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. Ezra

    "noisy atheists", huh? Oh, ya all those TV atherist-evangelists of TV begging for money, all those tax-free atheist churches spouting from pulpits every Sunday, All those atheist sticking "in science we trust " on our money and making people swear on " The origin Of Species" in court. Yup, those noisy atheists.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • Donald Fausett

      It appears that Ezra can be added to the noisy list, also.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
    • thorrsman

      You don't HAVE to watch the televangelists, you know. The Militant Atheists, however, insert themselves EVERYWHERE.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
    • Quiet Atheist

      Agreed. I am a silent atheist. Only speaking to a few. While god is pushed down my throat at every turn. My daughter even received two religious valentines. What would happen if I sent atheist valentines next year?

      February 15, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
    • Reality


      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 3:35 pm |
  2. Yoda

    Luminous beings we are, not this crude matter.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
  3. MasterC

    God Vs. Science
    Round 1
    God does 888 hp of magic damage to science. Science mocks God and says you are not real and we don't use hit points, loser.
    Round 2
    Science attempts to disprove God by claiming God is a fairy tale male. God reveals that She is a She and thus not a cross dresser.
    Round 3
    The monkeys throw poo at scientists, God remains unharmed due to Her less(or is that more...) than physical form.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
  4. Dave

    Chopra may have a medical degree, but he is no scientist. Science and religion are in direct conflict. Faith is believing in things without substantive proof or evidence, which goes against scientific method. He is just another snake oil salesman feeding psuedoscience and religion to a populace so ignorant and so thoroughly brainwashed that they buy into anything that reinforces their beliefs. But regardless of how many times you tell yourself 2+2 = 5, it is untrue.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
  5. al

    I love how he berrates atheists as "noisy" and then goes on to say that Darwin has won out over Genesis because evolution is fact based (supported by massive evidence) while Genesis clearly got it wrong. He then goes on to come up with an entirely new religion (he indicates some amalgamation of science and religion he has plastered together in his mind – too bad those billions of people who walked the earth before Chopra did not know what he knows... I wonder how they fared in the afterlife). Too funny. Religion can make any claim it wants and no one can test it or refute it with any kind of evidence. I think I'll go ahead and stick with science and the "noisy atheists" as every claim they make can be tested and refuted (and as of yet, every claim these guys make has been proved while every claim religion has made has been proved false).

    February 15, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
    • Sandra Howerton

      Well stated!

      Chopra is a noisy spiritualist who makes no sense.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
  6. Free Thinker

    Why exactly is this Chopra advertisement for his woo the top news story on CNN?

    The New Atheists (Dawkins et al) have made such a huge impact on society because they rely on empirical evidence and the scientific method to explain how the universe works. Sorry if the truth hurts for some, but the days of believing in fairy tales are coming to an end. Unfortunately, Deepak bridges this closing gap very, very awkwardly, pleasing few.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
    • MasterC

      Yes we look forward to the time when believing in Love and God will be a reason for us to be tortured in atheist run mental asylums oddly similar to those run by the Soviet Union. People have a right to believe no matter what the atheist deniers have to say about it. Oh and btw, you don't have a monopoly on the word science or the word scientist.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • al

      Absolutely agree. We are on the verge of stamping out the last vestige of flat-earthers. While Dawkins, et al, are part of the reason for that, I think the internet is the primary driving force. Another couple of generations and this religious pap is done.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • al

      LOL. Stalin’s religious beliefs (or lack of belief) had nothing to with his political aims. On the other hand, Hitler (a good christian) was in fact acting in accordance with his faith. The same is true of Pope Urban the II when he started a 700 year long campaign to wipe everyone who was not christian from the face of the earth.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • MasterC

      Hitler a Christian? Another revisionist historian...great. Did you know that Muhammad was a juggling sorcerer from the moon? Oh yeah and Mao was a cross dressing Buddhist who was actually conspiring to expand Buddhism by destroying it. It all makes sense now, down is up, left is right. LOL. Where do you get your information from? The internet probably. You last name isn't by any chance Bundy, eh Al?

      February 15, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
    • Estevan

      Actually MasterC there is much historical evidence supporting the idea that Hitler was at least a deist if not a Christian.

      I'm guessing you took your historical "facts" from a religious or conspiracy website? It can't possibly have come from years of study and research in credible inst-itutions.

      Interesting tid bit. The original designers of the German Army belt buckles before WW2 wanted buckles with only the Naz-i crest. Upon reviewing new uniforms Hitler personally requested that they include "Gott Mit Uns" – God with us – on various pieces of kit.

      February 15, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  7. Carl

    Chopra doesn't even realize that he is borrowing from the "organized" religions he complains about.

