Parallels between the God Particle and the Hard Problem of Consciousness
The cover of the new issue of New Scientist highlights the improvements made to the Large Hadron Collider in Europe, not only the world’s most advanced atom-smasher, but the most sophisticated piece of technology ever built by humankind. The cover says, “Forget the Higgs, Now we’re searching for the root of reality.” Meanwhile, at the other end of the scientific spectrum, neuroscientists remain lost in the quagmire of solving the so-called hard problem of consciousness, which, according to David Chalmers is “the question of how physical processes in the brain give rise to subjective experiences.”
So with the Large Hadron Collider, the question is whether physicists will find the answer to the mystery of the universe in computer-generated images of colliding subatomic particles. With the hard problem of consciousness, the question is whether neuroscientists will find the secret to the vivid, three-dimensional awareness we call consciousness in the firing interactions between brain neurons. In both instances, we see scientists looking for the answers to our deepest mysteries in tiny, lifeless particles.
In pursuing this search, scientists seem to give no thought to the fact that they are racing blinding over the edge of a cliff. Specifically, even if they can theorize that a certain combination of particles can give rise to the universe (as in the Higgs boson) or human consciousness, they have no theory to explain how these particles became organized to perform such magical feats. Darwinian evolution will not help particles exploding in the Big Bang, nor does Darwinism solve the hard problem of consciousness, unless one wants to use the term as an all-purpose, knowledge gap-filler. Indeed, it looks like the closer science peers into the world, the more it needs a mind to make it work right.
These mysteries strongly suggest, if not compel, the conclusion that modern science is looking at this whole picture in the wrong way. The world did not arise from particles, whether the ones found in the LHC or the brain. Rather — and this is the radical part — the world arose as a projection of the mind, a dream, and in peering inside the virtual world we call reality, we are looking at the pieces of a dream. Parts that align because they are part of 3-D story in motion.