Yesterday’s debate between Dawkins and Chopra

November 10, 2013 • 9:50 am

I forgot to post about yesterday’s live-streamed debate between Richard Dawkins and Deepak “Quantum” Chopra at the Ciudad de las Ideas conference in Puebla, Mexico. Fortunately, it’s now been put on YouTube, and I’ve embedded it below.

The first five minutes are plenty weird (and superfluous), with a bunch of harlequins and pirates prancing about onstage. WHY? Then Dawkins, Chopra, and moderator (and organizer) Andrés Roemer enter through a picture frame. Andrés introduces them in Spanish at length. If you don’t speak Spanish and want to skip the pyrotechnics and introduction, the English part starts at 13:10.

There’s roughly an hour of discussion, and I must confess that I haven’t had time to watch it. I’ve listened to bits, and it’s the usual Chopra blathering. At about 26 minutes in, The Deepak goes on about the purpose of evolution being the “production of maximum diversity” for “that is what we see.” I suppose the purpose of tsunamis is death, then, for “that is what we see”. Deepak needs to learn the difference between “purpose” and “effect”! Richard calls him out for using a “word salad” of scientific terms that Chopra doesn’t understand.

Okay, I have to stop watching this and get to work.

For those of you who do watch it (or saw it live-streamed yesterday), weigh in below.

Chopra is an intensely irritating man, and willfully stupid—indeed, duplicitous—because his errors have been pointed out to him many times.  Of course he has a right to blather as much as he wants, but thank Ceiling Cat that people like Dawkins, Shermer, and Harris call him out for his obscurantism.  Of course some of you may feel that such debates are pointless, and I’m on the fence about that.

118 thoughts on “Yesterday’s debate between Dawkins and Chopra

  1. I don’t know if the debate is pointless, but I think it is pointless for me to spend my Sunday morning listening to Choprawoo. I’m going to go make something to eat instead.

    1. I prefer to call his characteristic brand of woo “Choprolite” and his fans “Choprophiles”. Why settle for something so bland as “Choprawoo” (no offense, Orac) when his name presents a unique opportunity for puerile but evocative wordplay 😉

      1. Something to eat? “Word salad”? 😀

        🙂

        Talking of word salad, today I read what Sarah Palin is offering in place of Obamacare:

        “The plan is to allow those things that had been proposed over many years to reform a health-care system in America that certainly does need more help so that there’s more competition, there’s less tort reform threat, there’s less trajectory of the cost increases, and those plans have been proposed over and over again. And what thwarts those plans? It’s the far left. It’s President Obama and his supporters who will not allow the Republicans to usher in free market, patient-centered, doctor-patient relationship links to reform health care.” http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2013/11/sarah-palin-obamacare-alternative-health-care.html

        Every time I think I’ve finally managed to get my head wrapped round it, a blue screen appears and I have to reboot.

        Pardon the digression.

      2. I’ve been thinking for a while of what the menu should be for a fancy gathering of the godless. Some of this is a bit fuzzy, but you’ve convinced me of at least one bit that’s non-negotiable.

        Here’s where I’m at so far:

        Soup: Holey Cow soup — French onion soup with beef stock topped with Emmentaler and sourdough (which raises itself).

        Salad: Word Salad — some variation on the pasta salad theme, with alphabet noodles. I’m sure there must be die templates for that sort of thing; worst case, I could cut them with a plotter-style paper cutter I have.

        Appetizer: ???

        Main course: Cheeses Fried in Lard, Lamb with Cod — Not sure, exactly, how this would work, but I’m thinking of small meatballs with ground lamb and cod and at least two complementary cheeses all mixed together, breaded with crushed communion wafers (or, perhaps, fresh homemade matzoh meal) and deep fried in lard. Probably served with a reduced red wine sauce.

        Dessert: Sweet Cheeses Cake — My Dad’s cheesecake recipe, upon which I would not think to attempt to improve.

        Suggestions most welcome, though I have no clue when I could possibly think of even pretending to attempt to actually create such a meal. (But anybody who wants to run with it, please do — and please send me an invitation!)

        Cheers,

        b&

        1. Appetizers could include with what the Quebecois call “oreilles de criss”. (These are often served as that at “cabane a sucre”.) With that and the cheeses fried in lard, there’s enough fat and salt in the menu to produce a few heart attacks, though.

  2. It’s a shame that so many of the YouTube comments can be exemplified by the first I came across:


    I loved this debate! It is becoming clear to me that Richard Dawkins and those who applaud him simply do not have the capacity to understand abstract words and terms. I was touched by his honest attempt to listen and understand what Deepak Chopra was saying, and his frustration when he couldn’t follow anymore. He obviously can’t follow abstract reasoning, which is where evolved science dwells now. I have (blind?) faith that with patience and time, he can evolve too. I might be wrong though 🙂

    To be fair, the woomongers are getting slapped down; it’s just a pity that clearly so many have been deceived by Chopra’s BS. (And, of course, we’ve no reason to believe the slappings-down will have any beneficial effect on the deluded; they’re probably just being dismissed as further instances of “arrogance”.)

    1. About Chopra’s BS, and why people lap it up.
      Bill Maher, in his remarkable movie RELIGULOUS, offers this comment, which goes deeper, in its psychologic intuition of ordinary minds, than what Dawkins offers as rational explanation of why religious fantasies appeal to so many.

      Maher is commenting on JOSE LUIS DE JESUS MIRANDA, Growing in Grace Ministry, Miami, Fla. — some poor guy from Puerto-Rico who came to Miami and passed himself off as the new incarnation of Jesus. Maher cannot believe that this simple charlatan has gathered a following of 100,000 believers.

