BIOCENTRISM: A “Goldilocks’s Universe”
“Wherever the life is [the world] bursts into appearance around it.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
♦ ◊ ♦
NOWHERE IS IT MORE OBVIOUS than here on planet Earth where we live, breathe oxygen and enjoy the beauty of Mother Nature’s array of colorful creations that we live in a perfectly balanced universe. Any closer to the sun, our Star in the heavens, the heat would be unbearable. Any farther away, life forms would freeze and cease growing and multiplying, including our physical forms for incarnating here—which in themselves are miracles of Life’s creations.
♦ ◊ ♦
“The universe is fine-tuned for life, which makes perfect sense as life creates the universe”
We come to chapter nine of Dr. Robert Lanza and Bob Berman’s enlightening book BIOCENTRISM — How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe. This is my favorite chapter of the entire book as it’s full of details about the universe and about our world as seen through the beautiful and clear lens of the authors’ minds — like where the oxygen we breathe comes from, and all the carbon that goes into building just about everything; and how the atom maintains its integrity and coherent unity.
The title of this chapter is “GOLDILOCKS’S UNIVERSE.” As you may recall the fairytale, Goldilocks came upon a cottage home belonging to a family of three bears, who were away at the time. There on the table were three bowls of porridge, the first of which was too hot, the second too cold, and the third was just right.
So is it where our home among the stars is set in the Cosmos: it’s just right for life to flourish and for Man to live and steward creation. I invite you to come with me on a survey of the microcosmic ingredients of the macrocosmic world and renew your appreciation of the finer and unseen details of our world’s makeup, and that of the Universe where our world lives, that make it just right for life and consciousness. In fact, it has to be just right for life and consciousness for this “Participatory Universe” to exist at all.
♦ ◊ ♦
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. Scientists have discovered that the universe has a long list of traits that make it appear as if everything it contains — from atoms to stars — was tailor-made just for us. Many are calling this revelation the “Goldilocks Principle,” because the cosmos is not “too this” or “too that,” but rather “just right” for life. Others are invoking the principle of “Intelligent Design,” because they believe it’s no accident the cosmos is so ideally suited for us, although the latter label is a Pandora’s box that opens up all manner of arguments for the Bible, and other topics that are irrelevant here, or worse. By any name, the discovery is causing a huge commotion within the astrophysics community and beyond.
In fact, we are currently in the midst of a great debate in the United States about some of these observations. Most of us probably followed the recent trials over whether intelligent design can be taught as an alternative to evolution in public school biology classes. Proponents claim Darwin’s theory of evolution is exactly that — a theory — and cannot fully explain the origin of all life, which naturally it never claims to do. Indeed, they believe the universe itself is the product of an intelligent force, which most people would simply call God. On the other side are the vast majority of scientists, who believe that natural selection may have a few gaps, but for all intents and purposes is a scientific fact. They and other critics charge that intelligent design is a transparent repackaging of the biblical view of creation and thus violates the constitutional separation of church and state.
It would be nice if the debate changed from the contentious one about exchanging evolution for religion, and switched to the more productive tack of asking whether science can explain why the universe appears to be built for life. Of course, the fact that the cosmos seems exactly balanced and designed for life is just an inescapable scientific observation—not an explanation for why.
At the moment, there are only three explanations for this mystery. One is to say, “God did that,” which explains nothing even if it is true. The second is to invoke the Anthropic Principle’s reasoning, several versions of which strongly support biocentrism, which we shall now examine. The third option is biocentrism pure and simple, nothing else needed. No matter which logic one adopts, one has to come to terms with the fact that we are living in a very peculiar cosmos.
By the late sixties, it had become clear that if the Big Bang had been just one part in a million more powerful, the cosmos would have blown outward too fast to allow stars and worlds to form. Result: no us. Even more coincidentally, the universe’s four forces and all of its constants are just perfectly set up for atomic interactions, the existence of atoms and elements, planets, liquid water, and life. Tweak any of them and you never existed.
The authors provide a chart listing 32 “constants” and their modern values from the CODATA 1998 recommended by the National Institute of Standards and Technology of the United States, along with their mostly Greek symbols — interesting but not necessary for inclusion here. Most of the elements I’ve never heard of, such as Bohr Magneton, Boltzmann’s Constant, Deuteron Mass, Fine Structure Constant, and Hartree Energy. The more familiar ones are Atomic Mass Unit, Electric Constant, Faraday Constant, Magnetic Constant, Planck Constant (Length, Mass and Time), and Proton Mass. I had no idea that the Universe was made up of so many “constants”—and that scientists had discovered, isolated and gave them values, names and symbols. All this to show how intricately balanced and stable the atomic fabric of the universe is.
Such life-friendly values of physics are built into the universe like the cotton and linen fibers woven into our currency. The gravitational constant is perhaps the most famous, but the fine structure constant is just as critical for life. Called alpha, if it were just 1.1 times or more of its present value, fusion would no longer occur in stars. The fine-structure constant gets so much scrutiny because the Big Bang created almost pure hydrogen and helium and almost nothing else. Life needs oxygen and carbon (water alone requires oxygen) but this by itself is not so great a problem because oxygen is created in the cores of stars as an eventual product in nuclear fusion.
