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    Artist depiction close-up of quantum physics-based consciousness (Creative Commons - Azmat Ullah)

    Sentient Universe: Does the Thinking Mind Being Thought About?

    © Photo : Azmat Ullah - Creative Commons
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    An intriguing hypothesis has been added to explain a universe so large our human minds have difficulty embracing what little we currently claim to know, let alone the infinite amount of other possible answers and outcomes.

    Scientists and philosophers have no shortage of increasingly far-fetched ideas to explain life, the universe and everything, and ‘panpsychism' can be added to those in the running as the weirdest yet, according to a recent report published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Consciousness Exploration & Research (JCER).

    The universe itself is a form on consciousness, defined as ‘panpsychism,' according to a JCER paper recently authored by New York City College of Technology physicist Greg Matloff.

    Suggesting that an evidence-based scientific discussion of panpsychism — or universal consciousness — should re-enter current popular physics, Matloff has proposed tests that would "validate or falsify" the existence of what he describes as a "proto-consciousness field," according to Theantimedia.com.

    Not content with applying sentiency to the universe as a whole, however, Matloff — perhaps taking a page from Stanislaw Lem's 1961 science-fiction novel Solaris — also offers the conceit of ‘volitional stars' charting chosen paths across our galaxy.

    In spite of the ease with which anyone with a bit of learning could poo-poo the concept of panpsychism, more than a handful of prominent supporters — including UK-based leading theoretical physicist Sir Roger Penrose — offer intriguing glimpses into proofs for the idea.

    Penrose, who has used the concept of panpsychism to describe a sentient universe, suggests that consciousness itself arises out of the properties of ‘quantum entanglement' — the scenario in which two or more objects can only be "described with reference to each other," even though the objects themselves are spatially far apart — according to ScienceDaily.com.

    German physicist Bernard Haisch in 2006 expanded on Penrose's observations to suggest that consciousness appears within a ‘quantum vacuum' in the presence of a highly-advanced pathway of energy.

    Another prominent proponent of panpsychism, German-born neuroscientist Christof Koch, has attempted to incorporate integrated information theory to suggest that an object does not have to be of biological origin to be awake and aware of itself.

    "The only dominant theory we have of consciousness says that it is associated with complexity — with a system's ability to act upon its own state and determine its own fate," Koch said, cited by Futurism.com.

    "Theory states that it could go down to very simple systems. In principle, some purely physical systems that are not biological or organic may also be conscious," he added.

    To support his thinking, Matloff will use the European Space Agency's Gaia satellite to study stars, analyzing an anomaly in the observable movement of suns called ‘Paranego's Discontinuity,' in which a handful of semi-cool stars within our galaxy spew enormous jets of extremely high energies in just one direction, an odd behavior that appears inexplicably ubiquitous to our Milky Way.

    The idea, he says, is to attempt at a proof that stars displaying these characteristics are directing their own movement.

    Koch, meanwhile, will seek micro-proofs to panpsychism in the form of brain-impaired patient information response studies that seek to match what science currently knows of the neurochemical foundation of awareness.

    In Koch's upcoming study, mouse brains will be wired together to see whether their consciousnesses blend together to form a single entity.

    Critics observe that panpsychism is an oversimplification at best and a lot of hookum at worst.

    "Panpsychism offers no distinctive predictions or explanations," states Keith Frankish, a UK-based academic philosopher and the author of a book attempting to refute the theory.

    "[Panpsychism] finds a place for consciousness in the physical world, but that place is a sort of limbo," Frankish adds, cited by Theantimedia.com.

    Although the concept of universal consciousness can be traced to the philosophy of ancient Greece, the incorporation of newly-hatched quantum-entanglement theory has added new frisson to an age-old question.

     

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    Tags:
    star, quantum physics, quantum mechanics, sentient life-forms, awareness, consciousness, Gaia, European Space Agency (ESA), Milky Way, Universe
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