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4.0 out of 5 stars Deepak's Flashy Style No Match for Leonard's Powerful Substance, October 8, 2011
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This review is from: War of the Worldviews: Science Vs. Spirituality (Hardcover)
War of the Worldviews: Science Vs. Spirituality by Deepak Chopra and Leonard Mlodinow

"War of the Worldviews" is an interesting debate on two worldviews: science and spirituality. On the side for science is Leonard Mlodinow a theoretical physicist and an accomplished author in his own right. While in defense of spirituality is the well-known author and internist Deepak Chopra. The debaters tackle on eighteen topics that cover a wide spectrum of the human experience. This surprisingly even-handed 336 page-book is broken out in the following five parts: Part I. The War, Part II. Cosmos, Part III. Life, Part IV. Mind and Brain., and Part V. God.

In order to make this review more comprehensive and useful, I have broken out the positives and negatives section by General, Deepak and Leonard.

Positives General:
1. A civil debate covering fascinating topics.
2. Both debaters established fairly early their worldviews. Deepak's position is that higher consciousness is the key to obtaining knowledge while Leonard defends science as the best tool to find the truths about our world.
3. Fair format, both debaters alternated.
4. Many fascinating topics.
5. Thought-provoking essays.
6. Both debaters are very accomplished authors and thinkers.
7. A lot of great insight of the brain, neuroscience.

Positives Deepak:
1. Deepak's strengths: friendly-approachable demeanor, accepts evolution, has panache, able to mask his beliefs in a scientific-sounding manner with ease, and has a positive outlook.
2. Accepts science as a viable partner.
3. Provides a new creation story. Not buying it but some interesting thoughts. "Spirituality hold that consciousness is basic to creation".
4. Makes a lot of thought-provoking comments regarding consciousness, "everything we experience occurs in consciousness; therefore, there is no reality 'out there,' divorced from consciousness.
5. Give Deepak credit he didn't shy away from criticizing religion and uses science skillfully to do so: " Having declared the creator perfect, religion couldn't call God's creation imperfect; therefore, the universe didn't need to evolve, either. But the rise of intelligent life from primitive life-forms is undeniable".
6. It takes skill to defend your position with what appears to be science..."Spirituality will win the struggle for the future by restoring consciousness to evolution". Hmm, hey I don't understand his logic but I admire his passion.
7. Deepak is clever too, " But people don't use subjectivity to measure time; we use it to experience time".
8. Deepak is much better at asking the tough questions than answering them. "Where did DNA come from?"
9. Deepak is skilled at appealing to common sense notions even if it is flawed.
10. Deepak shows off style but does it really have substance?, "Science can make life better in material ways, but no one could say that the world is suffering from a lack of materialism; in fact, the world is suffering from the exact opposite: a lack of self-knowledge".
11. Claims that spirituality comes closer to science than religious faith, well that's positive. It still isn't science though...
12. The clever Deepak even attempts to find an opening for spirituality in the genetics world.
13. Deepak does make some good points regarding how chemicals keep track of time.
14. A good point regarding selfish genes. Even Dawkins had reservations about the title of book.
15. Feedback loops is an interesting concept.
16. Deepak's spiritual approach is very positive. Kudos for that.
17. Since science admits we don't know much about the world of consciousness, Deepak masterfully incorporates his worldview. The "hard problem"...
18. Once again let me give Deepak credit for defending the indefensible. It takes a lot of mental gymnastics to pull off such a feat but somehow Deepak does. He provides a map to a journey of higher consciousness...
19. "We must free ourselves from the burden of religious dogma" I don't turn your back on materialism.
20. Deepak I may disagree with you...but I give you credit, the ten qualities of pure consciousness.
21. "All experience occurs in consciousness". The unrelenting Deepak. "Reality is pure consciousness".
22. Another tough question, "Where do qualia come from?"
23. Positive outlook.

