In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn argues that normal Science moves in a relatively smooth fashion, integrating new knowledge into preexisting theories, which operate within particular world views.
However, periodically, there are scientific revolutions when the whole world view or, as he puts it, the paradigm changes. Moving from a geocentric to a heliocentric solar system and from Newtonian to relativistic physics are two such examples of changing a paradigm.
Now, as I discussed in my Blog post on Consciousness, we are in the middle of another, perhaps even more basic paradigm shift, from a mechanistic/deterministic/probabilistic Universe where human consciousness is a sort of accidental epiphenomenon that requires special explanation to a living Universe in which human consciousness exists along a narrow band of a much broader spectrum of Universal consciousness.
Western Science has begun to recognize the need for a paradigm shift through the formulation of what is known as the Anthropic Principle, which is based on the reality that we live in Universe that is remarkably fine-tuned to allow for life, human life, and human consciousness.
The Anthropic Principle: The Anthropic Principal holds that observations of the physical Universe must be compatible with the conscious life that observes it. Stephen Hawking, the theoretical physicist and cosmologist, frames the situation this way, “The laws of Science, as we know them at present, contain many fundamental numbers…(That) seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life.” (A Brief History of Time)
There are two main schools of thought and lines of reasoning that derive from the Anthropic Principle. One school is represented by Stephen Hawking himself, among others. He suggests that it is just an accident that human life on Earth exists—and can only exist—within a very narrow and improbable set of physical and biological tolerances.
If there are an infinite number of Universes even the most improbable occurrences will happen somewhere. By the Anthropic Principle, the Universe we are observing has to be such that we can observe it, but we just happen to be here in this highly improbable reality and we shouldn’t draw any special conclusions from that fact.
The other school, represented by the ‘intelligent design’ folks, asserts that the existence of our conscious life on Earth, within the very narrow and improbable tolerances required for it, implies that an intelligence created the Universe (for us perhaps) and has some purpose in mind for it. They typically go on then to make the connection between this philosophical viewpoint and the Christian God.
The Living Conscious Universe: However, both schools seem to miss an important implication of the Anthropic Principle. We each are alive and experience the Universe through our living consciousnesses. We are each parts of the Universe. That means that the Universe is experiencing itself through an aspect of itself (each of us) that is alive and conscious. What we know most intimately is that aspects of the Universe (each of us) are alive and conscious and those aspects of the living Universe experience other aspects of the Universe consciously.
As I discussed in the Consciousness section above, this implies that we inhabit and experience one small portion of a consciousness spectrum that makes up this living conscious Universe. Therefore, a strong form of the Anthropic Principle can be stated as: “We live in a Universe that is a living evolving system characterized by a spectrum of consciousness and we experience a (small) portion of that spectrum.” Some esoteric traditions formulate this as “The Universe is mental, made up of sub-conscious, conscious, and super-conscious dimensions.”
One of the many implications of the strong form of the Anthropic Principle is that it makes sense to explore and act on our consciousness directly and, thereby, explore and act on the consciousness of the Universe directly by using our inner senses and inner capabilities—not just restrict our explorations of the Universe to our outer senses.
Philosophy: From this perspective, then, what is the best way to formulate the new paradigm that is arising? Let’s use the discipline of Philosophy.
Philosophy deals with basic assumptions about ourselves and the world we live in; how we choose them; how we organize them; and how we use them to guide ourselves and interact with others. This means that Philosophy really is the right discipline for choosing, evaluating, and modifying paradigms.
Traditionally, Philosophy has three main branches:
- Ontology, which focuses on the nature of being and the types of existence.
- Epistemology, which delves into what constitutes knowledge and how to know and test knowledge.
- Axiology, which considers values, morality, and how to act.
The Philosophy of Orthodox Science: Based on this understanding of Philosophy, the orthodox scientific Ontology is that the Universe is a machine/computer (perhaps one of many, even one of an infinite number) that somehow made itself, is continuing to make itself, and behaves in a way that is consistent over time.
This machine/computer has evolved a few parts (we humans) that are inherently different from all the other parts (for no apparent reason) because they are conscious and can come to experience some of the other inherently different aspects of the Universe and can even come to control some of the these other aspects of the Universe.
The orthodox scientific Epistemology is that knowledge is based on independently verifiable (often instrument mediated) observations through the external senses that can be explained by (usually mathematically expressed) hypotheses which predict future independently verifiable observations.
Hypotheses that are “proved”—by predicting something that actually happens regularly—become “natural laws” that can be pieced together to form integrated theories that give a broader understanding of different aspects of the Universe.
The orthodox scientific Axiology is that truth (as defined by scientific Epistemology) is the only scientific value. Science should pursue knowledge, regardless of the result and science bears no responsibility for the uses to which its knowledge is put.
This approach to scientific knowledge has led to very powerful technologies with little grounding in human values. The value system of traditional Capitalism has typically filled this void.
In fairness to the scientific community, many scientists are beginning to break with the paradigm of orthodox science. Climate scientists, for example, are taking the ethical implications of climate change research quite seriously. However a fully developed alternative paradigm has not been developed and embraced.
The Paradigm of a Living Conscious Universe: The fully developed paradigm shift that emerges out of the strong form of the Anthropic Principle gives us a very different Philosophy for our time. According to this new paradigm, let’s posit:
- The Ontology of a Living Conscious Universe of which we are living conscious contributing aspects.
- The Epistemology of balancing the outer knowing of scientific, political, and economic observation with the inner knowing of mindfulness, visualization, and meditation.
- The Axiology of using good means to exemplify and accomplish the good ends of health and well-being for all people and ecological harmony with the Earth.
We can call this the paradigm of a Living Conscious Universe.