Just Because TED Doesn’t Promote Pseudoscience Doesn’t Mean They’re Censoring Deepak Chopra

The TED talks you see online tend to be pretty awesome. But that’s partially because we only get to see a small fraction of all the talks given at TED and TEDx conferences. Most of the talks never appear online because the content is curated and filtered. Anyone who has seen TED talks knows that they’re about spreading interesting ideas and starting fascinating conversations, even if you strongly disagree with what’s being said. As content providers, the TED staff isn’t opposed to controversy — nothing generates better discussion than a controversial topic — but the staff is also aware that they can’t post talks that are based in bullshit.

A few months ago, a letter was sent out to the TEDx community informing them of the guidelines they should use when selecting speakers. Among them: Don’t invite people who use bad science or pseudoscience in their talks.

Makes sense. You don’t want to see a fake Benny Hinn-like healing taking place on the TED stage, nor would you want to see a psychic or anti-vaccination promoter.

And who took offense to those guidelines? None other than Deepak Chopra, the king of bad science. On Thursday, he and several of his pseudoscience-pushing colleagues posted an open letter to the TED team questioning their obvious censorship of their ideas. The gist of their letter? Of course pseudoscience shouldn’t be posted on the TED website… but the stuff we do is totally not pseudoscience!

[TED] tags as a sign of good science that “it does not fly in the face of the broad existing body of scientific knowledge.” Even a newcomer to science knows about Copernicus, Galileo, and other great scientists whose theories countermanded the prevailing body of accepted knowledge… The greatest breakthroughs rarely come by acts of conformity.

In other words, Deepak Chopra believes he and his comrades are modern-day Copernicii.

The general public — and many working scientists — isn’t aware that consciousness has become a hot topic spanning many disciplines, and its acceptability is demarked by age. Older, established scientists tend to be dead set against it, while younger, upcoming scientists are fascinated.

Citation needed. (Though I’ll admit, I’m very fascinated by how so many people are taken in by Chopra’s pretense of doing actual “science.”)

So what’s his evidence for the growing acceptability of “consciousness” science?

There are any number of books on “the conscious universe.”

Because bullshit sells. It’s the same reason Christians can have their own bookstores.

There are peer-reviewed journals on consciousness and worldwide conferences on how to link mind and brain (the so-called “hard problem”).

There are also peer-reviewed journals and worldwide conferences about Creationism. That doesn’t mean Creationism is valid.

And then, somehow, Richard Dawkins‘ name gets dragged through the mud:

The real grievance here isn’t about intellectual freedom but the success of militant atheists at quashing anyone who disagrees with them. Their common tactic is scorn, ridicule, and contempt. The most prominent leaders, especially Richard Dawkins, refuse to debate on any serious grounds, and indeed they show almost total ignorance of the cutting-edge biology and physics that has admitted consciousness back into “good science.”

Aha! This is all part of a Massive Atheist Conspiracy to squash all the “cutting-edge” science that Chopra promotes!

That point is really symbolic of how Chopra works. He makes stuff up and then convinces himself it’s true. To him, that’s how science works.

Chris Anderson, the Curator of TED, responded to Chopra the next day.

He put to rest the idea of a Militant Atheist Takeover immediately by noting that Pastor Rick Warren, religious scholar Karen Armstrong, and representatives from many religious faiths have TED talks on the website.

And then Anderson talked about science:

Yes a modern-day Galileo may be out there with paradigm-shifting ideas that will at some point overturn huge pieces of existing science. But he or she should expect to face a robust standard of proof before their ideas take hold. And for every Galileo, there are thousands of people who just have bad, unscientific ideas. That’s why in our guidance to the thousands of TEDx organizers around the world, we ask that they steer clear of talks that bear hallmarks of unsubstantiated science…

There’s no suppression or censorship happening. Chopra’s not a good scientist. He’s just a good promoter of bad science.

Of course, Chopra wasn’t done… he responded right back by telling Anderson that if he really respected different ideas, he would post Chopra’s talk online as a “gesture of TED’s lack of censorship.”

Which is a horrible idea. Chopra would get free publicity while the TED brand would get damaged by offering a platform to a peddler of pseudoscience.

