Chopra invited to give keynote speech at an autism conference

October 31, 2016 • 10:00 am

Yes, I know that Deepakity is a genuine card-carrying M.D who studied internal medicine and endocrinology, but to invite him to give the keynote speech at a conference on autism? Not only is that not his speciality (well, I can let that slide), but he’s also the world’s premier woomeister. And yes, clearly his prescriptions for good diet, exercise, and sleep are useful, but of course that’s not new, and prescribing such stuff is hardly all he does, and has nothing to do with what makes him a celebrity.

What bothers me is that I don’t believe he has anything useful to say about autism, a condition whose causes and treatment are obscure at best. And yet, according to the CBC, he’s a keynote speaker (undoubtedly getting a big honorarium) at an autism conference in Canada:

Chopra, an author and prominent member of the New Age movement, will be appearing as the keynote speaker at the Children’s Autism Services of Edmonton’s Annual Conference, Jan. 25. [2017]

And the content of his talk at that link gives me no confidence, either, for it has nothing to do with autism.

Join Deepak as he creates a roadmap for “higher health,” based on the latest findings in both mainstream and alternative medicine,

  • Are we in the midst of a major paradigm shift in science?
  • Is there an ultimate reality?
  • Does consciousness conceive, govern, construct and become the physical universe?
  • Is the universe becoming self aware in the human nervous system?
  • Is the next stage of human development conscious evolution?
  • Do we have the ability to influence the future evolution of the cosmos?
  • How does our understanding of consciousness as pure potentiality enhance our capacity for intuition, creativity, conscious choice making, healing, and the awakening of dormant potentials such as non local communication and non local sensory experience?
  • How does our understanding of consciousness also enhance our capacity for total well being (physical, emotional, spiritual, social, community, financial and ecological)?

Deepak will address all these questions as well as practical ways to experience higher consciousness, transformation and healing.  Please mark your calendars to join us at the intersection of autism treatment, and personal well-being.  This will be a must attend event not only for those in the autism community, but for all Edmontonians interested in improving their quality of life.

This has absolutely nothing to do with autism: it’s the same old toxic brew of consciousness, directed human evolution, our own consciouness-created version of reality (Deepakity thinks the Moon doesn’t exist when we’re not looking at it), and the usual “paradigm shift”, which is not happening in either biology or neuroscience. Progress, yes; paradigm shift, no way in hell; what we see is progress produced by the two things Chopra decries: reductionism and materialism.

There are of course people objecting to this, as all good science-loving people should:

Deepak Chopra, a man often described as the “prophet of alternative medicine,” has no place at an Edmonton autism conference, says an Edmonton health expert.

Chopra is the “embodiment of pseudoscience,” according to Timothy Caulfield, a professor of health law and science policy at the University of Alberta.

“I understand the desire to bring in someone who is going to help people think about the big picture, and perhaps help with stress strategies, but Chopra is the icon of pseudoscience,”  Caulfield said in an interview with CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM.

“I’m disappointed that someone who embraces so much pseudoscience has this status, and I`m disappointed that he was selected.”

. . . Caulfield said that argument is absurd, arguing a conference intended for those struggling with developmental challenges should not be legitimizing anything but proven medical research.

“What people like Chopra do is they invite people to be suspicious and invite people to think there is some other kind of world view, that science is only one perspective, but science is a process … it’s a critical way of thinking,” Caulfield said.

“I think we, as a society, have to be increasingly suspicious of people that are trying to twist science to put forward a perspective that has no evidence behind it.”

Good old Dr. Caulfield. Here’s the best part (my emphasis):

“He’s like the great de-educator. He legitimizes these ideas that have no scientific basis at all and makes them sound scientific. He really is a fountain of meaningless jargon,” said Caulfield.

“This is a community — the autism community — which is often subjected to treatments that don’t have science behind them, that are portrayed as if they are scientific. This is a community that is struggling with a profound issue, so I would I like to see a more scientifically informed person in that place.”

Kudos to the CBC for giving more space to Caulfield than to Chopra’s stupid ideas. And here’s one bit of evidence against Deepakian woo:

Chopra believes that human aging and illness can be reversed by the power of the human mind, and argues that his practices of “quantum healing”  can cure any number of ailments, including cancer.

