Pharyngula

Deepak Chopra and his magic love god

Chopra.

Deepak Chopra is a fraud who probably makes at least ten times my salary, who gets invited onto talk shows and news programs to spout his opinions, whose books are read by millions as if they actually provide any insight…and the guy has the brains of a turnip. It’s just sad. Have you no shame, Ariana Huffington?

His latest attempt to explain himself (an effort which is to reason as cat-strangling is to art) is a poor critique of Dawkins’ The God Delusion(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll). It promises to be part one. When I was in my twenties, I had a very difficult extraction of my wisdom teeth, and that promise reminded me of what the dentist said, after he he had literally knelt on the armrests of the chair, wielding a hammer and chisel against my tooth…”Well, that’s the first one done.” I’m sure you all know that awful sinking feeling as you complete one ugly chore, only to realize that there’s more to come.

There isn’t much to his argument, fortunately, so I’ll just pluck out one representative piece of it. This is a familiar complaint: I call it the “Well, you can’t see love in your fancy microscope, now can you, Dr Smarty Pants?” argument.

Is science the only route to knowledge? Obviously not. I know that my mother loved me all her life, as I love my own children. I feel genius in great works of art. None of this knowledge is validated by science. I have seen medical cures that science can’t explain, some seemingly triggered by faith. The same is true of millions of other people. I know that I am conscious and have a self, even though Dawkins—along with many arch materialists—doesn’t believe that consciousness is real or that the self is anything but a chemical illusion created in the brain. By Dawkins’ reasoning a mother’s love is no more real than God as neither can be empirically quantified.

Ho hum. You can sort of see the wheels turning in the poor sap’s head: he’s got this idea that Science is men in white lab coats with needles and instruments and computers, and he is surely convinced that they had nothing to do with his momma loving him, and of course they didn’t. But then, his naive view of meddling scientism has nothing to do with what the godless and Dawkins are talking about. We’re just saying that love is a natural property between human beings, no deity required. I would just ask him a few questions.

Is he, Deepak Chopra, a human being? Is he real?

Was his mother a human being? Was she real?

Can human beings feel love for one another here in the real world?

The answers, I would hope, would all be “yes” (although with a wacked-out flake like Chopra, one can never tell; he might answer “Unicorns,” “Vibrations,” and “Quantum” to the questions, but at least then I’ll have cause to ask that he be committed.) Then I would say that all people like Dawkins are saying is that we’re dealing with natural phenomena between natural agents in the natural world, so yes, we can observe it, test it, measure it, and believe it…no problem. Dawkins and I are most definitely not denying the existence of love, nor are we advancing this strange idea that other properties of the mind, like consciousness, do not exist.

It’s a bad argument when you have to mischaracterize your opponents that grossly to make a point.

I would also turn his worries around. Do you think a mother’s love and consciousness and art need to be validated by religion? Religion has nothing to do with those experiences; it offers nothing but unfounded, contradictory assertions that it contributes; it adds nothing to our understanding of mind or love or art. All of his complaints can be reversed right back at the superstitious nonsense of religion with far more accuracy than they can be applied to science.

Not that any of this will make the slightest impression on that turnip. He’ll just go on making stuff up, selling lots of goofy books, and appearing on television. And, of course, he’ll go on to inflict on us another vacuous cavil against a book he doesn’t comprehend.

Comments

  1. #1 jeffw
    November 15, 2006

    Dawkins is a long-term threat to Deepak’s income. And that money will find a better home in the RDF foundation.

  2. #2 quork
    November 15, 2006

    even though Dawkins–along with many arch materialists–doesn’t believe that consciousness is real or that the self is anything but a chemical illusion created in the brain.

    I’ve never understood that one either. Saying that consciousness is a result of brain activity is not the same as saying that it isn’t “real.”

  3. #3 Tyler DiPietro
    November 16, 2006

    It’s just sad. Have you no shame, Ariana Huffington?

    No, I’m afraid she doesn’t. Deepak Chopra’s nonsense if a perfect illustration of why I stopped reading PuffHo’s website. There’s the occasional piece of interesting writing, but all in all it’s The New Republic in blog form. It seems to be by and large a bunch of self-important authors handling contemporary issues with their usual elegance (similar to that a prison rape).

    R.J. Eskow was a similar case a few weeks ago, beating his chest over Dawkins and Harris and generally making an asshole out of himself.

    The one thing all of these religious/spiritual progressives have against Dawkins is that he calls the bluff. As Harris himself often points out, there is an assumption on the part of religious/spiritual progressives about religion and spirituality that seems to mirror similarly naive ideas about human nature: that it is basically good, but corrupted after the fact by power-mongering politicians. When Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, etc., show that the Osama bin Ladens and Fred Phelps of the world are following very plausible forms of their respective religions, and the John Shelby Spongs of the world are the one doing the manipulating and rationalizing, that’s offensive and politically incorrect.

  4. #4 Warren
    November 16, 2006

    I know that I am conscious and have a self, even though Dawkins–along with many arch materialists–doesn’t believe that consciousness is real or that the self is anything but a chemical illusion created in the brain.

    Not just Dawkins et. al. About a billion Buddhists are every bit as certain of exactly the same thing. No self, just an illusion, a myth of apparent immutable continuity that evaporates the moment it’s studied.

    Seems Shallopwpaq Chopra’s out of touch with a hell of a lot more than he realizes.

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