The Deepakity continues his “million dollar challenge,” and I have one for him!

July 17, 2014 • 12:58 pm

The WooMeister is up to his old silliness, offering a million bucks to anyone who can explain how neuronal events become subjective experiences. (He did this a while back, and decided to keep himself in the public eye by making another video on Monday about exactly the same stuff .)

That’s the “hard problem” of consciousness that people are working on. But of course Chopra doesn’t want an answer: he wants to show that Science Doesn’t Know Everything.  But what he really wants us to infer from his ludicrous challenge is that because science doesn’t know everything, his Quantum Woo theory of a Conscious Universe is right. It’s just like religion: because we supposedly can’t explain where human morality came from, or why laws of physics are “fine-tuned”, there must be a God.

If you can stand to listen to this, do: it’s only a bit over two minutes long, and you get to hear that unctuous voice going after the militant atheists:

Okay, I’ll offer Deepak a challenge: Professor Ceiling Cat’s Hundred Dollar Challenge!

Here it is:

Deepak Chopra has said that when nobody is looking at the moon, it doesn’t exist. If he can prove that, I will give him a hundred dollars. 

132 thoughts on “The Deepakity continues his “million dollar challenge,” and I have one for him!

  1. Hell, make it a… (wait for it…) Hundred and One dollar Challenge! [fireworks!] I’m chipping in!

  2. I will give Deepak $0 (USD) if he can prove the moon does not exist if no one is looking at it (because he cannot), but I will give him $10k (USD) if he can tell me what I am thinking right now. Hint, it includes Deepak, vaseline, and some very smart hyenas (not that any hyenas are dumb).

        1. I don’t think honey badgers eat the honey. If the canonical source is to be believed, they just eat the larvae.

          Of course, if the badger smells honey on a human it might think there’s a hive inside the human and do what it usually does to get to the larvae. That’s not going to be pleasant.

      1. Vinni Pukh will take that jar of med (honey)! And several others.
        I’m trying to find a link to the DVD of Vinni versus the bees. Hilarious, even with my abysmal Russian. Vierotchka (sorry, speelung?) will probably have his/ her/ their two rouble to throw in on the subject.

          1. It is absolutely corking.
            I got a DVD some years ago, for a friend of the wife, on the occasion of their first kid making one year old (or two ; I forget), and when I set it playing the wife came through screaming from the kitchen screaming with joy at the introduction theme music. Which I thought a little OTT. Then she dragged her 15 year old daughter out form her bedroom to watch it while talking nineteen to the dozen in Russian. The 15-yo was far too cool to be in the least bit excited by what her mother found a joyful memory of her childhood. which was about as expected.
            I should have ordered two copies of the DVD.

  3. Deepak looks awful. Maybe he is sick. I guess he can’t quantum consciencely make himself look well.

    1. If he is sick, he would not take his own crapola but make sure he gets the best science-based medical care.

      PCC’s challenge brilliantly underscores how ridiculous Chopra’s antics are.

      1. Yes, I have a close relative who not only believes in the whole Aryuveda nonsense; but went as far as to study it for several years to receive some kind of “certification” in it. (I’m not sure what it certifies you to do, maybe speak nonsense to clients — hey, must have been a theology degree!).

        Anyway, when they get seriously ill (things a placebo can’t take care of), they go for medicine (science-based medicine, shown to be safe and effective, as opposed to other crap that doesn’t actually work). Funny how that happens when the “chips are down”!

        Sort of reminds me of that old canard: No atheists in foxholes.

        1. Ayurveda *is* theological – that’s the source, or rather the texts of theology and religion are also medical and conversely.

          Subjective idealism poisons everything.

  4. Sigh. It is true that a particle only has a wave function associated to it and that an observable only assumes a specific numerical value upon observation.

    But the status still exists.

  5. “QBism personalizes the famous dictum of Asher Peres. The outcome of an experiment is the experience it elicits in an agent. If an agent experiences no outcome, then for that agent there is no outcome. Experiments are not floating in the void, independent of human agency. They are actions taken by an agent to elicit an outcome. And an outcome does not become an outcome until it is experienced by the agent. That experience is the outcome.”

