Yay! Chopra went after me!

UPDATES: In a move reminiscent of that “letter from 800 scientists who deny evolution,” Deepak has responded to Chris Anderson by assembling letters from more than a dozen “accredited scientists and the broader community of concerned professionals,” all of whom want TED to promulgate Sheldrake-ian and Hancock-ian woo to the public. The theme of many of those letters is the same: some correct ideas in science were once impugned. The apparent lesson is that TED should simply present all sorts of unvetted pseudoscience, science, and woo, and let the community sort it out.

Sorry, but the adjudication of accepted science doesn’t come from the public, but from the scientific community—largely through peer-reviewed publication. Let the woomeisters publish their hypotheses in reputable peer-reviewed journals, where many of the real paradigm changes (plate tectonics, quantum mechanics, etc.) first got noticed. Then we’ll pay attention.

Oh, and Deepity says this to Anderson:

TED has invited religious leaders to speak, but that’s not at issue. The “fusion of science and spirituality” that you warned against in your guidelines is the issue.  The animosity of militant atheists against consciousness studies and their stubborn defense of conservative mainstream science seem to be the background noise, at the very least, that colored your warnings. It’s easy to envision that someone along the line at TED, seeing a talk entitled “The Science Delusion,” recognized an attack on Dawkins and chopped the limb off the tree.

Chopra, like many who want to defend the numinous against the harsh glare of science, has glommed on to the “militant atheist” trope.  That seems to have become a euphemism for “I won’t engage your arguments, because I can’t, but I’m going to call you names anyhow.”

Oh, and thanks to reader Glenn for formalizing my new honor on his FB page:

Badge

________________

. . at least I hope so, for disapprobation from Chopra is a huge badge of honor.

The Supreme Woomeister of the Universe, Deepity Chopra, wrote an open letter on PuffHo to TED decrying the “censorship” of the TEDx talks by Rupert Sheldrake and Graham Hancock. (If you’ll recall, those talks weren’t censored: TEDx sequestered them on a Site of Shame because they were deemed to contain substandard or questionable scientific claims.)  The letter, called “Dear TED, Is it ‘Bad Science’ or a ‘Game of Thrones’?” (oy, what a cumbersome title!), is actually signed by the following:

Deepak Chopra, MD. FACP, ChopraFoundation.org/

Stuart Hameroff, MD, Professor of Anesthesiology and Psychology, Director, Center for Consciousness Studies, The University of Arizona, http://www.quantumconsciousness.org

Menas C. Kafatos, Ph.D., Fletcher Jones Endowed Professor in Computational Physics, Director, Center of Excellence, Chapman University,
Facebook: kafatos@chapman.edu

Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D., Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology at Harvard University, Director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital

Neil Theise, MD, Professor, Pathology and Medicine, (Division of Digestive Diseases) Beth Israel Medical Center — Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, http://www.neiltheise.com

Who they blame for the censorship? “Militant atheists,” of course!:

The decision to remove the two videos was apparently instigated by angry, noisy bloggers who promote militant atheism. Their target was a burgeoning field, the exploration of consciousness. For generations bringing up consciousness as a scientific topic was taboo. In the wildly popular fantasy novels by George R. R. Martin, “A Game of Thrones,” now running as an equally mad success on HBO, the mythical kingdom of Westeros is divided by a great wall 700 feet high. On the other side of the wall are lethal enemies and malefic magic. For centuries, no one has seen the zombie-like White Walkers who live on the other side of the wall, nor the dragons that once ravaged Westeros.

Even so, after magic and zombies fell into disbelief, a hereditary band of guardians swore an oath to keep watch at the wall, generation after generation. TED has put itself in rather the same position. What the militant atheists and self-described skeptics hate is a certain brand of magical thinking that endangers science. In particular, there is the bugaboo of “non-local consciousness,” which causes the hair on the back of their necks to stand on end. A layman would be forgiven for not grasping why such an innocent-sounding phrase could spell danger to “good science.”

The reason becomes clear when you discover that non-local consciousness means the possibility that there is mind outside the human brain or even outside material reality, that a conscious mind is in some way intrinsic to the quantum universe, and that we all are quantum entangled. One of us (Menas Kafatos) has devoted many years of research on the connection of quantum theory to consciousness. Four of us (Stuart Hameroff, Rudolph Tanzi, Neil Thiese, and Deepak Chopra) have devoted years of research to neuroscience, clinical studies and consciousness. For millennia it went without question that such a mind exists; it was known as God. Fearing that God is finding a way to sneak back into the kingdom through ideas of quantum consciousness, militant atheists go on the attack against near-death experiences, telepathy, action at a distance, and all manifestations of purpose-driven evolution.

