Apr 23 2013

Deepak Chopra, TED and Game of Thrones

Am I the only one who wishes the SI unit for “bullshitting about science” to be measured in Deepak Chopras?

Here is the thing. Simply being liberal doesn’t mean you should move away from what people consider as “big pharmacy”. Pharmacy is entrenched in “Big Business” which is benefitted by the low taxes and reduced controls when it comes to profit. However the reason why “Big Pharma” works is because they are entrenched in actual fucking science. The correct response to Big Pharma is “Proper Testing and Control” not “Witch Doctors”.

And Huffington Post should remember that before they give Deepak Chopra a platform.

Deepak Chopra is the very essence of pseudoscience. He utilises words that people are aware off to flog eastern pseudoscience and medicine in scientific terms that simply “don’t mean anything”. Quantum for example is a word he absolutely loves!

Quantum is from the same route as quantity. Quantum Healing isn’t science, quantum healing is quackery.

One of modern science’s great strengths is that any questionable finding dies a quick death if it’s invalid. The safeguards are mainly two: Your new finding must be repeatable when other researchers run the same experiments, and peer review by qualified scientists subjects every new finding to microscopic scrutiny. So it surprised the millions of admirers of TED, whose conferences attract wide attention to new, cutting-edge ideas, when that organization decided to practice semi-censorship.

Except Deepak’s entire questionable finding is invalid and hasn’t died the quick death that it deserves because Chopra specifically tailors his work to not be science while dressed in the trappings of science.

TED tries to provide a platform for speakers to speak about SCIENCE. The very fact that Deepak Chopra coined the words Quantum Healing and regularly tries to validate Ayurveda and Traditional Indian Medicine (TIM) through the language of “real science” is the reason he shouldn’t be allowed to shoot his idiot mouth off.

Deepak Chopra has a massive following in India. To the point that the Indian government loves to sponsor TIM often to the detriment of the citizens of India. Deepak’s words are often read by the educated Indians whose egos are massaged with the notion that somehow TIM is so advanced that it utilises Quantum Mechanics and this works on the notion that we draw a line between Western and Eastern medicine.

People often don’t realise that there is no such thing as Western and Eastern Medicine, it’s Medicine and Quackery. If an “Eastern Medical Process” works then it is “Medicine”. The best example is the Indian flap. Rhinoplasty often uses a procedure called the Indian flap and it’s a process that was used more than 2000 years ago and is still used today that was developed in India.

To give the field of Medicine it’s “proper” name would be to call it Evidence Based Medicine, which Deepak Chopra does not espouse.

The flap is over two videos of TEDx talks delivered in the UK in January that were summarily removed from TEDx’s YouTube channel (TEDx is the brand name for conferences outside the main TED events that are allowed to use the TED trademark, such as TEDxBoston or TEDxBaghdad — so far, about 5,000 such events have used the name). This amounts only to semi-censorship because the videos were reposted on TED’s blog site. Yet the reputations of the two presenters, Rupert Sheldrake and Graham Hancock, were besmirched. In a letter to all the TEDx organizers, Chris Anderson, the head of TED, proposed certain “red flag” topics, among them health hoaxes and the medicinal value of food but also the general area of pseudoscience. The response has been decidedly negative — scientists don’t like the suppression of free thinking — and among the thousands of comments aired on the Internet, one pointed out that Sheldrake and Hancock spoke at a TEDx conference explicitly dedicated to ideas that challenge mainstream thinking.

No. Scientists are perfectly fine with taking pseudoscience and beating it with the two by four of peer review till it’s legs break. The issue is that TED is not a peer reviewed entity and is a platform for experts to educate.

And you cannot claim that Rupert Sheldrake is anything but a bullshit merchant. The man deals in the paranormal “sciences” which by definition are not science. His entire work is based on the notion that “we can’t prove something doesn’t exist so it does exist” which is like me demanding a TED slot because of my expertise as a Vampire Hunter (Avicenna the Vampire Slayer – Will Stake Edward Cullen  for tuppence). To ban me would be to deny ideas that challenge mainstream thinking.

Rupert Sheldrake for those who are unaware is a British biochemists who is a big fan of morphic fields, the akashic records, morphic resonance and telepathy.

