Respectful Insolence

He’s baaaack.

Deepak Chopra. Remember him? It’s been a while since I’ve said much about him and him alone. True, I’ve gone after him this year when he joined up with three other major league woo-meisters Dean Ornish, Rustum Roy, and Andrew Weil to try to try to help Senator Tom Harkin hijack the health care overhaul bill currently before Congress. However, given that a couple of years ago, Chopra was the man for whose abuses of quantum theory, evolution, and “universal consciousness” ideas I coined the term “Choprawoo” and the only response ever needed to Choprawoo, it’s been a while since I’ve seen a true example of Chopra exercising his anti-skeptical chops outside of medicine.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view), Chopra’s back and badder than ever (as in really bad, not baaad) when it comes to critical thinking. This time, he’s very unhappy. What’s he unhappy about? He’s most displeased with us nasty, reductionist skeptics, because we’re such a bummer, maaaan. Showing absolutely that has learned absolutely nothing about science or critical thinking since I last took him to task for his attacks on skeptics and skepticism way back in 2005, Chopra recently posted a brand new screed against skeptics. Whereas his last such screed was entitled Gadflies Without a Sting: The Downside of Skepticism, his new screed is entitled, most unoriginally, The Perils Of Skepticism. And where, you ask, did Chopra post this latest bit of Choprawoo? Where else, but that repository of all quackery, medical pseudoscience, and New Age mystical woo, The Huffington Post.

One thing that I was interested to learn is that Deepak Chopra is apparently sufficiently into himself that he has Google Alerts set up so that he knows when someone criticizes him:

If you’ve ever used Google Alert, you know the jolts it can deliver. Whenever anyone in the blogosphere decides to blow a poison dart your way, Google is happy to deliver the news, along with the more positive mentions, of course. Most of my stinging darts come from skeptics. Over the years I’ve found that ill-tempered guardians of scientific truth can’t abide speculative thinking. And as the renowned Richard Dawkins has proved, they are also very annoyed by a nuisance named God.

I can only hope that my post here pops up on Chopra’s Google Alert tomorrow so that he can partake of the insolence laid down by this particularly “ill-tempered guardian of scientific truth.” As usual, Chopra’s so wrong that he’s not even wrong, and he’s still got a bug up his butt about skeptics.

It’s not speculative thinking that skeptics and scientists dislike, nor is it speculative thinking that brings the contempt of skeptics down on Deepak Chopra. Really. We speculate all the time; I speculate about my research, about science in general, and about specific areas of science and skepticism that I’m interested in. What we don’t like is “speculative thinking” that is related to thinking by coincidence only. We can’t stand “speculative” thinking that demonstrates an incredible ignorance about science; for instance, Chopra’s attacks on evolution in which he tries to imbue DNA with intelligence, or at least portray it as an agent of the “consciousness” of the universe, and misrepresents some very basic aspects of genetics and molecular biology as he tries to argue that DNA can’t account for human intelligence. There’s informed speculation, which can be fascinating, educational, and fun, and there’s pulling it out of your ass. Guess which of these is what Chopra favors? It’s also interesting to note that, even now, three years after he attacked Richard Dawkins for The God Delusion, Chopra still seems to have a bug up his butt over atheists as well.

First, Chopra feigns concern for our health:

Statistically, cynical mistrust is correlated with premature sudden death from cardiovascular disease. Since the skeptics who write venomous blogs trust in nothing, I imagine that God will outlive them. In the interests of better health, these people should read scripture, or at least a poem, twice a day. Doctor’s orders.

Apparently Chopra really, really resents the skeptical bloggers who have taken him to task. I count myself among them, of course, which is why I resent Chopra’s claim that we skeptics “trust in nothing.” That is, of course, pure nonsense. We are human beings like anyone else. We trust in our friends; we trust each other; we trust the scientific method. What Chopra clearly appears to be doing is confusing trust with faith in the supernatural or just faith. Of course, he’d be wrong there, too, as I have faith in the scientific method. What I don’t have faith in is the sort of mystical New Age brain farts that Chopra and his ilk discharge with distressing regularity. Brain farts like this:

I’ve debated skeptics, including Richard Dawkins (I spoke with Dawkins for over 90 minutes on camera in Oxford. He extracted 30 seconds from the dialogue and dubbed me the enemy of science.) and I am amazed that they mistake self-righteousness for happiness.

I’m even more amazed that woo-meisters like Chopra mistake pseudoscientific mystical fantasies for actual science, but he never fails to bring the woo home. Chopra’s also far too modest. Dawkins didn’t paint him as an enemy of just science. He painted Chopra as an enemy of reason, and so he is, even as he sees himself as being science-based when nothing could be further from the truth, as this next passage demonstrates:

A sort of bitter satisfaction is what they reap. No skeptic, to my knowledge, ever made a major scientific discovery or advanced the welfare of others. Typically they sit by the side of the road with a sign that reads “You’re Wrong” so that every passerby, whether an Einstein, Gandhi, Newton, or Darwin, can gain the benefit of their illuminated skepticism. For make no mistake, the skeptics of the past were as eager to shoot down new theories as they are to worship the old ones once science has validated them.

Here we go again. Chopra appears to be confusing cynicism with skepticism. He really seems to think that the only joy out of life skeptics get is to tear down people like him. True, there is some fun to deconstructing particularly bad, logical fallacy-laden screeds such as this one by Chopra, but it’s even more fun to find good science, to explain to patients how science can change how we practice medicine or to try to make it comprehensible to readers (as I did with the recent USPSTF guidelines). In fact, I’ve been thinking about a comment one of our readers made yesterday, and I very well may base a post on it tomorrow. (I haven’t quite figured out how to respond yet, but it’s a discussion worth having; or my viewpoint is at least worth explaining. How’s that for a cryptic plug for tomorrow’s topic?)

I also find it profoundly insulting that Chopra apparently really thinks that no skeptic has ever made a scientific advance or advanced the welfare of others. True, he includes the weasel word “to my knowledge.” That may save Chopra because his knowledge base is clearly pretty thin, but it’s insulting nonetheless. Let me tell Chopra something: Each and every scientist who won the Nobel Prize was a skeptic! Every scientist who makes a major discovery is a skeptic! Indeed, Einstein, Newton, and Darwin were all skeptics! Why? Because major discoveries in science come from finding out something that significantly changes our understanding of a scientific issue. Such discoveries do not come from just accepting current science. They come from testing current science, finding areas that it does not explain very well, and then trying to fill in those gaps. They come from questioning the status quo.

In other words, they come from skepticism, fused with the scientific method to test hypotheses and to separate the wheat from the chaff. They most definitely do not come from Chopra’s fuzzy, woo-ey, mushy thinking, and they most definitely does not come from scientists who accept science as it is. As usual, Chopra is trying to conflate being so open-minded that your brains fall out with science. In reality, science requires open-mindedness, but too much open-mindedness leads to accepting pseudoscientific nonsense.

It leads you to becoming like Deepak Chopra.

It also, apparently, leads you to thinking that you have to accept woo to have a sense of “wonder”:

It never occurs to skeptics that a sense of wonder is paramount, even for scientists. Especially for scientists. Einstein insisted, in fact, that no great discovery can be made without a sense of awe before the mysteries of the universe. Skeptics know in advance — or think they know — what right thought is. Right thought is materialistic, statistical, data-driven, and always, always, conformist. Wrong thought is imaginative, provisional, often fantastic, and no respecter of fixed beliefs.