TED isn’t always perfect, and TEDx is even more chaotic than the main conference, but no one’s getting banned for having ideas that are unusual or unpopular as long as they’re based in some truth. The theories that Chopra promotes are based in his ability to use big words that sound like science.

The fact that many of the talks that were given on a stage didn’t end up on the main website is not a matter of censorship. It’s a matter of curation. You might have the best ideas in the world but an inability to communicate those ideas effectively. If that’s the case, your video isn’t going up on their site. On the flip side, you might have really horrible ideas that you communicate better than anyone else — those videos shouldn’t go up, either.

If Chopra wants to be recognized as a real scientist, he should do some real science. He won’t because there’s far more money to be made writing books that don’t get fact-checked by editors and are sold to people who don’t know the difference between good and bad pieces of evidence.

TED owes him nothing, certainly not the posting of his talk on their website if they don’t feel it meets their standards.

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.

  • Sean Lissemore

    The funny thing is Sam Harris holds many of the same ignorant and pseudoscientific views of Chopra (regarding paranormal and mysticism), but has toned them down recently after being called out by James Randi. Although he still thinks they are valid scientific pursuits.

    Yet Harris is revered on this site for some reason. Explain that one…

  • Varun

    Sam Harris actually wants to test these ideas under science. And no, he isn’t revered.

  • Blondin

    “But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.”

    – Carl Sagan

  • Sean Lissemore

    They have been tested. There are dozens of scientific studies on the paranormal. James Randi has made it his career showing that it is bull crap. The fact that Harris refuses to give up on it shows how nutty he is.

  • http://twitter.com/Regcarolmoore Regina Carol Moore

    Chopra doesn’t seem to understand what censorship means. No one is preventing Chopra from speaking anywhere, TED is simply refusing to provide him a venue. Hell, I’d love to make a speech at TED talks, but I don’t think they owe it to me.

  • Eric D Red

    Revered? You’ll have to back that up. Not by a long shot from what I’ve seen. There are those who agree with some of his ideas. Mostly I see comments to the effect that he’s right about X, despite being wrong about so many other things.

    “Reverence” is generally anathema to atheism or skepticism. Nobody is considered right because of their position, and nobody is beyond question. That’s a position far more inherent in a authoritarian or theistic world view.

  • rustygh

    This is great! TED needs to weed out the quacks. We need more places that we can trust for fact. At the very least reliable attempts at finding good hypothesis! Deepak is money motivated with zero shown effort. So funny how the quack makes the most sound. ツ

  • Sean Lissemore

    It’s called a hyperbole. I’m not going to argue semantics with you.

    Point is he is well respected in the New Atheist community while someone like Chopra is despised. It is nonsensical and hypocritical.

  • Stefan

    Sean – how about a citation or a quote showing that Sam Harris shares ideas with Chopra and believes in the paranormal? I have never seen anything suggesting he holds paranormal beliefs. If you are calling “meditation” part of the paranormal, you are on shaky ground.

  • Sean Lissemore

    The paranormal debunker James Randi chastised him for this quackery, twice,
    saying there were no choices to be made between virgin births,
    reincarnation, alien reptiles and telepathy– that bunk was bunk, and
    that science had once and for all spoken.

    And finally Harris appeared to step
    back from the crankdom: “My position on the paranormal is this: While
    there have been many frauds in the history of parapsychology, I believe
    that this field of study has been unfairly stigmatized.”

    Or maybe not. It’s a custom of his when interrogated by experts to
    berate scientists for being mean to New Age bosh-mongers. He alone is
    the true empiricist who, though having just recently acquired his
    doctorate at the late age of 40, knows more about the scientific
    enterprise than all those intolerant and smug lab rats who graduated
    decades ago. So when the pressure mounted on him, his last ditch effort
    was to backtrack somewhat: “I have not spent any time attempting to
    authenticate the data” because it is not worth his time. Which begs the
    question of why he trumpets their mumbo jumbo as “credible evidence”
    that is “ignored by mainstream science”. Plainly what is not worth
    one’s time is not “unfairly stigmatised”.

