The Independent assures readers that there is an afterlife

Wikipedia describes Robert Lanza as “an American medical doctor, scientist, Chief Scientific Officer of Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) and Adjunct Professor at the Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Wake Forest University School of Medicine.” He has substantial accomplishments, including being the first person to clone an endangered species (the gaur), to develop a way to harvest embryonic stem cells without destroying an embryo, and to inject stem cells into humans to treat genetic diseases.

So it’s very strange that he’s now vetting a strange theory that falls within his dubious theory of “biocentrism.” I don’t know much about that theory, but it appears to combine quantum physics and biology as the basis for a new “theory of everything” that ultimately rests on human consciousness.

Sound familiar? Indeed, Lanza seems to be venturing into the Kingdom of Deepakia. That’s pretty evident in a new article in the Independent, “Is there an afterlife? The science of biocentrism can prove there is, claims professor Robert Lanza.

According to the article, Lanza maintains that there is an afterlife, or, rather, that death is simply an illusion.  The language he uses to describe that hypothesis is distressingly similar to that employed by Chopra:

The answer, Professor Robert Lanza says, lies in quantum physics – specifically the theory of biocentrism. The scientist, from Wake Forest University School of Medicine in North Carolina, says the evidence lies in the idea that the concept of death is a mere figment of our consciousness.

Professor Lanza says biocentrism explains that the universe only exists because of an individual’s consciousness of it – essentially life and biology are central to reality, which in turn creates the universe; the universe itself does not create life. The same applies to the concepts of space and time, which Professor Lanza describes as “simply tools of the mind”.

In a message posted on the scientist’s website, he explains that with this theory in mind, the concept of death as we know it is “cannot exist in any real sense” as there are no true boundaries by which to define it. Essentially, the idea of dying is something we have long been taught to accept, but in reality it just exists in our minds.

No true boundaries? What about a flat-lined brain or the inability to get up and walk about after you’ve been pronounced dead? Thus we once again encounter the notion that nothing exists in reality; it’s all in our consciousness.  And that idea is supported by dubious references to cosmology and physics:

Professor Lanza says biocentrism is similar to the idea of parallel universes – a concept hypothesised by theoretical physicists. In much the same way as everything that could possibly happen is speculated to be occurring all at once across multiple universes, he says that once we begin to question our preconceived concepts of time and consciousness, the alternatives are huge and could alter the way we think about the world in a way not seen since the 15th century’s “flat earth” debate.

He goes on to use the so-called double-slit experiment as proof that the behaviour of a particle can be altered by a person’s perception of it. In the experiment, when scientists watch a particle pass through a multi-holed barrier, the particle acts like a bullet travelling through a single slit. When the article is not watched, however, the particle moves through the holes like a wave.

Scientists argue that the double-slit experiment proves that particles can act as two separate entities at the same time, challenging long-established ideas of time and perception.

But of course we know that the results of the double-slit experiment don’t depend on human consciousness, for the dualities can be seen using non-conscious, mechanical detectors.  Certainly the results of quantum physics have challenged our ability to have an easy and intuitive understanding of how nature works, but how that makes us immortal defies my understanding.  Does the concept of “parallel universes” (which, by the way, is still speculative) mean that there’s a universe in which we live forever? Does the “many worlds” interpretation mean that at the moment of our “death,” the universe bifurcates, creating one in which we’re immortal? I don’t think so.

Here’s a thought:  if death depends on an individual’s consciousness, does that mean that nobody would die under anesthesia? Or would all of humanity need to be anesthetized?

Maybe I don’t understand this stuff—I haven’t read Lanza’s theory and this is, after all, a newspaper article—but it’s worrisome that Lanza starts speaking Chopran at the end of the piece:

Although the idea is rather complicated, Professor Lanza says it can be explained far more simply using colours. Essentially, the sky may be perceived as blue, but if the cells in our brain were changed to make the sky look green, was the sky ever truly blue or was that just our perception?

In terms of how this affects life after death, Professor Lanza explains that, when we die, our life becomes a “perennial flower that returns to bloom in the multiverse”. He added: “Life is an adventure that transcends our ordinary linear way of thinking. When we die, we do so not in the random billiard-ball-matrix but in the inescapable-life-matrix.”

That last sentence would do credit to The Deepak himself.

If you’ve read Lanza’s book on biocentrism (still #858 on Amazon, 3.5 years after publication) and know this theory of immortality, please explain it below. Right now I’m simply baffled how an M.D. scientist (who, unlike Chopra, has substantial accomplishments under his belt) can venture into such territory.  But I bet the public laps it up, just as the Independent did. After all, who wants to die?

I would love to be a flower perennially blooming in the multiverse, but the evidence is that one day I’m going to wilt.

175 Comments

  1. Aaron S.
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    Ugh, I read Biocentrism a few years back, and I don’t remember the details clearly, but I distinctly remember my mind recoiling at the utter nonsense. To this day I’m not sure why I even bothered finishing the book.

    • Aaron S.
      Posted November 19, 2013 at 8:16 am | Permalink

      I do remember that it was a “wave-function collapse is actually a thing, and requires consciousness” notion. Moon not existing if no one’s looking at it and whatnot. And therefore the universe couldn’t have come into being before consciousness, so consciousness somehow created the universe. As I said, ugh.

      • Dan McPeek
        Posted November 19, 2013 at 9:42 am | Permalink

        And he made the LIST OF LOONS two years ago.

        http://americanloons.blogspot.com/2011/06/227-robert-lanza.html

      • Latverian Diplomat
        Posted November 19, 2013 at 11:00 am | Permalink

        That part of it sounds like Barrow and Tipler’s Strong Anthropic Principle, which they also walked off the deep end with:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropic_principle

        I think there is even deeper lunacy to be found in Biocentrism.

        • stuartcoyle
          Posted November 19, 2013 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

          Yes Barrow and Tipler’s book is a really interesting one, well written and starts out with good science. It explains the Anthropic principle very well then veers off into wild speculative territory (woo) which is further expounded in Tipler’s books The Physics of Immortality and The Physics of Christianity, which go completely off into fantasy land.

          The idea on which they hang the entire Omega point argument is that strong AI is inevitable
          and that it will expand to ‘take over’ the entire galaxy. The level of speculation in the book only increases from there. It would make the basis of an interesting science fiction novel.

          I think science is really being damaged by those who have actual scientific credentials and training who then use their ‘authority’ to promote irrational beliefs. It seems that it often happens when scientists go outside of their area of expertise, for example a biologist or doctor claiming that Quantum Mechanics has supernatural powers. I have a degree in Physics and Computer Engineering, it would make no sense for me to claim that I have found a new principle in molecular biology without having done the hard work of really understanding the area.

      • Posted November 19, 2013 at 11:40 am | Permalink

        I’m not so sure these are such strange notions… I’ve toyed with similar ideas in the past. I think I gave up on them in elementary school, though (probably around the 3rd grade).

      • Posted November 19, 2013 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

        Bohr and Heisenberg have a lot to answer for with their observer collapsing the wavefunction “Copenhagen Interpretation” of quantum mechanics. It is the source of all the Chopraesque quantum woo.

        I was recently reading the original unrevised version of Everett’s Relative State Ph.D. thesis. I burst out laughing while reading the introduction. Everett had wittily pointed the redectio ad absurdum that believers in such an ultimately solipsistic viewpoint shouldn’t find the need to write textbooks on qunatum mechanics for their students. It certsinly made Bohr and Heisenberg look stupid. Which is of course why Bohr put such pressure on Wheeler to get Everrett to revise his thesis before it was accepted.

        There is no wavefunction collapse and that has ontological implications.

    • Posted November 19, 2013 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      Heh, the idea of Biocentrism is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of what an ‘observer’ is in quantum mechanics.

      Basically, they take an observer to be a person, which is ridiculous because it leads us to this crazy theory that requires life in order for the universe to exist. Which is a giant, obvious paradox for many reasons.

      What an ‘observer’ is in physics is anything that uses a moving particle or wave to change something based on that particle or wave. That something that is being changed is another particle or wave. Waveform collapse is not something that works on the molecular or macro scale, but on the subatomic scale and is used to define the position and/or direction of a particle or wave. Nothing more.

      The idea that humanity is required for the universe to exist is simply a modern retelling of the earth-as-center-of-universe myth from thousands of years ago.

