Deepak Chopra: Quantum troll

May 23, 2014 • 7:03 am

Whenever I think of the Deepakity, I’m immediately reminded of Maru the Cat, who, explaining his obsession with jumping into boxes of all sizes, said, “When I see a box, I cannot help but enter.”

And so it is with Chopra. This is a metaphor of course, but think of Chopra as Maru and the New Atheists as boxes of varying sizes. Chopra cannot stand the fact that, as a group, we consider him an unrepentant quack, and a polluter of genuine science with his quantum obfuscation. He’s obsessed with being taken seriously as a scientist, and with the rest of us paying attention to his ridiculous lucubrations. I hope that one of these days he’ll just give up. In the meantime, he directs his Twi**er comments obsessively toward Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Dan Dennett, Michael Shermer, and me (the smallest box), not realizing that, with the rare exception of Shermer, nobody ever answers him. I never even see his tw**ts, for I use Twi**er only to announce the posts here.  And why on earth should I pay the slightest attention to someone who says stuff like this?:

Screen shot 2014-05-23 at 7.08.36 AMNow there’s a pair of cutting-edge scientists for you!

I was reminded of all this because skeptic and tech expert Tim Farley has a new post about it over at Skeptical Software Tools, a piece called “Misleading posts in Deepak Chopra’s Twitter Feed verge on trolling.

Inspired by a note from Susan Gerbic, head of the admirable outfit Guerilla Skepticism on Wikipedia, Farley used his skills to dig into the history of Chopra’s tw**ts.  And his findings were at once funny (for us) and sad (for Deepak):

It used to be that digging around in old tweets was very difficult, because Twitter’s search function only went back a few weeks. But last year Twitter enhanced search to include years of old tweets. Using Twitter’s advanced search function (which has also been recently enhanced), I dug deeper into Chopra’s Twitter feed to see how often he does things like this.

What emerges is a sad pattern of a man who has almost 2 million followers (and a verified account!) acting as if it is vitally important his followers see that he is debating with certain key atheists on Twitter. He also seems bizarrely obsessed with getting certain people to read his blog. In the process I believe he’s skirting the Twitter rules on spam, and encouraging bad behavior in some of his co-authors as well.

The results of Farley’s analysis aren’t surprising:

You don’t have to go far down Deepak Chopra’s twitter feed most days to find him mentioning one or another of the so-called “New Atheists” in a tweet. A casual observer might believe that Chopra is constantly having conversations on Twitter with them, debating and exchanging ideas.

But a click or two quickly shows that these tweets are very rarely part of conversations. They are one-sided affairs instigated by Chopra and rarely if ever reciprocated. The one exception is PZ Myers who has tweeted at Chopra about the same number of times Chopra has to him.

I used Twitter’s advanced search to run up the totals for seven accounts I’ve seen Chopra tweeting: Jerry CoyneRichard DawkinsDaniel DennettSam HarrisLawrence KraussPZ Myers and Michael Shermer. I found that the actual conversations are the exception, not the rule.

In fact, dating back to 2010 there are well over 1,000 separate mentions (in over 850 tweets – he often mentions multiple people per tweet) from Deepak Chopra to the seven. He’s only ever gotten just over 50 mentions in return.  That’s a ratio of something like 18 or 20 to one, depending on how you count. I’m not Twitter’s enforcement department, but in my humble opinion that looks like spam or abuse to me.  Although some of these tweets date back to 2010, the frequency has markedly increased since January 2013 and continues to this day.

Three of the people involved have never @-mentioned Chopra on Twitter, even once (Coyne, Dawkins and Dennett), as far as I can find. Indeed, it only takes a quick look at their feeds to notice that neither Daniel Dennett nor Jerry Coyne ever reply to anyone – they merely use their Twitter to post announcements.  (Coyne has clearly stated this on his blog). [JAC: It is not a blog!]

