Respectful Insolence

Deepak Chopra continues his woo-ful whining

Last week, everyone’s favorite woo-meister, the man whose woo is so strong that I even coined a term for it way back in the early mists of time (at least as far as this blog is concerned), was woo-fully whining about all those allegedly nasty skeptics on Wikipedia. Yes, Deepak Chopra was clutching his pearls and getting all huffy because, according to him, a group of skeptics known as the Guerilla Skeptics was actually applying science and reason to the Wikipedia entry for his good buddy Rupert Sheldrake. The only problem was, he totally missed the target in that the Guerilla Skeptics actually had nothing to do with the Wikipedia edits for Sheldrake’s page, and the person who brought this “atrocity” to Chopra’s attention had never actually done an edit of Sheldrake’s actual Wikipedia page. None of this stopped Chopra from throwing himself headlong into a tirade against “militant skeptics” like Richard Dawkins as the source of all that skeptical nastiness on Wikipedia, even though, as I pointed out, Richard Dawkins has as much to do with Wikipedia as Deepak Chopra has to do with science. Chopra finished his post with a great big, “To be continued.”

And today the continuation has appeared.

Yes, there is now a post entitled The Rise and Fall of Militant Skepticism (Part 2) (also published at SF Gate), with the promise of at least one more post. Unlike the Star Wars trilogy, however, in this case the second part is most definitely not the best part. Rather, Chopra’s sequel is like most other sequels, chock full of either more and bigger special effects and/or more of what producers thought made the original popular in the first place but not as good as the original. In this case, we get more of Chopra’s “quantum consciousness” and attacks on science, but even less intelligence, if that were possible! As with many sequels, Chopra even brought in another screenwriter, so to speak, in the form of someone named Jordan Flesher, who is advertised as having a BA in Psychology. Here’s a hint: If Chopra’s trying to impress with credentials, this ain’t the way to do it. In academia, if it’s not an MS or a PhD, no one really cares. In fact, listing a BA looks rather desperate and will generally provoke disdain among scientists, and this scientist is expressing that disdain. Better not to have listed it at all.

But enough beating on a poor, hapless co-author. Well, not quite. My advise to Jordan Flesher would be that, if he ever wants to be taken seriously as a psychologist and get into a good graduate program, writing opinion pieces with Deepak Chopra attacking science is not the way to go. And, make no mistake, that’s exactly what Chopra does, because, well, it’s what Chopra does. But first, he claims to lecture skeptics about the nature of skepticism and science, which is always good for a laugh, ever since I first took notice of Chopra, lo those many years ago:

As an attitude, skepticism is a natural part of the scientific method. It calls for solid proof and verification. As an agenda, however, the story of skepticism is quite different. The way that strident atheism has clothed itself in science seems convincing to people who are skeptical about God in the first place. But there’s no scientific basis for atheism, since God isn’t subject to experimentation. As the dust has settled, the agenda of militant skepticism has come to light – it’s basically another symptom of the blogosphere’s culture of personal attack, unfounded allegation, and a reckless disregard for the truth.

Once again, Chopra conflates atheism and skepticism, as though the two were the same thing. They aren’t. At the very least there are quite a few atheists out there who are not skeptics, such as Bill Maher, who is antivaccine, doubts germ theory, has supported cancer quackery, and seems to think that he can protect himself from the flu just by eating the right diet and living the right lifestyle to the point that he was once mocked by one of his guests for it. It’s also particularly annoying how Chopra repeats the same old tropes without realizing that he’s contradicting himself. He’s actually the one claiming to wrap himself in the mantle of science, and then he goes on to say that “God isn’t subject to experimentation.” It all depends, of course, on what you mean by God. If you mean some ethereal being who never does anything, then maybe Chopra has a point, but there are a whole lot of testable claims associated with religion, and there’s no reason why science shouldn’t test them. The problem for Chopra is that when such claims are tested the results usually aren’t what he’d like to see.

Thus warmed up, Chopra then drops this howler on us:

The fate of militant skepticism, whatever it may be, will drift apart from the serious business of doing science. After all, no scientific discovery was ever made by negative thinking. There has to be an open-minded curiosity and a willingness to break new ground, while the militant skeptics represent the exact opposite: they are dedicated to the suppression of curiosity and protecting rigid boundaries of “real” science.

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

The very essence of scientific discovery might start with open-mindedness, but to nail down the discovery and demonstrate its validity very much requires what Chopra dismisses as “negative thinking.” It requires an utterly ruthless attitude that enables scientists to subject their pet hypotheses to rigorous testing and then reject them if they don’t hold up. This is why Chopra can never be considered a scientist. He has fallen in love with several airy, New Agey ideas, and he simply can’t subject them to rigorous testing and reject them when they fail. It’s far easier to dismiss criticism as being due to “militant atheists” and “militant skeptics,” which Chopra mistakenly views as the same thing.

It’s not surprising, then, that Chopra gets it so wrong about skepticism. Properly applied, skepticism is not solely about being “negative,” although that’s how Chopra characterizes it. In fact, Chopra is making the same old mistake of confusing (or conflating) skepticism with cynicism. Cynics do indeed mistrust most information they they see, particularly when the new information challenges their belief system. Cynics often do become intolerant of other people’s ideas. They often are inflexible. As has been pointed out many times before, attributing traits associated with cynicism to skeptics is a common method of attack by woo-meisters. It’s also a trope that Chopra’s been repeating for a very long time.

Skepticism, on the other hand, is not inherently negative, as the caricature promoted by Chopra would have you believe. Chopra will never believe this, because, quite frankly, he strikes me as being as cynical as the picture he paints of skeptics, but I and a lot of skeptics would be more than happy to accept the ideas that there is some sort of “universal consciousness” and that we can powerfully influence our health through our thoughts, two key ideas promoted by Chopra, if there were compelling evidence to support the ideas. There’s the rub. Whenever Chopra is asked for evidence for his claims, he can’t seem to produce anything resembling persuasive scientific evidence. Show us the evidence, and if it passes muster we’ll provisionally accept your hypotheses as likely true, subject to further testing. That’s how science works. The process, of course, is a lot messier than that, with fits and starts, hypotheses that seem to pass muster and then don’t and vice-versa, as well as hypotheses that are clung to longer than they should be based on the evidence. Science is not neat. However, it’s better than the appeals just to believe, which is what Chopra’s woo-ful whine boils down to.

Well, that and lame arguments like this, in which Chopra posits four “mysteries” or “problems” that “undercut skepticism” and “demolish militant skepticism”:

Also from quantum physics, the Uncertainty Principle undercut the notion of solid, tangible atoms and molecules existing in fixed locations. No one is sure about the implications for the human brain, since it is composed of atoms and molecules whose status is tied into the mystery of consciousness.

The emergence of time and space, either through the Big Bang or at this very moment, remains mysterious. The pre-created state of the universe is a deep mystery.

The whole issue of consciousness, long ignored because of science’s aversion to subjectivity, has become a major concern, principally for two reasons. The assumption that the brain is the producer of the mind has never been proved; therefore, it presents the possibility of being wrong. Second, if consciousness is more like a field effect than a unique human trait, the universe itself could be conscious, or at least possess the qualities of proto-consciousness, just as DNA possesses the possibility for Homo sapiens even at the stage when life forms were only single-celled organisms.

These four mysteries or problems, whatever you label them, undercut skepticism – and more or less demolish militant skepticism – because they make science question its belief in such things as materialism, reductionism, and objectivity. That’s too many “isms” for a non-scientist to really care about, and there’s no doubt that the everyday work of science proceeds as usual without regard for issues that many would dismiss as metaphysics. But such an attitude is the same as accepting a dead end. For without asking the deepest questions about what is real and how do we know the truth, the current state of physics and biology will be mired in speculation and doubt.

Regular readers will recognize that the Choprawoo is near black-hole density here. Very dangerous for the untrained. You might inadvertently slip past the event horizon, be swallowed by the black hole of woo that is represented there, and lose your critical thinking skills. I also can’t resist mentioning that Chopra is about as arrogant a bastard as there is. He seems to be implying, with his swipe at skeptics here, that only he and his fellow woo-meisters ask the “deepest questions about what is real” and “how we know the truth.” Nonsense! In fact, it is skeptics and scientists, not airy fairy New Age woo-meisters like Chopra who ask the real questions of what is real and how we know the truth. Chopra assumes that he knows the truth to a close enough approximation, no further investigation necessary. We do not.

