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Are We the Reason Everything Exists?

Personal Perspective: We are the first cause, not the Big Bang.

Key points

  • Random chance is not sufficient to explain the universe, its origins, and what’s really going.
  • The conscious observer is the key to understanding why we’re here despite the overwhelming physical odds.
  • The parameters of the universe allow for us because we generate them.

Charles Darwin published his theory of biological evolution almost two centuries ago. But that was before Einstein’s theories of relativity, before the earth-shattering findings of quantum mechanics, and before all the recent advances in the biological and physical sciences. This unprecedented burst of discovery has forced a sea change in scientific thinking, casting doubt on traditional Newtonian-Darwinian explanations of the genesis and natural history of life and the universe.

Forget the “Just Happened” Theory

Like Jubal in Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, we shouldn’t buy the “just happened” theory. Random chance isn’t a sufficient explanation of the universe—in fact, “random chance is not sufficient to explain random chance; the pot cannot hold itself.”

So why are we here despite the overwhelming physical and biological odds?

Scientists have been playing on a two-dimensional game board. To fully understand why things are the way they are, we need to consider how we—the great observer—figure into the hierarchy of spatiotemporal levels.

One challenge is how to interpret the fossil record in terms of physical reality—that is, whether we should continue to cling to the old deterministic framework. Although both pillars of modern physics—relativity and quantum mechanics—provide solid grounding for the primacy of the observer, most of us still believe that the universe was, until recently, a lifeless collection of particles bouncing off one another, existing and unfolding without us. It’s presented as a watch that somehow wound itself up, and that unwinds in a semi-predictable way.

But it’s we observers who create the arrow of time (see Annalen de Physik, which also published Einstein’s theories of relativity). As Stephen Hawking stated, “There is no way to remove the observer—us—from our perceptions of the world... In classical physics, the past is assumed to exist as a definite series of events, but according to quantum physics, the past, like the future, is indefinite and exists only as a “spectrum of possibilities.”

We are the reason everything exists.

If we, the observer, collapse these possibilities (the past and the future), then where does that leave evolutionary theory, as described in our schoolbooks? The fact is, the universe does not run mechanistically like a clock, independent of us, and it never has. The past begins with the observer, not the other way around.

We’re the Missing Piece

You may wonder about all the fossil evidence. But fossils are no different than anything else in nature. The carbon atoms in our body, for instance, are “fossils” created in the heart of exploding supernova stars. As John Wheeler, the legendary physicist who coined the terms “black hole” and “wormhole,” once said, “We are participators in bringing about something of the universe in the distant past.”

We happen to find ourselves alive on a lush little planet with its warm sun and coconut trees. And at just the right time in the history of the universe. The surface of the molten earth has cooled, but it’s not too cold. And it’s not too hot; the sun hasn’t expanded enough to melt the Earth’s surface with its searing gas yet. Even setting aside the issue of being here and now, the probability of random physical laws and events leading to this point is less than 1 out of 100,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, equivalent to winning every lottery there ever was.

We’re the missing piece. Although classical evolution does an excellent job of helping us understand the past, it fails to capture the driving force. Evolution needs to add the observer to the equation. Indeed, Niels Bohr, the great Nobel physicist, said, “When we measure something we are forcing an undetermined, undefined world to assume an experimental value. We are not ‘measuring’ the world, we are creating it.” Classical evolutionists are trying to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. They treat the conscious observer as a fluke.

Most of us assume that the universe was until recently a lifeless collection of particles bouncing against each other. But we’ve shunted a critical component of the cosmos out of the way because we don’t know what to do with it. This component, consciousness, isn’t a small item. It’s an utter mystery.

How did inert, random bits of carbon ever morph into the finches and tortoises Darwin studied on the Galapagos Islands?

Goldilocks Universe

Attempts to explain the nature of the universe, its origins, and what’s really going on require an understanding of how the observer, our presence, plays a role. According to the current paradigm, the universe, and the laws of nature themselves, just popped out of nothingness one day.

The story goes something like this: From the Big Bang until the present time, we’ve been incredibly lucky. This good fortune started from the moment of creation; if the Big Bang had been one-part-in-a-million more powerful, the cosmos would have rushed out too fast for the galaxies and stars to have developed. If the gravitational force were decreased by a hair, stars (including the Sun) wouldn’t have ignited. There are over 200 physical parameters like this that could have any value but happen to be exactly right for us to be here. Tweak any of them and you never existed.

They’re so exact that it strains credulity to propose that they are random—even if that’s exactly what standard contemporary physics baldly suggests. These fundamental constants of the universe—constants that aren’t predicted by any theory—all seem to be carefully chosen, often with great precision, to allow for the existence of life and consciousness. We have absolutely no reasonable explanation for this.

It's like "Goldilocks and the Three Bears," in which Goldilocks enters a home occupied by three bears and tries different bowls of porridge; some are too hot, some are too cold. She also tries different chairs and beds, and every time, the third is “just right.” For 13.7 billion years we, too, have had chronic good luck. Virtually everything has been “just right.”

The First Cause

It’s a fascinating story to tell children but claiming that it’s all just a “dumb” accident is no more helpful than saying “God did it.” Loren Eiseley, the great naturalist, once said that scientists “have not always been able to see that an old theory, given a hairsbreadth twist, might open an entirely new vista to the human reason.” The theory of evolution turns out to be the perfect case in hand. Amazingly, it all makes sense if you assume that the Big Bang is the end of the chain of physical causality, not the beginning.

It’s us, the observer (including cats, dogs, and other sentient life), who create space and time. Consider everything you see around you right now. Language and custom say it all lies outside us in the external world. Yet we can’t see anything through the vault of bone that surrounds our brain. Our eyes aren’t just portals to the world. In fact, everything we experience, including our body, is part of an active process occurring in our mind. Space and time are simply the mind’s tools for putting it all together. Our mind also has the capacity to generate a 3D spatial world even when we dream, even though we’re lying in bed with our eyes closed.

As Hawking said, the past, like the future, exists only as a spectrum of possibilities. Until the present is determined, how can there be a past? The past begins with the observer, not the other way around as we’ve been taught. We're the first cause, the vital force that collapses not only the present but the cascade of past spatio-temporal events we call evolution.

Forget the "just happened" theory—the parameters of the universe allow for us because we generate them.

This post was adapted from Biocentrism and The Grand Biocentric Design, by Robert Lanza et al. (BenBella Books).


Podolskiy, D., & Lanza, R. (2016). On decoherence in quantum gravity. Annalen de Physik, 528, 663-676.

Lanza, R., with Berman, B. (2010). Biocentrism. Dallas, TX: BenBella Books.

Lanza, R., & Pavsic, M. (2021). The Grand Biocentric Design. Dallas, TX: BenBella Books.

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