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. Bill

    One question everyone should ask until it is KNOWN. Who am I? Beyond your mask of a person you and I are the universe

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

      I like it.

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

      Who am I?

      To truly know Thyself, to know, who I am
      The most important question, ever asked
      Am I my name, beliefs, my ego, or my past?
      Lost in my mind, One Life, asleep behind the mask?

      Am I a bag of skin and bones, born to decay?
      A mortal body that I washed and clothed today?
      Who do you think can know me better – who I am?
      What is the point in the end; who really gives a damn?

      And who is it that really wants to know, anyway?
      Is this all that there is; am “I” the same as “they”?
      Am “I” more special, better, or unique?
      What is reality and what is mind-played trick?

      Am “I” what I possess? What people want me be?
      Voice in my head, a mirror to the world?
      My feelings, thoughts, my-self made “story”
      Or ego that’s afraid of death and getting old?

      Who are you, really? Who’s behind your eyes?
      Not who you “think” you are; should be, pretend to be
      Not what your mind would want to hear, prefer to see
      Asleep, obscured by twisted mind-perceived reality

      Still trying to resist, to do, to be, become someone?
      Pretend to be yourself, not knowing who you are?
      Concealed, as if an actor forgot he’s acting in a play
      A dreamer lost in dreams, still thinking he’s awake

      I’m not my thoughts – No thought is true.
      Thoughts aren’t your source – No thought is you.
      Don’t trust your thoughts – No thought is real.
      Mind that believes that thoughts are real is troubled, ill.

      Good, bad, right, wrong – all are opinions, all just a thought.
      I know who I am, by knowing who I am not.
      I simply am, One Life – a priceless gift
      Star dust in the wind, a water droplet set adrift

      I am One Life, one with whatever is
      Awareness, Consciousness, right Here, right Now
      My Spirit’s free. It’s been released
      From ego’s pain, torment, and sorrow.

      The only truth exists within – inside you, inside me
      To seek it elsewhere, you wont find it, it’s a myth
      To be yourself, to feel alive, to simply be
      The only joy, the only freedom, only truth.

      Rain falls.
      Wind blows.
      Sun shines.
      Earth spins.
      I am.
      That, in which it all can only appear, where it can only be.
      Where it all can only exist, in the Now.
      All else is a mirage.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
    • 2pac

      I bet u he gettin mo girls den u fool. He prolly get some nice kush too

      February 15, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • Jeff

      You hit the nail on the head with saying that science is restricted to what can be perceived by the senses. I've heard it called both naturalism and materialism, but I prefer the former. In my opinion, it is a remarkable folly that science restricts explanations to naturalistic ones; why is a supernatural explanation not welcome in a hypothesis? That is unscientific to me. Things that are supernatural now may not be in a few decades, like the graviton. As far as the "god of the gaps," we have systems like scholarly peer review in our publications and conferences for a reason: to limit unfounded or incomplete conclusions. As a scientist, I should be able to conduct an experiment that asks the question, "Does being a Christian have a positive effect on friendships and marriages?" and present sound, scientific methodology and conclusions. Others should be able to use the full power of science to discuss elementary particles and cosmology without unnecessarily restricting themselves to naturalistic explanations.

      Thanks for reading.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:35 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 3:36 pm |
  2. chantal

    As far as I know, Mr Chopra is not a scientist.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
  3. Famous personality commenting under assumed name

    Why would God insert himself into a human to reveal himself?

    So silly!

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

      You actually think that YOU should be able to understand the mind of a God? Talk about hubris...

      February 15, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
  4. Invisible and Visible Misty Energy

    "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."

    This is it! This the turning point! Our atmosphere and space is just like the ocean, we can not see much life on the surface, but once we jump in we see a whole different world. Only way in is through the spirit. I suspect many experience it in dream state and in other mysterious ways already cause I do. We will discover who we really are! Not sure the world is ready for this. God only knows.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
  5. drew

    the definition of evolution i got from a biology class at marshall university " to change and adapt over time"...as a christian i firmly believe in evolution...you can see it everywhere...everything changes and adapts to its current situation to be better suited for its environment. does that disprove god? no. does that mean we all evolved from a single celled organism...no. the evidence for both is that we are,in a vast,this is the part that really blows my mind, a vast ever expanding universe, here we are

    February 15, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
  6. SaneAtheist

    CNN Please.........I find it beyond ridiculous that Choprah gets such a prominent spot , much less any spot at all, on your web page to peddle his new age brand of "snake oil". What's next, will you be running front line articles on the miracle cures of the "science" known as Homeopathy ???!!
    CNN , today you have seriously damaged you credibility with this viewer.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • thesciencerebel

      sane athiest – the belief page is not for scientific fact. Therefor there ought to be a lack of "credibility" on this page. It is open to all viewpoints. CNN helps their credibility by allowing all worldviews to express themselves, rather than just one line of thought that happens to also be yours.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • SaneAtheist


      When Chopra is trying to hijack legitimate science to forward his business of bilking credulous people out of their money by selling them new age "woo" , he doesn't have a right to be on any NEWS website.