None of his “four problems” are actually problems, at least not in the way the Chopra presents them. The Heisenberg uncertainty principle is not, as Chopra would have you believe, an excuse to make stuff up, nor is it an infinite improbability drive that allows anything to happen. Ditto quantum physics, which Chopra has abused with abandon for decades, using it as an excuse for virtually every claim he makes, as in “Because quantum.” Although it is true to say that we have not “proven” that consciousness is the product of the brain only in the sense that it is impossible ever to “prove” anything with absolute certainty, the evidence from neuroscience is overwhelming that consciousness, or mind, is the product of the brain is overwhelming, as Steve Novella has pointed out many times. As for the emergence of time and space, yes, that remains mysterious in the way that all phenomena not yet explained by science remain mysterious. Proclaiming it so is rather akin to arguing that water is wet.

Chopra concludes his post with:

In the next post we’ll consider how irrelevant and misguided the skeptical agenda is proving to be by offering specific examples from the work of two popular skeptics, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, whose intention to keep science pure and objective has led them into blind alleys and rigid thinking – the very things science should avoid at all cost.

Oh, goody. Of course, unlike Chopra’s caricature of a “militant skeptic,” I’m not a big fan of Sam Harris; so this next installment might actually test my skepticism. Somehow, given that it’s Deepak Chopra, I doubt it, though.

Comments

  1. #1 Michael Finfer, MD
    November 12, 2013

    There’s an old quote, and I can’t remember who said it, that science requires an open mind, but not so open that your brain falls out.

  2. #2 Orac
    November 12, 2013

    Yes, I use that quote quite a bit. Chopra’s brains have definitely fallen out.

  3. #3 Chris Hickie
    November 12, 2013

    “militant skepticism”, “vaccine bullies”–sadly mistaken phrases from irrational people.

  4. #4 AnObservingParty
    November 12, 2013

    And I bet his third installment won’t even have the deceny to attempt to semi-redeem itself with epic lightsaber battles.

    I actually kind of like “militant skeptic,” despite its oxymoron-ness. I think Imma put that on a t-shirt.

  5. #5 Nick Theodorakis
    November 12, 2013

    Chopra should realize that criticizing scientists for applying skepticism is like criticizing sculptors for removing bits of stone.

  6. #6 palindrom
    November 12, 2013

    Contemporary physics cannot explain the origin of the Big Bang in detail.

    This “demolish[es] militant skepticism” …. how, exactly?

    Frankly, I’m disappointed in Chopra. I’d always thought his BS had more of a patina of logic than this. He is, after all, the greatest living bullshit artist writing in English.

    This is a non-sequiter on the level of “The climate has changed in the past! Therefore, humans cannot be changing the climate!”

  7. #7 No Death Panels
    The Deep South
    November 12, 2013

    Star Wars > The Empire Strikes Back

  8. #8 Eric Lund
    November 12, 2013

    The emergence of time and space, either through the Big Bang or at this very moment, remains mysterious.

    Chopra seems not to have learned any cosmology in the last twenty years (if not more). There was a time not so long ago when the part of this statement that refers to the Big Bang might have been reasonable–there was a joke, back in my student days, to the effect that cosmologists were happy if they got the order of magnitude of the exponent right. But since then, observations have gotten significantly more precise. There is still a brief interval–somewhere between a fraction of a second and a few minutes after the Big Bang, depending who you ask–where we don’t really know what went on. But after that, cosmologists do have a strong handle on the physics, and “the emergence of time and space … at this very moment” has not been mysterious during my lifetime.

  9. #9 Denice Walter
    November 12, 2013

    You mean that there isn’i Universal Consciousness?

    At any rate, at the end of Episode Two, Deepak’s logic has been attacked by hordes of sceptics who Strike Back. In the final episode ( for now anyway), he sits forlorn in a juice bar, crying into his carrot/ cucumber smoothie. HOWEVER he hears a voice coming from the Shadows- ” I’m Rupert Sheldrake and I’ve come to resonate along with you. Together we can vibrate at the correct frequency and thus, tame their unruly dissonance and eternally Return …..” ETC.

    They don’t make trilogies like they used to. No light sabres.

  10. #10 Mike
    November 12, 2013

    hahaha, best blog ever:

    http://www.ageofautism.wordpress.com

  11. #11 Richard Smith
    November 12, 2013

    Will the third part have e-woo-ks? And is Deepak a woo-kie?

  12. #12 Sastra
    November 12, 2013

    The way that strident atheism has clothed itself in science seems convincing to people who are skeptical about God in the first place. But there’s no scientific basis for atheism, since God isn’t subject to experimentation.

    Chopra needs to pick a horse and ride it. You can’t use science to support the existence of God and then complain that your hypothesis is outside of science because “God isn’t subject to experimentation.” Choose.

    I think there are two main problems with Chopra’s version of God, the “field of consciousness that is set up for maximum diversity.”

    The first is that it’s coherent enough to be wrong.
    That’s the second one, too.

    So both the scientists AND the theologians have something here to bother them.

    Chopra-speak is what religious claims look like when they TRY to be clear and consistent. The poor guy can’t just wave his hands around and talk endless blather about Mystery. He wants his blather to withstand scientific scrutiny — as long as it’s a friendly, accepting, open-minded and benevolent scientific scrutiny, a scientific investigation which strongly resembles a Search for God and has never heard of confirmation bias as flaw.

    Chopra will never believe this, because, quite frankly, he strikes me as being as cynical as the picture he paints of skeptics, but I and a lot of skeptics would be more than happy to accept the ideas that there is some sort of “universal consciousness” and that we can powerfully influence our health through our thoughts, two key ideas promoted by Chopra, if there were compelling evidence to support the ideas.

    Chopra wouldn’t believe it because as a man of faith he can’t. That’s not the way the story goes.

    A lot of atheists would be happy to accept “universal consciousness” version of God as well — under the same terms. But the faith narrative always has to frame the believers as willing to accept evidence which is sufficient enough for true seekers — and which could never be enough for the others.

    This is why I find the New Age and ‘liberal’ religions more disturbing and insulting on this matter than many of the fundamentalist ones. When they say “You’re an atheist because you don’t want Hell to be true!” they’re wrong about the underlying reasoning but at least they get the last part right. In fact, I worry a bit about the good will and humanity of anyone who WOULD “want Hell to be true.”

    But “You’re an atheist only because you don’t WANT a blissful Universal Consciousness and Healing?” Not only is the reasoning wrong but now my good will and humanity is gone. In that sense the attack has gotten nastier. Why wouldn’t I LIKE that? Sounds great.

  13. […] Deepak Chopra continues his woo-ful whining [Respectful Insolence] (scienceblogs.com) […]

  14. […] Deepak Chopra continues his woo-ful whining [Respectful Insolence] (scienceblogs.com) […]

  15. #15 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    November 12, 2013

    Out of curiosity, has anyone done a well defined, documented, repeatable experiment showing the existence of mind without brain? Brain without mind I’ve certainly seen.

  16. #16 Dangerous Bacon
    November 12, 2013

    Mad Magazine used to (and may still) have a feature called “What they say, and what they really mean”.

    In Chopra’s case, “reductionism” means “valuing evidence” and “militant skeptics” means “people capable of critical thinking who laugh at my woo”.

    “In academia, if it’s not an MS or a PhD, no one really cares.”

    Do they even care about Masters’ degrees? :)

  17. #17 palindrom
    November 12, 2013

    DB@14 — I’m reminded of Duck’s Breath Mystery Theater’s old radio spots by “Dr. Science”, who was introduced with:

    “He’s smarter than you are!
    He has a Master’s degree — in Science!”

  18. #18 JustNuts
    November 12, 2013

    Deepak Chopra sez: “After all, no scientific discovery was ever made by negative thinking.”

    I’ve always thought of science as NEUTRAL awaiting analysis of credible data.

  19. #19 Andreas Johansson
    November 12, 2013

    “The climate has changed in the past! Therefore, humans cannot be changing the climate!”

    Got that one at lunch at work a couple of weeks ago. Apparently I’m a weirdo for evaluating arguments based on whether they make sense rather than whether I like their conclusions.

  20. #20 Eric Lund
    November 12, 2013

    @palindrom: There’s also the opposite tack, which Ann Landers took back in the day. I own a collection of her columns, and one of the chapters has the title (IIRC): “No B.S., No M.A., No Ph.D., but I Got the J.O.B.!”

