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  • Writer's pictureDoug Weiss

Good Vibrations

A recent article in Scientific American suggests a radical theory about the nature of reality and consciousness, and it is based on resonance, or to put it more simply, vibrations. At the risk of over simplifying this fascinating concept, let me share the basic premise. It starts with the observation that all things resonate at various frequencies, including of course the human brain which operates by means of complex bio-electric communication. In fact, large scale neural activity is one of the hallmarks of human consciousness. Thinking, if you will, requires that some of the 100 billion neurons in the average human brain fire in a synchronous and coherent fashion.

The same principle governs other natural phenomena. Lasers, for example are synchronized pulses of coherent light, photons resonating at the same power and frequency. The moon’s rotation in relation to the Earth and indeed its gravitational effect on the oceans is another example of a synchronized resonance. There are endless examples of the natural occurrence of such resonance, and here’s the curious thing; when natural frequencies approach one another they align in a kind of sympathetic vibration, in other words their synchrony is a form of communication. This self-organizing principle is at the heart of the thesis that at some fundamental level, all things are conscious. Yes, you read that correctly.

This is the point at which you may need to suspend judgement ever so briefly in order to wrap your mind around what I earlier suggested was a radical concept. I am going to jump past a lot of the underlying science in the interest of keeping this simple, but in effect what the authors of the theory suggest is that at an atomic level, the readily observed self-organized synchrony of all things, their coherence, is the basis for human consciousness. Yikes, to say this is mind bending is an understatement. Now before I get lots of email asking me if I have gone round the bend, let me point out that neither the authors nor I have said all things think, but rather that all things communicate in a coherent fashion, that’s radical enough all by itself.

If this is so, it undercuts a premise that many hold true, namely that the while there may be laws of nature, nature itself is neither organized nor predictable. In fact, the natural world often appears to operate in a distinctly random fashion. We even have a word for describing things we observe that violate our understanding of how nature operates, we call them supernatural. In other words, we dismiss empirical evidence that is contrary to our theory of nature, describing it as beyond or outside the natural universe.

By now you can probably guess where I am headed. The universe cannot be both natural and supernatural. It can only be one or the other. And let me say, that it is far easier to accept the case for randomness than it is to believe that there is a higher power that orchestrates life. At the atomic level of a single human life, it certainly feels random much of the time. Nevertheless, were we to accept the notion that human consciousness is built upon a self-organizing coherency, a synchrony of interactions of all things at their most basic level, then it follows that what we call supernatural is not outside nature but is nature.

Perhaps you are confused by this line or reasoning. Let me say it more simply. With respect for those who hold a humanist, or atheist view, human life is either the result of a series of fortunate for us random events, or it is not. If these events were not random, then some being or power governed them, whatever name or form you may care to give them. The authors contend that all things in the universe exhibit the fundamental interaction which at its highest level we call consciousness. Either human consciousness is nothing more than a highly evolved form of random interactions or it is what the authors have described. We are either a biological accident or created beings. What do you think?

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