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Deepak Chopra and Intent

Deepak Chopra and Intent

Can Science and Religion Save Each Other? (Part 2)

posted by Admin

Science is used to being dominant, and religion is used to being defensive–these are familiar poses for two worldviews, the one being on the rise, the other on the decline. Generally when an entire belief system is on the decline, it steadily disappears. There’s no need to believe that the king’s touch can cure disease once modern medicine appears, and no need for bleeding to be a medical practice when its usefulness is experimentally invalidated. But the model of progress that substitutes automobiles for horse-drawn carriages doesn’t apply to religion. It may lose adherents who accept the argument that scientific rationality is superior to faith. The values of modern secular society are constantly on the rise.

 

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Yet no matter how far science rises, no matter how convincing rationality appears to be, the triumphs of science do not spell the end of religion–quite the opposite. As we saw in the first post of this series, science may need religion to avoid a dead end, and religion may need science to reinforce its cherished beliefs. The reason for this unexpected turn of events is reality itself. Reality has two components, the physical creation and the domain that lies outside the physical creation. By defining only the former as real, science has made enormous progress. Religion, whose specialty has always been the invisible, transcendent realm beyond the stars, lost its claim to be about reality.

 

But then science found itself stuck–as it remains stuck today–when it reached the limit of what physical investigation can discover. Physical investigation cannot tell us where time and space came from, or what preceded the Big Bang, or how mind and brain are connected. It cannot describe where thoughts come from, or how memories are stored and retrieved, or even what the nature of consciousness is. The fact that the human brain can produce the perception of a three-dimensional world is as utterly mysterious today as it was to the ancient Greeks.

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Let’s say that a scientist, speaking candidly and off the record, acknowledges that progress on all these fronts has been stymied (the standard line in science stubbornly insists that if we just wait long enough, answers will be forthcoming without altering the same method that has yielded no answers so far).  Assuming that one can find such an obliging, candid scientist, he might say something like the following: Yes, examining the physical world has reached its limits or soon will in the foreseeable future. There is something that lies beyond the physical universe, a pre-created state that gives rise to time, space, matter, and energy. But why should we turn to God for the answers? It’s not as if religion has been a progressive force or a reliable source of knowledge.

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The objection seems valid as applied to conventional organized religion, which lays no claim to explaining reality according to the standards laid down by science. That’s why it needs rescuing as much as science does. Modern secular society isn’t going to accept faith as a justification for God. Half of reality, the physical half, has so dominated our attention that the other half, the transcendent, has withered into amorphous vagueness. God doesn’t need rescuing, but our mindset about the transcendent does. Therefore, if an obliging, candid scientist questions whether the religious worldview can possibly help science out of its current dilemmas, here are some valid reasons.

  1. The pre-created state isn’t open to physical investigation because it isn’t physical. Another mode of investigation must be developed, and such a mode exists in the world’s wisdom traditions.
  2. These traditions investigate consciousness. They do so because all experiences, including the experience of doing science, take place in consciousness.
  3. Having investigated consciousness for thousands of years, the greatest spiritual thinkers have come to the same conclusion as modern science: reality streams from an invisible source into the realm of space, time, matter, and energy. The fact that this discovery was made has nothing to do with faith. The discovery came about because consciousness is capable of examining itself.
  4. A bridge was formed between inner and outer reality, making the division between objective and subjective much less strict that the division posited by science. The ideal of perfect objectivity doesn’t exist and cannot exist as long as consciousness is part of every phenomenon.
  5. If consciousness is the common link, it may have its own natural laws, rules, behaviors, and parameters. If so, these could be as useful and provide as much valid knowledge as science. In fact, because consciousness can’t be taken out of the equation, any explanation of reality, from the smallest to the largest aspect, cannot be trusted when consciousness is disregarded.
  6. The present exclusion of consciousness, which is standard operating procedure in science outside the most rarefied theoretical circles, is the cause of the rift between the scientific and religious worldviews. Each has arbitrarily put up walls where no walls exist in the structure of reality.
  7. Once the arbitrary divisions and walls are removed, it becomes obvious that there is only one reality, not two. The fact that human perception makes a distinction between the physical universe and the transcendent domain is irrelevant. Reality is what it is, regardless of our stubbornness, denial, hidebound beliefs, and cherished points of view. Without a doubt the human project labeled as religious and the human project labeled as science are incomplete without each other.