Now the cancer stuff is not only irresponsible but dangerous, and it’s reprehensible for Chopra to say such palaver; but if he really has ways of reversing aging and illness, shouldn’t he be getting younger? The data say otherwise:


Isn’t gray hair a sign of aging?

If anybody wants to bet me that his aging will reverse itself, I’ll put up $1000 at even odds.

h/t: Jim E.

102 thoughts on “Chopra invited to give keynote speech at an autism conference

  1. Speaking of bets and odds, it seems Trump has fully recovered from Pussygate and is now about even with Clinton again. Turnout will be decisive, and the Trump’s followers are the only people really excited to vote for their candidate.

    1. It’s easy to get excited if watching Fox. I just checked the latest average polling results if polls are your thing and it says Hilary up by about 5%. Of course the sky is falling and everyone is crooked except Trump.

      1. Of course Trump isn’t like Crooked Hillary – she negotiates sleazy deals while he negotiates yuge sleazy deals – you can see how her deals are evil while his are virtous.

        1. The polls reported today are as you say, but the combined averages from all recent national polling suggest that Hillary is still four or five points ahead (making her a 3-1 favorite to win). I still like Hillary at those odds, given that it would take a pretty substantial last-second collapse in her numbers to give Trump a viable path to 270 electoral votes.

        1. Maybe it’s because I live in Greenwich Village, but I have almost the opposite situation. Almost everyone I know is excited to vote for Clinton. The constant Clinton bashing, from the political left and right, has had the effect of turning some lukewarm (initially just anti-Trump) supporters into loud and enthusiastic partisans for her. I have found this happening to myself, as well. For example, I used to tell people that I’d hold my nose and vote for Clinton as the least bad option. After reading and hearing non-stop attacks about her (including, occasionally, this website), I find myself defending her and I feel much more positive about voting *for* her rather than *against* Trump. I admire her toughness and tenacity.

          1. I’m in that camp, too (however uneasily).

            I’ve got my differences with Hillary, both politically and concerning her candor. But as for this election, given the alternative, I’m all in with her.

            Hell, I think she might even make a pretty good president. I don’t trust her to tell me anymore of the truth than she absolutely has to, but I do trust her to do the right thing (once she’s exhausted the alternatives 🙂 ) in running the executive branch. She’s wised-up, I believe, about the limits of hard military power. And, when it comes to getting things done, nobody knows better than she how to lay hands on the hidden levers and buttons of government.

            Still, come January, Im’ma miss Barack. Big league.

  2. A fountain of meaningless jargon. Such a nice way of describing the man. For just a minute there I was thinking of Trump but that would be BS.

    1. I may be alone here, but I find troubling the unnecessary comma in “Please mark your calendars to join us at the intersection of autism treatment, and personal well-being.” Why is that comma there? I don’t trust this organization at all.

      1. It is unnecessary and I don’t like it either. Perhaps the person writing it recognized the separation between a conference about autism and whatever Chopra is doing there. (I really wanted to put a comma after autism in that sentence!)

        1. If we’re gonna go prescriptivist, isn’t a comma needed before the conjunction between the two coordinate independent clauses of your first sentence? 🙂

          1. I think the comma there (Heather’s first sentence) would be optional. It’s frequently omitted in actual usage.

            Re “(I really wanted to put a comma after autism in that sentence!)”, it does sometimes help to put a (syntactically unnecessary) comma between two complex phrases, just to help the reader separate them without having to parse the entire sentence. (As, I think, I did just there).


            1. Oh, I think it’s optional, too. But then I’m no prescriptivist; I think all grammatical conventions are optional, to be observed or ignored as may be useful to communicate in a particular circumstance.

          2. I don’t even know what half those words mean!

            And that’s the truth. I was taught English in a way that was supposed to be better, and I learned none of the rules. I didn’t even find of what a noun was until I was in my second year of high school, and a verb a few weeks later. I worked out on my own later what a few other words mean, like conjunction. I don’t know if it was a good way to learn. It worked for me, but when people say things like you just did, I feel like I missed out somewhere bigly! (I’ve decided I love that word, despite its source, so I’m gonna use it!) I don’t know whether how I was taught would work for everyone though.

