Deepak Chopra tries his hand at a clinical trial. Woo ensues.

Choprawoomed

Of all the quacks and cranks and purveyors of woo whom I’ve encountered over the years, Deepak Chopra is, without a doubt, one of the most arrogantly obstinate, if not the most arrogantly obstinate. Sure, a quack like Mike Adams wins on sheer obnoxiousness and for the sheer breadth of crankery to which he ascribes, which includes everything from quackery, to New World Order conspiracy theories, to Scientology-like anti-psychiatry rants, to survivalist and gun nut tendencies, but he's so obviously unhinged, as well as intermittently entertaining, that he doesn't quite get under the skin the way Chopra does. There's something about that smug, condescending, incredibly arrogant manner of Chopra's that grates even more in its own way than the clueless arrogance of ignorance of a person like Adams, Vani Hari (a.k.a. the Food Babe), or Joe Mercola (who appears to be far more about the money than actually believing in the quackery he sells). When Chopra tries his hand at science, woo ensues, as we shall soon see.

Perhaps the best recurring example of Chopra's smarmy condescension coupled with magical thinking comes in his ongoing war with skeptics (most recently illustrated by his hilariously off-base "million dollar" counter-challenge to James Randi) and atheists, in particular Richard Dawkins. Given that this particular war seems to have heated up again, with Chopra having declared that he's "pissed off by Richard Dawkins’ arrogance and his pretense of being a really good scientist," it seems the perfect time to bring up a project of Chopra's in which he pretends to be a scientist. But first, let's get a flavor of why real scientists like Richard Dawkins (who, regardless of what you think of his ill-advised and offensive Twitter ramblings, is nonetheless a scientist in the way that Chopra will never be):

Boasting is not becoming of a beacon of inner peace, and Chopra knows it. I don’t want to hear him talk trash, and I ask him why he can’t just let Richard Dawkins go.

“With Dawkins, I am just pissed off. I am pissed off by his arrogance and his pretense of being a really good scientist. He is not,” Chopra says. “And he is using his scientific credentials to literally go on a rampage.”

But it’s more than that, I suggest. Chopra sits back and raises his hands, palms upward, smiling.

“I totally agree. It’s my last challenge,” he says. “It may be a very strange psychological issue.”

I don't think there's anything particularly strange about it. It's incredibly obvious. Chopra, who started out as a real physician (an endocrinologist, actually) somehow got into quantum quackery and turned into a pseudoscientist and quack. Dawkins is a prominent real scientist who reminds Chopra that his blather about quantum consciousness and his ill-informed attacks on evolution are utter nonsense. Dawkins is the little kid in the fairy tale reminding Emperor of Woo Chopra that he has no clothes. There's also a bit of resentment over colonialism, which Chopra admits right there in the interview:

When he was 6 years old, living in India, his father went to Britain to pursue higher studies in medicine.

“My mother said that the first thing you need to do when you get there is to get a white British guy to polish your shoes,” Chopra recalls. “My parents, they grew up under English colonialism. Two hundred years of enslavement, and he went to Southampton and made sure it was a white guy that had his shoes shined.”

His father sent them a letter, and Chopra recalls his mother reading it to them and saying, “See, after 200 years, your father got his shoes shined.”

Now Chopra can’t stand “these Oxford and Cambridge pseudo intellectuals,” he says, and “India has a habit of aping them. There are more fans of Dawkins in India than anywhere else. It’s the postcolonial hangover.”

So the reason that Dawkins, more so than Michael Shermer, James Randi, or the horde of skeptical bloggers who over the last decade have ripped him a new one any time he's made major pronouncements about evolution, medicine, or universal "quantum consciousness, Dawkins irks Chopra the most of all, because not only does he bitingly remind Chopra that he is not a real scientist, but he is a representative of the colonizing English intellectuals that Chopra has hated since he was a child. In brief, Chopra has a massive inferiority complex with respect to people like Dawkins, and Dawkins is only too happy to rub Chopra's nose in his own inferiority. Of course, in some cases, inferiority complexes are an accurate reflection of reality. Certainly, Chopra's inferiority complex is.

As a physician-scientist, I believe can also speculate a bit from my own experience. As I've said time and time again, the vast majority of physicians are not scientists, and that's OK. We physicians learn scientific facts and how to apply them to the diagnosis and treatment of patients, and that's very important—absolutely critical, actually—but most medical schools don't teach medical students how to think like scientists. True, we are taught how to interpret clinical studies and clinical trials, and that is science, but it also requires a somewhat different mindset than basic science. When it comes to basic science, except in a relatively perfunctory fashion (and sometimes not even then), medical students are not really taught how to interpret basic research. I experienced this myself when, after a heavy duty undergraduate major in the honors program in chemistry (which required a mentored research project in the laboratory of one of the faculty), I found myself in medical school and frustrated at how I was being taught massive quantities of new science about human physiology, pathology, and biochemistry, but that it wasn't the same. It was very practical. It was very applied. In some subjects (e.g., anatomy, histology, pathology, and pharmacology), it was very rote. It had to be. Physicians need to know anatomy and histology before they can understand, for example, pathology. They need to understand basic biochemistry before they can understand pharmacology. It also didn't help that teaching went on at light speed, with so much material crammed into the first two years that it's a wonder I retained as much as I did.

The difference was again highlighted when, after my second year of residency, I entered a PhD program. There, although we did have to memorize a fair amount, the emphasis was nonetheless on the interpretation of the basic science literature and the design and interpretation of experiments. In brief, the goal of medical school is to provide to medical students the intellectual basis and knowledge necessary to be good physicians, and the goal of a good science PhD program is to teach students to think like scientists and to prepare them to be scientists at the highest level. That's one major reason why there are often so many misunderstandings between basic scientists and physicians with respect to medical research.

It's clear from Chopra's ramblings over the years that he considers himself a scientist. We've seen such a phenomenon many times before over the years, in which a physician thinks that he is as good at interpreting science as actual scientists, in particular, for some reason, evolutionary biology. It's not for nothing that a recurring gag over the years on this blog is my wanting to hide my face with a paper bag whenever one of my fellow physicians—or worse, one of my fellow surgeons—spouts off ignorantly about evolution. While it's true that there are certainly MDs who are indeed excellent scientists, most are not, and it's clear that Chopra thinks he is a scientist. Worse, he thinks he is a scientist who sees things about evolution and biology that hidebound Oxford evolutionary biologist like Dawkins have not and cannot because they do not have the imagination.

A reminder of this popped up just yesterday in the form of an article by Chopra submitted to SFGate entitled Multi-institutional Collaborative Clinical Trial to Examine Health Benefits of Integrative Lifestyle Practices at the Chopra Center for Wellbeing. The "study" being described is the Self-Directed Biological Transformation Initiative (SBTI), and Chopra claims that it will use the "latest mobile health sensors and genomic/cellular/metabolomics biomarkers" to examine these "health benefits":

Scientists and clinicians from seven research institutions have joined together for a first of a kind clinical trial on a whole systems approach to wellbeing. Such an in-depth clinically focused study is unique because previous research studies have typically examined the beneficial effects of individual wellbeing practices – such as meditation, yoga, or specific herbal preparations - few have taken anything like a whole systems approach which simultaneously includes a number of such practices to promote improved mind-body functioning. The Chopra Center for Wellbeing has been in the forefront of integrating whole systems approaches such as Ayurveda, meditation, yoga, massage, herbal treatments, and nutrition into programs for improving health and wellbeing.

