[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next]

Science <-> Theosophy >?< Intelligent Design <-> Evolution-- where's it all going?

Feb 18, 2006 05:35 PM
by leonmaurer


Here's a new take on "Intelligent Design" from a scientific/technological 
point of view. 

Is science getting closer and closer to theosophy, or is this just another 
stretch of their speculations to reinforce materialism in the face of Darwin 
bashing creationism?  Or is it simply a means to get on Kurzweil's "Singularity" 
bandwagon and confirm his prophesy that future bionic beings, half man half 
machine with super intelligence and eternal life is the goal of evolution?   It 
even implies that such supermen will be wise enough to build this entire 
Cosmos.   I wonder how far they can take such circular reasoning before it spirals 
down so tight it compresses into the zero point and explodes in their faces? <

Amazing how far materialists can go to massage their presumption that matter 
is everything.:-)   But, they are, in a way, getting closer and closer to a 
more or less atheistic theosophical philosophy.   All they have to do is answer 
the question of how this coming super intelligence jump starts this particular 
universe, and where its total mass energy comes from -- besides, telling us 
where and from what their consciousness (awareness, will, etc.) originates in 
the first place? :-) 

How many other questions can we ask that might get them to turn around and 
see it all from the inside out rather than from the outside in? 

Much food for thought, eh?


Biocosm, The New Scientific Theory of Evolution 

Intelligent Life Is the Architect of the Universe
by        James N. Gardner

Why is the universe life-friendly? Columbia physicist Brian Greene says it's 
the deepest question in all of science. Cosmologist Paul Davies agrees, 
calling it the biggest of the Big Questions.

This is a transcript of a lecture originally delivered at Hayden Planetarium, 
as part of the "Distinguished Authors in Astronomy" lecture series. Reprinted 
on February 10, 2006.

It is, in the view of Columbia physicist Brian Greene, the deepest question 
in all of science. Renowned cosmologist Paul Davies agrees, calling it the 
biggest of the Big Questions.

And just what is this momentous question?

Not the mystery of life's origin, though the profundity of that particular 
puzzle prompted Charles Darwin to remark that it was probably forever beyond the 
pale of human comprehension. A dog, Darwin commented famously, might as 
easily contemplate the mind of Newton.

Not the inscrutable manner in which consciousness emerges from the 
interaction and interconnection of neurons in the human skull, though a cascade of Nobel 
prizes will undoubtedly reward the teams of neuroscientists who achieve 
progress in understanding this phenomenon.

And not even the future course of biological and cultural evolution on planet 
Earth, though the great Darwinian river is surely carving a course that 
today's most visionary evolutionary theorist will have difficulty even imagining.

No, the question is more profound, more fundamental, less tractable than any 
of these. It is this-why is the universe life-friendly?

Life-friendly, you might ask incredulously? The universe is life-friendly? 
The heck it is!

We have been taught since childhood that the universe is a horrifyingly 
hostile place. Violent black holes, planets and moons searing with unbearable heat 
or deep-frozen at temperatures that make Antarctica look tropical, and the 
vastness of interstellar space dooming us to perpetual physical isolation from 
our nearest starry neighbors-this is the depressing picture of the cosmos beyond 
Earth that dominates the popular imagination.

This vision is profoundly wrong at a fundamental level. As scientists are now 
beginning to realize to their astonishment, the truly amazing thing about our 
universe is how strangely and improbably life-friendly or anthropic it is. As 
Cambridge evolutionary biologist Simon Conway Morris puts it in his new book 
Life's Solution, “On a cosmic scale, it is now widely appreciated that even 
trivial differences in the starting conditions [of the cosmos] would lead to an 
unrecognizable and uninhabitable universe.”

Simply put, if the Big Bang had detonated with slightly greater force, the 
cosmos would be essentially empty by now. If the primordial explosion had 
propelled the initial payload of cosmic raw materials outward with slightly lesser 
force, the universe would long ago have recollapsed in a Big Crunch. In neither 
case would human beings or other life forms have had time to evolve.

