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. ALG

    "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."
    I read this article because I am always interested to read of others thoughts on where we came from. I do believe there is some credibility to evolution, but NOT insofar as human beings go. We are created in the image and likeness and feelings of God, the feelings and emotions did not 'evolve,' they ARE. And with the free will we are given, this is where the evil in the equation comes in. We are all born as innocent, good beings - it is the exposure to the world and free will which makes one turn away from the image and likeness of God. Science needs to study the evolution of human feelings. How about an article on that subject, CNN?

    February 15, 2011 at 10:59 am |
    • 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 3:30 pm |
  2. Dajuan Hayes

    Deepak Chopra is full of crap. He uses scientific words in his sentences, but in such a way that their meaning is either lost or twisted beyond any real sense. He routinely abuses quantum mechanics to bolster his claims about mysticism and God. To people unfamiliar with science his claims may sound deep, but to those of us who do have some grasp of quantum mechanics, we can see right through the babble. All Chopra is doing is rehashing age-old concepts with new terms, saying nothing really new. He's little more than an 19th century spiritualist dressed up in 21st century clothes.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:58 am |
  3. FifthApe

    Chopra is a scam artist selling woo and books to the gullible. Its outright theft.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:58 am |
  4. Mariospants

    Ugh. What bothers me most about all of this is that these spiritual deductions are based on... whimsical fancy. It's not as if there's some observable evidence that points in this direction or that it even makes any sense. It's nice and sweet, but the proposal of some kind of "living spirit" doesn't answer any questions, it just creates more complex (and uninterpretable) ones.

    Even though I usually take Chopra very seriously, I'll take a pass and give this a wide berth.

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

      FYI "Even though I usually take Chopra very seriously," was sarcasm.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:02 am |
  5. greg r

    jesus said "ye are gods"....so what is the problem. you folks get choked on gnats. God is creative power. we create daily. duh

    February 15, 2011 at 10:58 am |
  6. Pinewalker

    ok, I couldn't find "bullpucky meeter" in the dictionary so your going to have to explain that one to me.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:58 am |
  7. Bostonaccent

    Lots of great comments. Let's not forget that like many people, Mr. Choprah is virulently opposed to the exclusive claims of Jesus Christ such as "I am The Way, The Truth, and The Life. No man comes to the Father except through Me". So hence the warm and fuzzy pantheism.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:57 am |
  8. Dr. Science

    The only thing that is 'random and meaningless' are the ideas and thoughts of scam artist 'Deepak Chopra'.

    Give up your mythical sky-beings – it does nothing but cause problems.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:57 am |
  9. Sheesh

    Popular tripe combined into a cash making scheme. It isn't science or faith – it's raw capitalism.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:57 am |
  10. anonymous

    I grew up as a Southern Baptist but now consider myself to be a deist.

    Deism is a belief in God without the baggage of organized religion. Deism and science are closely compatible.

    Deism sites I visit:

    February 15, 2011 at 10:57 am |
    • Pinewalker

      Hebrews 10:25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

      Rather than throwing the baby out with the bath water, why not try to find a church that aligns more with your own personal beliefs.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:01 am |
    • Maybe

      "...why not try to find a church that aligns more with your own personal beliefs."


      A simple discussion group or something like that is quite sufficient. "Church" implies 'worship', which is not necessarily the inclination of deists.

      February 15, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
  11. John

    It is not necessary for atoms to be "smart" or for another force to make them smart for a btain to possess intelligence any more than a small gear needs to be imbued with "clockness"to be a part of a Rolex. Chopra speaks of red herings in one breath and pits his theory against a straw-man argument in a false dichotomy in his next.

    Simple materials are capable of fascinating and intricate emergent properties. This is the stance of a materialist, and it is much less prone to slicing from Ocham's razor than notions of intellegence of clouds we cannot measure.

    Quite an unimpressive arrive for such a prolific author.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:57 am |
  12. Qularkono

    since God is a God of order and doesn't change ... and science tests things through the scientific methodology which only works because things don't happen randomly or by chance .. then yes science when honest will lead to findings that are consistent with the Word of God found in the Old and New Testaments. But both science and religion are influenced by sinful men that are fallible and therefore inconsistencies between the two are bound to happen.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:56 am |
    • Sorry God :/

      i would say most scientists aren't sinful men. they are virgins – and the God you believe in doesn't exist- Our consciousness was an evolutionary adaptation that allowed us to dominate our environment.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:31 am |
  13. TandP

    Deepak Chopra is a moron. A popular moron because gullible fools like CNN keep promoting him but a moron nonetheless.

