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.
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.
Science can co-exist with religion the way the smart kid in class can co-exist with the flakey moron at the back of the class, but that sure as heell does not put them on an equal intellectual footing. Religion is philosophy with Down's Syndrome.
At some point, people in the world will realize that sustainability of the planet will depend on individual (personal) sustainability, and that starts with spirituality. At the spirit level, we are all connected to each other, the eco-system and all inanimate objects. Our everyday actions have to be taken in that context, and the chances of survival of the world will increase. If our inner self (our spirit) is guiding us, we can make those choices for the good of the many. Science can't solve the problems of the world today. As Einstein said (paraphrased), we can't solve the problems of today at the same level of thinking when we created them. Science recognizing spirituality is the whole new level of thinking.
Science and religion can co-exist just fine if the religious zealots would stop trying to pass their mythology off as some form of 'science' (which it is not). Keep the Bible out of the biology and geology classrooms and keep spirituality as a privat and individual thing (or at least for the philosophy and theology class, and Church). No legitimate Christian religion denies evolution – the Catholic church and most valid Protestant denominations got over that 'literal interpretation of genesis' baloney a hundred years ago. Scientists do not claim that natural laws were not possibly originated by some Supreme Being – they don't address the question at all, they simply report the scientific facts regarding age of the universe, the evolutionary / fossil record and the only logical interpretations thereof. Maybe a God did it – but She sure didn't do it in seven days!
Deepak Chopra said, "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." This guy has no freaking idea what he's talking about.
This man has become rich duping people with jargon like this for years. The key is to make a word salad so jumbled that the target person is confused and doesn't understand but remains captivated. Don't expect Chopra to ever explain his theories because his explanations are even more nonsensical than his original comment.
Yeah, his assertion that each part must be as advanced as the sum of all those parts is way off base. That's like saying each part of the eye is a fully functional seeing eye. Or because the whole of the American nation put a man on the moon, each individual american could go to the moon whenever they wanted. If each building block is equal in power to the building... there would be no reason for the blocks to ever come together in the first place. And then we'd be in a world without Voltron!
You hit the nail right on the head, that is the "hook" in Chopra's sales pitch. "You too can be........X" Never mind he has not a single shred of evidence to back up this claim.
Chopra is a shyster and a conman. He gleefully fleeces the ignorant while mumbling nonsense.
It's a living, I guess. I'd probably do it myself if I didn't have respect for myself and others.
Its too bad people are not seeing how much Science actually PROVES Christianity. Have you taken a look at the world around you? Are you so blind as to not see the complexities and beauties of life around us? Such things do not just randomly come about into existance. It is truly the work of a Creator.
Just because I see beauty in a sunset or my cat staring at me doesn't mean that proves God exists and shaped all of creation.
Science doesn't 'prove' anything about Christianity. Saying so shows that you don't really know what science does and doesn't do. Complexity doesn't prove a creator. And even if it did... it doesn't prove a Christian creator. The word 'proof' is not to be thrown around lightly in a rational conversation. For lack of a better word, it's one of the holier words in science.
Intelligent Design lost .
Your failure to understand the mechanisms of the universe does not prove that God exists.
Even if one feels they can extraploate the existence of a higher being from pure beauty and complexity, why the christian god. Budhists, Hindus, Jains and Jews all see beauty in the World. Second, if one extrapolates a god from sheer beaurty/complexity alone, then one must extrapolate that a higher god made god, and so an ad infinitum.
No Virginia, there is no Santa Clause.
Why can't "the complexities and beauties of life around us" just randomly come about into existence? Human ego fools people into believing that we are Soooo special that some creator must have made us, like a piece of art, or something. Get over yourself!
Oh, for crying out loud. Science doesn't prove Christianity. You cannot prove Christianity. It is a belief system. There is no evidence and there is no proof. Science is mum on the idea of Christianity. If you want to believe in a certain mythological system, that's fine, just quit trying to brainlessly pass it off as anything to do with science. It's not. Moreover, Christianity is only one of several middle-Eastern religions, and is far from the oldest. Christianity is actually pretty irrelevant either in terms of science or in terms of religions.
Science is concerned with materialism. If it cannot be proved, it's not science. If it requires faith, it is not science. Does something beyond our material world exist? Who knows... but if it can't alter our material world, science isn't concerned with it. If it can alter our material world... then it's actually part of our material world because it can be measured.
Deep is trying to claim that science is beginning to involve itself with things that can't be measured. He's trying to redefine what science is and what it is not. That's unacceptable.
