Pharyngula

Don’t watch this debate on “Does God have a future?” (video here) if your temper runs a bit hot. Sam Harris was excellent, Michael Shermer was pretty good, but their opponents, Deepak Chopra and Jean Houston, were blithering morons. Harris’s early point was spot on: that there is the kind of religion that people actually practice, and then there is the New Age woo of cosmic minds and magic powers gussied up with pseudo-scientific noise, and the latter is a dodge to avoid the former.

And that’s all Chopra did: he babbled about science, of all things, supporting his flaky freakish New Age scam, and Houston was also pointless in a lot of pretentious touchy-feely vapidity.

It just isn’t worth it. I think we’re at the point where no godless rationalist ought to share a stage with Chopra — he’s an ignorant phony who will simply lie and misrepresent science while claiming its mantle. Both Harris and Shermer were solid in standing up to him, but they didn’t go far enough in dismissing his phony credentials and his dishonest schtick.

Comments

  1. #1 Ichthyic
    March 23, 2010

    they should reword that to:

    does the IDEA of god have a future?

    because God, as something locatable in reality, has no future, present, or past, AFAICT.

  2. #2 aratina cage
    March 23, 2010

    As I mentioned in the Richard Dawkins thread about it, I had such a good laugh during the “Stop using ‘Fuzzy Words’” video clip where the dialog takes a turn for the extremely absurd:

    Shermer: “…the moon is really there whether you look at it or not! It doesn’t apply to the macro-world.”

    Chopra: “In the absence of a conscious entity, the moon remains a radically ambiguous and ceaselessly flowing quantum soup.”

    :D   Chopra stews for a bit before regaining his ego after letting out that one.

  3. #3 Ichthyic
    March 23, 2010

    radically ambiguous and ceaselessly flowing quantum soup

    That’s what I’m going to call the fool from now on.

  4. #4 Feynmaniac
    March 23, 2010
  5. #5 Bribase
    March 23, 2010

    I have always friggin’ wished that instead of reading Deepak’s fluffy nonsense about how to stay youthful and manipulate reality in your favour through quantum effects, people would just sit and read just how amazing, strange, counterintuitive and beautiful modern physics is.

    I just hate it that while while anyone that cares to read about modern physics says “that’s odd isn’t it?” Deepak is busy saying “the wigglestring wave cracking symmetry quotient of the higher dimensional brane manifold of god says buy my fucking book”

    B

  6. #6 mattand08
    March 23, 2010

    No surprise Nightline is involved with this. They were the sponsor of the Cameron/Comfort vs. Rational Response Squad cluster fuck a few years back.

    I stopped listening to the podcasts of Nightline a long time ago, partly because it seemed every third story had some pro-religion angle, not counting the “Faith Matters” segments.

    I’ll give the video a whirl later. I’ve never seen Sam Harris in action before. Sounds like he gave Deepak a quantum thrashing.

  7. #7 anthrosciguy
    March 23, 2010

    radically ambiguous and ceaselessly flowing quantum soup

    That’s what I had for lunch!

  8. #8 Sastra
    March 23, 2010

    Choprawoo is supposed to be an example of a God which is not only compatible with science, but compatible with naturalism, too. Nature is conscious! Or consciousness! Take your pick!

    When people give up Creationism and traditional religion, this is often the stuff they turn to. They think it falls on the Golden Mean between fundamentalist religion, and cold, cruel atheism. And, as every moderate knows, if it’s moderate, then it’s bound to be correct.

  9. #9 jagannath
    March 23, 2010

    The interview of chopra in the ‘Enemies of Reason’ by Dawkins sums up the choprawoo nicely.

    He just takes a word that has actual meaning and recognition and presents it as his own, while of course making accusations abouts science, scientist and anyone disagreeing with him.

  10. #10 neurosink
    March 23, 2010

    @#9

    I agree, that interview was as clear a portrayal of what Chopra seems to be about as I have seen yet. He takes a word that already has meaning, changes the meaning to suit his cause then tries to use the word as if he hasn’t changed it.

    It’s an insult to semantics and an act of arbitrary plagiarism, stealing of words. He knows that the words he uses already have meaning, but that they’re also part of the scientific vernacular and sound ‘sciencey’ to people who don’t know better. So he takes advantage of both our ability to express complex ideas in words and at the same time taking advantage of our ability to recognise the general context of words without knowing their exact meaning. Incredibly deceiving, shame on him.

