Robert Lanza, MD
Author’s note: I’m writing this in bits and pieces, which seems appropriate to the topic. Since I wrote the body of the paper, I posted a query on Facebook regarding time and entropy, and received some great responses and leads. I’ve dutifully read and considered the responses and followed up the recommendation to read Sean Carroll’s website. I did, in fact, slog through great sections of From Eternity to Here, but I confess that I felt, at times, overwhelmed by the content. I must revisit the book and read it again more carefully. Also, I checked reviews for Biocentrism and was dismayed by the sheer nastiness of many people purporting to “critique” his work. More often than not, reviewers—scientists and non-scientists alike—were unbearably nasty and disrespectful to the author. A notable exception is Richard Conn Henry’s quick overview (http://henry.pha.jhu.edu/biocentrism.pdf) where he points out factual errors in Lanza’s physics, but ends up agreeing with his major tenets. Otherwise, there was much Lanza bashing out there, boiling down to the fact that anyone who seeks to merge any kind of spirituality into the study of the universe is a complete, babbling New Age idiot enamored of bad science and bewitched by ‘woo’. Sigh. My entire website would be bashed mercilessly for the same reason. I am not a scientist, but I do have a sharp, critical mind honed by decades of reading and study, helped along by a Yale Ph.D in literature and culture. That doesn’t matter at all for those with degrees in the sciences, which apparently gives many critics license to disembowel you with sarcasm and contempt. However, if you try to do something really big—like explain the universe and its workings as related to human consciousness—you’re bound to upset people. What interests me, of course, is how all of this relates to life after death, or to the survival of consciousness unfettered from the animal, so to speak. If you will kindly bear with me as I first discuss the general implications of Lanza’s work, I will address the issue of EVPs and evidence for the afterlife right afterwards. I promise.
I tried. I really did. I’ve slogged through so many ‘popular’ books on quantum mechanics and Theories of Everything that I’ve lost count. The latest one was Dr. Robert Lanza’s Biocentrism. I have not finished the book yet, but I’m close. I’ve made it through six of the basic tenets or precepts of his theory. I thought this biocentric view—in which living things create all reality according to their perceptions and perspective–was pretty amazing, but I was troubled by the need to obliterate objective reality in favor of one entirely dependent on us. He explained why it is when you kick a tree, it hurts—it’s not because the tree has any objective reality, it’s simply a complex reaction between wave-functions of the tree that have collapsed into ‘thing that causes pain’, or something like that. I confess, it’s a little murky to me. I lay awake last night wondering how Dr. Lanza would explain why it is that a tree could fall on us and kill us, even though we never looked at it, never ‘collapsed’ it into reality or filtered it through our sensory systems.
I then wondered why it is that we all agree to such a large extent on what constitutes outside reality (assuming, as I’m afraid I still do, that such a thing exists) and to what we are referring when we use language. I suppose Dr. Lanza would say that a community of human animals agrees on illusory external realities because we all process information in a similar way: we’re built from the same ‘stuff’, so to speak. Then, just because I thought it would be fun to fret over this until 4 AM, I questioned the entire time issue. Of course, time is relative, and I do understand that on a layperson’s level. If you’re shot out into space and travel at a certain speed, you will age more slowly than your counterparts on Earth. There is even a formula to determine this. What upsets me about time is its relation to aging, to ‘entropy’, I think, if one can equate the two. We assume that as we age, time is passing; somehow, time is responsible for wrinkles and bad knees. Dr. Lanza says that the very notion of time is illusory, created by humans to make sure we can get to the office on time and function in a capitalist society (those are my words regarding the office and capitalism). Simply because we measure something does not mean that it exists in any objective sense or in any sense at all. Clocks are solely for convenience; as the author claims, we could measure the same thing by melting ice cubes or sunsets or tides.
