What has Deepak Chopra been up to?

April 1, 2023 • 11:45 am

I know everyone’s been asking, “Where has Deepak Chopra gone?”  I haven’t seen any shenanigans from him in a while—at least not since he was deplatformed by the College of Emergency Physicians 2½ years ago, with the group realizing too late that they’d invited a Woomeister to give a keynote speech. (They disinvited him.) But reader Pyers (and some others) called my attention to this piece in the Times of London updating us on Deepakity.

Pyers couldn’t resist adding this acerbic remark: “I had hope that the man had disappeared up his own woo-full fundament but no, like the proverbial bad penny, he is back plugging a new book.”

If you click on the link below, you’ll probably find the article paywalled, but a reader found it archived here, and so you can read five pages of rather anodyne interviews with Deepakity. Surprisingly, it describes one decent thing he did, and for which he does deserve credit, but the rest is his usual palaver, including bringing up epigenetics, quantum woo, and making an unconscionable dig at Richard Dawkins.

I’ll mostly give indented quotes from the article. One thing I deplore is Chopra’s repeated claims that, after he’d been emphasizing it for years, science and medicine now recognize that he was right: there’s a mind-body connection—what you are thinking and how you’re behaving affects the health of your body. I am sad to report that we’ve known that for years, from other data, but of course Deepakity takes credit for it.

Some quotes from the article/interview:

His latest and 93rd book, Living in the Light, is about the deeper philosophy behind yoga, and feels of a piece with someone who has guest-appeared on Meghan Markle’s podcast. But his last book was on brain health, co-authored with a professor of neurology from Harvard. While he was accused by some of pseudo-science for a book entitled Quantum Healing, it is also true that research has recently come to support parts of his thinking about the mind-body connection in disease. The medical establishment and he once abandoned each other; now he is a part-time professor at the medical school at the University of California, San Diego. Deepak’s back, and in conversation he doesn’t soften previous claims but doubles down.

“Every experience epigenetically modifies your body’s metabolism, second by second,” he says at one point in defence of his “quantum healing” theory. “And I don’t care what mainstream medicine thinks about that, they’re wrong.”

That last paragraph, about every experience you have epigenetically modifying your body’s metabolism, must make the claim that each experience changes the nucleotides in your DNA, and that change (which has nothing to do with quantum theory) changes your metabolism. That’s bullpucky, of course, and it’s Deepak who’s wrong, not “mainstream medicine,” It is simply dead, flat WRONG that every experience you have epigenetically modifies your DNA and hence your metabolism. It may modify the neurons in your brain, but that’s just called “experience” or “learning” and has nothing to do with epigenetics.

However, Chopra appears to have done at lease one good thing, and should be lauded for it: publicizing a documentary about Tibet, a country that’s fallen on hard times:

His flying visit to London is a favour to lend his starpower to the cause of Tibet: on Wednesday he introduced the premiere of the new documentary Never Forget Tibet: The Dalai Lama’s Untold Story. Chopra first met the Dalai Lama when he appeared at the Royal Albert Hall in London more than 30 years ago. Are they private friends? “He’s too much of a transpersonal identity to have a private relationship. But he makes you feel that way.” Watching the documentary about the Dalai Lama’s dramatic escape from Chinese imprisonment in Tibet in 1959 now feels like a very relevant cautionary tale.

“It could happen in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Ukraine. What’s happening in India and Pakistan isn’t comfortable either, if you look at the news right now.”

Here’s Deepak promoting the film a year ago. He seems to have lost a lot of weight but still has his diamond-studded spectacles:

Chopra talks about nearing the end of his life (he’s 76 so he’s got some years to go if he’s healthy, which he says he is):

According to some ancient Indian teaching, he says, the first quarter of life is for education, the next “for family, fame, fortune all of that”, the third “you give back”. And the last, “you realise it’s all been a dream and you prepare for death. At that stage you don’t care what people think of you.”

