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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. Tommy

    What a crock of bull. "The real goal of a new science will be to expand our reality so that spiritual truths are acceptable"?!? Give me a break. Why should they be acceptable? Why, because there are unanswered questions? That's why you do not base your conclusions based on prior beliefs or opinions. This is bad science and even worse reasoning.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
  2. dave

    Nan you are a bigot - Some religions have big ceremonies, yes, but not all. Spirituality can exist outside of religion. Some religious people have done bad things - so that means there is no God???. Some atheists have done bad things (Mao and Stalin) - so that means there is a God???? All human organizations will make mistakes and have bad apples. Over the past several years a number of teachers have gone to jail for sleeping with students -- so I guess you want to tear down all the schools or call anyone seeking an education "deluded" If you know anything about science you might know that physics has two theories of how the universe works - they contradict each other and each fails to predict how the universe works -- the theories are General Relativity and Quantum theroy - Science brought us Eugenics and Hitler - If I am interested in medicine I will not go to a plumber to learn - If I am interested in spirituality I will not go to a Scientist

    February 15, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
  3. Reads

    wow, who let the freaks out.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
  4. 2pac

    Chopra doin his thang fo money n gurls...dont get it twisted

    February 15, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
  5. H.S.Vachoa

    The idea that because we are conscious beings also might imply the existence of a conscious reality is a religious idea of Hinduism that proclaims that our conscious is part of a super-conscious and therefore we need to expand our conscious. This in turns denies the existence of a free conscious and a free spirit.

    This is not spirituality but promoting a caste-conscious idea under the garb of spirituality.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
  6. Alok

    Science has made great advances over past decades. It is high time someone brings spirituality to twenty first century inline with our scientific discoveries. I know ignorant masses will continue to believe their age old beliefs propagated by well entrenched religious establishment but there are still many who will like an intelligent alternative. For that all power to Deepak Chopra!

    February 15, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
  7. Janet

    Deepak, would you say "a noisy campaign by a handful of die-hard Muslims to demote and ridicule" or "despite the noisy Jews"? Bias and bigotry against atheists is still regrettably okay.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
  8. kjm

    Like politics we get attached to an idea and can't seem to reach either inside or outside for something that might be new or expanding beyond our safe environment. Some are ready, some are not. I think I am ready to find not only the God of my childhood but the one that is within me. That does not negate the God of my childhood; it makes that God feel closer, broader and more intense and helps me see that same God in others. And who says that "lesser" creatures cannot know God. Perhaps they know God better because their capacity to think or their ego does not stand in the way. Maybe they just know! What Doctor Chopra writes makes perfect sense to me. But that is me. I don't expect all to share that feeling. We are in different places in our spiritual search whether it is seeking or relying on what we have been taught for years. Do what you must.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
  9. ron

    More Chopra woo-woo drivel.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
  10. Tim

    Thanks, Chop! Can I call you Chop? Very refreshing.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
  11. noobie

    I have been reading the book "The Way" by E. Stanley Jones, and he predicted that this would happen. He said that the way of Christ is not imposed on life, but it's inherent in nature. Oh, by the way, this book was published in 1945!

    February 15, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
  12. Nicholas

    Can someone please tell me whey CNN, the 'Number One Name in News' has this irrelevant opinionated article as their top news story as of me writing this? You are telling me there aren't more important things going on in the US or the World than to have Chopra's opinion. LOL...THIS is why I think mainstream news media is a joke.

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

      More important than God? Like war? This is the very fiber of our being. The rest will pass but this does not go away. What is more important then that?

      February 15, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • bill

      Maybe the source of their nik-name: "Consistently Not News". Like other major "news" organizations, presenting topical stories isn't their job, pandering to mass entertainment is.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
  13. eltee

    I am. you groupies do not matter.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
  14. Bill

    All praises due Allah. Lord of all the worlds. It is amazing to me the controversy between science and existence of God.God is the author of all science,whether we call it intelligent design or not. Once we realize that God is Man and Man is God we no longer need to look out in space for Him.

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

      As Frank Herbert wrote: "God will always be one step ahead of the universe."

      February 15, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
  15. huxley

    "Agree or disagree, you cannot simply toss the question out the window."

    Actually you can. Any phenomena which is not measurable and testable is unimportant and therefore deserves to be tossed out the window.

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

      Don't know much about quantum physics, do you? One of the most intriguing areas of scientific research today is dealing with the fact that on a subatomic level matter isn't matter at all, but fluctuations of energy which are perceived as matter. Try measuring that with your traditional tools.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • Michael

      Unimportant...according to whom?

      February 15, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
  16. Brooklyn

    Your dogma just got run over by my karma.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
  17. Chad

    Science is not against religion. Science is about knowing as much truth as it can about reality. This puts religion in an awkward position because there is not a lot of truth in religion.

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

      My thoughts exactly!

      February 15, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
    • ramana

      truth is denied for science by its inherent problem.Double slit experiment clearly demonstrates that. I agree religion may not be the answer, but spirituality could be...