Here’s one of hundreds of examples where he desperately wants someone (Dawkins in this case) to READ CHOPRA’S STUFF:

Screen shot 2014-05-23 at 7.22.22 AM

Farley notes re the above (and then below):

Used sparingly, this is a valid technique on Twitter. It can even be considered a courtesy if that person is mentioned in the post. I’ve done it myself. But in my opinion Chopra takes it to an extreme, even doing such things as retweeting himself

Another way Chopra abuses this is by retweeting the same link to multiple people over and over. Notice here how he repeatedly tweets the same video to Jerry Coyne (along with some others) back in November:

Screen shot 2014-05-23 at 7.23.10 AM

Chopra also has minions who follow his lead, and one of them in particular is a nasty piece of work:

If you recall from the previous post about Chopra’s Wikipedia conflict-of-interest problem, last November Chopra wrote a four-part article titled the “Rise and Fall of Militant Skepticism”, which various people including Steven Novella and Jerry Coyne savagely critiqued.

Chopra’s co-author on that series was Jordan Flesher, a young psychology student who apparently has learned his Twitter habits from Chopra. What’s immediately striking about Flesher’s timeline is how Chopra-focused it is. He retweets Chopra constantly, and very often tweets pleas to major atheists to read some article or another, very similar to Chopra’s:

Screen shot 2014-05-23 at 7.28.56 AM Screen shot 2014-05-23 at 7.29.10 AMDennett is surely not a disgrace to academia, but Flesher and Chopra are just as surely a disgrace to science. Farley’s conclusion?

I believe Deepak Chopra is being disingenuous by constantly posting to these people. While it is true that he has debated some of them face-to-face, for instance Dawkins and Shermer, surely he has noticed by now that they never reply to him on Twitter. Thus the posts serve only the purpose of “show” for his own followers.  The mean spiritedness of some of the posts seems to be part of that.

Meanwhile, he is pushing the limits of what Twitter clearly defines as spam, in his ongoing efforts to get these people to engage with his writing. He repeatedly tweet the same links over and over in violation of Twitter’s clearly stated rules.

It’s really kind of sad. The rest of Chopra’s Twitter feed (the part where he’s not selling something) is littered with exhortations to be at one with the universe and to be calm and peaceful. Too bad he doesn’t listen to his own advice, and realize that it really doesn’t matter to the universe if Richard Dawkins reads his latest blog post.

These are my favorite tw**ts Chopra has directed at me, though I didn’t see them till someone called them to my attention.  The first was elicited by the estimable Sharon Hill, creator and editor of Doubtful News:


Homo Erectus! If Chopra knew his science, he’d know that “erectus” isn’t capitalized.

And then there are these nasty bits:

Screen shot 2014-05-23 at 7.34.36 AM

Actually, I adore this stuff. I don’t care about the attention from others, as I don’t hear about it anyway, but I love it that Chopra, despite his pretense of calmness and oneness with the Quantum Consciousness of the Universe, simply can’t stay out of the New Atheist Box. He’s one of those thin-skinned people, who, like Peter Hitchens and Ross Douthat, hasn’t yet learned the first lesson of internet journalism: try not to respond when someone goes after you. It rarely improves your situation. Now sometimes I do respond, but only when I think there’s a point to be made.

And if Chopra reads this, as he undoubtedly will, let me tell him once again, letting slip a bit of invective in response to his: “Deepak, I do not read Twi**er. I pay no attention to your posts, so please stop tw**ting at me. And, for the record, I think you’re not only a quack, but a mean-spirited man whose behavior violates the very principles you try to sell. Oh, and you’re about as far from being a real scientist as is Rupert Sheldrake: that is, in the scientific solar system, you’re well out beyond Pluto.”


88 thoughts on “Deepak Chopra: Quantum troll

  1. This is nitpicking but why the hell Deepak Chopra places one space *before* exclamation marks? You would imagine a guy who has written so many books would understand these basic rules unless his books were written by ghost authors or have been heavily edited by literate people.

    1. Probably because he has no copy editor.

      BTW, do we have a number for him in the category of peer-reviewed publications in scientific journals?

  2. Thanks for the kind words.

    @Trophy: typos like that and other errors in Chopra’s feed lead me to believe he actually runs it himself.

    This surprised me a bit, as many people at his level of fame delegate their Twitter to a PR person or even an intern. (It is possible to do a little of both, of course.)

