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Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe Paperback – May 18, 2010
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Houston Chronicle's Eric Berger, SciGuy blog
What makes this book both interesting and worth the effort of reading it; is the unique perspective Lanza brings to the subject matter as a physician. ... From the way [Lanza] chooses to present his arguments, it's clear he has a solid grasp of esoteric disciplines like quantum theory, special relativity and particle physics. And what makes his presentation more compelling than other efforts I've encountered is his ability and willingness to weave personal experience into the thoughts and ideas presented. His style is conversational and warm which tends to pull you along through the exposition gently. And his sense of wonder and befuddlement at shop worn enigmas like the double slit experiment, Bell's theorem, non-locality and Schrödinger's cat is as infectious as it is delightful ... I very much like what Lanza has to say in Biocentrism.”
Midwest Book Review
Endorsements for Robert Lanza’s essay on which Biocentrism is based:
For several days now I have read and reread your article and thought about it. Like a brief history of time’ it is indeed stimulating and brings biology into the whole. Any short statement does not do justice to such a scholarly work. Almost every society of mankind has explained the mystery of our surroundings and being by invoking a god or group of gods. Scientists work to acquire objective answers from the infinity of space or the inner machinery of the atom. Lanza proposes a biocentrist theory which ascribes the answer to the observer rather than the observed. The work is a scholarly consideration of science and philosophy that brings biology into the central role in unifying the whole. The book will appeal to an audience of many different disciplines because it is a new way of looking at the old problem of our existence. Most importantly, it makes you think.”
E. Donnall Thomas
Thomas was awarded the 1990 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine. He is Professor Emeritus at the University of Washington and Director Emeritus of the Clinical Research Division at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
It is genuinely an exciting piece of work. I am very familiar with some of the things you say. The idea that consciousness creates reality has quantum support, as you suggest, and also coheres with some of the things biology and neuroscience are telling us about the structures of our being. To put what you are doing in a larger context, it exhibits a dramatic new Copernican reversal. Just as we now know that the sun doesn’t really move but we do (we are the active agents), so you are suggesting that we are the entities that give meaning to the particular configuration of all possible outcomes we call reality. I think this is a great project.”
Green is the Eunice and Julian Cohen Professor for the Study of Ethics and Human Values, and Director of Dartmouth College’s Ethics Institute. Professor Green is a well-known religious studies scholar and former Chairman of the Department of Religion
Robert Lanza, a world renowned scientist who has spanned many fields from drug delivery to stem cells to preventing animal extinction, and clearly one of the most brilliant minds of our times, has done it again. A New Theory of the Universe’ takes into account all the knowledge we have gained over the last few centuries, and correlates them to our own beings, placing in perspective our biologic limitations that have impeded our understanding of greater truths surrounding our existence and the universe around us. This new theory is certain to revolutionize our concepts of the laws of nature for centuries to come.”
Atala is an internationally recognized scientist, and the W.H. Boyce Professor, Chair, and Director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine.
As an astrophysicist, I focus my attention on objects that are very large and very far away, ignoring the whole issue of consciousness as a critical part of the Universe. Reading Robert Lanza’s work is a wake-up call to all of us that even on the grandest scale we still depend on our minds to experience reality. Issues of quantum weirdness” do have a place in the macroscopic world. Time and space do depend on perception. We can go about our daily lives and continue to study the physical Universe as if it exists as an objective reality (because the probabilities allow that degree of confidence), but we do so with a better awareness of an underlying biological component, thanks to Dr. Lanza. I cannot speak for NASA or other NASA scientists, but personally I look forward to hearing a more detailed explanation of this biocentric view of the Universe from Dr. Lanza.”
Thompson is an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. His contributions include the building and flying of prototypes of EGRET, which was launched by the Space Shuttle Atlantis in 1991. He is currently with the Astroparticle Physics Laboratory, and has received both the Goddard Space Flight Center & NASA Group Exceptional Achievement Awards.
Yes, it is appropriate to ask whether our perception of space and time is a consequence of our particular neurophysiology. Yes, it is appropriate to ask how it happened that the conditions worked out to be just right for life to appear somehow on earth and then to evolve from the archaea through the eukaryotes to us. ... I’ll bet the book gets a good audience. And I like to see books published that challenge my own ideas and thoughts in ways that make me think, but not ones that simply throw dogma at me. The essay is definitely of the former kind.”
