Deepak beefs again about the skepticism on his Wikipedia page

May 16, 2014 • 12:24 pm

Over at HuffPo, Deepak Chopra is still kvetching about his Wikipedia page. The fact that PuffHo still lets the old quack continue complaining about his “misrepresentation” at great length shows that no matter how low you think PuffHo has fallen, there’s still a ways to the bottom.

In a piece published yesterday, “Wikipedia, a new perspective on an old problem“, Deepakity essentially argues what another website, Skeptical Science, characterizes as “Deepak Chopra complains about his Wikipedia page being factual” (note the final quote in the S.S. piece from Professor Ceiling Cat).

Chopra is a man who hasn’t grown up and come to terms with the internet, for, though he’s famous and rich, he demands that everything written about him conform to his wishes; and when it isn’t, he effectively throws tantrums. The fact that he repeatedly tries to respond to small-time critics like me shows that he is, psychologically, like Maru the cat, who plaintively admits, “When I see a box, I cannot help but enter.” When Chopra sees criticism, he can’t help but engage. And his own Wikipedia article (particularly the section called “Ideas and reception“), simply shows the craziness of many of his claims, and how people have responded. A sample; I’ve left in the original references so you can see that sources are cited.

Quantum healing

 

Chopra has been called America’s most prominent spokesman for Ayurveda.[28] He has described his approach to healing using the metaphor “quantum healing”. This refers both to a discrete jump from one level of functioning to another – a quantum leap – and to the idea of thought as an irreducible building block.[30] Chopra has equated spontaneous remission in cancer to a jump to “a new level of consciousness that prohibits the existence of cancer”.[6][31]

Of the aging process, Chopra has written that it is, to some extent, learned behavior and reversible – accelerated by the accumulation of toxins in the body (including toxic emotions), and slowed down by physical exercise, good nutrition, meditation and love.[32]

Chopra has described the AIDS virus as emitting “a sound that lures the DNA to its destruction”. The condition can be treated, according to Chopra, with “Ayurveda’s primordial sound”.[5] Taking issue with this view, medical professor Lawrence Schneiderman has said that ethical issues are raised when alternative medicine is not based on empirical evidence and that, “to put it mildly, Dr. Chopra proposes a treatment and prevention program for AIDS that has no supporting empirical data”.[5]

Ptolemy Tompkins wrote in Time magazine in 2008 that “Chopra has steadily enlarged his reputation from that of healer to philosopher-at-large”, and for most of his career has been a “magnet for criticism”. According to Tompkins, the medical and scientific communities’ opinion of Chopra ranges from dismissive to “outright damning”, particularly because Chopra’s claims for the effectiveness of alternative medicine could lure sick people away from effective treatments. Tompkins concluded that “Chopra is as rich as he is today not because he has been dishonest with anyone, but because his basic message… is one that he wants to believe in just as sincerely as his readers do.” [33] According to Robert Carroll, Chopra “charges $25,000 per lecture performance, where he spouts a few platitudes and gives spiritual advice while warning against the ill effects of materialism”.[20]

Note that the article accurately represents what Chopra thinks, and then reiterates the criticisms of it. Wikipedia’s policy is not to present quackery unopposed, and it’s absolutely admirable that they allow these caveats.

But Chopra hates it, and wants his Wikpedia page to present his woo without opposition. Here are some excerpts from his new PuffHo piece:

Many of you may already know how vocal I have been in the past year regarding Wikipedia’s bias covering such topic matters as mind body studies, new science, and of course my friend Rupert Sheldrake’s biography page. Since Rupert and I began to speak out about the level of abuse and outright vitriol occurring on these articles, many more individuals and organizations have also stepped forward, highlighting a similar problem, including Nobel prize winning laureate Brian Josephson. Key facts or relevant events in our lives or research are being omitted, efforts to include them in the articles by neutral editors are being met with harassment, defamation and personal attacks. Skeptic activists on Wikipedia are on a campaign to discredit notable biographies that deal with any form of alternative viewpoints and because I am a highly public proponent, my own article has been made into a ‘ground zero’ for these same skeptics who have sought to discredit my name and work for over 15 years.

First of all, Chopra shouldn’t be associating himself with Rupert Sheldrake if he wants any credibility. Further, look at the excerpt on “quantum healing” above and tell me if you think there’s any “abuse and outright vitreol” in it. He also implies that Guerilla Skeptics on Wikipedia, a group designed to prevent unsubstantiated science from looking respectable, is tampering with his article; and they simply haven’t.