. . . 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.” Militant atheism is a social/political movement; In no way does it deserve to represent itself as scientific. Francis Collins, a self-proclaimed Christian, is an acclaimed geneticist who heads the National Institutes of Health. To date, Collins hasn’t let any White Walkers or dragons over the wall.

I will claim, with some justification, that I am one of the “angry, noisy bloggers who promote militant atheism” who lobbied TEDx to do something about those videos. But what Chopra & Co. don’t know is that other people, who don’t fit into his pejorative category, worked behind the scenes to oppose the serious presentation of woo at TEDx. I have no idea what influence I had on the talks’ sequestration—if any. But kudos for TEDx for standing up to the onslaught of misguided people who think that Sheldrake and Hancock are misunderstood geniuses.

How can I begin to answer this farrago of woo-ishness? Non-local consciousness? The claim that “we are all quantum entangled”? The argument that militant atheists decry Sheldrake-ian woo because we think that stuff like ESP, telekinesis, and the universal consciousness implied in the idea of “morphic resonance” let God in through the back door is simply stupid. All we want is evidence, not numinous claims without hard scientific support. (There’s a lot more to Chopra et al.’s letter, but you can read it yourself, preferably after a heavy slug of Pepto-Bismol.

But I don’t have to answer this letter, because Chris Anderson, a TED official, has answered the criticisms in a polite but firm response, also at PuffHo, called “TED, censorship, consciousness, militant atheists, and pseudo science.”  It answers a number of questions raised by the kerfuffle. Here are a few:

Is TED under the thumb of “militant atheists”?!

That’s another simple no (and a chuckle). We certainly have talks on our site from prominent atheists like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. We also have talks by religious leaders, including Pastor Rick Warren, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard and His Holiness the Karmapa, among many others. Religious scholar Karen Armstrong won the TED Prize in 2008. Benedictine Monk David Steindl-Rast will speak at TEDGlobal this June. When it comes to belief in God, and the practice of spirituality, a broad swath of beliefs are represented on TED.com, and also in our organization; our 100-person staff includes observant Buddhists, Bahai, Catholics, Quakers, Protestants, Jews and Muslims, as well as agnostics and atheists.

Should TED have a policy of asking its TEDx event organizers to avoid pseudo-science?

Your note implies we should not. We should allow “any speculative thinking…” and just let the audience decide. I wonder if you’ve really thought through the implications of that. Imagine a speaker arguing, say, that eating five Big Macs a day could prevent Alzheimer’s. Or someone claiming she was the living reincarnation of Joan of Arc. I’m sure at some point you too would want to draw the line. The only question is where (see below). The reason TED has been able to build a reputation is through curation. It’s through selecting great speakers with ideas worth spreading, and politely saying no to others. Our belief is that audience time and attention is a precious asset, and it would be hugely disrespectful and ultimately destructive to just say: hey, anything goes.

I especially like the last bit.  Morphic resonance, after all, is just a Big Mac for the mind.

I have little to add to Anderson’s nice response, but here’s my own letter:

Dear Deepak and Co.,

You lost. Suck it up.

Sincerely
Jerry Coyne
Advocate of evidence-based science

Oh, and fans of Sheldrake and Hancock: stop trying to post your endorsements of these Great Men on my website.

h/t: Amy, SGM

115 Comments

  1. gbjames
    Posted April 20, 2013 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    Nice

  2. Bruce S. Springsteen
    Posted April 20, 2013 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    Congratulations on receiving The Deepity-pak Seal of Disapproval. It is indeed a signal honor.

    • Gordon Munro
      Posted April 20, 2013 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

      Yes: akin to being called “a Jew Lover” by Himmler.

  3. Alexandra M
    Posted April 20, 2013 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    “…given their absolute conviction that the human brain is the only source of awareness in the universe, you’d think that speculative thinking on the subject wouldn’t be so threatening. (Most people wouldn’t picket a convention of werewolves in their hometown. It’s not hard to tell what is fantasy.)”

    That’s the point though, isn’t it? It’s Chopra and his ilk who are bending their efforts to make it hard to tell what’s fantasy and what’s reality.

    Also, he hasn’t read A Song of Ice and Fire (the name of the series of which Game of Thrones is a part).

    Congratulations!

    • articulett
      Posted April 20, 2013 at 10:43 am | Permalink

      I think many atheists entertain the notion that there are other forms of awareness in the universe. We just expect aware beings to be material and distinguishable from imaginary beings– to have a material brain.

      I think of many animals as being aware– and then there is the possibility of “aware” life on other planets.

      But no matter how you slice it, awareness is a product of evolution. There would be no reason for it to exist in an immortal immaterial being. Rational people expect real beings to be distinguishable from mythological beings. Gods, ghosts, and so forth are not.