      • Latverian Diplomat
        Posted November 22, 2013 at 8:53 am | Permalink

        Certainly modern thinking is inclined against a special role for consciousness, but it was not always so, and some serious scientists took the possibility seriously. e.g., the “Wigner’s friend” thought experiment.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wigner's_friend

  2. Posted November 19, 2013 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    It may be important to believe in an after life if the one you’re living here sucks.

    • Kevin
      Posted November 19, 2013 at 9:41 am | Permalink

      It is also equally important for those who have a good life but wish to see their loved ones after they find the undiscovered country. Provincial and self-serving.

      • Posted November 19, 2013 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

        True enough, if that’s their view. After all they may not have free will.

    • Latverian Diplomat
      Posted November 22, 2013 at 8:59 am | Permalink

      In a feudal society, it’s also important to convince the masses whose lives suck that there is an eternal afterlife, if they just put up with the temporary injustice of current circumstances.

      I always thought Karma was an amazing doubling down of this scam. (the real Hindu one, not the American granola version which operates on the time scale of moments or days instead of lifetimes).

      It says if your life sucks, it’s your fault because you were bad (you just don’t remember it). But, if you are good now, work hard and don’t complain, you’ll get a softer life next time. It’s a metaphysical framework that makes the idea of social injustice impossible.

      • Posted November 22, 2013 at 11:07 am | Permalink

        Interesting point. Of course if your life really, really, really sucks, in addition to being a creationist, you could dismiss the law of gravity as a hoax.

      • Posted November 22, 2013 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

        The Hindu system of Karma recognizes several levels of Karma, from instant to lifetime.

      • Posted November 22, 2013 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

        1.Sanchita karma: is the sum of all past actions performed in this lifetime and past lives.

        2.Prarabdha karma: is the part of karma which is going to be experienced during this lifetime.

        3.Kriyamana karma: is what we are currently creating through our choices right now. It is our creativity that is unfolding, it is our “free will”.

        4.Agama karma: is the actions that we are planning for the future. Actions that will or will not be achieved depending on the choices (free will) that we are making now and those that we have made in the past.

        Source:
        http://hindudharma.wikidot.com/karma

        • Latverian Diplomat
          Posted November 22, 2013 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

          Thanks for the clarification.

          I still humbly suggest that Americans who are not traditional Buddhists or Hindus conflate Karma and poetic justice, and elide the disturbing social justice implications of the concept.

          • Richard Olson
            Posted November 22, 2013 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

            There are three major sects of Buddhism, and some Americans align with each. I don’t know if any research establishes exact numbers of people who would tick a box beside any of those to indicate membership.

            I also don’t know a precise number for the Americans who don’t necessarily think of themselves as Buddhist but who sit, attend dharma talks, and/or read and respect the dharma/dhamma as instructions for psychological/social well-being, a sensible set of guidelines for conducting one’s life. Ask someone in this group if she/he is Buddhist and the answer is often in the negative.

            For the latter group mysticism, supernaturalism, and the concept of an afterlife are not interesting so not included. Karma for them is simply a condition of living, and one common definition of karma (sans woo):

            experiencing the results of past actions, while [via immediate thought/action] sowing the seeds of future experience

  3. Mattapult
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    “…the evidence lies in the idea…”

    For someone with such impressive credentials, Robert Lanza has a shoddy concept of evidence.

  4. Steve Bowen
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    I am the master of the universe
    The wind of time is blowing through me
    and it’s all moving relative to me
    It’s all a figment of my mind
    In a world that I designed
    I’m charged with cosmic energy
    Has the world gone mad – or is it me?

    HAWKWIND – Master of the Universe

    It’s all the same hippy solopsistic bollocks that’s been around for ages (if not forever)

    • Chris
      Posted November 19, 2013 at 8:53 am | Permalink

      Hawkwind a) had an excuse (industrial quantities of psychedelics consumed) and b) actually produced some good music on occasion.

      Lanza doesn’t have either!

      • Hawkfan
        Posted November 19, 2013 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

        Lots of good music over a loooooooong period of time 😉

        • Posted November 19, 2013 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

          Largely inspired by Michael Moorcock’s books. Loved them when I was young and reading fiction.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted November 20, 2013 at 12:33 am | Permalink

          Yeah, Hawkwind were pretty cool. And one can forgive almost anything if it’s in the lyrics of a song – no law says it has to be taken literally. Almost anyone from Wagner to the Beatles would fail that test.

    • Posted November 19, 2013 at 9:30 am | Permalink

      Love the Hawkwind. They almost reached the popularity of Pink Floyd. From their great number The Golden Void we also receive:

      “The golden void speaks to me
      Denying my reality
      I lose my body, lose my mind
      I blow like wind, I flow like wine

      Down a corridor of flame
      Will I fly so high again?
      Is there something wrong with me
      I cannot hear, I cannot see.”

      This, of course, must be played very loudly with surround sound. Hallucinogens are not needed.

  5. TJR
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    “Biocentrism” sounds very much like a book-long restatement of “biology is better than physics so there”.

  6. NewEnglandBob
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    So far, every “Theory of Everything” is about absolutely nothing, nada, zilch, nil, diddly-squat, void, zip; which describes at least a portion of the brain of Lanza or Chopra.

  7. Sastra
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    Professor Lanza says biocentrism is similar to the idea of parallel universes – a concept hypothesised by theoretical physicists.

    And I say that biocentrism is similar to the idea of vitalism — a concept thrown out by physicists and scientists across the board well over a hundred years ago.

    “Biocentrism” could also be seen as a restatement of what I think is the formulation of what is meant by the term “supernatural”: the Mental (consciousness, values, intention, intelligence, emotion, etc.) is ontologically PRIOR to the non-mental (matter and energy.) If Lanza’s Theory of Biocentrism turns out to be scientifically supported, then supernaturalism has been scientifically supported. And whether one chooses to call this state of affairs “God” or not is going to come down to a matter of taste.

    The fact that it’s wrong is therefore significant.

    I think it’s a mistake to dismiss Lanza, Chopra, and the other woo-meisters as insignificant flies buzzing around the “real” religions. No. They’re cutting right to the chase and setting out the fundamental issue much more clearly than the standard theologians and preachers do. This right here — biocentrism — is the spiritual heart of all religions.

    Scientific critique is the silver bullet.

    • Sastra
      Posted November 19, 2013 at 8:39 am | Permalink

      … the (best) formulation of what is meant by the term “supernatural”…

      And I once again join the dreary chorus of those who whine about the lack of a Preview button. *sigh*

  8. Posted November 19, 2013 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    Well, there’s only one way to find out… or not.

  9. Gasper Sciacca
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    The pendulum of the mind alternates between sense and nonsense, not between right and wrong.
    —Carl Jung

  10. Michael Fugate
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    In a Wired interview from 2009:

    http://www.wired.com/medtech/genetics/news/2007/03/72910

    “Scientists continue to dismiss the observer as an inconvenience to their theories. Real experiments show that the properties of matter itself are observer-determined. A particle can go through one hole if you look at it, but if you don’t look at it, it can actually go through more than one hole at the same time. Science has no explanation for how the world can be like that.”

    He also refers to this Science article:
    http://www.sciencemag.org/content/315/5814/966.abstract

    Who is this “Science” he refers to? Will this “Science” be able to answer the question at some future time? Is implying that a cosmic observer exists – if it is looking at me I do x, but if it is not then I do y?

    • Aaron S.
      Posted November 19, 2013 at 9:00 am | Permalink

      What he’s missing there, and what a lot of physicists in the early 20th century missed, was that the observer is a part of the universe too, with a wave function that can become entangled with what they are observing. It’s not magic.

      • Aaron S.
        Posted November 19, 2013 at 9:05 am | Permalink

        This explains it well.

  11. francis
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    //

  12. Myron
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    Biocentrism’s Take on the Cosmos

    There is no separate physical universe outside of life and consciousness. Nothing is real that is not perceived. There was never a time when an external, dumb, physical universe existed, or that life sprang randomly from it at a later date. Space and time exist only as constructs of the mind, as tools of perception. Experiments in which the observer influences the outcome are easily explainable by the interrelatedness of consciousness and the physical universe. Neither nature nor mind is unreal; both are correlative. No position is taken regarding God.

    Consider again the seven principles we have established:

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

    Second Principle of Biocentrism: Our external and internal perceptions are inextricably intertwined. They are different sides of the same coin and cannot be divorced from one another.

    Third Principle Biocentrism: The behavior of subatomic particles—indeed all particles and objects—are inextricably linked to the presence of an observer. Without the presence of a conscious observer, they at best exist in an undetermined state of probability waves.