As Stephen Hawking asks, “Why is the universe so close to the dividing line 
between collapsing again and expanding indefinitely? In order to be as close as 
we are now, the rate of expansion early on had to be chosen fantastically 

It is not only the rate of cosmic expansion that appears to have been 
selected, with phenomenal precision, in order to render our universe fit for 
carbon-based life and the emergence of intelligence. A multitude of other factors are 
fine-tuned with fantastic exactitude to a degree that renders the cosmos 
almost spookily bio-friendly. Some of the universe's life-friendly attributes 
include the odd proclivity of stellar nucleosynthesis-the process by which simple 
elements like hydrogen and helium are transmuted into heavier elements in the 
hearts of giant supernovae-to yield copious quantities of carbon, the chemical 
epicenter of life as we know it.

As British astronomer Fred Hoyle pointed out, in order for carbon to exist in 
the abundant quantities that we observe throughout the cosmos, the mechanism 
of stellar nucleosynthesis must be exquisitely fine-tuned in a very special 

Yet another bio-friendly feature of the cosmos is the physical dimensionality 
of our universe: why are there just three extended dimensions of space rather 
one or two or even the ten spatial dimensions contemplated by M-theory? As 
has been known for more than a century, in any other dimensional setup, stable 
planetary orbits would be impossible and life would not have time to get 
started before planets skittered off into deep space or plunged into their suns.

For centuries, it seemed that the dimensionality of the universe-three 
dimensions of space plus one dimension of time-was a matter of axiomatic truth. 
Rather like the propositions of geometry. In fact, precisely like the propositions 
of geometry. That was before the birth of superstring theory, and its 
successor, M-theory. I am going to get into M-theory more deeply in a moment but for 
now I want to highlight its insistence on the fact that there are, in fact, 
ten dimensions of space and one dimension of time. The mystery is why only three 
of the spatial dimensions got inflated into cosmic proportions by the Big 
Bang while the remaining seven stayed inconceivably minuscule. If anything else 
had happened-if only two spatial dimensions had been inflated or if four had 
been inflated-then the universe would not have been set up to allow the 
emergence of life and mind as we know them.

Collectively, this stunning set of coincidences render the universe eerily 
fit for life and intelligence. And the coincidences are built into the 
fundamental fabric of our reality. As British Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees says, “
There are deep connections between stars and atoms, between the cosmos and the 
microworld . . . . Our emergence and survival depend on very special 'tuning' 
of the cosmos.” Or, as the eminent Princeton physicist John Wheeler put it, “
It is not only that man is adapted to the universe. The universe is adapted to 
man. Imagine a universe in which one or another of the fundamental 
dimensionless constants of physics is altered by a few percent one way or the other? Man 
could never come into being in such a universe.”

Scientists have been aware of this set of puzzles for decades and have given 
it name-the anthropic cosmological principle-but there is a new urgency to the 
quest for a plausible explanation because of two very recent discoveries-the 
first at nature's largest scale and the second at its tiniest.

The first was the discovery of dark energy, which resulted from the 
observations of supernovae at extreme distances. Contrary to all expectations, the 
evidence showed that the expansion of the universe was speeding up, not slowing 
down. No one knows what is causing this phenomenon, although speculative 
explanations like leakage of gravity into extra unseen dimensions are beginning to 
show up in the scientific literature.

But for our purposes, what is particularly puzzling is why the strength of 
dark energy-which the new Wilkinson microwave probe has revealed to be the 
predominant constituent of our cosmos-is so vanishingly small, yet not quite zero. 
If it were even a tad stronger, you see, the universe would have been emptied 
long ago, scrubbed clean of stars and galaxies well before life and 
intelligence could evolve.

The second discovery occurred in the realm of M-theory, whose previous 
incarnation was known as superstring theory. Those of you who have read Brian 
Greene's terrific book The Elegant Universe or watched the Nova series based on it 
will know that M-theory posits that subatomic particles like quarks, electrons 
and neutrinos are really just different modes of vibration of tiny 
one-dimensional strings of energy. But what is truly strange about M-theory is that it 
allows a vast landscape of possible vibration modes of superstrings, only a tiny 
fraction of which correspond to anything like the sub-atomic particle world 
we observe and that is described by what is known as the Standard Model of 
particle physics.

