Respectful Insolence

Over the holidays, I stayed at home for a combination of some relaxation and some grant writing. (I know, weird.) As I was perusing some of the links I saved during that time, it occurs to me that I totally forgot about one particularly amazing bit of hilarity, courtesy of our old “friend” Deepak Chopra. Given that it was over a week ago, it’s probably not worth going into the full Orac mode on it any more, old news and all, but I couldn’t let it go completely unremarked upon because it’s just so amazingly, hysterically funny. Appearing two days after Christmas, Chopra’s post was entitled Woo Woo Is a Step Ahead of (Bad) Science.

You know, I think Chopra’s feeling a bit of the heat of the criticism of his woo. I’m only disappointed that he didn’t direct his wrath at me. After all, I’m the guy who coined a term for Chopra’s special brand of woo, namely “Choprawoo.” I know either he or someone close to him knows about it, because for a while every time I linked to Chopra’s personal blog I attracted a defender who appeared to be associated with it. But, hey, I’m just a piker in the skeptical world compared to Michael Shermer, and a pseudonymous one at that. A master of woo like Deepak Chopra wouldn’t find me worth his effort. But Shermer. Oh, Shermer. Somehow, Shermer has really gotten under Chopra’s skin:

It used to annoy me to be called the king of woo woo. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, “woo woo” is a derogatory reference to almost any form of unconventional thinking, aimed by professional skeptics who are self-appointed vigilantes dedicated to the suppression of curiosity. I get labeled much worse things as regularly as clockwork whenever I disagree with big fry like Richard Dawkins or smaller fry like Michael Shermer, the Scientific American columnist and editor of Skeptic magazine. The latest barrage of name-calling occurred after the two of us had a spirited exchange on Larry King Live last week. . Maybe you saw it. I was the one rolling my eyes as Shermer spoke. Sorry about that, a spontaneous reflex of the involuntary nervous system.

Wow! Such nastiness! Poor Chopra. Shermer was so mean to him! Just look at the podcast! Baically, it’s just the same old dualist woo about “consciousness” mixed in with the woo about “near death experiences.” He even goes on about “choices,” “insight,” and “intuition” as being somehow not a product of our brain. It’s nothing we haven’t heard from Chopra before. Meanwhile, Dinesh D’Souza blathers on about people with near-death experiences (NDEs) being still alive and asking, ignorantly, if their brain died then how did it reconstitute itself? The obvious answer is that the brain didn’t die. They even invoke the same old quantum nonsense beloved of Chopra, such as “hidden dimensions” and “other realms” and universes.

Personally, I don’t know why Shermer bothers, but in a way I’m glad that he does, especially when it enrages Chopra so:

Afterwards, however, I had an unpredictable reaction. I realized that I would much rather expound woo woo than the kind of bad science Shermer stands behind. He has made skepticism his personal brand, more or less, sitting by the side of the road to denigrate “those people who believe in spirituality, ghosts, and so on,” as he says on a YouTube video. No matter that this broad brush would tar not just the Pope, Mahatma Gandhi, St. Teresa of Avila, Buddha, and countless scientists who happen to recognize a reality that transcends space and time. All are deemed irrational by the skeptical crowd. You would think that skeptics as a class have made significant contributions to science or the quality of life in their own right. Uh oh. No, they haven’t. Their principal job is to reinforce the great ideas of yesterday while suppressing the great ideas of tomorrow.

Ah, yes. Claiming victimhood, the Galileo Gambit, and the “science was wrong before” gambit, all in one paragraph! Ya gotta love it, particularly this part:

For we have reached the state where Shermer’s tired, out-of-date, utterly mediocre science is far in arrears of the best, most open scientific thinkers — actually, we reached that point 60 years ago when eminent physicists like Einstein, Wolfgang Pauli, Werner Heisenberg and Erwin Schrodinger applied quantum theory to deep spiritual questions. The arrogance of skeptics is both high-handed and rusty. It is high-handed because they lump brilliant speculative thinkers into one black box known as woo woo. It is rusty because Shermer doesn’t even bother to keep up with the latest findings in neuroscience, medicine, genetics, physics, and evolutionary biology. All of these fields have opened fascinating new ground for speculation and imagination. But the king of pooh-pooh is too busy chasing down imaginary woo woo.

