Home Forums Deep Time Journey Forum Is the universe a "living system"? Reply To: Is the universe a "living system"?

Duane Elgin

Ed,   Thanks for these thoughtful comments. They spark many reflections and questions for me. I am not a physicist, so I bring wonder to these questions.  Importantly, I do not view the universe as a “biological system.” Life seems to  be nested within life–and biological systems  seem (to me) to be a subset of the unique aliveness of our universe. Turning to Ursula’s list of minimal requirements for a living system, I find it interesting to see if our universe meets these requirements.  


First, an example: Guy Murchie, in his book Music of the Spheres, writes that if you were to look at a yellow dress for just one second, the electrons in the retinas of your eyes would vibrate with more waves than all the waves that have beaten upon all the shores of all the Earth’s oceans in the last 10 million years. (p. 451). Given the second law of thermodynamics (entropy), how can this level of activity persist for billions of years without drawing upon and utilizing energy from the surrounding or sustaining environment? Also, I wonder how the universe can be expanding at an increasing rate without utilizing energy from the surrounding environment?   


Second, because a toroidal geometry (the simplest geometry of a self-organizing system) can be seen throughout the universe, it suggests that self-organizing systems abound. Because we find this same architecture of self-organization at every scale of the universe, it seems that the universe has the ability to maintain self-organizing systems as coherent structures over time scales of billions of years. I agree that a materialistic science can find “natural laws” that describe how this is occurring; however, my point was a simpler one; namely, that we see self-organizing systems throughout the universe that have the ability to maintain themselves.  


Third, with regard to reproduction, I do not view a universe through the restricted lens of Earth biology, so the increasingly widely held view among cosmologists that we inhabit a multiverse seems to suggest there appears to be the capacity of “reproduction of one’s kind” at the scale of the universe.    


Fourth, regarding whether a system has “the capacity to evolve,” given that our universe does evolve, it would seem to satisfy that requirement.   


When we put these four attributes of our universe together, they seem to point toward “aliveness” rather than non-living systems. I am definitely not saying this proves the universe is a living system; rather, I am saying the evidence seems to point increasingly in that direction.  


Looking beyond these four attributes, I agree with you Ed that a more productive notion could be the idea that the universe is imbued or permeated with consciousness. After three years of laboratory experiments to explore this notion, I moved from agnostic curiosity to personal clarity based on scientific experiments, some with thousands of trials. In my view, an ecology of consciousness is an integral aspect of the universe. Based on years of first-hand experience with diverse instrumentation in diverse settings, I agree with your view that there is a “quantum consciousness” and I welcome your educating me in this view. My direct experience with the ecology of consciousness over years in a laboratory setting gives me great confidence that you are exploring a very productive track that has radical implications for understanding how our universe works.