Tag Archives: nature of reality

Can the Truth Come Back With a Capital “T”? (Part 3)

I miss you my master........Click here to read Part 2!

By Deepak Chopra, M.D., Menas C. Kafatos, Ph.D., P. Murali Doraiswamy, MBBS, Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D., Neil Theise, MD

If you propose that Truth with a capital T might return into our lives, like a speck on the horizon that gets bigger and bigger, many would prefer to swat the speck away. For one thing, Truth veers uncomfortably close to God. When Stephen Hawking was promoting his most recent book, The Grand Design, he held a press conference that created a headline shot around the world: “Science Makes God Unnecessary.” Hawking’s popular authority gave weight to a common sentiment. Even among scientists who are devoutly religious, nobody claims that God is necessary when it comes to doing science. (This assumes, as many religions do, that God is an external being, in essence an independent force outside the forces that physics study.)

But ruling out an independent, controlling Creator God-in-the-Sky doesn’t keep the speck on the horizon from steadily getting bigger. The speck is consciousness, which will become the basis of Truth with a capital T if human knowledge keeps unfolding as it has been. Science at its core is a mental activity, but scientists traditionally have shown a persistent aversion to discussing the mind, relegating the topic to philosophers and, most recently, to brain researchers, who claim that they are examining what appears to be the physical vessel of mind.

Physicists make theories about and measure external reality as such; for them, the “real” begins with the observable and quantifiable universe. Measurable physical quantities exist within space and time, into which are embedded all manner of things, such as elementary particles. They of course hold the view that physical universe won’t evaporate into clouds of fantasy or metaphysics. The constituents of the physical universe don’t depend on what you or I think. But, you might counter, isn’t thinking what consciousness is all about?

Not really.

There’s a sound reason for why the speck on the horizon showed up in the first place. The universe, like a comic-book superhero, needs an origins story. God once provided the best possible origins story, since an omniscient Creator in the sky could explain not just the beginning of the universe, but good and evil, life after death, reward and punishment, and why sex causes problems. For modern science, an origins story isn’t remotely so thorough. It is actually just one piece in a jigsaw puzzle. A host of other pieces are already in place, specifically the mathematics that explains electromagnetism and the strong and weak force – three of the four fundamental forces in nature, awaiting only gravity to complete the picture. As these calculations were being refined – a century’s worth of brilliant work – the origins story of the cosmos was jiggered to fit.

So far, consciousness still remains out of the picture of a physical universe, which most scientists are willing to consider. The evidence for the Big Bang (as a theory to how the universe began) is overwhelming, and even though we don’t have good evidence regarding the exact instant of the expansion, its beginning – currently held to be 13.7 billion years ago – set the cosmic clock ticking. There’s your origins story, an unimaginable explosion of space-time, in Einstein’s general relativity, that started the mighty expansion that created all matter and energy.

In any case, modern cosmology, a branch of physics, has been triumphant in telling the story of creation, so with a little patience researchers using billion-dollar machines will accumulate more data like the highly publicized proof of the Higgs boson, or “God particle,” hoping that, then, the picture will be complete. But this begs the question of what came before the Big Bang – a topic, like consciousness, that most scientists relegate to being inappropriate for study by others than philosophers. But shouldn’t scientists themselves be intensely curious to find out what happened before time and space began?

For some far-seeing thinkers, however, this is a “not so fast” moment. What does it mean to complete our picture of the universe? Are we simply missing a few pieces of a largely completed jigsaw puzzle? Have we reached the end of science where everything but a couple of nagging questions remain? Or have we actually failed to account for a vast and significant piece of the universe – consciousness – because the topic wasn’t placed on the scientific “to do” list? Perhaps their difficulty arises because consciousness and “what came before the Big Bang” might be related subjects.
Stay tuned for Part 4!

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Deepak Chopra, MD is the author of more than 70 books with twenty-one New York Times bestsellers, including co-author with Sanjiv Chopra, MD of Brotherhood: Dharma, Destiny, and The American Dream, and co-author with Rudolph Tanzi of Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-being (Harmony). Chopra serves as Founder of The Chopra Foundation and host of Sages and Scientists Symposium – August 16-18, 2013 at La Costa Resort and Spa.

Menas Kafatos, Ph.D., Fletcher Jones Endowed Professor in Computational Physics, Director of the Center of Excellence at Chapman University, co-author with Deepak Chopra of the forthcoming book, Who Made God and Other Cosmic Riddles. (Harmony)

P. Murali Doraiswamy, MBBS, FRCP, Professor of Psychiatry, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina and a leading physician scientist in the area of mental health, cognitive neuroscience and mind-body medicine.

Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D., Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology at Harvard University, and Director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), co-author with Deepak Chopra of Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-being. (Harmony)

Neil Theise, MD, Professor, Pathology and Medicine, (Division of Digestive Diseases) and Director of the Liver and Stem Cell Research Laboratory, Beth Israel Medical Center — Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York.www.neiltheise.com

Can the Truth Come Back With a Capital “T”? (Part 1)

Screen Shot 2013-07-08 at 3.57.19 PMBy Deepak Chopra, M.D., Menas C. Kafatos, Ph.D., P. Murali Doraiswamy, MBBS, and Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D.

In a sense, the modern world was created with a simple editing stroke when Truth lost its capital “T.” Instead of pursuing the Truth, along a hundred paths stemming from philosophy and religion, the rise of Newtonian science and the Age of Reason taught us to seek lower-case truth, which consists of a body of verifiable facts. We have inherited a suspicion about absolute Truth that can be heard in everyday speech. How often do people say, “Well, it’s all relative” and “There’s no such thing as truth with a capital ‘T’.” Between them, relativism and the mountain of empirical data assembled by science have suffocated the notion of Truth. Many truths have emerged, truth about the best form of government, about the value of free markets, etc.

The search for lower-case truth is no less ambitious than the search for God, the soul, higher consciousness, and a transcendent reality that lies beyond the physical world. Those were the basic elements of Truth as it was revered in the past but repudiated by science. We think it’s valuable to try and reconcile science and spirituality, but let’s skip over that for the moment. The truly important issue is to know if we should be going after truths or the Truth. It’s a question that touches everyone’s life personally, because in hidden ways our whole lives are governed by what we believe about truth. Is it just a mass of verifiable facts? Or are facts secondary to an overarching truth that people should live by as they once lived by faith in God an adherence to religious rules?

We’re not proposing the return of religion in its former guise, or making a back-door argument for a new kind of worship. (Ironically, many of the old religious views held that God is an external fact, as the universe is held to be external now.) When it had a capital “T”, truth defined the essence of reality. To say, “God created the world in seven days” was a foundation of reality, an absolute that was superior to everything else that might be observed in the physical world. This literal interpretation was of course contradicted by the findings of science. To a religionist, however, if a fossil dating back a hundred million years contradicted the Book of Genesis, faith required an argument that preserved the absolute Truth, no matter what the cost in rationality.

It hardly needs saying that science turned this scheme on its head, and now we know better than to accept any absolutes about the nature of reality. Not only have God, the soul, and higher worlds flown the coop, when science itself proposes to formulate laws of nature, such as gravity and the speed of light, these new absolutes are open to question. Time and space were absolutes in Newton’s classical physics until Einstein proposed his General Theory of Relativity. Now, at the cutting edge of cosmology research, the discovery that dark matter and dark energy may exist, and if so, they constitute 96% of the creation that emerged after the Big Bang, threatens to overturn the apple cart once again. It has raised doubts, for example, about the accepted truth that gravity dominates the universe and that energy only has positive values.

At first glance, the toppling of old verities seems merely technical. Ordinary life isn’t impacted by contending theories of quantum gravity and superstrings. Dark energy, if indeed it exists, is pulling the expanding universe apart at an accelerating rate, a startling finding that has profound consequences for how the cosmos might end, but who will be around billions of years from now when the end-point arrives? Anyway, quantum physics, which replaced Newtonian mechanics in the great quantum revolution of the early twentieth century, basically states that what the senses perceive is not reality itself, reinforcing the view that the Truth either doesn’t exist or is inaccessible. In a word, there is no place in a sea of constant change for anything absolute.

Despite the profoundly different world view that quantum mechanics ushered in, most scientists still practice science as conceived by the now outdated classical physics, believing resolutely that their task is to gather facts about fixed objects, akin to Newton’s falling apple or billiard balls bouncing off one another in a dance of cause and effect. This kind of science finds itself in a troubling place when it comes to explaining reality, however. New findings about the very early phases of the universe are already nibbling away at the edges of the three foundational principles that all of science is based on:

  1. There is an objective universe “out there,” external to observers.
  2. The universe reveals itself through the collecting of facts, measurements, and data.
  3. Once enough objective data has been assembled, we will understand the universe completely, which is the same as saying that we will understand reality.

These statements are the equivalent of holy writ for scientists; they are assumed without question to be valid, and as anyone can attest who has mounted an argument that doesn’t depend upon these principles, cries of heresy arise. It is strange that these cries of heresy seem to ignore quantum theory and its profoundly different world view. Rational researchers suddenly become hot-headed and ad hominem. One is quickly branded an enemy of science. When tempers cool, personal hostility turns into a more rational dismissal: To speak of a reality beyond the physical universe, one that isn’t known by collecting data, is simply “not science,” “metaphysics,” or even worse, “pseudoscience.”

In this series of posts we’d like to formulate a new picture of truth that replaces the flawed principles of science as it exists today. What is needed is an expanded science that grows out of facing – and correcting – some mistaken beliefs. Science follows wherever reality leads it. We think that reality has led to a place that isn’t explained by quantum mechanics alone. A new set of principles is needed to replace the current ones.