Well, I keep up with the latest finding in medicine, genetics, and evolutionary biology at least. Or at least I try to. From my doing so, it’s clear to me that Deepak Chopra does not understand any of it on other than the most superficial level. Indeed, he mangles the hell out of it, as I’ve explained time and time and time again over the last four years or so. He takes quantum physics, abuses it and the findings of scientists like Einstein, Pauli, and Heisenberg, and lumps the result together to claim that there is some sort of “universal consciousness,” claiming that the physical world is an “illusion.” Too bad for Deepak that quantum physics has not proven that the “physical world is an illusion.” Quantum mechanics, despite the counterintuitive observations produced by it, is quantifiable, verifiable, and measurable by science. If quantum mechanics were otherwise, it wouldn’t have persisted as a key part of modern physics. Not that that stops Chopra from laying the woo down fast and furious, all the while whining:

In light of a few of the comments I would like to clarify something. I hold great value and trust in the scientific method when practiced honestly.

Except that Chopra wouldn’t recognize the scientific method if it bit him in the…well, you know where. His technique is to take a scientific observation and turn it into some sort of bizarre metaphor for whatever he wants it to mean, implying that the science supports his assertion when anyone who actually knows the science knows that it does not. He’s not even all that clever about it.

Also, I have nothing against healthy skepticism which retains an open mind to future possibilities in science.

As I’ve said more times than I can remember, being “open minded” is great. It’s a prerequisite to doing science, but being so open-minded that your brains fall out, not so much. That is the path to woo. That is the path to…Choprawoo.

What I am really addressing here is the brand of professional skepticism that Shermer stands for that borders on cynicism and which leads to a rigid attachment to materialist science. It is the cynicism and prejudice that refuses to explore the new frontiers of neuroscience, genomics, epigenetics, information theory and the understanding of consciousness that I am speaking to.

Science. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means, Chopra.

Moreover, if anything, Shermer is among the more polite skeptics. I’ve never seen him throw insults the way Chopra claims; indeed, he’s probably far more tolerant of woo than I am. Of course, Chopra is parroting a common claim among woo-meisters, an easy mischaracterization of skepticism as cynism. It is not. any good skeptic, if provided with compelling evidence that contradicts his viewpoint or current science, will reconsider his position. Show me evidence for homeopathy, for example, that is even within an order of magnitude of the quality and quantity as the mountains of evidence that show homeopathy to be incredibly implausible, if not downright impossible, based on physics, chemistry, and biology, and I’ll start to have doubts about my position. Likewise, if Chopra could actually show hard evidence and science to support his views, rather than whining and embarrassingly bad handwaving and misrepresentations of quantum theory, I’d start to take him seriously. He doesn’t, and I don’t.

Instead, Chopra loves to throw around “science-y” words to make it sound as though he knows what he’s talking about and then contorts them into word salads that mean nothing of substance, all the while appealing to the quintessensial “god of the gaps.” Only he doesn’t appeal to God to fill in what science does not yet know. He appeals to quantum woo or “universal consciousness” or wild claims. Indeed, P.Z. Myers posted a perfect example of just such word salad by Chopra, and I’m going to steal it for my own nefarious purposes:

The essential nature of the material world is not material; the essential nature of the physical world is not physical; the essential stuff of the universe is non-stuff.

Western science is still frozen in an obsolete, Newtonian worldview that is based literally on superstition — and we can call it the superstition of materialism — which says you and I are physical entities of the physical universe.

This is a fundamental misunderstanding – that perception is in the brain. It’s not in the brain; perception is in consciousness. All our thoughts are in consciousness, all our imagination is in consciousness, all our cognition is in consciousness. Everything that we call reality is in consciousness. Everything! There’s nothing outside consciousness. And no one can find this consciousness. And the reason they can’t find consciousness is because they are looking in the wrong place.

Past, present and future are actually one phenomenon, one picture, one reality, one consciousness.

Every cell instantly knows what is happening in every other cell, in fact, in the whole universe.

Like, wow man. Like, every cell, maaan, knows what, you know, like, every other cell is doing, like, what’s happening in the whole universe! Why can’t I see that? it must be because I’m not so open-minded that my brain fell out, like Chopra. Maybe exposing the brain to the outside air allows it to experience everything that’s going on in the entire universe better, freed from the blocking of the woo rays by the skull. He’s also just plain wrong. Every cell doesn’t instantly “know” what is happening in every other cell, much less the universe. At least, there’s no good evidence to support such a contention. Not even Chopra’s word salad science supports his bold assertions.

