The Sciences

Deepak Chopra: redefining "wrong"

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitDec 1, 2009 6:55 PM


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I am no fan of Deepak Chopra. For years he has gone on TV, in print, and in his books, peddling all manners of nonsense. Here's a quick reality check: if his claims of "quantum healing" are correct, why is he getting older? Anyway, he has gone to the very font of new age nonsense, the Huffington Post, to spew more woo: he's written an article about why skepticism is bad. It's almost a bullet-pointed list of logical fallacies. About the "poison darts" of criticism:

Most of my stinging darts come from skeptics. Over the years I've found that ill-tempered guardians of scientific truth can't abide speculative thinking.

<sarcasm>Yes, because scientists have no imaginations and cannot come up with original thoughts.</sarcasm> But wait, he's not done! Pandering to religious people:

Since the skeptics who write venomous blogs trust in nothing, I imagine that God will outlive them.

Oops. He's confused trust and faith. Not surprising, since he's confused about a lot of stuff:

No skeptic, to my knowledge, ever made a major scientific discovery or advanced the welfare of others. Typically they sit by the side of the road with a sign that reads "You're Wrong" so that every passerby, whether an Einstein, Gandhi, Newton, or Darwin, can gain the benefit of their illuminated skepticism.

That first line trembles on the very edge of being a blatant and gross lie. Given that Einstein was a skeptic, Darwin was a skeptic, Sagan was a skeptic, Feynman, Gould, and thousands of other scientists are skeptics, what he said is simply ridiculous. Edward Jenner, I think, could arguably have advanced the welfare of others, having invented the vaccine, which has saved hundreds of millions of lives over the years. How many has Chopra saved? And, in fact, almost all advances in science are done by skeptics; true believers are the ones who don't have the motivation to innovate. But the moonbeam spinning continues:

It never occurs to skeptics that a sense of wonder is paramount, even for scientists. Especially for scientists.

Yes, thankfully he informed me of my lack of a sense of wonder. Sheesh. Go to any blog post I've written in the "Pretty pictures" category and be stunned by my lack of wonder and awe at the natural universe around us. And then he makes his biggest mistake, one that is all-too-common by people who think skepticism is the same thing as cynicism:

Skeptics know in advance -- or think they know -- what right thought is.

Bzzzzt! WRONG. We don't know necessarily what the right thought is. But we do know when we see a failure in the process of thinking. And in the case of one Deepak Chopra, that failure is lit up like a neon sign and draped in the open for all to see... if they're willing to think about it.

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