In this question on the physics site, it is asked if astronomical objects can be conscious. Now, in a sense, every object has to be "conscious" somehow, as every object is composed of the same stuff. Stones are considered as dead though and jellyfish or bacteria as conscious. In this article written by Rupert Sheldrake said to induce strong emotions, and indeed, it does!) it is conjectured that stars are conscious. Because of this, there is no need for dark matter. Dark matter makes galaxies behave in a way that can't be explained by using the law of gravity (Newton's law of universal gravity). The amount of observed mass is not enough to make the galaxies rotate in the predicted way. So non-observable mass has to be added (dark matter), or the law of gravity has to be changed, which is done in MOND (classical) or in the emergent gravity theories (quantum).

Sheldrake offers another explanation. The observed divergent behavior of the moving stuff in galaxies (first detected by Zwicky) is explained by the stars emitting rays of matter in the right direction. By this, they try to reach other stars. In a kind of battle of the stars (as compared to the evolution of life in the theory of evolution), they can eat each other(!) and grow (evolve). The supposed matter rays are emitted by the stars in such a way that they give rise to the observed behavior of the galaxies. The stars are compare with cells in a developing embryo heading to their supposed place in the developing creature. It is thought that the stars are sufficiently complex in Nature to give rise to the directed emission of matter rays.

Now, I can imagine that stars do that, but is there any astronomical evidence that they don't?

The thing I find ridiculous is the stars having consciousness. Stars that try to find prey? Maybe the sun is conscious somehow. And there are people who see the sun as a god. But these people don't pretend to be scientific. Sheldrake does. So looking at it scientifically, is there evidence of these rays? They could be emerging from the sun, but how could we know if these rays are not directed to us (they are supposedly emitted in the direction of motion so something similar caused by the existence of dark matter is observed)? Are there observations of stars that just contradict his view? I know the burden of proof is his to carry, but I don't suppose he's gonna try to prove the rays to exist (as explained in a comment, this would probably harm his reputation if they not exist).

So, to explain the divergent behavior of the galaxies (and stars in them) one can propose that the behavior is caused by emitted rays of energy-matter. The rays are emitted in the direction of velocity (a similar theory of gravity was proposed once: Le Sage's theory of gravitation, also called shadow gravity). Is this conjecture just false in the light of modern observations? That is, are stars known not to emit these rays? Can't calculations show that these rays have to be very massive in order for them to propel the stars in such a way that they show dark matter behavior?

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    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – Connor Garcia
    Commented Jun 5, 2021 at 19:41
  • $\begingroup$ Off-topic but fun fact: in Olaf Stapledon's "Star Maker" (1937) the stars, galaxies, and the universe itself could be conscious. So the idea has been around for some time, just not taken seriously. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 6, 2021 at 9:12

2 Answers 2


Firstly, thank you for your leveled and clear explanation of Sheldrake's essay. I agree with you that it is quite ridiculous to make such a bold claim when there is such little support for it even for small examples, but that's nothing new to humans.... ;)

Now, your question,

is there any astronomical evidence that they don't?

It must be made very clear, that in principle the burden of proof is on Sheldrake to demonstrate that his claim is true, or to provide methods for disproving his claim. Of course, that's not going to happen, and waiting around for some grandiose claim of unified consciousness and physics to be validated might take a long time! So I understand why you've asked the question the way you have.

Is there any evidence that disproves Sheldrake's hypothesis?

Well, since there's no satisfactory rigorous way to define consciousness, let's consider the specific claim about stars emitting matter waves. We know that stars emit electromagnetic radiation and stars have pressure and temperature gradients and are composed of metals and thus have stellar winds which expels material from the stellar surface. But that expelled stellar material will only reach another star if they are sufficiently close to each other, which is only some fraction of all stars, and even in this case the conditions have to be right for the companion to accrete that expelled material... it's not a guarantee. So, there is evidence to disprove this specific claim of Sheldrake's: stars do not emit matter waves in the way that Sheldrake means, because the compton wavelength of any matter leaving the stellar surface is much longer than for quantum-woo-hoo effects which Sheldrake is referring to be relevant in the motion of the matter particles. Quantum mechanics can be important for modeling stellar winds (for example Misner pointed this out in the 1920s concerning winds from hot luminous stars, ref see Lamers and Casinelli 1998), but not in some mystical way.