The bottom line is that there’s nothing in Deepak Chopra’s latest wooful whine that he didnt’ say over four years ago and continues to say right up to a month ago. He falsely paints scientists and skeptics as “defenders of the status quo” when nothing could be further from the truth, as looking at the roster of who won the Nobel Prize in science will show. (Here’s a hint for Deepak: You don’t win the Nobel Prize by confirming known science; you win it by challenging existing paradigms and finding something new and very important.) Chopra conflates criticism of his poor understanding of science with personal attacks by skeptics, even though over four years ago Michael Shermer made a special request that no personal attacks be made on Dr. Chopra in an issue of The Skeptic. He insisted only upon a skeptical evaluation of Chopra’s ideas on quantum consciousness and healing, but Chopra apparently can’t tell the difference between a skeptical evaluation of his ideas and ad hominem attacks. Even though Shermer is about as easy-going a guy as can be imagined and never anything more than a perfect gentleman in any public appearance I’ve ever seen him in, Deepak sees him as a demon because he isn’t impressed by Chopra’s word salad science and abuse of quantum physics.

I think Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth summed up Chopra quite nicely in Futurama:

For those who can’t watch the video:

But as Deepak Chopra taught us, quantum physics means that anything can happen at anytime and for no reason. Also, eat plenty of oatmeal, and animals never had a war! Who is the real animal?

The real animal is the one without consciousness–except that everyone and everything has universal consciousness. And in Chopra’s world, anything really can happen at any time for no reason at all.

Comments

  1. #1 Sunil
    January 5, 2010

    “Word salad” is most apt. In case you haven’t seen this, Nirmukta did a good video describing Chopra’s formula of using false metaphors to arrive at any conclusion he wants. See http://nirmukta.com/2009/06/30/deepak-chopra-a-new-age-shaman/.

  2. #2 Andyo
    January 5, 2010

    Another “feature” of these idiots is that they invoke Eisntein, Heisenberg and the like and those guys would be the first to laugh their asses off at this crap. Einstein is freaking famous precisely for something that directly negates that anything “instantly knows” what is happening elsewhere (like, in the WHOLE FREAKING UNIVERSE!)

  3. #3 DLC
    January 5, 2010

    Albert Einstein would either laugh his ass off at Chopra’s blatant ignorance or he would go punch Chopra in the nose for using his name and works to scam people out of money.

  4. #4 hat_eater
    January 5, 2010

    Wow. I initially thought that PZ posted a parody of Choprawoo. It looks that parody is hard to tell from the real stuff.

  5. #5 Wrysmile
    January 5, 2010

    Could someone tell him it’s just plain woo and not woo woo as he likes to call it.

  6. #6 Wrysmile
    January 5, 2010

    No one calls it woo woo, sorry that’s really bugging me

  7. #7 Dangerous Bacon
    January 5, 2010

    Oooo, “materialist science” is being a big meanie again!

    Chopra: “(Shermer) has made skepticism his personal brand, more or less, sitting by the side of the road to denigrate “those people who believe in spirituality, ghosts, and so on…”

    Yes, it’s terrible that skeptics sit around snickering while others do the real work of bullshit.

  8. #8 Kristen
    January 5, 2010

    It occurs to me that it is very difficult to expose these promoters of non-science for what they are because people generally feel science is not understandable.

    When my two oldest daughters came to live with me they both thought that anything science-related was boring and difficult. They made fun of my husband and I when we had conversations (and about our vocabulary). We had to show them there was science that directly related to them.

    I recall one specific instance when my African-American daughter was complaining about being ‘different’ from the rest of the family. I explained to her the evolutionary reason (basically) for different races to show her we are not different, but evolved for different climates. She listened intently and felt better, this has opened up the discourse now and she is willing to listen to more intelligent conversation and doing better in school.

    Ignorance has become ‘cool’ to our children and being ‘smart’ is grounds for ridicule. Curiosity is not nurtured in the home, and children are not taught to seek more information. Children are taught that it is more important to be accepted, then correct.

    Perhaps more science education would help, but I think the biggest improvement can come from parents.

  9. #9 WonderingWilla
    January 5, 2010

    I don’t think it’s Dinesh D’Sousa who wrote the brain book. It’s the CNN doctor guy who was almost surgeon general.

  10. #10 Todd W.
    January 5, 2010

    The essential nature of the material world is not material; the essential nature of the physical world is not physical; the essential stuff of the universe is non-stuff.

    So, the essential sense of Chopra is non-sense?