      February 15, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
  7. Mao

    I am not objecting to Mr. Chopra's hypothesis, however I do object in his assertion that his beliefs have Biblical support. I will give 2 reasons why.

    "Even in the Christian West we have the assurance of Jesus [1] that the kingdom of heaven is within, while the Old Testament declares, [2] "Be still and know that I am God."

    1. No passage or quote given by Mr. Chopra but suffice it to say, the Kingdom of God or Heaven, isn't something that has always been among people as Mr. Chopra seems to imply, but rather this was something that Jesus Christ revealed, is not something everybody has (Luke 18:17), people can attain (future) by being born again (John 3:2), and can only come through Jesus Christ because the Kingdom of Heaven is Jesus' Kingdom (Luke 22:28-30).
    2. This statement is based on a separation that God is not us, but rather with those who are his (for the passage see Psalm 46). That God will fight for his people against their enemies and be worshiped because of how powerful he is.

    As Satan took God's words and couched it in a lie (making it a "white-lie"), so Mr. Chopra has taken God's words and put his own spin on them. If this is how he treats his sources I wouldn't put much stock on his statements being truthful.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
  8. Estevan

    Wow. Such a biased article it's not even funny. This coming from a man who is touted as an "authority in the field of mind-body healing". No conflict of interest here. Right? Here is a man with a medical background exploiting the gullibility of people to further his own economic ambitions. His "works" linking healing to quantum physics have been heavily criticized by physicists who state there is no factual basis for linking quantum physics with the healing he describes. In 1998 he was given an Ig Nobel Prize mocking his work. He even admits in "The Enemies of Reason" that despite his constant use of quantum theory to explain healing processes that he uses it as a metaphor and that the healing described is not actually linked to real quantum theory as understood by physicists. In 2010 he debated against Harris and Schermer at Caltech about the merits of Intelligent Design...and lost in my opinion.

    Chopra is a snake oil salesman albeit a very good one. He is a proponent of Intelligent Design which is nothing more than Creationism posing as science. Funny how "Intelligent Design" was slapped on into common usage by Creationists when Creationism was shot down in the Dover Case.

    Chokra states: "The other trend is a growing interest by scientists in questions about consciousness." How funny. Talk about twisting language for your own use. Good try. We see through your sham. Over 90% of recognized scientists in the US are either atheists or agnostics and reject the notion of intelligent design....and that rift is growing. Belief in ID amongst scientists is shrinking, not growing, as he would suggest. That is what he is suggesting. ID is rejected by the scientific community so he uses "consciousness" as a more palatable term.

    He also states: "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." This is the crux of it. No real science would ever "try" to "expand our reality so that spiritual truths are acceptable". Scientists develop hypotheses based on evidence, conduct research and experimentation to test the hypothesis, and try to refute or confirm the hypothesis. If an experiment supports a hypothesis it has to be independently reviewed and tested and the experiments and results must be reproduced for it to gain any credibility or else it is rejected. The fact that Chopra even mentions supposed "spiritual truths" is laughable. If there were spiritual truths then no one would be having this debate.

    So why write a biased and totally unreliable piece of Intelligent Propaganda? Chopra plugs in publicity for his "conference, called the Sages and Scientists Symposium: The Merging of A New Future".

    Snake oil salesman for the gullible is all he is. There is no factual basis for Creationism or Intelligent Design which are both religion masquerading as science. Contrary to what he says the vast majority of scientists reject Intelligent Design or "consciousness" as he puts it....and the number of scientists is growing. Stop grasping at straws!

    February 15, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
  9. Singingdrum

    Colin, yes you have the concept. If what I believe is true, then that plastic credit card indeed as well as that fart from last night's beans is God!