      Bill Maher: [in a deleted scene on the DVD] “No, it is not a surprise that a person would want to be a prophet. What’s ridiculous is that other people let him. It’s just too easy to start a religion. All you have to do is: A. think up some really powerful stupid shit. Some stuff that is so idiotic and weird that a person who believes it will be proving that ultimate virtue of faith; B. throw in some entitlements like life after death, washing away sins and free dental or whatever; and, C. wait. Just wait. Just say your bullshit and stick to it. Believe me, if you do that, if you just say it, they will come.”

      [Reported in QUOTES from RELIGULOUS by IMDb, at
      http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0815241/quotes.

      Then, it’s not the quality of the BS or its inconsistencies, or its very irrationality, that count, it’s “sticking to it”.
      Invent your fantasy, and keep repeating it until the cows go home. You’re bound to find followers and believers. That is how Paul and the Early Christians flourished. This is how the Gospels fascinated the Greco-Roman world and, through sheer repetition of loudly-voiced assertions every Sunday over the centuries, came to be regarded as absolute truth by people, who otherwise seemed to have been sane and sound.

      1. For ease to amass followers of a religion, check this out:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kumaré
        (also watch that documentary; unbelievable).

        If this indeed happened, the ingredients to get people to lap up a new religion appear much simpler than your list of A&B&C; all that is necessary is to speak muddled half-truths and adopt a fake Indian accent.

        I wonder whether Chopra would be as popular without that accent.

    2. I haven’t watched the debate, but this quote about how ‘atheists can’t understand abstractions’ is a common accusation from theists in general — and of course they’ve gotten it backwards!

      It’s atheists who can consider a concept like “love” and understand it as an abstraction, an idea which draws from a lot of different concrete experiences and behaviors, yet which has no separate existence of its own. The belief that abstractions are actually concrete — that they’re essences or forces or energies or beings — is the mark of a mind which is still stuck in a childish clunky literalism.

  3. Deepak drives me so crazy. He makes so many assumptions in the form of “fine tuned” then throws in abstractions like “quantum”. Ugh. I just want to skip what Deepak says and listen to Dawkins.

    1. I think that Chopra and his kind get ‘fine tuning’ arse about face deliberately. If asked the ‘chicken or egg’ question, I’d bet he’d say ‘chicken’.

      I find Chopra very difficult to stomach. Even without the crazy, wilfully ignorant ideas dressed up as ‘theories’. I can’t stand the monotonous drone of his voice. Worse than fingernails down a chalkboard or two blocks of polystyrene rubbed together. It’s as if he’s regurgitating a poorly written script, memorised the night before and delivered with all of the enthusiasm of someone who doesn’t really believe or understand what they are saying. I couldn’t possibly be right, could I?

  4. Calling the Deepster “an intensely irritating” and “willfully stupid” person is very diplomatic of you.

    This man is a Moran and I indeed do fail to understand why a man of Dawkins’ stature would engage this dolt in an intellectual exchange on just about subject.

    1. Googling Deepak Chopra net financial worth produces results around the $75M mark plus gross income of around $15M/yr

      I take some comfort from knowing that RD’s wealth exceeds this figure somewhat & it will be put to good use far into the future

      1. That money pretty much proves that he’s not a Moran in the true sense of the word.

        “Duplicitous git” may be more valid.

        1. The dividing line between Moran and non-Moran is not a financial one. I wish it were.

          The Koch bros have more money than all of the Popes to have ever poisoned the earth and they work daily to subvert democratic rule, the vote, egalitarianism, climate science, in fact, the truth. Yet, these kinds of people represent Morans in the “true sense of the word.

  5. I’ve got stuff that needs be done today…which means I’ll go ahead and let this play in the background so I can mostly ignore it. All the neighbors are doing yardwork or that sort of thing, so it’s not like there’s the usual silence to enjoy anyway.

    b&

  6. “Words are like leaves, and where they most abound
    Much fruit of sense beneath is rarely found.”

    Alexander Pope from “An Essay On Criticism”

  7. The announcer starts out by saying that this is “the encounter of the century,” so of course there have to be pirates and harlequins in the presentation. And they are immensely more entertaining than Chopra.

  8. This is my first comment here. I hope my english is sufficient. I am half way through the debate and I had to stop for a while. Chopra is stretching the definitions of the words sentience, awareness and consciousness so far as to include pretty much every single particle in the universe. Because everything that exists can interact with something else he thinks that means its aware or sentient.
    Well if you think these debates are not pointless maybe this changes your mind.
    Dawkins is getting pretty upset with this nonsense and calls Chopra out on it. His defense is “Yeah, well I talk to a lot of scientists.”

  9. Of course some of you may feel that such debates are pointless, and I’m on the fence about that.

    I think they’re not pointless, but it’s sad that they’re necessary. One can argue that fighting ignorance is a moral responsibility of learned men (and women), but don’t you long for the time when smart people have real debates, where great minds clash, disputing weighty universal ideas or pressing issues of the day? Instead, we get someone like Richard Dawkins wasting his time on Chopra’s nonsense.

  10. Well. I’m glad that didn’t stop me from being productive.

    Chopra really is the master debater of the bait ‘n’ switch form. Richard really laid it bare in that whole exchange about the consciousness / awareness of single cells and atoms, and then again on Chopra’s interchangeable usage of “quantum leap” in the colloquial and scientific senses.

