You might be wondering where I obtained my list. I hope you are not disappointed that I produced it myself. I have given a lot of thought to these topics and they all relate to the book about the hidden powers of the human mind which I am writing. So, here is my personal list of the biggest questions that scientists have been unable to answer.
1: What maintains the remarkable constancy of the basic particles and forces of the material world? Without this constancy and lawfulness, science as we know it would not be possible. Similarly, of course, life as we know it would also not be possible. We know that particles and forces everywhere in the universe behave in the same fashion. We also have conclusive evidence that particles and forces which originated billions of years ago acted in the same way back then as they do now. Science takes this constancy as a sort of “brute fact” about how the universe works and then builds its theories on that base. The question of what produces this constancy is almost never asked by scientists and science has no answer for it.
2: What guides the way energy and matter are transformed into each other? Ever since physicists confirmed the predictions of Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity, we have understood that everything that exists in the material world is formed out of the same basic sub-strata of energy. We knew before Einstein’s theories that all forms of energy can be converted into other energy forms. Then Einstein gave us the added understanding that matter can be changed into energy as well as energy being changed into mass. Scientists are very adept at describing the rules of how all these transformations work, but nowhere is there an answer to the question of what enforces the rules and guides the transformations.
3: How did the first cell start its life and begin forming other cells? It is not hard to envision how natural selection can modify the structure of DNA or any of the other components of a cell over time after evolution is underway, but how did that very first cell become capable of reproducing itself and passing on its structure to future cells? To reproduce itself, even the simplest cell must have a cell wall to separate its metabolic processes from its environment. It must also have a mechanism to extract energy from its surroundings to power its metabolic processes. It must already have a DNA map to direct the formation of its entire structure and it must also possess the means to exactly duplicate that DNA as it divides. Thousands of DNA sequences that precisely specify thousands of essential cell components must have all been present before the first cell could possibly have formed reliable duplicates of itself. It is ludicrous to postulate that an unguided random accident accounted for the simultaneous presence of all the complex structures needed for this first cell to reproduce. Certainly, natural selection itself is also powerless to explain the formation of this huge number of components since they must have all been present before the first step in natural selection could have occurred. While science has a huge and convincing evidence base supporting the evolution of diverse species, it has no reasonable explanation for how evolution could have begun in the first place.
4: How is it that the forty trillion or so separate cells of our body are experienced by us as a single, unified self? We know that our body is composed of a huge number of distinct and separate cells and new cells are constantly being formed while others are dying off throughout our lives. We do not, however, experience our body as the community of separate living entities that it actually is, nor do we experience ourselves as a different self even though the entire cellular make-up of our body is replaced every seven years or so. Even the central coordination role of our brain does not resolve this dilemma since it is itself composed of many billions of individually functioning and autonomous neurons. Science has no mechanism to explain how our compelling sense of being a continuous, single self emerges from this vast array of individually existing components which are constantly being replaced.
5: How do the non-physical actions of the thoughts within our mind interact with the physical world? Science is also at a total loss to explain how the realm of mental phenomena, which totally lacks the characteristics of physical matter, can causally interact with the realm of matter, which totally lacks the characteristics of mental actions. A related question, sometimes called the “hard question” of neuroscience, is how do various patterns of neurons firing in our brain produce the totally unique sensations and huge variety of sensory experiences such as specific colors, sounds and tastes? While science has shown many correlations between the neuronal activity of certain areas of the brain with certain human experiences, there is no explanation as to how such dramatic and varied differences in our sensory experiences are produced by nearly identical nerve structures in these different parts of the brain.
All five of these questions have one thing in common: to answer them requires us to postulate that an influence must exist that stands both totally outside the particles and forces which make up our universe and which is capable of controlling the action of each and every one of these physical components. Once have accepted that this kind of influence exists these questions no longer look so mysterious, but this conclusion goes against widely accepted beliefs. This is a major departure from the theories of modern science since this influence must be non-physical in nature if it is to truly stand outside of and encompass every part of the physical universe. The historical roots of science were such that anything which cannot be measured and quantified (i.e. non-physical) is considered to be outside the proper concern of science and theories involving such influences are rejected as unscientific.
This is where the kinds of research studies that I review in my book are so helpful and important. They are quite well done and their findings are as definitive as scientific research can get. Some studies show conclusively that the human mind can gather information from distant sources even when all possible physical mechanisms for gathering this information are completely screened out. Other studies show that through mental intent only, distant inanimate processes can be altered or diseases of living organisms can be healed. Even though theses findings contradict the historical beliefs of many generations of scientists, superbly designed scientific research shows unequivocally that a non-physical influence on the physical world does exist.
It is now clear that the human mind is capable of interacting with the physical world in ways that are not mediated by physical mechanisms and which are also independent of the usual constraints of distance and time. Science has not been able to answer the questions posed earlier in this article because scientists have chosen to confine the scope of their investigations exclusively to physical phenomena, and in so doing, they have eliminated the only possible way they could answer them.
Furthermore, taken as a whole and analyzed in depth, this body of research strongly implies that when we consider the interactions of mind with matter, mind is primary. We know this since the actions of mind completely violate and supercede the “laws” of physical events to which all physical phenomena must adhere. The simplest and most elegant explanation for everything that has been discovered through this work is that consciousness creates it all, unifies it all and guides it all. Mind itself is the origin and source of everything that exists.
Once you accept that consciousness is the primary source of everything we experience in our cosmos, the five questions I presented above look a lot less mysterious. First, the incredible constancy of the universe’s sub-atomic structure can be seen as maintained by, and the transformations of mass and energy lawfully guided by, a single, intelligent source that created it all and continues to maintain it all. Next, the enormous complexity of the primordial cells that kicked off the first steps of evolution on this planet can be seen as purposely formed by this same source. How the source did this is not clear, but if it can create the entire universe, forming living organisms capable of evolving can’t be any harder. Further, our ability to maintain a single, continuous sense of self despite the multi-cellular make-up and constant change of our body demonstrates that we are not physical beings. Instead, we are single, conscious, non-physical parts of mind that inhabit physical bodies. Finally, while it is not clear exactly how mind interacts with matter, if mind creates matter in the first place, changing matter’s action is no surprising feat and mind’s interaction with matter ceases to be a puzzle.
I find it very pleasant and reassuring to consider the implications of this analysis. Within this understanding of our cosmos, everything is purposeful and guided. Instead of believing ourselves to be in the midst of a sterile and threatening world subject to random processes, we find ourselves in an environment designed with our needs in mind. Even though we are not aware of the specific goals for which our lives and the universe were created, we can feel confident that it all does have meaning and purpose. We also can be confident that we are a unique part of the over-all field of consciousness itself and our existence is not dependent on the physical form in which we are currently housed. Finally, what is abundantly implicit here is that as conscious beings we have inherited much more power than we ever dared conceive of in the past.
Do you have your own list of the greatest mysteries, scientific or otherwise? As always, I would love to hear what you think about what I have written or any other comments you may want to share.