No sense of wonder? Come on! Wonder at the marvelous complexity of the human body and biology was part of what led me to become a physician and a scientist. Grudging awe at the seemingly indestructible complexity of cancer is what led me into cancer research. Moreover, skeptics’ don’t think they know what right thought is, at least not in terms of what that thought is. We do, however, recognize errors in how to analyze data and come to conclusions. We recognize where reason goes wrong. Chopra seems to think that anything goes when it comes to thought. Maybe it does, but all thought is not equal. In science, conclusions based on sound evidence and reasoning trump conclusions based on a self-proclaimed sense of wonder that probes no more deeply than what the woo-meister wants to believe. In art and poetry, the fantastic and creative can trump data. Chopra seems to think that it should be the same in all realms, but science is not art or poetry. Science is a means of understanding the principles by which the universe functions.

Of course, like all good cranks, Chopra concludes by a confident prediction that he will be vindicated, that the slings and arrows of those outrageous skeptics will bounce right off of him:

So whenever I find myself labeled the emperor of woo-woo, I pull out the poison dart and offer thanks that wrong thinking has gotten us so far. Thirty years ago no right-thinking physician accepted the mind-body connection as a valid, powerful mode of treatment. Today, no right-thinking physician (or very few) would trace physical illness to sickness of the soul, or accept that the body is a creation of consciousness, or tell a patient to change the expression of his genes. But soon these forms of wrong thinking will lose their stigma, despite the best efforts of those professional stigmatizers, the skeptics.

They thought me mad! Mad, I tell you!

Really, though. The problem with this statement is that it, like so much of alt-med and what alt-med boosters say, appropriates science, labels it “alternative,” and then charges with it straight into woo land. Just like alt-med practitioners represent diet and exercise for health as being somehow “alternative,” Chopra’s trying to lay claim to being “vindicated” about the mind-body connection because we understand more about how the brain affects health and vice-versa than we did 30 years ago. Then he goes straight off the cliff into a sea of woo by trying to claim that the body is a creation of consciousness, whatever that means, and that we can change our gene expression just by thought. It’s nothing more than mystical, magical thinking like The Secret wrapped in a flimsy veil of scientific-sounding jargon. Chopra thinks it’s science and views himself as a holy warrior against the “perils” of skepticism, but in reality he understands nothing.

Looking back at all I’ve read by Deepak Chopra and written about his nonsense over the last four years, one thing that amazes me is the utter consistency of his attacks on skepticism. For instance, read the post I fisked above, and then go back and read Chopra’s four-year-old screed against skepticism. Consider this sentence from the latter:

Worst of all, skeptics take pride in defending the status quo and condemn the kind of open-minded inquiry that peers into the unknown.

And there’s Chopra’s problem. He thinks that questioning the status quo is a good thing, and so it often is. However, he does not understand that just questioning is not enough. Anyone can come up with a half-baked “challenge” to the status quo. I could make up a half dozen challenges to various scientific theories in the next couple of minutes without breaking a sweat. Does that mean my speculations should be taken seriously, particularly if I have no evidence to back them up and little understanding of the issues involved? No! But Chopra engages in nothing but special pleading, apparently thinking that his views and those of woo-meisters like him, should be held to a different standard of evidence and taken seriously because they challenge the status quo. He thinks his pseudoscientific or even unscientific views of medicine and science should be considered on par with science-based medicine and existing science because…well…because he does.

I’m happy to diasbuse Chopra of that notion. Who knows? Maybe he’ll even see it on a Google Alerts.

Comments

  1. #1 Uniformed speculation
    December 2, 2009

    I would certainly take speculation more seriously when it wears a uniform; speculation in plainclothes is much less credible.

  2. #2 Aj
    December 2, 2009

    “As Deepak Chopra taught us, quantum physics means anything can happen at any time for no reason.”

    Sadly I suspect he would be far more pleased at getting a name check, than concerned that Futurama are calling him an idiot.

  3. #3 DLC
    December 2, 2009

    Get away from ze Chopra ! /Schwarzenegger

  4. #4 shawmutt
    December 2, 2009

    Thanks for the play by play. It took me three tries to get a comment approved on Huffenpuff, and the one they did approve said the least. They obviously don’t like dissenting opinion over there, which makes it perfect for the woo-meisters to publish crap without having to worry about being called on it.

    I hope Deepak Chopra does get these google news alerts. He’s unlikely to say anything for the next four years, or until he publishes his next book, but at least he can read the smack down!

  5. #5 attack_laurel
    December 2, 2009

    I never thought I’d be able to put Deepak Chopra and Glenn Beck in the same sentence, but they both seem to fall into the “I’m just asking questions!” logical fallacy. Coming up with ridiculous ideas and demanding that other people disprove them is not science, it’s fiction writing. And poor fiction writing at that. Chopra lacks plot.

    Are Giraffes our overlords, or is it really the Lizards?

    I’m just asking questions.

  6. #6 T. Bruce McNeely
    December 2, 2009

    Today, no right-thinking physician (or very few) would trace physical illness to sickness of the soul

    Oh yes, but that’s changing. Thirty years ago, peptic ulcer disease was thought to be caused by bacterial infection. Now we know that it’s caused by psychological stress.

    What?

  7. #7 Rob Monkey
    December 2, 2009

    Aj, the Great Atheismo approves of your quote :) That was one of the funniest Futurama moments ever, at least for us Orac readers.

    “Goodbye, cruel world. Goodbye, cruel lamp. Goodbye, cruel velvet drapes, lined with what would appear to be some sort of cruel muslin and the cute little pom-pom curtain pull cords. Cruel though they may be…”

  8. #8 St Thomas
    December 2, 2009

    For connoisseurs of woo, there is a whiney comment by Dana Ullman on that blog, complaining that he is being spanked by skeptics on his own blog.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/deepak-chopra/the-perils-of-skepticism_b_373788.html?page=2&show_comment_id=35447181#comment_35447181

  9. #9 Todd W.
    December 2, 2009

    @Orac

    I dunno, man. He may be onto something. I mean, I had a sense of wonder, but then I became a skeptic. Now I lead a dull, listless life. Seeing stunningly beautiful works of nature do not move me. I do not marvel at the complexity of the world around me. Music and poetry are merely background noise. Television and film hold nothing for me. When I design sets for the stage, not one iota of curiosity or creativity blips in my mind. In fact, this entire paragraph is utterly devoid of creativity, taking no thought or speculation on my part, clearly.

  10. #10 Anon
    December 2, 2009

    For some reason, Chopra posts make me miss Eneman.

  11. #11 Harry Plummer
    December 2, 2009

    I have always been very concerned with the ‘pop’ medicine spouted by Chopra and Weill. Just so much psychobabble mixed in with slogans. When you parse what they say it is very little and certainly not based on any rigorous study.
    Simply put – a load of twaddle!

  12. #12 Anton P. Nym
    December 2, 2009

    “It never occurs to skeptics that a sense of wonder is paramount, even for scientists.”

    Science + sense of wonder = Carl Sagan
    Science + sense of wonder = Albert Einstein
    Science + sense of wonder /= Deepak Chopra

    The reasoning being that Sagan’s and Einstein’s senses of wonder spurred them to *ask* questions, whereas Chopra uses his sense of wonder as the *answer*. The former is science; the latter is processed science-like product that relates to science the way Cheetos relate to cheese.

    — Steve

  13. #13 Elf Sternerg
    December 2, 2009

    Absolutely my favorite response to woo: Open Mindedness, by QualiaSoup. If you ever find yourself discussing woo with someone who demands you keep an “open mind,” this video will give you tools to show them how an “open mind” really works.