    And just when it appears that Harris wants to extricate himself from
    the unwisdom of wading into mystical humbug and pseudoscience, he
    slides right back into sham insisting that he “cannot categorically
    dismiss their contents.” For science will deliver metaphysical and
    otherworldly truths to those hungry of spirit:

    “We may live to see the technological perfection of all the
    visionary strands of traditional mysticism: shamanism (Siberian or
    South American), Gnosticism, Kabbalah, Hermetism and its magical
    Renaissance spawn (Hermeticism), and all the other byzantine paths
    whereby man has sought the Other in every guise of its conception.”
    (The End of Faith, p. 221)


  • http://www.facebook.com/dan.allosso Dan Allosso

    It would probably be useful for more people to tell the TED directors that they respect the brand integrity TED is trying to create, and that giving Chopra or Sheldrake a platform would damage their cred, as Hemant has done here.

  • Sids

    The person vocalising an idea is largely irrelevent (besides affecting circulation). Harris is respected for his good ideas. He is also scorned for his bad ideas. The same applies to Chopra, the problem being that he has no good ideas.

    You may notice that when atheists talk up Harris, they tend not to say that he’s great because of the meditation and ‘spirituality’. It’s the other stuff that they like him for.

  • Sean Lissemore

    But New Atheists don’t speak about him with the same derision they show for Chopra.

  • Stefan

    Thanks for that Sean. Other than the link you sent, I can’t find much about the Sam Harris vs. James Randi incidents – although the Sam Harris Forum shows some discussion about James Randi chastising him in Skeptic magazine.

    So what I see here is that he was chastised for not outright dismissing some of his views. While I agree with James Randi that his skepticism shows weaknesses around some “mystical” experiences – to conflate him with Chopra is taking it about 1000X too far, IMO.

    The quote from the End of Faith reveals that Sam Harris believes that these so called mystics have had experiences that may be valuable. However, is he saying he believes in unscientific principles or is he suggesting something more along the lines that we may be able to alter our brain states to have these experiences (drugs, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) ?

    I’m not going to defend his stance on wanting more evidence for some of this stuff – I personally feel it’s not worth pursuing, same as he says here, which you have already partially quoted:


    So – while you have provided an article that attacks his stances and some unjustified assumptions, I have yet to be convinced that he holds any views that could be considered anything like Chopra’s.

  • Mario Strada

    Yes, how do we do that? Is there an email account that would work better than their main one?

    I love TED and the last thing I want to see there is Deepak or some other idiot with claims of “paradigm-shifting” science.

  • Stefan

    Sid – thanks for stating that a lot more concisely than I even alluded to, I agree with you 100%

  • Mario Strada

    Well, we were working on this little machine we were tentatively calling the “Deris’O’meter” with the hope that it could help us equalize our scorn across every article so that trolls like you would not be able to use this argument, but we are still in the preliminary phase.

    What you pointed out only shows that Harris has some good ideas while Chopra almost none. (I say almost because I assume he believes common sense things like education, taking a dump in the toilet rather than outside and so forth)

  • Sean Lissemore

    The problem is there is a large preponderance of evidence and many scientific studies showing that this stuff is bull crap. Yet Harris refuses to give in.

    Harris can sugar coat it all he likes, but at this point it is pretty clear he is at odds with science and reality. Not unlike Chopra who is discussed in a pretty derisive fashion here (and rightly), but for whatever reason Harris gets treated with kid gloves. That is hypocrisy.

  • Pattrsn

    Not well respected by me, but then perhaps I’m not a true New Atheist.

  • Mario Strada

    Is the commenting system going crazy or is Sean Lissemore having a conversation and link exchange with Sean Lissemore? It’s very confusing. I think I am going to wait, refresh and come back. There is a post where “Sean” thanks “sean” for a link “Sean” posted.

    I am not criticizing anyone here. Just trying to make sense of the conversation. Maybe Deepak was right and these are two “Sean” from different dimensions?

  • Patrick

    Nevermind all that, the big question surely is :
    What is the plural of Copernicus?

    Copernicii, Copernici or Copernicusses?

  • Patrick

    They laughed when I said I was going to be a famous comedian.

    Well.. they’re not laughing now.

  • LesterBallard

    I’m too lazy for Googling today, but is Chopra, or was he, a real doctor? Did he have some kind of specialty?

  • Stefan

    Sam Harris – makes sense 98% of the time, is a skeptic, an atheist, doesn’t put forth theories he can’t support, even if he does say he’s leaving the door open in a few places we don’t agree with.

