What Does a New Paradigm in Science Mean for Biology?
This is the latest in a series of articles following on from my conversation with Anders Bolling, fellow writer on Medium, for his Mind the Shift podcast last week, in which I’ll discuss some of the material we didn’t have time for. One of our main themes was new paradigm science so, having discussed in the two previous articles some books which describe such science in general terms, here I’ll turn my attention to biology.
I’ll focus on two themes. Firstly, biologists have failed to take on board the implications of the quantum physics revolution, even though it has been described as the most successful scientific theory of all time. Secondly, as I have been discussing in a recent series of articles, virtually all quantum physicists from the 1920s onwards adopted a markedly spiritual worldview, and versions of the philosophy of Idealism, that mind or consciousness is the fundamental source of the universe.
That links neatly with the second idea, as discussed in earlier articles in this series:
- the belief of the German Idealist philosophers that the one universal spirit plays all the roles in the drama of the universe, and that it constitutes the totality of the plot as well
- the philosophy of evolutionary panentheism, the belief that this universal spirit is both transcendent and immanent.
If we accept these two ideas, as I believe we should, then this puts a completely different complexion on our understanding of life and organisms. We have to reinterpret biology, and therefore evolution, from a quantum physics and spiritual perspective. This means, I would suggest, that at the very least we have to dispense with the idea that evolution is blind and purposeless, as stated most forcefully by Richard Dawkins, and accept instead that it displays intelligence, creativity, and purpose. Also, since quantum physics teaches us that the material universe emerges from other levels inaccessible to scientific investigation, we should adopt a top-down approach to biology, in contrast to the conventional bottom-up reductionism. Thus, in the same way that many neuroscientists mistakenly consider brain activity to be the cause rather than the effect of consciousness, biologists have traditionally considered genes to be causal, rather than receivers of information.
The rest of the article will be devoted to some biologists who have adopted such perspectives, in chronological order. The new paradigm biologist par excellence is possibly Rupert Sheldrake, arguing tirelessly for a spiritual perspective for 40 years. I therefore intend to devote two articles to him (see link below for the first one). Here I’ll focus on some lesser known names.
Having published in 1984 The New Story of Science: How the New Cosmology is Reshaping Our View of Mind, Art, God, and Ourselves¹, Robert Augros and George Stanciu went on in 1987 to publish The New Biology: Discovering the Wisdom in Nature².
The jacket notes say that the authors present “compelling evidence of cooperation among species and between organisms to refute the Darwinian theory of the survival of the fittest. Theories that portray nature as clumsy, wasteful, and cruel are contrasted with field observations and experiments documenting nature’s efficiency, economy, and purposefulness. The paradigm of ruthless competition and the struggle for existence is countered with evidence for cooperation among species and for the harmony that exists between an organism and its environment”. This is exactly what one might expect if nature is one interconnected whole, and planet Earth is one living organism.
That last suggestion is associated most closely with James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis. While I would not describe her as an out and out new paradigm biologist, it’s worth noting that the ideas of Augron and Stanciu resonate with those of Lynn Margulis, who endorsed at least the scientific aspects of Lovelock’s theory, and collaborated with him on its development. Her work in biology focussed on the idea of symbiosis, which states that members of different species living in physical contact with each other is crucial to evolutionary novelty³.
The 2000s saw a small explosion of books on these themes. In 2002, Joseph Chilton Pearce published The Biology of Transcendence: a Blueprint of the Human Spirit⁴. The liner notes say that he “examines the current biological understanding of our neural organization to address how we can transcend our current evolutionary capacities and limitations. The latest research identifies the four neural centres of our brain, and, through the new discipline of neurocardiology, indicates that a fifth such centre is located in the heart. As Pearce shows us, it is the dynamic interaction of our head brain (intellect) and heart brain (intelligence) that allows transcendence from one evolutionary place to the next — we are, quite literally, made to transcend” (their italics).
Pearce has taken the implications of quantum physics fully on board. He opens his chapter ‘Fields Within Fields’: “Our heart participates in electromagnetic fields within fields in hierarchies that are holographic, the whole existing within any part, and all functioning as an integrated dynamic”. That could have been written by David Bohm.
