In the above TED talk by MIT-trained artist, scientist and engineer, Jeff Lieberman, shares his ideas on the origin and nature of human beings. He talks about how we are not simply a single physical entity, but are made up of a community of trillions of cells which are, in turn, composed of trillions of atoms. Taking it down to the sub-atomic level, Lieberman suggests that the atoms that make up our body are composed of energy. That energy, he posits, came from a single source — the single, undifferentiated energy that led to the Big Bang. Everything in the Universe, including us, came from this one source and shares this energy in common. He goes into a lot more than this, but this is what I wanted to focus on in this post.
Watch the video and let me know how much you think it has in common with what I am going to say now.
I recently led a discussion on Doctrine and Covenants, section 88 (considered to be scripture by LDS/Mormons) in which we talked about the Light of Christ as described in that section. When I later saw this TED video, I was amazed by how many parallels between the two philosophies jumped out at me. For your convenience, I’ll quote D&C 88:6-13 here.
6 He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth;
7 Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made.
8 As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made;
9 As also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made;
10 And the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand.
11 And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings;
12 Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—
13 The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.
Notice how Lieberman’s ideas approximate what is said here. The light (or “energy”) of Christ originates at one source and then goes forth to fill the immensity of space. Everything in the universe is made from and composed of this light, including the Earth — I think we can assume that the inference is that we, ourselves, are also made up of this light. The scripture explicitly states that this light enlightens our eyes and quickens our understanding and it is this light that is in all things and gives life to all things. The light is equated with the governing law of the Universe and with God’s own power.
I don’t agree with everything that Lieberman says in the video, but a lot of it makes perfect sense. I know that there is some discrepancy still among scientists regarding the exact nature of the particles (electrons, photons, neutrinos, quarks, etc.) that make up atoms, but some studies that I have read indicate that the smallest particles at the most fundamental level may be made up of what is, essentially, light. If we accept that notion, then although our body seems to us to be very physical and solid, we are actually just a big bundle of light moving around very quickly. I am no scientist, but this makes a lot of sense to me.
If we are made up of light/energy that all comes from a single source at the beginning of the Universe, then, as Lieberman argues, we have reason to feel a sense of commonality between our selves and every living being — everything in the Universe. There is something that we share that binds us all together. We should treat our neighbor as ourself!
This also gives us some insight into the type of intuition or communal consciousness and understanding that we should be able to tap into. If this light is in all of us — in all of our cells and our very molecules and atoms — then we share in this same light that created us and of which we are composed. As the scriptures says, this light illumines our eyes and “quickens” our understanding. This illumination is, by the way the scriptures defines it, available to all of us — to every living thing.
This could lead us into many other interesting discussions — but for now, what do you think of these ideas? What did you think of the video? Are Lieberman’s ideas really compatible with what I’ve quoted from D&C 88? Does he take too much from the idea of our eternal individual identity? If you have thoughts on this, please leave them in the comments below!