I have had a theory for a long time. I have told a few people about it. Some try to look interested. I have tried to explain it in long emails to professors at various universities who refer me to someone else who doesn’t reply.
My theory requires many leaps of faith on subjects related to three complex disciplines: quantum physics, genetics and religion. I know little about any of these disciplines, which may cast some doubt on my theory but my theory is superficial enough that it is consistent with my superficial knowledge.
And actually, it is a stretch to claim I have even superficial knowledge in these areas of inquiry.
It all started in 1993 at Zion National Park. I was visiting the Park with a brainy doctor would go anywhere on a moment’s notice (he subsequently climbed Everest, ran the Boston Marathon and developed new protocols in obstetric anesthesiology while I was coming up with my theory). On a sunny afternoon on the deck of our hotel, overlooking one of the most beautiful places on earth, I read Chapter 3 of Fritjof Captra’s the Tao of Physics . I will always remember this as one of those wow moments in my life. The basic premise of Capra’s best selling book is that quantum physics is increasingly explaining the universe in a way that sounds a whole lot like eastern philosophy, that is, metaphysics. Much has been written about this since 1993. Even the Dalai Lama wrote a book about it, titled “The Universe in a Single Atom.” The short version: reality is not a bunch of independent objects and events with relationships to each other on a one way timeline. It is a continuous uninterrupted whole of simultaneous energy. There is an implication that the universe is the same as consciousness.
If you haven’t studied quantum physics, this is a lot to swallow but please apologize to the critical part of your brain for a few more minutes. I am also very confused.
Then a few years ago, I read a book and some articles about genetics. Thank you Sam Kean for writing “The Violinist’s Thumb.” I was especially interested in a study that suggested, contrary to our previous understanding of inherited traits, an environmental event can trigger DNA changes that show up generations later. The study showed that the grandchildren of men who faced starvation during puberty live 20 years longer, on average, than the grandchildren of men who didn’t. The important point is that there are DNA switches that are flipped by environmental events and the resulting changes in DNA can have an effect on progeny. Genes have memory.
So are you still with me?
And then there is what we call religion, or spirituality. Humans have been compelled since the beginning of human history to subscribe to superstition or religion, or in some way practice some form of spirituality. Humans search for meaning and what we call the soul in different ways. Some have worshiped fire and the hunt without particular dogma. At the next level might be those who follow someone else’s dogma without a lot of independent thought, like Southern Baptists. And there are those, like the Dalai Lama, whose dogma is a sort of wisdom and willingness to incorporate all kinds of thinking — scientific and religious — to form complex ideas about the nature of existence. To name just a few. No matter what our spiritual beliefs, they trigger something very deep and provide a kind of gratification that is very different from, say, how we feel after eating pizza or buying a new car.
So to review the three important points:
Number 1: Quantum physics increasingly posits that the universe is an uninterrupted whole and one with or similar to the concept of consciousness.
Number 2 Our genes have memory.
Number 3: Humans are compelled to be religious, spiritual, to want to understand the nature of existence.
When you add them all up, they seem to suggest one big thing:
Humans subconsciously know the essential nature of the universe and reality. This knowledge is a product of our genetic memory. Our genetic memory compels us to seek meaning in our daily lives as a proxy for a full conscious understanding of higher truth. The deeper the thinking (or understanding of consciousness), the closer we get to truth.
Probably this is not a new theory but I would like to know more if anyone knows more about it than I do.
I am not sure where to go from here. I welcome all suggestions.
I know a guy, Norbert Samuelson, last heard from at university of Arizona, who has a chair in the study of the crossroads of science and religion. Maybe he has a clue. Sorry, I’ve lost track of his contact info can’t help you there.
But your theory seems neither refutable nor verifiable. Why not just leave it at Wow!
Me, I’m totally convinced.
Where you writing us from?
Hi Steve, I will try to find your friend. I am in Athens for another month. xoxox
Interesting post, Kim! I have absolutely no idea what to suggest. Larry thinks you might like to read Heidegger.