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

      You are the moron.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:16 am |
  14. Here's a tissue

    I think there would be a lot less hurt feelings if the atheists in this blog could read a bit better. He was referring to your typical cynical, college aged atheist who waves their anti-faith around as a means to belittle and insult those with faith. If you don't fit that bill, you shouldn't have a problem.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:52 am |
  15. tony


    Let's not let a bunch of die-hard atheists, or the independence of millions of truth seeking scientists, get in the way of this man making a terrific living blowing holy smoke.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • Mariospants

      Well said, well said.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:00 am |
  16. Bobsie

    Two thoughts come to mind. First, for religion to participate it seems to me that all the religions of the world must drop their dogma baggage and merge into a single spiritual recognition organization. Second, for science to participate there must be a material link between the micro quantum world and the macro reality. But isn't that the elusive theory of everything which hopes to unify particle physics and gravity?

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

      How can you unify things that are not separate?

      February 15, 2011 at 11:00 am |
  17. Scott

    If what Chopra says is correct, why is there such a void of emptiness around us in space and on other empty, dead, lifeless planets. Wouldn't a powerful god be able to create a universe TEEMING with life, instead of just one insignificant planet in the middle of a gigantic, dead galaxy?

    February 15, 2011 at 10:50 am |
  18. Dan

    Quantum Fantastic! Front page quantum exposure given to a quantum hack who understands neither quantum science nor quantum religion. Keep up the good quantum work, Deepak! Quantum, quantum, quantum.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:49 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      It's what us trekkies refer to as "techno-babble".
      When the writers couldn't figure out how to explain a plot point, they'd leave it blank and come up with the pseudo-scientific jargon later.
      I think I'll give it a try:
      "We infer the existence of an incorporeal congizance directing the quantum fluctuations of the corporeal world by extrapolating the tachyometric dissonance inherent in microquantum mechanics. The perpetual flanging of macrofurfinators in the obervable spectrum clearly demonstrates the directorial phalanges of omnipotence."

      As Shakespeare once said "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing".

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

      I like it. And, more importantly, I think stupid people will buy it. Quite literally. Get Deephack's publisher on the line.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:24 am |
  19. Deepak SnakeOilPra

    Deepak Chopra is the biggest scam artist and sham around... look up anything on youtube where he is in a debate and you will CLEARLY see that he has no clue what he is talking about. Just because he earned a PhD doesn't mean he is an authority in any of the areas he speaks of... ESPECIALLY QUANTUM MECHANICS.


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

      Ya, I second that.

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

      I have read many Quantum Mechanics books not written by Depak that seem to support most everything he says. Mathmatics is boring to be yet the fact that matter (photons) can nowhere and everwhere at the same time is intriguing.

      February 15, 2011 at 10:59 am |
    • R

      All Major Hindu philosophies are Atheist. Including Yoga Sutra of Patanjali. I read the text repeatedly. Show me when it talks about God ? Bhagavad Gita teaches everything is God and one should follow nature of his/her body. Where does Deepak's definition of God fits in ? He don't know his own base. How come he can say anything about Quantum Mechanics ? Even in past Atheist schools like Carvaca in india have opposed belief systems. Finally one more quote I like to add here, "Anybody gives you a belief system is your biggest enemy."

      February 15, 2011 at 11:12 am |
    • chrisc6

      Quantum physics! Shoot, Chopra doesn't even understand the difference between velocity and acceleration. A high school physics student can come to that conclusion from reading his books.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:54 am |
  20. Benny

    Saying the "you can find God inside yourself" is basically saying you ARE God--that is the problem. We now think the world revolves around us.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:48 am |

      "God" is just the life energy we have chosen to give a name to. religion has exploited the word and fear of god to gain support. if "god" is really the all-loving creature we think it is, he would want us to live our lives as we awant to and be happy with ourselves, to learn and grow in spirituality until we reach "his" status

      February 15, 2011 at 10:55 am |
    • NorCal

      God does live in us. He says so.

      February 15, 2011 at 10:56 am |
    • Luis Wu

      No, he's saying the collectively, we may be God or linked to God through our minds.

      February 15, 2011 at 10:57 am |
    • SurelyUjest

      I don't see that interpretation at all. If you have ever read anything by Depak or many Eastern doctrines. The concept of self divinity also includes all the universe and your responsibility to it and for it cannot be separate from the "self god" concept. I hope that helps.

      February 15, 2011 at 10:57 am |
    • jeff

      a bigger problem with saying "you can find God inside yourself" is that is based on no evidence and says nothing really. You might as well say, you can find god in a piece of cheese. You can find god in a rock. You can find a fairy in your garden. You can find a dragon in your...

      February 15, 2011 at 11:00 am |
    • Bob

      He is not saying that the world revolves around one person, what he IS saying is that everyone and everything is god or this essence that we describe as god. There is a huge difference.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:06 am |
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