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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Biocentrism.

I have recently come across an interesting science theory call Biocentrism as proposed by scientist Robert Lanza. I was fascinated with the many connections between it and much Buddhist philosophy. I will give you a quick run-down of what Biocentrism is about via wikipedia, which isn't the best source but it's the easiest for my purposes but I encourage you to read about it further. Biocentrism posits that life created the universe and not the other way around as traditional science has taught us. This blends nicely into the Buddhist concept that reality is what our limited and deluded mind makes of it. The seven principles of Biocentrism are as follows. Note the similarities between it and Buddhist thought:

1). What we perceive as reality is a process that involves our consciousness. An "external" reality, if it existed, would by definition have to exist in space. But this is meaningless, because space and time are not absolute realities but rather tools of the human and animal mind.

2). Our external and internal perceptions are inextricably intertwined. They are different sides of the same coin and cannot be divorced from one another.

3). The behavior of subatomic particles, indeed all particles and objects, is inextricably linked to the presence of an observer. Without the presence of a conscious observer, they at best exist in an undetermined state of probability waves.

4). Without consciousness, "matter" dwells in an undetermined state of probability. Any universe that could have preceded consciousness only existed in a probability state.

5). The structure of the universe is explainable only through biocentrism. The universe is fine-tuned for life, which makes perfect sense as life creates the universe, not the other way around. The "universe" is simply the complete spatio-temporal logic of the self.

6). Time does not have a real existence outside of animal-sense perception. It is the process by which we perceive changes in the universe.

7). Space, like time, is not an object or a thing. Space is another form of our animal understanding and does not have an independent reality. We carry space and time around with us like turtles with shells. Thus, there is no absolute self-existing matrix in which physical events occur independent of life.

James: Then there is this following excerpt from a different article about how scientist Robert Lanza rediscovered this idea that Buddhists have believed for eons. It is a nice image of what is being talked about with this theory and startlingly reminds me of Indra's Net metaphor:

The farther we peer into space, the more we realize that the nature of the universe cannot be understood fully by inspecting spiral galaxies or watching distant supernovas. It lies deeper. It involves our very selves. This insight snapped into focus one day while one of us (Lanza) was walking through the woods. Looking up, he saw a huge golden orb web spider tethered to the overhead boughs. There the creature sat on a single thread, reaching out across its web to detect the vibrations of a trapped insect struggling to escape. The spider surveyed its universe, but everything beyond that gossamer pinwheel was incomprehensible. The human observer seemed as far-off to the spider as telescopic objects seem to us. Yet there was something kindred: We humans, too, lie at the heart of a great web of space and time whose threads are connected according to laws that dwell in our minds.
James: As Nobel physicist John Wheeler once said, “No phenomenon is a real phenomenon until it is an observed phenomenon.” I look forward to reading more about this theory as I am very fascinated with interactions between science and Buddhism. If everyone and everything is interdependent and interconnected then I see no reason why Buddhism and science have to be mutually exclusive. It seems to me that many of the theories posited by both are quite similar.

PHOTO CREDIT: University of Chicago Press

~Peace to all beings~

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32 comments:

seanrobsville said...

There's a theory known as the Participatory Anthropic Principle that explains how the observers have fine-tuned the universe to make it suitable for their own existence.

Mumon said...

I'm going to be writing something quite critically of this in the near future.

stamati anagnostou said...

I have been impressed by the degree to which Buddhist thought has predicted our recent philosophical and scientific discoveries.

Mumon said...

In particular:

Without the presence of a conscious observer, they at best exist in an undetermined state of probability waves.

Aside from the fact that this is not meaningful based on quantum physics, the implications of this are that this is not a scientific theory, since it can't be falsified.

That said, there is much to say about Buddhist philosophy and real, honest to goodness science.

They call him James Ure said...

Seanrobsville:

That sounds like a fascinating principle and I'll look it up.

Mumon:

I'm not a scientist but I think theory is the important word here. A lot things that scientists believe haven't been proven yet. All scientific principles started as just ideas and theories, which many scoffed at until proven. I'm not saying that this is the case necessarily with biocentrism but it did make me think and was thus why I posted it.

If nothing else I just thought it was fascinating to think about. Especially in how the 7 points are so similar to several Buddhist teachings.

I'll be interested in what you have to say about it.

Stamati:

Me too. Being a fan of both science and Buddhism I like to read up on and thinking about the last ideas and theories.

Mountain Humanist said...

SORRY I PLACED A PARAGRAPH IN THE WRONG PLACE. PLEASE DELETE PREVIOUS COMMENT AND REPLACE WITH THIS ONE. THANKS.

Only one problem, biocentrism lacks empirical proof. As such, it seems to be a fanciful, "Wouldn't be be cool if.."kind of mind game similar to "What if the universe is just a molecule in the leg of a table" thought experiment.

"Biocentrism posits that life created the universe and not the other way around as traditional science has taught us."