Graham Hancock is no better. A pseudoarcheologist (seriously? That’s a thing…) who is most famous for flogging the notions that various megaliths and structures are vast monuments to astronomical bodies and astrologically significant events. A lot of his work is steeped in a version of Ancient Astronauts (the notion that cultures outside Europe couldn’t possibly be advanced and must have had help from aliens such as the Goa’uld) where he claims we all came from a super culture which is why so many ideas are pervasive rather than the notion that one requires rules to form society and most of the rules are similar because there are few alternatives. Graham is also a big fan of lost civilisations and grew up in India which may have influenced his way thinking.

Near where I live is a famous “lost” civilisation. There were alleged to be seven temples at Mahabalipuram of which only one survives. The rest were swallowed by rising sea levels. At low tides one can see the “next” temple. An Indian Atlantis.

The other monument is the Jantar Mantar which is an actual observatory with massive stone tools designed to help astronomers. The instruments are still functional and anyone can go visit and use them (there are little plaques telling you how to do it) and that’s because they were left with instructions.

Hancock prefers to take things like the Pyramids and give them mystical significance rather than reality. Pharaoh’s made them as a sort of Hunger Wall project to keep the peasants busy during the flood months and prove their power rather than for any mystical significance. Same with Stonehenge or the Mayans or countless other historical civilisations that Hancock bullshits about.

It’s like claiming that the Pentagon is a satanic building hence it’s shape rather than being shaped like that because “it’s cool”.

There’s no need to stir the coals. TED has been badly singed already. At a cursory glance, much of Anderson’s letter sounds reasonable: TED has every right to give guidelines to conferences using their name. Who’s in favor of health hoaxes and pseudoscience? As it happens, Sheldrake’s talk was on “The Science Delusion” and covered ten dogmas in mainstream science that need to be examined; there wasn’t a hint of bad science in it. Hancock’s talk was on consciousness and psychedelics, a topic without fangs for anyone who has heard of the Sixties, much less lived through them. Even as the videos were begrudgingly reposted, TED felt justified in tagging them as “radical” and attaching a “health warning”.

Oh man! Ten Delusions in Science?

I got myself a post for my bank holiday Wednesday!

Yet something quite pivotal is occurring that inflames strong feelings. The decision to remove the two videos was apparently instigated by angry, noisy bloggers who promote militant atheism. Their target was a burgeoning field, the exploration of consciousness. For generations bringing up consciousness as a scientific topic was taboo. In the wildly popular fantasy novels by George R. R. Martin, “A Game of Thrones,” now running as an equally mad success on HBO, the mythical kingdom of Westeros is divided by a great wall 700 feet high. On the other side of the wall are lethal enemies and malefic magic. For centuries, no one has seen the zombie-like White Walkers who live on the other side of the wall, nor the dragons that once ravaged Westeros.

No No No… Some of us are atheists. Most of us don’t like these videos because we are skeptics and what these two individuals are flogging can be called pseudoscience if we are charitable.

Consciousness is NOT a taboo. Claiming consciousness via the mechanism of the Akashic record is however pseudoscience. For those who are unaware, the Akashic Record is a vedic concept which is compendium of all consciousness and knowledge that can be accessed by people. It was an early attempt to explain ideas and thought and how people came up with the same ideas to solve the same solution. It was an elegant concept if you were around 4000 years ago and didn’t understand how the brain functioned.

Now we know that consciousness is a function of our brain and that we understand drugs that alter consciousness because we use them regularly for medicine and for fun.

And a Game of Thrones reference to flog your idea is just populist and is stupid because it’s turning this into a nerd fight. And Deepak is sorely undergunned when it comes to this.

Even so, after magic and zombies fell into disbelief, a hereditary band of guardians swore an oath to keep watch at the wall, generation after generation. TED has put itself in rather the same position. What the militant atheists and self-described skeptics hate is a certain brand of magical thinking that endangers science. In particular, there is the bugaboo of “non-local consciousness,” which causes the hair on the back of their necks to stand on end. A layman would be forgiven for not grasping why such an innocent-sounding phrase could spell danger to “good science.”

It’s a poor analogy in my opinion. The Wall in the North was created (by Brandon the Builder) to defend against a recurrence of the Long Night, where the White Walkers invaded and were eventually repelled but at massive cost and by creating the world of Westeros’s current political climate.