  11. #11 Blake Stacey
    March 23, 2010

    [N]o godless rationalist ought to share a stage with Chopra — he’s an ignorant phony who will simply lie and misrepresent science while claiming its mantle.

    Nominations for the 2011 Templeton Prize are due by October 1, 2010.

  12. #12 neurosink
    March 23, 2010

    Thus I now will from this point forward refer to him as Deepak Chopra, Stealer of Words.

    Or would Destroyer of Words be better? He does a pretty good job of destroying words by confusion.

    Deepak Chopra, Stealer of Words.

    Deepak Chopra, Destroyer of Words.

    Deepak Chopra, Devourer of Words.

    Deepak Chopra, Devaluer of Words.

    It’s a toss-up.

  13. #13 LeftBehind
    March 23, 2010

    Harris is boring, precise, accurate, careful and a man after my own heart.

    Shermer is quite quiet.

    The other two, after running their speech through my computerised meaningless filter ended up with

    asgfagadgad fbaevergr brtht mjmju

    Which seems more meaningful than what they actually said.

  14. #14 hznfrst
    March 23, 2010

    I watched this earlier and was fascinated by the 99 and 44/100 pure bull coming from the mouths of those two woo-meisters! It was so perfcetly idiotic I couldn’t turn away.

    Sam kept his cool and smacked them down at every turn, while Michael was often rattled to the point of staring at the ceiling, holding his head in his hands and indulging in frequent face palms. I couldn’t blame him: he could have been home doing something productive like sorting his socks instead of wasting time with these utter nitwits, Chopra being the bigger and downright meaner one of course, resorting to ad hominems and constant interruptions.

    This should go on every skeptical website as an example of the outrageous stupidity that’s out there masquerading as serious philosophy.

  15. #15 William
    March 23, 2010

    radically ambiguous and ceaselessly flowing quantum soup

    Uh, guys, according to a popular interpretation of quantum mechanics, proponents of which are actually physicists, this is more-or-less an accurate description – until an observer causes the wave function to collapse.

  16. #16 WowbaggerOM
    March 23, 2010

    Too late; I already watched it, courtesy of Jerry Coyne.

    I hadn’t actually seen Chopra ‘at work’ before so it was interesting to actually hear him saying the kind of woo-kookery that’s been alluded to here and elsewhere.

    Jean Houston was blithering, but I don’t think she was a moron; it was more that what she’s (probably) capable of talking about wasn’t in any way related to what everyone else was discussing.

    Really, I spent more time wondering exactly how Harris and Shermer kept themselves from falling off their chairs laughing at the absolute nonsense and silly capering of Deepak.

    Why wasn’t there at least one actual Christian there? Did someone else pull out and Jean Houston step in? That would explain a lot.

  17. #17 Kobra
    March 23, 2010

    I know a lady who loves Deepak Chopra. I haven’t heard what he has to say so I can’t verbally disembowel him yet, so I’ll probably end up suffering through the video tomorrow.

    The first step to criticism is understanding.

  18. #18 aratina cage
    March 23, 2010

    Uh, guys, according to a popular interpretation of quantum mechanics, proponents of which are actually physicists, this is more-or-less an accurate description – until an observer causes the wave function to collapse.
    -William

    Not quite (this was pointed out at richarddawkins.net, too). Chopra was talking about the moon, not quantum particles, and consciousness should have nothing to do with it unless you believe in dualism. But even if he is sort of getting Penrose et al right, could it have been said in a more hilariously wacky way? I don’t think so.

  19. #19 ericlvaughan
    March 23, 2010

    I like Same Harris! Very precise.

  20. #20 MAJeff, OM
    March 23, 2010

    radically ambiguous and ceaselessly flowing quantum soup

    I prefer the green garlic and semolina soup with spinach, black truffle butter, and a five-minute egg I had at Ten Tables last week.

  21. #21 neurosink
    March 23, 2010

    @#16 WowbaggerOM

    From reading the article it seems Chopra specifically chose Houston as his tag team partner, with Shermer specifically choosing Harris as his. So it’s completely Chopra’s fault for his selection, which provides even more insight in to how he thinks.

    So we can try to examine how he could possibly have come to the conclusion that Houston was the best choice? Perhaps he thought the best way to fight Shermer was to go as vague, confusing and off-topic as possible. That’s kinda his thing. So he invited someone along that wouldn’t be able to contribute much at all to the discussion, but someone who sounds like they believe strongly in their own vague ideas over other’s.

