Scientists Now Believe the Universe Itself May Be Conscious

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You don’t have to look far to find outlandish theories on the nature of the cosmos and human consciousness. These days, notions once relegated to science fiction are finding their way into esoteric academic journals, and from there, into mainstream discourse. One example of this is the Simulation Argument, recently championed by Elon Musk; another is ‘time crystals,’ a tantalizing non-linear phase of matter. The newest symphony of mind jazz being broadcast across the Internet posits new ideas about the embattled theory of “panpsychism,” or the belief that mind is a fundamental property of the physical universe and is imbued into all states of matter.

A new paper, published by physicist Gregory Matloff, has brought the idea back into scientific discussions, promising experimental tests that could “validate or falsify” the concept of a ubiquitous “proto-consciousness field.” Matloff also pushes the controversial idea of volitional stars, suggesting there is actually evidence that stars control their own galactic paths.

As absurd as the theory sounds, it has several prominent adherents, including British theoretical physicist Sir Roger Penrose, who introduced panpsychism three decades ago. Penrose believed consciousness arises from the properties of quantum entanglement. He and anesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff authored the Orchestrated Objective Reduction (Orch-OR) hypothesis, which asserts, among other things, that consciousness results from quantum vibrations inside microtubules.

In 2006, German physicist Bernard Haisch took the idea further and proposed that consciousness arises within a “quantum vacuum” any time there is a significantly advanced system through which energy flows.

Neuroscientist Christof Koch, another proponent of panpsychism, approaches it from a different angle, using integrated information theory to argue that consciousness is not unique to biological organisms.

“The only dominant theory we have of consciousness says that it is associated with complexity — with a system’s ability to act upon its own state and determine its own fate,” Koch argues. “Theory states that it could go down to very simple systems. In principle, some purely physical systems that are not biological or organic may also be conscious.”

Matloff and other scientists are moving the argument into a new phase: experimentation. Matloff intends to study the behavior of stars, specifically analyzing an anomaly in stellar motion known as Paranego’s Discontinuity. Matloff wants to know why certain cooler stars appear to emit jets of energy pointed in one direction, a characteristic that seems oddly and inexplicably ubiquitous in the galaxy. In 2018, he plans to use results from the Gaia star-mapping space telescope to show that the anomaly may be a willful stellar action.

Meanwhile, as Matloff studies cosmic activity on the grandest scale, Koch approaches the experimental phase of the theory using brain-impaired patients. He wants to know if their information responses match underlying neurochemical foundations of consciousness. He plans to test this by wiring the brains of mice together to see if their minds merge into a larger information system.

Panpsychism certainly has critics, as well. In an article for The Atlantic entitled “Why Panpsychism Is Probably Wrong,” Keith Frankish writes:

“Panpsychism gives consciousness a curious status. It places it at the very heart of every physical entity yet threatens to render it explanatorily idle. For the behavior of subatomic particles and the systems they constitute promises to be fully explained by physics and the other physical sciences. Panpsychism offers no distinctive predictions or explanations. It finds a place for consciousness in the physical world, but that place is a sort of limbo.”

The quote expresses a general sense that panpsychism oversimplifies the hard problem of consciousness in the universe, an opinion many scientists share. However, Matloff, Penrose, and other proponents continue undertaking the job of venturing outside the margins of accepted science to try reconciling intractable contradictions and anomalies exposed by quantum theory.

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  • It isn’t outlandish when it is supported with cosmological theories that have been proven for many decades. It even has a name: Biocentricity.

  • el Gallinazo

    This author, Jake Anderson, is one of the most ignorant non-politicians I have read all week. If he only had a brain.

  • sordin

    Help I stepped into the twilight zone

  • Tatiana Covington

    Let’s see what the evidence says…

  • Kevin Quillen

    trying very hard to inject intelligence without acknowledging God. There must be intelligence. Darwinism is dead.

  • It is not Paranoia

    Everything is consciousness.

    • Guillotine_ready

      If we are conscious of it

      • Guillotine_ready

        Did dit exist before we were aware of it

        • Or even if we never become aware of it.

        • elbustaroyjetspeekerson

          Did it make a sound of one tree clapping if no one was around to think it??

      • It doesn’t care if you are.

  • James Wood

    As I have concluded consciousness does not generate the universe but the exact opposite the universe generates consciousness. It would make sense. After all why do we think we are so important?

  • science and theology continue to converge.

    • All theology is mythology.

      • as is science. Both are defined by our perceptions and limited understanding of the universe and held together with faith. Neither are exclusive to each other.

        • Faith has always been a glue that held everything else in a massive mess, in my experience.

  • J James

    Anybody else find the proposed wiring of mouse brains together to be Scifi Borg-like creepiness?

    • Why would we worry about it since humans have been networking Borg-like since long before computers were invented?

  • NonYo Business

    As long as they’re open to the idea… thats okay with me. But don’t start spouting it as gospel until you fully understand all the answers to who, what, when, where, why etc.

  • TrevorD

    So in other words they have not really a clue but need more funding. Either that or they know exactly` how it all work`s they are just not `allowed` to tell us for many reasons but maybe to just protect themselves and keep us controlled. The Universe must be far, far more conscious, powerful and truly awake than any scientist and indeed any of their government masters.

  • Uncle Hormone

    Of course the Universe (which is actually a Multiverse) is alive;
    Alive with light, frequencies, matter, and electro-gravity.
    A much higher power that we can barely tap into.
    & this consolidation of omnipotent and omnipresent power is called God!

    • It taps into us whether we want it to or not. It is only germane to us if we don’t return the connection. There is no God, none is required.
      “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Arthur C. Clarke

  • SP_88

    Does this mean that my toaster oven is conscious? And if so, it is aware of my coffee maker? And possibly jealous of it? After all, I give my coffee maker much more attention than I do the toaster oven.
    The other day, my coffee maker stopped working. And there was a mark on the side of it as if it had been struck by something. And my toaster oven looked as though it had been moved.
    Now I’m wondering if perhaps there was an altercation between them. I was unable to find anything wrong with the coffee maker after a thorough examination, and when I plugged it back in, it suddenly worked fine.
    If it happens again, the toaster oven is going to get a time out in the corner.

  • RandyJ/ProudSurvivor

    If the universe is conscious, don’t put it past TPTSB to try and subdue it also.

  • elbustaroyjetspeekerson

    Sooo, the yoo-nee-verse is 87% Sleeple-level Aware. GOT it.

  • Jimmy Yost

    The Apostle Paul said the same thing 2000 years ago. The Holy Spirit inspired him to say the following about Jesus having created the universe:
    “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in the earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” (Colossians 1:16-17 King James Version).