“I’m in my fourth stage. I turned 76 last year. I’m physically very healthy. But I spend at least two, three hours a day or sometimes more in meditation, yoga practice and looking at my final chapters.”

Then he touts his prescience once again, claiming credit for something known long before his time:

“My training is in neuroendocrinology. I was looking at the ‘molecules of emotion’…serotonin, opiates, oxytocin, dopamine. And there are many others.

And they all happen to be immunomodulators. So if you have anger . . . or anxiety, all that leads to a depressed immune system.”

“I’ve been talking about this for 40 years. When I started, I was vilified. Now what we were saying in the 70s is part of medical school training. There are literally thousands of articles in peer-reviewed journals. I have a faculty position at the University of San Diego Medical School . . . And there’s a waiting list for people to take training in integrative medicine.”

If that sounds defensive to you, I don’t think you’re far wrong.

But of course Chopra’s given tons of bogus medical advice, and has been vilified for that, too. This includes his bizarre speculations about epigenetics and his constant emphasis on quantum mechanics, which he now says is “only a metaphor” (but for what?). The quantum stuff, however, was only there to add verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing regimen. It was amply on display in the book discussed below, which I think I went after at the time, as did others:

Millions buy into his message but some scientists remain sceptical. One scientific study used words randomly harvested from Chopra’s Twitter feed (three million followers), re-ordered by an algorithm to create a test for people’s tolerance for “pseudo-profound bullshit”.

. . . Did his book Quantum Healing (1989) get him in a little trouble?

“Not a little, a lot of trouble. I had to actually leave Boston [where he had been working at a hospital] because I thought my colleagues were going to fire me.”

However, he says his friend, Rudolph Tanzi, Harvard professor of neurology, persuaded Chopra to reissue the book in 2015 with Tanzi writing a foreword.

“That book has been a perennial bestseller. And I’m now doing a book with a physicist [Jack Tuszynski at the University of Alberta] called Quantum Body. Because I’m 100 per cent sure now that your body at a very fundamental level operates as a quantum mechanical object.”

The article repeats some criticism, which Deepak ignores, but there are some smart people who go after him:

Some physicists argue that Chopra misconstrues quantum theory. Cox said on Twitter of a challenge Chopra offered his critics: “I claim your million dollars Deepak Chopra, for showing that your understanding of quantum theory is flawed. Is there a form to fill in?”.

Dawkins has repeatedly tried to pin Chopra down, including during an interview in Dawkins’s 2007 television series Enemies of Reason, in which when pressed Chopra says his use of “quantum” is “just a metaphor”. Chopra says to me that he means “quantum theory” in a scientific and not just symbolic way, pointing to YouTube conversations with physicists in his support.

That, then, is some equivocation about quantum woo. But the fact is that nothing that Chopra has to say about quantum mechanics is worth hearing.

Then he can’t resist an uncivil slam at Richard Dawkins:

Later Chopra returns to this point. “The very critics that have been so hostile, including the luminary from England, Richard Dawkins. They’re inflamed. Look at their bodies. They have strokes.”

I pause at this mention of Dawkins’s minor stroke in 2016, then reply: “Your revenge is living well.”

“No, it’s not revenge, it’s just validation. But even that’s not important. Things evolve, as I said, it takes one generation or two for things to shift.”

So first he implies that Richard had a stroke because he’s inflamed, probably because he ignored Chopra’s advice and was “hostile.” The stroke, it’s implied, is “validation”—validation for not only criticizing Chopra’s advice, but not taking it themselves.  But which other critics besides Richard have been inflamed and had strokes?  I find this attempt to justify his woo by pointing to Richard’s stroke (from which he’s clearly recovered almost 100%) an odious act.

I’m not jealous of Chopra or the $180 million fortune the article says he’s accumulated. In fact, I despise him for fleecing the gullible by peddling pseudoscience. I’d rather be right than rich.