Positives Leonard:
1. Leonard's strengths: methodical, bright, able to convey difficult subjects to the masses, never overextends himself and limits what we do know versus what we don't, realist and a humanist.
2. Leonard defends the scientific method with gusto.
3. The scientific method works!
4. "In science it is only the evidence that matters". Amen...ummm, scratch that last part.
5. Provides many great examples of scientific discoveries.
6. Quantum theory in its proper perspective.
7. Leonard attacks consciousness straight forward never once extending science beyond what it knows. And posits interesting questions that Deepak can't answer scientifically, "If the universe is conscious, how can we tell?
8. Evolution in its proper perspective. "Natural selection is what makes evolution more than just a random process". The purposeless laws of nature...
9. Deepak's first cause argument debunked.
10. Has the guts to take the tough stance, "It takes special courage to instead believe in science--to face the fact that after death our bodies return to the temperature of the inanimate objects around us, that we and our loved ones reach equilibrium with our environment, that we again become one with the dust".
11. Good quotes, "Biologists tell us that the designer of life was not a being, but the environment".
12. Argument from design debunked.
13. Language as an inherently human experience.
14. Free will debunked don't go there Deepak.
15. Great defense of materialism even when he doesn't use the term.
16. Great chapter on genes. The fact that our ancestors needed a tail and we still have the gene for making one is enlightening indeed!
17. Good explanations on altruism.
18. Makes it very clear what we do know and what we don't know about consciousness. I admire that trait. We know very little about the "felt quality".
19. Great section on Mind and Brain, one of my favorites. Debunks the Aristotelian worldview of purpose in the universe. Worth the price of the book.
20. One of the strongest rebuttals against mind -brain dualism, "split-brains".
21. The power of oxytocin.
22. Another great quote, "But if Deepak is right about a universal consciousness, and that the universe is loving through us, then it must also be hating through us, murdering and destroying through us, doing all the things that humans do in addition to loving, including the acts that blew up my mother's faith in God".
23. The mind is the phenomenon of the brain.
24. "You might believe in an afterlife, but you're in no rush to perform the one experiment that could tell you if you are right". Good one...
25. NDEs and OBEs and their causes.
26. A look at how we come to beliefs.
27. "Science is open to new truths. What it resists is accepting untruths". Excellent quote.
28. Consciousness is science's last frontier.
29. A worldview grounded in observation and evidence.

Negatives General:
1. The format though fair as debaters alternated, didn't work as well as I had hoped. It seemed at times, as if the debaters were not debating but stating their position in an essay.
2. No bibliography or notes, a shame.
3. I would have added a couple of wildcard topics or a section where a blow-by-blow debate actually occurred.