Just how big is this landscape of possible alternative models of particle 
physics allowed by M-theory? According to Stanford physicist and superstring 
pioneer Leonard Susskind, the mathematical landscape is horrifyingly gigantic, 
permitting 10500 power different and distinct environments, none of which appears 
to be mathematically favored, let alone foreordained by the theory. And in 
virtually none of those other mathematically permissible environments would 
matter and energy have possessed the qualities that are necessary for stars, 
galaxies and carbon-based living creatures to have emerged from the primordial 

This is, as Susskind says, an intellectual cataclysm of the first magnitude 
because it seems to deprive our most promising new theory of fundamental 
physics-M-theory-of the power to uniquely predict the emergence of anything remotely 
resembling our universe. As Susskind puts it, the picture of the universe 
that is emerging from the deep mathematical recesses of M-theory is not an “
elegant universe” at all! It's a Rube Goldberg device, cobbled together by some 
unknown process in a supremely improbable manner that just happens to render the 
whole ensemble miraculously fit for life. In the words of University of 
California theoretical physicist Steve Giddings, “No longer can we follow the dream 
of discovering the unique equations that predict everything we see, and 
writing them on a single page.” Or a tee-shirt! “Predicting the constants of nature 
becomes a messy environmental problem. It has the complications of biology.” 
Note the key word Giddings uses-“biology”-because we will be coming back to 
it shortly.

This really is, as Brian Greene says, the deepest problem in all of science. 
It really is, as Paul Davies says, the biggest of the Big Questions: why is 
the universe life-friendly?

If we put to one side theological approaches to this ultimate issue, what 
rational pathways forward are on offer from the scientific community? I suggest 
that three basic approaches are available. Two are familiar while the third is 
radically novel.

The first approach is to continue searching patiently for a unique final 
theory-something that you really could write on your tee-shirt like E = mc2-which 
might yet, against the odds, emerge from M-theory or one of its competitors 
(like loop quantum gravity) aspiring to the status of a so-called “theory of 
everything.” This is the fond hope of virtually every professional theoretical 
physicist, including those who have been driven to desperation by the 
horrendously messy and complex landscape of theoretically possible M-theory-allowed 
universes that distresses Susskind and other superstring theorists. Perhaps the 
laws and constants of nature-an ensemble the late New York Academy of Sciences 
president and physicist Heinz Pagels dubbed the cosmic code-will, in the end, 
turn out to be uniquely specified by mathematics and thus subject to no 
conceivable variation. Perhaps the ultimate equations will someday slide out of the 
mind of a new colossus of physics as slickly and beautifully as E = mc2 emerged 
from Einstein's brain. Perhaps, but that appears to be an increasingly 
unlikely prospect.

A second approach, born of desperation on the part of Susskind and others, is 
to overlay a refinement of Big Bang inflation theory called eternal chaotic 
inflation with an explanatory approach that has been traditionally reviled by 
most scientists which is known as the weak anthropic principle. The weak 
anthropic principle merely states in tautological fashion that since human observers 
inhabit this particular universe, it must perforce be life-friendly or it 
would not contain any observers resembling ourselves. Eternal chaotic inflation, 
invented by Russian-born physicist Andrei Linde, asserts that instead of just 
one Big Bang there are, always have been, and always will be, zillions of Big 
Bangs going off in inaccessible regions all the time. These Big Bangs create 
zillions of new universes constantly and the whole ensemble constitutes a 

Now here's what happens when these two ideas-eternal chaotic inflation and 
the weak anthropic principle-are joined together. In each Big Bang, the laws, 
constants and the physical dimensionality of nature come out differently. In 
some, dark energy is stronger. In some, dark energy is weaker. In some, gravity 
is stronger. In some, gravity is weaker. This happens, according to 
M-theory-based cosmology, because the 10-dimensional physical shapes in which 
superstrings vibrate-known as Calabi-Yau shapes-evolve randomly and chaotically at the 
moment of each new Big Bang. The laws and constants of nature are constantly 
reshuffled by this process, like a cosmic deck of cards.