(To be continued.)

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Deepak Chopra , MD is the author of more than 70 books with twenty-one New York Times bestsellers, including co-author with Sanjiv Chopra, MD of Brotherhood: Dharma, Destiny, and The American Dream, and co-author with Rudolph Tanzi of Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-being (Harmony). Chopra serves as Founder of The Chopra Foundation and host of Sages and Scientists Symposium – August 16-18, 2013 at La Costa Resort and Spa.

Menas Kafatos, Ph.D., Fletcher Jones Endowed Professor in Computational Physics, Director of the Center of Excellence at Chapman University, is co-author with Deepak Chopra of the forthcoming book, Who Made God and Other Cosmic Riddles. (Harmony)

P. Murali Doraiswamy, MBBS, FRCP, Professor of Psychiatry, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina and a leading physician scientist in the area of mental health, cognitive neuroscience and mind-body medicine.

Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D., Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology at Harvard University, and Director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), is co-author with Deepak Chopra of Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-being. (Harmony)

Deepak Chopra: What Is Ultimate Reality?

It is an interesting paradox that science finds itself in. Science says that there is an observer-independent reality and you do not need a conscious observer to manifest reality. At the same time without an observer this reality is not testable, so it cannot exist. In this episode of “Ask Deepak” on The Chopra Well, Deepak discusses scientific contradiction of ultimate reality.

In science, anything that is not testable is considered invalid. Science depends on empirical facts based on observations. If we propose an observer-independent reality, we must realize that an observer-independent reality is not testable. So according to the current principles of science, we cannot say it exists. A scientific conclusion would be that an observer-independent reality does not exist. But is this really the case?

Subscribe to The Chopra Well and let’s keep this discussion going!

Deepak Chopra: Tweets from the Cosmos – Tune In

Screen Shot 2013-06-17 at 12.38.08 PMWhen Twitter first appeared, I responded to its idealistic side, which aimed to form a global community that could create change beyond national boundaries. Tweets are now used for a million reasons that don’t aim as high. But it occurred to me that tweeting might be an excellent way to test the shift in consciousness that has been long awaited and equally long pooh poohed.

Who is right, the skeptics who see no evidence that consciousness is rising on a mass scale or the futurists who foresee a completely altered humanity? It’s impossible to measure such a huge phenomenon, but I decided to start small. On a daily basis for the past two or three years I’ve tweeted about cosmic consciousness, mind outside the brain, the nature of reality, the failure of materialism to explain awareness, and other Big Ideas on the edge of acceptability by mainstream science.

To my surprise, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Each tweet starts a dialogue almost the instant the tweet starts circulating. Naysayers and skeptics also participate, but instead of dominating the conversation – or crushing it – which is what you’d find in official scientific circles, the main result is open, eager curiosity.

Here are the three most popular tweets from a day last week:

Photons have neither color nor brightness. The world is made manifest through the light of awareness.

Taking existence for granted & assuming that science or religion are the path to truth are the greatest impediments to awakening.

The perceived physical world is a representation of a perceiving physical brain. Both the world and brain are immaterial in their essence.

Although each one states my own viewpoint, the statements are broad enough to be good debating topics, and each touches on a mystery that needs exploration.

1. Light is transmitted as quanta known as photons, which strike the retina and travel through a complex processing in the visual cortex to produce the experience of brightness in the world. But photons are not bright themselves, or dark. So how does the world “out there” light up?

2.  Science and religion both claim to offer a form of enlightenment. The scientific version consists of a rational explanation of all natural phenomena, along with the attendant elimination of superstition and other irrational beliefs. Religion’s version is a clear connection to God and the higher reality represented by divinity. If you assume that these opposing choices are the right answer, or if you turn your back on the whole issue, no form of awakening is possible.  The mystery is to find a way forward that makes enlightenment real and personal.

3. There is a long tradition in philosophy and mystical religion that sees the physical world as either an illusion or something unprovable. Against this tradition stands materialism, which takes as its first premise the reality of the physical universe. But this common-sense stance solves nothing. Reality must be processed by the brain before it can be experienced or measured. There is no objective platform outside the brain where we can stand and see the real for what it is. This fact upsets conventional science but has become a fruitful seed for thinkers who want to solve the mind-brain problem.

As you can see, the topics aren’t easy, yet a wide range of responses soon crops up. Since a tweet can be no longer than 140 characters, it engages those who understand my position along with those who ask, “What’s he smoking?” and others who just offer abuse. A twitter following of 1.5 million has burgeoned around these discussions, which rolls forward by a thousand people every day, often several times a day. I’ve come to believe that moment-to-moment engagement is what forms a community that transcends not just boundaries but the constraints of conditioned thinking. Those constraints are the main obstacle, not religious or political opinions, to a new level of consciousness everywhere.

 

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