“Charles Darwin was wrong,” declared Deepak Chopra, M.D. (the subject of this issue’s “Listening in With ...”), at the India Today Conclave this past year. “Consciousness is key to evolution, and we will soon prove that.”
The neuroendocrinologist’s words ignited a firestorm of personal criticism from Steven Newton at the National Center for Science Education. Other consciousness researchers, including Stuart Hameroff, M.D., director of the Center for Consciousness Studies at Banner University Medical Center at the University of Arizona in Tucson, then weighed in on Chopra’s side. The debate continued online for months. Clearly, the idea that something more than random mutation and natural selection may be the driving force behind how species change and adapt over time is now a hot-button issue.
Are Chopra and his colleagues cutting-edge or crazy? Clearly, our thoughts and emotions do have considerable sway over our destiny—after all, most of our cultural and behavioral choices aren’t driven by what will build a more robust gene pool. The argument is about how far-reaching the mind’s effects might be.
“This process that we call the mind—which is embodied and relational— influences the biology of everything that’s happening in our world today,” Chopra explained during his address. “We have a collective conversation, and we have a global brain. And this global brain is evolving so fast right now that it’s moving in two directions ... We could go the way of extinction or we have the technology for the first time to create a critical mass of people who are thinking in terms of peace, harmony, social justice, economic justice, sustainability, and conflict resolution. Do we have the creativity? Yes. Do we have the will? We don’t know. We’ll see.”
In my discussion with Chopra—which touched on epigenetics, bioelectric medicine, the human microbiome, and even a new field called interactive neurobiology (which studies how we not only influence but also regulate each other’s emotions)—Chopra proposes some fascinating out-of-the-box ideas about the nature of consciousness and what it means for our future.
Frankly, I’m casting my lot with the camp that holds that we are not victim to random factors, that we do have an effect (even if one we don’t fully comprehend or aren’t fully conscious of) on both our individual lives and what will become of our planet.
Of course, that would mean some heady responsibility rests on our shoulders. But I believe we’re up for it. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be in front of us. I’ve had too many signs from the universe when all looked dark that “though this be madness, yet there is method in’t” (thanks, William Shakespeare).
So do we have the creativity? Yes. Do we have the will?
Katy Koontz, Editor