    @DB: They care about your B.A. or M.S. if and only if you are in, or applying to, a graduate degree program. Otherwise, you are correct that your M.S. means little more than a B.A. In some fields, it means even less, because master’s degrees are viewed as consolation prizes for people who couldn’t make it through a Ph.D. program.

  21. #21 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    November 12, 2013

    palindrom – [plug type=shameless]Doctor Science will be appearing at MidSouthCon in Memphis, TN in March. Check out http://www.midsouthcon.org for details.[/plug]

    And he does know more than you do …

  22. #22 Denice Walter
    November 12, 2013

    We have learned that ‘deepak’ means either ‘brilliant light’ and/ or ‘little lamb’ in Hindi. SRSY.

  23. #23 Bob G
    Los Angeles
    November 12, 2013

    The idea that no scientific discovery was ever made through negative thinking is nonsense. Obviously a lot of new thinking came about from being critical of old thinking. I can remember wondering about some data that flatly contradicted the prevailing assumption, and deciding that just maybe, RNA breakdown is not always a simple first order decay process.

  24. #24 Sastra
    November 12, 2013

    Chopra uses the words “negative thinking” as a deepity (a word, phrase, or statement capable of two interpretations — one true but trivial, one extraordinary but false — which are then equivocated between in order to grant credibility to the latter.)

    No scientific discovery was ever made by giving up too soon or sticking in a comfortable rut. That’s the true but (so to speak) trivial.

    When it comes to scientific discoveries, anything is possible! If you believe, you will find it! Critical thinking comes from critical people who are afraid to dream! The Spiritual view is true!

    Extraordinary but — false to a very high level of certainty (for it is trivially true that anything is theoretically possible, empirically.)

  25. #25 Pareidolius
    November 12, 2013

    Great Dog, I despise that smug shit. I used to have to suck up to him when I worked at Whole Life Expos back in the 90s where he was just as warm, humble and charming as you might imagine. I totally bought his dreck for years. After the 10 years that it took me to come out of Wooville (1996-2006), he’s the only one of the many new agers I met, about whom I can find nothing kind to say. Okay, Van Praagh is the other one . . . oh, Williamson two. Nevermind.

  26. #26 Pareidolius
    November 12, 2013

    Too. Can we get an edit function up in here?

  27. #27 Mark
    November 12, 2013

    Good ol’ Deep-crap…

  28. #28 Michael
    November 12, 2013

    What Chopra is trying to do is link critics of alternative medicine to Dawkins and Harris because even many atheists find them extreme, just like liberals often call conservatives Communists and conservatives often call liberals fascists.
    @Sastra- it’s easy to understand why people want there to be a hell for baby-rapers and serial killers. It becomes a more difficult concept when they have to worry their neighbors might go there.

  29. #29 Michael
    November 12, 2013

    Whoops- that first sentence should be the other way around.

  30. #30 Neil J
    November 13, 2013

    I’m curious, Orac… What exactly do you find objectionable about Sam Harris? I always found him to be far more eloquent and less grating than Dawkins, though he tends to get a little flaky when it comes to the topics of reincarnation, mysticism and consciousness. Is this something you plan on getting into in detail in your next post?

  31. #31 Krebiozen
    November 13, 2013

    Denice,

    At any rate, at the end of Episode Two, Deepak’s logic has been attacked by hordes of sceptics who Strike Back.

    “This is not the BS you are looking for…”

  32. #32 imr90
    November 13, 2013

    “Because quantum.” Is not the explanation for all his woo-sometimes it’s “Because energy.”

  33. #33 JGC
    November 13, 2013

    I think the subtext for both “Because quantum” and Because energy” ultimately comes down to “Because wouldn’ t that be the coolest thing?”

  34. #34 Eric Lund
    November 13, 2013

    “Because quantum.” Is not the explanation for all his woo-sometimes it’s “Because energy.”

    Wakalixes makes it go!

  35. #35 Denice Walter
    November 13, 2013

    @ Krebiozen:

    Ha!
    I wanted to work the notorious “Cantina Scene” in as distraught Deepak sits down at the bar, orders up, crying into his Aldeberanean single malt despite the bouncy housemusic, telling the insectoid barkeep his tale of woe when Rupert S. emerges from the shadows ..

    but wait, these people despise alcohol! Therefore, juicebar.

  36. #36 herr doktor bimler
    November 13, 2013

    “Because quantum.” Is not the explanation for all his woo-sometimes it’s “Because energy.”

    No “Because chaos theory” or “Because negentropy”? Imagine my disappointment.

  37. #37 Loren E
    November 13, 2013

    ‘It all depends, of course, on what you mean by God. If you mean some ethereal being who never does anything, then maybe Chopra has a point…’
    According to George Carlin the REAL God is busy throwing gas balls around the firmament, and getting pissed off that we celebrate on his day off.

  38. #38 The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge
    November 13, 2013

    Neil J @ 30:

    It may have something to do with Harris being a genocidal racist. Just guessing, of course.

  39. #39 Chris Hickie
    November 14, 2013

    I remember hearing a joke while in grad school that went like this:

    A guy goes to apply for a job driving a cab. The cab company owner asks him what his qualifications are. The guy answers “I have a master’s degree.”. The owner says “Sorry, but all my cab drivers have phd’s.”.

    It was a pretty depressing joke at the time.

  40. #40 The Smith of Lie
    November 14, 2013

    @Chris Hickie #39
    We had similar one in law school:
    What does the law gruaduate from year 1996 says to law graduate from 2006? Two burgers and fires, please.

    Also, since Deepra’s “four mysteries” eliminate the need for reductionism, materialism and objectivity in science, you think he’ll be willing to take part in my planned research of how quantum mind oveconsicousness energy is able to defy gravity? I still need people to the control group jumping out of planes without the chute.

  41. #41 Krebiozen
    November 14, 2013

    Denice,

    but wait, these people despise alcohol! Therefore, juicebar.

    No doubt; substitute some dreary, tinkly New Age music too. For some reason that reminds me of Eddie Izzard’s take on the Death Star canteen.

    In my final days living in Cambridge I spent a lot of time in a pub which attracted various bikers and other countercultural types. Because of the exotic hair, piercings, tattoos and attire it was often referred to, affectionately, as ‘The Star Wars Bar’.

  42. #42 Scott
    November 14, 2013

    Methinks thou doth protest too much…

  43. #43 Jordan Flesher
    Chicago
    November 14, 2013

    I am a co-author of the original essay. How do I personally contact the author of this blog? Do you have Twitter? I will be commenting more soon. Just discovered this blog recently.

  44. #44 Calli Arcale
    November 14, 2013

    Thanks, Krebiozen, now I have the Cantina music from Star Wars stuck in my head. :-P

    Buh-bah-buh-bah-buh-bah-buh-bupadaba, bah, bah-da….

  45. #45 Orac
    November 14, 2013

    @Jordan:

    Perhaps you would like my good bud Steve’s commentary too:

    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/chopra-skepticism-fail-part-2/

    In the meantime, the comments are open.

  46. #46 AdamG
    November 14, 2013

    In the meantime, the comments are open.

    I hope he comes back. I’ve never met an “Emerging Psychotherapist/Guru” before!

    It seems that he’s had a bit too much of the Chopra Kool-Aid though.

  47. #47 Chris,
    November 14, 2013

    Mr. Flesher, do enlighten us and show us the errors of our ways.

  48. #48 Jordan Flesher
    United States
    November 15, 2013

    Have any of you ever studied the work of Donna Haraway and how she specifically addresses the ties between modernist epistemologies of science and society? Because this is key:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donna_Haraway

    Moreover, the original blogger stated: “But enough beating on a poor, hapless co-author. Well, not quite. My advise to Jordan Flesher would be that, if he ever wants to be taken seriously as a psychologist and get into a good graduate program, writing opinion pieces with Deepak Chopra attacking science is not the way to go. And, make no mistake, that’s exactly what Chopra does, because, well, it’s what Chopra does. But first, he claims to lecture skeptics about the nature of skepticism and science, which is always good for a laugh, ever since I first took notice of Chopra, lo those many years ago.”

    I will have you know that I am already enrolled within a graduate program. I am soon to complete a master’s degree in psychology and have begun applying to a doctoral program.

    Moreover, the whole notion of academic authority, credentials, epistemologies and their social-making has already been addressed and deconstructed by the French postmodernists. Namely, Michael Foucault.

