Deepak Chopra and Intent

By Deepak Chopra, MD, and Menas Kafatos, PhD


For some time now most of the universe has gone dark. This startling news was brought to popular attention in a June Op-Ed piece in the New York Times called “A Crisis at the Edge of Physics.” It began, “Do physicists need empirical evidence to confirm their theories?” In other words, once you work out a theoretical explanation for how Nature works, do you need evidence to prove it?


The answer seems like an obvious yes. If someone had a theory that unicorns live at the center of black holes, no one would believe it without evidence. But for a hundred years, ever since the quantum revolution, mathematics has often substituted for empirical data. The quantum world is too far removed from the everyday world for empiricism to guide the way. There have been famous validations of arcane theories, as when astronomers used a total solar eclipse in 1919 to verify Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity that light can been bent into a curve by strong gravitational forces.


But in the last half century or so, a great many theories either cannot be proven through gathering evidence or barely can be. A professional cosmologist will never observe what occurred in the first instant of the Big Bang, the so-called Planck era, which lasted for trillionths of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second, because matter and energy as we know it didn’t exist yet, nor perhaps the very laws of nature, along with space and time. The Planck era is an example of a sharp divide between the known universe and another, unknowable state.


Other candidates for unknowability are the centers of black holes, thought to contain infinite gravity. At the most basic level, since black holes swallow up all matter and energy–they are sometimes called the vacuum cleaners of the universe–no particles or energy can escape from them, either,  except for  radiation around the periphery. In order for the barely knowable to deliver usable empirical data, huge billion-dollar particle accelerators are built to blast exotic subatomic particles out of the vacuum, and even then the evidence of their existence, as in the much ballyhooed “God particle” (the Higgs boson) is extremely fleeting and requires teams of mathematical physicists to analyze it in order to understand exactly what happened.


The crisis referred to in the Times piece is about breaking away from centuries of science where empirical evidence was a must. At the cutting edge of modern physics, evidence is a maybe or a never. A variety of theories that have become popular, such as the multiverse and superstring theory, are based entirely on mathematics that may say nothing about reality. Concepts like supersymmetry and the collapse of the wave function describe processes that will never be witnessed directly.


But probably the biggest obstacle is the dark matter and dark energy that has caused most of the universe to wander out of reach. These two entities are called dark in the ordinary sense–they emit no light and cannot be seen. But they may also be radically dark, meaning that in the case of dark energy its structure could bear no resemblance to atoms, molecules, and the four fundamental forces of nature, except for gravity or actually its opposite. The existence of dark matter and energy has been deemed necessary because of actual observations having to do with the galaxies accelerating as they fly apart from one another, along with related calculations of how much ordinary mass and energy exist in the universe.


Darkness would qualify as a niche subject except for how much of it exists. The current best calculation holds that the cosmos is 4.9% regular matter, 26.8% dark matter, and 68.3% dark energy.  In that 4.9% is included all luminous matter contained in billions of galaxies plus a huge amount of non-luminous matter in interstellar dust. So the barest fraction of creation is offering empirical data. Physics has been dealing with the cherry on top of the sundae, the tip of the iceberg, or the grin of the Cheshire Cat after its body has vanished–pick whatever metaphor you like. Most of the universe is at the very least quite exotic.


Given that the situation is what it is, how should future science proceed? It seems intellectually naive or futile to keep acting as if empiricism still rules the roost. Arcane mathematics dethroned it long ago, and in their candid moments, theoretical physicists will concede that to believe that Nature acts the way these theories predict is largely a matter of faith. Actually many of the founders of quantum mechanics held the view that theories are really about our interactions with nature, not how things are. It seems realistic to face the fact that at the cutting edge of physics and cosmology, physical validation either isn’t possible or hangs on by a thread.


