Respectful Insolence

Remember Deepak Chopra?

He’s the physician (yes, physician) whose grasp on real science is so tenuous and whose ability to abuse multiple scientific disciplines, ranging from quantum physics to astronomy to genetics to medicine, simultaneously in the service of woo is so amazing that a few years ago I once coined a term representing the only word you ever need to use to refer to Chopra’s blather: Choprawoo. Yes, I realize that the term “Choprawoo” is completely redundant if you’re a skeptic and realize just how full of pseudoscientific nonsense Chopra’s blather is. On the other hand, for the folks out there who have yet to encounter Chopra or who aren’t familiar enough with him to realize that what Chopra says and what real science says are related only by coincidence or when the science happens to be science that Chopra can’t twist to support his view of “quantum consciousness” or a “conscious universe.” Be that as it may, it’s been a while since I’ve bothered with Chopra’s particularly annoying brand of quantum woo, which seems to have the ability to metastasize and invade not just physics, but all of neuroscience, genetics, biology, and evolutionary science.

When last I recall leaving Deepak Chopra, he was whining about just how mean we skeptics were to him, calling him all sorts of (well-deserved) names for his mangling of even the most basic of sciences or attacking Michael Shermer for calling his BS, well, BS, albeit in a far more polite manner than readers of this blog are accustomed to hearing from me. Apparently he’s still been up to his usual tricks–and in his usual places, too: his own blog, Intent.com, and that wretched hive of scum and quackery that he’s infested almost since its beginning The Huffington Post. In fact, he often crossposts the same articles to both blogs, and this is exactly what he did with his latest target topic Is Evolution Ready to Evolve? (crossposted to HuffPo, natch).

Per his usual MO, Chopra starts off trying to paint himself and those who think like him as martyrs persecuted by the cruel, jagged barbs of dogmatic insults against those who have the temerity to criticize “Darwinism.” Of course, whenever you hear someone like Chopra using the term “Darwinism” as a substitute for “evolution,” there’s at least a 99% chance you’re about to be treated to an anti-science rant of the highest caliber, and Chopra doesn’t disappoint:

Although science prides itself on objectivity, it has some cherished articles of belief, and if you question them, however reasonably, you can expect ire and raised hackles. Bruce Lipton has discovered this after posting “Has Modern Science Bankrupted Our Souls?” In it he challenges basic assumptions of modern science, such as the pre-eminence of a Newtonian physical universe and the conception of evolution through random mutations for being flawed. Natural selection and random mutation no doubt played a part in getting us where we are now, but they won’t carry us into the future. The controversy being stirred up is old and, so far as Darwinists are concerned, completely settled. On one side is the light of reason, on the other darkness and superstition. The fact that Bruce Lipton is a cell biologist doesn’t mean that his credentials protect him. People don’t take kindly to having their faith questioned.

Ah, yes. The old “your science is a religion” canard. How tiresome. How many times does it need to be said that the difference between religion and science is that science actually incorporates new evidence and observations and changes in response to them? As you might imagine, I’m not nearly as impressed with Bruce Lipton’s article as Chopra apparently is. For one thing, I know that Bruce Lipton was featured prominently in the woo-tastic movie The Living Matrix and is author of the book The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter & Miracles. Apparently he’s a cell biologist who abandoned “conventional” biology after having some sort of mystical revelation about cells that led him to conclude that God must exist and that “holistic” therapies work. So you know right then and there where he’s coming from and the reason why the entire heart of Lipton’s article boils down to this passage:

New science revises four fundamental beliefs that shape civilization. These flawed assumptions include:

  1. The Newtonian vision of the primacy of a physical, mechanical Universe;
  2. Genes control biology;
  3. Evolution resulted from random genetic mutations; and
  4. Evolution is driven by a struggle for the survival-of-the-fittest. These failed beliefs represent the “Four Assumptions of the Apocalypse,” for they are driving human civilization to the brink of extinction.

Lipton appears to be about 100 years behind the times. Newtonian physics gave way to relativity nearly that long ago. Around the same time, quantum theory began its rise, to be abused by woo-meisters everywhere like Deepak Chopra. As those of us who have studied a bit of physics know, quantum physics can produce some truly weird results. However, the whole bit about Newton, as 19th century as it is, is just the warm-up. What really cheeses Lipton (and Chopra) is that new findings in biology do not support their desire to believe in some higher power, be it a great “universal quantum consciousness” in the case of Deepak Chopra or some sort of vague spirituality in the case of Bruce Lipton. Naturally, Lipton channels Chopra who happily channels him back in invoking quantum theory to argue for the existence of spirit.

What really irritates Lipton, though, and apparently Chopra as well, is the determinism of modern biology in which genetics have allowed scientists to understand so much about how cells and the organisms made up of those cells function. I’ve never really been able to figure out why woo-meisters like Chopra love epigenetics so much, but I think I’m starting to get it based on this brief passage:

Biomedical research has recently toppled the widespread belief that organisms are genetically controlled robots and that evolution is driven by a random, survival-of-the-fittest mechanism. As genetically controlled “robots,” we are led to perceive of ourselves as “victims” of heredity. Genes control our lives yet we did not pick our genes, nor can we change them if we don’t like our traits. The perception of genetic victimization inevitably leads to irresponsibility, for we believe we have no power over our lives.

The exciting new science of epigenetics emphasizes that genes are controlled by the environment, and more importantly, by our perception of the environment. Epigenetics acknowledges that we are not victims, but masters, for we can change our environment or perceptions, and create up to 30,000 variations for each of our genes.

I’ve always viewed the whine by quackery supporters like Chopra and Lipton that genetics represents sheer determinism to be a bit of a straw man. No one claims that genes determine our destiny completely or that people should not adhere to healthy diets and lifestyles because genes render such considerations moot. Moreover, as I pointed out before when Mike Adams attacked Stephen Hawking a month ago for referring to humans as robots based on deterministic biology. The problem was that Hawking’s argument was far more complex and nuanced than it was represented. Basically, Hawking pointed out that we would have to know the the “initial state of each of the thousand trillion trillion molecules in the human body and to solve something like that number of equations” in order to be able to predict human behavior, something that is impossible with current knowledge and technology. That means, for all intents and purposes to me at least, the question of whether free will exists or not might be an interesting philosophical question but in practice is meaningless.

Whether my take is a good one or not, cranks like Chopra and Lipton are very much enamored of epigenetics because they view it somehow as a mechanism by which human beings can control their gene expression. The problem is, all that epigenetics means are mechanisms by which gene expression can be regulated by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA structure. These include methylating DNA, remodeling the chromatin in which the DNA is coiled, and a variety of other mechanisms. Yet frequently woo-meisters like Chopra use and abuse the concept of epigenetics to conclude that we can somehow change our gene expression by “intent”; i.e., by thinking really, really, really hard. They then wrap that concept up in some science-y sounding verbiage linking quantum physics to epigenetics and biology and–voila!–instant quantum consciousness, which, I guess, is not unlike instant karma, given that in this case it all seems to derive from ancient Ayurvedic concepts tarted up with quantum theory and evolution, as though they put them all in a blender and hit the “puree” button. In the process, they inevitably misrepresent evolution by natural selection as a purely random process, because, you know, they abhor randomness. Never mind that natural selection is not random. The mutations that natural selection acts upon are random, but natural selection itself is not. Moreover, epigenetics, while a fascinating field of study, fits quite well into modern evolutionary theory.