The White Walkers themselves have become legend and a bogeyman and the age of magic died with the disappearance of the Children of the Forest. These things became legends and knowledge was lost in the infighting and the method of knowledge preservation via the Maester system.

As time went by the biggest threat from the North were the Wildlings and in particular the infamous Mance Rayder. The Night’s Watch became repurposed from the guardians against the White Walkers to defenders against brigand raids. These raiders carried away and attacked poor villages and so were generally ignored and so the Night’s Watch dwindled in recruits and in quality as well as in supply becoming a shadow of what it was. But make no mistake the White walkers are very very real. And magic and zombies don’t exist in the world of Westeros and haven’t existed for millenia until the sudden appearance of things like the Woman in Red, the White Walkers and the Dragons.

If we are to take on the role of the Night’s Watch (I am after all the Defender of the Text Wall) then the reason we fight against the notion of “non-local consciousness” is because it’s pseudoscience. it is an entirely non-falsifiable claim and cannot be proven to exist any more than utilising the invisible gravity fairy as an explanation of gravity. Consciousness is irrevocably linked the chemistry of the brain rather than some underlying layer that we simply borrow from. To espouse it’s theory is to give credence to bullshit as an equal and valid explanation to the physical structure of the brain.

If consciousness were not linked to the structure and chemical nature of the brain then alcohol would not make you make bad decisions such as Karaoke or the Macarena.

The reason becomes clear when you discover that non-local consciousness means the possibility that there is mind outside the human brain or even outside material reality, that a conscious mind is in some way intrinsic to the quantum universe, and that we all are quantum entangled. One of us (Menas Kafatos) has devoted many years of research on the connection of quantum theory to consciousness. Four of us (Stuart Hameroff, Rudolph Tanzi, Neil Thiese, and Deepak Chopra) have devoted years of research to neuroscience, clinical studies and consciousness. For millennia it went without question that such a mind exists; it was known as God. Fearing that God is finding a way to sneak back into the kingdom through ideas of quantum consciousness, militant atheists go on the attack against near-death experiences, telepathy, action at a distance, and all manifestations of purpose-driven evolution. Like the guardians in “A Game of Thrones,” these militants haven’t actually looked over the wall, and given their absolute conviction that the human brain is the only source of awareness in the universe, you’d think that speculative thinking on the subject wouldn’t be so threatening. (Most people wouldn’t picket a convention of werewolves in their hometown. It’s not hard to tell what is fantasy.)

Except there is no evidence of such a thing and it’s a completely supernatural concept. It also flies in the face of the knowledge that our brains are based on chemistry and electric depolarisation of membranes rather than “magic”.

Quantum Mechanics is dealing with physical phenomena at minuscule and fundamental quantities. Quantum mechanics works at an atomic and sub-atomic scale and the theory involves a mathematical description of the wave/particle duality of energy and matter.

Quantum entanglement occurs when particles such as photons and electrons and molecules and even small diamonds interact physically and are separated. The pair then has the same quantum mechanical state. It’s not my forte. It honestly is not. My understanding of this is very very basic.

However to claim that our consciousness somehow is subject to quantum entanglement means our brains have been smacked against each other and function by magic rather than depolarisation of membranes.

But TED took the threat seriously enough that Anderson’s letter warns against “the fusion of science and spirituality,” and most disappointing of all, it tags as a sign of good science that “it does not fly in the face of the broad existing body of scientific knowledge.” Even a newcomer to science knows about Copernicus, Galileo, and other great scientists whose theories countermanded the prevailing body of accepted knowledge. Einstein believed in a static universe at a time when early proponents of an expanding universe were ignored, and the early reception of the now-popular “multiverse” theory was scornful. The greatest breakthroughs rarely come by acts of conformity.

Good science can fly in the face of the body of scientific knowledge IF (and this is a big IF) you can provide evidence for your good science. IF Deepak Chopra and his pseudo-science friends could prove the existence of the Akashic Record and “Quantum Entanglement Of Brains” then we would give them Nobel Prizes.

To date not one piece of evidence has been submitted and instead we see presentations where the individuals try to lever scientific sounding words into situations.

Let’s get this straight.

Deepak and his friends are not Copernicus. They are not providing a mathematical set of reasons backed up by astronomy as to why the Sun is relatively stationary compared to the Earth. They are not Galileo who expanded on Copernicus and provided proof as to why the Earth moves.

