Deepak Chopra, writing again on HuffPo, seems determined to stake out for himself some sort of Don Quixote like position as a warrior for idiocy, thrusting his imagination at science while screaming that there’s no need for evidence, only creativity.
It used to annoy me to be called the king of woo woo. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, “woo woo” is a derogatory reference to almost any form of unconventional thinking, aimed by professional skeptics who are self-appointed vigilantes dedicated to the suppression of curiosity. I get labeled much worse things as regularly as clockwork whenever I disagree with big fry like Richard Dawkins or smaller fry like Michael Shermer, the Scientific American columnist and editor of Skeptic magazine. The latest barrage of name-calling occurred after the two of us had a spirited exchange on Larry King Live last week. . Maybe you saw it. I was the one rolling my eyes as Shermer spoke. Sorry about that, a spontaneous reflex of the involuntary nervous system.
Jumped up Jesus on skis, Deepak…really? You blither on and on about all the things science can’t DISPROVE, then insist that your wild flights of imagination might be true…probably ARE true because science can’t prove they’re not, and that makes you roll your eyes? Get to the back of the line behind every Pope in history, will you? Your line cutting bullshit arguments have been done before.
UPDATE: What really pisses me off about Deepak’s opening graph is the sheer condescension, which is not at all masked by the lies and ginned up horseshit.
“Professional skeptics”…as opposed to amateur skeptics? Chopra, you moron! No one gets paid for being a skeptic. Skepticism is a tool, not a job title. One wishes the reverse were also true. Sadly, being a purveyor of woo woo IS a job title, and more’s the pity that it makes you and the rest of the con artists so employed – your ILK – rich. Even more pathetically, like Sarah Palin, you confuse being popular with stupid people for being insightful and correct.
“Unconventional thinking”? No, we skeptics LOVE unconventional thinking. Where would modern medicine, evolution, physics…pretty much EVERY branch of good science be today without unconventional thinkers? But lying about what we skeptics dismiss and what we adore is nothing new for you, you pathetic little worm.
Let me explain: While we absolutely LOVE unconventional thinking, we profoundly appreciate EVIDENCE IN SUPPORT of that thinking. Math, data, experiment, observation. What we HATE is idiots who fail to understand basic principals twisting those observations into a Gordian knot of bullshit and applying it in support of some stupid, foolish speculation that has NOTHING WHATSOEVER TO DO with the science being cited.
“Big fry like Richard Dawkins and smaller fry like Michael Shermer…”
Smaller fry? Who in the name of sweet cock-humping Christ do YOU think you are? Who the fuck is Deepak Chopra to call anyone small fry, you magnetized snake oil pusher?
Listen, fuckwit, it’s not merely Dawkins and Shermer that laugh up their sleeve the moment you open your mouth. There’s a long list of credible scientists, in all fields you think you understand, who are sick and fucking tired of your fairy tale bullshit constructed on nothing more than, “Jeepers, maybe the universe we don’t know has all the qualities we wish it did!”
Afterwards, however, I had an unpredictable reaction. I realized that I would much rather expound woo woo than the kind of bad science Shermer stands behind. He has made skepticism his personal brand, more or less, sitting by the side of the road to denigrate “those people who believe in spirituality, ghosts, and so on,” as he says on a YouTube video. No matter that this broad brush would tar not just the Pope, Mahatma Gandhi, St. Teresa of Avila, Buddha, and countless scientists who happen to recognize a reality that transcends space and time. All are deemed irrational by the skeptical crowd. You would think that skeptics as a class have made significant contributions to science or the quality of life in their own right. Uh oh. No, they haven’t. Their principal job is to reinforce the great ideas of yesterday while suppressing the great ideas of tomorrow. (emphasis mine)
Great googly-moogly. Jesus is off the skis now and styling barefoot! What twisted and revolting logic! First, that Deepak Chopra might roll his eyes at being exposed as a charlatan rather than produce an argument in support of his bevy of leprechauns that’s based on evidence instead of wish thinking. Second, what ugly and unmitigated name dropping…of a very selective sort: Science tars the Pope, Buddha, and Mother Teresa! Well, I guess that gets the Catholics and those trapped in Samsara on Chopra’s side.
But let’s examine the claim: Science / Shermer discounts the arguments made by Catholics – people who believe in resurrection, virgin birth, hell, demons, possession, transubstantiation, preventing people in AIDS ravaged countries from having access to condoms, denying women the right to control their own bodies and a host of other equally repugnant doctrines that have no basis whatsoever beyond the dogmatic acceptance of a book written by Bronze Age shepherds 2000 years ago.
