But I'm ready to declare a clear winner: Mlodinow.
Highlighter in hand, I'm filling the pages Chopra authored with marginal question marks. By contrast, so far I haven't found anything obviously questionable in what Mlodinow wrote. That's because science sticks with facts, by and large, while spirituality is prone to fluttering all over the place with ethereal unproven pronouncements.
You should make up your own mind, though. That's the best thing about this highly readable and well-organized book: it serves as a literary Rorschach test for where someone falls on the science vs. spirituality balance beam.
Meaning, I'm finding that my reactions to the Chopra/Mlodinow mini-debates (such as "How did the universe emerge?" "Is the universe conscious?" "Is the universe evolving?") are as much emotional as rational.
I'll feel irritated or pleased upon reading a passage before I'll start thinking about the truth or falsity of what Chopra or Mlodinow said.
Before I opened up the book, I expected that I'd agree quite a bit with Chopra's spirituality, since he isn't a dogmatic theistic fundamentalist but more of a "All is One" sort of guy. However, after my true believing days I must have gone over more to the scientific side than I knew, judging from the aforementioned question marks that fill the pages where Chopra expresses his viewpoint.
So I recommend this book to anyone who is unsure where they stand on the Big Questions of Life, which likely includes most readers of this blog.
One of my favorite sayings is, "I don't know." It bothers me when Chopra pretends that he knows, whereas Mlodinow readily admits when science doesn't have the answer to some question -- while being optimistic that the truth eventually will be revealed.
It's difficult to summarize even the four chapters I've read so far, because the subjects addressed are so meaty tofuy. I'm sure I'll have more to say about the book in another blog post. For now I'll simply share some of the Chopra passages that elicited a marginal question mark, along with my reason (in italics) for giving Deepak a big ???.
(1) "The worldview [science] that triumphed over religion..." Huh? The vast majority of people in the world are religious believers. In the United States you couldn't be elected president if you're not religious, but the Republican candidates are showing that being anti-science is highly popular with a distressingly large proportion of voters.
(2) "The cosmos is ruled by creativity." Who says? Where's the evidence? Coming up with a catchy phrase (one of Chopra's talents) isn't the same as speaking the truth.
(3) "To arrive at DNA, life on Earth, and the human mind, the universe was self-aware and could understand what it was doing." Again, what's the evidence for this? It's a stretch to even say that the universe is conscious in some sense. But to claim that the cosmos is self-aware, purposeful, creative, capable of understanding what it is doing -- there's little difference between this viewpoint and traditional religious dogma about a personal creator-god.
(4) "If consciousness underlies everything in Nature, it is the force that directs evolution. If not, then evolution becomes, along with everything else, the result of blind random activity." That's two if's too many. And the second if reveals Chopra's ignorance about how biological evolution operates (Mlodinow points out that Chopra mostly uses "evolution" in a popular sense, as progress, rather than what is meant by Darwin's theory). Natural selection is anything but blind and random. As Mlodinow says, "Natural selection is a process by which organisms better able to cope with their environment tend to have more offspring, which creates a new generation that on average has more traits favorable to survival than reproduction than the last."
(5) "The field of neuroscience has largely accepted that the mind doesn't exist but is merely a by-product of the brain." Untrue. Neuroscience says that the mind is what the brain does, in much the same sense as walking is what legs do. Chopra wants us to believe that the mind exists separately from what brains do, which, I guess, implies that walking exists separately from what legs do.