      • Alexandra M
        Posted April 20, 2013 at 10:53 am | Permalink

        What’s so insidious about Hameroff’s line of “reasoning,” though, is that it purports to show that we evolved to interact with quantum effects, and thereby to justify the belief in “non-local consciousness” as science. It lets them off (they think) being called cranks for believing in gods, ghosts and other mythological beings.

        For, of course, that would be silly.

        • articulett
          Posted April 20, 2013 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

          Yes, I’m familiar with their argument: “QM proves weird things happen– therefore, my weird belief (woo) is true!”

          Unfortunately for the woomeisters, QM doesn’t support the idea of disembodied spirits any more than it supports the idea of invisible flowers growing in my garden. Without a way of distinguishing such things from imaginary versions of such things, they will always be in the realm of pseudoscience. Although the woomeisters would like to give the impression that their immaterial beings are more scientific than my immaterial flowers, as far as the scientific evidence is concerned, they are not.

          • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
            Posted April 20, 2013 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

            1. Reality can be mysterious.
            2. Therefore my mystery can be real.

            I think they missed Logic 101.

  4. Alex Shuffell
    Posted April 20, 2013 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    I agree with Deepak on something!

    “What the militant atheists and self-described skeptics hate is a certain brand of magical thinking that endangers science. In particular, there is the bugaboo of “non-local consciousness,” which causes the hair on the back of their necks to stand on end. A layman would be forgiven for not grasping why such an innocent-sounding phrase could spell danger to “good science.””

    He’s correct here. His work, and the work of other woo-people, is endangering science. It promotes faith and authority over critical thinking, it doesn’t require any evidence and their ideas can be accepted as absolute. If they want to be taken seriously in science they should follow up they’re claims with evidence and experiment.

    Is studying consciousness really taboo? I thought there would be thousands of actual scientists studying it from all different fields.

    • Posted April 20, 2013 at 10:03 am | Permalink

      Is studying consciousness really taboo?

      No, it isn’t.

    • Posted April 20, 2013 at 10:11 am | Permalink

      The writing of Deepak Chopra is a prime example of Language Abuse, the concatenation of certain words designed to purposefully create darkness where the illumination of ideas is bright and beneficial. Obscuring phrases, defined by no one, yet alluding to an ill-formed thought, is the hammer of choice.

      No atheist ever feels “hair stand up” when reading anything by Mr. Chopra. If we recoil, it is not because something we hold at the core of our beliefs is under attack. It is more akin to watching Mr. Chopra modify the bodywork on his car for the 22nd time, using yet again only his word-smithing ball-peen hammer. The racket, and the further-misshapend lump his disfigured car has become, does not truly alarm those of us who follow him not. We merely cringe at the racket and the sight, and we shake our heads at Mr. Chopra.

      And our “own cars”, our own tenets, remain safely distanced from his flailing hammer!

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted April 20, 2013 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

        Agreed. It appears that he deliberately goes out of his way to use obscure language (the kind of thing your English prof failed you for but you thought was a way to look smart when you were in highschool) so that when you say, “what, I have no idea what you just said”, he can remark that you’re just not smart enough to get him.

        • microraptor
          Posted April 20, 2013 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

          Yeah, there’s definitely an inverse correlation between the quality of someone’s argument and how obscure their language is.

          A really great science communicator, like Richard Dawkins or Carl Sagan, might make use of all sorts of metaphors in their writing, but they always break down what their key points are into simple terms to insure that whomever reads it can understand it. The woo-slingers like Chopra, on the other hand, go out of their way to make their writing as overly complex as they can because it makes their vacuous statements sound smarter than they really are.

          • Alexandra M
            Posted April 20, 2013 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

            “The woo-slingers like Chopra, on the other hand, go out of their way to make their writing as overly complex as they can…”

            I’d say “complex” is too flattering a word. As with their “theories,” they seem to think complication, not complexity, is something to be proud of.

            • Posted April 20, 2013 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

              No “complexity” involved. His groupings of words are more akin to a splash of tomato seeds recently scraped from a tomato: Observable and countable, but simply slippery and not possible to grip between fingers. No redeeming social value.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted April 20, 2013 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

                Now there’s a good metaphor – you should offer metaphor services to Deepak! :D

              • Posted April 22, 2013 at 9:51 am | Permalink

                At least a handful of seeds you could try to plant …

              • Jeff Johnson
                Posted April 22, 2013 at 10:03 am | Permalink

                And they come along with loads of fertilizer as well.

    • articulett
      Posted April 20, 2013 at 10:36 am | Permalink

      The realm of science is everything that is real.

    • Posted April 20, 2013 at 10:56 am | Permalink

      +1

  5. truthspeaker
    Posted April 20, 2013 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    This is also a flat-out, bald-faced lie:

    For generations bringing up consciousness as a scientific topic was taboo.