Moving away from Lipton’s article and back to Chopra’s post, I note that Chopra is not at all shy about laying out exactly why he abuses science so:

The basic premises that are able to cross the line between science and spirituality are these:

  • We live in a conscious universe.
  • Such a universe is constantly evolving.
  • Humans are woven into the currents of cosmic evolution.
  • The future of our own evolution will be based on conscious choice

Which leads Chopra to exult:

One could also appeal to personal interest, however, and the best way might be with the last premise on the list: *The future of our own evolution will be based on conscious choice*. A person can be left at peace with randomness, natural selection, a universe where the only conscious beings are us, and so on. But most people also gravitate to the idea of choosing their own future. It’s more optimistic than resigning yourself to the mechanical operation of fate, or stand ins like all-controlling genes.

In other words, Chopra doesn’t like the thought of a cold, uncaring universe that doesn’t give a rodent’s posterior about him or what he thinks; so he substitutes “conscious” universe in which human beings control their own evolution and that of the universe. It’s a lovely thought, so fuzzy, so happy, so reassuring. There’s only one problem: There’s no scientific evidence to suggest that it’s true. There’s another problem, too. Humans have tried to “consciously control” our evolution before. It was called eugenics, and it didn’t work out so well.

None of this stops Chopra from declaring confidently:

So is evolution ready to evolve? It would seem so, if we are to judge by the cutting edge. Younger researchers are open to these topics; they won’t just shut up and calculate. There are tussles, of course, and angry skirmishes. A war of two worldviews has broken out, in fact. One conception of the universe and our place in it is being forced to yield its supremacy to the new paradigm on the block. What Lipton’s post has done is to bring the clash of worldviews down from the ivory tower.

No, what Lipton’s post has done is to lay throw a whole bunch of quantum nonsense against the wall and see if anything stuck. Nothing did other than the remnants of the load of fetid dingo’s kidneys that Lipton’s and Chopra’s arguments inevitably are as Lipton declares that “biology and evolution are on our side.”

Unfortunately, biology and reason are not.

Comments

  1. #1 Jason Dick
    June 14, 2011

    Curiously, I think Chopra here stumbled upon a correct statement, even though the way he meant his statement was obviously completely and utterly wrong.

    The correct statement is this, “The future of our own evolution will be based on conscious choice.” This, I claim, is the case because humans are starting to understand evolution and are also developing a suite of technologies that give us varying degrees of control over reproduction (from birth control to genetic counseling). The future of human evolution will depend very strongly upon how we implement these technologies moving forward.

    Gaining information about how these various technologies impact human evolution will allow us to make the conscious choice to implement them in a way that human evolution moves in a direction we desire. At present, as near as I can tell, our information about the impact of these technologies on human evolution is nearly nil, so the choice is not yet conscious, though I expect it will be in the future.

  2. #2 nybgrus
    June 14, 2011

    @jason: I think you’re probably right, but I don’t know quite how far we can or will extend it. I think that basic random mutation and natural selection will still act on our evolution as a species, though that will contribute less and less as time and technology go on. I can see a time (long after I am dead, and probably my grandchildren too) that we can completely engineer a genome willy nilly. Will we do it? What would that mean for our species? How would ethics come into play? Thankfully I won’t have to do any more than casually ponder such things.

    as for dmabs and the threats – totally not cool bro. You’re more than likely just a stupid blowhard, but regardless such behaviour is simply unacceptable. I’ll let Orac handle it though – I reckon he’s an old hand at this. But I did want to publicy voice my condemnation of such behaviour.

  3. #3 snerd
    June 14, 2011

    That’s Dennis Markuse, apparently having a psychotic/manic episode once more.

  4. #4 sophia8
    June 14, 2011

    To anybody reading the comments: in case you don’t already know it, ‘dmabs’ is a well-known internet troll. The instruction DO NOT FEED THE TROLL applies here in spades.
    I hope Orac has his heavy-duty troll-squasher handy.

  5. #5 sophia8
    June 14, 2011

    what really irritates me about these woomeisters is their assumption that humans should the be-all and end-all of evolution and that “Nature” and the universe is all about us.
    That’s why Choparwoo and the rest are so anti-science (except when it suits them, as with epignetics). Science has the unfortunate habit of showing us that the universe doesn’t give a rat’s turd about humanity; in other words, it’s not all about them.

  6. #6 Orac
    June 14, 2011

    The Mabus troll has been dealt with. I guess I’m going to have to stop setting up posts to autopost in the middle of the night because that allows idiot trolls like him to play while I’m still asleep.

  7. #7 Amadan
    June 14, 2011

    Chopra is simply doing the same as creationists like Hovind or Dembski – producing a word salad that pushes all the right buttons of people who would never question whether it makes any sense, even if they knew how.

    It’s not as if they have to demonstrate competence in anything other than showmanship. They are, in essence, entertainers (however distasteful Outsiders may find them). Their role is to reassure people that their preconceptions are Good and Right.

    We are seeing the triumph of Medium over Message. Hail Murdoch!

  8. #8 Poodle Stomper
    June 14, 2011

    I’d like to see Chopra alter his methylation patterns by thought. Mainly this is because I’d like to see the effects of him unsilencing the multitudes of ERVs and random retrotransposons and other movable elements. I don’t think it will turn out as magical as he hopes, though, as methylation (and histone acetylation) are used to control our cells and keep them functioning correctly. I mean, why would you want to, say unsilence ancient viral genomes, or express transcription factors that would muck up the type of cell you currently are?

  9. #9 augustine
    June 14, 2011

    Ah, yes. The old “your science is a religion” canard. How tiresome. How many times does it need to be said that the difference between religion and science is that science actually incorporates new evidence and observations and changes in response to them?

    It’s idolatry, which is a form of religious worship. There it’s fixed. You don’t have to be so tiresome anymore. Your golden calf can morph with the evidence.

  10. #10 Jojo
    June 14, 2011

    *The future of our own evolution will be based on conscious choice*

    That’s a very chilling phrase. I realize that Chopra is full of BS, but if you follow the intent his beliefs then we should be just as capable of making evil choices for our evolution as we would warm fuzzy choices. The fact that he presents this as solely a good thing demonstrates that he doesn’t even bother to think through the implications of his own BS, let alone reality. Assuming benevolence in his conscious universe is silly based on the history of humans.

    Now, as Nygbrus pointed out, the likelihood that we will be able to manipulate and control our genetics in the future makes that statement even more disturbing. We’ll need to address some serious ethical concerns every step of the way.

    I’m going to stop now because I’m very close to a Godwin.

  11. #11 Rahdromeda
    June 14, 2011

    “Tip: take your time, plan your evolution, choose your mates wisely, don’t go to Andremeda, let her come to you.”