  3. Let’s be fair, though… I think His Deepness is really onto something with the quantum consciousness stuff, and he provides himself as a prime example. A quantum, after all, is a scientific construct that represents the tiniest of the teeny-tiny, isn’t it? It all makes sense.

    Perhaps his next book should be on quantum self-awareness.

  4. Maybe I’m just old (52), but like Jerry I don’t “get” this Twitter thing. I put the app on my iPhone, and subscribed to several people’s tweets. If it were used to simply post announcements of blog entries, or occasional links to other notable articles, I think it would be useful. But the vast majority of the volume of tweets seems to be people trying to have a conversation with never enough detail to figure out what they mean, and just stupidity.

    How is it that this format is popular with some folks?

    1. But on 2nd thought, most importantly, the social functions:

      – likes, followers et cetera
      – rapid and flexible organization around new topics by using #-tags.

    2. [I’m a bit disorganized today, so excuse me. Didn’t mean to emulate Deep-pockets. :-/]

      Scientists use it with great benefits in some areas, by the way. IIRC the last supernova was jumped on from astronomy and astrophysics observatories around the world by way of tweets, in the absence of a more rapid alert system.

      1. Also many popular movements and insurrections against totalitarian governments have been energized and coordinated through Twitter. Often thought of as communication ‘fluff’, Twitter can be deeply important.

      2. IIRC the last supernova was jumped on from astronomy and astrophysics observatories around the world by way of tweets, in the absence of a more rapid alert system.

        Hmmm, now what was that optical transient hit with the robotic telescope … excuse me while my braincell competes with Google. It was a GRB. Robotic telescope. Hit the optical transient in something like 14s from triggering of BATSE.
        Good little Google! Here come the details. (Gamma Ray Burst) GRB990123 (it’s a date in ISO format, live with it!) was detected at 19990123 09:46:56.12 UTC. Via automated systems, the ROTSE telescope responded and slewed into imaging the error box by about 19990123 09:47:01 (that’s 10 seconds later) but the stupid attached computer dropped the electronic ball for a whole 12 seconds, not recording the optical emission of this (probable) hypernova until 19990123 09:47:22.18. Since it was the light (in the loose sense) of the (probable) hypernova which triggered the capture of this image, could this be considered the world’s first intergalactic selfie?
        Twitter was started in March 2006. Had Twitter been used, the camera would have got the image about 10 and a half million times later than it did. Which matters. Except in cricket.
        You’d still be hard-pressed to beat that reaction time. Slewing telescopes takes time (if you don’t want to bend the optics, which rather defeats the point of the exercise).
        That said, I quite like the buzzing and twitching from my coat pocket telling me that some Pacific island is about to have a very non-pacific day of tsunamis – or not.

    3. @ Curt Cameron
      100% agreement re Tweets. But, then you and I are of similar vintage. Wo is us. 🙂

    4. The conversations make more sense if you can see the full thread. Otherwise it’s just a bunch of out of context stuff. Not all apps show the full threads. I think the native iOS app does.

    5. I’m insulted that you call yourself old at 52 because I’m 61 and I not only accomplished quite a bit in the last 9 years, but I also had a lot of fun. I still look forward to each day (well, most of the time) and I continue to not be old. I think you get Twitter, you just recognize that it’s a waste of time for those of us busy enjoying life.

    6. I’m not so young either Curt and I’ve found Twitter a great source of news, both scientific and educational.

      In education, there is something called a PLN or professional learning network. I follow some great folks and am learning from nearly all of them.

      It really depends on who you follow. Some of the most informative science tweets (other than our host’s) come from Scientific American, Carl Zimmer, Phil Plait, Sci Curious and others I can’t think of right now.

      I don’t have time to tweet a lot of new stuff, but I retweet items I think are interesting, you can follow me @lynnwilhelm if you like.

  5. Before I started visiting this site I’d never heard of Deepak Chopra. He has no presence in the UK as far as I can tell, in the mainstream media anyway. So I looked him up.

