An open letter to Deepak Chopra

November 25, 2013 • 9:22 am

Dear Dr. Chopra,

The first thing you need to know—after you’ve learned something about evolution and physics—is this: I do not read Twitter. My Twitter account is there as a proxy for my website. Its only “tweets” are links to new posts on Why Evolution is True, alerting readers to items that might interest them. I have Twitter followers, but I do not follow anyone.

Therefore, it is useless for you to keep “tweeting” at me, for I do not read, nor do I care, about what you have to say.

I was informed by a friend that you have just engaged in a frenetic and nasty bout of twittering at me, about me, and against me. When I checked, I found the following hilarious stream of invective on your site:

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Actually, I am surprised that, given your busy schedule of doing “science,” lecturing at Harvard, and hobnobbing with the greats, you’ve found time to issue 32 tweets in the last 21 hours, many of them aimed at me. Who’s running Chopra, Inc.? Surely your time would be better spent peddling ayurvedic fertility aids than attacking an obscure scientist.

The problem is that I am not checking my Twitter account, so what you are doing is the equivalent of what this kitten is doing:

If I didn’t know better, and didn’t take your word that you’re rational, I’d call this behavior obsessive. Further, your ignorance of evolution is matched only by your rancor.

I won’t respond in kind. Instead, I will simply proffer you a poem that you are free to use as your own mantra. It’s set to the tune of the old Helen Reddy song, “I am woman.”

I am Deepak; hear me roar
As you patronize my store,
And buy up all the nostrums that I sell.
You may say that I’m a crank,
But just tell that to my bank,
For I’m Deepak, and you can go to hell.

Oh yes, I am rich,
Though it’s richness born of woo;
And for those whose life’s a bitch,
I will bilk them through and though.
If I had to, I could sell anything;
I’m a crank,
But I’m a scientist—
I am DEEPAK!

Yours sincerely,
Jerry Coyne

p.s. There is no evidence that evolution is “self directed & purpose driven.”

104 thoughts on “An open letter to Deepak Chopra

  1. Wow, Deepak’s behaviour is bordering on hysteria. He needs to meditate and take some ayurvedic tea or colon cleanse or something.

  2. The problem is that I am not checking my Twitter account, so what you are doing is the equivalent of what this kitten is doing …

    Or rather, what he’s doing is talking to his 1,695,227 twitter followers (yes, it is depressing that an anti-scientific, pseudo-scientific woo-pedlar has that many followers).

    1. “yes, it is depressing that an anti-scientific, pseudo-scientific woo-pedlar has that many followers”

      Even more so that one of them has a television show.

  3. In addition to the cat video (what IS going on there?), Chopra is like Grandpa Simpson raising his fist as he yells at clouds.

    1. The young man is blowing air at the kitten, and the kitten is attacking his breath as if it were a living thing.

      According to Webster’s, the term “spirit” is ‘from Latin spiritus, literally, breath, from spirare to blow, breathe.’ So Jerry’s analogy is more apt than he realizes.

      1. I’d like to pull a Deepak and conflate things like the word aspirate which comes from the Latin aspirare: to breath with the Latin, asper which means rough or new. This is how I’d pull a Deepak to get to the insult of calling Deepak a course n00b. 😀

  4. I love the poem, it gave me a big laugh.

    If Deepak Chopra is supposed to be so educated, why does it seem he missed kindergarten where people learn how to deal with people?

    1. Chopra is probably so used to being surrounded by sycophants and acolytes that he has forgotten how to engage with people who don’t agree with his every word.

      He probably has none with people, reality or rationalism, so the only meaningful relationship that he might have is with money.

      1. And even the people who disagree with him probably pass over his vacuous words with the respectful deference religion has managed to inculcate as it’s due.

  5. I would think the colon cleanse would be self defeating. He wants to stay deeply packed of colonic contents, so he can relate to his followers. You have to be full of shite to follow this guy. Maybe Deeppack should discontinue the colon cleanse and offer wheels of ayurvedic cheese for his cheddar head followers or some such other constipating goodies.

      1. Maybe Dr. Coyne should start a product line of colon cleansers for those impakted by Deeppack’s nonsense. “Are you so full of shite, that Dr. Chopra’s pronouncements are starting to sound reasonable? Try Dr. Coyne’s Super Colon Blow; it’ll have you thinking straight and ten pounds lighter in no time. It’s the number two product on the market!”

    1. As a Wisconsinite I object to your anti-cheesehead slurs, sir! Associating cheddar heads with Chopra is profoundly upsetting!

