War of the Worldviews: Science Vs. Spirituality Audio CD – Audiobook, Unabridged
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“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
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
DEEPAK CHOPRA is the author of more than fifty books translated into over thirty-five languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers in both the fiction and nonfiction categories.
From the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
Answer YES or NO to these questions:
(1) Is the Universe conscious?
(2) Is there design in the Universe?
(3) Did (Charles) Darwin go wrong?
(4) Does the brain dictate behaviour?
(5) Is the Universe thinking through us?
(6) Is God an illusion?
If you answered YES to questions (1,2,3,5) and NO to questions (4,6), then your worldview is spiritual. On the other hand, answering NO and YES respectively to these two sets of questions means that your worldview is scientific.
The above are some of the questions you'll find in this interesting book by Deepak Chopra and Leonard Mlodinow. According to the inner back flap of this book, Chopra "is the author of more than sixty books translated into more than eighty-five languages." As well, he "is a leading figure in the field of emerging spirituality." Mlodinow is a professor of theoretical physics at Caltech and an author (co-authoring the #1 NY Times bestseller "The Grand Design" with Stephen Hawking).
Besides the 7 questions indicated above, this book has 11 more questions with the resulting 17 questions and answers divided into four sections:
(1) the Cosmos or Physical Universe (5 questions answered by each author in essay-format)
(2) Life (5 questions answered)
(3) Mind and Brain (4 questions answered)
(4) God (3 questions answered)
According to this book, science uses "reason and observation [as evidence] instead of emotional bias to uncover the truth of things" and "explores the world as it is offered to the five senses and the brain." Spirituality, on the other hand, "looks toward an invisible, transcendent realm discovered within the self" and "considers the universe to be purposeful and imbued with meaning.Read more ›
GOD'S UNDERTAKER: Has Science Buried God?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
This scenario pretty much sums up the theme of this book. Deepak Chopra considers materialistic science to be engaged in the study of shadows. At the same time he feels science is ignoring, and indeed hostile to, the very thing that gives the shadows any reality at all, the light i.e. consciousness or spirit (both words are used interchangeably by Deepak as pointers to THAT which is itself formless and empty but which gives rise to all forms and potential).
Leonard Mlidinow argues that, without good reason to think otherwise, we must confine our interests, our studies, our investigations and inquiries to the shadows (the material world), limiting our hopes, dreams and desires to the shadow world. It is a naïve and vain hope to think there is anything else. Besides, the shadows are infinitely fascinating, varied and awe inspiring and offer the prospect of beguiling us for many years to come. By contrast, Deepak argues, to limit our gaze to the shadows is to limit the potential for greater discovery.
The book is essentially about knowledge, the different ways of knowing, and how we can be certain that our claims to knowledge are true. Leonard comes from the perspective of radical empiricism in which only that which is amenable to the senses (and their extensions), and that which can be measured, quantified, predicted and verified through third person confirmation, can be considered a legitimate truth claim. Deepak considers that science, technology and the media have conspired to produce a view of the world that is profoundly materialistic and competitive and which claims exclusive rights to being "right". Deepak argues that the scientific worldview is missing an essential ingredient i.e. spirit. However, Deepak is at pains to distance his version of spirituality from religion. He writes: "Organised religion may have discredited itself, but spirituality has suffered no such defeat." He then contrasts organised religions with the "profound views of life" propounded by spiritual teachers such as the Buddha, Jesus and Lao-tzu who pointed to a "transcendent domain", beyond the reach of the five senses, "mysterious, unseen" but which could be known by diving deep into one's own awareness, to the source of both the inner and outer reality.
Thus, in essence, Deepak's spiritual perspective is one in which he equates spirituality with consciousness. Deepak believes that "consciousness" is the ordering, creative and intelligent principle at the heart of reality, without which there would be no reality at all (the light at the mouth of the cave). "We need to go back to the source of religion. That source isn't God. It's consciousness". Deepak breaks down his spiritual perspective into 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 organising power are embedded in the cosmos.
Deepak argues for a worldview in which consciousness and the material universe are seen as two aspects of an indivisible whole. He writes: "Reality is reality. There is only one and it is permanent. This means that at some point the inner and outer must meet; we won't have to choose between them". This desire to unite science and spirituality through a grand synthesis is at the heart of Deepak's philosophy. The main obstacles to this synthesis, in Deepak's view, are religion and materialism. Most religions (mainly the monotheistic western religions of Judaism, Islam and Christianity) posit an extra-cosmic God who "tinkers" with reality as and when it suits Him, judges, condemns or loves you (depending on what mood He's in) and is completely "other" and unknowable, revealed to us solely through "sacred" texts which must be believed unquestioningly if one is to achieve salvation. Such a view of the world, Deepak argues, is rightly shunned by all reasonable and thinking individuals. Similarly, he argues, the "superstition of materialism", the belief that only the world revealed to us via our five senses is real, is hostile to the "inner journey". Deepak perceives science as aiding and abetting this materialistic worldview as it reduces the universe to a closed physical system of purely physical cause and effect, ungoverned by anything other than blind purposeless laws of nature. The question for Deepak is fundamentally: "What is reality? Is it the result of natural laws rigorously operating through cause and effect, or is it something else?"
