From the Publisher
“We need a worldview grounded in science that does not deny the richness of human nature and the validity of modes of knowing other than the scientific. If we can bring our spirituality, the richness and wholesomeness of our basic human values, to bear upon the course of science in human society, then the different approaches of science and spirituality will contribute together to the betterment of humanity. This book points the way to such a collaborative endeavor.”—His Holiness the Dalai Lama
“Deepak Chopra did an excellent job explaining why the all-embracing holistic quantum field suggests a dynamic, alive cosmos. This is an interesting and provocative book which will be read and talked about for a long time to come.” —Hans Peter Duerr, Director Emeritus, Max-Planck-Institute for Physics and Astrophysics
"Bravo! This delightful book is bound to be the Gold Standard by which all other books on science/spirituality will be measured. Bold, refreshing, lucid, and insightful, this thoughtful collection of essays seeks to unveil the mysterious of our very existence. Is there a purpose to the universe? What is our true role in the cosmos? This book dares to ask some of the deepest, most profound questions about our very existence, and comes up with some surprising, even shocking answers."Michio Kaku Prof. of Theoretical Physics, City Univ. of NY. Author of the New York Times best sellers Physics of the Future, and Physics of the Impossible.
“Science is rapidly gaining the capability to explore the nature of consciousness, and the origins of all things—a domain sacred to Eastern spirituality. The inevitable result, as science encroaches on spirituality’s turf, is this compelling clash between scientist Leonard Mlodinow and spiritual advocate and physician Deepak Chopra.”
—Kip S. Thorne, The Feynman Professor of Physics, Emeritus, Caltech, and author of Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein's Outrageous Legacy
“Two compelling figures of our time mindfully joust on the battlefield of brain, cosmos, and evolution. This is a win-win for the authors and for every reader.”
—Rudolph Tanzi, Ph.D., The Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy, Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School
“Whether you root for science or spirituality, you will find in these incisive, insightful essays more than enough ammunition to get you through your next debate over the two opposing ways of seeing the world. And you just may find that ‘the other side’ scores some points, too. A fascinating, thought-provoking tour through some of the deepest questions of existence.”—Sharon Begley, author of Change Your Mind, Train Your Brain and science writer, Newsweek
“This book, by two outstanding intellectuals, is a timely revival of the debate between science and spirituality. In alternate chapters each author defends his position without disrespecting the other and the result is a remarkable contribution to the history of ideas; eminently readable, no matter which side of the fence you are on.”
—V.S. Ramachandran, Distinguished Professor and Director of the Center for Brain and Cognition, University of California, San Diego and author of The Tell Tale Brain
“A lively, engaging and far ranging debate between a sharp-witted physicist and a proponent of Eastern spirituality whose poetic metaphors about science appeal to the heart.”—Christof Koch, Chief Scientific Officer, Allen Institute for Brain Science, Seattle, Lois and Victor Troendle Professor of Cognitive and Behavioral Biology, California Institute of Technology, and author of Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist
“In War of the Worldviews, Deepak Chopra and Leonard Mlodinow have given us one of the most compelling, important, and significant books written on the relation of science and spirituality in today’s world.”—Ken Wilber, author of The Integral Vision
“Quantum mechanics demonstrates the reality of particle entanglement. The reality of today's world is that all of our lives are entangled. The dialogue between these two extraordinary writers serves as a source of awe and inspiration to all of us.”—James R. Doty, M.D., Professor of Neurosurgery, Founder & Director, Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE), Stanford Institute of Neuro-innovation and Translational Neuroscience, Stanford University School of Medicine
“A refreshing and more useful approach to the old combat between science and religion. The two authors want the best for humanity, and their zeal is revealed even when they fiercely disagree. The value of this book will only become greater and more appreciated with time.”—Menas Kafatos, Ph.D., Fletcher Jones Endowed Professor in Computational Physics, Dean, Schmid College of Science, Vice Chancellor for Special Projects, Chapman University