  14. #14 Todd W.
    December 2, 2009

    @Anton P. Nym

    Please don’t insult Cheetos like that. Cheetos are yummy.

  15. #15 Boris
    December 2, 2009

    “What we don’t like is ‘speculative thinking’ that is related to thinking by coincidence only. We can’t stand ‘speculative’ thinking that demonstrates an incredible ignorance about science”

    Conflation of these two notions would obscure the fact that Henry Miller was entirely correct about the nature of the planet Saturn in “The Colossus of Maroussi” whereas Timothy Leary was badly wrong about the comet Kohoutek in “The Starseed Transmission.”

  16. #16 BoxNDox
    December 2, 2009

    That’s … pathetic really, because there’s nothing quite as thrilling as doing some science and finding something new that nobody else has seen or tried to explain before, or designing something novel that actually works and performs a useful task.

    I’ll never forget the day when, while working in a solid state physics lab, a systematic study of a crystalline material I had undertaken produced some unexpected, interesting, and as it turned out, useful behavior. The excitement was palpable as we went back to the mathematics and found that, yes, indeed, the model we were using could explain this with only a couple of tweaks. And ater there was great pride when the paper came out in a peer-reviewed journal (J Chem Phys or some such).

    Now, this wasn’t any big deal or enormous breakthrough – stuff like this happens in labs all over the world on a regular basis. Heck, at pretty much the same time another guy in the samme lab came up with a real breakthrough in four wave mixing – and that one resulted in a paper in Phys Rev. But that’s sort of the point – you don’t have to be another Einstein to come up with scientific advances and find it all very rewarding.

    And engineering … for me, even more so. I derive huge satisfaction from designing and building useful, working things. But without the underpinning of science and mathematics engineering would be the most frustrating endeavor imaginable – we’d spend almost all our time eliminating bad designs by trial and error.

    I actually feel a little sorry for Chopra that he’s so deep into the woo that he’s completely missed out on what makes this stuff so rewarding. Sorry, that is, until I remember the damage his BS does – not so much after that.

  17. #17 Praki
    December 2, 2009

    Deepak Chopra is where he is because of the large following he has. I am amazed at his audience as they seem to lap up the nonsense that he dishes them out. He is the latest in the series of Godmen from India to hold sway over the gullible. Unlike most Godmen in the past who were quite crude in what they offered to people (think materializing ash or wristwatches from thin air), he offers a strange mix of eastern philosophy and quantum physics that appeals to the “educated”.

    I don’t think Deepak is self-delusional or full of himself. I think he knows that he is far more successful in being what he is now than to practice good old medicine. After all, how many blind followers can you get being a doctor? All said and done, people with most blind followers benefit the most. Blind following is what makes religions, rock stars, film actors and politicians. It’s a pretty good strategy if you want be achieve super success.

    Cynical as this might sound, the world will never be rid of its charlatans and the practice of science will never be easy or profitable.

    Keep up the vigil!

  18. #18 James Sweet
    December 2, 2009

    Statistically, cynical mistrust is correlated with premature sudden death from cardiovascular disease.

    [citation needed]

  19. #19 James Sweet
    December 2, 2009

    It never occurs to skeptics that a sense of wonder is paramount, even for scientists

    This kind of shit throws me into a red-face frothing-at-the-mouth spittle-flying rage. I mean, he takes Dawkins to task in this article, completely ignoring that Dawkins wrote an entire freaking book about having a sense of wonder about the world we live in. (Unweaving the Rainbow, for those who don’t know) And Carl Sagan pretty much made his entire career out of being a skeptic that inspired people to a sense of wonder about the universe. HelllLLLOOO!!!!

  20. #20 MikeMa
    December 2, 2009

    James Sweet @18
    I suspect that blind trust in Choprawoo is far more likely to correlate to death than skepticism. I wouldn’t hold my breath for that citation you asked for…

  21. #21 Michael
    December 2, 2009

    #20- And even if his critics do die younger on average than his supporters, it doesn’t logically follow that his critics are WRONG.

  22. #22 Onkel Bob
    December 2, 2009

    In a recent New York Review of Books, John Searle reviewed Fear of Knowledge: Against Relativism and Constructivism. In it he wonderful line that went something like this, “what do we do with truly horrible arguments” and he cited my particular detested purveyor of fluffy french philosophy Derrida. As I read this post I couldn’t help but think of that line, what do we do with horrible arguments such as those by the Emperor of Woo? All I have to say is Thank You Orac, for reading the emperor’s blithering blather so we don’t have to…

  23. #23 OracIsFrothing
    December 2, 2009

    You’re going downhill Orac. You have been bitching so much you are turning into an internet bitch instead of a man who is trying to put forth a way of thinking.

    I stopped by to ask how many young women your fellows have given breast cancer to with your insane idea that there is such a thing as “safe” radiation exposure.

    Because you guys are about money, you never test anything adequately. You test things for 4 or 5 years and pronounce them safe. You can’t be bothered to follow people for their lifespan to see what happens before you introduce your new money making products.

    “Radiation Exposure From Annual Mammography Increases Breast Cancer Risk in Young High-Risk Women

    The low doses of radiation associated with annual screening mammography could be placing high-risk women in even more jeopardy of developing breast cancer, particularly if they start screening at a young age or have frequent exposure, according to new research presented here at the Radiological Society of North America 95th Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting.”

  24. #24 T. Bruce McNeely
    December 2, 2009

    OracIsFrothing = reading comprehension FAIL

    And, no, I won’t point out where you went wrong. It’s obvious.

  25. #25 Pablo
    December 2, 2009

    You gotta love a guy who knows he’s blowing so much bullshit that the only way he can sell it is to try to convince people that skepticism is bad.

    If you look at the wooists, you tend to see two types: there are indeed those that think skepticism is bad, but more likely I think you find those that want to be skeptical, but they are just bad at it. Folks like Targ and Puthoff think themselves skeptical, but they still fell for Uri Geller. Jay Gordon fancies himself a scientist, and thinks there is support for his views, but he’s just an incompetent moron.

    Chopra makes no pretense about it. He admits full well that none of his nonsense holds up to any scrutiny, so the solution is easy: don’t scrutinize. It’s the joy of the “unexamined life…”

    “…I say: “why invite stress in?”
    stop studying strife
    and learn to live “the unexamined life”

    Dancing through life
    skimming the surface
    gliding where turf is smooth
    life’s more painless
    for the brainless
    why think too hard?
    when it’s so soothing
    dancing through life
    no need to tough it
    when you can sluff it off as i do
    nothing matters
    but knowing nothing matters
    it’s just life
    so keep dancing through…

    dancing through life
    swaying and sweeping
    and always keeping cool
    life is fraughtless
    when you’re thoughtless
    those who don’t try
    never look foolish
    dancing through life
    mindless and careless
    make sure your where less
    trouble is rife
    woes are fleeting
    blows are glancing
    when you’re dancing
    through life… “

  26. #26 OleanderTea
    December 2, 2009

    I am so stealing the term “Choprawoo”. Can we also agree to use “Weilwoo” and “Ornishwoo”?

  27. #27 Todd W.
    December 2, 2009

    @Pablo

    Wicked good post.

  28. #28 James Sweet
    December 2, 2009

    #20- And even if his critics do die younger on average than his supporters, it doesn’t logically follow that his critics are WRONG.

    Right, it’s frustrating how often it is necessary to explain to people that “it is beneficial to believe in X” is not the same as “X is true”. I have yet to see compelling evidence that there are any false beliefs that are a net benefit, anyway, but having to remind people of the point is SOOO frustrating.

