The limitless expanse of the cosmos challenges our perceptions of the universe and our role in it. What was once looked upon a big machine seems to be revealing itself as a living organism that continues to evolve and self-generate. This is the theory behind The Living Universe: Cosmos as Organism, a contemplative documentary that beautifully intersects the scientific with the philosophical.
The film isn't so much as interested in the latest findings of cosmologists as it is in the effect that such findings might ultimately harbor on the human species. As our understanding of the universe continues to sharpen and expand, will this bring about a similar expansion of our own consciousness? Does the human race even matter in the broad scheme of things?
To illustrate these points, the filmmaker travels back in time. During the Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries, the leading thinkers like Sir Isaac Newton first set forth this "universe as machine" metaphor. The foundations for this belief were firmly stationed in the Christian faith; they believed that God Himself had set this machine in motion. But this track of thinking was complicated a century later when Charles Darwin first announced his galvanizing theory of evolution.
Human consciousness has always developed in concert with the most influential scientific breakthroughs. These discoveries have forced us to question the nature of our reality. Our notion of self has teetered from merely functioning as a cog in the wheel of the natural order to existing as the master of our domain at nature's expense.
The film explores a third possibility. The universe is not a shell where things happen from within; it is itself a living process that evolves through the interactions of all that surrounds it. To what extent does the power of our minds play a role in the basic functioning of the universe?
The film's animation-heavy visual presentation is acceptable enough. The ideas are what really take hold. The organistic paradigm is not a new theory, but it's given life and clarity through the enthusiastic and probing narration that blankets the film.