Archive for December, 2009

Deepak Chopra happily claims “King of Woo” title

From Chopra’s column in the execrable Huffington Post*:

565196454_1517703.jpgI realized that I would much rather expound woo woo than the kind of bad science Shermer** stands behind. He has made skepticism his personal brand, more or less, sitting by the side of the road to denigrate “those people who believe in spirituality, ghosts, and so on,” as he says on a YouTube video. No matter that this broad brush would tar not just the Pope, Mahatma Gandhi, St. Teresa of Avila, Buddha, and countless scientists who happen to recognize a reality that transcends space and time. All are deemed irrational by the skeptical crowd. You would think that skeptics as a class have made significant contributions to science or the quality of life in their own right. Uh oh. No, they haven’t. Their principal job is to reinforce the great ideas of yesterday while suppressing the great ideas of tomorrow.

Chopra is a quack, a hack, and a giant turd floating in the punchbowl of human knowledge. Nearly every improvement in the human condition over the last few millenia has been due to the advancement of knowledge and understanding of the natural world. Supernatural thinking has given us nothing of value, and in many cases causes outright harm– it is at best useless, at worst dangerously insane.

We have reached the state where Shermer’s tired, out-of-date, utterly mediocre science is far in arrears of the best, most open scientific thinkers — actually, we reached that point 60 years ago when eminent physicists like Einstein, Wolfgang Pauli, Werner Heisenberg and Erwin Schrodinger applied quantum theory to deep spiritual questions. The arrogance of skeptics is both high-handed and rusty. It is high-handed because they lump brilliant speculative thinkers into one black box known as woo woo.

In classic style, after shitting all over the science which has given us a world in which Chopra gets to live far longer than his ancestors and preach his shtick electronically to every corner of the globe, he then goes on to misrepresent the ideas of some of the greatest scientists of the last 100 years with a gall that would cause them to spit-take were they still around to hear it.

Speculative thinking is not believing whatever you want to believe. It has to start somewhere, and ultimately to be of value it has to lead somewhere. Speculating on something without having the slightest interest in discovering your idea might be a stupid one is a trap that everyone falls into at some point, but most people don’t label this character flaw as “brilliance”. Chopra wants to turn his intellectual laziness into a virtue; he doesn’t know the first thing about relativity or quantum theory but he will happily throw the words about if it makes his rather woolly and unoriginal ideas sound more cutting edge.

He just can’t accept that sometimes it’s better to just accept you don’t know something (eg “what is consciousness”) than to pointlessly hypothesize a transcendental  quantum cosmic mind that makes a flower beautiful so that it might be appreciated by Deepak Chopra. What’s really sad is that he’s not just shit at science, he’s shit at speculation too.

Update: Speaking at the Indian Astrology Conference, Chopra said:

“Western science is still frozen in an obsolete, Newtonian worldview that is based literally on superstition – and we can call it the superstition of materialism – which says you and I are physical entities of the physical universe.”

Ah yes, tough crowd those Astrologers. And now, a quiz from way back:

1) Which of the following was most responsible for dragging western civilization out of the dark ages?

a) Astrology
b) Religion
c) Politics
d) Science

2) Which of the following is the most self-critical/self-correcting?

a) Astrology
b) Religion
c) Politics
d) Science

2a) Which of the following eagerly anticipates revolutionary reform?

a) Astrology
b) Religion
c) Politics
d) Science

3) Which of the following exploits people′s fears and insecurities the least?

a) Astrology
b) Religion
c) Politics
d) Science


* The Huffington Post is a bothersome place that reinforces the rather frustrating link between liberalism and new-ageism. It stands as a great exemplar of the old aphorism: “Be open minded, but not so much so that your brain falls out”

** I personally find Michael Shermer to be a bit of a dick, but not because of his skepticism, rather his free-market libertarian politics. Skeptics and scientists alike would be well advised to try to keep their politics out of it when advocating critical thinking.

Creation, a movie about Darwin


Well worth seeing if you want to see a portrait of Darwin the man, as opposed to the naturalist and explorer, since most of the movie covers him wrestling with his conscience over the logically imminent demise of God as the creator of all living things, as well as his grief over the loss of his precociously smart (but slightly creepy) oldest child, Annie.

And look, here’s what some hilarious Christians had to say about Darwin recently (note the Godwin-troll in the middle):

The Darwin Anniversary

November 24, 2009, is the 150th anniversary of the publication of Origin of Species. How should we respond?