  11. #11 Karl Withakay
    January 5, 2010

    There’s a difference between being open minded and being credulous. Deepak apparently doesn’t understand that.

  12. #12 Anthro
    January 5, 2010

    The comments section really made my day–thanks to you all.

    @Kristen – I had similar experiences with my children. When they challenged teachers (who often spouted utter scientific nonsense) they were “counseled” to “let it go” and to “stop trying to be so smart”. As a parent, I was “counseled” to “stop encouraging them to ‘show up’ their teachers”. In utter frustration, I homeschooled the youngest for a few years, but got tired in the end, of being confused with religious nutters and sent him to a good private school where his abilities were finally appreciated. The others continue to challenge the pervasive woo and are still often seen as “hoity-toity-think-you-know-everything”. Happily, the grandchildren are becoming proper skeptics as well. There is one currently obsessed with the idea that dragons are quite real–we are giving him another year or so on that as he is only 11.

  13. #13 Kristen
    January 5, 2010

    @Anthro

    I appreciate your comment also.

    My biological children are very young, but we are trying to encourage them to think for themselves.

    We also try to prepare them for the kind of harassment they will unfortunately experience in school. We affectionately call them our little nerds.

    That is one of the things I love about my ASD son’s personality, he doesn’t care what anybody says or thinks about him. My husband (with asperger’s) never did care either. I fear it will be more difficult for my daughters (age four and toddler), but we are trying to get them ready now to be proud of their scientific (hopefully) minds.

  14. #14 Alareth
    January 5, 2010

    Woo woo was coined by James Randi in one of his earlier books. Woo is just the shortened version.

    Recently he asked people to start using woo woo more often in order to get it in the dictionary.

    YMMV

  15. #15 Mojo
    January 5, 2010

    Quoted from Chopra:

    Western science is still frozen in an obsolete, Newtonian worldview that is based literally on superstition — and we can call it the superstition of materialism — which says you and I are physical entities of the physical universe.

    As I said over on PZ’s blog, this is somewhat reminiscent of something Alan Sokal wrote a few years back:

    There are many natural scientists, and especially physicists, who continue to reject the notion that the disciplines concerned with social and cultural criticism can have anything to contribute, except perhaps peripherally, to their research. Still less are they receptive to the idea that the very foundations of their worldview must be revised or rebuilt in the light of such criticism. Rather, they cling to the dogma imposed by the long post-Enlightenment hegemony over the Western intellectual outlook, which can be summarized briefly as follows: that there exists an external world, whose properties are independent of any individual human being and indeed of humanity as a whole; that these properties are encoded in “eternal” physical laws; and that human beings can obtain reliable, albeit imperfect and tentative, knowledge of these laws by hewing to the “objective” procedures and epistemological strictures prescribed by the (so-called) scientific method.

  16. #16 Denice Walter
    January 5, 2010

    I saw the program(didn’t take notes)but *vaguely* recall hearing DC saying something about the “collective unconscious”- which is a *shibolleth* of sorts, signalling major woo to follow.You know that when they dust off Jung and present it as evidence, you’re in for a Schadenfreude-fest! Similarly, the quoted mishmash about consciousness/perception above.So bad it’s good!

  17. #17 James Sweet
    January 5, 2010

    No matter that this broad brush would tar not just the Pope, Mahatma Gandhi, St. Teresa of Avila, Buddha,

    Um…. yeah! Is anybody seriously defending Pope Benedict as a nice guy? The fucker’s backwards stance on condoms is killing Africans by the thousands. Yes, the Pope is a superstitious dogma-pushing asshole. Thanks Deepak, we already knew that.

    Ghandi and Mother Theresa are more difficult figures. More and more, it’s sounding like the latter was no saint (pun intended!), and while Ghandi’s principle of non-violence is indubitably admirable, there is some controversy over whether his piousness and devotion to Hinduism may have exacerbated the Hindu-Muslim tensions that led Pakistan to split off from India, an event that led to three wars and probably the most realistic threat of nuclear conflagration that exists today.

    In any case, even if we assume Ghandi and Mother Theresa are worthy of their glowing reputations, the fact that they also had some crazy beliefs is totally irrelevant. I’m a computer engineer, so you wouldn’t want to ask me for oncology advice; by the same token, I wouldn’t ask a professional political activist about the scientific method.

