I am a physicist - the kind of scientist that is fascinated by and takes great delight
in what can be seen when the physical world is closely and carefully observed with
the light of reason. I am a small piece in a network of human activity that stretches
back to the beginnings of our history. Over the centuries a method of observing
nature has evolved within the network that is based on the interplay of deductive
and inductive reasoning. It uses the cycle of observation, analysis and prediction
to produce an ever expanding helix of knowledge. The energy that drives that expansion
is the fascination with knowledge and the delight of discovery that springs from
the very core of us who are fortunate enough to be a part of that activity. In the
chapters that follow I will present a way of looking at things that reflect that
fascination and delight. I thank you for your visit to the site and invite you to
read on in the hopes that, in spite of the effort involved, we may connect and that
you will be fascinated and delighted by what emerges.
This Reflection deals with the concept of complementarity, the zero point energy
of the vacuum and the role of uncertainty in existence. It is presented first as
some observations derived from modern physics
the nature of the material world and then as some personal ideas about the metaphysical
implications of these observations.
The following ideas are summaries taken from an overview of modern physics that
I have included on a separate page.
• Quantum mechanics resolves the paradox of the duality
of the wave-particle nature of light with the concept of complementarity.
Photons and waves are complementary aspects of a single reality we call light.
When we observers interact with the “real” world we can sometimes only see complementary
aspects of reality. The most likely reason for this is that
uncertainty is built into the very core of the material world.
• The uncertainty principle is not simply the result of measurement,
it is essential to the creation of the energy of the stars and of most of the energy
on the earth through the process called quantum tunneling. Without the operation
of the uncertainty principle the sun would have never shone and we would not exist.
• The virtual zero-point energy of the
electromagnetic field that arises from the uncertainty principle has observable
effects in the real world. Zero-point energy may be involved in some of the most
fundamental aspects of the material world.
• Spacetime is not just a mental construct - it is an integral part
of the material world. It is an observed fact that
spacetime is not an absolute - it is defined relative to material bodies and it
is curved by the presence of material bodies.
• (DRAFT) Observations tell us that our universe and the spacetime that
it defines began in an event called the Big Bang that took place 13.7±0.13
billion years ago. Spacetime is now expanding according to the laws of General Relativity
and will continue to do so forever. At the instant of the Big Bang all of spacetime
and the energy in the universe was concentrated in a tiny point called a singularity.
The laws of General Relativity predict the existence of the singularity but break
down "inside" the singularity (since it doesn't admit there is an
"inside".) The beginning of the expansion of the singularity into the
universe was governed by a period of extreme conditions called the inflationary
epoch until conditions were such that the laws of General Relativity took over.
The detailed physics of inflation is not yet understood but
it is assumed that quantum fluctuations (zero-point energy) played a dominant role
during the inflationary period of the universe.
• (DRAFT) Observations in atomic, nuclear and particle physics have
led to the unification of the quantum field theories for the electromagnetic force,
the weak nuclear force and the strong nuclear force into a single theory known as
the Standard Model. The holy grail of modern physics is to unify the gravitational
force with the Standard Model into a new Grand Unified Theory. It is clear that
this means developing a quantum theory of gravity. There is a natural length scale
at which the quantum and gravitational worlds come together in our universe based
on the values of Planck's constant, the speed of light and the universal gravitational
constant ( a number that comes into play in all gravitational interactions.) This
length scale is called the Planck length and is of the order of 10-35
meters. As the inflationary period of the universe's expansion began at or passed
through these length scales all forces were unified and it is this period that a
quantum theory of gravity must describe. A key question, however, is what prevents
the enormous gravitational virtual energy densities existing at the Planck length
throughout our universe from wreaking havoc within our universe? (These gravitational
virtual energy densities are 10122
times higher than the real matter/energy
densities observed in our universe!) There is a barrier
between the virtual zero-point energy and the real world but tunneling through that
barrier occurs under certain conditions to allow the effects observed above.
(Technical note: I don't personally yet understand how such a barrier
might come into play at the vertices of the Feynman diagrams that are used to describe
how forces occur through the exchange of virtual particles. But one might speculate
that the various coupling constants involved reflect the probability for the tunneling.)
• (DRAFT) The fine-tuning of the conditions required for stable ordinary matter
to emerge from the Big Bang, for the expansion of the universe to endure long enough
for our solar system to emerge, for life to exist on earth long enough for us to
evolve are so incredibly improbable that it is reasonable to scientifically assert
that our existence qualifies as a miracle.
The metaphysical reflections in Zero have to do with the origins of things and are
presented in the form of three different cosmologies. We begin by speculating about
what exists outside of the bubble of spacetime that began in the Big Bang and that
is defined and shaped by the matter in our observable universe. Whatever exists
outside of our spacetime I am going to call Spirit. The first cosmology arises from
assuming that the Big Bang (our spacetime) emerged from the zero-point energy of
a limitless quantum vacuum. The operative principle in this cosmology is the uncertainty
principle so I'm going to call this cosmology: Spirit as Uncertainty.
It is the cosmology of complete randomness. The second cosmology speculates that
the Big Bang is the result of an act of creation. I'm going to call it:
Spirit as Certainty
. This is the cosmology of religion. It is fundamentally
dualistic in its outlook and the purpose of creation is considered to be a mystery
- beyond human awareness. The theologies accompanying this cosmology attempt to
explain the relationship of humans to an omniscient, omnipresent Being who personally
wills everything that happens. The third cosmology is an extension of the second
that I call Spirit as Awareness
. This is the cosmology of spirituality. Its
outlook is one of unity and the purpose of creation is identified as being related
to the existence of awareness. Our connection to Spirit is through our awareness
and it is equally open to all of us. It is we who are responsible for what happens
in our lives. It is up to us to use our reason to cooperatively protect life from
the random violence of the material world including that of human beings refusing
any connection to Spirit and acting from their animal natures alone. The third cosmology
does not deny the second: it completes it. The spiritual cosmology is one of unity
and equality where each of us can choose to connect with the One Spirit and consciously
participate in the great work of evolution to bring forth greater awareness/love
in the universe.
Spirit as Uncertainty
One way to explain the highly improbable conditions that allow for our existence
on earth is to assume a multiverse Cosmos where there are an infinite number of
other “universes”. These universes are thought to arise, as did our own Big Bang
universe, from random fluctuations permitted by the uncertainty principle in the
zero-point energy field of a limitless quantum vacuum. I think this idea is getting
way out in front of observational cosmology and requires a leap of faith that quantum
physics, derived from observation in our universe, is applicable to a virtual world
existing "before" the Big Bang. But it is an interesting idea and may
provide some with an alternative to faith in the existence of a creator.
In this Cosmos, everything that can possibly exist does exist in the infinity of
universes. In this cosmology the existence of sentient life in our observable universe,
requiring a set of such highly improbable ("finely tuned") conditions,
is just a random event. We are here as a consequence of the fact that in a sea of
infinite possibilities an event with a probability approaching the miraculous zero
does have a finite possibility of happening. This is what is sometimes referred
to as the "strong anthropic principle". A Cosmos where everything that
can exist does exist and the zero-point energy field exists simply because it can
exist, is a playful if not chaotic Cosmos. It is the Cosmos where imagination is
everything and the artist or mathematician can take great delight in knowing that
anything imaginable is certain to exist – somewhere in some bubble of spacetime.
I ask myself, though, as a member of the anthropic community, does this square with
what I see when I examine my own existence as a micro-observer? Can all the important
events in my life be completely explained by randomness? When I try to observe my
anthropic community with as much objectivity as possible, do I see only complete
randomness at work? If randomness explains everything you see then you have had
the good fortune of finding a consistent way of looking at things. But please remember
that this idea of an infinity of universes rising from the vacuum as a result of
random quantum fluctuations permitted by the uncertainty principle is highly speculative
and is not based on scientific observation. It may even be an unobservable proposition.
You may also want to consider the observation that some of your fellow micro-observers
report seeing something else besides randomness at work in the world. I am one of
them –- and I hope to reflect that in the chapters that follow.
