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Arne A. Wyller's The Creating Consciousness: Science as the Language of God

By Steven Robert Allen

NOVEMBER 15, 1999:  Reconciling science and religion would seem to be an impossible task. The majority of scientists seem to believe that studying the universe and assigning meaning to our lives are undertakings fundamentally at odds with each other. Yet new scientific findings, particularly in the field of physics, have led several respected scientists to hypothesize that our place in the universe might make perfect sense after all, and even more astonishing, that there might be some kind of intelligent force responsible for what we know as reality.

Dr. Arne A. Wyller was a Royal Swedish Academy Professor in Astrophysics for 20 years. He currently lives in Santa Fe. Wyller's own attempt to meld science and religion focuses on evolutionary biology, a discipline in which he is not a recognized specialist. He acknowledges that this foray outside his area of expertise may appear presumptuous, but he also believes that our future understanding of the universe, existence and consciousness will depend on a synthesis of multiple scientific and humanist fields. And that is what this book attempts: a synthesis of disciplines from physics to quantum mechanics to chemistry, mathematics, evolutionary biology, microbiology, philosophy, theology and more.

The Creating Consciousness reads almost like a mystery novel. Wyller piles up tons of evidence then attempts to piece the crime together at the end. At the center of the story is Darwin's theory of evolution. For the terminally ignorant, Wyller again shows that the fossil record amassed since Darwin published On the Origin of the Species in 1859 has proven incontrovertibly that life developed through evolution. From tiny, single-cell organisms living 3.5 million years ago to all contemporary observable life, scientists have discovered enough links in the chain to show that evolution was and is real. The details of that chain will probably be debated for centuries as new discoveries are made. The chain itself, however, is at this point undeniable.

The problem with Darwin's theory is his explanation of this evolutionary chain. Natural selection is the theory that life evolved through chance mutations of species and that these mutations were greatly sped up through the evolutionary development of sexuality and the resulting generational recombining of genetic information.

The problem with natural selection comes with the application of probability theory. The sun has been around for about 5 billion years. The fossil record shows that the first single-cell organisms appeared around 3.8 billion years ago. Even single-cell organisms are extraordinarily complex and contain enormous quantities of genetic information. Chance would need a time period vastly longer than the life span of the entire universe if it were to be capable of bringing basic elements together to form even these first primitive organisms. Do the math, says Wyller, and the fact becomes obvious. Of course, asking natural selection to account for vastly more complex creations, like the vertebrate eye or human brain, is impossible. Chance is simply not enough to account for evolution.

Wyller's conclusion, after synthesizing this knowledge with findings from various branches of science and the humanities, is that something called a Mind Field, roughly the equivalent of the quantum fields in physics, is a possible explanation for the rapid evolution of life on earth. Because this Mind Field seems to act with intelligence and will, as evident by the astonishing complexity and interactivity of life on earth, Wyller calls this field God.

Wyller's conclusions are entirely speculative and ultimately unsatisfactory. Yet the book itself is still an absolutely gripping read. He manages to convince us that, in the words of physicist Paul Davies in God and the New Physics (1983), "Science offers a surer path than religion in the search of God." It is Wyller's fascinating, detailed, sober descriptions of modern scientific and philosophical inquiries that make The Creating Consciousness a beautiful, enlightening book.

Wyller has pointed the way to a new conception of life and the universe that may not be viable on its own, but that could lead to the creation of workable scientific paradigms that will one day pluck objective meaning from a seemingly inexplicable universe. No less important, his book reminds us that, from the Big Bang to tiny quarks to the twinkle in a young girl's eye, this universe is truly miraculous, and some day it may indeed be possible to develop a belief system based largely on observable reality. (MacMurray & Beck, paper, $16.95)

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