And here's the crucial part. Once in a blue moon, this random process of 
eternal chaotic inflation will yield a winning hand, as judged from the 
perspective of whether a particular new universe is life-friendly. That outcome will be 
pure chance-one lucky roll of the dice in an unimaginably vast cosmic crap 
shoot with 10500 unfavorable outcomes for every winning turn.

Our universe was a big winner, of course, in the cosmic lottery. Our cosmos 
was dealt a royal flush. Here is how the eminent Nobel laureate Steve Weinberg 
explained this scenario in a New York Review of Books essay a couple of years 
ago: “The expanding cloud of billions of galaxies that we call the big bang 
may be just one fragment of a much larger universe in which big bangs go off all 
the time, each one with different values for the fundamental constants.” It 
is no more a mystery that our particular branch of the multiverse exhibits 
life-friendly characteristics, according to Weinberg, than that life evolved on 
the hospitable Earth “rather than some horrid place, like Mercury or Pluto.”

If you find this scenario unsatisfactory-the weak anthropic principle 
superimposed on Andrei Linde's theory of eternal chaotic inflation-I can assure you 
that you are not alone. To most scientists, offering the tautological 
explanation that since human observers inhabit this particular universe, it must 
necessarily be life-friendly or else it would not contain any observers resembling 
ourselves is anathema. It just sounds like giving up.

In my view, there are two primary problems with the Weinberg/Susskind 
approach. First, universes spawned by Big Bangs other than our own are inaccessible 
from our own universe, at least with the experimental techniques currently 
available to scientists. So the approach appears to be untestable, perhaps 
untestable in principle. And testability is the hallmark of genuine science, 
distinguishing it from fields of inquiry like metaphysics and theology.

Second, the Weinberg/Susskind approach extravagantly violates the mediocrity 
principle. The mediocrity principle, a mainstay of scientific theorizing since 
Copernicus, is a statistically based rule of thumb that, absent contrary 
evidence, a particular sample (Earth, for instance, or our particular universe) 
should be assumed to be a typical example of the ensemble of which it is a part. 
The Weinberg/Susskind approach flagrantly flouts the mediocrity principle. 
Instead, their approach simply takes refuge in a brute, unfathomable mystery-the 
conjectured lucky roll of the dice in a crap game of eternal chaotic 
inflation-and declines to probe seriously into the possibility of a naturalistic 
cosmic evolutionary process that has the capacity to yield a life-friendly set of 
physical laws and constants on a nonrandom basis. It is as if Charles Darwin, 
contemplating the famous tangled bank (the arresting visual image with which he 
concludes The Origin of Species), had confessed not a magnificent obsession 
with gaining an understanding of the mysterious natural processes that had 
yielded “endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful,” but rather a smug 
satisfaction that of course the earthly biosphere must have somehow evolved in a 
just-so manner mysteriously friendly to humans and other currently living 
species, or else Darwin and other humans would not be around to contemplate it!

Indeed, the situation that confronts cosmologists today is eerily reminiscent 
of that which faced biologists before Charles Darwin propounded his 
revolutionary theory of evolution. Darwin confronted the seemingly miraculous 
phenomenon of a fine-tuned natural order in which every creature and plant appeared to 
occupy a unique and well-designed niche. Refusing to surrender to the brute 
mystery posed by the appearance of nature's design, Darwin masterfully deployed 
the art of metaphor to elucidate a radical hypothesis-the origin of species 
through natural selection-that explained the apparent miracle as a natural 

The metaphor furnished by the familiar process of artificial selection was 
Darwin's crucial stepping stone. Indeed, the practice of artificial selection 
through plant and animal breeding was the primary intellectual model that guided 
Darwin in his quest to solve the mystery of the origin of species and to 
demonstrate in principle the plausibility of his theory that variation and natural 
selection were the prime movers responsible for the phenomenon of speciation. 
So, too, today a few venturesome cosmologists have begun to use the same 
poetic tool utilized by Darwin-the art of metaphorical thinking-to develop novel 
intellectual models that might offer a logical explanation for what appears to 
be an unfathomable mystery: the apparent fine-tuning of the cosmos.