“There is nothing more important than the worldview you hold. It determines nearly everything you think, do, and say. Like the fish who notices not the water in which he swims, we live in our worldviews without even noticing them. Yet most conflicts in life can be traced to worldview differences, and none more so than the worldviews of science and religion. War of the Worldviews is the best single volume I've ever read on this vital subject. Deepak Chopra and Leonard Mlodinow well capture the essence of the debate and do so in such an engaging style that you can't stop reading. I know both authors well, and even though I side with one worldview over the other, I found myself compelled to read Deepak deeper to understand his worldview. Those on Deepak's side will feel the same compulsion to read Leonard's contributions. Either way, this book is a game changer in the science-and-religion wars.”—Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine, monthly columnist Scientific American, adjunct professor Claremont Graduate University and Chapman University, and author of Why Darwin Matters and The Believing Brain
“Astrophysicist Sir James Jeans wrote: ‘The Universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine.’ This is the essence of Chopra’s view: that a great consciousness—which we share—is the basis of the Universe and all reality. From Mlodinow’s perspective it is unimaginable that consciousness could be anything more than brain chemistry at work and certainly not something capable of creating a universe. The book presents a lively and articulate debate on this and that most important human question: are we simply complex biological machines destined for oblivion at death... or are we immortal spiritual beings temporarily experiencing reality through physical bodies.”—Bernard Haisch, astrophysicist
“Deepak Chopra and Leonard Mlodinow argue convincingly for their particular worldviews. However reading this book convinces me they should call a truce: Science and spirituality are two sides of a quantum coin.”—Stuart Hameroff MD, Professor, Anesthesiology and Psychology, Director, Center for Consciousness Studies, The University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona
“Finally! The beginning of a dialog in the true spirit of open-ended science that should be inclusive of all phenomena including spirituality. Congratulations to Chopra and Mlodinow for the breakthrough. May their book become a trendsetter!”—Amit Goswami, quantum physicist and author of The Self-Aware Universe and How Quantum Activism Can Save Civilization
“We physicists are concerned with observations of the physical universe, and the mathematical theories that explain them. Others seek enlightenment through a focus on subjective experience. In this book these approaches meet, often throwing off sparks, occasionally agreeing, and always remaining both illuminating and entertaining.”—Jay Marx, Executive Director, Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) Laboratory, Caltech
“Is consciousness an aspect of nature that had no precursor prior to the appearance of life, or is it a feature of nature that was in some form always present? This question is debated in this lively, informative, and entertaining book co-authored by skilled writers Deepak Chopra and Leonard Mlodinow. On the basis of their extensive coverage of much of what we know about the cosmos—from its origin, to the origin and definition of life, to the issue of what makes us human—Chopra argues for the pervasiveness of consciousness, while Mlodinow argues for emergence of everything from the purely physical, in the absence of adequate scientific evidence to the contrary. This book is a good read even if, and particularly if, you already have a fixed opinion on the matter.”—Dr. Henry P. Stapp, Physicist, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley, and author of Mind, Matter, and Quantum Mechanics and Mindful Universe: Quantum Mechanics and the Participating Observer
“Deepak Chopra and Leonard Mlodinow have opened the discussion on the fundamental physics of the spirit.”—Juliana (Brooks) Mortenson, MD, Founder, General Resonance
“Ours is a time of unprecedented change and complexity. Never before have so many worldviews, belief systems and ways of engaging reality converged. Such a moment of contact has many consequences. On one hand, there are abundant instances of conflict and intolerance, as people fail to see other points of view. On the other hand, it can lead to the creative emergence of new and more sustainable ways of being together in our otherwise fragmented world. Such is the promise of this thoughtful and provocative book. As Chopra and Mlodinow, two masters in their respective fields, come together to consider the challenges of merging science and spirituality, they offer an essential guidebook for shaping the future of our shared humanity.”—Marilyn Schlitz, Ph.D., President and CEO, Institute of Noetic Sciences