    Fourth Principle of Biocentrism: Without consciousness, ‘matter’ dwells in an undetermined state of probability. Any universe that could have preceded consciousness only existed in a probability state.

    Fifth Principle of Biocentrism: The structure of the universe is explainable only through biocentrism. The universe is fine-tuned for life, which makes perfect sense as life creates the universe, not the other way around. The ‘universe’ is simply the complete spatio-temporal
    logic of the self.

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

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

    (Lanza, Robert, and Bob Berman. Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe. Dallas, TX: Benbella Books, 2009. pp. 159-60)

    • Sastra
      Posted November 19, 2013 at 9:26 am | Permalink

      Third Principle Biocentrism: The behavior of subatomic particles—indeed all particles and objects—are inextricably linked to the presence of an observer. Without the presence of a conscious observer, they at best exist in an undetermined state of probability waves.

      Ah, at last we have an answer to the age old question: if a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one around to hear it — did a tree fall in the forest?

      Answer: no.

      • gluonspring
        Posted November 19, 2013 at 10:15 am | Permalink

        How lowly can the observer be. A mouse? A paramecium with an eyespot? Or does our magnificent consciousness work retroactively on the universe, reaching back into time to observe the conditions that would be necessary for the evolution of the consciousness that is required to observe the world.

        • Sastra
          Posted November 19, 2013 at 11:09 am | Permalink

          You don’t get it. Given Biocentrism, consciousness did not evolve: it’s THE fundamental reality.

          God in the Quad

          There was a young man who said “God
          Must find it exceedingly odd
          To think that the tree
          Should continue to be
          When there’s no one about in the quad.”

          Reply:
          “Dear Sir: Your astonishment’s odd;
          I am always about in the quad.
          And that’s why the tree
          Will continue to be
          Since observed by, Yours faithfully, God.”

          (My “no” answer above is thus the same as a “yes” answer. Nondualistic, you see…

      • Suri
        Posted November 19, 2013 at 11:36 am | Permalink

        Wait, so this means the mars rover is real only when…
        So, if we go extinct then…

        This reminds me of that BS movie What The Bleep Do We Know.

        • Sastra
          Posted November 19, 2013 at 11:41 am | Permalink

          “Science and Spirituality Converge!”

  13. Posted November 19, 2013 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    “[Lanza] says that once we begin to question our preconceived concepts of time and consciousness, the alternatives are huge and could alter the way we think about the world in a way not seen since the 15th century’s ‘flat earth’ debate.” I don’t know what it means to say that “the alternatives are huge,” but I think I know who is the flat-earther here.

    That Lanza would repeat the canard that there was a debate in the 15th century about whether the earth was flat does not exactly enhance his credibility.

    • Posted November 19, 2013 at 10:40 am | Permalink

      Since it seems pretty close to 0 anyway (at least on the topic under discussion), can’t get worse either.

  14. Alex T
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Essentially, the sky may be perceived as blue, but if the cells in our brain were changed to make the sky look green, was the sky ever truly blue or was that just our perception?

    If that’s the improved explanation, then it’s truly trash.

    No matter how we “see” the sky, the wavelength is the same. Call it what you like.

    Maybe this guy wants us to stop calling dead people “dead” in the hopes that they’ll rise from the grave. Makes as much sense as anything else he’s said.

  15. Diana MacPherson
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Ugh the colours. Enough with colours! Yes, it’s our perception but wave lengths exist.

    • Posted November 19, 2013 at 10:41 am | Permalink

      The sad thing is that there are all sorts of wonderfully neat problems in colour science/colour ontology. But they are neat precisely because they are at the interface of subjectivity and objectivity. Throwing away the latter makes the former impossible to understand.

      • Posted November 19, 2013 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

        +1

        The same comment can be made about myriad other disciplines or areas of investigation. And of course it’s the objective has to go; it’s the one that requires hard work and rigorous thought. Speculation, gut-feelings, and extrapolation from one’s personal experience don’t cut it on the objective side.

  16. rickflick
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    I think its about the money.

    • henkm
      Posted November 19, 2013 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

      The money bit I ve missed in replies. To me this all smells Templeton. Just look for the connection

  17. Posted November 19, 2013 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    From the Amazon page Jerry linked to ..

    “Robert Lanza is one of the most respected scientists in the world — a US News & World Report cover story called him a “genius” and a “renegade thinker,” even likening him to Einstein. Lanza has teamed with Bob Berman, the most widely read astronomer in the world, to produce Biocentrism, a revolutionary new view of the universe.”

    Slightly over the top, no?
    Although, renegade thinker? Hmm .. yeah ..

    As for likening him to Einstein: I HAVE heard about Einstein, yes.
    Lanza and Berman? Uh, nope, sorry.

    • TJR
      Posted November 19, 2013 at 9:12 am | Permalink

      Didn’t Bob Berman break the world long-jump record in 1968?

      • Posted November 19, 2013 at 9:21 am | Permalink

        No, that was Bob Beamon.

        • TJR
          Posted November 19, 2013 at 9:51 am | Permalink

          Well, I’m going to pretend that they are the same person anyway.

          If theologians can erect an entire discipline based on pretending that different usages of the word “faith” are really the same, then equating Bob Beamon with Bob Berman seems fine in comparison.

          So, that’s an impressive career change for the tall former olympic long jump champion.

          • Posted November 19, 2013 at 9:52 am | Permalink

            😉

          • NewEnglandBob
            Posted November 19, 2013 at 9:53 am | Permalink

            Are you sure he isn’t the former weekday evening sports anchor on WNBC-TV? Berman was with WNBC/NBC from 1982-2009. He was previously with WCBS-TV from 1979–1982, and before that at WBZ-TV in Boston from 1973–1978.

            🙂

            • gluonspring
              Posted November 19, 2013 at 10:18 am | Permalink

              Yes, that guy. Sports anchor, long jumper, astronomer, and author.

  18. Posted November 19, 2013 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    Sub

    • Jesper Both Pedersen
      Posted November 19, 2013 at 9:23 am | Permalink

      2

  19. Grania Spingies
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    There’s a reason the sky is blue, and it’s not because of the cells in our brain.

    http://www.sciencemadesimple.com/sky_blue.html#bluesky

    If the cells in our brain were changed so we saw the blue wavelength as what we currently understand to be green; then green would no longer look like what we see it as now either.

    He’s just playing a shell-game with labels.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted November 19, 2013 at 11:04 am | Permalink

      Where do you stand on Minus Green Grania? 🙂

      • Grania Spingies
        Posted November 19, 2013 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

        There… Are… Four… Lights!

        The word will be that you perished with your crew. No-one will ever know that you were here with us.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted November 19, 2013 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

          +1 😀

          • Grania Spingies
            Posted November 19, 2013 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

            😉

    • Posted November 19, 2013 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

      Beat me to it 8P

  20. D. Taylor
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    I love the typo, “If you know this theory of immorality . . . “. Or was it a typo and not just an apt description? It’s easy to consider thinking of this ilk as immoral. 🙂

  21. MNb
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    “Essentially, the sky may be perceived as blue, but if the cells in our brain were changed to make the sky look green, was the sky ever truly blue or was that just our perception?”
    This has nothing to do with physics; it only looks like. If the sky looks green to X while blue to me X still will name the sky blue. Both X and me will find the same wavelength for the colour of the sky independent of how it looks like to us in our brains. Our subjective perception is irrelevant and so is this question.

  22. Posted November 19, 2013 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    I found this … I’m sure y’all are gonna LOVE this … drivel squared:

    http://blog.beliefnet.com/intentchopra/2010/06/robert-lanza-interview-by-deep.html

    Most anticipated remark from Deepak Chopra in this interview:

    “You know what you say is just totally music to my ears.”

    I bet it is!

  23. Dominic
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    If ‘the concept of death as we know it is “cannot exist in any real sense”’, why should the concept of life be any different?

    • Dominic
      Posted November 19, 2013 at 9:26 am | Permalink

      Perhaps we should dub it ‘bioeccenticism’…

      • Dominic
        Posted November 19, 2013 at 9:27 am | Permalink

        Sorry – ‘Bioeccentricism’

    • Sastra
      Posted November 19, 2013 at 10:09 am | Permalink

      Given that biocentrism appears to be endorsing ‘nondualism,’ Lanza would probably have no problem denying the existence of life.
      It’s all one big undifferentiated mush of Consciousness. Idealistic monism is being put forth as an “explanation” for quantum physics weirdness.

