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God 2.0: Is the deity a nonlocal quantum mind?

by Michael Shermer, Sep 21 2010

The “Quantum Flapdoodle” of Deepak Chopra and his notion of the deity as a nonlocal quantum mind

Do you believe in God? In most surveys, about nine out of ten Americans respond in the affirmative. The other ten percent provide a variety of answers, including a favorite among skeptics and atheists, “which God?,” spoken in a smarmy manner and followed by a litany of deities: Aphrodite, Amon Ra, Apollo, Baal, Brahma, Ganesha, Isis, Mithras, Osiris, Shiva, Thor, Vishnu, Wotan, and Zeus. “We’re all atheists of these gods,” goes the denouement, “some of us go one god further.”

I have debated many a theologian who make the traditional arguments for God’s existence: the cosmological argument (prime mover, first cause), the teleological argument (the universe’s order and design), the ontological argument (if it is logically possible for God to exist then God exists), the anthropic argument (the fine-tuned characteristics of nature), the moral argument (awareness of right and wrong), and others. These are all reasons to believe if you already believe; if you do not already believe these reasons ring hollow and have been refuted by philosophers from David Hume to Daniel Dennett.

This last spring, however, I participated in a debate with a theologian of a different species—the New Age spiritualist Deepak Chopra—whose arguments for the existence of a deity take a radically different tact. Filmed by ABC’s Nightline and viewed by millions, Deepak hammered out a series of scientistic-sounding arguments for the existence of a nonlocal spooky-action-at-a-distance quantum force. Call it Deepak’s God 2.0.

In the Middle Ages scholars drew correspondences between the microcosm (the earth) and the macrocosm (the heavens), finding linkages between bodily organs, earthly minerals, and heavenly bodies that made the entire system interlocking and interdependent. Gold corresponds to the Sun, which corresponds to the Heart. Silver corresponds to the Moon, which corresponds to the Brain. Mercury corresponds to the planet Mercury, which corresponds to the Gonads. The four elements of Earth, Water, Air, and Fire were astrologically coupled to the four humor-based personality traits of melancholic, phlegmatic, sanguine, and choleric. In its essence Deepak’s New Age theology is a Middle Ages-inspired correspondence between macrocosm world events and microcosm quantum effects, an upgrade from God 1.0 to God 2.0, well captured in the following chart (inspired by my friend and colleague Stephen Beckner):

God 1.0 God 2.0
omnipresent
fully man/fully God
miracles
leap of faith
transubstantiation
Council of Rome
supernatural forces
heaven
hell
eternity
prayer
the Godhead
the Trinity
forgiveness of sin
virgin birth
resurrection
non-local
wave/particle duality
wave-function collapse
quantum leap
Heisenberg uncertainty principle
Copenhagen interpretation
anti-matter
dark energy
dark matter
space/time continuum
quantum entanglement
general relativity
special relativity
quantum erasure
quantum decoherence
virtual reality

Deepak believes that the weirdness of the quantum world (such as Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle) can be linked to certain mysteries of the macro world (such as consciousness). This supposition is based on the work of the tandem team of Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff, whose theory of quantum consciousness has generated much heat but little light in scientific circles.

Inside our neurons are tiny hollow microtubules that act like structural scaffolding. The conjecture is that something inside the microtubules may initiate a wave function collapse that leads to the quantum coherence of atoms, causing neurotransmitters to be released into the synapses between neurons and thus triggering them to fire in a uniform pattern, thereby creating thought and consciousness. Since a wave function collapse can only come about when an atom is “observed” (i.e., affected in any way by something else), “mind” may be the observer in a recursive loop from atoms to molecules to neurons to thought to consciousness to mind to atoms to molecules to neurons to….

In reality, the gap between microcosm quantum effects and macrocosm world events is too large to bridge. In his 1995 book The Unconscious Quantum (Prometheus Books) the University of Colorado particle physicist Victor Stenger demonstrates that for a system to be described quantum mechanically the system’s typical mass m, speed v, and distance d must be on the order of Planck’s constant h. “If mvd is much greater than h, then the system probably can be treated classically.” Stenger computes that the mass of neural transmitter molecules, and their speed across the distance of the synapse, are about three orders of magnitude too large for quantum effects to be influential. There is no microcosm—macrocosm connection. Subatomic particles may be altered when they are observed, but contrary to what Deepak believes, the moon is there even if no one looks at it.