    That explains why she doesn’t return any of my phone calls.

    “They will be every bit as intelligent as you, but they will be arachnoid.”

    So, what do we serve for dinner when they show up? Will they fit in my sectional, or should I get some new chairs?

  12. #12 Jud
    June 14, 2011

    augustine writes:

    It’s [i.e., belief in scientifically evidenced results is] idolatry, which is a form of religious worship.

    So believing in anything for which there is scientific evidence – e.g., that airplanes fly – is a form of idolatry? I thought it was atheism. Perhaps you’d like to make up your mind on that point.

    Oh, and how do you disbelieve in the science behind computers when you’re using one to make your arguments? Or are you an idolater in your heart as well, but trying to stamp it out so as to leave no fact-and-logic based conclusions in your head whatsoever?

  13. #13 palindrom
    June 14, 2011

    I gotta hand it to Chopra — he’s one of the most brilliant phraseologists out there in the wooniverse. His stuff all sounds so … so plausible … so reassuring … and so cutting-edge! He’s amazingly deft at portraying himself as a wonderful progressive voice bringing humanity a ray of hope, in opposition to those fuddy-duddy scientists who are just too blinkered to understand.

    The effect is, unfortunately, ruined, if you know anything about e.g. quantum mechanics or biology, because in that case it’s obvious that he’s a consummate BS artist.

    Don’t get me started on Lanza.

    Orac, I also wanted to thank you for your offhand statement about the meaninglessness of the free-will question in the face of the practical impossibility of predicting human choices. I’ve thought that for a long time but never seen it articulated so nicely. Bravo!

  14. #14 Dangerous Bacon
    June 14, 2011

    I’d like to think we can evolve past the compulsion to embrace woo, but it seems to be hardwired into the DNA of too many people who are good at reproducing.

    Long after genetic manipulation produces a new race of physically superior beings, we’ll still be hearing the same old babblings, conspiracy-mongering and self-pity from successors to Chopra, Mike Adams, Hulda Clark et al.

  15. #15 augustine
    June 14, 2011

    Jud

    So believing in anything for which there is scientific evidence – e.g., that airplanes fly – is a form of idolatry?

    No.

    Oh, and how do you disbelieve in the science behind computers when you’re using one to make your arguments?

    Now that your point is moot, your argument is also a bad one. One doesn’t have to understand the “science” behind something to make practical use of it. Ask medical doctors.

  16. #16 Mu
    June 14, 2011

    The future of our own evolution will be based on conscious choice
    Oddly, you could argue that was the rationality the Nazis applied first for their elimination of “unworthy life” followed by the racially motivated mass murder. We should point out to Chopra that his conscious universe better follow human morality ideas, otherwise it might just consciously eliminate that cancerous growth on one of its planets.
    As a simple experiment for Lipton and Chopra, why don’t we hand them each a beaker full of yeast, and let them think positive thought about them. Afterwards we compare to the control beaker and check for changes.

  17. #17 Beamup
    June 14, 2011

    Orac, I also wanted to thank you for your offhand statement about the meaninglessness of the free-will question in the face of the practical impossibility of predicting human choices. I’ve thought that for a long time but never seen it articulated so nicely. Bravo!

    I agree – very well stated. Like palindrom, your statement effectively agrees with my own position but it’s hard to put it into such clear words.

  18. #18 Jojo
    June 14, 2011

    It’s idolatry, which is a form of religious worship.

    I do not understand how you came to this conclusion. I read your comment the same way as Jud did, so you might want to try and make your response a little more comprehensible. What exactly do you consider idolatry in this post?

  19. #19 Artor
    June 14, 2011

    Get back Jojo. The quote Augustine was criticizing was directed at Chopra; I read his comment as addressed to Chopra, referring to HIS view of modern science as idolatry. Am I off base August? Confess!

  20. #20 JW
    June 14, 2011

    Seeing as no one of us knows the source and nature of reality judging Chopra or anyone else for their theory and experience, no matter how much he gets under your skin, is just you being a rooster – with all of the strutting and posturing that goes along with it. Physics and biology, like all other scientific disciplines we possess, can only describe what can be observed directly or indirectly through our human senses, neither can tell us how any of it came to be. We know a big bang happened, for example, but no one can say anything about the earlier genesis or seqeula. In the end, command of the “correct” interpretation of scientific discoveries to date means far less to me than the extent to which a theory, and its associated practices, enhances the quality of lived life for me and others. Having just read this polemic and having read Chopra and other Eastern-based cosmology writers, I can tell you that absorbing the shavings of your axe grinding does nothing to bring peace, prosperity, or comfort to anyone. I suspect you are no more content with your life as a result of sharing your disdain either. No matter what any of us think of Chopra and others like him, they at least know how to provide hope, peace, and a sense of agency in life. Even as a scientist in an esteemed academic institution, that is worth far more to me and the families I study and work with then rants about pseudoscience. Face it, we are all toddlers on this planet – we know nothing about what is “real” and how we came to be here. Evidence of our infancy lives in every toxic piece of water and land on the planet that we have infected with our ignorance and need to be right. Until the “real science” you worship so vehemently brings tangible changes in the way we collectively live and treat each other, I’ll take Choprawoo any day.

  21. #21 Anton P. Nym
    June 14, 2011

    What exactly do you consider idolatry in this post?

    Probably everything. You see, basing your argument on material evidence is clearly placing the observation of objects above the spiritual authority of $HOLY_BOOK and thus enshrines it as more worthy of respect. Bowing before material evidence is therefor the same as making sacrifices to idols.

    (See? It’s fun to play with words… at least until someone puts an eye out, anyway.)

    — Steve

  22. #22 JW
    June 14, 2011

    Seeing as no one of us knows the source and nature of reality judging Chopra or anyone else for their theory and experience, no matter how much he gets under your skin, is just you being a rooster – with all of the strutting and posturing that goes along with it. Physics and biology, like all other scientific disciplines we possess, can only describe what can be observed directly or indirectly through our human senses, neither can tell us how any of it came to be. We know a big bang happened, for example, but no one can say anything about the earlier genesis or seqeula. In the end, command of the “correct” interpretation of scientific discoveries to date means far less to me than the extent to which a theory, and its associated practices, enhances the quality of lived life for me and others. Having just read this polemic and having read Chopra and other Eastern-based cosmology writers, I can tell you that absorbing the shavings of your axe grinding does nothing to bring peace, prosperity, or comfort to anyone. I suspect you are no more content with your life as a result of sharing your disdain either. No matter what any of us think of Chopra and others like him, they at least know how to provide hope, peace, and a sense of agency in life. Even as a scientist in an esteemed academic institution, that is worth far more to me and the families I study and work with then rants about pseudoscience. Face it, we are all toddlers on this planet – we know nothing about what is “real” and how we came to be here. Evidence of our infancy lives in every toxic piece of water and land on the planet that we have infected with our ignorance and need to be right. Until the “real science” you worship so vehemently brings tangible changes in the way we collectively live and treat each other, I’ll take Choprawoo any day.