    RationalWiki has this marvellous quote:

    “”We are each a localized field of energy and information with cybernetic feedback loops interacting within a nonlocal field…”

    I’m sure they’re lyrics from a 1972 Grateful Dead album…..

    1. I think you’re being a tad unfair to the Dead. I just did a brief search on “Grateful Dead lyrics 1972” and came up with a few things, none of which were as incoherent as Chopra’s prose.

      Here’s a small section of one from Jan. 1972 called Sugaree:

      “Just one thing I ask of you, just one thing for me
      Please forget you know my name, my darling Sugaree
      Shake it, shake it sugaree, just don’t tell them that you know me”

      If anything the lyrics make more sense, despite the inherent limitations of the form, than Chopra’s word salad.

      1. Cannot resist quoting my favourite Dead lyric (Dark Star)
        Shall we go, you and I while we can
        Through the transitive nightfall of diamonds

        1. Oh. Didn’t find that one. I probably need to concede Ian’s point. Though, “transitive nightfall of diamonds” almost makes sense, in a twisted poetic way. Not nearly as clunky as “localized field of energy and information with cybernetic feedback loops interacting within a nonlocal field”.

          I may need to think on this more. I guess I need to get more familiar with Dead lyrics. I refuse, however, to become more familiar with Chopra’s nonsense. I’ve seen enough!

          1. It makes even more sense if you pick up on the T S Eliot reference (The love song of J Arthur Prufrock)

            1. Eliot’s opening to his poem is:

              Let us go then, you and I
              When the evening is spread out against the sky…

              Nothing like the lyric you allude to.

              It’s Alfred, not Arthur.

              1. But you can google to find that the songwriter did mention that poem in a talk about his inspiration.

              2. You stopped just before the good part:

                Like a patient etherized upon a table….

              3. And the third verse describes the scene of the city at night using a metaphor of a cat going to sleep:

                “The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
                The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes,
                Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
                Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
                Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
                Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
                And seeing that it was a soft October night,
                Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.”

                I thought perhaps this feline loving group would enjoy this.

    2. “Before I started visiting this site I’d never heard of Deepak Chopra. He has no presence in the UK as far as I can tell.”

      Oh, to be in England…

      He used to be a fixture on PBS during money-begging season, but he seems to have given that up. Now we have to put up with Wayne Dyer shoveling the woo four times a year.

    3. More like a Yes album: the lyrics weren’t intended to mean anything, just to sound good with the instrumental parts.

  6. If Deep-pockets [love that handle!] wasn’t an unashamed money materialist up to his usual tricks, it would be sad to see such unrequited love. Maybe he should consider that to be loved, you need to reach above the level of creepy selfish troll.

    1. Tim Farley characterizes his tw**t-style as spamming. I’d almost call it stalking. Although he’s picked a medium that’s easy (for some of us, anyway) to ignore.

  7. If you run Deepity’s twitter handle through twitteraudit dot com you will see 35% of his followers are fake.

    1. To be fair, the fake followers are probably not his doing. Many Twitter spammers will program their bot accounts to follow a few celebrities at random to try to fly under the radar of Twitter’s anti-spam algorithms – which look for unusual follow behavior and the like.

      Anyone with millions of followers & a verified account like Chopra thus accumulates a fair number of robot followers through no fault of their own.

        1. Twitter does try to disable spambot accounts when they can identify them, but it gets more and more difficult to identify them as the spammers get ever more clever.

          1. And so it goes.

            Guess I don’t understand why, if someone like Stuart can quickly come up with the 35% figure, Twitter can’t do the same. But I don’t mean to continue wasting your time on what was just a passing comment.

          2. I have informed Twitter before of accounts that have obviously purchased followers (i.e. 85%+ fake followers, running into the tens of thousands) but they have not done anything about it. Its not too difficult to find the fake accounts, I have written straight forward algorithms myself and do not get too many false positive fakes.

            All I can say is if someone follows me and they are obviously fake I block them.

  8. It is clear that Deepak Chopra is more interested in being famous than he is in making a difference. I don’t know why he doesn’t just accept himself for what he is and go on his way. His desperate behaviour reveals that he doesn’t really buy the more “true” part of what he is selling, namely maintaining a calm and objective inner peace.