Negatives Deepak:
1. I have to say it...but spirituality until it's able to come up with hypothesis that is falsifiable is in essence pseudoscience. Deepak is very adept at making his claims sound science friendly but when you dig a little deeper you are dealing with pseudoscience.
2. Key definitions were lacking, what is a spirit? If you claim that some immaterial spirit or soul is ultimately controlling the actions of the brain, you have to ask yourself, how does this immaterial thing that carries no energy or momentum provide energy and momentum to particles in the brain? What characteristics does a spirit have that would enable you to know objectively that it exists let alone what mechanism would allow it to operate in the material world?
3. "Science lost its sense of awe, increasingly seeing Nature as a force to be opposed and conquered..." nothing can be further from the truth. Leonard clearly shows this not to be the case, it's his awe of nature that lead him to science to begin with. Really Deepak?? In fact, here is a direct quote from Leonard, "The universe is an awe-inspiring place, especially for those who know something about it. The more we learn, the more astonishing it seems".
4. "But here the superstition of materialism breaks down..." superstition??
5. Deepak said Jesus was a scientist...honestly?
6. The fact that science hasn't been able to explain consciousness doesn't mean it belongs in the supernatural realm. Our world is full of examples that once were attributed to the supernatural and now have been fully explained by science.
7. Too many times Deepak makes comments that seem to have come out of the side of his mouth instead of being dare I say it "conscious" about it, consider when Deepak calls the scientific explanation of how we got her "science's creation myth". Really? Come on Deepak...
8. Deepak just frustrates me at times, consider this. "When you and I can experience the timeless, then phrases like "eternal life," "the immortal soul," and "a transcendent God" aren't just wishful thinking. When we look at it closely, eternity doesn't mean a long, long, long time. It means a reality where time is not present". Oh my science!
9. Deepak makes claims he can't support with science. Answers that lie in the realm of consciousness?? As of yet, nothing sufficiently profound has resulted from such a claim.
10. Once again Deepak overextends himself. "He (Deepak) says that to look for the physical basis of humanity's essence will fail, because we are unpredictable, and "unpredictability destroys all forms of determinism" and so is "fatal for physical explanations." That's not in fact true. Quantum theory, for example, is famous for the limits it places on predictability, and physicists do fine with that".
11. "Today evolution is bringing people closer to God". Really Deepak, have you been in America? Of course you have, this is an unforgiveable comment!
12. Spirituality can be seen as a higher form of evolution, best described as "metabiological"--beyond biology". Oh no he didn't?!
13. "You cannot explain this kind of self-sacrifice as contributing to survival; the bee is dead". And I thought Deepak understood evolution.
14. Oh here we go again..."The human brain, like the universe itself, delivers whatever you expect it to, in accordance with your deepest beliefs". Really Deepak?
15. Deepak believes that the brain is the puppet of the immaterial mind. There is no evidence that, our brains are controlled by something outside of them but in the case of Deepak...
16. "The mind has looked deeply into itself and discovered its source, which is transcendent". What does this even means?
17. "The fine-tuned universe"...the universe wasn't fine tuned with us in mind, we evolved into it. If anything the cosmos appears to be fine-tuned for black holes.

Negatives Leonard:
1. A little more passion. A bit too controlled for me but it's effective.

In summary, let me use an analogy from boxing to describe this book. Deepak is that flashy boxer, he has a lot of moves, he talks a big fight but once he gets into the ring all he does is dance, he connects a couple of jabs and he smiles to the audience every time he lands an otherwise ineffective punch. Leonard on the other hand, is methodical, the technician, he lands his jabs and follows up with effective blows to the midsection. He lands the bigger punches and proceeds to wear down the opponent until he lands the final blows that forces the end of the match. Honestly, that's how I saw it. Deepak provided style while Leonard provided the substance; and substance carries more weight. The book is worth 4.5 stars, Deepak's misrepresentations keeps the book from getting 5. Leonard by technical knockout! Has a ring to it doesn't it?

Further suggestions: "The Believing Brain" by Michael Shermer, "The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning" by Victor Stenger, "Physics of the Future" by Michio Kaku, "SuperSense" by Bruce M. Hood, "Human" by Michael Gazzaniga, "Hardwired Behavior" by Laurence Tancredi, "Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us about Morality" by Patricia S. Churchland, "The Blank Slate" by Steven Pinker and "The Brain and the Meaning of Life" by Paul Thagard.
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Showing 1-10 of 29 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 9, 2011 3:42:34 AM PDT
peter veitch says:
thanks for a well thought out review, some of the others, dare I say it were a bit too keen to award "even points" , perhaps out of courtesy. I have heard deepak in various videos and I think he ventures into "woo-woo" too much. Still sounds like there is enough there to justify getting the book, thanks for review

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 9, 2011 2:20:06 PM PDT
Book Shark says:
Peter thanks. The book is worth getting. The parts are much better than the whole. Some sections are priceless and worth the knowledge. In Deepak's defense he asks a lot of tough questions but doesn't provide compelling answers. In fact he makes many claims without scientific evidence. On the other hand, Leonard answers what science knows with conviction and has the humility to state what science hasn't figured out. Deepak as most theologians have done over time, inserts "spirituality" into those gaps. He is adept at making his claims sound science-friendly when in fact they are not. There is a long history of gaps of knowledge that were once explained away by theology and superstitions only to have science find a natural explanation for. One of the last bastions is consciousness, and given enough time science will figure it out too but until we know for sure it's only prudent to reserve judgment.

