Our intelligent universe

By Gerald L. Schroeder, PhD                                  July 2021

Gerald_schroeder@alum.mit.edu

 

In this session, I discuss the step-by-step manifestation of the intelligence imbedded in our magnificent universe from its creation, an intelligence that was virtually present even prior to its creation. We see this revealed in the myriad laws of nature that govern nature and perhaps ultimately in the rise of language and mathematics, two idioms divergent in form, but both describing reality in totally abstract terms.

 

In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Juliet pleads with Romeo “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” Earlier versions of the script have “… by any other word …”

 

Regardless of which version was actually from the pen of Shakespeare, both carry the extraordinary fact that language is totally abstract. The word “rose” or the individual letters that combine to compose the word have no intrinsic relationship to a rose. When I think of a rose, I do not see r*o*s*e in my mind. I envision the flower.

 

Eons ago our ancestors might have chosen ‘oops’ to represent that flower. In that case, Shakespeare would have written “That which we call an oops, by any other name would smell as sweet.”

 

The same abstractions are true with the symbols of math. In my world 2+2=6. Ridiculous until I define that in my world each symbol 2 represents ©©© items.

 

Mathematics mind consciousness inherent in the Universe

By Sharon Begley

Although the very rationality of science often feels like an enemy of the spiritual, here, too, a new reading can sustain rather than snuff out belief. Ever since Isaac Newton, science has blared a clear message: the world follows rules, rules that are fundamentally mathematical, rules that humans can figure out. Humans invent abstract mathematics, basically making it up out of their imaginations, yet math magically turns out to describe the world. Greek mathematicians divided the circumference of a circle by its diameter, for example, and got the number pi, 3.14159… . Pi turns up in equations that describe subatomic particles, light and other quantities that have no obvious connections to circles.

“This points”, says Sir John Polkinghorne, physicist turned Anglican priest “to a very deep fact about the nature of the universe,” namely, that our minds, which invent mathematics, conform to the reality of the cosmos. We are somehow tuned in to its truths.

The rise in manifested intelligence/wisdom in our universe over time

We have learned to use the abstractions of language and math to probe the depths of our universe at a time when a vast amount of our universe is still visible to us.

Abstract thought is not the same as being consciously aware of the environment external to our body. It is known that bacteria, single celled life, respond to touch, “irritation”. But whether the bacteria are consciously aware of the outside touch is not obvious. Based on the ages of fossils of these oldest forms of life, single celled life appears on earth approximately 3.6 billion years ago. Evidence in the fossil record indicates that life remained one-celled or at least microscopic, for 3 billion years. And then approximately half a billion years ago, essentially with “no warning”, the trait of being consciously aware of the external environment literally burst onto life’s scene with the Cambrian explosion of life – at times referred to as ‘the big bang of animal evolution.’

A wide variety of macroscopic (multicellular) animals having appendages and most extraordinarily fully formed eyes appear in the fossil record.  Note that in the I.Q. diagram, this burst of life is a step function, as it is in the fossil record also!

The presence of eyes indicates that the host animal had a conscious awareness of the environment. This awareness would only serve a purpose if the animal had the ability to evaluate and react to that conscious knowledge of the external environment. This indicates that it had some organ similar in function to what we call a brain.

The exact amount of time that passed following the Cambrian explosion’s gift of vision and consciousness until the origins of abstract language and math is not known. What is known is that our universe came into being containing a vast amount of information that our brains have been able describe mathematically. Our brains are tuned to the physics of our world, and the math that allows us to quantitatively describe that physics.

A small sampling of the laws of physics imbeded in our universe and our ability to describe them

Copied with permission from:  Has Science Discovered God? Produced by Roy A. Varghese (Munnar, Kerala & Dallas, Texas)

Now I must ask the question: from where does the intrinsic information / wisdom that we find imbedded in our universe arise?

 

Einstein alluded to a possible source:

“Certain it is a conviction, akin to a religious feeling, of the rationality or intelligibility of the world lies behind all scientific work of a higher order…. This firm belief, a belief bound up with deep feeling, in a superior mind that reveals itself in the world of experience, represents my conception of God.”