    And Chopra actually took ownership of his bullshit, in citing the fertility of sacred cow manure! Either that’s some strange attempt at self-deprecating humor that turned into an own goal, or he’s even thicker than I thought. Probably both.

    Regardless, I would have rather Richard spent the time on something more interesting — perhaps even the evolutionary development of consciousness. Not directly his area of expertise, but it overlaps with his work in ethology in such a way that I imagine, were he to spend a year or three on it, he’d have some of the most fascinating of all insights to offer.

    Cheers,

    b&

    1. I had to look up “quantum leap”. Seems it is a poetical term for electron transitions.

      Such transitions are as much ‘leaps’ as electrons are classical ‘particles’. They can measure transition times too.

      1. The common usage of the term is actually entirely divorced from actual quantum physics. The transition from horse-and-buggy to the automobile was a quantum leap, as was the transition from piston-powered aircraft to jets. It’s as much a marketing buzzphrase as anything else; a computer with 12 Gbytes of RAM might be a quantum leap over one with a paltry 8 Gbytes, depending on the marketing agency.

        Remember, the people using the term might not even be able to vaguely describe the solar system model of the atom, let alone have a clue about electron shells, ionization, excitation, fluorescence, and the rest.

        b&

        1. I think it must have been meant ironically at first; after all, a quantum “leap” in physics is about the smallest leap one can have in a given context. Since the slang means something extraordinarily large, this reversal suggests the irony …

          1. Well, in a physics “quantum leap”, a system jumps from one state to another state without going through any intermediate states (because the intermediate states don’t even exist).

            This seems to match reasonably well to the popular meaning, of jumping rapidly from one state to another when you might expect a slow transition through intermediate states.

            1. Thank you, Carl W. While I was formulating my own expression of this, you got in there first and saved me the bother.

              It worries me a bit that followers of a science bl*g (albeit a biology bl*g rather than a physics bl*g) were having difficulty with this.

              1. Im not sure were having difficulty with /this/; rather, I dont think /this/ is what people generally have in mind when they use the term; i.e., for any /big/ change rather than a discontinuous one. (I havent listened to the part where Chopra uses this.)

                /@ | Barcelona

                >

            2. I always thought the term “quantum leap” had its origin in the extraordinary (and sudden) shift from traditional atomic physics to quantum physics, especially with regard to the discovery of subatomic particles and the breakdown of macrophysical rules like General Relativity.

              I read it as a monumental shift in understanding, like the difference between analogue and digital transmissions, or the difference between mechanical devices and electronic devices. Or the transition from concrete to abstract thought.

    1. Chopra hasn’t endorsed mass child rape and genocide. Craig has.

      Also, Chopra has some credentials and a great deal of popularity, and he does a lot more than just debate people. Craig is just a gadfly who does nothing but challenge people to debates.

      b&

  11. I tried. Can’t stand Chopra’s chant-babble preaching. I think Dawkins is wasting his time condescending to share a stage with that fool.

      1. Really?

        I’m actually glad he did it.

        Chopra’s babble was there for all to hear and those on the fence with working bullshit-meters got a perfect display of a charlatan anno 2013 in action.

  12. Chopra doesn’t debate. He preaches in a monotone voice and randomly mentions different scientific terms in a steady flow without hesitation. He was not there to discuss the topics and he didn’t really address any of the questions posed to him, but swiftly shifted to his “all-is-one-and-the-universe-is-conscious” blabber.

    Chopra appears to be convinced that he is on to some grand unifying theory/philosophy about the universe and the things in it( this is where he starts mixing up biology, chemistry, physics, psychology, etc. ) and he is here to share the good news.

    Just buy his books and the truth will set you free.

    I’m sorry, but I have to quote good ‘ol Hannum: “There’s a sucker born every minute”.

  13. I simply do not understand why serious people like Harris and Dawkins allow themselves to be devalued merely by sitting on the same platform as a charlatan like Chopra. I understand that the urge to promote one’s book may cloud one’s judgement, but surely there is a limit.

    P.S. Am I alone in making the subconscious connection between Chopra and κόπρος?

    1. You might be. How many people here speak ancient Greek? I do understand how you might think of κόπρος when listening to Chopra though. I had to take my watch off (as the saying goes) because it was getting pretty Deepak in κόπρος when he was speaking.

  14. Here is the quote Deepak referenced regarding Freeman Dyson saying that atoms have minds. Dyson is a Christian who sees no incompatibility between his religious beliefs and scientific background.

    “My personal theology is described in the Gifford lectures that I gave at Aberdeen in Scotland in 1985, published under the title, Infinite In All Directions. Here is a brief summary of my thinking. The universe shows evidence of the operations of mind on three levels. The first level is elementary physical processes, as we see them when we study atoms in the laboratory. The second level is our direct human experience of our own consciousness. The third level is the universe as a whole. Atoms in the laboratory are weird stuff, behaving like active agents rather than inert substances. They make unpredictable choices between alternative possibilities according to the laws of quantum mechanics. It appears that mind, as manifested by the capacity to make choices, is to some extent inherent in every atom. The universe as a whole is also weird, with laws of nature that make it hospitable to the growth of mind. I do not make any clear distinction between mind and God. God is what mind becomes when it has passed beyond the scale of our comprehension. God may be either a world-soul or a collection of world-souls. So I am thinking that atoms and humans and God may have minds that differ in degree but not in kind. We stand, in a manner of speaking, midway between the unpredictability of atoms and the unpredictability of God. Atoms are small pieces of our mental apparatus, and we are small pieces of God’s mental apparatus. Our minds may receive inputs equally from atoms and from God. This view of our place in the cosmos may not be true, but it is compatible with the active nature of atoms as revealed in the experiments of modern physics. I don’t say that this personal theology is supported or proved by scientific evidence. I only say that it is consistent with scientific evidence.”

