(Stillness in the Storm Editor) Information is prime. Information is at the core of everything we experience in life. The body and mind are focal points that allow consciousness to explore information and its expression in a myriad of endless reflections of form.
The Holographic Universe theory is one derivation of this notion of information existing in a form that gives rise to reality as we know it. The theory suggests that the three dimensional world we experience is actually a projection of information encoded on two dimensional surfaces. But to be clear, these are mathematical extrapolations used to explain the seemingly inexplicable properties of the natural world. In essence, modern science has no capacity to reconcile the paradoxes of existence—due to cognitive biases towards materialism—which ancient mystery school traditions solved in antiquity.
Information is expressed in forms that are both physical and metaphysical, material and spiritual, mental and emotional. Information is pure in this sense because it can be expressed in all ways, yet the expression itself is not the source. That is to say, everything we know of and associate to the concept of information is always a reflection of something else; and in this way, the entire universe is an emergent phenomenon of ever unfolding expression.
The musician gives life to their inspired thought by sharing it through music. The painter renders insight into a finished image. The performer presents the dramas of life as stylized stories and play acting. In all instances, everywhere we investigate, we see the whole reflected in part, we see universal or cosmic information becoming in a dynamic and ever changing form of expression. Evolution, in this sense, is the progression or unfoldment of phases of information. Consider that living things experience growth and development with discrete boundaries that provide the creature with unique perspectives, which always contribute to an emergent phase of growth. Even the death experience can be thought of as a step on the path towards greater degrees of consciousness expression.
In other words, the universe is governed by the flow and expression of information, which is within all things yet comes from beyond. Inevitably, in one’s pursuit of the source of information, meaning, and insight, one realizes that spiritual realities are primordial to the material realms. And the source of spirit is the creator, a transcendent being that is both personal yet not personal, expressed within all things yet not locally present, and unfolds in an endless stream of expressions through fractal patterns.
We know that the universe is based pure on information that is infinite yet singular because it expresses as fractal relationships in the physical and metaphysical realms. At all phases of universal manifestation we see the As Above, So Below principle of Correspondence or fractality at work.
Life itself is a dynamic expression of this spiritual source of all things, which expresses the metaphysical nature of structure and dimension in a form that constantly evolves and grows. Consider that the material universe is constantly under going change. Similarly, the metaphysical universe of mind and consciousness is also always changing as it gains experience. While the physical body can remain somewhat still or fixed, the mind is always generating ideas, meanings, and emotions.
But modern science has been unable to reconcile the primacy of information due to a bias towards materialism. And admittedly, the notion of a universe which began as pure information that later emerges as physical reflections (matter and life) is paradoxical to the human mind. The only place we know of where information can exist and have form, yet not be physical is within the mind via imagination.
A dream has no physical form, yet the mind experiences change as if it did. This seemingly impossible ability for consciousness to change without physicality is enough to render theories of the primacy of materialism untenable—that is to say—the universe is metaphysical at its core, not material. Yet the mind does this through rules or law, which allows pure information to take forms bound by the properties of dimension.
Dimension is always at the core of all phases of reality manifestation whether, material, mental or spiritual. As an exercise, attempt to imagine something without dimension and it becomes clear that everything is bound by rules. These rules are described in science as physical laws but this appellation is misleading because, as we just discussed, these laws exist beyond the physical. That is to say, gravity exists regardless of whether an object is falling. An electric field exists even if a test charge is not present to experience information. And a mind or consciousness exists even if there is no body to focalize perception.
All of these things and more, provide the inquisitive mind enough evidence to suggest that the universe emerged from a primal fount of information. The hermetic tradition describes this modern day advent as the Principle of Mentalism, that all things are mental or aspects of consciousness.
Perhaps the ancients were more wise than we have allowed ourselves to believe. As humanity conceives of scientific innovations as progress away from the past, in reality, there is nothing new under the Sun. A universe created by pure information is academia’s way of acknowledging the metaphysical nature of existence that adepts, mystics and sages discovered in times of old.
The following article details a new theory being discussed by researchers who posit that life evolving in the universe could do so via pure information. It also suggests that this life would be wholly unlike anything we can conceive of on Earth. But I think this perspective is flawed when we consider insider testimony from those who claim to have knowledge of extraterrestrials.
