Deepak Chopra Apologizes to Richard Dawkins (No, Really!)

Remember when Deepak Chopra appeared on Bill O’Reilly‘s show last month?

O’Reilly had previously invited Richard Dawkins on his show to discuss his book The Magic of Reality. Now, it was Chopra’s turn to refute what Dawkins had said.

Even though Dawkins wasn’t present to defend himself, Chopra took the bait from O’Reilly and went off on the famous atheist and author.

Among the things Chopra complained about was an interview that Dawkins had with him for a documentary called Enemies of Reason. Chopra said Dawkins “ambushed me when I was in Oxford” to make that interview happen and then used an edited clip to basically portray Chopra as a buffoon. (You can see/judge that clip for yourself here.)

Later in the interview with O’Reilly, Chopra accused Dawkins of using “his scientific credentials to camouflage his bigotry,” adding that Dawkins used his scientific accomplishments to appear “more credible” than he really is.

Chopra surprised even himself in that interview. For a guy who’s passes himself off as calm, rational, and relaxed, this was a lot of pent up emotion coming out on national TV.

Now, Chopra is issuing a public apology to Dawkins on YouTube for the way he acted.

Really.

He says that he was “unfair in [his] criticism” of Dawkins, though he doesn’t go into specifics. He adds that he “understands totally where [Dawkins] is coming from” and he gets how “dogmatic fundamentalism and religion can hurt and damage mankind and humanity…”

Finally, he says he’s more aligned with Dawkins’ thinking than with O’Reilly’s, despite their differences. (I find that hard to believe, but that’s besides the point.)

I’m not sure what prompted the apology, and I’m not even sure which comments Chopra is referring to, but good for him for taking this step.

To paraphrase one of the commenters at YouTube, maybe Chopra’s next trick should be apologizing for misrepresenting physics.

(Thanks to @supercheetah for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Taodeinsane

    Yes, because a YouTube video has so much widespread impact, unlike say, a segment on the O’Reilly Show.

  • Summer Seale

    He’s still a fraud and/or a buffoon. He can apologize to Dawkins all he likes but, if he seriously wants to make it better, I suggest that shutting up permanently would be the best option.

    • DavidMG

      I bet you never read ONE of his books. He has a lot of wisdom to offer. I don’t know if you’re ready for it.

      • http://www.summerseale.com/ Summer Seale

        No, I never have read one of this books – not even a few words. I have, however, listened to the man and read a few of the words he’s written in media. I have read and listened enough to know that he blatantly just makes stuff up and calls it “science” and “spirituality”. He’s dead wrong on quantum physics and no self-respecting quantum physicist would say otherwise. In fact, I can’t think of a physicist who doesn’t think that Deepak is just dead wrong about physics. So with somebody so fundamentally wrong about his ideas on quantum level interactions, why should I bother reading more? To get in depth about how wrong he really is?

        He’s either insane, or he’s simply a liar who makes stuff up. Take your pick. But I don’t need to read his books to know just how wrong he is.

  • Warriorwings

    He’s hardly apologizing. :-D He’s pleading like a truant child..”sir, please sir, one more mark please sir, or else i’ll fail the course”

  • Anonymous

    I think it’s fine if Chopra want to apologize, but a more proper apology actually points out what he did that was wrong. I have to assume that if he is apologizing it’s because he feels he was unfair. In what way? Which of the comments were not a fair representation? What should he have said that he didn’t say?

  • Anonymous

    And Chopra doesn’t use his scientific credentials to peddle his nonsense? I have to admit I haven’t heard or read from him much. But doesn’t he pepper god talk liberally with quantum physical concepts and vice versa to support his spiritual feelings? Granted that would be worse if he were a physicist rather than a medical doctor, but his medical work is suspect too.

    • David MG

      Steve84 – disparaging someone in their profession is considered “libel per se” that is, damages are assumed to have occured w/o proof. You might want to be more judicious. (Yes, I am a lawyer.)

  • Lisa

    Chopra just showed the world what a joke he is and finally realized it. His apology is nothing but another attempt at coverup of his fraud.

    • Euclidean

      I think with your comment you just showed how much of a lowlife you are relative to Chopra taking the high road in the midst of people like you.

      I think it was appropriate to get defensive with an attack from Dawkins that actually comes from the same fundamentalist place spoken of here in the apology, in the interviews, and by many commenters here, and other atheists alike. Unfortunately atheism ironically is not exempt from the same fundamentalism religion has, and Dawkin’s attacks demonstrate his hypocrisy and the very fundamentalism he thinks he’s fighting against.