  6. I don’t understand a word of Chopra’s babblings.

    But, on a side note, are humans reaching a point where our evolution will become self-directed?

    1. Define ‘self-directed’ first Rob. If we choose our reproductive partners we are in a sense directing the way our offspring will be, especially as we know now about genetics & are conscious of its potentials.

      If you mean a form of eugenics, ‘designer babies’, perhaps that is happening anyway to some extent with things like choosing the sex of a foetus, or aborting some with genetic defects, but those processes are maybe weaker than natural processes before the 20th c. There are lots of individuals who have children that survive who never would have in the past. We may enter an age when the wealthy can choose features that will potentially contribute to intelligence, physical abilities etc.

      I think that these things are pretty low on most people’s minds when they select reproductive partners though. .

    2. “I don’t understand a word of Chopra’s babblings”

      Nobody does, most especially Chopra himself. Word salad does not translate into meaningful concepts.

    3. I believe that biotechnology is going to be the 21st century game changer & it will match or exceed the changes brought about by the 19th C industrial & 20th C information/data revolutions. I think it’s inevitable that genetic testing will become a normal part of preventative medicine everywhere. This means that one day we will be able to *tweak* germlines directly in a heritable way to reduce the frequency of say dementia.

      Just a thought & no doubt this isn’t going to be easy to do since we don’t understand development, interaction of genes, the genetic mixing & matching of sexual reproduction, environment etc.

      If this trend is embraced by a sizeable portion of the human population it could make a huge difference in a beneficial way, but it would be very tough to understand the factors at play & what’s genetic. Suppose we could reduce the instances of the more extreme mental illnesses?

  7. The progression of increasingly nasty comments makes me think that Deepak had been drinking.

    This is what kind of behavior is produced when alcohol is mixed with cognitive dissonance.

    Deepak is in deep shit and he knows it.

    1. He’s reacting like someone who feels their livelihood is threatened, and in a reasonable world he’d have a lot to fear in that regard. Maybe he thinks we live in that reasonable world and is afraid. I find it difficult to believe he has anything to worry about. Unless he’s caught doing something criminal I can’t see that the criticisms of a few biology professors, or indeed of the entire National Academy of Sciences, having much impact on his bottom line which is driven by people who are hostile to science in any case. If anything, I suspect his invective is intended to enhance his reputation in the minds of his followers by painting himself as the persecuted bringer of truth. He’s been in this business a long time, so he probably sees free PR when it comes his way.

  8. “Coyne is incapable of abstract thinking!”

    I’ve seen this claim bandied about by Choprites and I don’t think they actually know what that means, much like the word “quantum”. Unless they are using it to mean “Incapable of believing in speculation simply because it sounds good.” Or, “My theology/pseudoscience is much too sophisticated for you to dismiss without addressing every argument I’ve ever made no matter how ridiculous it may have been.”

    Essentially it’s nothing more than an ad hominem attack inferring that your opponent is somehow inferior because they “just don’t get it”.

    1. The irony is that Chopra and his followers are the ones reifying abstractions — taking ideas like “Beauty” or “Love” or “Consciousness” and treating them as if they were concrete things, pure essences which are made of a higher sort of substance or ‘energy.’ We gnu atheists are comfortable with thinking abstractly: the supernaturalists are still stuck in an egocentric and clunky sort of literalism.

    2. Well stated, Justin, that is the heart of the matter. Lacking any evidence, their defense is nothing but invective and insult. Jerry, please don’t let up on that charlatan.

  9. Compared to this Dummkopf Peter Hitchens qualifies as an educated and enlightened adversary. I can’t believe the masses are falling for his “word salad”.

      1. I’m sorry but I will have to pass on the salad. Being vegan is no longer sufficient. Who knows what the salad thinks about being eaten?

    1. My favourite is still this, from Euripides, Andromache:

      You are a man, wicked of a wicked kin?
      Where do they talk of you as of a man?

      Fits the occasion quite well.

  10. A consciousness independent universe is untestable and not falsifiable. Its a metaphysical not scientific idea

    It is so cliche that people like him will use this kind of argument, testability, against their opponents, typically incorrectly, and just hand wave it away when it is used, typically correctly, against their own claims.

    Chopra wouldn’t recognize intellectual integrity if he stumbled over it in broad daylight.