"Science is certain of nothing and requires proof of everything.
Faith is certain of everything and requires proof of nothing."

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 12, 2011 1:17:10 AM PDT
Kieran Fox says:
great review man!

Posted on Oct 19, 2011 6:10:59 PM PDT
Quotidian says:
Very helpful review. One comment: "until spirituality is able to come up with hypothesis that is falsifiable is in essence pseudoscience." But - it is not an objective science and never will be. In this discipline, the subject is the object.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 20, 2011 4:44:35 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Oct 20, 2011 4:44:50 PM PDT]

Posted on Oct 21, 2011 9:20:05 AM PDT
Drew Hensley says:
I think you science minded people are more obsessed with religion and spirituality than us spiritual people. If you don't believe in God and mysticism or in religion then just leave it alone. You are either trying really hard to not believe in it or can't tolerate the fact that someone disagrees with you. The truth is you people who make a big debate about this are epistemically challenged. You have to have proof for everything you believe. That's PATHETIC!

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 21, 2011 7:20:21 PM PDT
Book Shark says:

Talking for myself. I care about the truth. I care that my worldview represents reality as closely as possible. Some may have a personal relationship with their "gods", you can say that I have one with reality. With respect to the gods, there is NO compelling evidence for them. What in the world is a spirit? What objective evidence do you have that it even exists?

Faith is what you need when you don't have certainty. The more you learn, the less you need to believe. Beliefs serve no purpose...knowledge does. If one must have faith to believe in something, then it's likely that something is not true.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 22, 2011 8:40:19 AM PDT
Drew Hensley says:
"The more you learn, the less you need to believe." I think this is a total fallacy. You do believe in something - you believe in science and the material world. You believe as much as I do. You and your ilk act like this science v religion/spirituality is a brain contest, a chess match. Not what it is. It is a matter of people with different perspectives showing that there is an interpretation that supports their worldview. This is NOT a contest. People like me need a way of understanding the facts that fits our worldview. I believe with my whole person -mind, spirit, emotions, and body. You are using but one part of your being - your logical component.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 22, 2011 9:17:13 AM PDT
Book Shark says:

It's more than just a's a trust. I trust science as the best mechanism available to reach the truths about our world.

<<I believe with my whole person -mind, spirit, emotions, and body. You are using but one part of your being - your logical component.>>

Mind is the product of the brain, no mind. I have no idea what a spirit is. On a more personal level, emotions are important. We are finding out more and more that emotions are a component of decision-making, but that is at the personal level. And of course the body. All that being said, it's the spiritual component that is incomprehensible to me.

I do appreciate your comments Vegan-Analysis. I'm on a quest for knowlege, and I welcome others to comment. I'm here to learn so if you can add something of "substance" with regards to spirits, please do. It's a concept that is foreign to me. What constitues a spirit? What characteristics does a spirit have that would enable me to know objectively that it exists, let alone how it can interact with the natural world?

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 22, 2011 11:23:58 AM PDT
Drew Hensley says:
"I do appreciate your comments Vegan-Analysis. I'm on a quest for knowlege, and I welcome others to comment. I'm here to learn so if you can add something of "substance" with regards to spirits, please do."

I don't mean to insult you. I'm just not sure there is room for a dialogue of the sort attempted in this book. The above comment illustrates my point. We are polarized. There isn't enough common ground for a dialogue, but now I'm just curious enough to but the book, so I guess your review was helpful.

To me spirit is the part of you that is connected to God. This is the part of me that keeps saying God is real, God is here, have faith. It is not subject to scientific analysis - electrical, chemical reactions in my brain can be studied, but you can't study my perception of God - that's my experience, not yours.
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