  23. #23 Denice Walter
    June 14, 2011

    Uh oh! The c-word again!
    Really and truly: when I decided to take grad degrees in psych I had to study its history- as “pre-scientific psych”, a list of philosophers( and their writings on perception, sensation, emotion, thought, consciousness, etc.) is trotted out ( BTW, I had already gone through this in philos undergrad). After much *Sturm und Drang”, months later our lovely prof says,” Already been done, we needn’t repeat”, and we move on…

    I wish these guys would. Come on, now!

    But they can’t because this wankery is integral to their MO: impress the marks with your erudition and spirituality- Chopra and Lipton are not plebians tied to things of this world; oh no, they are *lofty*! Then there’s the *writing*: “evolution evolves”? Give me a break! Sounds like the 12 year, enamoured with newly acquired formal operational thought, who “talks about talking”, “thinks about thinking”, “remembers memory”, et al. The less I say about the metaphors and analogies the better ( “Needn’t repeat”)

    The marks, unlike me, *are* impressed: enough so to buy books. I also discern that these guys are sidling up to people who mis-understand and mis-trust science. In a way, aren’t tossing in words like “quantum” and “evolution” taking them out of their proper context and placing them in more mundane surroundings where they can be fiddled with and controlled? “See! It’s not so *mysterious* and complex after all!” Watering down science by stealing its words and throwing them into any random essay does not homeopathically make it stronger.

    Lipton is, of course, a fave of woo-meister Null and has been a frequent guest, shilling books. The latter idiot has seized upon the idea of changing genes by flooding the body with nutrients and *saying* the right words ( in.. your..dreams) Not only does this process heal the body but the mind and soul as well. Adams similarly talks about not being a slave to your genetics- you can take charge ! The idea of genetic influence appears to be rather frightening so must be denied. Like reality.

    Chopra, Lipton, or any of the usual suspects distract followers from the real issues of everyday life that often *can* be changed by instead wasting time, energy, and money in idle speculation about the soul, evolution, the universe, ad nauseum. If the universe’s true nature were “kinder and gentler”…. if it were really a *caring* universe…. how would that make life any easier, other than supplying lighter happier thoughts in moments when you weren’t struggling against another hard reality that has run into you randomly again.

  24. #24 Vicki
    June 14, 2011

    At best, it’s teleology, with the assumption that all this change is taking us in specific, desirable directions. And the unasked question is: desirable to whom? What human traits would Chopra like to eliminate, and what traits would he like to add? And how are they connected?

    There’s an interesting implication in what you quote: if survival of the fittest is in conflict with Chopra’s “conscious evolution,” then the traits he thinks we are or should be moving toward aren’t actually beneficial. If (for example) intelligence is a good thing, then if we could make our children smarter, that trait would be selected for. If compassion is both good (which I agree it is, though I may be defining it differently from him) and heritable (less clear), if we find ways to put that in the genome, again, they’ll tend to be passed on.

  25. #25 Anonymous
    June 14, 2011

    539,886 people follow Deepak Chopra on Twitter, to receive his wisdom in the form of Deep Thoughts like this:

    “Karma is the statistical likelihood of space-time events in our life, an echo from the past”

    and

    “Karma memory & desire exist as potential in consciousness. The intention to incarnate sets the wheel of life in motion”

    and

    “Balance is interaction among being, feeling, thinking, and doing”

    Heavy, man!

    He’s been trying to get a “ScienceSprirituality” hashtag going with a numbered series of Tweets, like this one:

    “#ScienceSpirituality 33 Nothing or no thing is the source of everything”
    http://twitter.com/#!/deepakchopra

    Mind: blown, dude!

  26. #26 augustine
    June 14, 2011

    The quote Augustine was criticizing was directed at Chopra;

    No. It wasn’t.

  27. #27 Anton P. Nym
    June 14, 2011

    I can tell you that absorbing the shavings of your axe grinding does nothing to bring peace, prosperity, or comfort to anyone.

    JW, if you are getting shavings from a grinding process, particularly when trying to sharpen metal, there’s something going horribly wrong with your metapho-, er, machinery.

    Maybe we are toddlers on the planet, and maybe we’ve left behind many a fouled diaper in our infancy, but the solution is not to sit in our own feces and hope a Sky Daddy will come along to clean up the mess for us. The responsible, “grown-up” response is to learn from the messes and, if not stop making them, at least make fewer and pick more responsible places for them.

    Choprawoo doesn’t help there. Choprawoo is resorting to the same ol’ habits that left our crib mattress soiled and trying to “solve” the problem by ignoring the smell because wishing will make it so. This doesn’t work. It never has, in all the many times our species has tried it. And it doesn’t require study of quantum mechanics to figure that out, just reading human history will do.

    — Steve

  28. #28 Composer99
    June 14, 2011

    Curiously, I happen to be reading Charles Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of Species’ over the last two weeks.

    The clarity with which Darwin makes his case for the view of modification from descent (even given his long-winded 19th-century English prose) can scarcely contrast more starkly with the obfuscatory word salad laid out by Chopra.

  29. #29 Composer99
    June 14, 2011

    As a follow-up to my earlier comment, might I add that Darwin’s mature enumeration of the evidence available to him & his contemporaries and its implications also compares favourably to the infantile whinging of Chopra, Lipton, or even RI‘s own ugh troll; to say nothing of the practiced denialism of the likes of, say, Dembski.

  30. #30 Krebiozen
    June 14, 2011

    @JW

    Until the “real science” you worship so vehemently brings tangible changes in the way we collectively live and treat each other, I’ll take Choprawoo any day.

    So you prefer comfortable lies. You’re a social scientist, not a natural scientist, aren’t you?

    Anyway wasn’t it “real science” that taught us that drinking clean water, and having sewerage systems was a good idea to improve the way we “collectively live”? I could go on (and on). Several of my friends and family are only alive today because of medicine based on science. I don’t think “hope, peace, and a sense of agency in life” is of much use if our lives are nasty, brutish and short, as they were before science (among other things, to be fair) improved them.

  31. #31 augustine
    June 14, 2011

    Curiously, I happen to be reading Charles Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of Species’ over the last two weeks.

    Yes, it’s pretty clear. I’ll sum it up for you. Random chance + enough time = anything can happen. There, the world has been figured out. Given, If enough monkeys type on enough typewriters for enough time then eventually one will type Hamlet in it’s entirety. It’s called Science Based Shakespeare.

    There is your template. Now go with your apriori and make all the pieces fit. Confirm your pre-existing beliefs. It works. Try it. Just make sure that you deny that you have a pre-existing framework and that you are just “following the evidence” though. It will make you feel better about being so intolerant and rigid in your assumptions. You know, like religious peoples.

    Read Darwin’s Black Box. It’s better.

  32. #32 TBruce
    June 14, 2011

    Read Darwin’s Black Box. It’s better.

    Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!

    Once again, Augie, you crack me up!

  33. #33 MikeMa
    June 14, 2011

    augie:

    Read Darwin’s Black Box. It’s better.