  • Alice

    Maybe he’s just apologizing because he realizes that he agrees with Bill O’Reilly on something. I mean, what would you do if you prepared to go on the O’Reilly Factor the way anyone who considers themselves rational would- with your war face on and your defenses ready to deal with some grade A loud mouthed idiocy- but instead of him talking over you and putting you down, you found the man’s head bobbing and encouraging what you’re saying the same way he’d treat a Kirk Cameron or a Glenn Beck? I mean, everyone has some sense of human pride right? I mean, even complete quacks.

  • Anonymous

    I like neither of them. I think they offer the same quality of book-buying material just on opposite ends of the spectrum.

    But at least there is the start of an apology I suppose.

    • Bo Tait

      Huh? Have you even read any Dawkins? If not , let me sugest The Selfish Gene, Unweaving the Rainbow, The Blind Watchmaker and The Greatest Show On Earth. Perhaps you’re only aware of the God Delusion, but don’t be mistaken. Dawkins’ contributions to the scientific community far outweigh his one Atheistic title.

  • Anonymous

    Chopra lost what little credibility he had years ago. It’s disappointing to me how many people still buy his books or pay to attend his lectures. All he does is regurgitate the same old banal ‘truths’… just like his buddy Wayne Dyer. These guys are the new-age equivalent of prosperity preaching evangelicals. His mansion must have been in need of a mortgage payment for him to appear on O’Reilly.  The man has no shame.

  • Rich Wilson

    I wonder if Mlodinow had anything to do with that.

  • Gus Snarp

    Maybe Chopra is basically a decent person at heart and is doing his best here. Or maybe he discovered that a lot of his followers loathe O’Reilly as much as many of us do, and didn’t like seeing him gang up with O’Reilly on anyone, much less Dawkins. I suspect Chopra’s popularity has as much to do with people who generally accept science along with their mushy spirituality and are able to ignore Dawkins’ views on Chopra for the most part. I also expect these people follow Chopra because they see him as this Western stereotype of an Indian guru: someone who is pure love and kindness, and when he show up as downright angry, petty, and mean in public, he’s likely to lose followers.

    Also, I never saw that Dawkins interview with Chopra before, and I have to say that it was stunningly fair. It seemed very much like an honest conversation, and if you were a follower of Chopra, you would likely think he came off fairly well in it. He was certainly allowed to make his point without being interrupted or cut off the way O’Reilly would.

  • Justin Miyundees

    Good on him to at least realize the damage he did by attacking one of the great modern benefactors of life on this planet.  Perhaps this is the first step to his jettisoning the notion that his gobbledegook makes any contribution whatsoever to science, philosophy or any person, place or thing that’s bought his snake oil – himself included.  He’s made a good living off of the verbal gymnastics that foolish people take as essentially divine revelations.  It’s meaningless and he should grow up and just stop it already.  Oh and Julia Sweeny has got to be chuckling at this.

    • DavidMG

      I wonder how many books of his you have read. I’m guessing NONE. I just finished my first and found it interesting and in some ways enlightening. For those with an open mind it’s “The Return of the Rishi.”

  • Anonymous

    I can understand that Chopra identifies more with Dawkins than O’Reilly. Chopra is a bit whackaloon, but at least he’s not pants-shittingly stupid as O’Reilly. But that said, why would Dawkins need to edit an interview to make Chopra look like a buffoon? I thought that was the point of his (Chopra’s) whole career.

  • Nordog

    “Finally, he says he’s more aligned with Dawkins’ thinking than with O’Reilly’s, despite their differences. (I find that hard to believe, but that’s besides the point.)”

    Heck, I’m a politically and theologically conservative Roman Catholic, and I consider myself more aligned with Dawkin’s than with O’Reilly.

    • Rich Wilson

      For me it was at 4:20, when Deepak started to say “Evolution does not contradict” and Bill cut him off and redirected it to “Intelligent design does not contradict science”.  I suspect Deepak went back, saw that, and saw that Bill was putting Deepak into the position of denying evolution.

  • Ducky

    I’ve never heard of this guy, but am I the only one who thinks Deepak Chopra is a badass supervillian name?

    • ACN

      It’s a borderline “bond villain” name. :)

  • Richard Dawkins

    I have replied to Deepak Chopra as follows:

    Dear Dr Chopra
    As you say, we have different world views, and I fear we are not going to agree. But I am touched by the graciousness of your apology and I thank you sincerely for it.With my very best wishesRichard Dawkins

  • Bill

    Chopra apologized because it was in his self interest. He was worried about alienating his customers. 