    Scientists – psychiatrists, psychologists, and biologists – have been study consciousness for a long time. We still don’t know much about it, for a few reasons, one of them being that it’s considered unethical to damage the brains of healthy humans to see what happens. Good thing, too.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted April 20, 2013 at 9:50 am | Permalink

      Forgot to subscribe to comments

    • Posted April 20, 2013 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      Even an ant is conscious, moving away from fire, or recognizing an enemy or fellow ant. Instead of the fuzzy phrase “human consciousness”, let’s call it ‘self as an abstract concept’ or “sac”.

      It is true that in the 19th century, both memory and sac were regarded as the province of religion, and religious philosophers only. But that is because the brain seemed so simple in its form and function. Once microscopes were powerful enough, and used by individual scientists for decades, the secrets of the brain began to reveal themselves. Theologians fought back, defending their turf, but scientific truth (if anything is true about science, it is this that follows)
      will not be denied, and ultimately will best ontological thinking at every instance.

    • Sastra
      Posted April 20, 2013 at 10:32 am | Permalink

      This phrase is a good (and common) example of the bait’n switch: consciousness has of course been studied for years. But Consciousness as the woosters conceive of it was rejected a long time ago — along with vitalism and the conviction that the brain’s main purpose had something to do with cooling blood.

      But if you don’t make the distinction clear then listeners will think that mainstream neurologists and other scientists have paid no attention at ALL to the curious fact that we have thoughts and emotions, acting instead as if they were dealing with zombis and robots.

      I particularly hate it when materialist naturalist atheist scientists are accused of “denying the interior.” That’s a popular phrase. It makes us sound perverse. “Subjective states? No such thing. I don’t feel anything at all at any time, and am neither conscious nor self-aware. Such concepts do not compute. Beep beep…”

    • Suri
      Posted April 20, 2013 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

      I am definitely not an expert on the subject but from what I have read , a lot of the research on consciousness is done on people with brain damage , brain disease
      (Alzheimer, Epilepsy , etc) animals, the effects of anesthetics, etc…

      It might have been taboo 30 years ago but not anymore… Also the more we know about it the more the evidence is pointing (overwhelmingly) towards consciousness being a product of the brain, as of today no serious research supports Deepak’s conclusions.

      • truthspeaker
        Posted April 20, 2013 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

        I don’t think it was taboo 30 years ago. Hell, Freud was writing about consciousness, among other aspects of psychology. (Whether he was studying them scientifically is another question).

        Scientists were hypothesizing about consciousness in the 19th Century when they studied Phineas Gage, the guy who had a crowbar go through his brain. He lived but his behavior was altered afterwards.

        • Posted April 20, 2013 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

          So true. Phineas Gage was one of the first scientifically measured (as opposed to anecdotally recorded) cases of brain function in a case of brain injury. It set in motion a whole category of study of the injured physical brain and the resulting subtractions those injuries caused.

          In that area of study, I cannot recommend enough….

          I repeat…I cannot recommend more strongly,

          the book “A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness” (written, to test you, on the cover, “Consciou5ness”) by V.S. Ramachandran, M.D. (2003). The “brain injury” studies within will leave you material worthy of a supreme raconteur.

        • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
          Posted April 20, 2013 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

          Crowbar? I think a “tamping iron” was a device for tamping holes set with explosives, hence the subsequent accident. [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phineas_Gage ]

  6. Alexandra M
    Posted April 20, 2013 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    It is damaging. I’m on the verge of dropping a friend who is defending Hameroff as a neglected genius. His and Penrose’s hypothesis was looked at by some actual physicists, their paper published in Physical Review concluding, “…no reformation of the proposal based on known physical paradigms could lead to quantum computing within microtubules. Hence, the Orch OR model is not a feasible explanation of the origin of consciousness.”

    Friend’s reply: “Gatekeepers target mavericks.”

  7. Matt Bowman
    Posted April 20, 2013 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Did anyone else get the feeling that Chopra believes White Walkers and dragons really exist?

    • Alexandra M
      Posted April 20, 2013 at 10:01 am | Permalink

      But of course! But his analogy is faulty, because in the novels, White Walkers and magic aren’t something real that people have stopped believing in – they’re things that people stopped believing in because they were NOT real as long as there were no dragons.

    • Posted April 20, 2013 at 11:01 am | Permalink

      I’m not sure he thinks they actually exist. It’s more likely that he wants us to keep a open mind about them…

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted April 20, 2013 at 11:04 am | Permalink

      I can’t decide if it’s his clumsy writing or if his writing is some sort of big Freudian slip. In other words, does he choose a poor metaphor or does he actually believe in the fantasy figures of this poor metaphor….him like all his writing, we’ll never know for sure.

  8. Git
    Posted April 20, 2013 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    “Or someone claiming she was the living reincarnation of Joan of Arc.”

