Is Consciousness Guiding the Universe? – Prof Stuart Hameroff

The place of consciousness and its role in the universe remain unknown and controversial. Western philosophy and mainstream science consider consciousness to be computational, epiphenomenal, acausal and illusory, whereas Eastern philosophical and quantum physical approaches consider consciousness to be an intrinsic feature of the universe, playing an active role. But which specific intrinsic feature of the universe entails consciousness? Sir Roger Penrose proposed consciousness results from self-collapse of the quantum wavefunction by ‘objective reduction’ (‘OR’), a process in the basic structure of spacetime geometry. The Penrose-Hameroff ‘Orch OR’ theory further suggests OR events in cytoskeletal microtubules within brain neurons are ‘orchestrated’ by inputs, memory and vibrational resonances, and terminate by ‘orchestrated OR’ to give meaningful conscious moments. If so, consciousness as an intrinsic feature of the universe (one offering pleasurable experience) may have prompted the origin of life and driven its evolution, and perhaps that of the universe itself. In the contest of the ‘anthropic principle’, which considers the extraordinary ‘fine tuning’ in the various physical constants enabling life and consciousness in the universe, it is suggested here that the constants may mutate and evolve over aeons to optimize consciousness, that, in some sense, consciousness is guiding the universe.

Professor Stuart Hameroff MD is a physician anesthesiologist at the University of
Arizona known for his studies of consciousness, microtubules and mechanisms of
anesthetic action. In 1994 he organised the interdisciplinary conference ‘Toward a
Science of Consciousness’, now simply ‘The Science of Consciousness’, held annually
ever since. In 1997 Hameroff co-founded The Center for Consciousness Studies’ at the
University of Arizona which he now directs. In 1995 Hameroff and Roger Penrose
introduced the ‘Orch OR’ theory positing that consciousness depends on orchestrated
quantum processes in microtubules within brain neurons. The quantum processes
(‘objective reductions’) are Penrose’s proposed solution to the measurement problem in
quantum mechanics, relativistic, and proposed to upwardly influence neuronal and brain activities via microtubule vibrations. Recent evidence supports quantum resonances in microtubules, and suggests anesthetics act on microtubules to prevent consciousness.