Deepak’s use and abuse of quantum physics is what the Caltech quantum physicist and Nobel laureate Murray Gell-Mann calls “quantum flapdoodle,” which is when you string together a series of terms and phrases from quantum physics and assume that explains something in the regular macro world in which we live. “The mind is like an electron cloud surrounding the nucleus of an atom,” Chopra writes in his 2006 book Life After Death. “Until an observer appears, electrons have no physical identity in the world; there is only the amorphous cloud. In the same way, imagine that there is a cloud of possibilities open to the brain at every moment (consisting of words, memories, ideas, and images I could choose from). When the mind gives a signal, one of these possibilities coalesces from the cloud and becomes a thought in the brain, just as an energy wave collapses into an electron.”

Baloney. The microscopic world of subatomic particles as described by the mathematics of quantum mechanics has no correspondence with the macroscopic world in which we live as described by the mathematics of Newtonian mechanics. These are two different physical systems at two different scales described by two different types of mathematics. The hydrogen atoms in the sun are not sitting around in a cloud of possibilities waiting for a cosmic mind to signal them to fuse into helium atoms and thereby throw off heat generated by nuclear fusion. By the laws of physics of this universe, a gravitationally collapsing cloud of hydrogen gas will, if large enough, reach a critical point of pressure to cause those hydrogen atoms to fuse into helium atoms and give off heat and light in the process, and it would do so even if there were not a single mind in the entire cosmos to observe it.

God 2.0 has no more basis in scientific fact than God 1.0, no matter how many observers believe it is so.

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78 Responses to “God 2.0: Is the deity a nonlocal quantum mind?”

  1. BillG says:

    This “quantum flapdoodle” tripe has run its course – though not before enriching Chopra’s pocket. My not so wild speculation is that Mr. Chopra is not delusional, only those who literally buy into this new age theology.

    With superstring and other TOE theories being tossed about, sooner or later God 3.0 will be on the market.

  2. Somite says:

    The concept that biological systems take advantage of quantum phenomena is particularly jarring to us biologists. The opposite appears to be true; all biological processes are an effort to remove quantum uncertainty. Neurotransmitters are delivered in bags across a gap, an osmotic imbalance is pumped across membranes, etc. Two points are devastating to the quantum argument in biology: 1) no organism has demonstrated any selection pressure for a quantum derived effect; 2) the uncertainty of quantum scales would not suit the very deterministic processes in biology where a molecule or behavior needs to be “there and now”.

    • Richard Cortez says:

      Dear Somite, though I do not know if quantum physics plays a role in biological systems, I would argue that biological systems are not deterministic. One need not conjure up quantum physics as the reason. Biological system are inherently probabilistic. The deterministic nature is an illusion caused by large numbers, small size scales (but not quantum small) and fast chemical reactions. Brownian motion and statistical mechanics along with electrostatics/dynamics are the foundation of all the attempts to quantize biological systems that I have seen thus far in my short career. (undergrad in physics/math, 3 years of ph.d. theoretical physics work, MD, and currently finishing ph.d. in Biomedical Engineering). The fact that molecules are “There and Now” does not happen deterministically leads to pathology and death.

      • dslack says:

        Dear Richard,

        The only things that are inherently probabilistic are quantum events. Statistical mechanics, chaos, etc., describe events in probabilistic terms because we lack sufficient information to describe them purely deterministically, but this does not mean that they do not in principle have deterministic descriptions. Chaotic systems might seem not deterministic, but purely classical, completely deterministic chaotic systems certainly exist. And biological systems might be (almost) in this class.

    • Juice says:

      There would be no photosynthesis or sight (and many other biological processes) without quantum effects.

  3. The Blind Watchmaker says:

    Maybe if we do not observe Mr. Chopra, he will go away.

    • Kristin C. says:

      [golf clap]

      Seriously, that made me lol.

    • LovleAnjel says:

      If we put Chopra into a sealed box with a Cesium atom that would trigger the breaking of a flask containing toxic gas upon its decay, he would be both alive and dead at the same time.

      Even better, the box is sealed so no one can hear him.