Spirit as Certainty
I recognize that the vast majority of my fellow micro-observers have highly cherished
ways of looking at things that ignore the role of uncertainty in the natural world.
This view of the world starts with the premise that the Big Bang was an act of creation
by a perfect, complete and omniscient being who is the Observer of all that happens
in the material world of our spacetime. The role of observer is very important to
us. Our own knowledge of the material world flows from the trinity of observer-observation-nature.
It is natural that we are fascinated with the observer element of this trinity and
treasure the delight we as micro-observers find in the mirror of contemplation.
But this focus on the certainty of our own reflections ignores the disunity and
division within the human community that proceeds naturally from the inability to
prove the completeness (truth) of an image constructed from a collection of micro-images,
especially, mirror images. There is no agreement within our community about the
"truth" of our image of the creator or the purpose of our existence. We
turn to "religious authorities" who we believe have somehow been able
to span what we see as the fundamental duality between creator and creation to define
these for us.
When you observe the world as it exists on planet earth you can find great delight
but you can also find unspeakable horror. All of this horror comes from division
within our human community. Collections of micro-observers are struggling to protect
and defend the certainty of their vision without any way to prove the truth of it.
In this struggle people who speak, look or think differently from their own collective
are branded as heretics, infidels, inferior races, or dangerous dissidents and are
murdered, raped or imprisoned without hesitation. It is sad but also hopeful to
realize that the cosmology-of-certainty gives rise to all this horror not because
it's wrong but because it's incomplete. A complete cosmology that reflects
the nature of our spacetime must include uncertainty as well as certainty. The incomplete
image of the truth seen in our separate mirrors becomes completed in the hologram
of universal truth of which we are all a part.
Spirit as Awareness
This cosmology begins with the assertions that our universe began with an act of
creation, that the creator has a purpose, and that that purpose is reflected in
the nature of the created universe. The physical aspects of the cosmology must reflect
the fact that everything you see around you -- the mountain ranges, clouds, ocean,
forests, the buildings, the computer in front of you, the food that you eat, the
air that you breathe, all the molecules in your body --
began as one thing. Some modern cosmologists call this one
thing the inflaton particle -- some of the ancients called it simply the cosmic
egg. That oneness and the creative principle that drove the inflationary epoch of
the universe and fine tuned the conditions that produced the universe as we see
it is still present in everything that now exists -- including you.
The oneness of everything is beginning to assert itself in the observations of modern
physics: field theories that tell us that one particle is in principle effected
by all the other particles in the universe; Mach's conjecture that local inertial
mass is affected by all the other masses in the universe; experiments in quantum
entanglement that show that particles that appear to us to be separate actually
behave as if they are one thing. I believe that future advancements of the physical
aspects of this cosmology will reflect the unity of all things ever more clearly.
This of course will include the unification of Quantum Physics and General Relativity
that will explain the physics of the early inflationary epoch. [Technical speculation:
I wonder if a typical Grand Unified Theory capability would be to calculate the
effect of a quantum process such as the alpha decay of a uranium nucleus on the
curvature of the local (quantized) spacetime.]
The creative principle that fine tuned the initial conditions of the inflationary
epoch is present as the universe continues to expand and life continues to evolve
in everything that exists. It is this principle that is the subject of all scientific
study. It is what Einstein and Hawkings (used to) refer to as the "Mind of
God". Of course, if we define God as everything that exists outside of our
spacetime we can never know the Mind of God; we can only know the creative principle
as it applies to our own created world. Our study of the creative principle proceeds
through the trinity of observer-observation-nature. This process is driven by awareness
and its product is ever greater awareness. I believe this is because the creative
principle is awareness itself.
A clue to the meaning and purpose of our existence is the fact that our world contains
uncertainty as well as certainty. Because this means there is a built-in direction
caused by the arrow between uncertainty and certainty: Uncertainty-->Certainty.
Like entropy, certainty in a closed system can never decrease. If certainty were
to become uncertainty then it was never truly certain. Our purpose, as it is for
all self-aware micro-observers that exist throughout the universe, is to use our
awareness to bring certainty out of uncertainty thereby increasing awareness and
The Principle of the Micro-Observer
If our purpose is to use the creative principle of awareness within us to increase
awareness and perfect creation then it is reasonable to assume that the purpose
of creation is to produce us. This could be called the ultimate anthropic principle
except there is no reason to restrict it to human beings -- it would apply to all
self-aware beings throughout the universe. The creative principle that sustains
our existence as biological beings manifests itself in great and wondrous diversity.
But the awareness that drives our process as micro-observers in the trinity of observer-observation-nature
is one with the Observer that created the world. Though we are each only small pieces
of the Observer, we contain the pattern of the Whole within our own awareness. I
believe that is because Awareness is a hologram.
(I realize that it would be more scholarly to develop these essays as finished products
complete with annotations and references. But right now I am forming connections
that have provided me with valuable feedback. So, please bear with me and continue
to look in from time to time as a clearer picture of this way of looking at things
September 4, 2009, September 27, 2009
A hologram is a recorded pattern created by the interference of a beam of light
with a portion of that same beam that has been diverted and reflected off of an
When the pattern is illuminated with the same light used to create it, an image
of the object emerges. The pattern contained in each small piece of the hologram
can be illuminated to recreate the entire object but the resolution of the image
decreases with the size of the piece. That is, the smaller the piece the fuzzier
the picture. The pattern for all of the whole is contained in each small piece
but the image becomes clearer and clearer as the pieces are joined into larger and
larger fragments. (Though holography is a human invention, I think we're learning
that some very important holograms [encoded patterns] actually exist in nature -
DNA [life forms], the brain [memory], spacetime [matter/energy].)
A Spirtual Metaphor
We are all small pieces of a spiritual hologram. Each of us contains an encoded
pattern of the universal truth. The image of that truth becomes clearer as we become
connected to larger pieces of the hologram. The connections are established through
awareness. The connections are awareness. But love and awareness are equivalent
in the same way that matter and energy are equivalent: by becoming fully aware of
another being (willing to connect) you will love them; by fully loving another being
you will become aware of them. So, the connections are also love. (Love is a much
overworked word that sometimes seems demeaned by a certain mawkishness. I use the
word love here in the sense of the creation of a meaningful union - of becoming
one with the other.)
The spiritual purpose of our existence is to help build the hologram. Our purpose
is to establish connections in love and awareness that enable the vision of the
universal truth to emerge in ever greater beauty and clarity when it is illuminated
with the light that created it. Our purpose is to help the universe become aware
of itself, to help the universe become one with itself. The universal truth is that
the hologram of which we are all a small part, the light that created it, and the
observer viewing the emerging image are all, in some ineffable and mysterious way,
ONE. The One that Buddha refused to name, or the One that Lao Tzu called the Tao
but refused to talk about, or The One that many people refer to simply as God (or
Adonai, or Allah, or Brahman).
The theologically inclined might be perturbed by the notion that a complete observer
can somehow be one with an emerging image, that Being and Becoming are somehow one.
As a scientist I can't really help you there. Mystery is, after all, at the
heart of your study. I suspect you can go back to the Vedic traditions and reflect
on the notions of creation and destruction as complementary aspects of a single
divinity. But we in physics are struggling with a similar problem brought to us
by experiments in the quantum physics of entangled states - material states that
are observed to interact as if they are in each other's immediate locality even
though they are separated by very large distances. I suspect that we are going
to wind up realizing that oneness and separateness are complementary aspects of
a single reality in the same way that waves and photons are complementary aspects
of light. It pretty much all depends on how you look at it (what measurements you
I said that the hologram is a spiritual hologram but, as we are also material beings,
the connections of love/awareness have physical aspects. Therefore the hologram
has a material aspect as well. You, reading these words on your computer screen,
are the proof of that. The connection of awareness that we have just established
exists because of the www - a world wide web of optical fibers, copper wires and
exquisitely constructed electronics. What a fantastic thing we have created! (It
was foreshadowed by the work of physicists at CERN at about the same time as I was
working there on an experiment on time-reversal invariance. (Does time have an arrow
at the scale of quantum physics?)) But the morality of the hologram must become
the ethics of the internet: focus the light on anything that inhibits or impedes
awareness/love until it is transformed. The physical aspects of our connections
in love are obvious to us all. And, because of our animal natures, they often lead
to complicated situations. But if our connections include the spiritual aspects
and keep alive the full dynamics (positive feedback) of love/awareness, they can
lead to great material happiness. When you make a love/awareness connection with
another human being you are connected to all their network of love/awareness connections
and therefore become part of a larger piece of the hologram and experience a clearer
image of the universal truth. Witnessing the universal truth emerging more clearly
from communion with your lover is one of the greatest experiences humans can know.