This new study pulls these strands together in the most comprehensive manner to date. By measuring the total effect of an intensive immersion into a whole systems program, the aim of the SBTI study is to see if the data will demonstrate a person’s connection to the healing process. The body’s healing system is still little understood as a whole, because of the complex inputs—thoughts, emotions, diet, stress, exercise, immune response, etc.—that affect whether we heal or not. The picture is further clouded when isolated findings overlap or contradict one another.

As I read this article about the SBTI, one question kept bouncing in my mind: What's the hypothesis? What hypothesis is Chopra testing here? It's a randomized trial, in which study participants will be recruited for a week long stay at the Chopra Center at the OMNI La Costa Resort in Carlsbad, CA and will be randomized to join either the Ayurveda program or a seven-day stay at the resort without treatment, which serves as the control. The Chopra Foundation website helpfully lists the study inclusion and exclusion criteria here, as well as a description the program. Examining the schedule of events, Chopra's "Perfect Health" program includes a whole bunch of Ayurvedic massage (which can't be too bad, I would guess), primordial sound meditation, mantra sessions, group sessions, yoga, and, I'd be willing to guess, a healthy diet.

Participants will be evaluated four times: at home prior to arriving at the Center, immediately upon arrival, immediately following the treatment program, and one month later in a follow-up assessment. The following markers will be tested:

  • RNA expression
  • telomerase activity (linked to the aging process)
  • a variety of metabolites, peptides, and neurohormones (connected to metabolism, addictions, and mood changes as well as the messaging between brain and body)
  • the microbiome (the enormous population of microorganisms on the skin and in the intestinal tract, and their collective genetic material)
  • circulating protease activity
  • mobile cardiac functioning
  • balance of the autonomic nervous system
  • assessments of mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing

Chopra describes the whole thing here:

This is what we in the biz call a fishing expedition. There is no real, concrete, testable hypothesis here, other than that Chopra's woo-packed Ayurveda program is a good thing. Actually, in the video, Chopra states that the goal of the study is to "document scientifically that you can consciously direct the activity of your genes for optimal physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being, that you can consciously rewire your brain for the same purpose." Later in the video, Chopra states:

The idea is to prove—scientifically—that your biology is a product of the choices that you make, and these choices are made every day, and that we can actually consciously create the experience of a joyful energetic body, a loving compassionate heart, a restful reflective mind, and lightness of being.

WTF? What does this even mean? How, specifically, do you measure whether or not the participants have consciously created "the experience of a joyful energetic body, a loving compassionate heart, a restful reflective mind, and lightness of being"? Of course, the choices we make affect our biology. If you smoke, you hurt your heart and lungs and vastly increase your risk of heart disease and cancer. If you drink to excess, you vastly increase your risk of liver disease. If you're a sedentary slug who never exercises, you vastly increase your risk of developing any number of harmful conditions and diseases, such as hypertension and type II diabetes. These are trivial observations.

Of course, confirming such trivial observations, long confirmed by medical science, is not what Chopra is about. Notice his unscientific language. He doesn't say "test the hypothesis" or "see if this program results in X and Y." He doesn't know what he's looking for before he does the experiment. He only knows that it'll be good. Rather, he says things like "prove scientifically" that his program does all sorts of wonderful things that aren't specified in concrete, measurable ways. Instead, he's going to shotgun measure a whole boatload of markers and endpoints, including next generation whole genome sequencing. If adjustment for multiple comparisons is not undertaken, I can virtually guarantee that this study will be "positive" in that it will find a "statistically significant" difference in at least a few markers. Because a "whole program" is being tested, it will be impossible to tell if any apparently beneficial changes observed are due to exercise (yoga), meditation, or to the special diet that participants will be consuming while at the Chopra Center. If, for instance, the diet alone is enough to produce beneficial changes in some of these markers within a week (and it wouldn't be surprising if a major change in diet changed the bowel microbiome), Chopra will tout it as being due to the "holistic program," all of which will be claimed to be necessary for the beneficial effects. It's disappointing that the real scientists at the five institutions other than the Chopra Center buy into this bad science, but then these institutions are institutions steeped in quackademic medicine. So perhaps it's not that surprising at all.

Clearly, this experiment would never qualify for peer-reviewed funding, particularly in this tight environment. Besides it's being a fishing expedition, there appears not to have been even a perfunctory attempt to blind either participants or investigators to experimental group assignment. (I realize that it might not be possible to blind participants, but the investigators sure as heck could be blinded, and reasons for not blinding participants need to be explained and justified.) So Chopra has been using Indiegogo to raise funds. Amusingly, he's only raised about $40,000 of a goal of $250,000. Still, even that $250,000 doesn't sound like a lot of money to conduct a study like this, at least not if the investigators want to enroll a large enough number of subjects to obtain statistically valid results. Maybe that explains why Chopra is charging participants:

7. Q: Is there a cost to participate?

A: There is NOT a direct cost to participate in this study, however there is a program enrollment fee for Perfect Health. The enrollment fee has been offered at a discounted rate due to study requirements/responsibilities taking place during the Perfect Health program.

SBTI Perfect Health Study Group: Participant is responsible for travel expenses, hotel accommodations and a Perfect Health program enrollment fee of $2875 which includes free enrollment into Chopra Center’s Journey Into Healing program in 2015. Breakfast and lunch is included in the enrollment fee, dinner is on your own.

Control Group: Participant is responsible for travel expenses and a Perfect Health program enrollment fee of $2875 which includes free enrollment into Chopra Center’s Journey Into Healing program in 2015. The program enrollment fee of $2875 will be issued as a credit for use towards any future Chopra Center: programs/events, retail store purchases, online products, and/or massages. Credit for future use is provided since you will NOT be participating in Perfect Health during the study week. Hotel accommodations and a $30 meal voucher (dollar amount may be subject to change), for your 6 night stay during the study dates, are funded by the Chopra Foundation for the Control Group only.

Why the $2,875 fee? I can see not covering travel costs; few, if any, clinical trials cover travel costs, which is why it is important for major trials to do them at as many sites as possible. However, Chopra could easily waive the nearly $3,000 fee for his Perfect Health program. He does not. The biggest concession he makes ist that he gives those randomized to the control group a voucher towards future Chopra Center programs or to use to purchase Chopra Center merchandise. How generous. It's sounding more and more like Stanislaw Burzynski to me. Also, when it comes to designing a clinical trial, he's showing the competence of Mike Adams' fumbling with a mass spectrometer.

No wonder Chopra is so "pissed" at Richard Dawkins. Chopra is not a scientist. He just pretends to be one for the benefit of his New Age, woo-loving followers. Dawkins reminds him of that. Good.

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Egads. This "study" suffers from so many problems.

The entire mindset is wrong, for one. You don't do a study to show that something works; you do the study to find out IF it works. That attitude adjustment alone is likely to change how the research is set up.

And let me lay on the importance of double-blinding here. Have they not figured out that if you are accused of bias then the thing to do is ensure as much as possible that nobody knows who is in which group, neither participants nor researchers? We don't want the folks measuring the "telomerase activity (linked to the aging process)" to be firm believers making fine judgement calls on those who have had or not had the treatment they so firmly believe in.

