Chopra Woo Versus Irresposible Astrologer

With all the talk of astrology and other bogus ideas over the past week or two, I really got a good laugh from this item emailed by a reader, via James Randi. Deepak Chopra, new age charlatan, takes on the age old favorite of charlatan, astrology. The question is raised of whether we should believe an astrologer who provides a prediction of bad things to come. Here’s the question raised to Chopra:

Q: How does one let go of ideas that were implanted in our minds at such a young age? For example, when I was in the 7th grade, an astrologer told me that I would have a nervous breakdown at 35. All these years, I have been plagued by anxiety and now as I approach my 35th birthday, it’s getting worse.

Does Chopra come through and tell the questioner that its all a bunch of bunk, and that an reading taken in 7th grade has no predictive value for age 35, or even when in 7th grade. Well, no. Here’s his answer:

A: First of all, any astrologer who tells you that you are going to have a nervous breakdown, without telling you what you can do to avoid or eliminate the problem beforehand, is doing you a grave disservice. The value of an astrological reading is to discover the likelihood of certain potentialities and then to provide information and techniques to help you manifest the outcome that you actually want. It should empower you with knowledge of how to shape your destiny, not make you fatalistic about it.

Don’t allow your anxiety about this prediction of a nervous breakdown to manifest the very thing you fear. If you have psychological issues and defenses that you think might make you susceptible to a nervous breakdown, then work on those issues now to develop the emotional strength and resiliency you need to face whatever the future brings.

Well, Deepak sure put that charlatan in his place, or some place, but clearly not a place which makes much sense.

Update: What a difference a week makes. Last week, Liberal Values was the target of a vicious smear campaign for taking a stand against astrology, conspiracy theories, anti-Semitism and Holocaust Denial. Today my views on astrology earned the blog a link from Pharyngula. This post is linked in a post responding to Chopra crying about “nastiness of the blogosphere’s reaction to his idiocy” as one of several examples of such idiocy.

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2 Comments

  1. 1
    Dyon says:

    I don’t know much about Deepak Chopra, but I think your criticism of him here may be unnecessarily harsh. While the astrologer who told a teenager to expect a nervous breakdown in 20 years was certainly irresponsible, any relationship between Chopra and that astrologer’s “prediction” is trivial compared to the concerns of that clearly anxious, almost-35-year-old person today.

    That person clearly has at least some belief in the authority of astrology, or he/she wouldn’t be asking this question now. Could such anxiety contribute to a self-fulfilling prophecy, as Chopra suggests? I don’t know. Is the anxiety itself a psychological problem? Yes. If Chopra had responded by pointing out the fanciful nature of astrology, he would have both trivialized the questioner’s worries and risked sparking resistance and rejection from the questioner. Both results would have been counterproductive.

    Chopra’s actual response, on the other hand, seemed aimed to give the questioner some sense of power or control over his/her own emotional state. Whether such a sense is a magic bullet to a happy existence, as many self-help charlatans suggest, is of course an open question. But in the case of this questioner, it might well be a useful tool.

    Unless the questioner had A LOT of faith in Chopra himself, it’s unlikely Chopra would have been able to move the questioner from an anxious (and superstitious) state of mind to a state of rational, enlightened rejection of the entire pseudoscience of astrology in such a brief interaction (even if he had wanted to). On the other hand, by offering a limited criticism of the astrologer in question, without attacking the foundational beliefs of the questioner, Chopra may actually have done a little bit of good here. Not as much good as some actual therapy, of course, but I don’t think it’s wise to respond to anyone who voices a deep-seated anxiety to tell them out-of-hand that their fears are groundless and silly.

    I don’t have any bias for or against Chopra; I’m certainly willing to believe he’s a charlatan, as you say. Still, one trait many successful charlatans share is a powerful psychological insight (whether through training or instinct). That’s how they become successful. I see the value of revealing charlatans and attacking them for exploiting their marks for their own profit, but why chastise one for a small bit of help he may have given someone along the way?

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    Dyon,

    If this was said in a private counseling session then I might agree. However this is somehting which Chopra posted as advice for the general public and not just for the benefit of a single individual. Therefore I see this as an actual endorsement of astrology by Chopra, even if he disagrees with the acts of the astrologer mentioned.

    What we really have here is a dispute between differnt believers in astrology as to the correct manner in which to practice astrology.

    I also found this noteworthy as I’ve had multiple posts in the past debunking attacks on science from Chopra. These have primarily related to his use of essentially the same arguments used by fundamentalist christian creationists to attack evolution.

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