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

Duane Elgin


You make a very strong assertion that I would like to explore: 


“Living has specific criteria. The Universe does not meet those criteria. The rest is woo-woo, not science.”


In my research I have found no commonly agreed upon criteria for defining life so I am interested in your “specific criteria.” As context, I do not regard our universe as a “biological system” but rather as a unique form of life. As Plato said, “The universe is a single, living creature that contains all living creatures within it.” In looking at the question of the aliveness of our universe, I finally settled on five criteria which seem very robust and amenable to scientific exploration. I’ve described these in detail elsewhere, so I’ll just summarize them below:


1. Unified—A living universe must be a unified whole and scientific research in quantum mechanics has demonstrated nonlocality and deep unification.


2. Regenerative—A living system must be involved in a continuous process of regeneration and science indicates there is immense energy flowing through, sustaining, and expanding our universe.


 3. Sentient—A living system must have some degree of sentience or consciousness or knowing capacity and evidence of this can be found at every level; for example, Freeman Dyson describes electrons as “having a mind of their own” and this suggests that mind emerged with the emergence of atomic structures and thus with the big bang. If so, then some level of sentience has been present since the universe was born.


4. Reproduction—A living system must be able to reproduce itself and there is a growing scientific theory in this direction. You probably saw Stephen Hawking’s recent statement that: “. . .  black holes ain’t as black as they are painted. They are not the eternal prisons they were once thought. Things can get out of a black hole both on the outside and possibly come out in another universe.” 


5. Freedom—A living system must have some degree of freedom of choice otherwise it could be considered a mechanical system. In turn, quantum physics shows that, at the foundations, our universe is characterized by probability not certainty.


I do not regard these criteria as “woo-woo.” Nor do I think these robust criteria “prove” that the universe is alive—but they do seem to point in the direction of aliveness rather than deadness. What, then, are the “specific criteria” that you apply to our universe in concluding that it is only dead matter and empty space at its foundations?