    And of course he is yet another "new ager" who cites quantum physics as evidence of his nonsense. I doubt he could even pass a 12th-grade quiz on physics.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
  8. Steven

    Take bacteria, introduce an antibiotic, then you'll have very few bacteria that are resistant to that antibiotic. Those, and only those, reproduce. Repeat with different environmental inputs. That's how it works, folks. The ones that 'do not work' aren't here because they died, which gives the illusion of complexity.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
  9. David O'Higgins

    Chopra or Copra is a total Huckster, nature is blind and humanity is meaningless.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
  10. Nathan H

    Is CNN trying to steal readers from Fox News? I can not think of any other reason why this garbage would be published.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
  11. Luke

    I am Sparticus

    February 15, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
  12. Donald

    It is amazing how many sentences he can string together that don't actually say anything.
    "If God is to be found anywhere, it is inside the consciousness of each person."
    "That something, I believe, will come down to a conscious universe."
    What??? He is actually saying nothing. He uses words like conscious and quantum biology without defining what he means by them - I suspect because he does not even know.

    Just a bunch of whoo-whoo talk!

    February 15, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
  13. David

    Why exactly is this quack being featured on CNN? Every time he has a debate with real scientists he end up embarassed and backtracking from his ridiculous positions and asinine statements because he does not actually understand science at all.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:59 am |
  14. nick

    I am a neuroscientist. I am very interested in the study of consciousness and many of my friends are leading researchers in the study of consciousness. Seriously, this is the truth. I never post on these things but I need to say something about this. This article is complete nonsense and I am appalled it is the top story on CNN right now. I can safely say with great confidence that this article is not even remotely true.

    What is true is that, since the "cognitive revolution" in the 50s there has been a rising interest in understanding the neural correlates of consciousness, a topic that was effectively banned by the previous paradigm of behaviorism. This is because the brain is now conceived of as an information processing machine where neurons compute and transmit information. But there is no such thing as any mainstream accepted "quantum theory" of consciousness. The author is making this up. There have been some speculations along these lines but, even if there were evidence for any such thing, it would still be a purely materialist theory and would have nothing to do with yoga or meditation or spirituality or anything like that. There are no notions like these in contemporary neuroscience whatsoever. Information processing and computation is completely material and it is not spirituality. Period. The author is simply making this up. The reigning theory is still Ramone Y Cajal's "neuron doctrine" which hypothesizes that the elementary information processing unit in the nervous system is a neuron's action potential.

    I'm not even going to bother to address the issues of Darwinism and Genesis and so on. I just want to be clear that it is an indisputable fact that this author is making absolutely false statements to the public.

    If I have an opinion, then here it is. I hate to sound elitist but I really have worked hard to acheive what I have in neuroscience. All day everyday I sit here trying to produce clear data that unambiguously shows even the most modest of scientific statments about the brain. Then I spend months arranging to publish it in as best a journal as I can, trying to convince my collaborators, reviewers, the public, etc, giving talks on the subject, etc. Even small advances in neuroscience require an enormous amount of work if they are ever to be communicated at all to anyone. So, in my opinion, it is absolutely inappropriate, unfair and unproductive for CNN to give *blatant lies* this type of massive coverage when there are literally thousands of people out there working hard, trying to advance this area. There are so many fascinating achievements in neuroscience and the study of consciousness everyday. Let's see them on CNN please, if people are so interested by neuroscience.

    Perhaps you could start here with this approachable review by some of the biggest players in this field:

    Rees, Kreiman & Koch. Neural correlates of consciousness in humans. Nature Reviews Neuroscience. 2002 volume 3.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • Donald

      Well stated!!

      February 15, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • Bobsie

      Don't worry. It's all just a publicity stunt to promote his upcoming synposium and make some money. That's all.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Hear! Hear!

      Keep up the good work and thanks for the reference.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
    • Cass

      As someone involved in the application of cognition, learning and memory to machine intelligence, this was an excellent article. Thank you for the reference.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
    • Nathan H

      Bravo! After reading piles of pure nonsense posted by others it is refreshing to read a statement by someone who actually knows what they are talking about.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
    • Cass

      To clarify my previous post before someone blasts my comment, the article I am referring to was that which was provide by Nick, "Neural correlates of consciousness in humans", not the CNN article of self-promotion.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • Probir Paul

      Thanks for your continued hard work and advancing the neuroscience. Too many pseudo intellectuals are making huge monitory gain and fame by these kind writing from gallable people. I am sure after this article more people will line up at the "Chopra center".

      February 15, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • MasterC

      So do you spend time working on how the human brain works for money or because you love the brain? Here is another disturbing question: does any of your research end up being used by pharma corporations and the psychiatric industry to place millions of children on brain damaging medication for the advancement of their agenda of profit. I don't know about you but if I had to choose between atheist corporations backed by atheist doctors and atheist thinkers that abuse children with mind numbing and brain destroying neurochemicals while lying to everyone about how they helped out humanity and (the 2nd choice) to choose believe in God, love, and natural solutions to humanity's problems that don't destroy the minds and lives of people I think the choice is obvious. Love or the destruction of everything you love.