    Deepak Chopra – makes sense 5% of the time, is not a skeptic, puts forth theories he has no support for based on deliberate misinterpretation and doesn’t back down when presented with actual science.

    So, again your statement that he’s at odds with science and reality casts a pretty wide net, since we have plenty of evidence he accepts it just fine. He may be unaccepting of the lack of evidence for some things which he says he’s not even really concerned about…but how can you conflate Sam Harris with Deepak Chopra – this is where I am blown away….and the kid gloves thing is bizzare, Sam Harris has been called out by plenty of skeptics ( including The Friendly Atheist himself) and plenty of people that comment here for some of his arguments – but your comparison just seems taking it way too far.

    At this point – I’m starting to feel like I’ve been drawn in by a troll… I best stop now.

  • Stefan

    Mario – do you mean this one:


    Sean Lissemore

    27 minutes ago

    Thanks for that Sean. Other than the link you sent, I can’t find”

    I was thanking Sean for posting more sources for his comparing Harris to Chopra.

  • RobMcCune

    A lot of rapid commenting cause disqus to show wrong names, refreshing the page usually takes care of it.

  • Tobias2772


    I think many atheists appreciate some of what Mr. Harris has laid out for consideration. His more basic positions on anti-theism are spot on. Some of us may disagree with where those positions have taken him lately, but we can separate them from the other. It’s actually a rather nice aspect of most atheists – we can separate the ideas from the person – and consider their validity rationally rather than merely emotionally.

  • Tobias2772

    Because none of Chopra’s ideas warrant the respect that some of Sam’s do.

  • gg

    Yes, he is an MD, but he parted with science and medicine a long time ago, and pushes Ayurveda, and other mystical ‘treatments’. His favorite word is ‘quantum’ and he throws it into every conversation I have ever heard him make. To paraphrase Ingo Montoya “I do not think that means what (he) thinks it means”. As an RN, I can tell you, MDs are not immune to believing in bullshite, Cardiovascular surgeon Dr Oz, being a primary example in the media.

  • gg

    Yes, he is an MD, but he parted with science and medicine a long time ago, and pushes Ayurveda, and other mystical ‘treatments’. His favorite word is ‘quantum’ and he throws it into every conversation I have ever heard him make. To paraphrase Ingo Montoya “I do not think that means what (he) thinks it means”. As an RN, I can tell you, MDs are not immune to believing in bullshite, Cardiovascular surgeon Dr Oz, being a primary example in the media.

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invisible_Pink_Unicorn Anna

    Exactly. I think a lot of theists in particular are convinced that we look at these men as infallible leaders. It really shouldn’t be hard to grasp that you can admire a person for some aspects of his work and dislike other aspects. And that whatever someone gets up to in his personal life is completely irrelevant to his work.

  • Artor

    Harris’s views are respected when they adhere to reason, logic and evidence. We like that stuff around here. But Harris is also prone to some extremist & phobic views, and he gets shredded for that kind of shit around here too. That is not hypocritical at all. We revere the ideas, not the people who present them.

  • cipher

    “Deepak Chopra – makes sense 5% of the time”

    Oh, I think that’s too generous!

  • Artor

    Harris =/= Choprah. We can make distinctions. Can you?

  • cipher

    I thought Chopra was full of crap before anyone knew who he was. He took Ayurveda, a system of healing (leaving aside for the moment questions concerning its effectiveness) developed over a period of millennia in a country in which most people have had trouble scraping together the basics of survival, and turned it into something only yuppies could afford.

    He’s always been in it for the money – and now I understand he’s turned it into a family business.

  • Artor

    I’m surprised that nobody on this thread has posted a link to the amazing Choprah Random Quote Generator. Try it out!


  • AdamMerberg

    Meanwhile, Deepak Chopra’s daughter and business partner gave a talk at TEDxBerkeley yesterday: http://tedxberkeley.org/mallika-chopra/

  • RobMcCune

    Point is he is well respected in the New Atheist community while someone like Chopra is despised. It is nonsensical…

    Almost as nonsensical as trolling because you don’t like the guy. Plenty of people, myself included have increasingly lost a lot of respect for him. He basically gets the same treatment as Bill Maher by a lot of atheists, appreciating some of his quotes and insights, while at the same time criticizing him for his nutty ideas.