I'm going to suggest an additional reason Chopra goes after Dawkins: he's feeding into the public's fear of and contempt for atheism. For a lot of people any criticism of atheism or atheists grants good will and credibility towards the critic and seems immediately plausible. Must keep faith, must believe in "higher" things. Dawkins is particularly well-known as an outspoken atheist. Chopra wants to help his dubious science theories ride to respectability on the back of anti-atheist sentiment.

For that price, they only give you breakfast and lunch and not dinner? How chintzy!

I'll bet you could mess with their results by eating big meals at McDonalds every night!

By Michael Finfer, MD (not verified) on 16 Sep 2014 #permalink

Exactly Dr. Finfer, the "case" groups' diet isn't being controlled for. In addition, cases and controls are self-selecting and can't be matched. What a ridiculous mess.

By Science Mom (not verified) on 16 Sep 2014 #permalink

I like the control group concept. You get to pay $400/day for NOT doing anything. Are you supposed to sit in a room all day being bored, or do you at least get to hang out at Disneyland?

"You get to pay $400/day for NOT doing anything. Are you supposed to sit in a room all day being bored, or do you at least get to hang out at Disneyland?"

You can browse through the Chopra Store, play Chopra Mini-Golf, or take the Chopra Colon Transit Tour in IMAX and Surround-Sound.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 16 Sep 2014 #permalink

And if the results of this "study" ever makes it beyond a press release and into a scientific journal then I am sure it won´t be a proper peer-reviewed one, but one from the long list of typical "you-pay-we-publish" predatory publishers that woo-masters so love.

By StrangerInAStr… (not verified) on 16 Sep 2014 #permalink

It is easy to snicker at Chopra's research project. We should instead be making helpful suggestions to increase its scientific rigor.

The research would gain a great deal of respect if the assays are performed by Mike Adams' NaturalNews lab, statistical analysis done by Brian Hooker, with peer review from Lionel Milgrom and Matthias Rath.
Finally, results should be published on Joe Mercola's website rather than in one of those Big Pharma-biased medical journals.

End result: a perfect storm of triumphal woo.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 16 Sep 2014 #permalink

It's the primordial sound meditation. That's the key component because it's primordial.

By No Death Panels (not verified) on 16 Sep 2014 #permalink

"And let me lay on the importance of double-blinding here."

It is double-blinded. Blind in thought and blind in deed.

@ Mr. MIR:

Oh thank you so much for that!
My message from the Wise One was ( get ready).....
"Kittens are horses".

( I needed that.
I have had to entertain a friend's relative and her friend - the latter being more looned out than the former; thankfully- at 2 resturants for dinner yesterday then for breakfast. And now I am free. Kittens are horses indeed).

-btw- re Choprra's 'study'. Oy.
This crap sounds like Gary Null's Lifestyle Change Clinical Studies for Whatever Ails Ye ( Parts 1-47, approx).
-currently, he's doing thisin NYC for obesity, diabetes etc. it's 'free' but you need to buy products I believe
- in January, he will study US veterans who are homeless, have substance abuse, psychological and/or health problems at his new veteran's village in Mineola, Texas.( today's show)

If anyone is a US veteran, shouldn't authorities know about this?

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 16 Sep 2014 #permalink

Dangerous Bacon @8
A near perfect confluence of arrogance, ignorance, greed and idiocy. Well done.

Do go to Mr. Mir's link, and 'Recieve More Wisdom' several times. It just keeps getting better as the nonsense accrues.

Bravo, sir!

There is NOT a direct cost to participate in this study, however there is a program enrollment fee for Perfect Health.

This is some usage of "no direct cost" of which I was previously unaware. Did an IRB approve this study, and if so is that IRB independent of Chopra?

these Oxford and Cambridge pseudo intellectuals

I'm willing to stipulate that there are pseudo intellectuals at Oxbridge (there are certainly many at Ivy League universities), but I don't think they are in the places Chopra is looking. I am aware that some people have good reasons for not liking Dawkins, but he is hardly a pseudo intellectual under reasonable (i.e., non-Chopra) definitions of the term.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 16 Sep 2014 #permalink

The idea is to prove—scientifically—that your biology is a product of the choices that you make, and these choices are made every day, and that we can actually consciously create the experience of a joyful energetic body, a loving compassionate heart, a restful reflective mind, and lightness of being.

And if you suffer from diabetes, clinical depression, hypertension, leukemia, arthritis, hypothyroidism, etc, it's your own damn fault.

O gods of scienceblogs, if we can't have a preview, at least grant us an edit function.

How can you trust a guy who thinks that Richard Dawkins is literally on a rampage?

"Chopra says. “And he is using his scientific credentials to literally go on a rampage.”"

Really?

"rampage |ˈramˌpāj|
noun
a period of violent and uncontrollable behavior, typically involving a large group of people: thugs went on a rampage and wrecked a classroom."

In Chopra World, words mean whatever Deepak says they mean... (that and the moon disappears whenever nobody is looking at it - he's "literally" so childish he doesn't believe in object permanence.)

When you're deeply immersed in the imaginary, it probably isn't terribly incorrect to use "literally" to mean "figuratively".

"...an in-depth clinically focused study..." lasting a whole week. Take that you charlatans with your one day test of drinkable sunscreen.
If the typical in-depth study could be accomplished in just a week, science really would know everything.

"When you’re deeply immersed in the imaginary, it probably isn’t terribly incorrect to use “literally” to mean “figuratively”."

Well, I'd say, at the very least, it isn't surprising. I know that "figuratively" is, annoyingly, now a sub-definition of literally, so I looked at Chopra's statement in that possible context before posting. It really doesn't scan that way to me, as "figuratively". I think Chopra really wants to equate Dawkins' words with literal (actual) violence.

It really doesn’t scan that way to me, as “figuratively”.

Do you mean 'scan' in the prescriptive or descriptive sense?

Unborking my link, will this Lightness of Being beUnbearable or will it be merely unverifiable?

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 16 Sep 2014 #permalink

As an engineer/physicist who became a neuroscientist and then a pediatrician (as a bass ackward phd/md), Chopra is doing what I call "throwing enough sh*t at the wall and calling whatever sticks a finding". It got (appropriately so at the time) beaten into my by my mentors that you have to have a testable hypothesis to do proper scientific research. I don't see how this "research" of his will show a damn thing.

FYI, where is the IRB?

@ Sadmar--thanks for the heads up on Hem-Tab. I have seen the FDA claim on some homeopathic "meds" parents bring in to me as well (usually when they aren't working). You are right about contacting the FDA.

By Chris Hickie (not verified) on 16 Sep 2014 #permalink

Dr Chris (as opposed to Engineer Chris) -- I am beginning to lose faith in IRBs after reading some IRB-approved studies that even to my inexpert eye looked like they were badly designed.

@ Chris Hickie:

I believe that both Chopra's and the other idiot's hypotheses are, generally:

several variables related to diet + several supplements + variables related to exercise + stress reduction+ prayer=
ALL sorts of good results

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 16 Sep 2014 #permalink

Dawkins irks Chopra the most of all, because not only does he bitingly remind Chopra that he is not a real scientist, but he is a representative of the colonizing English intellectuals that Chopra has hated since he was a child.