  4. tmac57 says:

    “The other ten percent provide a variety of answers, including a favorite among skeptics and atheists, “which God?,” spoken in a smarmy manner and followed by a litany of deities: Aphrodite, Amon Ra, Apollo, Baal, Brahma, Ganesha, Isis, Mithras, Osiris, Shiva, Thor, Vishnu, Wotan, and Zeus. “We’re all atheists of these gods,” goes the denouement, “some of us go one god further.” ”
    I hence dub this the ‘Skeptical Smarmalade’.

  5. John says:

    Yes, old argument with different words.
    My wish: Debate about God 2.0
    Against: a quantum physicist, a neuroscientist, a philosopher – all steeped in debating techniques
    For: Depak Chopra and two supporters of his choosing
    If this hasn’t already been done, it should be.

    • Max says:

      Did you watch ABC’s Nightline debate that Shermer linked to above?
      Shermer and Sam Harris debated Chopra and Jean Houston.

      • Ben says:

        It struck me that the debate was largely a debate over semantics. They seemed to aggree on more points than one would usually think in this kind of debate. This is precisely why we should not put anyone in a box where they cannot be heard (I realize that the earlier comments to that effect were jokes).

  6. Marcus says:

    “These are all reasons to believe if you already believe; if you do not already believe these reasons ring hollow and have been refuted by philosophers from David Hume to Daniel Dennett.”..

    Wow…glad to know Hume & Dennett have dispelled all of those “fallacious” arguments for the existence of God…Michael, I respect you and agree with you that Chopra is a charlatan, but before you dispel belief in God, please do some more homework on some scholars who are worthy to debate you properaly on this subject such Bill Craig or Alvin Plantinga.

    • truthspeaker says:

      Why do you think he hasn’t? I’ve read both Plantinga’s and Craig’s arguments and they are every bit as silly as Chopra’s.

    • Josh says:

      William Lqne Craig? Charlatan! Guy thinks that because Hawking and Hartle invoked imaginary time in their cosmogony that it must be imaginary! He’s content to comment on general relativity because he has a rudimentary understanding of German. Mathematics, however, seems to escape him. Piffle.

  7. oldebabe says:

    Ah, Dr. Shermer, all you philosophers and scientists, and now even pseudo-scientists and fakers, like Chopra et al re: the never-ending quantum and quantum/god discussions and debates! What can an average person, even a skeptical one, really understand or make of it…?

    Perhaps the easiest explanation of all this `spooky’ business is, as a seemingly `low-brow’ character in one of the TV CSI episodes said, “It is what it is, and it ain’t what it ain’t.” I can understand that.

  8. feralboy12 says:

    I live in dread of the day creationists get ahold of chaos theory and start arguing that self-organizing criticality is evidence of god.
    Fortunately, so far, math doesn’t seem to be their strong suit. Too much rigour, perhaps?

    • Max says:

      Creationists like William Dembski, who has a PhD in math, talk about complexity all the time, and are into the Bible code.

    • Eponymous says:

      I don’t think rigor is the issue Creationists have, so much as critical thinking.

  9. NightHiker says:

    In retrospect, this adoption of the quantum world by woo believers is not surprising. It’s like alien abductions replacing demonic possessions. God 1.0, to use the same terminology, was established using concepts being dealt with the “science” of the time (like the apparent capriciousness of natural phenomena around us), but were esoteric to the average person. Quantum physics is just the ideal substitute, since it deals with current legitimate scientific conundrums while being completely esoteric to today’s average person.

    • Lee Fairbanks says:

      Taking their religion and applying pseudo-Science (Aristotelian Authority) to it is nothing new. Heck, for a long time, the Earth Centered Universe and the forces of gravity were REAL and “Scientific” manifestations of god’s ordered universe.

      It’s nothing new but what worries me is that these ideas lasted way too long.

  10. Kathy says:

    I am pursuing a master’s in theology and study all the different ways that people perceive spiritual “things.” So far, to me, Buddhism is the most compatible with atheism. It proscribes no god/God, only the experience of oneness with everything, the experience of stillness, emptiness, peacefulness. Even though I am Catholic, and attend regular church services, my experience of centering prayer/transcendental meditation brings me to a place where I can say that I have discovered God. This God is not a being outside of myself, but an awareness of the peace that is possible through the discipline of the practice of meditation. So, perhaps this conversation here comes down to semantics, to defining “god/God,” and to an attempt to understand our experiences that seem to defy the ordinary. If someone refers to the beyond-words feeling they get when they hold their baby for the first time as a “God experience,” then so be it.