    1. If it became clear and obvious that we could have consciousness without brain or any physical connection to brain (ESP, PK, OBE, NDE, etc.) then a consciousness dependent universe would become far more plausible. It would be hard to explain facts like those in a so-called materialist paradigm — which Chopra knows quite well because he regularly claims that such phenomenon are proven and therefore materialism has been successfully FALSIFIED.

      In which case, WTF? How the hell can Chopra simultaneously claim that a “consciousness independent universe” is BOTH falsified and unfalsifiable?

      Oh, right. A broad enough perspective embraces contradictions. Yeah. That works.

      1. Good!

        No real need to talk of “materialism” though. Just brain will do. Consciousness is fundamental he says – scientifically proven. No brain required. There really isn’t anything other than consciousness.

        Except that it is not scientifically proven.
        What consciousness is exactly, remains to be scientifically demonstrated. That our sense of ourselves as thinking things appears to need a brain, is pretty well established.

        1. That, and there’s every reason to think that the ability to perform computation without physical mechanisms expending energy would enable (or require) the construction of a perpetual motion machine. When a proposition reduces to a perpetual motion machine, there’s no reason to dignify it with further consideration; whoever is proposing it is ignorant at best and most likely a crank.

          That said conclusion about Deepity Joker is trivially reached by so many other avenues of investigation only reinforces the point.

          Cheers,

          b&

    2. Yeah, so is a unicorn-indpendent universe. That doesn’t mean we ought to believe in unicorns.

      Actually, both of those ideas are only untestable as long as defenders don’t tell us what their entities do. Or if they do nothing. If Chopra and other defenders of the “consciousness exists, matters, and does something” idea would tell us what it does (differently from a no-consciousness model), we could test it. Even then, though, I expect most of us would wait for one of the defenders to do an experiment (or multiple), publish some solid evidence…then others would independently test it.

      But what Chopra is asking here is one of the general signs of pseudoscience: the crank insists that other people have the responsibility for testing his idea (to show its wrong). Real scientists recognize that they bear the resonsibility of coming up with at least some decent evidence for a new claim before the scientific community will pay attention to it.

    3. “A consciousness independent universe is untestable and not falsifiable.”

      I interpreted this as a sort of anthropic principle argument. You can’t test for a universe without consciousness because you need consciousness to observe and assess the results.

      That’s true but so what? That’s about as deep as saying that if a tree falls in the forest, how do you know that it makes a sound?

      Because I watched the Geico commercial, that’s how.

      1. You may be right, but I think, based on some of Deeply Packed’s other tripe, that he means “a universe that is not existentially dependent on consciousness.” In other words a universe that would still exist if you were not around to be conscious of it.

        In yet other words, taking “the observer” requirement of quantum physics quite literally to mean a conscious observer. Deeply imPacked would have his marks believe that science has proven that if there were no consciousnesses around to collapse wave functions nothing would ever actually instantiate. Nothing would ever actually come into existence.

        The reality of what science has come to understand about, well, reality, is far beyond Deeply imPacked’s capabilities to grasp. Hence the childishly direct just so story interpretations. But he is unteachable. He is in too deep ((:) to admit he is wrong about any significant aspects of his woo.

  11. Ah ha ha! “The deification of science” and Jerry’s the fundamentalist “bamboozled by conditioning”! — “Spiritual” people keep telling us that science and/or atheism is a religion, too.

    “Evolution is true but could be self directed and purpose driven.” — That “PURPOSE” is a clear consciouss attempt to “spiritualize” evolution. A purpose-driven life. God has a special purpose for every man, woman and child. Divine meaning, not random mutations.

    “It’s in the nature of ignorance to say woo.” — There you go, Jerry. It’s a sign you got to him. Deepak’s “enlightened”, he’s not ignorant and superstitious, so he’s gonna slap those stickers on you.

  12. Clearly, Deepity Choker has just demonstrated that Tw*tter is the quantum consciousness of the Internet as manifested in the form of an Ayurvedic high colonic. It is also worth noting that his comprehension of reality would appear to be mainly homeopathic, not herbal — would that it were otherwise! At least then he might be more mellow and not so stridently militantly arrogant.

    Cheers,

    b&

  13. > A conciousness independent universe is untestable and not falsifiable . Its a metaphysical not scientific idea

    I think he is right on that one, or do I miss some logical loophole? But metaphysical solipsism is untestable and not falsifiable either, and has to be rejected a priori.

      1. Is there a level of metaphysically? I think so. Like Deepak is mostly on level 9.5 (log scale) and someone saying my soul is tormented by my boss’/spouse’s/parent’s/etc. admonishment is more like 1.4 (log scale). At least the latter is something that most people can relate to even if they know there is no soul. Deepak is the supernatural of meta-nonsense.