    I would probably choose Harris too.

  22. #22 Harbo
    March 23, 2010

    One must now Quote the Great Cobb

    “God must bear responsibility for all human failing”

    Or alternatively, get out of the road.

  23. #23 truthspeaker
    March 23, 2010

    One might even say that Chopra is a clueless gobshite.

    Actually I don’t think he’s clueless. I think he knows exactly what he’s doing.

  24. #24 Blake Stacey
    March 23, 2010

    Straight-up Copenhagenism, in its strictest form, isn’t really tenable anymore, and the whole “collapse of the wavefunction” idea has been growing less popular since, oh, 1970 or thereabouts. Nowadays, it’s more of a pedagogical prop, a “lie to children” one learns in an introductory class which is eventually set aside when one’s command of the science deepens.

  25. #25 spunmunkey
    March 23, 2010

    @#21 neurosink –

    Houston was so obviously his second choice – but Oprah was too busy to return his calls…

  26. #26 Blake Stacey
    March 23, 2010

    (Yes, the aforelinked summary mentions the “collapse of the wavefunction”, but it doesn’t have to — sometimes obsolete terminology sticks around, even when we’d be better off without it. Apparent collapse is an emergent phenomenon, but we don’t have to include genuine collapse as a fundamental law.)

  27. #27 Thalamus
    March 23, 2010

    I’ve already shared my favorite phrases of the debate at Sam’s, Dawkins’, and Coyne’s websites so I’ll drop’em here too:

    Sam to Deepak: ?You are not a physicist.. as every single sentence you say clearly demonstrates?. PRICELESS

    or

    ?Deepak, just repeating it more loudly and relentlessly doesn?t make it true!? -S Harris- haha

  28. #28 Ichthyic
    March 23, 2010

    I prefer the green garlic and semolina soup with spinach, black truffle butter, and a five-minute egg I had at Ten Tables last week.

    speaking of recipes…

    several asked me to put up a placeholder so we could start putting them all in one spot online, so I did:

    http://sites.google.com/a/crackergate.com/pharyngula-recipes/

    the domain (guess which!) only costs me 10 a year, and it’s paid for up through the next year, so have at.

    send me an email to ichthyic@crackergate.com if you want to be able to add recipes directly, and i’ll shoot you a login.

    I suppose later we could get all fancy and just have a form to use for anyone to upload a recipe.

    I just don’t have the time to set that up right now, so it’s easier if folks just login and add what they want to directly.

    I’ll copy this to the endless thread, too.

  29. #29 jesse.l.sinclair
    March 23, 2010

    @ 27 Thalamus

    You missed my favourite Harris quote from that debate:

    “No, metaphysical statements also have to be justified, as it turns out…”

    Also did anyone else catch that in her 3min intro Jean Housten said “koala BIRDS” not “koala bears”. Admittedly I’m not Australia but I have never heard of this koala bird, what does it look like?

  30. #30 paulmurray
    March 23, 2010

    @15

    radically ambiguous and ceaselessly flowing quantum soup

    … this is more-or-less an accurate description

    True, but that does not mean that the moon is not “really” there. It’s like that nonsense about an atom being mostly empty space. “empty space” usually means “a space devoid of matter”, ie: atoms. The term becomes meaningless when you start talking about atom-sized things – the everyday concept of “empty” just doesn’t apply. Ditto “everything that begins to exist has a cause, the universe is a thing, therefore …”. The universe is not a “thing” in the usual sense of the word – the sense used in that first premise. It is not some identifiable arrangment of atoms, with a story as to how the atoms became arranged in that particular configuration.

    Yes, the wave-function describing an electron – or my chair – has a (very small) value no matter how far out you go. In a sense, each electron pervades all the universe. And so does my chair. That doesn’t mean that it’s not really here and I may or may not be really sitting on it. And it certainly doesn’t mean I can do magic by wishing really hard. It’s a category mistake: taking the manner in which my chair pervades the entire universe to be the same as the manner in which it is right here, right now. The two statements mean different kinds of thing.

    Oh: and ditto “neuroscience reduces love and loyalty to interactions of chemicals in the brain”.