Notice the other little smarmy trick Chopra pulls. After naming a list of supposedly respectable theological figures (including that scamming little Albanian dwarf Teresa – a truly disgusting little thief and exploiter), Deepak asserts that there is a list of “countless” scientists who agree with that religious blither. He names not one of them, one supposes because the names are unrecognizable to the idiot audience Chopra addresses; they are not properly qualified; they might well sue Chopra if they are qualified, and/or they simply don’t exist.
“Bad science.” Bad science? You mean the stuff with evidence to back it up as opposed to the speculative WOO you’re pushing? I fucking dare you, you slimy little piece of shit, to point to a single incidence of “bad science” being pushed by Shermer, Dawkins or ANY other scientist with which you take issue. You blithering load of festering crap! Bad science, indeed. You make your living off of NON-science – NO evidence, no proof, no data…NOTHING but conjecture and bullshit wish thinking, and you have the NERVE to talk about BAD science? You deserve far worse than you get. You vicious, ignorant, stubborn little guru for igornamuses…you ought to be drawn and quartered before a panel of those who know better. Wait a moment…I can find a dozen walking down the street.
Let me clear the slate with Shermer and forget the several times he has wiggled out of a public debate he was supposedly eager to have with me. I will ignore his recent blog in which his rebuttal of my position was relegated to a long letter from someone who obviously didn’t possess English as a first language (would Shermer like to write a defense of his position in Hindi? It would read just as ludicrously if Hindi isn’t his first language).
Is that how one clears the slate? Accuse him of wiggling out of a debate and attack his language skills? Here’s hoping Chopra lets his nasty side loose sometime. One wonders how it might be less polite. The problem with debating a moron like Deepak Chopra is that he refuses to be bound by such niggling little things as evidence. He sprinkles his brand of WOO with phrases like, “Couldn’t it be possible,”
“What if it were the case…,”
“Some people think that it might be true…”
The fact that there’s no more evidence for any of Chopra’s Celestine Prophecy bullshit than for unicorns doesn’t give him the slightest pause. He’s aiming for the people who bought crystals from Shirley McClane and evidence matters not one whit in that pitch.
With the slate clear, I’d like to see if Shermer will accept the offer to debate me at length on such profound questions as the following:
• Is there evidence for creativity and intelligence in the cosmos?
• What is consciousness?
• Do we have a core identity beyond our biology, mind, and ego?
• Is there life after death? Does this identity outlive the molecules through which it expresses itself?
SUCH profound questions! One can imagine the arguments for “creativity and intelligence” in the universe.
#1: We’re here. We’re creative and intelligent. QED.
#2: The teleological argument: The universe is so finely tuned!
What is consciousness? It is an emergent property of a bunch of non-conscious bits all working together. Chopra wants to argue that, since we cannot PROVE what it is and how it emerges…yet…that it must be some special sort of thing that survives the maximum entropy of the bits. Deepak is the sort of man who stands on the beach AFTER the tide has destroyed a sandcastle and insists that the sand castle is still there…it’s just been spread out a bit, taken a new form…but it’s still there. Deepak is an idiot.
Do we have a core identity beyond our biology, mind and ego? ??? What the fuck? Since when is that a scientific question? EGO???
What about the superego and the id? There goes Chopra, again, muddying up the waters – claiming to be discussing science when, in fact, he’s yammering about leprechauns. Identity is a PHILOSOPHICAL question, and a long standing source of debate within that field. Science addresses such things through neurobiology, neurophysiology, FMRI scans, studies of people with brain injury.
Chopra wants to talk about mind (as he defines it) and ego (which has nothing to do with science). He might as well bring in auras and biorhythms while he’s at it.
The rules will be simple. He can argue from any basis he chooses, and I will confine myself entirely to science. For we have reached the state where Shermer’s tired, out-of-date, utterly mediocre science is far in arrears of the best, most open scientific thinkers — actually, we reached that point 60 years ago when eminent physicists like Einstein, Wolfgang Pauli, Werner Heisenberg and Erwin Schrodinger applied quantum theory to deep spiritual questions. The arrogance of skeptics is both high-handed and rusty. It is high-handed because they lump brilliant speculative thinkers into one black box known as woo woo. It is rusty because Shermer doesn’t even bother to keep up with the latest findings in neuroscience, medicine, genetics, physics, and evolutionary biology. All of these fields have opened fascinating new ground for speculation and imagination. But the king of pooh-pooh is too busy chasing down imaginary woo woo. (emphasis mine)
When the day comes that Deepak Chopra confines himself to science, I’ll dance a happy jig while singing the first chapter of Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maitenance.
