Deepak Chopra Embraces the Bogus

New Age opponent of science Deepak Chopra is at it again. (Previous posts on Chopra here.) The latest installment is Why Evolutionary Biology Embraces the Bogus (Part 1). There is little point in commenting on the bulk of this as one of those commenting at Huffington Post sums up the problem with, “a New Age charlatan is not my first choice to speak with authority on evolutionary biology.” In his previous posts on evolution Chopra has repeated the same objections raised by creationist organizations such as the Discovery Institute, and displayed no more understanding of the science than we see from the religious right. This is only part one, and apparently we must wait until part two to see how he attempts to throw this into something sounding like a coherent answer before he can be completely refuted.

The main reason I am not waiting until his argument is completed to comment is the absurdity of one of his examples:

Now let’s say that a man loses his job, becomes depressed, and wants a prescription for Prozac. What made him depressed isn’t the imbalance of serotonin in his brain but the loss of his job. Yet science continues to offer this kind of wrong explanation all the time. It mistakes agency for cause.

Chopra is mistaking the meaning of depression as used by the general public with the clinical definition. Depression in the sense used by the lay public to describe a person who has lost their job is totally different from clinical depression, which is caused by chemical imbalances within the brain and is a far more serious and disabling problem. Medications such as Prozac might be prescribed at the urging of the man who lost their job, but most physicians would recognize that this is not true depression even if giving in to the demands of the patient. True depression is a serious problem, and whether it is properly treated with medications and other modalities can determine if a person is able to enjoy life and function in the world. Stresses such as loss of a job might worsen the symptoms of someone already suffering from depression, but those with imbalances in neurotransmitters such as serotonin typically feel depressed even without any outside causes.

I suppose Chopra feels closer to the views of Tom Cruise on psyciatric treatment than he does to established medicine. He gives further insight into his views of science and medicine later in the article:

When a devout Christian asks God to heal her instead of going to the doctor, rationalists feel frustrated because in their eyes she is stubbornly relying on the wrong order of explanation (i.e., attributing disease to sin and cures to God’s mercy), but they rarely see the same flaw in themselves.

Apparently Chopra sees no distinction between biological explanations of disease and those who attribute disease to sin or acts of God. Chopra has come from echoing the arguments of creationists when discussing evolution to echoing religious fanatics in discussing medicine. Few express bogus ideas more regularly than Deepak Chopra.

Update: Response to Part 2 of Chopra’s post
Chopra Embraces Bogus Arguments Evolution

Related Stories:

Deepak Chopra’s False Alternative of Random Chance
Deepak Chopra and Considerations of Us vs. Them

Chopra Finds Proof of God in Yellow Flowers
Chopra: We Are In God As A Fish Is In Water

Chopra: If The Universe Didn’t Have Imagination, Neither Would We

Chopra Concludes, Responding to Criticism

One Less Moonbat in Existence

Moonbats on Evolution Part II: It is All a Jewish Plot

And even one post on an article where Chopra makes sense:

Analyzing George Bush

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11 Comments

  1. 1
    Ed Darrell says:

    A Christian with any sense prays, but also seeks the best medical help available. Jesus didn’t say “avoid physicians like the plague.” A rational Christian tempers her faith bolsters her faith stance with some Ben Franklin rationality — he said, remember, “God helps those who help themselves” — and gets the best medical attention possible, knowing that what may seem like a miracle today is just tomorrow’s applied technology.

    Norman Cousins faults the medical community for its failure to track spontaneous remissions with great enough accuracy; but he also faults nutcases who take such minor failures of followthrough and try to condemn the whole system, which works much better than anything else we have.

    Jonas Salk’s vaccine prevented a lot more polio than prayer ever cured. There’s a moral in that, for a discerning believer of any faith. (Which may lead one to ask, what’s Chopra got against such morals?)

  2. 2
    Chris says:

    “When a devout Christian asks God to heal her instead of going to the doctor”…hmmm, where’s the difference between that and “Cast out the evil spirits making me sick”?

    Chopra’s an idiot.