 

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The fact that modern times have widened the separation between these two projects has actually distorted each of them. Religious fundamentalism and arch physicalism are extreme deniers, holding opposite views that are equally untenable. It is untenable that religious scriptures are the indisputable truth; it is untenable that materialism and it sole focus on physical reality are the only truth. From the two extremes have grown many beliefs that are more casual and tolerant but just as flawed, which must be so once your worldview is dualistic. You will always wind up explaining only half of realty while ignoring or undervaluing the other half.

 

The only way forward, then, is a holistic worldview as the starting point.  The correct beginning is to say, “there is one reality. Let’s all agree on this and see where it leads us.” From this unified starting point, every branch of investigation has something to offer. It appears that some scientists, especially in the younger generation, are seeing the value of a unified worldview. They offer the best hope for understanding reality as it is, not as second-hand beliefs and assumptions declare it must be.

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Deepak Chopra, MD is the author of more than 80 books with twenty-two New York Times bestsellers. He serves as the founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing. His latest book is The Future of God 

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Can Science and Religion Save Each Other?

posted by Admin

A flurry of controversy surrounded the astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson two weeks ago when he took a jab at religion in the name of science. It began Christmas day with a mischievous tweet: “On this day long ago, a child was born who, by age 30, would transform the world. Happy Birthday Isaac Newton b. Dec 25, 1642.” Then deGrasse Tyson felt that he needed to be more pointed in a follow-up tweet: “QUESTION: This year, what do all the world’s Muslims and Jews call December 25th? ANSWER: Thursday.”

 

Angry responses came his way, and in a follow-up blog entry deGrasse Tyson offered this reflection: “Imagine a world in which we are all enlightened by objective truths rather than offended by them.” Since he also has a history of declaring that philosophy is useless and an obstacle to progress, this champion of materialism, objectivity, and reason underlined a familiar stance.

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Ninety percent of educated people would probably agree with this stance without looking much deeper. But it’s a shopworn canard that science is superior to religion. Beneath the surface, every term that deGrasse Tyson invoked is problematic. He is stuck in a mindset where “enlightened” applies only to science. How enlightened are the atom bomb, mustard gas, and biological weapons? His reliance on “objective truths” is a creaky relic of pre-quantum science and ignores the mystery of the observer effect as posited by the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics.  Scolding his critics for being “offended” by his tweets is hypocritical, since he obviously relished giving offense and did it on purpose.

 

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In reality science and religion—or more broadly speaking, spirituality—have arrived at core issues about the nature of reality. These issues center on the unsolved problem of what is ultimately real and how the human mind works. Most working scientists like deGrasse Tyson remain unaware that their version of naïve realism, which accepts that the five senses give us a true picture of reality, has no actual scientific validation. The three-dimensional world is actually an artifact of the human nervous system, and nobody can explain how this artifact is created. The Jolly Green Giant obviously can’t fit inside the human brain, which in addition has no color inside. So when you visualize a green giant in your mind (or any other product of the five senses), a mysterious process is taking place that can’t be explained as happening in the brain.

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Physics has arrived at the point where all processes actually occur in the infinite expanse of a field that has no boundaries in time and space.  If the cosmos originated in such a field—and if everyday perception is also taking place there—we find ourselves in a realm of explanation that verges on notions of an infinite creative source labeled as God. But here religion stumbles when it remains anchored to a personal God with human traits sitting above the clouds in Heaven.

 

Because science cannot explain ultimate reality through the collection of data and a reliance on naïve realism, while religion cannot explain God by resorting to outdated cultural myths, the time has come for the two to join forces. This isn’t because it’s good to be friends but because two models of reality, one entirely objective, the other entirely subjective, are inadequate to the task. There is no such thing as perfect objectivity or completely valid subjectivity. The only way beyond this impasse is to transcend duality, no longer seeing objectivity and subjectivity as opposites but as perspectives streaming from a common source.

