Nov 12 2013

Chopra Skepticism Fail Part 2

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31 responses so far

31 Responses to “Chopra Skepticism Fail Part 2”

  1. jasontimothyjoneson 12 Nov 2013 at 9:16 am

    Seriously, where do you find these nutbags?

    The best line ever “After all, no scientific discovery was ever made by negative thinking” yeah like when someone didn’t believe the earth was the centre of the solar system, or when someone thought it would be a good idea to see why we shouldn’t try and fly, or what about when that guy from the Patens office said that every thing that could be invented has been, and we all said….no it hasnt

  2. Bruceon 12 Nov 2013 at 9:48 am

    I love watching Steve take these people apart. I think I learn more about critical thinking from reading these than anything else. I am finally getting to the point where I can spot most issues before I get to the smackdown.

    Great post.

  3. dogmaphobeon 12 Nov 2013 at 10:03 am

    Great post as usual Steve, though I think you could improve it if you search-replaced ‘Chopra’ with ‘Militant Crank Deepak Chopra’ throughout!


  4. tmac57on 12 Nov 2013 at 11:52 am

    “The whole issue of poop, long ignored because of science’s aversion to yuckiness, has become a major concern, principally for two reasons. The assumption that the alimentary canal is the producer of the excreta has never been proved; therefore, it presents the possibility of being wrong. Second, if poop is more like a field effect than a unique animal trait, the universe itself could be full of shit, or at least possess the qualities of proto-bullshit, just as DNA possesses the possibility for Homo sapiens even at the stage when life forms were only single-celled organisms.”

    Deep-packed Ordure

  5. evhantheinfidelon 12 Nov 2013 at 11:54 am

    Everything that spews forth from Chopra’s mouth makes me want to thrash kittens! Yes, it’s an ad hominem, but not the fallacy, because that’s not why he’s wrong. He just happens to be wrong and repugnant at the same time. That guy’s going to lecture at a nearby community college, and a friend and I tried to write to them about what a crank he is. Unfortunately, we got a standard copy-paste response from the college, so there go a potential many more young people into the mystical void.

  6. BBBlueon 12 Nov 2013 at 2:14 pm

    Adjectives aren’t just the enemy of tight prose, they are often a sign that your argument can’t stand on its own, as in this case. In using “Militant”, Mr. Chopra seeks an emotional angle that will sway the reader, but I guess that should be no surprise. Reminds me of how Democrats try to conflate “Extreme” with “Republican”.

  7. locutusbrgon 12 Nov 2013 at 3:43 pm

    More self indulgent twaddle by Chopra.
    I reject reality and substitute my own, a simplistic and attractive lie to keep the money rolling in. Yet it works time and time again. The Converts hug their Chopra bears at night and feel good about themselves, if not their bank accounts. The New Age Guru newbies say “ya, he’s right science doesn’t know everything!, therefore whatever this guys says must be right.”.

    See everyone, those bad old skeptics are nothing to worry about. They are just jealous of your sublime ability to lie to yourself. Pay me and move along.

  8. Davdoodleson 12 Nov 2013 at 9:32 pm

    “Reminds me of how Democrats try to conflate “Extreme” with “Republican”.”

    And, as I’m sure you also meant to continue, the way Republicans try to conflate “Extreme” with “Democrat”.

    Only being “reminded” of the misdeeds of one side in a political debate might also be a sign that one’s argument can’t stand on its own.

  9. BillyJoe7on 13 Nov 2013 at 4:47 am

    Chopra is essentially saying that, despite the accumulated scientific evidence, science does not know everything, therefore my conclusions arrived at with no evidence at all but simply pulled out of my anus horribilis could be correct, and therefore I am entitled to believe that it is correct.

  10. banyanon 13 Nov 2013 at 9:40 am

    While listening to the audiobook version of “War of the Worldviews” (in which half the chapters are Chopra attempting to take on ‘materialism’) I tried to put myself in the mindset of someone who would agree with Chopra anytime I listened to his chapters.

    And I just can’t do it. I’m usually so good at seeing things from others’ points of view, but I swear everything Chopra says is disorganized gibberish. I can’t believe how successful the guy is. Debating him is like playing tennis with someone whose only strategy is to insist that every time you scored a point it was out of bounds. It’s infuriating.

