Intelligent design/creationism Pseudoscience Skepticism/critical thinking

Chopra’s baaaaack

Apparently my handy-dandy Only Response You’ll Ever Need To Choprawoo, written in response to the last volley of Choprawoo to hit the blogosphere, hit a nerve. Chopra sycophant and blog comment spammer extraordinaire “ChopraFan” was none too pleased with it.


I have to wonder if “ChopraFan” is either Chopra himself or whether he or she just works for Chopra, scanning the blogosphere for negative reactions to Chopra’s woo that can be spammed with plugs for the latest installment of still more Choprawoo. Whatever the case, he/she/it led me to The God Delusion? Part 7 (also found here). Geez, I’d never have believed that Chopra could keep repeating the same fallacies and misunderstandings of science and straw men about what Dawkins actually said so many times, but he can. Truly, he is the Energizer Bunny of Woo. Reading all seven of his “critiques” of a book that he does not appear to have actually read (or that, if he did read, he clearly did not understand) must be a taste of what reading an entire book by Deepak Chopra would be like.

The horror. The horror.

In any case, he’s at it again. PZ boiled the Choprawoo down to its essence, but nonetheless there were a couple of statements so breathtakingly, inanely woo-ey, that I couldn’t resist a quick mention. Yes, it’s even stupider than his statement last time that “A field that can create something new and then remember it would explain the persistence of incredibly fragile molecules like DNA, which by any odds should have disintegrated long ago under the pressure of entropy, not to mention the vicissitudes of heat, wind, sunlight, radiation, and random mistakes through mutation.” I know it’s hard to top that one, but Chopra does his best. So here we go. There are so many silly statements that I’m only going to pick three.

Woo-ey statement #1:

What if memory is an attribute of Nature itself? All around us we see memory at work. The insulin that functions in primitive organisms retains the same function in higher mammals. The chemical reaction that propels a butterfly’s wings to beat is duplicated to make human heart cells beat.

No, actually the fact that the structure of insulin and other macromolecules, as well as sets of chemical reactions that convert chemical energy to work, are retained are evidence for evolution, not some “universal consciousness” or “memory.” Highly adaptive molecules or molecular mechanisms tend to be retained.

Woo-ey statement #2:

Why can you remember your birthday and the face of someone you love? Because DNA can remember how to produce generations of human beings. Why does DNA remember? There’s the mystery. We can link memory as a human attribute to chemical memory. But when we ask where chemicals learned to remember, science is baffled

DNA “remembers” because of a chemical reaction. As one of the commenters on Pharyngula put it, DNA “remembers” in the same way that water “remembers” to freeze at 0 degrees C. Or, I would add, the same way that CO2 “remembers” how to turn into carbonic acid when mixed with water. The pairing of DNA strands represents a chemical equilibrium that can be observed in solution by mixing two complimentary DNA molecules together at high temperatures and then slowly cooling them, and the replication of DNA is a chemical reaction that is catalyzed by enzymes, all of which evolved to their present highly complex form.

Woo-ey Statement #3:

Nature is constantly remembering. Nature is constantly creating, exercising imagination, discovering quantum leaps. When hydrogen and oxygen combined, the result wasn’t another inert gas. It was water, and water represents a huge imaginative leap on the part of the universe. The reason one can say this with confidence is simple: if the universe didn’t have imagination, neither would we.

Note how Chopra assumes his premise that the universe has “consciousness” must be true and tries to fit all physical phenomena into that premise without any actual–oh, say–evidence to support it. In essence, his is a big argumentum ad ignorantiam (argument from ignorance). Just because Chopra cannot imagine how such mysteries can ever be solved by science, he assumes that these mysteries will never be solved. Therefore, in Choprawoo, they must be due to God. It’s nothing more than a “God of the gaps” fallacy gussied up in New Age woo. Maybe today it is true, as Chopra puts it, that using MRIs and CT scans to study the brain is “like putting a stethoscope to the outside of the Astrodome and and trying to figure out the rules of football,” but it is highly likely that science will not only figure out a strategy to come to an ever closer approximation of what these rules are but will in the future develop tools far more powerful than our present tools, tools that will allow us, metaphorically speaking, to rip a hole into the top of the Astrodome and watch the game itself.

Believe it or not, though, I look forward to Chopra’s last installment of this particular woo, because he promises to address some of the comments and criticisms that he has received. Please feel free to use the comments here to predict what Chopra will say. I take dibs on prediction that he will use the term “arrogant skeptics” (or some variant thereof) somewhere in his response…

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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