    • truthseeker says:

      But that is NOT what the Holy Roman Church Teaches!

    • truthspeaker says:

      Have you discussed your understanding of God with your priest? If you do, be prepared for a fast track to excommunication.

    • Ben says:

      Many buddhists in Asian countries don’t discount the notion of gods or spirits as a reality of this world, if not the ultimate truth. Thai buddhists often put out food for “hungry ghosts” to eat, not as an act of worship, but of charity. Also in Thailand, one often sees buddhists selling amulets that are supposed to have power over specific events (i.e. avoiding being attacked by knives).
      Some buddhists of the “Pure Land” branch believe that a bodhisattva from another world has granted them salvation. In addition, buddhists can rival Dante in writing about Heavens and Hells, even if these, like our world, are temporary determined by perceptions. So it’s not as though buddhism is entirely devoid of what we might call theism. It just doesn’t force you into it.

  11. Sidney Pubblekit says:

    In my experience, most people who pretend to understand quantum mechanics don’t, and often those who say they don’t do.
    Give me a clear mathematical discussion of what you mean in terms of wavefunctions and operators and we’re talking.
    Until then, this God 2.0 is just something smelly pulled out of his arse.

  12. bigjohn756 says:

    Baloney? Michael, thats not how I spell it. But, I guess that you are trying to be nicer than I.

  13. With respect to the title, are you Americans aware that “God Version 1.0″ is the title of a contemporary Christian song that might well be sung from time to time by the congregation of your local church? (Unless your local church is fundamentalist, in which case it probably wouldn’t. See lyrics.)

    http://www.robinmann.com/album%20data/lyrics/GodVersion1.pdf

    • MNKatiejo says:

      I just went to a Catholic funeral where we were inundated with banal musical tripe, with one exception: Schubert’s stunning “Ave Maria”. The result of this combination of music was a recognition of the stark contrast between the beautiful and carefully crafted, and the unbearably tiresome. It strikes me that this little ditty cannot help but fall under the latter.

  14. Beelzebud says:

    God 2.0 sounds about as real as the Invisible Hand.

    • J.F.Soti says:

      Still blind to economic realities I see, and still getting in your little leftist digs at Shermer every opportunity you can, if that is not being a troll then nothing is.

      • Beelzebud says:

        Speaking of trolling… I didn’t realize it was “leftist” to discount woo woo economic ideas.

      • J.F.Soti says:

        If you think the Invisible Hand is some sort of godly force or woo woo you better go back to economics 101. It is an emergent property much like biological evolution. Your problem is your just love the statues quo mixed economy, not realizing what a quagmire it really has become and it’s not getting any better. You seem closed to the free market solutions that are out there just because “those free market libertarians they are just nutty extremists.” If there was ever a woo woo idea it was a belief that most government imposed solutions work or are even necessary. But this is getting far off topic here I’ll see you on Shermer’s next blog on economics.

  15. The Linz says:

    All this comparison of the God of ancient miracles vs the God of modern cutting edge science reminds of a book I read where two of the characters compared Soviet Socialism to Roman Catholocism and, without boring you with all the details, found abundant similarities. Anyone with enough imagination and basic understanding of the claims of religion vs the claims of some other discipline can do the same intellectually stimulating but ultimately meaningless exercise in word play.

  16. Watson says:

    I think there is LESS evidence for God 2.0 than 1.0 ( and there was precious little for the original!)Consider the improbability of a quantum scale god appearing to mankind by masquerading as a macroscopic entity until outed by the superior intellect of a chap called Depak. What price the tickets he has on himself?

  17. Bluesierra says:

    So, wait a minute…if a tree falls in the forest…no, IS there a tree in the forest if I’m not there to see it? What?

    • un malpaso says:

      Or a better question: If a tree falls on me in the forest, what’s the number for Deepak Chopra so I can call him on my satellite phone and cuss him out?

      • Ben says:

        Are you sure he’ll be there to answer it? Or will he be inside of a box that might kill him if anyone opened it?

  18. John Draeger says:

    Michael, notice that your rating is higher when you don’t write about economics. Probably wise to pay close attention to feedback from your audience. I appreciated this post and I appreciate your efforts to challenge Chopra’s woo.

