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My Take: Science and spirituality should be friends
February 15th, 2011
07:00 AM ET

My Take: Science and spirituality should be friends

Editor's Note: Deepak Chopra is founder of the Chopra Foundation and a senior scientist at the Gallup Organization. He has authored over 60 books, including The Soul of Leadership, which The Wall Street Journal called one of five best business books about careers.

By Deepak Chopra, Special to CNN

For most people, science deserves its reputation for being opposed to religion.

I'm not thinking of the rather noisy campaign by a handful of die-hard atheists to demote and ridicule faith.

I'm thinking instead of Charles Darwin, whose theory of evolution has proved victorious over the Book of Genesis and its story of God creating the universe in seven days. Since then, God has been found wanting when measured against facts and data. With no data to support the existence of God, there is also no reason for religion and science to close the gap between them.

Yet the gap has indeed been closing.

Religion and spirituality didn't go away just because organized religion has been losing its hold, as suggested by showing decades of  declining church attendance in the U.S. and Western Europe.

Despite the noisy atheists, two trends in spirituality and science have started to converge. One is the trend to seek God outside the church. This has given rise to a kind of spirituality based on personal experience, with an openness to accept Eastern traditions like meditation and yoga as legitimate ways to expand one's consciousness.

If God is to be found anywhere, it is inside the consciousness of each person. Even in the Christian West we have the assurance of Jesus that the kingdom of heaven is within, while the Old Testament declares, "Be still and know that I am God."

The other trend is a growing interest by scientists in questions about consciousness.

Twenty years ago, a respectable researcher couldn't ask daring questions such as "do we live in an intelligent universe?" or "Is there mind outside the body?" That's because materialism rules science; it is the core of the scientific worldview that reality is constructed out of physical building blocks - tiny things like atoms and quarks - whose motion is essentially random.

When you use words like "intelligence" and "design" in discussing the patterns in nature, immediately you are tarred with the same brush as creationists, who have hijacked those terms to defend their religious beliefs.

But time brings change, and next week my foundation is hosting a symposium in Southern California where the gap between science and spirituality will be narrow somewhat, not on the basis of religion but on the basis of consciousness.

Outside the view of the general public, science has reached a critical point. The physical building blocks of the universe have gradually vanished; that is, atoms and quarks no longer seem solid at all but are actually clouds of energy, which in turn disappear into the void that seems to be the source of creation.

Was mind also born in the same place outside space and time? Is the universe conscious? Do genes depend on quantum interactions? Science aims to understand nature down to its very essence, and now these once radical questions, long dismissed as unscientific, are unavoidable.

My conference, called the Sages and Scientists Symposium: The Merging of A New Future, is only one in a wave of gatherings through which hundreds of researchers are working to define a new paradigm for the relationship between spirituality and science.

It is becoming legitimate to talk of invisible forces that shape creation - not labeling them as God but as the true shapers of reality beyond the space/time continuum. A whole new field known as quantum biology has sprung up, based on a true breakthrough - the idea that the total split between the micro world of the quantum and the macro world of everyday things may be a false split.

If so, science will have to account for why the human brain, which lives in the macro world, derives its intelligence from the micro world. Either atoms and molecules are smart, or something makes them smart.

That something, I believe, will come down to a conscious universe.

Agree or disagree, you cannot simply toss the question out the window. It turns out that the opposition of science to religion is a red herring. The real goal of a new science will be to expand our reality so that spiritual truths are acceptable, along with many other subjective experiences that science has long dismissed as unreliable.

We are conscious beings who live with purpose and meaning. It seems unlikely that these arose form a random, meaningless universe. The final answer to where they came from may shake science to its core. I certainly hope it does.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Deepak Chopra.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Culture & Science • Leaders • Opinion • Science

soundoff (1,568 Responses)
  1. LAMAR MOULING SR

    PANTHEISM IS WHAT WE SHOULD BE ACCEPTING. NO ONE KNOWS AND NO ONE WILL EVER KNOW THE MEANING OF LIFE. JUST ACCEPT IT. IT COULD BE AN ACCIDENT WHICH IS MOST LIKELY, OR IT COULD BE A GODLY CREATION. WHEN ONE FINDS OUT, LET ME KNOW.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Origin of the Universe:
      Pantheistic Solipsism. Every thought creates it's own universe.

