Nov 19 2013

Coyne Destroys Chopra

Chopra continues his attack on his skeptical critics with a piece in the New Republic, focussing his attention on Jerry Coyne. Coyne, in turn, responds to Copra. I gave away my assessment of the exchange in the title of this post, but take a look and decide for yourselves.

Chopra continues his attempt to portray the situation as him being the victim of militant skeptics who are using underhanded tactics to attack anyone who would expand science beyond our narrow materialist view. In so doing he actually betrays his pseudoscientific natture.

Coyne immediately zeros in on Chopra’s major fallacy – he is arguing that he is not a pseudoscientist by listing all his credentials and associations. That is exactly what a pseudoscientist would do, surround himself in the trappings of science. There is no doubt that Chopra is a successful self-promoter, and in fact he is partly responsible for the infiltration of pseudoscience into academia. None of that rescues him from being a pseudoscientist.

The difference between science and pseudoscience is about process, and Chopra does not even mount a defense of his process, because he simply does not understand the nature of the criticism leveled against him – or he does understand, and is simply attempting a diversion or plausible deniability for his fans.

Coyne gives an excellent example of Chopra’s pseudoscience, but there are countless other. Chopra uses vague references, does not define his terms operationally, make wild unsubstantiated claims and leaps of logic, and does not engage with his critics or the mainstream scientific community in a meaningful way.

One of the surest markers of a pseudoscientist, however, is to attack skeptics as being unduly negative or not part of science. This betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of science, which is an inherently skeptical enterprise.

Chopra had an opportunity to show that he was intellectual honest at least by constructively engaging with skeptics. If Chopra has science on his side, then address the meat of our criticisms, show us why, exactly, we are wrong. Instead he attacks skeptics and skepticism, and hides behind his credentials.

In protesting the label of pseudoscience, Chopra just proves all the more that he is a pseudoscientist, just a popular one.

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