Harriet Hall debunks Mayim Bialik’s claims for Neuriva “brain supplement” and her status as “an actual neuroscientist”

November 28, 2021 • 9:30 am

Every evening or so in the ads on NBC News, I have to watch television star Mayim Bialik tout her “brain supplements”, which she claims she invented. They are of course untested nostrums (see below), but the icing on the cake is Bialik’s claim that she’s “a real neuroscientist.” (She does have a Ph.D. in neuroscience, and plays one on the t.v. show “The Big Bang Theory,” but that’s as far as it goes.)

Here are two of her commercials for Neuriva. Nothing she says in the first commercial about Neuriva is true, and she adds that she’s a genuine scientist, saying, “I really am; ask your phone.” Well, I asked my computer, and no dice.

Below is the short commercial I usually see, in which she advertises her snake oil and boasts, “I’m an actual neuroscientist.” She also says she “loves the science behind Neuriva Plus.”  Both the value of the product and her claim to be an actual scientist are dubious. As Harriet Hall notes below, there is no science behind Neuriva.

Over at Science-Based Medicine, Harriet Hall went after Bialik’s claims (both of them) and found them wanting. Neuriva’s efficacy is untested and doubtful, and as for the “actual neuroscientist” part, well, see below, as I did my own investigation.

Click on screenshot to read:

I hope Dr. Hall won’t mind if I reproduce her entire short piece:

I wrote about the brain supplement Neuriva over a year ago. I thought their claim to have proof from clinical studies was misleading. I won’t repeat here what I said there about the evidence: I urge you to click on the link and read what I wrote.

An article in Psychology Today reviewed the evidence and called it “Neuriva nonsense” and “just another snake oil.”

Now they are selling Neuriva Plus, which combines the ingredients in the original Neuriva with vitamins B6, B12, and folate. Do they have any evidence that adding these vitamins enhances the effectiveness of Neuriva? Of course not! Neither Neuriva nor Neuriva Plus has been clinically tested. They are relying on studies of individual ingredients, and those studies are questionable. The results have been mixed, and one study was in aged mice!

Now Mayim Bialik has embarked on a campaign as Neuriva’s science ambassador. You may have seen her commercials on TV where she says she “loves the science of Neuriva” and claims it supports six key indicators of brain health. You may remember her as Amy Farrah Fowler, Sheldon’s girlfriend in “The Big Bang” t.v. series.

Elsewhere she has said:

Neuriva Plus is backed by strong science — yes, I checked it myself — and it combines two clinically tested ingredients that help support six key indicators of brain health.

She holds a PhD in neuroscience, but I couldn’t find whether she ever actually worked as a neuroscientist. It’s obvious that her understanding of “strong science” doesn’t mean what she thinks it means. I doubt if she reads Science-Based Medicine or understands the principles we go by.

Conclusion: Bialik is a good actress. 

Does Neuriva Plus support brain health? Maybe. We have no way of knowing for sure until the product itself is clinically tested.

To check how “actual” Bialik’s claims to be a scientist are, I searched the Web of Science under the names Bialik M and Bialik MC to see if she had any publications (this is the way we find out someone’s record). As the screenshot below shows, she has zero publications. She is neither teaching in a university, working in a lab, or, as far as I can see, actually doing any science. (BTW, I no longer say “I’m a biologist” when someone asks me what I do. I say that I’m a “former biologist”, “superannuated biologist” or “retired biologist.”) The circling is mine:

Now Wikipedia does report on her training:

She returned to earn her Doctor of Philosophy degree in neuroscience from UCLA in 2007 under Dr. James McCracken.[25] Her dissertation was titled “Hypothalamic regulation in relation to maladaptiveobsessive-compulsive, affiliative and satiety behaviors in Prader–Willi syndrome“.[2][26][27]

But if you look at references 2, 21, 26, and 27, you find no peer-reviewed publications except her Ph.D. thesis. She has written no books on neuroscience, either. She’s written or coauthored four books, but none about neuroscience:

Bialik has written two books with pediatrician Jay Gordon and two by herself. Beyond the Sling[57][58] is about attachment parenting, while Mayim’s Vegan Table contains over 100 of Bialik’s vegan recipes.[59][60] Her third book, Girling Up, is about the struggles of and ways in which girls grow up, showing the scientific ways in which their bodies change. Its successor, Boying Up (2018) analyzes the science, anatomy and mentality of growing up as a boy, and the physical and mental changes and challenges boys face while transitioning from adolescence to adulthood.

