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A Conscious Universe?

  1. Apr 5, 2003 #1
    Is the Universe conscious? Is It a living Entity? How might one set about "proving" It's "alive" and "conscious"?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 5, 2003 #2
    This is just a matter of definition. And the definition of "life" and "consciousness" reserve there terms for living organisms only.
    The problem is that if one would accept a broader definition of life and consciousness, then anything is life and conscious. Which isn't a handy term, because to say nothing is life and consciouss is then also true, it just makes life and conscious into meaningless terms.

    You can only use definitions of the terms life and consciouss to distinguish properties of objects from others.
  4. Apr 5, 2003 #3
    well sure but the universe is obviously liveing; i mean parts seem dead but plenty of it does not as well. but seeing as how we are alive and we are part of it, and conscious; it seems that the universe is also so by default.
  5. Apr 5, 2003 #4
    The universe is conscious in that all its constituents are aware of each other. This is proven everytime we roll a bowling ball down a lane, or any other physical interaction you can think of: matter has to be aware of the existence of other matter in order to interact with each other.
  6. Apr 5, 2003 #5
    oh ya i wasn't even thinking of the physics side of it as; good point Zero. :smile:
  7. Apr 5, 2003 #6
    You are mixing terms here. Life is an opposite to dead. But life and dead are reserved for living organisms, which have the ability to self-reproduce. Maybe it is possible the universe is also self-reproducing, but then this means it is embedded in a larger reality.

    I wouldn't call a rock for instance conscious, because it "knows" how gravitation works. I wouldn't call the universe life, because it is eternally changing.

    But it is a matter of definition of course.
  8. Apr 5, 2003 #7
    I have the will to live! ... Yes, but where did that will come from? ... Out of non-existence?
  9. Apr 5, 2003 #8


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    matter is like a television, and the energy of life is the electricity that turns it on...
  10. Apr 6, 2003 #9
    some scientists when asked why life exists answer that it is because the universe wanted to 'know' itself. this idea has always fascinated me, it just doesn't make sense but is oddly captivating
  11. Apr 6, 2003 #10
    Heisenburg's personal philosophy supports this position, but Quantum Decoherence seems likely to seriously undermine attempts to prove it. Proving the idea that everything is ultimately consciousness or awareness may be impossible, but if it is possible at all it seems likely it can only be done on a statistical basis. Essentially you need to prove that there is no clear distinction between thought and physical reality and it is at least as useful to not distinguish between the two as it is to make the distinction.
  12. Apr 6, 2003 #11
    Am I Decoherent?

    No time, at this moment, to look up the term Quantum Decoherence, but assume it means that things "fall apart".

    Cosmologically speaking , aux contraire! The Universe tends toward COHERENCING -- hence, galaxies, stars and us. Of course, things explode and fall apart, but for the most part, it comes together over time.

    As to whether there is consciousness "in" the Universe: well, WE are in the Universe, and We (or some of us) are conscious. Hence, the Universe has consciousness "in" it.

    Actually, I believe (as others do -- tho not ALL others, of course) that everything -- even an elementary particle -- has a bit of consciousness to it. It is, perhaps, the (or ONE of the) connective threads that allows the Universe to be incommunication with -- and responsive to -- all of Its parts.
  13. Apr 6, 2003 #12
    Re: Am I Decoherent?

    This is something like asking wether a single water molecule can freeze, or if you can clap with one hand.

    In fact, to have a better vision on this kind of question, you better use some dialectical laws like the transoformation from quantity into quality.

    Like the boiling of water: at first you raise the temperature in a qualitative way, until suddenly, at the temperature of boiling, a qualitative change occurs, the water changes from liquid into gas while the water temperature remains the boiling temperature.
  14. Apr 6, 2003 #13
    What you are referring to is called "synergy". Synergy is the natural observation and principle that any two or more things together possess unique properties they do not have separately.

    Quantum Decoherence is not synonymous with entropy, hense it has a seperate and distinct nomenclature.

    Now you contradict yourself. Which is it, does entropy rule or does syntropy? Syntropy is the opposite of entropy, the tendency of things to become more organized over time. If things simply become more organized over larger scales, then what is the meaning of life, the universe, everything? Order? What rhetorical nonsense.
  15. Apr 6, 2003 #14
    Wuli wuli...

    As I said, I didn't have time to look up the term "Quantum Decoherence"... so I was just GUESSING at its meaning. Since you were kind enough to tell me what it is NOT (entropy) perhaps you'll kindly tell me what is IS.

    And how did I contradict myself when I never used the word "synoptry"...tho I guess I described it when I suggested that the Universe tends toward order (despite the co-existence of chaos). This has always been my position.

    If there were no such tendency, then there would not be billions of galaxies, each with billions of stars, and stars with orbiting planets, and at least ONE planet with organized chunks of sentience...namely, you and me.

    Finally, to your question, which is roughly: what would be the point of this tendency toward coherency? And I say that at the moment of the most recent "Big Bang" (as with all others), the singularity that was Everything That Is burst forth to have ANOTHER EXPERIENCE!

    The seeming fragmentation of all of Its parts belies Its connectedness.

    Still, the diffusion of matter,energy, consciousness and spirit served the purpose of "mixing it up" as it were, like reshuffling the deck, so that natural forces of the Entity that is the Universe could pull things together in novel ways so that it could have a DIFFERENT EXPERIENCE than in Its PREVIOUS incarnations.

    And how do I come to think that the Universe is "out to have an Experience"? If I were an Entity that just had a very complex and exhilarating experience that taught me many things about myself, would I then be content to sit and think about that experience through eternity. Or, would I want to see what I could create NEXT?