      Meaning of Life, The Universe and Everything:
      42.
      So don't panic, and always know where your towel is.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
    • Reality

      Deepak,

      If you have not already done so, please watch Julia Sweeney's monologue "Letting Go of God". You are one of the "stars" in the show.

      To wit:

      "I was so intrigued with this quantum mechanics that Deepak refers to over and over and over again in his books, that I decided to take a class in it.

      And what I found is-Deepak Chopra is full of sh__!"

      Julia Sweeney, Letting Go of God

      (Ex-Catholic) Julia Sweeney's monologue "Letting Go Of God" will be the final nail in the coffin of religious belief/faith and is and will continue to be more effective than any money-generating book or your "Ultimate Happiness Prescription".

      Buy the DVD or watch it on Showtime. Check your cable listings.

      from http://www.amazon.com

      "Letting Go of God ~ Julia Sweeney (DVD – 2008)

      Five Star Rating----

      February 15, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  2. Wiseman

    This article =

    FACEPALM.JPG

    February 15, 2011 at 11:56 am |
  3. HareKrishna

    Chopra didn't know what he is taking about. Few people might take his stupid theory without using there own intelligence.
    Please Chant Hare Krishna and get into Krishna Consciousness or Chant what ever you like to get real Consciousness, but please STOP following or reading this guy theory.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:55 am |
  4. Alpha

    Science is the language of God's creation. There is no gap between them. The gap lies in our ability to understand God's science. Our species has just barely taken the first steps out of ignorance. We are right now only 1 to 2 generations removed from a life expectancy of 40! I am amused at the self assured atheist that go out on a limb to say there is no God and use our modern understanding of the universe to justify this bold claim. Truly ignorant fools. God might not be so amused.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • Colin

      @Alpha. Yes, Alpha, that's right. An invisible, infinitely old, all-knowing being, powerful enough to create the entire Universe and its billions of gallaxies, has a personal vendetta against human non-believers. So, has it being talking to you lately? reading your mind (or, answering your prayers, if you see a difference? Will it make you live happily ever after in heaven?

      Are there pixies in your garden?

      February 15, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
  5. James Brummel

    Still imposing human qualities to this great thing no one can possibliy comprehend–except we know it has intelligence, a human characteristic. Does this great unfathomable unknown like shellfish?

    February 15, 2011 at 11:53 am |
  6. Tim

    If it comes from Deepockets Chakra, it must be true!

    February 15, 2011 at 11:53 am |
    • Tims

      He's right up their with the Church of Oprah. People, live like Jesus and you'll be fine.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
  7. M. Johnson

    Chopra always give us things to think about...the reality is that nobody really knows...

    February 15, 2011 at 11:53 am |
    • DeathStalker

      I think that is what upsets me the most is that people say this or that but can prove none of it. To me the bottom line right now is no one knows yet and we should all keep an open mind that almost anything is possible still and has not been ruled out. For instance time travel. Will we be able to travel through time in a million years? No one knows if the human race will exist in a million years let alone what we will be capable of at that time. Promote our species and keep an open mind. We need to seed out planets with our seed of human life so that we can live forever as a species.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
  8. LivinginVA

    I have an uncle who was a biologist. He was also religious. He argued that, if you look at the ORDER of the timeline (rather than the dates/days) of the creation story, it's the same as the one scientists believe in. And, after all, what is a day to God? He used to have spirited (pardon the pun) debates with another uncle of mine who was a minister on whether studying the Bible or studying science gave you a better religious background.....