And then Chopra’s Big Kvetch: he has to actually deal with this skepticism, which takes valuable time away from his mission of pushing woo and selling his products and courses:

I have to deal with this bias and misinformation every time a journalist interviews me and references my Wikipedia article. I need to spend the first 30 minutes of interviews to correct all the misleading information from my Wikipedia article. It doesn’t matter how many reliable sources are submitted, nor how well supported certain facts about my life are — if it doesn’t not fit within the narrative of extreme skepticism of the band of editors controlling my Wikipedia page it is quickly removed. And the editors who complain of this censorship are harassed or banned.

But Deepak wants to control the narrative about him, and so he’s got a new group to bring “neutrality” (i.e., adulation of Chopra) onto his page:

Recently I have obtained a new perspective. A group of researchers and archivists approached me awhile back to explain how Wikipedia works and offered to mediate. They informed me that the problems that are occurring are not because of Wikipedia’s rules and policies, but despite them. Wikipedia’s purpose is to overcome these prejudices and misrepresentations, though the path there is tedious and long. They informed me that the best way to handle this issue was not by exposing the bias of Wikipedia editors (which they are already aware of) — but to be patient and continuing to contribute information faithfully and genuinely, seeking to represent knowledge and nothing more. And that in time the article will become a fairer and more accurate representation.

This team of researchers and historians has now formed the ‘Integrative Studies Historical Archive and Repository.’ The Chopra Foundation along with a few others are going to be helping them build and expand this database. Their concept is simple. Let’s protect and preserve this knowledge objectively through citations and sources. Let’s make this archive a donation to Wikipedia. Let’s make sure this knowledge is represented without bias to the spirit and letter of Wikipedia’s guidelines for all researchers and journalists. Let’s solve this problem by contributing, not quarreling.

They are now representing my work and biography on Wikipedia and it has been interesting to see the reception that the representative from the archive is getting on my article talk page.

Chopra then winds up with a faux plea for reasonableness:

Most of the skeptic editors on my article believe me to be a very dangerous man — and believe that it is Wikipedia’s responsibility to warn the world of how dangerous my ideas are. They are giving my representative a hard time and are harassing other Wikipedia editors who jump in and try to help. Although this is sad to see, I have hope that in time this can be resolved with integrity through this approach. I believe that by working together and encouraging cooperative behaviors on Wikipedia — that all of this bitterness online can grow a little more productive. Wikipedia, let’s work it out together. See you on the page!

Is anybody fooled by this? Chopra doesn’t want cooperation, and he doesn’t want objective evaluation of his “scientific” claims. He wants to be in charge of his public image.

Now I’m not sure if Chopra is a “very dangerous man”, but he is dangerous in some ways, insofar as his lucubrations and products prevent people from getting sound medical attention. And to me he’s dangerous to the integrity of the scientific enterprise, for he not only makes unsubstantiated claims, like saying we can change our genes by changing our behaviors, but also confuses people by making spouting obfuscating babble that sounds like science but isn’t.

So, Dr. Chopra (and I know you’re reading this), you’re not going to succeed in controlling your public image. Read about the Streisand Effect: the more you beef about the critics, the more critics you’ll get. For there are smart people out there who aren’t going to be taken in by your “quantum consciousness” psychobabble. And there are scientists like me who know that your claim about epigenetically modifying our genes via changing our thoughts and behaviors is bunk—pure, unadulterated hokum.  There are scientist/physicians like Orac who will continue to examine your claims from a medical perspective. And we’ll all continue to hold your feet to the fire so long as you pretend that your unsubstantiated woo is real science.

You aren’t going to win this one, Chopra. You will continue to gull many Americans and enrich yourself, but, if you continue on your present course—and you surely will—you will never gain respectability in the scientific community. It’s your choice: your money or good science.

56 thoughts on “Deepak beefs again about the skepticism on his Wikipedia page

  1. Bill O’Reilly is the king of being narcissistically unable to resist responding to criticism.

  2. Seems to me that Chopra should have no trouble using the powers of his quantum mind to not only ward off all the negative vibrations coming at him, but to heal the broken souls responsible for them.

    I mean, he is the master of such things, no?