But it's important to remember that because the hologram is spiritual you can
equally make love/awareness connections in the spiritual realm - a realm that is
completely outside of spacetime. (Can a scientist believe in a spiritual realm?
As a scientist I can only function within the framework of spacetime. I have absolutely
nothing scientific to say about the existence of anything outside of spacetime.)
This means that you can make love/awareness connections with any spirit that has
ever been or will ever be a part of the hologram.
From the beginnings of human history and in all corners of the world there have
emerged enlightened beings. They have been called shamans, prophets, sadhus, saints,
mystics, bodhisattvas, and much more. They are enlightened because they have opened
themselves to connections in love/awareness with a very large part of the hologram
so that the image of the universal truth (God) that is revealed when they are viewed
with the light that created them (love) is brilliantly clear. You can realize this
clear image yourself by connecting in love/awareness with the large part of the
hologram connected to the spirit of any of these beings. Many people have given
witness to how their "eyes have been opened" by becoming connected in
love/awareness with Jesus, or the Prophet, or Gautama Buddha, or the Lord, or those
we refer to simply as Master (Maharaj-ji) or Father (Babaji). But it is important
for the future of humanity that we all realize and realize soon that these beings
are all reflecting the same single universal truth of oneness. They may all be physically
expressing it in the language, idioms and symbols of their own cultures and times
but it is derived from the same pattern encoded in all of us - each and every little
piece of the same hologram.
There is much to learn about spiritual connections. How much depends on my sending
love/awareness outward looking for connections and how much depends on spirits extending
their love to me trying to integrate me into larger fragments of the hologram? Are
the connections passive (permanent) or active (volatile), requiring some kind of
continued spiritual action (ritual) on my part? But I do know that as material
beings we have free will and we can refuse connections either spiritual or material.
It is against our very nature and the purpose of our existence to refuse all love/awareness
connections. It's also a very dangerous way to live. The light will still shine
on you but the image of the universal truth that you project will be so fuzzy as
to be unintelligible, maybe even unobservable. That could be a physicist's definition
I said that the spiritual purpose of our existence is to help build the hologram.
I believe that is also the purpose of human evolution. The French scientist/priest
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said the purpose of evolution was to create a noösphere
- a protective membrane of awareness that would surround the earth. That metaphor
was appropriate for his time (1881-1955) and his field (paleontology/biology) and
I believe he was right. The physical aspects of the hologram do look a lot like
the noösphere. Evolution is moving us in the direction of greater material
awareness and the internet is clearly a prototype of the noösphere. But the
hologram is more - much more. I believe the purpose of the hologram will eventually
lead to the evolution of societies that reflect its morality: "evil" is
that which inhibits or impedes awareness/love. If the day could ever come when all
human beings are connected in love/awareness and can clearly realize the universal
truth of oneness, the reign of the Spirit will truly have arrived on the earth.
It may have already arrived on other planets in our universe. And the day may also
come when we can connect in love/awareness with them and the encoded image of universal
truth of oneness will be revealed in ever more beauty and glory.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
July 19, 2009
rev. September 4, 2009
By the way, the physics of the hologram is such that the image encoded in the hologram
will be revealed to you only if you view it with the same light that was used to
create it. If you use some other light, you will see only diffraction noise and
it will appear to you as complete gibberish.
This reflection deals with duality and the paradoxes of "either/or".
The Correspondence Principle
The observations on which modern physics are based do not invalidate the observations
of classical physics. They only complete them and extend them. The knowledge that
flows from the cycle of observation-analysis-prediction-observation always includes
that which precedes it. Modern physics incorporates the correspondence principle
which states that the modern and classical descriptions of nature become one at
some limit of the range of applicability called the classical or correspondence
limit. The equations of motion of special relativity become the classical (Newton’s)
equations of motion when the velocities are much less than the velocity of light.
The equations of general relativity become the equations of classical gravitational
theory in the limit of weak gravitational forces and quantum mechanics becomes classical
mechanics at length scales much larger than the DeBroglie wavelength of the matter
in motion. Nevertheless, quantum mechanics experiments have revealed several paradoxes
that challenge the classical view of reality itself.
The Paradox of the Double-Slit Experiment
The first of these is the famous Young double-slit experiment that demonstrates
the wave nature of light. It was first performed by Thomas Young in 1801 and caused
quite a stir in the classical world since Newton had postulated that light was made
up of particles; but, that’s another story. The experiment consists of illuminating
a plate that has two slits cut in it with a beam of monochromatic light and observing
the patterns of light formed on a detector plate located on the side opposite the
light source. The two apertures act as two independent sources of highly correlated
(coherent) light. The pattern observed on the detector plate by Young and the many
people who have repeated this experiment is a series of maxima and minima in light
intensity. This is called an interference pattern because it is created by the peaks
and troughs of the two separate waves interfering with each other to enhance or
cancel each other in the combined wave. It is this experiment combined with those
on the photo-electric effect that led to the conundrum of the wave particle-particle
duality of light that Bohr addressed with the principle of complementarity that
I discussed in On Zero
. But modern versions of this experiment have been
done where the slits are illuminated with beams of particles (photons, electrons,
etc.) that guarantee that only one particle at a time arrives at the slits. The
particles are emitted one at a time by the source, pass through only one or other
of the slits and are detected at the detector plate as single particles. The thing
that our classical minds finds incredible is that the particles arriving at the
detector plate form an interference pattern. Each single particle has interfered
What began and ended its journey as one thing somehow became
separate and was in two places at once. Complementarity says this happens because
putting the plate with the apertures in the beam causes the wave nature of the particles
to manifest itself (waves are in many places at once.)
It offers no explanation of how this happens. It only acknowledges that it does
and provides the means of precisely calculating the details of the interference
pattern, as well as the emission and detection of the particles. It is perhaps the
impossibility of explaining this kind of behavior with our current state of knowledge
that gave rise to the famous slogan: “Shut up and calculate!” or Richard Feynman’s
claim that “No one understands quantum mechanics.”
The Paradox of Entangled States
The second great paradox is the famous Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen (EPR) paradox
that deals with what are now called entangled states. It is possible to prepare
sets of particles, say A and B, that have correlated properties: for example, a
pair of photons with polarizations that are at right angles to each other; or, an
electron-positron pair with opposite spins. Since these are quantum states they
are subject to the uncertainty principle and they therefore do not exist in a definite
state of polarization or spin: both A and B exist (mathematically, in Hilbert space)
in what is known as a superposition of possible states. All quantum mechanics can
tell us is the probability of finding a particle, say, A, in a particular state
of polarization or spin if we set up an experiment to measure it. But because of
the underlying correlation, the probabilities for A and B are entangled. Carrying
out a measurement of A’s polarization in some arbitrarily chosen direction immediately
forces B to be polarized at right angles to A no matter where B is located in space.
This is what Einstein complained about, calling this “spooky action at a distance”
and led EPR to conclude that quantum mechanics is an incomplete theory. Modern experiments
have proven the existence of such entangled states time and again. The experiments
have been done where B is located far enough away from A that information about
the outcome of A could not be communicated at the speed of light from A to B in
time to influence the state of B. This violates the conditions of Special Relativity
that say that nothing (not even information) can travel faster than light. So, if
we don’t abandon Special Relativity (an experimentally verified theory) we are faced
with an apparent experimental violation of (local) causality: the effect has preceded
Complementarity May Be the Connection.
Throughout my career I have been amazed at the ingenuity of theoreticians at explaining
away inconvenient experimental findings. But I can’t imagine doing science in our
entropy ordered bubble of spacetime without the aid of the principle of causality.