    • http://profiles.google.com/statueofmike Michael S

      His persona relies heavily on the “wise sage” act he puts on. I’m assuming it is more difficult to sell “emotional healing” workshops (http://www.chopra.com/) after a display of such emotional imbalance.

  • Anonymous

    Pay no attention to the lawyers behind the curtain.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Cynicism is the assumption of the worst motives in someone else before credible evidence is presented.  It is not the proper practice of skepticism. If you’re going to practice skepticism toward assumptions about supernatural beings, you should also practice skepticism toward assumptions about human beings.

    I don’t think it serves anyone well to be cynical about Dr. Chopra’s apology, or to speculate what might be his base motives for making it with the tone that one actually knows for certain.

    I thought his apology was thorough, and it sounded sincere. He did not need to get bogged down in specific details; he clearly recanted the “mean spirited” tone of his remarks, without excuse, justification, or appeals to mitigating factors. I seldom hear an apology as well executed as that.

    Until I see credible evidence to the contrary, I’m going to take it that his apology is coming solely from his own conscience, rather than from outside pressure. In the absence of evidence one way or the other, that kind of initial gracious response has always been my “default setting.”  If someone thinks that makes me naive, well, remember that the fatal error that most cynics make it to assume that everyone else is secretly cynical too.

    Yes, what Dr. Chopra says in his books and lectures is woo woo, and he will probably continue to spout it. That is where he and Dr. Dawkins will always disagree. But that does not invalidate this apology.

    • skel

      Yes! His apology seemed sincere to me as well. I think you have to give credit where credit is due, and he deserves credit for this.

      To be gracious and apologize, let alone publicly to someone you disagree with would be difficult for most people.

      We can all criticize him for his beliefs and woo, but I think many people commenting here aren’t giving him the credit he deserves.

  • http://twitter.com/butterflyfish_ Heidi McClure

    “Dawkins used his scientific accomplishments to appear “more credible” than he really is.”

    … HAHAHAHA!! Oh, man. That made me laugh like Snoopy. Irony. *wipes tear from eye*

  • Bryan Elliott

    You know, I know I should reward the dude for coping to having been a douche, but I really can’t bring myself to care about anything Chopra has to say.

  • Donkennedyalbert

    very happy to hear it. chopra is great at what he does, and i personally don’t mind his loose grip on some of the science because a) he presents it as somewhat speculative and b) it’s quite inspiring and, because of this, c) it can be helpful in practical ways.

    i unhesitatingly side with shermer and dawkins

  • http://evolutionguide.wordpress.com/ William Bell

    Bill O’reilly even interrupts guests he agrees with.

  • Bo Tait

    He must be embarrassed about that interview. How hilarious is it to watch yourself criticize someone as “not very scientific” in the middle of an ad hominem attack and an argument from authority?

  • Dan W

    I really wonder what prompted him to do this. Still think Chopra’s a buffoon of course, and no amount of editing is necessary to demonstrate that.

  • Deepika

    its amazing and magnanimous of Deepak Chopra to Offer the apology and respecting Dr. Dawkins’ perspective…though his critics have been glad to take it as him goin back on his worldview…

  • Antipodes

    I’ve long been a Richard Dawkins fan, after reading The Selfish gene many years ago. I enjoy his clear sighted honesty, realism and vision (“memes” are a great analogy).

    However, I had a peak experience not long ago that amazed me and I Googled afterwards and found that many others have had similar experiences. Of subsequent readings, Deepak Chopra’s resonated most with what I felt.

    Some believe it is wrong to speculate. I feel it’s important to do so, and also important acknowledge that one’s speculations are just that – speculations. 

    I suspect that belief systems originally stemmed from peak experiences and started out as since, but were soon appropriated into political power structures. 

    Prior to the corruption, spirituality was never intended to be doctrinal or profess to have facts about the nature of reality, rather as a method utilising the objective power of subjective creative imagination for self actualisation and healing. The most common examples of the phenomenon of mind over matter would be the placebo effect and surprising feats performed under hypnosis.

  • DavidMG

    Scrolling around I happened to see the show and
    was struck not only by Chopra being there but what he said and how he said it.
    I would say “nasty,” but you can see it yourself on YouTube. (It was confusing as I had not seen the
    beginning and could not figure out how this mellow man was on with the bully.)
    But in any case, Chopra seemed “crazed” – not his usual logical and
    mellow self. It is refreshing in some ways to see that even Chopra can’t stop
    the “human” side emerging when the Ego is attacked. But true to
    himself he apologized which is something we all need to learn to do. Lessons learned


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