Can the universe have consciousness from the point of view of science?

Can the universe have consciousness from the point of view of science?
Can the universe have consciousness from the point of view of science?

Since ancient times, people have attributed the will of the gods to natural phenomena, giving them characteristics and personality. Today, scientists studying the issue of consciousness are trying to understand whether it is inherent only in individual subjects or the Universe as a whole.


The questions of what consciousness is and where it comes from has occupied communities around the world ever since humans learned to speculate. Today, more and more physicists, cognitive scientists and neuroscientists are working on this issue.

Today there are two main theories on this topic. The first is materialism. This is the concept that consciousness comes from matter, in our case - through the work of neurons in the brain.

If we remove the brain from this equation, then consciousness simply ceases to exist. Traditionally, scientists are mostly decisive materialists. But this led them to stumble upon the limitations of materialism. If you think about the gap between General Relativity and quantum mechanics or Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, then all the inconsistencies quickly appear.

The second theory is the dualism of soul and body. Perhaps most often this point of view is held in religion and various kinds of spiritual practices. According to this theory, consciousness is separate from matter. It is part of another aspect of the personality, which in religion is called the soul.

However, there is a third point of view that is gaining popularity directly in scientific circles - panpsychism. According to this idea, the entire universe is filled with consciousness. Today, some scientists are promoting this hypothesis, it has already become the subject of heated debate. To be quite frank, panpsychism resembles what Hindus and Buddhists call Brahman - the universal god-absolute, of which all things are a part. In Buddhism, for example, the only thing that really exists is consciousness. The famous Zen koan directly speaks of this: "Can you hear the sound of a falling tree in the forest if there is no one nearby?" That is, it is necessary to understand that everything that we experience is filtered and interpreted by our mind. Without it - or at least without consciousness to observe it - the universe simply does not exist. In some physical circles, they adhere to the theory of a certain field of protoconsciousness.

In quantum mechanics, particles do not have a specific shape or precise location until they are observed or measured. Was this the result of the work of protoconsciousness? Physicist and philosopher John Wheeler believed it was possible. It was he who coined the term "black hole". From his point of view, all particles of matter contain a little consciousness, which they absorb from this field of protoconsciousness.


He called his theory "the anthropic principle of participation," according to which the human observer is a key figure in the process of existence. Wheeler said about this: "We participate in the creation of not only that which is not far from us, but also distant and ancient." From this point of view, as in Buddhism, nothing exists until consciousness appears to comprehend it.

Neuroscientist Christoph Koch of the Allen Institute for Brain Science is also a supporter of the idea of ​​panpsychism. Koch claims that this is the only theory of consciousness today that speaks about the level of awareness about oneself and the world. Biological organisms are conscious because, when faced with a new situation, they can change their behavior to cope with it.Dr. Koch intends to measure the level of consciousness contained in any organism.

He plans to conduct several experiments on animals. In one of them, the doctor wants to connect the brains of two mice to each other. So he intends to see if the information will eventually be transferred between them. Will consciousness at some point become one mixed, integrated system? If the experiments are successful, Koch may try to connect the brains of two people.

British physicist Sir Roger Penrose also adheres to the idea of ​​panpsychism. In the 1980s, Penrose proposed that consciousness exists at a quantum level and is located at the synapses in the brain. He has repeatedly linked some of the mechanisms of quantum mechanics to consciousness.

Nevertheless, Dr. Penrose is not ready to call himself a panpsychist. As he himself says: "The laws of physics give rise to complex systems, and these complex systems lead to consciousness, which then gives rise to mathematics, which can then succinctly and inspiringly encode the most fundamental laws of physics that gave birth to it."

Physicist Gregory Matloff of the City University of New York College of Technology says he has preliminary evidence showing that panpsychism is at least not impossible. In an interview with NBC News, he stated: "This is all very speculative, but we can check it and either confirm or deny."

In 2006, theoretical physicist Bernard Haisch proposed that consciousness is produced and transmitted through a quantum vacuum, or simply empty space. Any system that is sufficiently complex and creates a certain level of energy can generate or broadcast consciousness. Dr. Matloff contacted a German physicist and offered to conduct an observational study to verify this.

They studied the Parenago effect, according to which cooler stars (like the Sun) revolve around the center of the Milky Way faster than hotter ones. Some scientists believe this is due to interactions with gas clouds. Matloff took a different view and described it in an article for the Journal of Consciousness Exploration and Research.


Unlike hot stars, cold stars can move faster due to the "emission of a unidirectional jet." Such stars emit a jet in the early stages of their formation. Matloff suggests that this could be a case of deliberately manipulating a star with its mass in order to gain speed.

Observational data show a reliable pattern in all cases of observation of the Parenago effect. If it was a matter of interacting with gas clouds in accordance with the current theory, all clouds would have a different chemical composition, which would also affect how the stars interacting with them work. So why do they all behave the same?

While these data are not sufficient to develop an accurate theory, the European Space Agency's (ESA) Gaia telescope, whose mission was to map stars, may be able to provide more data that will either strengthen or weaken this idea. At the same time, Dr. Matloff argues that the presence of a field of protoconsciousness can serve as a substitute for dark matter.

Dark matter supposedly makes up about 95% of the universe, although scientists have not yet been able to register it directly. So, if we assume that consciousness is a property that arises at the subatomic level when particles interact with each other, then how do these tiny pieces of consciousness come together?

The neuroscientist and psychiatrist Giulio Tononi of the University of Wisconsin at Madison offers a slightly different perspective on panpsychism - integrated information theory. According to this idea, consciousness is a phenomenon with a real physical location somewhere in the universe. We just haven't found it yet. Perhaps this celestial body radiates consciousness - just as the sun radiates light and heat.

Dr. Tononi even proposed a metric for measuring the amount of consciousness in something. The unit of measurement is called phi. This is a measure of how much a creature can control itself and objects around. The theory separates intelligence from consciousness, which are often considered to be the same.

Take artificial intelligence, for example. He can already give odds to people in performing various tasks. But AI has no will of its own. A supercomputer capable of influencing the world in some way outside of the developer's teams could be considered conscious. Many futurists - from Ray Kurzweil to Elon Musk - are convinced that such a day will come about in the next ten years, and we should be ready.

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