    No, its not.

  34. #34 Krebiozen
    June 14, 2011

    Random chance + enough time = anything can happen.

    Good grief! That is the most profound misunderstanding of natural selection I think I have ever seen. Augustine, please do some reading. Here’s a good place to start: http://www.stephenjaygould.org/library.html

  35. #35 augustine
    June 14, 2011

    Good grief! That is the most profound misunderstanding of natural selection I think I have ever seen.

    Let me modify it for you.

    Random chance + enough time = what has already happened can happen.

  36. #36 ArtK
    June 14, 2011

    Random chance + enough time = anything can happen.

    That’s over-simplified, but has a great deal of truth to it. (Pesky things like physics limit the “anything.”) So, what’s wrong with that? Is that what makes you so uncomfortable about evolution? You might want to consider a class in probability to help you understand this.

    Given, If enough monkeys type on enough typewriters for enough time then eventually one will type Hamlet in it’s entirety.

    No. The keyword in the first quote is “can,” not “will.” If an event has a 1 in 1000 likelihood of happening, it doesn’t mean that if you test 1000 times, you will get the event once and only once. Even more simply, a coin has a 50% chance of coming up heads and a 50% chance of coming up tails. If you flip the coin twice, you won’t always get one heads and one tails

    I’m not surprised by your ignorance, though. It seems to fit with the rest of your reasoning abilities. Don’t feel too bad about it. That ignorance is the fundamental fact behind every slot machine in Vegas and every state lottery. You’re in good (well, common) company.

  37. #37 Anton P. Nym
    June 14, 2011

    Yes, it’s pretty clear. I’ll sum it up for you. Random chance + enough time = anything can happen.

    Auggie’s ilk have been making the same mistake of ignoring the “natural selection” part of Darwin’s theory for a century and a half now. The variations are random; any random variations that reduce a species’ chances to propagate itself, however, are selected out as fewer and fewer of the species survive to reproduce. The result is not solely random, but it does not require a guiding intelligence of any kind. That’s where the power and elegance of the theory of evolution by natural selection comes from… it doesn’t require facts not in evidence to work, and so by the reasoning of theologian/philosopher William of Occam* it’s more likely to be correct than one that does.

    — Steve

    * You have chosent to use “Occam’s Razor”. It’s super effective.

  38. #38 Mike
    June 14, 2011

    On some of Chopra’s statements. . .

    We live in a conscious universe.

    Maybe? *shrugs* This strikes me as a question of philosophy rather than science. Though, perhaps, not beyond the realm of science. After all, if the universe really is conscious, there should be some testable predictions.

    Such a universe is constantly evolving.

    Yes. And?

    Humans are woven into the currents of cosmic evolution.

    Sounds like a mystical way to say “the universe is evolving and so are we,”

    The future of our own evolution will be based on conscious choice

    This is probably correct, but not for the reasons he thinks. As a species we’ve been practicing unnatural selection since we first started domesticating plants and animals. Ethical questions aside, there’s no technical reason we can’t, and won’t, practice it on ourselves.

  39. #39 Denice Walter
    June 14, 2011

    @ Anton P. Nym: Steve, I really like your metaphor. I usually portray woo as a slimey, unctuous substance that drips and oozes into any un-secured location** and is very hard to clean off of your hands if you should inadvertently touch it. Ew!

    @ Krebiozen: seconded by someone from the social sciences.

    ** much like its perpretrators.

  40. #40 Ender
    June 14, 2011

    Wow. I never thought I’d defend augustine, I guess the Devil’s wearing a fur coat.

    Aug: “It’s You:[i.e., belief in scientifically evidenced results is] Augidolatry, which is a form of religious worship.

    “So believing in anything for which there is scientific evidence – e.g., that airplanes fly – is a form of idolatry? I thought it was atheism. Perhaps you’d like to make up your mind on that point.”

    Those are your words not his. By “It” he doesn’t mean belief in scientifically evidenced results he means “scientific idolatry” which he has not defined, but a reasonable definition would be something like “Elevating the principles of science/certain scientific results to a religious position”, which could involve dogma, or worship or whathaveyou.

    It’s arguable that no one ever has done that, but that’s what he’s arguing, not what you have read.

  41. #41 augustine
    June 14, 2011

    Even more simply, a coin has a 50% chance of coming up heads and a 50% chance of coming up tails.

  42. #42 Yojimbo
    June 14, 2011

    Random chance + enough time = what has already happened can happen

    Eh? Like what has already happened couldn’t happen? Oy!

    Anyway – I think JW got it right, at least as far as why Chopra is popular – what’s actually true doesn’t matter, only what feels good. Peace and love, man, and the world will be groovy. And Hippy history shows just how well that world works.

  43. #43 Terry
    June 14, 2011

    “which he has not defined”

    The problem is that augustine has not actually defined anything. he may have some valid, constructive points to make to this discussion, but all I see so far is that he has just repeated what others have said (incorrectly, it would seem), but added a snide sense to it.

    augustine – do you have a point? If so, why not just articulate it instead of all this mysterious BS?

    BUT – if you do, it had better be a point that actually makes a difference in someone’s life. Not just “I find comfort in a supernatural agency”, but an actual difference. Can you save someone’s life by denying science? Can you improve conditions of ignorance and poverty? Can you spread knowledge?

    Step up to your POV.

    Or shut up.

  44. #44 Jojo
    June 14, 2011

    Augustine, I’m truly interested in understanding your comment about idolatry. You bothered to comment that it wasn’t in response to Chopra, but I’m don’t understand why you are unwilling to help me understand what your actual point was. Do you understand what you meant?

  45. #45 Anton P. Nym
    June 14, 2011

    Why does one person die from the disease and another not? How do you determine(looking at your sides of your coin) who gets a subclinical case and who gets a sever case?

    The problem with “God of the gaps”, from my perspective as an apatheist, is that it explains everything by saying that not everything is explanable so just lie back and think happy (or blessed, depending upon the Woo Flavour of the Month) thoughts.

    The problem theists should have with “God of the gaps” is that it reduces religion to the intellectual equivalent of mildew, which modern society must scrub harder and more diligently to remove in order to reveal the clean tile-grout of understanding beneath. I don’t think that this conceptualisation advances their interests.

    — Steve

  46. #46 ArtK
    June 14, 2011

    So tell me, how many sides does an MMR vaccine have? How many confounders/sides does a person have? Are they the same for every single person? How many confounders/sides does a measles virus have?

    I’ll take non sequiturs for $500, Alex. Or maybe word salad for $300 — I’m not really sure how you can put “confounders” and “measles virus” into the same sentence and have it make any kind of sense.

    Augie, what does your response have to do with my statement?

  47. #47 Yojimbo
    June 14, 2011

    the clean tile-grout of understanding

    Now THAT’S what I’m talkin’ about! Human history as the search for the clean tile-grout of understanding. That goes in my quotable quotes book.

  48. #48 Anton P. Nym
    June 14, 2011

    That goes in my quotable quotes book.

