Are mind and intelligence woven into the fabric of our universe?

Are mind and intelligence woven into the fabric of our universe? November 29, 2018

 

Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
Like Albert Einstein before him, Freeman Dyson (who is now 94) was long associated with Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study, shown here in an aerial photograph by Hanno Rein.
(Wikimedia Commons public domain)

 

I published a Deseret News column back in 2015 entitled “The Mystery of the Orderliness of the Universe.”

 

It drew considerable mockery from certain atheists.  One in particular, a dogmatic fellow with scientific pretensions who’s based in Florida (from which he’s been periodically spewing contempt for me for about eight or nine years now), pronounced what I wrote to be “childish.”  He reserved his particular scorn, though, for the penultimate sentence of my column, which concluded by expressing the suspicion “that, in fact, the universe isn’t merely brute, mindless matter, but is suffused throughout with mind or consciousness.”

 

He didn’t make any particular effort to accurately understand what I was getting at, but immediately connected it with what he claimed to regard as “New Age” nonsense.  (In fact, the hypothesis that I entertained on this matter is distinct from the idea that he was mocking.  But I doubt that he would care much.)  It’s the kind of thing, he sneered, that represents “deep insight” in my shallow little mind.  My column revealed me to be “carrying on the proud tradition of the willfully ignorant.”

 

Whatever.

 

Only shortly thereafter, I happened to be doing a little background reading on Freeman Dyson, a very prominent Anglo-American mathematical physicist who has interested me for many years.  (I recommend his book Disturbing the Universe, among other things.)  And, while doing so, I came across this remark from Professor Dyson:

 

“To me, to worship God means to recognize that mind and intelligence are woven into the fabric of our universe in a way that altogether surpasses our comprehension.”

 

Now, that seems rather like what I said.

 

Of course, it also sounds rather like what my column had already quoted the Nobel physics laureate Eugene Wigner as saying:

 

“Wigner, however, although he had been raised as a secular Jew, eventually developed an interest in the Vedanta philosophical school of Hinduism, and especially in its teaching that the universe is pervaded throughout by mind. ‘It was not possible,’ he wrote, reflecting on his work in quantum theory, ‘to formulate the laws in a fully consistent way without reference to consciousness.’”

 

I’m small potatoes, obviously.  But it took remarkable self-confidence, I think, not merely to disagree with Freeman Dyson and Eugene Wigner but to dismiss both of them as, implicitly, “childish,” shallow, unscientific, and “willfully ignorant.”

 

Posted from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

 

 


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