    – Christopher A. Fuchs,1, 2 N. David Mermin,1, 3 and Ru ̈diger Schack1, 4
    1Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study,
    19 Jonkershoek Road, Stellenbosch 7600, South Africa
    2Raytheon BBN Technologies, 10 Moulton Street, Cambridge MA 02138, USA 3Laboratory of Atomic and Solid State Physics,
    Cornell University Ithaca NY 14853, USA
    4Department of Mathematics, Royal Holloway
    University of London, Egham, Surrey TW20 0EX, UK

    1. “What is the sweating professor trying to say?”

      If I don’t go out in the rain, I won’t get wet. Can we therefore conclude that rain isn’t necessarily wet?

      This is just solipsism. Not only that, but the wording is more than reminiscent of the brainless woo trope: “Well it’s true for me/you/them/etc”, where everyone is walking around in their very own custom-made truth bubble – because truth conforms to your desires, donchaknow?

    2. Love them Stellenboschen! But what is they saying here? Dunno. But I am Determined To Study those last 8 lines to discern their meaning.

    3. If an agent experiences no outcome, then for that agent there is no outcome.

      True, but trivial. Now watch them try to turn this into a deepity about the nature of reality

      1. I wouldn’t even concede that.

        I thought about interpreting it as a deepity, but the problem is the construction “for that agent there is”. That’s not accurate. That agent may be unaware of an outcome, but there *is* an outcome. On top of which, not experiencing an outcome is still an outcome. Absolutely no outcome is not possible. The universe would have to stop existing.

        It is equivocation, though. The author of that passage is trying to substitute “for that agent there is no outcome” for “that agent was unaware of an outcome”.

        1. From what I can tell virtually all religious and spiritual thought processes are forms of or derived from equivocation.

          They can’t handle abstractions or changes in levels of perspective or description.

    4. #1: This only says something about the observer, not the reality surrounding them.

      #2: Argument from Authority. (Well, if M. Fuchs, M. Mermin, and M. Schack say it, well, then it must be true. Q.E.D.)

      — Prof. Boschkopf Scheissfresser, PhD, QED, ABC, 123 (you and me!) Oxford, New York, Paris, and Punta Arenas

  6. To put it diplomatically, this man is pathetic. And he has no clue at all about his patheticness,

    I’m confident that one day, his picture will appear right next to the word in the OED.

  7. The JREF has the $1,000,000 set aside in a special account, and can prove that the prize money exists and is available for payout. They also have clearly spelled out guidelines for the applicants of the MDC (Million Dollar Challenge).

    Until Deepity does likewise and demonstrates that his challenge is sincere, we can safely ignore this desperate grab for attention.

    1. Deepak’s money is there only if you imagine it is there. If you require evidence then it ceases to exist. Quantum, you know.

    2. I’m pretty sure Chopra can pony up that money like it were change at the grocer’s. But that’s a bit of the point here, isn’t it… WHO THE HELL GIVES THEIR MONEY TO THIS DOLT!?

      Treat yourself to a good restaurant meal. Buy a new acknowledgedly too-expensive suit. Buy shares in a slightly shady tropical reforesting project. Anything, but don’t-give-your-money-to-this-man!

      1. Two points:

        1 It’s not unusual for multi-millionares to not have $1,000,000 in cash or highly stable liquid assets (Money market funds, CDs, High Quality bonds) readily available.

        The JREF has the prize money sequestered in a fairly liquid and stable high quality bond based mutual fund, or at least they did the last time I checked. Deepity has not demonstrated that said funds are readily available to pay out anyone who meets and beats his so called challenge. I question the seriousness of such an “I’m good for it” challenge.

        2 My point was also that the lack of any guidelines or protocols required for applying for the challenge and claiming the award demonstrates that this is just short of a drunken boast, and not so much a legitimate challenge.

  8. If the moon doesn’t exist when you’re not looking at it, how come the tide continues to rise and fall when I’m in the bunk inside my boat?

      1. That’s maybe a tough challenge, because one could argue that someone, somewhere, is ALWAYS looking at the moon. Maybe … a statue placed in a cave? That way, one could control when it was being looked at.