In addition, when one realizes that a universe based on information would also be one of order instead of chaos, then all things in it would have a fundamental purpose, including the biological vehicles used to gain experience. This means that the body types encountered are not random at all but are precisely tailored for a unique purpose of evolving consciousness—a method of progressively expanding an organisms capacity to receive, process and integrate information—what we call evolution.
Steven Greer, William Tompkins, Corey Goode, Richard Dolen, and a great many others, share that the intelligent life we find in the cosmos—and that has made contact with humanity—is humanoid in appearance. This suggests that instead of creatures evolving by random chance to form a wide range of body-types, the universe of consciousness and information creates vehicles for expression that suit a definitive purpose. By this I mean, the humanoid form is best suited for evolving higher orders of life, beings that possess greater mental capacities and insights.
If the insider testimony is true, which by all accounts it appears to be, then modern science has a great deal of corrections to make before laying claim to an accurate theory of life emerging in the cosmos.
As one final point, the below article also mentions the concept of representation not being the essence of information, meaning the design or blue print for a thing is not contained within it. For example, a performance of a piece of music is an expression of the composers vision, yet even if a piece is never performed it exists as an idea, it exists as pure information.
A map represents territory, but it is not the territory itself. The universe, in this sense, is an endless array of representations, leading to the question, where is the pure information? But modern science tends to avoid this perspective because it underminds materialistic theories, and because the common sense answer is that an intelligence must be at the heart of all universal expression.
Thankfully, as individuals, we need not place our blind faith in the modern day priesthoods of truth and reality. We each possess a mind capable of absorbing and organizing information.
by Andrew Masterson
Among all the extraterrestrial species featured in the late Douglas Adams’ excellent Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy novels there is one called a Hoovooloo, described as “a super intelligent shade of the colour blue”.
Oddly enough, this utterly abstract sort of alien might yet turn out to be the author’s most perspicacious invention.
If a new paper co-written by prominent Australian physicist Professor Paul Davies is on the money, every other fictitious ET, from Star Trek’s Vulcans to Star Wars’ Yoda, are the products of depressingly limited imaginations.
|Professor Paul Davies has a radical theory about the building blocks of life.|
Pretty much all cinematic aliens – think Dr Who’s Sontarans, the bubble-headed things from Mars Attacks!, the giant worms from Dune – have something recognisably “life-like” about them: they have a chemical structure broadly similar to those found in earth species, and (it is implied) some kind of DNA-ish apparatus that facilitates reproduction.
They are reasonable enough assumptions to make, but what if they are plain wrong?
Davies and co-author Dr Sara Imari Walker, both from the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science at the Arizona State University, suggest that fleshiness and double-helixes might be things confined only to life on Earth. Life in the rest of the universe, they venture, could be based on something much more unlikely: information.
|Dr Sara Imari Walker, from Arizona State University, has co-authored a paper with Paul Davies arguing that information rather than chemicals could be the basis for life. Photo: Supplied|
What’s more, Davies and Walker leave the door open – some say – to the involvement of a non-physical, perhaps godlike, influence in the development of life in the cosmos.
The questions the pair raise might seem abstruse, but they are critically important. If humanity ever does encounter alien life it almost certainly won’t look like the dreadlocked guys or insect-monsters in Alien vs Predator. It will be life, Jim, but not as we know it. Real aliens may well be completely unrecognisable as living.
“Without an understanding of ‘life’,” Davies and Walker write, “we can have little hope of solving the problem of its origin or provide a general-purpose set of criteria for identifying it on other worlds.”
|Drew Barrymore in ET.|
The nature of information
Their paper – The “Hard Problem” of Life – has yet to be formally published.
Last month the pair posted it on a science pre-print server called arXiv, and already it is generating discussion among astrophysicists, bioastronomers and science philosophers.
|Many pop culture extra-terrestrials, including the Sontarans from Dr Who, are assumed to have similar life structures to Earth’s life forms.|
The reason is clear. If “information” is shown to be the fundamental building block of life, the discovery will be a scientific revolution as game-changing as those of classical physics and quantum mechanics.
Mind you, it’s a very big “if”, and one that is attracting curt dismissal from some of Davies’ peers.