The cosmological metaphor chosen by these iconoclastic theorists is life 
itself. What if life, they ask in the spirit the great Belgian biologist and Nobel 
laureate Christian de Duve, were not a cosmic accident but the essential 
reality at the very heart of the elegant machinery of the universe? What if 
Darwin's principle of natural selection were merely a tiny fractal embodiment of a 
universal life-giving principle that drives the evolution of stars, galaxies, 
and the cosmos itself?

This, as you may have guessed, is the headline summarizing the third (and 
radically novel) approach to answering the biggest of the Big Questions: why is 
the universe life-friendly? It is the approach outlined at length in my new 

Before I get into this third approach in more detail, I want to say something 
upfront about scientific speculation. The approach I am about to outline for 
you is intentionally and forthrightly speculative. Following the example of 
Darwin, I have attempted to crudely frame a radically new explanatory paradigm 
well before all of the required building materials and construction tools are 
at hand. Darwin had not the slightest clue, for instance, that DNA is the 
molecular device used by all life-forms on Earth to accomplish the feat of what he 
called “inheritance.” Indeed, as cell biologist Kenneth R. Miller noted in 
Finding Darwin's God, “Charles Darwin worked in almost total ignorance of the 
fields we now call genetics, cell biology, molecular biology, and biochemistry.” 
Nonetheless, Darwin managed to put forward a plausible theoretical framework 
that succeeded magnificently despite the fact that it was utterly dependent on 
hypothesized but completely unknown mechanisms of genetic transmission.

As Darwin's example shows, plausible and deliberate speculation plays an 
essential role in the advancement of science. Speculation is the means by which 
new scientific paradigms are initially constructed, to be either abandoned later 
as wrong-headed detours or vindicated as the seeds of scientific revolutions.

Another important lesson drawn from Darwin's experience is important to note 
at the outset. Answering the question of why the most eminent geologists and 
naturalists had, until shortly before publication of The Origin of Species, 
disbelieved in the mutability of species, Darwin responded that this false 
conclusion was “almost inevitable as long as the history of the world was thought to 
be of short duration.” It was geologist Charles Lyell's speculations on the 
immense age of Earth that provided the essential conceptual framework for 
Darwin's new theory. Lyell's vastly expanded stretch of geological time provided an 
ample temporal arena in which the forces of natural selection could sculpt 
and reshape the species of Earth and achieve nearly limitless variation.

The central point is that collateral advances in sciences seemingly far 
removed from cosmology can help dissipate the intellectual limitations imposed by 
common sense and naïve human intuition. And, in an uncanny reprise of the 
Lyell/Darwin intellectual synergy, it is a realization of the vastness of time and 
history that gives rise to the crucial insight. Only in this instance, the 
vastness of which I speak is the vastness of future time and future history. In 
particular, sharp attention must be paid to the key conclusion of Princeton 
physicist John Wheeler: most of the time available for life and intelligence to 
achieve their ultimate capabilities lie in the distant cosmic future, not in 
the cosmic past. As cosmologist Frank Tipler bluntly stated, “Almost all of 
space and time lies in the future. By focusing attention only on the past and 
present, science has ignored almost all of reality. Since the domain of scientific 
study is the whole of reality, it is about time science decided to study the 
future evolution of the universe.”

That is exactly what I have attempted to do in BIOCOSM in order to explore, 
in a tentative way, a possible third pathway to an answer to the biggest of the 
Big Questions. I call that third pathway the Selfish Biocosm hypothesis.

