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Future science: The science of consciousness
A biologist's perspective
Eden Wang, Ph.D
Current biology aims to reveal the molecular mechanisms of diseases and devise ways to combat diseases. Such an approach is based upon the belief that dis-regulated molecular events in the cell are the foundation for diseases, and that such dis-regulation can be corrected through physical means. However, the most current knowledge derived from research at the frontiers of biology and physics are challenging such a mechanical view of body and disease. Take cancer as an example. We can see that cancer is not simply an isolated malfunction of some proteins, but is the manifestation of the failing of an entire system. The phenomena of cancer can be used as a metaphor for understanding the current problems of human society. In this macrocosm of human society, we know that the problems we are facing are not caused by the malfunction of one person, or one country, but are the manifestation of problems of the collective consciousness of humanity. If science wants to meet the expectation of humanity in finding cures for diseases and revealing the fundamental truth of the Universe, the focus of future science should make a paradigm shift. Instead of trying to lock the studies of human consciousness outside the door of science, future science should become the science of consciousness.
A human being has a physical body. But a human being is more than just a physical body. It is the non-physical part that makes us distinct. Biologists have now patched together a detailed picture of the building blocks of our physical body -- the microcosm of the cell. In the world of the cell, vast numbers of molecules work together in perfect harmony to ensure its proper functioning and maintenance. The major players in this world are proteins, which were “born” following the coding messages of the genes. Between he, she, you, and me, we are all human beings; we all share the same human genome and we all have the same sets of proteins. But we, from our life experiences, know that each individual thinks differently, feels differently, and acts differently. These differences have to come from someplace else beyond genes and proteins.
Now if we take a step back and use the existing paradigm of scientific thinking to examine what a human being is made of, we can still reach the same conclusion. Imagine that you are looking at me. I have a physical body in this dimension, which we know can be further dissected into smaller and smaller components: from organs, to tissues, to cells, to molecules. So the building blocks of our physical body are different molecules, which according to physics, are made of even smaller particles. But here is the turning point. Upon examination of an atom, physicists tell us that an atom is not a solid ball. Inside an atom is a vast space in which electrons spin around a center made of protons and neutrons, like the earth spins around the sun. Then what makes up protons and neutrons? The same concept of motion and space applies to protons and neutrons. At the end of such dissection, physicists are challenged by the observation that it is no longer possible to separate the observer and the observed. A simple conclusion from these observations can be made: we are made of space and motion. So genes are also mere manifestations of space and motion. In this physical dimension, our eyes fix such space and motion into motionless and solid phenomena, but science tells us that these are delusions.
So we have a physical body, which in fact is made of space and motion and not solid lifeless particles. In fact, solid lifeless particles do not exist at all. Everything is moving and everything is ALIVE. The physical phenomena that surround us are the products of our senses from processing the ever-moving life forces. In this physical dimension, our senses have the ability to “freeze” motion and create shadows of the “dancers” in other dimensions. So science has already brought us to the edge of this physical dimension and revealed the shadowy nature of reality and the limitations of our physical senses. Ironically, although many scientists still consider themselves atheists, the findings of the most advanced science are, in fact, shedding light onto the core of all religion -- the mystery force beyond. Such a force is the true nature of everything, since everything with so many different forms, shapes, sizes, weights, speeds, colors, and sounds can be traced back to their connection with “particles” of space and motion. Then the big question science asks is: what is the nature of the force? Put in terms of religion, what is the nature of the divine power? From this perspective, science and religion should be holding hands and helping each other to find the answer. But the answer is not easy to find since both scientists and theologians are limited by their physical instrument -- the physical body.
For this reason, more than 2300 years ago, Socrates, the grandfather of all Western philosophies, was given a message from the Oracle. The message led him in search of the true nature of wisdom. He concluded: “Wisdom only belongs to God; for a human being, the highest wisdom is to realize that his human wisdom, in comparison to that of God, is of no value.” This realization made him the wisest man, while also the most condemned, by politicians, religious leaders, and even artists, since it was simply the hardest fact to face for any human being.
But the conclusion of the existence of an all-encompassing force behind all physical manifestations and the recognition of the limitations of our own physical bodies in seeing the truth of such a force do not mean that we are simply helpless and doomed to be ignorant forever. We should not forget that we are more than just a physical body. “I think, therefore I exist.” Nobody can argue that we are sentient beings. If a physical body has consciousness, then what about the different parts of the body, namely, the organs, the tissues, the cells, and the molecules? Since consciousness is an invisible force that directs the activities of a human body, what is its relationship with the force behind the motion of particles and the behavior of molecules? If there is an all-encompassing force behind the activities of the basic particles of all physical manifestations, then the same force is behind the activities of a human body, which can be viewed as a type of particle in the Universe. In this sense, human experience is an awakening of the force itself at the level of the “particle in the form of a human body.” Therefore, the nature of our consciousness is the nature of the force behind all the activities of our cells, molecules, and even smaller particles.
So when there is disease of a human body, is it actually a direct manifestation of something at the level of consciousness that is associated with this body? Then the search for a cure for all diseases should start by asking the question: what characteristics of consciousness will sustain the health of a body and what characteristics of consciousness will make a body ill? Then we should ask: what are the fundamental laws that are operating to sustain a healthy human body?
