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. Elsbeth

    Julia Sweeney? From Saturday Night Live?

    February 15, 2011 at 11:15 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 3:32 pm |
  2. Unknownion

    In response to: "Either atoms and molecules are smart, or something makes them smart."
    Our world wasn't always smart. Survival through Evolution makes our atoms and molecules smart, which
    brings us right back to Darwin.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • Brian61

      So atoms and molecules developed intelligence spontaneously? Has science ever been able to reproduce such a result in a laboratory?

      February 15, 2011 at 11:22 am |
    • Nonimus

      Chopra's statement is a "begging the question" fallacy in that he is assuming the premise that atoms and molecules have some intelligence which has not been shown by evidence.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:25 am |
    • Unknownion

      Brian61: The answer to your question is Yes. However, his statement was as poorly stated as my response. It's not the Atoms and molecules that are smart; but the evolved arrangement of them. Our automobile engines are metal. But metal won't propel you from point A to Point B without arranging the atoms and molecules to form an engine. Everytime we arrange Atoms and molecules to make something that improves our lives, it brings us directly back to Darwin.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
  3. sally sue

    The bible says god created the universe in 6 days, not 7. Atheists do not believe in any supernatural beings. That doesn't mean some of them don't believe in a universal consciousness, energy, etc. The "god" you are referring to is very different from the god most church goers claim to worship. That god is at odds with known science. Science says things evolve from simple to complex forms over time. Christianity claims a complex, intelligent being created the universe. This two views can not be reconciled.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:14 am |
    • Brian61

      God is at odds with "some" of the known science. But what about unknown science? You don't know what you don't know. 1000 years ago, human flight in metal objects weighing many tons would have been laughable. Who knows what we will know 1000 years from today.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:20 am |
    • MarkinFL

      That's perfect. Speculative god = speculative unproven phenomena.

      If science ever proves the existence of a god then that will be simply what atheists have been asking of believers all along. Hardly a revelation.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:39 am |
  4. Darryn Foley

    I'm sorry, but this article is not accurate, and it's based on this inaccuracy: Witness this statement: "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. " The *correct* statement would be I'm thinking instead of Charles Darwin, whose theory of evolution has proved victorious over **** a literal interpretation of the **** Book of Genesis and its story of God creating the universe in seven days.

    Please try to be accurate next time. thanks!

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

      Or perhaps "...Darwin, whose theory of evolution has proven more popular than a literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis and its story of God creating the universe in six days."

      There is no proof Darwin is completely correct, and without those essential, missing pieces, his theory remains just that. If you set aside the fact that God's existence can't be proven, and instead focus on the historical accuracy of the Bible, and its included prophecies, there's a more compelling case for an agnostic than is found in Darwin's incomplete theory. Polystrate fossils?

      February 15, 2011 at 11:36 am |
  5. hmmmm

    blah. blah. blah. his upcoming science/mysticism conference costs a minimum of $1995 to attend. I guess expanded learning is only for the rich.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:14 am |
  6. Mark

    Just another advertisement for deepaks new age bs. Shame on you CNN.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:14 am |
  7. Balance

    Remember: We are NOT humans having Spiritual experiences–We are Spirits having a Human Experience.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:13 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Speak for yourself..... Personally, I'm a lump of biomass with a bunch of sensory inputs and opinions.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:35 am |
  8. DGrooms

    As simply as I can state it: God is the chef. Science is the recipe.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:13 am |
    • Fuad

      Science is perhaps better described as the reverse engineering, through trial and error, of that recipe. My expectation is that recipe will remain incomplete until, in God's perfect timing dictates.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:30 am |
  9. Jimmy

    Who established morals in human society? Science? So if someone kills and is an atheist, can the law apply to him; its based on God's commandments.

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

      The answer to your question is humans. Humans created morals, and humans created "gods commandments".

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

      In the US, our law is based on the Const.itution. The 10 commandments are at least 60% unconst.itutional.

      Do the math.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:33 am |
  10. Brian61

    I must have missed that day in class when they taught that Darwin defeated God. I am still looking for the millions of missing transitional fossils (kind of like Bush 43 looking for the missing WMDs?) and am also looking for the answer to how the first proteins with working DNA were formed from the primordial soup when the odds again such random formation were less than zero.

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


      Here you go!

      February 15, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • qurgh

      If the odds were less than zero it wouldn't have happened. Obviously the odds on it happening at some point are 1, since it's happened already. Given enough time, anything that can happen will happen.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:26 am |
  11. Dude

    Cha-ching! And Chopra continues to bank serious cash and credibility by deluding the morons who refuse to think for themselves! Man, what a racket!

