I was the fortunate recipient this Christmas of four books, one of which is entitled Biocentrism by Dr. Robert Lanza, who is described in many and various places as brilliant, and is even compared with Einstein. So I was not sure that I would be able to understand anything he said. To my relief, the book is eminently readable — even though I was on the verge of being lost in the byways of quantum physics in a couple of places.
The purpose of the book, as its title suggests, is to put forward the idea that the universe is organized around life, and that life therefore lies at the center of everything. It is a theory that rejects the position of scientific materialism, that has dominated the scientific community for a very long time. It challenges the idea that the universe, in the absence of life, would exist at all, and it challenges the idea that the presence of life in at least one spot in the universe is due merely to chance. Lanza goes to great lengths to point out how unlikely this mere chance is. The key to all of this for Lanza is consciousness, which traditional science (or any science for that matter) has been unable to account for. Lanza points out that, given what we know about the brain, consciousness should not be — and, yet, it is.
He suggests that consciousness is the basis of reality — that in the absence of consciousness, there is no reality, because what we know as reality is actually created in our minds. He points to the fantastical world of quantum physics, in which experiment after experiment have demonstrated conclusively that subatomic particles respond to the presence of the one who is observing them. He also points to recent experiments that suggest that this might be true at higher levels, as well. He suggests that the universe is really a mass of possibilities that “solidify”, so to speak, into actuality in the presence of consciousness. Which suggests that, when you turn off the lights in your kitchen at night and go to bed, your kitchen really isn’t there until some conscious being walks into it again.
Now, I make no claim that my little summary here captures — or even properly represents — what Lanza is trying to say. To be sure, you should read his book. I will confess that my science grades in school weren’t among my best. My mind was too clouded by the heights and depths of English to allow much of a place for science. And Lanza’s book, which some have described as revolutionary, doesn’t really answer the big, bottom-line question of how consciousness first came into being in the first place, causing the universe to come into existence exquisitely tuned to support life and consciousness. What’s interesting to me about it is that his theory places life at the center of the universe (which Christian theology tends to do, as well) and that his theory provides a scientific basis for what the vocabulary of faith would call eternal life — in that he suggests that consciousness should survive physical death, since energy is never lost — it simply changes form.
Christian theologians have had different definitions over the centuries about what constitutes the image of God within human beings. Various theories have been proposed. Lanza’s book makes me wonder if perhaps consciousness isn’t the image of God within us. Certainly consciousness is present in all sentient beings, but our experience tells us that human consciousness seems to be of a different order or magnitude, that there is something unique about it. Lanza’s theory also suggests to me (although not to him) that perhaps it is the consciousness of God that gave rise to the universe — that creation emerges from that divine consciousness, which touches a universe of infinite possibilities and gives it order, an order that is capable of producing and supporting life and consciousness.
Of course, this doesn’t explain how the universe of possibilities came into being in the first place, prior to being touched by the divine consciousness. The Christian doctrine of creation says that God created “out of nothing”. Genesis, however, suggests in its poetry of creation that God’s spirit moved over the face of a formless deep — and perhaps that spirit is the divine consciousness, which touched the formless deep and gave rise to this mysterious and wonderful universe.
I cannot do justice to Lanza’s book here, and I would commend it to you. I am one who believes strongly in the importance of finding a common ground between religion and science, overcoming the animosity that so often comes between the two. Lanza, without really setting out to do so, provides an interesting opening that might well bring these two spheres together in new and creative ways.
His book is also a reminder that there are some mysteries that we will likely never solve — but may have a great deal of fun trying to.
May the coming new year be filled with new possibilities and opportunities for creative encounter for us all.