    February 15, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
  10. Dan Wright

    CNN, why do you let a quack like this have such a public forum? His peddling of Woo is nothing more than a modern snake oil sleeze. Please think twice about giving this bozo any more of a platform to speak his nonsense to the uninformed, slackjawed rubes than he already has.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Its in the belief forum..... This is exactly what it is for.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
  11. Famous personality commenting under assumed name

    The reason Chopra is conjuring up an article such as this is simple to understand.

    Men who claim a place of high authority in this world need religion in order to enforce privileges of said authority without complaint from those persons harmed by the actions of authority.

    As a growing percentage of the population abandons traditional religion for a plethora of reasons, the powers that be have determined that it is necessary to enhance traditional religious principles with new age reasoning. Ensuring such enhancements include reference of topics of higher education guarantees a majority of those requiring a measure of spirituality reprogramming are likely to be ignorant and thusly mystified by abstract terms.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
  12. Rick McDaniel

    Spirituality comes from within. Religion is an external and manipulated form of spirituality, which is not genuine.

    Science can embrace spirituality, as a part of the human condition, but must reject religion, as the creation of man, to control others.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
  13. Indyman

    Too often, in my many years studying science, religion, and in my conversation with atheists, I have found that most (not all) atheists are rebelling against their traditional religions, mostly Christian and Jewish, and denouncing the "magic and miracles" that are such an integral part of the incredible stories they were convinced they must believe. Proclaiming their atheism with the same zeal and fervor as the fire and brimstone TV preachers, they have unwittingly created a religious following within atheism; they have become "born-again" atheists. There are many more beliefs out there in the big world, and many have no connection to the Abrahamic religions. Some are merely a personal connection to a higher universal mind. That's all. No church, no Temple, no statue, no god, no congregations. To all the ex-Christian (this means Catholic, too) atheists, open your minds a bit. You may finally find yourself, and no god is needed.

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

      While there are many "reactionary atheists", generally created by fundamental religions, many more of us just happened to notice that nothing we were being taught in church made any sense once you got beyond basic message of "we should try to be nice to each other". Other than that, its all a bunch of gibberish that just gets in the way of living. Nothing to get emotional about unless someone decides we should all have to live by their personal fantasy belief system to which we do not ascribe. The rest is just entertainment.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
  14. DeathStalker

    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 12:07 pm |
  15. Bela

    This is all nonsense, not much better than disguised religion such as creationism. There is absolutely no conscious universe, just read some legitimate scientists' books such as Stephen Weinberg, Richard Feynman or Carl Sagan. The universe appears to be cold and not caring and certainly not knowing about a tiny planet with humans running around on its surface.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      But WE are speciallll!!!!

      February 15, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
  16. Jugger75

    "That something, I believe, will come down to a conscious universe."
    This isn't new. George Lucas came up with this theory decades ago..he called it the "Force". I'm just saying that if you compare what was written in the article, cross-reference it with Star Wars, it sounds mighty familiar.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • J

      Lucas didn't exactly invent the concept himself. Same thing with "The Matrix". People were blown away by the concept....if they weren't already familiar with westernized Zen Buddism.

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

      But Skywalker's mitochondria count is high.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
  17. Manny H.

    Our ranks of reasonable and logical men are increasing based on the comments here, Deepak Chopra is a Scamm !!!! , he doesnt know what he is talking about, he talks about science blabbing about atoms and quarks, U dont know nothing about science, just stick to your pseudo business thingy Choppie . Scientists have proof all over the place , what about these religious people, go back to the Dark Ages you foolish , irrational people.

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

    The Norse myths make the most sense (particularly the Voluspa) of how our world was formed. Re: photo of women – also always interesting to see Americans of european heritage seek solace or truth in other belief systems/spiritualities, whether be those from East Indian, native American, etc. There exists similar in their own culture – druidry, heathenism, etc. Granted much was destroyed by zealot Christians, however, piece by piece it is being reconstructed. It is a liberating experience to remove oneself from the racist, warmongering, earth destroying, monotheistic Abrahamic faiths. One guy who has studied in great depth east indian, taoism, etc. realized what he sought was right in his backyard. His podcast is very interesting and enlightening – look-up Thunder Wizard Path on itunes. Warning, walking this new path requires some homework as one has to remove 1000yrs+ tarnish of Christianity. The rewards however are immeasureable and peaceful.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
  19. Brad Andreesen

    Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution has triumphed over Genesis, really? The theory of evolution defines a process and speaks not to the origin of the process, in fact the 2nd law of thermodynamics debunks Mr. Darwins theory all together.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • P

      You should send your findings to the Journal of Biology. You could be Times person of the year.