      Cut the crap. Who do you serve? Not that I know. You might be a good honest neurologist. But I wrote this in case you weren't. You should think really, really hard about the amount of damage you and your profession cause by working so hard. I would recommend for the good of the children of this world that you take a break and not work so hard and go do a vision quest or something. It's your soul. I know, I'll be unpopular for saying the "s" world because every genius level Mensa member knows for a fact that all the authorities laugh at the believers in soul. Whatever. Believe what you will, but if you harm the children in any way shape or form, lets just say that belief about there not being much in the hereafter that many of you atheists cling too might be a little too accurate for your comfort. Love isn't all fun and games if you hurt others. So in case some of you were thinking this was some sort of free ride through the jungle of survival, I'm writing this to give you a friendly warning. If you really love your life enough that you will destroy others lives to maintain it, atheism won't protect you from the terrors of the afterlife. Or maybe I'm just spreading "fairy tales".

      You choice "dewds". You makes your choices and you pay the reaper. Whatever you believe, that is your prison or enlightenment. I think that (the last sentence I wrote) is essentially what Chopra is saying.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • Sandra Howerton

      Thank you for stating so well the scientific view of Chopra's nonsense. Even laypersons who have any experience with victims of brain damage know that injury to the material brain can change dramatically what we perceive as immaterial mind or consciousness (intelligence, personality, spirit, etc.) Therefore, it seems obvious that there is a material basis for what may seem immaterial or spiritual.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
    • Estevan

      nick: Brilliant!

      MasterC: Not so much...

      February 15, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • Jeff

      Thanks for commenting

      February 15, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
    • Maybe


      If this article on Chopra served to bring you and your post forward, then it was worth wading through the pap. Thank you.

      February 15, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
  15. Brian Page

    I am embarrassed that a news source, which I frequently visit, is effectively promoting pseudo-science. It is especially disconcerting given the lack of scientific understanding in the general US population. CNN should do a story on the Skeptics Guide to the Universe, and how they focus on evidenced-based science. However, that does not sell advertising. CNN should encourage rational thought, not dark age mysticism. To those who support ideas similar to Chopra's, just reflect on the following statement for a few moments with a truly open mind, "REALITY is beautiful."

    February 15, 2011 at 11:58 am |
  16. RakeBackWolf.com

    __________----- What if Mary cheated on her husband and started the whole religion, saying like - ooo no i didnt do anything , god came in me and impregnated me without touching me. Ya right Mary! Youz a Hoe!

    February 15, 2011 at 11:58 am |
  17. Doc Vestibule

    58 SECONDS

    "I know I'm part of something bigger than myself
    Don't know the meaning, but I hope that matters less.
    I don't know anything when I'm factored out of scale.
    I know I'm part of something bigger than myself.
    We're all engaging in a game of attrition
    Maybe god is just a chemical fiction
    I'm a monkey with a madding affliction
    With fact checking for a mental condition."

    – Dr. Greg Graffin (Bad Religion)

    February 15, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • MasterC

      I hope that poem not the only thing he created in his life.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      They're lyrics actually.
      Over the last 30 years, he has created 15 albums with Bad Religion, 2 solo albums, published a book "Anarchy Evolution" and got a PHD.
      In addition to fronting one of the greatest punk bands of all time, he also teaches evolutionary biology at Cornell University.

      February 15, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
  18. AJ

    You ppl are never happy with anything... its really amazing.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:57 am |
  19. ec1wac1

    It is hard to respect the author's opinion when he makes such a blanket categorization as "noisy atheists". There many noisy religious people in the world who draw conclusions on the existence of a higher power based on how they feel under the pressures of society to accept norms based on old books. None of that make any of what they believe true.

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

      Wow, "noisy atheists". On some websites I guess – I certainly never see the "atheist view" presented on my TV, but it's positively dripping with unquestioned religion out there, and not just on Fox"news". Religious people are "good", atheists are clearly bad and should be ignored, at the least. Silly accusation.
      And who says there is a spit between the micro world and the macro world? First I've heard of it. Reality is obviously a continuum from the micro to the macro, with sizes in between. No "split" point.
      A "conscious" universe. Come on! What does that even mean? And how do we test the concept? I'm all in favor of finding out whether or not this wild idea is true. Show me evidence!!
      This is just another attempt to legitimize religion by making it seem more "scientific". The Scientologists can't pull it off, nor can the Christian Scientists. Keep trying, though. I'll wait patiently for the relevant data...

      February 15, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
  20. JHutch

    Chopra is a hack.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • Curtis

      This. 100%

      February 15, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • MasterC

      Probably richer than you though. Oh....

      February 15, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
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About this blog

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.