    1. Thanks for digging that up — I was hoping somebody would.

      Looks like it’s not a quotemine after all — and that Richard sure was right in preemptively dismissing it if it wasn’t a quotemine.

      But, in fairness, it’s the exact same batshit fucking insane “even atoms have consciousness” bullshit that Deepchoke himself was spewing.

      I simply cannot fathom what could possibly drive a modern person to thinking that everything is conscious. This goes waaaaaay beyond primitive animism, and is even less sophisticated than Four Elements chemistry. At least that eventually evolved into alchemy, which is rocket surgery compared to what these guys are on about.

      b&

      1. The belief that “everything is conscious” is called Monistic Idealism and it has three main virtues.

        1.) Technically speaking, it is unfalsifiable. There can be no evidence against it.

        2.) Anything which supports mind/body dualism (ESP,NDE, ghosts) can be used as evidence FOR monistic idealism and AGAINST materialistic monism.

        3.) It makes you sound more sophisticated than those people who believe in an “old man in the sky with a beard” and you can laugh at the atheists who must think you mean that.

        1. Sastra:

          I think you’ve got it right.
          I watched the whole debate, and found it entertaining, and instructive about what Chopra is trying to sell.
          If Dawkins chose to go to Mexico, he must have decided that it made a lot of sense to confront a mystic like Chopra in a country where superstition and primitive Christianity are rampant. No need to double-guesss him.

          At some point Chopra asks Dawkins: Have you ever had the experience of self-reflection, etc…? Bill Maher would have immediately answered: “Of course, never.” But Dawkins does not have that spontaneous sense of humorous repartee.

          Yes, it seems that what Chopra is saying is: We experience consciousness, and all we know that exists is through consciousness. Consciousness can make choices, hence any change is labeled by him “quantum leap”. However, we experience consciousness as part of the universe, hence we are the carriers of consciousness in the universe, we are its agents. And everything exists in this framework of consciousness.

          Yes, that is not very different from the Gnosticism of the 2d c., or the neo-platonism of Plotinus, where all minds are finally emanations of the final consciousness. Or the Idealistic Monism (as you rightly mention), as for instance most of German philosophy of late 18th c. and 19th c. Which even affected the French Henri Bergson in his theory of the “Elan Vital” (combining Plotinus and Darwin, monism and evolution) which gained him the Nobel Prize in 1927.

          To me anyway, it seemed that Chopra was recycling the ideas of Freeman Dyson, adding the idea that any spontaneous radical change (as in the quantum leap of an electron, which is microscopic) is a mark of the “mind”:
          “It appears that mind, as manifested by the capacity to make choices, is to some extent inherent in every atom. The universe as a whole is also weird, with laws of nature that make it hospitable to the growth of mind. I do not make any clear distinction between mind and God. God is what mind becomes when it has passed beyond the scale of our comprehension. God may be either a world-soul or a collection of world-souls. So I am thinking that atoms and humans and God may have minds that differ in degree but not in kind.”
          This is not much different from classical German Monism of the 19th c., embellished with words borrowed from concepts of modern quantum physics.
          I found Dyson, as a physicist, pretty brave to assert that “atoms and humans and God may have minds that differ in degree but not in kind.” How does he know that? The “emanation” of God in the atom must be extra minuscule indeed.

        2. “The belief that “everything is conscious” is called Monistic Idealism and it has three main virtues”

          Seems to me that it is also called “Animism,” and it is one of the crudest, most simplistic and juvenile forms of religion – and also my least favorite magic system in fantasy novels, such as “So You Want to Be A Wizzard” and “The Legend of Eli Monpress”

          1. As I understand it, monistic idealism is different from animism because the mentality (or consciousness) goes all the way down. It’s a metaphysical belief about the underlying structure of reality and it flips modern neurology from its mind-comes-from-matter structure of cranes to a matter-comes-from-Mind skyhook from nowhere.

            This means that plants (or plant cells) aren’t necessarily thinking — but they are made out of Thought itself. Apparently you can figure this out simply by examining your own mind carefully — and being receptive to the Truth. Materialists are afraid of doing this. Or so the story goes.

            Believers like to think that a ‘metaphysical’ belief is outside of anything science can examine or test. But the metaphysical belief of materialist monism is constantly said to be ‘falsified’ by Spiritual folk like Chopra. Seems to me there’s something very sneaky about that.

          2. I really like the magic system in “The Legend of Eli Monpress”. (It’s been too long since I’ve read any of the “Want to be a Wizard” books; I don’t remember how magic works in them.)

        3. It will be rejected on 3 accounts then:

          – It is untestable, “not even wrong”.

          – It is more complicated than physics.

          – When we have a real theory of consciousness, their definition won’t apply.

      2. Unfortunately it has a long and distinguished pedigree. C. S. Peirce and Leibniz, most notably, hold versions of this view, as did I think Eddington and a few other scientists on “philosophical holidays” as Bunge puts it. But that’s not a good reason. Chopra saying that Dyson agrees with him is just an appeal to irrelevant authority; we can refute the view by showing it is a graft on the quantum theories itself: no predicates referring to minds or the like are anywhere needed or present. (This sort of argument was first done by Popper and Bunge and a few others by 1967.)