So, I prefer to think that the weak logical link in explaining the quantum entanglement
experiments is the insistence that A and B are separate. Perhaps what these experiments
do is to make manifest the oneness of A and B. This would make these experiments
the logical reverse of the double-slit experiments where the apertures somehow caused
the one photon to manifest itself as two separate sources of interference without
ever losing its oneness. The entanglement experiments somehow cause the separate
states A and B to manifest themselves in the real world (not Hilbert space) as one
state without ever losing their separateness. The paradox of the double-slit experiment
is “resolved” or, at least accommodated, by the complementarity principle applied
to waves and particles. The EPR paradox may be similarly “resolved” by complementarity
applied, perhaps, to the very notions of separateness and oneness. This would make
separateness and oneness complementary aspects of a single reality that manifest
themselves depending on what measurements are being made (how you look at it).
Dualism comes naturally to us: perhaps because of our bipedal bodies or bicameral
brains. But, for whatever reason, we seem firmly attached to our dualistic views
of the world. The separatism that that engenders has been of pragmatic value to
us during our biological evolution. It has enabled us to rise to the top of the
earth’s biological food chain and to create cultural institutions that control,
at least to some degree, the violence of our animal natures. The view that we are
separate from each other and from the material world has been and continues to be
useful but it is an incomplete view of reality. Our vision of ourselves needs to
be completed so that the purposes of evolution and the Creator can be realized.
This completion will bridge the divisions that inhibit the love/awareness that is
within us. It will come about by developing the realization of how and why we are
at one with the natural world, with each other and with the Creator.
Oneness with the Natural World
Modern science has revealed to us that all the diversity in the material world we
see around us has evolved from a single object. The Creator carefully formed (“fine
tuned”) that object with the initial conditions and the creative principles that
have guided that evolution from the inflationary epoch of the Big Bang to the present.
I believe that the Creator’s purpose and the workings of the creative principles
have to do with the evolution of self-aware biological beings capable of the awareness
of the Self that is the image and likeness of the Creator.
Our biological evolution has taken place on the surface of a planet under conditions
that are often described as “hostile”: collisions with astronomical objects; volcanic
eruptions; earthquakes; etc. But the scientific story of how the conditions for
life were created on Earth might give you a different perspective. Collisions of
astronomical objects or shock-waves with the clouds of matter surrounding the sun
in the early days of the solar system imparted angular momentum (spin) to the clouds.
As these clouds coalesced into the planets the angular momentum caused the planets
to rotate. The heat from the decay of radioactive elements in the body of the Earth
created a molten metallic core. The rotation of the Earth causes this molten metallic
core to generate a magnetic field that surrounds the Earth. This magnetic field
protects the Earth from the streams of charged particles that emanate from the sun
(the “solar wind”).
This allows the atmosphere of the Earth to exist because the gases in the atmosphere
would otherwise be blown away by the solar wind (as has happened to Mars). Most
of the gases of our atmosphere (including carbon dioxide and water vapor) were “outgassed”
from the interior of the Earth through volcanic activity powered, again, by radioactive
decay. When the Earth cooled sufficiently the water vapor condensed into the oceans.
Because water has the very unusual property that its solid form is lighter than
its liquid form (ice floats) the oceans remained liquid long enough for life to
begin its explosive evolution. To this day, quantum tunneling maintains the rate
of radioactive decay deep beneath your feet that sustains the heat of the core that
maintains the Earth’s magnetic field. And this protects the atmosphere -- the beautiful
blue membrane that provides us with the breath of life and protects all life within
it from the lethal effects of solar and cosmic radiation.
There are of course threats to life that exist inside the protection of the atmosphere.
Some of the energy from the same radioactive decay that is responsible for the creation
and protection of the atmosphere makes its way to the surface of the Earth in the
form of devastatingly destructive earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions.
In our grief at the loss of life we ask: how can the Creator allow such “evil” things
These awful events are natural consequences of the same creative principles that
are responsible for life on Earth. How could the Creator suspend the radioactive
decay that is responsible for maintaining the protection of the atmosphere itself?
As the self-aware biological beings on this planet it is our responsibility to do
whatever we can to understand these creative principles and how they operate. The
Creator has given us volcanologists, seismologists, geophysicists, oceanographers,
architects, emergency planners, first responders, doctors, nurses and many others
who devote and even risk their lives to trying to understand, predict and mitigate
the consequences of these events. In the midst of such an awful event I can see
myself praying to the Creator for a miraculous intervention. But in the face of
such eventualities I prefer to think of these people as agents of the Creator and
support them in all of their efforts to protect life. In the grand scheme of things
it is perhaps the threats to life that have been the driving force for the evolution
of intelligence as a biological faculty.
I know there are those of you who believe that our nature is basically perhaps even
genetically selfish or that altruism is a hoax to gain power. But I think there
are many examples where cooperation with nature and/or each other have been driving
forces in our evolution. The source of energy and the regulation of metabolism within
each of the tens of trillions of our cells are mitochondria which have their own
genome and are more closely related to bacteria than to us. A less vital but still
important symbiosis is with the hundreds of trillions of microorganisms within our
bodies that help us digest our food. Cooperation with each other improved our efficiency
as hunters but the cooperation of nature permitted the development of agriculture.
Microbes condition the soil, insects and birds assist with pollination and bacteria
help produce some of our favorite foods like bread, cheese and wine. The separatist
vision of the world must be completed with knowledge derived from the science of
ecology and the development of a holistic understanding of our relationship with
Oneness with Each Other
We are, of course, intelligent beings and that is a faculty we share with many other
species of life on this and, probably, other planets. Most of us are willing to
kill other intelligent life for food or even for “sport”. But we hold human life
to be sacred and have raised great restrictions and penalties against the taking
of human life (with certain unfortunate exceptions). Why? It doesn’t seem to be
a biological imperative: many species kill and even eat their own kind. I think
it’s because we all recognize that the self-aware intellect within us does not come
to us from biology alone: there is something unique on our planet about human beings.
As far as we know, we are the only species on the planet capable of abstract thought
and of developing symbols to objectify and communicate that thought. We are aware
of place and the passage of time and know (or can learn) exactly where we exist
in spacetime. This self-awareness is accompanied by an appetite for the good, the
true and the beautiful that, to my mind, transcends biology and our animal nature.
I believe this self-aware part of our being is immaterial and therefore exists outside
of spacetime. This part of us therefore shares its existence with Spirit (all that
exists outside of spacetime). If Spirit is Awareness, then our self-awareness shares
its existence with the universal Awareness that is the Creator of the material world.
Is the Creator awareness itself? In the Summa Theologica
(I,Q.16) Saint Thomas
“ ---The true is that towards which the intellect
---Truth is the equation of thought
and thing. --- (art. 1, resp.)
--- He Himself [the Creator] is His
own existence and act of
[emphasis mine]. Whence it follows that not
only is truth in Him,
but that He is truth itself ---“ (art. 5, resp.)
If I may define awareness as the act of understanding producing the equation of
thought and thing, St. Thomas’ reasoning also implies that the Creator is awareness
. The awareness in every self-aware being in creation is derived from
the same source, the Creator, and is the reason for the unity of all such beings.
This is, of course, not a new idea: it is espoused in some of our oldest and most
sacred texts. The ancient Vedic scriptures teach us that we all contain within us
a Universal Self (the Atman) and try to wake us up to the realization that the Atman
is Brahman (God). Genesis tells us that we are made in the image and likeness of
God. The ancient Greeks' guiding principle for mankind was to "Know Thyself".
In the Old Testament, the prophet Joel quoted the Lord as saying: "I will pour
forth of my Spirit upon all flesh." The most sacred words in Christianity are,
referring to Jesus, “In the beginning was the Word -- and the Word was God--and
the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us-- “. Jesus Himself said (John:14):
“I and the Father are one.” ; and, “I am in My Father and you in Me and I in you.”;
and, “the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees
Him or knows Him, but you know him for He dwells with you and will be in you.” The
infusion of the divine into the ordinary human is epitomized by the Pentecost where
the Holy Spirit descends into a collection of disciples (Acts 2). Saint Peter clearly
intended to universalize this event by prefacing his description of it with the
quote from Joel given above. Continuing with Christian theology, Charles Williams’
concept of coinherence is based on the idea that the three divine Persons, the Father,
Son and Holy Spirit, coinhere in each other as innate components of the one Creator.