 

Another Nobel laureate, George Wald, reached a similar conclusion based on his trail-blazing study of consciousness as discovered in his work with the fundamentals of vision. Wald summarized his thoughts exquisitely in an article titled “Life and Mind in the Universe” (International Journal of Quantum Chemistry: Quantum Biology symposium 11 (1984); 1 – 15):

“It has occurred to me lately –  I must confess with some shock at first to my scientific sensibilities – that both questions [the origin of life arising from non-living matter and of consciousness arising in that life that arose from non-living matter] might be brought into some degree of congruence. This is with the assumption that mind, rather than emerging as a late outgrowth in the evolution of life, has existed always as the matrix, the source and condition of physical reality – that stuff of which physical reality is composed is mind-stuff. It is mind that has composed a physical universe that breeds life and so eventually evolves creatures that know and create: science-, art-, and technology-making animals. In them the universe begins to know itself.”

Again, a concept of an all-encompassing mind enters as the source of our universe’s intrinsic information / wisdom.

 

The universe itself gives testimony. Edward Tryon in 1973 published an article in the renowned scientific journal, Nature, in which he proposed a scientific answer to the origin of our physical universe. Years later he summarized his breakthrough insight:

“In 1973, it occurred to me that relativity and quantum theory might imply the spontaneous creation of universes from nothing. If so, matter and energy would not be fundamental but manifestations of underlying laws. Ultimate reality would be the laws themselves – the mind of Einstein’s God” (Discover Magazine, winter 2011, page 51).

 

NASA has adopted Tryon’s insight into our cosmic origins, although you can search far and wide and not find a single mention of his name. (He went to  his grave without the recognition that he had rightly earned.)

 

Here is the NASA diagram and note at the left the force of creation is

quantum fluctuation – Ed Tryon’s thesis.

 

NASA

The diagram is a time-line stretching 13.77 billion years. Each vertical line is a billion years. We live on the oval at the far right, The oval is to indicate that the universe is expanding in all directions. The WMAP satellite was used to map the data indicated in the diagram. Every word on the diagram is from NASA.

 

This diagram is the strongest theological statement science can ever make.

 

In summary, this diagram tells us that the scientific community as a whole believes that a non-physical force that pre-dates our universe and therefore predates time as we know time (that is, it is outside of our concept of time) created our physical universe from absolute-nothing-physical. Sound familiar? Sounds to me like the return of the God hypothesis. A de javu all over again – in the words of Yogi Berra.

 

The data depicted here inform that the scientific community believes that a burst of electro-magnetic radiation, essentially the super-powerful light beams of creation, over eons of time – billions of years – can morph and morph again and again and eventually become alive, have the feelings of wonder and the consciousness of self, and eventually become clever enough to build the research satellite shown at the right end of the diagram. The scientific world, as summarized in this diagram, believes light beams have within them the potential of becoming self-aware, consciously alive – and essentially all research in that area of scientific endeavor confirms that they did indeed become alive and sentient.

 

None of these insights and speculations proves that there is a mind of God involved in our world. But they do point in that direction. And now with the publication of Stephen Meyers seminal book, The Return of the God Hypothesis, it is kosher to bring God into the equation, if we can find Its place in that equation.

 

Up to here I’ve been exploring this “mind of God” from a science-based perspective. Let’s explore this “mind of God” from what I’ll call a Godly perspective. That would be God according to God.

From where does a light beam, no matter how high its frequency, get the hutzpah to feel love, joy, conscious self, or to develop the ability for abstract thought needed for language and math.

 

The answer to that unnecessarily perplexing question is found in the opening sentence of the Hebrew Bible – as long as we stick with the Hebrew meaning of the words and not drown in the English translations which largely come from the Latin Vulgate which largely come from the Greek Septuagint which largely come finally from the Hebrew Bible!

 

Genesis 1:1 is usually mis-translated as “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” We know that there are changes from the Hebrew in the Septuagint. For example, the Septuagint of Genesis 1: 1 is “In the beginning God made the heavens and the earth.” Note – no more “creation”, only “making” because making is something from something as opposed to creation which is something from nothing. The Greek philosophy at that time (ca. 250 bce) believed that the physical universe was eternal and the writers of the Septuagint wanted to make the translation friendly to that contemporary Greek philosophy.

 

The simplest accurate translation of the Hebrew is “In the beginning of God created the heavens and the earth.”

 

In the beginning of WHAT? The “of” has no object and therefore the usual English translation simply drops the “of”. Why not, it is only the word of God!

 

The renowned pivotal biblical commentator Rashi (ca. 1050) realized that the first word of the Hebrew Bible  -ba’raisheet – is a compound word meaning: ba -with /or/ by means of – raisheet – a first cause ….

Which combined reads: With /or/ By means of – a first cause God created the heavens and the earth.