    2. Atoms in the laboratory are weird stuff, behaving like active agents rather than inert substances. They make unpredictable choices between alternative possibilities according to the laws of quantum mechanics.

      Therein the babblespeak lies the logical error. He ascribes to atoms free will, ability to make “choices”. As observers of quantum level physics, that which appears to us as choice is merely our subjective interpretation of statistical possibility.

    3. Barry:

      The text about Freeman Dyson’s “My theology” is an excerpt from “PROGRESS OF RELIGION”, his acceptance speech of Templeton Foundation Prize for Progress in Religion. Delivered 
in the Washington N’l Cathedral
 on May 16, 2000.

      This speech is worth reading in whole, published online by Edge
      http://www.edge.org/documents/archive/edge68.html
      In it, Dyson underlines the evil done in the name of religion “We all know that religion has been historically, and still is today, a cause of great evil as well as great good in human affairs. We have seen terrible wars and terrible persecutions conducted in the name of religion.” Following the line originated by Lucretius, and popularized by Gilbert Murray, and Steven Weinberg (a personal friend of Dyson’s).
      But Dyson tries to balance the evil of religion against the “good works”: “To me, good works are more important than theology.” He highlights the heroic efforts of an obscure French pastor in WWII: “One of the great but less famous heroes of World War Two was Andre Trocme, the Protestant pastor of the village of Le Chambon sur Lignon in France, which sheltered and saved the lives of five thousand Jews under the noses of the Gestapo.”

      Richard Dawkins, in the God Delusion (2006, p. 152), took a negative view of Dyson’s acceptance of the Templeton Foundation Prize: “It would be taken as an endorsement of religion by one of the world’s most distinguished physicists.” But Dyson was never fazed by criticism of his peers.

      Dyson was born in Britain, got his B.A. at Cambridge Un., and moved to the States at age 24, joining the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He confirmed the validity of Richard Feynman’s diagrams in quantum physics, making them intelligible and acceptable to the community of physicists.

      Dyson was a born contrarian, a disruptive dissenter, never willing to follow the consensus and authority of like-minded scholars.
      A profile article in the New York Times (March 25, 2009) called him “The Civil Heretic”.
      http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/29/magazine/29Dyson-t.html?_r=2&ref=magazine&pagewanted=all
      Steven Weinberg said of Dyson: ” “I have the sense that when consensus is forming like ice hardening on a lake, Dyson will do his best to chip at the ice”. Weinberg, who appreciated Dyson’s genius better than anybody else, added that he felt that Dyson was “fleeced” of the Nobel Prize.

      Dyson is notable for his genius, his versatility, and his integrity. No wonder that Chopra tries to use Dyson’s ideas on the relationship of science and religion. The magpie dressing up with the feathers of the peacock. But what is clear and sharp in Dyson turns to muddy speculation in Chopra’s nebulous Indian mysticism.

    4. For me, the key is this bit:

      “Atoms in the laboratory are weird stuff, behaving like active agents rather than inert substances. They make unpredictable choices between alternative possibilities according to the laws of quantum mechanics. It appears that mind, as manifested by the capacity to make choices, is to some extent inherent in every atom.”

      If you equate unpredictability with consciousness then I think the claims of Deepak et al. would make sense EXCEPT that you then completely devalue (and change the meaning) of consciousness as it is typically considered. The fact that he then goes on to confuse this with predictable decision making in response to environmental queues – the fertilised egg – indicates that he is either deliberately or accidentally getting his consciousness in a twist. (As Richard Dawkins points out, does this then make a thermostat conscious? Deepak never answered but I think his answer – by his definitions – must be “yes”.)

      Personally, I do not see why an unpredictable behaviour has to correspond to a conscious choice or “mind”. Nor is there any mystery as to why collections of things behaving probabilistically can produce (in practical terms) deterministic outcomes.

  15. I patiently listened to the debate but did not learn anything new from either person. Same old arguments. I regret that Chopra was given the opportunity to be on the same stage as Dawkins to sell his baloney. Chopra gets too many opportunities to bulshit the public. Hopefully he is sinking so deeply into his BS that his voice will be diminished. More likely, Chopra will continue to be the laughing stock of thinking people and silly leader of of the gullible.

  16. I disagree with some of the commenters above who argue that debates against Deepok Chopra are a waste of time. The main difference between what Chopra is espousing and “sophisticated theology” is that Chopra is making the mistake of trying to co-opt scientific terms and theories to support the idea that Reality is fundamentally mental. If you remove the pseudoscience and substitute vague handwaving, appeals to Mystery, and gratuitous references to people doing admirable things, it could be any one of the Anti-Gnus.

    Just as Young Earth Creationism is what happens when you take the Bible seriously enough to explain how it might all be true, Deepok Chopra is what happens when you try to do that with God.

  17. Chopra makes serious money peddling his “stuff”. Dawkins gave him credibility merely by debating him. Pity.

    1. It could be the other way around, you know. Chopra is well known and popular — and his fans are very unlikely to ever seek out or encounter opposing views. Thus, by debating Dawkins, Chopra is giving atheism credibility and exposing believers to the real views of an atheist, as opposed to the straw man version.

      In a culture which is in love with the idea of believing in God, atheists are the underdog seeking a hearing.

      1. I know he’s popular: serious alternative medicine peddlar. I meant scientific credibility. Possibly he doesn’t really need scientific recognition: he can bluff his way and pretend he has scientific ideas, but its obvious blather. Atheists and Evolutionists are the main tendency in the sciences: in that respect they won’t get much credibility from Chopra. I grant some of Chopra’s followers might here be listening to Dawkins for the first time. However if they fall for what Chopra says, would they have the capacity to understand a reasoned argument. I only actually listened to Chopra recently: obvious charlatan.