    This is an important topic since those who believe in dualism are going to go kicking and screaming before they give it up. It’s at the core of all religious belief. Physicist Victor Stenger and neuroscientist Christof Koch do have the knowledge to challenge every argument that even the most skillful proponents of dualism propose. But Dr. Novella certainly has a large role to play too in challenging dualism, and acupuncture, which has unfortunately gained in popularity lately. Even U.S. radio personality Dr. Zorba Paster has suggested acupuncture as a treatment for neuropathic pain. Up to that point he seemed like a fairly pro-science guy. But then he did give hints that he was a Buddhist – should have seen it coming. These beliefs tied to misunderstandings about the role of the human nervous system are living up to the concept of “unsinkable rubber ducks.” Seems people don’t want to believe that cells account for all that we are and all that we think and do. They should be reminded that that are are rejecting cell theory, the basis of biology.

    Qi, soul, spirit, mystical “energy” that survives after the death of cells – all stem from a belief in immortality. I suppose we could call it the immortality delusion.

    • MNKatiejo says:

      Dualism is not at the core of all religious belief. Buddhism is about the recognition that dualism is illusive. Of course, there are those who argue that Buddhism is a philosophy not a religion.

  19. “Microscopic” seems inadequate for things on the subatomic scale. What about “quantoscopic” instead?

  20. Thomas says:

    Very good, Michael. I admire your consistent approach to these issues. It is that consistency that pays off, isnt’t it? I mean isn’t it wonderful to contribute to western advancement even if by means of intellectual prostitution? When you know you’re right, you know you are right, right? Right. Now keep up the good work!

  21. Dick says:

    Doesn’t matter if there is a god or not. It only matters how you use that energy to make your life what you want it to be.

  22. stephen adams says:

    @Somite: actually, quantum biology is already among us: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/02/quantum-photosynthesis/
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20527462.500-quantum-biology-has-come-in-from-the-cold.html
    http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/58770/title/Reverse_engineering_a_quantum_compass
    also, you should read some of what psychologist Stanislov Grof has to say about plant consciousness and his personal and clinical experience of plant-human consciousness interaction in his book “Holotropic Mind.” It is quite fascinating.

    I was a bit put off by the condescending portions of this article, Shermer comes off with more than a hint of intellectual hostility while not actually addressing the title of the post. I agree that Chopak is not much more than a dark skinned, spiritual Tony Robbins, and that he doesn’t have the mathematical erudition to actually know what he’s talking about. I’m not saying I have such knowledge either, but how can one be so closed-minded about the possibility that there are game-changing facets of our reality that have yet to be revealed? Newton was over 300 years ago, Plank published his work around the turn of the 20th century, now we have surfer physicists and ginormous atom smashers; as a philosophy graduate I guess I’m just indoctrinated with the modus operandi that the more I learn and experience, the more I come to know my ignorance. I just get the feeling that Shermer would have put forth reasoned but vehement heliocentric arguments in a past life.

    • truthspeaker says:

      “I’m not saying I have such knowledge either, but how can one be so closed-minded about the possibility that there are game-changing facets of our reality that have yet to be revealed.”

      Shermer isn’t. Where did you get the idea he was?

  23. Lee Fairbanks says:

    Someone above questioned what “version” we might be at. We shouldn’t forget what Newton did to the Church. We should, at least, be talking 3.0 and we should take EVERY OPPORTUNITY TO remind people what, exactly, Newton did change.

    Simply put, the Aristotelian Authority put Earth at the center of the universe. God up “there.” Us down here. The closer you were to the earth the further you were away from god.

    In this quasi-Scientific framework, gravity was a literal force of god but it ONLY worked as long as we were at the center or in the path of this “God-Earth” construct.

    Galileo was tried for trying to disrupt this order and Newton brought that institution to it’s knees with math.

    Though religious people don’t believe the same as they did before Newton, they still adapt to and evolve around these new ideas. Religion keeps getting back up and that’s what worries me.

  24. hioko lee says:

    mr.shermer was really a joke in that stupid meaningless abc debate

  25. DK says:

    ugh this makes me flash back to when my new age hippy friend told me “WATCH WHAT THE BLEEP DO WE KNOW, IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE, BRO”

  26. Outtodoubt says:

    If you haven’t watched the debate, watch it! I expected to see a debate but it turned into a comedy. Every time Chopra’s partner opened her mouth the whole earth got a little more ignorant. Chopra gets a wake up call from Leonard Mlodinov (co-writer of Hawking’s new book) and an invite for a quantum physics lesson. That part made me so happy. Harris and Dr. Shermer really didn’t need to be there; Chopra and friend’s claims made them sound absurd enough. Well done. BTW Just watched Dr. Shermer debate D’souza at USF. Pretty much the same outcome. Get’em scooch!

