn’t even been touched. Likewise, our scientific theories are radically incomplete.

Especially among the younger generation of scientists, the questions left to answer aren’t just a mopping-up operation. Far from it. This next generation is more willing to confront the kind of incompleteness that potentially can alter the course of science itself. They are likely to not just continue doing the same things over and over again, just to remain in the comfort zone of “acceptable” science. This can happen once we begin viewing consciousness as a fundamental aspect of existence, not a byproduct.

Consciousness seems to be the simplest starting point for a science that could be complete. If consciousness is inseparable from existence, then so are the qualities of consciousness. The universe exhibited creativity, intelligence, evolution, and sentience, not because God breathed these qualities into Adam or because prehistoric hominids evolved in time from some far distant past to acquire them. In a very real sense, the universe has always been “thinking.” Mind didn’t begin with the arrival of the human brain or the brains of the most ancient species that roamed the earth. (The reason to favor the simplest explanation is that otherwise, if one ponders the question of origins of the mind, one gets into convoluted logical dead ends. We smile at the Medieval controversy over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, because it so obviously defies logic and in fact it seems comic. Future generations will surely smile at our insistence that neurochemicals in the brain create thought.)

Humans have exhausted the old paradigm of science, in which data-collecting and mathematical formulas according to some fixed “laws of Nature” were privileged while everyday experience was too messy to contend with. The new paradigm can’t simply patch up the holes in the old one. It begins instead with a single game-changing premise: the most fundamental fact of existence is our awareness that we exist. Several of the greatest quantum pioneers, including Max Planck, Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, Wolfgang Pauli, and Erwin Schrodinger, were astute enough to foretell the key role of consciousness. To them, it was never irrelevant. It was something science cannot detour around, to paraphrase Planck.

In some sense it’s a paradox that we award Nobel Prizes for eminent discoveries about the early phases of time, space, subatomic particles, weak interactions and “standard particle models” and so on, only to face the possibility that these are all mental constructs, for that is the implication of a fully developed consciousness theory. In place of the quantum field from which matter and energy arise, our spiritual traditions – through deep, persistent training of the mind to perceive the world in far greater detail and depth than is our habit – reveal a field of consciousness from which everything arises. The speck on the horizon is about to fill the whole sky.

The assumption by neuroscience that the brain creates the mind is seductive but has far less basis in actual proof. Yes, damage to specific brain circuits can cause people to not recognize faces or even go into a coma, but nevertheless no fMRI or PET scan or lesion study has answered the question of where in the brain does the mind reside. One informative example is a beautiful study from the University of Iowa of a patient named “R” who suffered damage to three brain regions – insular cortex, medial prefrontal and anterior cingulate – due to a viral encephalitis. These regions are critical for human self-awareness in modern neuroscience theory and patients with damage to these areas should essentially become zombies. Yet, despite memory deficits from the lesions, R remained self-aware. Likewise, the notion that the mind exists separate from the brain has no actual hard proof in the laboratory, though, for example, increasingly detailed documentation of near death experiences by clinicians such as Pim van Lommel, a cardiologist in the Netherlands, and Peter Fenwick, a neuropsychologist in the United Kingdom, strongly raise this possibility.

Yet, neuroscience has not revealed the “location” of the mind anywhere in the brain, or for that matter anywhere in the physical body of humans. Mind is simply assumed to be there, for no better reason than that the brain controls the central nervous system. This is like saying that music is located in a radio. There’s no doubt that radios transmit music. If you lived on a planet devoid of music and a radio fell from the sky blasting the 1812 Overture, you could claim that the radio is solely responsible for music. But that’s the very same kind of radical incompleteness that current day neuroscience suffers from. Having no other source for mind, they stick it into a physical object.