To me this doesn’t give her present status as a neuroscientist, and she’d stand no chance of being hired by a university as one.  But I don’t mind that nearly as much as her using those credentials to sell untested “brain supplements” to a credulous public. People are spending actual money on Neuriva, and much of that must be based on Bialik’s claimed credentials and her status as a television celebrity. In this sense she is the female equivalent of Deepak Chopra, who can claim, “I’m an actual doctor” while selling his useless “longevity supplements.”

Deepak Chopra canceled!

September 11, 2020 • 9:00 am

Well I’ll be! We haven’t heard from Chopra in a while, but the old quack has finally been recognized for what he is, and by his fellow physicians, of all people. This piece from Medscape (you have to join to read it, but inquiry can yield a pdf) reports that the American College of Emergency Physicians removed Deepak Chopra from its lineup of keynote speakers after the ACEP membership objected.


And it was announced on Twitter in a way not likely to please Deepakity, as he’s usually thin skinned and can’t take rejection from those he perceives as his colleagues. In fact, Chopra learned about his cancellation from the tweet below.

An ACEP spokesperson explained the decision to Medscape:

“ACEP is committed to a diversity of voices and messages in our programming,” said ACEP spokesperson Maggie McGillick. “Deepak Chopra was scheduled to speak specifically to the topic of wellness at one of four general sessions.” The spokesperson described the “strong feelings” expressed by many members who were not in favor of Chopra’s appearance. In order to support the “unity of the emergency medicine community,” ACEP decided to remove Chopra from the lineup, she said.

This happened after ACEP announced that Anthony Fauci would also be a keynote speaker, and then, when Chopra’s talk was announced, the organization worried that the two speakers could be considered “equivalent.”

The reaction from the members was largely positive, but not unmixed:

Chopra’s latest book, Total Meditation: Practices in Living the Awakened Life, is set to be published later this month.

“ACEP seemed to be saying, ‘We consider him an expert in wellness.’ When Chopra defines wellness, it is far beyond the way emergency medicine defines wellness,” [ACEP member Dan] Buckland said.


“[Chopra] has preached Ayurdeva (an alternative medicine system) and ‘quantum healing’ as cures for everything from aging, to cancer, to AIDS,” said Rupinder Singh Sahsi, MD, an ACEP member in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada. “He claims that evolution is not a genetic process but one guided by consciousness.

“It’s simply ridiculous for someone who flies so arrogantly in the face of modern, evidence-based, scientific progress to end up as a keynote speaker at an annual scientificmeeting of a legitimate medical organization,” he said.

Indeed; it was a travesty to invite His Quackness in the first place. But, though I dislike Chopra’s woo-ness as much as anybody, I have to agree with the woman below:

But one person suggested that the damage has already been done with the invitation.

Cathy Richards, a retired population health dietitian, tweeted that although inviting Chopra to speak would have given him the chance to use ACEP as a marketing tool, canceling now gives him the chance to say, ” ‘[Doctors] are so afraid of my teachings they cancelled me’. So ACEP has created a no-good-outcomes scenario for themselves.”

I sure wouldn’t have invited him, but once he was invited, I consider it an abrogation of free speech—and of civility—to cancel him. It doesn’t look good, as Richards notes above, and what are the doctors afraid of? Of course the ACEP doesn’t have to abide by the First Amendment, but once it schedules someone, it should let him talk. Others may differ.