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

      Kinda like the Church

      February 15, 2011 at 11:21 am |
    • BRB San Deigo

      Dude has it exactly right. I just said it quicker – "Chopra is a rich dip."

      February 15, 2011 at 11:25 am |
    • Dude

      Amen to that! Religion is the oldest racket of all!

      February 15, 2011 at 11:38 am |
  12. BRB San Deigo

    Please don't pander to Chopra's nonsense any longer. He is such a commercial dip, charleton, and bore that everyone I know is very tired of his spiel. Let the horndog cougar women buy his books and just leave everyone else alone. The India mystique went out with Ravi Shankar in the late 90's. Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm?

    February 15, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • thorrsman

      Did you perhaps mean "charlatan" when you wrote "charleton"?

      There is such a thing as "spell check" you know.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:12 am |
    • BRB San Deigo

      Oh thank you mighty Thor – god of spelling.

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

      When you deride the ideas of others, you lose credibility if you can't spell, Grasshopper.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:17 am |
    • Your PalBob

      Right, he's a moron for thinking outside the box, for being a successful and positive influence on Millions of people and you are a pure genius with your little mind and negative ignorance.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:28 am |
  13. Anonymous

    "It seems unlikely that [conscious beings who live with purpose and meaning] arose form a random, meaningless universe"

    Why is that so unlikely? Does Chopra present a falsifiable test to determine whether we arose from randomness or something else? Or is he just saying what is personal opinion is without providing a means to verify/deny it? The scientific method is about creating a hypothesis that can be tested, and then testing it. Chopra - please provide a falsifiable test for your opinion if you would like to be taken seriously by scientists.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:10 am |
  14. GAH!

    Speaking as a Neo-Kantian idealist, I have to say: Deepak Chopra is a moron... He's trying to argue for non-materialism using an inherently materialistic method.

    Seriously, learn how philosophy works before you open your mouth to talk about metaphysics.

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

      UM, hey moron. Did the thought ever pass beyond your 2nd year in college head to consider for whom and for what audience this article was written for? Um, last time I checked, there's more philosophies than Kant's, or even your own. But your manner of looking at the world and of doing things must be correct, just because it's your own.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:25 am |
    • jellyfishdude

      he's speaking to an audience that understands science and relating it to spirituality.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
  15. thorrsman

    The idea of "Intelligent Design" deserves to be examined without being linked to "Creationism" either by those who support Creationism or those who hate religion.

    First thing is to look for evidence of planning in the universe. Only once such evidence is found should there be any concern as to "who" or "what" the "Planner", the Intelligence, is. No point in arguing over WHO created the universe while so many people still hold the silly notion that it is all blind chance and idiot chaos at work.

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

      "Only once such evidence is found..." should Intelligent Design be considered science.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:19 am |
    • Chris

      There would be no problem teaching intelligent design as a possibility, except that there's no scientific evidence for it. People have a right to believe whatever they want – but a biology class is a SCIENCE class – and evolution is scientific, while intelligent design is not. You wouldn't expect to go to Bible Study and be forced to hear about how Islam MIGHT be the right way, or reading the Bible with a disclaimer would you?

      If you want to teach creationism in public schools, then you need to have a religion class, and that would be fine, but you'd need to include discussion of all religions... and I don't think many creationists would like that.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:19 am |
    • BRB San Deigo

      Oh mighty Thor – the Who is a rock band and they did not create the universe. The universe is like all other universes – created out of chaos with no guiding hand. Sure hope I didn't break any spelling laws here; if I did it was the fault of Who and the guiding hand.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:20 am |
    • thorrsman

      @Nonimus Incorrect. There must be scientific inquiry to determine if such evidence is valid. Such inquiry would be "science" by its very nature. And Chris, if "science" does not investigate, it will find no answers. Thus far, there has been no ATTEMPT to seek evidence of an Intelligence behind creation, merely an effort to deride the entire idea of doing so.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • thorrsman

      @BRB San Deigo
      Grow up.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:24 am |
    • Mike from MN

      What is the logical argument for Intelligent Design? There is none. Hence, it is an illogical idea. You cannot define a scientific hypothesis for an illogical idea. Hence, you cannot establish theories and laws. Hence, you cannot associate "evidence" to it. Intelligent Design is an ILLOGICAL concept. Hence, nobody really knows what it logically is. Thus, it does not exist as claim. Basic Logic 101.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:25 am |
    • Your PalBob

      Right, he's a moron for thinking outside the box for being a successful and positive influence on Millions of people and you are a pure genius with your little mind and negative ignorance.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:26 am |
    • thorrsman

      @Mike from MN The Logical Idea for Intelligent Design is quite simple, actually. The Laws of the Universe seem to indicate that everything degrades into the simplest components, yet LIFE violates that rule by becoming ever more complex. Why Should that be, without "direction" from some source?

