Although both pillars of modern physics—relativity and quantum mechanics—provide solid grounding for the primacy of the observer, most of us still believe that the universe was, until recently, a lifeless collection of particles bouncing off one another, existing and unfolding without us. It’s presented as a watch that somehow wound itself up, and that unwinds in a semi-predictable way.
But it’s we observers who create the arrow of time (see Annalen de Physik, which also published Einstein’s theories of relativity). As Stephen Hawking stated, “There is no way to remove the observer—us—from our perceptions of the world… In classical physics, the past is assumed to exist as a definite series of events, but according to quantum physics, the past, like the future, is indefinite and exists only as a “spectrum of possibilities.”
If we, the observer, collapse these possibilities (the past and the future), then where does that leave evolutionary theory, as described in our schoolbooks? The fact is, the universe does not run mechanistically like a clock, independent of us, and it never has. The past begins with the observer, not the other way around.
You may wonder about all the fossil evidence. But fossils are no different than anything else in nature. The carbon atoms in our body, for instance, are “fossils” created in the heart of exploding supernova stars. As John Wheeler, the legendary physicist who coined the terms “black hole” and “wormhole,” once said, “We are participators in bringing about something of the universe in the distant past.”
We happen to find ourselves alive on a lush little planet with its warm sun and coconut trees. And at just the right time in the history of the universe. The surface of the molten earth has cooled, but it’s not too cold. And it’s not too hot; the sun hasn’t expanded enough to melt the Earth’s surface with its searing gas yet. Even setting aside the issue of being here and now, the probability of random physical laws and events leading to this point is less than 1 out of 100,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, equivalent to winning every lottery there ever was.
We’re the missing piece. Although classical evolution does an excellent job of helping us understand the past, it fails to capture the driving force. Evolution needs to add the observer to the equation. Indeed, Niels Bohr, the great Nobel physicist, said, “When we measure something we are forcing an undetermined, undefined world to assume an experimental value. We are not ‘measuring’ the world, we are creating it.”