Chopra seems to have largely vanished from the public stage, though I suspect that, like most of his books, the new one will make him a lot of dosh. He’ll cry on his way to the bank. Actually, his response was rather measured and civil—for Chopra:

Chopra told Medscape Medical News that he’s not offended by the withdrawal of the invitation or by the criticism.

“Thirty years ago, I would have been very upset and shocked but today, actually, I find it amusing,” he said.

“I have spoken at Harvard Medical School, I do the yearly update in internal medicine for Beth Israel Hospital,” Chopra noted. “I was actually amused that the American College of Emergency Physicians had not kept up with what’s happening in the world.”

Chopra spokesperson Aaron Marion noted that Chopra’s fee for the ACEP presentation, $5000, is being returned.

Chopra tweeted an apology to ACEP members on Thursday, saying, “Dear ACEP Members, I realize there was a lot of angst about my presentation at your convention. I’m sorry for creating so much turbulence,” adding a link to the presentation he would have given, which he notes cites references from leading, peer-reviewed journals.

His message to his critics: “Please look up the references and decide for yourself if this is science or not.”

If you think it was okay for ACEP to withdraw its invitation to Chopra (or agree with me that they shouldn’t have), weigh in below.

h/t: Detlef

A good critique of panpsychism but a lousy alternative

January 14, 2020 • 11:00 am

The article at hand was published by the Institute of Art and Ideas, a British organization that I hadn’t heard of but is described by Wikipedia thusly:

The Institute of Art and Ideas is an arts organisation founded in 2008 in London. Its programming includes the world’s largest philosophy and music festival, HowTheLightGetsIn and the online channel IAI TV, where talks, debates and articles by leading thinkers can be accessed for free, under the slogan “Changing How The World Thinks.”

I then remembered that they invited me to that festival a few years back, but expected me to pay my own way, which I won’t do just to help them fund their endeavors. But I will point to this article on their website by Bernardo Kastrup, identified as a “Dutch computer scientist and philosopher who has published fundamental theoretical reflections on the mind matter problem.” I have to say that if you go to his site, which is the link at his name, you will find a considerable amount of hubris! But amuse yourself later.

Kastrup is quite critical of panpsychism, and for good reasons. But then, near the end of his piece, the whole argument goes south. For Kastrup, while saying that panpsychism can’t help us understand the “hard problem of consciousness”, also claims that materialism can’t solve it either, and we need to posit that the entire universe (or, as Sean Carroll would say, the Big Wave Function) is conscious. And, like panpsychism, that’s crazy and untestable. It’s weird that a philosopher can so deftly dispose of a crazy theory but then fall under the spell of a different crazy theory. But read by clicking on the screenshot:

Kastrup’s beef is with the “combination problem” that I’ve highlighted before: how does the semi-consciousness of elementary particles (people like Philip Goff posit that the spin, charge, mass, and other properties of these particle are aspects of their “consciousness”—a semantic trick) combine to provide the “high level” consciousness of animals such as ourself? So far I haven’t seen a solution to this problem from panpsychists, only a bunch of handwaving.

Kastrup highlights the combination problem in a more physical way, involving the recognition that particles are not discrete, but aspects of the Big Wave function:

You see, I can easily accept that my cats are conscious, perhaps even the bacteria in my toilet. But I have a hard time imagining—especially when I am eating—that a grain of salt contains a whole community of little conscious subjects. The panpsychist’s motivation for wanting even the humble electron to be conscious is to treat experiential states in a way analogous to how physical properties are treated in chemistry. As the physical properties of particles combine in atoms, molecules and aggregates to give rise to emergent macroscopic properties—such as the wetness of water—the panpsychist wants the experiential states of particles in our brain to combine and give rise to our integrated conscious inner life. The idea is to fold experience into the existing framework of scientific reduction and emergence. Therein resides most of the appeal and force of panpsychism.

