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War of the Worldviews: Science Vs. Spirituality Audio CD – Audiobook, Unabridged


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  • Audio CD: 8 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Audio; Unabridged edition (Oct. 4 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030793425X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307934253
  • Product Dimensions: 15 x 13.2 x 2.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 249 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #606,576 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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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.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Scott Campbell on Oct. 18 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book was interesting - but in typical Chopra fashion, I found he "plants both his feet firmly in mid-air". He's pretty much okay with believing anything - truth never seems to be an issue. A much more scientific treatment of this topic (and a much better argument for the metaphysical) is John Lennox's "Has Science Buried God?"

GOD'S UNDERTAKER: Has Science Buried God?
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48 of 52 people found the following review helpful
Less of a war.More of a misunderstanding. Nov. 4 2011
By Andrew Howgate - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
In Plato's Allegory of the cave human beings live confined and restricted in a subterranean cave which has a mouth open at one end to the light outside. The human occupants of this cave have been there since childhood and are shackled in such a way that there heads are immobile, with there gaze constantly fixed on the back of the cave, opposite the opening, upon which are projected shadows. Knowing no different, the constrained humans take the shadows on the cave wall to be reality. Some of the cave dwellers, being of a scientific disposition, spend their whole lives studying the movement of the shadows, recognising regularities and patterns, speculating as to their origins. Some shadows exhibit such regularity that laws of shadow behaviour are developed. So hypnotised by the shadow play are these cave dwellers that they little suspect the reason for there being any shadows at all is due to the light - that non of them have ever directly seen - coming from the mouth of the cave.

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".
97 of 112 people found the following review helpful
It's about time! Oct. 5 2011
By Lynette Diaz - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Being an admirer of Dr. Chopra for more than 10 years now and a perpetual seeker of truth, I was extremely curious about how he would stand against such a renowned and accomplished theoretical physicist and author who has famously collaborated with the single greatest scientific mind of our time, Stephen Hawking.

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.
38 of 43 people found the following review helpful
Fascinating Sept. 17 2011
By Dave Cunningham - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I predicted I would favor Deepak Chopra's side of this age-old debate, since I have enjoyed several of his books ... but Leonard's clear, no-nonsense thinking and writing won me over. He makes the scientific approach sound so damn logical and irrefutable. At times during this read, I felt I was listening to Spock and Kirk arguing over the merits of logic vs. emotion, but in the end, Deepak's positions seemed untenable, no matter how hard he tried to squeeze out a convincing argument for that which cannot be supported by anything other than belief. I recommend the book for anyone who has wrestled with the science vs. spirituality debate in their own mind.
72 of 86 people found the following review helpful
Mlodinow's sections made the book a worthwhile read. Sept. 27 2011
By A. Burke - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Physicist Leonard Mlodinow (co-author of The Grand Design) and popular New Age author Deepak Chopra team up for War of the Worldviews, a debate book which puts spiritualism against science. The book is divided up into sections about the universe, life, the mind, and religion, each of which contain several chapters phrased as questions. In these chapters the authors both answer these question in terms of their "worldview" and respond to one another over disagreements.

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.
71 of 92 people found the following review helpful
Conversations in Mutually Unintelligable Languages Sept. 15 2011
By W. T. Hoffman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
For a philosophical dialogue to occur, the two inquirerers must speak the same language. When they use a term, they both must know what definition the other provides that term. We must mean what we say, and say what we mean. Altho Leonard Mlodinow CONSTANTLY reiterates that Chopra misunderstands the language of science, Chopra continues to run fast and loose with his writing. From the very first pages this was clear. To say something like "God isnt the whole of spirituality", makes one wonder if the definition of "GOD", or "RELIGION" is truly clear to this writer. Chopra does go on to differenciate between the personal God (Incarnated God as Jesus, Krishna, aka the "consequent" nature of God), and the impersonal God (God without a face, or pure conscousness.) Then, turns around and states the source of religion isnt God, its conscousness. First off, God is pure conscousness, as well as pure love, and pure truth. (Hindis call it Satchitananda, which is the very nature of the divine.) Yet Chopra believes there is no personal God, because human conscousness offers "unbounded awareness". So, are WE the personal God? These odd self contradictions, and loose terms, make Chopra's intentions at times unintelligable. Maybe his overarching problem is a form of Solipism. Around pg.42 he claims "Everything we experience occurs in consciousness; therefore, there is no reality "out there". Right after that, he states that involking cosmic consciousness does away with the war between subjective and objective, and that we "DONT NEED GOD." Okay. I could continue pulling his statements apart all day...the book is filled with this miasmia of half thoughts.