Einstein grew up when the dominant theory was the static universe because there was no reason to think about an expanding universe and there was no evidence or method of testing it. When Doppler suggested the Redshift, people began analysing various galaxies for this effect. By the 1930s it was pretty widely known about and science adopted the expanding universe model and Einstein accepted it.

And all these theories were based on mathematics and above all were testable and falsifiable. At no point has Deepak Chopra or Sheldrake or Hancock made any postulates that were testable or based on known science.

Anderson’s letter is cautiously couched on the one hand — he takes pains to divorce his warnings from outright bans and acknowledges that the dividing line between real science and pseudoscience is hardly sharp and clear. But the dose of cold water is frigid enough, since his red-flag subjects include “healing” of any kind (his quotation marks) and using neuroscience to explain various mind-body puzzles (“a lot of goofballs” inhabit this area).

I am sure if I wished to present a TED speech (I don’t know how it works…) about the effect of Medicine in healing people he would have no qualms about it. What he has qualms about is quackery. I understand Anderson is wary of non-evidence based medicine as he rightly should be.

Deepak Chopra’s “TIM” fascination may seem harmless to people in the west who are generally of good health and so can indulge in it’s shennanigans but many people in India use TIM for serious conditions. Deepak Chopra’s “healing” kills people here.

And there are plenty of TED talks on Neurosciences. It’s just that what Deepak Chopra and his twin champions of Hancock and Sheldrake do is not considered Neurology nor is it considered Science. In fact one of my favourite TED talks was by a woman who had a stroke and related the experience of what a stroke meant to her consciousness and how she survived it.

TED finds itself on the wrong side of censorship, semi- or not. But this fracas actually opens a window. The general public — and many working scientists — isn’t aware that consciousness has become a hot topic spanning many disciplines, and its acceptability is demarked by age. Older, established scientists tend to be dead set against it, while younger, upcoming scientists are fascinated. There are any number of books on “the conscious universe.” There are peer-reviewed journals on consciousness and worldwide conferences on how to link mind and brain (the so-called “hard problem”). Nobody wants to guard the wall except the self-appointed watchers and minders who form a society for the suppression of curiosity (it should be noted that TED’s Science Board, which undoubtedly plays a role in this dispute, remains anonymous).

There are world wide conferences where people claim that vaccines cause Autism and world wide conferences dedicated to My Little Pony too. Doesn’t mean they are valid places to discuss science.

It’s straight simple. I can disprove Deepak Chopra. In fact? If I ever decide to go to a conference to meet skeptics I am totally willing to sit around in a pub and prove that consciousness is entirely chemical through the usage of alcohol. We can prove this through diseases like Alzheimer’s and things like depression and various other psychiatric issues. We can prove this through drugs such as weed, pain killers and LSD.

The fact of the matter is that consciousness is the operating system that allows us to perceive the world and operate our body. It is a function of our brain turning meaningless electrical depolarisations into a understandable input that allows us to interact with our environment in an intuitive fashion in the same way that the screen on our computer makes sense of all the “on/offs” as 0/1.

And here is the thing. I am MUCH younger than Chopra. I am less than half his age. I am on the edge of medicine and at no point is there a paradigm shift on the cards where consciousness is not going to be dictated by the structure, cellular shape and function of the brain.

Freedom of thought is going to win out, and certainly TED must be shocked by the avalanche of disapproval Anderson’s letter has met with. The real grievance here isn’t about intellectual freedom but the success of militant atheists at quashing anyone who disagrees with them. Their common tactic is scorn, ridicule, and contempt. The most prominent leaders, especially Richard Dawkins, refuse to debate on any serious grounds, and indeed they show almost total ignorance of the cutting-edge biology and physics that has admitted consciousness back into “good science.”

Because Deepak Chopra thinks science progresses by debate.

The only reason Deepak Chopra wants intellectual freedom is to be taken seriously as a “science” rather than to be called out for the quackery that his work really is.

We refuse to debate you because to debate you means that we would have to sit there and explain quantum mechanics to crowds of people and that requires a physicist. And it’s hard. It’s a really tough field that most of us don’t know anything about. Most people don’t know anything about medicine either. Which is why we don’t settle medical debates by standing in front of a crowd of laypersons and then debating whether drug A or B is better.