Joshua McLoughlin

by standing strong

Angela Posey-Arnold

maybe we should not respond at all.

Paul Askin

Perhaps watch “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed”?

Ross Nixon

I tweeted, perhaps unwisely, “Darwin sucks more than Hitler”.

Mitchell Robert Kriss

Why dont we celebrate jean lemark while we’re at it? Both theories are just as false as each other.

Rhonda Blunt

yeah Mitchell Lemarks therory that a a species will change one a period of time is stupid. I always look at those African people who over a couple of centuries have lengthened their necks with large rings. None of their offspring have ever been born with long necks, just the ones God gave them!

Darrell Yip

@Rhonda: all too true!!

Patricia Flynn

Rhonda, that is the best comment – wish I had thought of it!

I honestly don’t see how pointing out the inadequacy of Lamarckian theory is supposed to support their opposition to the Darwinian model, but then I guess this is Christian logic, which by definition transcends actual logic.

Merry Exmas!


How Atheists Celebrate the Holidays

(by Brian McFadden – click for original)

Words from an evolutionary biologist

PZ Myers is not known for his lyrical prose, but I really liked this paragraph in response to a creationist dunderhead who was lecturing him on the foolishness of supporting Darwinian theory.

I’ve split half-billion year old stones to expose the shells of trilobites, I’ve seen the bones of Tiktaalik, I’ve held in my hands the skull of Neanderthal. I’ve compared the genes of mice and flies, I’ve studied the embryos of grasshoppers and fish, I’ve read thousands of papers produced by a scientific community that values curiosity over money. I’ve also read dozens of books by creationists, and I can say with complete confidence that they, and you, Mr Michael Aprile, are full of shit.

It called to mind Roy’s final words from Blade Runner:

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.

(well obviously the last part is a little different, but I imagine PZ would have something pretty eloquent to say should a priest ever try a deathbed conversion on him)

Ray Comfort: Evangelist, disingenuous moron, and now plagiarist

Apparently the shameless twat stole someone else’s introduction to Darwin for the introduction to his own introduction for his new “edition” of Origin of Species (which goes some way towards explaining why people found the first part of his introduction surprisingly not shit).

Original text by Stan Guffey, 1997

On returning to England in 1836, Darwin set to work examining and disseminating the extensive collection of natural history specimens acquired during the voyage. He quickly established a reputation as an accomplished naturalist on the London scene. In 1839 he married Emma Wedgwood, and saw his journal of the voyage of the Beagle published. In 1842 he and Emma moved to Downe house, Kent where Emma would bear 10 children and she and he would live for the rest of their lives.

Ray’s text:

On returning to England in 1836, Darwin set to work examining and disseminating the extensive collection of specimens he acquired during the voyage. He quickly established a reputation as an accomplished naturalist on the London scene. In 1839 he married his cousin, Emma Wedgwood. That same year he published his journal of the voyage of the Beagle, which brought him immediate celebrity among London′s intellectuals. In 1842 he and Emma moved to Down House in Kent. It was there that she bore ten children and she and Charles spent the rest of their lives.

Worth noting is that the only substantial changes Ray makes to this passage (in bold) are to make Darwin sound less respectable and more attention seeking.

Incredibly Proud

My sister Bindi just rode her bike (as in bicycle) 1200 kilometers (745 miles) in less than 90 hours, and I am seriously in awe of her.

Bindi stocking up on food in Mittagong.

Here’s a link to the event.

The Route

Stage 1 – The route leaves Sydney and travels via Campbelltown and Goulburn to Canberra, a distance of 368 km with 2495 m gain in elevation.

Stage 2 – The second stage is the feature of the ride. It leaves Canberra and travels through Cooma and Kiandra to Cabramurra and down to Corryong. It passes through some magnificent undulating alpine country with some significant climbs. This is a distance of 311 km with a vertical gain of 3910 m.

Stage 3 – The third flattish stage travels along the Murray River to the Hume Weir, then down to Euroa via Beechworth and Benalla. It involves riding 334 km with 1410 m of climbing.

Stage 4 – The last stage travels down to Seymour, then over lovely granite country to Lancefield, and down to Melbourne. This covers 202 km with a rise of 1212 m. The last 20 km down to the Yarra River is along bike paths separated from road traffic.

The total distance covered is 1215 km, with a total vertical gain of 9100m. This compares with a vertical rise of 10,000 m on PBP, and 13,000 m on the Rocky Mountains 1200.