  29. #29 Pablo
    December 2, 2009

    Maybe being a skeptic wouldn’t be as stressful if there weren’t so many bullshit artists peddling their wares to worry about?

  30. #30 Dr Aust
    December 2, 2009

    As I once pointed out, over this side of the pond a more Anglo-Saxon synonym for “Choprawoo” would be

    “Chopraballs” – “balls” or “bollocks” being favoured British synonyms for “b*llsh*t”.

    I suspect that blind trust in Choprawoo is far more likely to correlate to death than skepticism. I wouldn’t hold my breath for that citation you asked for…

    Actually I suspect a lot of his followers will be at the high end of survival stats (i.e. will live long lives) precisely because they will be affluent and health-conscious vegetarian low-fat joggers who do yoga… you get the idea. In other words, ChopraFans are commonly the Worried and Wealthy Woo-friendly Well (or “W-fours”)… but those folks, we know, live far longer than the working and especially the non-working poor.

    What would be interesting would be if one could “tease out” that fraction of Guru D’s W-4 followers who would stick to ChopraWoo Quantum ThoughtPower alone if they actually got a serious illness, or just an alarming symptom. Now, those folk might well show a lot of premature mortality, but I would bet good money that (for instance) most ChopraFans would be straight down the urologist’s office if they started passing blood.

  31. #31 OracIsFrothing
    December 2, 2009

    Boy. Orac doesn’t even bother to cover up the fact that he now deletes any message that effectively counters his caterwauling.

    If you have to censor, you are weak and your position is weak.

    If you are right, you can stand tall and proud while anyone says anything about you. You are right. Nothing can harm you.

    Debate me Orac. Stop with the womanly hiding and message deleting act and stand up tall and proud like a man who is sure of himself.

    Behave like I do Orac.

  32. #32 Antaeus Feldspar
    December 2, 2009

    Thirty years ago, peptic ulcer disease was thought to be caused by bacterial infection. Now we know that it’s caused by psychological stress. … What?

    McNeely shoots – he scores!!

  33. #33 Dianne
    December 2, 2009

    Are Giraffes our overlords, or is it really the Lizards?

    Lizards. The giraffes were overthrown because no one could say, “I, for one, welcome our new Giraffe overlords” with a straight face.

  34. #34 realinterrobang
    December 2, 2009

    Chopra should be less worried about skepticism than neuroscience; after all, at least according to what I’ve read about emergent behaviours and all that, consciousness is a creation of the body, not the other way around.

    Also, very glad you don’t act like the resident brown stain, Orac, since the resident brown stain is a misogynist sack of pus.

  35. #35 Brad Dec
    December 2, 2009

    Boy. Orac doesn’t even bother to cover up the fact that he now deletes any message that effectively counters his caterwauling.

    If you have to censor, you are weak and your position is weak.

    If you are right, you can stand tall and proud while anyone says anything about you. You are right. Nothing can harm you.

    Debate me Orac. Stop with the womanly hiding and message deleting act and stand up tall and proud like a man who is sure of himself.

    Behave like I do Orac.

  36. #36 nd
    December 2, 2009

    @Brad Dec (#33): “…womanly hiding and message-deleting act and stand up tall and proud like a man…?” What century are you writing from? How can you expect any sort of serious response to a message like that? Stick to “ug”.

  37. #37 Miranda Celeste Hale
    December 2, 2009

    Excellent post! I wrote about this other day, too (here). Chopra’s article is just jaw-droppingly stupid and vile, even by his standards.

    I find it disturbing and frustrating that he is so frequently given an unchecked platform from which he can freely spout his nonsense, completely unquestioned. He’s just ridiculous. But he makes people feel all warm and fuzzy inside, and makes them feel as if they’re experiencing something “deep” without actually asking them to think in any way, so they happily swallow his nonsense and then beg for more.

  38. #38 Scott
    December 2, 2009

    Lizards. The giraffes were overthrown because no one could say, “I, for one, welcome our new Giraffe overlords” with a straight face.

    Ah, but those of us with better facial control are working tirelessly to bring about the proper resurgence of the long-necked ones!

    Wait a second. I shouldn’t have mentioned that. OK, I guess I have to kill you all now. Line up for your vaccines!

    &lt/sarcasm&gt

  39. #39 MinnyMed
    December 2, 2009

    Have to admit, I like Chopra on this one. His article was much better written than the crap you guys post here. Seriously, you are pretty negative and, as he said, likely are to die from this psychoemotional pathology you have. You all have deep seated anger issues and use this skeptical view to attack anything that challanenges you. No one can ever win with any of you people. You come off as being so unreasonable and nasty. You actually do not think crtically. You do not explore or even research or try to understand. You’re really just a bunch of nasty know-it-alls who have opinions and that’s about it. You do not understand the human condition and the emotions God has given us. Very unimpressive.

    I studied under Chopra about 15 yrs ago when he did a 4 modules at the U-Minn Medical School. Pretty awesome stuff. Great way to approach the human condition and blend it with medical science. In those four weekends he made a great impact on my practice. Sorry, he wins this one.

  40. #40 Dave
    December 2, 2009

    Newton actually was kind of a weirdo who never smiled and believed in alchemy and was a practicing alchemist. So not exactly the perfect example of a skeptic, however brilliant his mathematics were.

  41. #41 Knurl
    December 2, 2009

    @10 For some reason, Chopra posts make me miss Eneman.
    Posted by: Anon | December 2, 2009 9:41 AM

    For some reason, when I first read that comment, I saw the last word as “enemas”.

  42. #42 MikeMa
    December 2, 2009

    MinnyMed
    Chopra is a money grubbing idiot. Does studying under him mean paying him money? To learn what exactly? Are you selling woo too?

  43. #43 sophia8
    December 2, 2009

    MinnyMed@36: Nice bit of Poe there. I almost fell for it!

  44. #44 TennesseeParamedic
    December 2, 2009

    MinnyMed@36: What’s your name and what’s the state you practice under, so I know which doctor not to go to?

  45. #45 Kevin
    December 2, 2009

    MinniMed, you remind me of why I should feel embarrassed about having used the words “human condition” in one of my term papers.

  46. #46 Loki
    December 2, 2009

    We know for a fact that when Deepak speaks, words come out. Many, many words. Words appear on the printed page in a squiggly mass of profusion. And yet strangely, and this has yet to be explained to my satisfaction, 90% of it appears to be empty and vacuous. Can I propose the existence of dark woo?

  47. #47 Uncle Glenny
    December 2, 2009

    For some reason, when I first read that comment, I saw the last word as “enemas”.

    An understandable mistake if you just got back from HuffPo.

  48. #48 James Sweet
    December 2, 2009

    You’re really just a bunch of nasty know-it-alls who have opinions and that’s about it. You do not understand the human condition and the emotions God has given us.

    Wait, who’s the know-it-all? The person who claims to know the motivations of an invisible superman? No, it’s not? It’s the people who say they don’t know the truth and so must rely on evidence?

    Interesting hypothesis…

  49. #49 Antaeus Feldspar
    December 2, 2009

    You actually do not think crtically.

    Well, MinnyMed, if that opinion was coming from someone who themselves possessed the ability to think critically, it might be a cause for concern. However, since there isn’t a single sentence in the whole of your comment for which you provide any sort of evidence (even anecdotal!) I believe that you think “Skeptics do not actually think critically” because you don’t even understand what thinking critically entails.