Everything we call real is created in our perception. There is no evidence that the world “out there” exists independently of what we perceive. (Even an arch physicalist like Hawking admits that science tells us nothing about reality itself.) The physical brain would have to exist outside space and time to “see” its own origins. Only consciousness qualifies as Point Zero, the origin of all experience. It doesn’t need time and space. It doesn’t need the laws that govern matter and energy. Consciousness, as opposed to pure awareness, only needs an object, that object can only be itself. In a word, to find out the truth about the universe and the life that flourishes on our plant, only an absolute – truth with a capital T – answers everything we want answered.

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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

Can the Truth Come Back With a Capital “T”? (Part 3)

I miss you my master........Click here to read Part 2!

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?

Not really.

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

Deepak Chopra: Are Nature’s Laws Structured in Consciousness?

What is the relationship between nature’s laws and consciousness? Are natural laws actually mathematical explanations of the regularities we observe in the universe? In this episode of “Ask Deepak” on The Chopra Well, Deepak addresses the scientific relationships among biology, science, math, and consciousness. Check it out!

The laws of nature are explanations to modes of observation in human consciousness. Through a string of scientific relationships, life is biology, which is, in turn, biochemistry, chemistry, physics, and math. Thus life is math, and math, as a symbolic system, is consciousness. Therefore, consciousness may be the basis of all the laws of physics, which are also the laws of nature. What do you think? Do the laws of nature derive from consciousness?

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Can the Truth Come Back With a Capital “T”? (Part 2)

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Click here to read part 1!

By Deepak Chopra, M.D., Menas C. Kafatos, Ph.D., P. Murali Doraiswamy, MBBS, and Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D.

In this series of posts we’d like to formulate a new picture of truth that replaces the flawed principles of science as it exists today. What is needed is an expanded science that grows out of facing – and correcting – some mistaken beliefs. Science follows wherever reality leads it. We think that reality has led to a place that isn’t explained by quantum mechanics alone. A new set of principles is needed to replace the current ones:

  1. There is no objective, external universe. What we perceive as physical objects and events are actually reflections of how the human brain perceives things.
  2. Reality is one, a constantly shifting whole. It is pure process in which every event is connected to every other. The process is falsified when it is frozen and chopped up into isolated bits and pieces of data. As Wordsworth rightly said, “We murder to dissect.” Particles have been replaced by events and by relationships between ever-changing fields of energy.
  3. We live in a participatory universe. The observer is blended into the thing he observes. Ultimately, there is no distinction between observer and observed. Both are expressions of consciousness as it unfolds in time and space.
  4. Space and time are not pre-existent and everlasting. They may have arisen with the emerging early cosmos.

Stated this baldy, the principles of an expanded science sound arcane and far-fetched. But that’s the nature of a paradigm shift. Everything gets reinterpreted in a radical way, and if you don’t buy into the shift, the reinterpretation sounds outlandish. To a mainstream scientist, still stuck in the 18th century world view, nothing is more outlandish than the following statements:

  • Consciousness is the ultimate reality. There is only one consciousness, which pervades existence.
  • Out of primal consciousness all the matter and energy in the universe emerged.
  • Primal consciousness continues to play itself out as the evolving universe. But the source of consciousness is inconceivable, since it lies beyond time and space.
  • The human mind is an expression of primal consciousness, which is why we are able to perceive reality in the first place.
  • Mind comes first, matter derives from it.
  • To finally know reality, our subjective experience is a truer guide than the collection of facts. After all, this experience is the only reality we live with throughout our lives.

The last point is where the lives of ordinary people are affected. Facts are no substitute for experience, and to say that scientific rationality will solve everything is a dangerous notion. A physicist might spend his day wondering about the state of the world, fearing the rise of terrorism, arguing with his wife over how to raise the kids, and feeling anxious about amassing a retirement fund. We can all identify with such a day. But if in the middle of the day our physicist collects a new fact about a subatomic particle, only that would be scientifically significant. The rest doesn’t matter, even though in reality the rest matters enormously as experience. We aren’t doubting the value of new findings about subatomic particles, only putting things into perspective. An expanded science cannot afford to shirk subjective experience through an abstract devotion to objectivity.