To do so, the panpsychist takes subatomic particles to be discrete little bodies with defined spatial boundaries. This way, their respective experiential states are thought to be encompassed by such boundaries, just as our human experiences seem to be encompassed by our skull. Indeed, since each person’s consciousness does not float out into the world, but is personal in the sense that it is limited by the boundaries of the person’s body, so subatomic particles must be understood as discrete little bodies, each containing separate and independent subjectivities.

The panpsychist then posits that the inherent subjectivity of different particles can combine into compound subjects if and when the particles touch, bond or otherwise interact with one another in some undefined chemical manner. Notice that this approach makes sense only through analogy with physical properties. The mass of an electron is ‘held’ within the electron’s boundaries, therefore it’s only logical—the argument goes—that its experiential states should also unfold within the same boundaries. Or is it?

The problem is that subatomic particles aren’t discrete little bodies with defined spatial boundaries; the latter is a simplistic and outdated image known to be wrong. According to Quantum Field Theory (QFT)—the most successful theory ever devised, in terms of predictive power—elementary particles are just local patterns of excitation or ‘vibration’ of a spatially unbound quantum field. Each particle is analogous to a ripple on the surface of a lake. We can determine the location of the ripple and characterize it through physical quantities such as the ripple’s height, length, breadth, speed and direction of movement, yet there is nothing to the ripple but the lake. We can’t lift it out of the lake, for the ripple is merely a pattern of movement of the water itself. Analogously, according to QFT, an elementary subatomic particle is just a pattern of excitation or ‘vibration’ of an underlying quantum field. Like the ripple, we can determine the particle’s location and characterize it through physical quantities such as mass, charge, momentum and spin. Yet, there is nothing to the particle but the underlying quantum field. The particle is the field, ‘moving’ in a certain manner.

The only way around this issue, says Kastrup, is to posit that what is really conscious is the field that creates the particle itself. He explains why the panpsychist can’t coherently argue why experiential states belong to particles themselves, but then his argument begins to fall apart. Why? Because Kastrup says that even if the quantitative aspects of particles could combine to produce consciousness, they would produce consciousness only as a quantitative property, but consciousness is a qualitative property—the problem of quality:

. . . deducing quality from quantity is something entirely different. Experiential states are qualities; they cannot be exhaustively described in quantitative terms. No numerical parameter can tell someone with congenital blindness what it feels like to see red; or someone who never fell in love what it feels like to, well, fall in love. Indeed, this is precisely the so-called ‘hard problem of consciousness’ that plagues mainstream materialism and motivated the creation of panpsychism in the first place. One cannot make an unconscious quantum field give rise to a conscious particle for exactly the same reasons that one cannot make an arrangement of matter give rise to experience.

Dr. Kastrup doesn’t seem to realize that some day I think we’ll be able to stimulate blind people’s brains in the right way and then they will see red! We can already give them a very rudimentary experience of vision. Why is he so sure that the qualia of “red” is beyond scientific understanding?

As I wrote five days ago, on similar bases Patricia Churchland has pretty much knocked down the idea that we can’t understand the origin and mechanism of subjective sensations through a materialist paradigm. I refer you again to her excellent 2005 paper in Progress in Brain Research, “A neurophilosophical slant on consciousness research”,  available free at the link. Churchland thinks, and makes a persuasive case, that just because “qualia” (sensations) are “subjective”, that doesn’t put them beyond the reach of materialist explanation. The whole “consciousness is subjective and thus can’t be understood by a materialistic approach” argument is, it seems, a red herring.

Kastrup deep-sixes the panpsychism explanation, at least in terms of the constituents of the brain having some form of consciousness, but comes a cropper (I love that phrase!) when he tries to replace panpsychism with his own theory. For that theory is simply this: the entire universe—the “quantum field”—is conscious. This, he thinks, avoids the “combination problem.” He doesn’t seem to realize that it raises another problem: testability. Also, he looks a bit foolish when he criticizes materialism, which is the only way we have ever been able to understand the universe. Here’s what he says (I’ve put his definition of a “reduction base” at the bottom):

To circumvent materialism’s failure to explain experience, the panpsychist simply adds experience—with all its countless qualities—to the reduction base. Arguably, this is a copout. Inflated reduction bases don’t really explain anything; they just provide subterfuge for avoiding explanations. A good rule of thumb is that the best theories are those that have the smallest base, and then still manage to explain everything else in terms of it. On this account, panpsychism just isn’t a good theory.

