Life does not seem to be an accidental occurrence but somehow is actually required by the universe.
According to some cosmologists, the universe began as a quantum fluctuation in the limitless Void (Hartle Hawking cosmology). In the absence of an observer, the evolving universe remained as a 'multiverse' - a coherant quantum superposition of all logically possible states.
Throughout its early history the universe continued to develop as an immense superposition of probabilities. Not only was the structure of the universe superposed, but all logically possible states of matter, physical constants, properties and laws were simultaneously present and evolving into ever increasing diversity.
Collapse of the Multiverse
Quantum theory states that any physical system remains in a superposed state of all possibilities until it interacts with the mind of an observer. Both quantum theory and Buddhist teachings on sunyata suggest that as soon as an observer's mind makes contact with a superposed system, all the numerous possibilities collapse into one actuality. At some instant one of these possible alternative universes produced an observing lifeform - an animal with a nervous system which was sufficiently evolved to form a symbiotic association with a primordial mind. The first act of observation by this mind caused the entire superposed multiverse to collapse immediately into one of its numerous alternatives.
That one alternative version of the multiverse was not just the first configuration to be inhabitable by mind. The fact that it was the first configuration also guaranteed that it was the only configuration. All uninhabited alternative universes, ranging from the nearly-but-not-quite habitable few, to the anarchic and unstructured vast majority, were instantly excluded from potential existence. According to the participatory anthopic principle the evolving multiverse was thus always destined to resolve itself into a sufficiently ordered state to allow itself to be observed.
The early multiverse can perhaps be thought of as a massively parallel quantum computer which explored all of possibility-space until it was able to generate a living body, which became the habitation of an observing, sentient being. At that moment the multiverse collapsed into the actuality of that one alternative environment. This theory is known as the Participatory Anthropic Principle and was first put forward by the physicist John A.Wheeler in 1983.
But where did the observing mind come from? Buddhist philosophers claim that minds are primordial and exist before entering their physical environment. In the early stages of its evolution the universe was, of course, uninhabitable for animals and humans.
But according to B. Alan Wallace [Wallace 1996], highly advanced Buddist and Hindu contemplatives speak of experiencing other realms, or dimensions of existence that transcend this gross sensual realm which they call kamadhatu. They report the existence of rupadhatu, a form realm that is unperturbed by many of the changes in the gross physical cosmos. And beyond this is the arupyadhatu, a formless realm that is completely unaffected by the stages of cosmic evolution. All three of these realms are said to be inhabited by sentient beings. When the gross physical dimension of a cosmos is uninhabitable, sentient beings reside in the rupadhatu and arupyadhatu or in other inhabitable cosmoses. Humans cannot dwell in the rupadhatu and arupyadhatu, though these realms are accessible to a human mind that has been highly refined through meditation.
The bottom line of the participatory anthropic principle is that minds can exist independently of matter, and they create their actual environments from the potentialities around them. But isn't this all just pure metaphysical speculation? Well maybe not. The participatory anthropic principle makes potentially verifiable statements about the early history of the universe, the speed of evolution and the occurrence of extremely unlikely evolutionary steps, including the first appearance of life itself.
The series of events needed to make the universe habitable by sentient mind, up to and including the evolution of animals complex enough to support sentience, would have proceeded at the maximum possible rate and efficiency (almost by definition - because the myriad strands of the superposition were essentially racing against one another for 'winner takes all').
Because a myriad parallel universes were simultaneously evolving, the most highly improbable combinations of chemical and cellular building blocks needed to bring about living organisms would inevitably appear, even if the probability of them doing so in an 'ordinary' universe were infinitesimally small.
- Sean Robsville
Hoyle, F (1983), The Intelligent Universe, Publ London: Michael Joseph
Wallace, B. A. (1996), Choosing Reality - a Buddhist View of Physics and the Mind.
Publ Ithaca N Y : Snow Lion ISBN 1-55939-063-8.
Wheeler J. A. (1983), Law without law. In Quantum Theory and Measurement (ed. J.A. Wheeler and W.H. Zurek) Princeton University Press pp. 182 -213