      February 17, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
  18. Darren

    Organized religeon has always been a cheap way for man to explain what he doesn't understand. And over recent history, inexplicable events were dismissed as chaotic or random events. However, science has made some amazing breakthroughs lately that are showing us that there is much more order in the universe and events once thought to be chaotic are in fact patterns (such as the formation of stars and solar systems). There is an impossibly perfect balance of forces, measurable forces, that exist to keep the universe in harmony. Any slight change in the magnitude of these forces (strong/weak nuclear force, gravity, electromagetic, etc.) and there wouldn't be an Earth or any planets at all. Science is far from proving all of the unknown including the existence of God. However, every discovery that is made is a step in the direction of an understanding that the universe is not random and that it exists for a purpose. We exist because of a beautiful alignment of events that happened during the formation of our planet, solar system, galaxy, and universe. This alignment can not be explained by religeon or atheism but only by a sense that something greater must be behind our existence. Science and spirituality are one in the same.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
  19. drew

    science does not have all the answers to our universe,to our planet, to our own minds and bodies and defanitly not about god. and they never will be able to scientifically explain god...because its faith...gods not a science fair project...and to the athiets,im sorry...people are always defensive of every opinion you have...you dont get a fair chance to express your beliefs...both sides need to stop attacking one anothers beliefs and just let the other be. but dont attack and mock us christians because of o

    February 15, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • Darren

      How can you refute science? It makes no sense. When christianity started the universe was made in seven days and the sun went around the Earth. Do you still beleive this? Because if you do you are an idiot.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • Ralph

      Just as science will never be able to explain the appearance of matter, energy, and life by random molecular collisions. In fact, you must break ALL the accepted laws of science to make the aethiestic molecules-to-man evolution theory work. For example, the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics (nothing cannot create everything), how did life appear from non-life (spontaneous generation.... no, chemical evolution..... no, abiogenesis (yes, that sounds kind of scientific), genetics – all observed genetic mutations have NEVER gained any information (therefore, how do you get from a "simple" organism with ~ 500,000 base DNA pairs to mankind with over 3 billion base pairs of DNA?????). Therefore, the aethistic theory of origins actually requirs more faith than believing that a higher authority created everything!

      February 15, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
    • Darren

      @Ralph: First of all, thermodynmaics has no place in your argument. An explanation for the genesis on this planet has not been discovered yet. But just because something is not known doesn't mean you can deny its existence. Things often happen that we dont understand why. But once it did happen, life was able to thrive because the Earth provided the right environment for it... liquid water, organic molecules, energy from the sun (there's your thermo laws, FYI).

      Genetic mutation allows for evolution and eventually multicelled organisms. Creatures simply didn't just spring out of holes in the ground. There is a fish called the Cichlid that exists in the rift valley lakes in Africa. This fish type started as a few dozen speceis before the formation of the lakes and as the lakes formed it created a new environment for the fish to thrive and as a result the few species of Cichlids evolved into several hundred speceis to fit different survival methods. This is an accelerated example of evolution, but the concept is the same for all species and explains how each arrived at what they are today, including man.

      You are wreckless in your use of scientific terms. I suggest you educate yourself before posting such ignorant and self serving theories.

      February 15, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
  20. Michael Wong

    Deepak Chopra, precisely what is your scientific background? You're not one of these blowhards who grossly misinterprets scientific articles in magazines in order to force them into your personal belief paradigm, are you?

    Heh heh ... trick question. I already know you don't know science from shoe wax. You actually think quantum mechanics is evidence for long-range order in the universe even though the entire science of quantum mechanics is based on random probabilities. That comically ridiculous misinterpretation is pretty much proof that you should be officially disallowed from speaking about science ever again.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • Joe

      I guess you're one of those "noisy atheists" he was talking about;-) Please take time to read his short article again. Until you get it.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • Dick Cheney

      An interviewer once posed the question to Chopra "Your fans seems to consider you some sort of prophet, right?" His answer was "Yes, if you spell it PROFIT." Classic

      February 15, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
    • bill

      Now now Mike, since when has actual scientific undrstanding been a barrier to the noisy blowhards denegrating it?

      February 15, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
    • George

      Chopra is a respected medical doctor, a specialist in endocrinology. Probably more of a scientist than you.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
    • Alok

      Understanding the article above requires people to have some experience in two distinct fields one latest science and second yoga meditation. For those who aren't aware of one or either it is hard to get what he is saying. Your choices are either to despise and condemn what he is saying or to investigate spirituality for yourself. Meditation is today well established discipline with scientifically proven "miracles". For those like me who need scientific evidence for everything, read this:

      http://physiologyonline.physiology.org/content/13/3/149.full#R2

      February 15, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • David Geffeney

      Michael;
      You may be right, yet would you be open to the idea that a novice has insight? In fact, I have noticed two equally, and highly trained experts in a field look at the same evidence and come to differing conclusions. Quantum physics has taken us to the boundaries of reality. Quantum physicist talk about probabilities and randomness, but mathematicians know that true randomness is impossible to come by. Finite universe but with infinite number of multiverses used to explain wave function probabilities and why matter "acts" differently when "observed". All appear as a paradox when viewed from within this space time continuum. Assume the extra dimensions that quantum physics postulates, and the math starts to make sense. i can't prove that yet, but there is enough evidence for one to see the unified theory trending that way.

      Let's see what we find in the extra dimensions, and until then, let's suspend judgement. We may find that religion is right.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • manny

      Yeah , you are sooo Right man, he should just SHUT UP !, he doesnt know what he is talking about

      February 15, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • Jasonovich

      Actually he's worse, he mis-represents scientific articles in order to financially pray on our fears about our own mortality.

      February 15, 2011 at 1:01 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.