R. Stephen Berry
Berry is James Franck Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus, Department of Chemistry, University of Chicago. Professor Berry is a member (and recent Home Secretary) of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences. He was also former Vice President of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and MacArthur Prize Genius” Fellow.
Science has a token of freedom that motivates scientists to study all logical possibilities that may explain the world. Robert Lanza has come up with an innovative approach to investigate reality from the viewpoint of biology. His article demands an answer to the question of whether scientists have exhausted all possible tools for studying nature. Can science bring biology into grand unified theory? A solution is suggested that involves a new concept, biocentrism. Lanza goes beyond the individual human attribute calling for interconnectedness among all living creatures forming the fundamental basis for understanding reality. A book that expands upon this unique approach is warranted, not only to alert society, but to call on it to test this novel new hypothesis.”
Kletetschka is a geophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. He is also a Research Professor of Physics at Catholic University of America and leading scientist working on the James Web Space Telescope.
It’s a masterpiecetruly a magnificent essay. Bob Lanza is to be congratulated for a fresh and highly erudite look at the question of how perception and consciousness shape reality and common experience. His monograph combines a deep understanding and broad insight into 20th century physics and modern biological science; in so doing, he forces a reappraisal of this hoary epistemological dilemma. Not all will agree with the proposition he advances, but most will find his writing eminently readable and his arguments both convincing and challenging. Bravo.”
Lysaght is Professor of Medical Science and Engineering at Brown University and Director of Brown’s Center for Biomedical Engineering.
About the Author
Robert Lanza was taken under the wing of scientific giants such as psychologist B.F. Skinner, immunologist Jonas Salk, and heart transplant pioneer Christiaan Barnard. His mentors described him as a genius,’ a renegade thinker,’ even likening him to Einstein himself.” US News & World Report cover story
Robert Lanza has been exploring the frontiers of science for more than four decades, and is considered one of the leading scientists in the world. He is currently Chief Scientific Officer at Advanced Cell Technology, and Adjunct Professor at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. He has several hundred publications and inventions, and 20 scientific books, among them, Principles of Tissue Engineering, which is recognized as the definitive reference in the field. Others include One World: The Health & Survival of the Human Species in the 21st Century (with a foreword by President Jimmy Carter), and the Handbook of Stem Cells and Essentials of Stem Cell Biology, which are considered the definitive references in stem cell research.
Dr. Lanza received his B.A. and M.D. degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, where he was both a University Scholar and Benjamin Franklin Scholar. He was also a Fulbright Scholar, and was part of the team that cloned the world’s first human embryo, as well as the first to clone an endangered species, to demonstrate that nuclear transfer could reverse the aging process, and to generate stem cells using a method that does not require the destruction of human embryos. Dr. Lanza was awarded the 2005 Rave Award for Medicine by Wired magazine, and received the 2006 All Star” Award for Biotechnology by Mass High Tech.
Dr. Lanza and his research have been featured in almost every media outlet in the world, including all the major television networks, CNN, Time, Newsweek, People magazine, as well as the front pages of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today, among others. Lanza has worked with some of the greatest thinkers of our time, including Nobel Laureates Gerald Edelman and Rodney Porter. Lanza worked closely with B.F. Skinner at Harvard University. Lanza and Skinner (the Father of Modern Behaviorism”) published a number of scientific papers together. He has also worked with Jonas Salk (discoverer of the polio vaccine) and heart transplant pioneer Christiaan Barnard.
this is a fascinating guy” David Letterman
fasten your seatbelts and hold on tight” Astronomy magazine
Bob Berman is the most widely read astronomer in the world. Author of more than one thousand published articles, in publications such as Discover and Astronomy magazine, where he is a monthly columnist, he is also astronomy editor of The Old Farmer’s Almanac and the author of four books. He is adjunct professor of astronomy at Marymount College, and writes and produces a weekly show on Northeast Public Radio, aired during NPR’s Weekend Edition.