More name dropping from Chopra. Notice, please, that all of the great and powerful names he drops are dead. None of them can stand up and say, “How DARE you bastardize my work in support for your ridiculous fantasies and speculative presumptions, none of which offer the remotest shred of evidence.”
Albert Einstein’s own words demonstrate the contempt with which he held fantastic claims about spirits, gods and the rest of it. Heisenberg and Schrodinger would slap the brown off this smarmy little poseur were they ever to hear their names associated with such unmitigated crap. And, of course, after dropping their names AS IF he understood the first thing about the work of those world changing physicists, Chopra fails to elucidate exactly how their work in any way supports the bullshit he’s selling. He doesn’t because IT doesn’t. He lies to create the appearance of walking with intellectual giants when, in fact, he is simply begging to be taken seriously by imbeciles who understand what Heisenberg was talking about even less than Deepak does…if such a thing is possible.
Skeptics feel that they have won the high ground in matters concerning consciousness, mind, the origins of life, evolutionary theory, and brain science. This is far from the case. What they cling to is 19th Century materialism, packaged with a screeching hysteria about God and religion that is so passé it has become quaint. To suggest that Darwinian theory is incomplete and full of unproven hypotheses causes Shermer, who takes Darwin as purely as a fundamentalist takes scripture, to see God everywhere in the enemy camp.
Here Chopra pulls another fast bit of ugly association – tying the demands of science for evidence to support claims to those who insist there are no gods. What the one has to do with the other is not clear, but it does certainly muddy the water, and bottom feeders like Deepak Chopra LIVE in the mud. Scientists – ALL of them worth their degrees – accept Darwinian evolution because it is a proven fact, supported by mountains upon mountains of evidence, and confirmed by each and every new set of data, each and every prediction, each and every fossil, not to mention geology, physics, biology and every other related field not funded by the Discovery Institute. These same scientific disciplines ARE making great strides in the understanding of neurobiology, brain science, evolutionary theory and every other sub-discipline Chopra might name in a vain effort to appear well read. The difference between those “scientists” and Chopra – and it is a massive difference, indeed – is that when one of them asks a question that begins, “Couldn’t it be the case…?” they set about conducting an investigation, looking for evidence to support OR DESTROY the conjecture.
Deepak Chopra does nothing of the sort. He simply answers his own question with another question: “Wouldn’t that be wonderful?”
He then answers that question, “Yes!” and proceeds to assume that, because it would be very nice were that true, then it must be so. Chopra digs further into the muck and slime when he asserts that science clings to “19th Century materialism”, as if the values brought to the benefit of humanity by the Enlightenment and such great thinkers as Voltaire, Hume, Newton and Bacon are to be shoved aside as being passe. The germ theory of disease? Piffle! One need only meditate! Transcend the corpus to Deepak’s Higher Plane!
How silly. Shermer is a former Christian fundamentalist who is now a fundamentalist about materialism; fundamentalists must have an absolute to believe in. Thus he forces himself into a corner, declaring that all spirituality is bogus, that the sense of self is an illusion, that the soul is ipso facto a fraud, that mind has no existence except in the brain, that intelligence emerged only when evolution, guided by random mutations, developed the cerebral cortex, that nothing invisible can be real compared to solid objects, and that any thought which ventures beyond the five senses for evidence must be dismissed without question.
The preceding paragraph requires a particular degree of parsing. Chopra engages in ad hominem argument – attacking Shermer as a former Christian fundie, while at the same time selling much the same sort of bullshit dogmatic faith claims as offered by Christian fundamentalists. Pot, meet kettle. Next, Chopra puts words in Shermer’s mouth.
Michael Shermer DOES NOT argue that spirituality is bogus. He argues that statements of fact about such claims, made in the absence of any evidence whatsoever to support them, are bogus…and they ARE. Shermer has never, insofar as I can track his published words, said that nothing invisible can be compared to solid objects, OR that anything beyond the five senses must be dismissed without question. I happen to know for a fact that Michael Shermer believes unequivocally in microwave radiation, which cannot be seen, smelled, heard, touched or tasted. So, in short, fuck you Deepak. You lie. Of course, that’s nothing new to anyone with a decent education – Chopra’s whole schtick is constructed on bullshit wrapped up in the word PERHAPS. But that he engages in such vicious and unrepentant twisting of another’s words in order to sell his particular brand of WOO bullshit is quite unforgivable.