      Of course, idealistic monism would also explain a world where the experiments in quantum physics had NO “spooky” aspect at all — since it can be invoked to explain everything and thus explains nothing. Heads they win, tails we lose.

  24. Brian
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    This is by no means a theory. Let’s call it a hypothesis instead, given how often we (scientists) attempt to drill the differences between a scientific and layman definition of theory into our subjects.

    • Posted November 19, 2013 at 9:56 am | Permalink

      Drats, there goes my chance at pointing out that Lanza’s theory … is ONLY a theory.

      😉

    • eric
      Posted November 19, 2013 at 11:29 am | Permalink

      No, its not even an hypothesis. At least, not a scientific one. Hypotheses are testable.

      • Sastra
        Posted November 19, 2013 at 11:37 am | Permalink

        He goes on to use the so-called double-slit experiment as proof that the behaviour of a particle can be altered by a person’s perception of it.

        Well, if this is not what’s going on, then Lanza apparently has a sorely damaged hypothesis. It failed the test he set up for it.

        It’s pseudoscience of course because he didn’t mean to set up a test — he only came in after the fact with an “explanation.” But if the fact he is trying to explain is not in fact a fact, then the biocentrism hypothesis is in trouble.

        Assuming, of course, that the lack of supporting evidence isn’t now reframed as a test of one’s faith.

  25. Myron
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    As for Lanza’s “theory” of immortality:

    “Our current scientific worldview offers no escape for those afraid of death. But why are you here now, perched seemingly by chance on the cutting edge of all infinity? The answer is simple—the door is never closed! The mathematical possibility of your consciousness ending is zero.”
    (p. 189)

    “Now comes the biggie, the oldest question of all. Who am I? If I am only my body, then I must die. If I am my consciousness, the sense of experience and sensations, then I cannot die for the simple reason that consciousness may be expressed in manifold fashion sequentially, but it is ultimately unconfined. Or if one prefers to pin things down, the ‘alive’ feeling, the sensation of ‘me’ is, so far as science can tell, a sprightly neuro-electrical fountain operating with about 100 watts of energy, the same as a bright light bulb. We even emit the same heat as a bulb, too, which is why a car rapidly gets warmer, even during a cold night, especially when a driver is accompanied by a passenger or two.
    Now the truly skeptical might argue that this internal energy merely ‘goes away’ at death and vanishes. But one of the surest axioms of science is that energy can never die, ever. Energy is known with scientific certainty to be deathless; it can neither be created nor destroyed. It merely changes form. Because absolutely everything has an energy-identity, nothing is exempt from this immortality.”
    (p. 191)

    “In short, energy keeps changing forms, but it never diminishes in the least. Similarly, the essence of who you are, which is energy, can neither diminish nor ‘go away’—there simply isn’t any ‘away’ in which to go. We inhabit a closed system.”
    (p. 192)

    (Lanza, Robert, and Bob Berman.
    Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe. Dallas, TX: Benbella Books, 2009.)

    Oh boy…

  26. Kevin
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    Lanza is an interesting person. Not that interesting, though. He has put forward no proofs of anything that verify claims about the supernatural, at least nothing better than a typical philosopher. There is no doubt he is very bright…but in all probability his carbon will be returned to the earth long before mine is, though I wish him all the luck in preserving whatever existence he has for as long as possible. Maybe there is something to helping us all live longer, real lives…not imaginary afterlives.

  27. moleatthecounter
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    If Deepak Chopra Robert Lanza fall over in a forest, and there’s no-one around to see or hear, do they still make a sound?

    Yes. Because they cannot help talking drivel.

    • eric
      Posted November 19, 2013 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      Maybe a better one is: If Chopra and Lanza’s book sales fell down to zero, would they keep spouting nonsense?

  28. Sastra
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    In his book Uncommon Sense: the heretical nature of science Alan Cromer points out that all nonscientific systems of thought (such as religion and spirituality) rely on what he calls egocentrism: the failure to “distinguish the internal world of thoughts and feelings from the external world of objects and events.” He claims that the egocentric mind is the human default; “If there is one universal human characteristic, it is a pervasive irrationality based on the egocentric confusion of self and other.”

    We have to learn to think our way out of it. And this is hard. That’s what science does — introduces rigor and objectivity into how we think about things.

    But the lazy human tendency is to believe that we can just use our subjective intuitions to have direct ultimate knowledge of the external world because the internal and external are all connected. Reality is an “undifferentiated stew of Mind and matter.” Consider the underlying concepts of magic: deep connections. Magic actually makes sense within this framnework.

    The more I think about it the more it seems to me that Lanza’s Biocentrism is just Egocentrism with pseudoscientific clothing. Which makes it anything but “cutting edge.”

    • gluonspring
      Posted November 19, 2013 at 10:26 am | Permalink

      I like this and your other comments. I have long tried to get a few people I know to see that a core assumption behind many religious views concerns which is ontologically prior, mind or non-mind. Evolution by natural selection, of course, goes to the heart of this question and so is more corrosive to the notion of ontologically prior mind than a lot of other parts of science which could, in principle, take it or leave it.

      • Sastra
        Posted November 19, 2013 at 11:17 am | Permalink

        I agree. Cromer is a favorite of mine, but your point was I think beautifully illustrated by Daniel Dennett’s distinction between “skyhooks” and “cranes” in Darwin’s Dangerous Idea.

        A skyhook is the explanation from nowhere which actually explains nothing (“we get consciousness from Consciousness, which just is and always has been.)Science is looking for the lowly mechanisms, the cranes on top of cranes on top of cranes in order to explain what seems to come out of nowhere but stands on solid ground. X is the way it is because it got that way from things which were not X … and here is how.

        • Andrés Fonseca
          Posted November 21, 2013 at 10:06 am | Permalink

          There Is no skyhook here. Like I said in a previous post, I disagree with biocentrism. But neither am I trying to define consciousness with consciousness. We know that electrochemical processes in the brain create consciousness. But what exactly is that? Look up “the hard problem” on Wikipedia. I don’t think some people here are conceptualizing the issue correctly. It’s why in a post below I asked “what is the physical structure of a thought or dream?” Sure they are both created by matter and energy, but then shouldn’t they be made of matter and energy? Can you weigh a thought?

          • Jesper Both Pedersen
            Posted November 21, 2013 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

            You could have saved us all a bit of time by mentioning up front that you were talking about “the hard problem”. 😉

            If we assume that dreams/thoughts are made of neurons firing in the brain and biochemical processes, then yes we can measure their activity.

            Given adequately precise and sophisticated measuring tools we should be able to weigh a thought, but that would also require the ability to distinguish between what particular neurons and processes are associated with that exact thought, which begs the question; When does one thought stop and the next start and how would you define one thought from another?

            We are constantly bombarded with inputs from the matter and energy that surrounds us and it is easy to forget that as of yet we have no data indicating that consciousness is non-physical.

            How could it be and why should it be?

            • Andres Fonseca
              Posted November 21, 2013 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

              “How could it be and why should it be?”

              I don’t know how it could be, and I certainly don’t think it should be. That’s like asking how could the Universe be and why should it be. A question science is no doubt interested in answering, and interestingly a question requiring conscious life to even be asked. Perhaps it just is.

              Let’s go back to colors. I feel like people dismiss this phenomenon so casually that it warrants asking if they understood the reasoned conundrum.

              “to determine by what modes or actions light produceth in our minds the phantasm of colour is not so easie.”
              -Newton

              Colors are produced by photons of light interpreted by your eyes and brain. Do you dream in color? Yes? So then photons are not necessary for color… the mind creates color? Does that color in your dream weigh something? It’s hard to imagine your perception of something has a weight. Your whole field of vision, does that weigh something? Objects IN your field of vision certainly have weight, but does your vision have weight? So it’s actual weight and location in spacetime is represented by a smaller weight and a 4D landscape inside your brain?

              Or, per Liebniz, imagine you are shrunk down to the size of a cell and are inside the brain of another person. You would see the brain functioning but you would not experience that persons perception. Perhaps you could say “hey those neurons are lighting up and I know he is looking at a pile of gold,” but you wouldn’t be perceiving the pile of gold. For that you would need your own subjective experience.

              Consider rock music blaring from a radio. We would all agree that the radio is creating “sound waves.” But imagine now a lifeless world with that same stereo blasting rock. Without your mind they would remain just “sound waves,” and not the sound of music.