We do so by experimentation and testing.

And yes, we must show scorn, ridicule and contempt for quackery. Deepak Chopra has made his wealth on the sale of books where he flogs Eastern Religious Ideas and Traditional Indian Medicine wrapped in the camouflage of science. And the cutting edge research seems to be done entirely by Deepak and his friends and ignores actual medical progress in the field of genuine consciousness and instead wish to poison the well by utilising genuine research to validate their religious approach.

At the crux of their argument is to prove that humanity has a transcendent consciousness that is not attached to the structure of the brain. AKA a Soul.

Militant atheism is a social/political movement; In no way does it deserve to represent itself as scientific. Francis Collins, a self-proclaimed Christian, is an acclaimed geneticist who heads the National Institutes of Health. To date, Collins hasn’t let any White Walkers or dragons over the wall. Dawkins, who has a close association with TED, gave a TED talk in 2002 where he said the following:

However atheism and skepticism go hand in hand.

And Skepticism is heavily entrenched in the sciences. The very crux of atheism lies in the skepticism that the gods exist. An atheist is a type of skeptic and most atheists are also heavily involved in skepticism.

“It may sound as if I am about to preach atheism. I want to reassure you that that’s not what I am going to do. In an audience as sophisticated as this one, that would be preaching to the choir. [scattered laughter] No, what I want to urge upon you is militant atheism.”

I haven’t seen the Dawkins speech so I am unaware of whether he said this or not. But this seems like quote mining.

The foundation of Atheism is through skepticism in my case. I am an atheist because I am a skeptic. I cannot speak for others. I require proof. There are no gods because there is no proof of any of them.

Even if I were whatever a militant atheist is, I wouldn’t be wrong because there is no evidence of any god and so being an atheist is still correct. I know for a fact that Dawkins has stated that if you could demonstrate the existence of a god he would believe in it after appropriate testing.

However? To date not one person has provided such evidence.

Likewise? Chopra hasn’t provided any evidence either.

In a society where militant atheism occupies a prestigious niche, disbelief in God is widespread, but it isn’t synonymous with science. In his mega-bestseller “The God Delusion,” Dawkins proclaims that religion is “the root of all evil.” He describes teaching children about religion as “child abuse.” He spoke publically on the occasion of a papal visit to London calling for the Pope to be arrested for “crimes against humanity.” To propose, as Dawkins does, that science supports such extremist views is an errant misuse of science, if not a form of pseudoscience.

Atheists are a rather small minority in the grand scheme of things. Most of the world still believe in either organised religion or personal religion. To claim that Atheism occupies a prestigious niche is to be utterly blind. Atheists in many parts of the USA still have to feel the stigma of their lack of faith. Many people struggle with the lack of faith and to this day people still vote for people based on belief in a god rather than policy.

And outside the USA it gets worse. In many parts of the world, atheists are fair game and are attacked, jailed and even murdered.

The previous pope was complicit in the protection of sex offender priests (Lest we forget, it wasn’t just children but women and men who were vulnerable who were abused too) and aided and abetted the subversion of the law to save “face” rather than do the correct thing. This was a man who was responsible for an institution that had helped the spread of HIV, fought against the basic provision of women’s healthcare and access of couples to birth control and had encouraged homophobia across the globe. The pope may be considered a “nice man” but his actions were naught but continuing a harmful tradition no different from when the Church used to encourage hatred of Jews as doctrine.

TED is a huge enterprise bringing cutting edge ideas to the world, and local TEDx organizers will no doubt feel a chill when they read Anderson’s stern reproof: “It is not your audience’s job to figure out if a speaker is offering legitimate science or not. It is your job.” If the intent of this warning wasn’t explicit enough, TEDx rescinded their trademark from a recent conference in West Hollywood because of “questionable” speakers, causing the cowed organizers to cancel the event before they reconsidered and held it without the coveted brand name. A call to caution is hard to tell from a desire to censor.

When the Lancet ran Andrew Wakefield’s article on the MMR vaccine, they were tacitly placing a stamp of quality. The Lancet was a journal of incredible quality and is still (despite Wakefield) considered one of the premier peer reviewed journals in Medicine across the globe.