    Here’s a good example. I think most reasonable people would agree that the site Science-Based Medicine is a bastion of the sort of skeptics you are criticizing. If what you say about such skeptics were true, that “no one can ever win with any of [those] people,” and that such skeptics are operating from “psychoemotional pathology … deep seated anger issues” then one would expect that, if someone presented a claim about an ancient medical treatment being effective, we’d see those skeptics angrily trying to deny that the treatment has any sort of validity or effectiveness, doing whatever is necessary to make sure that that ancient medical treatment doesn’t “win”.

    Except that isn’t, in fact, what happened. Harriet Hall is certainly someone you would classify as a skeptic, seeing as how she writes not only for Science-Based Medicine but for Skeptic and the Skeptical Inquirer. So if your stereotype of skeptics was accurate, she should have been leading a charge to angrily dispute the efficacy of the treatment — instead of being the one posting the news that this treatment had been shown to be scientifically effective. Right now that post has been up somewhere between 24 and 48 hours, and there are 45 comments on it. If your stereotype of skeptics had any accuracy to it, those 45 comments should include plenty of expressions of anger, and plenty of people trying to deny that this treatment could have any scientific merit. But, in fact, not one of the comments on the post meets that description.

    You claim that skeptics “do not explore or even research or try to understand.” I would suggest that right now, the ball is in your court to start exploring, researching and trying to understand the difference between what your cartoonish stereotype claims skeptics think and do, and what the evidence shows.

  50. #50 ursa major
    December 2, 2009

    I must have missed something somewhere. In readings from the reality based crowd I find a great range of opinions and many exiting ideas and much interesting information. From the woo crowd it is all enemas, fictitious energies and tedium. Who are the conformists now?

    No skeptic, to my knowledge, ever made a major scientific discovery or advanced the welfare of others. Typically they sit by the side of the road with a sign that reads “You’re Wrong” so that every passerby, whether an Einstein, Gandhi, Newton, or Darwin,

    Chopra seems to use “skeptic: on in the sense of “religious skeptic” but still his own list is a big FAIL with 2 skeptics.

  51. #51 Marcus Ranum
    December 2, 2009

    “It never occurs to skeptics that a sense of wonder is paramount, even for scientists.”

    I’m just skeptical enough to wonder if Chopra’s sense of “CA-CHING!” is stronger than his sense of wonder.

  52. #52 Joseph C.
    December 2, 2009

    Seriously, you are pretty negative and, as he said, likely are to die from this psychoemotional pathology you have.

    And we’re the nasty ones?

  53. #53 Badger3k
    December 2, 2009

    My students could tell you how I get when I talk about whales diving without breathing, or how molecules move to give us heat (roughly speaking, of course), or how ancient civilizations did things like build the megaliths – they’d tell you about skeptics (I label myself an arch-skeptic and a buzzkiller for woo) and a sense of wonder. I know it’s contagious, since it has worked several times to get them interested in things that go beyond the classroom. Chopra is an idiot. Why doesn’t he get his genes to change their expression to make him a not-idiot?

  54. #54 farkrules
    December 2, 2009

    Gotta love FARK.com –

    Deepak Chopra: new age tool, or EPIC new age tool? (blogs.discovermagazine.com)

    More: Dumbass, logical fallacy, sense of wonder, Deepak Chopra, Gandhi, Reality Deficit Disorder, peddling, cynicism, Carl Sagan

  55. #55 Johnny
    December 2, 2009

    Here’s a guy, knows a bit about science, can see wonder in the world….

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSZNsIFID28

    but at the same time, talks like a skeptic

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_EZcpTTjjXY
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLaRXYai19A

    and hangs around with skeptics

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDvu6wz9qF4&

    Just one more example….

  56. #56 MinnyMed
    December 3, 2009

    You people need to find God and put Him in your hearts. I feel so sorry for people like you. You do not even know the pain and anger you have inside. God Bless each one of you.

  57. #57 T. Bruce McNeely
    December 3, 2009

    MinnyMed:
    Condescension is negative and nasty, too.
    Just saying…

  58. #58 DrWonderful
    December 3, 2009

    GO MINNY!!! These guys are just a bunch of “mad scientists” and I don’t only mean crazy. They’re actually pissed off at everything and everyone.

  59. #59 Christophe Thill
    December 3, 2009

    In the interests of better health, these people should read scripture, or at least a poem, twice a day. Doctor’s orders.

    Let’s skip the “scripture” thing. Too much cruelty and bloodshed in it; I don’t see whose health it could improve.

    But a poem? You must be joking!

    Scientific people are killjoys. The only thing that makes them smile is suffering. And their smile is painful to see (which makes them smile even more). They routinely trample flowers and kick kittens. Read a poem! Perish the thought! It’s strictly forbidden by the code of the White Coats Conspiracy!

    Typically they sit by the side of the road with a sign that reads “You’re Wrong” so that every passerby, whether an Einstein, Gandhi, Newton, or Darwin, can gain the benefit of their illuminated skepticism.

    And Galileo. He forgot Galileo.

    Right thought is materialistic, statistical, data-driven, and always, always, conformist.

    Hey! What’s his problem with data and statistics? I resent this as a personal attack!

    Statistics is a wonderful tool. I often compare it to X ray: it helps you see through the obscurity of a confusing mass of data. It sorts out the fuzz. It is also among the best tools researchers have to avoid fooling themselves: all those numbers and data help create the necessary distance, so that you don’t inject your own prejudice (we all have some) into your analysis.

    Today, no right-thinking physician (or very few) would trace physical illness to sickness of the soul, or accept that the body is a creation of consciousness, or tell a patient to change the expression of his genes.

    The only expression that changed when I read this is my face. It’s currently on “laughter”.

    Worst of all, skeptics take pride in defending the status quo and condemn the kind of open-minded inquiry that peers into the unknown.

    As Nietzsche could maybe have said, when you peer into the unknown, the unknown peers back at you. If you’re a scietist, you politely greet it: “Hi, unknown! Mind if I study you a little bit?”. But if your name is Chopra, you just stare hypnotized.

    Oh, and a nobody said:

    You do not even know the pain and anger you have inside.

    Well, is a pain that’s not felt still a pain? Looks like an oxymoron to me. As for anger… the fact that this kind of stupidity doesn’t even makes me angry seems to refute the idea.

  60. #60 T. Bruce McNeely
    December 3, 2009

    Chopra wants us to read a poem? Here’s a poem:

    http://www.dcscience.net/?p=216

    An excerpt:

    “So those who wish upon a star

    Or herb or potion in a jar

    To grant relief from ache or pain

    Could well decide to think again

    And weigh the chances that desire

    Not reason is what we require

    To make us well when we succumb

    To ailments that are troublesome.

    For wishful thoughts beguile the mind

    But leave reality behind.”

  61. #61 Joseph C.
    December 3, 2009

    You people need to find God and put Him in your hearts.

    And where can I find this “God” at? Do you have an address?

  62. #62 Joseph C.
    December 3, 2009

    GO MINNY!!! These guys are just a bunch of “mad scientists” and I don’t only mean crazy. They’re actually pissed off at everything and everyone.

    You’re an evidence-based guy who rallies behind a supporter of Deepak? Deepak, the guy who writes gibberish, mangles science, and then publicly weeps at criticism?

  63. #63 Dr Aust
    December 3, 2009

    Hey ho. Sceptics denounced as repressed and angry buzz-killers by a God-worrier AND a chiropractor.

    Plus ca change…

    In an attempt to be less miserably sceptical, and more open to Wonder, I I have turned to poetry and written a Chopra Haiku to express my emotional response to the Guru’s, er, Guru-ness.