    And uh, dude, the Buddha is fictional… and even if he was based on a historical figure, anybody who lived prior to the Enlightment can be excused for believing just about any crazy nonsense, because humanity just didn’t have even passable explanations for a bunch of really basic questions. Post-Darwin, a belief in spooks is less defensible.

    Chopraaaaaaaaaaaahhhh!!!!

  18. #18 James Sweet
    January 5, 2010

    Einstein is freaking famous precisely for something that directly negates that anything “instantly knows” what is happening elsewhere

    This is an excellent point. Furthermore, if Einstein near the end of his life were to sit down and have a conversation with today’s Choprah, I think Deepak would find Mr. Relativity to be even more “cynical” than Schermer. Einstein also famously had difficulty accepting some of the counter-intuitive results of quantum mechanics — the very same counter-intuitive results that Choprah uses to argue that “anything can happen at any time for no reason”.

    By the way, I recently coined the term The Quantum Gambit for the following argument:

    1) My insane theory doesn’t make any goddamn sense.
    2) Quantum theory is supported by mountains of evidence, but even it’s strongest proponents (e.g. Feynman, Schroedinger, etc.) have gone on record saying that it doesn’t make any goddamn sense.
    3) Therefore, my insane theory is probably supported by mountains of evidence.

  19. #19 rob
    January 5, 2010

    i believe that the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics is true. all the cells in my body feel that there must be an alternate universe where deepak isn’t full of crap. every time i read deepak’s drivel, all the cells of my body want to instantly tunnel to such an alternate universe.

  20. #20 Blake Stacey
    January 5, 2010

    \me steals the term “Quantum Gambit” for later use

  21. #21 Sastra
    January 5, 2010

    It is rusty because Shermer doesn’t even bother to keep up with the latest findings in neuroscience, medicine, genetics, physics, and evolutionary biology. All of these fields have opened fascinating new ground for speculation and imagination.

    Chopra is referring here to “speculation and imagination” without checks and balances. He’s also using a special “holistic” understanding of “science.” Whenever I read crap like this, I’m reminded of this passage from Meera Nanda:

    ALL these numerous celebrations of “Vedas as science” follow a similar intellectual strategy of finding analogies and equivalences. All invoke extremely speculative theories from modern cosmology, quantum mechanics, vitalistic theories of biology and parapsychology, and other fringe sciences. They read back these sciences into Sanskrit texts chosen at will, and their meaning decided by the whim of the interpreter, and claim that the entities and processes mentioned in Sanskrit texts are “like”, “the same thing as”, or “another word for” the ideas expressed in modern cosmology, quantum physics or biology. Thus there is a bit of a Brahman here and a bit of quantum mechanics there, the two treated as interchangeable; there are references to “energy”, a scientific term with a definite mathematical formulation in physics, which gets to mean “consciousness”; references to Newton’s laws of action and reaction are made to stand for the laws of karma and reincarnation; completely discredited “evidence” from parapsychology and “secret life of plants” are upheld as proofs of the presence of different degrees of soul in all matter; “evolution” is taught as the self-manifestation of Brahman and so on. The terms are scientific, but the content is religious. There is no regard for consistency either of scientific concepts, or of religious ideas. Both wholes are broken apart, random connections and correspondences are established and with great smugness, the two modes of knowing are declared to be equivalent, and even inter-changeable. The only driving force, the only idea that gives this whole mish-mash any coherence, is the great anxiety to preserve and protect Hinduism from a rational critique and demystification. Vedic science is motivated by cultural chauvinism, pure and simple.

    “Vedic science” is also motivated by the same thing as “creationist science” — a desire to reenchant the world, and to do so using the prestige and success of the scientific method, while denying its need for rigor, clarity, and consensus.

    Meera Nanda rocks, by the way. If you want to read great critiques of lazy Hinduized choprawoo, look up Nanda.

  22. #22 Citizen Deux
    January 5, 2010

    James Sweet – absolutely brilliant.

    I christen this the Sweet Quantum Gambit!

    1) My insane theory doesn’t make any goddamn sense.
    2) Quantum theory is supported by mountains of evidence, but even it’s strongest proponents (e.g. Feynman, Schroedinger, etc.) have gone on record saying that it doesn’t make any goddamn sense.
    3) Therefore, my insane theory is probably supported by mountains of evidence.

  23. #23 Liz
    January 5, 2010

    I didn’t know the Pope, Mother Theresa, Gandhi & Buddha were scientists… gee you learn something new every day.