  27. Captn Tommy says:

    My God! (whomever or whatever you believe) Who cares??

    As long as you don’t try to kill me because my belief is diferent from yours I respect your God, be it science, or the great grand goldfish, this arguement is fruitless because we DON’T Know. Therefore, if somebody wants to believe something and is an Good Person, that’s all that counts.

    Evil is selfish. Good is Selfless. The God does not matter.

    Think about it
    Captn Tommy

  28. viggen says:

    These are two different physical systems at two different scales described by two different types of mathematics. The hydrogen atoms in the sun are not sitting around in a cloud of possibilities waiting for a cosmic mind to signal them to fuse into helium atoms and thereby throw off heat generated by nuclear fusion.

    I agree almost entirely with everything you’ve said, except for a couple tiny quibbles.

    First, The world is quantum in basis… if it weren’t, physicists wouldn’t be working so hard to reconcile QM with General Relativity. Classical theory is sufficient to describe most everything we see, but we often like to expect QM to produce classical results in the classical limit (Planck’s constant becomes zero). We do need some standard by which these theories are comparable or we could never claim either one or the other is sufficiently descriptive.

    Second, there are some large scale QM phenomena. In statistical mechanics, when a star is a White dwarf, the electrons in that star are expected to completely fill all the electron states lower than the Fermi energy of that system. If the star is too massive as it reaches this state, the gravity overwhelms the “force” of the antisymmetry requirement (which is the only force keeping the object from collapsing since thermal convention is no longer great enough) and causes the star to collapse. This system is distinct from what you’re talking about being Chopra’s threshold, however, because the Fermi energy is comparatively high for a body with that kind of mass.

    Overall, terrific post! Thanks for taking the time to stand up to Chopra… I would consider respecting that guy if he ever bothered to even sit through a Quantum course.

  29. sLUCIDITy says:

    I wonder if the term ‘flapdoodle’ will set off Deepak as much as the term ‘woo woo’. It was hilarious watching him lose his sh*t at that description all the way through the debate.

  30. Anton Szautner says:

    Well said Michael, but you forgot to mention Marduk…and his parents Ea (or Enki) and Damkina, along with Anu…everybody does lately, have you noticed? Their displeasure must be growing precipitously as of late.

    Wish I could have been less “smarmy” in saying that, but I am limited by a powerful aversion to dishonesty that compells me to express myself in terms that most accurately expresses my thinking. So, apologies all around in advance if any latter-day Babylonians or Sumerians are grossly offended by the mere mention of them.

    Must be a tough world out thar.

    Seriously, can anyone who believes what Deepak Chopra says show they possess the intellectual equipment necessary to determine whether or not their guru is being straight with them? Does anybody imagine for a moment that his fans who listen to his claptrap feel obligated to be as ‘smart’ or at least as ‘well-informed’ as he is, let alone as well-informed as Bohr or Heisenberg or Pauli or Dirac or Bohm or Einstein or Podolsky or Rosen or Bell or any other of the literally thousands right now who are EXPERT at quantum mechanics, such expertise as can be had at the frontier of both experimental and theoretical investigation, in order to check Chopra’s claims? Have any of them ever actually comprehended what Feynman had to say on the subject?

    Not a chance in a collapsing wave function, no.

    Feyman, for one, was yet another expert who understood quantum mechanics well enough to perceive the distinction between comprehension and the inherent limitations imposed by a whoppingly changeable and arbitrary mind culturally predisposed to accepting and feasting on whatever such sweets it encounters, a ‘consciousness’ equivalent to the behavior of a motile bacterium that maneuvers toward nirvana on the stimulus of a chemical gradient to direct its course. And the swallowers of such unmitigated schlock provided by such con-artists like Chopra exhibit boundless pride that they possess the intellectual attributes of so much as a bacterium.

    At the risk of being branded a ‘d**k’ (as recently and so spectacularly proscribed by the meister of BA, on proper and most polite skeptical etiquite emminently designed to alleviate any feelings of guilt one may suffer from acquainting others with evidence that may happen to flout their cherished beliefs at issue) I for one hereby suggest (oh, no, never declare – one might get severely hurt with such an effrontery) that Deepak Chopra AND his fans are full of pure HOOEY. Chopra’s hall of fame is demonstrably chock full of BULLSHOT.