        1. The Apollo landing sites can be seen, but only with a very powerful telescope. Since powerful telescope time is usually reserved for other things, it is quite rare for anyone to be looking at them. Do the Lunar Lander stages and the mooncars and such pop in and out of existence? What if some one took a photo through the telescope, but did not personally look through the scope? Is that sufficient to cause materialization? How about when someone bounces a laser beam off the reflectors our astronauts placed there? Just how removed from personal observation can we get and still cause things to pop in and out?

            1. Ah but there were good reasons for faking it; no doubt you’ve seen this but it’s worth a repeat 🙂


              1. Merilee – check their “Homeopathy Hospital” sketch, it’s brilliant!

        1. Hang on a sec, does that mean that I just have to stop looking at my bills or does it mean I don’t exist?

    1. Good point. Puts Deepak’s fantasy to rest.

      If anyone wants to learn more about the effects the moon has on our planet, I highly recommend this documentary.

    2. And if only no one had looked at New Orleans around Katrina time … no, wait wait, what if no one had looked at Katrina! What a life-saver. Forget tides and moons, let’s get serious about Not Looking At Things So They Won’t Do Bad Stuff.

    3. If you define “looking at” broadly enough, noticing the tide counts a perceiving the moon. If current tide requires that the moon existed for the last six hours, then it can retroactively count as “looking at” the moon for those six hours.

      The game of tying together perception and existence has been a metaphysical dead end since Bishop Berkeley used it as an argument for God that convinced almost no one. At least, unlike Chopra, he tried to explain his ideas forthrightly and did not have or need quantum woo to try and make himself sound smart.

  9. “…explain how neuronal events become subjective experiences.”

    As Dennet has pointed out, a big part of the problem is that our language about consciousness is not really up to the task. As an example, here we should not say that ‘neural events become subjective experiences’. Better (but not great) is that neural events are our subjective experiences.’ I suspect that once we get the verbiage accurate the so-called ‘hard problem’ will simply disappear – not solved but obviated.

    1. And this is where even other materialist philosophers go wrong. For example, John Searle says that brains cause minds. No, because events are the relata of the causal relation so brains no more cause minds than stomachs cause digestion. Rather, stomachs digest and brains mind.

  10. I think it might be interesting to take up Deepak’s challenge by first explaining that a “modern scientific understanding” in quantum mechanics, to choose his favorite field on which to urinate, depends on our ability to reliably make predictions concerning the outcomes of experiments. Verbal explanations of ‘wave/particle duality’ of light, for example, may be heuristically useful, but are actually not relevant to whether a physicist think s/he “understands how light behaves”. Only the ability to predict and control the behavior of light is relevant.

    Once that is established, Deepak would seem to be rather vulnerable to the loss of his million bucks, or he will once again be exposed a phony who doesn’t honor his promises (vastly more likely) – Because I think modern pharmacological or neurological researchers could very well demonstrate that they can introduce specific chemical or physical stimuli to brains to elicit pretty explicit and specific conscious thoughts.

  11. This is a fantastic BBC documentary on the Moon: — even the most scientifically literate among us are bound to learn something. It presents the theory and evidence of the moon’s formation in great detail. No humans or “consciousness” were around to witness it, yet there is still much we can infer from evidence. Real science is so much more interesting than Chopra’s quantum flapdoodle.

    1. The claim is usually that the moon itself was manifested by a pre-existing “Consciousness.” Humans are only part of what has Always Existed for no reason and with no developmental history or reducible or mechanical components or processes.

      That’s why this argument is a little bit different than just a run-of-the-mill God of the Gaps. God doesn’t “explain” mind: God IS Mind.

      1. We already know how the moon was formed, a natural process explains this. There’s no need for the God hypothesis.

        1. That God must be behind all natural processes (including moon formation) is derived from the assumption that God must exist because mind exists and Mind = God. So if it’s already established that God exists and the material world comes from said mind, then it’s no longer a hypothesis for the formation of the moon. It’s the necessary precondition for the formation of the moon. See?

          I know.