And for the source of the first cause Rashi sends us to Proverbs 8:22.

 

“The Lord possessed me/or/created me as the beginning of His way,
Before His works of old.

I have been established from everlasting,
From the beginning, before there was ever an earth. …
Or the primal dust of the world.
When He prepared the heavens, I was there” (Proverbs 8:22-27).

 

Interesting, but who is the “me” and the “I” of this 1st person Proverb? We are told that in verse 12: “I am wisdom.” Note that the verse does not say “I am wise.” Wisdom is speaking here! Wisdom is the author of this Proverb. God used wisdom as the substrate by which, and with which, God created the heavens and then the earth. Wisdom is ubiquitous in our magnificent world. Every item has wisdom within it. Some items express their wisdom in ways we humans can fathom; some in ways we can not. In we humans this is manifest as mind.

 

Based on Proverb 8, the oldest translation of the Hebrew Bible into a sister language, Aramaic, known as the Targum Yerushalmi, reads Genesis 1:1 as “With wisdom God created the heavens and the earth.”

 

The most faithful to the Hebrew of Genesis 1:1 is “With a first cause [of wisdom]/or/ By means of a first cause [of wisdom] God created the heavens and the earth.

 

Totally ethereal wisdom as displayed in mind is the essence and origin of existence. Our physical body is only a small part of what we are. Which means that the you you see in the mirror is not the you that makes you the you you are.

Recipient of the Nobel Prize in physics, Erwin Schrodinger, in his book, “My View of the World,” leads us to the highly significant implications of this aspect of our being:

So in brief, we do not belong to this material world that science constructs for us. We, [the awareness of each one of us has of being one’s self], are not part of it. We are outside. We are only spectators. The reason why we believe that we are in it, that we belong to the picture, is that our bodies are in the picture. And this is our only way of communicating with them.”

Realize that Wald and Schrodinger, and many other scientists, reached these enigmatic even mysterious conclusions via rigorous scientific research.

And that brings us back to Ed Tryon’s insight that in our world “ultimate reality would be the laws themselves – the mind of Einstein’s God”. Ultimate reality is not Einstein’s God, it is the mind of Einstein’s God, which Einstein himself described as “a superior mind that reveals itself in the world of experience … .”

Wald’s Mind and Proverbs’ Wisdom and John’s Logo are all the same expression of the unifying wisdom of existence, but spelled with different letters.

Which means that we, along with all of existence, are an expression of “the mind of God.” We read this in the 3,500 year-old biblical claim that “God created the Adam in the image of God … male and female created them” Genesis 1:27).

The Hebrew root of the word translated as “image” is ‘shadow’. A shadow has many but not all the characteristics of the item causing the shadow.

It is daunting to realize that we humans and all existence are shadows of the superior mind of God projected into our world. What an overwhelming responsibility it places on us and on how we act.

END

 

If time permits, I will diverge and discuss just three examples of the physical fine tuning of our universe, all 3 of which are commonly known but instructive none-the-less, and then move on to the source of the wonder that led to conscious information-rich life.

 

From its inception, our magnificent universe is tuned for the development of complex structures. The relationship between protons and electrons, the building blocks of known matter, makes this obvious. Protons and neutrons have equal but opposite charges yet the rest mass of a proton is nominally 1836 times greater than the rest mass of a electron. It is the proton and similarly massive neutral neutron plus binding energy that give atoms their mass.

 

Complexity in matter arises when atoms share electrons among other atoms. Because the electron has such a low rest mass, relatively small amounts of energy are required to enable this sharing. I realize that this is not new news. But it is worth keeping in mind that with this proton/electron relationship, our universe, from its very inception, is structured to enable it to develop the essentially unexplainable complexity being discussed in this conference.

 

The 2nd nuance in the cosmic tuning of our universe is the high abundance of carbon relative to the abundance of most other elements. The element carbon is the bio-chemical jack-of-all-trades. It is the only one of the 94 elements that occur naturally on Earth that can form the multiple complex bonds we find in life. Silicon is the next likely element. It occurs directly below carbon in the periodic table. But silicon is such a large atom that its outer electrons, those which do much of the transfer bonding, are too weakly held to be functional for the molecules of life. It is this weakness that makes silicon ideal for the electron flow required in advanced electronics, including transistors.