TEDx is beginning to occupy a similar niche. Placing the TEDx stamp on your speech is a hallmark of quality and interesting talks. It is validating pseudoscience. Many of the TEDx viewers are NOT experts but are lay persons wishing to expand their minds and see TEDx as a guarantee that opening their minds doesn’t mean that the speaker will not then proceed to flog pseudoscience or quackery.

It is therefore in TEDx’s interest to not allow quacks and pseudo-scientists to go on stage.

One of the authors of this article (Stuart Hameroff) recently gave a TEDx talk in Tucson where he made the point that critics of the possibility of consciousness outside the brain cannot explain consciousness inside the brain. While neuroscience is at a loss, the notion of consciousness being based on finer scale, deeper order quantum effects in microtubules inside brain neurons (the Penrose-Hameroff ‘Orch OR model) has been boosted by recent discoveries of quantum resonances in microtubules, and anesthetic action on microtubules. Quantum entanglement could account for Rupert Sheldrake’s findings, and consciousness occurring outside the brain. Stuart Hameroff’s TEDx talk ‘The future of consciousness‘ explains how this can scientifically happen. Should it be censored also?

If we invert the Tachyon Field we should be able to detect the Cloaked Bird of Prey. Make it so Mr. Worf…

Consciousness in the brain is based on the structure of neurons, the electrical conductivity and the macrostructure of the brain itself. In addition it is reliant on various proteins such as receptors, gated channels and neurotransmitters.

To keep in the previous explanation of Operating Systems, let’s treat our brain as a computer. We don’t know what the software code is that helps us run the operating system of consciousness. We don’t understand precisely how it works. To date we haven’t been able to replicate it by artificial means but we are learning.

Penrose-Hameroff is a very contentious proposed model. A lot of it’s proponents are big writers in “peer reviewed” journals such as Quantum Consciousness rather than any major journals.

The main objection to the Hameroff side of the theory is that any quantum feature in the environment of the brain would undergo wave function collapse (reduction), as a result of interaction with the environment, far too quickly for it to have any influence on neural processes. There are other points including the one where microtubules don’t fulfil any role in the transmission of electrical impulse and therefore in thought and are more important in the transport of things within the cell.

But the main flaw in TED’s position has been made abundantly clear. It isn’t the organizers’ job to exclude questionable science but a job shared between them and the audience. We’re all adults here, right? Any speculative thinking worthy of the name should make somebody in the audience angry, inspire others, and leave the rest to decide if a challenging idea should be thrown out or not. Any other approach casts shame upon tolerance, imagination, and science itself.

Just because you are an adult doesn’t mean you have the skills to understand a particular topic. I will fully admit that I don’t understand quantum physics except for the very basics. There is no shame in it. I bet quantum physicists don’t understand blood typing. And neither of us would understand how to fix our cars.

Without a system that keeps us safe and helps guarantee our security when picking mechanics to fix our cars we would be lost and be subject to the whims of uncontrolled mechanics.

To allow the pseudoscientific and the unproved and the fantastic into TED would harm TED’s reputation on the internet as a provider of interesting lectures from a variety of sources and on a variety of topics and instead turn it into a place where the genuinely good lectures are poisoned by the existence of the utter lemons from the pseudoscience brigade.

Deepak wants to sneak pseudoscience into TED in order to clad his Hindu Philosophy and TIM in more of the trappings of real science.

And this is how you pander to Game of Thrones Fans…

There is only one thing we say to Deepak Chopra…

Not Today!


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  1. 1

    Okay, the man is not exactly taken seriously by most people with half a brain. At the same time, I respect his business acumen in setting up an empire selling snake oil. Not my problem if consumers line up for that oil.

  2. 2

    Except when people do take him seriously. Many of whom are extremely powerful and influential because what he flogs LOOKS like science and sounds like science.

  3. 3
    Dan Allosso

    Good post! I’d only add, for amusement sake, this: http://www.wisdomofchopra.com/index.php

  4. 4

    I’m less concerned about people taking Chopra seriously than I am about people taking TED seriously. At its very best, TED allows decent thinkers and scientists to promote a watered-down, feel-good, sugar-coated view of what they’re working on in the hopes that wealthy people will give them some money. At its worst, it’s like a PBS fund drive for the 1-percenters.

