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Eugene Weekly : News : 09.14.06

Waves of Possibility

Amit Goswami ponders creating our own reality.

By Eva Sylwester   

Quantum physics — as well as an unconventional understanding of evolution — can link the realms of science and religion, UO theoretical physicist Amit Goswami told nearly 120 people at the Eugene Public Library's monthly First Friday event Sept. 1.

As described in Goswami's 2000 book The Visionary Window: A Quantum Physicist's Guide to Enlightenment, quantum physics does not accept the following principles that most branches of science accept: causal determinism, the idea that every change or movement of an object is determined by the object's initial conditions and the material forces that act on it; the idea that all movement and change is continuous; the idea that all causes and effects are local; the idea that the material world is independent of consciousness of its observers; material monism, which holds that everything is made of atoms; and epiphenomenalism, which holds that all subjective phenomena such as consciousness are secondary effects of interactions of matter.

Instead, quantum physics holds that objects are waves of possibility, and consciousness collapses the quantum possibility wave to actuality. Goswami said that the individual consciousness of each person is actually part of one large, shared consciousness.

"Beyond individuality, there's always this oneness, and if we can access this oneness, then we can say we are in charge. We can create our own reality," Goswami said, adding that this ability to create reality only occurs in a non-ordinary state of consciousness. In his lecture, Goswami, who appeared in the 2004 movie What The Bleep Do We Know?, focused on the concept of quantum leaps. The term specifically refers to the jumping of electrons from one atomic orbit to another, but is more broadly used to mean any significant discontinuity in a given process.

These quantum leaps may also be present in evolution. While microevolution is demonstrably true, Goswami said the available data does not support Charles Darwin's extrapolation of microevolution to the sort of macroevolution that generated humans from lower primates, or birds from reptiles, because there are too few intermediary species in the fossil record. Goswami said what may explain gaps in the fossil record would be changes in consciousness, or changes enacted by God.

UO biology professor Patrick Phillips, a member of the UO's Center for Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, did not attend Goswami's lecture, but said, "The general idea that there aren't intermediates is wrong — it's a data collection problem." Scientists have only been collecting fossils for about 100 years, he explained, and fossils are difficult to find because they rarely form and form better in some conditions than in others. For instance, there is a much more extensive fossil record for hard-shelled organisms that lived at the bottom of the ocean than there is for primate species.

Goswami also differs from mainstream biologists in that he believes evolution has direction. He also said that though many spiritual traditions say humans were created in God's image, this does not mean humans were created perfectly, because perfect things cannot evolve.

Phillips said it is true that biologists do not believe in an endpoint of evolution, although they have observed trends in increasing complexity and increasing numbers of cells and genes within organisms.

As Goswami described the history of the world, the Paradise spoken of in the Bible and other religious texts refers to the era when early human hunter-gatherers, who had no higher thought than their physical existence, discovered horticulture, which led to men and women working together and discovering the realm of emotions. Paradise ended when the development of agriculture necessitated the development of reasoning, which separated humans from God. The next step in humanity's evolution will be the integration of processing emotions and processing meaning, which Goswami said would regain Paradise.

Prior to Darwin, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck proposed a system of evolution in which traits are acquired rather than inherited. For instance, the child of a bodybuilder would be born with unnaturally large muscles as a result of the parent's workouts. This system is currently discredited within biology.

However, Goswami said that certain characteristics do evolve in a Lamarckian manner, especially instincts such as the negative emotions that lead to violence. For instance, if a critical mass of people on Earth — some unknown quantity between one and everyone — chose to transform their negative emotions to love, a shift of consciousness could potentially be brought about.

"In this way, evolution is not far off," Goswami said, adding that a change in the next 600 to 650 years could be possible.

Phillips said that evolution is defined as genetic change. There are ideas of cultural evolution, he added, but these forms of change are not genetic, so they would not necessarily be permanent if the environment changed, as changes derived from genetic evolution would be.

Goswami identifies his own religious affiliation as "generic mysticism." He was raised Hindu, but said he sees truth in all great traditions at their esoteric core. As he wrote in The Visionary Window, "I believe that the integration of science and spirituality will enable the different spiritual traditions to acknowledge their underlying unity. … Diversity of religions will of course remain, but superimposed on an underlying unity."

According to the movie's website, What The Bleep Do We Know? was produced by three students of Ramtha's School of Enlightenment. The school in Yelm, Wash., promotes the teachings of a 35,000 year-old spirit named Ramtha whom school founder JZ Knight says that she channels. Goswami said Ramtha's School of Enlightenment has invited him to lecture there on multiple occasions because his theory allows for the existence of channeling, in that the mind and vital energy survive the death of the physical body, but said he has not been personally involved with the school beyond giving those lectures.