Originally presented in peer-reviewed scientific papers published in 
Complexity, Acta Astronautica, and the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, 
my Selfish Biocosm hypothesis suggests that in attempting to explain the 
linkage between life, intelligence and the anthropic qualities of the cosmos, most 
mainstream scientists have, in essence, been peering through the wrong end of 
the telescope. The hypothesis asserts that life and intelligence are, in fact, 
the primary cosmological phenomena and that everything else-the constants of 
nature, the dimensionality of the universe, the origin of carbon and other 
elements in the hearts of giant supernovas, the pathway traced by biological 
evolution-is secondary and derivative. In the words of Martin Rees, my approach is 
based on the proposition that “what we call the fundamental constants-the 
numbers that matter to physicists-may be secondary consequences of the final 
theory, rather than direct manifestations of its deepest and most fundamental 

I began developing the Selfish Biocosm hypothesis as an attempt to supply two 
essential elements missing from a novel model of cosmological evolution put 
forward by astrophysicist Lee Smolin. Smolin had come up with the intriguing 
suggestion that black holes are gateways to new “baby universes” and that a 
kind of Darwinian population dynamic rewards those universes most adept at 
producing black holes with the greatest number of progeny. Proliferating populations 
of baby universes emerging from the loins (metaphorically speaking) of black 
hole-rich “mother universes” thus come to dominate the total population of 
the “multiverse”-a theoretical ensemble of all mother and baby universes. Black 
hole-prone universes also happen to coincidentally exhibit anthropic 
qualities, according to Smolin, thus accounting for the bio-friendly nature of the “
average” cosmos in the ensemble, more or less as an incidental side-effect.

This was a thrilling conjecture because for the first time it posited a 
cosmic evolutionary process endowed with what economists call a utility function 
(i.e., a value that was maximized by the hypothesized evolutionary process, 
which in the case of Smolin's conjecture was black hole maximization).

However, Smolin's approach was seriously flawed. As the computer genius John 
von Neumann demonstrated in a famous 1948 Caltech lecture entitled “On the 
General and Logical Theory of Automata,” any self-reproducing object (mouse, 
bacterium, human or baby universe) must, as a matter of inexorable logic, possess 
four essential elements:

1. A blueprint, providing the plan for construction of offspring;

2. A factory, to carry out the construction;

3. A controller, to ensure that the factory follows the plan; and

4. A duplicating machine, to transmit a copy of the blueprint to the 

In the case of Smolin's hypothesis, one could logically equate the collection 
of physical laws and constants that prevail in our universe with a von 
Neumann blueprint and the universe at large with a kind of enormous von Neumann 
factory. But what could possibly serve as a von Neumann controller or a von 
Neumann duplicating machine? My goal was to rescue Smolin's basic innovation-a 
cosmic evolutionary model that incorporated a discernible utility function-by 
proposing scientifically plausible candidates for the two missing von Neumann 

The hypothesis I developed was based on a set of conjectures put forward by 
Martin Rees, John Wheeler, Freeman Dyson, John Barrow, Frank Tipler, and Ray 
Kurzweil. Their futuristic visions suggested collectively that the ongoing 
process of biological and technological evolution was sufficiently robust, 
powerful, and open-ended that, in the very distant future, a cosmologically extended 
biosphere could conceivably exert a global influence on the physical state of 
the entire cosmos. Think of this idea as the Gaia principle extended 

A synthesis of these insights lead me directly to the central claim of the 
Selfish Biocosm hypothesis: that the ongoing process of biological and 
technological emergence, governed by still largely unknown laws of complexity, could 
function as a von Neumann controller and that a cosmologically extended 
biosphere could serve as a von Neumann duplicating machine in a conjectured process of 
cosmological replication.

I went on to speculate that the means by which the hypothesized cosmological 
replication process could occur was through the fabrication of baby universes 
by highly evolved intelligent life forms. These hypothesized baby universes 
would themselves be endowed with a cosmic code-an ensemble of physical laws and 
constants-that would be life-friendly so as to enable life and ever more 
competent intelligence to emerge and eventually to repeat the cosmic reproduction 
cycle. Under this scenario, the physical laws and constants serve a cosmic 
function precisely analogous to that of DNA in earthly creatures: they furnish a 
recipe for the birth and evolution of intelligent life and a blueprint, which 
provides the plan for construction of offspring.

I should add that if the fabrication of baby universes, which is the key step 
in the hypothesized cosmic reproductive cycle that I just outlined, sounds to 
you like outrageous science fiction-an “X-file too far,” in the words of one 
of my critics-you should be aware that the topic has begun to be rigorously 
explored by such eminent physicists as Andrei Linde of Stanford, Alan Guth of 
MIT (who is the father of inflation theory), Martin Rees of Cambridge, eminent 
astronomer Edward Harrison, and physicists Lawrence Krauss and Glenn Starkman.

