sometimes woo isn’t just a noun. it’s a diagnosis.

The King of New Age Woo, Deepak Chopra, goes on the warpath against his many critics.

When it comes to the realm of pseudoscience, there’s no woo quite like Deepak Chopra’s. It’s not necessarily just egregious ignorance or the ravings of someone no longer in touch with the real world. Instead, it’s just pseudoscientific technobabble, but it’s designed to be warm, fuzzy and oh so very agreeable, which is exactly why it’s become so popular in the media. The overwhelming majority of what he writes is complete and utter nonsense which doesn’t even make coherent sentences for those of us who took a science class or two and know what the words like quantum and intelligence actually mean. But even though his woo is really just a big and colorful grab bag of words that mimics a standard language, he’s still making plenty of cash by peddling inanities, and to skeptics, the sight of his tripe swarming across the web and print is a rather unsettling one.

Despite having a medical degree, it seems that somewhere along the line, Chopra decided that science and working in the real world was way too hard. Instead, he embraced holistic medicine, which is closely related to homeopathy, and decided that he’s reached some sort of grand spiritual enlightenment he could wrap in a pretty package and sell to millions of New Age enthusiasts. But today, with Oprah closing down her show and the rise of skeptical science bloggers who don’t mince words when it comes to woo, it’s getting harder to sell absurdities as something profound. Maybe this is why Chopra decided to give science blogs a shot across the bow with one of his famously vacuous rants at the Huffington Post…

Whenever anyone in the blogosphere decides to blow a poison dart your way, Google is happy to deliver the news… Most of my stinging darts come from skeptics. Over the years I’ve found that ill- tempered guardians of scientific truth can’t abide speculative thinking.

Ouch. I didn’t realize we were harshing his mellow. He’s trying to be all peaceful and optimistic only to find all these evil skeptics glaring at him, fangs flashing and claws at the ready. What could he have done to deserve this? Aside from promoting alt med woo which effectively turns back the medical clock by hundreds of years, promoting creationism with one of the most idiotic phrases to ever see print, then trying to manipulate the process of evolution by creating a petition in support of mind-bendingly inane New Age fluff about some sort of global consciousness? To look at this tripe and call it speculative thinking is like a slap across the face to a scientist or engineer truly engaged in speculative thinking based on empirical facts and cold, hard data. If you run around speaking nonsense, you’re not engaged in speculative thinking. The people at the LHC do lots of speculative thinking. You’re just muttering absurdities and glorifying it as a coherent thought process.

Since the skeptics who write venomous blogs trust in nothing, I imagine that God will outlive them. In the interest of better health, these people should read scripture, or at least a poem, twice a day. Doctor’s orders.

If those are the doctor’s orders, could I please get a second opinion from a competent physician? The doctor I know and trust usually recommends that I get some fresh air, stay active and eat a balanced diet. You see, if I go to my doctor, he doesn’t try to align my charkas, top off my spiritual potential or rotate and balance my qui instead of just giving me a thorough examination with some practical advice. And yes, I’d imagine a nebulous concept invoked as a ready made explanation for the unknown would outlive me. But how is this supposed to be a serious argument against healthy skepticism towards peddlers of woo and nonsense, and does it imply that having a belief in something would effectively make me immortal? Because there’s a whole lot of reliable evidence which would cast some very significant doubt on that notion…

It never occurs to skeptics that a sense of wonder is paramount, even for scientists. Especially for scientists. Einstein insisted, in fact, that no great discovery can be made without a sense of awe before the mysteries of the universe. Skeptics know in advance — or think they know — what right thought is.

The key word here is wonder, not slack-jawed amazement followed by fantastic wishful thinking. Skeptics are not there to judge right from wrong. We’re there to point out when nonsense is being peddled as fact without a trace of evidence, something that woo peddlers who often think of themselves as visionaries onto something no one had the brainpower to realize before them, just can’t accept. Chopra’s irritated rebuke to the skeptical community and science bloggers who won’t put up with his fluffy nothings is a classic case of a crank arguing that he’s in reality a misunderstood iconoclast and that real scientists can’t possibly be smarter than him. If they don’t accept his ideas, they must just be snooty know-it-alls. And to drive this point home, the end of his rant eagerly anticipates how his quantum healing mind-body spiritual woo-isms are going to be the new gold standard for the medical profession. Though something tells me, he really shouldn’t hold his breath on that wishful note. The line between optimism and delusion is very, very thin…

# science // pseudoscience / skepticism / skeptics / woo

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