Huffington Post Worse Than Fox In Coverage of Quackery

It is an embarrassment to the “reality-based community” when The Huffington Post is found to be worse than Fox in promoting anti-scientific thought, at least with regards to homeopathy. I would  bet that if other areas of science were included the comparison would be different–such as with climate change. It is hard to predict which would be worse with regards to evolution considering all the material from Deepak Chopra at The Huffington Post.

Deepak Chopra Continues Absurd Attacks On Evolutionary Science

Never let it be said that I am any less tolerant of anti-science views from the left than from the right. I tend to concentrate more on the anti-science attitudes from the right primarily because they have far more impact on legislation than those from the left  I have pointed out many examples of Choprawoo in response to Deepak Chopra’s articles at Huffington Post. This time his battle against evolutionary science is seen in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Chopra often mimics the arguments of the Discovery Institute against evolution while cloaking them with new age verbiage. He uses an example which really says nothing about evolution to argue that evolution has been guided by the intelligence of the universe as opposed to natural selection.

It suggests that evolution itself has never been random but is guided by the principle of intelligence — not “intelligent design,” which is a red herring supplied by religious conservatives. The intelligent universe is a cutting-edge idea, not a throwback to scripture. As a theory, it gives us a much more elegant explanation for many things that are clumsily explained by falling back on randomness to explain every new development in Nature.

While not exactly the “intelligent design” of the religious right, Chopra’s views are equally anti-scientific. As  P.Z. Myers notes, “Chopra doesn’t know what evolution is.”

Those interested in the details can read P.Z.’s full post but the bottom line is that “Chopra invents this bizarre idea that an intelligent universe is pushing clever ideas into monkey brains, and is guiding ‘evolution’. It’s a crazy claim spun out of a fairly straightforward observation of entirely natural behavior by some monkeys.” Furthermore Myers says this about the story written by Chopra:

The colobus story is not an example of evolution at all — it involves no changes in, or transmission of, heritable traits in a population. It is explainable entirely in terms of simple behavioral plasticity, and requires no intervention by an external intelligence, challenges absolutely nothing in evolutionary theory, and doesn’t demonstrate any hidden forces. If he were to try and present such a fable at a scientific meeting, he’d be laughed out of the room.

The only mystery here is why newspapers like the San Francisco Chronicle continue to publish his drivel. Is someone under the misapprehension that he is a respected or even credible thinker? He’s a loon.

Out-of-Body Experiences Simulated by Stimulation of Portion of Brain

During a week in which UFO’s were part of the Democratic debate, it only seemed to make sense that today’s issue of The New England Journal of Medicine would include an article on out-of-body experiences. The report shows the sensation of an out-of-body experience being simulated by stimulation of the posterior part of the superior temporal gyrus. Figure A (above) shows a three dimensional MRI reconstruction of the brain overlaid with clusters of significant increases in brain activity. From the discussion:

It has been suggested that an out-of-body experience results from a deficient multisensory integration at the temporoparietal junction on the right side.1 This hypothesis has been developed from data on lesions, the results of transcranial magnetic stimulation, and electrophysiological findings in healthy volunteers and patients with epilepsy,9 as well as from single-scan, ictal single-photon-emission computed tomographic imaging and interictal PET imaging in patients with epilepsy.1 We used functional neuroimaging with a controlled design to capture the regions of the brain that are engaged during an isolated, pure state of disembodiment. The consistency of the evoked out-of-body experience in our patient and its relatively long duration allowed for the use of PET scanning to visualize brain areas that were activated during the out-of-body experience.

The activation of the area at the junction of the angular gyrus and the supramarginal gyrus on the right side is probably related to the feeling of disembodiment and may be a consequence of disrupted somatosensory (mainly proprioceptive) and vestibular integration. The supramarginal gyrus on the right side of the brain in humans is involved in the processing of vestibular information for head and body orientation in space.10 Electrical stimulation of the angular gyrus on the right side induces vestibular and complex somatosensory responses,5 suggesting that the angular–supramarginal junction might be involved in the vestibular somatosensory integration of body orientation in space.

The general area of the superior temporal cortex has been thought to embody an internal map of self-perception, as one component of human self-consciousness.7 During disembodiment, self-perception is altered, but global self-consciousness is retained. In contrast, during depersonalization and derealization, both global self-consciousness and self-perception are retained, but the person feels dissociated from the surroundings.3 Imaging studies have revealed that dissociation and depersonalization scores in subjects with depersonalization disorder are significantly related to metabolic activity in the inferior parietal cortex (Brodmann’s area 7B), suggesting that spatial mislocalization of the self in relation to the physical body (disembodiment) is associated with activation of the angular–supramarginal junction, as we have shown, whereas spatial mislocalization of the self in the surrounding environment may be associated with somewhat more dorsally located inferior parietal activation.11

In addition, the precuneus has been implicated as part of a functional network generating reflective self-awareness as a core function of consciousness.12 PET imaging has shown that the angular gyrus, anterior cingulate gyrus, and precuneus are functionally connected and synchronously active during reflective self-awareness.12 The precuneus is reciprocally connected to both the posterior thalamus complex and the inferior parietal lobule–temporoparietal junction.13

For some reason I suspect that Deepak Chopra might have a different idea as to what causes out-of-body experiences.

