Wikipedia describes Robert Lanza as “an American medical doctor, scientist, Chief Scientific Officer of Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) and Adjunct Professor at the Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Wake Forest University School of Medicine.” He has substantial accomplishments, including being the first person to clone an endangered species (the gaur), to develop a way to harvest embryonic stem cells without destroying an embryo, and to inject stem cells into humans to treat genetic diseases.
So it’s very strange that he’s now vetting a strange theory that falls within his dubious theory of “biocentrism.” I don’t know much about that theory, but it appears to combine quantum physics and biology as the basis for a new “theory of everything” that ultimately rests on human consciousness.
Sound familiar? Indeed, Lanza seems to be venturing into the Kingdom of Deepakia. That’s pretty evident in a new article in the Independent, “Is there an afterlife? The science of biocentrism can prove there is, claims professor Robert Lanza.”
According to the article, Lanza maintains that there is an afterlife, or, rather, that death is simply an illusion. The language he uses to describe that hypothesis is distressingly similar to that employed by Chopra:
The answer, Professor Robert Lanza says, lies in quantum physics – specifically the theory of biocentrism. The scientist, from Wake Forest University School of Medicine in North Carolina, says the evidence lies in the idea that the concept of death is a mere figment of our consciousness.
Professor Lanza says biocentrism explains that the universe only exists because of an individual’s consciousness of it – essentially life and biology are central to reality, which in turn creates the universe; the universe itself does not create life. The same applies to the concepts of space and time, which Professor Lanza describes as “simply tools of the mind”.
In a message posted on the scientist’s website, he explains that with this theory in mind, the concept of death as we know it is “cannot exist in any real sense” as there are no true boundaries by which to define it. Essentially, the idea of dying is something we have long been taught to accept, but in reality it just exists in our minds.
No true boundaries? What about a flat-lined brain or the inability to get up and walk about after you’ve been pronounced dead? Thus we once again encounter the notion that nothing exists in reality; it’s all in our consciousness. And that idea is supported by dubious references to cosmology and physics:
Professor Lanza says biocentrism is similar to the idea of parallel universes – a concept hypothesised by theoretical physicists. In much the same way as everything that could possibly happen is speculated to be occurring all at once across multiple universes, he says that once we begin to question our preconceived concepts of time and consciousness, the alternatives are huge and could alter the way we think about the world in a way not seen since the 15th century’s “flat earth” debate.
He goes on to use the so-called double-slit experiment as proof that the behaviour of a particle can be altered by a person’s perception of it. In the experiment, when scientists watch a particle pass through a multi-holed barrier, the particle acts like a bullet travelling through a single slit. When the article is not watched, however, the particle moves through the holes like a wave.
Scientists argue that the double-slit experiment proves that particles can act as two separate entities at the same time, challenging long-established ideas of time and perception.
But of course we know that the results of the double-slit experiment don’t depend on human consciousness, for the dualities can be seen using non-conscious, mechanical detectors. Certainly the results of quantum physics have challenged our ability to have an easy and intuitive understanding of how nature works, but how that makes us immortal defies my understanding. Does the concept of “parallel universes” (which, by the way, is still speculative) mean that there’s a universe in which we live forever? Does the “many worlds” interpretation mean that at the moment of our “death,” the universe bifurcates, creating one in which we’re immortal? I don’t think so.
Here’s a thought: if death depends on an individual’s consciousness, does that mean that nobody would die under anesthesia? Or would all of humanity need to be anesthetized?
Maybe I don’t understand this stuff—I haven’t read Lanza’s theory and this is, after all, a newspaper article—but it’s worrisome that Lanza starts speaking Chopran at the end of the piece:
Although the idea is rather complicated, Professor Lanza says it can be explained far more simply using colours. Essentially, the sky may be perceived as blue, but if the cells in our brain were changed to make the sky look green, was the sky ever truly blue or was that just our perception?
In terms of how this affects life after death, Professor Lanza explains that, when we die, our life becomes a “perennial flower that returns to bloom in the multiverse”. He added: “Life is an adventure that transcends our ordinary linear way of thinking. When we die, we do so not in the random billiard-ball-matrix but in the inescapable-life-matrix.”
That last sentence would do credit to The Deepak himself.
If you’ve read Lanza’s book on biocentrism (still #858 on Amazon, 3.5 years after publication) and know this theory of immortality, please explain it below. Right now I’m simply baffled how an M.D. scientist (who, unlike Chopra, has substantial accomplishments under his belt) can venture into such territory. But I bet the public laps it up, just as the Independent did. After all, who wants to die?
I would love to be a flower perennially blooming in the multiverse, but the evidence is that one day I’m going to wilt.