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. Inyourimage

    Chopra is in business to make money. Truth is free.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:07 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 3:31 pm |
  2. JustPlainJoe

    ps. The last refuge in the support of a bad argument is to malign the proponent of an alternative viewpoint. "Noisy Atheists" may well have ideas that are hard for Mr.Chopra to face.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:07 am |
  3. Common sense

    What a moron. I actually thought this guy Chopra was worth something. Now he talks about this nonsense of the universe being conscious and hidden forces shaping evolution! My god, I guess this is his death bed conversion. Grow a spine.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:07 am |
  4. Marty

    Beware All Chopra is a false preacher,...filter him and everyone else with Holy Bible the one and only true Word of God.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:07 am |
  5. DeathStalker

    I think there are many out there that hope and pray there is no God or ultimate being that controls our fate. I think if anything Science and the vastness of space rules that hope out though. A being or beings that are vastly more intelligent and live thousands or millions or our years though may exist. If they do exist then there is a good chance they know about us and may have a hand in our future even after death. They may also have had a hand in our existence and this scares people as it should.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:07 am |
  6. greg r

    its all good

    February 15, 2011 at 11:06 am |
  7. Dave

    I hope both religious and non-religious people can come together and agree that this article is random gibberish.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:06 am |
    • John

      Cheers, Dave. My sentiments exactly.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:12 am |
    • Luis Wu

      No, your post is random gibberish.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:20 am |
  8. Peter Melzer

    The nerve cells in our brain alone don't make us smart. The interactions between them make us smart. As Prof. Wertheimer so aptly noted, the whole is greater than the sum of the pieces.

    Read more about Prof. Wertheimer's insight here:

    February 15, 2011 at 11:05 am |
  9. Steve R.

    Science and spirituality can be friends. Science and religion cannot be friends.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:05 am |
  10. JustPlainJoe

    Its always about the words used and the implications thereof. "Science" is a process of reiterative self-connection. Conjecture and aggressive refutation are the cornerstones. "Spirituality" and religion never involves itself with the basic inquiry of questioning itself and its own existence. As such, simply throwing in an occasional scientific word in a religious sermon does not bring it "closer" to science.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • JustPlainJoe

      Sorry...."connection" in my comment should have read "correction".

      opps. amusing error.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:09 am |
  11. MrHanson

    Todays mainstream science is always trying to reduce consciousness, spirituality and other abstract things like love and hate into mere purposeless, mindless chemical reactions that are an end result of a meaningless process called evolution. Without God there is no such thing as spirituality, love, individuality, self accountability, etc... We have no soul, plain and simple. When will atheists finally come to the realization that there is more to us than just reorganized stardust?

    February 15, 2011 at 11:04 am |
    • kso

      What an ill-informed assumption. Dear God you're clueless.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:08 am |
    • eddie

      perhaps when there is any evidence to suggest that we are more than re-organized stardust. I personally find the empirically supported stardust vastly more interesting than an incoherent figure of a god, or even worse a personal one!

      February 15, 2011 at 11:17 am |
  12. Peter

    Yes Deepak is absolutely correct. Just ask yourself when you eat any color food whether it is green, blud, white, pink, purple, black or any given color.....ultimately results in blood that is RED. Why aren't the scientists of this modern world able to figure that out or is there a technology that can produce the human blood, if so why is Red cross asking for blood donations. Think deeply by putting your ego on side and you will realise that the force we call NATURE is what ? ofcourse the answer to it is GOD.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:04 am |
    • anon

      So did you skip the day where they explained how your digestive tract works in biology?

      February 15, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • martin

      haha dude seriously? you are so dumb. blood is red because of hemoglobin.
      you think its weird that my blood doesn't turn orange if i eat cheetos?
      have fun being an idiot for the rest of your life.

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

      Absolute right question?

      February 15, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • Nik

      WHAT? Color has to do with the reflection of light...not God. This comment makes no sense in the fact that the food we eat (regardless of color) does not directly enter the blood (it has to be first broken down into proteins, carbs, etc). Maybe English isn't Peter's first language, but science surely is not. Faith comes down to just that, FAITH...you can't force people into believing something, everyone must find it themselves. Science is based on facts and thrives on the critical analysis of those facts. I don't see how the two can't co-exist or at least me mutually exclusive.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:47 am |
  13. Luis Wu

    When asked in an interview if he believed in God, Albert Einstein replied that he didn't believe in a personal god but rather something like "Spinoza's God". Baruch Spinoza was a 17th century philosopher, born Jewish but later ostrasized by the Jewish community for his beliefs. He believed that the Universe is permeated by "life energy" that underlies everything. He refered to living things as "modes" of this underlying energy. This makes a lot of sense to me. Especially when taken in the context of the American Indian's concept of the "Great Spirt" that's in everything, even rocks and sand and water and wind. The famous astronomer Carl Sagan, while not a very religious person, once said, "perhaps the Universe evolved intelligent beings in order to observe itself.

