Whether the Universe is conscious seems to be the elephant in the room. We discuss how big the Universe is, whether we are alone, whether aliens have visited us, and, as an aside, we laugh and wonder whether the Universe is ‘alive.’
If you start with humans, tiny little creatures living on a planet in a quiet backwater of an outlying galaxy that is ‘Mostly Harmless’, the evidence is pretty convincing.
The Earth, it turns out, has a ‘heartbeat.’ It is not fast, by our tiny, frantic measurements. In fact, it beats once every 27.5 million years. Scientists have been looking at geological data and discovered that the Earth’s heart beats every 27 million years or so. With generally catastrophic results. The good news for us tiny little creatures is that those scientists calculate that we have another 20 million years before the next ‘wudump.’ The bad news is that it is generally when mass extinctions happen.
So, if the Earth has a heartbeat, is the Universe conscious and does it have a heartbeat (assuming there is only one, which is another story)?
Certainly, some of the structures we are beginning to observe through our ever-improving lenses seem to suggest similar structures to those that happen in human bodies. Certainly, galaxies and other phenomena seem to behave in ways that we can understand, which means we are either very ‘connected’ to what is going on and share an akashic connection with the Universe, or Einstein’s guesses were flukes.
If the Universe is conscious, it rather puts us into perspective. In relative terms, we are the bacteria in the sub-gut of the beast, eating our way through the host that supports us.
Consciousness itself is an interesting thing. Philosophers have pondered consciousness for as long as people have been sitting up late and discussing life over a glass of Single Malt Delirium.
Roger Penrose came up with the idea that consciousness lies in the heart of quantum mechanics, which was probably great for Mr Penrose, on the basis that no one knew what on Earth quantum mechanics was (except quantum mechanics). Therefore no one would question him, and everyone would think he was very clever.
Now we are a little clearer on the subject; what he was saying was that we are all driven by mathematics. There is no pre-determined path, we are programmed to react mathematically to everything that we encounter. Extrapolating, so is the Universe.
Others, those who have had a little more of that sweet Delirium, believe that everything, every rock, ant, microbe or sand particle, is conscious in some way.
If the Universe is conscious, it explains a lot. It means that it is evolving, not just expanding or contracting or whatever the current theory is. This means, too, that things that we cannot explain might not have been there before because they were, well, evolving.
Whether the Universe is conscious, we may never know. We are too small. One thing we do know, it is where philosophy meets science, and that means we can have many more of those late-night conversations.