“In this latest skirmish of the age-old War of the Worldviews, we find a spirited defense of science (Mlodinow) vs. spirituality (Chopra). The authors are masters of their domains, and their debate makes it crystal clear that the battle will not be settled any time soon. Reading this book may make your brain hurt, but it is an experience that is fascinating, exasperating, and definitely worthwhile.”—Dean Radin PhD, Co-Editor-in-Chief, Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, Adjunct Professor, Department of Psychology, Sonoma State University, Senior Scientist, Institute of Noetic Sciences
“A tension exists between the way that we think about the laws of physics and our own subjective experience. Deepak Chopra and Leonard Mlodinow ponder both perspectives in their lively debate, leaving the reader enriched to see the world with a new depth. War of the Worldviews offers clear choices for these rapidly changing times.”—Jeff Tollaksen, Director, Center for Quantum Studies, Head of Physics Faculty,
Schmid College of Science, Chapman University
“As a brilliant scientist and mathematician Leonard Mlodinow believes that physics can account for the creation of the universe through the laws of nature, without the participation of a deity. To Deepak Chopra, the truth exists in consciousness. The time has come for humanity to open its mind to all levels of reality.”—Lothar Schäfer, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Arkansas
“War of the Worldviews offers a fascinating and detailed debate focusing on how the spiritual and the scientific approaches to understanding reality often clash. Physician Deepak Chopra and Physicist Leonard Mlodinow provide a rich set of reflections and easy-to-understand introductions to the various topics, from the nature of mind and consciousness to God and the brain. Diving into the conceptual friction and heated emotional tension of this important and passionate conversation between two leaders in these fields inspires us to weave a tapestry of our own, blending the hard-won insights from an empirical approach to reality with the important journey to make a life of meaning and interconnection in our daily lives.”—Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., author of Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation, Clinical Professor, UCLA School of Medicine, Executive Director, Mindsight Institute
In this latest skirmish of the age-old War of the Worldviews, we find a spirited defense of science (Mlodinow) vs. spirituality (Chopra). The authors are masters of their domains, and their debate makes it crystal clear that the battle will not be settled any time soon. Reading this book may make your brain hurt, but it is an experience that is fascinating, exasperating, and definitely worthwhile.”
—Dean Radin PhD, Co-Editor-in-Chief, Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, Adjunct Professor, Department of Psychology, Sonoma State University, Senior Scientist, Institute of Noetic Sciences “In War of the Worldviews, Deepak Chopra and Leonard Mlodinow prove to be eloquent proponents for their respective points of view. The questions they address are the ones that must be tackled if there is to be reconciliation between science and spirituality. Though it is clear they remain far apart on many issues, the mere act of these two acclaimed thinkers addressing them together provides hope that the divide can be narrowed.”
—Jim B. Tucker, M.D., Division of Perceptual Studies, Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences, University of Virginia Health System
Doctor and acclaimed spiritual expert Chopra (The Seven Spiritual Laws of Superheroes) and Caltech physicist Mlodinow (The Drunkard's Walk) have teamed up to present two sides of some of the most difficult questions facing science and spirituality. In response to ponderings like "What is life?" and "How did the universe emerge?" each writes a brief response from his own perspective. While spirituality and religion are not synonymous, Chopra well represents the panreligious spiritual point of view. Offering both respect and insight, the authors provide an excellent summary of contemporary thought on issues of science and religion, helping to expand the discussion in new directions. VERDICT Highly recommended for readers interested in how scientific and spiritual worldviews differ and concur and for those who want an overview of both. [See Prepub Alert, 4/25/11.]—Eric D. Albright, Tufts Univ. Lib., Boston
An alternatingly enlightening and frustrating dialogue between one of the world's greatest physicists and one of its greatest metaphysicists.