    Also, it important for you to study the work of: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ken_Wilber

    As well as: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Korzybski

    As well as: the second and third Wittgenstein as he is known in academia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language-game

    All the these academics are crucial for anyone to have studied to hold an adequate argument in this era. If you have no background with these theorists it is due to lack of global and integrative education and I cannot help you there.

  49. #49 Narad
    November 15, 2013

    All the these academics are crucial for anyone to have studied to hold an adequate argument in this era. If you have no background with these theorists it is due to lack of global and integrative education and I cannot help you there.

    Mr. Flesher, I highly recommend that you acquaint yourself with the epistemological category known as “bad Fazzm,” as Chopra is essentially a monument to it.

  50. #50 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    November 15, 2013

    Jordan Flesher – You do realize that what you did up there was, in essence, to say “I think you’re too ignorant for me to even discuss this with you.” This, frankly, is not a particularly effective technique to discuss the issues. In addition to the possibility that some people might very well have read and understood the works of the people you mentioned (possibly better than you), it also opens you up to someone pulling the same gambit on you “Haraway, you say? How quaint. Of course, if you’d read so-and-so you’d know that what Haraway’s work is not only gibberish, it’s completely disproven.”

    What you have done is try to shut down the conversation with an academic put-down. I’m sure that’s effective in some circles.

    By the way, I do disagree with Orac on one point – I think there is plenty of nonsense in even the best academic settings and one will not necessarily harm one’s academic chances by taking outre positions.

    Good luck with your studies.

  51. #51 Antaeus Feldspar
    November 15, 2013

    Ah, what I like to call the “around the corner gambit.”

    “Of course, I have a solid refutation to your argument! I have irrefutable proof that I’m right and you’re wrong! Therefore you should immediately concede that I have the right of things!

    “What do you mean, you actually want to see this proof, and you don’t intend to concede without getting a chance to examine it? Why, how arrogant and silly can you be!? I’ve already assured you that the proof is iron-clad, and it’s right around the corner! It happens to be contained somewhere in the complete works of this philosopher, or perhaps it’s this other one that I’ll mention, or maybe it’s this third – anyways, the point is that until you have searched through all these haystacks and comprehensively proved that the needle I claim to know about isn’t there, you should be accepting my claim that it is and that it entirely refutes everything you have to say.”

  52. #52 palindrom
    November 15, 2013

    Mr. Flesher, you’re dealing here with hard scientists who are much too busy finding out real things about the world to worry about what some po-mo Frenchy thinks about how their work is socially constructed. Alan Sokal nailed it.

  53. #53 TBruce
    November 15, 2013
  54. #54 Scottynuke
    November 15, 2013

    @ Mr. Flesher #48:

    “Moreover, the whole notion of academic authority, credentials, epistemologies and their social-making has already been addressed and deconstructed by the French postmodernists. Namely, Michael Foucault.”

    And yet you seek a master’s and possibly a doctorate. Interesting.

  55. #55 Chris,
    November 15, 2013

    Mr. Flesher, when I asked you to tell us the error of our ways, I wanted you to tell us in your own words… not a series of wiki pages. Especially one to a guy who does not understand holograms are a perfectly explainable photographic technique! (I remember in the early 1980s when someone tried to tell me about holograms being mystical, I had to tell her to go the Electrical Engr. building to see where there was a display explaining how hologram photography worked).

    It seems that we actually understand science, and you seem to lack in that education. While you are pursuing your graduate studies, pick up some basic science courses in things like physics, chemistry and biology. Seeing how you have a psychology undergraduate degree, you might have missed those courses.

    (looking at the differences in BA and BS of psychology at local university I see that both require only one quarter of calculus and some biology classes, but no physics or chemistry… which is odd since they have a biopsychology course that requires knowledge of chemistry and electrical function… according to my youngest who took it)

    If you wish to comment on science, you should probably actually learn some. You might find it more interesting than trying to pretend to know what it is. By the way, I have a BS in engineering with some graduate work, mostly in applied mathematics (and I see nothing mystical in imaginary numbers, the square root of negative numbers are very useful).

  56. #56 TBruce
    November 15, 2013

    Moreover, the whole notion of academic authority, credentials, epistemologies and their social-making has already been addressed and deconstructed by the French postmodernists. ..All the these academics are crucial for anyone to have studied to hold an adequate argument in this era. If you have no background with these theorists it is due to lack of global and integrative education and I cannot help you there.

    Nice 180 – I think I got whiplash.

  57. #57 Denice Walter
    November 15, 2013

    @ Chris:

    There is great variability across the western world in requirements- also graduate divisions into clinical/experimental/counselling/ educational/ etc- BUT there are usually MUCH more statistics/ physio/ testing required @ the graduate level.

    We see how anti-vaxxers may have a grad deree in SW or counselling or similar and still be totally lost about research ( you know about whom I speak).

  58. #58 Chris
    November 15, 2013

    Denice: “BUT there are usually MUCH more statistics/ physio/ testing required @ the graduate level.”

    Which is fine if one restricts their writings to counseling and psychology, but not as noted in this article defining science, skepticism, and how scientists think. Your list is lacking in physics, chemistry and lots of mathematics (diffy-q and probability, required for the “quantum” stuff).

    Of course that is the problem with Chopra and friends, who pontificate on subjects that they know very little about. As you can tell I was amused that Mr. Flesher told us to read Wilber’s wiki page, that even though he had an advanced biochemistry degree had no idea about holography. That’s when I could not go on since it was too hilarious.

  59. #59 JGC
    November 15, 2013

    Mr Flesher, I’m afraid that by offering arguments from philosophy, epistomology, etc., to defend Chopraks calims regarding the origin of the mind and “auantum xonsciousness” in this forum you’ve committed the classical error most commonly referred to as “bringing a knife to a gunfight”.

    But by all means get back to us when you have actual scientific evidence supporting Chopra’s nmany claims.

  60. #60 herr doktor bimler
    November 15, 2013

    “the whole notion of academic authority, credentials, [...] has already been addressed and deconstructed by the French postmodernists. Namely, Michael Foucault.”

    I like the appeal to academic authority there at the end.

  61. #61 herr doktor bimler
    November 15, 2013

    Is it possible that Jordan Flesher is trying to parody a certain style of obscurantist bafflegab? It requires some dedicated ignorance of History of Philosophy to (a) misspell Foucault’s first name, and (b) call him a ‘postmodernist’, a title he rejected.

  62. #62 Denice Walter
    November 15, 2013

    @ Chris:

    I assume that most people who get through university should at least have an intro to chemisitry, physics, bio and reasonable skills in mathematics- either acquiring them prior to and/ or in university courses.

    OBVIOUSLY not everyone gets there-
    most physio and related need grounding in life sciences and chem/physics.
    Or else there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

    BUT then we have PhDs/MDs who talk about homeopathy.

  63. #63 Krebiozen
    November 15, 2013

    Jordan Flesher,

    All the these academics are crucial for anyone to have studied to hold an adequate argument in this era. If you have no background with these theorists it is due to lack of global and integrative education and I cannot help you there.

    I am very familiar with all those academics, having studied Social Anthropology at SOAS in the late 80s. I read more of them than I care to remember, I understood them, I even agreed with many of their points to a degree.

    However, having also a background in natural science, I know that when the rubber hits the road, the scientific method has enormous value that “other ways of knowing” simply cannot match. I’m pretty sure some things are real and some things are not, independently of how we think of them.

    Anyway, despite all this education, I still firmly believe that Deepak is full of it, to the very brim. Does that help?

  64. #64 herr doktor bimler
    November 15, 2013

    As well as: the second and third Wittgenstein as he is known in academia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Language-game

    Wittgenstein’s work is interesting and rewarding, especially if you think of him as a poet writing in the style of mathematical argument. It also helps to think of him as the philosopher De Selby from Flann O’Brien’s “Third Policeman”. He was trying to step outside the framework of language-based consciousness and use that framework to examine itself, a difficult endeavour for which I give him props.

    Sometimes, though, he would venture outside his preferred metier and extend his a priori speculations to practical reality, where he tended to become embarrassingly wrong. The errors in his “Remarks on Colour” make it a source of great delight among perceptual scientists.

    Ken Wilbur, on the other hand, is (as they say) not even wrong.