          1. Again, God is not the necessary precondition for the formation of the moon. The gravitational force is.

          2. “God must exist because mind exists”

            Is the existence of mind the necessary precondition for the formation of God?

            1. Would a universe composed entirely of mindless matter (stars, planets, radiation, gases, etc) indicate that god didn’t have anything to do with it?

        1. Unless you’re on a French railway station, in which case, mind the absence of a God gap.
          (Since the enforced separation of rail track owner companies and operator companies, someone measured the platforms wrongly and ordered fsck-knows how many giga-Euros of engines and carriages of the wrong size.)No. Seriously.

            1. Essentially, yes.
              Actually, it’s not all stations (from the reports I’ve heard). The newer stations (post-War?) near Paris were the ones that they measured ; it would seem that no-one at the new company’s “head office” was aware that the clearances allowed for platforms changed at some point in the past, so they just did their measurements on the most convenient stations. Crunch!

              1. No-one so sophisticated. Just SNCF and whoever the new, separated, track&station owning body are.

  12. If we can accept that no one is looking at the moon during a new moon, which is when it is not visible, then we can test if there are tidal effects from the moon at that time. If there are tidal effects, then we can infer that the moon exists when no one is looking at it.

  13. So, he’s looking to give a million dollars to a militant atheist? Doesn’t that mean funding terrorists?

    But he’s pretty much just shot himself in the foot. Color science has the biology of visual perception down cold, and has had for about a century, now. Add on top of that the recent experiments of reconstructions of what a subject is looking at based on brain scans, and…well, what more does he want?


      1. I don’t think it’s fair to say that an off-switch is responsible for consciousness, any more than a beaker of cyanide or a shotgun would be, or a gene for albinism would be responsible for pigmentation.

        An on-switch might be, but only if it could be shown to work in a system that hadn’t previously evinced consciousness.

        Nevertheless, interesting article – considering it’s based on one patient, who’d already had a fairly important part of her brain removed.

        1. “I don’t think it’s fair to say that an off-switch is responsible for consciousness, any more than a beaker of cyanide or a shotgun would be, or a gene for albinism would be responsible for pigmentation.”

          That’s a completely different situation.

          It’s interesting that Francis Crick, who worked on the consciousness, pointed to this very brain region as a potential “orchestra conductor binding all of our different external and internal perceptions together.”

          It looks like he was right on the money!

    1. What does he want? Well, if thoughts are material then he wants someone like you to come up to him with a bucket and dump out a load of subjective experiences. Then he’ll prod them with his toe, pick one of them up, and concede you won the million.

      Deepak’s conception of what “materialism” and “physicalism” entails is so childishly literal that this may well be the bar. “Here ya go — Consciousness is made out of this!” while waving it triumphantly in your fist. It turns out to be a tiny little piece of Pure Consciousness with weight, dimension, and the ability to be stuck willy-nilly into a bucket .

        1. Perhaps so. Magic.

          Which is rich irony, since finding that consciousness is an actual material irreducible thing which works with its own rules is what’s known as mind/body substance dualism. “Spiritual” substance.

          So either way, he wins.

    2. Color science has the biology of visual perception down cold,

      Up to and including the prediction of the existence of tetrachromatic women, and their discovery about a decade ago.

  14. Make sure you have him conduct his demonstration of non-persistence during high tide.

  15. I don’t see the problem with this.
    There have been many experiments with epileptic patients that have had electrodes implanted in their brains.
    There was a recent article where a man was having the procedure done and apparently he was conscious as the surgeons need to know if they are implanting them in the correct place.
    When they triggered one of them the patient said it immediately transformed him to his parents restaurant where he could see and smell everything as it used to be and that the medical team had become his family and staff that used to work there.
    So, triggering neurones, a neuronal event, caused a subjective experience which is what the bet is for.
    Either Deep Chops accepts the evidence of these types of patients or he has electrodes implanted himself.
    I’m guessing neither of those things will happen.

    1. If I had better contacts in the meteorite community, I might use this as an excuse to try to get a fragment of a lunar meteorite. Would it help if I kept it under my pillow, to scare away Tooth Fairies?
      Actually, just on the off-chance, is Ted lurking in the woodwork here?
      (We can do without the “I’m Spartacus” jokes. Please.)