He said "pseudo-intellectuals." And that's frequently both a fair and accurate characterization of Dawkins. In fact, over on another thread a mere two days ago or so, I called him "a C-list public intellectual" myself.

That's pretty damn close to "pseudo." But either way, he does regularly use his moral/intellectual authority to make ignorant, thoughtless pronouncements about subjects he's not qualified to address and doesn't understand. What he says does regularly exhibit an overly complacent, self-regarding and exclusionary sense of social superiority.

That is a legacy of colonial-imperialism, among other things. And it's not a minor failing. It does as much damage as woo.

I don't see how his being a real scientist bears on that one way or the other, any more than it would if he were a real artist. There are plenty of both who are also real jerks.

C'est la vie. If they don't use their real influence to promote insupportably jerk-y agendas, that's their business. But Dawkins does.

And if I were to say I couldn't stand him for doing that, I wouldn't mean that I hated him personally. I would mean I objected to something objectionable.

So I think "hated" might be a little bit of an overdetermined reading of what Chopra meant there.

Same for the shoe-shine anecdote. I mean, there were a lot of people for whom the Raj was not exactly an uplifting experience. And there have been plenty of Eastern-European Jewish emigres to whom being treated like a regular swell in the gentile world was a similarly big deal.

I respectfully dissent, in small part. In other words.

The great thing about those endpoints is thst Chopra will be covered either way. Perfect Health made your telomerase activity go up? Scientific proof that it's making you younger! Oh, your telomerase activity went down? It's protecting you from cancer! If your protease activity goes up, congratulations! It's activated your immune system! If it goes down, rejoice! It's reducing your stress!

Also , I hear Perfect Health can turn kittens into horses. Literally.

qetzal: I'd rather have a kitten. Easier to house, cheaper to feed. Unless Perfect Health causes a million dollars to drop on me from somewhere. Then I would be okay with a horse.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 16 Sep 2014 #permalink

In the passage of the OP ann cites, Orac makes claims about Chopra that are not warranted by Chopra's quotes in Tom Roston piece at Salon.com. And in so doing, one could argue that Orac misrepresents Chopra's critique of Dawkins. But I think this is a thornier knot than it may appear.

I will paraphrase on of the central tenets of science as 'it's the message that matters, not the messenger.' Thus, for example, a scientific paper is supposed to be sent off for peer review with the author(s)' name(s) redacted, judged solely on the scientific merit of its content, such that an author with no reputation or credentials would be treated the same as Dawkins by a science journal.

In the humanities, though, the message cannot be separated from the messenger. Who is 'speaking' matters a lot. An essay by ay noted philosopher, for example, must be read against the context of the author's previous work.

The problem then with the Dawkins/Chopra 'exchange', Roston's and Orac's takes thereupon, and even ann's comment above, I submit is that all the parties are confounded by a problematic mix of science and philosophy. To wit:

If we were to use 'science' as a paradigm to discuss the merit of Chopra's critique of Dawkins, we would isolate it from anything else Chopra has ever said about anything, be as 'objective' as possible about what Chopra says and doesn't say about Dawkins public statements, and 'test' those claims against the texts of those statements.

So let's rewrite the Orac quote as: 'Chopra objects to Dawkins because he sees Dawkins public statements as representative of the colonizing English intellectual attitudes he has found offensive since he was a child.'

Staying with the 'scientific' approach, the question becomes 'Do Dawkins' public statements mirror the ideologies of English colonialism in a way that renders them problematic as philosophical claims?' As that wording does due-semiotics-diligence in taking Dawkins' intent out of the equation, and the term 'problematic' leaves plenty of wiggle-room for judgment of both degree and direction, I submit ann has made a solid argument that the answer is 'Yes', and the-critique-Chopra-actually-utters in the Roston piece is valid. Thus, we can say that while Orac would seem to present himself as speaking for science, he has made a very unscientific assessment of Chopra's critique.

Again, separating the messenger from the message, i also submit that Chopra's and ann's critique of Dawkins-ism for using Dawkin's reputation as a scientist as an unwarranted prop for "ignorant, thoughtless pronouncements about subjects he’s not qualified to address and doesn’t understand" is also valid. Thus, Dawkins' acolytes (if not Dawkins himself) are engaged in a hypocritical justification of message by virtue of the "intellectual authority" of a supposed-to-be-anonymous messenger from the realm of science.

BUT!

We're not doing science here. We're doing (generally speaking) 'philosophy'. Ann wants to talk about Dawkins' ideas, and notes that Chopra is right about the imperialism thing embedded within them. In doing so she properly separates message from messenger by noting the many other citizens of the Raj and Eastern Europe who could frame a similar critique of Dawkins' ideas.

But Roston and Orac aren't talking about Dawkins. They're talking about Chopra. And though they may (improperly) veil their discussion as coming from a scientific perspective, they are doing what you do in a discussion of 'philosophical' ideas: they are considering each thing Chopra says within the larger context of everything Chopra has ever said. They are looking skeptically at the messenger.

Thus, while Orac's claims about Chopra aren't warranted by the quotes in the Roston article, this would not seem to be the first or only instance of Chopra vs. Dawkins Orac has come across. Orac may merely be drawing further inferences from Roston's inferences in saying Chopra 'hates' English intellectuals, and that Chopra feels 'bitten' by the fact Dawkins functions as a reminder of the pretensions of his claims to scientific legitimacy (I see no evidence of this last in the Roston piece itself) — or Orac may be drawing on other remarks Chopra has made in the past that support the 'hating and being bitten' interpretation more directly. But either way, Orac is not working in a historical or discursive vacuum. As such, it seems like a perfectly reasonable proposition that whatever Chopra said to Roston should be framed in the context of an ongoing personal feud in which it functions as ad hominem attack in practice regardless of what it means at face value.

And just as the Chopra/ann critique of Dawkins-ism for using RD's scientific achievement to bolster dubious logical-positivist social commentary is valid, an Orac-ian critique of Chopra-ism for using Chopra's background in medicine to mount 'scientific' claims about metaphysics is even more valid [like, maybe, exponentially... figuratively speaking ;-)...].

At least there's a plausible [if ultimately false] connection between the methods of science and positivist philosophy. But trying to connect science and New Agey religious mutterings (because: Quantum!), well, as wisdomofchopra.com might put it, "The unexplainable shapes the flow of spontaneous silence."

When Chopra says 'Richard Dawkins is not a really good scientist.' the problem is not that Chopra is wrong — "really good" being way too subjective a criteria to apply to a scientist, rendering the truth value of claim to the spontaneous silence of the unexplainable — the problem is that Chopra is obfuscating very important differences between apples and oranges.

When Orac says 'Deepak Chopra is not a scientist' his claim is, first of all, correct. It's also relevant because Chopra-ism makes false claims to scientific legitimacy. The problem is that Orac's critique doesn't do enough to sort out the apples and oranges confusion of Chopra-ism AND (albeit to a lesser but still troublesome extent) Dawkins-ism. In short, I'm suggesting a proper critique of Chopra-ism ought to be founded in what it IS, not what it pretends to be. What it is is comic-book metaphysics, or, if you will, comic-book theology. And in that, and that alone, there is PLENTY of room for philosophical critique, which may refer to the findings of science of course, but ought to acknowledge that it not 'science', but philosophy.