    If I ever make it big, like if the promises of those declaring us Pharma-Shills ever comes true and I get drowned under waves of filthy Big Pharma luchre, I think I’ll hire Patrick Warburton to record that paragraph as my answering machine message or something.

    — Steve

  49. #49 augustine
    June 14, 2011

    The problem with “God of the gaps”, from my perspective as an apatheist, is that it explains everything by saying that not everything is explanable so just lie back and think happy (or blessed, depending upon the Woo Flavour of the Month) thoughts.

    Who said anything about the “god of the gaps”? If you believe everything is explainable then explain:

    Why does one person die from the disease and another not? How do you determine(looking at your sides of your coin) who gets a subclinical case and who gets a sever case?

  50. #50 Yojimbo
    June 14, 2011

    I see we’re lurching into another exercise in futility. Folks, Augie is a sniper – he will never fire from an exposed position. He’ll shoot at your points but he will not expose his own to attack. Have fun if you want, but you will not have a dialogue with him.

  51. #51 Gray Falcon
    June 14, 2011

    To give you an idea of how slippery augustine is, he never gave a straight answer when I asked him which he would have preferred: That a few people suffered side effects from the smallpox vaccine until smallpox was eradicated, or that millions die each year from smallpox without end.

  52. #52 DrDuran
    June 14, 2011

    I suspect you are no more content with your life as a result of sharing your disdain either. No matter what any of us think of Chopra and others like him, they at least know how to provide hope, peace, and a sense of agency in life.

    Bullshit is Bullshit no matter what “hope, peace and sense of agency” it provides.

  53. #53 Vicki, Chief Assistant to the Assistant Chief
    June 14, 2011

    “Hope, peace, and sense of agency”: a lot of my hope and sense of agency are connected to science. My hopes for health for myself and a lot of people I care about, for example. Science is why my mother can still see, and why I can see at all well (cataract operations in her case, fancy varifocal lenses in mine).

    Science and technology are connected in all sorts of ways, and “technology” here doesn’t just mean the internet.

  54. #54 Anton P. Nym
    June 14, 2011

    Folks should note that Auggie can’t even spell “severe” properly despite repeated attempts, let alone define a frame of reference for the questions he’s “just asking”. So, I’d recommend you don’t make eye contact and just keep walking at your normal pace.

    — Steve

  55. #55 Jud
    June 14, 2011

    Ender writes:

    By “It” he doesn’t mean belief in scientifically evidenced results he means “scientific idolatry” which he has not defined, but a reasonable definition would be something like “Elevating the principles of science/certain scientific results to a religious position”, which could involve dogma, or worship or whathaveyou.

    It’s arguable that no one ever has done that, but that’s what he’s arguing, not what you have read.

    Howdy, Ender. I wonder how you have managed to deduce, without any indication from augustine, that what he meant is identical to what “a reasonable definition would be.” I’ve found reasonableness and augustine not to have made each other’s acquaintance on many subjects. Perhaps you’re correct in this particular case, it’s just that I wouldn’t want to assume.

    With regard to evolution, those who like Behe uniformly seem to agree with his keenly wrong grasp of the probability math involved, and in view of augustine’s prior demonstrated innumeracy it’s not at all surprising that he falls into this camp.

    ArtK’s reference to Vegas is actually very apropos. The probabilities involved in population genetics, worked out in the first half of the 20th century, are mathematically extremely close to those that determine gambling odds. Whenever someone tells you evolution is impossible by citing what seem like impossibly long odds, one of the several mistakes they are making is the failure to understand the difference between the odds that your ticket will win the lottery (one in approximately 200 million for the PowerBall grand prize) and the chance that someone will win the lottery this week (approximately as likely as not).

  56. #56 Jojo
    June 14, 2011

    I wonder what the statistical probability of Augustine answering my question is? I think I’ll have to take his silence as consent that he doesn’t actually understand what his point is.

  57. #57 Yojimbo
    June 14, 2011

    Jojo @59

    If you mean a straight answer, the probability is non-zero but infinitesimally small. If you mean some kind of BS response, I’d guess around 50/50.

  58. #58 feralboy12
    June 14, 2011

    “Balance is interaction among being, feeling, thinking, and doing”

    What about “going?” I do that several times a day.

  59. #59 augustine
    June 14, 2011

    Jud

    Whenever someone tells you evolution is impossible…

    Do you believe the existence of a god is possible?

    Jojo, did you say something? Scientism. It’s scientism.

  60. #60 Roadstergal
    June 14, 2011

    I just can’t improve on Julia Sweeney:

    Deepak Chopra is full of shit!!

    (10^6x better in context.)

  61. #61 Composer99
    June 14, 2011

    ugh troll:

    Scientism. It’s scientism. projection on my [augustine's] part, believing that inferring conclusions based on available empirical evidence amounts to the same thing as credulously taking up religious beliefs contrary to those which I espouse.

    There, FTFY.

  62. #62 Jojo
    June 14, 2011

    @troll Well, that was a predictable response from you. No answer, just inane babble. I guess I’m always going to be left wondering whether vaccines are really the bee in your bonnet, or if you troll here because you really hate atheists but are too afraid of the Horde to troll PZ instead.

  63. #63 Heliantus
    June 14, 2011

    @ Vicki

    Well said.
    I think Randall Munroe (xkcd) got it right: Sickness

    Science provides tools, and not just physical tools. Also models, concepts. They may be flawed, as we all are, but we know we can trust them, to a point. And every day, we are trying to figure out how far we can trust them, in order to make better tools.
    I guess it’s true that we believe in science, in the sence that we hope and trust in science to eventually provide us with answers – and tools.
    And science works.

  64. #64 Scott Cunningham
    June 14, 2011

    Orac wrote:

    all that epigenetics means are mechanisms by which gene expression can be regulated by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA structure. These include methylating DNA, remodeling the chromatin in which the DNA is coiled, and a variety of other mechanisms.

    Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. It’s just another layer of tangiable mechanisms, totally within the reach of empirical study (OK, sometimes tricky as yet,) and not amenable to our whim and fancy.

    JW:

    Until the “real science” you worship so vehemently brings tangible changes in the way we collectively live and treat each other, I’ll take Choprawoo any day.

    JW wrote, on a computer, and sent out over the internet, from the comfort of somewhere with electrical power, clean running water, and a total absence of cholera and water-borne parasites. Half way around the world, a child born in a country that couldn’t afford the trappings of scientific progress and whose government was busy peddling conspiracy theories about Western science died of AIDS-related TB.

    Irony.

  65. #65 augustine
    June 14, 2011

    or if you troll here because you really hate atheists

    I don’t hate atheists.