    I think that the established religions have warped and corrupted the idea of a supreme being, bending the image to its own motives. Intelligent people everywhere are taking a second look at religion and rejecting the archaic versions of god that the established sects promote. This is a good thing.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:04 am |
    • Jessie Raeke

      Well said!

      February 15, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • Candace


      February 15, 2011 at 11:27 am |
  14. Nice work, CNN

    I'm glad Chopra could get his free advertisement from CNN for his symposium. Good for him.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:03 am |
  15. Lisa

    It's interesting to me that someone like Darwin can come up with a theory of how the universe was created that had to take a lot of thought, knowledge, intelligence and so forth, and that he would limit his mind to think that "seven days" in the Book of Genesis is seven 24 hour periods of time (I assume he limited his mind, since he obviously doesn't believe in divine creation). For all we know, a day could be a billion years. Or for all we know, a day could be a 24 hour period and God knows something we don't. Imagine that - God knows things we don't lol.

    I love the example on the show Touched by an Angel of the thousands of tiny pieces of mechanical parts falling from the sky and landing in a specific spot just in the right way, to form a wrist-watch and likening that to the way a human being would be accidentally created.

    I didn't read the whole article. I just got to the Darwin part and decided to comment...

    February 15, 2011 at 11:03 am |
    • John

      Then you are not only intentionally ignorant (the worst kind), but you are outspokenly so. Kudos for having an opinion without fact.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:06 am |
    • John

      Why would god mislead people into thinking he created the earth in seven days if it was really 7 billion years? You believe the bible is the word of god no? Then why would he have told the authors to put 7 days if it was really 7 billion, doesn't that make God a liar? God had to know we would read 7 days as seven 24 hour periods and I don't seem any logical reason to assume 7 days is more than 7 days unless you are using the churchs irrational justification of "Gods 7 days is different" Really you can't be too bright to buy that argument.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:10 am |
    • george c.

      I agree with Lisa! Good points. And yes, just because through science we are trying to figure out how God created the universe is in no ways contrary to being religious. Many prominent scientists (including doctors) become convinced of God's existence through the process of discovery.

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

      This is know as the Watchmaker analogy, its complete bunk:

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

      I don't believe Darwin had anything to say about how the uiverse was created. He just described the process by which life in the universe changes over time.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:14 am |
    • Barney

      I had no idea Darwin came up with a theory of how the universe was created. You know your Darwin, Lisa. No wonder you had to comment when you saw mention of the name.

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

      Darwin's theory is descent with modification and has nothing to do with the creation of the cosmos.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • Mr Mark

      First off, Darwin emphatically DID NOT "come up with a theory of how the universe was created." The fact that you base the rest of your post on this spurious premise rather negates everything else you have to say. Darwin dealt with the origins of species, not the origins of the universe.

      But back to the six days of creation in the Bible: here's a thought – the Bible says that the plants were created on the third day, and that the sun was created on the fourth day. One can perhaps see that such a scenario would work if the day mentioned in the Bible is the 24-hr day we all know, but it's hard to see how such a scenario could possibly work if a Biblical "day" was actually millions or even billions of years long.

      How did the plants created on the third day survive for millions or billions of years without the sun around to allow them to photosynthesize? How would they have survived for even a few months if there was no sun around, as the Bible CLEARLY says there wasn't in it's six-days-of-creation mythology?

      Which brings us back to the point that the Bible is very much talking about a "day" as being the 24-hour day we all know...which means that we can safely dismiss the Bible's account of creation as being a myth as it doesn't square in any respect with the mountains of scientific EVIDENCE we now have about how our planet was formed and how long it took to form.

      February 15, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • Mr Mark

      Not to pick on you, Lisa, but one more thought: wouldn't you have to admit that once the sun was created on that 4th day that a "day" was a 24-hour day? What would be the rationale for believing that a day was still a million years long in "god time?"

      One further thought: if a "day" is a million years in god time, then what happens to the story of Jesus rising from the dead after 3 days? Does it mean that Jesus isn't really going to rise from the dead for the FIRST time until roughly 3 million years have passed? And why don't religionists who tout the "a Biblical day could mean a million years" mantra apply the same mantra to the "days" it took for Jesus to resurrect?

      Could the answer be that for religion to make "sense" that words themselves must become meaningless? Ergo, a day isn't really a day at all! It's whatever we wish it to be if it allows us to make an excuse for the Biblical description of creation. However, we reserve the right as religionists to consider a day to be a good old 24-hour day if and when doing so supports our "rose after three days" dogma.