Oh the other hand, you have Leonard Mlodinok's arguments on each topic of the book. He starts off with the statement that "Emotion, Intuition, Adherence to authority--traits tht drive the belief in religious and mystical explanation--are traits that can be found in the other primates, and even in lower animals." So for Leonard religious and mystical experiences are just pre-human, irrational behaviors. We have taught some apes sign language, with some using 1000s of hand signals, but NEVER have we been able to discuss abstract ideas with them like God, ethics, or esthetics. It's derogitory to assume that animals have ANY religious experience, other than the LOVE that some animals show. (Tho its LOVE for other animals, not a concept based on high consciousness.) For Mlodinow to write that the religious experience is built upon "Adherence to authority" shows that this guy doesnt have a clue about various avatars or prophet's lifes. Jesus was killed for NOT following authority. Moses driven out of Egypt for NOT following authority. (when he killed that guard who was about to kill the hebrew slave, he broke MANS law, but not GODS law.) Mohammed waged war on the warlord authorities of Saudi Arabia, to bring Allah to the Arabs. In fact, going against the establish authority, is more a trait OF the prophet-avatar-saint, than not. In fact, Mlodinow's leading statement, shows that he believes religious experience to be something closer to the sex drive, or migration in birds, than the opening up of an area specific to the Homo Sapien brain, the frontal lobe. (He SHOULD know this, cos when masters of prayerful awareness of divine love are placed in a functional MRI, the higher functions found only in human brains light up like Christmas trees.) Still many topics are covered in this book, far too many really, and with many of them Mlodinow shows insight and awareness. This book's major flaw is when Mlodinow counters Chopra's arguments. He constantly reiterates the same problem I have. Chopra DOESNT define his terminology, or at best, he defines it and changes it again.

This book is overall just weak. For a book to devote 12 pages to the nature of TIME, and never bring up entropy and the arrow of time, shows a problem. From Mlodinow comes the definition of time as DURATION, and synchrony, and Chopra talks about eternity, precreation thinking itself into becoming, and the (subjective)timelessness of the spiritual experience. Even on the Mind Body connection, to devote 13 pages to a discussion on this topic, when books, in fact whole college philosophy courses just barely pull the lid off this topic, shows that this book dumbs down, topic by topic, the heaviest, most serious questions in science, religion, psychology, and astronomy. I doubt any serious student of ANY of these questions will gain anything from this book. Without any intended sarcasm, this is a book that might work for a high school "Introduction to philosophy" class. I am surprised that Chopra is as popular a writer as he is, tho being a best selling author isnt a usual quality of high spiritual attainment. Chopra's book titles like "Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire", "Creating Affluence", "Uncondistional Life" or "Golf for Enlightenment" are probibly as spiritual as they sound. (To this guy, they sound like writings done by fundamentalist televangalists who preach affluence.) I'm not convinced Chopra's spiritual attainment is that advanced, since he seems immured in materialistic topics. As for Mlodinow, he helped Steven Hawkings writing "An even shorter History of Time". And this might be why his writings at least have a grounding in the philosophical logic, that any philosophical argument requires to produce some wisdom. Altho I dont agree with his concept of religion, at least he understands science. He's the only reason the book isnt a total disaster. But his offerings here are not enough to save the dialouge. There are books in the world that address the topics within WAR OF THE WORLDVIEWS with more rational, well thought out approaches. Those would be much better reads. But honestly, unless you're a huge fan of Chopra's writings, I'd avoid this disaster.

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