In the new paradigm, a purely objective science is a chimera, an illusion kept intact by excluding the actual experience of life as lived. One of the dogmas of current science is that everything can be known through the reductionist method. (Quantum theory actually provided limits to everything being known, although most practicing scientists sweep this under the rug.) In other words, the whole is understood by breaking it down into its component parts, the way anatomy breaks down the body into cells, tissues, and organs. Yet the reductionist method is exactly what keeps us from seeing the larger reality we are all participating in. A skeptic will protest, “If you don’t believe in reductionism, you aren’t a real scientist.” To which one can reply, “I’m still a real scientist, just not the kind you are.” This at least offers a choice.

We want to show in these posts that truth is very different from the measurements that science relies upon as it explores finer and finer levels of Nature. Like it or not, the pursuit of the truth is edging us closer to the Truth, as conceived of in Plato’s idealism, Indian Vedanta, and Buddhist philosophies. The universe has a source, and it is consciousness.

* * *

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, is 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), is co-author with Deepak Chopra of Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-being. (Harmony)

Can the Truth Come Back With a Capital “T”? (Part 1)

Screen Shot 2013-07-08 at 3.57.19 PMBy Deepak Chopra, M.D., Menas C. Kafatos, Ph.D., P. Murali Doraiswamy, MBBS, and Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D.

In a sense, the modern world was created with a simple editing stroke when Truth lost its capital “T.” Instead of pursuing the Truth, along a hundred paths stemming from philosophy and religion, the rise of Newtonian science and the Age of Reason taught us to seek lower-case truth, which consists of a body of verifiable facts. We have inherited a suspicion about absolute Truth that can be heard in everyday speech. How often do people say, “Well, it’s all relative” and “There’s no such thing as truth with a capital ‘T’.” Between them, relativism and the mountain of empirical data assembled by science have suffocated the notion of Truth. Many truths have emerged, truth about the best form of government, about the value of free markets, etc.

The search for lower-case truth is no less ambitious than the search for God, the soul, higher consciousness, and a transcendent reality that lies beyond the physical world. Those were the basic elements of Truth as it was revered in the past but repudiated by science. We think it’s valuable to try and reconcile science and spirituality, but let’s skip over that for the moment. The truly important issue is to know if we should be going after truths or the Truth. It’s a question that touches everyone’s life personally, because in hidden ways our whole lives are governed by what we believe about truth. Is it just a mass of verifiable facts? Or are facts secondary to an overarching truth that people should live by as they once lived by faith in God an adherence to religious rules?

We’re not proposing the return of religion in its former guise, or making a back-door argument for a new kind of worship. (Ironically, many of the old religious views held that God is an external fact, as the universe is held to be external now.) When it had a capital “T”, truth defined the essence of reality. To say, “God created the world in seven days” was a foundation of reality, an absolute that was superior to everything else that might be observed in the physical world. This literal interpretation was of course contradicted by the findings of science. To a religionist, however, if a fossil dating back a hundred million years contradicted the Book of Genesis, faith required an argument that preserved the absolute Truth, no matter what the cost in rationality.

It hardly needs saying that science turned this scheme on its head, and now we know better than to accept any absolutes about the nature of reality. Not only have God, the soul, and higher worlds flown the coop, when science itself proposes to formulate laws of nature, such as gravity and the speed of light, these new absolutes are open to question. Time and space were absolutes in Newton’s classical physics until Einstein proposed his General Theory of Relativity. Now, at the cutting edge of cosmology research, the discovery that dark matter and dark energy may exist, and if so, they constitute 96% of the creation that emerged after the Big Bang, threatens to overturn the apple cart once again. It has raised doubts, for example, about the accepted truth that gravity dominates the universe and that energy only has positive values.