Is it worth asking about the ethics approval for this study of Chopra's?

I adore Dawkins even when he makes an inexplicable faux pas. He always increases my well being.

Ann, who would you consider an intellectual?

Mr Chopra is certainly the gift that keeps on giving when it comes to providing material. I see for the title of his study that he has noticed a lot of peer reviewed puiblished papers have long titles, necessary to adequately describe the research, so Mr his study as a long title, while being much less descriptive.

Also do you think by '“latest mobile health sensors and genomic/cellular/metabolomics biomarkers” he means a fitbit and an iphone?

metabolomics biomarkers
Hyperbolomic markers are Chopra's true speciality.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 16 Sep 2014 #permalink

Are these listed collaborators for real?

Rudolph E. Tanzi, PhD, Co-Chair of SBTI Research Project, Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology, Director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit and Vice-Chair of the Department of Neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School

Paul J. Mills, PhD, Director of Research, The Chopra Foundation, Professor of Psychiatry, Behavioral Medicine Program, Director, Clinical Research Biomarker Laboratory, University of California, San Diego

Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD, Morris Herzstein Professor in Biology and Physiology, University of California, San Francisco

P. Murali Doraiswamy, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry and Member, Duke Institute for Brain Sciences and M. Arthur Moseley PhD, Director Duke University Proteomics Facility

Elissa Epel, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco

"Dawkins...not a real scientist." Maybe someone could help me out here. I've been cruising around on web of science and all the entries I see for Dawkins seem to be commentary and books that essentially constitute broadly focused reviews. I don't see primary research and I don't see publications that could be considered theoretical science either. I looked for papers by both "Richard Dawkins" and "Clinton Richard Dawkins." Does he have a different pen name for technical publications. Now someone who writes books and not papers can still be a "real scientist." But I've always considered the front lines of science to be laboratories. Also, while I'm not quibbling with Dawkins' designation as a "real scientist," he has done some boneheaded things which should always be noted to his shame whenever his name comes up (e.g. his defense of germ-theory denialist Bill Maher-Dawkins' foundation award recipient).

@-Bend
“Dawkins…not a real scientist.” Maybe someone could help me out here. I’ve been cruising around on web of science and all the entries I see for Dawkins seem to be commentary ... I don’t see primary research and I don’t see publications that could be considered theoretical science either.

His academic career began in the 60s with publications in various journals for around a decade.
His Bibliography is here;-
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Dawkins_bibliography#Academic_pape…

Oddly it appears more complete than the list he gives on his website.

Dawkins is certainly a 'real' scientist, who manages to offend/irritate people both within and well outside the scientific field. Within from those who think he has managed to turn the narrow fringe field of sociobiology into a lucrative and high status personal benefit. Perhaps by over-stating its importance and skirting close to biological determinism.
From without by those who find his rational arguments against any scientific validity for their theology or woo unanswerable.

I have always liked a characterisation of sociobiology I encountered some time ago.
"Sociobiology is to science as pigeons (a common experimental subject) are to statues"

They stand on the shoulders of great men and....

Classic angry scientism.

By Joseph Bray (not verified) on 17 Sep 2014 #permalink

Classic angry scientism.

By Joseph Bray (not verified) on 17 Sep 2014 #permalink

one could argue that Orac misrepresents Chopra’s critique of Dawkins.

Thus, while Orac’s claims about Chopra aren’t warranted by the quotes in the Roston article,

^^Oh, hey, wait a minute there. I strongly dispute both of those characterizations.

He's making a completely legitimate, honest argument, which is warranted and misrepresentation-free.

I just disagree with it, on the grounds I stated.

.

In the humanities, though, the message cannot be separated from the messenger.

Of course it can.

...

I guess that if what you mean is that cultural subjects are culturally determined, of course I agree. But science isn't free of that. The mechanisms of determination are just different. (What research gets funded, etc.)

I adore Dawkins even when he makes an inexplicable faux pas. He always increases my well being.

I know what you mean. He doesn't do that for me. But it's a beautiful thing. And variety is the spice of life. So I'm glad to hear you say that..

Also, just in case it needs to be made explicit:

I'm not saying there's never anything to like and admire in Dawkins's (non-scientific) work. It's a limited criticism.

Ann, who would you consider an intellectual?

Anyone who makes an honest, systematic effort to process his or her experience and formulate his or her ideas primarily through the rigorous and disciplined application of reason.

Or...a logical thinker, basically. I guess.

I mean, I wouldn't say Dawkins wasn't one. I would just say that this...

Date rape is bad. Stranger rape at knifepoint is worse. If you think that's an endorsement of date rape, go away and learn how to think.

...is three sentences of shoddy logic in a row. Shamefully shoddy. I mean, there's no thought there. He fails at the level of word meaning. (What "rape" is; what "bad" is; etc.) Plus...I don't know. It's just totally unconsidered, in every way. (What comparison is and does, etc.)

So. That's just not a good advertisement for Team Thinker. All else aside.

And it's a consequential subject. Of course.

This might be the fishiest of all the fishing expeditions I've ever seen. And he touches on subjects near and dear to my heart.

- RNA expression - we'll do a microarray or RNAseq - we're sure to have a few false positives!

- the microbiome (the enormous population of microorganisms on the skin and in the intestinal tract, and their collective genetic material) - You can always find differences in the microbiome. Finding relevance for the differences is the tricky part, but I'm sure he'll just assume any differences he finds are good in the 'treatment' group and not in the 'control' group.

-circulating protease activity - Again, there are a large variety of circulating proteases that have lots of diverse functions.

I'm really, really surprised he's not looking at epigenetic modifications. Shame on him for missing a current buzzword that most people don't understand properly. Epigenetic quantum microbiome telomeric expression!

(Also, I think that Dawkins is turning into a dick and I wish the atheist community would find a new icon (and not Bill Mahahahaar), but that has nothing to do with anything.)

By Roadstergal (not verified) on 17 Sep 2014 #permalink

I see we have a poster who is accusing (Orac? Someone else?) of "angry scientism".

People who use the term "scientism" might just as well be proclaiming "I am deep into woo".*

*the above poster appears to be the same person whose blog argues that an article on black holes in Scientific American is evidence of a "sinister movement occurring within the scientific community".

They're out there.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 17 Sep 2014 #permalink

I enjoyed this clip of Dawkins interviewing Chopra, though I almost feel sorry for Chopra, who looks a bit tired and anxious. My favorite part is where Chopra apparently accuses quantum physicists of appropriating the term "quantum" and misusing it, though I don't think that's quite what he intended to say.

For someone who is supposedly so angry and rampaging I thought Dawkins was remarkably polite to Chopra. I do wish he had challenged him more robustly on some of his claims, for example the idea that oncologists are the equivalent of witchdoctors, killing their patients with a prognosis which is the medical equivalent of a pointing stick, and that humans have the ability to hold off dying until they reach a milestone like Christmas or a birthday. The truth is that this appears to be a myth.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 17 Sep 2014 #permalink

OMG - please show me the IRB approved protocol as well as the Informed Consent Form for this so I can laugh my face off.

Roadstergal: Also, I think that Dawkins is turning into a dick and I wish the atheist community would find a new icon (and not Bill Mahahahaar), but that has nothing to do with anything.)

