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. sharon

    Did we sink that low that we do not recognize soemone is an amateur?

    February 15, 2011 at 12:42 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 3:38 pm |
  2. Steve

    So sad that so many cannot understand the basics of Mr Chopra's ideas, and must remain slaves to there own biologys, mental and physical. Although new agey and aimed at the superficial American the tenants are the same as buddhism, hinduism, ancient philosophy of the greeks and many other cultures. There are many others who explain this line of no-thought more deeply such as Meister Eckhart, Plotonius, Richard Rose, Ramana Maharshi, Lao tzu, the Buddha and many many others. The new age stuff is confusing, but pick up a book and learn about buddhism (its the most direct and complete) it will change your life.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
    • Nonimus

      The difference is that Mr. Chopra is claiming a connection between these spiritual concepts and science when none exist.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
  3. dw

    While I completely disagree with Chopra as a new-age mystic, it seems comic to me that there are so many saying that we will soon put an end to religion.

    You know what's been around a lot longer than humanistic, Enlightenment "science"? Ways of trying to explain what we instinctually know to be true. Find a report – any report – of an uncontacted people group that is atheist. It doesn't exist. Atheism is an attempt to explain away what is naturally there in every person. Call it an evolutionary byproduct that is on it's way out, but it's still there...and you're fighting like mad to keep it from influencing how you live.

    Now, you can attack what I've said as proof that religion is simplistic and unenlightened, but until the age of 5 or 6, every one of you believed that every action had an intelligent mind behind it.

    And if you didn't care about religion as much as you say you don't, then why so angry when someone mentions God? I mean, if you really believe in Darwin's natural selection, the "sheeple" you so hate are just going to be eliminated during the next evolutionary spin of the wheel. You trying to enlighten them is kind of pointless, right?

    February 15, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
    • BR

      @dw-Our instinct to try to make sense of the world around us in no way sheds any light on, much less demonstrates the existence of anything supernatural. While I disagree with your appraisal of 5-6 year olds, it could easily be argued that at those ages we also believed in Santa Clause, the Tooth Fairy and the osteopathic ramifications of stepping on a crack. The source and validity of those beliefs are no different than those of religious faith and are no more credible. Children see and say things 'honestly' based on their limited understanding. Sometimes they're right on the money, and other times they are just doing their best to make sense of things. It doesn't necessarily demonstrate any kind of insight. And all of the previously uncontacted tribes you refer to likely have a plethora of 'beliefs' that the average high school student would find ludicrous. Their beliefe in a deity means nothing.

      Atheists don't typically claim not to care about religion. On the contrary, many of us care a great deal because religion genuninely causes harm.

      February 15, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
  4. Bob

    Great article. Name it "why the empty space of myself thinks, loves... And... is"

    February 15, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
  5. Probir Datta

    Beautiful articale . Science deals with materials and that is our body . Religion deals with belief (non-materialistic) and that is our mind . Body and mind both exist in same place and that is our life .

    February 15, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
  6. Kevin

    Thomas Aquinas

    February 15, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
  7. Chris L

    Religion seems a funny thing to me. A Christian will gladly tell you that it is not about evidence. You simply must have faith in Jesus; that's how you know it is true. But then ask them why that same argument is not applied when it comes to Thor or Shiva. The argument is not an attack on Christians, since it seems to be used by most religions. In my mind it seems to always boil down to, "Have faith in my version, for you see, asking God for proof is forbidden. But I will gladly show you evidence of why those other religions are clearly man made."

    February 15, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • big j

      Yea you are making stuff up lol. Fail.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
  8. Icarus Flying High

    Instead of using science to discover facts about our origins, the universe, and the concept of reality/perception (and what it is) this Bozo Deepak Chopra bends science to conform to his personal "new aged" religion that he packages and profits from. This type of new aged religion is just as, if not more, harmful than the Abrahamic religions of the Bronze age. Look Deepak...Before there was the science of Chemistry, we had misguided practice of Alchemey. Before the science of Astronomy we had the made up discipline of Astrology. Before the practice of medicine we used witchdoctors and leeches to cure the sick. Religion is just another precursor to a REAL form of science that hasnt been discovered yet due to lack of tools and understanding. The more you bend science to match your preconcived narrative, the farther you set back the human race and our understanding of reality.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
  9. thorrsman

    Atheists certainly become upset when they feel that their new religion is under attack.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
    • Nathan H

      Look up religion in the dictionary and you will see why atheism is the exact opposite of religion (but deep down I think you already know this).

      February 15, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • Nonimus

      What atheists... this is about science... or the perversion of it by Deepak Chopra.

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

      We're all atheists, I just believe in one less god than you.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • thorrsman

      @Nathan H The vocal and militant Atheists have made a religion out of their claimed lack of belief in any God. They are, for the most part, converts from Christianity–though a great many deny that obvious truth–who have simply replaced one religion with another. The center of their new religion is a claim–based on faith alone–that there are no Gods, an article of faith that they preach at every opportunity.

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

      @Logan How very trite. What failed-comedian-turned-Atheist did you crib that from?

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

      @thorrsman-What a breathtaking display of generalization and ignorance in understanding of the word religion. Extraordinarily few atheists will make any such claim but all theists, by definition, claim that god exists with no evidence whatsoever. By any standard, you also have faith that Thor or Amun-Ra don’t exist. You simply don’t seem to have the ability to express ideas in non-religious terms.

      ...and re: Logan's quote...attacking the source shows your unwillingness to address the statement. Or do you accept that Zeuss is a viable option?

      February 15, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • Free Thinker

      Atheism is not and will never be a religion. It is the truth. Sorry you don't have the education yet to accept this fact.