  66. #66 rob
    June 14, 2011

    about the monkeys typing thing: no.

    it is not possible for monkeys to type out Hamlet if given enough time. i solved this problem back in the 80′s in a stat mech course out of Kittel and Kroemer . due to the wonders of Wikipedia, i don’t have to redo it:

    “Ignoring punctuation, spacing, and capitalization, a monkey typing letters uniformly at random has a chance of one in 26 of correctly typing the first letter of Hamlet. It has a chance of one in 676 (26 × 26) of typing the first two letters. Because the probability shrinks exponentially, at 20 letters it already has only a chance of one in 2620 = 19,928,148,895,209,409,152,340,197,376 (almost 2 × 1028). In the case of the entire text of Hamlet, the probabilities are so vanishingly small they can barely be conceived in human terms. The text of Hamlet contains approximately 130,000 letters.[note 3] Thus there is a probability of one in 3.4 × 10^(183,946) to get the text right at the first trial. The average number of letters that needs to be typed until the text appears is also 3.4 × 10^(183,946),[note 4] or including punctuation, 4.4 × 10^(360,783).[note 5]

    Even if the observable universe were filled with monkeys the size of atoms typing from now until the heat death of the universe, their total probability to produce a single instance of Hamlet would still be many orders of magnitude less than one in 10^(183,800). As Kittel and Kroemer put it, “The probability of Hamlet is therefore zero in any operational sense of an event…”, and the statement that the monkeys must eventually succeed “gives a misleading conclusion about very, very large numbers.” This is from their textbook on thermodynamics, the field whose statistical foundations motivated the first known expositions of typing monkeys.[2]”

    note: the number 10^(183,800) is ten raised to the 183,800th power:an exceedingly incredibly large number. there are only about 10^80 particles in the WHOLE universe. the universe has only been around about 10^20 seconds.

  67. #67 Beamup
    June 14, 2011

    I’ve always heard the monkeys thing with the express statement that there are an infinite number of monkeys. In which case they certainly will produce Hamlet, and quite quickly too (i.e. 130000 keystrokes each).

  68. #68 Raging Bee
    June 14, 2011

    So augie is a creationist, eh? That makes him even more pathetic than he initially appeared. Yo, augie, if you’re gonna name yourself after one of Christianity’s most influential early thinkers, you ought to know he had lots of useful things to say to people like you — and you aren’t listening.

    I guess that explains his petty, pointless, ankle-biting nastiness: his butt still hurts from that spanking his faction got in Dover, and he can’t man up and move on.

    He’s not much better than the Mabus troll. What a fucking joke.

  69. #69 Roadstergal
    June 14, 2011

    I’ve always heard the monkeys thing with the express statement that there are an infinite number of monkeys.

    I had always heard it as ‘If ten thousand monkeys typed for ten thousand years…” I believe it’s been floating around as various finite numbers for a long time. The first time I ever heard ‘infinite’ was in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, when the Heart of Gold rescued Ford and Arthur:

    “Ford? There’s an infinite number of monkeys outside who want to talk to us about this script for ‘Hamlet’ they’ve worked out.”

    I believe that was intended to be a conscious parody of the idea, DNA being the wonderfully intelligent fellow he was. :(

  70. #70 rob
    June 14, 2011

    true, except that there is no practical way to set up an infinite amount of monkeys. so saying that an infinite amount of monkeys *could* type Hamlet, has no real world correspondence, and therefor cannot be used to prove anything.

  71. #71 Beamup
    June 14, 2011

    Real world correspondence is irrelevant; it’s a mathematical statement about the nature of infinity.

  72. #72 ArtK
    June 14, 2011

    Beamup,

    Not really. An infinite number of monkeys could produce an infinite number of 130,000 character documents that aren’t Hamlet. You’d have to add something that prevents duplicate documents. Then you’d only need 130,000! (that’s factorial, not excitement) monkeys.

  73. #73 JayK
    June 14, 2011

    I’ve been tracking a few of my local IDiots that are trying to build a creation museum and one of them has tried to show how the probability of amino acid combination would work. Of course, there was no acknowledgement of the attraction of lipids which greatly reduces the probability.

    This isn’t the best reference, there was recently some other papers that discussed the attraction capabilities of lipids that had exact forces over distance calculations and measurements and reviewed the results of the Miller-Urey experiment:

    Segré, D., Ben-Eli, D., Deamer, D. and Lancet, D. (February–April 2001). “The Lipid World” (PDF). Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres 2001 31 (1-2): 119–45. doi:10.1023/A:1006746807104. PMID 11296516

  74. #74 dean
    June 14, 2011

    augie is no more dishonest or stupid than chopra, he just doesn’t have the knack of wrapping his crap in fancy words.

  75. #75 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    June 14, 2011

    Leave the poor monkeys alone. If you have a document that can reproduce and mutate randomly, plus a filter that selects the offspring that most closely approximate Hamlet, allows them to reproduce and “kills” the rest, that greatly improves the odds.

  76. #76 Raging Bee
    June 14, 2011

    So augie is a creationist? That proves him even more pathetic than he initially appeared.

    I guess that explains his petty, pointless, babyish, ankle-biting nastiness: his ass is still sore from that spanking his faction got in Dover, and he still can’t man up and move on.

    This troll is not much better than the Mabus troll. What a jucking foke.

  77. #77 Beamup
    June 14, 2011

    @ ArtK:

    There will indeed be an infinite number of documents that aren’t Hamlet. There will also be an infinite number of documents that ARE Hamlet. Duplication is irrelevant; a mere factor of 130000! means nothing when dealing with infinities.

  78. #78 palindrom
    June 14, 2011

    Infinity is really big!

    Love the Douglas Adams quote.

    One of my more pleasant duties is teaching an intro stat mech course of the Kittel/Kramer variety — there’s often a useful distinction made between big numbers (like Avagadro’s) and really big numbers (which have _logs_ like Avagadro’s). Entropies are cut down to size by making them proportional to the log of the number of available microstates, which is “merely” Avagadro-ish.

    But infinity, that’s even bigger!

  79. #79 Composer99
    June 14, 2011

    Is anyone else craving soup after looking at Peter Lipton’s name?

  80. #80 P Delaney
    June 14, 2011

    Chopra’s logic:

    Phenomenon A is weird. Quantum physics is weird. Therefore, phenomenon A is based on quantum physics.

    Can’t argue with logic like that!

  81. #81 Yojimbo
    June 14, 2011

    But infinity, that’s even bigger!

    Yeah, but how big an infinity? That’s what I want to know.

  82. #82 Matthew Cline
    June 14, 2011

    (I know I shouldn’t feed the troll, but)

    @augustine:

    Define “scientism” in such a way that the definition can be used to tell the difference between someone practicing scientism from someone who isn’t.

  83. #83 timberwoof
    June 14, 2011

    But Hamlet isn’t just a specific string of characters randomly pounded out by monkeys. It is words, words, words: Sentences, meter, occasional rhyme, syntax, semantics, setting, characterization, actions to suit words, words to suit actions, story, plot, conflict, climax, denouement … the rest is silence.

    There’s a better way, I think, to generate that kind of stuff than to gather up an infinite number of monkeys. You start with a whole lot of hydrogen…

  84. #84 Old Rockin' Dave
    June 14, 2011

    If science was really a religion then by now the Einsteinists and the Heisenbergians would be trying to exterminate each other (while the Newtonites would condemn both as heretics from the one true faith).

  85. #85 Terry
    June 14, 2011

    I rarely read the comments on Orac’s posts. I read what he says and often learn something in the process, but then move on.