  65. #65 Chris,
    November 15, 2013

    Denise Walter: “I assume that most people who get through university should at least have an intro to chemisitry, physics”

    My youngest did not take physics in high school, and is not required to take any further basic science. The physics and chemistry in college are much different than high school. I checked the course requirements for psychology at the large state university down the road: no college physics or chemistry needed.

    “reasonable skills in mathematics- either acquiring them prior to and/ or in university courses.”

    Unfortunately those are not sufficient to discuss “quantum theory.” That requires quite a bit more, like differential equations, Fourier transforms, probability, etc. In short: lots more than the wee bit of calculus required for a psych degree, which just covers differentiation, no integrals and no Taylor’s series.

    Looking at the wiki pages left to us by Mr. Flesher, I notice quite a bit of “a little knowledge is dangerous” bits. This is why the Sokal Hoax was so successful, and quite wonderful.

    I remember when some of the “philosophical” arguments were making the rounds as a college student. I was highly amused that some feminists were claiming there was a “special science” for women, and that the physics, chemistry and math classes were male oriented. I had to laugh, since as far as I knew my body was still subject to the three basic laws of forces noted by Newton, and that basic homogeneous mechanical equation was mass times acceleration plus damping coefficient times velocity and spring coefficient times distance equals zero.

    This was just part of the push back I got in the late 1970s for daring to major in engineering. It was bad enough having professors telling me that women weren’t smart enough But it was worse from so-called feminists telling me I was a traitor for learning “male science” when they did not even know the difference between mass and weight.

    I think some of those women may now be in the anti-vax crowd. Some of them can’t tell the difference between an atom and a molecule.

  66. #66 Krebiozen
    November 15, 2013

    HDB,

    Sometimes, though, he would venture outside his preferred metier and extend his a priori speculations to practical reality, where he tended to become embarrassingly wrong.

    The Zen masters used to correct this kind of solipsistic error very simply, with a sharp blow from their keisaku. “What hurts?”

  67. #67 Denice Walter
    November 15, 2013

    Chris:

    I had to take tons of science and mathematics just to get accepted at the various institutions where I studied/ acquired degrees.

    Oh well, I guess that explains why I like to wear trousers and why trolls can’t figure out if you’re “a boy or a girl” **

    ** as David Bowie notes.

  68. #68 Krebiozen
    November 15, 2013

    Chris,

    I was highly amused that some feminists were claiming there was a “special science” for women, and that the physics, chemistry and math classes were male oriented.

    Sandra Harding even referred to Principia Mathematica as a rape manual. In my school ‘ethnocentricity’ and ‘eurocentricity’ were the cardinal sins.

    The real pleasure of science for me is that it truly transcends value-laden cultural symbolic systems. We finally have a way of looking at the universe without our belief systems getting in the way. Mistaking the scientific method for one of those belief systems seems to me a very serious mistake.

  69. #69 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    November 15, 2013

    Chris – I think the values for the male and female damping coefficients may be different, but that’s just a guess.

  70. #70 Chris,
    November 15, 2013

    Denice, I am just pointing out that Mr. Flesher and the people that he listed did not have the requisite education to pontificate on certain things. And I having living in my house an offspring who is majoring in the humanities (and I am really frustrated they want to do double major in psychology with their linguistics because they don’t want to take calculus!).

    I am very amused by why some trolls are fixated on gender. The same college student has legally changed to a neuter name (the nickname remains the same since I have always found the neuter nickname to be an advantage). I believe “Greg” had some issues, and we all remember “Little Augie.”

    hdb: “Sometimes, though, he would venture outside his preferred metier and extend his a priori speculations to practical reality, where he tended to become embarrassingly wrong. The errors in his “Remarks on Colour” make it a source of great delight among perceptual scientists.”

    The meaning of language, and how it is perceived is a subject in my house due to above college student. One thing is the gender assignments to objects and use of pronouns (which is not consistent, like German pronouns for women). Plus there are specific neurological affects of language that get interesting. There are effects of color, shapes, etc and since one child has a neurological speech/language disorder the workings of the brain. The readings would be:
    A brief tour of human consciousness : from imposter poodles to purple numbers by V.S. Ramachandran

    Through the Language Glass Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages By Guy Deutscher

    And for fun: Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals About Our Everyday Deceptions by
    Stephen L. Macknik, Susana Martinez-Conde, Sandra Blakeslee

    Predictably Irrational The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely

    ;-)

  71. #71 Chris,
    November 15, 2013

    M O’B: “Chris – I think the values for the male and female damping coefficients may be different, but that’s just a guess”

    It is dependent on their natural frequencies.

  72. #72 herr doktor bimler
    November 15, 2013

    The Zen masters used to correct this kind of solipsistic error very simply, with a sharp blow from their keisaku. “What hurts?”

    Doctor: So, where is the pain?
    Bertrand Russell: In my brain.

    * Possibly apocryphal exchange.

  73. #73 Chris
    November 15, 2013

    Krebiozen, oh good grief. That is terrible. But pretty close to what I had to deal with in the non-engineering section of the university.

    “We finally have a way of looking at the universe without our belief systems getting in the way.”

    And we also find it more interesting and wonderful than what those belief systems can dream up.

  74. #74 Denice Walter
    November 15, 2013

    @ Chris:
    @ Krebiozen:

    There’s a reason I slyly brought up Mr Bowie- other than the obvious ( Orac)-
    we were all studying in the late seventies and have already slogged through the viscous mire which you’ve both accurately outlined. As my famously posh history of science/ psychology prof once noted- ” If you know the history, you don’t have to go through THAT again”-

    AND seriously, the trolls sound as if the 1970s never happened – they are bogged down in mid-century, middle-class, stereotypical thinking about gender et al just as Deepak and Co are hopelessly re-hashing the MindBodySpirit Crap of the 1970s. Talk about *idees fixes* and sharply circumscribed areas of interest/ repetitive activity**
    Oh wait,that’s the other thread
    -btw- these de-congestants well really well..

    ** I think I’m joking.
    HOWEVER I am suffering from cold-like symptoms and am already signed up to go on a LONG day trip by train tomorrow which I can’t get out of- which means getting up very early, getting dressed really well, driving to the train,sitting on the train for 3+ hours, taking a metro- ALRIGHT seeing spectacular things and eating fabulous food but then, getting the metro, sitting on the train for 3 hours, driving etc. Talk about slogging.

  75. #75 Denice Walter
    November 15, 2013

    de-congestants WORK really well.
    I’ll say.

  76. #76 herr doktor bimler
    November 15, 2013

    “Through the Language Glass Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages” By Guy Deutscher

    Recommended.

  77. #77 Narad
    November 15, 2013

    One of Wilber’s key ideas is to study and categorize items in terms of their nature as a holon, a term deriving from the writings of Arthur Koestler.

    Heh. As I’ve mentioned to HDB, I’m reading The Age of Longing, which I picked up out of the (original) Powell’s discount box since I needed something new and, coincidentally, I long have had The Roots of Coincidence. This of course is Koestler the novelist, not “plate o’ shrimp” Koestler.* I’d compare the two if I had felt in any way driven to unpack the latter.

    Anyway, I see that Mr. Flesher (who, in a remarkable display of deconstruction, is citing his latest credential before it even exists) has brought forth unto the Perceived World the foreword to The Delusion of Being Human, by “The Signposter” (sign: not a good sign). Behold:

    The book allowed me to see that each and every single professor which I encountered had in some way gotten stuck, somewhere within a particular knowledge-story (thought-system) belonging to and constructed by the cultural-social enterprise. I could see, through the aid of the book, that even sociology professors who allegedly belong to a discipline concerned with questioning the ‘social-machine’ and not merely being a ‘slave to society’ had become, along with every other types of professors, slaves to their own knowledge (beliefs, conclusions, and reality-assumptions). Thus, from reading the book, the esteemed power belonging to authorities of any kind within the cultural-social enterprise to influence and contaminate me became gradually less and less of a possibility. One of the most important contributions of the book that I found, and what I predict other individuals will find as well in reading the book, is that it actually and specifically goes into great detail in order to be absolutely clear about various ‘principles’, so to speak, taught by various enlightened beings throughout the ages, especially those renowned contemporary teachers who have already died. In other words, often times a spiritual teacher will say “we are all one” or “there is no ego self”, but they never really explain how they arrived at such a realization, what steps they had to take, and what had to be seen-through and let go of before they could truly apprehend that ‘all is one’, ‘there is no doer’, ‘there is Only God’, and so on; these phrases are often used as mere slogans. The book The Delusion of Being Human provides those specific steps and the necessary apprehensions which must occur before one can come to know what enlightenment is (awakening to one’s True Nature). As the Signposter has mentioned to me many times “if someone cannot say it clearly, then it usually means they do not really know it”.