    There. But the freshly offended will need to stand in line behind the Babylonians and Sumerians.

    Rumor has it they need not wait terribly long in line.

    Or is too “smarmy” to venture such a statement?

    If so, I humbly apologize, as long as everybody understand I do so without a zot of retraction.

  31. Michael French says:

    A fascinateing read and the comments have been excellent. But I am where I started I’m afraid. I am not a scientist, theologian, mathmetician or a Chopra follower. I have read some of his books, but they seems self serving. Of all the remarks here I think #21 said it best. It doesn’t matter. Offended by Chopra, then don’t buy his books. The fact her gets other people to “buy” what he is selling, is unforturnate, but still just an economic transaction mostly. When he goes away, as several people have pointed out, he will be replaced.

    I am not advocating giving up on educating the public whenever possible, but there seems to be an unnecessary amount of heat.

    I have never tried to apply scientific rigour to what Chopra is saying, I never expected it would hold up to the math, and the experts here seem to agree. But that seems to me to be beside the point.

    We are trying to describe with our limited abilities what makes reality the way it is.

    Math and physics are working at it and pointing to a number of possible, but so far, incomplete models. Pointing is the important word here. I have thought for a long time that religion was also pointing. The mistake we keep making is worshipping the person doing the pointing.

    I am reminded of the old Zen koan of the finger pointing at the moon.

    If Chopra gets a few people to stop, sit, breathe and maybe for a moment, stop churning things through their minds, then he has done a service. His science may be crud, but some good may come out of it yet.

  32. Joe says:

    Baloney??? Really? Do you listen to yourself?
    As I do not take for granted half of what deepak says,
    I think people like you are more like 3/4 Baloney…
    …No correspondance between macro and micro worldS,
    so, we live in two different universe, and the two differents set of laws to describe them are never gonna meet…
    You septics, when trying to disproof people that point to some “possible” correspondances, talk like you know every single mysteries of the universe! Maybe for now science can’t see close relations between the big and the small, does that mean there isn’t? Cause like I said,
    that would mean we live in two different Universe!
    So, a little bit of humility, please, we know nothing,
    but I, sir, can see beauty in correspondances,
    and beauty is my only truth, my only god.

  33. madlilviking says:

    I confess to being a poorly educated but extremely interested person when it comes to the subjects of science and religion. But I consider myself a non-religious skeptic. This brings me to the questions: Can a religious person also be a skeptic? and can a skeptic also be a truely religious person?

  34. I’ve trying to research this topic for an upcoming comic strip and one of the main problems I’ve encountered is the fact it is difficult to ‘Debunk’ Chopra, because Chopra himself doesn’t not fully understand what he’s talking about.

    For example, Shermer, mentions the following in the above post:
    “Since a wave function collapse can only come about when an atom is “observed” (i.e., affected in any way by something else), “mind” may be the observer in a recursive loop from atoms to molecules to neurons to thought to consciousness to mind to atoms to molecules to neurons to….”

    However, I couldn’t really find what Chopra’s concept of “Mind” really is. Which is important since it causes the “wave-collapse”. I did read up about Stuart Hameroff’s work, which Chopra is enamored with but even Chopra struggles to understand what Hameroff is saying.

    Which from my understanding is even nuttier, since Hameroff appears to believe that fabric of space-time itself is a type of “Plato’s Perfect Universe” and it’s this fabric that causes the wave to collapse in such way that quantum physics can’t explain. Thus he concludes it must be some sort of “Universal Consciousness”.

    To debunk someone, they need to make some kind of declarative statements that you can proove false. But with Chopra, it’s like punching want to touch a cloud. From a distance, it looks like a solid object, but when you get close up you realize it’s all empty space.

  35. ohduh says:

    Good blog, Mr. Shermer; now please cease publicizing DC by debating the con artist in any venue. The new age blather is a 9 billion dollar industry, as you must know. It needs to be opposed by thinkers and speakers who DO NOT make it about money and fame.

    I was happy to see you identified on the Dateline episode as a social psychologist rather than a “skeptical luminary.” You have a profession and it is not “skeptic.” Diogenes would be proud!

  36. Eliza says:

    Interesting discussion.