    What’s most telling about Chopra’s hissy-fit is that he heard that they were not allowing pseudoscience, and he got all defensive and cried “censorship.” This despite the fact that, to my knowledge, he was never invited to present in the first place. So, all anyone has to do is say, “No pseudoscience allowed,” and then fail to invite Chopra. This tells you all you need to know about Chopra.

  5. 5
    Dan Allosso

    Dawkins did say that in 2008 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&v=VxGMqKCcN6A&NR=1 ), but it made complete sense in context. It was actually a pretty tame speech.

  6. 6
    M can help you with that.

    Quantum mechanics works at an atomic and sub-atomic scale

    Well, and the molecular level in a sense — it’s where orbitals come from. That’s the actual role of quantum-mechanical effects in consciousness; beyond a certain scale it becomes chemistry, which in some configurations becomes biochemistry, which when organized in certain ways can be a brain, with consciousness as a sort of emergent phenomenon involving a brain interacting with its environment. But direct quantum-mechanical effects at the scale of thoughts? As anything other than a strained and dubious analogy, no.

  7. 7

    Chopra abuses the word quantum in horrible ways. Even Terry Pratchett doesn’t do it like that, and he writes humorous fiction set on the back of a giant space turtle. And Pratchett’s use of the ideas is still more in line with reality than Chopra, who is supposedly writing informative pieces.

    Anyone who knows anything about the actual science behind quantum mechanics knows how quickly the effects fade as we scale up.

    But still, dress it up in the science jargon in order to sell it to the public. It doesn’t matter, but does Chopra really believe his own bullshit?

  8. 8

    I actually did not favor the “censoring* but would probably have written something fairly strong repudiating the two talks along the lines of “mistakes were made”. However, one should always keep in mind, whether one favors the censoring or not, that it is largely symbolic (the talks are not thrown into the memory hole; they merely cease to be listed as TEDx talks).

  9. 9

    Four of us (Stuart Hameroff, Rudolph Tanzi, Neil Thiese, and Deepak Chopra) have devoted years of research to neuroscience, clinical studies and consciousness.

    I would love to know what research into neuroscience by Deepak Chopra looks like. :-|

  10. 10
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    However the reason why “Big Pharma” works is because they are entrenched in actual fucking science.

    No, they aren’t entrenched in science. They’re entrenched in shareholder value and political power.

    The correct response to Big Pharma is “Proper Testing and Control” not “Witch Doctors”.

    The correct response to Big Pharma is the complete removal of corporations and the profit motive from medicine/public health, and the founding of medicine in humanistic values.

  11. 11
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Oh – and this is a relaxation device. Use as needed.

  12. 12

    1. Big pharma ™ use actual science to create technological advances.

    2. They can be controlled by legislation.

    3. They have budgets far higher than most national healthcare systems in terms of research because people loathe spending money on dead end research while BIg Pharma ™ use existing profits to offset research costs and are incentivised to do research so as to benefit from new discoveries.

    And I will one day work for profit. Just like you do. Living on below the WHO poverty line fucking sucks. And if I actually want to be a productive member of society, I will have to work for profit.

    UNLESS you write me carte blanche for stuff. As in “Avicenna gets a TV, Videogames, Flights, Holidays, Fancy Hotels, Books, Nice House, Good Clothes, Shoes, Exotic Food, Good Cars, Fuel…”

    I understand people assume that pharmaceutical companies are the evil but their medicine actually works. In fact our system researches medicine both for profit, charity and on a nationalised system. All three groups do research and that actually works.

  13. 13
    NateHevens, resident SOOPER-GENIUS... apparently...

    Am I the only one who wishes the SI unit for “bullshitting about science” to be measured in Deepak Chopras?

    Know what? If someone’s willing to work out the math on that, then I’m gonna start using it. We can make it a meme.

    (Don’t ask me to do the math. I need a calculator to figure out Graham’s number times 0.)

  14. 14
    Avery Thompson

    Know what? If someone’s willing to work out the math on that, then I’m gonna start using it. We can make it a meme.

    If anything, the standard SI unit should be miliChopras, because a single Chopra would be far too large to be useful.

  15. 15
    Daniel Schealler

    Dawkis did say that. It was in a TED talk that’s quite old now.

    Taken in context, Dawkins’ wording is delivered (and received by the audience) as a joke.