  11. tmac57on 13 Nov 2013 at 10:37 am

    banyan- I would say it is more like Chopra is claiming that his opponents are playing tennis in only 4 dimensions while he,of course, is playing in 26 dimensions… in his typically patronizing manner.

  12. Bruceon 13 Nov 2013 at 11:16 am

    tmac57, indeed, it reminds me of my friends who can “feel” ghosts who are quite distainful of my skepticism and look down their nose at me as someone who is just not evolved enough to be able to see the great and wonderful things they can see.

    Never mind that it was my credulous attempt to start a ghost hunting company that started me down my skeptical path.

  13. Nitpickingon 14 Nov 2013 at 7:13 am

    Chopra is really good at sounding scholarly. Actually making sense does not appear to be his goal, he just wants (to reference a web column) to sound sciencey.

  14. ccbowerson 14 Nov 2013 at 10:11 am

    “Skepticism is about the serious business of doing science, which combines open-minded curiosity with rigorous methodology. Of course what happens is that whenever skeptics point out a lack of rigorous methodology the true believer claims that we are trying to kill their curiosity.”

    His error here (or strategy) is that he conflates open-mindedness with sloppy methodology and fluffy thinking. When someone points out the problems/issues and errors, they are accused of being negative and close minded. Very convenient argument to make for vague mystical explanations, and it is pretty convincing if you don’t recognize this strategy.

  15. elmer mccurdyon 15 Nov 2013 at 3:54 am

    Davdoodles: that is of course, a very, very stupid thing to say, or rather, let me rephrase that: you’re being disingenuous yet again (the amount of time that you spend doing this in various places makes me suspect that deep down you agree with me that, right or wrong, the crap you say on the internet is utterly unimportant, but I digress, even if that’s actually the main point of this comment). As you damn well know, in recent years, the Republican party has come under the control of Randian loonies and neoconfederates, while the center-right has become the domain of the Democrats. There is no equivalence, in other words, and you know it.

  16. oldmanjenkinson 15 Nov 2013 at 11:54 am

    I always notice Chopra likes to use a lot of gish gallop. He says a lot of words, but statements are not given value by the sheer number of words spoken, but the discoveries they elicit, the predictive power of their suppositions, and the novel nature of their foundations. He lacks everyone less the sheer volume of words.

  17. Bronze Dogon 21 Nov 2013 at 12:52 pm

    I’m sure plenty of you have similar impressions about woo’s closed-minded and incurious nature:

    Woo: It’s explained by [supernatural phenomena]! Obviously!

    Skeptic: Did you consider the possibility of [mundane explanation]? It’s happened before in [cited example]. All it takes is [ordinary circumstances] and [inherent human cognitive failing/logical fallacy].

    Woo: Impossible! That’s absurd! I won’t even entertain your idea except to erect a straw man of it!

  18. pnyikoson 30 Nov 2013 at 3:58 pm

    Steve, you wrote: “For example, if the brain causes the mind then: there will be no documented mental function in the absence of brain function; altering the brain biologically will alter the mind functionally; mental development will correlate with brain development; and mental activity will correlate with brain activity.”

    Once the “if” clause is granted, the rest is on pretty solid ground, except for one thing: suppose that, having once been caused by the brain, mind takes on an independent quality. More amazing things happen daily; for instance, radio waves are sent through space and cause changes in radios, TVs, etc. when all that seems to be happening on the other end is oscillators utilizing electricity.

    Of course, dualists will dispute the “if” clause without denying the existence or the importance of the brain. And there may still be behaviorists like Gilbert Ryle, who wrote a whole book, _The Concept of Mind_, and only used the word “brain” once, towards the end, without trying to explain any mental phenomena with its help. Strangely enough, his book was very well received and enjoyed a major vogue for some time. And even you lend it some support at one point, after you write:

    “I make a habit of asking every neuroscientist I encounter, for example, what they think about the notion that brain function is the mind. Their response has always been the equivalent of, “well, duh!”

    All those “duh”s might send Ryle rolling over in his grave. :-)

    ” They laugh off any dualistic notion or quantum consciousness nonsense, and then proceed to find more neuroanatomical correlates of mind and behavior. The materialist, reductionist paradigm is working just fine.”