      February 15, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • MarkinFL

      There is a LOT of energy flowing around the universe and even though the overall trend is toward entropy there is plenty of energy available of all sorts of localized activity. Many forms come out of energetic systems. Do you really think hurricanes require intelligent design or perhaps it is just a pattern that naturally occurs when certain energies and matter interact?

      February 15, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
    • Nonimus

      I think I see your point, but in order for an idea, i.e Intelligent Design, to be scientifically studied it would need to produce a(n) hypothesis that could actually be invetigated/tested. Currently, ID is unfalsifiable in that it is a '[designer] of the gaps.' If something is identified as 'irreducibly complex' and then later shown to be producible by evolution, the IDer can always pick some sub-component and say that now that thing is 'irreducibly complex.' For example, blood clotting.

      Also, looking for evidence of planning in the universe is entirely subjective at the moment, e.g. fine-tuning, specified complexity, the [not really a] theory of conservation of information, arguments from ignorance in general, etc. I do agree however with an article I once read that stated something like 'studying what exactly would indicate design is a worthy course of inquiry.' Unfortunately, as far as I am aware, the "explanatory filter" is not sufficient to the task.

      February 15, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
  16. Bostonaccent

    Science is a wonderful discipline that deals with the material universe. It can never prove or disprove the existence of God or divine revelation or answer questions with regard to meaning and purpose. It can't even explain the origin of the universe, which is a non repeatable event.

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

      so you're an expert in cosmology then, and are certain of the origin and fate of the universe in which we exist?

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

      I hope that some day science proves in the existance of God. I hope it is some day soon and very profound. That would truly change life as we know it and probably for the better.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • Mike from MN

      What is this thingy "God"? If you cannot logically tell us what it is, then it does not exist as you claim. Nobody can prove or disprove the existence of a 'thingy' for which you do not logically know what it is. Basic Logic 101.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:21 am |
  17. Tanya

    Wow, this is so true! Our basic personalities can change things around us, just like machinery do, or like physically building a building. I.E a crane putting up a building. It changes items. Oh ...Yes, I believe there are things that happen that are not visible to the eye. I experiment with it everyday to see the outcome. I.E. If someone is upset with me, I can change that energy but I have to be willing to do it. I can throw in a joke, and wow they can change from being upset to smiling. By pulling up my tone to a happy tone I can change their tone.... It's energy! I can scream back and they get worse. The decision is up to me. It's sad that human beings have become solids. WE ARE ENERGY! and I believe we all have god in us. Many say pray to god to stop evil, when we ourselves are the ones creating it. It starts with you, so look within yourself and change! You have the power to fix it! You are a god!!! Practice with someone who is upset with you... start to say nice things, something happy, crack a cool joke, say you're sorry, you love them...play the tones.... see for yourself, you CAN CHANGE YOUR ENVIRONMENT! Just like physically moving an item.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:09 am |
  18. test

    Pseudoscience junk.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:08 am |
  19. Madhu S Vashist

    Every now and then (spans from few micro secs to thousands of years [Time Dimension] and same for space [3-D] from our mind's cosmos to somewhere in galaxy) and some unknown dimensions science [set of replicable/computable rules] to spirituality [deals with unknowns] we have sages [Dr. Dawkins, Chopra or Sufis] who point us towards the magnitude of the problem or variations thereof but none has any solution, though not sure, do we need one or is there one????

    February 15, 2011 at 11:08 am |
  20. Howard Schumann

    No matter what insults the ignoramuses here toss at Deepak Chopra, what he is saying has the ring of truth. This change in consciousness is as startling and epoch making as all those that preceded it. It has already created an intellectual climate characterized by a high moral idealism and a deep spiritual thirst, a growing sense of a truly global community and a new cultural synthesis that is in harmony with nature and with the Earth itself.

    As Timothy Murphy as said, "We have already progressed beyond the mere point of faith in the reality of spiritual experience, and are beginning to enter into an ever-widening spectrum of the hardheaded scientific validation of the essential truth of mystical vision."

    February 15, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • BRB San Deigo

      You too are a dip – get real. If you are not a chick, you should be.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:13 am |
    • Nonimus

      You say he has the "ring of truth," but unfortunately he doesn't have the evidence of truth.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • MarkinFL

      The "ring of truth" only has validity in fairy tails.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:53 am |
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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.