    February 15, 2011 at 11:53 am |
    • Nonimus

      Actually, it doesn't quite match up. Among other things, light is created before any light source, the Earth is created before the sun, moon, and stars, plants are created before there is a sun to support their life, and flowering plants are created before animals, which is incorrect.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
  9. Luxferre

    Pete H: Chopra found the declining church attendance statistics by looking at the dozens of research studies which clearly show the decline. Your church is obviously in one of those backward places where people still think Jesus was a white guy.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:53 am |
  10. Paul Lepp

    Pure nonsense. The idea of a conscious universe is just plain silly. Every physicist I know would strongly disagree. These statements show Chopra's limited grasp of the intricacies of physics and biology. I can't believe people listen to this guy. Clearly he learned very little in school. Science is based squarely on materialism for a reason – it is correct! The only interpretation supported by the evidence.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:53 am |
  11. BP

    I'm glad Dave knows everything. Maybe he can explain consciousness to us. As much as science can explain, there is more that they can not explain. I think scientists should look at everything with an open mind. Most scientists look at things with so many preconceived notions that clouds their thinking.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:53 am |
    • Goldhooka

      What???? Preconceived notion???? Apparenty someday didn't pay attention in science class and study the steps to research. Hypothesis vs theory, condition, variables constants, etc. What is preconceived here?

      February 15, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
  12. Hugh Broket

    I have read many of his books. My conclusion is that he is truly full of it. All this deep thinking and searching for the meaning of life makes money just as religions have cause death and control people and have proven they are full of it too. Yes all this does give people hope, and social circles, but in the end it is all over, enjoy life now. I guess one statement changed my life, "If you are going to walk on water better know with the stones are first."

    February 15, 2011 at 11:52 am |
  13. InEarnest

    Religion is simply the method by which we interpret scientific facts. Politics is usually the reason why religion and science don't mix.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • Colin

      Not so. religion fears science because science repeatedly shows religion to be iron age fairy tales.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:54 am |
  14. Ryan

    I have to agree with Pete H. I've been going to the same church for twenty years (I'm 24). The church moved to an abandoned school when we ran out of room, then we started having two, then three services when there wasn't enough room again. Then we built a new building far larger than the old school (annexed to it to make even more room), and we're running out of room again. The church is back up to two services and is looking at opening up a satellite church in another town about half an hour away to help handle overflow. Church attendance in my area is certainly on the rise. The ironic part is that we teach controversial topics, including Creation.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:51 am |
  15. spacial

    sedonanomalies.com

    February 15, 2011 at 11:51 am |
  16. Singingdrum

    This is exactly what I have always believed and felt to be the Truth. It fits exactly my concept of God, the Universe, and Existence. Who is to say that God has a long white beard and carries a large staff? Perhaps God is not a centralized Being resting in some heavenly spot somewhere out there. What if God is the very essence of everything that exists, from the smallest nuclear material to the dirt that comprises our physical world, to the thoughts that run through our minds, to silmply everything? Why couldn't God be an Intelligent Essence that is entwined in the very basic workings of the Universe– evolved and continuing to evolve through the eons? Who is to say that God is not You and Me and every other Person, Animal, and Thing in the Universe just living to experience what it is to live and exist?

    February 15, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • Colin

      YEs, and god is in the sky, if we define him as a rainbow, or in my wallet, if I define him as a credit card.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • James Brummel

      Going one step further, what if "god" where a handle or avatar humans gave to a concept that is difficult to comprehend, a metaphor? All cultures seemed to have evolved with a bunch of common traits–language, social order, laws, art, also spirituality. It's a part our minds like logic, language. We gussied it up with fables and faces and totems to make it communicable. I think it is the illogical part of our minds, the part that doesn't question or analyze as we normally do.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:59 am |
  17. Colin

    Sunday prayers. The ill-educated panhandling the non-existent at the behest of the misguided.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • Ryan

      @Colin – Evolution, a pitiful attempt by small-minded beings to explain a God they refuse to understand because their minds cannot comprehend someone who might actually be smarter than they are.