  31. #31 precordial.thump
    March 23, 2010

    It was a shame Harris and Shermer never really got the chance to explain precisely why the things Deepak Chopra said was ‘woo woo speak’.

    He used a lot of pseudo-scientific terms and liked to name drop various maverick physicists or quote out of context great thinkers like Einstein.

    The thing he can’t do, which any scientist should be able to do, is break down his explanation into simpler terms so that others can understand how one idea logically connects to another.

    It embarrasses me that he is a medical doctor.

  32. #32 PJ Dietz
    March 23, 2010

    My favorite Deepak quote of the evening: “In the absence of brain, you can still have a consciousness which has no thought.” I think he’s living proof that.

  33. #33 paulmurray
    March 23, 2010
  34. #34 Islander
    March 23, 2010

    The absolute best part:

    Chopra, when challenged on his babble about quantum physics, challenged any theoretical physicist in the room to stand up and correct him. During the Q&A, a theoretical physicist informed him that he had no idea what he was talking about, offered him a course on quantum physics (which Chopra accepted), and then made Chopra look like a fool throughout their entire exchange.

    If you watch any of the debate at all, watch the segment titled “Scientist takes on Deepak’s science.”

  35. #35 Feynmaniac
    March 23, 2010

    lol, I loved how Deepak kept using words like ‘compassion’, ‘spiritually enlightened’ while at the same time acting like a total dick. I also loved how he apologized for it, but then just blamed Michael Shermer for it. Man, he really took having his talk being called “woo-woo” personally. Total Diva Chopra. It almost made listening to his nonsense worth it.

    Also, Sam Harris was great. Probably the best speaker of the “New Atheists”.

  36. #36 jt512
    March 23, 2010

    BTW, the theoretical physicist in the audience was Leonard Mlodinow, co-author (with Hawking) of A Briefer History of Time.

  37. #37 Shala
    March 23, 2010

    The absolute best part:

    Chopra, when challenged on his babble about quantum physics, challenged any theoretical physicist in the room to stand up and correct him. During the Q&A, a theoretical physicist informed him that he had no idea what he was talking about, offered him a course on quantum physics (which Chopra accepted), and then made Chopra look like a fool throughout their entire exchange.

    If you watch any of the debate at all, watch the segment titled “Scientist takes on Deepak’s science.”

    THIS.

    Sam and Michael have absolutely nothing on the theoretical physicist who challenged Chopra. He just demolished him!

    Jean Houston didn’t seem -too- bad, just…really weird. If she lost the woo and stayed on-track I could see her being a good speaker IMO.

  38. #38 Shala
    March 24, 2010

    HTML fail. Meant to italicize everything before the all-caps “this”.

  39. #39 Kobra
    March 24, 2010

    Pi does not refer to infinity. It refers to the proportion of a circle’s circumference to its diameter.

    EPIC FAIL

  40. #40 Curt Cameron
    March 24, 2010

    I just watched Nightline – I had never actually seen Chopra do his thing before. I always thought that he was just suffering from mushy-headedness. I’m now convinced that he’s simply a fraud.

  41. #41 Shala
    March 24, 2010

    Pi does not refer to infinity. It refers to the proportion of a circle’s circumference to its diameter.

    To be fair, I wish pie was infinite.

  42. #42 Kobra
    March 24, 2010

    @41:

    Where would we store it all? D:

    (Yes, I’m an engineer at heart.)

  43. #43 Kathy Orlinsky
    March 24, 2010

    I’ve never seen Chopra before, he was amazingly combative and arrogant, especially with Leonard Mlodinow.

    Houston didn’t seem to understand what topic she was supposed to be addressing. She just blathered on about whatever struck her fancy.

    ‘Is there a role for god?’
    ‘Well, let me tell you a story about women’s rights.’

    I was amazed the moderator took her words so seriously, they didn’t make a lick of sense as far as I could tell.

    I’m impressed that neither Harris nor Shermer lost their temper and shouted, “You! Stop talking over everyone about stuff you clearly don’t understand! And you! Read the fricken debate topic next time!”

  44. #44 WowbaggerOM
    March 24, 2010

    Kathy Orlinsky wrote:

    I’m impressed that neither Harris nor Shermer lost their temper and shouted, “You! Stop talking over everyone about stuff you clearly don’t understand! And you! Read the fricken debate topic next time!”

    I wondered that too, and then thought that maybe Harris and Shermer – experienced debaters that they are – realised the other two were doing an excellent job of undermining their own side without them having to say things like that and appear overly confrontational.