Leonard writes: "We would all like to be immortal. We'd like to believe that good triumphs over evil, that a greater power watches over us, that we are part of something bigger, that we have been put here for a reason. We'd like to believe that our lives have an intrinsic meaning." Leonard recognises these as legitimate human concerns. He views the answers that religion provides as mankind's earliest attempt to address these concerns within the limits of incomplete knowledge. "Today science can answer many of the most fundamental questions of existence. Science's answers spring from observation and experiment rather than from human bias or desire. Science offers answers in harmony with nature as it is, rather than nature as we'd like it to be." In terms of inspiring awe and wonderment as well as addressing questions of ultimate concern Leonard believes science, despite its limitations, to be the "triumph of humanity" and of our "capacity to understand". He resents Deepak's implication that scientific explanations are "sterile and reductive". He goes on: "Scientists are often guided by their intuition and subjective feelings but they recognise the need for another step: verification." He then loosely outlines the "scientific method" with its emphasis on observation and experimentation; and, while acknowledging the part spirituality has to play "regarding human aspirations and the meaning of our lives", he highlights the lack of verifiable evidence as being the main reason religion and spirituality are excluded from scientific consideration; or, more to the point, religious and spiritual doctrine make "pronouncements about the physical universe that contradict what we actually observe to be true." So Leonard's view is that the knowledge claims of science are open to verification, refutation and testing and as such we have every right to place our confidence in science as opposed to religion/spirituality when it comes to our understanding of the world and our place in it.
As much as I enjoyed the exchanges between Leonard and Deepak, and as much as I commend Leonard for engaging in communication with someone I'm sure many of his colleagues would run a mile from, I found the book on the whole disappointing (hence the three stars). Essential to a debate such as this is the necessity of defining terms explicitly and to the satisfaction of both parties. The problem with this book is that terms are so sloppily defined (if at all) and so ambiguously employed, that both Deepak and Leonard spend a great deal of their time talking passed each other. Deepak uses terms such as "spirit", "consciousness", "mind" etc so loosely and vaguely as to render them meaningless at times, while Leonard, though more diligent in his effort to define terms, is similarly guilty of obfuscation (this is to be expected from someone who co-authored "The Grand Design" with Stephen Hawkin in which it is claimed, Nietszchian like, "philosophy is dead". It was premature of Leonard to bury philosophy because philosophy, at the very least, is the art of conceptual clarification). In fairness to Deepak, terms such as spirit, consciousness and mind are notoriously slippery and science has yet to agree on a working definition of consciousness. Notwithstanding, I feel Deepak could have made a greater effort to be more precise in his definition of these terms, if for no other reason than, by not doing so, Leonard had all the ammunition he needed to dismiss many of Deepak's arguments on the grounds of ill-defined terminology. Leonard, too, would have aided the reader had he more specifically defined what he meant by "science". To make claims about a "scientific worldview" already obfuscates because science is not philosophy, it is a method of inquiring into the physical world (methodological naturalism). Science should be philosophically neutral. To talk of a "scientific worldview" in the manner in which Leonard does is to conflate science (the study of the physical world) with the philosophy of physical naturalism (which states that the physical world is all there is). If, however, Leonard means something more by the term "science", then he should have made it clear in what sense he was using the term.
The level of argument was also unsatisfactory. One example will suffice. Deepak writes: "Creation without consciousness is like the fabled roomful of monkeys randomly striking the keys on a typewriter...No matter how small the scale or how large, the cosmos is seamlessly exact in a way that randomness cannot account for. Something must have caused this, and it must exist beyond the physical universe." Simply insisting that something "must" be the case does not make it so and Deepak is intelligent enough to realise that to employ such language is to weaken his case. To address this "random-typing" argument of Deepak's, Leonard invokes the computer "selection" programme from Richard Dawkins' book The Blind Watchmaker in which "a mechanism analogous to natural selection" is used to arrive at Shakespeare's phrase "Methinks it is like a weasel". Through the random typing of letters that is believed to imitate the evolutionary process, this programme supposedly demonstrates how the process of natural selection mitigates randomness. But this does no such thing! The very fact that the programme "chooses" letters in keeping with the "target" phrase shows the programme to be governed by a purpose i.e. achieving the target phrase. Thus "design" is written into the programme in a way that is supposedly absent in nature. So this is a rather weak argument and shows Leonard to be unaware of the more sophisticated challenges to Dawkins' Darwinian gradualism. As Stephen Jay Gould wrote: "Natural selection might explain the survival of the fittest, but not the arrival of the fittest".