  3. 3
    Jeremy says:

    Apparently Chopra sees no distinction between biological explanations of disease and those who attribute disease to sin or acts of God.

    Well, that is a bit unfair. Science, strictly speaking, doesn’t provide meaning – religion, for better or worse, does. To the extent these rationalists want others to reject meanings they don’t accept, they are promulgating a belief system far outside the narrow purview of science. That’s not an indictment of science, though, but of smug authorities.

    Our sentience requires, it seems, certain narratives we tell ourselves in order to make sense out of life. Authentic science plays very little part in that narrative. That that frustrates people is totally irrelevant to Science.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    Science provides the explanation for disease which is necessary for treatment and possibly prevention. Whatever beliefs they want to add, such as attributing the disease of sins or acts of God, are pure fantasy. People may choose to turn to religious meanings and hope for cures, but this has no basis in reality.

  5. 5
    Jeremy says:

    Whatever beliefs they want to add, such as attributing the disease of sins or acts of God, are pure fantasy. People may choose to turn to religious meanings and hope for cures, but this has no basis in reality.

    Just because science doesn’t deal with it does not mean it’s necessarily pure fantasy. If you want to believe that, then fine. But that’s a belief that has absolutely zero to do with science.

    The beliefs you are dismissing are *ascientific*. They don’t preclude the scientific approach to phenomena. They key point Chopra was making, at least as I read it, was that rationalists browbeat people about not conforming to the rationalist belief system – such as it is. But it’s not science they’re promulgating – it’s an extrapolation from the scientific method into areas to which science is not suited.

    For example, science has nothing to do with whether God exists or not. Just because it operates without answering that question doesn’t imply any necessary belief (though people extrapolate from that and take sides, being human and all). Yet rationalists often deride religious or spiritual people. Which is fine, except that it’s not a scientifically substantiated position.

    Chopra is probably conflating obnoxious rationalistic preaching with what is otherwise a dispassionate, focused process called “science”. That is certainly an error. Again, there is a lot of human baggage caught up in science and you can’t just appeal to the platonic ideal. Science as we know it is not without a politics or a hierarchy – it is a social phenomenon. Heck, I don’t see how anybody could do research and not see that – scientists have the potential to demonstrate the same political neuroses that plague politicians and other workplaces. It’s human.

    Most of all, science is not about “the Truth” – it’s about predictability and models and a process. So to dismiss something that doesn’t conform to what you think “the Truth” is as fantasy is not a scientific opinion – it’s just a personal one. What you choose to believe in or disbelieve in is as arbitrary and whimsical as the beliefs of those whom you dismiss.

    And we all do it, because humans aren’t robots and they need more than science can offer.

  6. 6
    Ron Chusid says:

    Jeremy,

    The problem with Chopra is that he has a religious system which leads him to reject science. It is one thing for someone to have a religious system which tries to answers things which are not answerable by science, such as the existence of God. Chopra goes beyond this in many essays and actually argues that fundamental ideas of science are not correct when they contradict his new age beliefs.

    The causes of disease is one area where his views conflicts with science. The bulk of the posts here on Chopra deal with his rejection of evolution as he regurgitates the same arguments used by right wingers promoting creationism.

  7. 7
    Jeremy says:

    Chopra goes beyond this in many essays and actually argues that fundamental ideas of science are not correct when they contradict his new age beliefs.

    The question is not whether you agree with him or not, but whether or not this makes him some sort of problem in need of correction. He’s not saying, “let’s stop doing science”. It sounds to me like he’s saying, “let’s keep science confined to science and belief confined to belief, and stop conflating the two.” In no way do I think Chopra is trying to *convince* anybody of anything, but even if he were, so what? I hardly think mainstream science has much to worry about.

  8. 8
    Jeremy says:

    The problem with Chopra is that he has a religious system which leads him to reject science.

    We should all reject science as a way of providing meaning for our lives. That includes using science to purge the concept of meaning from our lives. Chopra may be a little out there but he’s not “a problem.”