    Yes, and Gilbert Ryle can rest in peace again, since his behaviorism is working just fine. :-)

  19. Bronze Dogon 30 Nov 2013 at 5:21 pm

    Once the “if” clause is granted, the rest is on pretty solid ground, except for one thing: suppose that, having once been caused by the brain, mind takes on an independent quality. More amazing things happen daily; for instance, radio waves are sent through space and cause changes in radios, TVs, etc. when all that seems to be happening on the other end is oscillators utilizing electricity.

    IIRC, we can isolate a radio in a faraday cage and block incoming radio waves. I haven’t seen a dualist propose anything equivalent.

    As for independence from the brain, I have a really hard time seeing that, given how easy it is to affect the mind via affecting the brain. Injury, drugs, malnutrition, hypoxia, surgery, electromagnetism.

  20. BillyJoe7on 01 Dec 2013 at 1:06 am

    “Once the “if” clause is granted…”

    I think you misread the quote.

    The “if” clause does not need to be granted. It is evidenced.
    There is evidence that there is no mental function in the absence of brain function; altering the brain biologically alters the mind functionally; mental development correlates with brain development; and mental activity correlates with brain activity.

    This is evidence that the brain causes the mind.

  21. pnyikoson 02 Dec 2013 at 10:12 pm

    Bronze Dog, have you forgotten about curare? The person is conscious, but is unable to move a muscle.

    I once audited a course in philosophy where the professor told us about the history of curare, how it was first thought to be an anesthetic, because no patient reaction to surgery was perceived, and the patients were thought to be unconscious.

    Once the curare wore off, the patients said it was the most horrible experience they’d ever had: agonizing pain yet complete inability to do anything about it.

    They were disbelieved until a surgeon volunteered to go under the knife while incapacitated by curare. That put an end to this sorry episode in the annals of medicine.

  22. pnyikoson 02 Dec 2013 at 10:25 pm

    BillyJoe7, you seem to think this is the 23rd century, or maybe the 31st. We are a long, long way from accounting for every kind of brain event that has ever occurred.

    I am a mathematician. Some of us do proofs that run over dozens of pages. [I can only boast of two such.] A few, like Shelah and Woodin, do them routinely and come up with deep, intricate ideas that baffle me. I doubt that anything like the brain processes of such geniuses has ever been observed.

    You remind me of people who have given up promising careers in mathematics to pursue Artificial Intelligence, only to discover that the grandiose visions of the AI community are still in the unforeseeable future.

    You also remind me of the Soviets who carefully removed Lenin’s brain and undertook a project to examine it microscopically in hopes of discovering the source of his kind of genius. They were also several centuries too soon.

  23. Bronze Dogon 02 Dec 2013 at 11:57 pm

    So, what exactly was the point of bringing up curare?

  24. pnyikoson 04 Dec 2013 at 10:45 pm

    Bronze dog, it was in analogy to what you wrote:

    “we can isolate a radio in a faraday cage and block incoming radio waves.”

    analogously, a dualist might say we can isolate the body in a curare cage and block waves from the mind/self.

    After all, you next wrote:
    “I haven’t seen a dualist propose anything equivalent.”

    By the way, how did you manage to quote what I had written so distinctively, in your first
    reply to me? Was it a html command that I don’t know about?

  25. Bronze Dogon 05 Dec 2013 at 9:56 am

    But if they’re still conscious and experiencing the pain of surgery, you’re not blocking the consciousness. All you’re doing is blocking motor function. You should also be careful if you’re going to bring up poisons. A lot of them work by affecting the nervous system, of which the brain is a part.

    I use [blockquote] block quote tags [/blockquote] and copy-paste to quote other comments. Replace the square brackets with greater than/less than signs.

  26. fullermon 12 Dec 2013 at 1:00 pm

    I don’t fully trust Chopra but none of the criticisms here hold any water at all. Full critique here:

  27. BillyJoe7on 13 Dec 2013 at 11:58 pm

    Well, at least you don’t FULLY trust Chopra!
    But nice try at trying to stir up interest in your…um…critique.
    Seems everyone has judged it the way I have – not worth even responding to. |:

  28. pnyikoson 14 Dec 2013 at 5:24 pm

    Well, BillyJoe7, here is one person who think it IS worth responding to, though not necessarily agreeing with. I have experienced firsthand, in a number of forums, the kind of behavior that Chopra writes about:

    ” As the dust has settled, the agenda of militant skepticism has come to light — its
    basically another symptom of the blogospheres culture of personal attack,
    unfounded allegation, and a reckless disregard for the truth.”