What is life? Is the universe conscious? What is the connection between mind and brain? Is God an illusion? These are some of the questions pondered and debated by Mlodinow (Theoretical Physics/CalTech,The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives, 2008,etc.) and Chopra (Muhammad, 2010, etc.), who alternate writing short essays and responses. Choprais known for his self-help books and his user-friendly, Eastern-lite philosophy, and he posits that scientists, with their materialist methods and concerns, have blinded themselves to the deeper realities of a universe infused with love and consciousness. He sees science as a cudgel used to beat spirituality into the dust. Mlodinow attempts, at first patiently but with increasing exasperation, to explain what science is and what it is meant to accomplish. He repeatedly stresses that "wish fulfillment should not shape our worldview." His rationality and sardonic wit get the better of Chopra at nearly every turn; the latter exhibits occasional flashes of inspiration but evinces throughout a willful ignorance of the scientific method and a penchant for using words like "quantum" or "relativity" merely as meaningless props to buttress his fuzzy, deliberately vague spirituality. Though some readers may allow themselves to be convinced by his mantra that everything will be all right no matter what because the universe loves us, he fails to present a case for why science should unquestioningly accept his insights.
A useful primer on the virtues of clear thinking, but somewhat lacking in substance.
Read an Excerpt
The Spiritual Perspective
Who looks outside, dreams; who looks within, awakens.
If it is going to win the struggle for the future, spirituality must first overcome a major disadvantage. In the popular imagination, science long ago discredited religion. Facts replaced faith. Superstition was gradually vanquished. That's why Darwin's explanation of man's descent from lower primates prevails over Genesis and why we look to the Big Bang as the source of the cosmos rather than to a creation myth populated by one or more gods.
So it's important to begin by saying that religion isn't the same as spirituality-far from it. Even God isn't the same as spirituality. Organized religion may have discredited itself, but spirituality has suffered no such defeat. Thousands of years ago, in cultures across the globe, inspired spiritual teachers such as the Buddha, Jesus, and Lao-tzu proposed profound views of life. They taught that a transcendent domain resides beyond the everyday world of pain and struggle. Although the eye beholds rocks, mountains, trees, and sky, this is only a veil drawn over a vast, mysterious, unseen reality. Beyond the reach of the five senses lies an invisible realm of infinite possibility, and the key to unfolding its potential is consciousness. Go within, the sages and seers declared, and you will find the true source of everything: your own awareness.
It was this tremendous promise that religion failed to deliver on. The reasons don't concern us here, because this is a book about the future. It's enough to say that if the kingdom of God is within, as Christ declared, if nirvana means freedom from all suffering, as the Buddha taught, and if knowledge of the cosmos is locked inside the human mind, as the ancient rishis, or sages, of India proposed, we cannot look around today and say that those teachings bore fruit. Increasingly few people worship in the old ways around the world, and even as their elders lament this decline, those who have walked away from religion no longer even need an excuse. Science long ago showed us a brave new world that requires no faith in an invisible realm.
The real issue is knowledge and how you attain it. Jesus and the Buddha had no doubt that they were describing reality from a position of true knowledge. After more than two thousand years, we think we know better.
Science celebrates its triumphs, which are many, and excuses its catastrophes, which are also numerous-and growing. The atomic bomb delivered us into an age of mass destruction that brings night terrors just to contemplate. The environment has been disastrously disrupted by emissions spewing from the machines that technology gives us to make life better. Yet supporters of science shrug off these threats as either side effects or failures of social policy. Morality, we are told, isn't the responsibility of science. But if you look deeper, science has run into the same problem as religion. Religion lost sight of humility before God, and science lost its sense of awe, increasingly seeing Nature as a force to be opposed and conquered, its secrets stripped bare for the benefit of humankind. Now we are paying the price. When asked if Homo sapiens is in danger of extinction, some scientists offer hope that within a few hundred years space travel will be advanced enough to let us abandon the planetary nest we are fouling. Off we go to spoil other worlds!