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted November 21, 2013 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

                AFAIK colour is simply photons at different wave-lengths and with our biology and biochemistry being very similar to one another it is no surprise that we can agree on what colours are what and what to call them. A colourblind person can’t because of a genetic difference, but that doesn’t mean that the wave-length of the photons they see are different than those the rest of us see.

                We don’t “interpret” colour. We register light and some wave-lengths of light. But not all of them.

                Do you think our brains and eyes are evolving towards the ability to register a larger spectrum of light?

                Thinking of colour as qualia doesn’t appear to get us anywhere other than back to start.

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted November 21, 2013 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

                Forgot this one:

                Consider rock music blaring from a radio. We would all agree that the radio is creating “sound waves.” But imagine now a lifeless world with that same stereo blasting rock. Without your mind they would remain just “sound waves,” and not the sound of music.

                Does a tree falling make a sound if no one is around to hear it?

              • Andres Fonseca
                Posted November 21, 2013 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

                This is my last comment, but it has been fun.

                Colors *are not* simply photons at different wavelengths. Like I said, you dream in color. How can you receive the photons to see a blue ball in your sleep? Or is something in your brain emitting wavelengths of light and then detecting them through the eyes and brain, and then applying color to your dream?

                And I’m not sure if right now our eyes evolving to register a larger spectrum would aid in our survival and be thus promoted by natural selection.

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted November 21, 2013 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

                You’re not actually seeing anything in your dreams, you’re just dreaming you’re seeing stuff or doing stuff. You’re dreaming you’re seing something blue, but that doesn’t mean that photons suddenly appear inside your brain. It simply means that you have a memory of the coulour blue along with a lot of other colours.

              • Andres Fonseca
                Posted November 21, 2013 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

                Gah! Wait…we reduced color to photons of light interpreted by the eyes and the brain. Now, the brain creates color without those same photons? You seem to believe that perceiving color once is something like drawing on a neural cell with a blue crayon so it can be illuminated by memory. And if so, then color can be created using different recipes, because you agree the brain is not using photons but something different to create the color blue when you dream.
                What I’m about to say is reminiscent of Plato’s Forms and Jung’s Archetypes, and I have always found both distasteful, but reasoning this way leads me to believe the color blue exists independent of photons and the physical processes of the Universe through which it is perceived, as some fundamental characteristic of consciousness, just as the Universe exists independent of our consciousness. Two realms. I guess I’m a mind/matter dualist, with life a sort of combination of both.

                PS: This convo led me “synaesthesia.” Fascinating stuff! Check it out on Wikipedia.

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted November 22, 2013 at 2:11 am | Permalink

                PS: This convo led me “synaesthesia.” Fascinating stuff! Check it out on Wikipedia.

                I’m very familiar with that as I’ve got it. For as long as I can remember the numbers 0 to 9 has had a distinct colour in my head.

                That in no way makes me think I’m actually seeing any colours when thinking about numbers. It’s simply my brain remembering what different colours looks like.

  29. Posted November 19, 2013 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    The clinching evidence lies in the idea of a movie based on Lanza’s work that Travolta and Cruise will make. Working title “The Universe R Us”.

  30. Myron
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Here’s an article by Lanza in The American Scholar, “A New Theory of the Universe”: http://theamericanscholar.org/a-new-theory-of-the-universe/

  31. John Scanlon, FCD
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Such denial of death requires solipsism.

    There is a sense in which one’s own death is impossible to conceive. (That can seem pretty profound if you’re using the right combination of chemicals.)

    But it’s a whole nother thing to pretend that death is not happening all the time to other individuals, species, cells etc.

  32. krzysztof1
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    What would cease to exist if there were no life would be the perception of the Universe. The Universe would not cease to exist. It’s just a cosmic version of “if a tree falls in the forest and there is no one to hear it, is there a sound?”

    Why do people get so excited about this notion? It seems perfectly straightforward that our sense organs –and our brains–evolved to help us survive and reproduce–to beat the odds of getting eaten ourselves. Not to create a universe.

  33. Lianne Byram
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Huh?!

  34. Posted November 19, 2013 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    A small matter compared with the other garbage, but:

    ‘ in a way not seen since the 15th century’s “flat earth” debate. ‘

    WHAT flat earth debate? Columbus’s opponents did not dispute that the earth was round; on the contrary, using better ideas of its size they reasoned (correctly) that reaching the East Indies by sailing westwards would involve an impracticably long journey at that time.

  35. Richard Olson
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Solipsism, the epistemological (sic) position that both the world and any mind other than one’s own do not exist, is — unlike detectable and measurable matter — merely dubious speculation. Solipsism exists only because of volition present in a credulous conscious observer.

  36. Dale
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    “the universe only exists because of an individual’s consciousness of it – essentially life and biology are central to reality, which in turn creates the universe”

    Isn’t this essentially the definition of solipsism?

    • Sastra
      Posted November 19, 2013 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      Yes and no. From what I can tell, Biocentrism doesn’t say that only YOUR consciousness exists. It posits that there is no genuine distinction between your consciousness, my consciousness … and the moon.

      I have a friend who is “nondualistic” (well, ok, I have several) and we regularly met in a coffee shop. She once tried to explain this concept to me — that she and I were in truth One and this is something she is trying hard to accept so that her life may be inspired and transformed. I said “okay” and then stole her cookie.

      She didn’t get it, though .. nor did she think my explanation was funny. Maybe I shouldn’t have given the cookie back. I lack the courage of my convictions, I guess.

      Could have had a free cookie.

      They now refuse to elucidate ‘nondualism’ any further. Have to read their sources.

      • Old Rasputin
        Posted November 19, 2013 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

        I think the cookie experiment was a brilliant illustration of your point. I would argue, however, that nondualism can be defended in a certain sense. I would argue that all that really exists is matter changing position according to the laws of physics. Chopping it up into individual chunks and labeling them as “I”, “you”, “a tree”, “a water molecule”, etc. is really just an abstraction made by humans for the benefit of humans.

        A molecule is really an abstract concept used to describe a certain arrangement of matter. We’ve decided that a molecule should count as a “thing” simply because it’s convenient and useful to notice recurring patterns and give them names. At the very least it makes it easier to keep track of one’s cookies.

        But, it seems to me that it is an arbitrary decision whether you call reality one thing, seventeen things, or trillions of trillions of things. So everything really is “one”… in a certain not-especially-useful sense…

        (But I suspect your friend was advocating a slightly different idea)

        • Sastra
          Posted November 19, 2013 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

          You suspect rightly — though your reasonable interpretation of the “everything is one” deepity is trotted out to grant cover to the unreasonable one. Of course as soon as you try to distinguish between these interpretations you’re once again accused of “dualism.”

          • gluonspring
            Posted November 19, 2013 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

            Ironic, that, since traditional dualists of the ghost-in-the-machine variety are aligned with the biocentrists in woo-spirit.

            • Sastra
              Posted November 19, 2013 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

              Exactly. There is a contingent of the Science-and-Religion crowd which loves to accuse the gnu atheists (and atheists in general) of being “dualists.” This is what they mean.

              Unless we’re familiar with this line of reasoning we’re going to be surprised and confused when they trot it out and simply hurl the term back at them. They love that. It gives them the opportunity to smugly complain that atheists don’t understand the deep issues of SPIRITUALITY because we’re fixated on foolish Christian fundamentalism.

              • gluonspring
                Posted November 20, 2013 at 9:57 am | Permalink

                We should confess at the outset that we can’t keep up with every contortion of mendacious tomfoolery.

        • gluonspring
          Posted November 19, 2013 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

          I am, in fact, a proper subset of the universe. This is a cool thing to meditate on because our default way of looking at things is that the universe is somehow distinct and we merely live in it. But I am not a mere visitor, but part and parcel of the universe itself. But only part. I am a subset, not the whole thing. And the consciousness that I value so much is a temporary pattern in the whole (a hurricane is not distinct from the atmosphere, but the atmosphere precedes and will outlive it). While our continuity with the universe is fun to contemplate, this kind of unity doesn’t do the kind of work many would like it to do for them. I think a big part of that is not distinguishing between patterns and medium (we are made of the medium, but we are a temporary pattern) and proper subsets versus equality (we are a proper subset of the universe, so we are not separate from it, but we are not in any way in one-to-one correspondence with the whole).

          • Posted November 19, 2013 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

            Exactly, and I think this is a defeasable cousin of what this Lanza guy is trying to get across, though it seems to be something a lot of people instinctively rebel against, probably because it doesn’t seem tough-minded and grim enough.

