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. Frank

    I am pretty sure that science can explain may things of the physical Universe, but science is incapable of explaing things Spriritual.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • Eric G.

      Sure it can. Chemical imballance?

      February 15, 2011 at 10:47 am |
    • js

      And what doe spirituality actually explain?

      February 15, 2011 at 11:01 am |
    • David Johnson

      @Eric G.

      You said: "Sure it can. Chemical imballance?"

      God, I wish I had said that! I have tears in my eyes! That is soooo funny.

      I really do enjoy your presence!

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

      Eric & David, are you two like, 12? You have no depth, such bores.

      February 15, 2011 at 3:55 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 11:26 pm |
    • David Johnson


      You said: "Eric & David, are you two like, 12? You have no depth, such bores."

      I guess our date on Friday is off then? *sigh*


      February 16, 2011 at 9:49 am |
  2. Bryce Wenger

    listen guys don't knock Creation if you don't have your facts right. First of all there is evidence for a God and for the Creationist world view. Check out Aswers in Genesis for detailed info but their is definite evidence. evidence is only evidence it can be used for both sides of the arguement depending on how is is viewed but creation seems to make the most sense when looked at from any point of view. for instance how do you explain the Grand canyon. the rock has evidence of being stripped away quickly while it was still soft like hmm in a flood? also carbon dating has tested the same rock multiple times and found multiple ages for it. their goes your time scale. as you can see creation has evidence. go to the website i mentioned for more. Creation and evolution can never coexist. either one is right or the other. anything other than this is compromise. andthe bible can't compromise with anything

    February 15, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • Elle

      That "flood" could be the result of an alien encounter. Thousands of years ago, if you saw something come out of the sky and someone told you it was "God" or a god wouldn't you believe them? Just saying. Lots and lots of possibilities out there. Don't pigeonhole your mind.

      February 15, 2011 at 10:45 am |
    • Eric G.

      You said you have evidence to support creation theory. Sounds like you are trying to disprove evolution theory. If you disprove evolution theory (genetic mapping makes this impossible), it still does not prove your creation theory. Please provide verifiable evidence to support your claims.

      February 15, 2011 at 10:51 am |
    • Zeke2112

      You lost any credibiltiy you had when you cited AiG. It is filled with absolute garbage that has been disproven countless times by both very smart people and religious experts.

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

      @Bryce – Your proof seems to have as much validity as claiming Aesop's fables prove animals can talk. If it said so in a book it must be true, and the Grand Canyon, well thats just God's footprint of course, what else could it be? And dont forget even Bill O' proved that tides must be divinely controlled, how else could it be explained!!

      Please spend less time on these boards and go back to school, it might just surprise you.

      February 15, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • Estevan

      Bryce – little tip for when you try to argue for Creationism" Never, ever, use Answers in Genesis. it has been debunked, refuted, and quashed so many times by credible and intelligent people it's not even funny.

      Remember the Dover trial? The one where the Creationists thought they would win because the judge was Christian and a friend of Bush? Recall what happened? Jones found that Creationism was NOT science and had no evidence to back it up – "the overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory." Heck, it doesn't look good for your little fantasy...

      Creationism and Intelligent Design have been debunked so many times by so many intelligent scholars and scientists that I can say: Creationism is nothing more than a stupid and childish myth.

      Let it go. The overwhelming evidence supports evolution.

      February 15, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  3. Elle

    I don't know a lot about science but I believe in evolution. I don't know a lot about religion but I can recite the books of the Bible. I don't know a lot about spirituality but I have realized God. I know the nature of the universe and it is benevolent, intelligent, and of the kind of love that has no opposite. ANYONE can know this because we are a part of that intelligence.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • Frank

      Well put.

      February 15, 2011 at 10:42 am |
    • Estevan

      Elle posted: "know the nature of the universe and it is benevolent, intelligent, and of the kind of love that has no opposite. "

      Sure. Let me throw a few things out there: AIDS, Ebola, bubonic plague, tuberculosis, earthquakes, tsunamis, cancer, spina bifida, leprosy, drought, volcanos, allergies, pneumonia, schizophrenia, psychopathy, pine beetles, etc.

      Sure. A benevolent universe.

      You "know the nature of the universe"? Quick! Stop the presses! Contact Hawkins and let's rewrite everything we know about science! ELLE KNOWS THE NATURE OF THE UNIVERSE!

      February 15, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • David Johnson


      Yep! You are exactly right. The religious often practice selective observation. They acknowledge the beauty, but ignore the horrid.

