An Interview with astrophysicist Dr. Bernard Haisch
—Author of The Purpose-Guided Universe—
by Brent Raynes
Bernard Haisch, PhD is an astrophysicist and author of The God theory and the just published The Purpose-Guided Universe. He was formerly the scientific editor for ten years of the Astrophysical Journal. He also has served as the editor in chief of the Journal of Scientific Exploration. He has been the deputy director of the Center for Extreme Ultraviolet Astrophysics at U.C.-Berkeley. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and three children.
Brent Raynes: Is there a contradiction in being a scientist and in believing in God?
Dr. Bernard Haisch: A lot of scientists would say that there is but the fact of the matter is I don’t think so and that’s why I wrote this new book, The Purpose-Guided Universe because I think that it’s perfectly possible to believe in the Big Bang, an ancient earth, Darwinian evolution, and God as the origin of the universe. The problem arises when you try to invoke God to do things that either contradict science or are just not necessary. But as for the beginning of the universe, what caused the Big Bang, it’s wide open. There’s no scientific explanation, and so the metaphysical explanation that the universe began as the result of a great intelligence thinking it into existence is something that can’t be proven one way or the other.
Brent Raynes: You bring in a lot of things throughout your book where consciousness is touched upon quite a bit and quantum physics, which comes into the picture too, where really some of the things coming out of quantum physics would really have been at one time perceived as just a lot of metaphysical mumbo jumbo and now we’re realizing that, “Hey, maybe there’s kind of a bridge there between science and religion.”
How would you address that?
Dr. Bernard Haisch: The fact that quantum mechanics implies that consciousness plays an important role in creating reality has been pretty much known for decades. It’s just that it’s been sort of brushed under the rug. It’s something that has not been considered to be really terribly important in terms of application of quantum theory and so even though the problem has been there for decades, it’s only recent observations that really bring it into sharp focus and point out that it really is consciousness that is necessary to complete a quantum experiment, that the intent of the observer determines the outcome.
So it’s not new, but it’s a new development in terms of its importance and it’s recognition as something that needs to be addressed.
Brent Raynes: Right, and you’re open to different areas that many scientists again wouldn’t consider because thinking in terms of quantum physics and also parapsychology, telepathy and such, which I think brings up things that some of this might fall under like particle entanglement or quantum entanglement? Whereas we think in terms of classical physics as something that is separated by a great distance where there couldn’t be a connection between them, but apparently there can be.
Dr. Bernard Haisch: You’ve actually confounded two things. One is the entanglement problem, which is well recognized in physics, and the other is the parapsychological evidence. Now most scientists again would take the parapsychological evidence and say, ‘We don’t accept that. It has not been ever demonstrated in the lab. We can’t reproduce it. We don’t accept that.’ My view is rather different. I know a lot of the people who have been involved in developing experiments for some 34 years. People like Russell Targ, Hal Puthoff, and then there’s the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Lab. They’ve done really good work. It’s not recognized in mainstream science yet but someday they will be seen as pioneers in this and I do think that there is an overlap in this in terms of the problem of entanglement and some of the parapsychological evidence, but that’s not a mainstream point of view.
Brent Raynes: Right, this is something that is still evolving.
Dr. Bernard Haisch: It is.
Brent Raynes: What do you hope that you can accomplish with the publication of your book, The Purpose-Guided Universe?
Dr. Bernard Haisch: Well, you know my prime motivation really was to try and put something in front of mankind that offers a better view of what religion is all about, what spirituality is all about, and the nature of God. I think that there are misperceptions and misconceptions about the nature of God and the nature of religion that have caused an awful lot of problems in the world, throughout history. And look at the craziness going on in the Middle East today where you have not just different religions but different sects of the same religion killing each other, blowing each other to pieces. It’s insane to do this in the name of God, and the problem is that the view of God that they have, and that many people in the West have too, is equally insane. Any kind of God who would demand violence and bloodshed and murder on the part of his followers is not any kind of being I could respect. That’s not God. That’s a product of the dark side of the human imagination.
Brent Raynes: Right. I know that in your book you quote a statement from the Dalai Lama where he expresses how he is open from the point of view of his spiritual belief system and how it only operates right if it goes along with common sense and reason, and if science will actually validate it, that they have to actually kind of evolve together.
Dr. Bernard Haisch: Yes, that’s correct. He definitely says if the results of modern scientific investigation contradict the ancient Buddhist beliefs then throw out the beliefs because we can trust science within its own domain to be valid, and I think that that is a wonderful point of view.
But I also make the point in the book that we have to turn that reasoning around and if the modern scientific view discovers things that are best explained in terms of consciousness, then scientists should be just as open as the Dalai Lama in looking at that side of things.
Brent Raynes: This reminds me of an interview I did with The Amazing Kreskin. We were talking about skeptics and believers and he was actually talking to a group of skeptics one time. He was talking to them about how the believers would often fall for things that the skeptic wouldn’t because the believer’s perceptions are colored by their belief systems and then he added a vice a versa where the skeptic might be faced with real evidence but ignore it because he doesn’t believe in it, at which point I don’t think he was a very popular speaker with them.
