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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. someoneelse

    The best part is none of this matters. Religion is dying in every educated part of the world (and growing only in the most impoverished, uneducated countries or areas). Spirituality is replacing it in some areas, must most spiritual people are kooks with even less to back up their silly personal claims than the mainstream religious people. Religion is doomed by itself as it is too rigid and illogical, even for humans. It's too bad I wasn't born in the time when, even if there are a few religious, we look at them like crazy Scientologists.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:32 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 3:37 pm |
  2. Logan

    Apparently he likes to worship the God of the Gaps. You'd think a "scientist" would have some damn sense, or at least know how to make a good argument. Or in the lack of a good argument, at leas an intelligent one.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
  3. Marko

    Science and Spirtuality are coming together in our thinking, as it should. We are all one consciousness and are connected. Awareness of that fact is coming, so get ready for it. It is the powerful elite of the this world who do not want us to be aware of that for obvious reasons.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
  4. DogPerson

    Watch this clown's debate with Sam Harris, he loses pathetically.

    Consciousness is interesting. Quantum Mechanics is interesting. A dim-witted charlatan's lame attempt to connect them is not.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
  5. Riiiight

    Believe what you want, but don't present it as science. Please. We are random, and frankly, randomness is more miraculous than intelligent design anyway if you really think about it.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
  6. b

    chupacabra

    February 15, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • c

      chupacabra

      February 15, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
  7. Science

    Deepak Chopra – today's greatest scam artist. Ignores facts and evidence, and devises wild "theories" to line his pockets

    February 15, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
  8. Martha von der Gathen

    The first things he mentions is "God". Has he seen him/her? How does he know that a god exists? Chopra is full of BS, as usual. And to think that he has millions with his books, thanks to all the naive, brain-dead people that populate the earth.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
  9. John1960

    Did god create man or did man create god? What do you think?

    February 15, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
  10. Jerry Kays

    We, as Beings, (made in the image of GOD) ARE the (=) in between Dualities (+/-) where WE as Spiritual Beings, replace and Bridge the Gap or Void (/) with the (=) as fulfillment of the real meaning of the Trinity (+=) ... which is coincidentally the TOE, Theory Of Everything ... which I call the BET, the Basic Equation of Truth (+=-) from a UNIversal perspective !

    http://www.jck.gather.com
    http://www.spiritcalls.us

    February 15, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
  11. Mick

    "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."

    What?

    February 15, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
  12. Dana

    I would argue that spirituality and religion are two separate things, therefore in order to accept the possible connection between science and spirituality, one must first throw out religion.

    And why can't atoms and quarks not be intellignet but make up something intelligent...wood and bricks go together to make a house, but a peice of wood on it's own is just a peice of wood.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
  13. Logician

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallacy_of_division
    Chopra repeats the fallacy of division at least 2 times in this article:
    "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." Particular arrangements of billions of atoms can create intelligence, but the atoms themselves are not smart.
    "We are conscious beings who live with purpose and meaning. It seems unlikely that these arose form a random, meaningless universe." We live with purpose and meaning, but that does not imply we are parts of a whole that also has meaning and purpose.

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

      Agreed! couldn't have put it better myself!

      February 15, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
  14. big tuna

    godists can distort any real science to fit their needs to collect money and peddle b.s.
    "Any preacher with more than 2 suits is nothing but a hustleer." Lenny Bruce

    February 15, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  15. MotoJB

    I have long since said that science more and more seems to support spirituality/God/whatever...to think that there has o be such a divide between science and religion is ridiculous. It's just one more place where the split in consciousness of humans can battle it out. The truth that I "feel" however, is that we live in a spiritual universe that is full of dynamics and occurrences that simply cannot be explained with science alone. Science on the other hand, validates that there is so much more than the physical universe. We need to stop claiming that either side has all of the answers, start working together and stop being so self-serving through our personal desires for safety/control. What a magical universe we live in. Wow.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  16. Aurora

    Beautiful article, thank you, and thank you for organising a conference where the dialogue between open minded scientists and spiritual people becomes possible.
    Noisy opinions can never stop those who sincerely search for answers. I am grateful to the sincere ones, scientists or mystics alike.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  17. Brett L

    The fool has said in his heart that there is no god.

    Liberals and atheists have been prophesying the church's demise for three generations now, yet American church attendance has continued to hover between 35% & 43% for over 100 years.

    70% of Americans attended church services last year. The death of "organized religion" has been greatly exaggerated.

    Spirituality without community lacks love. Trust Jesus Christ. Grow in your faith through the community of a healthy church. Join with others in the church to more effectively leveraged your God-given gifts to love your neighbors as yourself. This is the path to a rich and meaningful life. It's the best hope we have of reviving our culture and cities. The local church is the hope of the world. Despising her is foolishness, too.

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

      No doubt, your 70% attendance includes MANY people who only show up on Christmas Eve or Easter. The number of people claiming to be Christians is dropping.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
    • Maurice

      Sill stuck on fictional storybook characters huh? This article is about going beyond the incarceration of the spirit that is organized religion. Something that inherently simple minded people like yourself cannot even understand and therefore never will even consider trying. You probably run for your bible when somebody even mentions the word "meditation" or even "yoga".

      February 15, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
    • NL

      Brett L-
      "The fool has said in his heart that there is no god."
      Paul was right when he said that, but a lot has changed. Science offers an alternative way of viewing the world that wasn't available to people living at that time. It's not foolish at all to disbelieve nowadays.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
  18. SoundGuy

    Many see the practice of meditation as a science in itself. I can see why, because if you truly make an effort to practice yoga and meditation the right way, you will definitely discover higher levels of truth, just as traditional scientists uncover truths by subjecting their theories to experimentation and noting the outcome. The problem for most westerners is however, that practicing meditation the right way is quite a challenge. I therefor recommend to start by using some kind of aid, such as guided meditations, or simply peaceful background sounds that are long enough to help you carry through a session and maintain your focus. A great site offering these kind of material is TranscendentalTones, you should give it a try, they do have some free samples that you can download immediately.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
  19. bill nemic

    Thank you CNN for providing Mr. Chopra with this (presumably unpaid) advertisement. Very effective use of your news-reporting bandwith – to promote his very special brand of new age woo-woo and further line his pockets. Congrats.

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

      I love how he says a handful of noisy atheist, we are pesky, nevermind the world wide horde of noisy christians shoving their brand down your throat. Both groups need to learn to shut up and let people be.

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

      Yup, we're gettin' too uppity and forgetting which end of the bus we're allowed to sit, I suppose.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
  20. fireybuddha

    Brilliant article. And he's right – there's so much more beyond our meager senses. Sadly, seems most of the posters on this board are such naysaying, superficial doubters. Too bad. Whether you believe in it or not, you're as controlled by these mystical forces as one who believes. And that, you can believe.

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

      Mystical forces?!? You know, they used to call the rain a mystical force too. And the Volcano... what you don't know today is simply left to be answered for by tomorrow. No more no less.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • GoRemote

      Not........

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

      fireybuddha-
      "Brilliant article. And he's right – there's so much more beyond our meager senses."
      Speculation, pure and simple. We can imagine all kinds of things, science fiction and fantasy are full of them, but we really don't have any reason to believe in them without proof, right?

      February 15, 2011 at 12:34 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.