Deepak Chopra Thinks You Are Stupid

Posted January 2, 2009

Make no mistake — Deepak Chopra is very smart man who makes a lot of money saying (and getting people to believe) some very, very, very stupid things.

Apparently, he assumes that you, I, and his audience are stupid. I know that I am not stupid (although I often feel stupid). I am reasonably certain that you are not stupid. I do not think that his audience is stupid, either.

However, if you do not approach claims like his with a skeptical eye, if you believe or want to believe that they are true, it is unlikely that will see the inconsistencies in what he says due to confirmation biases. Those who do use justification to explain away discrepancies like the following:

Western science is still frozen in an obsolete, Newtonian worldview that is based literally on superstition — and we can call it the superstition of materialism — which says you and I are physical entities of the physical universe.

This was part of a speech given at an astrology conference in India held on December 17th and 18th (via Pharyngula; there is a link to the speech included in PZ’s post).

Yet, on one of the most ridiculous and frustrating episodes of Larry King live (video below; about 1 minute in) which took place on December 22nd he says:

There’s a lot of interesting science now that is suggesting… that our consciousness… that this part of us is not a product of our brain… …the evidence is pointing out that this consciousness is non-local, which means that it exists outside of space-time and therefore mathematically it is not possible to destroy this consciousness.


Okay, that’s not what I wanted to talk about. And don’t even get me started on the fact that CNN posted this crap, but no video with the only voice of reason on the episode, Michael Shermer. Setting aside the ridiculousness of his rhetoric, which relies mostly on non sequitors like one he uses in the parts of the quote I excluded (he is communicating with people via television, therefore his consciousness is not physical), what he says is not consistent.

Science cannot provide evidence that consciousness exists outside of what science is willing to “see”.

I suppose he could wiggle out of the contradiction by hiding behind the qualifier western in the first quote, but then to what evidence does he refer in the second? What is western science? What is not western science?

Clearly, Chopra thinks that either nobody will notice or nobody will care that he is so obviously telling people what they want to hear and not what he himself believes. I do not think this man swallows his own Koolaid.

By the way, there is nothing new in what these people [the see/hear/speak no evil triplets in the video] are saying. The issue of subjective experience and isomorphic constraint has been discussed in behavioral sciences for decades, particularly in research relating to human perception and responses to color. Chopra’s favorite fallback example regarding how we experience “red” is right out of the literature in anthropology and psychology. The historical problem, is that language is used to communicate experience, therefore were are constrained in our ability to understand the subjective experiences of others by the language we must use to describe it.

However, the methodological challenges of measuring subjective experiences are overcome every day. Knowledge about physiological correlates and technological advances in the ability to measure those correlates has reduced this problem a great deal. These challenges are not an excuse for filling in the gaps with immaterial BS such as that which Chopra preaches any more than it is an excuse for saying “God did it”. Since he continues to do so, however, I’m going to dub this form of logical fallacy the “Chopra-of-the-Gaps Argument”.

The abuse of science that I saw in that video disgusts me. Our attempts to operationally define consciousness are not attempts to “find” consciousness. The term consciousness refers to a nonphysical construct. So does the term classification, yet we do not assume that some supernatural force or object must exist for classification to exist.

The issue in science always has been one of definition and the last decade or so of work has been piling up in one direction, leading squarely to the conclusion that “consciousness” can be measured through brain function — a physical process.

I think that what these people are trying to say can be summed up in a simple syllogism:

There is no scientific evidence that a nonphysical consciousness exists.
Science is limited to describing the physical world.
Therefore, there is evidence that a nonphysical consciousness exists outside the physical world.

They are actually in the business of defining terms and calling those definitions “evidence” while arguing using a well-known logical fallacy called “denying the anticedent“. In other words, it is BS.



Sean the+Blogonaut on January 2nd, 2010 at 23:42:

Hey if he thinks I am stupid the feelings mutual :) Nice break down of their logic

Scott H on January 3rd, 2010 at 11:39:

I guess I fundementally disagree. I think he does believe every word of it.
I certainly don’t think he is a very smart man.
I think a complete lack of ability to critically think and reason explains his behavior at least as well as deliberate fraud.

Laura on January 4th, 2010 at 05:26:

Hm, I often wonder if these types believe what they claim.

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