At first glance, the toppling of old verities seems merely technical. Ordinary life isn’t impacted by contending theories of quantum gravity and superstrings. Dark energy, if indeed it exists, is pulling the expanding universe apart at an accelerating rate, a startling finding that has profound consequences for how the cosmos might end, but who will be around billions of years from now when the end-point arrives? Anyway, quantum physics, which replaced Newtonian mechanics in the great quantum revolution of the early twentieth century, basically states that what the senses perceive is not reality itself, reinforcing the view that the Truth either doesn’t exist or is inaccessible. In a word, there is no place in a sea of constant change for anything absolute.

Despite the profoundly different world view that quantum mechanics ushered in, most scientists still practice science as conceived by the now outdated classical physics, believing resolutely that their task is to gather facts about fixed objects, akin to Newton’s falling apple or billiard balls bouncing off one another in a dance of cause and effect. This kind of science finds itself in a troubling place when it comes to explaining reality, however. New findings about the very early phases of the universe are already nibbling away at the edges of the three foundational principles that all of science is based on:

  1. There is an objective universe “out there,” external to observers.
  2. The universe reveals itself through the collecting of facts, measurements, and data.
  3. Once enough objective data has been assembled, we will understand the universe completely, which is the same as saying that we will understand reality.

These statements are the equivalent of holy writ for scientists; they are assumed without question to be valid, and as anyone can attest who has mounted an argument that doesn’t depend upon these principles, cries of heresy arise. It is strange that these cries of heresy seem to ignore quantum theory and its profoundly different world view. Rational researchers suddenly become hot-headed and ad hominem. One is quickly branded an enemy of science. When tempers cool, personal hostility turns into a more rational dismissal: To speak of a reality beyond the physical universe, one that isn’t known by collecting data, is simply “not science,” “metaphysics,” or even worse, “pseudoscience.”

In this series of posts we’d like to formulate a new picture of truth that replaces the flawed principles of science as it exists today. What is needed is an expanded science that grows out of facing – and correcting – some mistaken beliefs. Science follows wherever reality leads it. We think that reality has led to a place that isn’t explained by quantum mechanics alone. A new set of principles is needed to replace the current ones.

(To be continued.)

* * *

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, is 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), is co-author with Deepak Chopra of Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-being. (Harmony)

A New Creation Story: Beyond Religion and Science

 Stephen Hawking  made worldwide news with his sound bite about how the universe was created. Specifically, he said that a Creator is not needed to explain how the universe began. Behind the sound bite was a deeper insight, which is that one law of nature — gravity — transcends space and time. Therefore, as long as gravity exists, multiple universes can unfold out of nothing. Among scientists this proposition has raised eyebrows and no doubt will be discussed for a long time. But let’s look at the larger picture. The discussion about creation has grown stale. On one side science sticks by its basic principles: The laws of nature govern the universe, randomness prevails over any possible pattern or design, and all phenomena, including the human mind, can be reduced to physical properties. On the other side religion sticks to its basic principles: God or the gods created the universe, the hand of the creator can be seen everywhere in nature, and human beings are connected to the divine, giving us a privileged position in the cosmos. 

To resolve this opposition, dozens of books have attempted to reconcile science and faith. Yet without a doubt science has the upper hand. The modern world is willing to throw out any number of beliefs about God if the facts don’t fit. Science isn’t willing to throw out a single piece of data, however, to satisfy an article of faith. The net result is that science has become bolder. The old position was that physics is separate from metaphysics. But Hawking’s statement that a Creator is unnecessary is nothing less than a metaphysical statement. In fact, it points the way to abolishing metaphysics altogether. Why bother with God when science is on the verge of delivering a Theory of Everything?

The problem is that just at the moment when science is poised to strike the last blow, it has gotten stuck. Metaphysics hasn’t been defeated; rather, physics has been forced to peer into the domain of God with no way forward. Hawking himself has been forced to concede that there is no Theory of Everything. There is only a patchwork of smaller theories, each competent to explain a specific aspect of nature, but with no unifying principle. This statement isn’t going down well among cosmologists. They want a unified model based on mathematical certainty, not a shrug of the shoulders. They already know that time and space emerged from the quantum void, but this nothingness has to be explained. Otherwise, it could contain absolutely anything. Hawking states quite firmly that it cannot be explained. He clings to gravity as a substitute for God, since without gravity, creation falls apart.