    That’s Adria Richards ruled out then ;-)

  9. Posted April 20, 2013 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    I have long thought that Hameroff was a woomeister. So it’s good to see that he has as much as admitted it by allowing his signature to be on that open letter.

  10. mordacious1
    Posted April 20, 2013 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    I saw Chopra’s letter on Huff-Po yesterday and just had to laugh. What is nice though, is by the time I read the letter, there were several very good comments pointing out its fallacious arguments (actually, mostly ad hominem attacks). We militant atheists own the internet, we’re everywhere and will not let nonsense pass unanswered. These woo-meisters can only get away with peddling their crap on sites where we are not allowed to post and even then they will be confronted elsewhere. There’s no rock they can hide under, even Huff-Po isn’t safe for them.

    I picture the snake-oil salesman pulling in to an old west town and three or four citizens telling the crowd not to waste their money and why. Then the tomatoes fly…maybe tar and feathers.

  11. abandonwoo
    Posted April 20, 2013 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Wooists, religious fundamentalists, FOXers, etc., all wriggle around in America and elsewhere under the same dark, stinky and smothering blanket:

    “Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’”
    -Isaac Asimov

    Anti-intellectualism also means a perceived right of entitlement to equate belief in any old wild-assed claim with actual fact-grounded knowing.

  12. Posted April 20, 2013 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    In the vein of “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” (“I don’t have to show you no stinkin’ badges!”).

    “If you’re the atheists who are militant, where are your military wares? Where is your hierarchical command structure?”

    • microraptor
      Posted April 20, 2013 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

      We’re a gorilla organization. :D

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted April 20, 2013 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

        Or, at least, armed with typewriters we can ape an organization.

        • microraptor
          Posted April 20, 2013 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

          I don’t know about you, but I’m just monkeying around.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted April 20, 2013 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

      Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses go door to door trying to convert people to their faiths, but they’re never described as militant.

      But we’re militant when we stay home and post on the internet.

      • microraptor
        Posted April 20, 2013 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

        Evangelicals run TV ads telling you that you need Jesus in your life or you’re going to burn in hell for eternity and aren’t described as militant.

        Atheists put up billboards saying that you don’t need to feel unhappy and alone if you don’t believe in God, here’s a group of people also don’t believe in God and would be happy to talk to you because they know how lonely it can seem some times, and they’re called militant for it.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted April 20, 2013 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

          Not to mention how criticizing Islam gets you called an Islamophobe (Sam Harris & Richard Dawkins), speaking about the privledge of Christianity gets you called a fascist (David Silverman) and well, we’ve seen some of Jerry’s rather colourful fan mail!

  13. Diana MacPherson
    Posted April 20, 2013 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Ugh. Deepak should be forbidden from using metaphors, especially extended metaphors. As with all his writing, it takes me several readings to arrive at a hypothesis of what he is saying. It seems he is postulating, using a popular fantasy book and HBO show, that “militant atheists” & TEDx officials are The Crows of Game of Thrones. Who then are the zombie White Walkers? Is that Deepak & co.? Why would he want to make himself the wondering, terrifying, human eating, undead? It doesn’t put him or his peers’ ideas in the best of light.

    Then again, maybe I just don’t understand what he’s getting at after re-reading that same paragraph 3 times.

    Furthermore, why do so many arguments end with “Richard Dawkins did it”? I’ve heard the same argument on a talk show concerning religion in public policy….now TEDx (crows) discriminating between pseudo and good science is also ultimately Richard Dawkins’ fault.

    I also thought I’d get through that letter without “quantum” coming up. Sadly, I didn’t. Like clumsy metaphors, quantum pops up whenever Deepak speaks, churning my stomach (in a decisively classic way) every time. I wonder if he wrote this letter on his phone like I’ve heard he does his books….

  14. articulett
    Posted April 20, 2013 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    I like to point out to the “woo” that if there was any real evidence for consciousness absent a material brain, SCIENTISTS would be at the forefront testing, refining, and expanding upon that evidence. No one would need to be manipulated into believing in such things, because the evidence would suffice.

    • Posted April 20, 2013 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

      This is an excellent point. The mark of a ‘false conspiracy’ is the seemingly immutable lack of leakage by otherwise incompetent, unintelligent, myopic, plodding conspirators.

    • darrelle
      Posted April 20, 2013 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

      And the thing is, scientists have tested for such things. So far the record of such investigations is perfect. Bupkiss.

  15. Matt G
    Posted April 20, 2013 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    You know what – if atheists are “militant” for criticizing religion, then we should start calling criticism of atheism “militant christianity”, “militant judaism”, etc.

    • Sastra
      Posted April 20, 2013 at 10:52 am | Permalink

      “Militant New Agers.”