The crisis in physics  is as much philosophical as scientific. We haven’t solved three big mysteries that Greek philosophers began to struggle with over 2,000 years ago.  Where did the universe come from? What is it made of? How do we know if our knowledge is reality-based? Most working scientists can chug along with their research not having to face these cosmic riddles. But in the quest to answer the, two camps have emerged. One camp says “Hold on a little longer. We’re almost there.” The other camp says, “We haven’t even begun to find the answers.”


For decades the first camp has held sway. The crisis in physics comes down to a loss of credibility in “We’re almost there.” In the next post we’ll offer the reasons for why the “We haven’t even started yet” camp could be dead right.

(To be cont.)


DEEPAK CHOPRA MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation, and is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology and Metabolism.  He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists.

Chopra is the author of more than 80 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. TIME magazine has described Dr. Chopra as “one of the top 100 heroes and icons of the century.” The World Post and The Huffington Post global internet survey ranked Dr. Chopra #40 influential thinker in the world and #1 in Medicine.

MENAS C. KAFATOS, is the Fletcher Jones Endowed Professor of Computational Physics, at Chapman University. He has authored more than 300 articles, is author or editor of 15 books, including “The Conscious Universe”, and is co-author with Deepak Chopra of the forthcoming book, “The Creative Cosmos” (Harmony). You can learn more at and follow him on Facebook: Twitter:@mckafatos 

By Deepak Chopra, MD and Rudolph E. Tanzi, PhD


Human beings are unique in the scenario of life on Earth–that much is obvious. We are guided by awareness, and to implement our wishes, dreams, and inventions, the higher brain (chiefly the cerebral cortex) has evolved to extraordinary proportions. Although classical Darwinism is mindless, and staunchly defended as such by strict materialists, Homo sapiens is no longer caught in the clutches of natural selection. As we saw in the first post of this series, human society is very different from the state of nature. Chimpanzees don’t get their food at the grocery store, and we don’t get ours by fighting with rivals in the treetops.


So the real dilemma isn’t whether human evolution is guided by mind, because clearly it is. What remains puzzling is how much connection there is between our mind and our genes. There is no doubt that the roughly 23,000 genes you inherited from your parents remain the same throughout your lifetime. If the genetic blueprint was as fixed as an architect’s plans, there would be no mind-gene connection. You would be the puppet of DNA, mechanically carrying out whatever actions are programmed into the 3 billion base pairs that constitute the human genome.


To defenders of strict Darwinism, the difference between instinct, which controls animal behavior, and mind, which gives freedom of choice, is lost. But no one who isn’t harping on an agenda could claim that a Mozart symphony or the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was created by instinct. The range of the human mind is vast and creative. But as we create the complex human world, are our genes listening? If so, are they cooperating in our creative enterprises?


The answer is yes. Over the past two decades, the new genetics has made major discoveries that validate the mind-gene connection, opening up the promise that what lies ahead for the human race is mindful (that is, self-directed) evolution. To touch on the major discoveries that led to this turning point in evolution, the following points should be considered parts of the same whole.

  • Genes are active and dynamic, producing a wide array of proteins to perform different functions.
  • These products can be modified by chemical marks from the area of the genome that acts as a switching station for gene activity, known as the epigenome
  • These switches can be simple on/off switches or act more like rheostats.
  • Further gene modification can take place by the way a strand of DNA is folded in on itself (with the help of supporting protein called histones), bringing separate sequences into close proximity with each other creating “gene neighborhoods”.
  • Each individual’s genetic makeup is vastly expanded by the bacteria that inhabit the human body, chiefly the intestinal tract, known as the microbiome, sometimes referred to as our “second genome”.
  • The DNA of microorganisms played a major part in how human DNA evolved. These microbes are not foreign invaders. They are a dynamic part of us.
  • Besides getting incorporated directly into human DNA, microbial DNA contributes its own products to our bodies. For example, gut microbes are a major source of serotonin and dopamine, two major brain chemicals connected to mood, depression, and even success. They can even affect inflammation in the brain.
  • Thanks to the dynamic epigenetic switching mechanisms and the microbial DNA that has been studied so far–a mere fraction of what exists–it is thought that gene activity responds to virtually every experience we have over a lifetime.