      Good post!


      February 16, 2011 at 7:47 am |
  4. Pierre Forget


    Long time I have seen an article with good thinking and sense. To me, this is material I am used to, having read Seth (Jane Roberts), Edgar Cayce and The Speakers (Ian. Borts).

    Just fit in my beliefs and not trying to impose a specific dogma. For God, I prefer the term "all that is", which make more sense to me. And I don't need religion to intervene in between.
    And for me, having science all around me for all my life (I am 63), I don't see any conflict between spirituality and science. Only limited views. Simply that the science of the day has not found science of the future yet. Remember, official science tends to condemn new findings; that is history and the normal trend of human beings: do not disturb the official dogmas!

    February 15, 2011 at 10:38 am |
  5. Kevin

    Deepak, Everytime you mention quantum and consciousness in the same sentence, I hope you choke

    February 15, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • Frank

      You are very close minded and mean spirited.

      February 15, 2011 at 10:40 am |
    • RIchard McCarthy

      @ Kevin – Doesn't seemed to have worked so far. His voice actually seems to be getting better.

      February 16, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
  6. Frank

    Even as a teenager I always have believed in a living Earth that has all the mechanisms in place to keep itself going and to cleanse itself when there is problems and I believe that the "mechanisms" have been put in place by the creator (God). Therefore if I believe in a living Earth, I also believe in a living Universe.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • Elle

      Yes! And we are all here to help. That is our function. To serve.

      February 15, 2011 at 10:41 am |
    • David Johnson


      Yep, and then they all lived happily ever after. LOL

      The earth, the universe is not a sentient being. They are quite impersonal. The earth, to some degree is self-cleaning. Rain, removes debris in the air etc. But, too many people, and too much pollution can certainly overwhelm this activity.

      There is no evidence that fairies or a god, will save us from our own stupidity. We need to stop adding to the population. We need to stop polluting. We aren't going to inhabit another earth anytime soon. We should take care of this one.


      February 15, 2011 at 11:56 am |
  7. bayou7

    CNN, why do you keep pushing this nonsense? Every couple of months, this pseudo-science sillyness gets front page space.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:36 am |
  8. Jon P

    I fart, therefor I am?

    February 15, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Jon P
      I've always preferred "coitus ergo sum".

      February 15, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • Normon

      not "coitus ergo c.um"?

      February 15, 2011 at 11:12 am |
  9. Visitor 1

    The wisdom of man is foolishness to God. Man in their prideful understanding of deep thought find their own hearts full of pain and sickness, some struggling with heart desease and others with cancer. How can we be certain of the things we don't see. The absolute truth of man lies in the inner thoughts but the conciousness is full of deception and lies made by man and follow by some and rejected by others. Someones inner thought is different, oh please inner thoughts only prove that our motives are evil and are thoughts are corrupted by images and display of experience we have experience. One's ability to achieve truth falls shorts after denying the existence of One who holds the ability to trascend the mind and soul of man to reach a dimension of truth.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:34 am |
    • ScottK

      "One's ability to achieve truth falls shorts after denying the existence of One"
      It is only after the falling of the shorts that one can achieve truth...

      February 15, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
  10. Lefty

    What is the difference between Deepak Chopra and Dr. Phil? Nothing. Both are charlatans, selling dreams to feeble-minded people. Deepak Chopra only has more credibility because he is "brown". Oh wait, that ethnic person said so, so it must be right.

    Inspiration and hope is everywhere. Do not purchase it from some box at Walmart or from an informercial. Search from within first, you know what is right.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  11. Bill

    How presumptious that anyone would claim to know the mind of God and to presume that God's seven days are the same as our puny, finite way of thinking.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:34 am |
    • Sutter_Kaine

      If the mind of God is unknowable then why bother with religion?

      February 15, 2011 at 10:42 am |
    • ScottK

      "How presumptious that anyone would claim to know the mind of God" Indeed!! And there have never been any religious folk who constantly and vehemently proclaim they know what God wants from us or how God wants us to behave since it would be presumptious... No one ever attempted to force others at the points of their swords to accept what their God wants. Yup, no one, ever, ever, except maybe, um, that one religion... er, and that other, and that other, and that other, and that other...

