Now this is some seriously funny stuff.
Anyone who’s been reading this blog a while knows my opinion of Deepak Chopra. Basically, he’s the quackiest of the quantum quacks, the godfather of quantum woo, the one woo-meister to rule them all. He did it first and did it “best” (if you can call it that), in the process garnering a devoted following of people with far more “spirituality” than understanding of science. All it took was a unrelenting abuse of quantum physics, a Lamarckian misunderstanding of evolution, combined with a bit of old-fashioned Cartesian mind-body dualism, all thrown into the blender with a mish-mash of Ayurvedic beliefs, rewarmed Eastern mysticism, and traditional Chinese medicine, all liberally sprinkled with whatever woo du jour that catches Deepak’s eye. it’s not for nothing that I coined a term for Deepak Chopra’s nonsense: Choprawoo.
Chopra has parlayed his promotion of Choprawoo into a veritable woo empire, including books, videos, and television and radio appearances. His empire of quantum mischief has become so large that I had to wonder: What’s next?
Though its existence remains inexplicable, Deepak Chopra’s Leela now has a trailer full of trippy visuals, obtuse references to spirituality and lots of pretty colors.
Indeed, the visuals shown in the video above are hilarious in their stereotypical psychedelia. Whether Chopra knows it or not, he looks as though he’s reinforcing a stereotype about alternative medicine and the sorts of spiritual teachings that he likes to foist upon gullible Americans and Europeans. Still, after seeing the promotional video I’m having a hard time figuring out just exactly what it is one would do with this game or how it would improve anyone’s life as claimed. So I did what I always do when I want to try to figure out the answer to a question. I Googled the game, and this is apparently what all those visuals that look like refugees from a Pink Floyd concert in 1967 tarted up with computer graphics are supposed to be doing:
The game will use the Kinect sensors to guide users through the seven “chakras,” or points along the body that many believe serve as a body’s energy centers. Somewhat like Wii Fit or other games like Flower, Leela will have minigames that get more difficult over time, but it will not have scores or other competitive aspects. Instead, it will be more about learning how to better do the exercises and enjoy the soothing visuals and music. In one exercise called the “root chakra,” players must tilt their hips to seed a plant on the screen. The “heart chakra” has players use their hands to direct fireballs that destroy rocks to release hidden gems.
Because directing fireballs at rocks to release hidden gems is exactly what I visualize when I’m trying to relax and meditate. But simple relaxation is not what this game is about. At least, that’s not what Chopra claims it’s about. You’d think the game would just be fun and perhaps serve as a convenient means for Chopra to promote his brand of woo. No doubt, that’s what it was, although reviewers who have tried the game seem rather unimpressed. Regardless of the opinion of gamers, Chopra is out to do more than entertain. He’s out to accelerate evolution. I kid you not:
“I personally believe that you can accelerate neural development and biological evolution through video games,” said Chopra. “Unfortunately, that’s not what we’re doing right now. What we’re doing is creating addictions to violence, adrenaline and mindlessness, rather than mindfulness. That was my personal motivation to get involved in this
Of course, adrenaline is a big reason that gamers are gamers. Many of them choose games that are exciting and challenging to play. For example, if you’re not doing the “root chakra” exercise, perhaps you’d like to control your breathing thusly:
One of the guided meditative modes uses Kinect’s depth sensor to measure seated players’ breathing patterns. The result is displayed onscreen as three undulating bars. As players move their chest, the soothing voice of yoga instructor Elena Brower provides instruction on how to control breathing. It’s the first such use of the technology in a Kinect game.
“We’re not selling it as a solution for measuring breath,” Armstrong said. “It’s just a tool for people to use. It may not work for certain people, but we’ve done so much testing on it that we think it will help most people visualize breathing in a new way. You may think you’re taking a deep breath until you see it in front of you.”
Personally, I think most people are aware when they’re taking a deep breath. In fact, I wonder if this thing could be considered a medical device if it claims to be able to help you develop better breathing patterns. It does appear to be skirting the line. However, whatever happens with Leela, whether it’s a success (which seems rather unlikely to me) or a flop (which seems more likely), Chopra doesn’t plan on stopping the woo here. Oh, no. He views Leela as the first step in a whole line of video games that will “accelerate human evolution. He envisions adding heart monitors, galvanic skin resistance probes, but to him the “best will be when we can monitor brain waves in a game.”
Great. Just what I want, a woo-ful game that measures my heart rate, brain waves, and skin resistance. Oh, wait a minute. Other than the brain waves, we already have that. It’s called a lie detector, and we all know how well those work; i.e., not very well at all.
Unfortunately, as usual, Chopra can’t resist using and abusing evolution yet again, as he has done so many times in the past. As we all know, Chopra seems to have a concept of evolution that only resembles the theory of evolution as understood by biologists by coincidence–and then only in snippets. In actuality, Chopra has infused his concept of evolution with pure pseudoscience. For one thing, he seems to have a real bug up his but about genetic determinism to the point that he rails against it and builds a straw man of absolute genetic determinism that he proceeds to apply his torch of burning stupid to. He also misunderstands the theory of evolution as implying complete randomness in how new alleles arise (which, because he dislikes any idea that doesn’t allow him to claim power over his own behavior and evolution, he rejects) when, as anyone who understands the basics of evolution knows, it is not. Perhaps that explains how Chopra can drop a howler like this:
I think the way technology is moving right now, we could probably, with a little deeper understanding, accelerate the evolution of the human brain within a few months [to equal] what might take hundreds of years of biological evolution.
Now, that’s a very strange statement when you hear it for the first time. But the way technology is expanding right now, we’re getting a better understanding of how experience shapes the anatomy of the brain, as well as all the neurons and neuroplasticity.
There’s also genetic indeterminism, which means your genes turn on and off based on your life experiences, and all the work being done in quantum psychology. They’re talking about things like you know how your emotions, your relationships, your sense of achievement, and your purpose of meaning in your daily life — all this actually influences the way your body functions.
I knew it! I knew it! I just knew that Chopra couldn’t get through his promotion of his new video game without dropping the word “quantum” in there somewhere. What the hell is “quantum psychology,” anyway? It sounds like yet another made-up pseudoscience based on a typical quack’s misunderstanding of what quantum theory actually says. In other words, it’s perfect for Chopra, who seems to think that quantum physics means that anything can happen at any time for no reason, meaning that anything he can imagine can happen if he wishes hard enough. In any case, an individual’s brain can’t “evolve,” at least not in the way biologists mean evolution. Evolution is the change in organisms over time over generations. Evolution through natural selection and other mechanisms determines which organisms with which traits are more or less likely to reproduce, and that differential reproduction over time determines which traits become more common and which become less common in subsequent generations. Claiming that an individual can “evolve” his or her own brain in a few months by using a video game or other technology is a nonsensical statement that betrays a profound ignorance of basic biology and neuroscience.
Which about sums up everything about Deepak Chopra.