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The Illusion of Past, Present, Future

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Co-authored by Robert Lanza

The universe evolves backward in time, not the other way around as we were taught in school. "The histories of the universe," concedes Stephen Hawking, the famed physicist "depend on what is being measured, contrary to the usual idea that the universe has an objective observer-independent history."

Life is not just a collection of atoms -- proteins and molecules spinning like planets around the sun. It is true that the laws of chemistry can tackle the rudimentary biology of living systems, but there is more to us than the sum of our biochemical functions. Conversely, physical existence cannot be divorced from the animal life that coordinates experience. We are connected not only by intertwined consciousness, but by a pattern that is a template for the universe itself.

Quantum physics tells us that objects exist in a suspended physical state until observed, when they collapse to just one outcome -- we don't know what happens until we investigate, and our investigation influences that reality. Whether or not certain events may have happened some time ago, may not actually be determined until some time in your future -- it may actually be contingent upon actions that have not yet taken place.

Bizarre? Maybe you don't believe this is real. Consider an experiment that was published in Science a couple of years ago. Scientists in France shot particles of light "photons" into a measuring apparatus, and showed that what they did -- now, in the present -- could retroactively change something that had already happened in the past. As the photons passed a fork in the apparatus, they had to decide whether to behave like particles or waves when they hit a beam splitter. Later on -- well after the photons passed the fork -- the experimenter could randomly switch a second beam splitter on and off electronically. It turns out that what the observer decided at that point, determined what the particle actually did at the fork in the past. At that moment, the experimenter chose his reality.

Of course, we live in the same world. No physicist challenges the fact that particles do not exist with definite physical properties until they are observed. Every particle has a range of possible physical states, but it's not until the actual act of observation that it takes on defined properties. So until the present is determined, how can there be a past?

According to eminent physicist John Wheeler, one of Albert Einstein's last collaborators, "The quantum principle shows that there is a sense in which what an observer will do in the future defines what happens in the past."

It was only with the advent of quantum physics that scientists began to consider again the old question of the possibility of comprehending the world as a form of mind. Since that time, physicists have analyzed and revised their equations in a vain attempt to arrive at a statement of natural laws that in no way depends on the circumstances of the observer. It seems only natural that the daily circuit of, say, moon round earth, though satiable only by a mind, was independent of any perception whatever. But this was to prove an illusion.

In these days of experiment and disconnected theory, one point seems certain: the nature of the universe cannot be divorced from the nature of life itself. Indeed, the quantum theory implies that consciousness must exist, and that the content of the mind is the ultimate reality. If we do not look at it, the moon is gone. In this world, only an act of observation can confer shape and form to reality -- to a dandelion in a meadow, or a seed pod, or the sun or wind or rain. Anyway, it's amazing, and even your dog can do it too.

According to biocentrism, space and time are not the hard objects we think (Lanza and Berman, Biocentrism, BenBella, 2009). Wave your hand through the air. If you take everything away, what's left? The answer, of course, is nothing. The same thing applies for time -- you can't put it in a marmalade jar. Look at anything -- say this page. You can't see it through the bone that surrounds your brain. Everything you see and experience right now is a whirl of information occurring in your mind. Space and time are simply the mind's tools for putting everything together. We carry them around with us like turtles with shells. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, they are not "real and insurmountable."

In the end, even Einstein admitted, "Now Besso" (one of his oldest friends) "has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us...know that the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion."

(To be continued)

Robert Lanza, MD is considered one of the leading scientists in the world. He is the author of Biocentrism-Consciousness-Understanding-Nature-Universe

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