    And it seemed to work. I can’t imagine too many people who hadn’t already picked a ‘side’ would be thinking Deepak came off as anything other than a frothing, barely coherent nutbag.

  45. #45 Feynmaniac
    March 24, 2010

    I’m impressed that neither Harris nor Shermer lost their temper and shouted, “You! Stop talking over everyone about stuff you clearly don’t understand! And you! Read the fricken debate topic next time!”

    LMAO! Thread won.

  46. #46 hznfrst
    March 24, 2010

    Whoever first chose the term “observer” in QM made a blunder comparable to when someone somewhere decided to use “theory” in a sense contrary to its popular definition.

    “Observer” implies something conscious, and roaches like Chopra take this misconception and run with it in the same way cretinists do with “theory.” All it means scientifically is an interaction, which forces particles into particular states. Observers can be anything from other particles, instruments or conscious beings. This clarification should have been made more forcefully.

  47. #47 jt512
    March 24, 2010

    #43:

    Houston didn’t seem to understand what topic she was supposed to be addressing. She just blathered on about whatever struck her fancy.

    If the fast forward button didn’t exist, someone listening to Jean Houston would invent it.

    Unfortunately, for those of us who attended the debate, fast forwarding through Jean’s comments was not an option. Not clear from the video is that between the beginning of the debate and the end the audience’s sentiments toward Jean went from mild amusement to near ridicule. By time she gave her closing remarks a significant proportion of the audience could not contain its laughter; indeed, the ABC camera operator near me couldn’t keep a straight face (and I suspect that they’re trained that it’s indecorous to laugh at the guests).

    The turning point for Jean, which seems to have been edited out of the “unedited” 2-hour on-line version, came when she likened something visible in (as best as I can recall) a Hubble space telescope photograph with “a woman’s birth canal” (to which Shermer quipped something to the effect of, “I see that all the time, in my imagination.”).

  48. #48 Foggg
    March 24, 2010

    Looks like the perennial debate over Deepak’s Diagnosis:
    “phony, fraud, dishonest, liar…” vs.
    “arrogant, ignorant, stubborn, self-deluded, self-righteous…”

  49. #49 blf
    March 24, 2010

    radically ambiguous and ceaselessly flowing quantum soup

    But does it have MUSHROOMS? Or bacon? Actually, considering where it came from (person and orifice), it probably has peas. I think I’ll pass.

  50. #50 Caine, Fleur du mal
    March 24, 2010

    If the notion of god having a future needs to be discussed, you’d think they’d get a clue about gods being tailor-made by people in the first place. *sigh*

  51. #51 John Frum
    March 24, 2010

    Two things pissed me off about this:

    1) Deepak made it clear in his opening statement that he is just a con-man that uses the words of science to appear to know what he is saying to those who don’t know better. Sam was brilliant but I kept yelling back “don’t try to pin him down like that! He’s a con artist (and a good one too) who will not let you pin him down.”

    2) Fuck the moderator! Why did he only want to ask the good guys to define what they meant? He let the other two spew all kinds of meaningless crap.

  52. #53 John Frum
    March 24, 2010

    @42
    We just store the infinite pie in the infinite fridge and we’ll still have room for an infinite amount of whipped cream to go on top.

    That’s the cool thing about infinity, there’s always room for more.

  53. #54 neurosink
    March 24, 2010

    Ok, I’ve just listened to the first 2min of Chopra and I can’t stand it. He’s like “I’m not here to discuss the topic we have set before us…” Wtf?

    Fast forward to Harris and Shermer.

  54. #55 Bribase
    March 24, 2010

    Deepak has perfectly expressed one of the biggest problems for any rationalist within a debate against a woo merchant, creationist et al.

    When not constrained by truth and logic, Deepak is free to speak rapid fire nonsense and draw as many false conclusions from it as he likes, none of his fans care if it has veracity as long as his conclusion gives them warm and fuzzy feelings. Unfortunately it’s down to Michael and Sam to unpack his entire argument to expose the falsehood of it, thus wasting time and not presenting their own arguments, making them appear like cynics as opposed to skeptics.

    B

  55. #56 FrankT
    March 24, 2010

    Deepak invoking Searle as if he was a creator of mathematical laws was both bogus and sad.