Some scientists refuse to be shocked; others refuse to give up. Cosmologists earn their paycheck by winning grants based on the latest mathematical model for how the universe came to be. But to an outside observer, Hawking’s basic insight, that the human mind will never be able to pierce the quantum vacuum, feels like a direct challenge to science’s story of creation. It doesn’t support religion’s creation myths, not by a long shot. But Hawking has deeply considered the big picture of cosmology and declared the game over, if the game is a perfect model that will unify all the laws of nature. An outside observer would also conclude that it might be too early to give up. Perhaps we can move forward if creation depends on basic principles that neither science nor religion has accepted so far.

Which is exactly what is happening in the forefront of speculative thinking.  Religionists are trying to rethink God in light of quantum mechanics; scientists are looking to spiritual traditions for glimpses into the realm that transcends the five senses. A new creation story is trying to be born, and although nobody knows the outcome yet, here are the new founding principles that currently vie for acceptance:

1. Just as matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed, neither can information. Beyond the display of physical processes, information fields may be the key to how the universe became organized from apparent chaos.

2. The universe may contain more than information. It could be imbued with proto-consciousness. That is, the raw ingredients of mind may be inherent in Nature at the quantum level.

3. God could be a constant presence in evolution. Instead of creating the universe and then standing back from his (or her) creation, the deity may exist in every atom and molecule as the tendency to evolve.

4. Human values may be imprinted in creation. Plato first declared that our sense of love, truth, and beauty derived from perfect love, truth, and beauty that exists beyond the physical world. Today, these so-called Platonic values may be provable in a new way, as universal consciousness that orders and patterns the forms of nature.

5. Mathematics may be the key to nature’s organizing power. If mathematical laws are the true building blocks of creation, then we don’t need a creator. We have symmetry, order, complexity, and harmony embedded in abstract form through a higher order of mathematics that transcends time and space.

6. The observer is also a participant in creation. The universe we look upon is a perfect home for human beings because our minds are entangled with the laws and processes that create mind. To explain how the universe came about, you first must explain what the mind is. The two cannot be separated. There is no reality "out there" independent of the observer.

7. Design dominates over randomness in Nature. Although we see apparent chaos at the quantum level as particles collide and interact, an invisible force urges these processes into more complex forms, eventually resulting in the most complex form of all, DNA. Candidates for such a shaping force are evolution, intelligence, creativity, and even a God who likes to experiment.

One way or another, a new creation story will emerge from one or more of these basic principles. To win the day, it must conform to the data being collected about the universe; it must also not contradict quantum physics, which to date is the most successful scientific theory every propounded. Yet it is evident that quantum physics has probably reached its theoretical limit, even though not every physicist — or most physicists — realize it.

The limit to any system occurs when its accepted foundation comes into question. In this case, advanced thinkers are asking questions that were unheard of in the past: What is mathematics? What is gravity? What is a natural law? Instead of being metaphysical questions, these have turned practical. Until they are answered, the nothingness that Hawking has peered into remains dark, inert, and empty. Yet we know it cannot be empty. Our brains are the product of DNA. DNA is the product of information arranged in a chemical code. Chemicals are the result of quantum interactions at the subatomic level. Quantum interactions wink in and out of the quantum vacuum. Moving backwards, that’s as far as the modern creation story goes. Whatever step it takes next will have to be a step into the void. Will we discover the mind of God there? Without using religious terminology, we must discover something that allows us to go back up the ladder from a void to the human brain. Otherwise, creation will have accidentally hit upon mind. Physics, including Stephen Hawking, continue to bet on the latter proposition, but more and more it faces impossible odds.

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