            1. I think you do great, Heather.

              I try to keep track of the so-called “rules” only so I can break ’em (or at least break them whenever it enhances communication or increases pleasure).

            2. I’m a bit like Ken. In fact I’d forgotten/didn’t know what most of the grammatical terms meant. I know a little more since I started (re)learning French, because French grammar is often slightly different and it’s useful to know what it’s different *to*.

              But I seem to instinctively know whether something sounds right or not, even if I can’t say why, and my intuition is usually correct.

              I agree with Ken that ‘rules’ can be broken, judiciously, for effect. But I hate it when any such construction becomes ‘trendy’ and ignorant people start doing it slavishly. My current bete noire is the newscasters’ habit of using a participle instead of a verb e.g. ‘Police warning people to stay indoors’. Oh, and verbing of nouns – ‘Let’s workshop this’.

              (Let me see now – one sentence ended with a preposition, three started with a conjunction, and a split infinitive. And I wasn’t even trying).


              1. I became acutely aware of the dangers of dangling modifiers after helping a college girlfriend write a paper on Erica Jong’s novel Fear of Flying. At my urging, the final sentence of that paper read: “Bawdy, often obscene, and sometimes lascivious, I hope Ms. Jong continues writing novels like this for decades.”

                I’ll never forget her coming home to tell me how, during his critique of her paper, the professor had explained to the class who it was, grammatically, that was being described by the introductory phrase of her final sentence.

                It’s all good, though, since the girlfriend was kind of bawdy and obscene and lascivious herself, bless her heart. 🙂

      2. That word ‘intersection’ instantly sets off my bullshit detector. Aside from being mildly pretentious, it usually means that two completely unrelated areas of interest are being distorted to make them fit together.


  3. Good on the CBC, however a couple of weeks ago they had on their ‘Ideas’ podcast Dr. Robert Lanza on the topic of:

    Biocentrism: Rethinking Time, Space, Consciousness, and the Illusion of Death

    “Paul Kennedy has his understanding of reality turned-upside-down by Dr. Robert Lanza Dr. Lanza provides a compelling argument for consciousness as the basis for the universe, rather than consciousness simply being its by-product.”

    A friend of mine thought it was thought provoking, it took some time but I think I convinced him otherwise.

    Link if you are willing:

    1. I caught part of this “Ideas” program while driving. It made me laugh out loud as Paul Kennedy allowed this moron, Lanza, any credibility at all. Really? My refrigerator only exists when I am looking at it? Why doesn’t my food go bad then? Or does my food not exist either, unless I’m eating it? ffs. What the hell is wrong with these idiots?

      “Illusion of death”? Such ego-driven nonsense.

  4. •Are we in the midst of a major paradigm shift in science?
    •Is there an ultimate reality?
    •Does consciousness conceive, govern, construct and become the physical universe?
    •Is the universe becoming self aware in the human nervous system?
    •Is the next stage of human development conscious evolution?
    •Do we have the ability to influence the future evolution of the cosmos?
    •How does our understanding of consciousness as pure potentiality enhance our capacity for intuition, creativity, conscious choice making, healing, and the awakening of dormant potentials such as non local communication and non local sensory experience?
    •How does our understanding of consciousness also enhance our capacity for total well being (physical, emotional, spiritual, social, community, financial and ecological)?

    Not on a large scale
    That’s a loaded question
    Lastly and perhaps most relevantly: our understanding should make us more conscious of the possible role of the placebo effect and other psychological impacts on our physiology, thus leading to more skepticism about quack claims and less acceptance of woo. However, sadly, in many people the reverse seems to be true; thinking about the role of consciousness in physiology and medicine appears to heighten people’s ignorance of things like the placebo effect and makes them more credulous of woo.

    Can I haz honorarium now?

    1. As I’m in a quibbling mood, I’ll take exception to ‘yes” on question 2. Is there an ultimate reality?
      The statement could be taken to mean there are lots of realities, but there’s one that stands out as having more significance. An ultimate reality as opposed to what?
      Instead of opening up that can of worms, the only question worth asking might be “reality: what is it really? How do we study it? How do we come to know what it consists of?”

      1. My answer was tuned to the way Chopra probably intended the question to be read. I.e., is what we call reality a subjective product of mind (which is what he’s trying to promote) or is there some stuff that exists separately and independently of human thought (the ‘ultimate reality’ he intends to say is false)? I say ‘yes’ to the latter.