Williams held “that the unity of mankind consists in the analogical coinherence
of men with each other.” So, the vision that all self-aware beings are unified by
the common source of our self-aware intellects has been around since the beginning
of our history. But it has had a very uneasy coexistence with the separatist view
of the world that has dominated the evolution of our cultural, political, and even
some of our religious institutions. The unified vision has been relegated to beings
beyond the reach of ordinary humans while the separatist vision considers itself
to be the only “realistic” way to deal with the problems of ordinary human life.
Unfortunately, the “Us versus Them” mentality that separatism has engendered now
threatens the quality if not the very existence of human life.
I believe the basic problem in the coexistence of the unified and separatist visions
has been the classical mentality that only understands the logic of “either/or”.
When confronted with the experimental evidence that light is a particle confined
to one location at a time and with other experimental evidence that light is a wave
spread over many locations at one time, the classical mind is baffled. It is extremely
reluctant to give up its belief that it’s got to be one or the other. But quantum
mechanics tells us, essentially, to “get over it” and advances the principle of
complementarity that says if you do a measurement of light’s particle nature, it
will manifest itself as particles; if you do a measurement of its wave properties,
it will manifest itself as a wave. To mimic Keats, that is all you know on earth
and all you need to know. Particles and waves are complementary aspects of a single
reality we call light. If, in our classical obsession, we try to delve deeper into
this reality we find only uncertainty (indeterminism). I believe the unified and
separatist visions of mankind represent complementary aspects of human life. Each
needs the other to complete and extend our understanding of ourselves.
But the unified vision of the world itself needs completion. We need to recognize
that our unity is based not only on the classical recognition that the self-awareness
of every human being is derived from the one Creator, but also a new understanding
that all of us as individuals share an important and common purpose. And that is
to cooperatively increase the totality of awareness/love in the world and thereby
participate in the perfection of creation.
The Creator endowed the inflaton particle with the initial conditions and creative
principles (laws) that caused the universe to evolve into all the diversity we observe
today. Those creative principles produced a world where uncertainty is at the heart
of nature. A collection of Radium 226 nuclei in the rocks of some planet will decay
by emission of alpha particles due to the operation of the uncertainty principle.
We can predict that half of the collection will decay within 1600 ± 7 years but
there is no way to predict when an individual nucleus will decay. When it comes
to the actions of us self-aware biological beings there is a similar uncertainty
in play in the form of our free will. Even collectively our actions appear unpredictable.
I believe that the uncertainty in our actions that our free will represents comes
to us from the material aspects of our being: emotions, appetites, etc. It is not
reasonable to believe that a Creator who is Awareness/Love itself would will for
things like the Crusades, Inquisitions, World Wars, the Holocaust, Genocides, and
Jihad that destroy self-aware beings to be part of human history. Those things come
about by our free will acceptance of the “Us versus Them” mentality fostered through
fear or greed by those whose identity, wealth and political power are defined by
It is logical to assume that the immaterial Creator can only influence human actions
in order to perfect creation through the immaterial aspect of mankind that we share
with the Creator: creative self-awareness. It is our sacred duty to cooperate with
the purpose of human evolution and connect in awareness/love with one another to
complete the separatist vision with a unified vision of mankind and transform “Us
versus Them” into “We are One”: to make real the eagle's promise of "E
Oneness with the Creator
The tendency to view Spirit/matter as a duality leads to a separatist vision that
not only are we separate from the world and from each other but from the Creator
as well. But many have viewed the human as a part of creation that is both Spirit
and matter (by St. Thomas Aquinas, for example). This view of the human foreshadows
the complementarity of modern physics. Is your essence spiritual or biological?
We know from our own experience that it’s not either/or – we are somehow both. Complementarity
tells you that whether you manifest your reality as a spiritual being or as a material
being depends in a non-trivial way
on how you are measured.
As I discussed above, I believe our self-awareness is an immaterial part of our
individuality that we share with the Creator and that we are cooperating with the
Creator to perfect creation. So we are also, in that sense, one with the Creator.
We do not manifest this oneness by being part of a colorless collective but by exercising
our free wills and individual creativity to connect with our awareness of Self and
manifest the Creator in the wondrous diversity reflected in the truth of our individual
In terms of the spiritual hologram discussed in the Reflection On One
universal truth (the Creator) is encoded in the pattern of our individual self-awareness.
When we use our free will to connect in awareness/love with our Self, we each creatively
manifest a limited image of the Creator (the truth). When we connect in awareness/love
with other self-aware beings, the vision of the universal truth of oneness emerges
in ever more clarity and beauty.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
October 31, 2009,
November 15, 2009
Noösphere and You
Our spiritual purpose to connect in love/awareness with other self-aware beings
is exactly reflected in our material purpose as human beings to cooperate with evolution
in the development of the noösphere. This network of thought contains all of
human culture, all of its knowledge and all of its wisdom (as well as its folly).
Our cooperation consists of doing what we can to increase the content, connectedness,
accessibility and inclusiveness of this network for the benefit of all mankind.
The technology required for the development of the network is evolving at an incredible
rate. If we take as the beginning of this process the development of written language
by the Sumerians in 3400 BCE and scale all of this process until 2009 as if it had
incurred in one year, we would find the following milestones on our calendar:
Human Population (millions)
First written language
10:42 AM Dec 29
3:34 PM Dec 29
5:31 PM Dec 30
10:23 PM Dec 30
5:50 AM Jan 3
* Demographic data show
that there has been a dramatic reduction in world wide fertility rates over the
last 30 years or so. This drop is accompanied by increases in living standards (per
capita GDP), and access to education by the female population. The UN forecasts
that because of this drop the population of the
world could stabilize
at about 9.2 billion people by 2050 (The Economist
October 31, 2009)
Global telecommunications and the internet are the fabrics out of which the physical
aspects of the noösphere are constructed. As you can see from the calendar they have only just arrived in human history. But in this short time we have already
seen examples of the many benefits that global networking can bring to humanity.
Groups like the Global Public Health Intelligence Network (GPHIN
) in Canada have used the internet for the early detection
of viral infections which led to the early response that prevented a global SARS
pandemic. Such work is continuing by groups working with Google.org
. Global communications have made it much harder
for dictators and other repressive regimes to hide their crimes from world view.The
network has also facilitated the globalization of trade that will hopefully and
eventually lift much of the world out of poverty to the benefit of all of us.
Global resource mapping and environmental monitoring has led to better understanding
of human-caused impacts on the environment and will play a vital role in mitigating
the adverse impacts. It is important for everyone to realize what is obvious to
the scientific community: things like viruses, atmospheric reflectivity (albedo),
and the health of the oceans and forests are not national or even regional problems.
They are global issues affecting every human being on the planet and they require
global cooperation in dealing with them. The global network that supports that cooperation
is the noösphere which is nothing less than the collective consciousness of
Our participation in this great work of evolution involves not only supporting the
development of the technology of the network but also a commitment as individuals
to use it wisely and responsibly. We can participate in diseminating the good, the
true and the beautiful for the benefit of mankind and turn our backs on attempts
to spread lies, hatred, division and the obscene. We must resist censorship and
all other attempts at institutional control of the network. We must insist that
access to the network as free individuals is a basic human right. To that end we
must do all that we can to support the spread of literacy and low cost technology
required to access the network (such as the
Compassion Beyond Borders
and the One
Laptop per Child
What Cooperation Can Bring
There are a number of developing global crises crying out for attention. In addition
to global warming, two of the most serious ones are: the need for generating enough
clean electricity to meet the needs of the world population growing both in numbers
and living standards; and, meeting the needs of that population for fresh clean
water. As these needs intensify in the coming decades, access to energy and water
resources could become sources of armed conflict and serious threats to global security.