Again, no real data or proof — just some guy's idea of what may have been. I know another great thinker who had a much more entertaining idea that has just as much proof behind it:

"Many races believe that the Universe was created by some sort of god or in the Big Bang. The Jatravartid people, however, believe that the Universe was sneezed out of the nose of a being called the Great Green Arkleseizure. They live in perpetual fear of the time they call "The Coming of the Great White Handkerchief". The theory of the Great Green Arkleseizure is not widely accepted outside Viltvodle VI." Douglas Adams.


"5). The structure of the universe is explainable only through biocentrism. The universe is fine-tuned for life, which makes perfect sense as life creates the universe, not the other way around. The "universe" is simply the complete spatio-temporal logic of the self."

Sounds dogmatic. "Only through biocentrism?"

It's not that the universe is fine-tuned. It simply is the way it is. There were other ways it could have developed that would not have been amenable to carbon-based life. As it happens, it developed so that we ended coming into being. Why does there have to be a reason?


Yes, it is interesting to see how someone's thought experiment jibes with Buddhism but let's not mistake it for actual empirical science.

They call him James Ure said...

Mountain Humanist:

I agree the "only" part was off-putting and I agree that it's basically just his idea of what could be going on. I just thought it was something interesting to think about.

Mountain Humanist said...

And it is something interesting to think about (I also enjoy the "The universe is a molecule in a table leg" discussion).

I just want to make sure the integrity of the scientific method remains.

Please don't think I was belittling the subject matter as a point of discussion.

Riverwolf, said...

Thanks for introducing me to these ideas. Like the spider/web analogy. I just visited a local observatory and wondered at the star clusters I viewed through the telescope. It made me feel like that spider, trying to sense tiny vibrations on my own little web, while an entire incomprehensible universe drifted by unnoticed.

Intirajpura said...

All 7 rules are quite good. In my mind. I focus on currently that happen in current in all mind. If we think about 7 rules we should know. They are come from?. I interest in time at currently, space at now and all universe in mind at now. This is my religion.

Intirajpura
Intirajpura@gmail.com

Spiv said...

I was debating whether to post up on this or not for some time, basically out of desire not to be too much of a jackass. But fortunately someone else was kind enough to write an article that says what I wanted to say, in greater detail:

http://nirmukta.com/2009/12/14/biocentrism-demystified-a-response-to-deepak-chopra-and-robert-lanzas-notion-of-a-conscious-universe/

Dark Cloud Nine said...

Well it makes me a little sad to see that there is some "fighting" around that argument that I personally perceived as an unifying one... We all know (or maybe we should) that there are significant contradictions in science that involve quantum physics and relativity... those contradictions underline our limitations at comprehending the universe. Something is missing.

I am not saying biocentrism is it but any theory that suggests an unifying approach deserves attention in my book.

I don't believe biocentrism is saying that humans are necessary for the universe to exist, at least that is not how I read it, I think this reading is an artifact of summarizing the theory too fast. Maybe correlation rather than cause between life and universe (as we perceive it) could be considered.

Let's not be too fast at rejecting what we don't understand.

They call him James Ure said...

Dark Cloud Nine:

If you're as interested in a universal theory as I am then you might be interested in the "Cyclic Model" theory. If you haven't checked it out yet you might find it cool.

Mountain Humanist said...

Let's also not be too quick to accept something that has no real basis in reality.

Dark Cloud Nine said...

James: thank you, I will check it out.

Mountain: not rejecting and not accepting are not contradictory. I believe this is the base of an open mind. I also believe a scientific mind should remain open.

jonah said...

"Let's also not be too quick to accept something that has no real basis in reality."

Define reality?

Marco said...

This post is very informative. Would love to use this as reference for my History class.

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George said...

I am currently reading through this article:

Biocentrism Demystified: A Response to Deepak Chopra and Robert Lanza's Notion of a Conscious Universe

doberg said...

I really think folks should at least read Lanza's book before dismissing biocentrism. None of the criticisms I’ve read so far (here and on other sites including biocentrism-demystified) even mention the problems presented by the split screen experiments. (See chapter 8 of Lanza's book) These experiments have been repeated many times with many variations and always with the same results. How can biocentrism be dismissed without offering a more plausible explanation of these results?

Spiv said...

Doberg: I hate to hit on this thing in such a negative way, but there's really no other way to do it. Lanza's interpretation of the famous double slit experiment can be held up only as evidence that he has no idea what he's talking about. Yes, quantum physics has rather mind blowing properties (we're not used to viewing the world in this way), but where he takes it from there is ridiculous.

I recommend reading the explanations for why this result was exactly what many scientists predicted before the experiment was run. It's a fascinating story involving some of the biggest names in both chemistry and relativity.

I know this whole thing is going to be viewed as being negative, or fighting, or whatever. Really though, Buddhism teaches us to be discerning. We should all be skeptical of any claim, even if it was handed down by the Buddha himself.