      Oh, how they will scream over that one. Well no, not scream. Emotions hold you back. They will smile in sympathy for our benighted state and inability to leave off violence.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted April 20, 2013 at 10:53 am | Permalink

      I was going to suggest militant theism but militant wooism would be better since it would cast an even wider net. :D

      • Posted April 20, 2013 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

        OMZ!!! (insert Zeus)

        This smacks of “Islamophobia”!!

      • DiscoveredJoys
        Posted April 20, 2013 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

        I suspect that the phrase should be ‘mercenary wooism’ because most of the famous woo meisters earn a living talking woo.

        “Just cross my palm with silver dearie and I’ll tell you why my special homeopathy vibration pendant will help balance the quantum chakras for your star sign”

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted April 20, 2013 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

          Ha ha and wear this magnetic bracelet. It will align your quantum perceptions along the axis of perceptibility. Hey, this is kinda fun!

  16. mordacious1
    Posted April 20, 2013 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    The comments in reply to Chris Anderson’s response are priceless. There’s one guy whinging on about how they’ve got proof of human extraterrestrials and UFOs, but TED won’t allow them to produce their evidence in a talk (those bastards!). Bah-ha-ha! These are the people that Chopra is aligning himself with and it’s right where he belongs.

    After what happened in Boston, I needed a good laugh to cheer me up this weekend.

  17. Sastra
    Posted April 20, 2013 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    The idea that Cosmic Consciousness (or any of its variants) is being rejected because of fear is basic to this sort of Spirituality.

    I’m currently in the middle of reading the New Age best seller A Course In Miracles and this is a constant theme. God-Mind-Ourselves-Soul used to be one united, whole, perfect thing. And then EGO and FEAR separated off into the material world and the rational way of perceiving it. This way of the senses is deceptive. The body is only a tool to help us get back to our original state.

    In this ‘paradigm,’ they believe some people are more sensitive than others — and it’s them! Those who do not accept/understand the primary Truth of our fundamentally spiritual nature are prevented from doing so by EGO and FEAR. Skeptics are afraid. We feel safe and secure in the physical world … and yet our souls still yearn towards Truth.

    This is what they tell themselves. All our “attacks” come from fear. There is no real possibility that we could be right. Right-thinkers are able to see this from their higher level… the level which denies levels and thus avoids the trap of EGO. And FEAR.

    This book is a very, very slow read. I cannot get through more than a few pages without having to put it down. The effort is two-fold: before I can analyze what it is saying I have to enter into the mindset of the ideal reader and understand and admire what it is saying. It’s written in deepities and the writer thinks she is God. Literally. She’s channeling Jesus and He’s patiently explaining what he really meant in the Bible (which all too often got it wrong — even backwards!)

    • Alexandra M
      Posted April 20, 2013 at 10:57 am | Permalink

      You are a brave person.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted April 20, 2013 at 10:59 am | Permalink

      Wow – I applaud your efforts. I read those books in my youth. I don’t have the stamina any longer :)

    • gbjames
      Posted April 20, 2013 at 11:01 am | Permalink

      I hope your life is long enough to compensate you for the time lost in this effort.

    • articulett
      Posted April 20, 2013 at 11:19 am | Permalink

      Yes, I remember the thinking from my “woo” days. There’s this idea that scientists deny the spirit along with this idea that one can “feel” the truth. Now I see how silly this is, and I don’t want any part of fostering such thinking; it makes people very prone to manipulation while feeling immune from such.

      Scientists spend millions of dollars to gather space dust, do the woomeisters really think they’d ignore ACTUAL evidence of spirits? Do they imagine that Stephen Hawking would ignore REAL evidence of an afterlife instead of eagerly testing the evidence to find out more? What benefit could possibly be gained by ignoring real evidence?

      With the money Templeton gives just to blur the boundary between science and faith– just think of the funds that would be available if there was real evidence that consciousness could exist absent a brain! The evidence would be in every biology book. Who doesn’t want to believe that their loved one live on after death?

      At it’s core, woomeisters, are claiming to know things they do not know and imagining themselves humble and “chosen” for spreading their woo.

      • Marella
        Posted April 20, 2013 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

        What benefit could possibly be gained by ignoring real evidence?

        Obviously a lot, since this is what the wooists do. These people are masters at the art of projection, so if you want to understand their motives all you have to do is look at the motives they ascribe to us, in this case FEAR and EGO. Thus we can postulate that they are afraid of death, and cannot believe that anything as wonderful and important as they can simply vanish from the world.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted April 20, 2013 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

      No, it mostly comes from boredom. Been there, tried that, hear it pop up again, hear it too often.

      What is exciting today is *not that* (and not some 1000s of other ideas that luckily are never repeated again).