- Publisher : BenBella Books; 1st edition (May 18, 2010)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 200 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1935251740
- ISBN-13 : 978-1935251743
- Item Weight : 9.5 ounces
- Dimensions : 6.36 x 0.6 x 9.02 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #17,692 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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I love and respect science. All the tremendous, beneficial and downright fascinating discoveries we have made on behalf of mankind! I trust deeply upon my Christian faith and understanding of Scriptures to make overall sense of everything I take in. I probably should pay more attention to both faith and science. This book provided a wonderful incentive to do just that.
“Biocentrism” made the most recent discoveries of quantum physics accessible to a person who never had to take a single physics course to graduate high school, college or post-graduate studies. Fascinating evidence that nothing truly “exists” in the absence of a conscious observer, except as waves of probability.
Lanza writes with honesty and in places, surprising humor. He gives us glimpses of the parts of his own consciousness a Christ-believer such as I might call “soul” – as when he tells of the loss of two loved ones, and how he relates his thoughts and experience of these losses to his theory of biocentrism.
Lanza and Berman consistently eschew “religion,” preferring to insist on scientific method, undergirded by secular philosophy, as the keys to understanding ultimate reality (make no mistake, this is about ultimate reality). This is a respectful treatment of the epistemological gap between empiricism and faith, from the empiricist’s viewpoint. Lanza even provides us with a plausible scientific basis for belief in an afterlife, though he encourages us to realize it’s his own speculation. I think of the authors as looking across that narrow but very distinct chasm between what St. Augustine called the “city of man” and the “city of God.” And longing for what’s on the other side.
Lanza peers into the realm of what science does not know. He admits that quarks, seemingly pure energy and the smallest, most indivisible particles we’re aware of, have observable features suggesting that even they may have a knowable structure of sub-parts. He says “… one must consider the endless ongoing attempts at creating GUTs- grand unified theories… without much success except as a way of financially facilitating the careers of theoreticians and grad students. Nor have they even “felt right.”
At least in this book, that step (not a leap!) across the narrow chasm is not taken. To what extent is that because the authors felt pressure to hold to a certain decorum in order to not completely lose standing among their scientific peers, or is it truly the state of their soul? I find myself cheering for them to play Nicodemus, the Pharisee who was so intrigued with Jesus that he waited until night so he could visit him, undetected. Nicodemus, the apostle John tells us, helped to embalm the crucified Christ’s body.
Most intriguing to me in this book, were the connections I found between the discoveries of quantum physics over the last 20-30 years regarding the prerequisite of an observer in order that matter “materialize” from probability waves of energy, and the Judaeo-Christian Bible’s description of the things we can know about God.
Is there a place for the honest scientist to consider Lanza’s perception that the best “theories of everything” have not felt right? In a biocentric universe, consciousness is everything and “feelings” are indeed a component of consciousness. Even the most rigorously empirical scientist must allow that at the end of the data analysis, it is her “feelings” about those empirical findings that lead her into the next set of questions, the next area of inquiry.
As a person of faith, I read with interest the details of the double-slit experiment and the simultaneously opposite behavior of entangled photons even when miles apart. I could not stop my mind from going to the Nicene Creed and its teachings on the nature of the triune God. Or to the first chapter of John’s gospel, which spoke of Christ’s ultimate nature 1900 or so years before mankind’s capacity to study quantum physics:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind… the true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.”
Lanza’s Biocentrism would seem to require an omniscient, omnipresent and eternal observer. On the other side of the narrow gap between empiricism and theism, which can be negotiated with a rational step as well as with Kierkegaard’s desperate leap, we call that observer, “God.” It is consistent with Biocentrism that the distance to cross, is a matter of what each person perceives it to be.
I left Lanza and Berman’s work wondering if the more we learn from today’s quantum physics, and the more we acquaint ourselves with the millenniums-old Judaeo-Christian teachings on God, the easier that step to take.
"Quantum physics for the seeker" is how I think of it.
I've read a few books that impressed me over the years. This one, though, is different in that it combines 'two worlds'.
I've tended toward a split psychology, I guess. I was naturally drawn to see the workings of things, mechanics, physics, logic. Yet always I wanted the deeper answers as to what it was all about. To the extent that I found those answers they were found in reading and experience that was almost the diametric opposite of the physical, logical world; "In the head" vs. measurable, touchable reality. Two different things.