    I wish every cell in my body knew exactly what all the other cells were doing. Then I wouldn’t have to worry about CANCER, because as soon as one cell went awry, the others would be on to it before it even began its initial leech off a blood vessel. There would be no time delay in “fighting” disease, either. No bizarre post (shingles) herpetic neuralgia from a damaged nerve cluster… because all my cells would know the truth!

    … Or maybe my cells are just dumb.

  24. #24 James Sweet
    January 5, 2010

    Chopra is referring here to “speculation and imagination” without checks and balances

    In addition, he’s not really understanding the point of speculation. My guess is that most skeptics, including the luminaries like Schermer, Dawkins, et al, would be happy to engage in all sorts of wild speculation, within the context of it being speculation.

    Just to take an example, it might be a fascinating thought experiment to talk about what a universe would look like where each biological cell did have some special property that allowed it to communicate with each other cell in the universe. Would this allow a symbiotic relationship to evolve between species in entirely different galaxies?? Or for that matter, a parasitic relationship? How exactly might evolutionary models be brought to bear on such a conjecture?

    Of course it’s all hogwash, but so what? It’s speculation, it’s a thought experiment. That’s awesome, and most skeptics would approve. Where Deepak turns into a flaming idiot is when he starts confusing wild speculation with reality.

  25. #25 realinterrobang
    January 5, 2010

    I don’t know enough about quantum physics to have hit the part that doesn’t make any goddamn sense yet, I guess. Then again, the fact that I went into it basically completely ignorant of formal classical physics probably helped — I had nothing to unlearn. :)

  26. #26 Katharine
    January 5, 2010

    This is why I am not really wont to trust MDs on their scientific knowledge very much unless they also do research.

  27. #27 wockrassa
    January 5, 2010

    Except that Chopra wouldn’t recognize the scientific method if it bit him in the…well, you know where.

    In the deepak?

  28. #28 Blake Stacey
    January 5, 2010

    I can imagine what Chopra’s kind would say if scientists had never discovered relativity or quantum physics: “Dude, it’s like there’s this, you know, force, which reaches across the whole universe and binds everything together!” “Yeah, man: you can’t touch anybody without being touched, you know?”

    I second Sastra‘s recommendation of Meera Nanda, by the way. The passage quoted in #21 reminds me of this, from Murray Gell-Mann’s The Quark and the Jaguar:

    It seems to be characteristic of the impact of scientific discovery on the literary world and on popular culture that certain items of vocabulary, interpreted vaguely or incorrectly, are often the principal survivors of the journey from the technical publication to the popular magazine or paperback. The important qualifications and distinctions, and sometimes the actual ideas themselves, tend to get lost along the way. Witness the popular uses of “ecology” and “quantum jump,” to say nothing of the New Age expression “energy field.” Of course, one can argue that words like “chaos” and “energy” antedate their use as technical terms, but it is the technical meanings that are being distorted in the process of vulgarization, not the original senses of the words.

  29. #29 James Sweet
    January 5, 2010

    I don’t know enough about quantum physics to have hit the part that doesn’t make any goddamn sense yet, I guess. Then again, the fact that I went into it basically completely ignorant of formal classical physics probably helped — I had nothing to unlearn. :)

    I was mostly referring to the Feynman quote that’s something along the lines of, “If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics.”

    I am an abject layman, so ignore me. But I defy you to tell me that the results of the double slit experiment are intuitive…!

  30. #30 The Gregarious Misanthrope
    January 5, 2010

    @ Liz – I am sure that for $29.95 + tax and shipping, Deepak would be happy to sell you some group counseling for your cells to get them to communicate better.

  31. #31 BKsea
    January 5, 2010

    It seems to me that the woo-woos fundamentally fail to understand the “peer review” aspect of science. They think that “peer” is analogous to drinking buddy and that they should support whatever is claimed. In reality, the “peers” are more analogous to high school girls looking for ways to tear each other down.
    As a researcher, I always try to ensure there is someone in the room telling me all my ideas are shit. They tend to be much more valuable in making scientific progress than someone who says every idea is great.
    Chopra does not seem to understand what a valuable role such critics play. If you cannot respond to their criticism with empirical evidence, it generally means either your ideas really are shit, or you are not a very good scientist, or you are not a scientist at all.

  32. #32 Koray
    January 5, 2010

    Well, the ‘superstition’ that is Western science has airplanes flying and the Internets working. What has Choprawoo done for us lately?