The supposed matter rays are emitted by the stars in such a way that they give rise to the observed behavior of the galaxies.

Well, isn't that convenient for Sheldrake's hypothesis! This is in stark contrast to the dark matter paradigm in physics, which does not behave intrinsically in such a way to match the observed behavior of galaxies, but is instead parameterized variously to try to account for many possible mechanisms by which dark matter might operate to explain observations. This may seem like a subtle difference, but its all the difference in the world. This is why many of the original models of dark matter have been disproven and ruled out over the last several decades.

Lastly, cosmic rays are high energy particle rays that could be considered in a quantum mechanic perspective as matter waves. But high energy cosmic rays are sourced by objects far more energetic than stars, e.g. active galactic nuclei. Stars like our Sun do emit low energy cosmic rays, however the cross section is likely too low to effect the evolution of other stars. There very well could be certain circumstnaces where that does happen, but it would be an exception to the rule, and would not prove Sheldrake's hypothesis since he claims it happens over arbitrary distances across space. To prove his hypothesis with rigor, one would have to show that for any star that one picks, there is a correlation in its evolution with the Sun's cosmic ray activity. Also, stars have magnetic fields which, in principle, might deflect cosmic rays from our own Sun, as can happen with Earth's magnetic field.

  • $\begingroup$ It's a pity I can't upvote yet. Your answer gave me the shivers (in a positive way!). So nothing unusual in our sun? She isn't searching for prey...? $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 4, 2021 at 14:07
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    $\begingroup$ My ultimate pleasure!! I was just reading into that actually. I'll edit my answer accordingly, but yes stars like our Sun can emit cosmic rays that are very low energy compared to extra-solar cosmic rays, however, the Sun only emits such rays during rather extreme events on its surface like flares. The number of particles released into space from a solar flare is tiny, it would not effect the evolution of a nearby star. The low energy Solar cosmic rays definitely can effect things on Earth, like climate change. But that's not what Sheldrake is talking about. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 4, 2021 at 14:09
  • $\begingroup$ Edited my last paragraph to clarify $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 4, 2021 at 14:17
  • $\begingroup$ This is very inconvenient for Rupert Sheldrake indeed! I don't understand why he is referring to so many scientists, while his theory is so unscientific. But if he thinks the sun is conscious... I can't forbid him. Thanks again! $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 4, 2021 at 14:19

To be fair, Sheldrake credits Greg Matloff (2015) for this "dark matter is really the motions of 'volitional stars'" idea.

It's easy enough to show this won't work (I mean, aside from all the nonsensical physics involved), because dark matter is not just "stars in the outer parts of galaxies are moving funny" -- it's "all things in the outer parts of galaxies -- and outside galaxies -- are moving funny". The classic example is the rotation curves of spiral galaxies (like our own Milky Way), which are usually measured from the velocities of gas clouds, not stars. Massive elliptical galaxies are usually embedded in halos of hot, diffuse, X-ray-emitting gas. This gas is too high-pressure to say around the galaxy, unless there's extra (dark) matter holding it in.

Similar observations can be made about galaxy groups and clusters: the X-ray-emitting gas has too much pressure to stay confined within the group or cluster, unless there's extra, unseen matter providing gravity to hold it in. (Or, possibly, gravity doesn't work on large scales the way it does on smaller scales.)

And then you have the role dark matter plays in cosmology and the growth of large-scale-structure, which can't be explained by "volitional stars", either.

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    $\begingroup$ Indeed. If simple asymmetric mass ejection from stars could explain the observations, that could and would have been proposed even without an explanation of what causes the asymmetric ejection. $\endgroup$
    – jpa
    Commented Jun 5, 2021 at 16:22

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