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Machines Like Us

Brain-created reality

Friday, 16 March 2007

What if we have it all backwards? What if the brain creates physical reality, rather than the other way around?"

Biologists and other scientists have long expressed amusement, and gritted their teeth, when they encounter the persistent contention by particle physicists that they alone pursue science in its most pure state. "Particle physics is the most fundamental area of science in that its goal is to reduce the wonderful diversity and complexity of our universe to a few simple mathematical laws," wrote the noted physicists Sylvester James Gates, Jr. and Warren Siegel, two decades ago, expressing a truism often shared by those in their discipline.

What's worse for the long-suffering biologists, physics has long started reaching into others' fields, spawning disciplines such as biophysics, and even taken on subjects such as sociology, the far reaches of messy "soft" sciences.

But maybe the physicists have it backwards, suggests one well-known biologist, embryonic stem cell scientist Robert Lanza of Advanced Cell Technology, writing in the current issue of The American Scholar, a quarterly brought to you by the folks at Phi Beta Kappa. Maybe the world is the product of one aspect of biology, the mind, and not the other way around, he argues. "As we have seen, the world appears to be designed for life not just at the microscopic scale of the atom, but at the level of the universe itself," Lanza writes. What if, Lanza asks, this means that instead of infinitesimally tiny particles creating space and time (and making life possible), "the brain can really create physical reality?"

Read full story in USA Today.