  56. #57 scarab
    March 24, 2010

    I think that Leonard Mlodinow made a mistake in not insisting that Deepak could not use his offer to teach Deepak as an endorsement of Deepak’s views.

    Deepak had already name dropped another, apparently famous, scientist. Deepak said that he had conversations with this scientist in which the scientist did not use the term wu wu. Deepak did not state that the scientist agreed with Deepak’s views. He left it to the listener to draw that conclusion.

    Leonard Mlodinow co-author (with Hawking) of A Briefer History of Time could join the list of scientists that Deepak has had cordial conversations with on the subject of consciousness and non-locality.

    Anyone debating Deepak will have to probe Deepak when he name drops famous scientists to establish if the scientist was in substantive agreement with Deepak or if he was merely being cordial.

  57. #58 Sioux Laris
    March 24, 2010

    Being a compassionate atheist, I do avow that, if D. Chewpro was on fire, I would spit on him.

  58. #59 Shala
    March 24, 2010

    We just store the infinite pie in the infinite fridge and we’ll still have room for an infinite amount of whipped cream to go on top.

    Now I’m curious about testing what happens when an unstoppable force (my mouth) meets a delicious object.

  59. #60 Tronzu
    March 24, 2010

    Many times I caught myself thinking that Deepak Chopra is actually literally retarded.

    How in the hell did he get so popular?

  60. #61 Modoc
    March 24, 2010

    I think Deepak Chopra has SEVERE VOICE IMMODULATION SYNDROME.

  61. #62 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    March 24, 2010

    How in the hell did he get so popular?

    I think the new-age/woo crowd believes if they don’t understand it, it is deep. Personally, if I don’t understand it, it is crap.

  62. #63 Shala
    March 24, 2010

    Many times I caught myself thinking that Deepak Chopra is actually literally retarded.

    That bit about him talking about the moon springs to mind. He’s so obnoxious to listen to.

    On the other hand, Sam Harris is pretty awesome. I should check out his book sometime…

  63. #64 Sastra
    March 24, 2010

    Islander #34 wrote:

    Chopra, when challenged on his babble about quantum physics, challenged any theoretical physicist in the room to stand up and correct him. During the Q&A, a theoretical physicist informed him that he had no idea what he was talking about, offered him a course on quantum physics (which Chopra accepted), and then made Chopra look like a fool throughout their entire exchange.

    Interesting. I haven’t (yet) watched the debate, but this is how the ABC news reported it in their story:

    It was no surprise that there were some scientists in the audience. One theoretical physicist offered to give Chopra a short course in quantum physics to help him refine his usage of some of the terms. The invitation was accepted. “I would like to be educated so I can be clearer in my dialogue,” Chopra said.
    The physicist in turn asked to be further educated about Chopra’s view of consciousness.
    While the debate may have ended on stage, the participants — and even the theoretical physicist from the audience — have continued to discuss the issue over e-mail.

    The impression I got just from reading this report, was that the physicist was rather friendly to Chopra’s argument. He only wanted to “help him refine his usage of some of the terms.” And then the physicist wants Chopra to “educate” him about Chopra’s view of consciousness — since it is Chopra’s area of expertise.

    It doesn’t sound like Chopra was “demolished” at all: the way the incident is reported, the exchange comes out to Chopra’s advantage.

    It will be interesting to watch this for myself. My initial guess is that Islander and Shala are correct, and ABC is being deliberately deceptive in order to be supportive of a Spiritual Viewpoint.

  64. #65 Shala
    March 24, 2010

    Just about everything the physicist said after the offer to teach him quantum physics was poking fun at Chopra’s nonsense. I especially liked Chopra saying he wasn’t a REAL physicist and that he believed “in the infinite”. (lolwut)

  65. #66 Tronzu
    March 24, 2010

    Wow, that such a person as Deepak Chopra could even get a frequent mainstream public venue is mindboggling and saddening.

  66. #67 aratina cage
    March 24, 2010

    Sastra, Mlodinow was only being nice at the end when he offered to hear out Chopra’s woo-woo. When Mlodinow first stood up, you could tell he was shaken by Chopra’s shameless name-dropping of Stephen Hawking and quackery of quantum physics, but the moderator refused to let Mlodinow make a statement. Instead, he was only to ask a question, which he did. Chopra couldn’t contain himself though from the obvious challenge to his authority and immediately brushed aside the moderator and began a one on one match with Mladinow, who then did say that Chopra did not know what he was talking about and that he was not making any sense. Mlodinow even tried to make light of Chopra’s impatient retorts and it got a good reaction from the audience which is when Chopra played the victim card and forced Mlodinow to back down.