      February 15, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
  12. BFOTO

    Two books that should be read before weighing in on this article are, The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell, know for his work in comparative mythology, and The End of Time by Julian Barbour, a theoretical physicist. The former deals with the transcendent and metaphorical meanings in ALL religions. The latter with the notion that time does not really exist when you reconcile the split between the micro world of the quantum mechanics and the macro world of everyday things. And that our consciousness does play a role in this dance. Chopra may not be totally correct in his assertions, but he is not completely off base either.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:34 am |
    • Vaxfiend

      Hey, we only want loud-mouthed, baseless, or unreasonable blather posted here...where's the righteous outrage in your posting?? Please take down your thoughtful addition to an otherwise ranting discourse and replace it with something decrying...something. Thank you.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
  13. Knucklehead61

    I'm feeling her chi....mmm mmm

    February 15, 2011 at 10:33 am |
  14. william

    The true meaning is the space pig. An organic astral being 1,000,000,0000,000.00 miles across. That travels through the universe billions of light years away. Of course idiots like this can not accept this spritual reality and blabble nonsense about jesus, super jesus, evilution, whatever. People are not ready for the truth

    February 15, 2011 at 10:31 am |
    • Ezra

      It's not a pig, you heretic, it's a boar – didn't they teach you anything in Sunday School!

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

    Hasn't this charlatan made enough money duping the dupable public.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:31 am |
    • Elle

      Not as much as organized religion has.

      February 15, 2011 at 10:49 am |
  16. rollo

    Mainstream science has its biases. In spite of plenty of evidence, research into "fringe" topics like parapsychology and UFOs is ridiculed. Science is a method, not a religion. Saying certain topics are off the table is not really science. I think that is part of what he is saying.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:30 am |
  17. too_bz

    Most people only seem to acknowledge God when they are in times of desperation. I guess most commenters have not experience deperation to that nth degree yet, where they call out to God for help.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:29 am |
    • John

      You know what's better than reaching out to an imaginary being? Reaching out to family and friends, you know, REAL people. That's real compassion, real love, real feeling, and real help. If you are religious, but have no friends and family to call on for help, you should redirect your priorities and ask yourself why your god has screwed you over so badly.

      February 15, 2011 at 10:38 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      The old "there are no atheists in foxholes" fallacy, which I can tell you from personal experience is a load of bunk.
      And don't forget that just because someone yells out "oh god" when they're orgasming doesn't mean that they're recognizing the existence of a supreme being.

      February 15, 2011 at 10:42 am |
    • leo71

      That is because fear is the basis for most religion. When confronted with death, death of a loved on or extreme hardship we are overcome with fear of an unknown future and the existence or non-existence of an afterlife- humans have always felt it easier and more comforting to think of a place where all is right and safe or a plan of some kind within the chaos ( including myself ).
      Scientists see the unknown as something exciting and interesting to study.
      Because of this, fear and emotions don't play into science very much- whereas they are fundamental to religion.

      February 15, 2011 at 10:46 am |
  18. Nh

    ...why are you all so worried about what others believe will happen to them when they die? let them be. do your thing. organized religion has never forced me to do anything, or negatively affected my life. pope hasnt been knockin at my door asking for money..

    February 15, 2011 at 10:28 am |
    • John

      I think you're forgetting historical events. Was your life/relatives/anyone you knew every affected by 1) 9/11, 2) WWII, 3) any major war in history? These are all thanks to religion, with varying degrees of blame of course. Do you want someone running your country that talks to imaginary beings, makes decisions based on imaginary beings, and thinks that an imaginary being is performing miracles and affecting the way our world works? Religion is a farce and a disgrace to an intelligent society. It has no place in a modern society.

      www (dot) godisimaginary (dot) com

      February 15, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • Pinewalker

      You're right John, I don't want someone to run my country that talks to imaginary beings. I want someone running my country who believes I should put all my money in a pot and then recirculate it out to society. Hey if I put in $100 and get back $10 its ok because the Jones only got $10 too. Life is so simple and easy. We all BELIEVE in something,we just label it differently...my God, my cause, my lifestyle, my rights.....

      February 15, 2011 at 10:54 am |
    • Nonimus

      Organized religion and religious organisations do affect our lives in the US. Women's rights in reproduction. Gay rights in marriage. Science education. Blue laws. Faith-based initiatives. Tax-free churches.
      Need more?

      February 15, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • yoyoma

      Pope and his buddies are busy molesting children.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:21 am |
    • ScottK

      @Pine – "I want someone running my country who believes I should put all my money in a pot and then recirculate it out to society. Hey if I put in $100 and get back $10 its ok because the Jones only got $10 too."