Dr. Bernard Haisch: I think that there are skeptics who go, “I wouldn’t believe it even if it were true.” They have so much invested in their worldview that it would be devastating for them to have to accept something that simply doesn’t fit that worldview.
Brent Raynes: Right. There has to be a mental, intellectual flexibility to really consider both sides of every argument.
Dr. Bernard Haisch: Yes.
Brent Raynes: You wrote a book, prior to this one, entitled The God Theory. Would you like to talk a little about that and how this evolved?
Dr. Bernard Haisch: Well the books go hand-in-hand. The God Theory goes into quite a bit more detail about my own life and talks about when I was growing up and about my career and so on, and so it is a little bit autobiographical, whereas the new one doesn’t do that at all. The focus of the new one is on the Perennial Philosophy and quantum physics. The Perennial Philosophy is sort of the core set of beliefs throughout the world’s religions that match up, that are in alignment, even though many of the religions may be very different from each other, but when you dig down to the core there are core truths that are there. They usually come out through the mystical personalities in the various religions, and that was summarized very well by Aldous Huxley in his book, published in 1945, called The Perennial Philosophy. So in the new book I concentrate primarily on The Perennial Philosophy, and on the evidence from quantum physics that consciousness creates reality. My first book wasn’t any different philosophically, it was just the emphasis that was different. It also talked there about some physics work that I had done and quite a bit of quoting from the Conversations with God theories, which I think is a pretty profound set of books. They’re definitely along the same lines, but with a slightly different emphasis between the two.
Brent Raynes: Do you feel optimistic that down the road a lot more scientists are going to be a lot more open to these areas or do you think that it’s still going to take awhile.
Dr. Bernard Haisch: I think that it will take awhile, but I think that eventually they will have to because science really does strive to uncover the truth. The truth may not be welcomed and the truth may be unpleasant, but eventually the truth has to be faced in science.
If it really is the case that consciousness creates reality, then that truth is going to come out through science eventually. It could take a long time. I think that it will be expedited by the fact that in this new century it’s probably not going to be physics any longer that’s regarded as the paradigm of science. It’s probably going to be biology because there’s a lot more energy and money and just a lot more effort going into biology than into physics. Physics has reached kind of a dead end in terms of understanding the basic fundamental particles unless some great new discovery emerges from the large hadron collider in the next year or two. Biology is just going to town with new discoveries. Biology is a lot messier than physics. I think that biology is a lot more appropriate as the context in which to understand consciousness.
So yes, I do think that the perspective on consciousness is going to change dramatically, but it still could be decades. I’d like to see it in my lifetime, but it still could be decades.
Brent Raynes: I know that you were writing about String Theory, and if I remember right you said that it may never actually be verified because the string that we’re talking about would have to be so small, that it would be like an atom compared to a solar system, I believe you wrote?
Dr. Bernard Haisch: Yes, something like that. An atom compared to the universe is exactly what I said.
There are two problems with that. One is that the scale is so tiny that the energies needed to create strings would be enormous, much more than we have available on the entire planet. The other is that the ideas are basically incompatible with measurement. The prediction is that there are other dimensions and probably other universes that probably have different properties than ours. Well how do you communicate or discover or interact in some way with something that is totally different that doesn’t even follow the same laws of physics. You can’t. It would be like using a telescope to record a rock band. Telescopes don’t record rock bands. They look at light. They don’t deal with sound. So the problem with different universes with different physical laws means that we can’t possibly, even in principle, come to explore them because our laws and those laws don’t talk to each other.
So String Theory is a pretty well protected theory. You can’t get to it in any way that involves experimentation, so it looks to me more like a branch of mathematics than it is a branch of physics. But it certainly has attracted lots and lots of attention and lots and lots of physicists who are devoting years to writing String Theory papers.
Brent Raynes: And then there’s dark matter which certainly a lot of astronomers and astrophysicists have talked about how so much of the universe is composed of dark matter and yet we don’t really understand it. Do you have any thoughts on that?
Dr. Bernard Haisch: Well it is kind of a sobering thought that 95 percent of the universe is comprised of either dark matter or dark energy, neither of which we understand. So what we’re looking at, in terms of the objects that we can study with the telescope, or visit with a spacecraft, is miniscule. It’s like one percent of the objects in the universe that we can observe. That is the ones that emit light and that we can study with spectrographs and so on, because the universe is primarily composed of stuff that we don’t know what it is.
Beyond that, I don’t know what conclusion to draw, except that it is a sobering thought.
Brent Raynes: Is there anything that you’d like to add here, as perhaps a concluding thought on all of this?
Dr. Bernard Haisch: Well I guess that it is just to keep your mind open when you hear pronouncements from preachers or professors, put on the skeptic cap and look at the evidence and don’t be biased one way or the other.