 

This wonder element carbon turns out to be the most abundant element of all known elements that is solid in the temperature range that water is liquid, a property necessary for use as the basic structure of life’s molecules.. A study of the processes involved in the nucleosynthesis of the elements makes this abundance extraordinarily unlikely. The big bang creation of our universe produced hydrogen and helium and a minuscule amount of lithium, the 3 lightest elements. Elements heavier than these 3 were formed within the cores of stars via fusion of the lighter elements, a process of cosmic Lego Block construction.

 

The difficulty with formation of the carbon atom is that there are no intermediate stages of lighter elements that easily result in a carbon nucleus being formed. Consider the following relative cosmic mass fraction abundances (here listed in ascending atomic number) and the problem of carbon formation becomes clear: 1H – 74%; 2He – 24%; 3lithium + 4beryllium + 5boron – all combined much less than 0.04%; then comes 6carbon – 0.46%; 7nitrogen – 0.1%; 8oxygen – 1%; The next element in abundance after carbon is 26iron– 0.11%.

 

None of the lighter elements, that is the element candidates for making a carbon nucleus, have isotopes that readily result in combining to form a carbon nucleus. But they did and did so in relative abundance. It was Fred Hoyle, one of the parents of the science of the nucleosynthesis of the elements, that discovered the subtle resonance that resulted in the life-giving abundance of carbon. This is the same Fred Hoyle who during a radio interview in the early 1950’s coined the term “big bang.” He did so in derision and mockery at the idea of there having been a creation to our universe. The press picked up the term and we still use it, but not in mockery.

 

With his break-through discovery of the unexpected path that led to the abundance of carbon in our world, Hoyle totally and publicly changed his life-philosophy, and he declared this change in an article titled “The Universe: Past and Present Reflections” published the quarterly magazine of the one of the world’s premiere scientific universities, the California Institute of Technology (November 1981 issue of Engineering and Science). His article is worth a read:

“Would you not say to yourself, ‘Some super-calculating intellect must have designed the properties of the carbon atom, otherwise the chance of my finding such an atom through the blind forces of nature would be utterly minuscule.’ Of course you would. … A commonsense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”

 

We have found a universe designed for development of complexity from its inception and within that complexity, nuances that have favored the formation of the elements most basically required for life as we know it. What is needed now is a ”friendly” platform on which the complexity of life can develop. Our Earth is exactly that platform, although there may be many others scattered through the cosmos.

 

The 3rd aspect of cosmic fine tuning is our location in the solar system. Our sun holds 9 (or 8 if you decline Pluto) planets in orbit, all orbiting in the same “direction” as the rotation of the sun. The following is the nominal ratio of distance from the sun of each successive planet relative to the previous inner planet, with the distance of sun to planet Mercury (approx. 57 million km) taken as 1 unit:

Sun

1

Mercury

1.9

Venus

1.4

Earth

1.5

Mars

1.8

Asteroid belt

1.9

Jupiter

1.8

Saturn

2.0

Uranus

[The asteroid belt would have been a planet had not the vast gravitational pull of Jupiter working against the vast gravitational pull of the Sun kept the asteroids from amalgamating into a planet.

The orbit of Pluto is so eccentric that at times it is within the orbit of Neptune. ]

 

Here is the same listing with Earth omitted:

Sun

1

Mercury

1.9

Venus

2.1

Mars

1.8

Asteroid belt

1.9

Jupiter

1.8

Saturn

2.0

Uranus

Here in this 2nd list with the Earth omitted, within 10%, each planet is twice as far from the Sun as its previous neighbor.

 

In these distributions, the Earth is the odd-ball out and yet the only robustly habitable zone in the solar system for a carbon/water-based system of life is the Earth’s orbit. Our “sister” planet, Venus, is too close to the Sun. Temperature on the surface of Venus is about 400 degrees C. Lead on the surface of Venus would be molten – no place for life-harboring organic molecules. Mars is just within the possibly habitable zone of life but its low mass can not hold a life-sustaining atmosphere. Atmospheric pressure on the Martian surface is about 1/150 of that on Earth and is 95% carbon dioxide. The greater mass of the carbon dioxide molecule enables the weak gravity of Mars to keep a significant fraction of it from escaping to space.

 

Planet Earth is just the right size, in just the right location, with just the right tilt (to distribute the heat over most of its surface), and magnetic field (deflecting much of the incoming ionizing radiation), and continental drift (which produced the elevation of the continents above sea level – no continental drift and we get a roughly “smooth” earth. The amount of water in the oceans today would cover a smooth earth to 1.5 km depth!),

END of END notes