      Well, besides your ignorant attempt to bash the Pres and progressives with flawed logic and bogus math, you are just trying to perpetuate the lies you have been told by your corporate masters. I would bet that the majority of the "Red" state Americans who voted for Bush also believe the lies about socialism, the Cadillac welfare queen fallicy, the "I pay my taxes but all my money goes to lazy people and brown people" mentality. The fact is that according to the US Department of Labor reported that 1.9% total welfare assistance payments for 2001 was attributable to fraud or abuse within the program. Now its true, they only have the numbers for those that are caught, so some fraud estimates are as high as 6%, however, even at that high a number the vast majority of the aid goes to those in real need. If we used your faulty logic of hard workers paying in $100 and only getting $10 back that would mean only 10% of the populace was working and 90% were just taking in their free money. In reallity we have about 155 million people employed and 50 million on welfare and 1.9% of those are fraudulent so just under 1 million people are indeed gaming the system. But to demonize all those who are in real need and would litteraly die in some cases without the aid just because of the bad apples is both ignorant and morally wrong.

      February 15, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
  19. John in AZ

    I have nothing but respect for Deepak Chopra as a man of faith and spirituality...BUT, he is completely out of his element when it comes to science, and it's kind of sad to hear him try to link spirituality to science because it reveals his ignorance of what science is at its core.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:28 am |
    • John

      Science and religion are irreconcilable. It's insulting to link mythology and fairy tales with science.

      February 15, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • Pinewalker

      which is??....you left us in suspense. Exactly what is science at its core?

      February 15, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • BruceNY

      I think you're being a little hard on him: he is just trying to break the traditional image of science where things are clearly defined and results always accurate. Some concepts in physics are almost spiritual in nature and are hard to define: read the definition of the wave-particle duality and tell me it doesn't blow your mind! I think that's what he's getting at and I don't think that's cheapening science in any way...

      February 15, 2011 at 10:54 am |
    • js

      Bruce. The traditional model of science is not broken. It is sprituality that is fundamentally flawed. Yes some scientific are mind blowing and so complex as to leave on in breathless awe of existence. However injecting a spiritual or faith-based element does not just cheapen science, it completely compromises it.
      Science = fact. Spirituality/faith = bias.

      February 15, 2011 at 10:59 am |
    • Darryn Foley

      @ John (not John in AZ) – who claims that it's insulting to link mythology and fairy tales with science..... which is rather funny, because that's exactly what science does to explain the creation of the universe. Go google gravitron.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:30 am |
  20. Mike

    Unless Mr. Chopra can show me how to orthoganolize a state equation to obtain some observables, he has no business trying sell his borborygmus about quantum mechanics and concisousness as anything but crackpottery.

    QED MoFo.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:28 am |
    • Charles Darwin

      Ya gotta love the open mind of the aethists..."unless his view rigidly conforms to mine in every aspect, I will reject it 100% and belittle the person for believing it".

      February 15, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • Pinewalker

      You sound so intelligent that you must be absolutely correct. I had to look up three words in your statement before I could understand what you were trying to convey.

      February 15, 2011 at 10:45 am |
    • Gwen

      Your are the crackpot, Deepak is a genius and way beyond the average human being.

      February 15, 2011 at 10:47 am |
    • Mike V.

      Hey CD, are do you base all your ignorant statements from the position of ignorance? Who stated that I was an atheist?
      Does one need to be an atheist to have a finely calibrated bullpucky meeter?

      February 15, 2011 at 10:50 am |
    • Nonimus

      I'm not certain of Mike's statement, but Chopra is the one making claims not supposed Atheists. Chopra is claiming that science and his intelligent universe are compatible, and yet he provides absolutely no evidence.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:02 am |
    • Seifer

      This is great. It's called jargon people. Quantum mechanics is SCIENCE, and it has a rich vocabulary behind it. If you knew one iota of it, you would understand what Mike said... but you don't. You like to think you do, and you get all offended and belligerent when someone posts a standard 400 or 500 level physics problem that you haven't the foggiest what it means, or why it proves that Deepak is full of nonsense. Mike here perfectly demonstrated that you know next to nothing about quantum physics, and the best part, it flew right over your heads. There's a reason people have to go to college for years to even begin to understand quantum mechanics, and a Google search or 12-hour New Age seminar won't get you anywhere. You need to realize that quantum mechanics is a difficult, terminology-filled and math-based, and either humbly bow out or go take enroll in a couple of physics classes at your local university. Those are the two sane options. Anything else is just you scrambling to protect your ego.

      February 15, 2011 at 2:44 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.