This book: https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/being-world
Wendy, thank you for this suggestion. I am finally going to get a copy of the translation of Heidegger. Love.
There is no where to go
You are already there
Thanks for this!
Yes, that is ironic lesson of travel.
Hey girl, I think I follow you. To me what you describe is the absolute core of human evolution. We aren’t just evolving physically, we are evolving psychologically as a collective as well. I also read Tao of Physics, in its “bestseller” era of 1976 at Univ Santa Clara. It was viewed as breaking the borders of science into the humanities, which is where I think your theory lies. Let’s mix in epigenetics now, where psychologists are taking biology’s evidence that human experiences literally changes genes to finding therapies to address for example psychological disorders that are inheritable. Perhaps there is something there, more in the social sciences, where practical application of this idea is taking place. But my heavens, there you are in Greece. I feel Plato has something to say about this, too–along the lines of: we know everything, it just takes time for it to be revealed!
The cab drivers here in Athens would have something to add to my theory.
Hah, yes, the wisdom of cab drivers!
You’ve hooked me now, Kim.
I love your postulate: “Humans subconsciously know the essential nature of the universe and reality.” Clear, easily graspable, and…instantly verifiable at gut-level. My guy, anyway.
This is a non-linear tangent, I suppose, but it comes to mind whenever I consider that nature of reality… It is something I wrote (and discussed with three scientists in my cab) shortly after I had read Bill Bryson’s book “A Short History of Nearly Everything”:
The Swede has not read it, but both the younger guys have.
Me: “Do you remember the part about the NASA scientists who pointed the Hubble telescope
at an ‘empty’ speck of sky?”
Neither of them remembers, and now all three allow me to babble freely for a while—my
coffee has kicked in, and I’m driving, and they have little choice. “About fifteen years ago a
team of NASA scientists managed to commandeer the Hubble telescope for eleven straight
days, and for those eleven days they kept it pointed at a speck of sky that they described as
being the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length.” I extend my right arm out past the rearview
mirror and try to keep my thumb and index finger a hair’s width apart. “Previous scans
of this very same speck of sky had revealed zero emissions of light and zero emissions of radio
waves—zero emissions of anything. NASA was fully prepared to find it ‘empty,’ but they still
wanted to give it a try—just because you never know. And after those eleven straight days,
when they downloaded all their data, they found imagery produced by photons of light that
had traveled across space for thirteen billion years before hitting the Hubble’s receptors. And
this imagery showed that this ‘empty’ speck of sky contained three thousand galaxies. Three
thousand galaxies! And each of these three thousand galaxies contained hundreds of billions of
stars. Hundreds of billions! All of this in a speck of sky the size of a grain of sand.”
Cal Poly: “I remember that now.”
Scripps: “Me, too. And didn’t Bryson then juxtapose that data with other data showing
that, just like the universe, the human body, too, consists of almost nothing but space? Photons
traveling for thirteen billion years at the speed of light without hitting a thing cover a lot of
space—but, interestingly, we see similar space-to-matter ratios replicated inside the human
body. The human body contains trillions of atoms, all separated from each other by the same
relative distances that separate our own Milky Way from all the other uncountable galaxies
scattered throughout space. And if you keep going inward instead of outward, you find that
similar ratios also apply within each atom. The nucleus and the protons and electrons inside
each atom are relative light years apart. And when you break down those bits, it turns out that
they’re not really even ‘solid.’ They can perhaps best be described as vibrations. All matter is
unfathomably distant. None of it is stable. And human beings are nothing but vibrations.”
“So how’s my little cab driver pea-brain expected to process all that?”
The End… Looking forward to more from you, Kim… For now, I’m going to take this out into my day: “Humans subconsciously know the essential nature of the universe and reality.”
Wow, what a great story. I will borrow the taxi driver book from Mama Nanci when I get back to Oakland.