    Please be specific when you point to my "rhetorial nonsense" so that I can continue to clarify my speculations for myself.
  16. Apr 6, 2003 #15
    Quantum Decoherence is a phenomenon related to the Heisenburg Indetermancy Principle, quite likely the most fundamental physical principle discovered to date. Essentially, Heisenburg's personal philosophy was a pantheistic one similar to Buddhism which asserts existence is a consensual reality and everything is ultimately composed of awareness, whatever that might be. Quantum Decoherence is an idea that challanges this aspect of Indetermancy.

    Shrondenger's Cat is the most famous thought experiment concerning Indetermancy and Quantum Decoherence. He showed that according to Quantum Mechanics as it was originally formulated, a cat could somehow be kept in a state of both alive and dead at the same time, until observed by someone. It's the modern physical update on the age old question of "If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it........ does it make a sound?" Not only does it not make a sound necessarilly according to Quantum Mechanics, but it may well have somehow both fallen and not fallen.

    Quantum Decoherence attempts to make some sense of this connundrum by asserting that although this paradoxical state of affairs might be real, instead of the observer being responsible for its collapsing into something more reasonable, it is environmental noise. So far, the statistical evidence is in favor of Quantum Decoherence. Instead of our personal awareness dictating reality as we know it, it is environmental noise collapsing the wavefunction, again, whatever that might be.

    As for entropy, there are several different scientific definitions of the word. Essentially though it refers to the tendancy of orderly systems to become more disordered.
  17. Apr 6, 2003 #16
    "More porridge please...?"

    And more on "environmental noise"?
  18. Apr 6, 2003 #17
    The essential statement of Quantum Mechanics is that everything is ultimately random. The order we observe is merely the residual of a profound chaos that underlies everything. This contrasts with the strong equivalency principle of Relativity which asserts that space=time=energy=mass=gravity etc. This is precisely why the theory of Relativity has proven irreconcilable with QM and the two theories have proven to be approximately equally accurate which only adds to the confusion.

    Thus, "noise" is quite possibly a relative term or even an ineffable one, but it still has its uses. :0)
  19. Apr 6, 2003 #18
    I'm glad I got here...

    There are some drastic misconcetions here. First off, the universe does not tend toward more "coherence" just because things come together. Every time something comes together (from an atom to a galaxy) it creates HEAT; lots of it. This heat is disorderly (obviously), and thus the supposed "order" causes even greater actual disorder.

    Another misconception has to do with consciousness/awareness. The universe cannot be aware if even primitive, living ("living" by biologists' standards), things are not aware. The universe itself is the collection of everything, and cannot thus be considered alive or dead, but parts of it (or "something"s) can be considered living or non-living.
  20. Apr 6, 2003 #19
    And to think all this began with the ultimate ordered state, a singularity.

    Sorry, but the definition of animate and inanimate is not so clear cut. I've sometimes described people as "hairy walking sponges prone to parasites" but the truth is us walking sponges are made out of teny tiny rocks and water. I think a human body rendered thus is worth maybe a few hundred dollars on the market today. Exactly where you draw the line between animate and inanimate, alive and dead, conscious and unconscious may be just a question of scale and relative perception.

    For example, I cannot live without the air I breath, the water I drink, and the food I eat to name but a few of the essentials. Are they then to be considered alive or dead? This is a question biologists and whatnot have debated a great deal. For the most part they have settled on a working definition of life instead of attempting to create an absolute one.

    A virus or prion, for example, cannot reproduce or move around or even "die" for that matter (if indeed they are alive) under their own power. Whether or not you consider them to be alive or just an interesting chemical reaction then is wholly dependent upon your perspective. Certainly viruses contain dna and evolve for survival like all recognized lifeforms, but so what.

    Are mountains alive, is the earth itself alive and just moving in slow motion? Ours is evidently a universe of unending change and irresistable forces. The more we learn about living things the more the universe appears to be geared towards producing them. Or, the more it seems living things are all there is.

    This confusing situation gained renewed significance with the advent of Quantum Mechanics. Photons seemed to somehow know when someone was watching them and when they weren't and their behavior changed accordingly. Don't get me wrong, I am most emphatically not asserting that the entire universe is alive and conscious, just emphatically stating that anyone who asserts they know the meaning of life, the universe, and everything is suspect.
  21. Apr 6, 2003 #20

    Firstly, there are those who believe that there is consciousness in everything...even elementary particles. The fact that this can't be "tested" or "measured" AT THE MOMENT doesn't preclude it as a POSSIBILITY. I am simply taking the position that its possible.

    Secondly, are you suggesting that the formation of billions of galaxies, each made up of billions of stars, some of which have planets orbiting about them, and at least ONE of those planets has given rise to coherent chunks of sentient beings (namely, us) -- is NOT "evidence" that the Universe tends toward coherency?

    It does not follow, as you suggest, that because the formation of something causes a disruption in its environment -- even a MAJOR one -- that the formation of the thing didn't take place as a result of natural processes. Would there be BILLIONS of the same coherent chunks of energy and matter if it weren't a natural tendency of the Universe to produce them?

    Thirdly, is an atom "not living"? How about it's electrons. Are quarks "not living". How about muons and mesons? Some might say they ARE, but even if they are NOT by YOUR or a biologist's definition, do they NOT join together to make up entities such as US... and are WE not "alive". If we -- as creatures -- are more than the sum of our parts, then so, too, might the Universe.
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