    2. All absolutely nothing to do with Autism and all either highfalutin sounding metaphysical woo or somewhat antagonistic to science. Re the latter is “are we in the midst of a major paradigm shift of science?” – this is an exaggeration of Kuhn where science is asserted to be a socio/political project like religion or even power shifts – one whose paradigms change with political currents)- popular in some intellectual circles.

  5. Deepakity thinks the Moon doesn’t exist when we’re not looking at it

    Actually, as goofy as it sounds, there are some reputable physicists who take the notion of observing in quantum mechanics to an extreme, arguing that the universe doesn’t exist if there are no sentient beings around to observe it. This was an argument made by the late John Wheeler among others.

      1. This is known as the Participatory Anthropic Principal. I don’t know much about but there was a BBC Horizon episode on various Anthropic Principals that, among other things, included an interview with Wheeler.

        BBC Horizon S23E17 – The Anthropic Principle.avi

        1. If the moon really doesn’t exist when there is no one looking at it, we could use this knowledge to control the tides. All it would take would be a little co operation.

          1. I can see a certain problem with that, based on conservation of energy and Einstein’s famous equation E = mc^2.

            If the moon suddenly ceased to exist, then – thanks to the resulting energy release – life on Earth would cease to exist (in any recognisable form) approximately 1.3 seconds later. That would be on the moon-facing side. Life on the other side might linger for a few seconds or minutes longer, I guess.

            (To put this in perspective – the Hiroshima bomb converted 700 milligrams of matter into energy. The Moon weighs 10^24 kg. If Deepak thinks the Moon could just disappear maybe he could explain where the energy goes…)

            What this means is that it is supremely important – for the continuing existence of life on Earth – for at least one person to be always looking at the Moon.


              1. Oh f#@ – wait.

                (Counts toes)

                Are we still here? Someone else must be looking at it. Okay, whoever is looking at the thing right now, don’t stop!.

    1. Any atom or photon can be a QM observer. It only really requires interaction. Thus there is no sentience requirement for a QM ‘observation’ to happen.

      This is likely one of the problems with the Shroedinger’s cat example; people start thinking in terms of ‘observers’ needing to be macroscopic objects. In reality, the various atoms that make up the cat (and air in the box, etc.) would interact with the other atoms, preventing the whole from being indeterminate. Its an analogy to subatomic particles, and its not just ‘the cat’ that is a stand-in for a subatomic particle in the analogy, the ‘box-opener’ is too.

      1. As far as I can tell, observation of quantum entanglement requires a sentient observer as does the two slit problem. It appears that the argument is over the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics.

        1. I think you’re mistaken there. In principle, one could set up a fully automated experiment to measure two-slit interference or verify Bell’s Theorem. One could even have a computer plug the results into a prepared journal article and mail it off for publication without human intervention.

          I don’t know of any reputable quantum physicist who’d argue that such an experiment would produce different results depending on whether or not there’s a human observer in the room when the data is collected. There’s simply nothing in the mathematics of quantum theory to support such a claim.

          1. Not to belabor the issue but it would seem to require a sentient observer(s) to set up the experiment and to observe the result. I think we are now arguing about what is meant by a sentient observer.

            1. Well, sure. Nobody knows what the result is until somebody looks. But that has to do with the definition of knowledge, and is true of any experiment in any science. It does not imply that human sentience plays some mysterious role in determining the result.

            2. From what I understand of photosynthesis it is now believed to involve quantum processes. I don’t think blades of grass are sentient.

              Most modern physicists refer to measuring devices, not observers. A measuring device is any macroscopic object that can be altered by a quantum process in a measurable way.

              Schrodinger never meant the cat to be taken seriously. He was sending up the idea that quantum processes would continue indefinitely.

              1. I don’t want to get too far off track, but I take mild issue with the implication that quantum processes don’t continue indefinitely. They do; classical physics is just what the aggregate effect of those processes looks like from a macroscopic perspective. But at bottom it’s all quantum, all the time.

              2. “Schrodinger never meant the cat to be taken seriously.”

                That policeman that pulled him over when he was out driving with Heisenberg sure took it seriously.