    In the face of this rambling testament to Really Not Getting It (there’s more where that came from), I’m reduced to observing that anyone who thinks that there is some sort of litany of prerequisities to Enlightenment is so deeply attached to grotesquerie as to practically be a lost cause.

  78. #78 Krebiozen
    November 15, 2013

    Narad,
    I took a semiotic course as part of my degree, and I have rarely encountered such confusing and incomprehensible stuff (complement cascades in immunology gave it a run for its money, but that actually represents something physically real).

    I went into semiotics with a perfectly lucid and practical way of thinking about of things existing ‘out there’, and of representing those things as a model in my brain which I project ‘out there’, and that I can talk about to other people using language. Semiotics seemed to me to be determined to greatly and unnecessarily complicate things by insisting that a sign is a real thing that is a combination of something that happens inside my brain and something else that happens outside my brain, which didn’t and doesn’t seem like a very useful concept to me. Had these people not heard of Occam’s Razor?

    Despite my struggles with the subject, my tutor wanted me to do a doctorate on Charles Sanders Peirce and his theory of semiotics [shudder] – luckily funding was frozen because too many other PhD students hadn’t finished their theses, otherwise who knows where I would have ended up. I did spend a long time trying to get my head around all this before I finally gave up in disgust, though my inability to grasp it didn’t seem to make any difference to my grades. It reminds me a little of my experiences jamming with experimental jazz musicians: if I join in with enough confidence, no one seems to notice I really don’t know what I’m doing.

    Finally accepting that the reason that so much of the post-modernist stuff I encountered seemed like meaningless BS was that it really is meaningless BS was quite enlightening to me – or as they might put it, I experienced epistemic closure.

  79. #79 Denice Walter
    November 15, 2013

    Do i hear an Eco?
    I was writing about psychology of artistic styles and the prof insisted that I read semiotics by Eco. Also i had to translate an article on psycholinguistics by IIRC, Michaud, to satisfy a foreign language requirement.. I swear they forced me.
    And you cannot wash these ideas out of your
    awareness as easily as you can remove unwanted dirt from your hair: there is no *shampooing pour la postmoderne*
    How I wish that there were.

    Fortunately I have always sought out practical concerns first and foremost and never got beguiled away from them by the easy path which is studying concepts that you create, not problems that exist outside of your own head .Also I decided to work with real world problems involving actual people.Fancy that.

    Narad was kind enough to include that.. uh….intro… and it sounds suspiciously like the garbage I survey at PRN.
    Reading just what is excerpted here ( I did however read it ALL at the link), there is no solidity- just vamping and mistiness. No actions or events are described. Lord knows what they’re talking about…it sounds like it was created to impress us with its loftiness.

    Seriously, with 3 drinks in me I could do much better and it would probably relate to what people experience interpersonally rather than in their own thought wankery.

  80. #80 Narad
    November 15, 2013

    No actions or events are described.

    It’s truly a poor entry in the field.

    Straightforward expositions of Fazzm belief systems are rare. Here is an example, an early and unusual quote from America’s leading Fazzmaniac, Ralph Waldo Emerson (Nature, 1836), in which he actually lays all his cards on the table instead of playing them close to his chest, as became his standard practice later:

    Nature is the symbol of spirit …. The use of natural history is to give us aid in supernatural history: the use of the outer creation to give us language for the beings and changes of the inward creation … man is conscious of a universal soul within or behind his individual life, wherein, as in a firmament, the natures of Justice, Truth, Love, Freedom arise and shine. This universal soul he calls Reason: it is not mine, or thine, or his, but we are all its; we are its property and men …. That which, intellectually considered, we call Reason, considered in relation to nature, we call Spirit. Spirit is the Creator. Spirit hath life in itself. And man in all ages and countries embodies it in his language, as the FATHER …. There seems to be a necessity in spirit to manifest itself in material forms; and day and night, river and storm, beast and bird, acid and alkali, pre-exist in necessary Ideas in the mind of God, and are what they are by virtue of preceding affections, in the world of spirit. A Fact is the end or last issue of spirit, the visible creation in the terminus of the circumference of the invisible world.

    I was going to take up the footnote that I failed to instantiate above, but now that the mention of semiotics has turned the plate o’ shrimp into the Clam Plate Orgy, I don’t know that I have the energy.

  81. #81 Narad
    November 15, 2013

    The structure of that italixplosion is correct aside from the first two lines, FWIW.

  82. #82 The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge
    November 15, 2013

    The “gender” assignments of different Indo-European languages that Chris mentioned in #70 and the mystification they provoke is a pet peeve of mine. The Latin grammarians have a lot to answer for.

    The earliest forms of the IE languages that we see (Vedic Sanskrit, Hittite, Greek, etc.) were probably in the last stages of decay of a full-blown classifying system like the Bantu languages. (They vary between 3 and 20+ genders—by comparative work we can see that some of the 3-gender systems are incipient and some are just fizzling out. In between you have something like Swahili, with 20 genders—or more, depending on who you listen to.)

    It was strictly an accident of history that in the final stage of decay, the word for “man” wound up in one gender and the word for “woman” wound up in another. What about that third gender? Well…that must be “neuter”. Yeah, that’s the ticket!

    “Gender” just means “kind”, but now it’s become so associated with sex that when you tell someone Swahili has 20 genders they stare at you like you’re crazy—you have to use some clumsy term like “category” or “agreement class”. (Why is 20 in principle worse than 3?) In the Romance languages, “masculine” and “neuter” have fallen together, but in the modern Scandinavian languages (IOW, not Icelandic), it’s “masculine” and “feminine” that have fallen together, giving two genders: “common” and “neuter”. That’s all the proof needed that gender has nothing to do with sex.

    These studies that purport to show psychological differences in how words are perceived depending on their grammatical gender are IMO pure hokum—or if they’re not, they’re an artifact of grammarians telling people for centuries that gender = sex. Somebody should do studies on speakers of unwritten languages, or at least ones that haven’t been the subject of centuries of misguided grammar punditry and see if they suffer from the same misconceptions. My hypothesis is “No”, but I’m willing to be proven wrong.

  83. #83 herr doktor bimler
    November 15, 2013

    One of Wilber’s key ideas is to study and categorize items in terms of their nature as a holon, a term deriving from the writings of Arthur Koestler.

    I vaguely recall one of Koestler’s later essays in which he regretted ever coining the term ‘holon’ because so many new-age nimrods and intellectual purse-snatchers were making free with the concept and using it without the rigour which he thought it deserved.

  84. #84 AdamG
    November 15, 2013

    so many new-age nimrods and intellectual purse-snatchers were making free with the concept and using it without the rigour which he thought it deserved.

    Not the only new-age misappropriation of a valuable concept. Case in point: Kuhn’s ‘paradigm shift’

  85. #85 Narad
    November 16, 2013

    I vaguely recall one of Koestler’s later essays in which he regretted ever coining the term ‘holon’ because so many new-age nimrods and intellectual purse-snatchers were making free with the concept and using it without the rigour which he thought it deserved.

    I’m not familiar enough to imagine what he intended, but Wilber’s going straight for the container-contained relationship strikes me as one-downsmanship, as it were, in comparison with the ideation underlying Owsley’s diet.

  86. #86 herr doktor bimler
    November 16, 2013

    Years ago when I was young and still open to new ideas and new tools for thought, I tried reading one of Wilber’s books, but very soon bogged down in bafflegab and wordwooze and blatherskite. I gathered that captial-C Consciousness occupied a similar position in his worldview as Phlogiston and Calor occupied in proto-scientific ones. Except Consciousness seemed to be an all-or-nothing property of matter, like superconductivity or the gaseous state. It did not fit well with my own experience that evolution has bestowed a dim, flickering, partial form of awareness upon human beings, one that covers only a tiny fraction of our sensorium and our cognitive processing, so I gave up. Perhaps other people get more out of him.

    Speaking of Wittgenstein, I dreamed once that someone had turned his Tractacus into an opera. Not (as one might expect) in the style of Philip Glass; in the dream it was more in the idiom of Richard Strauss. So I woke up with the final aria “Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen” still ringing in my ears.

    Probably it would have been better in the original Klingon, but isn’t this always true?