Current biology has focused on the detailed dissection of the molecular mechanisms underlying various functional manifestations of the cell, in the hope of gaining control of the physical body through physical means. I have been working in the field of signal transduction, which aims to understand how cells receive signals from outside of the cell, and how such signals are transmitted from the cell surface all the way into the nucleus to alter gene expression, thereby altering the behavior of the cell. While ten years ago there was quite a lot of optimism on making major breakthroughs in developing molecular medicines from understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying the normal or abnormal behavior of cells, such optimism is gradually fading now. The reason is that more and more biologists recognize the immense complexity of the regulation of cell functions. Most importantly, we began to recognize the hard fact that we are not dealing with a mechanical entity, but a living entity, at the cellular level. A living entity of a cell also cannot be fully understood by separating a cell from its surroundings, since the behavior of any single cell, at any single moment, is dependent upon those that this cell is directly communicating with, within a defined sub-system, which as part of a body, is actively communicating with all other sub-systems in the body. Thus, the human body is an indivisible living system, whose disease state is not simply a mechanical problem, but a manifestation of a system failure. To address the foundation of cancer, we need to address what causes the system failure. To cure cancer, we therefore need to find a way to fix the entire system.
Take cancer as an example.
Currently it has been concluded from combined genetic, biochemical, cell biological, and animal model studies that cancer is caused by the genetic alteration of critical regulatory genes of a single cell. Such a cell somehow gained the ability to undergo uncontrollable proliferation to reach a large mass, which itself could cause sufficient damage to vital organs such as the lungs, brain, liver, kidneys, and pancreas, to therefore lead to malfunctions and finally death of the entire body. In addition, cancer cells appear to have also gained new properties that allow them to be mobile (metastasis) and re-program their living environments, such as inducing the growth of blood vessels. Most interestingly, cancer cells also exhibit the amazing ability to escape surveillance of the powerful immune system. Furthermore, the growth factors made from cancer cells also re-program the entire physiology of the body such that the body’s metabolic rate appears to be greatly enhanced, leading to an overall state of energy drainage.
To summarize the known changes at the system level, it appears that cancer cells not only break the pre-programmed speed and timing of growth (cell cycle defects lead to unrestrained proliferation), but also bypass pre-programmed cell death (delay or escape apoptosis). Then the cells start to invade foreign lands, near then far (breaking the pre-programmed compartmentalization: metastasis). When they reach a new site, they start exploitation by fully taking advantage of the local environment and devise new ways to consume (angiogenesis in the tumor). The uncontrolled growth at the foreign sites damages the normal operations of these vital organs by taking over space, resources, and disrupting the microenvironment required by these vital organs. Excess metabolic products of the increased cell mass are secreted, polluting the living environment of the foreign sites. The cancer cells have ways to escape the body’s police force. There are many known strategies, such as hiding the defects, making factors to directly inhibit the immune system, and also tricking the immune system into losing combative power (immune tolerance).
There are several interesting aspects of cancer that I see.
First, if the simple mutations of several genes in a cell can achieve such an amazing systemic effect that eventually leads to the failure of the entire body, then the current programming of the human body at this stage appears to have some major loopholes. But if our body is the perfect product of natural selection, then how can we still have so many loopholes left in the system to allow so many different types of cancer to exist?
Second, the “intelligence” exhibited by cancer cells to break multiple laws of normal cell biology (laws that operate at the cellular level) is hard to explain by single cell-based mechanical means. At the surface, the foundation of carcinogenesis appears to be the altered behavior of one single cell. But careful analysis of all the properties of cancer, as described above, clearly indicates that carcinogenesis is the result of the failure of the many different systems in a coordinated fashion. If only one of any of the above-mentioned systems were capable of resisting the effect of cancer cells, cancer could not cause death of the body. Thus, carcinogenesis should be viewed at the level of a system beyond a single type of cancer cell. Thus, cancer appears to be a system disease instead of a cell disease.
Third, the similarity of the behavior patterns between the cancer cells and modern industrialized human society is simply stunning. Can we learn something from such a similarity? In the macrocosm of the earth, the human being is an integral part of the earth’s environment, just like a normal cell is an integral part of a human body. When a cell outsmarts the laws that govern the normal operation of the cell as an integral part of the body, the cell turns into a harmful tumor for the body and can even kill the body. Using a similar analogue, when the human race relies upon only the intellect to decipher the laws of nature, and then tries to outsmart the laws of nature by developing fancy technologies to exploit the resource of the nature, leading to the mass material construction, massive waste production, invasion into natural habitats for other species, and creation of environmental pollution to the extent that the earth is becoming a toxic waste bin, if continued, it will soon no longer be able to sustain the lives of most species. The problems we experience in this macrocosm, as we know, are not simply caused by the problems of one person. The solution for such a societal problem is also certainly not going to come from the changing of one person, or even one country. Here again, we are dealing with a system. For the system of human society, the problem stems from a lack of wisdom and the overemphasis of intellect and technology. Now we have come full circle and can see that it is again the nature of our collective consciousness that determines the health and the illness of our human society. To live, or to die, at the individual level, or at the level of human society as a whole, are all determined by the nature of our consciousness.
With this reasoning as the foundation, we can conclude that true science should face one key question above all: what is the true nature of our consciousness? This leads to other questions such as: Where does it come from? What is its relationship with the physical body? What makes us sick? What is the meaning of living as a human being? What is the structure of the multidimensional Universe? What is the current position and future position of humanity in this Universe? What are the limitations of current religions and why? What are the limitations of current science and why? How can we find our true self and live as a multidimensional being? One cannot find the answers simply via an intellectual approach, but can be guided through cultivation practice to gradually realize the answers on one’s own, since one’s wisdom level itself is limited by the nature of consciousness. As one’s consciousness level ascends, wisdom is expanded and vision is intensified and broadened. What does cultivation involve? It is a continuous process of letting go of human attachments and notions, and instead following the true principals of the Universe. One such cultivation practice that has profoundly affected me is Falun Dafa. It points out that the only solution for humanity in the search for health, happiness, and wisdom, is to cultivate the nature of our consciousness, which is the force behind all manifestations of this physical world; therefore, it is the profound science of consciousness.
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