        2. Subjectivist Copenhagen, is once, again, provably wrong. You can axiomatize standard quantum mechanics, and then see there are no predicates referring in any way to “observers” in the psychological sense. The meaning of observer comes out to something like “detector”, at best. (See again, Bunge, _Treatise on Basic Philosophy, volume 7, part 1_.)

      2. Re Schroedinger’s cat, I’ve always thought it was a faulty illustration. Surely the *cat* knows perfectly well what is going on. (Or, sadly, ‘knew’, in which case the wavefunction has already collapsed…)


    2. Seems they’re all on par with the philosophers still puzzling over whether an arbor tipping over in an unoccupied forest makes a racket. 🙂

      1. Yep, or people peddling themselves as experts to the folks back home. I caught wind of one such when I was trying to rationalize buying Schwixon. When I heard that she wanted to turn the place into a daycare center for autistic children IN THE BASEMENT, and was an anti-vaxxer to boot, that did it.

  6. The last thing a conference on autism needs is anything to do with Deepak’s brand of woo (btw I am #actuallyautistic). There is already enough barely disguised nonsense on the subject without adding to it. The phrase “study shows autism is caused by…” is probably the preamble to more absolute nonsense than any other in the English lnaguage. Additionally I would much prefer than a keynote speaker at an event about autism be someone who is autistic (although I would accept Prof Silberman!)

    1. Autism (as a movement) already has to cope with the woo-ish collateral damage from the anti-vaxxers. It surely doesn’t need Deepak as well.


  7. I remember the first time I ever heard of Chopra. I turned on PBS during a fund raising event and caught him for about a minute. I thought he sounded interesting so I waited through the 10+ minutes of fund raising to listen to him some more. When they finally got back to Chopra I listened to him for about 5 minutes before I had enough. I have never listened to him again and my esteem of PBS dropped a couple points that day.

  8. I don’t quite understand how Chopra got as far as he did. Is it his bona fide medical credentials or is he just a terrific salesperson? (He’s on PBS, for crying out loud.)

    Not only is he the “world’s premier woomeister” as JAC says, but in many ways, I think, the most self-evidently false one (in exactly the sense that Mormonism is the most self-evidently false Abrahamic religion.) Quantum woo is in many ways the most obviously false woo.

    Indian rationalist S.T. Joshi once wrote that Deepak Chopra and Dinesh D’Souza made him embarrassed to be Indian.
    Chopra makes me embarrassed to practice meditation, though fortunately I have Sam Harris and Greta Christina to counter-balance him.
    Chopra remains proof that meditation will only take you so far- you might need other stuff (like critical thinking and science) to get you further.

    1. I think there will always be a market for people who tell the public there are easy mystical solutions to hard personal problems. Recover-your-youth scams are probably as old as human speech.

      I think we should be honest and admit that his success is probably due to his own hard work at self-promotion. Just because its slimy doesn’t mean he didn’t put effort into it; rising above all the other potential cons takes work. But yeah, its also part luck, part cache from his medical degree, and also part timing (he started pushing woo in the ’70s. when hippies and the Beatles made doing that easier).

      1. My wife* is addicted to the self-help-industrial complex.

        So I see an unending parade of crap.

        One thing that every single “cure” or “solution” for whatever made-up syndrome or disease or allergy or sensitivity the charlatan is flogging has in common?

        Miraculously every single one of them helps you lose weight! Who would have ever guessed that? In America! To think, every one of these things (every “miracle” fruit or vegetable du jour) helps with America’s No. 1 neurosis! What a surprise!

        /sarcasm …

        (* She does not have any serious health issues and she is not overweight (unlike me). Those people are good sales people. P.T. Barnum would be proud.)

        1. I find it remarkable that, while common sense tells you that losing weight requires ingesting less, these folks all claim that it actually requires ingesting an additional item, the one they sell.

      2. After a few months, the Beatles quickly saw through the Maharishi Mahish Yogi. Although, it is phrased as a romantic break-up song, the song “Sexy Sadie” (from the White Album) is a coded account of their falling out with the Mahareshi.

        It took Donovan much longer to escape his spell, but his whole album “Open Road” is almost entirely about his severance of his relationship with him, though these days he still promotes the meditation teachings.