“I think their idea is interesting, but it begs the enormous question of how information can be causal in a physical system,” said Dr Charley Lineweaver, of the Planetary Science Institute at the ANU’s Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Mt Stromlo Observatory in the ACT.
|The aliens from Mars Attacks!|
“I see no way to get around this obstacle.”
Lineweaver’s objection was echoed by many – though not all – scientists and philosophers contacted for this story. It can be illustrated by a simple example.
The fundamental unit of DNA is the gene – humans have around 25,000 of them. If you were to make a computer model of the human genome you could represent each gene with the smallest unit of computer code, known as a “bit”.
|Yoda with R2D2 and Luke in The Empire Strikes Back.|
One gene equals one bit.
But the gene exists in the real physical world, and does stuff – like giving you brown eyes or red hair, for instance. The bit is a description of the gene. It does nothing, because it does not exist in the physical world.
Davies and Walker, however, raise the possibility that this basic distinction between real and not-real might be way wrong.
|Dr Charley Lineweaver says the theory raises questions about how information can be causal in a physical system. Photo: David Moir|
It is a contentious suggestion.
“This is a category error,” said Dr John Wilkins, honorary fellow at Melbourne University’s School of Historical and Philosophical Studies.
|Mr Spock of Star Trek.|
Wilkins specialises in studying the relationship between information and evolutionary theory. Davies and Walker’s paper, he noted, being speculative, falls as much into the realm of philosophy as physics.
“It’s a long-standing category error that goes back a very long way in philosophy – arguably back to Plato,” he said. “It’s the idea that the way we represent something is somehow the essence of the thing being represented. It’s mistaking the map for the territory.”
Wilkins suggested that the authors had fallen into the trap of failing to distinguish between the complex mathematical modelling that physics demands and the actual physical world being thus modelled.
|Jar Jar Binks – formerly of Star Wars fame.|
Their conclusions, he said, “are not philosophically well supported”.
Which brings us, in a weird kind of way, to the bit about gods. Wilkins’ assertion that mathematics model and measure a separate physical reality seems obvious – in the same way that you wouldn’t confuse a map of a town with the town itself. Surprisingly, however, it is not a universally held view, even among hard-nosed scientists.
From the Big Bang onwards, the universe has developed in line with precise mathematical laws, leading to the idea (seductive or repulsive, depending on your point of view) that maths is not a human invention but a fundamental force.
“Scientists have embraced a kind of mathematical creationism,” wrote New York Times science writer George Johnson back in 1998, “God is a great mathematician, who declared, ‘Let there be numbers!’ before getting around to ‘let there be light!'”
Davies and Walker come intriguingly close to allowing a Great Mathematician to enter the story of how the universe, and thus life, came into being. From one perspective it is the central assertion – revolutionary or shocking, take your pick – in their paper.
The ‘hard problem’
Bear with us here. This requires a short diversion.
By using the term “hard problem” to describe life Davies and Walker are deliberately echoing the landmark work of Australian philosopher and cognitive scientist Dr David Chalmers. In 1995 Chalmers declared consciousness to be a “hard problem” – by which he meant that although it is theoretically possible to measure precisely every neuron in the human brain, and track the sparks that flash between them, this understanding still doesn’t explain how thoughts, daydreams, or states of mind arise.
Self-awareness, he said, is not an obvious product of the electrical activity inside your head.
Davies and Walker see a possible similarity with life. Assuming things live on other planets, they say, the question is whether all types of alien can be “accounted for in terms of known physics and chemistry, or whether certain aspects of living matter will require something fundamentally new”.
The “hard problem” in this instance, they add, “is the problem of how ‘information’ can affect the world.” It is a problem that they suspect “will not ultimately be reducible to known physical principles.”
Or, in plainer terms, physics and chemistry won’t cut it alone: there’s something else in the mix. That something, they think, is “information” – but what exactly is that, and where did it come from?
The Reverend Dr Stephen Ames thinks he might have an idea. He is a canon at St Paul’s Cathedral in Melbourne, and a lecturer at Melbourne Uni who holds dual doctorates in physics and the history and philosophy of science.
“I do think of the universe as being structured towards an end, and part of that end is that it is knowable through empirical inquiry,” he said.