These aren’t small tweaks to Darwinism but a window into a new world. In the Darwinian model, identical twins are genetic mirrors of each other, since they are born with identical genomes. But each twin lives their own life, and other factors, beginning with the response of the epigenome and microbiome, write a unique story for each. Thus one twin can be afflicted with Alzheimer’s, or be schizophrenic or obese, while the other is not. Medical science uses twin studies to pinpoint exactly how much contribution is made to various disorders by identical genes, and the typical answer is around 50%.


In a word, the old battle between nurture and nature has been declared a tie. If outside influences create 50% of an illness, this implies at the very least, that a large contribution is being made to everyday behavior. If so, then it is possible to say, quite logically, that a person can self-direct his or her own evolution. This is true because unlike other species, human beings have a huge amount of control over our environment. How we nurture ourselves is up to us.


A group of high-level scientists are participating in a project to study Self-Directed Biological Transformation (SBT), focusing on mind-body practices like meditation where people subjectively report that their lives are being changed. Do their reports of inner peace, mental clarity, increased happiness, and greater insight have a biological basis? If so, then genetic activity must be involved, because DNA lies at the basis of all bodily functions, down to the firing of individual neurons in the brain.


It has been established for four decades that meditation brings benefits outside the mind, such as reducing high blood pressure and stress hormones. But why should genes be restricted to functions we happen to classify as physical when they are involved in the whole mind-body system? It was long past due to explore the mind side of the equation. To date, the SBT research has been very promising. Thousands of genes are affected in their activity by meditation, and the changes often begin within the first few days of routine meditation. These findings are being submitted for publication very soon.


Across the board the new genetics is arriving at similar results. What this means, if we look just a bit further, is the following:

  • Positive lifestyle choices, because they speak directly to our genes, may drastically reduce risk for chronic disorders like heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and type 2 diabetes.
  • Contemplative practices like meditation can play a key role in transforming genetic activity.
  • As genetic activity is transformed, we can expect the subjective experience of life to be enormously enhanced.
  • More and more the spiritual claims of the world’s wisdom traditions will be found to have a scientific basis through epigenetics.
  • As we take more control over our genetic story, we will also affect our future generations.


The notion that behavioral characteristics in parents might possibly be epigenetically passed on to their offspring is one of the most exciting frontiers in the new genetics.  This has already been demonstrated in laboratory animals. A mouse who was conditioned to fear a certain smell as an adult was shown to pass this same fear onto her offspring by epigenetic changes in the genome (without the need for new genetic mutations). This is referred to as “soft” inheritance to the next generation. We can now begin to ask whether the same is true for human beings. Demographic studies of the Dutch famine during World War II and 9/11 are already hinting in this direction. We discuss these studies in our new upcoming book Super Genes (November, 2015)


If this idea of trans-generational epigenetic inheritance is someday shown to also apply to human beings, no one knows how much benefit we may gain. But the benefits require self-awareness and mindfulness. We must make conscious choices that move our evolution toward the best in human nature while correcting the worst. The new genetics gives us this responsibility. As more results are validated, there will be no avoiding the choices that face us. The good news is that we will be rewarded for every positive choice by our genes, here and now and for the time to come.


DEEPAK CHOPRA MD, FACP, is the author of more than 80 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. Chopra is the co-author with Rudolph Tanzi of the New York Times bestseller, Super Brain. He serves as an Adjunct Professor at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, Adjunct Professor at Columbia Business School, Columbia University, Assistant Clinical Professor, in the Family and Preventive Medicine Department at the University of California, San Diego, Health Sciences, and Senior Scientist with The Gallup Organization.

RUDOLPH E. TANZI, is Professor of Neurology and holder of the Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Endowed Chair in Neurology at Harvard University. He also serves as the Director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit and as Vice-Chair of Neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Tanzi was named to TIME magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” and The Harvard 100 – Most Influential Harvard Alumni.