    2. I think part of the reason for Chopra’s popularity has to do with the way he represents himself as religion-lite. A lot of smart, educated, liberal people today are disenchanted with traditional dogma and sectarian organizations — they are “not religious” — but they still cling to the intuitions and desires fulfilled by a magical world view. Re-packaged Eastern religions seem like a new, modern, scientific, enlightened approach, one which avoids all the judgmental, authoritarian baggage while keeping the comforting ancient wisdom. The focus is on improving the self, rather than dictating what others may or may not do.

      Explaining why this is just another form of bullshit usually triggers the same anger they direct towards fundamentalists — or towards anyone who tries to “dictate” what others may and may not believe. It’s a love/hate, back-and-forth relationship with science. Chopra presents them with a friendlier version, one which is catching up to what the mystics have always known.

      That must be the real science, because it empowers our choices rather than limiting them!

  9. Comparing autistic behaviour with that of Mr Chopra, it appears that he is at the opposite end of the communications spectra. It has so far been impossible to get him to shut up and go away.
    But we must live in hope.

  10. Obviously, the only reason Chopra “appears” to have aged is because someone observed him and collapsed the wave function of his facial eigenstate.

  11. May I respectfully suggest that while Chopra’s ideas are fair game for ridicule, his name should not be. “Deepakity”, “Deepfried”, and the like do more damage to our credibility than to his.

  12. I wonder what this organization is paying Deepak Chopra to say absolutely nothing helpful to people who do not have time for nonsense and are in need of science-backed information and resources. They should have invited Steve Silberman.

  13. “De-educator” is such a great term. There is a whole lost art of polite insult.

    If anybody wants to bet me that his aging will reverse itself, I’ll put up $1000 at even odds.

    Deal. Humans are known to even get bed-wetting infantile as they grow older. I’d say he has that going for him. Chopra is a proven expert, a de-educator as the professor says. The more you follow his technique, the more you ungrow, and de-educate, until your knowledge is akin to that of a toddler. I am prepared to believe this.

  14. I was discouraged from reading all the replies by the election stuff* but in case nobody has referenced this yet

    To make it interesting there is even a quiz where you can pit your brains against the generator!

    * Yeah, I know it is important, but I don’t know anybody who is going to vote at all. It isn’t my country, it isn’t my election, I have no influence on the outcome and I don’t want to spend the next week in nervous anticipation and dread. Frankly I think there is only one rational choice, though not necessarily a good one except in contrast to the alternatives.

    1. The Quebec Autism society (when I went to their Montreal office or something like that) had pamphlets for parents explaining Wakefield’s criminally harmful nonsense – not as nonsense, but *endorsing it*. I do not know if they do this now – that was 10 years ago or so.

      I was outraged, and still am. Moreover, even worse is that there were other “this is the cause and the cure” things which were *opposed* by Wakefield. A little *consistency* would be nice!

      1. I’ve seen so many autism organizations in Canada throw in with woo, I’m completely hesitant to give any donation.

  15. I wonder if Autism societies sometimes dabble in woo because autism has only been recognised as a condition since 1938, has no real cure, (though some people just get over it, for unknown reasons), and autism is not well understood. Moreover it has increased (or at least reporting of it has increased) dramatically since the mid 1990s. Wikipedia says “This increase is largely attributable to changes in diagnostic practices, referral patterns, availability of services, age at diagnosis, and public awareness, though unidentified environmental risk factors cannot be ruled out.” And there are a lot of autistic people or parents desperate to do something about it, who want to try anything if they think it might help or might prevent others getting the condition. So they are looking for new angles on the matter, or they even become distrustful of the science.

    Purveyors of new age woo like Chopra sure don’t help the situation, and neither does the antivaxxer movement (which appeals to some fundamentalist religious people too)

    1. It is often first identified in children, and that “pushes a lot of buttons”. I think that’s most of it. Also, because the affected are often “strange” and that sort of thing, I suspect that aspect does play a role.

  16. “Deepakity thinks the Moon doesn’t exist when we’re not looking at it”

    As is typical for these ultra-credulous garbage peddling individuals, he fails to examine the logical results of his claims.

    We can be quite sure that there were no human observers 4.55 billion years ago. So how did the Earth come into existence when there was no one around to “observe” it? And with no Earth there is no life on Earth, etc.

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