    Chopra’s words conjure

    Mystic visions of One-ness

    Cash registers ring.

  64. #64 Todd W.
    December 3, 2009

    @Joseph C.

    You people need to find God and put Him in your hearts.

    And where can I find this “God” at? Do you have an address?

    No, no. It’s like hide and seek. You count to infinite, then go looking for it, sorry, It. My money’s on the lump behind the curtain.

  65. #65 Militant Agnostic
    December 3, 2009

    And where can I find this “God” at? Do you have an address?

    I think the address is between MinnyMed’s ears.

  66. #66 Christophe Thill
    December 3, 2009

    Minny, did you take your Meds?

  67. #67 DrWonderful
    December 3, 2009

    Joe- No, I really think Chopra is more like science fiction but love him nonetheless. I’m not pouring tea for my patients and telling them to hum. Although he reaches a part of people, psychologically and emotionally, where science cannot get to. And there is very important stuff in that place.

    I do agree with Minny to some extent, however, which is what I was cherring on. You see, I do believe in and love God but also trust science at the same time. I honestly see no conflict between the two. To me science is not a pursuit of proving or disproving God. To me He’s a given. He’s an experience and not a scientific finding.

    But I also love science. Even the basic 4th grade science type stuff has always, to me, been a way to explore the mechanical universe that I feel He created. These are His puzzles and gifts to us. I flood my children with puzzles and love to watch them work them out. I am sure He feels the same way about us, even you, with regard to science.

  68. #68 Joseph C.
    December 3, 2009

    @DrW,

    Religious bullying, like “You people need to find God”, is why the New Atheist movement exists. I don’t begrudge the religious, except for when they try to force it on me, interfere with science, or try to legislate their morality on everyone.

    In fact, I don’t sneer when family members pray before a meal, hold a degree from a Catholic university (Theology Class = Easy A), have seen most of the famous churches in Europe, and will be checking out the Vatican as a tourist attraction later this month.

  69. #69 Agashem
    December 3, 2009

    @65, this won’t apply to you but any women traveling with you will have to be sure to be dressed ‘properly’ to gain entrance into St. Peter’s. They don’t care so much at the Vatican museum.
    As for Chopra, well, I find any time I try to figure out what the string of words he has just uttered means, my brain freezes and I have to reboot by banging my forehead on the wall.

  70. #70 IaMoL
    December 3, 2009

    People like Dr. Wonderful frustrate me and show how dangerous religious indoctrination is for children under the age of reason. How can educated, supposedly scientific minded people not understand that God(s) and religion are human constructs?
    To quote Deacon Duncan:”The inescapable fact is this: God does not show up in the real world, not visibly, not audibly, not tangibly, not for you, not for me, not for saint or for sinner or for seeker.” If you claim he does, please provide empirical evidence.

  71. #71 sophia8
    December 3, 2009

    DrW@64: he reaches a part of people, psychologically and emotionally, where science cannot get to.
    Dr W, Can you tell us what this “part of people” is, how Chopra “gets to it”, why “science cannot get to” it, and what definition of “science” you’re using here?
    You see, your statement is extremely fuzzy and subjective – the terms you use mean different things to different people. As a doctor, you should surely know that it is paramount to make your meanings completely clear when explaining something to a patient.
    My own doctor is always happy to explain my various ailments to me in simple language. As a clearly caring medical men, you should be able to do the same instead of using vague and largely meaningless buzz-words.

  72. #73 Calli Arcale
    December 3, 2009

    Joseph C: I think it would be cool if you “found God” (though I really don’t like that phrase; it’s mostly used by people whose religious attitudes worry me), but that’s only because I believe in God, and so obviously I must think it’s a good idea. ;-) But I have no proof it really *is* a good idea. I just think it is. It would be astonishingly arrogant of me to force it on you, or even to think less of you for not sharing my view. After all, I have no evidence to support my position; I cannot expect anyone else to agree with me. I just think it’s neat when they do. ;-) (It’s neat when they don’t, too, because I like a good spirited discussion, and you can’t have that without a plurality of viewpoints.)

    Some say that you should believe in God just in case. (In Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books, there is a bit about a guy who espoused this belief. He was shortly thereafter struck by lightning, because on the Discworld, gods are real, but really hate smart-alecks.) I think that’s silly. If God is real, then surely He would know if you really believed or just said you did so that you wouldn’t go to Hell. In which case, what’s really been gained? Whereas if God doesn’t exist, then you haven’t wasted a lifetime in useless religious practice.

    My personal hunch is that nobody on Earth has an entirely correct view on the subjects with which religion is generally concerned: god(s), souls, an afterlife, morality, etc. But I suspect that we all have *part* of the answers. Atheists included. If this hunch is true, then it is vitally important for us to talk to and respect one another, so that we can try to find the common pieces and assemble them into the bigger picture. Who knows? Maybe that’s actually what Jesus was talking about when he said “thy kingdom come”. When we all stop whacking each other over the heads with our arrogance and self-righteousness, and come together to put all the pieces together again.

    Or maybe not. ;-) With luck, time will tell, though objectively the odds are against it.

  73. #74 Dr Aust
    December 3, 2009

    Calli wrote:

    Some say that you should believe in God just in case. (In Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books, there is a bit about a guy who espoused this belief. He was shortly thereafter struck by lightning, because on the Discworld, gods are real, but really hate smart-alecks.) I think that’s silly. If God is real, then surely He would know if you really believed or just said you did so that you wouldn’t go to Hell. In which case, what’s really been gained? Whereas if God doesn’t exist, then you haven’t wasted a lifetime in useless religious practice.

    When I was a teenager we had a school chaplain who used to try and use the “Just in case….” line on us from the other end of the belief spectrum.

    (NB – school chaplains, i.e. ordained ministers of religion who were employees of the school, were common in British private schools then and may still be. This guy was an Anglican, so Episcopalian in US parlance)

    Apart from regaling us with accounts of the “terrible things” he had seen in his time as an Air Force chaplain in the Far East (usually involving venereal diseases and dripping/rotting appendages, a line of talk presumably designed to put us off having impure thoughts about girls) he would often treat us to:

    “Well, if God doesn’t exist, like all you chaps believe, then I’m not losing anything by believing, am I? But if I’m right, and He does, well, all of you are going to Hell, aren’t you?”

    The general view in the class was that, if that was the best argument he could come up with, it wasn’t a tremendous advertisement for religious belief.

    This was three decades and more ago, so I’m actually oddly curious to know if the school still has a chaplain, or whether he might have been replaced by a multi-faith New Age Chopra-type School Guru.

  74. #75 IaMoL
    December 3, 2009

    SOULS?

    *facepalm*
    You believe we’re all puppets with little spectral version of the little old man with the cat in “Men In Black” running the show?
    Neurology is going to discredit all this ghost in the machine BS very soon. (FYI – Cartesian duality was repudiated long ago). We are our brains. There is no afterlife – there is no consciousness once the brain dies. The only afterlife is the memory of those who know you carried on until you are ultimately forgotten through attrition and time (unless you accomplish something spectacular and make it onto the honor rolls of history. Good deeds or bad deeds: it’s up to you).

    Souls… pffft.

  75. #76 Ender
    December 3, 2009

    “Cartesian duality was repudiated long ago” [citation needed]

  76. #77 Johnny
    December 3, 2009

    But a poem? You must be joking!

