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The Snake Oil Bulletin: Deepak Chopra Has Derp Thoughts About Evolution

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Greetings, grifters! It's time again for the Snake Oil Bulletin, your weekly installment of the latest and greatest in quantum woo woo and pseudoscience. This week we have a return guest! Our favorite Oprah-approved king of quackery. No, not that one. The other one. No, not the guy with the muppet mustache. The OTHER other one. Yeah, Deepak Chopra! That "wholeness regulates dimensional reality" asshole. He has some thinking thoughts for all you naysayers who say he's full of ... nay, and he's going to blast those Deep Thoughts right atcha. Let's cascade our potentiality into this pile of conscious awareness.


Deepak Chopra has some quantum consciousness to think at you scientists

Everyone's favorite guru of gobshit has a mad, you guys. A super big mad.

About a week back pesky scientist type person Steve Newton submitted a piece on Chopra to Valerie Strauss for the WaPo's blog, detailing the latest of Deepak's bullshit bonanza:

Chopra says he believes that there is some “consciousness” that flows through the universe—an energy field created by all living things, surrounding us and penetrating us, binding the galaxy together…no, wait, that’s the Force I’m thinking of. Chopra’s notion of consciousness has more in common with that book The Secret, which says if you just think really hard you can change reality. (A lot of children engage in this magical thinking, but as they mature they outgrow it—apparently with some exceptions.)

Chopra has argued that this universal magic is the driving force behind evolution, not that silly natural selection claptrap. How "thinking" is capable of causing a genetic response to shifting environmental stimuli is a mystery, but what is consciousness if not literally anything Chopra wants it to mean?

Chopra promises proof for his outlandish claims that Darwin was wrong and that consciousness drives evolution, but I’m not going to hold my breath. Holding my breath would lead to low oxygen saturation in the blood and a slightly delusional state, which might make me susceptible to hearing incoherent babbling strewn with scientific terms—quantum! electro-chemical! wave-particle duality!—and mistaking it for meaningful statements. Chopra’s misappropriation of scientific terms in the service of his nonsense mirrors the way Scientology operates, and likely for the same reason: to make a buck from the gullible.

Oof, save some jugular for the rest of us, Steve.

Chopra didn't take kindly to this slight against his quantum grift, so he took to the internutz to respond. He sent a response to Strauss in which he detailed why he's so controversial among people with grey matter. Throughout his response, Chopra does not seem to realize that Valerie Strauss is not Steve Newton, the scientist who originally wrote the piece, so if the accusations he makes seem a bit odd, just remember that Chopra is so conscious of the universe that he couldn't be arsed to read beyond the first by-line:

[I]n a recent blog, Valerie Strauss goes beyond catcalls, accusing me of being an evolution denier, which is absolutely false. I work and write with high-level scientists, including physicists, geneticists, and others who believe, as I do, that mainstream science, like mainstream medicine, has a lot to gain from keeping the flow of ideas moving.

Deepak, you work with scientists in the same way Emilia Clarke "works" with dragons, and that's a Targaryen burn.

As far as evolution is concerned, there’s a cadre of strict Darwinists who will push back against any encroachment into their field, but neo-Darwinism, which tries to address glaring gaps in Darwin’s original theory (after all, he knew nothing of DNA, genes, and the chemical basis of mutations) is a respected field, too. I often think that my interest in genetics, which has led to a book being published this fall, arouses vehement objections because scientists want to protect their turf, and seeing an interested amateur write about troubling issues they haven’t resolved causes them to cry, “How dare he?”

Plug that book, Deepak. Your publisher salutes you.

Something you'll notice in a lot of evolution deniers is this insistence on attacking Darwin specifically, rather than modern evolutionary science in total, because one dead guy is a pretty easy target. However, the tactic ignores that modern evolutionary theory doesn't have a whole lot to do with Darwin's original thesis. Fundamentalists pull that shit because they base their beliefs on the infallible word of prophets, and therefore Darwin must be the evolutionist prophet rather than just a guy who showed people there was a new way of looking at taxonomy and inheritance. It's very telling when a person claims to not deny evolution and then only focuses on the dead Santa beard guy.

Chopra makes a list of what he sees as the issues evolution must grapple with, and if you thought any one of them made sense, you are far too optimistic to follow this blog. Deepak weaves a web of bullshit like a artist paints with oils - he is truly in his element when he spouts nonsense. We won't go through each one because that would be boring, and also we would like to go through our day with a minimum of aneurysms, but let's just say that every one of his points could be answered with the simple question: "What does that even MEAN?" Not once does Chopra define his terms (consciousness, mind, thought structure, and other assorted gobbledigook) and he asserts as a given that there is something so super dooper special about human brains that he honestly claims that humans are no longer subject to evolution. Deepak apparently remembers a day when humans were suddenly rendered immune to disease and climate. Coming from a guy who doesn't believe that HIV causes AIDs, we're hardly surprised.

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Chopra flogs his consciousness a bit more, still not defining it, still using it as a catch-all for whatever he wants, all the while claiming that he infuriates the scientists so because he dares to be an amateur who has trod upon their hallowed grounds of knowledge. Wait, amateur? Didn't he say at the beginning that he works with geneticists and scientists all the time? Is this like when a producer slaps the "amateur" label on a Ron Jeremy film?

Fortunately a much smarter person than we has decided to take Chopra to task for his obscene woogasm. That person just so happens to be Steve Newton, the scientist from the original snark piece:

Not surprisingly, [Dr. Chopra's] claims about the role of “consciousness” in evolution do not hold up to even cursory scrutiny. What Dr. Chopra seems to mean by his usage of “consciousness” is very broad and difficult to pin down. The word is used as if its meaning was plain, its implications undeniable, and its existence unchallengeable.... Indeed, the idea of a unique human “consciousness” echoes 19th century misunderstandings, both the debunked notion of vitalism and the vision of biology which placed human beings at the apex of a single ladder of progress. The idea of a supernatural “consciousness” directing evolution would find a home among advocates of intelligent design creationism, for whom the “intelligent designer” creates the “information” of biologic systems, with humans occupying a special, privileged status among other animals.

Oooh! Anthropocentrism slam! Chopra follows a very common huckster technique of playing to what his audience wants to hear. It pleases humans to hear that we are special, and Chopra plays into that by pretending that there is something so unique about human minds that we exist on a completely different plane from other living creatures. Deepak, c'mon. Even the Pope says pets go to heaven.

Newton continues on to pick apart Chopra's ridiculous claim that human evolution isn't a thing anymore, noting that things like adult tolerance of lactose are a very recent evolutionary development only possible through our use of technology (i.e. the raising of livestock). He even calls out Chopra for pulling his talking points straight out of Ken Ham's "were you there?" playbook:

We don’t need to experiment directly on our 350 million-year-old ancestors to inform and advance modern evolutionary biology. Dr. Chopra’s assertion that evolution is somehow deficient because its claims cannot all be tested in the laboratory is a staple of creationist writings, and not one which scientists or philosophers of science who study the matter would endorse.

See this, Deepak? This is some quantum consciousness raising. Listen to some actual scientists talk about science. They went to school for this shit. A big Twitter following and the praise of Our Lady of Daytime do not a scientist make. Stick to what you know (scamming your way into our hippie uncle's Amazon cart) and let the scientists stick to science.

Flotsam, Jetsam, and Hokum

As always, we wrap up our slow descent into madness with a breakdown of the best in phooey from your favorite source of news, opinion, and delicious pie recipes, Your Wonkette!

[Washington Post / Washington Post / Wisdom of Chopra]

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