Good alternatives to materialism are those that replace elementary particles with experiential states in their reduction base, as opposed to simply adding elements to it. We call this class of alternatives ‘idealism.’ And then the best formulations of idealism are those that have one single element in their reduction base: universal consciousness itself, a spatially unbound field of subjectivity whose particular patterns of excitation give rise to the myriad qualities of empirical experience. Under such a theory, a unified quantum field is universal consciousness.

There is nothing absurd about this theory; the common impression that there is is just a knee-jerk reaction of our current intellectual habits. As a matter of fact, the theory is arguably the most parsimonious, internally consistent and empirically sound view yet devised. Importantly, as I have extensively discussed elsewhere, idealism—unlike panpsychism—can explain how our private, personal subjectivities arise within universal consciousness. I therefore hope that the momentum gathered by panpsychism in both academia and popular culture is transferred, intact, to this uniquely viable avenue of inquiry, before the inherent shortcomings of panpsychism discourage—as they are bound to eventually do—those seeking an alternative to materialism.

So now we don’t have the combination problem nor the untenable idea that each particle has some unique consciousness or apprehension of the universe. All we need posit is that the entire universe is conscious.  But that nagging little problem remains: “In what sense is it conscious?  Oh, and there’s another issue: “How do we test your theory, Dr. Kastrup?”  For a theory that can be neither tested nor falsified is a theory that can be ignored, for it’s not a scientific or empirical explanation.

Now in the passage above Kastrup links to a big book he wrote, and I’m sure he’d point me to that to show why the Universe’s wave function is conscious. But I’m not reading it—not yet. For all I anticipate there is just another species of gobbledygook, or, as Churchland calls it, “hornswoggling.” If you want to read it, by all means do so and report back here.

I wonder why so many people these days are dissatisfied with materialism and science and are drawn to metaphysics, e.g., Tom Nagel, Tom Wolfe, Philip Goff and now Kastrup. You tell me!  One thing I know: Kastrup is in good company. These are from his website:



How Kastrup defines the “reduction base” of theory (I’d call it the “turtle at the bottom”):

But because we can’t keep on explaining one thing in terms of another forever, at some point we hit rock-bottom. Whatever is then left is considered to be our ‘reduction base’: a set of fundamental or irreducible aspects of nature that cannot themselves be explained, but in terms of which everything else can. Under materialism, the elementary subatomic particles of the standard model—with their intrinsic physical properties—constitute the reduction base.

h/t: Paul

Monday Deepakity

February 9, 2015 • 7:10 am

It’s always a good week when it starts with Deepak trying to show his credibility as a scientist. He tw**ted this at me yesterday (I got informed by email), with the obvious message that REAL SCIENTISTS take him seriously. Or, perhaps this is a tacit admission on his part that HIV causes AIDS after all. . .

Screen shot 2015-02-08 at 5.37.17 PM

I wonder two things. Why on earth would Montagnier let himself be interviewed by Chopra? (One possibility: Orac has described some of Montagnier’s dabblings in woo after he got the Big Prize.)

And I wonder if the French scientist knows that Chopra has waffled about whether he sees HIV as the cause of AIDS? (Chopra has now admitted it, but hasn’t said that he erred previously, nor clarified the role of “right thinking” in getting AIDS.)

Universe to Chopra: talking to a good scientist doesn’t make you one, too.

Morning LOL with Deepak

January 20, 2015 • 6:36 am

When reader Ant sent me a link to this tw**t by Deepak, I realized that I had no choice but to post it, for, like all of us, I lack free will. But if I need to confabulate, I have no choice but to add that Deepak’s lucubrations are a very reliable source of amusement.