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The best candidate for such a source is consciousness, and outside the little dust-up that deGrasse Tyson caused, many scientists are venturing into the study of consciousness as it applies to the cosmos, speculating that the source of the universe may be a conscious field that organizes and governs physical phenomena. At the same time, spirituality in its non-religious guise has been exploring quantum physics for several decades, finding parallels with attributes associated with God, such as timelessness and existence beyond the envelope of space-time.  It’s fascinating to be a part of this dialogue, which has a good chance of causing the next great revolution in human thought. At the very least, it’s time to stop stoking disagreements over outdated notions that do no good for devout believers or inquisitive scientists.

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Deepak Chopra, MD is the author of more than 80 books with twenty-two New York Times bestsellers. He serves as the founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing. His latest book is The Future of God 

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How to Save the World–A Simple Answer

posted by Admin

Around a decade ago, when I first started posting at Huffington Post, one entry considered the world’s four greatest problems. They were over-population, climate change, pandemic disease, and refugeeism. Despite the suffering and fear it creates, terrorism affects far fewer people than these four issues, but if anyone wants to add it to the list, there can be no objection. Compared to a decade ago, all of these problems have worsened. Many observers, along with people in their everyday lives, feel that the world is in total chaos.

 

The greatest factor that fuels chaos is an inability to see a solution. Solutions, if they sound reasonable and have a chance of working, give rise to optimism and a willingness to return to orderly existence. In the absence of a solution, or the prospect of one, irrationality takes over and chaos deepens. Ultimately, chaos fights order not in the world “out there” but in ourselves.

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In my mind I decided to set aside personal distress over the state of the world to see what part of the current chaos I am playing. Self-reflection is one way to hold off inertia and lack of responsibility. When I looked inside, I found that indeed there is a single factor that makes me–and perhaps most people–part of the problem rather than part of the solution. It’s the tendency to act against my own happiness.

 

When anyone acts against their own happiness, some or all of the following is occurring:

— They do things that create misery and unhappiness.

— They mistake what happiness is, pursuing an illusion of happiness instead.

— They find outside causes (usually “them,” the ones who are different from “us”) for their suffering.

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— They cling to divisive habits of nationalism, tribalism, and religious affiliation.

— They ignore the long-term consequences of their actions.

— They leave solutions to others.

 

If you take any problem that seems completely disheartening, not just the four or five big ones but any cause of unhappiness in your own life, the items on this list will keep you–or the world at large–from finding a solution. Climate change? Looking at myself, I am keeping the solution at bay if I leave it to others, ignore what my use of fossil fuels means for the future, blame energy companies and other bad actors for causing the problem, and mistake my short-term pleasure for true happiness, since beneath that pleasure we are all terribly anxious about climate change.

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By acting in a different way, pursuing real happiness and ending my allegiance to its opposite, I become part of the solution.  The changes that are required can be big or small. Supporting an action group and backing politicians who rationally try to solve problems is a small change. Re-examining the whole system of endless consumerism and giving up narrow-minded nationalism would be big changes.

 

As harmful as inertia is, my purpose isn’t a call to action. At a deeper level, people need to realize something important that can do much to fight despair. This is the realization that human awareness can evolve and in fact is evolving all the time. Terrorism is frightening and costs thousands of lives, but the two world wars cost tens of millions of lives. AIDS and Ebola are deeply distressing, but rational solutions exist for both, and the pursuit of vaccines and treatments never stops. By seeing that human awareness contains unlimited potential, fear can be staved off.

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It’s also crucial to accept the fact that the future is a common fate, more so than ever. You can pick any face in the crowd on the evening news and say, “that’s not me, thank God” or “I hate and fear what that person is doing.” Such feelings seem justified, but they lead nowhere, certainly not to a solution. Divisive thinking doesn’t settle anger or fear but fuels both. In our common future, the problem is always the same everywhere–acting against our own happiness. The solution is to stop doing this and to find a new way to be happy.

 

Is this a reasonable and workable way to confront the world’s big problems? I think so, and after a decade of watching the harm that chaos creates, I’m convinced that only an inward solution is workable. In the next post I’ll address in more detail how a consciousness-based solution could work.

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(To be cont.)