In other words, the laws of physics are what they are – but studying them, in time, over generations of scholarship, will lead to the understanding that in a fundamental way the universe was kick-started by what Ames terms a “powerful agent” – or, in more traditional terms, God.
Regardless of what anyone chooses to call it, the interesting (and to many scientists troubling) thing is that by suggesting that life may not be completely explicable through physics and chemistry, Davies and Walker implicitly leave open the possibility of some sort of metaphysical force playing a hand. The pair is quick, however, to rule out one popular, contentious idea.
Basic logic (and math) tell us that in order for the universe, and life, to develop in the way that it has, there must have been very precise initial conditions at the instant of the Big Bang. Even the most minuscule difference in any one of scores of things – the number of electrons, for instance, or the ratio of matter to antimatter – would have resulted in a universe in which planets and people were impossible.
The problem, say Davies and Walker, is that to get to where we are today those initial conditions “must be selected with extraordinary care, which is tantamount to intelligent design: it states that ‘life’ is ‘written into’ the laws of physics”. There is no evidence, they conclude, of “this almost miraculous property”.
Ames agrees with them in dismissing ideas of intelligent design, a largely creationist idea equally unpopular among mainstream physicists and theologians (of which, of course, he is equally representative).
“The word ‘design’ brings to mind too many ideas of engineering and blueprints,” he said.
“But I’m personally very interested in Davies’ endeavours to give an account of the universe in terms of information and in terms that would appear not to need any special initial conditions. If he can do it, that would be remarkable.”
For many in the physics and astrophysics games, however, even the simplest suggestion that hard science can’t ultimately account for the entire universe and everything in it – alive or not – sets off warning bells.
And in this area, it should be noted, Davies has form. You would struggle to find a definite pro-deity statement is any of his writing, but he is very fond of religious metaphor – one of his books is called The Mind of God – and some of his statements are, well, a tad ambiguous.
“If there is an ultimate meaning to existence, as I believe is the case, the answer is to be found within nature, not beyond it,” he wrote in a 2007 newspaper article. For mainstream physicists any suggestion of “ultimate meaning” is close to salivating, revival tent fundamentalism.
“He’s on that edge of philosophy and physics all the time,” said Ames.
Sydney astrophysicist and bioastronomer Dr Maria Cunningham, of the UNSW School of Physics, said she found Davies and Walker’s paper fascinating but was troubled by its possible theological implications.
“Davies’ ambiguity is deliberate, I think,” she said. “Since before the term intelligent design was coined – going back 25 years or so – he has maintained that the parameters and constants of our particular universe are so finely tuned that it does make you wonder whether this is just a random thing.
“It’s something that physicists and philosophers have been talking about for a long time. I think maybe [Rene] Descartes was one of the first to actually come up with the idea that there had to be something separate for life – that it couldn’t just be a mechanistic process.”
Cunningham described herself as a “hard-headed reductionist” who sees neither a way, nor a need, for information to exert an influence. Eventually identifying the deep laws that govern life – which she feels to be rare in the rest of the universe, but there, nevertheless – will not need the “new physics” Davies and Walker suggest.
“I don’t feel comfortable with the suggestion that because living things exist there has to be new physics explaining living things,” she said.
She pointed to recent studies revealing that hydrogen cyanide and hydrogen sulfide – both floating around in outer space – when exposed to ultraviolet light can form nucleic acids, amino acids, and lipids, the basic building blocks of life. These and similar research projects may one day sufficiently answer the question of how life comes to exist, without reference to new science or old gods.
Of course, perhaps somewhere in the universe, a few dozen light years away, one of Douglas Adams’ Hoovooloos already knows that answer.
The trouble, as people familiar with Adams will be aware, is that it is very likely to be “42”. Which doesn’t help at all.
(Paul Davies’ office was approached with a request for an interview for this story. There was no response.)
Stillness in the Storm Editor’s note: Did you find a spelling error or grammar mistake? Do you think this article needs a correction or update? Or do you just have some feedback? Send us an email at [email protected]. Thank you for reading.
The original headline of this article was changed from “Cosmologist Paul Davies proposes theory that building blocks of life may not be chemicals but information.”