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Author/Compiler: Tihomir Dimitrov (; also see


Nobel Prize: George Wald (1906-1997) received the 1967 Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology for his work on the biochemistry of vision. Nationality: American Education: Ph.D. in biology, Columbia University, 1932 Occupation: Professor of Biology at Harvard University (1948-1977)



1. In 1954 Prof. George Wald (who was still an atheist at that time) wrote in Scientific American:

"When it comes to the origin of life there are only two possibilities: creation or spontaneous generation. There is no third way. Spontaneous generation was disproved one hundred years ago, but that leads us to only one other conclusion, that of supernatural creation. We cannot accept that on philosophical grounds; therefore, we choose to believe the impossible: that life arose spontaneously by chance!" (George Wald, 1954, "The Origin of Life," Scientific American, 191 [2]: 48).

2. "The reasonable view was to believe in spontaneous generation; the only alternative, to believe in a single, primary act of supernatural creation. There is no third position.

Most modern biologists, having reviewed with satisfaction the downfall of the spontaneous generation hypothesis, yet unwilling to accept the alternative belief in special creation, are left with nothing." (Wald 1954, "The Origin of Life," Scientific American, 191 [2]: 45-46).


3. Nevertheless, George Wald underwent an astonishing change of mind during the early 1980s, and he came very close to religious mentality.

In his article "Life and Mind in the Universe" (1984) Prof. Wald wrote:

"In my life as scientist I have come upon two major problems which, though rooted in science, though they would occur in this form only to a scientist, project beyond science, and are I think ultimately insoluble as science. That is hardly to be wondered at, since one involves consciousness and the other, cosmology.

1) The consciousness problem was hardly avoidable by one who has spent most of his life studying mechanisms of vision. We have learned a lot, we hope to learn much more; but none of it touches or even points, however tentatively, in the direction of what it means to see. Our observations in human eyes and nervous systems and in those of frogs are basically much alike. I know that I see; but does a frog see? It reacts to light; so do cameras, garage doors, any number of photoelectric devices. But does it see? Is it aware that it is reacting? There is nothing I can do as a scientist to answer that question, no way that I can identify either the presence or absence of consciousness. I believe consciousness to be a permanent condition that involves all sensation and perception. Consciousness seems to me to be wholly impervious to science.

2) The second problem involves the special properties of our universe. Life seems increasingly to be part of the order of nature. We have good reason to believe that we find ourselves in a universe permeated with life, in which life arises inevitably, given enough time, wherever the conditions exist that make it possible. Yet were any one of a number of the physical properties of our universe otherwise – some of them basic, others seemingly trivial, almost accidental – that life, which seems now to be so prevalent, would become impossible, here or anywhere. It takes no great imagination to conceive of other possible universes, each stable and workable in itself, yet lifeless. How is it that, with so many other apparent options, we are in a universe that possesses just that peculiar nexus of properties that breeds life?

It has occurred to me lately – I must confess with some shock at first to my scientific sensibilities – that both questions might be brought into some degree of congruence. This is with the assumption that Mind, rather than emerging as a late outgrowth in the evolution of life, has existed always as the matrix, the source and condition of physical reality – that the stuff of which physical reality is composed is mind-stuff. It is Mind that has composed a physical universe that breeds life, and so eventually evolves creatures that know and create." (George Wald, 1984, "Life and Mind in the Universe", International Journal of Quantum Chemistry: Quantum Biology Symposium 11, 1984: 1-15).

4. In 1986 in his address to the First World Congress for the Synthesis of Science & Religion held in Bombay, India, George Wald stated:

"I come toward the end of my life as a scientist facing two great problems. Both are rooted in science, and I approach both as would only a scientist. Yet I believe that both are irrevocably – forever – unassimilable as science. And that is hardly strange, since one involves cosmology, the other, consciousness.


The burden of this story is that we find ourselves in a universe that breeds life and possesses the very particular properties that make that possible. The more deeply one penetrates, the more remarkable and subtle the fitness of this universe for life appears. Endless barriers lie in the way, yet each is surmounted somehow. It is as though, starting from the Big Bang, the universe pursued an intention to breed life, such is the subtlety with which difficulties in the way are got around, such are the singular choices in the values of key properties that could potentially have taken any value.

And now for my main thesis. If any one of a considerable number of the physical properties of our universe were other than they are – some of those properties fundamental, others seeming trivial, even accidental – then life, that now appears to be so prevalent, would be impossible, here or anywhere.


I know that I see. But does a frog see? It reacts to light; so does a photoelectrically activated garage door. Does the frog know that it is reacting to light, is it self-aware? Now the dilemma: There is nothing whatever that I can do as a scientist to answer that kind of question.

Does that garage door resent having to open when the headlights of my car shine on it? I think not. Does a computer that has just beaten a human player at chess feel elated? I think not; but there is nothing one can do about those situations either.

I had already for some time taken it as a foregone conclusion that the mind - consciousness – could not be located. It is essentially absurd to think of locating a phenomenon that yields no physical signals, the presence or absence of which - outside of humans and their like – cannot be identified.

But further than that, mind is not only not locatable, it has no location. It is not a thing in space and time, not measurable; hence – as I said at the beginning of this paper – not assimilable as science.

Mind and Matter

A few years ago it occurred to me that these seemingly very disparate problems might be brought together. That would be with the hypothesis that Mind, rather than being a very late development in the evolution of living things, restricted to organisms with the most complex nervous systems – all of which I had believed to be true – that Mind instead has been there always, and that this universe is life-breeding because the pervasive presence of Mind had guided it to be so.

That thought, though elating as a game is elating, so offended my scientific possibilities as to embarrass me. It took only a few weeks, however, for me to realize that I was in excellent company. That kind of thought is not only deeply embedded in millennia-old Eastern philosophies, but it has been expressed plainly by a number of great and very recent physicists.

So Arthur Eddington (1928):

‘The stuff of the world is mind-stuff. The mind-stuff is not spread in space and time.’

So Erwin Schroedinger:

‘Mind has erected the objective outside world of the natural philosopher out of its own stuff.’

Let me say that it is not only easier to say these things to physicists than to my fellow biologists, but easier to say them in India than in the West. For when I speak of Mind pervading the universe, of Mind as a creative principle perhaps primary to matter, any Hindu will acquiesce, will think, yes, of course, he is speaking of Brahman [God].

That is the stuff of the universe, mind-stuff; and yes, each of us shares in it." (George Wald, 1989, "The Cosmology of Life and Mind." Noetic Sciences Review, No. 10, p. 10, Spring 1989. Institute of Noetic Sciences, California).