Scientists have noticed a strange similarity between the structure of the visible Universe at the largest scale and the interconnectedness of neurons (brain cells) in the human brain at the smallest scale.
The Milky Way galaxy is home to billions of stars with their accompanying planets and moons and vast ‘clouds’ of gas and dust. Each star revolves around the galactic center forming an overall ‘pin-wheel’ shape. At the galactic center resides a supermassive black hole (a dense object about four million times the mass of the sun), which is likely instrumental in keeping the galaxy from flying apart. The Milky Way is about one hundred thousand light years across. (That distance in miles equals the distance light travels in one year at 186,000 miles per second times one hundred thousand.) Another way to think about it is it takes light one hundred thousand years to travel from one ‘edge’ to the opposite edge.
The sun and its planets reside about 25,000 light years from the center. Very recently scientists have viewed directly the black hole phenomenon. But not as it exists at this moment, which would be impossible, but rather how it looked 25,000 years ago because that’s how long it takes the out flowing energy from the object to reach our instruments.
Before the invention of powerful telescopes, astronomers had concluded the Milky Way was the sum-total of the Universe. But with the invention of more powerful instruments, billions more galaxies were discovered millions and then billions of light years away from the Milky Way. At first these newly discovered galaxies seemed to be spread haphazardly across the vastness of space, but it is now known that galaxies form clusters that are connected by ‘strings’ of galaxies to other clusters, all bound together by gravity over vast distances.
Computers have enabled scientists to determine what these billions of galaxies would look like from an ‘outside’ perspective, and it turns out they form a great web-like structure very similar in appearance to what the web of brain cells look like under extremely high magnification, prompting some to wonder if we are some tiny part of a much larger (and possibly living) entity?
While this idea may seem radical, it is not a new idea, rather an old idea that is now reinvigorated and modified by modern science. Pantheism is the view that ‘God’ is everything; i.e. all the matter, life forms, laws, energy, and so on that exists. While it was likely discussed by ancient thinkers, the philosopher Bruno is one of the first to promote this idea in the 16th century for which he was tried and convicted of heresy by the Church and burned at the stake. In the 17th century, the philosopher Spinoza wrote extensively about pantheism and later people including Einstein embraced that view.
Bruno, Spinoza and others from the past who promoted the Pantheistic view were doing so from a philosophical point of view. They didn’t have the technology to view the cosmos at great distances and were unaware of much more than the visible stars and planets, and they knew nothing of brain chemistry. But modern astronomy and electron microscopes have put a ‘face’ on this idea. Is ‘God’ everything and is modern technology allowing us to begin to ‘see’ the shape of that ‘mind’?
Or is it merely a coincidence that the interconnectedness of the neurons within the human brain at the micro-level looks similar to the cosmic web of galaxies at the largest scale? Are we seeing what we want to see and letting our judgment be blurred by the tendency of the human brain to see patterns even where there aren’t any, like faces in the clouds or the future in tea leaves? There is, of course, no way to know at this point. So it remains for now in the realm of speculation, but it is an idea that some scientists, philosophers, and even theologians find worth exploring.
Email Terry Mejdrich at email@example.com.