  18. articulett
    Posted April 20, 2013 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    I want to ask Chopra, “If the invisible beings you believe in (gods/souls etc.) were as imagnary as the ones you reject as myth– would you want to know?

    What might he say if put on the spot like that. Clearly he doesn’t want to know– it’s much more profitable to sell the delusion.

    • Sastra
      Posted April 20, 2013 at 10:59 am | Permalink

      I recently asked a New Age friend that very question in an email. Her reply:

      I know it’s difficult to understand where I am coming from; because I do come from a metaphysical place and in metaphysics, thoughts have no form and are energy that transcends the limits of the body and brain and therefore can pass through minds. It is a totally different paradigm from yours; I don’t think there is a right or wrong; just a different belief system

      She then explained further that spirituality is so “non-dualistic” that my question was unanswerable.

      My guess is that you’d probably get some variation of that from Chopra.

      Of course, I should probably point out that as far as I can tell in this worldview there are no such things as imaginary myths — unless you count the physical world, of course.

      • articulett
        Posted April 20, 2013 at 11:44 am | Permalink

        Yes– you’d get a non-answer– a deepity or the “courtier’s reply”. Such people seem to be trying to blur the line between objective truth and everything else (opinion, motto, feelings, ideals, etc.)

        I wonder if I would have given such an answer in my woo days? There was a time in my life when I desperately wanted to believe in souls– even if they weren’t real. But no-one really challenged my thinking. I feel like I wasted a lot of brain power on fooling myself.

        But now the truth matters to me more than what I WANT to be true –or what I “feel” is true.

        Does Deepak Chopra care whether what he’s teaching is true? In my woo days there was this idea having to do with it not mattering whether something was actually true– you were supposed to focus on whether it FELT true or made you a better person or contained a kernal of higher truth or something. But I realized the truth DID matter me.

        I never could get into Course in Miracles (It was beyond my budget anyhow)– but I was into Jane Robert’s supposed channeling of “Seth” at one time. I wish I’d have had someone to prod my thinking in a more rational direction during those years. Now I think there is a sort of harm in promoting the idea that faith is a virtue and that feelings are a method of obtaining objective truths.

        • Sastra
          Posted April 20, 2013 at 11:59 am | Permalink

          I agree. Finding meaning in spurious “connections” and discovering depth in superficial analogies easily flips from being a sort of character-enhancing personal game to becoming an anti-humanist ideological prison.

          A fundamentalist mindset isn’t just about thinking you’re right and other people are wrong: it involves how you deal with dissent. When you cannot entertain or even hear outside criticism because you think you’ve risen beyond that “level” then you’re not harmoniously uniting anything but your own ego. And no — you don’t get to redefine “ego” as the natural world and insist you’ve risen above that too.

          I think New Age tomes and pundits manage to take passive aggressive to a new level. Because this is all about Love, you know.

      • articulett
        Posted April 20, 2013 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

        A big problem with the new age concept whereby people “create their own reality” is that it means witches are real if you think they are real… and lying is fine if you think it’s the truth. There’s no way to tell a real demon from an imaginary one. All unfalsifiable claims are equally likely to be true.

        Of course nobody accepts this sort of reasoning for things that matter. If a child was missing, nobody would think supernatural explanations were valid or useful. If the police were to entertain ideas like “god poofed the child up to heaven because he needed another angel” or “aliens ate them”, everyone would be appalled. The parents would be desperate for real evidence that lead to the real whereabout of their child– not in everything that “could be true” because no-one has been able to falsify it. Nobody would accept this sort of metaphysical mumbo jumbo as a real explanation or “the truth”.

        Woomeisters want to be seen as people who are giving real answers to real questions, but they are much more akin to people who support the idea people can be witches or possessed or cursed. Their ideas are definitely not worth spreading.

        • Posted April 22, 2013 at 9:58 am | Permalink

          And this hypocricy gives me hope that asymptotically we can find a way to help more and more people live rationally.

          I mentioned to a group I was in on the weekend that debate and discussion strengthen and structure one’s intellectual immune system, so one isn’t bowled over every time one encounters BS. I wondered, however, how one creates intellectual vaccination …

  19. Don Quijote
    Posted April 20, 2013 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    “The invisible reflects the expansion of human observation.” Deepity Chopra (not)

    • Posted April 20, 2013 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

      Language Abuse, that sentence, in all its gory glory.

      “Bambambambambambambambambambam” (see my analogy, above)

  20. Posted April 20, 2013 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    I think him peddling this really is just unadulterated avarice. Is there any reason to think his decades long, insanely lucrative career is fueled by an actual belief in this stuff?

    • microraptor
      Posted April 20, 2013 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

      Inara: Physical appearance doesn’t matter so terribly. You look for compatibility of spirit. There’s an energy about a person that’s difficult to hide.You try to feel that–
      Mal: And then you try to feel the energy of their credit account, it has a sort of…aura…

      For all the wooishness Joss Whedon typically promoted in his shows, Firefly managed to have a surprisingly high amount of anti-woo.

