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. El Kababa

    Spirituality is an emotion, not an alternate non-material reality. Its evolutionary usefulness is that it bonds the tribe together and makes them more obedient to the tribe's leadership.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:46 am |
  2. Sunny7

    Deepak is so right. The missing link that scientest's have been looking for has been in their faces all this time.
    it is SPIRITUALITY.! That's it, that's all. It is that simple.
    All of you who are still wondering around in the dark, don't you think it is time to wake up!!

    February 15, 2011 at 10:45 am |
  3. NL

    And what if science were to answer where God came from, what powers him, and how he can exist outside of the laws of nature to produce miracles? Human curiosity would seek to understand how God actually 'works', but is religion prepared to accept what science discovers about God? All that we would accomplish is to make science another religion competing for people's trust over traditional beliefs, and too many people believe that already.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:45 am |
  4. Annon

    hhmmm....sounds like someone just read the Dali Lama's book The Universe in a Single Atom...

    February 15, 2011 at 10:45 am |
  5. Mike

    Darwin's theory of evolution was victorious over the book of Genesis? Read his won words:

    "To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting
    different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural
    selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree."

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

      Sorry, typo on the word 'own'

      February 15, 2011 at 10:47 am |
  6. JK

    Deal of the Day...Nice

    February 15, 2011 at 10:44 am |
  7. Longtooth

    It seems a lot of readers are not thinking about what's being said. What the man is saying, and he's far from the first to say it, is that science is finding things in subatomic physics that point toward intelligence as the force that holds the universe together. He's not saying the Great Bearded White Man in the Sky has been discovered, only that true scientists are sitting back, scratching their heads.

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

      No scientific discoveries have ever suggested a greater intelligence at work. That is an irrational extrapolation from objective data describing an amazingly complex system. To infer intelligence behind it is not science but rather emotional speculation to satisfy a pathetic spiritual "need".

      February 15, 2011 at 10:54 am |
    • Eric G.

      @js: Very well said. 3 points for "irrational extrapolation".

      February 15, 2011 at 11:00 am |
  8. Frank

    It would be total arrogance to believe that we as intelligent beings are born into a non intelligent environment. It is called cause and effect.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:44 am |
  9. jill

    Without science and theories and people like chopra and different theories due to culture and religion here today in america people w my condition were killed. Indid do not eat cow as it is sacred. They are animals like u and man

    February 15, 2011 at 10:44 am |
  10. Darwin

    Why don't you folks who promote the benefits of "spirituality" send a spirit or two – or maybe the whole spirit team – over to my house and we'll have a nice chat about spirituality. I'll talk to the tree fairy and the two Leprachauns who live in the shed in the back yard to see if they might want to meet them too.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:43 am |
  11. Miruna

    I find it beyond comprehension that we rather believe in silly notions as "God" because we cannot accept that there was no purpose and special plan for us, we all like to be special and if there is no God there is nothing special about us, unless we work hard to be special. Mr. Deepak people do not embrace " Eastern traditions like meditation and yoga" just because they make more sense, but because they are exotic and when combined with a little opium there is a nice feeling of connection with exterior spheres.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:42 am |
  12. Baloney

    This is just blather. While Chopra uses a different new-age mystical vocabulary, what he is saying is the usual blathering idiocy. His puerile attempts to relate quantum physics to his mystical beliefs only shows that he doesn't understand the physics enough to really talk about it. Science is science, fruitcake mysticism is fruitcake mysticism and just because some of the vocabulary overlaps doesn't mean that the common words are used in the same context and mean the same thing between the two contexts.

    Deepok is just so much baloney.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:42 am |
  13. Skeptic

    "If God is to be found anywhere, it is inside the consciousness of each person."

    And we're supposed to believe that because you say so? Can you prove that?

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

      Can you prove otherwise?

      February 15, 2011 at 10:50 am |
    • Eric G.

      @Susan: Sorry, the burden of proof lies with those making claims. You get a two minute penalty for faulty logic.

      February 15, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • OpenMind

      So far, Science cannot explain Consciousness. I am not sure that will be able to, beyond describing the biochemistry of the brain.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:03 am |
  14. GPS

    My Take: Barnum's Side Show must be in town if Deepak Chopra is talking. Anyone who was a regular visitor at Jackson's Neverland Ranch is in Neverland themselves!!! Another one from the land of the Monkey, Rat, Elephant, and Cow Gods!!!

    February 15, 2011 at 10:42 am |
  15. Jack

    Absolute gibberish.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:42 am |
  16. CW

    Liked that he talked about the d-'ie hard atheist crowd...trying to sprew there own unfounded propaganda of beliefs.