Deepak Chopra Confuses Magic Tricks for Science

Add spoon bending to the catalog of bizarre beliefs which Deepak Chopra subscribes to. At IntentBlog, Chopra wrote:

I have always maintained there is no such thing is supernatural or paranormal. All observed phenomena, if accurate, are natural and normal. We call something supernatural or paranormal when we can’t explain it. Once we know the explanation, its science. Before that it’s spooky. Everything I write about can be understood if you understand non locality and non local correlation and the inseparability of mind and matter as different expressions of consciousness. Let’s not waste any more time on spoon bending. For millions of people it’s now a trivial example of mind and matter as inseparably one.

I’ve had several previous posts noting how Chopra makes the same arguments against evolution as the religious right with a little bit of new age mumbo jumbo mixed in. Chopra has also written about astrology in a manner which demonstrates that he believes in it. In discussing spoon-bending Chopra falsely claims scientific support for his views when he states, “Once we know the explanation, its science.” He might have a valid argument if the phenomena he writes about could be verified, but his beliefs cannot pass the test of the scientific method. A commenter at IntentBlog posted an explanation for spoon bending from Wikipedia which shows that this has absolutely nothing to do with “mind and matter.”

In most cases, the trick uses misdirection, a basic tool of the stage magician. The performer draws the audience’s attention away from the spoon during the brief moment while he is actually bending it with his hands. The typical bend, where the bowl meets the handle, requires relatively little force. The magician then gradually reveals the bend. [1]

Uri Geller, in one of his performances, combines suggestion and misdirection. He starts by rubbing a spoon at the neck, where it already has a curve by design. As he rubs it, he remarks that the spoon is starting to bend, causing people to notice the curve. As he stands up to display the spoon, his body moves enough that the audience does not notice him also bending the spoon with his hands. The audience believes that the additional bending is merely a continuation of the imaginary bending he suggested earlier.[2]

Other methods use a metal spoon that has been prepared so that a simple flick will cause it to bend or break. This can be done, for instance, by repeatedly bending the spoon at the desired spot, until the metal cracks and weakens. If the spoon breaks, the magician holds together the two halves of the spoon as if it were unbroken, then slowly relaxes the grip, making the spoon appear to bend before splitting in two.[3]

If a magician has control over the viewing angle, the trick can be done by using a spoon that is already bent at the start of the trick. The spoon is initially held with the bend along the viewing angle, making it invisible. The magician then turns the spoon slowly to reveal the bend. [4][5]

Uri Geller has been caught using trickery to bend a spoon on video.

It is impossible to take Chopra’s writings seriously as science when he is so easily fooled by a simple stage trick and sees this as evidence that “mind and matter as inseparably one.” If this is the type of example Chopra uses to support his beliefs on mind and matter it is necessary to dismiss his conclusions as those coming from the deluded. There is much that we do not yet understand about the brain and consciousness, but this understanding will come from those who apply the scientific method as opposed to those who find evidence for their beliefs in such stage tricks.

Posted in Science. Tags: , . 1 Comment »

Stop Those Tax and Spend Liberals

The Club for Growth (which fails to recognize how sometimes government-financed infrastructure contributes to business growth) is going after a tax and spend liberal from Arkansas. No, it’s not a Clinton but Mike Huckabee. Here’s the text of an attack ad being aired in Iowa:

Announcer: There once was a governor from Hope, Arkansas, who raised taxes like there was no tomorrow.

Higher sales taxes, gas taxes, grocery taxes, even higher taxes on nursing home beds.

Raised spending by 50 percent too.

Who is that liberal tax and spend Arkansas Governor?

Bill Clinton? No. It’s Mike Huckabee.

He even wants to tax the Internet too.

Tell Mike Huckabee to give lower taxes a try.

The word liberal has been used in many ways, but by no stretch of an imagination would Huckabee meet any reasonable definition of liberal. This would make Mike Huckabee the only “liberal” I know of beyond Deepak Chopra who doesn’t believe in evolution.

I don’t know the situation in Arkansas, but based upon past experience with groups like this I bet that there is some creative mathematics going on to reach the figure of a 50 percent increase in spending. Considering all I pay in taxes, for the most part I’d prefer to see tax cuts whenever possible. I’d also prefer to spend the day at the pool reading instead of working, and eat chocolate for three meals a day. In the real world we cannot always have things as we want. Nationwide, tax cuts do not make sense when we are at war. Tax increases may or may not have been necessary in Arkansas, and without such specifics it is nonsense to attack Huckabee based simply on the fact that he raised taxes.