But scientists do have faith in their own theories. Let's take the gravitron. In order for certain quantum theories (loop quantum gravity, string theory, etc)to work as quantum physicists define them, then the gravitron, the existence of which has never been proven, HAS to exist. As such, everyone has faith that it does exist and everyone continues on their merry way, trying to prove that it does to others so they can be vindicated. Sound familiar?
Same thing with dark matter. In order for current quantum and relativistic physics to function, then it has to exist. In fact, apparently there's more of it than regular matter. So why can't we find it? There are multi-million dollar machines running nonstop, attempting to detect dark matter particles, but they remain out of sight. But ask any quantum physicist if it exists, and you'll invariably get a lecture on why it does.
@ObammaAlabamaSlamma-You've addressed your own question in your post. The standard model of particle physics is a theory of the interactions of subatomic particles. The concept of a graviton or dark matter are considered hypothetical, primarily in that they haven't been directly observed. As you say, for some parts of the model to function, particles like these are postulated because they aid in the mathematics but they are all based on at least some particle(s) that actually been observed. You obviously haven't discussed this with actual physicists. At best they might say that it 'must' exist but that assertion is based on established evidence that led them to that conclusion and they can demonstrate to you in excruciating detail how they came to that conclusion.
I happen to be a believer in both science and spirituality. I particularly like the work of A.H. Almaas related to spirituality.
And as a fan of science I must acknowledge that science always plays "catch up"....that is truth exist before science understands it. So there is much truth existing now that science has not discovered.
"what if this intelligent designer took the initiative to reveal Himself to His creation?"
Well...he sucks at it then. Let it be clear...there is no evidence supporting the evidence of a god.
Let us suppose that your Judeo-Christian god (I presume) does exist. Why in the world would you choose to follow him/it/her? He sucks and he's terrible at what he does. You'd think an Omniscient/Omnipotent god would be able to convince everyone of his existence. Instead he chooses to reveal himself in nebulous scripture of dubious origin, in statues that supposedly cry, in idiots who speak in tongues (really? people believe that stuff?), in obscure images on toast and oil stains? That's the best he can do? Really? Not only does he suck at revealing himself but he sucks at creating too. Even I know that an eye would be better without a blind spot! Omnibenevolent? Really? This is the guy who allows: plagues, cancer, AIDS, war, genocide, my god mother, earthquakes, drought, hurricanes, desertification... Nice guy your god. Oh but we got free will. Ha! Couldn't he have spared us all the other atrocities and given us free will to decide how to treat one another without outside interference? How does a small child born in a refugee camp in Africa have free will? Free will to die of hunger? Strange definition of free will too: "You are given free will to believe in me lest I cast you down in a lake of fire for all eternity!" So if I was born in South America amongst the Mayans I am doomed for all eternity? Wow. What a generous and benevolent god.
And my question for Deepak is: How could it be any void? Things tangible or intangible do not disappear in a "void" in fact, if you want to call it something call it the " FULL" not the void. By the way, the Full can never really be completely full.
And my question to all of you is: If there is a Limitless God, where are we? (by we read "the interminable multi-universes and everything and everyone who lives in them"- the answer is WITHIN, within the limitlessness of it all!
"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."
I wonder how the Christians in attendance will feel when they look around that room and discover they are keeping company with psychics, tea leaf readers, Voodoo priests, Wiccans, ufologists and a host of other folks they condemn on a regular basis?
All of you are confused – no surprise – all religions are not only confusing – in purpose – but also separatistic. The fact is that inside the mind of a human there can be as many thoughts as inside the mind of another human, and that is what religion is, and because is made by humans and humans are greedy idiots, that is why we have many separatistic idiotic beliefs intertwined with some good advice. In the over all if there is a God and is Limitless then everything exist WITHIN IT and separation is not possible. No one is separated from the Limitlessness of it All- unless you are an idiotic human and in your tiny little mind-between your ears, you believe that the black people should be grouped with the black people, same thing with the whites, the reds, the purples, the somewhat green, green beige, yellow, and any other color of skin. Even I being a genius am connected with the rest of idiotic you's – all the way to and through the Multi-Universes. We all exist WITHIN the limitlessness of God and the faster we realize it, maybe, just maybe- this group and that group will stop fighting about which group is God's most beloved and which book uses God's best name. Time for a change humans! time for you to all love each other and honor your presence within by choosing kindness, compassion and hope whenever you have the chance to choose.