    1. I do see this difference: fundamentalists are trying to get creationism into public elementary and high schools. That means they make a populist appeal and are a political threat. There is danger in giving them a platform which makes them seem legitimate in front of an audience which doesn’t care about the scientific details.

      Chopra and his ilk are trying to appeal to a more sophisticated audience and they want to get their views into the universities. But at that level the science really does matter — and they don’t have a chance.

  18. Ugh. I watched Chopra’s first answer. He spouts words (nematode!) but never once cohesively puts them together into an actual argument. Dawkins is clearly annoyed. I don’t think I’ll be watching the rest of it.

  19. People who think Dawkins is strident or arrogant should just listen to Chopra. What a smug, stuck up, smarmy, poisonous, aggressive and snooty person he is. He keeps hectoring Dawkins about transcendent experiences and belittles everything Dawkins shares. Then grizzles about Dawkins’ supposed ad hominems, without even knowing what an ad hominem is.

    Then he says that all belief is a sign of insecurity — after babbling out nothing but belief after belief. And then treats it as a sign of weakness when Dawkins says “I don’t know where consciousness comes from.” The man does not have a self-reflective bone in his body.

    I really think there’s no point in debating that obnoxious bully. He’s a horrible person, blustering, and impolite, who’s learned a whole lot of psycho-tricks that gurus play: “Who are you. When you say “I” who are you referring to….” His fans see that Dawkins doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about, and think their guru has just scored a point over the ignorant unreflective scientist.

    But their guru’s response to the question who am I is just meaningless quantum-psycho-babble. Even as an atheist I’m pissed off about the damage Chopra does to the public understanding of spirituality.

    No one need waste their time debating him anymore. It just builds up his status. (Unless maybe Sam Harris wants to do it again. He wound up giving Deepak a well deserved lesson in spirituality as well as science, and was one jump ahead of him the whole time, because he’s experienced enough guru power games first hand to know what’s coming.)

    Sorry for ranting…

    1. To avoid any misunderstandings, I thought Richard Dawkins did an excellent job. It’s just horrible to see him being subjected to such a verbal and emotional assault.

  20. I honestly don’t know how Prof Dawkins can do it. I can’t even face the prospect of watching the video. Let alone engaging in debate with the half-witted, quantum foaming at the mouth dimwit. I can’t face it. Fair play to greater individuals than me that can tolerate this nonsense.

    1. I managed to get through 10 minutes of Chopras nonsense and my head hurts. “Single cell organisms and atoms are conscience beings….”

      What a load of KAK!!!

  21. The first smaller point that bothered my pedantic mind was that Chopra kept stating, “that’s Science 101”, in reference to ad hominem; it’s Philosophy or Debate 101, not Science 101.

    In a way, this pedantic issue summarizes much of Chopra’s errors.

    I haven’t been familiar with Chopra, and this was the first proper introduction to him that I have had.

    What I witnessed was someone performing the same equivocation error I see regularly in such discussions.

    I saw nothing interestingly different in Chopra’s use of consciousness for the universe because humans have conscious awareness from arguments that claim that the universe is actively transferring cognitive information back and forth and that we access that information in our brain by equivocation of citing the physics term and use of “information” regarding “physical information” interactions; or when someone makes an argument that we are energy, as a justification for spirits, souls, or an afterlife, because of E=MC^2 by the same manner of error rather than understanding that energy is not what any given object is but is instead what any given object has as one of its properties.

    Early in the discussion, as soon as Chopra walked the audience through the universe expansion, to Earth formation, to evolution, to human consciousness and then looped that end result around to justify the stance that the universe itself is conscious because we are the universe’s consciousness, and if we are comprised of the basic particles of the universe and exist within the universe, and have consciousness, then therefore the universe also must have consciousness, I knew immediately where the remainder of the discussion was going to go, and also knew that Dawkins (not being a gifted orator, though talented in so many other manners) was going to most likely hit on the parts of Chopra’s arguments that Chopra was placing as a ploy exactly as he wanted, rather than hitting Chopra right where would be great for debating points. This is to say that I felt somewhat sorry for Dawkins having to sit through that level of frustration; to know the ideas, but not be able to articulate them, or even pick where to begin, given the volume of issues that needed to be addressed.

    I really wished I could have been in Dawkins’ ear right at that moment and pointed out that he only needs to address Chopra’s comments by pointing out that an argument from ignorance is not evidence for argument’s position; that simply because we do not know how consciousness arises or how it works specifically, does not then itself support a position where we begin to apply consciousness to any given thing which has the probability of more than one outcome and yet results in only one finite return after a finite moment of interaction.

    This last reasoning of Chopra also highlights the error of hindsight bias in his argument.

    Unfortunately, I think Chopra got what he wanted. He seemed to be rather pleased with almost all parts of the discourse, and seemed to just be there to frustrate Dawkins and then sit back and make a social plea that if Dawkins is frustrated, then he is not capable of holding up to Chopra’s intellect, and therefore Chopra is right.
    Or, in another manner of putting it: Chopra appeared to merely be there as a publicity stunt and not earnest discussion.

