In his otherwise engagingly written essay, "A New Theory of the Universe" (Spring 2007), Robert Lanza's proposal that "biocentrism" in general and "consciousness" in particular are the crucial missing ingredients required for any deep understanding of the mysteries of existence or "reality" exposes a major fallacy harbored by many self-described conscious beings: that a living (biological) and preferably brain-supported "mind" is an essential requirement for observership.
This is an ancient conceit. The idea that only living entities may be "observers" has been annoyingly tenacious throughout human history and has become even more fashionable since humans have been puzzling over relativity and "quantum weirdness." An inconceivably rich inanimate world of things can perform interactions with as much alacrity as we suppose we do. An electron that was struck by a photon 13 billion years ago most assuredly "observed" (reacted to) the event, with no help or validation from a "consciousness" that would not even exist for most of those 13 billion years.
Are we to infer from this that the inanimate world is actually imbued with some invisible or muted consciousness? John Wheeler's dictum, "No phenomenon is a real phenomenon until it is an observed phenomenon," in no way requires a living agency to do the observing. In the context of the essential participatory nature of reality that Wheeler propounded, it is interpretable as a shining expression of liberation from the tyranny of the concept of consciousness. Either that, or we must face the daunting conclusion that the inanimate world of things is not as unconscious as most of us like to suppose it is ... or that we are not as "conscious" as we like to suppose we are, and that there may be a kind of gradient of complexity in consciousness associated with all of material reality, from subatomic particle to human brain.
On the surface, Lanza's proclamation that "a particle cannot be thought of as having any definite existence--either duration or a position in space--until we observe it" sounds perfectly consistent with what we have learned from quantum mechanics. That is, until we inquire more closely into just what we mean exactly by this "we" thing.
Lanza's preoccupation with the "biocentric" perspective of reality actually conceals an egocentric one. Ironically, this confused "theory" is far more effective than what he is pleased to identify as the shortcomings of physics at undermining our...