By Frank A. Wilczek, PhD and Deepak Chopra, MD

Science tells us what the world is, not what it means. As expert as they are at collecting and analyzing data, most modern scientists tend to shy away from the question, “What does it all mean?” To them, the question seems so vague as to be, well, meaningless.

But it was not always so. The boundaries separating science from other ways of understanding reality–mysticism, theology, and philosophy–used to be more fluid. In ancient Greece Pythagoras was both a rigorous mathematician and a charismatic shaman. Sir Isaac Newton was both a hard-nosed empirical physicist and an obsessive Christian theologian. Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr elucidated physics and at the same time wrestled with issues concerning the basic nature and meaning of reality. Although not a conventional believer, Einstein was comfortable with fluid boundaries, as one sees in a famous quote of his: “I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts; the rest are details.”

Ironically, the quest for meaning is what often draws young seekers to science in the first place. That’s certainly what drew us into physics and medicine respectively.

Today seriously aspiring seekers and philosophers must first become conversant in science, for the revelations of science are too profound to ignore. In particular, the basic laws of physics have been tested with greater accuracy, and under much more extreme conditions, than any previous domain of knowledge. Honest engagement with this achievement leads one away from any stock dogma about the nature of reality and invalidates such crude anti-science as creationism.

Conversely, at a deep level, largely unanalyzed and rarely acknowledged, the quest for meaning is what drives frontier physics and cosmology today.

One can reframe “What does it all mean?” to advantage by asking a new question: “Does the world embody beautiful ideas?” (This reframing is explained at length in Wilczek’s, A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature’s Deep Design.) At first glance this question may seem equally vague, and totally unscientific. But art teaches us what beauty is, and we can analyze the world as we would a work of art. What style does it express? Is it a satisfying creation?

Two themes dominate our deepest understanding of the natural world’s operating system: symmetry and exuberance. The scientific use of the word “symmetry,” like the scientific use of “energy,” “force,” and many other words, is narrower and more precise than in everyday language. In science we say that an object has symmetry if we can transform it without changing it. Consider, for example, a circle, which is a supremely symmetric object. If you rotate a circle around its center, each point on it will move, but the circle as a whole remains the same.

We can apply the same idea to physical laws or to the equations that encode them. Symmetric equations are equations that can be transformed without changing their content. Just as circles are special among geometric objects, symmetric laws are rare and special among conceivable behaviors for the world around us. Perhaps the most profound discovery of twentieth-century physics is that Nature’s laws are fantastically symmetric. Indeed, that’s how we first guessed them! In subatomic physics it is not practical to arrive at the laws stepwise, through exhaustive experiments. Instead we must leap to beautiful equations and work backwards, checking whether Nature obeys their consequences.

Nature’s exuberance is harder to define precisely, but it shines forth unmistakably. Our eyes see a void in the vastness of intergalactic space, but our minds reveal abundance. Space, physics has learned, is a vibrant, responsive instrument. It is alive with spontaneous activity, known under different names as quantum fluctuations, virtual particles, vacuum polarization or zero point motion. And we learn too that Nature’s fundamentally simple rules brilliantly orchestrate vastly many copies of a few identical building blocks (electrons, photons, quarks, and gluons), to create the wildly various material world around us.

In both science and art, symmetry and exuberance arouse a sense of wonder and the urge to explore further. The challenge is to connect those abstract cosmic ideas with the personal experience of beauty.

Places of worship embody the aspirations of their architects and their believers to give a form to ideal beauty. Such places provide valuable data for understanding beauty. An especially splendid example is the Nasir al-Mulk mosque, in Shiraz, Iran that follows classic Islamic architectural style:

Photo credit: © Mohammad Reza Domiri Ganji

What do we see? Symmetry and exuberance, brilliantly displayed. Builders and believers found such principles beautiful long before anyone understood the physical world scientifically. This gives us the bridge we’re looking for, not between humankind and a supernatural Creator, but between our response to beauty and its underlying natural foundations.