    I also remain regretful that Wittgenstein and Sam Beckett never got together to collaborate on a play.

  87. #87 herr doktor bimler
    November 16, 2013

    Years ago when I was young and still open to new ideas and new tools for thought, I tried reading one of Wilber’s books, but very soon bogged down in bafflegab and wordwooze and blatherskite. I gathered that captial-C Consciousness occupied a similar position in his worldview as Phlogiston and Calor occupied in proto-scientific ones. Except Consciousness seemed to be an all-or-nothing property of matter, like superconductivity or the gaseous state. It did not fit well with my own experience that evolution has bestowed a dim, flickering, partial form of awareness upon human beings, one that covers only a tiny fraction of our sensorium and our cognitive processing, so I gave up. Perhaps other people get more out of him.

    Speaking of Wittgenstein, I dreamed once that someone had turned his Tractacus into an opera. Not (as one might expect) in the style of Philip Glass; in the dream it was more in the idiom of Richard Strauss. So I woke up with the final aria “Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen” still ringing in my ears.

    Probably it would have been better in the original Klingon, but isn’t this always true?

    I remain regretful that Wittgenstein and Sam Beckett never got together to collaborate on a play.

  88. #88 Krebiozen
    November 16, 2013

    HDB,

    I remain regretful that Wittgenstein and Sam Beckett never got together to collaborate on a play.

    Sadly Wittgenstein had a notorious drink problem, and with all that quantum leaping Beckett simply didn’t have the time to acquire the necessary fluency in Klingon…

  89. #89 Sara
    November 18, 2013

    I’ve read the reactions to Jordan Flesher and hope someone here will consider my observations about those exchanges. Like many of you, I’m also in the belly of the academic medicine beast; but unlike many of you I’m observing these kinds of conflicts from the margins.

    May I suggest…This is a kid. He probably had no idea that he stumbled into a den of working scientists with his adolescently arrogant admonitions to read his favored disciples, and I’m pretty sure that he has no clue about the logical fallacies cited, the references to the fallacy of authority, and all the other things cited. You are wasting your time. YOu are shooting fish in a barrel, and there are better uses for your time and energy.

    It can be satisfying to shatter a kid who doesn’t know any better and blow him to Mars with superior erudition, but why do that? It reduces the mature experts to the level of their misguided interlocutors to engage them with their own limited view of the world. Why would any of you be so supercilious and aggressive with this obviously immature kid? I don’t get it.

    I’m not sure what any working scientist or physician gets out of engaging someone who cannot understand that he is in over his head. To me such people deserve dignified guidance and a strong admonition to go out and learn more before they walk into a complex debate for which they are entirely unprepared.

    Have to say… the hostile arrogance here I’ve read here is a serious waste of energy that could be more productively directed towards genuinely threatening influences. People who can can hurt people in real ways should be the target, not some young kid who has no clue what is talking about.

  90. #90 Sara
    November 18, 2013

    Sorry for multiple typos. Bad keyboard.

  91. #91 Scottynuke
    November 18, 2013

    @ Sara #89 — If Mr. Flesher continues on his current path, Life will be far harsher than the mild reproaching the regulars here have offered. ‘Tis a far better thing for his illusions to be shattered in a blog comment section than on a job search.

    Given that he hasn’t yet bothered to return to attempt a conversation, it’s interesting that you offer to clutch pearls in his stead.

  92. #92 Chris,
    November 18, 2013

    Sorry, Sara. But I still think if one wishes to comment on science, how it is done and about how scientists think that it would better if he learned some. And not just read the opinions of those who don’t seem to understand how it works.

    If one would like to ponder philosophy of science (a real discipline) to actually learn it, and avoid the philosophy of pseudoscience. This is where reading Massimo Pigliucci is much more useful than Mr. Flesher’s list.

  93. #93 The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge
    November 18, 2013

    I assume all but me here are familiar with the Wisdom of Chopra generator, but Pupienus over on Sadly, No just brought it to my attention.

    “Your consciousness is inside the doorway to possibilities.”

  94. #94 Denice Walter
    November 18, 2013

    @ The Very Reverend….

    Of course we are. Two results-

    ” The web of life transforms quantum sexual energy” et
    ” Your consciousness grows through progressive expansion of human observation”.

    I’d guess that that has things about covered.

  95. #95 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    November 18, 2013

    @Sara –

    such people deserve dignified guidance and a strong admonition to go out and learn more before they walk into a complex debate for which they are entirely unprepared.

    I went back and re-read my response to Mr. Flesher, and believe you summarized my major point quite nicely.

  96. #96 Denice Walter
    November 18, 2013

    and I have to add that I don’t think that youthful advocates armed with a graduate degree are entirely *harmless* because
    they can instruct, counsel, write and otherwise mislead distraught and lost youngsters.

    Overcoming the effects of Choprafied advice might take a good decade.

  97. #97 Sara
    November 19, 2013

    Thanks to all for feedback about my remarks. Some of you were quite quick to assume that I would defend someone like this, so I suggest that maybe it’s time to step back and realize that you have put too many dogs in fights like this with ignorant people and need to take a break.

    The rather overexcited tone throughout this thread makes me a little antsy about how much misplaced energy might be going into this kind of non-discussion. This is a kid. Please just ignore him and let someone else–or life–teach him that he is an ignorant twerp. I would hope that everyone has better things to do.

    I am not defending this boy. I am urging everyone to put their energy where it really counts. Life will slap him down soon enough.

  98. #98 Sara
    November 19, 2013

    For Denise–This boy has an undergraduate degree in psychology. He is as much of an intellectual threat as my cat.

    Please do not squander your energies on straw man arguments and other machinations with 22-year-olds who still think they are the smartest thing in the room. It’s a complete waste of time and talent and true competence to fight real fights.

    We need you for the real, important fights against the sophists, quacks, and outright crooks who can really hurt people and make lots of money doing it with no remorse or legal accountability.

    Seriously.

  99. #99 Narad
    November 19, 2013

    People who can can hurt people in real ways should be the target, not some young kid who has no clue what is talking about.

    “Some kid” who is purportedly in a doctoral psychology program and purports to be in “mental health care”? No, sorry. This “kid” fully intends to lay this line of horsesh*t mystification on anybody he can get his hands on and certainly looks to be fixin’ to set up shop. (And if you don’t think that “can hurt people in real ways,” maybe you didn’t look too closely.)

    So, I think it’s perfectly fine that Jordan Flesher, a/k/a “Troy of Is,” have this little monument to his character and people skills tacked up in case any of his future clients get to wondering he really is just throwing out a blizzard of gibberish that he doesn’t know a damned thing about.

    Anyway, it’s not like people flocked to YouTube to say mean things about his 108-minute video with “The Signposter” or something.

  100. #100 Sara
    November 19, 2013

    Yikes. Apologies for misspelling your name, Denice. Where I live it’s usually spelled Denise, and I’m tired and careless right now.

    I completely agree that the average well-rewarded undergraduate anywhere may consider himself/herself matched against anyone to argue cherished dogma and can do real harm. That is a legitimate concern, especially if you throw combative arrogance into the mix.

    It’s somewhat parallel to the frightening phenomenon that makes this blog necessary: a little knowledge can be exceptionally dangerous and infinitely distorted for consumption by malleable and vulnerable people who lack the means to evaluate and question it.

    By definition, victims of misinformation don’t know what they don’t know.

  101. #101 Sara
    November 19, 2013

    For Narad–Don’t understand your own blizzard in the above post. I had the impression that the boy in question had no academic credentials beyond an undergraduate degree and did not see that he is seeking further credentials. If so, that may be truly dangerous. I believe your response is somewhat misdirected. If he is indeed intent on pursuing this course, then I completely agree with your outrage.

    I am a retired clinical psychologist. I’ve also investigated those who abuse their credentials as mental health workers. If what you report is correct about this person, that truly worries me. Nothing distresses me more than the thought that these kinds of people will be set loose on the public in the future with conventional credentials that give them carte blanche to say and do almost anything, honestly.

    I’m just trying to participate in the discussion here. Please don’t associate me with this kid who is clearly overstepping his very, very limited knowledge. I frankly want it to remain that way from what I’ve read here.

  102. #102 Alain
    November 19, 2013

    Sara,

    From the boy’s latest post:

    I will have you know that I am already enrolled within a graduate program. I am soon to complete a master’s degree in psychology and have begun applying to a doctoral program.