In 2005 Bruce Lipton wrote The Biology of Belief, an expanded version of which appeared in 2015⁵. He is a former Darwinian biologist who completely changed his views, having discovered quantum physics. He complains that “even after the discoveries of quantum physics, biologists and medical students continued to be trained to view the body only as a physical machine that operates in accordance with Newtonian principles… In addition, conventional biologists are reductionists who believe that mechanisms of our physical bodies can be understood by taking the cells apart and studying their chemical building blocks” (p89, p90). Quantum physics, of course, paints a very different picture, that “atoms are made out of invisible energy, not tangible matter” (p89).
The publisher’s notes on the back cover say: “Stunning new scientific discoveries about the biochemical effects of the brain’s functioning show that all the cells of your body are affected by your thoughts. (The author), a renowned cell biologist, describes the precise molecular pathways through which this occurs… He demonstrates how the new science of epigenetics is revolutionizing our understanding of the link between mind and matter, and the profound effects it has on our personal lives and the collective life of our species”.
It should come as no surprise to us that mind is considered primary. Also, given that Anders Bolling and I are hoping that the new paradigm in science will lead to a transformation of our society as a whole, it’s interesting that Joseph Chilton Pearce, author of the book mentioned above, is quoted: “These pages contain a genuine revolution in thought and understanding, one so radical that it can change the world”. Also actor and director LeVar Burton is quoted: “Bruce Lipton is a genius. His breakthrough discoveries give us tools for regaining the sovereignty over our lives. I recommend this book to anyone who is ready and willing to take full responsibility for themselves and the destiny of our planet”.
Then in 2006 Denis Noble published The Music of Life: Biology Beyond Genes⁶. The notes on the back cover say: “Noble, a renowned physiologist and pioneer of the field of systems biology, argues that we must look beyond the reductionist gene’s eye view of life to answer the question (what is life?). The genome is not life itself. To understand what life is, we must make a radical switch of perception and view it at a variety of different levels, with interaction and feedback between gene, cell, organ, system, body and environment. It emerges as a process, no more and no less than the ebb and flow of activity in this intricate web of connections. This, Noble argues, is the music of life”. Again, this sounds like quantum physics. He is also fully on board with the idea of downward causation, devoting a whole chapter to it, which includes the questions ‘Is the genome a program?’ and ‘Where is the program of life?’.
Then in 2008, Amit Goswami published Creative Evolution: a Physicist’s Resolution Between Darwinism and Intelligent Design⁷. The jacket notes say: “Dr. Goswami’s central theme is that pure consciousness, not matter, is the primary force in the universe. This view differs radically from mainstream theories that see evolution as the result of simple physical reactions… Biology must come to terms with feeling, meaning, and the purposefulness of life”. The titles of his first three chapters show that he has clearly got the message: ‘God and a New Biology’, ‘Quantum Physics and Downward Causation’, and ‘Connecting Biology to Physics’.
All this is in contrast to the message of neo-Darwinian theory, that evolution takes place through a process of natural selection acting upon random genetic mutations. This has a strongly naturalistic and atheistic undertone, demonstrated most clearly by Richard Dawkins’ statement that Darwin enabled him to become an intellectually fulfilled atheist. (Perhaps that is the whole point of Darwinism?) What the authors above are talking about, however, is not Creationism, not religion; it is the science of quantum physics and the latest scientific discoveries in biology. When are Darwinian biologists going to wake up?
Here’s a link to the next article in the series:
I hope you have enjoyed this article. I have written in the past about other topics, including spirituality, metaphysics, psychology, science, Christianity, politics and astrology. All these articles are on Medium, but the simplest way to see a guide to them is to visit my website (click here and here).
1. Regnery Gateway 1984, also Bantam paperback 1986
2. New Science Library (Shambhala)
3. See, for example, The Symbiotic Planet: a New Look at Evolution, Phoenix, 1999
4. Park Street Press
5. Hay House
6. Oxford University Press
7. Quest Books