    So why’s he farting on about Wikipedia?

    b&

        1. Well, Chopra is about as comprehensible as Chewie.

          Actually, no. I take that back. Chewbacca is far more intelligent and comprehensible than Chopra….

          b&

  3. Dr. Coyne, I think perhaps you have to be careful with clearing your copy-paste buffer, or was the Streisand effect link supposed to go to pictures of cats and dogs in people outfits from 100 years ago? 😀

    Now everyone can see what you get up to on the internets when people aren’t looking 😛

    1. LOL! That was a link a reader sent me (I get at least 25/day, many of cats. But I may post it sometime for real. PUtting it here, though, was a screwup, and I’ve fixed it. Thanks.

  4. If his team of experts are so great why don’t they just make their own Wookipedia site? It’s open-source after all. Sheesh.

  5. Wikipedia focuses on neutral point of view (NPOV): (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Neutral_point_of_view)

    Chopra has however mangled this meaning of NPOV because he is a covert aggressor par excellence. His communication is never about communicating, but always about getting his needs met. Of course he can’t just ask others to increase his wealth, so he emphasizes instead how much he cares about all the good things: truth, helping others, blah, blah, blah.

    In order to do that, he carefully grooms a gullible fan club to distract from his real motive. After all, can these well meaning folks be wrong about him? It’s what psychological manipulators do, and do with ease, and do until they die because they most likely have a rigid personality disorder. All the while charming the pants off most people. 🙂

    His so-called unbiased research team will get nowhere because in all the years I have edited Wikipedia NPOV is one aspect which has proved constant though this perspective may take a beating from time to time as there is an endless stream of covert aggressors in the world who are unwittingly supported by nice people.

    1. Wikipedia also has fairly strict standards of what constitutes a reliable source, and the amount of attention to be given to fringe claims. DC will have problems in this area.

  6. If recent photos are any indication, it appears Deepak “Quantum Flab” Chopra is a little heavy on the good nutrition and quite light on the exercise. And the reverse aging
    just ain’t workin’.

    And I hate to inform him that meditation isn’t exercise. I don’t know about the toxins. He definitely needs some lovin’ though. Just not on this website.

  7. Woo should not be taken lightly; I have a real problem with woo; in fact, I’ve got woo under my skin. I’ve got woo deep in the heart of me…

  8. How in hell can any person with more than #%$* for brains stand to listen to more than a few minutes of Chopra?!

  9. I suppose it is unrealistic to subscribe in hope that Deeblob will drop in a la’ Tanzi for a visit, but quantum odds fluctuations do not rule the possibility of spontaneous materialization completely out.

  10. The bit about Josephson was interesting. I hadn’t heard of his kerfuffle on Wikipedia, nor of his own credulity (psy, ESP, cold fusion), but I enjoyed reading bits of the talk page about this: http://bit.ly/1jmZibV

    He tries to bully people with his Nobel prize but, to their credit, no one will have any of it. At some point he says:

    “Unfortunately, my experience suggests that being an ’eminent scientist’ cuts no ice at all in these parts! –Brian Josephson”

    Well, that makes me feel very good about Wikipedia. It should cut very little ice. WEIT would be a much shorter book if it were sufficient to say, “Eminent scientists believe it.” But that doesn’t cut it. It doesn’t matter who believes it, you have to back it up.

    This is why it is so sad to see the various scientific failures trot out their lists of credentialed supporters. It is completely irrelevant whether there are a hundred Ph.D.’s and two Nobel prize winners who like your idea, you still have the burden of demonstrating that it is true.

  11. Well according to quantum physics his wiki page is a continuum of probability amplitudes that is manifesting as a non-local event, reflecting the conscious intention of the observer. I would have thought it would only say nice things to him when he reads it. Or maybe Richard Dawkins has been tampering with the laws of nature again.

  12. There is sure fire way for him to get better Wiki entries – stop hawking made up woo.

  13. He should be able to heal his Wiki page by meditation and projection of harmonious thoughts to the Wiki editors.

  14. I reject the hypothesis that Jerry Coyne is merely a “small-time critic”. Deepak recognizes a formidable adversary.

  15. Chopra resembles many religious believers who claim an interest in science, the ones who claim their unsubstantiated beliefs are completely consistent with science anytime science cannot (or has not yet) utterly put paid to the wooishness.

    But unlike these believers (who are content, once they’ve taken them for a spin across the surface, to consign science and faith each to its own compartment, and who sense instinctually that any closer examination is a prescription for cognitive dissonance), Deep-pockets continually coughs up pseudoscience in support of his claims, set out in Chopra-speak, that odd vocabulary wherein words no longer mean what scientists think they mean.