    1. A consciousness dependent universe, if it is to be any different from solipsism is falsified by discoveries that the universe is older than consciousness. This is why Chopra has to play the panpsychism card.

      1. I agree. He basically says “No observer without a consciousness, therefore, a consciousness independent universe is untestable.”

        Call it meta-solipsism. Not just your own, but all possible egos. (There’s a pun lurking, but I won’t make it.)

  14. Many many years ago I thought of PBS as an oasis of intellectual pursuits in a wasteland of dross. I associated PBS with science programs, history programs, theater, classical music and generally sober programming. So when I saw Chopra on PBS I thought, “This guy must be some kind of expert in something or they wouldn’t have him on this respectable channel”. Turns out I was wrong about PBS. I have Chopra to thank for enlightening me on that.

    1. I too remember my mom watching that guy and I thought who is this guy; he must be important to be on PBS. I did not understand a word he was saying and so then I thought I must really stupid. So after many years of school I still have no idea what he is saying but I no longer think he has anything intelligent to say. I am not aware that Deepak is on PBS any more. Which is a good thing. NATURE and NOVA are mostly good things…and of course Sherlock Homes (old and new).

  15. A humorous thought. All of the religious leaders of the world in a locked room with Deepak. I wonder who would drive who mad first? The crazy of it all makes me shudder.

  16. What do you say to a man as full of BS as Deepak is? When Hitch was taken to task by Sean Hannity for failing to show proper respect to Jerry Fallwell after his death, Hitch’s parting shot was: “If you gave him an enema you could bury him in a matchbox.” Can’t do better than that. I miss that guy!

  17. Cripes, Deepak, this is not the behaviour of a rational, well-respected, credentialled scienceologian.

    I think The Deep has had a good run online – the internet’s been around almost 20 years and he’s only just encountering large numbers of people with audiences of their own who don’t buy his shit and Oh. My Goodness. does he hate it! His reaction appears for all the world to be that of someone who’s been surrounded by nodders most of his career and suddenly has to deal with real, intelligent, thoughtful opposition.

    I had a thought the other day – I wondered if Derp would have had such success preaching and selling if he was from, say, Newcastle and his name was, say, “Dave Chisholm”. This thought occurred because I think Deepak’s not only trading on his sciencey credentials, whatever they might be, but on his ethnicity, cultural background and the ability that gives him to affect the air of some Eastern mystic with access to spooky knowledge beyond that of the alleged Western materialist paradigm. It plays very well with the middle/upper middle-class Oprah set and other similarly woo-affected (and affluent, of course) Western cliques in the Anglophone world.

  18. I loved the poem. Scathing humor against cranks is one of life’s little pleasures. The best line for me was:
    “If I had to, I could sell anything”.
    Oh, how true. The one thing we know for sure about woo is, it evolves. And the one thing we suspect most about Deepak Chopra is, if his current con stops raking it in, he is fully capable of finding another, and another, and making them pay equally well. His resourcefulness and industry in pursuit of the quack, er quick buck really makes me wonder what good might have come from him had he devoted his life to increasing man’s knowledge. Instead, he’s just another high performing woo-aholic, scamming his way through life, with nothing to show for himself but an oeuvre of verbal diarrhea.