I don't think he's 'turning into' anything. He's just been that way all along.

Sociobiology and evolutionary biology are fields I have a big beef with. It seems like the scientists in those fields are only interested in finding proof for their prejudices. Nothing of any value is ever produced.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 17 Sep 2014 #permalink

"It is anticipated that findings from the SBTI study will demonstrate the considerable cumulative value of taking a whole systems approach to health and wellbeing (an expectation bolstered by important studies cited below)."

The two studies mentioned show that a healthy lifestyle - we all know the recipe - including stress-busting activities (e.g. meditation) can make a positive impact on disease biomarkers, albeit on subjects who have no serious mental illness.

This is big news to nobody. It does not give substance to quantum consciousness in any way, shape or form. It's about life style and stress management, which is part and parcel of conventional medicine.

By Leigh Jackson (not verified) on 17 Sep 2014 #permalink

Or,
how does greater telomerase activity make your light shine?

By squirrelelite (not verified) on 17 Sep 2014 #permalink

PGP,

Sociobiology and evolutionary biology are fields I have a big beef with.

Maybe you were once bitten by an evolutionary biologist or something, but I'm guessing you meant evolutionary psychology. I enjoy both sociobiology and evolutionary psychology, but I don't take either too seriously. I have seen it claimed that neither can generate testable hypotheses, but I'm not convinced that's necessarily true.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 17 Sep 2014 #permalink

Kreb: Well, I've seen ev bio and ev psych used interchangeably, so I meant both of them. Evo psych has the biggest collection of sexists I've ever seen, and evo bio is usually used to justify racism. There might be some science buried deep beneath them, but it ain't worth the giant crock of crap that comes with the field. And there might be a few decent human beings who study evo bio, but I haven't seen evidence of that.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 17 Sep 2014 #permalink

"and evo bio is usually used to justify racism"
seldom heard such a load of crap outside creationist circles.
Biology does not make sense without TOE.

Well, I’ve seen ev bio and ev psych used interchangeably
That is no excuse to make the same blunder yourself.

and evo bio is usually used to justify racism
I suspect that this perspective comes from exposure to the rantings of racists, rather than to the work of actual evo biologists.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 17 Sep 2014 #permalink

If someone tells you they can meditate, do you believe them? I don't.
How do we measure that someone is 'meditating'?
If there's some neural correlate then we can trust that something is different, but if we then measure a difference 'caused' by the meditation how can we be sure we are not measuring a side-effect of the thing we decided was the marker for meditation, the neural correlate or whatever?

@squirrelelite

how does greater telomerase activity make your light shine?

Re: telomerase as marker of aging

When "The Invisible man" TV series was rebooted in the 90's, one episode was about an orphanage in which all children have been treated at birth by the episode's evil scientist (also the orphanage's owner) to become long-lived.
How did he do it? Easy. He removed the telomeres from all their chromosomes.
The scenarists got it exactly backward, but never mind :-)

Now, if he had increased the length of the telomeres, by increasing the telomerase activity, the scenario would have been more scientifically correct.
On second thoughts, in real life I wouldn't be surprised if a high telomerase activity is correlated with higher risk of cancer. Because you have nice telomeres doesn't mean that the rest of your DNA hasn't accumulated plenty of errors due to aging.

Now, do undead have high telomerase activity? Maybe that's why vampires are sparkling.

By Helianthus (not verified) on 18 Sep 2014 #permalink

There might be some science buried deep beneath them, but it ain’t worth the giant crock of crap that comes with the field. And there might be a few decent human beings who study evo bio, but I haven’t seen evidence of that.

Oh, I see. I have clearly been badly misinformed. Are these the same scientists that invented oxytocin and glutathione, that you recently told me don't really exist?

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 18 Sep 2014 #permalink

Julian,

If someone tells you they can meditate, do you believe them? I don’t.
How do we measure that someone is ‘meditating’?

Measuring changes in their brain activity as compared to when they are simply relaxing is one way.

If there’s some neural correlate then we can trust that something is different, but if we then measure a difference ’caused’ by the meditation how can we be sure we are not measuring a side-effect of the thing we decided was the marker for meditation, the neural correlate or whatever?

If you do a prospective study, randomize your subjects, use an adequate control (like simply relaxing as in the study I cited) and the only difference between them is whether they meditate or not, and eliminate any possible confounders, it is reasonable to conclude that the effects you see are due to the meditation.

I think the evidence supporting some psychological benefits of meditation is pretty convincing. For example, this systematic review and meta-analysis in JAMA.

None of this suggests that Chopra's study will show anything of interest, of course.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 18 Sep 2014 #permalink

Kreb: You have to keep in mind that I previously heard of oxytocin and glutathione from totally unreliable sources. As far as most Republican pols and posters from Age of Autism go, if one of them said the sky was blue, I'd assume it had actually turned purple. Any scientific concepts they latch onto are therefore assumed to be invalid.

HDB: Are there any non-racist evolutionary biologists that you could name?

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 18 Sep 2014 #permalink

Leigh's link mentioned increased telomerase activity, but whether that's a benefit or not is hard say at present.

I can well believe that meditation can change brain activity on an EEG. I once had to stay awake overnight while wired up when they were trying to figure out my seizure condition. About 4 or 5 in the morning they saw some "seizure like activity", but I forget what I was thinking about by then.

I guess they could also test whether listening to your usual meditiaton mantra, one of those bore you to sleep hypnotherapy recordings, or relaxation music produces more theta activity.

I don't do guided meditation, so I'm not sure if I could honestly state if I was meditating or just thinking.

By squirrelelite (not verified) on 18 Sep 2014 #permalink

Stuart Kaufman off the top of my head, pgp.

PGP,

Any scientific concepts they latch onto are therefore assumed to be invalid.

That's an extremely ineffective strategy. Woomeisters latch onto lots of valid scientific concepts and abuse them, so you would reject out of hand lots of valid concepts. Quantum physics is a valid field, despite Deepak Chopra, vitamin C, antioxidants and free radicals exist, despite the hyperbolic claims made about them. A couple of minutes Googling would have revealed that both glutathione and oyxtocin are perfectly real, and that there is plenty of valid research about their role in various areas of human biology.

As for your claim that all evolutionary biologists are racist, do you have any examples?

PZ Myers immediately comes to my mind. He is an evolutionary biologist who has frequently called out racism and sexism among atheists.

I'm a bit stunned by someone other than a young earth creationist attacking evolutionary biology. Are you sure you aren't confusing your terms?

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 18 Sep 2014 #permalink

I think that she means evolutionary *psychology* as she paired it with sociobiology earlier.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 18 Sep 2014 #permalink

"None of this suggests that Chopra’s study will show anything of interest, of course."

But whatever the study does show will be hyped to high heaven.

It's true purpose is to sell the wonders of the mind in promoting health - as proven by science! That's Chopra's belief and the results of the study, whatever they may be, will be used to sell that message. Meditation is his business as much as it is part of his religious faith.

The truth, as encapsulated in the systematic review you link to (thanks) is more modest. There is no good scientific evidence that meditation offers more than moderate stress reduction, or that it is more effective than physically active therapies.