    It’s just a question of finding he right poet. I like this guy…
    http://oldpoetry.com/oauthor/show/sheldon_allan_silverstein

    But I don’t think
    http://oldpoetry.com/opoem/25815-Sheldon-Allan-Silverstein-Rosalie-s-Good-Eats-Cafe
    and
    http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~lavie/dreamwine/silverstein2.html
    are what Chopra had in mind.

  77. #78 Prometheus
    December 3, 2009

    “Dr. Wonderful” has an interesting point:

    … he [Chopra] reaches a part of people, psychologically and emotionally, where science cannot get to. And there is very important stuff in that place.

    The “place” in question is the primitive, irrational, pattern-seeking, superstitious part of our brains. It’s that part of our brains that we need to maintain a tight leash on to keep from fooling ourselves (or having other people fool us). Chopra reaches this “place” because even though he sounds like he’s talking about science, he’s really talking about mysticism and religion. (see: “Jabberwocky”)

    This irrational part of our brains is also a shortcut to our wallets. If you let someone get into that “place”, there is a good chance they will eventually get you to give them money. (see: “televangelist”, “Bernie Madoff”)

    It seems to me that the reason Chopra puts on his science-like song and dance is that most people put more faith in science than in religion, these days. It used to be that you could make a good living selling “salvation” (and some still do), but it is much easier to get 21st century folks to part with their money if you dress up the “revival” in scientific-sounding terms.

    Thus, Chopra gets people to come to his “center” and buy his books with a line of patter that sounds more like Mr. Science than Reverend Whitesuit – but the results are pretty much the same. Instead of faith in “God” – which makes most upper-middle-class Boomers feel “uncomfortable” – he promotes faith in the “healing power of positive thinking”. Same moonshine, but in an Erlenmeyer flask instead of a Mason jar.

    Chopra has no more understanding of quantum physics than does the chair I’m sitting on (and maybe less than that), but he knows the jargon of quantum physics. And, since the average person’s understanding of quantum physics is limited to “It’s pretty wierd.”, that’s all he needs to know. Quantum physics – in the mouth of Chopra – becomes a “mystical force” that “binds us together” and can be harnessed to do all sorts of wonderful and supernatural things.

    If you took out all of Chopra’s references to quantum this and quantum that and replaced them with “God”, it wouldn’t change his meaning in the slightest. And that’s all you need to know about the way Chopra works.

    Prometheus

  78. #79 DrWonderful
    December 3, 2009

    But Joe, you and I both need to find God and do our best to know Him and stay with Him! How? I have no clue yet. But I do agree with you it is not likely to appear in PubMed or be “concluded” upon in anyones brain. He’ll never be proven or disproven (so why bother?) in our lifetimes but I do believe he can experienced

    Those churches you will visit are more than brick and stone. More than just masterpieces of physics. A feeling, an emotion, a great emotion, was inspired in the architects, sculptors, artists and early scientists of the time. Maybe I would be more excited because it was my brothers who built it centuries ago?

    As an Atheist (I think you said you were?)I suspect, just suspect, you will walk through those great cathedrals with a heart closed to idea of God. Fine. That’s cool. Look at the nice pictures then. But open your heart quietly for a minute and hopefully you’ll see what I mean. I mean feel what I mean. It is called Faith for a reason. Best.

    (Can’t wait to take my beating, will check later)

  79. #80 T. Bruce McNeely
    December 3, 2009

    Some say that you should believe in God just in case.

    Maybe we should believe in ALL gods. Every last one of them. You know, just in case.

  80. #81 T. Bruce McNeely
    December 3, 2009

    Maybe I would be more excited because it was my brothers who built it centuries ago?

    How old ARE you?

  81. #82 Joseph C.
    December 3, 2009

    Those churches you will visit are more than brick and stone. More than just masterpieces of physics.

    Yeah, they’re also great art. That’s what you get when you hire Michelangelo and Bernini.

    So far, I like Westminster Abbey the most, but that’s probably because Newton and Darwin are interred there. Also, I’m heavily biased towards Gothic architecture.

    Damn, I’ve gone so far off-topic, I feel like DF.

  82. #83 Calli Arcale
    December 3, 2009

    IaMoL:

    We are our brains. There is no afterlife – there is no consciousness once the brain dies.

    I used to think that the soul was distinct from the body, and so when we are resurrected in heaven, we’re some kind of ethereal entity. Later, I became convinced that whatever the afterlife is, it’s probably not what we’re expecting. That part is probably true, it not being what anyone expects. ;-) But recently, I’ve started to wonder if the Bible really means it when it says we get resurrected, body included. After all, there is a large (and frankly, fascinating) body of research demonstrating exactly what you’ve said — that the brain and mind are inextricably linked. You can’t have the mind without the brain. Therefore, if we get resurrected, that *must* include our bodies, since we are not us without them. (OTOH, maybe we do become “etheral beings”, sort of a life force drawn back to God, insensible, unaware….frankly, that idea is starting to spook me.)

    I’m a software engineer. The idea of mind being separate from brain has a certain intuitive sense for a programmer — but the software is nothing at all without the computer. And very often, it has to be a *particular* computer. The mind is the same way. Without the brain, it is, at best, “sleeping” (though the term seems euphemistic in this context).

    So while I once thought the idea of resurrection of the body to be rather quaint and outmoded, superceded by the (kinda newagey) notion of ethereal entities, I now think the reverse. It’s the ethereal entities which are outmoded. The ancients were right; if we are to be resurrected, we have to have our bodies, or at least working copies of them.

    (Note: that idea didn’t originate in Christianity, or even Judaism. It comes from Egypt, whose elaborate mummification rituals had become widespread through the Mideast by the time of Christ. It’s kind of odd to see a Roman-period mummy and see the Latin influence on the artwork.)

    T. Bruce McNeeley:

    Maybe we should believe in ALL gods. Every last one of them. You know, just in case.

    Some do! In fact, that’s not an uncommon strategy. Many polytheistic religions happily accept the existence of other gods. (They just don’t spend time worshiping them.) The absurdly complex Egyptian pantheon is the result of this sort of synchretism.

    Indeed, the main problem the Romans had with the Jews (and, later, the Christians) was not their belief in the God of Abraham. It was the fact that they *rejected* the other gods very existence.

    Really, the idea of believing in multiple gods “just in case” may be the oldest theology of all.

  83. #84 Tracy W
    December 4, 2009

    Today, no right-thinking physician (or very few) would trace physical illness to sickness of the soul, or accept that the body is a creation of consciousness, or tell a patient to change the expression of his genes.

    Haven’t physicians at times in the past been at fault for being too quick to assume that a physical illness is caused by a sickness of a soul? I remember stories of a woman who was nearly put in a mental hospital until finally one doctor figured out she was suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning from a faulty boiler at her home. And “it’s all in your head” is one of the cliches of patricharist misogynist doctors’ reactions to period pains. (Not to say that every doctor is a patriachist misogynist, just in the past some have been).

    Doesn’t a doctor who tells a patient to exercise basically telling them to change the expression of their genes? After all, if I understand this right, it’s our genes that work out how food is turned into us, and exercise causes more of that food to be turned into things like muscles?

  84. #85 studio34
    December 4, 2009

    i actually used to read Chopra’s books years ago and thought he was some sort of visionary. And then I discovered skepticism and I have never looked back. This latest piece by Chopra on the Huff ‘n Puff is the last straw for me. Chopra is an ignorant fool. How disappointing.

  85. #86 attack_laurel
    December 4, 2009

    Pascal’s Wager.

