“Bio-eccentric” (Biocentrism)

CHICKENEGGBiocentrism is a philosophy masquerading as a hybrid of astronomy, biology, physics, and physiology. Its main tenet is that life or consciousness created the universe, not the other way around. It couches itself in scientific terms and its main proponent is a prominent professor. But it makes no testable theories and relies on misinterpretation of physical principles. Arizona State University physicist Lawrence Krauss has said it makes for some interesting thinking, but has no scientific relevance.

The man who came up with the idea is Robert Lanza. He claims positions espoused by Descartes and Kant were primitive biocentrism. This shows an appeal to irrelevant authority, one of many logical fallacies he commits.

Lanza has had an accomplished career, including being on the team that cloned the world’s first early stage human embryos. He is an adjunct professor at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine. He still deals in legitimate science and research, but when his focus shifts to biocentrism, he morphs into Deepak Chopra Light. In fact, he can do more damage than his New Age sidekick. His wide-ranging scientific knowledge and impressive résumé could persuade incredulous persons who would otherwise dismiss the idea. He regularly transitions from scientifically proven facts to wild speculation without acknowledging the quantum leap.

For instance, he wrote: “Science cannot explain why the laws of physics are exactly balanced for animal life to exist. If the Big Bang had been one-part-in-a billion more powerful, it would have rushed out too fast for the galaxies to form and for life to begin. If the strong nuclear force were decreased by two percent, atomic nuclei wouldn’t hold together. Hydrogen would be the only atom in the universe.”

While all this is likely true, he reaches this conclusion: “These are just three of more than 200 physical parameters within the solar system and universe so exact that they cannot be random.”

This relies on the appeal to ignorance. Because we can’t show why his position could never be true, the default position is that it’s accurate. The onus remains on Lanza to bolster his claim with evidence. It’s not on others to disprove it.

His only fully legitimate claim is positing that we don’t understand where the universe came from. Even the Big Bang is an incomplete answer because it doesn’t explain what was the source of the original infinitesimal material or why it blew up. But that has no relevance on what he delves into next. He claims the universe only exists when being observed by a consciousness. This would mean that an exoplanet being detected for the first time only came into existence when the first astronomer saw/created it.

Then he rattles off these: “a) Scientists do not understand consciousness, b) We don’t know why the laws of the universe are fine-tuned to allow life to exist, and c) Space and time are mysterious.”

Combining the first point with his overarching position, he is arguing that something we can’t even understand can be known to be the key to creating life, space, and time. Going further, he deduces that all these mysteries prove that consciousness creates reality, a position that could charitably be called speculative. Lanza here is making a classic logical fallacy of pseudoscience: Confusing the unexplained with the inexplicable.

Observers can influence surroundings, as demonstrated by the Uncertainty Principle. But this is the result of one’s presence in tightly controlled quantum experiments. It is a non sequitur to use this as proof that consciousness controls macroscopic conditions. He even argues that a kitchen is not there unless someone sees it. Nothing in quantum mechanics supports this position. The kitchen will be there whether you’re restocking your Oreo supply or away on vacation. Security cameras obliterate this idea, unless an ad hoc theory is developed that film also has consciousness.

This is not his only misinterpretation of scientific ideas. He writes, “Consider the color and brightness of everything you see. Light doesn’t have any color or brightness at all. Nothing remotely resembling what you see could be present without your consciousness.” Here, we see another kernel of truth in a cob of nonsense. The sensory experience of color is subjective, but the properties of light are part of nature.

In another misuse of data, he writes, “We think it feels hot and humid, but to a tropical frog it would feel cold and dry.” When pointing out an amphibian to my sons on an 85 degree day, the comfort level will be different for the observed and the observers. But that temperature is determined by the kinetic energy of molecules, not some cosmic subjectivity. The only impact observers have on temperatures is that too many of them in a room will make it hotter.

Lanza also writes, “Space and time are simply the mind’s tools for putting everything together.” That seems a little cryptic, but I suppose we could allow it. We cannot, however, conclude that the mind using space and time to make sense of it all equates to the mind creating those phenomenon.

In short, the theory amounts to a hodgepodge of loosely related, mostly untestable ideas that assemble to form a chicken-egg conundrum since neither consciousness nor the universe could exist before the other does.

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