There is a long-term technological fix to these critical problems that could be
most efficiently achieved through global cooperation and that makes use of a truly
global resource – the oceans.
The surface of the earth is 75% water. The technologies for desalinating and distributing
water are well understood. But they require tremendous quantities of electricity.
The network already contains the scientific knowledge of how matter is transmuted
into energy in all the stars of the universe including our own sun. That knowledge
tells us that the fusion of the isotopes of hydrogen contained in a gallon of water
would produce the energy equivalent of almost 300 gallons of gasoline. If controlled
fusion could be achieved, the oceans could supply mankind with an almost unlimited
supply of clean electricity and fresh water without producing any atmospheric pollution
or complex waste.
Controlling fusion is an incredibly difficult technical problem. How do you contain
the hydrogen isotopes under conditions that will enhance the quantum tunneling leading
to fusion and extract the energy from the fusion region without destroying the containment
system? Work on this question began more than 50 years ago and several projects
exploring the possibilities of using magnetic (ITER
) or gravitational fields to confine the fusion region
are currently underway. The ITER project is an international project, located in
the south of France, that at the time of its inception involved the collaboration
of countries representing half of the world’s population. It is an important project
that deserves more support than it is now experiencing (the US suspended its financial
participation in ITER in January, 2008). But considering what is at stake here,
a globally supported all-out effort (in the style of the Manhattan Project) to generate
electricity from controlled fusion is an entirely reasonable enterprise. The network
could be a critical component of that effort bringing the combined "miraculous
inventiveness" of mankind to bear on the problem. It’s not hard to imagine
a breakthrough coming from the inspiration or genius of a young man or woman somewhere
in Asia, Africa or Latin America educated through and connected to the network.
A young mind that only a generation before could have been completely consumed by
the struggle for physical survival but is now wondering, for example, if Casimir
forces could be used to enhance quantum tunneling through the Coulomb barrier.
I find it fascinating that the oceans that gave birth to life on earth might someday
provide the means for mankind to enter a new age of material prosperity while living
in harmony with the earth's environment. “Think green!” is a reasonable exhortation
to develop short term alternatives and remedies for all the damage caused by our
mindless reliance on the 19th
century technology of coal based power.
(We can only hope that the anti-nuclear-power movement has learned a lesson and
will be more technically informed and comprehesive in scope when carrying out future
risk/benefit analyses.) But for the long term health of our species and our planet
we may need to learn to “Think blue!”
Throughout the history of the earth a number of hominid species have gone extinct.
survived on the earth for more than 300,000 years before
the last survivors died out in the caves near Gibraltar some 24,000 years ago. They
were an intelligent species having tool making capabilities and socialization skills
(as do chimpanzees). But were they self-aware? Were they capable of awareness of
the universal Self – of the coinherence of the Creator within them? I can only speculate
that they were not - that they were firmly embedded in the biosphere as magnificent
hunting animals at the top of their food chain, but they lacked the awareness and
creative intellect that would have enabled them to cope with the effects of climate
change. It is a fact, though, that they went extinct in their caves - at an evolutionary
Could the same thing happen to our own species of Homo sapiens sapiens
If we cooperate with evolution and connect with one another in love/awareness to
complete the construction of the physical noösphere we will do more than survive.
We will have created the conditions for a new species of human beings and made possible
a golden age on earth. But, we have a choice. Just as indeterminism is at the quantum
core of the material world, free will is at the heart of human nature. If we choose
to turn away from love/awareness and from unity with each other, we will go extinct,
shivering in fear in caves of selfishness and greed. But if we succeed in connecting
with each other in love/awareness in the network of the noösphere, recognizing that
at every diverse node in the network is an equal human being - man, woman or child
- whose love/awareness is derived from the same universal Spirit as you, we will
have achieved an evolutionary breakthrough. The noösphere provides the universal
Spirit with the material means for perfecting creation and bringing about the reign
of Spirit on earth. It provides the means for mankind to evolve to a new level of
awareness and become, what could be named, Homo sapiens spiritualis
Love One Another.
And one day waves of trust
will surge through the noösphere
that will sweep away all weapons of mass destruction.
Love One Another.
And one day waves of understanding
will surge through the noösphere:
-that a bond for building unity among mankind is that
we all love our children;
-that every child born on the earth has rights to protection, nourishment, medical
care, a healthy environment, literacy and access to the noösphere.
Love One Another.
And one day waves of compassion
will surge through the noösphere
that will lead mankind to work together to make those rights a reality for all.
Love One Another.
And one day waves of wisdom
will surge through the noösphere
allowing mankind to find ways to share the resources needed for this work without
conflict and without damaging the earth.
Love One Another.
And one day waves of activity and enterprise
will surge through the noösphere
that can use the talents and energy of every human being to help bring about and
sustain this better world.
Every life will be recognized as precious.
All will prosper.
Love One Another.
And we will bring about the reign of the Spirit on earth.
That, or the caves.
It's our choice.
The Galactic Center
This better world could be the world of Homo sapiens spiritualis
- a species
of mankind whose evolutionary destiny may be in the stars and whose purpose is entangled
with the spreading of love/awareness throughout the universe.
In a few days we celebrate the birth of a great spiritual leader who showed us that
the divine and the human can coinhere, who told us to look for the reign of God
within ourselves, and who taught us that the only law is to LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
December 18, 2009
The elementary particle of life present in all living things on Earth is the cell:
an entity that can move, reproduce, and process information. The moment that the
first living cell emerged in the soup of organic molecules in the oceans of our
planet about 3.7 billion years ago marks the beginning of the biosphere and of an
evolutionary process that produced you and me.
In trying to understand how that moment came about and how the process unfolded
I find that my favorite word has become “emergence”. My guide to the world of Complexity
Science that explores the phenomena of emergence and, particularly, how it applies
to biology has been Melanie Mitchell
(Complexity: A Guided Tour,
Oxford University Press USA, 2009). I have found
interesting the insights and information Bruce H. Lipton
has brought back from his early years of
observing cells in his microscope (The Biology of Belief
, Hay House, 2008).
I have been greatly inspired by the paleo-biologist and evolutionary theorist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
(The Phenomenon of Man,
Harper Perennial Modern Thought, 2008, first published in 1959). I have been intrigued
by Nancey Murphy
a neuroscientist and Christian theologian, in her discussions of human nature and
how our higher capacities emerge from our neurobiological complexity (Bodies and
Souls, or Spirited Bodies?
, Cambridge University Press, 2006). In this essay
I will describe what I have learned about cells and the biological processes that
lead to you and me and how it all began, with the guidance of these people. I will
also indulge in some metaphysical speculation on the interactions of Spirit and
The world of single cell
One of the aspects of the material world that has continually fascinated
me is the scalability and continuity of it all: how the laws that describe it work
over enormous scales in size. We have seen scientific confirmation of what
was inscribed on the alchemists' Emerald Tablet: “As Above, so Below.” The unity
of it all is fascinating and delightful almost beyond words. So we begin with the
simplest and most universal terrestrial life form – the cell. The notion of scalability
and continuity implies that there is much to be learned about life on our scale
by understanding life at the cellular scale and much to be learned about the stages
of biological evolution by exploring how it all got started.
From my point of view, the most interesting thing to recognize about the single
cell is that it displays rudimentary intelligence: it has the ability to learn and
deal with new situations (cf. Webster's dictionary). Bruce Lipton reports: "When
I was cloning human endothelial cells, they retreated
from toxins I introduced
into the culture dish --- they also gravitated
to nutrients--". He goes
on to make a strong case that the seat of that intelligence is in the structure
that, literally, defines the cell - the membrane.