  16. Oh come on, this is so easy a theologian can do it:

    1. We define ‘that which exists’ as that which is being looked at.

    2. Therefore, if no one is looking, it does not exist.


    oh, and therefore God, if you were wondering what caused the tides and whatnot.

  17. The WooMeister is up to his old silliness, offering a million bucks to anyone who can explain how neuronal events become subjective experiences.

    I think the phrasing of this challenge is a pretty strong indication that he’s already lost the war and this is a rearguard action.

    Consider, for the moment, that he’s not posing the challenge over whether neuronal events become subjective experiences, because that would be relative easy to test and show. In fact we already know that they correlate, and everyone pretty much accepts that it’s at least partially causal; so Deepak et al. are forced to fall back to the question of how

  18. In regards to the ‘moon’ statement,the fact that he can’t see his own arse, does that mean it is not there. Well may be he can confirm it by holding on to it and that pretty well sums the guy up.
    More to the point though, he is what I call, taking the piss and the problem is, we are all taking the bait and gnawing on it.

  19. Hmmm, Moon, tides, etc.
    And just last weekend I was videoing the Falls of Lora (a tidal rip on a Scottish sea-loch). I guess I’m going to have to upload that now, and link to it somehow. [SIGH] Tomorrow!

  20. He’s not really taking much of a risk, is he – I think if I had a million dollars even I would bet them on Chopra not being able to understand anything about neuronal events.

  21. Thinking in computer engineering terms that are familiar, to me that’s like asking people to explain how transistor events become a computational process. I’ve fabricated integrated circuits and can tell you that you can’t see the flow of a computational process at that level, you can tell transistors are switching and know what the current state of an IC is, but that’s not a flowing algorithm.

    This is even described in the classic text Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs.

    A computational process is indeed much like a sorcerer’s idea of a spirit. It cannot be seen or touched. It is not composed of matter at all. However, it is very real.

    It even involves Chopra’s favorite word, “quantum.” Quantum effects are a concern when you get small enough, like quantum tunnelling.

    1. That’s because processes are composed out of other processes. But processes are *in* matter, i.e., they involve material change in state. (That said, last I checked a good mereology of events still awaits us.)

    2. Back in the mid 80s I learned the basics of IC design, culminating in designing an IC and having the design sent off to be made.

      If I recall correctly the process was as follows.

      1) Determine what the inputs will be, and what the desired output is.

      2) Using the various types of logic gates figure out and diagram how to generate the output you want from the inputs.

      3)Convert to Boolean equations and simplify.

      4) Use Karnaugh mapping to further simplify.

      5) Diagram final circuit from Karnaugh map results.

      I bet it isn’t done like that anymore.

      When you reduce things down to that level it takes the woo right out of it, but not the wonder. Seems more awe inspiring to me. I think the only reason people can’t seem to grasp how consciousness could result from similar processes in meat circuits is a yearning for human specialness.

      1. I learned about Karnaugh maps in the early 2000s and did them by hand, but yeah I think tools in the industry automate that for you.

        1. Wow, I had forgotten completely about Karnaugh maps but remember really enjoying doing them – by hand- in the late 70s/ early 80s. ( yes, some of us are weird…)

          Typo ergo sum Merilee


  22. He’s a theologian, obviously.

    Define things the way you please and tell people they aren’t “deep” enough or haven’t read enough of his books to criticize his emissions.

  23. Deepak: Explain the fossils.

    Your “logic” works for the sun too. Long before any critter on earth got to the point it had any form of consciousness, the sun was providing the energy for life. Re.: The fossil record.

    Was the sun not there?

    Was the universe not there before consciousness evolved?

    What about the part of the universe beyond our event horizon? Does it “not exist”?

    What a moron (a rich moron, I’ll grant you: P. T. Barnum would be proud!)

    It’s not actually the universal consciousness that creates the universe — it’s the bright purple unicorn that sits just outside our event horizon. Yes it is! Because I say so! It has quantum consciousness!!!

    1. Maybe he’s just gotten rich enough that he’s taken to believing that the world revolves around him?

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