This central claim of the Selfish Biocosm hypothesis offered a radically new 
and quite parsimonious explanation for the apparent mystery of an anthropic or 
bio-friendly universe. If highly evolved intelligent life is the von Neumann 
duplicating machine that the cosmos employs to reproduce itself-if intelligent 
life is, in effect, the reproductive organ of the universe-then it is 
entirely logical and predictable that the laws and constants of nature should be 
rigged in favor of the emergence of life and the evolution of ever more capable 
intelligence. Indeed, the existence of such propensity is a falsifiable 
prediction of the hypothesis.

Now, at this point you are probably saying to yourself, “Wow, with a theory 
that crazy and radical, this Gardner fellow must have been shunned by the 
scientific establishment.” And indeed some mainstream scientists have commented 
that the ideas advanced in my book BIOCOSM are impermissibly speculative or 
impossible to verify. A few have hurled what scientists view as the ultimate 
epithet-that my theory constitutes metaphysics instead of genuine science.

On the other hand, some of the brightest and most far-sighted scientists have 
been extremely encouraging. John Barrow and Freeman Dyson have offered 
favorable comments and reviews. In particular, BIOCOSM has received outspoken 
endorsements from Sir Martin Rees (the UK Astronomer Royal and winner of the top 
scientific prize in the world for cosmology) and Paul Davies (the prominent 
astrophysicist and author and winner of the Templeton Prize).

As I continue to explore this hypothesis in the future, what will be of 
utmost interest to me and my sympathizers is whether it can generate what 
scientists call falsifiable implications. Falsifiabiliy or testability of claims, 
remember, is the hallmark of genuine science, distinguishing it from metaphysics 
and faith-based belief systems.

I believe that the Selfish Biocosm hypothesis does qualify as a genuine 
scientific conjecture on this ground. A key implication of the hypothesis is that 
the process of progression of the cosmos through critical thresholds in its 
life cycle, while perhaps not strictly inevitable, is relatively robust. One such 
critical threshold is the emergence of human-level and higher intelligence, 
which is essential to the scaling up of biological and technological processes 
to the stage at which those processes could conceivably exert an influence on 
the global state of the cosmos.

The conventional wisdom among evolutionary theorists, typified by the 
thinking of the late Stephen Jay Gould, is that the abstract probability of the 
emergence of anything like human intelligence through the natural process of 
biological evolution was vanishingly small. According to this viewpoint, the 
emergence of human-level intelligence was a staggeringly improbable contingent event. 
A few distinguished contrarians like Simon Conway Morris, Robert Wright, E. 
O. Wilson, and Christian de Duve take an opposing position, arguing on the 
basis of the pervasive phenomenon of convergent evolution and other evidence that 
the appearance of human-level intelligence was highly probable, if not 
virtually inevitable. The latter position is consistent with the Selfish Biocosm 
hypothesis while the Gould position is not.

In my book BIOCOSM and in a preceding scientific paper delivered at the 
International Astronautical Congress, I suggest that the issue of the robustness of 
the emergence of human-level and higher intelligence is potentially subject 
to experimental resolution by means of at least three realistic tests: SETI 
research, artificial life evolution, and the emergence of transhuman computer 
intelligence predicted by computer science theorist Ray Kurzweil and others. The 
discovery of extraterrestrial intelligence, the discovery of an ability on the 
part of artificial life forms that exist and evolve in software environments 
to acquire autonomy and intelligence, and the emergence of a capacity on the 
part of advanced self-programming computers to attain and then exceed human 
levels of intelligence are all falsifiable implications of the Selfish Biocosm 
hypothesis because they are consistent with the notion that the emergence of 
ever more competent intelligence is a robust natural phenomenon. These tests 
don't, of course, conclusively answer the question of whether the hypothesis 
correctly describes ultimate reality. But such a level of certainty is not demanded 
of any scientific hypothesis in order to qualify it as genuine science.