Check out this nice Deepity which Chopra uses to tout his new book The Future of God—and he’s been touting furiously all over social media. The Amazon summary:

Can God be revived in a skeptical age? What would it take to give people a spiritual life more powerful than anything in the past? Deepak Chopra tackles these issues with eloquence and insight in this book.  He proposes that God lies at the source of human awareness. Therefore, any person can find the God within that transforms everyday life.

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 6.31.42 AM


Umm. . . .I think Chopra has a problem with the word “know” (and maybe “mystical”, too).

Monday entertainment: Deepak Chopra tries to attack Dawkins, fails miserably

January 19, 2015 • 8:15 am

Let’s start off the week with something light and amusing, and by that I mean the recent lucubrations of Deepak Chopra, always good for a giggle or guffaw. This PuffHo Live video was made last November, so I’m late to the party, but I haven’t seen it posted anywhere else.

Click on the screenshot below to hear Deepak excoriate Richard Dawkins for his “militant atheism” and for calling non-militant atheists “stupid”. Chopra then talks about the things that he considers “real,” goes off on his usual tirade about “consciousness”, and argues that scientists’ concept of reality has been “bamboozled by the superstition of materialism.”

Screen shot 2015-01-18 at 7.19.40 PM
Diamonds in his glasses!

I asked Richard about Chopra’s “militant atheism” quote; he responded that “I don’t recall saying I was a militant atheist although I may have. I’m pretty sure I would never say that anybody who wasn’t a militant atheist was stupid.” Dawkins did add that it was possible he said that and just forgot, but, given Chopra’s history of distorting and misquoting New Atheists, I think the Deepakity is just making this up.  I challenge Chopra to provide the source of Dawkins’s quotes.

But on to the philosophy.  Chopra’s stalking horse is, as he notes in the video, the notion of  “naive realism,” which, as he argues is the incredibly immature notion that there is nothing more to the world than matter and energy. That is, materialism. Chopra, of course, feels that there is a Great Numinousity above it all; that the whole fricking universe is conscious in a way that can’t be described, even in principle, by the laws of physics. Here is a precis from the PuffHo notes:

“He’s a fundamentalist,” [Chopra] told host Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani. “His version of realities is what we call empirical realities. That if you can see it, it’s real. If you can’t see it, it’s not real.”

“But we know, you can’t see your thoughts, feelings, emotions, desires, imagination, creativity, choice — and they’re real,” he continued, making a case for a non-visible God. “Your inner world is real.”

Here Chopra conflates two notions of reality, and I think he does it on purpose. Although I can’t speak for Richard, I’m pretty sure he would agree with me that “thoughts, feelings, emotions” and so on are real in one sense: they are experienced by people and described by them. If someone says his stomach hurts, his feeling is a real feeling—if he’s not lying, that is.

What I would deny are two things: first, that those emotions are not anchored in the physical substance of our brain and thus do not reflect brain activity produced by chemistry and physics. That is, I would deny that emotions and “choices” reflect something beyond and not reducible to the material. Second, I’d deny that the experience of having feelings and emotions itself says something about reality. That is, feeling the presence of God is not conclusive—or even strong—evidence that there is a God.  To arrive at that conclusion one needs empirical evidence that can be supported by multiple observers: the kind of evidence that Chopra abjures. The belief may be real, but not the object of that belief.

Here’s a 7-minute clip from The Young Turks deftly demolishing Deepakity’s inanities. I like the idea that Chopra is promoting “religion for the nonreligious.” One of the convergences between Chopra’s craziness and Sophisticated Theology™ is the notion that consciousness will forever lie beyond the ken of science, and therefore provides some evidence for both nonmaterialism and the numinous.

Finally, here is one of Chopra’s tw**ts from yesterday. It could serve as the illustration of the dictionary definition of “deepity”:

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