    …and hypocritical.

    Not so much, Harris hasn’t made his name and fortune peddling pseudoscience, Chopra has. Chopra is a whole sale merchant for all sorts of nonsense, this is a world away from holding a few disproven notions about immaterial consciousness. Not mention that Chopra also mangles science in an attempt to prove what he says is real, has Harris done the same?

  • Jonathan

    “…but the staff is also aware that they can’t post talks that are based in bullshit.”

    Correction: the staff are aware that they can’t post talks that are widely known by the general public to be based in bullshit.

    They can, and often, do post all sorts of bullshit. As a linguist, this made me want to pull my hair out: http://www.ted.com/talks/mark_pagel_how_language_transformed_humanity.html

  • Eric D Red

    1. Hyperbole is just another form of lie.

    2. Judging by all the comments I’m seeing, he clearly isn’t revered. Some of his ideas are respected, some are not.

    3. Atheists, skeptics, freethinkers, etc, don’t generally “revere” anyone. That sounds like projection on your part.

    4. Opinions of Sam Harris are frankly irrelevant. This is about woo on TED, and what Chopra pitches is self-serving woo.

    5. Nor is it specifically or personally about Chopra. If he were to pitch something interesting, thought-provoking, and supported by science, that would be a good fit for TED.

  • Sean Lissemore

    You’re right. Harris is worse. He is a charlatan and that makes him more dangerous.

  • LesterBallard

    But Dr. Oz was on Oprah. Oh, right.

  • WallofSleep

    “I think a lot of theists in particular are convinced that we look at these men as infallible leaders.”

    Indeed. Which is why they constantly level ad hominem at various “atheist leaders”, both living and dead, and also why we often see stuff like this: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/04/12/richard-dawkins-hasnt-lost-just-look-at-the-movement-he-helped-build/

    It’s as if they believe if they can take down one of these “atheist leaders”, they can take down the whole movement, or cause atheists in general to reject their world view.

    They clearly do not understand atheism, or atheists. But we already knew that.

  • Artor

    Are you seriously implying that Deepak Choprah is not a charlatan? That’s pretty funny. You have now shown yourself to be completely disconnected from reality. Your words carry zero weight, since they seem to mean whatever you think they mean, and not what the rest of us use them for.

  • Artor

    Are you seriously implying that Deepak Choprah is not a charlatan? That’s pretty funny. You have now shown yourself to be completely disconnected from reality. Your words carry zero weight, since they seem to mean whatever you think they mean, and not what the rest of us use them for.

  • Sean Lissemore

    Not for me. Besides his disbelief in god and organized religion I disagree with him on basically everything else (i.e. civil liberties for minorities, guns, foreign policy, mysticism, paranormal, etc.)

  • Sean Lissemore

    Choprah doesn’t parade around as an Atheist and a skeptic. It’s clear exactly who he is. Sam Harris on the other hand…

    And it’s funny you would say I’m disconnected from reality when you are the one defending a mystic tooth and nail.

  • Artor

    Wow, your reading comprehension is as weak as your ability to reason. Nobody here has ever defended Harris for promoting mysticism or Islamophobia, another one of his bugaboos. When he’s right, he’s right, and when he’s wrong, we call him out on his shit.
    Choprah parades around as a scientist while pushing all sorts of anti science woo, and now you’re the one defending him. Is it fun being spectacularly wrong every time you hit Enter?

  • RobMcCune

    So Harris is more dangerous because he spends less time promoting less woo with less emphasis? Makes sense.

  • DougI

    Deepak just wants to do the TED talks for the publicity and bragging rights that he got a TED talk. No doubt he’d use it to verify that he has cred with the intellectual community so anyone declaring him an unscientific hack would be met with comparisons to great thinkers and inventors that appeared in the talks. Maybe Deepak and his intellectual peers like Kent Hovind and Ray Comfort will start their own version of the TED talks, may the DREAD talks or something dreadful.

  • Sean Lissemore

    “Choprah parades around as a scientist while pushing all sorts of anti science woo, and now you’re the one defending him.”

    Isn’t that exactly what Harris does with mysticism and the paranormal? I hate both of them, but Choprah is not nor has ever claimed to be a skeptic.