    In reality, Dawkins was advocating atheists to come out and get political.

    So yes. It was a quote mine.


  16. 16
    Daniel Schealler

    Also, I vote for the Chopra (C) and the deciChopra (dC) on a logarithmic scale.

    Mainly because the added confusion it would bring would be funny.


  17. 17
    NateHevens, resident SOOPER-GENIUS... apparently...

    I have the labels if someone can do the numbers:

    From smallest to biggest:

    yoctoChopra (yC) – 0.000000000000000000000001
    zeptoChopra (zC) – 0.000000000000000000001
    attoChopra (aC) – 0.000000000000000001
    femtoChopra (fC) – 0.000000000000001
    picoChopra (pC) – 0.000000000001
    nanoChopra (nC) – 0.000000001
    microChopra (µC) – 0.000001
    milliChopra (mC) – 0.001
    centiChopra (cC) – 0.01
    deciChopra (dC) – 0.1

    Chopra (C) – 1

    decaChopra (daC) – 10
    hectoChopra (hC) – 100
    kiloChopra (kC) – 1,000
    megaChopra (MC) – 1,000,000
    gigaChopra (GC) – 1,000,000,000
    teraChopra (TC) – 1,000,000,000,000
    petaChopra (PC) – 1,000,000,000,000,000
    exaChopra (EC) – 1,000,000,000,000,000,000
    zettaChopra (ZC) – 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000
    yottaChopra (YC) – 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

    Someone else will have to figure out how to use this objectively… that is, objectively measure the level/number of Chopras a particular piece of pseudoscience can be measured by. I fee like Chopra himself should not be the measure, because I think his shit frequently hits 1 YC… perhaps more…

    Also, my life would be completely made if this becomes a thing, for so many reasons.

    Make it a thing.


  18. 18
    Avery Thompson

    Ok, the Chopra unit:
    The Chopra (C) is a measure of how much bullshit there is in a given sample. Each bullshit statement is equivalent to 1 C of bullshit, so an article that makes 15 bullshit statements would be about 15 C’s. I tried to count Chopra’s piece featured in this article, but I realized that it would be at least 20 C’s and I don’t have that kind of time.
    The Chopra is a measure of quantity, that is, the total amount of bullshit. We can also measure the amount of bullshit per word count. This would give us the frequency of bullshit in a given piece. For instance, if you counted the number of words in the piece, you could calculate Chopras per word. However, this value would be extremely small (probably somewhere in the 10^-2 or 10^-3 range) so it would most likely be measured in the mili-Chopra range. This unit, mC/word, doesn’t have a name yet, but I’m open to suggestions.
    For spoken bullshit, you could also define a time frequency, mC/s. It might also be possible to define a time derivative, mC/s^2, but then it starts to get a little ridiculous.

  19. 19
    NateHevens, resident SOOPER-GENIUS... apparently...

    Just call it miliChopras per Word (mCPW).

    Thanks Avery. I’m now going to blog this… :D

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    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Ah. So you’re not interested in engaging with the actual material I present. Disappointing, if not particularly surprising. Very well.

  23. 23

    I discovered your blog website on google and look a few of your early posts. Continue to keep up the very good operate. I just added up your RSS feed to my personal MSN Information Reader. Looking for forward to reading more from you later on!…

  24. 24

    As another atheist medical student, I couldn’t agree more. I wish this kind of pseudoscience didn’t exist to muddy the waters. Science is hard enough as it is without overcoming new misconceptions advertised by conmen.

  25. 25
    Louis Burke

    Love the post, hate the idea of conciousness as software, the whole brain as computer analogy doesn’t really help in our endeavour to understand how subjective experience works. I think theories rooted firmly in biology and dynamical systems are likely to be more fruitful.

  26. 26
    Daniel Schealler

    @Louis Burke

    The software metaphor is a terrible one.

    But in fairness, I always thought that information theory would have a part to play in any understanding of consciousness. If consciousness involves states that change over time that have meaning, then that can be interpreted in the context of information theory, hopefully by someone with more expertise then my amateur ass.

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    I Get Mail – Hating My Soapbox » A Million Gods

    [...] there anything specific that I have done that makes my blog an invalid source? Considering on Deepak Chopra, I am both Indian (by ethnicity) and in Medicine. I am also well aware of quackery that comes from [...]

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