            It doesn’t do any work in terms of preserving personal identity, but at least it gets rid of the whole “eternity of nothingness” afterlife – and an afterlife is exactly what that is – that so many people seem to think atheism entails for some reason.

  37. Posted November 19, 2013 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    I have a copy of the book, but didn’t bother to read it because, on the cover (I bought it online, so didn’t have a close look at it) there is a quote from Chopra that informs us he finds it ‘original and exciting’.

    On turning over the cover, the following is printed under ‘Praise for Biocentrism’, and right at the top;

    “An extraordinary mind… Having interviewed some of the most brilliant minds in the scientific world, I found Dr. Robert Lanza’s insights into the nature of consciousness original and exciting. His theory of Biocentrism is consistent with the most ancient traditions of the world which say that conciousness conceives, governs and becomes a physical world. It is the ground of our Being which both subjective and objective reality come into existence.” – Deepak Chopra

    I put it down again after that, not to pick it up again until this post appeared.

    • Dale
      Posted November 19, 2013 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

      “conciousness conceives, governs and becomes a physical world”

      Again, I think this is the definition of solipsism.

      As Deepak says, it’s an old, almost commonsensical idea that a lot of people have had. Like the idea that the earth is flat, it’s also wrong.

  38. Andrikzen
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    All I know is when I die I won’t be around to know it.

    I’ve been to the edge, there is NOTHING behind the veil. No deep mystery, what we see (metaphorically) is all there is.

    • gluonspring
      Posted November 19, 2013 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      We’ve all been dead before.

      • Posted November 19, 2013 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

        It wasn’t a very memorable experience, though it must have been an absolute blast, because those 13.8 billion years just flew by.

        Shoulda taken more pictures…

  39. Brad
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    To begin to understand where Lanza, The Deepak-ster et al are coming from you have to buy into the idea that we are nearing the end of a purely objective treatment of science and that in some sense science has painted itself into a corner. Because then subjectivity becomes central. Once you enshrine subjectivity — boom — your up to your neck in all sorts of tricky questions about consciousness. And it’s not that they believe the moon isn’t there without a consciousness to illuminate it but rather that it isn’t “really real” without consciousness. Their logic follows something like this — what is it like to be the moon? Or a mountain? We’ll, it’s not like anything at all to be a moon. There is no conscious being-ness there to speak. And so a division is made between the merely real and the truly real. Okay, I’m getting a headache now…

    • Posted November 19, 2013 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

      I think it’s more like saying that without people, it’s like the universe is under a kind of general anesthetic, and so those stretches of time are essentially skipped over, like ads on a TiVo. They can be the past or the future, but not the present, because even the classic View From Nowhere of time as a line along which a spotlight is moving is something we sentient creatures made up from our little vantage point inside spacetime – No one has that perspective *in reality.*

      • Posted November 19, 2013 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

        By the subjectivity in science thing I think they mean something like how, to use a biological metaphor, your visual field will always be defined by where your eyes are, but denying it by saying “The body is just cells everywhere, with the same DNA, so eyes can’t be important for forming an image. Also vision can’t be important, because eyes are such an insignificantly small part of the body.”

        I mean, the Hard Problem is ostensibly a real natural phenomenon, and needs an explanation, and needs to be unified with our overall understanding of nature *somehow*, it’s just that they make it sound so *stupid*.

        But we should *expect* the answer to be weird and overturn a lot of what we thought we knew about how things worked. Surely we haven’t run out of weirdness revolutions after just relativity and quantum mechanics.

  40. gravityfly
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    Robert Lanza has been writing on this subject for PuffHo for a while. Didn’t understand him back then either…

  41. eric
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    he explains that with this theory in mind, the concept of death as we know it is “cannot exist in any real sense” as there are no true boundaries by which to define it. Essentially, the idea of dying is something we have long been taught to accept, but in reality it just exists in our minds.

    I will be happy to accept his theory, once he demonstrates it by overcoming death through non-acceptance of it.

  42. Catherine
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Theory of immorality, a Freudian slip?….last paragraph.

  43. will
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    This all sounds like a mash-up of 19th-century philosophy. All reality is an illusion. The chair is not real until the point where my butt meets it. Everything is constantly evolving toward a supreme self-consciousness, Absolute Spirit, at which point we’ll know everything and see God.

    • Kevin
      Posted November 19, 2013 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

      But you still have to take out the trash on Friday.

  44. Posted November 19, 2013 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Sounds like it’s really just anthropic reasoning applied to moment-to-moment first-person subjectivity, which is pretty banal, because who ever had an insider’s view of nonexistence, anyway? Conceiving of a fully materialist mind as some kind of unique, indivisible “unit” that gets tossed on the scrapheap of the past, or is waiting to come into being, is basically dualism in the name of hard-nosedness.

    Other people have beaten this guy to it, in much less idiotic-sounding ways:
    http://naturalism.org/death.htm

    • Andres Fonseca
      Posted November 20, 2013 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

      That’s actually a fascinating link. I don’t think that guy is describing biocentrism though. He’s describing the phenomenon of consciousness. And he is not claiming that there is “life after death,” in the sense that our subjective consciousness, parametered as it is by our physical bodies and personal life experience, continues after we die.

  45. reboho
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    The true path to immortality lies in immorality. When God created quantum mechanics he told his followers that they would be immortal if they were immoral since he could watch via a parallel dimension. Well, you know how it goes, one guy says it wrong and it gets copied down and the next thing you know we have Catholics. Although, I’m still a little confused how all the stuff that needed to happen in order for the universe to create consciousness happened when there wasn’t a consciousness around to create the universe. Guess that’s why he’s a doctor and that I’m just commenting here.

  46. Old Rasputin
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t read the book and I know nothing about Lanza or Biocentrism (and I’m not sure I want to), so perhaps my criticism is unfair, but it seems to me that he gets his immortality simply by doing away with time. No time means no events, so you can’t cross the threshold from alive to dead (or vice versa). Perhaps time (and space?) is an illusion brought about by our inability to perceive everything in a single gulp. Perhaps, but since the idea is hopelessly untestable and unfalsifiable, it has no place being sold as science. Does the book come with a complimentary bong?

  47. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Not even gods can change quantum physics and thermal noise.

    Even haphazard miracles would leave a persistent trace in the particle vacuum. Because if it happens it can’t be forbidden as it must.

    So LHC completion of the standard particle sector has now given us a minimal constraint on dualism magic knowing the EM state of the brain at death, all 10^18 or so synapses of the 10^14 or so cells. And that is set by thermal noise at least 1000 times larger than allowed from precision measurements.

    So no “soul”, no “afterlife”, no “rebirth”, and no magic agents observing silent (or not) prayers.

    Maybe Lanza needs to study quantum physics…

  48. Doug
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    In terms of scientific contributions Lanza is no Alfred Russell Wallace (who has been recently discussed here), but he does share Wallace’s inability to accept that when you die you die. And there is no great mystery about where the “deathless” energy goes. Some of it heats your deathbed (at least for a little while), and the rest helps build new worms. Of course you won’t sell many books relating these sad truths, whereas the market for transmogrifying into the cosmic resonance or flying on a white butterfly into an eternity of celestial bliss cannot be saturated.

  49. Michael Fugate
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    We know these guys don’t seem to understand QM, but they also seem to be influenced by Humberto Maturana and their misreading of cognition from this quote:
    “Living systems are cognitive systems, and living as a process is a process of cognition. This statement is valid for all organisms, with or without a nervous system.”

    Confusing cognition with consciousness?

  50. Jack Daniel
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Quantum_immortality

    The wooish notion of “quantum immortality” is (for all practical purposes) disproven by the same logic that would suggest time travel is impossible: we don’t see it happen.

    If time travel is possible, we should see future people popping into the present to study us all the time. Anthropologists, historians, what not. But we don’t see that. So we’ll probably never invent time travel.

    Along that same line of reasoning, if at the moment of death one’s consciousness could somehow inexplicably “jump the tracks” to another possible universe where the same arrangement of particles in your brain that makes up your consciousness experiences a different sequence of events that does not result in your death… well, if that were even remotely possible, we should expect it to happen when people aren’t dying too (infinite possible universes and all that).

    But that doesn’t happen either. It just isn’t a remarked-upon facet of the human condition to suddenly find your consciousness Quantum Leaping, Sam Beckett style, into other timelines. (And of course we don’t even have sufficient evidence from physics yet to claim that other timelines or “parallel” universes even exist.) But that’s what this particular woo-meister is peddling.

