By Robert Lanza and Deepak Chopra
This year, the world celebrated Charles Darwin's 200th birthday. But now that all the backslapping is nearing an end, it may be time to reflect on where things really stand. When Darwin finished writing "Origin of Species" in the fall of 1859 -- exactly 150 years ago -- the theory of evolution became part of the Newtonian world picture. However, since that time, major puzzles of mainstream science have forced a re-evaluation of the nature of the universe that goes far beyond anything Darwin could have imagined.
One new theory -- called biocentrism -- proposes that an accurate understanding of the world requires putting observers firmly into the equation, and that life may not be the accident of physics and chemistry that evolution suggests (Lanza and Berman, Biocentrism, BenBella, 2009). In short, the attempt to explain the nature of the universe, its origins, and what is really going on, including evolution, requires an understanding of how the observer -- consciousness -- plays a role.
The current model proposes that the universe was until rather recently a lifeless collection of particles bouncing against each other, and obeying predetermined rules that were mysterious in their origin. The universe is presented as a watch that somehow wound itself and that, allowing for a degree of quantum randomness, will unwind in a semi-predictable way. But there are many problems with this paradigm -- some obvious, others rarely mentioned but just as fundamental. But the overarching problem involves life, even if the way it changes forms can be apprehended using Darwinian mechanisms.
Why, for instance, are the laws of nature exactly balanced for life to exist? There are over 200 physical parameters within the solar system and universe so exact that it strains credulity to propose that they are random -- even if that is exactly what contemporary physics baldly suggests. These fundamental constants (like the strength of gravity) are not predicted by any theory -- all seem to be carefully chosen, often with great precision, to allow for existence of life. Tweak any of them and you never existed.
Beyond these laws and constants, consider everything that had to happen to bring about humans. There are literally trillions of events that had to be just right -- 'this way' and not 'that way' -- for us to be here. Consider the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs -- if its trajectory had been slightly different, or the asteroid had been slightly larger, we might not be here. The odds are astronomically against everything happening exactly right. So the question is, is it dumb luck? But if you say something is an accident, it usually means you don't understand the reason for it.
Being here may be no more an accident than the sun rising in the morning. Perhaps biocentrism is right -- perhaps the past is simply the spatio-temporal logic of the observer. No physicist challenges the fact that particles do not exist with definite physical properties until they are observed. If the present determines the past as Stephen Hawking, John Wheeler (who coined the word 'black hole'), and others have suggested, then it couldn't be any other way.
Darwin's theory of evolution is an enormous over-simplification. It's helpful if you want to connect the dots and understand the interrelatedness of life on the planet -- and it's simple enough to teach to children between recess and lunch. But it fails to capture the driving force and what's really going on.
It is time to step back and take a look at the big picture. Evolution reminds us that we evolved in the forest roof to collect fruit and berries, not to ponder the nature of life itself. The challenge, alas, is to peer not just behind our ancestral way of thinking, but to grasp the world in a way that is at the same time simpler and more demanding than what we are accustomed to.
Robert Lanza, MD is considered one of the leading scientists in the world. He is the author of Biocentrism-Consciousness-Understanding-Nature-Universe