    1. “I don’t know why he doesn’t just accept himself for what he is and go on his way.”

      Perhaps because there’s a sizable contingent who are saps for the beleaguered voice-in-the-wilderness trope.

      1. Finishing your sentence for you: “…trope, and who will therefore buy the merchandise that he is peddling.”

  9. Much like the wave function in quantum mechanics, Deepak Chopra and his ideas collapse after any interaction with a measuring apparatus.

    1. Measuring apparatus or even trying to engage the English language.

      Thanks for sharing his tweets – I know he is a charlatan and now I know that he can only engage with Jerry by using nonspecific invective.

    1. Actually, I think he’s rather closer than that. Indeed, I’d place his orbit around a bluish gas giant somewhere between Saturn and Neptune — only when directly addressing him, of course….


  10. Your Maru analogy had me laughing for a good ten minutes: “When I see a box, I must enter”. Brilliant!

  11. Chopra is so “deep” into himself, that he cannot even recognize that he is jumping into each box.
    Enjoyed your commentary. Enjoy the site.

  12. And now I picture him as a private school girl from a cartoon looking wistfully in your direction thinking, “Notice me, sempai!”

  13. Infinite Pockets could write a two-section book containing everything there is to know about how a shift in consciousness could cause a shift in biology plus everything there is to say about quantum self-awareness, then set it down just for a moment while he adjusts his designer specs and scratches his ass, and at that point it will be necessary to enlist the services of CERN to locate the damned thing.

    1. And bl*g and d*g. I think it is a running joke on the Jewish tradition to not fully spell the name of G*d since to do so would be damning. There are ‘issues’ about these words, so they are not written. This too is part of the joke, of course.

  14. “Can a shift in consciousness cause a shift in biology?”

    How can he expect a sensible response to a nonsensical question?

    1. Why yes, like when one stops paying attention when at the top of the stairs. Dramatic changes in biology will soon follow.

        1. Yeah, thanks a bunch for that link, Tim. I’m trying to eat my lunch, here.

          ‘The universe is the physical body of #God. We and all that exists are a juxtaposition of possibility waves in #CosmicConsciousness.’

          1. Here, let me fix that b/c it belongs in the loo.

            ‘The universe is the physical body of #God. We and all that exists are a juxtaposition of peristaltic waves in #CosmicConsciousness.’

            1. Deepak’s babbling reminds me of this.

              He seems to me to be desirous of having the cachet of science, without accepting either the methodology or the results of science. In that, he appears to be a kissing cousin of AiG and the Discovery Institute.

  15. This all reminds me of Brad Pitt’s comment to Ed Norton in ‘Fight Club’:

    “You have a kind of sick desperation in your laugh.”

    Only replace “laugh” with “tweets”.

  16. Leonard Mlodinow, a serious Scientist who colaborated with stephen hawking in a couple of books, , wrote a book with Tupak Chokra. I will never understad why.

  17. Deepak better hope that his attitude doesn’t affect his DNA as he suggests might be possible because all this negativity and trolling would surely cause him to devolve into a Homo erectus, or maybe begin to bray like the ass he is.

  18. As someone who uses twitter not at all, I have a naïve question: is it possible that Troy of Is really Isn’t, but is just Deepak’s sock puppet?

  19. I really feel I must register an objection on behalf of Maru. Comparing him with Deep*k, no matter how metaphorically, is really not a dignified way to treat a rather handsome (if slightly chubby and box-fixated) Felis domesticus.

    After all, Maru is a realist. He knows that to get inside the box (which is a real box, not a quantum one) he really has to jump into it. No amount of thinking inside the box (or outside it) will get him there. Schrodinger’s cat he is not.

    I would prefer to use another metaphor in regard to engaging with Deep*k on Tw*tter – “Never wrestle with a pig. You both end up covered in mud and the pig enjoys it”.

  20. (Coyne has clearly stated this on his blog). [JAC: It is not a blog!]

    Is JAC experimenting with his “signature” for when he starts Tw**ting?

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