  • Sean Lissemore

    Bill Maher is even worse than Harris. Putting children’s lives at risk is about as low as you can get.

  • Sean Lissemore

    If I’m going to promote someone’s ideas, it is not going to be from a bigot. There are enough people out there. We just need to find the right people to represent atheism.

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invisible_Pink_Unicorn Anna

    Who’s asking you to promote his ideas? If you don’t like him, that’s fine. There are are many representatives of atheism. All of us, in fact. Whether someone is the right person to represent atheism is a matter of opinion.

  • compl3x

    It never ceases to amaze me how much utter garbage that man has on his show. The parade of pseudo-science and quacks he has on his program is staggering.

  • Stefan

    I thought I was done…but, granted – Harris slightly promotes contemplative practices, big deal…what’s so bad about sitting watching your brain work. But sheet man – I NEVER see him promoting it the way you make it sound – I mean you seem like you have a vendetta against him, It’s about 1% of what he talks about, if that. Seriously – if you are serious – take a step back and look at what you are harping on. You may disagree with his stance on contemplative practice, Islamaphobia, gun control and a whole host of other stuff – but I don’t see any woo coming from him, not one bit…just an acknowledgement that he actually thinks that some things may have a bit of merit still worth investigating.

  • ruth

    Chopra was a mainstream physician. However, he ended up learning Transcendental Meditation and got in the Maharishi. He spent some years as an Aurvedic “phsycian” in the TM movement and at some point left to go on his own. He learned well from the master, the Maharishi, how to con people with never ending blather.

  • Rob

    There’s a great debate on YouTube where Chopra is one side and Sam Harris on the other (cant recall names of other participants). Fascinating to see Chopra start throwing tantrums as Harris systematically demolishes him. Chopra is plainly used to the company of sycophants and cannot handle being publicly challenged, both on his phony credentials and his non-scientific pronouncements.

  • Sean Lissemore

    If someone is a bigot I tend to hate them regardless.

  • Steve Castle

    TED is clearly censoring us. Just because I don’t happen to have any incredibly cutting edge research doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be provided a platform to discuss my amazing mixed drink experimentations and ideas on using kool aid as an additive in higher end beverages than has conventionally been practiced.

  • smrnda

    This is about the truest but also most (sadly) funny take on what he does.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ntngander Alex McDowell


    Deepak just wants to do the TED
    talks for the publicity and bragging rights that he got a TED talk. No
    doubt he’d use it to verify that he has cred with the intellectual
    community so anyone declaring him an unscientific hack would be met with
    comparisons to great thinkers and inventors that appeared in the talks.
    Maybe Deepak and his intellectual peers like Kent Hovind and Ray
    Comfort will start their own version of the TED talks, may the DREAD
    talks or something dreadful.”
    Dougl has a great point here. How whacked out of an ideologue would Chopra accept to share a stage with? He believes in a greater power, so does Fred Phelps. Is Deepak Chopra censoring Fred Phelps?

  • http://www.facebook.com/eukota Darrell Ross

    Please substantiate your claim that Sam Harris is a bigot.

  • http://www.facebook.com/eukota Darrell Ross

    More unsubstantiated claims? Come on Sean.

  • http://www.facebook.com/eukota Darrell Ross

    You hate them or disagree with things they say?

  • http://www.facebook.com/eukota Darrell Ross

    Disagreeing with Sam Harris is a far cry from the pseudoscience bullshit that Deepak Chopra peddles.

    Conflating the two is absurd.

    I think more of a troll.

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

    Michael Shermer and then some crazy “spiritual” lady who nobody knew the name of. She also spoke about 10% of the time and got almost no reaction from anyone because nobody could figure out what she was saying. She was a nobody to fill in the blank space next to Chopra and everyone knew it. Shermer and Harris were spectacular, and Chopra kept shouting the entire time.

    It’s also the debate where a Physicist who was working on a book with Hawkins stepped up to the microphone and told Chopra that he had no idea what he was talking about. They later met and became “friends” and wrote a book together. But he still isn’t buying what Chopra is saying, as far as I can tell.