      February 15, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  10. big j

    Lol. Internet atheists in full effect on this one folks...if you are a squeamish Christian I suggest you turn away.

    Science will never disprove the Father Son or the Holy Spirit.

    But I know better than to argue with a bunch of blog atheists...this is an old discussions anyway, taking place on videogame forums, theology forums and cartoon forums since the internet gave birth to askjeeves.

    Anyway I just want to ask a question...the Word says God created the world in seven days..science has clear facts that this is impossible, that it took millions of years!

    My questions are: 1) God is life...so why couldn't he make life and everything around it in seven days? People place limits on God, and they understand nada about Him lol...and yes, it is very possible to know God. Anyway....

    2) Who says seven days to God...our all powerful, all pervading Father (yes yours too though you try to deny Him) is the same kind of 7 days that man experiences?

    Just food for thought. . . Lol blog atheism is funny. And tragic...

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

      @big j- Science doesn’t claim to disprove the three stooges of Xtianity any more than the thousands of other ‘gods’ that have been worshipped throughout history. You claim he exists; the burden of proof is on you.

      1) See above…god “is…” nothing until you demonstrate its existence which makes your second question moot.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • Free Thinker

      Just wow... Clear evidence that theology destroys minds. Religionism *IS* a social disorder.

      February 15, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
  11. Mr Mark

    Science may not have all the answers, but religion has none of the answers.

    Chopra is just another woo salesman who picks up on the latest jargon being used in various scientific circles, and who then mindlessly repeats the jargon in context of his particular snake oil business. His saying, "If God is to be found anywhere, it is inside the consciousness of each person," is a repackaging of the "I'm OK, You're OK" mantra of the eighties.

    Chopra is the worst kind of cheap trick artist, and it's sad to see CNN giving him an uncontested forum in which to spew his rantings. Skeptics and anybody interested in a counter to Chopra's woo should check out any of the YouTube videos out there wherein Chopra debates those "die-hard atheists" he so despises, because they all have no problem handing him his hat when he goes off into his pseudo-scientific blather.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
  12. Bob the Builder

    Reading this article and all the posts here shows how little we know and understand. Continue to search, investigate, study, thirst for knowledge with an open mind.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
  13. Tommy

    Asking questions is an important part of scientific reasoning. This article makes the assertion that science is based on physical existence, when it is actually based on observable fact – something doesn't have to be physical to be observed. Spirituality also asks those questions, but it answers them with feelings instead of observable fact.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
  14. Indyman

    We will know when humanity has finally arrived at the threshold of a new understanding in the world when a major world leader (USA) announces his/her position on religion and it's not favorable to religionists. Will we ever see a day that our President says, "Religion is good for some people, but personally, I can do without it. My bets are on Science, not religion or magic or miracles." Maybe not in my lifetime, but perhaps in about 50- 75 years. By that time science and technology will have made such advancements that the idea of stoning a woman to death or executing someone for NOT believing in a Magic Man will sound as modern as slavery and bloodletting. The fact that it does not already to so many is quite astounding. Critical thinking is the single most important thing we can do to further the human race. And I don't even care if people want to be spiritual. No problem. Just lose the archaic, violent, dumbing down concept of god. It's time we moved on.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
  15. VitruviannMan

    "Agree or disagree, you cannot simply toss the question out the window." damn, maybe he's right...

    "It seems unlikely that these arose form a random, meaningless universe." nope, here we go again with unfounded medieval age assumptions. OUT THE WINDOW!

    February 15, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
  16. Buddy

    Science and God are mutually exclusive.

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

      only in the west...

      February 15, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
  17. David

    Mr, Chopra, the Christian faith indicates that God created the heavens and the earth in six days and the He rested on day 7. I see you do not understand the very basic of Christianity.

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

      Christians don't really believe it was literally created in 6 days.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
    • Steve the real one

      Easy easy to explain why, David! Chopra is no Christian. He is talking about spiritually which covers any and everything from false religions to satanic worship!

      February 15, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • Logan

      Oh, of course you're right, how silly of him to completely bypass something he wasn't talking about. We should probably listen to your book written thousands of years ago and ignore the advancement of science and general logic.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
    • Icarus Flying High

      Yeah Deepak, get your misguided, misinformed, made up religious mumbo jumbo right.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
    • Catherine Grace

      Oh goodness, stop being so nick-picky! 1) almost every modern regilion (Hinduism through Islam) has some story about creationism, and it is all based on the astrological week. 2) Do your research before you throw a judgment at them; he is very well versed in many ideologies, Christianity is only naming one.
      I like this article because it challenged my comfort zone. Sometimes I like to go to church and feel watch over; others I feel as tho my movement in life is most random, and it comforts me to think that the pattern of life IS random.
      I just like this guy, I think he's tight and kudos to CNN for giving him an article!!

      February 15, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
  18. JoeT

    If I recall correctly, there was already an episode of The Simsons wherein a science got a restraining order specifying religion could come no closer than 50 meters from it.

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

      Christians created Universities to study science. It's only in the west they are exclusive.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
  19. steven harnack

    Another somebody getting rich from gullible people. Tell people that you can make them lose weight or find god then hire some accountants to keep track of all the money that you get from people who are unhappy with their lives.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
  20. Jerry Kays

    PS ... As the (=) between all natural differences, we are also the INterface BETWEEN the Micro realm of the Quanta and the Macro realm of objective 5 sensory physicality ... it is our MIND that INterfaces ALL such differences ... a MIND shared with all other minds, the totality being the Mind of GOD. IMnsHO

    February 15, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
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