I am a hiker
All my life I have learned from nature what I could not learn from books or university.
I’m perplexed by a big question.
Are we at a similar point of history as Sir Isaac was when that apple dropped?
It wasn’t that Newton discovered gravity.
He unified Galileo’s earth and Kepler’s heavens into a theory embracing both heaven and earth with only one principle that mattered — gravity.
Sir Isaac Newton’s First Unification became the standard by which scientists hoped to unify various other branches of science.
The Second Unification Theory came 150 years later when James Clerk Maxwell unified electricity and magnetism the same way Sir Isaac unified heaven and earth.
Since then scientists have tried to find a way of unifying the entire universe which is based upon five forces in nature — gravity, electricity, magnetism, weak and strong forces into a Grand Unification Theory.
Progress was made in unifying the weak force with the strong force, and that with electromagnetism. Still, it left out gravity. And barely anyone in science believed a Third Grand Unification theory, uniting everything in nature, would be achieved in the foreseeable future.
As Norway’s leading science writer, Tor Norretranders, put it,
. . . new theories, such as chaos, fractals, self-organization and complexity . . . turned the spotlight on our everyday lives. . . [but] science has a tough time answering the questions children ask — questions about the shape nature takes, about trees, mountain ranges and flowers.
I too have those same questions.
Could the Answer Be Right Beneath Our Noses?
Is it right there in front of us — maybe inside us as well — that a Grand Unifying Force is operative, but that scientists are loath to take a peek?
Allow me — clearly I’m not a scientist and won’t get sneers from peers — so allow me to take a shot at a possible answer.
I’m sitting right now, surrounded by a stout stand of piñon pines as I write this. The piñons spawned a bonanza of nuts this year, more than anyone can ever recall piñons birthing before. It created a mammoth crowd of nut harvesters, of course.
But, what amazes me in my ingenuousness, is how such tiny nuts can contain tinier cells with such complex encryption that they potentially give birth to other cells with such a myriad of information in each to create all aspects of another piñon tree’s growth — its bark, needles, leaves, cones nuts and complex pathways for nutrition to rise from roots to branches of a full-grown piñon pine tree that will in turn procreate new piñon nuts.
A tiny piñon nut stores so vast an amount of information that it would take a computing i-cloud vaster than Google’s capabilities to store it all.
And this is just the piñon part of the universe.
Similar creation potential is present in everything, everywhere in the universe, even in rocks and sand, for each grain “knows” how to respond to the forces of nature — where to go and how, when gravity, weather, winds and whatever other forces come along to push it around.
The problem for science — it seems to me — is making unified sense of all that is going on out there in the universe, at both the micro-quantum base and the macro-dark hole-dark matter-dark energy level.
What Would a Grand Unification Theory Achieve?
I’d like to return briefly to the science writer I quoted above, Tor Norretranders.
In his book, The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size, he said:
Theories about chaos and fractals have captured great general interest because they contain genuine new insights and have brought with them a completely new aesthetic form, especially with fractals as computer graphics.
The most interesting aspect of this is that, combined, these fields contain a series of dramatic conceptual innovations that may lead to the Third Grand Unification, not a theory unifying gravity and atomic theory, but a unification of science and everyday life.
A theory that will explain in the same breath the beginning of the universe and everyday consciousness; a theory that will explain why concepts of meaning, say, are related to such concepts as black holes.
I wonder about this too. So now then, here is the bête noire of the Grand Unification Question — the mystery of consciousness.
The Biggest Wonder
What is it that unites all the billions of sense impressions that our eyes see, ears hear, skin feels and we intuit — bringing it all together instantly into a single impression of what’s going on out there in the world around us?
Consider that the billions of bits of sense data that our body receives from the world, arriving every second, at varying speeds, from varying distances, as well as varying speeds of electro-chemical impulses shooting through our nerve circuitry within us.
What is it that takes these billions of bits of sense data and unifies them into what makes it all appear as one continual imagery — right NOW?
The Eyes Have It
Each of my eyes takes in its view of things, but I see only one unified view. I don’t see two images, one from each eye.
Furthermore, the eye is like a camera, seeing everything upside down on the retina at the rear of the eyeball.
Something takes the visual data from the two eyes and turns it all right side up into a convincing view of reality.
The Search for the Something that Pulls It All Together
A host of scientists are studying human brain and nerve functions.
They tell us that the billions of impulses triggering the synapses of the neural network within us, arrive into the brain at amazingly different time lapses. The impulses speed along the neural thread-ways to the brain from our common everyday awareness of the world around us.
Something is going on inside us to bring it all together into ONE coherent image. That’s as mystifying to scientists today as it was to Aristotle 2500 years ago.
I know that I never see the same mountain twice, for it changes with shadows, rain, snow, sun and moonlight. And I also am changing from moment to moment as blood flows through the veins and thoughts pass through mind.
But still, I sense my oneness with the trees, mountains, sage and canyon walls as I drop all ideas from mind and go with the flow. The experience is incontrovertible.
The Eastern Perspective
The East has a millenia-old tradition of studying the inner workings of human nature. It stretches back at least 4,000 years. And they weren’t hand-cuffed by Western logic and reason in their exploration.
They came to the view that, at rock-bottom, everything has the same basic substratum of consciousness. All things know what to do next in response to all natural forces.
Aren’t today’s physicists beginning to confront this quandary at the quantum level? Isn’t this where Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle leaves off and speculation begins, and where we face the foggy mists of dark energy and dark matter?
They appear to be at the limits of sense perception with the best their instruments can provide, yet know there is still something BIG moving things around out beyond the threshold of human sense perception.
This is where James Clerk Maxwell left it on his deathbed, saying
What is done by what is called myself is, I feel, done by something greater than myself in me.
This “greater than myself in me” will baffle science until . . .
Could this be the reason so many scientists are increasingly interested in Eastern philosophy and the chit (consciousness) in its satchitananda (being, consciousness, bliss)?