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

      no, you just showed that you don't understand how entropy and biological systems work

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

      And the idea the the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics debunks Darwin has itself been debunked many times by people who actually understand it!

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

      the second law of thermodynamics states that entropy increases IN AN ISOLATED SYTEM over time. Pretty sure nobody would define the universe as a closed system. Seriously, send this into the Journal of Biology.

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

      "The theory of evolution defines a process and speaks not to the origin of the process, in fact the 2nd law of thermodynamics debunks Mr. Darwins theory all together.

      Too funny! I love it when people with no understanding whatsoever of the Laws of Thermodynamics try to used them as `proof` that Darwin is wrong. The basic principle of the law recognizes that it applies in cases of closed and isolated systems. Our world, where abiogenesis may have occured and evolution HAS occured, is NOT a closed or isolated system and therefore the Second Law of Thermodynamics cannot be used to refute either abiogenesis or evolution.

      This argument is totally flawed right from the beginning and yet is used so often by the religious who don`t even take a few minutes to actually look it up in scientific literature and instead rely on drivel spouted as fact by religious proponents.

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

      Our sun defies thermodynamics too, but you are not incorporating the time scale. Eventually gravity looses and entropy wins, our sun will collapse and our planet and the life there on will disperse.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
    • mikey M

      clearly you have not read the second law of thermodynamics closely...maybe you should crack open a book every once in awhile. in a CLOSED system entropy will increase. i dunno about you, but i dont think the earth is a closed system as it...i dunno..,receives epic amounts of energy from THE SUN. think before you speak...please.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • Jerry

      Darwinism is a joke. It is not based on science, but only on a well constructed pattern of thoughts and writings. This theory of evolution defies science. Evolution cannot be created in a lab environment, or re-created in a controlled environment, it is not observable and not one single species can be pointed to today, using all of our technology to show that a transformation is taking place. Teaching evolution as a fact and not a theory has been a lie for years.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • tommas

      You are confusing evolution and the origin of life. Evolution can and has been proven in the lab MANY times. How do you think diseases become resistant to drugs? Evolution is change overtime, and yes life on this planet does that, there is no arguing it. Please do not confuse the two as it spreads ignorance.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
    • Aceoaces

      **SIGH** OK, I'm sure I'm just banging my head on a all of ignorance her, but let me at least try.
      The second law of thermodynamics DOES NOT disprove evolution. The second law says that entropy increases in an ISOLATED system. The Earth is not an isolated system. Notice that bright, hot ball in the sky? It's called the sun. It radiates energy on the earth.
      Why are you creationist types so fond of the second law of thermodynamics anyway? It's just as godless as the theory of evolution.

      February 15, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
  20. J

    1. Take a look at the double slit experiment (wiki or youtube covers basics) which is the most repeated experiment in quantum physics. The delayed choice variation of it suggests time is utter BS..a human-only concept. (Quantum entanglement may suggest the same about space). Exclusion principle also suggests reality is created as it is observed and doesn't otherwise have meaning...aka if a tree falls and nobody listens does the tree *exist* at all? This isn't SCI-FI or other spiritual mumbo jumbo. It's mathmatically theorized and experimentally supported.
    2. Re: book of Genesis. It was passed down by mouth for a few thousand years before being committed to writing. It was also told via the intellectual capacity of very primative people who didn't understand things like we do (God doesn't stop the sun in the sky...it would actually be the earth that stops..not genisis though). If you keep this in perspective Genesis does not contradict evolution or big-bang. Science and religion are not mutually exclusive.
    3. Christians: There is NO PROOF of God...leave the Athiests alone.
    4. Athiests: There is NO PROOF AGAINST God....leave the Christians alone.
    5. Intelligent Design believers: You're idiots. Lack of proof against something is not the same as proof for it. It's a *belief*, not a theory. Be comfortable in your faith instead of trying to convince everyone with flawed arguments.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • tommas

      But when you use the word "god" you are already assuming way too much. We don't know what is greater then our universe and that does not give us the right to make anything up. God has a very clear definition in the majority of people's minds. In terms of consciousness just because we can not fully describe it by the scientific method yet does not mean we will in the (possibly near) future.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • Jerry

      Christians do not have to confront atheists. God will do that. There is always hope in Jesus Christ.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
    • Garet Z

      Thank you! And according to Genesis, God created the earth in 6 days and rested on the seventh. Of course, time is relative, so who's to say that doesn't mean 600 million years.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
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