Carbon is another story. So where did the carbon in our bodies come from? The answer was found a half-century ago, and, of course, involves those factories where all elements heavier than hydrogen and helium are manufactured — in the centers of suns. When heavier stars later explode into supernovae, this material is released into their environments, where they are taken up, along with nebulous clouds of interstellar hydrogen, into the stuff that composes the next generation of stars and planets. When this happens in a newly formed generation of stars, these further enrich themselves with an even higher percentage of heavier elements, or metals, and the more massive of these eventually explode. The process repeats. In our own neck of the cosmic woods, our sun is a third-generation star, and its surrounding planets, including all materials comprising the living organisms on Earth, are composed of this nicely enriched, third-generation, complex-material inventory.
For carbon in particular, the key to its existence lies in an odd quirk within the nuclear fusion process itself, the reactions that make the Sun and stars shine. Now, the most common nuclear reaction happens when two extremely fast-moving atomic nuclei or protons collide and fuse to form a heavier element that is usually helium, but can be even heavier, especially as the star ages. Carbon should not be capable of being manufactured by this process because all the intermediate steps from helium to carbon involve highly unstable nuclei. The only way for its creation would be for three helium nuclei to collide at the same time. But the likelihood of three helium nuclei colliding at the identical microsecond, even in the frenzied interiors of stars, are minuscule. It was Fred Hoyle — not of the card rules fame, but the one who championed the steady state theory of an eternal universe until that grand idea’s sad demise in the 1960s — who correctly figured out that something unusual and amazing must be at play in the interior of stars that could vastly increase the odds of this rare three-way collision, and give the universe the abundant carbon found in every living creature. The trick here was a kind of “resonance,” where disparate effects can come together to form something unexpected, the way the wind resonated with the structure of the original Tacoma Narrows Bridge more than six decades ago, causing it to sway violently and collapse. Bingo: turns out, carbon has a resonant state at just the correct energy to let stars create it in significant quantities. The carbon resonance, in turn, directly depends on the value of the strong force, which is what glues together everything in each atomic nucleus out to the farthest villages of space-time.
The strong force is still somewhat mysterious, yet is critical to the universe we know. Its influence only extends within the confines of an atom. Indeed, its strength falls off so quickly it’s already anemic at the edges of large atoms. This is why giant atoms such as uranium are so unstable. The outermost protons and neutrons in their nuclei lie at the fringes of the clump, where the strong force retains only a fragile hold, so occasionally one does overcome the otherwise iron-like grip of the strong force and falls off, changing the atom into something else.
If the strong force and gravity are so amazingly tweaked, we can’t ignore the electromagnetic force that holds sway in the electrical and magnetic connections found in all atoms. Discussing it, the great theoretical physicist Richard Feynman said in his book The Strange Theory of Light and Matter (Princeton University Press, 1985): “It has been a mystery ever since it was discovered more than fifty years ago, and all good theoretical physicists put this number up on their wall and worry about it. Immediately you would like to know where this number for a coupling comes from: is it related to π or perhaps to the base of natural logarithms? Nobody knows. It’s one of the greatest damn mysteries of physics: a magic number that comes to us with no understanding by man. You might say the ‘hand of God’ wrote that number, and ‘we don’t know how He pushed his pencil.’ We know what kind of a dance to do experimentally to measure this number very accurately, but we don’t know what kind of dance to do on the computer to make this number come out, without putting it in secretly!”
It amounts to 1/137 when the units are filled in, and what it signifies is a constant of electromagnetism, another of the four fundamental forces, that helps facilitate the existence of atoms and allows the entire visible universe to exist. Any small change in its value and none of us are here.
Such factual oddities powerfully influence modern cosmological thinking. After all, mustn’t cosmologists’ theories plausibly explain why we live in such a highly unlikely reality?
“Not at all,” said Princeton physicist Robert Dicke in papers written in the sixties and elaborated upon by Brandon Carter in 1974. This perspective was dubbed “the Anthropic Principle.” Carter explained that what we can expect to observe “must be restricted by the conditions necessary for our presence as observers.” Put another way, if gravity was a hair stronger or the Big Bang a sliver weaker, and therefore the universe’s lifespan significantly shorter, we couldn’t be here to think about it. Because we’re here, the universe has to be the way it is and therefore isn’t unlikely at all. Case closed.
By this reasoning, there’s no need for cosmological gratitude. Our seemingly fortuitous, suspiciously specific locale, temperature range, chemical and physical milieus are just what’s needed to produce life. If we’re here, then this is what we must find around us.
♦ ◊ ♦
This “strong force” and electromagnetic gravitational pull at the nucleic core of the atom alludes to the invisible power and control of the Life Force, the Creative Power that holds the Universe together. This Life — which has eluded scientists, who live to hopefully understand it in their day — is a subtle but irresistibly attractive magnetic Force. Call it Spirit, or God, or the Supreme Being — by any name we may give to this all-powerful Creating Force, Life wastes nothing as it assembles and dissembles forms. That which holds together at the core of the atom partakes of creation at that level and ascends to the next level for higher and greater creative purpose to fulfill. What doesn’t or can’t adhere to the magnetic force at the nucleus falls away to take part in the Creating Process at a lower level. Nothing is lost or destroyed, only the structured state changes form in the ongoing processes of transformation, transmutation and ascension. All things return to their Origin in the One. I will complete this episode in my next post. Until then,
Be love. Be loved.