We all know what's at stake: the foreseeable future looms grimly over us. The standard solution for our present woes is all too familiar. Science will rescue us with new technology-for restoring the environment, replacing fossil fuels, curing AIDS and cancer, and ending the threat of famine. Name your malady and there's someone to tell you that a scientific solution is just around the corner. But isn't science promising to rescue us from itself? And why is that a promise we should trust? The worldview that triumphed over religion, which looks upon life as essentially materialistic, has set us on a path that leads to a dead end. Literally.
Even if we miraculously eliminated disastrous pollution and waste, coming generations will still have no model for the good life except the one that has failed us: endless consumption, exploitation of natural resources, and the diabolical creativity of warfare. As a young Chinese student bitterly commented about the West, "You ate the whole banquet. Now you give us coffee and dessert, but tell us to pay for the entire meal."
Religion cannot resolve this dilemma; it has had its chances already. But spirituality can. We need to go back to the source of religion. That source isn't God. It's consciousness. The great teachers who lived millennia ago offered something more radical than belief in a higher power. They offered a way of viewing reality that begins not with outside facts and a limited physical existence, but with inner wisdom and access to unbounded awareness. The irony is that Jesus, the Buddha, and the other enlightened sages were scientists, too. They had a way of uncovering knowledge that runs exactly parallel to modern science. First came a hypothesis, an idea that needed testing. Next came experimentation to see if the hypothesis was true. Finally came peer review, offering the new findings to other researchers and asking them to reproduce the same breakthrough.
The spiritual hypothesis that was put forward thousands of years ago has three parts:
1. There is an unseen reality that is the source of all visible things.
2. This unseen reality is knowable through our own awareness.
3. Intelligence, creativity, and organizing power are embedded in the cosmos.
This trio of ideas is like the Platonic values in Greek philosophy, which tell us that love, truth, order, and reason shape human existence from a higher reality. The difference is that even more ancient philosophies, with roots going back five thousand years, tell us that higher reality is with us right here and now.
In the following pages, as Leonard and I debate the great questions of human existence, my role is to offer spiritual answers-not as a priest or a practitioner of any particular faith, but as a researcher in consciousness. This runs the risk, I know, of alienating devout believers, the many millions of people in every faith for whom God is very personal. But the world's wisdom traditions did not exclude a personal God (to be candid, I was not taught as a child to worship one, but my mother did, praying at a temple to Rama every day of her life). At the same time, wisdom traditions all included an impersonal God who permeates every atom of the universe and every fiber of our being. This distinction bothers those believers who want to cling to the one and only true faith, whatever it may be for them. But an impersonal God doesn't need to be a threat.
Think of someone you love. Now think of love itself. The person you love puts a face on love, yet surely you know that love existed before this person was born and will survive after they pass away. In that simple example lies the difference between the personal and the impersonal God. As a believer you can put a face on God-that is a matter of your own private choice-but I hope you see that if God is everywhere, the divine qualities of love, mercy, compassion, justice, and all the other attributes ascribed to God extend infinitely throughout creation. Not surprisingly, this idea is a common thread in all major religions. Higher consciousness allowed the great sages, saints, and seers to attain a kind of knowledge that science feels threatened by but that is completely valid. Our common understanding of consciousness is too limited to do justice here.
If I asked you, "What are you conscious of right this minute?" you would probably start by describing the room you're in and the sights, sounds, and smells surrounding you. On reflection you'd become aware of your mood, the sensations in your body, perhaps a hidden worry or desire that lies deeper than superficial thoughts. But the inner journey can go much deeper, taking you to a reality that isn't about objects "out there" or feelings and thoughts "in here." Eventually those two worlds meld into one state of being that lies beyond the limits of space-time, in a realm of infinite possibilities.
Now we face a contradiction, however. How can two realities that are opposites (the way baking a loaf of bread is the opposite of dreaming about a loaf of bread) turn out to be the same? This improbable vision is succinctly described in the Isha Upanishad, an ancient Indian scripture. "That is complete, and this is also complete. This totality has been projected from that totality. When this wholeness merges in that wholeness, all that remains is wholeness." At first glance, this passage seems like a riddle, but it can be deciphered by realizing that "that" is the state of pure consciousness, while "this" is the visible universe. Both are complete in themselves, as we know from science, which has been satisfied for four centuries with exploring the visible universe. But in the spiritual worldview a hidden wholeness underlies all of creation, and ultimately it is this invisible wholeness that matters most.