I won’t go into detail about the absurdity of such rigid thinking. However, the impulse behind dogmatic materialism seems intended to flatten one’s opponents so thoroughly that through scorn and arrogance they must admit defeat, conceding that science is the complete refutation of all preceding religion, spirituality, psychology, myth, and philosophy — in other words, any mode of gaining knowledge that arch materialism doesn’t countenance.
Of COURSE you won’t go into detail. Attempting to do so would accomplish two things: 1. It would reveal that you really don’t understand the work of the scientists you claim support your woo, and 2. It would reveal that you have no foundation for either the claims you make, or for the science you so casually denigrate.
Science DOES refute a great deal of religion – God created the heavens and the earth, made two great lights in the sky, fixed the earth immovable, reincarnation…
This is refutation in it’s purest form, is it not?
Spirituality? Like voodoo? Or witchcraft? Which of the “spiritual” traditions, Deepak, do you assert ought to be maintained as being true? Psychology? Myth?? Philosophy??? Since when does science have anything to do, in any direct sense, with the great philosophical questions? The way you conflate the concrete with the vaporous is all the more evidence that you are fluttering about in a self-centered vortex of blithering crap, throwing whatever flotsam you can grasp at your audience in a twisted and ugly effort to overwhelm them with seemingly thoughtful ideas when it’s really nothing more than an avalanche of shit.
I’ve baited this post with a few barbs to see if Shermer can be goaded into an actual public debate. I have avoided his and his followers’ underhanded methods, whereby an opponent is attacked ad hominem as an idiot, moron, and other choice epithets that in his world are the mainstays of rational argument. And the point of such a debate? To further public knowledge about the actual frontiers of science, which has always depended on wonder, awe, imagination, and speculation. Petty science of the Shermer brand scorns such things, but the greatest discoveries have been anchored on them.
Sigh. This just get’s fucking tiresome. Deepak…for ALL the “wonder, awe, imagination and speculation” you think you bring to your cutting edge frontier fairy tales, science brings more. Scientists speculate. Then they go looking for evidence. Sometimes the evidence supports the speculation…most times it doesn’t. Most times it tells the scientist that he fucked up. But, curiously, it is often that same information – that which destroys what he thought was possible – which points him in a new direction and reveals what truly IS. And it is THAT EVIDENCE that separates scientists from what it is that YOU do. Scientists wonder, Deepak. They wonder how things REALLY work, and they investigate, experiment, collect data. YOU just sit around wondering if maybe the universe has a special message just for you…a special message that only you and those who think like you can perceive. And it helps you to sell books to stupid people, who wrap themselves in hope instead of evidence – who enjoy rolling in the woo of what might be (if it makes us happy) instead of what IS, whether the truth is pleasing or not. As for awe, Deepak…if Darwinian evolution over billions of years to produce the diversity of life on this planet doesn’t make you stand back, slack-jawed, in the most stunning degree of awe and wonder you’ve ever experienced, you are either incapable of awe or you don’t understand the subject. Same goes for physics, which I KNOW you don’t understand.
If you are tempted to think that I have taken the weaker side and that materialism long ago won this debate, let me end with a piece of utterly nonsensical woo woo:
Nobody understands how decisions are made or how imagination is set free. What consciousness consists of, or how it should be defined, is equally puzzling. Despite the marvelous success of neuroscience in the past century, we seem as far from understanding cognitive processes as we were a century ago.
That isn’t a quote from “one of those people who believe in spirituality, ghosts, and so on.” It’s from Sir John Maddox, former editor-in-chief of the renowned scientific journal Nature, writing in 1999. I can’t wait for Shermer to call him an idiot and a moron. Don’t worry, he won’t. He’ll find an artful way of slithering to higher ground where all the other skeptics are huddled.
That we don’t YET understand exactly how the emergent properties of mind and consciousness arise, Deepak, is not license for you to substitute your fantastic, speculative, hopeful brand of religious WOO and demand a fair hearing, in the absence of ANY evidence for your claims, simply because science has yet to demonstrate that you’re full of shit. All you have done, with your fatuous quote-mining, is find the words of an honest scientist who admits that we don’t know everything. Well done, Chopra!
No doubt you could easily find similar quotes from almost any scientist…many whom you would not need to identify for the benefit of the choir to which you preach. Of course, mining a rather more obscure name does make you appear well read, doesn’t it? Nevertheless, you smarmy little snake-oil pusher, the simple fact that science doesn’t have it ALL figured out IS NOT proof that YOU DO. When you have some…ANY…evidence for the giant load of utterly speculative bullshit you seem determined to aura and spangle your way to another goddamn best-seller, we’d all love to see it. Until you do, would you please do us all the favour of just shutting the fuck up.
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