The role and functioning of the membrane
The cellular membrane is a thin bi-layer of lipids and proteins that forms the boundary
of the cell. This boundary encloses and protects the delicate interior world of
the protoplasm from the potentially hostile external environment and regulates the
interaction between the two. This regulation takes place through the action of receptor
protein molecules imbedded in the membrane. Receptor proteins facing the outside
of the membrane respond to signals in the environment and trigger some change in
the protoplasm. Receptor proteins facing the inside of the membrane respond to signals
produced in the protoplasm and release signals into the environment. In the simplest
cells, these signals are chemical signals in the form of molecules that match (in
the manner of lock and key) the shape and electric charge distribution of the receptor
molecules. This kind of chemical signaling is the progenitor of the sense of smell
in multi-cellular organisms. The details of how this signaling mechanism works are
fascinating and are the subject of a field of specialization in molecular biology
. You can learn more about the details here
(consult the bibliographies in these three links for more in-depth
information). Basically what happens is that the activation or blocking of the receptor
proteins opens, closes, or changes the shape of channels through the membrane that
regulate the interchange of specific molecules and ions between the protoplasm and
the external environment.
As cells evolved, but before forming multi-cellular organisms, some of them became
sensitive to other elements in their environment, most importantly, to light. The
light sensitive paddles on the membranes of these cells are the progenitors of our
sense of sight and they made possible the most important biological evolutionary
step of all time – photosynthesis. As the protoplasm and external environments became
more complex the membrane separating them became more complex through the addition
of more and more imbedded receptor proteins. At some point the single cell membrane
would simply run out of space. This may explain the appearance of the first multi-cellular
organisms in the oceans of the planet about 700 million years ago. Cells joined
up to cooperatively share the burden of signal transduction and enhance the probability
of cell survival through cell specialization and networking. The membranes of multi-celled
organisms became sensitive to additional environmental factors like the electrical
potential difference across the membrane (voltage gated channels). Advanced organisms have
specialized cells whose membranes are sensitive to mechanical forces (involved in
the senses of touch and hearing), portions of the spectrum of electromagnetic waves
outside the visible (e.g., infrared detectors in animals), and probably many others
yet to be discovered (e.g., the earth's magnetic field?).
The physics of the membrane
From a physics point of view the membrane is a nano-scale electromechanical device.
The electrical structure is like that of a gated semiconductor (except the channels
conduct molecules and ions rather than electrons and holes.) The gating (the configuration
of the channels) is controlled by the potential difference across the membrane which
is, typically, 0.07 to 0.08 Volts. This potential difference can be altered by chemical
activity in the protoplasm or the presence of electrical charges (molecules and
ions) or electromagnetic radiation in the environment. Logically, the membrane behaves
Programmable Logic Device
: a particular set of electrical signals on one
side of the membrane produces a particular output of signals on the other side.
The question becomes: how is the membrane programmed? My guess is that it programs
itself through a feedback mechanism operating between the environment and the protoplasm.
(We'll return to this later.)
The mechanical aspect of the membrane arises from the nano-scale forces produced
by the electric fields in the membrane. These forces cause the channel shapes to
change and can cause convulsions in the membrane that lead to cellular motion. I
say nano-scale since the membrane is typically only 7 to 8 nanometers (nm) thick
and the channels can constrict to be the size of individual ions. (A human hair
is about 100,000 nm thick.) The membranes are flexible but it is estimated that
they will rupture if they are subjected to strains of only a few percent. As nanotechnology
develops, a fruitful symbiosis is likely to develop between the physics underlying
nanotechnology and cellular biology. An example of this can already be seen in the
recent establishment of the
Engineering Oncology Center
at John Hopkins University.
Electric potential differences of 0.07 to 0.08 Volts across a distance of only 7
or 8 nm produce electric fields greater than 100,000 Volts/cm. This is a large field:
in dry air it would produce a spark about 1.3 inches long. The lipid bi-layers act
as electrical insulators between the protoplasm and the environment (except, of
course, for conduction through the channels). It is estimated that the membrane
would completely break down in fields above about 250,000 Volts/cm (a 0.2 Volt potential
difference across the membrane).
[Technical note: There is concern in some communities (Santa Fe being one of them)
about the harmful effects on health of man-made sources of electromagnetic fields.
It’s therefore interesting to compare the natural electric fields in cellular membranes
of about 100,000 V/cm with the fields from man-made sources. The static magnetic
field of the earth to which all of our cells are exposed varies from 25 to 65 microTesla
(equator to poles). The World Health Organization has estimated that the average
power-frequency electric fields in the home from sources like power lines, appliances, etc.
are a less than 1 V/cm (a
few tens of V/m) and the magnetic fields are about 0.07 microTesla in Europe and
0.11 microTesla in North America. High frequency sources are more complicated but,
for example, for frequencies in the 1 to 2 GHz range and power densities of 1 mW/m2
the electric fields are about 0.006 V/cm and the magnetic fields (free-space) are
about 2 microTesla. These power densities occur at 50 m (164 feet) from a cell phone tower
operating at 50 W per channel in the GHz
range. The US Federal Communications Commission has set the limit for radiation
from a mobile phone
at 10 W/m2
. This produces electric
fields in the region of the antenna that are on the order of 1,000 times less than
the natural electric fields in the cellular membranes but magnetic fields that are
of the order of 10's of milliTesla which is 100's of times larger than the
earth's magnetic field. These fields fall of rapidly (with the square of the
distance) as you move away from the antenna. The US Food and Drug Administration
has set a limit on the power density of radiation leaking from (used) microwave ovens
to 50 W/m2
at distances greater
than 5 cm from any point on the oven. So, in principle, the electromagnetic field
your head experiences from leaving a cell phone antenna right next to it during
transmission is roughly the same as from leaving your head about 11 cm (4.4 inches)
from a microwave oven while it is running.]
The protoplasm - the seat of memory and source of energy.
The ability of the cell to remember, adapt and reproduce derives from the workings
of the protoplasm: the tiny world of water, minerals and organic macro-molecules
surrounded by the membrane. The first cells were only 1 to 10 microns in size (a
human hair is about 100 microns thick) so they can only be observed in a microscope
(observing the membrane requires an electron microscope).
(TO BE CONTINUED.)
[Some of the facts and ideas to be covered in the remainder of this essay:
-biology emerges from chemistry as a new state of being with its own laws
that cannot be reduced to the laws of chemistry and physics -- reductionist thinking
is useful but it has limits;
- intelligence and community emerge from biology and self-awareness emerges from
-the first 3 billion years of the biosphere's existence consisted principally
of single cell cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) busy working to produce all of the
free oxygen in the atmosphere, thus changing the mineral nature of the Earth and
making it possible for air breathing life forms to evolve;
-the evolution of multi-cell organisms involved a great deal of symbiosis and cooperation;
- successful evolutionary strategies involve a
between random exploration for new knowledge (innovation) and
purposeful (focused) exploitation of existing knowledge (conservation);
- Complexity Science can help us understand how cooperation can emerge in
a community as self-organizing behavior without the need for a central control or
- evolutionary adaptation is made possible through the self-replicating molecules
of DNA and RNA contained within the cell's protoplasm;
- the "Central Dogma" of classical biology, developed over 50 years ago,
is that the information encoded in DNA is implemented in a
process that starts with a particular gene in the DNA being transcribed
into a piece of messenger RNA that is then translated into the synthesis of a specific
protein (or small number of proteins) related to a specific cell function;
- Modern biology has discovered that the complexity of living systems is "largely
due to networks of genes rather than the sum of independent effects of individual
genes". And the growing field of epigenetics has discovered that "there
are heritable changes to the function of genes that occur without any changes to
the gene's DNA sequence" (Melanie Mitchell). The DNA we inherit is not
our destiny and the speed with which evolutionary changes can occur would have come
as a big surprise to Charles Darwin but probably not to his predecessor, Jean-Baptiste
(TO BE CONTINUED.)
Santa Fe, New Mexico
July 14, 2010
Given what science has learned about how the material world began, is evolving and
how it works; and, given my thirst for the good, the true and the beautiful (and
the good definitely includes peace, freedom and justice); and, using my own reason:
How do I make sense of the universe?
A physical cosmology
based on pure randomness does not make sense
to me. Our universe and the spacetime it defines had a beginning in the Big Bang.
It has not existed forever. For this extremely improbable universe to result from
a random event there would have to be an infinity of other universes. We cannot
observe that: our science stops at the edge of our own spacetime.