By Leigh Jackson (not verified) on 18 Sep 2014 #permalink

PZ Myers immediately comes to my mind. He is an evolutionary biologist who has frequently called out racism and sexism among atheists.

Stephen Jay Gould - Mismeasure of Man?
Also most universities have departments of evolutionary biology. Are all of the faculty racists?

Denice,

I think that she means evolutionary *psychology* as she paired it with sociobiology earlier.

That's what I thought too (#51), but she flat out denied it at #52.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 18 Sep 2014 #permalink

Kreb

PZ Myers immediately comes to my mind. He is an evolutionary biologist who has frequently called out racism and sexism among atheists.

That was the first one that come to my mind - also Stephen Jay Gould.

DW,

think that she means evolutionary *psychology* as she paired it with sociobiology earlier.

I thought the Evo Psych crowd were primarily sexist rather than racist.

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 18 Sep 2014 #permalink

Leigh Jackson,

The truth, as encapsulated in the systematic review you link to (thanks) is more modest. There is no good scientific evidence that meditation offers more than moderate stress reduction, or that it is more effective than physically active therapies.

That's about the size of it. The rest of the summary of that paper is worth bearing in mind:

We found low evidence of no effect or insufficient evidence of any effect of meditation programs on positive mood, attention, substance use, eating habits, sleep, and weight. We found no evidence that meditation programs were better than any active treatment (ie, drugs, exercise, and other behavioral therapies).

I doubt Chopra will find any large effects from his interventions, even the dietary ones. Interventional prospective lifestyle-change studies often show few effects, perhaps because compliance is always a problem. What's to stop Chopra's subjects sneaking off to buy candy bars and cigarettes in the middle of the night? Or worrying themselves sick about whatever?

I wonder a bit if some aspects of his regimen might have adverse effects. It seems unlikely that Chopra willl poison his patients with heavy metals, but an alarming percentage of Ayurvedic medicines are contaminated with lead, mercury and/or arsenic. That the ancient Ayurvedic masters didn't notice they were poisoning their patients doesn't fill me with confidence about the rest of the things they recommended. Some of their surgical techniques were effective, but I guess you get more or less immediate feedback on that. Are any of their treatments useful for worried well 21st century people in the developed world? Chopra said in the interview I linked to that 80% of traditional methods aren't useful, which prompted Dawkins to ask how he knows which 80%. Good question. Chopra side-stepped it.

BTW, if the antivaccine people are concerned about 25 micrograms of ethylmercury from a vaccine, why aren't they up in arms about mercury in Ayurvedic medicines. The minimum daily exposure to mercury from the mercury-containing medicines that study looked at was 10 micrograms per day, the maximum 2,000 micrograms per day. If autism is caused by mercury poisoning (it isn't) we should have seen a true epidemic of autism over the past few centuries in the Indian subcontinent. We didn't. Maybe it's because they aren't African Americans.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 18 Sep 2014 #permalink

Ooops, sorry, that should read, "The minimum daily exposure to mercury from the mercury-containing medicines that study looked at was 50 micrograms per day".

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 18 Sep 2014 #permalink

HDB: Are there any non-racist evolutionary biologists that you could name?
J. B. S. Haldane comes to mind.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 18 Sep 2014 #permalink

Are there any non-racist evolutionary biologists that you could name?

That seems like kind of a slur on all the ones who have innocently dedicated their research careers to fruit flies. Or whatever other non-racially inflected nook-and-or-cranny of the field you care to name.

Which I would imagine would be most of them.

You're more or less saying it's racist to believe in and study evolution at the biological level. How does that make sense?

I mean, it's a biological phenomenon.

That seems like kind of a slur on all the ones who have innocently dedicated their research careers to fruit flies.

Which type of fruit flies? The nice black and white ones or those nasty little buggers with green abdomens and weird-shaped eyes?

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 18 Sep 2014 #permalink

How about the Hawaiian ones?

They comprise most of the insects on the islands, except for some recent invasive species.

By squirrelelite (not verified) on 18 Sep 2014 #permalink

Ann: You’re more or less saying it’s racist to believe in and study evolution at the biological level. How does that make sense?

At the biological level it's fine. When it gets applied to humans, it goes all kinds of wrong.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 18 Sep 2014 #permalink

At the biological level it’s fine. When it gets applied to humans, it goes all kinds of wrong.

Oh do tell how humans fall outside of biology.

By Science Mom (not verified) on 18 Sep 2014 #permalink

To start with, humans don't have subspecies, nor is skin color indicative of anything but geographic origin and possibly a susceptibility to certain genetic diseases.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 18 Sep 2014 #permalink

PGP,
You made a mistake, there's no shame in that, but I suggest you just admit it and stop digging.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 18 Sep 2014 #permalink

@PGP

To start with, humans don’t have subspecies, nor is skin color indicative of anything but geographic origin and possibly a susceptibility to certain genetic diseases.

All of these things are demonstrably true! And you know who demonstrated them? Evolutionary biologists studying human evolution.

By The Grouchybeast (not verified) on 18 Sep 2014 #permalink

I don't like atheists usually but I can't stand Chopra, his blatant racism here is disgusting

@Politicalguineapig, have you ever heard the saying "Figures do not lie, but liars do figure"? Or perhaps "The devil can cite scripture to his own purposes"?

Racists can twist anything -- science, history, religion, medicine, current events -- to support their pre-existing beliefs. That does not mean that any of those things is itself racists, nor that those who study any of those things are racist either.

We human beings are all individuals. You don't seem to understand that.

"Crank" and "quack" were amusing insults the first two times they were stated, the fifty times after that was overkill and borders on poor writing.

Chopra describes his study as incorporating a "full suite of wellness practices" which apparently includes meditation, yoga, massage, herbal treatments, and a nutrition program. One week of exotic pampering doesn't amount to a lifestyle change.

One would nonetheless expect changes to be measured in biomarkers over the course of the week and for particpants to subjectively feel fairly sweet about all the pampering. The controls will just get a lazy week's break. One would expect to find some measured differences in biomarkers and different subjective responses between the two groups after their week at the centre.

The other "important study" quoted by Chopra, Chainani et al., involved a three month comprehensive intervention in the lives of subjects with elevated risk of coronary heart disease. Factors involved: diet, exercise, stress management, and group support meetings. The study concluded:

"lifestyle changes can be followed by favorable changes in traditional and emerging coronary heart disease biomarkers, quality of life, social support, and cognitive function among those with, or at high risk, of CHD."

Comparing the two programmes, other than a nutrition regime, what Chopra is offering, appears to be a variety of stress reduction modalities: yoga, meditation, massage.

Herbal treatments is something of an unknown factor, and apparently missing is any form of aerobic exercise. No real physical effort is demanded of Chopra's subjects. It appears a rather self-indulgent programme.

It seems most unlikely that Chopra's study will inform us of something not already shown by Chainani et al. That study covered three months. By comparison Chopra's one week study will be considerably less useful, should it prove to be of any use. It will, of course, be useful as public relations exercise. Chopra gets his name on a study alongside that of a Nobel Prize winner. CV doesn't look so great in reverse.

By Leigh Jackson (not verified) on 19 Sep 2014 #permalink

Kreb: Fine, you win.

