Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press


Deconstructing the Conscious Universe

What is the mind’s place in the universe? It’s a question that has provoked a flurry of responses, both on theist and atheist sides of the debate. As the famed astrophysicist Carl Sagan once wrote, “Humans are the stuff of the cosmos examining itself.” But depending on your point of view, those words can be construed to support either the scientific or the religious perspective.

Steve Stewart-Williams discusses this idea in Darwin, God, and the Meaning of Life (Cambridge University Press, January 2011), and a recent discussion on YouTube has brought the issue back to the fore.

Stewart-Williams writes on his blog: “To most people (myself included), the idea that the universe might be viewed as a conscious entity is outlandish in the extreme – the kind of view that most scientifically-minded people (myself included) would be unwilling to admit to, at least around their scientifically-minded friends and colleagues. But as outlandish as it might sound, it actually turns out to be a straightforward implication of evolutionary theory.”

In the video below, YouTube user 2bsirius contemplates Stewart-Williams’ thoughts on the topic. Click through the video responses for more discussions on the conscious universe; poetical language in scientific discourse; what evolutionary theory means for issues of suicide and euthanasia; and the importance of the exchange of ideas in the quest for knowledge.

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