Field of Science

Deepak Chopra warming up to debate Shermer

Deepak Chopra is proud of being the King of woo woo.
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.
Any form of thinking must be dealt with with skepticism, at first. It's just that Chopra's thinking, when skeptically evaluated, doesn't hold up to reality. It goes against all the evidence.

It's such a tired old argument that people who are skeptic are against curiosity. On the contrary, scientists are the really curious ones. But they also come equipped with the filter that makes them able to evaluate the ideas generated by our curiosity: skepticism.
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.
I'm going to a debate with Chopra vs. Shermer next month. Will look for rolling eyes.
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.
Oh come on, Deepak. It is through skepticism that scientists increase our knowledge about the world. And let me fix that sentence for you: "happen to recognize believe in a reality that transcends space and time"

Chopra wants Shermer to debate these questions:
• Is there evidence for creativity and intelligence in the cosmos? [Yes, on Earth. Other than that, no evidence yet.]
• What is consciousness? [It's the information the brain has in excess of its modules.]
• Do we have a core identity beyond our biology, mind, and ego? [No.]
• Is there life after death? Does this identity outlive the molecules through which it expresses itself? [Yes, my life after your death. And no, consciousness and mind are tied to matter, so when the matter that supported them disappear, so does the mind.]

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.
And skepticism. Without skepticism there is no shield against the woo woo. I can't wait to hear what the 'actual frontiers of science' are, as Chopra sees them. More evidence for life after death, is my bet.

Oh wait, there is a new P.S.:
P. S. In light of a few of the comments I would like to clarify something. I hold great value and trust in the scientific method when practiced honestly. Also, I have nothing against healthy skepticism which retains an open mind to future possibilities in science. What I am really addressing here is the brand of professional skepticism that Shermer stands for that borders on cynicism and which leads to a rigid attachment to materialist science. It is the cynicism and prejudice that refuses to explore the new frontiers of neuroscience, genomics, epigenetics, information theory and the understanding of consciousness that I am speaking to. [Emphasis added.]
I'm baffled. Those fields of science... skeptics refuse to explore them? Scientists, skeptics, and Shermer as well, happen to be very interested in those frontiers. I don't get it. Please explain how Chopra can claim those as i) dismissed by skeptics, and ii) beyond materialism.


  1. Yeah, that is weird. If I were to pick a single field of study that was the most threatening to Deepak's loony worldview, it would be the very first one he mentions: neuroscience.

    To me, Darwin is to Creationism as neuroscience is to dualism. Prior to Darwin, even though the Creationist account was still an untenable evidence-free position, IMO one could certainly be forgiven for adopting it, because "Where did all these damn animals come from?" is such a basic everyday question, and yet there really weren't any satisfactory answers. Reasonable people adopted this tale by default, since it is difficult to maintain agnosticism about such a basic question.

    Similarly, prior to the late 20th-century understanding of neuroscience, it would be easier to forgive someone for embracing dualism. Sure, it didn't make any damn sense, but from whence this consciousness? But it seems based on my limited lay understanding that neuroscience is now starting to lay the groundwork for a satisfactory answer to that question. So much for dualism.

  2. If you want to take a plane next month for the panel discussion at Caltech, I have an extra ticket you can have.

  3. Seriously? When is it?

    I'm pretty sure I can't, but a chance to get out of Rochester in March in favor of California.... heh...

  4. Yes, seriously. Tickets were free, and when I called, the person there literally made me get two, because there were already only 100 left out of 1100.

    Does God have a Future?
    A debate between Deepak Chopra & Jean Houston v. Michael Shermer & Sam Harris.
    Sunday, March 14, 2010 at 2 pm.

  5. Thank you thank you thank you!!!!!

    Why doesn't someone call bullshit on this guy? Its bad enough that he seems to be the snake-oil salesman of choice for wealthy airheads in the US, but somehow he has positioned himself as the interpreter of Indian mysticism, which IMHO has seen its day! Feel ashamed that he was from the same country I am from.

    For F's sake, he was/is a doctor!!! A doctor of medicine! That has to mean something! Right?

  6. Why doesn't someone call bullshit on this guy?

    They do. All the time. Shermer, for example, was doing just that through this whole "debate".


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