    Chopra should be made to defend his stance in front of qualified experts, as someone mentioned. (Debate also has a long history in the East – if one lost, one had to adopt the religion of one’s opponent).

  37. Elsa says:

    This whole quantum theory proves God stuff – it is so massively prevalent. And it is mixed with masses of other beliefs that make no sense but are believed fervently – everything from you are where you are meant to be, everything happens for a reason (or why else would it possibly happen). Quantum leaps are taken instead of logical steps.

    Re Chopra: I doubt he bothers with reality in anything.

  38. Nature has practical examples of light emitters, multilayer dielectric mirrors, diffraction gratings, photonic crystals, and controlled high-energy chemical reactions (Bombardier Beetles) – in fact all the basic ingredients are available in the Natural World to construct a laser. Yet there do not seem to be any “living lasers” out there. As Nature seems able to exploit just about every conceivable niche going – maybe this is telling us something about Nature’s abhorrence of the Quantum World :) Why would a laser be of survival interest to Nature? Just taking a single example of a deep-sea predator, it could attract prey with its intense directional light source without readily giving away its presence to other (bigger) predators that might be lurking nearby – and I am sure there are many other much better reasons for a living creature to utilise laser radiation.

  39. Gerard Jones says:

    Lots of self assured smarmy comments from atheists here,

    tell me, can you quantify Love?

  40. Sean says:

    Religion is simply the programming language of the human mind. Ceremony, repetition, belief, faith, prayer… all just the ‘C++’ of our species. I am not a pragmatist; but…. unfortunately religious belief does seem to work for a lot of people.

  41. KiltBear says:

    @Gerard Jones: any pragmatically minded theist or atheist would have to agree that love is worthless unless it has some observable and measurable affect.

  42. KiltBear says:

    Hmmm, I haven’t heard any of DC’s flapdoodle, but I think he is not as delusional as some folks think. On Larry King surrounded by Jewish, Christian, Islamic holy people in a debate, he threw them all into a tizzy and harrumphs of recrimination when he quite clearly and unapologetically stated that if humanity destroyed itself, the universe wouldn’t notice or care. In essence saying we don’t matter. So some stuff he gets right. XP

  43. Etienne says:

    The term “God” has been misused so much that it doesn’t mean much anymore. It refers to the dynamics of being emotionally connected.
    http://www.shamanicattraction.com/blog/2010/05/we-are-all-emotionally-connected-not-isolated-systems/

    For anyone who doesn’t believe in this, I can make anyone feel energy in less than a minute. So far it worked on 97% of the people on who I tried.

    We are very close to bridging the gap between science and what you call God 2.0

  44. 742675 says:

    hey dude — you wanted to say he “takes a different tack” not “takes a different tact.” it’s a nautical metaphor. but I won’t make fun of you because of your lack of vocab depth. flapdoodle.

  45. You can’t explain one thing you don’t understand (god, ESP, etc.) with another thing you don’t understand (quantum mechanics). (Off the subject: I agree with the leftists’ comments. The market doesn’t work; because it has a faulty value system. See my website.)

  46. meh says:

    Why do so many people dislike this guy and try to discredit him.
    What is there to fear? Why? Wouldn’t you want him to be right? Why wouldn’t you?

  47. srk says:

    Before finding the reality of God, we have to find out the reality and limitation of thought, because thought is the common instrument we use for daily living, science, belief, analyzing God etc.. But we cant find out what thought is with thought, because it will still be thought (to be precise, another thought). Only the wordless cognitive awareness which is witness to the rise and fall of thought can be termed as reality at least for now. Rest are all gimmicks of thought however well reasoned. Thought is only a representation of how many distinct things we can experience and the distinct relationships between them. It is only relative. Coming back to awareness, one cannot negate oneself, because even to negate oneself, one has to be aware. This awareness is the witness to even our deep sleep where thought is absent (because on waking up we say “I didnt know anything”) and in dream where we experience another world. To get at Truth, we have to investigate all the 3 states of our experience waking, dream and sleep. Also Truth has to relevant and accessible to everyone and not only for specialists. So we should be able to arrive at Truth based on our daily experience without using any special instruments. What is available to any human being is awareness, thought and sense experience and we should be able to arrive at Truth with this.

  48. nsecchi says:

    Many opinionators on this post should take heed of what Wittgensein said, “Of what one does not know, one should remain silent”.