  33. #33 Chud
    January 5, 2010

    I remember Deepak Chopra, especially toward the end, emphasizing that he wasn’t arguing with Shermer, but with his neural network. “But who is saying that, who believes, that ? You ? Or your neural network? ” He kept saying things to this effect with such pride and surety. Meanwhile I’m like, “Chopra, who is saying that, you or your neural network ?” My neural network thinks Chopra didn’t make a very good case.

  34. #34 Sastra
    January 5, 2010

    BKsea #31 wrote:

    It seems to me that the woo-woos fundamentally fail to understand the “peer review” aspect of science. They think that “peer” is analogous to drinking buddy and that they should support whatever is claimed. In reality, the “peers” are more analogous to high school girls looking for ways to tear each other down.

    I understand your point, and agree — but think that your analogy is a really bad one in this case. It feeds right into their basic misunderstanding of science. High school girls tear into each other just to increase their own status, and do so by pointlessly criticizing other people’s personal tastes and personalities. This is basically how the woo-woo’s frame their entire concept of “criticism:” socially. It’s rude and disrespectful, because it’s always about people. Thus, people should be able to believe whatever they want, the same way they should be left alone to listen to their own favorite music, or follow their personal dreams. Telling someone their view is mistaken is just the same as telling them they’re a bad person. We mustn’t judge. In their view, it’s all about social dominance and acceptance, special cliques and people who are open and welcoming. Science, done right, would be a goddam Care Bear birthday party.

    Instead, I’d compare scientific critique to serious competitions, with strict rules, multiple monitors, and the pursuit of excellence. Sports, perhaps, or chess — or even capitalism, though that’s a dicey area to invoke if you’re dealing with woos.

  35. #35 Mojo
    January 5, 2010

    James Sweet wrote:

    By the way, I recently coined the term The Quantum Gambit for the following argument:
    1) My insane theory doesn’t make any goddamn sense.
    2) Quantum theory is supported by mountains of evidence, but even it’s strongest proponents (e.g. Feynman, Schroedinger, etc.) have gone on record saying that it doesn’t make any goddamn sense.
    3) Therefore, my insane theory is probably supported by mountains of evidence.

    There used to be a page about QM on on “Wiki4CAM”, which after a load of flapdoodle about What the Bleep Do We Know?!, The Secret, “mankind’s psychic powers”, positive thinking “forcing quantum states into the desired positive options”, etc., and namechecking Lionel Milgrom, finished with: “Quantum mechanics is investigated by physicists worldwide, hence all the above can be considered accepted science.”

  36. #36 Skeptico
    January 5, 2010

    Not to publicize my own post on this topic (who am I kidding – of course I’m publicizing my own post on this topic), from the transcript of the Larry King show, Chopra says:

    And the evidence is pointing out that this consciousness is non-local, which means it exists outside of space-time and therefore, mathematically, it’s impossible to destroy this consciousness.

    Get that?  It’s impossible to destroy consciousness.

    Impossible!

    Can’t be done, no way.

    I must say, this Deepak Chopra fellow seems a little closed minded.

  37. #37 Bronze Dog
    January 5, 2010

    And you’ve earned my first Quote of the Time Being for 2010, James.

  38. #38 Dr. P
    January 6, 2010

    @ 26,

    This is why I am not really wont to trust MDs on their scientific knowledge very much unless they also do research.

    I don’t know, I know a lot of us that keep up fairly well on science and technology without being directly involved in research:). I think it’s valid to question the critical thinking skills of anyone who suggests this is valid use of science, but I see Deepcrap as a cynical cash grabber; I’m not convinced he believes much of the bilge spilling out, but maybe I’m giving him too much credit…..you know being an amoral cash whore instead of being simply stupid.

  39. #39 Elvis
    January 6, 2010

    What is it with this guys trying to use quantum mechanics and conciousness to make sweeping generalizations about their false pretenses? They may think that their listeners can’t evaluate the truthfulness of their claims but this is scientific turf they are stepping on and don’t have the right to act surprised when getting their asses handed on a platter. Further, unlike some woomeisters who purposefully twist facts Chopra seems to have convinced himself into a Renaissance stature by commenting on any topic that strikes his fancy without the littlest concern of mangling discussion. I would like to see one of his posts directly refuted on huff po , perhaps by beginnig to expose his ignorance of quantum mechanics and move to his idiotic claims of ascribing conciousness to single cells.

  40. #40 Pablo
    January 6, 2010

    I had a GREAT encounter with Chopraity this morning. I heard him on a commercial for Chopra on satellite radio, that goes something like this:

    “My name is Deepak Chopra. I am the author of more than 52 books.”