So why, then, do we age and die as all biological things are wont to do? Dr. Lanza maintains that where we see progressive change there is really only a series of present moments that we link together and pretend form some kind of coherent trajectory from past to present to future. I think we all accept that the past and future don’t really ‘exist’ in any meaningful sense; the past lives only through memory of it (and we all know how tricky and deceptive memory is; even if we could remember everything ‘perfectly,’ we still don’t know what it is that we are remembering—certainly nothing material, nothing we can point to) and the future hasn’t happened yet, so by definition it has no objective existence either. This eternal present has always terrified me, because it rips me out of context. I think our author would say that ‘context’ is just the human animal’s way of making sense of things that aren’t there. That’s the problem. The previous statement doesn’t mean anything, yet that’s what Dr. Lanza is saying. Back to the aging and dying issue: all of humans experience this trajectory, whether or not ‘time’ exists. It seems to me that if we all share this path, always, without exception, then something ‘like’ time is happening to us. We don’t have to call it time, but we have to call it something. Here’s a quick and concise definition of entropy:
“Entropy is a measure of order and disorder. If left alone, aging systems go spontaneously from youthful, low entropy and order to old, high entropy and disorder”. (http://www.worldscibooks.com/popsci/p597.html)
So if entropy is responsible for aging and ultimately what we call ‘death’, then what is entropy’s relationship to time? If time is a human-made illusion, then what is killing us? The key word in the quote above is ‘spontaneously’. That word, by definition, indicates that a process is occurring without resorting to the passage of time. How is it that aging can occur ‘spontaneously’? If it is not a process, and doesn’t the word ‘process’ indicate something occurring over time, then what the heck is it? I’m afraid that Dr. Lanza cannot say that time is purely illusory when biological systems age and die due to a process that we call entropy. His argument against this is interesting, yet in many ways illogical.
He states that what we see as having progressed to a state of entropy is simply another snapshot in the present moment, and what we observe is change from one present moment to another present moment; it’s only our interpretation that sees a progression or superimposes a pattern or value judgment. In other words, aging is an assumption we make when faced with changes in the human organism. Those changes result from an illusory past in the first place. If time doesn’t happen, then change doesn’t either; therefore, nothing we observe is a result of a change. We don’t, however, live in the eternal present. I would argue that we can’t. Does it make sense that we could possibly understand life as one present moment after another and then death? We can’t think that way, so if that’s the way “things really are,” then what’s the point if we can’t make that conceptual leap? The Theory of Everything makes no sense if we can’t live it or even fully grasp it.
I have to finish the entire book before I get to the implications of Dr. Lanza’s theory. If life creates consciousness and consciousness creates the universe and everything in it, we are certainly all-powerful. Maybe he is about to say that we are eternal, since nothing that is out of time can possibly cease to exist. OK, so I will take that to mean that my consciousness is boundless and not in any way bound by change (an illusion created by time). However, I know that I will age and die, as evidenced by everything around me succumbing to entropy. So I’m back to square one. My death means something to me, as it does to those who love me. Of course, if Dr. Lanza says that Kirsten will ALWAYS exist, the question is HOW will she always exist? All that which limits my consciousness—including my body, my perceptions, and my brain—is what I know as real. One might TELL me that what I know as real actually isn’t, but that doesn’t change anything for me. You can say that my iced-cream is an illusion that I brought into existence, but in any case, it tastes the same whether it is an external reality or a consciousness-created reality.
The following quote is from Sean Carroll’s web site:
“The first mystery of the arrow of time is that it’s nowhere to be found in the fundamental laws of physics. Those laws work perfectly well if we run processes backwards in time. (More rigorously, for every allowed process there exists a time-reversed process that is also allowed, obtained by switching parity and exchanging particles for antiparticles — the CPT Theorem.) Nevertheless, the macroscopic world we observe is full of irreversible processes. The puzzle is to reconcile microscopic reversibility with macroscopic irreversibility.”