Let me conclude by asking whether the Selfish Biocosm hypothesis promotes or 
demotes the cosmic role of humanity. Have I introduced a new anthropocentrism 
into the science of cosmology? If so, then you should be suspect on this basis 
alone of my new approach because, as Sigmund Freud pointed out long ago, new 
scientific paradigms must meet two distinct criteria to be taken seriously: 
they must reformulate our vision of physical reality in a novel and plausible 
way and, equally important, they must advance the Copernican project of demoting 
human beings from the centerpiece of the universe to the results of natural 

At first blush, the Selfish Biocosm hypothesis may appear to be hopelessly 
anthropocentric. Freeman Dyson once famously proclaimed that the seemingly 
miraculous coincidences exhibited by the physical laws and constants of inanimate 
nature-factors that render the universe so strangely life-friendly-indicated to 
him that “the more I examine the universe and study the details of its 
architecture, the more evidence I find that the universe in some sense knew we were 
coming.” This strong anthropic perspective may seem uplifting and inspiring at 
first blush but a careful assessment of the new vision of a bio-friendly 
universe revealed by the Selfish Biocosm hypothesis yields a far more sobering 

To regard the pageant of life's origin and evolution on Earth as a minor 
subroutine in an inconceivably vast ontogenetic process through which the universe 
prepares itself for replication is scarcely to place humankind at the 
epicenter of creation. Far from offering an anthropocentric view of the cosmos, the 
new perspective relegates humanity and its probable progeny species (biological 
or mechanical) to the functional equivalents of mitochondria-formerly 
free-living bacteria whose special talents were harnessed in the distant past when 
they were ingested and then pressed into service as organelles inside eukaryotic 

The essence of the Selfish Biocosm hypothesis is that the universe we inhabit 
is in the process of becoming pervaded with increasingly intelligent life-but 
not necessarily human or even human-successor life. Under the theory, the 
emergence of life and increasingly competent intelligence are not meaningless 
accidents in a hostile, largely lifeless cosmos but at the very heart of the vast 
machinery of creation, cosmological evolution, and cosmic replication. 
However, the theory does not require or even suggest that the life and intelligence 
that emerge be human or human-successor in nature.

The hypothesis simply asserts that the peculiarly life-friendly laws and 
constants that prevail in our universe serve a function precisely equivalent to 
that of DNA in living creatures on Earth, providing a recipe for development and 
a blueprint for the construction of offspring.

Finally, the hypothesis implies that the capacity for the universe to 
generate life and to evolve ever more capable intelligence is encoded as a hidden 
subtext to the basic laws and constants of nature, stitched like the finest 
embroidery into the very fabric of our universe. A corollary-and a key falsifiable 
implication of the Selfish Biocosm theory-is that we are likely not alone in 
the universe but are probably part of a vast, yet undiscovered transterrestrial 
community of lives and intelligences spread across billions of galaxies and 
countless parsecs. Under the theory, we share a possible common fate with that 
hypothesized community-to help shape the future of the universe and transform 
it from a collection of lifeless atoms into a vast, transcendent mind.

The inescapable implication of the Selfish Biocosm hypothesis is that the 
immense saga of biological evolution on Earth is one tiny chapter in an ageless 
tale of the struggle of the creative force of life against the disintegrative 
acid of entropy, of emergent order against encroaching chaos, and ultimately of 
the heroic power of mind against the brute intransigence of lifeless matter.

In taking full measure of the seeming miracle of a bio-friendly universe we 
should obviously be skeptical of wishful thinking and “just-so” stories. But 
we should not be so dismissive of new approaches that we fail to relish the 
sense of wonder at the almost miraculous ability of science to fathom mysteries 
that once seemed impenetrable-a sense perfectly captured by the great British 
innovator Michael Faraday when he summarily dismissed skepticism about his 
almost magical ability to summon up the genie of electricity simply by moving a 
magnet in a coil of wire.

As Faraday said, “Nothing is too wonderful to be true if it be consistent 
with the laws of nature.”

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

[Back to Top]

Theosophy World: Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy and its Practical Application