  9. 9
    Ron Chusid says:

    Jeremy,

    This is just one in a series of replies to Chopra. The reason for this is his rejection of science. Science isn’t about “providing meaning for our lives.” It is the means in which we objectively find information about the universe, and test it to verify its validity, as opposed to following faith or claiming to get information from divine revelation. Using the scientific method is also important to protect against coming to the conclusions we would prefer as opposed to what the evidence actually shows.

    Chopra is definitely trying to “convince” people of many things in his series of articles which attack the validity of evolution.

    “I hardly think mainstream science has much to worry about.”

    Untrue. The acceptance or rejection of science and other forms of objective evidence is the major difference underlying the political battles of today. Chopra frequently repeats the exact same arguments against evolution provided by the Discover Institute as it attempts to prevent the teaching of evolution in the schools.

    Fortunately they are losing that battle, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing to worry about. Besides attacking evolution, which is a major basis of modern biology, fundamentalists (and their Republican lackeys) attack geology if it disagrees with the age of the earth and attack cosmology about the origins of the universe.

    Fortunately their is a divide between fundamentalists and conservatives on the science of climate change as many fundamentalists are beginning to question the wisdom of destroying what they see as God’s work, but there is still a divide by party line as to whether the consensus scientific findings are accepted.

    I’ve also had posts about people like James Dobson distorting science to attack homosexuals, and to support legislation restricting abortion due to allegedly causing pain in the fetus at a time when the fetus doesn’t even have a central nervous system yet. Conservatives push abstinence based sex education while opposing true sex education ignoring data showing that abstinence based education leads to more teen pregnancies.

    The same concept extends beyond science, as we see the alternative reality created by Fox News and the right wing noise machine as people vote based upon falsehoods such as fabricated stories of WMD in Iraq and a connection between Saddam and the 9/11 attacks.

    The Republican war on science is a serious problem and is fueled by the general lack of understanding of science in the general population. That is why people like Chopra, as well as the conservatives who do it more frequently, should be refuted when they attack science.

  10. 10
    Peggy McGilligan says:

    AS THE PLANET HEATS UP, YOU DON’T HAVE TO!

    AP – Al Gore has for a long time been full of hot air. He has a vivid imagination about the world. His mistrust of the seasons seems to stem from an episode of the Twilight Zone, in which the Earth gets too close to the Sun. Al is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures needed to create a more effective global antiperspirant.

    If college roommate Tommy Lee Jones, could save the City of Los Angeles from errant magma (Volcano), and the world entire from an extraterrestrial cockroach (Men In Black), then Al Gore deserves a prize for his initiative to combat global wetness. The same trusted formula that kept our leaders dry during the Cold War. Clinton tested: guaranteed to leave no trace.

    The committee that awarded Al Gore the Nobel Prize included a university president, a theologian, and a consultant. Moe, Larry, and Curly could not be reached for comment. And, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, with whom Gore shares the prize, does not carry out research, nor does it monitor climate or related phenomena. Given the newfound legitimacy for Global Warming, a “private group” out of Monterey, California, vies to seed the North Atlantic with iron oxide to help plankton absorb carbon dioxide (greenhouse gasses). Strategy: “cleanup the planet and make a buck on the side.”

    So, to whom did Al Gore donate the $1.8 million dollar Nobel purse? Who is the Alliance for Climate Protection? Perhaps not coincidentally, Al Gore is the founder and chairman of the § 501(c)(3) alliance. Three guesses who the IPCC are. But why should science be immune from grasping politicians? Aren’t they doing “good” for the collective? Aren’t their distortions justified, because they’re better than? Isn’t this the psychology of the left? Don’t the ends justify the means? After all, when it came to pirating the “Peace Dividend” to create that new cultural paradigm, the venture paid off: http://theseedsof9-11.com

  11. 11
    Ron Chusid says:

    There sure is something about Al Gore which makes the wing nuts rant even more irrationally than usual. But of course they know better the Nobel Prize Committee, and they know more than virtually every scientist in the world who works on climate change.

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