    He is right that God will met you where you are but you have to be willing to receive him and what he did for all of us in d-ying for all our sins. I disagree on the point that you don't need to go to church though b/c church is where you fellowship and worship with like minded people in order to keep you on track.

    Fact is that the atheist...aka science...rational....whatever they want to call themselves...I prefer the the mo-'n-'i-'ker of "the do-'omed crowd"...want to point to man made man tested science...but there is no proof. The proof is the bible...and this has been the proof for 6,000 years...and as far as me and my family are concerned...will always be.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:41 am |
    • Sue

      Amen, Amen, Amen!

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

      Your bible is full of intentional and unintentional errors just like your editorial reply. Go back to school.

      February 15, 2011 at 10:59 am |
    • Sorry God :/

      its crazy to me that this made up story thousands of years ago plays such a huge part in life today. For me its very clear, the bible and religion as I was taught growing up is without a doubt made up. You can just pick things off one at a time that have been proved wrong. Religions have been rewritten numerous times throughout history. If you do the research on it you will see. People, get real, stop believing that God is going to take care of you, you need to do things on your own, wishful thinking is not going to help you.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:16 am |
    • BW

      Bible hasn't been around for 6,000 years and still doesn't offer any proof.

      Come to think of it, you might actually want to look up the word proof since I don't think you actually know what it means.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:46 am |
    • ScottK

      "church is where you fellowship and worship with like minded people in order to keep you on track." And Star trek conventions are where you fellowship and worship with like minded people in order to keep you on trek.

      February 15, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  17. HDVinVA

    One of the most perplexing questions for me has always been why is it just mankind that possesses this soul or consciousness yet no other life form on earth is in possession of it? What makes us so special except that we can think up the ideas and give ourselves this special status.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:41 am |
    • DeathStalker

      According to the Bible the answer to your question is knowledge of good and evil is what makes us different. We know when we do something wrong. That is a base explanation but if you look at other species good and evil is not something any other thing living on this planet thinks about but us. An animal may know it did something wrong but that is only because we teach it and tell it that it did something wrong. Otherwise I do not think anything living understands that concept.

      February 15, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • BW

      You are wrong. Many social animals have a structure to teach members of the pack their rules. They discipline them when they do wrong. It is not exclusive to humans.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • john smith

      @BW You are just repeating what Death said which is that yes, other animals have the ability to "learn" however, they still do not know nor do they feel morally responsible when they do something wrong.

      on another note, what about instincts? These abilities just magically flow from parent to child? Sounds like something programmed them, not randomly created itself.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:59 am |
    • ScottK

      @John Smith – "what about instincts? These abilities just magically flow from parent to child?" The better question would be: Why do so many people automaticlly want to insert G od in anything they do not understand or have not researched? Instincts are present in every creature on this planet, some start with more than others, but all have them. Natural selection of a favorable trait, such as an instinct, will be selected for through compet ition and improved survival rate of life forms possessing the instinct. Thus, for evolutionary biology, instincts can be explained in terms of behaviors that increase the reproductive success of the individual or its close relatives. See, no magic...

      February 15, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
  18. Dulcimer

    I had to laugh at the way Pantheism continues to weave heresy into monotheism 🙂

    I don't feel a need to dismiss science OR religion, on my journey towards enlightenment. I don't comprehend their full, true nature. But that may come, in time. Or it may not.

    What I do see are people commenting, using insults & name calling, as their insecure egos try to repel divergent opinions. If you have not formed an opinion previously, regarding religion & science, now is a time to consider it. If you HAVE a firm opinion, why do you feel the need to angrily dispute what another says ?

    My beliefs are mine. I don't need anyone to subscribe to them. It makes for a more serene day, like that.


    February 15, 2011 at 10:40 am |
    • BW

      So then why did you comment stating your beliefs if they are your beliefs and it doesn't matter what other people think. Putting them out there says you care what others think, otherwise they don't need to know them. You are doing the same thing as everybody else. Saying people shouldn't care or say anything is telling them what to think and say.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:41 am |
  19. Pr. Dan Biles

    Absolutely nothing new in Chopra's comments about "the new trend" of finding God in personal experience and inner consciousness. That is gnosticism, and it is as old as the New Testament - in fact, it has been Christianity's chief opponent from the beginning.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:39 am |
  20. VultureTX

    Based on Chopra's views, God is in all of us. And that includes the six percent of humanity that is mentally insane.
    Given that premise you can excuse any thing and call it divine will, deus ex machina, or just the spirit moved me.

    consequences of your premise, they matter.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:39 am |
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