    So, what? 53?

    You gotta love the irony of a guy who likes to pontificate on quantum mechanics but doesn’t know the difference between discrete and continuous variables.

  41. #41 hyperdeath
    January 6, 2010

    Despite trying to hijack the terms “open mindedness”, “imagination” and “curiosity”, Chopra doesn’t exhibit any of these traits in the slightest.

    He doesn’t seem to know the difference between open mindedness, and blind, unyielding belief. A truly open minded person will consider both an idea and the possibility that the idea is false. Chopra invariably chooses the former, whilst utterly closing his mind to the latter. Despite whining about how the mean mean sceptics would have stood in the way of great scientific advances, it hasn’t crossed his mind that scepticism plays just as much of a role in the scientific process as acceptance. When Crick and Watson were told that their triple-helix model of DNA was wrong, they didn’t moan about “closed mindedness”. Instead, they continued in their search for truth, and eventually succeeded. Scepticism filtered out the worthless nonsense, thus allowing the truth to be reached. Similarly, scepticism filtered out caloric, The luminiferous aether, and miasmas, thus leading to thermodynamics, relativity, and the discovery of pathogens. Unfortunately, Chopra has nothing to offer but worthless nonsense, and so his only response to scepticism is to throw tantrums.

    Despite his blatherings about “imagination”, Chopra’s nonsense displays little of it. For example, the “medicines” he peddles are based on crude associations and simplistic models, which are only imaginative in the sense that they are made up. Ayurveda’s uselessness is exceeded only by its sheer dullness. On the other hand, an MRI scanner, with its glorious combination of (real) quantum physics, exquisite engineering, and mathematical wizardry is the product of more imagination, more curiosity and more intellectual daring than the sum total of every “alternative” medicine ever devised.

    Chopra’s “curiosity” is the most ridiculous pretence of them all. His condescending name-dropping of scientific fields betrays a lack of real curiosity in those subjects. If he was genuinely curious, he would have done some background reading; his utter pig-ignorance demonstrates that he hasn’t. At most, he has wormed-out a handful of partially-correct factoids, muddled up with his usual bare assertions and word salad. He couldn’t care less about neurology, information theory or quantum mechanics; he wants important sounding phrases with which to peddle his tedious, unimaginative drivel.

    He is not just an idiot, but a closed-minded, unimaginative, and incurious idiot.

  42. #42 attack_laurel
    January 7, 2010

    I am, more than ever, convinced that Chopra said “look at all the pretty words!” and never got any further in his education. It’s certainly the basis of all his arguments – “Skeptics are boring! Look at all my pretty words! Aren’t they pretty?”. He’s just jealous that the other side came up with the term “woo-woo” first.

  43. #43 Iced Borscht
    January 7, 2010

    I don’t think it’s Dinesh D’Sousa who wrote the brain book. It’s the CNN doctor guy who was almost surgeon general.

    I think you’re correct; Sanjay Gupta could have been the guy wearing the kick-ass Admiral-of-Health suit that C. Everett Coop used to wear. It’s still pertinent to point out that Dinesh D’Souza has an incredibly irritating voice voice, though.

  44. #44 Orac
    January 7, 2010

    Actually, I should have pointed out that it lowered Sanjay Gupta another notch in my estimation to see him appear on Larry King Live with Dinesh D’Souza and Deepak Chopra. Dr. Gupta should know better than to appear side by side with woo-meisters like that.

  45. #45 Christophe Thill
    January 8, 2010

    Chopra isn’t talking about Mother Theresa (of Kolkata, India) but about Teresa of Avila, a Spanish Renaissance mystic who experienced extases that modern psychologists identified to orgasm.

    As for Gandhi, I’m not sure about what he believed in. He may have been a worshipper of Ganesh, for what I know. But what counts is not what you believe in: it’s how it affects your action. In that regard, Gandhi was very much a materialist. He taught people, not to pray, but to act. No “law of attraction” for him: not only would he have found it ridiculous, I’m sure he would have said that it’s a tool of the oppressors to encourage people to do nothing. So, sorry Mr Chopra, but you have no right to recruit Gandhi in your Army of Woo.

  46. #46 Danny
    January 8, 2010

    I thought I watched everything Futurama. Which episode would this be?

  47. #47 Sable
    January 8, 2010

    The futurama quote comes form the third movie.

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