Movie Friday: Mlodinow vs. Chopra

As not only someone who believes in the usefulness of science as a way of understanding the universe, but who also tries to bring his limited understanding of science to bear in his day-to-day life, there is very little that irritates me more than pseudoscience. Science is elegant in its simplicity, but demands rigor and complexity of thought to implement properly. Pseudoscience is a bastardization of science. It requires nothing more than a smattering of understanding the results of the scientific process, and then the wedding of those concepts to draw a completely erroneous conclusion.

I have personal friends who engage in pseudoscience professionally. I can’t talk to them about their jobs, or I will become so enraged that I risk doing harm to the friendship. Luckily for me, I can draw a bit of vicarious satisfaction from exchanges like this:

Leonard Mlodinow is a theoretical physicist who has devoted his professional life to translating the products of actual science into a form that can be grasped by laypeople. Because of how bizarre theoretical physics is, it can be really though to get a firm handle on what exactly the universe is. Theoretical physicist design intricate and brilliant methods for making things that happen far below the level of our comprehension, let alone detection, exert influence that we can see and measure. As someone whose scientific work is incredibly macro, I have nothing but the deepest respect for people who are willing and able to delve into the deepest mysteries of existence, and who are skilled enough to bring something back to share with the rest of us.

To contrast, Deepak Chopra is a mystic. He’s a witch doctor that takes phrases or slices of concepts and twists them 90 degrees to fit into his bizarre world view. One of the most infuriating things he does (all the time) is to attempt to redefine concepts in such a way as to completely divorce them from any coherent usage, like he does with “consciousness” in the video. Saying that “consciousness” is “superposition of possibilities” is a complete nonsense phrase, and Mlodinow aptly and deservedly skewers Chopra for his babbling. Regular long-time readers will know that I’ve had my run-in with Deepak before, and he’s still beating that dead horse of falsehoods that don’t quite reach the level of honesty required to lie.

Of course Chopra has flogged his sideshow of bullshit to the tune of several million dollars, and he has done this by presenting himself as a “deep thinker”, or a guru who is wedding the more esoteric aspects of physics and biology to the ultimate questions of life. What he’s actually doing is giving pat answers to complex questions that fall apart underneath even casual scrutiny. As Mlodinow points out, the phrase “superposition of possibilities” contains words that are comprehensible, but arranged in such a way as to completely negate any semantic meaning. This is a typical Chopra-ism – something he has in common with Ray Comfort.

It takes hard work and diligence to discover the truth. One has to enter with ideas that are open to being corrected by observation, and an ego capable of recognizing when you’re wrong. These are not things that come easily to humans, but are crucial if we want to find real answers to tough questions. Deepak Chopra has none of these – just a slick tongue and a gullible audience.

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  1. Fiyenyaa says

    It’s funny how the guy’s response to a particular point of Chopra’s (words to the effect of “I understood all the individual words in that sentence, but I still don’t understand what you mean”) accurately convey my response to virtually everything that came out of Chopra’s mouth.
    It makes it very hard to communicate when someone has no idea what they are talking about and tries to obfuscate using fancy language that doesn’t really mean anything.

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