  22. On a friend’s Facebook feed re this I noted that like Heisenberg’s electrons, Chopra seems to hold several positions simultaneously. Furthermore, his existence vindicates Hugh Everett’s “many worlds” theory since much of Chopra’s thinking seems to come from a parallel universe. 🙂

  23. Pathetic Chopra, as usual. Great Dawkins …as usual, indeed. Amusing. It was like a fight between a mouse and a tiger, to put it mildly. Thanks for the post. Greetings

  24. Ugh, can’t watch, sorry.

    Chopra is on my list of people (including Tony Blair, William Lane Craig, and weirdly Tom Hanks*) who I just cannot listen to without getting volcanically angry.

    * A complete outlier. I have no idea what it is about him that winds me up.

    1. I have difficulty watching Tom Hanks too, and like yourself can find no reason why this should be so. After watching Cloud Atlas recently, though, I was relieved to discover I’d dodged the Hanks Effect — perhaps because during most of his screen time he’s so heavily disguised you don’t realize that it’s Hanks you’re watching.

  25. If you have a Tw*tter account, follow @DBagChopra.

    A parody account that makes a lot more sense than the idiot himself.

  26. A Quote from Richard Dyson that Hawkins accused Chopra of lying about.

    “It is remarkable that mind enters into our awareness of nature on two separate levels. At the highest level, the level of human consciousness, our minds are somehow directly aware of the complicated flow of electrical and chemical patterns in our brains. At the lowest level, the level of single atoms and electrons, the mind of an observer is again involved in the description of events. Between lies the level of molecular biology, where mechanical models are adequate and mind appears to be irrelevant. But I, as a physicist, cannot help suspecting that there is a logical connection between the two ways in which mind appears in my universe. I cannot help thinking that our awareness of our own brains has something to do with the process which we call “observation” in atomic physics. That is to say, I think our consciousness is not just a passive epiphenomenon carried along by the chemical events in our brains, but is an active agent forcing the molecular complexes to make choices between one quantum state and another. In other words, mind is already inherent in every electron, and the processes of human consciousness differ only in degree but not in kind from the processes of choice between quantum states which we call “chance” when they are made by electrons.”

  27. To Hamish whiting:

    I assume you’re speaking of Freeman Dyson, right?

    Can you please tell us the exact source of this Dyson quotation (reference: speech, book with page number, any online publication)?.

    Also can you kindly produce the quotation of Hawkins accusing Chopra of lying about it, and the source of the Hawkins quotation (same reference: speech, book and page #, online publication).

    Without accurate references, the discussion becomes too theoretical and artificial.

    Thanks in advance.

    1. The quote is from Disturbing the Universe” published in 1979. I don’t know the page number. Based on a Google search, this passage seems to be widely quoted.

      1. that was a big point in the debate when dawkins accused chopra of making it up and how he could be sued for defamation

  28. If changing the meaning of words is allowed (awareness = something with input and output etc., quantum leap = a gap in our understanding of the progression, …), then Deepak is never wrong. And even if there still may be something to attack his argument on, he just calls it a metaphor and claims that everything in science is a metaphor. He cannot loose if you allow all this.

    It is disturbing that so many people in the audience clap, even after Dawkins calls him out for doing this (and Dawkins did this very well, I must say).

  29. I cut to the chase on Chopra.
    He is a grifter, on the grift, looking for Marks to con out of their cash.
    He is a proud com man, arrogantly conning suckers with a purposeful con he himself is 100% aware of as being a con.
    He is a fraudster, a scammer, a thief and a criminal.
    The only good thing about him is he is a corporation and grifters, con men and scammers who pedal “magic” for money.
    I am on the side of thinking that it is better to save a mark by debating this crook because he was doing ok scamming cash before anyone started calling him out. Saving people from con games is a worthy cause.

    1. oops, a part just blinked out for some reason ! “The only good thing about him is he is a corporation and……* pays some taxes as opposed to those*…. grifters, con men and scammers who pedal “magic” for money.

  30. If anyone found this format frustrating, there is a direct conversation between Chopra and Dawkins on youtube (search for “Richard Dawkins interviews Deepak Chopra”.
    It covers most of the same material, but is a much clearer interaction.

    The body language of Chopra is very clear; he is very nervous of being found out by a real scientist. There are points where Chopra is visibly on safer ground (his experience with the mindset of a patient affecting outcomes, for example). But every time he talks “quantum”, his eyes start to dart about.

    I used to think there was some substance to Chopra, but being familiar with all the examples that tumble out of his mouth, its increasingly clear to me that is simply a pile of buzzwords. Whenever he is tackled directly, he appeals to the credentials of others “I know a famous professor who says…”. In short, he is an empty suit.

    I will say one thing for Chopra that he doesnt express well; there is an experience of the divine that humans can obtain (largely through stupefying the brain in some way, by drugs, meditation, a bang on the head, etc. This Dawkins doesnt get. I dont know if Chopra has experienced this, but if he has, it would be interesting to see Chopra throw off the BS and talk about it honestly with Dawkins.

    But as long as Chopra keeps pretending to know squat about quantum physics – its clear he doesnt-, he’s just wasting everybody’s time. Yes, it sells. But so does prostitution.

  31. Let me first state that I really love Richard Dawkins.

    However, I think he often fails as a science communicator in debates like this. His strengths are in books and lectures.

    Dawkins needs to get lessons in skepticism and reason. He had multiple opportunities in this debate to shoot down Chopra’s arguments, but the best he could come up with is Chopra’s word salads, which while correct, didn’t get to the heart of the horror of most of Chopra’s arguments. (admittedly I’m still at 46 minutes, so he might get there)

    With regards to the Freeman Dyson issue, Dawkins should have simply shot back with “Science 102” – the fact that Argument from Authority is no argument at all and holds no weight in science.