Our world embodies forms of beauty that have long been prized for their own sake, and often associated with the divine. Whether modern people should make that last association is a controversial issue. But the answer to our question, “Does the world embody beautiful ideas?” is clearly Yes.

FRANK WILCZEK won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2004 for work he did as a graduate student. His 1989 book, Longing for the Harmonies, was a New York Times notable book of the year. A regular contributor to Nature and Physics Today, Wilczek’s work has also been anthologized in Best American Science Writing and the Norton Anthology of Light Verse. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he is the Herman Feshbach Professor of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

DEEPAK CHOPRA MD, FACP, is the author of more than 80 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. Chopra is the co-author with Rudolph Tanzi of the New York Times bestseller, Super Brain. He serves as an Adjunct Professor at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, Adjunct Professor at Columbia Business School, Columbia University, Assistant Clinical Professor, in the Family and Preventive Medicine Department at the University of California, San Diego, Health Sciences, and Senior Scientist with The Gallup Organization.

Watch the video below:

Drs. Frank Wilczek & Deepak Chopra
A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature’s Deep Design

Courtesy of YouTube/The Chopra Well


Science is meant to be the opposite of a belief system. No one underlined this point more securely than Charles Darwin, who devised a theory of evolution that defied the strongest belief of his time, the all but universal belief in the bible version of the origins of man. The fossil record supported a notion contrary to the Bible, that creation was a process, not a single event dictated by a divine Creator. Despite a century and a half of proof that Darwin was right, taking God out of evolution still sticks in the throat of many people.


Pollsters find, to the dismay of trained scientists, that God remains in play for many when it comes to our origins. For example, a 2013 Pew Research poll found that one-third of respondents believe that human beings have always existed in their present form. When broken down by religion, this anti-Darwin, pro-Bible view is held by 64% of white evangelical Protestants and 50% of black Protestants broken down by political party, only 43% of Republicans believe that human beings evolved over time versus 67% of Democrats and 65% of independents.


With this as background, it’s no wonder that evolution as a public debate causes heated divisions, even though among scientists there has been no serious challenge to Darwinism. But now it seems that a new hot-button issue, actually rooted in science, has caused evolutionists to react as if their own belief system has been attacked. This is the issue of mind and consciousness and the part they played in human evolution. Specifically, did early humans make choices that facilitated our evolution outside the framework of random mutations and natural selection, which are the two pillars of Darwinian theory?


Natural selection, often tagged as “survival of the fittest” (a phrase Darwin himself never used), is about gaining an advantage in the two things that matter for survival: getting enough food and passing on genes through mating rituals. The food part is self-evident, since a species will dwindle and die out if it loses the competition for food. Random mutation is a bit more technical. Species evolve by changing in ways that adapt better or worse to their environment, and such changes occur at the genetic level. Genes mutate at a predictable rate in an apparently random manner. In other words, an early giraffe might exhibit a longer neck, thanks to a random genetic mutation, and if this longer neck allows it to compete more successfully for food and mating rights, the new mutation has a chance, over time, to allow all giraffes to have longer necks.


Darwinism, as it is presently taught, is very careful to make this process totally random and mindless. In other words, giraffes didn’t desire longer necks. They only sprung up by accidental mutation, not through any intent or purpose, which are both mental traits. Going back to the original step of tossing out the divine mind, evolutionary theory also excluded all minds from the process, including the human mind. Our ancestors, so the theory dictates, had no say in how they evolved, despite possessing a state of elevated consciousness far beyond that of any other primate. Primitive hominids and early humans were bound by random mutation and natural selection, along with the rest of life on the planet.


But several factors have raised two possibilities, and depending on which one you support, you find yourself pressing a hot button. The first possibility is that the mind or consciousness must be included in the evolutionary mix. Evolution is a field where data are constantly argued over, but it appears that Homo sapiens has evolved with unprecedented speed over the last 8,000 to 30,000 years, which seems to many scientists, to be too fast for the operation of random mutation and natural selection alone, especially since they take millions of years to create major alterations in a species. To account for this sped-up timeline, the X factors that could make a difference are culture and making choices, both of which are conscious activities.