    I cannot, from my limited experience, claim this is true in general, but I can vouch for three examples.

    First, there is my experience in, where Michael Behe and Stephen Meyer have
    been subjected to all three kinds of treatment on a massive scale. In correcting the many
    false things said there, I too have come under the same treatment.

    But is at least a forum where the moderator only steps in on rare occasions, and that is to check really blatant abuses of the system, such as unrelenting spam or the use of multiple nyms for purposes of deceit or to repeatedly get around earlier bans. It has no “thumbs up[down]” feature at all.

    Not so, where people can have their comments rendered invisible by a devoted cadre of self-appointed censors, who ruthlessly suppress people who go against the flow, no matter how worthwhile their contributions to the discussion.

    And the difference is quite palpable: the most vicious and deceitful personal attacks are routinely voted up, and voices in the middle are essentially nonexistent, quite unlike in, where the visibility of dissenting voices puts a damper on things, however feeble.

    The contrast is an illustration of the first part of Lord Acton’s famous saying, “Power tends to corrupt” There is a third that comes close to illustrating the other half, “and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” But I’ll save that for a later post.

  29. BillyJoe7on 15 Dec 2013 at 7:56 am


    Until just now I hadn’t seen your response to my response to your comment about what you quoted from Steven Novella’s article. My response to that is that I was simply trying to explain how you misunderstood what you were quoting from what Steven Novella wrote. I was not necessarily endorsing it, just correcting your interpretation of it.

    As for your last comment above: well I think if you have a thick head you also need a thick skin when commenting on blogs where there’s no censorship because people are inclined to get a bit frustrated explaining things over and over and seeing no lights come on.

    On balance, I prefer the uncensored blogs. It’s just too easy to let consorship get out of control. My experience is mainly with Jerry Coyne’s blog which is so heavily censored that all you end up with is Jerry’s “yes” men. After commenting there for about two years without incident, all my posts are now moderated because a joke to which Jerry took offense. By the time they come out of moderation everyone has moved on.

  30. pnyikoson 15 Dec 2013 at 4:53 pm


    In my comments to Stephen, I had been using both radio sender and radio receiver as the analogue of the brain, with a conjectured mind/self the analogue of the radio signal–a physical entity produced by, and capable of influencing, physical entities of quite a different nature.

    The faraday cage, I took as the analogue of something blocking the signals from affecting the receiver, and so I chose curare. It didn’t occur to me that you would think of the blocking as being the analogue of the mind/self being cut off from stimuli of the brain; that can be done in lots of ways, like a knockout punch or a heavy sedative or a general anesthetic.

    The following comment certainly applies to many people whom I correct:

    if you have a thick head you also need a thick skin when commenting on blogs where there’s no censorship because people are inclined to get a bit frustrated explaining things over and over and seeing no lights come on.

    It is indeed frustrating to see people keep repeating the same misrepresentations of Behe, Meyer, and myself, as well as misconceptions about numerous things, after I’ve corrected people (including sometimes them) umpteen times. I’ll be starting a posting break in a few days to spend quality time with my family over the holidays, but in the new year I will begin posting a variation on a FAQ, which I call a FADC (Frequently Asserted Dubious Claims) to in hopes of cutting down these interminable repetitions.

    Thanks for the interesting information about Jerry Coyne; I was unaware of such goings on in his blog. Did he also go retroactive and delete all or most of your earlier posts?

    That happened to me and to someone who had been criticizing me on another blog, run by Donald Prothero. Either Donald or a toady of his removed all my comments and all but two of the ones that my critic had posted, because he wasn’t satisfied by the way my critic failed to be enough of a “yes” man, even though he was doing his best to blunt my criticism of some things Prothero wrote.

  31. pnyikoson 15 Dec 2013 at 5:06 pm

    Oops, BillyJoe7, I had been confusing you with Bronze Dog in my first paragraph. I hope he reads my reply to you and comments on it.

    As for what you wrote at the beginning of your latest comment, I don’t see what I misunderstood in Stephen’s words. He put an “If” clause in there and I took it at face value.

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