God is not Mocked I promise!
Yes, God is mocked. I do it quite often myself. I promise.
Essence of denial
I applaud Chopra and others for pondering these fundamental questions about how quantum interactions organize into macro or observable reality, but couldn't disagree more with the assertions in his final paragraph. He states that we have conscience and live with purpose and that it is unlikely these traits could arise from a random universe. It seems quite clear to me that it's a fundamental tenet of evolution that traits that prove successful to the survival of a species tend to be retained. Thus, as simpler creatures become more complex, with more complex brains, as well as strong tendencies toward social cooperation – this clearly provides survival advantages to the group. All explained by evolution rather than appealing to a "higher intelligence."
"I applaud Chopra and others for pondering these fundamental questions..."
Now if only he would go get a physics degree and start doing something useful about it, instead of publish a CNN article to a bunch of non-physicists who are not educated enough in the field to tell him how wrong he is. Seems cowardly to me.
Reading Mr Chopra is like watching one of those humiliation-based sit-coms. I just squirm at the painfully embarrassing dialog. Well, I guess he manages to sell books, but I wonder what price his dignity?
Science and religion can mix as well as Scientists and Retards.
Scientists face the fact that you know who we are now LOL LOL LOL :))))))))))))) We are not so solid after all!!!!
"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."
Ahh, always great to see Deepak say anything possible to sell books full of nonsense and pack conferences full of fools and their money.
Poor poor fools, If one can stretch his pea sized brain to accept the theory of someone taking tons and tons of dynamite into a Lexus parts warehouse that contains everything necessary to make a new car, blow it up and then get that car after let's say 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 tries perfectly I might add. Then u have the Darwin big bang in all of its foolish Glory. The Lord exist, U'll see. He promised u will and He's not a man that he can lie.
"He promised u will and He's not a man that he can lie."
And u no that (at your obvious age of 14) cuz?
p.s. you may not use a book (Bible) of ancient tales told, then written down, by primitive Middle Eastern goat herders, who tried to figure out how the world around them worked.
"Poor poor fools, If one can stretch his pea sized brain to accept the theory of someone taking tons and tons of dynamite into a Lexus parts warehouse that contains everything necessary to make a new car, blow it up and then get that car after let's say 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 tries perfectly I might add."
No but I'll bet I can put a stick of dynamite into a can of Alphabet Soup and blast out a better written example of the Inflationary model of the universe than the one you just offered.
People have a misconception that not having an intelligent designer is synonymous with 'random'. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are many 'natural' methods of design. Natural selection is NOT random.
Science is not at war with religion. Science is simply interested in discovering the nature of the natural universe, if in the process science happens to disprove religiously held views than so be it. If anything you could claim that science completely ignores religion, and rightly so.
Exactly. Well said.
I agree that science is not at war with religion. The two are perceived to be in conflict when believers in a Creator attempt to limit their concept of a Creator to what is written in sacred texts and their own personal human restrictions. If a Creator is believed to be all powerful, then such limitations do not apply. Scientific discovery is then a tool to enhance one's belief in a Creator continually beyond human comprehension. Theism and atheism are not based in the scientific world. Religion and science are two entirely different fields that, often to the frustration of both camps, cannot be used to confirm or negate the other's position. To try to do so is pointless.
Learn to meditate
All your understanding is of sleeping fools
I just loathe when people try to marry science and religion together. Science is a far more accurate description of how the natural world actually works than spirituality is. Science is an evolutionary step above spirituality. It is a replacement to spirituality. The two are not equal or even similar. Spiritual persons latch on to science in order to make it seem like their viewpoint is still valid in the face of mounting evidence that it is not.
Fine, then someone please explain how the "Natural World" created something from nothing. Before atoms and quarks or the energy that they are comprised of existed, where did they come from? Einstein proved that the universe is expanding, thus proving that it hasn't always existed. So, either you defy that proof by claiming that the universe has always existed with all of its objects (galaxies, stars, etc.) or you have to acknowledge that there is something beyone the natural world that has always existed.
jsim – So explain how an invisible, supernatural being in the sky was created out of nothing.
"So, either you defy that proof by claiming that the universe has always existed with all of its objects (galaxies, stars, etc.) or you have to acknowledge that there is something beyone the natural world that has always existed."
Or you say, "We don't know... yet (if ever)." Keep looking, however; but in the meantime, "God did it" is not a valid default position... especially if this "God" is given human-like characteristics (demands, emotions, reward-giving, etc.).