  51. Posted November 19, 2013 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    This guy’s a medical doctor? Where’d he get his degree? I taught gross anatomy at a major medical school and I’m pretty sure the 500 or so cadavers I was up to my elbows in were quite dead.

  52. Andres Fonseca
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    I agree that the Universe “exists” independent of consciousness. But here is my question: Does a dream (easy to conceptualize, but thoughts and other brain functions work too), created by the brain, exist within the Universe? What is the material structure of the dream “vision?”

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted November 20, 2013 at 8:08 am | Permalink

      It’s the same as an illusion I suspect and it exists as a bunch of temporary firing neurons and chemicals in one brain. They are as physically real as thoughts and memories which are also a bunch of chemicals and neurons firing.

      • Andres Fonseca
        Posted November 20, 2013 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

        Right, I understand that dreams and thoughts are created by the electrochemical stimulation of dendrites and neurons, but simply, does the dream sequence (the actual dream, not the mental process that created it) have mass or energy?

        Or, when we see an object like a ball, we know it has mass and is made of a physical substance, but our vision of the object is not the object itself. So does the image created by the mind have a physical substance?

        • Sastra
          Posted November 20, 2013 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

          Mental images have an underlying physical substance but can be understood, examined, explored, and experienced as patterns, processes, and interactions in different states, including the mental one. The universe is not limited to only matter and energy reduced, but includes all the levels of complexity which arise from their activity.

          • Andres Fonseca
            Posted November 20, 2013 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

            “The universe is not limited to only matter and energy reduced, but includes all the levels of complexity which arise from their activity.”

            Thank you. So back to my original question. Since a thought then is not matter or energy but a “complexity arising from their activity,” does it occupy a place in spacetime?

            I wonder how a chemical process produces an image that can be seen/conceived by the mind. Is the dream itself stretched out on the chemical process and corresponding neural cells like an image on a film? Or, do those cells each contain within them an image that is “lit up” by mental activity? How can those cells contain something which may not exist, or which was not put there by previous life experience (as in the case of a dream)? Do you understand the difficulty in conceptualizing how this works exactly?

            • Sastra
              Posted November 20, 2013 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

              Since a thought then is not matter or energy but a “complexity arising from their activity,” does it occupy a place in spacetime?

              I don’t know. Since thoughts are a sort of activity, then I would think so — though the question may be ill-formed (not applicable.)

              Do you understand the difficulty in conceptualizing how this works exactly?

              Yes. And I understand the desire for a biocentric shortcut, a skyhook to do the heavy lifting.

              You ask good questions. I think they are science questions — meaning, that they ought to be asked within a system of checks and balances, challenges and debate, evidence and argument. Some of them may have been answered, for all we know.

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted November 20, 2013 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

                I have to disagree a bit here. AFAIK we have no reason to believe that thoughts and dreams are not made up of matter and energy.

                We do not know all the workings of our brains and bodies and, but I don’t see why this should lead us to conclude that complexity is not a part of energy and matter.

              • Andres Fonseca
                Posted November 20, 2013 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

                Well I personally don’t agree with biocentrism. I think the Universe created life. But I also consider it possible that the human brain (and all sensory life actually) is tapping in to something different than the Universe.

                Consider pain: the nerves in my finger send signals to my brain when they are burned. The brain interprets those signals and creates, as a reminder to be careful with useful digits, pain. So, sensed by the fingers, signals forwarded to brain for design and assembly, brain conceives pain for the fingers. But is pain, the actual feeling of pain and not the system that created it (requires a bit of abstract thinking), made of a physical substance? I am conceptualizing it as a throbbing, invisible miasma of feeling around the injured area.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted November 20, 2013 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

                Pain is simply your brain’s interpretation of feedback from the nervous system. It is notable that the brain itself cannot interpret pain. You can poke it a good one & you don’t feel anything.

              • Andres Fonseca
                Posted November 20, 2013 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

                Don’t you project your thoughts into spacetime when you look at something, anything? You can see that ball, but the vision is deciphered between your ears, and the brain is projecting the ball, like a hologram, back into spacetime. The ball certainly exists and has mass, but I don’t think your vision of the ball has physical substance. Now walk up and touch it. You don’t actually feel matter. There is a middle man. You feel what your brain tells you matter should feel like.

                The Universe cannot detect itself without sensory life. In a way, sensory life is fleshing out the Universe with things like sound, color, touch, pain, anything created by a sensory apparatus like the brain, and even much simpler ones. A waterfall in a Universe devoid of life does not make a sound. It definitely creates what we call “sound waves,” but the actual sound would not exist without an ear and brain to hear it.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted November 20, 2013 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

                The universe doesn’t detect itself. We interpret sensory data. We don’t even interpret all the data. The full RF Spectrum is hidden from our eyes but other animals can see it (ultraviolet) and we can build machines that can detect some of them (gamma rays, x-rays).

              • Andres Fonseca
                Posted November 20, 2013 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

                OK, last thing.

                @Dianna McPherson:
                When you say “the Universe doesn’t detect itself, we detect sensory data,” at what point do “we” stop being part of the Universe? If we are created by and exist within the Universe, is the Universe not detecting/sensing itself through us?

                It’s like once the Universe created the first self-replicating organism, it couldn’t get enough of touching and sensing itself, in progressively better (more evolved?) ways.

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted November 21, 2013 at 3:19 am | Permalink

                We are a part of the universe at all times, but what makes you think it works “through” us and that is has an agenda/goal?

                You might want to reconsider the notion that the universe is one single entity in regards to consciousness and processes unless off course you consider all matter to be conscious.

                It’s like once the Universe created the first self-replicating organism, it couldn’t get enough of touching and sensing itself, in progressively better (more evolved?) ways.

                Tell that to the dinosaurs….tough love I guess.

                Do you think the universe works from a single point?

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted November 21, 2013 at 6:23 am | Permalink

                You’re creating mysticism through semantics. The material world is not conscious. We are conscious of it. We sense it through what senses we have and we interact with it. That is all.

              • Richard Olson
                Posted November 21, 2013 at 6:48 am | Permalink

                From Andres’ wording I infer he anthropomorphizes an inanimant universe. It is as likely the universe “creates” as it is there exists supernatural agency.

              • Andres Fonseca
                Posted November 21, 2013 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

                Jesper Both Pederson –
                “Tell that to the dinosaurs….tough love I guess.”

                Truly, I was kinda joking when I anthropomorphized the Universe. The imagination is a valuable tool. Still, the dinosaurs, when they died, were undergoing evolution, they just didn’t cut the mustard. Then we came along, with bigger brains and the ability to extend our senses through technology. We could probably detect a catastrophic asteroid approaching Earth and develop contingency plans for our survival. Thus we are better adapted for survival and for sensing the Universe.

                “You might want to reconsider the notion that the universe is one single entity in regards to consciousness and processes unless off course you consider all matter to be conscious.”

                I would posit two realms, one the physical Universe and the other Consciousness. Life is an intermediary. And before you get excited and proclaim my ignorance and disregard of the scientific method, these are just ideas. I would call myself a materialist and determinist.

                Dianna MacPherson –
                “You’re creating mysticism through semantics.”

                There is no semantic jiu-jitsu going on. We humans are a product of the Universe’s physical processes working on matter, and we occupy spacetime and thus are part of the Universe. The Universe does not purposefully create, but it did create us. Does the first self-replicating strand of RNA have a purpose?

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted November 21, 2013 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

                Depending on mass and velocity there may be possible options to somehow divert or destroy incoming objects, but that still remains to be seen.

                If the object is big and fast enough then we’re in trouble.

                And btw, the dinosaurs didn’t go extinct either. They took to the air instead.

                I would posit two realms, one the physical Universe and the other Consciousness.

                I simply can’t follow why two realms should be necessary when discussing consciousness and once again I assume you’re talking about human consciousness.

                How do you decide what belongs in one realm and what belongs in the other?

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted November 21, 2013 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

                Don’t get so cocky about humans surviving the same type of asteroid hit that killed the dinosaurs because of our big brains. We dont know how to stop one yet and one hitting would still cut off our food supply and freeze our big brains.

              • Andres Fonseca
                Posted November 21, 2013 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

                *most dinosaurs didn’t cut the mustard

                “How do you decide what belongs in one realm and what belongs in the other?”