Throughout the ages there have been individuals who have broken free of their cave bound condition and "seen the light" and who have used that insight to inform the rest of us of our cave dwelling, shadow beguiled existence. Such individuals are the great sages, rishis and mystics of history. There insight is as uncompromising as it is consistent: We are not who we think we are and the world is not as it seems. Unfortunately, the word "Mysticism", through loose popular usage, has become synonymous with magic, mystification and even self-delusion and it is this debased usage of the term that falls so readily from the lips of both Deepak and Leonard (Deepak preferring the word "spiritual" to "mystical" and Leonard not showing any evidence that he's given the true meaning of mysticism any serious consideration whatsoever). The rationalistic bias of contemporary science, which equates the verifiable with the true, links the "mystical" with superstition, self-delusion and the avoidance of life. But Mystics ask you to take nothing on faith. Even Sam Harris acknowledges this. In The End Of Faith he writes:
"Mysticism is a rational enterprise. Religion is not. The mystic has recognised something about the nature of consciousness prior to thought, and this recognition is susceptible to rational discussion. The mystic has reasons for what he believes, and these reasons are empirical. The roiling mystery of the world can be analyzed with concepts (this is science), or it can be experienced free of concepts (this is mysticism). Religion is nothing more than bad concepts held in place of good ones for all time" The End Of Faith, 2006 edition p 221, emphasis added
Science is the study of the world employing the formidable resources of the mind and human ingenuity. There is nothing wrong with this knowledge and it has indeed rewarded us in the West with unparalleled and privileged lives. However, it is in the nature of the mind to categorise, differentiate, bifurcate, dissect, intellectualise, separate, limit, demarcate etc. Thus, approaching the world with the mind condemns us to viewing the world through an opaque screen of concepts, dualistically splitting the world into that which is seen and that which is doing the seeing. Similar to Plato's cave, we become hypnotised by the shadow play of our abstract knowledge, mistaking our conceptual knowledge for the way things really are. But mysticism offers us an alternative and complementary way of knowing the world, directly, unmediated by any conceptual abstractions, intimate and non-dual. Reality is what is revealed from this non-dual level of knowing. Concepts can no more encapsulate Reality than notes on manuscript paper can encapsulate what it is to listen to a symphony. We can study the shadows on the cave wall all we like but until we break the hypnotic trance, turn around and look, we'll never "see the light".
The initial difficulty I had with this work is that for every topic of discussion, no agreed-upon definition of terms was established. As a result, although they used the same terminologies, half of the time Chopra and Mlodinow appear to be discussing completely different subjects. Mlodinow in fact acknowledged this by stating: "It is easy to use words imprecisely in an argument, but it is also dangerous, because the substance of the argument often relies on the nuances of those words." After a few chapters however, along with the acceptance of this inconsistency, I began to completely enjoy each argument. Chopra is tenacious in living up to his role as a "researcher of consciousness". Mlodinow is lucid, erudite, engaging and effective as a writer.
During the course of reading this book, I went from having a teleological view of the world to what I can only describe as nihilistic -- and then back; only to find myself, at the end, to be somewhere in between. I think most readers will have a similar experience whether they are currently on the side of spirituality or science -- which speaks loudly of the effectiveness and significance of this collaboration.
What's most surprising (and ironic) to me at the end is the realization that Mlodinow's arguments have successfully reached into my soul -- he made me laugh, cry and marvel at the universe and humanity's existence. After reading this book, I'm in awe in finding myself wanting to become more of a student of science than of spirituality -- although one could argue that they are just two sides of the same coin of truth.
I generally enjoyed Mlodinow's sections. Though I disagreed with some points here and there (and though I'm sure other readers will disagree with entire swaths of his sections), he wrote in a very clear way which laid bare the way he looks at the world as a scientist. He explained the virtues he sees in skepticism and warned against wishful-thinking in the face of reality.
Chopra's sections, on the other hand, are a mess. Throughout the book he never makes his views very clear. He certainly distances himself from various forms of orthodox and fundamentalist religions, but in discussing his beliefs he prefers to use vague New Age buzzwords like "consciousness," "spirituality," and "evolution," where he is never consistent with their definitions. When he discusses evolution, for example, it's very difficult to tell whether he means biological evolution, the general concept of change, or some type of personal growth.