    But reading these today drives the point home that by even using anti-scientific terms like “scientism” or “cosmic consciousness” and arguing around those terms loses the battle.

    The point that we always need to drive home is that by thinking and acting critically, positive results are possible. By learning from mistakes, a difference can be made.

    The riposte to any and all woo should always be “how does it save a life? how does it increase knowledge universally? how does it end poverty?” And never allow ourselves to be driven away from the point of those questions. We must demand practical answers, real answers. How, exactly, how, how, how?

    Augustine, as an example – you should be ashamed of yourself. Your utter lack of engagement, unwillingness to accept the value of science while you sit at a computer is self-serving and unethical. You provide no answers, provide no constructive additions to the dialog, but are willing to deconstruct and devalue tools that make a difference in people’s lives, including your own. Shame on you. You have been given the chance to prove that there is some depth to your point of view, but all you have provided is emptiness and self-absorption.

    Maha Kali – I thought your first post was actually poking fun, but I see you take yourself seriously. Here’s some advice: put down the bong for ten minutes, stop being so condescending and ask yourself if a person dying of cancer gives a flying hoot about the direction of time or what the hell you think “the apex” is. That would require you to stop talking in the first person plural and actually do what you say: take care of each other. We do that by first admitting we are human and we have a responsibility to reduce harm when we can identify it. Have you done that here?

    I know: terry, get your own blog if your going to write a wall of words. But the immoral and condescending behavior of people like Chopra, Augustine, and their ilk really struck a nerve. How dare you?

  86. #86 Uncle Glenny
    June 14, 2011

    If someone suggested this already and I missed it, I apologize, but the monkey/Hamlet problem has an obvious solution, if you stipulate that someone somehow has to figure out if a monkey has reached a solution:

    Genetic programming.

    Dawkins had some kind of simulation, right? To show up whoever the IDjit was (Behe?) who used this same reasoning.

  87. #87 Karl
    June 14, 2011

    Shut up and calculate!

    The battle-cry of the neodarwinist. Not so much really — evo-psych types like to calculate inclusive fitness to explain all sorts of behaviors. Turns out the mathematical purity of an inclusive fitness model does not apply very well to real populations.

    Somehow I doubt that’s what he was referring to.

  88. #88 Karl
    June 14, 2011

    Old Rockin’ Dave: if science was a religion we could ask for DONATIONS and no one would get upset if, having taken said donations, we failed to cure diseases or perform other miraculous feats. You know — the opposite of now.

  89. #89 Cale
    June 14, 2011

    Where can I join this church of Scientism? Any ‘God’ who successfully eradicated smallpox and polio, brought us the internet, brought men beyond the bounds of earth’s gravity, and given us visions of the deep past beyond anything we thought before is the God I want watching out for my soul. What did the other guy do? Write a book?

  90. #90 Uncle Glenny
    June 14, 2011

    Karl, you ok?

  91. #91 Denice Walter
    June 14, 2011

    @ Terry: *Au contraire*! Welcome aboard! Here’s a quote:

    “It is astonishing how many philosphical disputes collapse into insignificance the moment you subject them to the simple test of tracing a concrete consequence.” Wm James ( from “Pragmatism”)

    Certain commenters @ RI find fulfillment in endless non-productive inconsequential “debates”: you have just met two.

    I expose the prevarications, posturings, and sales techniques of pseudo-scientists which can do demonstrable harm to people.

    Arguments about what is “scientism”, “science”, or “philosophy” are merely self-serving as well as, uh.. “self-servicing”.

  92. #92 Jud
    June 14, 2011

    augustine writes:

    Do you believe the existence of a god is possible?

    Of course. Who am I to say what’s impossible? To paraphrase Sir Arthur Eddington and quote Freeman Dyson, the universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine.

    I will also say that if God exists, he left a whole lotta clues that evolution was the way he made species, including us.

  93. #93 lilady
    June 14, 2011

    @ Terry: Hope you decide to stay…I read your posting and it is on point. Amazing that we do manage to have some great discussions, in spite of you know who and the other trolls.

    Chopra is a slick number. He appeals to people’s magical thinking and ties it in with some sciency terminology for his “audience”. Now his audience/marks are so impressed with the good doctor’s advice that they immediately purchase his latest book or CD. So reminiscent of televangelists and snake oil salesmen from a hundred years ago.

    I suppose if all else fails for the gullible ones who are unable to change or reshuffle the genetic cards they were dealt, “traditional” medicine is the fall-back position.

  94. #94 Stuartg
    June 14, 2011

    @ Timberwoof, 85

    Forget the hydrogen. Start with a singularity…

  95. #95 Roadstergal
    June 15, 2011

    @DW:
    Arguments about what is “scientism”, “science”, or “philosophy” are merely self-serving as well as, uh.. “self-servicing”.

    Hey – my “self-servicing” has a “concrete consequence.” :)

  96. #96 Svlad Cjelli
    June 15, 2011

    Hey didn’t somebody set up a number of chimpanzees with type writers and find that they mostly typed the letter “s”?

  97. #97 Nicole
    June 15, 2011

    @svlad I haven’t given a chimp a type writer, but have given a toddler a computer, and the results were a lot of ddddddddddddddddddddddddd and ytrewq type sequences. It wasn’t exactly the random sort of typing that could result in words, aside from we, lop, red, etc- sequence of keys located geographically close on the keyboard.

    For pure randomness that theoretically could produce Hamlet you would need a computer program.

  98. #98 Lawrence
    June 15, 2011

    They should give them iPads – much easier to use. My 3 year old figured out Angry Birds in about 5 mins….It isn’t Hamlet, but certainly more fun.

  99. #99 Old Rockin' Dave
    June 15, 2011

    Eric Ambler said something that is germane here:
    “For the skeptic there remains only one consolation: if there should be such a thing as superhuman law it is administered with subhuman inefficiency.”

  100. #100 David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E.
    June 16, 2011

    “Hey – my “self-servicing” has a “concrete consequence.” :)”

    um … er… and… er …

    *looks left, then right, then at shoes … and then buggers off*

  101. #101 mikmik
    June 16, 2011

    Another great question to insist troglodytes answer is, “How do you know?” Anyways,

    Let me modify it for you.

    Random chance + enough time = what has already happened can happen.

    Posted by: augustine

    STFU. What has already happened can happen through random chance and time + constraints imposed by local environment. Can happen has become virtually certain it did happen.

  102. #102 herr doktor bimler
    June 17, 2011

    Hey didn’t somebody set up a number of chimpanzees with type writers and find that they mostly typed the letter “s”?

    It is difficult to find keyboards that still work after the forceful insertion of bananas.

  103. #103 TLetendre
    June 24, 2011

    Even if the Universe as a whole in conscious what exactly does that mean? Does it matter at all if the interaction of quantum particles results in some sort of consciousness? It likely does not, but even if it did who’s to say it would care about us at all? Why would this conscious universe that Chopra talks about care for us anymore than we care about a small patch of skin cells that flake off when our skin is dry?

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