LW:Initially we start out as individuals. But a lot of humans like other humans to do their thinking for them, so it can be argued that a human in a cult, or a closed society (like a sports team, a police squad or a unit of the armed forces) ceases to be an individual until they leave the cult or go home. You see it in schools too, especially among teenage girls. Heck, Age of Autism is a textbook cult.

Liam: how is Chopra a racist?

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 19 Sep 2014 #permalink

4-27-14 Carlsbad, CA

Research subject dies when wave function collapses.

Police are investigating the death of a research subject (name withheld) at the Chopra Wellness Institute.

The subject had been placed in a Òquantum healing chamberÓ on the day before his body was discovered when Institute researchers opened the chamber.

According to the investigators the subject had an inoperable form of cancer and had not been expected to live for more than a few weeks. Because of his dire situation, the investigators quickly advance a research program they had been working, having used cats as subjects up to that point.

According to sources at the medical examinerÕs office, the cause of death was acute cyanide poisoning. The autopsy also confirmed the diagnosis of inoperable, untreatable cancer.

Police sources said the Òquantum healing chamberÓ was a closed box-like structure, and while they are releasing few details, describe a ÒRube Goldberg-style apparatusÓ involving uranium, a Geiger counter and a device which in the event, broke open a vial suspected of containing potassium cyanide.

Institute founder, Deepak Chopra, at a hastily-called news conference took no questions but read from a prepared statement.

ÒWe regret the precipitate actions of the authorities in their persecution of our Institute. To call the situation of (name withheld) a ÒdeathÓ is another instance of the myopic, reductionist, Western, big-pharma driven viewpoint of a heartless system.

Given Mr.______Õs dire situation, we calculated that no outcome of the use of our quantum healing chamber could be any worse than the situation he was in when he consulted us. Allopathic so-called doctors had given him up for dead.

A proper holistic and quantum assessment of Mr._____ real situation shows the following. Once he was placed in the chamber, there were four possible outcomes when the chamber was opened and the quantum healing wave function collapsed. In one universe, he is both alive and enjoying a full remission of cancer. In another universe Mr___ has also departed from his material shell, but the cancer has been completely cured. And in one universe (the one modality we can call failure) he is still on the material plane, but also still has the cancer. It is only on this plane and in this universe that Mr._____ is both so-called deceased, and the cancer uncured. We cannot and will not call this last a failure, as it was apparently what he was destined to experience in this universe.

So rather than see this as an opportunity for persecution and accusation, we urge the authorities of this universe to widen their view to take in the unquestionable success of our treatment.

I have no further statement at this time.

LW:Initially we start out as individuals. But a lot of humans like other humans to do their thinking for them, so it can be argued that a human in a cult, or a closed society (like a sports team, a police squad or a unit of the armed forces) ceases to be an individual until they leave the cult or go home.

I don't see how. Human individuals who let others do their thinking for them are still human individuals.

I mean, to some extent, we're all indebted to others when it comes to our thinking, And that's sometimes to a very considerable extent. For example:

That’s the first I’ve heard of it. I should note that most of my exposure to churched people is through the media

There's plenty of received wisdom being taken at face value, thought-free, to go around. IOW.

You see it in schools too, especially among teenage girls. Heck, Age of Autism is a textbook cult.

AoA is a very doctrinaire website. It would be fair to call it "cult-like" in some regards. But it's not a cult.

Teenage girls, like all other groups and classes of human individuals, are social, and therefore prone to social conformity. But on an individual basis, each and every one is still an individual.

Seriously. It's really not debatable.

Ann: I don’t see how. Human individuals who let others do their thinking for them are still human individuals.

I tend to think of an individual as someone who's brain is in their own head, and not located in the head of another being.

Ann:There’s plenty of received wisdom being taken at face value, thought-free, to go around. IOW.

As for the church thing, it's not like they went out of their way to announce their support. Internal memos don't make their way to the general public.

Ann: AoA is a very doctrinaire website. It would be fair to call it “cult-like” in some regards. But it’s not a cult.

Well, not technically. They do have a doctrine, sacrements and sacrifices and sermons. I'd say they meet about 8/10 of the requirements.

By Politicalguineapig (not verified) on 19 Sep 2014 #permalink

I tend to think of an individual as someone who’s brain is in their own head, and not located in the head of another being.

Oh, the irony.

"In my condition, I couldn’t take it. I went back to the bar after saying, 'Oh, come on, Joe, relax,' and patting him on the back."

Brian B, I guess it was just his quantum karma.

oops I misfired. L is I.

By Leigh Jackson (not verified) on 19 Sep 2014 #permalink

PGP: "But a lot of humans like other humans to do their thinking for them, so it can be argued that a human in a cult, or a closed society (like a sports team, a police squad or a unit of the armed forces) ceases to be an individual until they leave the cult or go home. "

Fer cryin out loud PGP--how about you just agree not to make comments about the military, since it is (again) obvious that you know nothing about which you declaim. I don't know whether you get your "knowledge" about the military from WWII propaganda films or not, but you are completely wrong. It will take more time and effort than I'm willing to give you here because you just keep saying crap about the military that is so far off the mark it's clear you don't have any interest in real understanding.

I spent 24 years in the military between enlisted, ROTC and commissioned service and that is just total bullshit about not thinking for yourself. I won't dignify your nonsense with examples other than to point out that while there is a short period of time in which obedience is stressed, it's because in certain situations there simply will not be the time to think, you will just have to act automatically or people will die. The rest of the time there is much emphasis on understanding your job such that you can make smart decisions on your own if the situation (and it frequently does) demands it. Where else do 18 - 21 year olds have so much responsibility for extremely expensive and dangerous equipment?? So just shut up about military matters because you are getting seriously offensive when you make these sweepingly stupid comments about it.

By brewandferment (not verified) on 20 Sep 2014 #permalink

@brewandferment, "you are getting seriously offensive when you make these sweepingly stupid comments about it."

Unfortunately Politicalguineapig is frequently seriously offensive and makes sweepingly stupid comments about a lot of things. 

Recall that this whole off-topic conversation started with her claim that "evo bio is usually used to justify racism. There might be some science buried deep beneath them, but it ain’t worth the giant crock of crap that comes with the field. And there might be a few decent human beings who study evo bio, but I haven’t seen evidence of that."

As for the church thing, it’s not like they went out of their way to announce their support. Internal memos don’t make their way to the general public.

My point was that the media did your thinking for you.

I spent 24 years in the military between enlisted, ROTC and commissioned service and that is just total bullshit about not thinking for yourself.

PGP is not aware that the military has a term for personnel who are only capable of following orders and cannot think for themselves. They're called casualties.

PGP is not aware that the military has a term for personnel who are capable of only following orders and unable to think for themselves. They're called "casualties."

Unfortunately Politicalguineapig is frequently seriously offensive and makes sweepingly stupid comments about a lot of things.

Yah, the one that got to me was when she stated that, after 34 years of working to help make this country better and keep it safe, I should be jettisoned because I live where it's warm.

As near as I can tell, her contribution to her country/state/city is passing out maps to the potty in a big building, and she thinks she has the right to pass judgment on, well, anybody.

Some say she would be happy in an area that is diverse. I disagree. I don't think she'd be happy except in a land populated with clones of her self. Any thought different than her own is, in her mind, evil and backward. Anybody not her is evil and backward.

Just think how she'll be when she's 30.