Maybe you've heard about someone's "When I first read the Bible" or "My first meditation" sort of experience. Well, this one is more powerful than that, in that it COMBINES the core questions of existence with 'scientific', that is, actual physical/experimental, proof.
I have, indeed, read a good few 'spiritually-oriented' books. My experience with them has always been that once I put them down, I am again faced with the same humdrum daily 'existence' of house, work, tromping about in that same old body, etc; 'physical reality' reasserts itself, and it's easy to feel that those deeply felt Truths I read just the other day were nothing but dreams, and 'this' <stomp on floor> is 'reality'.
Herein, you will be confronted with the limits of 'physical reality' in a way that you cannot avoid through the usual 'logic' of the modern mind. This is the result of SCIENCE, not speculation. Flip the switch, the light turns on. Push that lever, and the toilet flushes.
Doctor Lanza is a research scientist in biology. Yet somehow from his youth he has maintained the ability to ask the Large Questions.
In this book, he has lain out a framework for answering them, based upon scientifically-derived reality, rather than just another 'spiritual perspective'.
I suppose by now you've seen at least one or two quotes about how amazing and bizarre the apparent implications of quantum physics are - Well, this drills down on them, and lays out the startling implications quite clearly.
For me, the small cost of the book was easily justified by one chapter alone, where he talks about those experiments with particles going through two slits... Do you remember hearing about that? Matter is also a wave, right? Well, I thought I had 'heard about it', too, along with some over-enthusiastic interpretations (- as I thought at the time).
He describes in sufficient (though not horribly technical) detail how those experiments were laid out, and what they showed. They showed MUCH more than just wave/particle duality!!
He lays out an implied world-view that is as radically different from our current standard as one can imagine, and does so in an ineluctably logical fashion.
Have a look in here, and get a real glimpse. I think it will tickle you in a very deep place. It did me.
Thank you, Robert Lanza and Bob Berman, for bringing us 'happy few' into a truly New Paradigm.
As you point out, it will probably take our society many long years before this becomes as well understood as the basic mechanics of Newton, but now we have truly begun.
It's like that opening scene in "2001...".
Top reviews from other countries
‘Creates’ the world or objects being observed seems to me like wanting to have your cake and eat it. Sure the experience of the universe only happens in the brain (for arguments sake, although why only in the brain?) - viz the tree falling in the forest actually makes no sound - it’s the sense organ of a conscious being that creates the sound but interpreting the vibrations. But there must be something there creating the vibrations in the case of sound or reflections in the case of the moon being observed for the sense organ to pick it up. The text seems to ride rough shod over cause and effect. If I create the moon by observing it - what are all the other people in the world seeing? Or am I the only person in the world? Fascinating book but far too many holes in the train of logic for me.
It is unfortunate that Lanza appears to take the line that physicists are not the folk to further knowledge in any way whatsoever in the area of consciousness. Yet he fails to say how he would further such knowledge or how he thinks it may be furthered. If the autobiographical sections were removed from this book, the remainder might read somewhat like the introduction to a proposal for work but with no consideration of the work that is required and/or how it may be approached. It does not address the issue of its own subheading “How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe”.
The warning is there before the book is opened. Lanza adds ‘MD’ after his name on the cover. Most authoritative works for popular consumption are not graced with the author’s graffiti on the cover. Respect for opinions need to be earned not demanded.
Despite the various issues outlined above, the work was interesting in so far as the subject matter gels with some other lines of interest that I am pursuing currently. I will therefore persevere and take a look at some of Lanza’s more recent work. There is indeed one glimmer of hope in the book. Lanza insists that physics is not the way to progress the understanding of consciousness. He seems to find it necessary to criticise not only ‘physics’ generally but also physicists. His aim appears to be to promote the idea that biology should take over from the point that physics has reached (This is arguably similar to events at the start of the twentieth century when physics took over from chemistry as the leading area of advancement). Then, at the very end, he concedes “It may take a multidisciplinary approach to achieve tangible results…”. Indeed, I could not agree more. However, this book does nothing to move towards that. It appears to try to drive wedges between the sciences and offers absolutely no suggestion as to how his “biocentrism” or the presumably larger field of “biology” can or will (given appropriate research) assist in the aim of understanding consciousness. It may be that it will need scientists more willing to build on what exists, rather than criticising it, to make progress.