    He is indeed in a position to counsel people.

    Alain

  103. #103 Narad
    November 19, 2013

    For Narad–Don’t understand your own blizzard in the above post.

    I do that when I’m writing quickly, sorry. The fact of the matter is that “Troy of Is” thought that he could pop by, get away with nothing but intimidation, and, I dunno, either wait for the entreaties for dispensations of widsom or simply declare victory and skedaddle.

    What he apparently didn’t bargain on was the diversity of his target audience. (I, for one, would be more than happy to hang his supernaturalism out to dry without monist materialism, which he and Chopra are in great measure whining about in this entry in the Annals of Globular Blobularism.)

    If “life” is to be the agent of the “ignorant twerp” lesson, I see no compelling reason why it oughtn’t to operate in the comments to a post about an article that he cowrote.

  104. #104 Chris,
    November 19, 2013

    Wow. And all I thought was that this was a kid totally mystified by the hologram on his debit/credit card.

    Wait. Does he even have debit/credit card? Wouldn’t that mean interaction outside his world view?

  105. #105 Krebiozen
    November 19, 2013

    Sara,
    I have the strong impression you have not read the blog post that provoked the comments you are uncomfortable with. I suggest that you do so, and hopefully you will understand why some of us have felt perfectly justified in responding to Mr Flesher the way we have.

  106. #106 Denice Walter
    November 19, 2013

    @ Sara:

    Unfortunately woo-topia has many poseurs who *counsel* or provide *therapy* with and without benefit of reasonably SB educations or traditionally acquired degrees.

    This guy has been enabled further as he associates with Chopra ( who was IIRC, an endocrinologist in his past life) .i’m sure he’s out there ( in both senses of the phrase) already misleading people for good money.

    One of our most esteemed and creative commenters, Pareidolius, has had truck with Chopra on a closer basis wilst working at Whole Life Expos and is not impressed.

    Their spiritual message might be particularly appealing to vulnerable people who would be better served with more reality-based counselling rather than the airy fairy notions promulgated by these creatures.

    As a side note:
    1 I for one truly enjoy Narad’s blizzards and possibly his other storms as well.
    2 my name is a variant which is supposedly to look “not too French” but still reflect the family myth that we indeed have Norman ancestors( which I doubt).And yes I have a second last name (omitted here) which is NOT D’Urberville. Please.

  107. #107 brs
    Boston
    November 19, 2013

    Jordan and Chopra don’t understand why science requires (at least) methodological naturalism. They think science is just some bigger search for truth regardless of process, which has never been the case.

    Everything else in this debate is a side dish….

  108. #108 Sara
    November 19, 2013

    Puzzled by Denice’s response. I am not here to challenge or attack anyone. I am here to learn and perhaps give my eccentric perspective from time to time. I really have no agenda beyond that.

    For Krebiozen–my screen display is cranky and non-standard, and I may indeed have read a truncated version of this person’s original post. Thanks for pointing that out.

    Chopra scares me. Oz scares me even more because he is the latest anointee to the Oprah bully pulpit and like Chopra once was a Real Physician. Everyone to whom she’s handed her mantle of gushing endorsement has abused it and has created a duststorm of lucrative woo that is spun off into a separate empire. It’s beyond me why she has gotten away with this for so long and has no oversight for misinforming the public whatsoever.

    Oprah is a menace. There–I said it. Dr. Phil was just the beginning. I guess after your first billion or so that no one dares to tell you that you’re pushing crappola whose potential or actual harm will take others years to undo. If ever….

  109. #109 Denice Walter
    November 19, 2013

    @ Sara:

    I’m agreeing with you.
    Instant Translation;
    Alt med is rife with self-styled psychologists, some of whom have real degrees. Chopra gives a boost to youngsters like Mr Jordan. They takeunfair advantage of people. One of our commenters, Pareidolius, has the goods on Chopra.

    Side notes- are mostly a joke. Narad is most decidedly not.

  110. #110 Sara
    November 20, 2013

    I guess the only mantra that keeps me going when these people manage to fool everyone almost all of the time is just Follow. The. Money. Then you hope that enforcement will catch up with them. I’m not seeing much meaningful action, though. The quack in Texas who still has complete freedom to show what an accomplished ripoff artist he is after–what, decades?!– says almost everything I would ever (not) want to know about Texas. Apologies to those who live there.

    But…I live in a community where a discredited (fired) medical examiner was recently discovered to have a storage unit full of salvaged human body parts.

  111. #111 Politicalguineapig
    November 20, 2013

    Sara: I’d just like to point out that my computer monitor is currently held together with duct-tape, so I’m not sure ‘screen bit the dust’ is an excuse.

  112. #112 Militant Agnostic
    November 20, 2013

    @Sarah

    I live in a community where a discredited (fired) medical examiner was recently discovered to have a storage unit full of salvaged human body parts.

    WTF – Where is that? I work at a self-storage centre where we recently stopped collecting security deposits – in the light of this revelation perhaps we should re-instate them.

  113. #113 Narad
    November 20, 2013

    WTF – Where is that?

    Kinda sounds like Pensacola.

  114. #114 Krebiozen
    November 21, 2013

    I live in a community where a discredited (fired) medical examiner was recently discovered to have a storage unit full of salvaged human body parts.

    Eccentric geniuses have a very hard time these days – it may be dressed up as “ethics” and “health and safety”, but really it’s still peasants with torches. Think of all the scientific breakthroughs that might have come from this sort of creative amateur experimentation. [ ;-) ]

  115. #115 TBruce
    November 21, 2013

    But…I live in a community where a discredited (fired) medical examiner was recently discovered to have a storage unit full of salvaged human body parts

    That would make for a kick-ass episode of Storage Wars.

  116. #116 Sara
    November 21, 2013

    Narad is correct. This was in Pensacola. As I understand it, the case is ongoing because he may have stored pilfered parts elsewhere. This was only discovered because payment lapsed and someone bought the unit at auction.

    The kicker for me is that I have a long-term storage unit in a facility with the same company. Several years ago they had a fire caused by improperly stored flammables. Fortunately it was self-contained.

    A soapbox moment here, if I may…In many places in the US, the medical examiner and coroner positions can be staffed by people who have no legitimate credentials in forensic medicine and can be political appointments. This is horrifying. I wish the entire medical profession would unite on this issue. The people who pass judgment on cause of death should be medically qualified, and there should be an option for a trained examiner to do cursory autopsies whenever cause of death is questionable.

    Here autopsies are only done under strictly defined conditions defined mostly by law enforcement considerations. Families who want a postmortem exam must pay out of pocket. This is cruel when cause of death is ambiguous. Surely there’s an intermediate option so that some kind of perfunctory procedure is available to anyone who believes it’s necessary. I’ve dealt with this several times on a personal level.

    /soapbox

  117. #117 Sara
    November 21, 2013

    For Militant Agnostic (#112)–I almost lost a huge collection of family heirlooms to a nearby fire in my storage facility. These places should absolutely have security deposits and should ensure that there’s some kind of insurance, whether the paltry policy they offer or equally paltry homeowners coverage (usually 10%).

    I apologize for not anticipating that my throwaway comment about the human organ thief might hijack the thread for a bit; but I’m grateful to see that people here are alarmed at what this (unqualified, unethical piece of scum) medical examiner was able to get away with. Truly food for thought.

    Back to other unethical issues of concern…..Such as slick Chopra and his disciples. It makes me a little crazy that he and others who have conventional credentials are now free to do pretty much whatever they can get away with.

    How did we let this happen? How is an MD now a get-out-of-jail-and malpractice-suits-free card in case you decide that you don’t want to play by the scientific and ethical rules?

  118. #118 TBruce
    November 21, 2013

    How did we let this happen? How is an MD now a get-out-of-jail-and malpractice-suits-free card in case you decide that you don’t want to play by the scientific and ethical rules?

    AFAIK, Chopra doesn’t care for patients, and basically just writes books, gives speeches and does the talk show circuit. He can do pretty much anything he wants, short of fraud. Since he’s smarter than the likes of Kevin Trudeau, he’ll avoid leaving himself open to charges. Being a bullshite artiste is not against the law.

  119. #119 LuForemost
    United States
    December 11, 2013

    Referring to Post-Modernist babble and relying on wiki sources to buttress one’s intellectual shortcomings? Someone please take a very soft pillow emblazoned with the name ‘Alan Sokal’ and hit the little brat on the head, repeatedly and without mercy.

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