    As a science communicator, I think Dawkins misses out on some really key opportunities to engage with the audience and “teach them to fish”. Instead he launches into attacking the opposition’s arguments, and when it is a Chopra word salad, this is a fruitless and ineffectual task that often has the detrimental effect of giving the audience the view that the facts are up for debate, when in fact the real issue is *how* Chopra gets to his positions and how he argues. The faults in his logic. How we are *all* prone to make these errors and how we can overcome them (e.g. so much argument from ignorance!).

    Hell, it was Chopra who was using the language of the skeptics! – “You are making a logical fallacy Dr Dawkins” – He took ownership of rationalism through statements like that and I’m sure this was a tactical move on his part.

    Anyway, I’ve still got half an hour to watch – hopefully it gets better.

  32. Chopra made another exhibition of empty words combined at random. He confuses everything a human being can mix up and that’s all. He had no point and just repeated the usual jargon-like stuff he always does. No content, nonsense. By the way, Freeman Dyson made a point on atoms and mind that are not those Chopra claims and in any case is an opinion, not a fact. An the argument of why science has not explained (yet) the origin of life or consciousness does not mean anything. We haven’t (yet) found a cure for cancer but that doesn’t mean we should give up and believe that astrology or reiki will.

    1. “An the argument of why science has not explained (yet) the origin of life or consciousness does not mean anything. We haven’t (yet) found a cure for cancer but that doesn’t mean we should give up and believe that astrology or reiki will.”

      Well said! Our species desperately needs more people who are comfortable with saying “I don’t know…but let’s try to find out” instead of “God only knows, so stop sniffing around!”

  33. The funny thing is that Chopra sells himself as someone how fights -apparently- against the “arrogance” of science. But he keeps making claims (never explained) like “a human cell has awareness!” or linking one after another many claims on the consciousness of the universe, finishing most of his words with “-self”.

    He is a fundamentalist who just uses a new age jargon permanently. It sounds superficially as meaningful but you realise is not different from those websites where you can build a paper randomly. Sounds consistent, but it is complete bullshit.

    A good pill of anti-Chopra vacuum:

  34. Chopra deliberately misuses the word ‘consciousness’ and ‘sentience’ in a sense that any object with computational utility (i.e. like an atom can be arranged to be a comupter) is also sentient. It is simple word playing pure bullshit.

  35. Chopra’s babble (willful obscurantism) is no different than religious babbling…..both have no proof but believe in fairy tales. This is what Freeman Dyson said about atoms and conscience..youtube.com/watch?v=9Ng3v1L0cJg

  36. Freeman John Dyson DID SAY what Deepak Chopra claimed at the debate with Richard Dawkins! Here’s the quote from Dyson:

    “It is remarkable that mind enters into our awareness of nature on two separate levels. At the highest level, the level of human consciousness, our minds are somehow directly aware of the complicated flow of electrical and chemical patterns in our brains. At the lowest level, the level of single atoms and electrons, the mind of an observer is again involved in the description of events. Between lies the level of molecular biology, where mechanical models are adequate and mind appears to be irrelevant. But I, as a physicist, cannot help suspecting that there is a logical connection between the two ways in which mind appears in my universe. I cannot help thinking that our awareness of our own brains has something to do with the process which we call “observation” in atomic physics. That is to say, I think our consciousness is not just a passive epiphenomenon carried along by the chemical events in our brains, but is an active agent forcing the molecular complexes to make choices between one quantum state and another. In other words, mind is already inherent in every electron, and the processes of human consciousness differ only in degree but not in kind from the processes of choice between quantum states which we call “chance” when they are made by electrons.”

    1. So Dyson is an animist, has his opinion, Chopra may have not misquoted him, and Dawkins ignored all that.

      Is that relevant to characterise Chopra and Dawkins? Yes (one knew, the other ignored).
      Is that relevant to the discussion? No.

      1. i ve already tried to psot it once, but got ignored. What Tyson is reffering to is kind of phenomenon called “a quantum algorithm for finding length of shortest path”, that was observed in some bacterias and plants and is debated that there might be more to life development on field of qunatum physics that we perceive right now, and i guess, it goes well with evolution as such. Thou its not anywhere near Chopra, or being animist. Tyson is just physicist as he see world as such. no mumbo jumbo

        1. I think there’s too much attention to that particular statement. Dyson (not Tyson) argues about something expressing more an interpretation than a well known theory. He is one of the best physicists of the XXth century, but not everything that he says needs to be right (like in religion). More importantly, there are a number of work involving the potential role of QM phenomena in the brain that suggest that QM cannot play any role in mental processes or consciousness. See for example Tegmark’s paper:

          http://pre.aps.org/abstract/PRE/v61/i4/p4194_1

          which I think is very well grounded in the current state of the art.

          What I really hate from Chopra is the apparently scholar, but empty babbling that comes as a stream of bullshit from his mouth. I always get suspicious about someone that, in front of a general public, requires to be obscure all the time.

          1. thx for correction (dont know what i was thinking about while typing).

            gonna read the paper 😉 but fron i know subject is debatable.

            does not change the fact, that Chopra takes a strictly scientific matter which have sound matters to dispute (brought by recognized figures in scientific world), and makes it a part of his bubling

        2. Dyson (not Tyson) has declared himself an animist in the continuation of the excerpt quoted.

          I agree with Richard and I am also frustrated by Chopra’s discourse with the appeals to unity, mixing – like Dawkins put it – everything into a meaningless salad of big words.

Leave a Reply