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

    This is complete bullshit. Harris does not promote supernatural ideas in any way, shape, or form. He simply is talking about meditation as a technique to focus the mind or contemplate things. He’s arguing that there are scientific reasons for the reactions one gets from these disciplines, and he’s correct. There ARE scientific reasons. We can measure them with various instruments. We have reams of data showing that people’s physiology changes when meditating – not for “spiritual” or “mystical” reasons or any such woo, as Harris will point out, but because of the nature of the brain, the chemical process within.

    Harris is trying to understand the scientific nature of the brain. It is not bad to talk about meditation and other things when studying the brain. He utterly rejects any unscientific claims about meditation and any “religious” claims about Buddhism. He has made that completely clear over and over again.

    People calling out Harris for being a secret mystic is akin to people calling out a psychologist for being the same. It’s utter bullshit. I personally am not all that interested in meditation, but I know that it is an interesting phenomenon of the brain to be able to alter the bodily reactions by thinking various thoughts. As he points out, you can instantly start a panic attack in somebody if you suddenly inform them that their child has been kidnapped. This is a physical reaction to a thought. All he’s interested in documenting and studying in meditation is the physical reaction to various thoughts, including meditative thoughts.

    And for this, he’s labeled a “mystic” and a charlatan? This is utter and complete nonsense. I suppose that doctors who study the effects of placebos in patients (also simply based on brain activity relating to changes in the body) are “mystics” and charlatans? It’s the exact same bloody thing. If you’re doing a study on the effect of placebos in patients, or studying positive or negative thinking in a scientific setting with a psychologist and MRI scanner, or studying the effect of meditation on one’s physical reactions, then you’re doing the same thing.

    It isn’t bloody mystical, it isn’t religious in any way, and it isn’t the bullshit which Chopra is selling. It’s trying to do real science about how the brain works, what kind of chemical reactions it has to certain stimuli, or lack thereof, and how much it controls certain functions in the body on a conscious or unconscious level.

    Harris has not told people to go meditate, has not told people that buddhism is a religious duty, and has not ever said that these mystical experiences have anything to do whatsoever with the supernatural. He’s been clear that they are not supernatural in nature. All he’s said is that the tools of meditation developed by buddhists over hundreds or even thousands of years deserve some study as they could reveal certain processes of the brain.

    He’s not said anything different as far as I know, and I’m tired of hearing that he is some sort of mystical schmuck in disguise. He isn’t.

    And as far as his views on reincarnation and other “supernatural” phenomena, he’s simply said that there’s no evidence and, like a good skeptic, is interested in hearing more. That’s an entirely rational basis upon which to form a view. I personally think there’s absolutely nothing after death, but then again, *so does Harris*. He’s said enough times that there is *no* such thing as a soul. He has used example upon example that the brain can be damaged and that it can utterly change a person when it is, and then asks the obvious about where the soul could even be? He’s said countless times that everything we know about the brain, about the chemical processes, leads one to believe that this is all there is. He has made this clear in debate after debate with religious people.

    All that he’s said about “mystical” and “supernatural” experiences is that he’s still awaiting the evidence. What’s wrong with that? I agree with him. I don’t think that there is any supernatural phenomenon, I don’t think that UFOs have visited our planet, I don’t think that there is a soul or reincarnation, but if somebody comes forth with some valid evidence, I’ll be open to examining it.

    That *is* what skeptics are supposed to say, isn’t it?

  • C Peterson

    Not understanding the value of consensus is a strong indicator that you’re dealing with a pseudoscientist.

  • David McNerney

    I would choose that over Deepak Chopra any day.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steven-K-Melendez/1263067416 Steven K. Melendez

    True, but consensus does not good science make, either. If everyone (including scientists) in the world felt we were held to the planet, not by gravity, but by the flying spaghetti monster using his noodely appendages to press us down, that wouldn’t make it correct. We must be careful to avoid that fallacy as much as avoiding the other fallacies that psuedo-”scientists” deceive themselves with.

  • The Other Weirdo

    Funny thing is that Copernicus wasn’t going against the grain of existing science, but existing religious belief. In other words, exactly the kind of crap D.C. is known for.