The fact that something makes us feel good or connected is not enough. That's seeking pleasure. If you want to seek happiness (and I know you do, you're on a Buddhist blog) you must seek the truth. You must find real confirmations to anything you wish to believe, and you must make sure those confirmations are real and not twisted logic or misunderstanding.

doberg said...

Spiv
I don’t see you as argumentative as I appreciate decent with evidence and I have no trouble with the truth. Do you recommend a reference? I’m particularly interested in evidence that the outcomes were ‘predicted’ rather than explained afterword. I’m not a physicist so if you have one that is in lay terms I’d appreciate it.

kvazaĆ­farinto said...

I think that it's worth noting what other academics are saying about Robert Lanza's biocentrism. It appears to be a ham-handed attempt at giving mysticism the veneer of science. In what I've read, Lanza pays a great deal of lip service to evidence and to quantum mechanics, but seems not to understand that there is no evidence whatsoever that a conscious observer is required for wavefunction collapse.

Spiv said...

Oh my, I seem to have lost this discussion for quite some time when I owed it something. Doberg, if you're still reading, a great book to start with is "In Search of Schroedinger's Cat" by John Gribben. It's a sort of pop-chem book (if there is such a thing), so it's not totally unapproachable.

Dee said...

recently read "The ISAIAH Effect" by Gregg Braden...profound and marries ancient wisdom with modern science. BOTH come to the same conclusions by different paths.
Can't get enough of this stuff!

Sarah72 said...

This is all very stimulating and exciting - brings my perception of beingness into the light.
Thanks all for even conflicting comments - more will be revealed!
Now reading refutings of Biocentrism with an equally open mind - avoiding contempt prio to investigation...

Gingersnap said...

So happy to have found this blog- you give me renewed hope in human kind- you are my gift today! thank you and may Peace be with you...

John Lodge said...

If you read the book "biocentrism" by Robert Lanza you will see its not just a wouldn't it be cool if idea. The ideas he has presented are logical extensions of observations conducted in quantum physics experiments. As it is at the moment we are probably missing something very fundamental but in my opinion biocentrism is the best explanation we have at the moment for thee observations. I definitely recommend reading it, even if just so you can see for yourselves that his ideas are based on scientific observations and not just what ifs.
Also one of the seven rules does seem a little dogmatic, can only be explained with biocentrism, however Lanza does not try and take any credit for the idea as he states in his book the idea is not really new, it has existed for a while in different forms. He also concedes the idea will need to grow with further observation, it is in its infant form.
I have read into quite a few different theories on how the universe works etc and for me personally this one, if your willing to open your mind (and lets face it with quantum physics you have to!) is the most convincing. I base my perception of reality on biocentrism. (doesnt change how I live my life though, my reality is my reality however you look at it)

Shiv said...

I was reading this wonderful book, Power, by Rhonda Byrne, where she mentions facts and discoveries of the future also, all exist. It is just that one has to bring this out through the law of Attraction, so that it becomes visible. Chanced upon "Biocentrism"by Robert Lanza and then this blog. How very much in place, is this metaphor (do i say) of the spider and the definition of its universe. All definitions of the human mind for something that is so vast and overwhelming to my small mind. Thanks so much - Shiva

Anonymous said...

Biocentrism and Buddhism are some forms of human intellectual knowledge either theoretical or philosophical in view of his conception towards his sorroundings.God needs man.Man gives an explanation to God. Without man everything remains unexplanatory."And without man there is no God". - Mojesmohabud

Anonymous said...

Lanza is right. I fully accept his exlanation. It makes sense. I get angry when I hear people demanding the truth! What is the truth? Why is there a need for a truth?
Let's take the Alps. One asks what is the Alps?
The geographer says, it's this...
The cartographer says, it's this...

The Swiss says, it's this...

The Italian says, it's this...

The shepherd says, it's this...

The alpinist says, it's this...

The American says, it's this...

The geolosist says, it's this...

The pilot says, it's this...
What is the Alps???

We are only thoughts...
Someone is thinking us..

Dr. Yianni Lambrinakos

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Let's not forget a proposal made at the turn of the 20th century called the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis. It says that speakers of different languages live in different worlds because their languages determine for them the form of outer reality. In other words, the grammatical categories of the languages create different worlds. So what's new? I think that laying it all at the doorstep of biology misses tha main point, because if biology were to determine outer reality for us, it has to do it through some symbolic system. Mnay peopel have proposed that without language thinking itself may be impossible.

You guys take it easy. Your form of outer reality may change, according to Laranz, if your blood sugar level is up or dowwn, or if youer cholesterol level, good or bad, swings back and forth.Because this is all biology.Both biocentrism and the SWH are gross oversimplifications.But it is quite legiitmate to ask why we assumed there was an outer reality to begin with. We sometimes invent a label for the convenience of study or communication and then end up wondering what to do with it.

MZAR

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