                Some would say that before you were born, there was nothing, and after you die, there will be nothing. True nothingness then is a subjective experience. I would agree with that. Now, it would be difficult to imagine a Universe without life ever being perceived, so in a way, it would be nothing.
                Now take a single human and place them in that Universe. That human has a tightly parametered (by both body and experience, nature and nurture) perception and consciousness. So consciousness is like a slice out of nothingness.

                😉

                PS – At this point, this is just a game. But to quickly answer your question above, I think anything *qualitatively perceived* by a subjective sensory apparatus can belong to consciousness.

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted November 21, 2013 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

                What is true nothingness what does it consist of?

                But to quickly answer your question above, I think anything *qualitatively perceived* by a subjective sensory apparatus can belong to consciousness.

                You lost me. What do you mean by “qualitatively perceived” and what constitutes a “subjective sensory apparatus”?

              • Posted November 21, 2013 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

                A wise man (can’t remember who and whether he was from India or Japan, but he was definitely a Buddhist) once said: “Life is like the flight of a bird between two states of non-being.” There’s your nothingness! When you die, you go back to where you were before you were conceived. 😀

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted November 21, 2013 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

                Clearly I’m not buddist ’cause that don’t make no sense to me. 🙂

                It just appears to me that whenever someone is talking about nothing they are really talking about something… if you catch my drift.

              • Posted November 21, 2013 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

                Well, if something doesn’t exist yet it is nothing. If something no longer exists, it is nothing. Non-being is non-existence, kind of like God. It seems simple enough to me. Buddhism at its root is not theistic nor a religion at all.

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted November 21, 2013 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

                That’s where the paradox arises for me. If nothing is non-existent then it doesn’t exist and thus it makes no sense to me to talk about nothingness as a thing.

                If on the other hand nothingness exists then what does it consist of and how can that be nothing?

                See the problem?

                “Nothing” as a linguistic term used to describe different scenarios of what essentially is something is a different matter.

                If we beforehand agree on a common definition of nothing then it can make sense to discuss things related to “nothingness”.

              • Posted November 21, 2013 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

                Ah, you Danes, you can be so complicated, Herregud ;)! You didn’t exist before you were conceived, there was no you, only nothing, non-existence. After you die, what you perceive and experience as being you (unless you identify only with your body and then you’re in trouble…) disappears, there is no you any more, only nothing, non-existence – sure, the matter your body accrued from conception to death still exists, it either is burned and leaves only ashes or it rots in the grave, eaten by maggots and consumed by bacteria, so the body-you no longer exists as a body-you. Your mind, your self-awareness, etc., no longer are.

                Where does the candle flame go after you’ve blown it out? It no longer exists, it vanishes into nothingness, into the void. There is no there there any more… 😀

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted November 21, 2013 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

                Hehe…So we’re actually talking about life and death and not nothingness. 🙂

                Here’s a fun page to read while you keep the notion of nothing in the back of your head… well, at least I think it’s fun.

                I have a small saying that I sometimes think of when reflecting on stuff like life and death that goes like this: Death is not the end of things, it’s just a rearrangement of the matter in question.

                I really must be off to bed now. Sleep tight when you get there, vierotchka. 🙂

              • Posted November 21, 2013 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

                Not exactly – I’m talking about before life and after death.

                Sov gott och simma lungt!

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted November 21, 2013 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

                Argh, forgot the link. Here it is: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conservation_of_mass)

              • Posted November 21, 2013 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

                What was your mass before you were conceived, what was it at your conception, what is it today? 😉

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted November 21, 2013 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

                It’s a continuous process. At the present I’m gaining in mass at an alarming rate and I can feel the increased burden of gravity. 🙂

                Other than that, all is well.

                Bis morgens…:-)

              • Andres Fonseca
                Posted November 21, 2013 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

                Vierotchka, right on.

                “You lost me. What do you mean by “qualitatively perceived” and what constitutes a “subjective sensory apparatus?”
                – Jesper Both Pederson

                Qualitatively perceived – anything determined by sensory perception to have physical qualities (an amoeba detecting light).

                Subjective sensory apparatus – Any individual organism, including all the way down to single cells, capable of sensation of any kind (though I’m not sure what perception even means for simpler organisms).

                While this will likely be dismissed by someone claiming that single cells couldn’t possibly be conscious, I would argue that fundamental to consciousness is an organisms ability to sense the physical Universe. The more complex an organism, and the more sophisticated its’ sensory equipment, the more conscious it is. A simple amoeba, like a simple machine, hardly conscious at all. Some imagined alien with a more powerful brain, and stronger senses would be more conscious than us. It would perceive more of the Universe than us.

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted November 21, 2013 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

                That means that all the cells and bacteria in your body are consciouss.

                I don’t see how that adds any clarification or knowledge to the issue of “the hard problem”.

                But fun it was.

                Stay cool, mate. 🙂

  53. Bob Carlson
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

    There is a Biocentrism Wikipedia. It has quotes from Krauss, Dennett, and others concerning the issue. Moreover, there is this:

    Lanza has said that he intends to publish aspects of biocentrism in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

    I can only wonder how this will go.

    • Leigh Jackson
      Posted November 20, 2013 at 5:44 am | Permalink

      First thing I did was to check that. No peer reviewed stuff that I could find. This quantum religious stuff has been running for donkeys now. I was genuinely interested once.

      It’s about psychology, not physics.

  54. Posted November 20, 2013 at 3:28 am | Permalink

    “Does the concept of “parallel universes” (which, by the way, is still speculative) mean that there’s a universe in which we live forever?”

    Perhaps. When you have a sabbatical, read all the “crazy” papers by Max Tegmark. Tegmark is one of the most cited cosmologists (even though he is younger than I am) and a professor at MIT. So, if he’s wrong, then on a level most of us will never reach. 🙂 Apart from his more technical (and very useful) work in cosmology, he has written several papers on the foundations of physics, including his mathematical-universe hypothesis. He points out that parallel universes are not some hypothesis, but rather a testable prediction of other theories. It is certainly possible that the multiverse is infinite and also that anything of finite probability will occur infinitely many times. So, yes, there might be a universe in which we live forever (assuming that this has a finite, even if very small, probability—just yesterday, I read an article claiming that at least some turtles do not age (and also that turtles, dinosaurs, birds and crocodiles are more closely related than any to snakes and lizards—cue the cladistic debates)), but most of these alternatives will probably be worse than what we have now. (Reminds me of the old joke: An optimist thinks that ours is the best of all worlds; a pessimist thinks that ours is the best of all worlds.)

    “Does the “many worlds” interpretation mean that at the moment of our “death,” the universe bifurcates, creating one in which we’re immortal?”

    In some sense, yes. Perhaps depending on whether one’s death is due to some sort of quantum effect.

    You really, really, really, really, really, really need to read Tegmark. Really. I’m not saying that all he claims is true, but even if you disagree you can get an idea about thinking in this field.

    To make things more accessible, he has written a book. Let’s start with a video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcjc4U28Rt4

    Put “our mathematical universe” into a search engine and most of the highest-ranked hits will refer to his book.

  55. Leigh Jackson
    Posted November 20, 2013 at 5:35 am | Permalink

    From the General Scholium to Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica:

    This most beautiful System of the Sun, Planets, and Comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful being.
    And if the fixed Stars are the centers of other like systems, these, being form’d by the like wise counsel, must be all subject to the dominion of One; especially since the light of the fixed Stars is of the same nature with the light of the Sun, and from every system light passes into all the other systems. And lest the systems of the fixed Stars should, by their gravity, fall on each other mutually, he hath placed those Systems at immense distances from one another.

    This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all…

    “Soul of the World” aka “spiritus mundi” was the neo-platonic conception of the cosmos as a living entity. Newton was no neo-platonist – and no Trinitarian; he was an Intelligent Design Deist.

    Seems to me we now have our new neo-platonists; believers in a Quantum Spiritus Mundi. Competing with the latter day Intelligent Design Theists and Deists (latterly Flew).

    Whistling in the dark, all of it. One can invent any metaphysical system one wishes to attach to the observations, but unless one can make testable predictions to eliminate the alternative metaphysical systems they are all alike: wishful dreams.

    • Jesper Both Pedersen
      Posted November 20, 2013 at 5:46 am | Permalink

      That illustrates the pitfalls of putting any man or woman on a pedestal.

      Knowledge, creativity and ingenuity on certain questions does not equal superior insights on other questions.

      One of the reasons I thoroughly detest arguments from authority.

  56. Sastra
    Posted November 20, 2013 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    Ah, I thought the name “Lanza” rang a bell.

    For those of you interested in a point-by-point refutation try here.


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