It is worth noting too that Chopra champions Darwin's theory, but he continuously fails to grasp basic concepts like "natural selection." This pattern is repeated for other areas of biology, as well as subjects within physics, cosmology, and neurology. Luckily, Mlodinow is usually there to set things straight on these scientific issues.
Overall, Mlodinow's sections made the book a worthwhile read whereas Chopra's sections seem to be a good foil, allowing Mlodinow to address some pretty interesting scientific issues. I think every reader will be illuminated by this book to some degree, but anyone looking for an old fashioned "Does God Exist?" debate will be sorely disappointed.
In earlier history, mans view of life was very much dominated by religion. In the latter decades, a more materialistic and atheistic scientific position has gained ground. It is based on actual observations and measurements of animate and inanimate physical objects, such as cells and structures of living organisms. Contrary to religion, it is considered by its proponents to be a purely rational approach to reality, as it is based on observable facts and not on religious dogmas.
The question is, however, if the materialistic science that Leonard and many other prominent scientists represent actually is as rational as they claim it to be. For instance, if I interpret Leonard correctly, it is a common view among many scientists that creation could have sprung from a state of nothingness, and thus that life could have sprung from non-life, that intelligence, purpose and the laws of nature could have sprung from non-intelligence and that consciousness could have sprung from non-consciousness? But is this really logical?
Chopra argues that consciousness is the basis of creation. That it constitutes an eternal transcendental reality that is imbued with an organizing, creative intelligence that manifests, sustains and coordinates the innumerable factors that coincide to make our life possible. Leonard, however, refutes this on the grounds that it is not proven. Though, he seems less particular about offering evidence for some of his own views. He argues keenly for the viewpoint that mind and consciousness only are products of the physical brain, and that the brain is only created and governed by physical laws. Yet, he admits that the science he represents doesn't know what consciousness is, doesn't know what the actual connection between the physical brain and the mind is and doesn't know where the physical laws come from. Hence, I find it difficult to consider this viewpoint as anything more than speculation and guesswork. Yet, it is a view that seems to have become dominant in our modern society and in academia.
Modern science has a very strong authority in our western society. When you ask people why, they will probably point to all the achievements of modern technology, like cars, telephones, space rockets etc. But I think it is a very different thing to understand parts of nature, and to utilize some of its laws, than to understand the wholeness of it.
If one should accept the view that the inner being of man is only a product of a physical brain, it has quite dramatic implications. First of all, there would be no room for any free will. Secondly, all the people of the past that have been considered truly wise, like Jesus, Buddha, Socrates, Plato etc. must all be reconsidered to have been totally deluded. Thirdly, life would not have any deeper meaning or higher purpose, and what we do in this life and how we behave would have no consequence for ourselves as soon as our soulless physical body ceases to function. However, if Chopra's view of consciousness being the fundamental reality should be right, would it at all be possible to prove it?
The problem with pure consciousness from a scientific point of view is that it is not an observable object, as it by nature is totally abstract. It doesn't have a form or a color. It can't be observed in a microscope or by the help of an x-ray. It can't be measured or weighed and can't be dissected. So how shall a science that is based on observation and measurement of physical objects relate to such a concept? Well, as it seems obvious from the discourse in the book, it doesn't relate to it at all. Rather, they strive to exclude all elements of subjectivity and achieve some kind of pure objectivity. But is this really possible? For how can we escape the reality of consciousness?
Everything we experience, we experience in consciousness. Everything we observe, we observe in consciousness. Everything we think and understand, takes place in consciousness. How can we even possibly confirm if there exists a reality outside or independent of consciousness? Accordingly, the idea of pure objectivity seems illusory. One person measures gravity in China, another in California. By the common language of mathematics, they are able to give the same description of their observations - the same mathematical equation. This is what modern science call objectivity, but it is still based on subjectivity.
Furthermore, how can we take for granted that the senses deliver the truth of reality? When we go to a cinema, we can see people walking about, people riding on horses, trees and mountains etc. For an ignorant person, it would all be considered real - real people and real sceneries - for a knowable person, however, it is just shadows on a silver screen. How is it possible to know if something like this is not applicable to the physical reality of the universe? That the physical reality that we think is out there, that we think exists independently from an observer, only exists in consciousness?
Because of the abstract nature of consciousness, I believe Chopra's task to explain his position is much more difficult than what it is for Leonard. It is probably more difficult to understand the abstract nature of consciousness than to relate to and understand observable physical objects, even if they can be very complex or minute. Leonard insists that serious science can only be based on what can be proven. But what if it simply is not possible to prove an independent transcendental reality of consciousness the way he demands it to be done, even if it should be the truth? This is one of the great dilemmas raised by the book, and which poses one of the important and meaningful intellectual challenges it gives to the reader.
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