 

Deepak Chopra, MD is the author of more than 80 books with twenty-two New York Times bestsellers. He serves as the founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing. His latest book is The Future of God 

 

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God Is the New Physics

posted by Admin

When spirituality and physics started to be linked, many scientists called it the use of metaphor. It couldn’t literally be true that there was a Tao of Physics that linked quantum mechanics to ancient Chinese philosophy. At best there might be a weak link–God and the new physics–the way one might say God and DNA. With a little imagination, the two could be joined, but there was no possibility that God could intrude into hard science. There might be a gene for faith (so the speculation went), yet physics is couched almost purely in the language of mathematics, and no matter how you cut it, God isn’t numbers.

 

In the past decade the picture has radically altered. It’s no longer a matter of metaphors. Some problems in physics are beyond mathematics–the universe is no longer a numbers game, either. If that’s true, then God and the cosmos stand on a level playing field. The day may not be far off when God is the new physics.  For that day to arrive, both sides of the traditional religion versus science stand-off must change their value systems and beliefs.

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Religion must step down from fixed dogmatic views that long ago were shattered by science, such as the creation myth in Genesis. Images of God must be jettisoned next, since a bearded patriarch sitting above the clouds has never been anything but a metaphor. Finally, and hardest of all, religion must abandon its claim to the supernatural. As long as there is one reality for science (Nature) and another for religion (the mystical supernatural), a unified understanding of reality will be unreachable.

 

Science has cherished beliefs it must give up also. The first is exactly the same as for religion. The belief that all spiritual experience is supernatural and therefore invalid prevents a full understanding of the universe and our place in it. The division between objective and subjective, along with rational versus irrational, must be abandoned, because it’s a false duality. All experience is subjective, including the experience of doing science.

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Having gotten this far, as quite a number of spiritual seekers and scientists both have, there is a goal that unifies the two sides even further. This is the search for a single explanation that encompasses reality as a whole. Physics realizes that Nature can’t be comprehended within the accepted bubble of time and space. Too many advanced theories (such as superstrings, the multiverse, and eternal inflation) point toward ultimate answers lying beyond the quantum horizon. At the same time, religion can’t convince us that rationality is the enemy of faith. God must be subject to rational understanding just as much as quarks and the Higgs boson.

 

If the two camps agree that a unified understanding of reality is their shared goal, only two possibilities exist. Either the unified theory is materialist or it isn’t. If it’s materialist, which is the preferred route for 99% of scientists, we have a long, long wait ahead of us. Materialism promises to explain how life began, the relationship between mind and matter, the origin of consciousness, where thoughts come from, how memory works, and the process whereby the firing of neurons in the brain creates the three-dimensional world, even though the basic elements of that world (sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell) quite obviously don’t exist in or among neurons.

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Despite the self-evident failure of materialism, belief systems have a way of holding on for many decades past their expiration date, and there is stubborn resistance in science to any other mode of explanation beyond the tried and true. Do neurologists really believe that by jiggling brain chemicals one arrives at Shakespeare and Mozart? Yes. Do cosmologists believe that they can delve into the pre-created domain before the Big Bang, even though the human brain is obviously bound to linear time and finite space? Yes. These and other false trails are likely to seduce investigators for awhile.

 

But a loose cadre of scientists, seekers, philosophers, and open-minded thinkers have already arrived at an agreement that a unified understanding of reality will never be materialist (or physicalist, to use the preferred term). What will work instead? Something else.  The best candidate for “something else” is consciousness, but that’s not really an answer so much as an open door. How to explore consciousness using a method as valid as the current scientific method raises all kinds of contentious issues. It is almost as difficult to explain how mind turned into matter as how matter turned into mind.

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Yet in that “almost” lies the edge of the wedge. If you take all the toughest questions and filter them through a consciousness-based universe, the answers are at times inconceivable, but there’s one great advantage over materialism. In a purely physical cosmos, the most difficult questions lead to answers that make no sense whatever. Molecules can’t think, end of story. Therefore, if there is a cosmic intelligence that exists beyond time and space, which under the old terminology was called God, it is the most likely basis for the universe and our place in it. God is the new physics, because every other alternative has either failed or is getting ready to.

 

Deepak Chopra, MD is the author of more than 80 books with twenty-two New York Times bestsellers. He serves as the founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing. His latest book is The Future of God 

 

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