The evolution of our material universe has evolved in an interplay of randomness
and determinism (laws). Evolutionary developmental biology observes that biological
evolution cannot be explained by random genetic mutations alone: it, too, has evolved
in an interplay of randomness and purposefulness. What we observe in our own universe
cannot be explained as pure randomness. It makes sense to me to believe that the
Big Bang was an act of purposeful creation.
A psychological cosmology
based on reductionist thinking that tries to
explain self-awareness as a purely biological phenomenon does not make sense to
me. I believe that just as biology emerges from chemistry and brings life into existence,
self-awareness emerges from intelligence and brings into spacetime an interplay
of spirit and matter. Many advances in biological evolution leading to the emergence
of greater complexity and capability have involved a symbiosis. The interplay of
spirit and matter may also be some form of symbiosis. A psychology that treats self-awareness
as an emergent property and takes into account the interplay of the spiritual and
the biological makes sense to me.
A spiritual cosmolog
y that divorces the spiritual and the biological does
not make sense to me. A holistic and wholesome spirituality will take into account
the interplay of spirit and matter that is the essence of our life in spacetime.
The spacetime universe makes sense to me as a cooperative enterprise leading to
the emergence of greater awareness. The realm of Spirit outside of spacetime is
the realm of the Creator. It is only reasonable to speculate that that realm is
a realm of pure Awareness and, since I believe that love and awareness are equivalent,
that it is a realm of pure Love.
When it comes to our existence in the realm of Spirit, a spiritual cosmology that
includes concepts like eternal damnation is not reasonable to me. Eternal loneliness
and isolation? Possibly. Eternal punishment at the hands of a cruel being? No. I
believe we are created as free, equal and responsible beings: each of us created
in the image of the Creator. We will pass beyond spacetime into the eternity that
we have prepared - no more and no less. It makes sense to me that how much
awareness/love we will experience in eternity depends entirely on how much we will
have grown in love/awareness while being in spacetime.
A social cosmology
that says that one of us should rule (even spiritually)
over another doesn't make sense to me; nor, does one that says we should hate
anyone. Free, equal and responsible beings will cooperate to bring about increasing
awareness and a society that satisfies our universal thirst for the Spirit - the
source of all that's good, true and beautiful. We will strive to Love One Another.
That is a social cosmology worthy of our Creator - the Spirit within each of
A worldly cosmology
that includes activities that lead to the destruction
or even the impoverishment of human life doesn't make sense to me. It has taken
billions of years of material evolution to bring about conditions for the emergence
of self-aware beings on this planet capable of a relationship in love/awareness
with the Creator. The physical environment and web of life leading to and sustaining
such beings must be protected. Activities that cooperate with nature to promote
and sustain the well being of all humanity make sense to me.
The discrepancy between the actual world
and the vision presented here
is painfully obvious. Some will be inclined to write off this vision as hopelessly
naïve. But I believe that radical hope is warranted because human evolution is an
ongoing process now taking place in the realm of our consciousness. If our universe
is the result of an act of purposeful creation, then it makes sense that evolution
has a purpose. And the life threatening mess that most of the world finds itself
in today cannot be in harmony with that purpose. The transformation of the world
will come about when we transform our consciousnesses to become aware of the purpose
of our evolution and use our individual free will to cooperate with that purpose.
How long could that take? Epigenetics has shown that environmental pressures can
produce heritable changes in a species’ appearance and structure (morphology) that
persist for many generations (perhaps permanently). So, physical evolutionary changes
can occur very quickly. An evolution in consciousness can happen in an instant.
Basically, it can happen as soon as we become willing to look at things differently.
At its core, it is a change of our story: what we tell ourselves and our children
about who we are and why we’re here.
How can our vision change? It is my belief that if we use whatever eyes we have
developed to see the Spirit within us, we will find who we are and why we’re here.
For those that believe in evil spirits and fear that an inward journey can lead
them into temptation, remember what Christ told us: “By their fruits you will know
them”. If on your journey you find greater love and compassion for yourself and
all other beings, you have found the Spirit. If you find elitism, separatism, dualism,
division, hatred or intolerance, you have not: I suggest you keep looking. Of course,
as is true for any vision, we cannot see in the dark.
Let There Be Light
The universe is not an accident. Our consciousness (self-awareness) is not an accident
of the universe: it is related to the purpose of the universe. The noösphere
is the network (sum total) of all consciousness
that we are connected to and the spiritual hologram
we are constructing consists of the connections in love/awareness between us, the
nodes of the noösphere. We emerged from the material world as animals with
lusts and appetites but spirited with free will and love/awareness and endowed with
the possibility of Grace. We know our world can be a better place - worthy of the
very best that is within us, the Spirit. It is our evolutionary purpose to make
it so. If we use our free will to cooperate in a balance of innovation and conservation
we can create a world worthy of the Spirit. There is no need to fear change.
All the wisdom and knowledge we need to change the world can be found in the noösphere.
All the love/awareness we need to direct our efforts toward the Creator's purpose
can be found in the hologram.
The higher you are in consciousness the closer you are to the purpose and meaning
of the universe. The highest consciousness is Grace - the ability to see the Creator
in everything that exists; including you and me. The purpose of the universe is
the growth of Grace so that the universe fills with awareness/love of the Creator
and the hologram projects in wondrous clarity the universal truth of Oneness encoded
within it: that, in some mysterious way, Grace, the hologram and the Creator all
coinhere as One. (This is not pantheism - the idea that equates the Creator with
all that exists. The whole is larger than the sum of its parts because of the network
of relationships between the parts.) You can use your free will while within the
universe to develop Grace through your own relationship with the Creator or through
connections in love/awareness with compassionate beings who enlighten your connection
with their own Grace.
Our connections in love/awareness exist outside of spacetime. The network of our
individual relationships together with our relationship with the Creator is
our individual soul. It exists because our body
exists but it is not confined to our body. Being outside of spacetime it is of the
Spirit but it is not the Spirit. When our bodies return to the earth our possibility
to develop Grace ends and our individual souls become the network of connections
in love/awareness that we have formed with other beings and with the Creator while
in our bodies.
If I have developed Grace and my vision is clear then my individual soul will be
bathed in the Creator's love/awareness as well as that of my "loved ones"
in the undying realm of Spirit. I will see clearly the truth of Oneness and my individuality
will expand to include all the connections of love/awareness in the entire hologram.
Emerging into Oneness, the truth of my being will be encoded in every individual
But if I have not developed true Grace, when I pass into the realm of Being my soul
will be only the connections in love/awareness with the other beings in my network.
I, for one, am blessed with loving and wise souls in my network and I could happily
enjoy the spiritual treasure of that love/awareness. But the sad thing, then, would
be that my connections would be limited to a small piece of the hologram and I would
not be able to see the glorious image of the One encoded in the hologram. That requires
Grace - the light with which all is created.
My young niece, after reading the above, asked me if I could give her an example
of the workings of Grace. I thought of John Newton (1725-1807) who lead a life,
in his own words, "as an infidel and libertine", working as a seaman.
He was a troublesome and profane sailor and was even imprisoned for a time on a
slave plantation in Sierra Leone. He worked for awhile on slave ships and eventually
became the captain of one of them.
He underwent a complete spiritual transformation that he attributed to his relationship
with the Creator and his connection in love/awareness to Christ. He married the
woman he loved, became an Anglican minister and worked with others for the rest
of his life to abolish slavery. Largely as a result of their efforts, the British
Parliament passed the Slave Trade Act of 1807,
the year of his death. John
Newton commemorated his transformation by writing the words to Amazing Grace
the folk hymn that moves so many of us and that, in my opinion, transcends religion:
I once was lost but now am found
Was blind but now I see.
I pray that my own Grace is real and my vision is clear, and that true Grace will
spread throughout the noösphere and transform the human race into what we are
meant to be.
Om Mani Padme Hum
Sri Ram, Jai Ram, Jai Jai Ram
Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad (Shekhinah Echad)
Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done on Earth as it is in Heaven
Sami' Allahu Liman Hamida (Sakina)
Santa Fe, New Mexico
August 5, 2010