  67. #68 chuckgoecke
    March 24, 2010

    Deepak is just plain cruel. He’s merciless to one’s brain cells; the stupid hurts. The other lady, I won’t bother to remember or find her name, so full of irrelevant nonseculars, she just boggles my mind. I need to go get a 2×4 piece of lumber to hit my head, if I’m going to be able to keep listening to this.

  68. #69 Shala
    March 24, 2010

    I need to go get a 2×4 piece of lumber to hit my head, if I’m going to be able to keep listening to this.

    Possible candidate for Brain Bleach?

    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BrainBleach

  69. #70 Dog Boots
    March 24, 2010

    It annoys me to no end how Deepak is constantly buying a “free round” on the house by constant mentioning compassion and peace and love and puppies and things that everyone likes and then claim that stance for himself.

  70. #71 jagannath
    March 24, 2010

    #58 After a consideration, as I am not a compassionate by nature, I came to conclusion that should Chopra be on fire, I would still piss on him.

  71. #72 SatyaFX
    March 24, 2010

    Crossword circa 2020
    1 across: Quantum Quack, ‘oh, crap’

    I sorely missed Hitchins all the time.

    I wipe my a$$ with your cosmic consciousness..
    – Tony Soprano :-)

  72. #73 Sastra
    March 24, 2010

    chuck goecke #68 wrote:

    The other lady, I won’t bother to remember or find her name, so full of irrelevant nonseculars, she just boggles my mind.

    I don’t know if you really meant to say ‘irrelevant non sequiturs‘ here, but it’s brilliant! I am so stealing this…

  73. #74 QuarkyGideon
    March 24, 2010

    Oh that Jean Houston & her fucking “perspectives”. ARRRRGH!!

    And Deepak Chopra is a moron! I thought he was bad on The Enemies of Reason but seriously what a moron!

  74. #75 pcockerell
    March 24, 2010

    I’ve read Chopra in print (e.g. his recent infamous HuffPo article), but nothing could have prepared me for the combination of mind-numbing inanity and rampant aggression of his in-person performance.

    Sam Harris did a great job of calling out his phony use of science terms; Shermer less so – I’m less impressed with him in debates than reading some of his books. But kudos to him for really getting to Chopra with his use of the term “woo woo”!

    Jean Houston just seemed to have wandered in from some post-modernist/feminist debate. Good for her, but WTF was she doing on that stage? Notice how many names she and Chopra dropped between them? Desperately searching for validation much?

    The highlight, though, was the physics researcher who gently demolished any pretense of credibility that Chopra has, while getting some good laughs (“Well, I understand each word you’re saying individually, but…”)

    I wish someone would pin Chopra down and get him to come up with some falsifiable predictions of his “new” science.

  75. #76 bulwer
    March 24, 2010

    Hey PZ, regarding “New Age woo of cosmic minds and magic powers gussied up with pseudo-scientific noise”, have you heard about Adam Dreamhealer? He claimed recently that he and his followers focused their intentions on the tsunami waves created by the Chile earthquake that were headed to Hawaii and decreased their size by several feet. I’ve written about this quack on my blog, Chain The Dogma :

    Quakes, Quacks and Kidnappers: Baptists, Scientologists, DreamHealer and Bad Consequences of Good Intentions at:

    http://www.perrybulwer.com/chain-the-dogma/2010/3/16/quakes-quacks-and-kidnappers-baptists-scientologists-dreamhe.html

  76. #77 JBlilie
    March 24, 2010

    I listened to the entire “debate” and it was great. Sam Harris and Michael Shermer wiped the floor with the two nit wits, who just babled on about consciousness forming reality and quantum this that or the other (which a real theoretical physicist in the audience called bullshit on) and how “religion is the spiritual feeling people around the world feel” and other such nonsense. And Harris and Shermer nailed them for it, not like in most venues, where they just get to prattle on unchallenged.