  • Humesghost

    It should be noted that there actually *is* a burgeoning interest in the scientific study of consciousness, as seen in organizations like the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness (http://www.theassc.org/assc_17). And there is serious scientific work being done. Unfortunately, it is hard at the edges to distinguish between an interesting scientific hypothesis and pure nonsense. Chopra is obviously nonsense, and easily seen as such. But it gets harder to tell with someone like Roger Penrose (still nonsense, I think), and I think some of those using, e.g., meditation to study consciousness, seem to be doing good work. You shouldn’t assume that anyone who talks of consciousness believes in souls, ESP, or quantum flapdoodle.

  • Gus Snarp

    And they were right to laugh at Columbus. His revolutionary idea was not that the world was flat, but that it was half it’s actual size and he could survive a trip all the way around the ocean to China. It was just dumb luck that there was something in between.

  • C Peterson

    I didn’t say that consensus makes good science (although the vast majority of the time it reflects good science, even when it turns out the answer is wrong). But consensus is one of the most important factors in determining if the science is solid. I can’t think of any case in the last 100 years where bad science was supported by a consensus of experts in that area. Certainly, the way science currently operates, it’s nearly inconceivable that bad science would be supported by a consensus.

    What understanding the value of consensus means is recognizing that where a strong consensus exists (it doesn’t always) we should be deeply skeptical of ideas from non-experts (meaning those without a solid history of peer reviewed publications) which are contrarian (and reasonably skeptical of such ideas even when they come from actual experts).

  • Gus Snarp

    I sincerely hope TED sticks to its guns on this one. The TED format (at least as the general public sees the videos, I don’t know what actually goes on in the room) is actually perfect for spreading bullshit, since it encourages artful presentation of assertions, with no interaction from the audience, and no need to cite any sources or provide context or dissenting view points. Speakers basically forcefully promote their ideas as fact, without any of the usual scientific language of probability or stating of assumptions. TED lends a further air of authority to the speech, making at least a modicum of effort, through selective editing and filtering, to keep out the obvious pseudoscience essential.

  • Gus Snarp

    Are all these pieces original to HuffPo? I won’t follow links to HuffPo as long as they host pseudoscience and sideboob. I’d even accept the occasional pseudoscience, but I really can’t support the sideboob and celebrity gossip with my page views.

  • Daniel Linford

    Hemant — You seem to be skeptical of the idea that there are scientists actually studying consciousness, as opposed to merely being skeptical that Deepak Chopra has anything to say on the topic. Yet I can confirm that consciousness is something that scientists, philosophers and other academics are very much interested in (and, contrary to Deepak’s claims, not just the young ones). I have colleagues who work at the intersection of neuroscience and philosophy, and I know that they would probably recommend the Churchlands and Daniel Dennett as examples of people doing this kind of work.

    That doesn’t mean that the kind of nonsense which Deepak Chopra does is anywhere even near academic work. Neuroscience, cognitive science, psychology, etc, can study the mind and even make attempts at probing consciousness. Spouting nonsensical semi-mystical incoherent jargon inspired by reading too much pop physics books cannot constitute a legitimate attempt to study the mind.


    You have obviously never watched the debate between Harris and Chopra. If you had you would see that he is miles away from Chopra on almost every point.

  • mormovies

    Deepak and Ophrah are charlatans and a freaks! They make millions spewing what religionists want to hear- that quantum physics makes anything possible.

  • WayBeyond SoccerMom

    Christopher Hitchens is a good example for me. Couldn’t stand his political viewpoints, but I love watching and re-watching his debates, and his famous “hitch slaps”.

  • http://twitter.com/DanAllosso Dan Allosso
  • ladyatheist

    They use Galileo and Copernicus as examples but they forget to mention that all of the “established science” of ancient times was psuedoscience and faith-based. Those two men were the first to use real scientific methods rather than faith-based BS to validate ideas.

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invisible_Pink_Unicorn Anna

    For me, too. I don’t demand ideological purity from the people whose books I read. I liked what Hitchens wrote about atheism, not politics, but it’s easy to separate them. You do see a lot of people try to attack the New Atheists’ credibility by saying stuff like “Hitchens was an alcoholic!” or “Hitchens was a neo-con!” as if those things have any relevance to the validity of their thoughts on religion.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Vincent-Maldia/100001023048460 Vincent Maldia

    yeah. if its real then show real proof. extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. look at the history of the science of radioactivity and fission