      Closing thought – scientific evidence shows us that the rotation of the Earth is slowing, and that when the Earth came into existence 4-billion years ago, the speed of the Earth's rotation was so fast that a "day" was only 6 hours long.

      With that in mind, the "6 days of creation" in Genesis could be a 36-hour period...which makes one wonder why an omnipotent god would need to "rest from his labors" when said labors amounted to working for only a day-and-a-half when measured in our 24-hour cycle.

      February 15, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • AmazedinFL

      Mr. Mark, wow! I always thought of the 'days may have been longer' reasoning as a cop-out (at least to fundamentalists who take every single word of the bible literally–as opposed to older interpretations that looked at it more as allegory). But I never thought of it in that depth before. It pretty much makes the literal, fundamentalist interpretation look more than a little absurd. A literal translation in English that's actually true to the original version of the bible would seem to be a near impossibility anyway, given the fact that the bible was written in a different language so long ago (e.g., subtle meanings vary by language, and shared meanings of words/turns of phrase change over time and many of the subtleties would have been lost after thousands of years).

      February 15, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
  16. Jack

    Be thankful that the Universe is "meaningless". You don't have to put up with this sort of "spirituality" baloney.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:03 am |
  17. Howard Cordingley

    "That which you call your soul or spirit is your consciousness, and that which you call "free will" is your mind's freedom to think or not, the only will you have, your only freedom, the choice that controls all the choices you make and determines your life and character. Thinking is man's only basic virtue, from which all the others proceed. And his basic vice, the source of all his evils, is that nameless act which all of your practice, but struggle never to admit: the act of blanking out, the willful suspension of one's consciousness, the refusal to think - not blindness, but the refusal to see; not ignorance, but the refusal to know. It is the act of unfocusing your mind and inducing an inner fog to escape the responsibility of judgment." - Ayn Rand

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

      Actually, Zen (and in particular I'm thinking of Soto) would say that that it's not thinking but direct pre-thought perception and not dualistic conceptual thinking which leads to contradiction.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:10 am |
    • Luis Wu

      If you take cause and effect into consideration, then everything was totally predetermined at the moment of the Big Bang. Every tiny little action caused a predictable reaction based on cause and effect. In that scenario, there is no free will. You are just acting out what was programmed into the Universe from the moment of the Big Bang. The only way out of it would be if the human brain works at a quantum level and can somehow bypass cause and effect because of the uncertainty principle.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:14 am |
  18. curzen

    oh yay, more "god is in the gaps" crap.

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

      science and Christianity are not at odds...at least Eastern Christianity...the monks created universities to study science. it's in the west that people have a tendency to distinguish them to such extents that they seem at odds. Science is only an explanation of the world we live in. Christianity gives meaning to those explanations. Genesis is the only book that wasn't witnessed by another human being so to analyze it in a scientific way is nonsensical and NOT scientific. I don't believe you can talk about spirituality or argue about Christianity if you're not Christian. I also feel bad about defending my beliefs, bc I feel it's also nonsensical to argue with non-Chrisitians who are not in the church.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • BW

      As a recovering catholic I think I can speak to christianity. Having known that side quite extensively I don't think I am talking out my a**.
      Actually no parts of the bible were actually written by any first hand witnesses. They were all written after the time and by other people. None of them were written by contemporaries of christ or by any witnesses of his works.

      Christianity does not impart any meaning on those explanations. We do. Some people use religion or their religious beliefs to color those explanations without any proof.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
  19. DML

    True religion and True science are not at odds. Scientific discovery can only support God. God exists, and God created science. God is big enough to handle the truth.

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

      And science is big (and real) enough to handle god.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:03 am |
    • Eric G.

      2 minute logic foul penalty. Making claims without supporting evidence.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:03 am |
    • John

      Too bad Christians can't handle science otherwise they wouldn't constantly fight astronomy, stem cell research and evolution. The only time Christians want to talk science is when they try to make loose connections between science and religion so that they can say "see? we are right after all!" If you really believe god is science, then why don't you use the scientific method to analyze the bible and you will find your truths.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • Patty

      I so agree. God rules the world.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • Paul

      Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, you seem good on the claim part, any evidence?

      February 15, 2011 at 11:10 am |
    • Insight17

      So real, in fact, that during the 1970's we were headed toward a global cooldown. I forget, why are pushed to drive 'green' today?

      February 15, 2011 at 11:12 am |
    • Luis Wu

      And you know this... how? From an archaic old book of myths?

      February 15, 2011 at 11:15 am |
  20. Donald Paul Winston

    Chopra is an idiot. CNN should be embarrassed for publishing this dribble. Science says no such thing.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:59 am |
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