In a video that recently aired on “Through the Wormhole” narrated by Morgan Freeman on the TV channel Science, Dr. Hameroff claims, "I believe that consciousness, or its immediate precursor proto-consciousness, has been in the universe all along, perhaps from the Big Bang."
Understanding where consciousness comes from could solve mysteries such as what happens to the "soul" during near-death experiences, or when a person dies.
Dr. Hameroff goes on to share hypothetical scenarios derived from the Orch-OR (orchestrated objective reduction) theory of consciousness that he and Roger Penrose, mathematician and physicist, proposed in 1996. According to the theory, consciousness is derived from microtubules within brain cells (neurons) which are sites of quantum processing.
But what exactly is consciousness, where does it come from and can it be scientifically proven? Dr. Stuart Hameroff, MD, is Professor Emeritus at the Departments of Anesthesiology and Psychology and the Director of the Center of Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona and much of his research over the past few decades has been in the field of quantum mechanics, dedicated to studying consciousness.
According to Dr. Hameroff, in a near-death experience, when the heart stops beating, the blood stops flowing, and the microtubules lose their quantum state, the quantum information in the microtubules isn't destroyed. It's distributed to the universe at large, and if the patient is revived, the quantum information can go back to the microtubules. In this event, the patient says they had something like a near-death experience, i.e. they saw white light or a tunnel or floated out of their body. In the event that the patient is not revived, "it's possible that the quantum information can can exist outside the body, perhaps indefinitely, as a soul," he said.
The Orch-OR theory of consciousness remains controversial in the scientific community. Many scientists and physicists have challenged it, including MIT physicist Max Tegmark, who wrote a paper in 2000 that was widely cited.
Still, Dr. Hameroff believes that "nobody has landed a serious blow to the theory. It's very viable."