Spirituality has been around for many thousand years, and its researchers were brilliant-the very Einsteins of consciousness. Anyone can reproduce and verify their results, as with the principles of science. More important, the future that spirituality promises-one of wisdom, freedom, and fulfillment-hasn't vanished as the age of faith declined. Reality is reality. There is only one, and it's permanent. This means that at some point the inner and outer worlds must meet; we won't have to choose between them. That in itself will be a revolutionary discovery, since the dispute between science and religion has persuaded almost everyone that either you face reality and deal with the tough questions of everyday life (science), or you passively retreat and contemplate a realm beyond everyday life (religion).
This either/or choice was forced on us when religion failed to deliver on its promises. But spirituality, the deeper source of religion, hasn't failed and is ready to meet science face-to-face, offering answers consistent with the most advanced scientific theories. Human consciousness created science, which ironically is now moving to exclude consciousness, its very creator! Surely this would leave us with worse than an orphaned and shrunken science-we'd inhabit an impoverished world.
It has already arrived. We live in a time of rude atheism, whose proponents deride religion as superstition, illusion, and a hoax. But their real target isn't religion; it's the inner journey. I am less concerned with attacks on God than I am with a far more insidious danger: the superstition of materialism. To scientific atheists, reality must be external; otherwise their whole approach falls apart. If the physical world is all that exists, science is right to mine it for data.
But here the superstition of materialism breaks down. Our five senses encourage us to accept that there are objects "out there," forests and rivers, atoms and quarks. However, at the frontiers of physics, where Nature becomes very small, matter breaks down and then vanishes. Here, the act of measuring changes what we see; every observer turns out to be woven into what he observes. This is the universe already known to spirituality, where passive observation gives way to active participation, and we discover that we are part of the fabric of creation. The result is enormous power and freedom.
Science has never achieved pure objectivity, and it never will. To deny the worth of subjective experience is to dismiss most of what makes life worth living: love, trust, faith, beauty, awe, wonder, compassion, truth, the arts, morality, and the mind itself. The field of neuroscience has largely accepted that the mind doesn't exist but is merely a by-product of the brain. The brain (a "computer made of meat," as Marvin Minsky, an expert in artificial intelligence, dubbed it) is our master, chemically deciding how we feel, genetically determining how we grow, live, and die. This picture isn't acceptable to me, because in dismissing the mind we eliminate our portal to knowledge and insight.
As Leonard and I debate the big mysteries, the great sages and seers remind us that there is only one question: What is reality? Is it the result of natural laws rigorously operating through cause and effect, or is it something else? There is good reason for our worldviews to be at war. Either reality is bounded by the visible universe, or it isn't. Either the cosmos was created from an empty, meaningless void, or it wasn't. Until you understand the nature of reality, you are like one of the fabled six blind men trying to describe an elephant by holding on to just one of its parts. The one who has hold of the leg says, "An elephant is much like a tree." The one who has hold of the trunk says, "An elephant is much like a snake." And so on.
The childhood fable about the blind men and the elephant is actually an allegory from ancient India. The six blind men are the five senses plus the rational mind. The elephant is Brahman, the totality of all that exists. On the surface the fable is pessimistic: if all you possess is your five senses and your rational mind, you'll never see the elephant. But there is a hidden message so obvious that many people miss it. The elephant exists. It was there before us, patiently waiting to be known. It is the deeper truth of unified reality.
Just because religion didn't succeed doesn't mean that a new spirituality, based on consciousness, won't. We need to see the truth, and in the process we will awaken the profound powers that were promised to us thousands of years ago. Time awaits. The future depends on the choice we make today.