Deepak Chopra: A New Age Shaman (Watch Video)

Written by June 30, 2009 7:42 pm 26 comments

Deepak Chopra is a modern day Shaman who promotes mystical notions of reality to millions of people by slipping magic into the gaps in our naturalistic understanding of the world around us. He always begins with a naturalistic assertion usurped from science and follows a fuzzy metaphorical interpretation of the argument to a supernaturalistic end. The hook is his claim that these ideas are on a higher truth level than that which science can access.

In reality, the motives behind Chopra’s science distortion are not very idealistic. The fantasies he promotes form the marketing strategy behind a vast business enterprise selling magical cures to every ailment imaginable.

The harm done by such New-Age Shamans as Deepak Chopra is avoidable. What is needed is for scientists, humanists and all concerned people to expose these lies that are repeated everyday in the popular media.

In the video that follows, I analyze Chopra’s strategy to show how he distorts science using metaphors in order to profit from selling quackery. If your internet connection is too slow for streaming the HD quality video, you can try accessing a lower quality version here, or the lowest (cell phone) quality version here.

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26 Comments

  • Very well put together video that provides a lot of critical thought. However, I do have a bone to pick.

    I think you somewhat misrepresent Chopra’s mentioning of placebo effect. Yes, we can understand objectively that placebo effects exist, but Chopra is asking what are the subjective-phenomenological components that give rise to the placebo effect. Merely explaining it in behavioral “input-output” terms (with no mention of the person’s inner thoughts, beliefs, attitude, etc.) doesn’t say much about what is going on inside the black box.

    • Scientists and philosophers of science understand subjectivity better than most others, since they study it from an objective perspective. This is the key thing about the scientific method you are missing.

      Whatever we can know with as little bias as possible about subjectivity itself, we can best know using the tools of science. And we have made much progress in this regard. There is a great deal of research into the placebo effect, and in truth much of it is quite trivial.

      To quote Steven Novella: ” In my experience the placebo effect, briefly defined as a measurable response to an inert treatment, is almost completely misunderstood by the public – a fact that is exploited by purveyors of dubious treatments”

      And more: “A common belief is that the placebo effect is largely a “mind-over-matter effect,” but this is a misconception. There is no compelling evidence that the mind can create healing simply through will or belief. However, mood and belief can have a significant effect on the subjective perception of pain. There is no method to directly measure pain as a phenomenon, and studies of pain are dependent upon the subjective report of subjects. There is therefore a large potential for perception and reporting bias in pain trials. But there are biological mechanisms by which mental processes can affect pain. There are many non-specific factors that can biochemically suppress pain. For example, increased physical activity can release endorphins that naturally inhibit pain. For these reasons the placebo effect for pain is typically high, around 30%.

      But the more concrete and physiological the outcome, the smaller the placebo effect. Survival from serious forms of cancer, for example, has no demonstrable placebo effect. There is a “clinical trial effect,” as described above – being a subject in a trial tends to improve care and compliance, but no placebo effect beyond that. There is no compelling evidence that mood or thought alone can help fight off cancer or any similar disease.”

      There is a lot more that scientists are interested in studying when it comes to many other aspects of the placebo effect. Chopra is wrong, and I do not misrepresent him in the clip.

  • What a great, rational thinking video. You did a wonderful job and this should be on 60 minutes.

  • Battles – Race:Out

    That’s where you won me.

  • steven burt

    The sheep will follow anyone with a opinion….as long as it is their opinion.

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