    At one point Sam Harris says (after Chopra pontificates on physics proving spirituality and the necessity of a consciousness behind the universe or some such BS — he was very hard to follow “just because you can’t understand these deep concepts, don;t call them woo!” (right!)) Deepak, I’m not a physicist and I would never be comfortable making such strong statements about physics. You are not a physicist, you shouldn;t either. Chopra thorws a fit about how well educated he is in science – the most scientificially qualified in science on the stage (doubtful …). And Sam comes right back with, “but you’re not a physicist, how can you make these claims about physics?!” To which Chopra had no answer.

    And the woman’s response mostly was just: We need more women in power and all will be hunky-dory.

  77. #78 Sili
    March 24, 2010

    He claimed recently that he and his followers focused their intentions on the tsunami waves created by the Chile earthquake that were headed to Hawaii and decreased their size by several feet.

    Interesting. What’s his explanation for why we should not arrest and try him for killing some 250k Indonesians &c?

  78. #79 JBlilie
    March 24, 2010

    Sastra:

    “ABC is being deliberately deceptive in order to be supportive of a Spiritual Viewpoint.”

    You’ve got it there!

    The physicist (I didn’t know his name but I recognized him) was very negative towards Chopra. At one point Chopra tries to answer him with some nonsense (most of his nonsense taking the form of, “science needs to expand its capabilities to encompass the non-locational quantum effects that form the basis of our consciouness and reality”) and the physicist replied, “well, I understand the meaning of each of those words; but I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Hard slap-down and the audience was laughing it up.

  79. #80 AnneH
    March 24, 2010

    Both Chopra and Houston reminded me of a random nonsense text generator.
    http://www.elsewhere.org/pomo/

    What they say is meaningless.

    I find Chopra’s blathering about the moon to be deliciously ironic, considering that the reality of the moon is vitally important to life on earth. Brief explanation – the earth-moon system acts as a gyroscope to keep the earth’s axis in a stable orientation, thus giving us consistent day/night and warming/cooling patterns. Otherwise, we’d have catastrophic extinctions caused by shifts in the orientation of the earth’s axis and disastrous climate changes.
    http://www.damninteresting.com/life-without-the-moon

  80. #81 Andyo
    March 24, 2010

    Mlodinow is the author of The Drunkard’s Walk, a pretty awesome book on randomness (and how it “rules our lives”). I do wish he could have been more straightforward (i.e. ass-kicking) with Chopra, much like Lawrence Krauss was when calling bullshit on that anesthesiologist who was misrepresenting QM at Beyond Belief 2006). I just caught the dumb excerpts on TV last night, and Mlodinow was way too polite.

  81. #82 https://me.yahoo.com/a/.ioYe7oNvJQmV3ZTvYzztmruO7EZt0gLxCTzoO3A#f02e2
    March 24, 2010

    I heard Jean Huston mention the Koala Bird.. I was watching online, so I was able to rewind and check. Now, I live in Australia for 4 years and never once saw a Koala bird. Jean was surely blessed.

  82. #83 chlad
    March 25, 2010

    Ms. Houston, what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

  83. #84 aloosh.myopenid.com
    March 25, 2010

    I think a Koala Bird is a transitional species – like a Crocoduck! I live in Australia so I should know.

  84. #85 Timothy
    March 25, 2010

    Has Harris gotten over his sickening fascination with “spirituality” without religion yet? He makes sense like 98% of the time and then ruins with with a bunch of “atheist” woo.

  85. #86 tall penguin
    March 25, 2010

    Every time I hear Chopra speak I think of the Peter Sellers character from the film, “The Party”. I keep waiting for him to say, “Birdie Num Num.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWE49OOoBdg

  86. #87 jacqueline
    March 25, 2010

    i cant believe im saying this, but deepak chopra manages to be more irritating than anne widecombe

  87. #88 nick.gooogle
    March 26, 2010

    Deepak seems to lie so much for so long that he actually has begun to belief in his own lie.

  88. #89 rasalghul5555
    April 22, 2010

    Sam Harris simply destroyed Deepak.

    And I did not notice Jean Houston was there anyway – did she actually say anything associated with the debate’s topic? I think she was sputtering platitudes like “children are great…”. Perhaps she was on medication (or forgot to take her medication) — either way I think whatever she did offer could be plugged into any segment of “The View” and it would actually work.

    Yes I agree with PZ that listening to Deepak is excruciating… BUT I think the positive result is the more he talks, the more he is exposing himself as a phony. It does not surprise me that a self-absorbed blowhard like Oprah finds quarter under his self-important “woo-woo” house of cards.