Chance, Necessity or Interdependence?
can we interpret such an astonishing fine-tuning of the physical constants and
initial conditions of the universe that make it possible for life and consciousness
to emerge? From a non-Buddhist point of view, there are two possible alternatives.
One can evoke either chance or necessity.
If chance is the right answer, then
the very precise tuning of the laws of physics and the initial conditions, so
as to allow consciousness to arise, could be explained by the existence of a multitude
of parallel universes. These parallel universes would contain all possible combinations
of physical laws and initial conditions. Virtually all these universes would be
barren and incapable of harboring life and consciousness ... all except ours,
that, by pure coincidence, would have the winning combination, with us as the
grand prize! Quantum mechanics allows the existence of such parallel universes;
every time a choice or decision must be made, the universe could split into two:
in one universe the Declaration of Independence would be written, in another America
would remain a colony of England. In one universe the Berlin Wall would be torn
down, in another it would remain. The observer himself would divide in two. There
are also some Big Bang models that allow the idea of parallel universes: our universe
would be only one small bubble among a multitude of other bubble-parallel universes
within a meta-universe. On the other hand, if we choose the "necessity"
option (i.e. reject the parallel universe hypothesis and adopt the one of a single
universe, our own), then in order to account for the extremely precise fine-tuning,
we must postulate a Great Architect who adjusted from the outset the laws of physics
and initial conditions in order for the universe to become conscious of itself.
options are possible, and science cannot settle the issue. Like the 17th century
French philosopher Blaise Pascal, we must make a wager: either humanity emerged
by chance in an indifferent universe that is totally devoid of meaning, or our
ascent was preprogrammed at the very beginning so we could give meaning to the
universe by understanding it.
Buddhism offers a third alternative to account
for such a precise fine-tuning for the emergence life and consciousness. As we
have seen, it is not necessary to invoke a First Cause, a creative principle that
has regulated everything from the start. There is no need for an "anthropic
principle" or for a notion of design. According to Buddhism, consciousness
has co-existed, co-exists and will co-exist with matter for all times. The same
goes for the animate with the inanimate. Neither the universe nor consciousness
had a beginning or end. Because they are interdependent, it is not surprising
that the properties of the universe are compatible with the existence of consciousness.
Two interdependent entities cannot exclude each other, but must be necessarily
in harmony with each other.
This cosmic vision is in contrast to the usual
picture of an ascent of the pyramid of complexity, where there is the formation
of ever more complex forms of matter with the passage of time, which forms as
they pass a complexity threshold become animate and endowed with consciousness.
This does not mean that Buddhism rejects the Darwinian idea of evolution. Rather
Buddhism would interpret the whole sequence of Darwinian evolution of ever more
complex organisms as simply an increase in sophistication of the material support
of a stream or a continuum of consciousness going from one form of material support
In summary, the cosmological view of Buddhism rests on the basic
concept of interdependence. Because everything depends on something else, there
can be no entity that exists independently of all the others. Thus, there is no
First Cause and no creation ex-nihilo. There is also no need to invoke an "anthropic
principle" or any notion of design. The universe must be such as to harbor
consciousness simply because the two are interdependent. This concept of interdependence
is strongly reminiscent of the properties of interconnectedness and non-locality
found in the science of quantum mechanics for subatomic particles.