Admittedly, I was hesitant to use a headline referencing a YouTube video and episode of South Park from nearly a decade ago, but I couldn’t get the thought out of my head as I read Dr. Robert Lanza’s philosophy of biocentrism.
Biocentrism is a theory of the universe and everything in it that puts the observer at the heart of all of it. This is a vastly different view than the one commonly clung to by the scientific community, whose most prevalent view implies the observer is irrelevant to the grand cosmic scheme.I am one of those genetic mutants who have come to be most commonly known as gingers, and like every other redheaded person who lives within South Park’s pop-culture reach, I’ve been repeatedly called a soulless ginger since 2005 when the “Ginger Kids” aired during the show’s ninth season.No worries on my end though. I came to the conclusion I didn’t have a soul when I was in my early teens, and my hair color had no influence on it. What did influence it was Carl Sagan’s original Cosmos series and a heap of scientific evidence of the origins of the universe.
Being a kid who spent way too much time by himself, I began wondering, “What if I’m the only one who exists, and everything, and everyone, around me are just figments of my own imagination?” Sounded ridiculous then, and it still does now, but it was an idea that stuck with me. Little did I know there was already a similar philosophy to this called solipsism, where it is believed, in brief, the only thing known to exist in certainty is one’s own mind.
Well, wasn’t I just a disturbed little philosopher.
Lanza’s biocentrism is similar in that it too centers around the observer, but it separates itself by taking into the account the consciousness of other living creatures, and surmises this consciousness might not necessarily be separable.
Without perception, there is in effect no reality. Nothing has existence unless you, I, or some living creature perceives it, and how it is perceived further influences that reality. Even time itself is not exempted from biocentrism. Our sense of the forward motion of time is really the result of an infinite number of decisions that only seem to be a smooth continuous path. — Dr. Robert Lanza, in The American Scholar
I’m not going to even attempt to dissect the entire philosophy here, primarily because I don’t have that deep of a grasp of it all just yet, and might never, but you can read about it until your vision goes blurry on Lanza’s website, or in his book, Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe.
Within the concept of biocentrism there is room for souls to exist, even within people like me, however, it’s nothing like the ping-pong ball with wings that emerges from a dead person’s mouth, the way I imagined it to be before giving up on the idea of a soul altogether.
The soul’s existence comes down to consciousness and a slightly different point of view on the concepts of space and time, according to Lanza’s theory.
It takes energy to run our mind and body, and energy, according to the law of conservation of energy, cannot be created or destroyed, it can only change forms. Lanza often mentions the 20 watts of power fuelling the brain, which in turn feeds our consciousness and keeps the body in working order.
So what happens to that energy when we die if it can’t be destroyed?
The question itself isn’t precisely the one needing asked when it comes to the concepts behind biocentrism. Do we really ‘die’ at all? That’s the first question needing answered, before moving into souls.
Lanza buys into the multiverse concept, where there are an infinite number of simultaneously existing universes, and ours is just one of them. When our physical death comes, that 20 watts of energy could simply move into one of these many universes.
He uses several concepts to support this idea, one of which is particle-wave duality, where scientists found that sub-atomic particles acted differently when they were observed. In the “Two-slit” experiment, when an observed sub-atomic particle was shot at a barrier with two slits, it either went through one hole or the other. When it wasn’t being observed, the sub-atomic particle adopted characteristics of a wave, and passed through both slits at once creating an interference pattern on the other. Here’s a basic explanation in a video designed for kids, but that’s probably appropriate for my level of understanding.
Lanza also points to two other quantum experiments to justify his death and souls presumption.By entangling two photons, particles of light, and shooting one through a setup involving a beam splitter, mirror, two measuring devices, and sometimes a second beam splitter, the measurements of the second photon, that has yet to be shot through the same setup, can determine the outcome of the one already fired. Further experiments have allowed scientists to manipulate what the first photon did, by actions taken to the second photon, which Lanza claims is the equivalent of changing what happened in the past. In case I’ve slightly fouled the details of the photon experiments, it’s explained in more detail here.
He also points to work Nicolas Gisin did in the late 1990s, where again, two entangled were sent along paths going opposite directions, and when one of the photons struck a two-way mirror, the other, as far as seven miles away in some experiments, immediately performed the complementary action of its brother in entanglement.
These experiments lead Lanza to the conclusion space and time are not real objects, but merely constructions of our minds to enhance our ability to make sense of the universe, and as Einstein pointed out, are relative to the observer. So when our physical bodies die, and space and time are not how we’ve always perceived them to be, we are still both alive and dead at the same time. He justifies this thinking by pointing to the fact one particle can pass through two holes at the same time.
Our 20-watt consciousness is the observer of our universe, and when we die, given space and time don’t really exist, our indestructible energy could end up anywhere in the multiverse, and at any point in the future or past in terms of the common descriptions of time, which isn’t right anyway.
As Lanza describes it, we simply experience a system reboot with what could be described as our soul, pops up somewhere else.
So if biocentrism is correct, my red hair has no bearing on whether I have a soul or not. I’ve got one regardless, and so did James Brown, who is probably somewhere, at some point in time, sporting his blue, “GFOS” (Godfather of Soul) jumpsuit and busting a celebratory rendition of The Big Payback.
James Brown said, “I don’t know karate, but I know kuh-razee,” and thinking about the origins of the universe, and where we go after death, can get about as crazy as it gets.
Naturally, as with every proposed understanding of the universe, naysayers line up and take turns shooting the idea full of holes, and Lanza’s biocentrism proposition is no exception. Some have even declared Lanza’s idea is based purely on pseudoscience.
So take from it all what you will, but definitely read his explanations rather than my potentially misguided interpretations of his explanations. Although if you’re just looking for something in the world of science to support your own theories of how things work, and your idea of how things work includes a soul, biocentrism is there awaiting your support. When it comes down to it, isn’t finding information that supports your own personal beliefs, the way humanity really operates anyway?
If one scientist claims theory A correctly explains the origins of the universe and what happens when we die, and believes it can be proven; there will inevitably be another scientist who says it’s theory B, and here’s why; and eventually another scientist might even show up with theory C that incorporates a little bit from both theories A and B. When it comes to the universe, our existence, and our consciousness, none of them have all the answers. Every discovery and proposed theory just leads to another question, as if the universe, or universes if you’re into that kind of thing, has us held hostage in a game of 20 Trillion Questions, and we’re only in 100th round.
Sometimes I think science is a lot like religion(s), with its multiple schools of thought and sects of devoted followers who defend those beliefs to their death when a little white ball with wings pops out of their mouths and rises toward the heavens to do who knows what, in who knows where, for the rest of eternity — however long that might be.