Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Planck, Consciousness, God & Heaven

Brendan Loy, stirred by research he read in the June issue of Discover, wonders if heaven is at the Planck length. It is an interesting post and worth reading. Loy "discovers" the intersection between the soul, heaven, past lives, consciousness and quantum mechanics.

There are some interesting books that bat these ideas around and I'll include a couple here at the end of the post. Someone very curious about these questions is the Dalai Lama. He has questioned, challenged and pestered some of the West's eminent scientists for answers to these existential questions. He doesn't believe science is at odds with religious belief at all. More than a couple scientists have been appalled by the suggestion that what everyone from Moses to King David and his son Solomon to Buddha to Jesus Christ to the Dalai Lama to Max Planck and David Bohm are all describing the same phenomena in different ways. More than a couple theologians are horrified at reducing the soul to the material.

That doesn't mean that people aren't directly or indirectly studying the "soul". Richard J. Davidson, Ph.D. of the University of Wisconsin has been doing seminal work using functional MRIs to assess the connection between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala in the regulation of emotion. What does this have to do with the "soul"? Well, Buddhist monks have been studied because they have the ability to control what shouldn't be controllable--"gut reactions" and emotions.

And where do emotions come from? And why do the emotions of one person affect another person? The discussion of emotions easily stumbles into the area of the "spirit". (Define "bad attitude" or "bad mood", for example. Scientists still don't know what a mood is.) And then there are the notions of shared experiences and how barriers in one part of the species gets broken down and then the whole species can break the barrier. For example, it used to be thought that no one could break the four minute mile, but once Roger Bannister did, lots of people could. This phenomenon is demonstrated in rats and other primates, too. Once one member of the species masters a task, somehow, the information is shared everywhere. But how?

Carl Jung posited a notion of collective unconscious building off of Sigmund Freud's ground-breaking notion of the unconscious. Still other scientists studying in the relatively new field of evolutionary psychology seek a biological, adaptive explanation for the soul. They probably wouldn't call it the soul. They'd call it "human nature." Some evolutionary psychologists have put forth the idea that what many religions call "past lives" is in fact, a form of genetic memory. I personally ascribe to this theory--the idea that the "unused" parts of the cell actually house memory from throughout time. Thus, instincts, inborn morality (innate notion of right and wrong--why do all cultures proscribe brothers and sisters marrying, for example), déja vu, spontaneous language proficiency or foreign accent following brain injury, and other weird neurophenomena can be explained biologically--maybe at the Planckian level.

And then, what of the "sense of being stared at" or, as Bruce Greyson cited in the Discover article studies, Near Death Experiences? We have all felt being watched or described holes being bored into the backs of our heads. This phenomenon has been demonstrated by humans and animals. We "see" without our eyes. We look directly at the source of the staring. How do we do this? We aren't being touched, at least not physically, or at least not grossly physically. Perhaps we're being touched at the Planckian level.

For a biblical perspective on the soul here's an interesting little article. Solomon says this about it:

Ecclesiastes 12:7 "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return to God who gave it."
I welcome more research into the mind, soul, and spirit. It is fascinating. Truly, we humans are "fearfully and wonderfully made". (I'm sorry, but this is where I part with some in the scientific community. It stretches reason to believe the intricate, elegant, complicated, yet simple processes concomitant with life are the result of a Big Bang or "Big Wow" happy accident. A creation demands a creator, and a smart One at that.)

Here's to the mind that can study the mind.


Anonymous said...

This is a fascinating post and a fascinating concept. I am convinced that we live in a day and age where we are going to tap into these "mysteries" more and more.

Anonymous said...

I love it when you post some good books. I just ordered some since I am so fascinated with this subject.

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