Therein lays the issue, the knot: what happens on a microscopic level—including, of course, the quantum level—is apparently NOT occurring on the macroscopic level. Photons can behave in bizarre, contradictory and fantastic ways, but that doesn’t mean anything in our large, material world is doing anything remotely like it. Our ‘big’ world seems to function according to the classical laws of physics. There are two possibilities here: we have a fundamental contradiction which can only be resolved when someone—probably a physicist—finds the missing link (something like the debunked notion of the aether) that explains everything (the GUT: Grand Unifying Theory), OR the world on the macroscopic level DOES contain all of the contradictions of the quantum level upon which its existence rests, and we simply haven’t devised the correct experiments to illustrate this correlate. Again from Sean Carroll’s web site:
“Is there any way the arrow of time can be explained dynamically?
I can think of two ways. One is to impose a boundary condition that enforces one end of time to be low-entropy, whether by fiat or via some higher principle; this is the strategy of Roger Penrose’s Weyl Curvature Hypothesis, and arguably that of most flavors of quantum cosmology. The other is to show that reversibilty is violated spontaneously — even if the laws of physics are time-reversal invariant, the relevant solutions to those laws might not be. However, if there exists a maximal entropy (thermal equilibrium) state, and the universe is eternal, it’s hard to see why we aren’t in such an equilibrium state — and that would be static, not constantly evolving. This is why I personally believe that there is no such equilibrium state, and that the universe evolves because it can always evolve. The trick of course, is to implement such a strategy in a well-founded theoretical framework, one in which the particular way in which the universe evolves is by creating regions of post-Big-Bang space-time such as the one in which we find ourselves.”
So, if the universe were static and eternal, time would be an illusion that we clearly create from a biocentric position. If, however, the universe is constantly evolving, we certainly do need time to account for that. Of course, Lanza would say that the universe is only evolving because we “evolve” it through our perceptions. I think he goes too far, actually. It’s an interesting idea that he presents, but it makes much more sense that the internal/external worlds are in relationship to each other, not that one precludes the other:
“To say that time is not well understood is one thing, but to assert that time is therefore an illusion seems unfounded to me. When forced to summarize his conclusion, he (page 111) backtracks from the bolder statements and writes only that: “Time does not have a real existence outside of animal-sense perception. It is the process by which we perceive changes in the universe.” I could add that time is real because mind and change are real.” http://darwiniana.com/2010/02/12/biocentrism-review/
I’m inclined to agree with the author of this quote. We perceive changes in the universe and the passage of time through our ‘animal sense perception,’ but that doesn’t mean that time and change are non-existent properties or phenomena. We need the notion of time for classical physics and we don’t, really (from what I am able to glean) for quantum physics, but again—time appears to be a hypothetical concept in every area of cosmology, necessary but not ‘proven’. Time may not exist, but entropy does, and I feel entropy as growing older and facing biological death. My experience of time leads me to believe that I (and all other living things) am in a constant state of evolution and flux. What might stand apart from that? Consciousness. It is entirely possible that what is in the constant evolutionary state is the material world, not the quantum world. If my consciousness arises from a quantum field, if awareness itself functions according to the rules of the sub-atomic realm, then consciousness is not bound by time and would, theoretically, continue on indefinitely.
Critics would accuse me of bringing ‘dualism’ back into the discussion as an excuse to save the notion of a soul. However, I’ve never understood why dualism is such a dirty word for scientists. If we can have a material and a quantum world that function according to different paradigms, then why is it not possible that the ‘human animal’ functions in two entirely different ways as well? Why could we not be both ‘material’ and ‘quantum’? Yes, I realize that no one has proven that consciousness emerges from a quantum field; however, it seems the best explanation that we have right now. Now we can engage in Part Two of this grand discussion, which involves the data that paranormal researchers bring back from their investigations. Yes, I realize that many scientists will stop reading right here and forever turn their backs on soulbank (if they would even look at it to begin with) and everything herein contained, but . . . we DO come back with tantalizing data that is not explained by normal means. I can say that with authority after years of painstakingly sorting through audio, video, ITC sessions and so on. I think that the hypothesis that consciousness occupies the quantum space might explain EVPs and all the other anomalies we bring home and puzzle over.
—Kirsten A. Thorne, Ph.D