The most amazing thing of all about this ad is that they even feel it is necessary to spend the money to attack Huckabee.

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.

Related posts on Deepak Chopra

Moonbats to The Left, Moonbats to the Right

In one of today’s blogosphere debates, Moonbattery has taken on The Democratic Daily for promoting some of the nutty conspiracy theories regarding 9/11. I can’t argue with Moonbattery‘s take on these “tinfoil-hat ravings” and this is consistent with many other posts there which exclude The Democratic Daily from the reality based community.

If only Moonbattery could limit themselves to debunking such conspiracy theories. Ok, I’d even forgive a few chuckles. Unfortunately Moonmattery is guilty of quite a bit of moonbattery of their own. They portray the views expressed at The Democratic Daily as representing the “raw insanity driving today’s Democrat Party.” As long time readers here know, I left The Democratic Daily months ago finding that some of the views there were out of touch with both reality and liberal thought. I’m clearly not alone in that assessment as both readership and links to the site have dropped tremendously since I left. Moonbattery is practicing serious moonbattery in suggesting that the moonbat views at The Democratic Daily are representative of liberal belief.

Moonbattery also uses this to smear John Kerry, citing Pamela as “Hanoi John’s official blogger.” Early in the campaign, Pamela did have occasional posts on the Kerry campaign’s official blog. However, during the campaign she was removed from this position, and even banned from posting at the campaign’s official forum. (To be fair to Pamela, the latter was partially a matter of problems with the forum administrator who had a bad habit of banning Kerry supporters who got on his bad side. He even banned me on one occasion, but the campaign quickly overruled that and reduced his authority. Pamela did remain banned.)

The reference to “Hanoi John” is not the only slur on John Kerry, who has absolutely nothing to do with the these conspiracy theories. Moonbattery could do a much better job at debunking moonbat ideas if they stuck to the facts as opposed to promoting their own moonbat theories on John Kerry and on “liberal profs” teaching history classes.

There is also more on this at Screw Loose Change, The Jawa Report, and Mein BlogVault

Update: Pamela has gone into her “poor innocent me” act in a post at The Democratic Daily accusing me of harassing her. What she doesn’t admit is that she launched two attacks on me in the past few weeks and has been smearing me for months. I have made it clear that I intended to ignore her as long as she ceased her constant attacks on me. I have also warned her of the consequences if she did not.

Pamela denies taking any controversial positions. Maybe in her mind our disagreements do not represent controversial positions, but most would see it differently. We’ve disagreed over her belief in astrology, her belief in ghosts, her support for anti-evolution writings, her dismissal of holocaust denial, and her defense of Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitism.

Pamela also writes, “I am deeply saddened that I feel the need to distance myself from my blog at this time…” If I only had a nickle for every time she has said she was giving up blogging, including when she began having the above noted problems with the Kerry campaign and virtually every time we’ve had a dispute. One of the advantages of blogging is that the views and actions of others don’t really matter. When I found The Democratic Daily intolerable to remain at, it was an easy matter to start my own blog and what goes on there barely matters (other than for ocassionally having to defend myself from Pamela’s attacks.)

Update II: Pamela insists on keeping this going with post after post. She has once again assumed her role of blog police, saying it is never right for a liberal blogger to criticize anything said by another liberal. As should be clear to readers here, I call them as I see them, even if it means disagreeing with a liberal or agreeing with a conservative when they are right. It is also rather hypocritical of Pamela to complain about my responses to Kos for his attacks on Kerry now when she similarly criticized Kos over this herself. As usual, Pamela just loves to twist the facts to portray everyone but her as in some way evil. To Pamela, the fact that I have disagreed with other liberals justifies any type of attack from her.
Most of Pamela’s nonsense is not worth the time to respond too, but one other item is so illustrative of the absurd way she thinks that I cannot help but to note it. Pamela writes, “Since Ron professes to not believe in astrology I question why this is in his Blogger profile: Astrological Sign: Aquarius, Zodiac Year: Sheep.”

The reason it is in my profile is simple. When I signed up for Blogger, the form asked for my birthday, or maybe even for my sign, and I filled out the form. Astrology for most is a meaningless diversion and if Blogger put it in my profile it wasn’t an issue. Most people can have a laugh reading their newspaper horoscope while realizing that astrology is bunk, but Pamela sure went ballistic when I first mentioned that opinion at The Democratic Daily. As to why an understanding of science, as opposed to promotion of pseudo-science, is important, see the post I wrote after the initial post here.