Uh no... the fact that the universe is expanding does NOT prove the universe hasn't always existed. It merely proves that what we know as the universe came from a rather large explosion. The Big Bang theory needs a hot dense state as its initial condition. Is a belief in eternal matter and energy really so hard for someone that believes in an eternal god?
jsim – Thats the difference between the religious and the scientific. Science can say "I dont know" or "theres not enough evidence for" but your religion forbids you to make those statement. A very arrogent stance for people that are supposed to be humble and benevolent. Capernicus was forbiden by the Church to continue his reserch on the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres which basically used math and science to show that the Earth is not the center of the Universe (or even the center of anything). It wasnt until after his death and the invention of the Telescope by Galileo nearly a century later that proved beyond a doubt that he was correct all along. Just a minor example of the poison that religion injects into our scientific thought processes.
o Think infinity and recycling with the Big Bang expansion followed by the shrinking reversal called the Gib Gnab and recycling back to the Big Bang repeating the process on and on forever. Human life and Earth are simply a minute part of this cha-otic, sto-cha-stic, expanding, shrinking process disappearing in five billion years with the burn out of the Sun and maybe returning in another five billion years with different life forms but still subject to the va-ga-ries of its local star.
The Bible has more SCIENCE than anyone could ever know. Just look in the book of Job and Isaiah and you'll see things there which were just discovered by these FIRST GRADE SCIENTIST in the past few years.
God said thousands of years ago that He SPOKE the world into existence (Gen 1). But it took THOUSANDS of years for scientist to finally say "it was the BIG BANG". Do you see the STUPIDITY in such a statement. Instead of saying the world was SPOKEN BY GOD, they ONLY TAKE OUT GOD and say it's a BIG BANG. Thus not actually DISPROVING what the BIBLE says, only saying the AUDIO was not God. IF you are so smart why don't you say something that is not plagiarism??? Because the big bang is merely an exact replica of what God said, only taking out HIS name and saying it took MILLIONS of years and not just days. And that it was not instant people and animals, but yet we evolved into it. WOW THAT'S ORIGINAL.
While the brilliant mind of scientist's said the world was flat, the BIBLE said it was ROUND for THOUSANDS of years. Isaiah 40:22 "22 It is He who sits above the circle of the earth,..."
While the brilliant mind of scientist's did not know how the planets were sustained, the BIBLE said the EARTH was placed on NOTHING. Job 26:7 "He stretches out the north over empty space;He hangs the earth on nothing."
While the brilliant mind of scientist's did not know about DINOSAURS, the BIBLE said there were Dinosaurs. Job 40:15 "Look now at the behemoth..." AND Job 41:1 “Can you draw out Leviathan...
The Bible speaks about health messages as to what to eat and what not to eat, where scientist are now discovering what the Bible already said.
The Bible talks about people not living more than 120 years (Genesis 6:3) and today we see that the oldest person alive never makes it past that mark, even though scientist are still looking for the fountain of youth. And even though before this century the life expectancy of man was not going that high.
I could go on and on, but I'm not sure the small minds of scientist would understand just yet. Maybe in another 3 to 4 thousand years you'll know as much as the Bible knows... NOT!!!
Just ask yourself, how come the Bible has all this knowledge before the world and scientist do?
Other than not being able to physically see God, what in the Bible can be proved as false? NOTHING. Things in the Bible may need to require some faith at times, but nothing in their can be DISPROVED by these "smart" scientist.
Think about it,
Ah, I see that you finally got past those evil, persecuting moderators. It's a shame that it was hardly worth it.
I don't have much time right now, but I'll briefly tackle a couple of your claims:
"While the brilliant mind of scientist's said the world was flat, the BIBLE said it was ROUND for THOUSANDS of years. Isaiah 40:22 "22 It is He who sits above the circle of the earth,..."
A circle is quite different than a sphere or globe. They had words for sphere and ball, but did not describe Earth with those words. Their simple observation... by standing in one place and turning completely around (360 degrees) and seeing all that there was to see made the shape of a circle. Go up on a hill and do the same thing... and you see the same circular shape.
"While the brilliant mind of scientist's did not know how the planets were sustained, the BIBLE said the EARTH was placed on NOTHING. Job 26:7 "He stretches out the north over empty space;He hangs the earth on nothing."
Stretches out the "north".... not sure what that proves; but as for hanging on nothing... they simply could not see anything holding it up, although in other places they speak about the Earth having pillars underneath it. The Earth does not 'hang' per se, and space is not empty.