  16. Thanks for the article. People like Chopra, Loise Hay and others with their delusional views give people who need real medical attention false hope. I used to be deluded and let my health deteriorate to the point that I was not expected to live by my doctors and specialists. I thought reiki, positive thinking (loving myself more) and TCM would cure me. But those delusional beliefs just prevented me from getting the real treatment that I knew I needed. Real medicine saved my life back in 1997. The delusions, only as of 2 years ago, are now gone thanks to the antipsychotic medication seroquel. I no longer believe in the paranormal or supernatual either. I laugh at the fact that I used to call myself a “reiki master”. Boo!

    Maybe develop Skeptipedia?

  17. Dr. Coyne – I have no problem calling out Chopra on his thin-skinned nonsense, but what about those naturalist scientists and philosophers who give credence to his quakary but sitting on the same platform with him ala Bill Nye and in the eyes of the general public legitimize his position as something needs serious consideration. For example – Dawkins and Mlodinow. I attended the Tucson Conference Towards A Science of Consciousness and Chopra spoke side by side with Rebecca Goldstein. Easily half of the 800+ attendees who paid $500 for the spectacle were in agreement with his presentation which was straight unapologetic eastern philosophy that consciousness is foundational to nature of Universe – and by the way admittedly unverifiable. Nothing was said that perhaps this had nothing to do with “science” as it is commonly understood. So to my mind, there is a lot of “profiting” being done all around by those who should know better. Just saying…

    1. Good point!

      That is an open, and often debated, question. Do skeptics support woo by criticizing it fairly, exposing it so making it more known and responding to it so making it seem that much creditable (that it has to be responded to)?

      I don’t think there is much science or even basic statistics that is of help here as of yet. Jerry has concluded that creationism attacks on education is better met by minimizing religion rather than criticizing creationism, because the latter has a history of 1-2 centuries of accommodationism going nowhere (in US), reversely it is religiousness that correlates with dysfunctional societies and not creationism as such. Likewise it may be that the states health organizations minimize woo “medicine” is more useful than skeptic organizations attacking woo-spouts like Chopra and his quantum inanities in particular.

      The reverse side of the coin, that skeptics profit on this in money and/or public exposure, is again a) a given, the very purpose of skeptics besides expanding personal education, b) another un-researched area (how much profit) and c) a conspiracy theory (science + woo = money), depending on where you take it.

      1. Yes, but at a certain point he is exploiting the platform and getting the better of the bargain. In Tucson, it was not challenged as woo. It was presented “for your consideration” as a valid avenue “one among many” that could advance a “science” of consciousness.

    2. Also, what about the history of Enlightenment and democracy? Free expression seems to help remove inflammation on issues, and pre/post-E critique of issues may have a useful record.

      I don’t know anything about that, alas, except the point on free expression/open debate in general which I think has been claimed many times. (But I sure would like to see a reference besides the successful history of democracy at work!)

  18. Wookipedia!? The Chopra is strong with this one.

    A few observations:

    skeptics who have sought to discredit my name and work

    But Chopra’s problem is that they have _credited_ him with what he has done.

    Conversely, what other purpose can skeptics have than seeing to it that encyclopedias are fair and accurate. It is a “bias” towards facts, and that is no secret. (See the name for the groups!)

    It is of course expected to see Chopra respond with conspiracy theories (lies about Guerilla Skeptics; identifies factualness as “bias” rather than a method). There is a statistical correlation between woo and conspiracy theory, IIRC – it is much the same thing.

    Most of the skeptic editors on my article believe me to be a very dangerous man

    Delusions of grandeur.

    my representative

    Out of that large scale “team of researchers and historians” we can see one woo-supportive _personal_ “representative”?

    Methinks Chopra is deluded and/or lying again.

  19. Evidence-based science was clearly not part of Chopra’s woo-niversity training nor of his followers! Furthermore his debating behaviour is ‘debatable’ – he interrupts, throws tantrums and flashes his material aquisitions. And I thought that ‘enlightenment’ meant ‘established equanimity’. Silly me.

    1. For Chopra “enlightenment” of a public seems primarily to mean flashing his teeth and jewels. Maybe he has an “enlightenment” requirement on the minimum amount of lumen used during shows.

  20. Just congenially and respectfully inquiring: has the non-duck, medically-related meaning of “quack” recently changed? (E.g., it used to be that “geek” was considered an insulting term, though in the last few years not a few folks have claimed and sought to portray it as a compliment.) I want to stay up-to-date. 😉

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