This does not mean we can’t find amusement with astrology and other forms of fortune telling. I did get a laugh from opening a fortune cookie at lunch last week. The fortune said I should take a trip to the west, and I have recently planned a trip to San Francisco and vicinity. Of course I understand coincidence while others may not.

Pamela also takes a portion of a comment from me out of context to attack in her last post, and makes up some nonsense about blocking her trackbacks, but again, that is just typical Pamela being Pamela. No truth or fair play is ever to be expected.

Update III: Will the laughs never end today? We even have a commenter (who just must be a friend of Pamela’s) who is responsible for a first here at Liberal Values. I thought I’ve been hit with virtually every insult imaginable (in comments which usually don’t make it through moderation). Today we have a new one as someone came here to both defend astrology and to call me a “poopie head.” I’m afraid that admitting to a belief in astrology pretty much excludes one from being able to meaningfully insult anyone.

As moonbattery is the topic of the day, I’ll also note that a reader has emailed a tip that Deepak Chopra is at it again. This time he babbles about quantum theory and consciousness. Fortunately the commenters at Huffington Post usually do a good of debunking his nonsense and I might just leave this to them. I don’t know if I can handle the polling results on belief in evolution, astrology, and Chopra in one day.

Update IV: More in the email bag. A reader from Northern California wishes me a good trip to his region and requests to point out that “not all Californians are astrology-believing moonbats.” I never doubted that, but will still pass on his recommended links. Check out The Astrology Defense Kit from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific and the section on astrology at Bad Astronomy.

Update V: Showing that liberals and conservatives can join together in common cause, The Jawa reports on how I “was attacked by Pamela” and comes to defend against “the Twoofers and their ancillary legions of astrologers, Holocaust deniers, liars, huxters, frauds, film school dropouts and pizza delivery boys.” Now I’m awaiting input from the Ewoks.

Update VI: Shouting The Loudest In the Blogosphere

Update VII: New evidence came out debunking 9/11 denialism, frustrating the conspiracy theorists at The Democratic Daily leading to new round of personal attacks. My replies are here and here.

Update VIII: World Net Daily Attacks The Democratic Daily Over Violence and Porn–What Irony

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

One Less Moonbat in Existence

Hat tip to Swift for picking up this portion of an interview with Deepak Chopra in which we hear him tell the interviewer that he doesn’t exist!

Q: What happens when you die, Deepak?

Chopra: What happens when you die, is you return to where you always are. If you realize right now that there’s no such thing as a person, you’ll be all set.

Q: What do you mean, I’ll be all set?

Chopra: Then if you shift your identity to that consciousness that is differentiating as observer and observant, you’ll know there’s nothing to fear.

Q: You have no fear of death.

Chopra: No Sir! Why? Because I don’t exist in the first place!

Q: Can you get reincarnated as a soul?

Chopra: [Sighs] Wisps of memory and threads of desire, which are specks of information, latch onto specks of consciousness and show up as recycled human beings. But in the bigger picture, the observer, the observed, the process of observation, is a single reality.

Q: So… Deepak Chopra, as I know him [questioner taps the sitting Chopra solidly on the knee for effect] my friend Chopra… doesn’t exist?

Chopra: A transient behavior of… the total universe.

Posted in Religion. Tags: . No Comments »

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

Deepak Chopra is on to part seven of his review of The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, but has yet to provide any signs that he ever read the book. If he did, he certainly doesn’t understand any of it. Previously we “learned” from Chopra that we can prove the existence of God from the existence of yellow flowers and that “we are in god as a fish is in water.” In this installment, which he claims will be the second from last , we learn that “if the universe didn’t have imagination, neither would we.”

To Chopra, the universe really is a conscious entity with imagination. To attempt to put this installment’s absurdity into context, attempt to make sense of the full paragraph:

Nature is constantly remembering. Nature is constantly creating, exercising imagination, discovering quantum leaps. When hydrogen and oxygen combined, the result wasn’t another inert gas. It was water, and water represents a huge imaginative leap on the part of the universe. The reason one can say this with confidence is simple: if the universe didn’t have imagination, neither would we. That’s what it means to be imbedded in the field. Nothing we know about ourselves can be separated from what Nature displays.

Which finally, at long last, breathes new life into God.

Of course there is more in the post, and PZ Myers sums it all up:

Shorter Deepak Chopra: “I don’t know how DNA works, so there must be an omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient God-field who does.”

To that I would add that Chopra writes as iff human knowledge has hit a barrier and we will never learn more about what he finds mysterious. The things which Chopra finds to be a mystery today, such as how DNA works and how consciousness works, will inevitably be better understood as a result of scientific examination. At that point, Chopra finding God in human consciousness will be shown to be as absurd as finding God in storms, earth quakes, or other natural phenomenon as ancient humans did.

Related posts on Deepak Chopra