      Evolution cannot be argued as science – science is proven facts, such as gravity, physics, anatomy, and biology. Evolution is a series of far-flung theories created by a few men centuries ago that cannot be proven by science itself. Evolution, therefore, is a religion, one that takes a great deal more faith than an all-powerful God.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
  18. Carolyn

    Chopra steals scientific terms (quantum mechanics) to try to make himself appear more legit. Note that scientists never steal religious terms to try to make themselves sound legit. Chopra is just another bag of wind making money off the gullible people who can't accept that they alone are responsible for their lives.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:49 am |
    • Krish

      So agree with Carolyn. Sounds like he is using those terms without understanding what they are. He is saying "micro world of quantum". I don’t know if he know what is he talking about, as quantum world only exist in nano- and pico- regime. Quantum world (as he gave example of atoms, quark etc) doesn’t have to do anything with micro world. He is just trying to show that he is expert in science also and not just BSing about religion and spirituality. Good luck Chopra.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
    • Krish

      I should add that, his teaching may have some meanings, but he doesn’t have to steal things from science with wrong interpretation to sell his stories and ideas, just to make his story believable.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
  19. Roberto

    If you don't want to give him money, then don't. His message is simple: Find your meaning within yourself, because collectively as humans, we don't know as much as we think about the universe. Religion does not bring evidence, and science still fails at answering the most profound questions. I feel sorry for the people walking around thinking they've got it all figured out...

    February 15, 2011 at 11:49 am |
    • swk14

      So smug aren't you Roberto? Science doesn't claim to have it figured out. It also doesn't fill in little fairy tales to explain things. It merely says we will continue to work with (key word here) EVIDENCE for explanation. Something obviously you don't need in your life.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • Colin

      @Roberto. WHAT? And religion does answer "profound questions'? What are these profound questions science cannot answer, but religion can? Nauseating dribble like, "where did we come from", "what is the meaning of it all" and other mind candy for Californian flower people and evangelical christians? Hell, give me three minutes and I c an come up with a philosophical gem no scientists can answer. Let's see....mhh, is there meaning in the wind?

      February 15, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • saganhill

      I feel sorry for people who have to beleive in something thats not real to make their lives feel full.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • brad

      your right: religion brings FAITH. Science brings skepticism. The only answer I have is that I know very little about nothing at all. But its what drives us to learn more and the reason why we are where we are today.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:54 am |
  20. Colin

    I wish religion would stop panhandling science to be its buddy. I wish science would stop mollycoddling religion and call it out for the Byzintine collection of fairytales it is.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:48 am |
    • Shamrock6

      Sure....let's not even read the article....let's jump right to making an a$$ of ourselves.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • Indyman

      Colin, what religion are you talking about? Sounds like you're speaking of Christianity. There are many more beliefs about spirit than Christianity, or any other organized religion. The first thing necessary is to eliminate the word god from this conversation. There is no personal god, this is obvious. I like where science is headed and I also like that we are finally witnessing decreasing numbers in traditional religions. Europe is ahead of America, but America will catch up and eventually the majority will dismiss the idea that god answers prayers. We must either re-define who/what god is, or stop using that word altogether.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
    • Gary

      Roberto has a clue. those who argue science as be all and end all, do not. YES, search out the scientific and technical details and mankind will advance. But without spiritual advancement of our humanity, the advancement has no guiding rudder. Explore and embrace ALL the mysteries of our Universe.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
    • Tims

      I'm a believer that God inserted himself into mankind in the person of Jesus Christ to teach us how to live. The New Testament is the greatest book of wisdom ever written. I'm not religious and don;t practice religion.

      You can call them fairy tales or whatever you want, but the scriptures have pulled me out of some very dark times, and made me a better husband, father, brother and man. Science has created drugs.

      We walk through life as upright, hairless, strange-looking creatures living in a world full of danger and challenges. Maybe some of use need a little spirituality to get through it ....and I don't mean listening to the ramblings of "humans" such as Oprah or Chopra to get us through. And all Science seems to do in this area is create new drugs for our inbalances.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.