  19. Understanding Chopra

    The Deepak Chopra line of argument seems to have disturbed many people on this site (WEIT) You really have to understand the background to get Chopra in perspective. The Indian sub-continent has one and a half billion people, with a long, long history of mystics. You have to go there to understand it.
    Mystics are everywhere, able to weave spells of nonesensical words to anyone who would listen. They truly believe what they are saying. It is a semi-coherent philosophy of life, made the easier (as is religion) by traditional stock phrases and positions. Into this is woven stories and parables, and grand claims, and a whole lot of abstraction to the point that it defies any kind of truth-falsehood analysis.
    Put to this the tradition of ‘borrowing’ concepts from other fields, which is Oh so Indian! Back in the eighties India there were many cafés called ‘Disco’ or ‘Sputnik’ or ‘Computer’ I remember a house near Hemet, California in which some Indian folks had painted a huge board… ‘ Scientific Centre for the Research of Yogic Flying’ It was nothing of the kind. Yogic Flying was a kind of cross-legged bouncing on a soft mattress, and pretending that you are flying.
    In the sixties many Indian mystics and gurus came to California with the ‘Path’ and the ‘Way’. Their paperbag philosophies drew heavily from buzz-words taken from psychology, blended into a delicious psychobabble for the simple-minded, complete with cures and treatments. I met some of them and was impressed by their self-confidence, linked to their quiet contempt for those who fell for the nonsense. So, Chopra is from a long line of showmen. Don’t waste your time trying to understand; the words are always empty. His talk is a frottage of stolen concepts.
    As to his qualifications. There is a long history on the Indian sub-continent of getting hold of impressive qualifications without study. It is the only place in the world where you can find professors who cannot write their own name. (This is aside, of course, from the many brilliant Indian scientists working in the West in engineering, medicine and so forth)
    There was a Pakistani ‘doctor’ worked for many years in the North of England using the doctor qualifications bought from a cousin who had been through medical school. To be fair he stuck to Pakistani patients and only prescribed traditional Indian cures, and referred serious cases to a specialist; but the fact he was able to practice for years without detection says a lot. I suspect that Chopra’s qualifications are taken from doubtful sources, just as those many ‘doctorates’ from bible colleges in the US. The clue is in his constant miss-use of scientific language.

    1. My experience of India was that it was rammed with “mystics” who were more than willing to exploit the gullible. Westerners were particularly vulnerable. I remember a conversation with a young American woman describing her encounter with a “Holy Woman”. The woman touched her and she claimed to have felt a “transfer of energy” (!)

      My response was to ask “Was that followed by a transfer of cash?”

      I think she called me a cynic. Or something else that began with a “c”, I forget.

    2. I appreciated reading your first four paragraphs. Chopra is in the U.S. of course and should be held accountable from that perspective, but your description of Indian mystics within the Indian culture helps me understand why he truly believes what he teaches and why he appears so flummoxed that others are not getting it.

  20. To help you understand the true power and cunning of Indian mystics, I’ll tell you this story…

    Up at Oxford in the sixties, when too many of the students were rich and thick, and from private schools, I met a young man who had been to India in his gap year. He told me an amazing story of meeting a mystic in a market who seemed to know all about him and his life, all in impressive detail, and so subsequently became his guide and tutor, for a fee. I asked my friend many questions about his visit; who he had met and what he had done. And then I said…

    “Would it surprise you that the ‘student’ you had met on the train while on the way, and with whom you had chatted about your life, was a cousin of the owner of the guest house that he had recommended to you, and at which you had subsequently stayed?”

    “Would it surprise you that the cleaner of your room was another cousin, who ‘borrowed” your diary while you were out, and shared its contents with another man?”

    “ Would you be surprised to learn that the ‘mystic” was another cousin, who had followed you from your guest-house to a distant market, where he pretended to have bumped into you in the street, knowing full-well your life story and the contents of your diary?”
    ………………………………….
    On another subject, I attended the 12-year Kumbh Mela festival in Haridwar, India, and stood behind a mystic, while drawing money at the bank. He wore robes, and silver on his fingers, and had a red spot on his forehead, but I noticed that he handed the clerk and American passport. So I asked his where he was from. (I have been to most States)

    He replied that he was from a tiny place in California, a crossroads called Corralitos (near Freedom, Ca.) I explained that I, too, was from the crossroads at Corralitos, from Buzzard Lagoon Road, where I bought some forest, and was building a cabin. He stared at me and said, “You’re the guy with the chainsaw, right?!” he lived just below me.

    Sometimes I am tempted to play the mystic. I can often out-do them with mystical bullsh*t. Better, perhaps to spend my time ridding the world of ‘woo’.

  21. In a recent conversation with Richard Dawkins, Richard referred to a comment made by Deepak as a word salad which says it all.

  22. If we look at wisdomofchopra[dot]com we can consider the following –

    1. Would any coder ever be able to write a script that could generate *on the first try* the above commentary on Chopra’s antics?

    2. How many of the Chopra tweets are Turing-indistinguishable from the output of wisdomofchopra[dot]com, especially if ‘Coyne’ were put into the dictionary from which it draws?

  23. One thing comes to my mind how the hell an intelligent woman like Oprah got impressed with his body of work ( I don’t know if it even qualifies to be called work ).

  24. So, I made the mistake of reading his four-part critique of “fundamentalist skepticism,” and it’s about thirty minutes of my life I wish I could get back. By biggest gripe was that he didn’t reference all these “revolutionary ideas” in quantum mechanics and psychology that he goes on incessantly about, which likely further indicates that a lot of what he says is malarkey.

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