    A bet with poor odds, since it posits belief in one god, rather than several, which ups your odds of winning considerably. Pascal never considered that the odds are always weighted towards the house winning, and that no matter how much you bet, the chances of taking home the big jackpot are remarkably slim.

    In my experience, superstition and rigid theistic beliefs actually make people angrier and less likely to live a long happy life, since they’re so busy being angry at everyone who doesn’t agree with them. Our resident trolls (and occasional visiting trolls) prove my point quite nicely, I think.

  86. #87 Christophe Thill
    December 4, 2009

    After all, there is a large (and frankly, fascinating) body of research demonstrating exactly what you’ve said — that the brain and mind are inextricably linked.

    We’ve known that since poor old Phineas Gage, and Antonio Egas Moniz. By just destroying a very small patch of cells in his brain, we can make a man stupid. We can cripple him with a poor memory. We can make him insensitive to beauty. We can make him unable to feel anger, or empathy. We can change his personality and literally turn him into someone else.

    All the big areas of classical psychology (memory, cognition, affectivity) rest on a few small patches of cells in our brain. Very material patches of cells. Can you comment that,please, Mr Chopra?

  87. #88 Jon H
    December 4, 2009

    “As usual, Chopra is trying to conflate being so open-minded that your brains fall out with science.”

    Actually, he’s trying to conflate being so open-minded your cash falls out, with science.

    It’s the money he’s after.

  88. #89 IaMoL
    December 4, 2009

    The ancients were right; if we are to be resurrected, we have to have our bodies, or at least working copies of them.

    Which means heaven has to have tons of forests to manufacture toilet paper (if you have a mouth – you have an anus and everything in between) plus there’s that silly thing of having genitalia in the afterlife and no reason to procreate so Valhalla’s celestial bordello is tru- wait, I forgot – peepees and poompooms are naughty. And even if not, who sleeps in the wet spot in Paradise? So people are frozen at the age they died? (Before or after cosmetic surgeries?) Bad news for infants, geriatrics and Thalidomide sufferers (I’ll give you spinal trauma repair for quadra and paraplegics) Golden wheelchairs(for those pesky limbless birth defects people)? Sacred gut bacteria? Sublimating poop and pee?

    Yeah, resurrection of physical bodies is great and only viable if you don’t actually think about it.

  89. #90 Poogles
    December 4, 2009

    “need to find God and do our best to know Him and stay with Him!”

    I know this comment was directed at Joe, but I just don’t get the arrogance of people telling someone what they *need* to do regarding a god/religion (of any sort). That might be what *you* (and many more like you) think should be done, but why go telling others that they *need* to do it too? How would you have responded if I had said to you (during my Wiccan phase) “you need to find the Goddess, and her magick and do your best to know her…etc etc”? Wouldn’t you think it a little presumptious of me to tell you what you need to do regarding matters of religion and faith?

  90. #91 DrWonderful
    December 4, 2009

    Poogles- I would not have been offended at all. I assume you would have my best interest in mind and found something you thought would make my life better. I do think you need to find God and wish one day you will. Do I care whether you do or not? No. Would your beliefs make a difference in our relationship if we were friends or neighbors or co-workers? No, not on my end. But having been with God and many times leaving Him (cuz I’m human) I do know I am better with Him and wisht he same for you.

    This presumptious attitude from those who are overtly religious really is not a trait of their relgion as far as I’m concerned. And I think you’re being kind by calling them presumtious. I think most religous people are downright assholes, including many of my own fellow Christians.

    But I do not see that as a fault of their religion. I see that as a fault of them being human and their failure to really let their faith live in their hearts truthfully. They, in fact, are failing at their religion when they act that way. You’d call them a hypocrit I assume. It’s a sign to me that they use their religion as a weapon, when it is supposed to be an experience. Christ Himself warned the Apostles about using His message and movement as a weapon agaisnt the Romans or any oppressor. So what do the idiots do? Crush others with relgion.

    For example, as a Christian one of the things I detest about Sarah Palin the most (i like nothing by the way) is that she is an asshole Christian. Which, to me, means she isn’t really Christian at all. But she is human so she fails. Like you do. Like I do. Maybe not Joe so much, but most the rest of us screw it up regularly. My relationship with God helps me renew and move on every time. But my relationship with God is mine and I only hope you would have the same for yourself…that’s what I mean at least.

  91. #92 Scott
    December 4, 2009

    DrWonderful,

    I definitely have to agree with you on that one. I’m personally an atheist, but you’re very much right about those who try to push their religion on others. It’s despicable.

    It’s exactly the kind of thinking that led to the Inquisition, though substantially less extreme. After all, if people are going to Hell if they don’t believe as you do, “killing them to save their souls” becomes a rather logical thing to do.

    The flavor of this I find particularly interesting/offensive are those who think you’re obligated to follow the RULES of their religion, regardless of your actual beliefs. The fact that they’re inevitably happily trampling all over the rules of OTHER people’s religions doesn’t seem to register, since after all theirs is the One True Truth.

  92. #93 llewelly
    December 4, 2009

    Each and every scientist who won the Nobel Prize was a skeptic!

    Unfortunately not quite true. Kary Mullis won the 1993 Nobel Prize in chemistry, and he is at best a very poor skeptic.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kary_Mullis#Controversies

    And how could you forget Linus Pauling? But perhaps he was a skeptic when he won the prize and lost his skepticism later.
    I think your point remains, but with some caveats.

  93. #94 Greg
    December 5, 2009

    llewelly,

    I would agree that every once in a while you will have a scientist, even one of Nobel Prize caliber, who (for whatever reason) loses some of his or her ability to look with a skeptical eye. The examples you give illustrate this well. I would agree that Orac’s point remains.

    I assert that the late, great Richard Feynman (winner of the 1965 Nobel for his work on Quantum Electrodynamics) is more characteristic of great scientists and is an excellent counter-example to Chopra’s claim that skeptics don’t make great advances. Here is Feynman addressing the topic of UFOs:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLaRXYai19A

    And here is the classic, devastating, clip of Feynman as a member of the Challenger Commission, getting to the heart of the problem with the O-rings by means of a simple experiment:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qAi_9quzUY

  94. #95 SGK
    December 5, 2009

    “What I do wish to maintain — and it is here that the scientific attitude becomes imperative — is that insight, untested and unsupported, is an insufficient guarantee of truth, in spite of the fact that much of the most important truth is first suggested by its means.”

    –Bertrand Russell, Mysticism and Logic

  95. #96 Deb
    December 7, 2009

    This is currently being RT’d around Twitter:

    @Deepak_Chopra: When you blame and criticize others, you are avoiding some truth about yourself.

    Maybe sometimes he does know what he’s talking about. In an ironic, cliched sort of way.

  96. #97 PeterD
    December 7, 2009

    Deepak Chopra is where he is because of the large following he has. I am amazed at his audience as they seem to lap up the nonsense that he dishes them out. He is the latest in the series of Godmen from India to hold sway over the gullible. . . .

    Excellent comment (#17), Praki.

    Chopra is a money grubbing idiot.

    Chopra (like Weil and, now, Oz) is a clever, “money grubbing” businessman.

  97. #98 George Perreau
    April 29, 2010

    Your site is profilic with pseudos, so here is another that you can add – pseudoskepticim or the misuse of skepticim.

    Chopra is not defending truth,he is defending his business empire. But hey, this is not new. There’s Scientology, Theosophy to name a few.

    Just another new age cult with sadly misguided believers.

    Alas, to think that we share equal voting rights with these gullible fools in a democracy. Still, I have FAITH (that hoary reference again) that REASON (is that a contradiction?)will prevail.