on 12 May 2013
The Universe in a Nutshell is great, as far as it goes - but that is not at all far enough. Why does Hawking omit even to mention the many anomalous phenomena which demonstrate that his - the conventional - scientific understanding of our universe is seriously lacking?
Stephen Hawking is uniquely and universally admired and respected for outstanding personal courage in confronting severely-debilitating illness, for exceptional innovative thinking, and for lectures, books - like The Universe in a Nutshell - and television programmes which have widened and deepened popular interest in science. In pursuing his goal - which, he has said, is to achieve a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is, and why it exists at all - he has demonstrated that major advances in scientific knowledge can arise from fundamental theoretical consideration.
If only he would turn his brilliantly-insightful intellectual ability to the remarkable, well-attested anomalies that challenge our understanding of the nature of reality of human experience. Einstein said: "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science". However, science and Hawking in particular seems largely determined to ignore many significant mysteries, the number and nature of which are such that they clearly show that the current commonly-accepted scientific view of reality must be far from complete. What may seem to be mysterious or anomalous can turn out, of course, to be due to error, artifact or even fraud, and the unscientific "new age" or "occult" are of no interest or value in this context. As a retired pragmatic professional scientist and engineer, my reference is to only those anomalies for which the evidence is so robust that they cannot be dismissed or explained away, as is the case in the following examples, for which chapter and verse are available.
There are many recorded instances of one identical twin being hurt - in one case by being shot dead - and the other, elsewhere, not only simultaneously feeling pain, but even suffering a bruise in the same place on the body. It has been shown in laboratory studies that the sudden shining of a bright light into the eyes of a subject evokes electrical responses in the brain of the subject as expected, but also, simultaneously, in the brain of a distant person who has been in recent close association with the subject. Further, the results of numerous, extensive, rigorously-controlled, replicated studies, particularly those independently carried out in New York, Edinburgh and Gothenburg have demonstrated that information can be anomalously transferred between individuals with odds of greater than a thousand million to one against it having been by chance.
A meticulously controlled, five-year research study led by the Professor of Experimental Physics at the University of London demonstrated that, purely by the exercise of intention,children can produce measurable mechanical electrical, magnetic and structural effects in metals.
Devices which produce outputs of random sequences of zeros and ones have been used at Princeton University to study the effect of human intention at the sub-atomic level. More than two decades of scientific studies have shown consistently that such sequences can be influenced by the pre-stated volition to produce, for example, more zeros than ones - or vice-versa. The substantial body of accumulated data is such that the statistical odds against the results being due to chance are many million millions to one.
Impartial analyses have been made of the results of thirty formal scientific investigations into attempts by intention alone to influence the autonomic nervous systems of distant persons. The inescapable conclusion was that there were characteristic, significant biological variations during distant intentionality periods when compared with randomly interspersed control periods. The results of a specific, exhaustive, two-year laboratory research programme at The Connecticut Health Centre show that human intention is reproducibly able to promote the growth of human tissue.
Recent acoustic investigations have demonstrated repeatedly that the characteristics of sounds made normally - for example, by rapping a tabletop with knuckles - differ significantly from those produced as meaningful responses to questions by an apparently non-material consciousness. Although indistinguishable to the ear, normally-produced sounds show an almost-instantaneous rise to peak amplitude, whereas the anomalous sounds have a significantly slower rise to peak, similar to that shown by an earthquake.
Many hundreds of in-depth studies have been made of children, mainly between three and eight years of age, who say spontaneously that they have lived previous lives. In a normal waking state they typically give details about distant places, previous families, occupations and circumstances of death .Thorough investigations find close correspondences between apparent memories and historical facts. The findings are especially remarkable in the cases where a child bears a scar corresponding in nature and location to the injury which, research reveals, was responsible for the death that ended the remembered previous existence.
There are many recorded cases of individuals involuntarily having more than one personality, with uncontrollable switching between personalities. The personalities can differ very significantly in age, gender and character There are even cases of one personality in two people at the same time.
A common feature of these remarkable anomalies is mind, or consciousness, which itself must surely be the biggest anomaly of all. It is not explained or even mentioned by materialistic theories of reality that are based on belief in the primacy of the material world. However, relativity and quantum mechanics have demonstrated the inter-connectedness of everything, and that space and time are not absolutes, but also that an observer - or consciousness - is an implicit component of the reality that we experience. The steadily-accumulating evidence strongly indicates that consciousness is not just a function of the physical brain - nor confined to it. Our understanding of reality is moving in the direction of a new paradigm, one in which the primary reality is mind, rather than matter.
Brilliant scientists who have recognized the fundamental significance of consciousness in the fabric of reality notably include Sir Arthur Eddington, Max Planck, Sir James Jeans, and Hawking's contemporaries, Professors Sir Roger Penrose, Brian Josephson, and Bernard Carr - who was once a student of Stephen Hawking at Cambridge. All things considered, however, it seems that Hawking could be uniquely able to initiate and stimulate radical new scientific thinking which could lead to a more complete understanding of the nature of reality that includes consciousness. Such progress would surely be the most important advance ever made in science - and merit Nobel recognition.