If a culture values basketball, for example, it quite possibly would choose to feed its basketball players well. Women might find tall men more desirable, and thus an intervention has taken place. Nature isn’t the only factor selecting who survives and who doesn’t. Conscious choice has stuck its thumb into the genetic mix. This is obviously true when it comes to modern Homo sapiens.  We long ago escaped the rigid constraints of Darwinism in various ways. Here are a few undeniable ones:


— We take care of the sick and weak. They don’t die off as the result of losing out in the competition for food.

— We treat and cure diseases. Adverse mutations don’t simply run their course. They are countered by medical knowledge.

— — We artificially tamper with the breeding pool by treating childhood diseases, insuring the survival of children whom Nature has condemned to death if the disease in question is fatal.

— We give food and shelter freely or at drastically reduced expense to those who cannot get them for themselves.

— We choose mates for mental reasons that have nothing to do with food procurement or the ability to physically defeat male rivals.


Simple logic tells us that these traits had to evolve over time; therefore, the real question isn’t whether consciousness plays a part in human evolution but how and when it began to. Totally excluding mind from evolution is not science but the exercise of a belief system. Current evidence doesn’t support the belief, and yet the belief blindly wins out. But the rising field of epigenetics is on the side of the mind, because it indicates that lifestyle, behavior, experience and stress level can be passed on, not through genetic mutations but by chemical modifications of your DNA (called “marks”) that change the activities of existing genes. These marks can occur during calamitous events (i.e., if your ancestors went through a famine) and are hypothesized to be passed on to future generations (as the result of a past famine, you may be statistically more prone to diabetes). For example, children born to parents during the horrible Dutch famine during WWII, are more prone to obesity and diabetes.


This form of “soft” inheritance is being widely validated at many levels of biology, from microbes to water fleas to mice. Epigenetic marks on specific genes have been associated with risk for diseases like Alzheimer’s disease as part of the recently published national Epigenome Roadmap project. Once culture has been allowed into the evolutionary picture, with the support of epigenetics to indicate how life experiences can change our gene activities and perhaps even be passed on to the next generation, the opening for the role of mind and consciousness in the process is undeniable.


But we said there was a second position that can be taken on the issue. This is the contention that consciousness is the most important ingredient in the mix. Instead of being one factor out of many that must be considered, consciousness may drive evolution. This brings in banned words like purpose, meaning, and intention.  Thanks to the anti-science, pro-Bible camp, many geneticists feel that they are defending the Alamo in a knee-jerk reaction against attack whenever the words “mind” or “consciousness” are raised. Science isn’t meant to have radioactive words or strict dogma.  The seeker of truth must go where the data lead.


We feel that the data lead to a place where pure randomness isn’t viable and where blind natural selection must take mind and culture into account. Certainly these two points hold true for modern Homo sapiens, as we just saw. How far the argument can be expanded into the entire process of evolution will be the subject of the next post. (Our forthcoming book Super Genes covers each point in great detail, for anyone who wants further scientific validation.)


(To be cont.)



DEEPAK CHOPRA MD, FACP, is the author of more than 80 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. Chopra is the co-author with Rudolph Tanzi of the New York Times bestseller, Super Brain. He serves as an Adjunct Professor at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, Adjunct Professor at Columbia Business School, Columbia University, Assistant Clinical Professor, in the Family and Preventive Medicine Department at the University of California, San Diego, Health Sciences, and Senior Scientist with The Gallup Organization.


RUDOLPH E. TANZI is the Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor  of Neurology at Harvard University and Vice Chair of Neurology at Mass. General Hospital. Dr. Tanzi is the co-author with Deepak Chopra of the New York Times bestseller, Super Brain, and an internationally acclaimed expert on Alzheimer disease. He was included in TIME Magazine’s “TIME 100 Most Influential People in the World”.