      • truthspeaker
        Posted April 20, 2013 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

        I think all Wheedon’s work is about critical thinking and skepticism. In Buffy’s world, the vampires and demons really existed. Some demons (and other bad guys) used emotional manipulation to trick people.

        I don’t think Wheedon promoted woo; I think he created fictional universes where some of what we call woo was real.

        Granted, he didn’t seem to know the difference between a galaxy and a solar system.

        • microraptor
          Posted April 20, 2013 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

          No, he got explicit about science being the bad guy a couple of times: there was a group of scientists on Buffy who were trying to capture and study vampires in order to figure out how to treat them that he flat out said were supposed to be villains (though in their actual appearance in the show, things only went wrong when the heroes busted into the lab…). Likewise, there was the various Alliance projects in the Firefly Verse that created River and the Reavers because it was for “the greater good.”

          And, of course, that terrible line in Serenity when Book told Mal that it didn’t matter what he believed in, he just had to believe in something.

          I’ve got no problem with fantasy settings where supernatural powers work, the problem was that it went on to the “and therefore science is bad” end of the spectrum.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted April 20, 2013 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

            Yeah but remember River ripping up parts of the bible because it was “broken” & also Mal telling Book that God wasn’t welcome on his boat :) and the evil preacher guy that came to town in Buffy that was killing people with the help of the First Evil?

            Okay, I can’t believe I just wrote a big defence of the Whedonverse on this blog :D

          • truthspeaker
            Posted April 20, 2013 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

            I didn’t take those stories as saying science was bad so much as saying authoritarian power is bad.

            • microraptor
              Posted April 20, 2013 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

              That was certainly the way it seemed on the shows, but Whedon himself said otherwise.

  21. wildhog
    Posted April 20, 2013 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    How delicious this whole thing is! There’s nothing like watching a good slug-fest with the big-time BS merchants, and seeing them put another one in the loss column.

    • Suri
      Posted April 20, 2013 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

      Lol :D

  22. Diana MacPherson
    Posted April 20, 2013 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    I think if Deepak et al. can blame Richard Dawkins for their misery, I can blame Walt Whitman for starting off this whole anti-science trend when he wrote, When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer:

    When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
    When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
    When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
    When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
    How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
    Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
    In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
    Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

    At least the fiction I reference has some validity in proving my point and I didn’t turn it into a weird, confusing extended metaphor!

    • Sastra
      Posted April 20, 2013 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

      Whitman didn’t start it off. He was pulling from an anti-Enlightenment pushback called “Romanticism” and an offshoot, the Transcendentalist movement.

      If nothing else, Keats’ complaint that Newton destroyed Beauty when he ‘unwove the rainbow’ precedes Whitman.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted April 20, 2013 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

        Yes, it’s part of the joke. Equating that with the way Deepak equates Dawkins/militant atheism to his censorship…but I maintain mine has more validity than his.

        • Sastra
          Posted April 20, 2013 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

          You win that one.

  23. FormerComposer
    Posted April 20, 2013 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    Well done, Jerry! And in recognition, here’s a badge for you: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=633953589955298&l=a570dd890c

    • Hempenstein
      Posted April 20, 2013 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

      Is there any significance to the 42 part? I have a vague sense I ought to know this, but I’m not coming up with anything except Jackie Robinson’s number (and, curiously, the name I recently gave a gentleman-farmer friend of mine’s Black Angus calf, which was born Apr 2 to his cow #4, her second calf.)

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted April 20, 2013 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

        I’m guessing the answer to “life, the universe & everything”?

        • FormerComposer
          Posted April 20, 2013 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

          Yes, 42 because it’s the answer to everything …

  24. Curt Nelson
    Posted April 20, 2013 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    The response by Chris Anderson is good, except for the part on consciousness where he says:

    “Some people certainly believe consciousness must just be a side-effect of electrical patterns in a brain. But others, including many of us at TED, would argue that until science can find the language to explain more convincingly why and how we are sentient, you can’t a priori dismiss all unusual consciousness-related claims.”

    Yeah, I think some people do think that and that the vast majority of scientists think that – as apposed to it all being on account of a soul or something. Whether consciousness comes down to being best described as “electrical patterns” or some other terms that describe a process of biochemistry, only the religious think the answer may end up being “soul.”

  25. articulett
    Posted April 20, 2013 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    Every well known woomeister must know of James Randi’s million dollar prize for anyone demonstrating scientific evidence of the paranormal– the fact that they don’t take the challenge makes it pretty clear ,on some level, they all realize that they are selling a delusion. If they really believed in their “woo”, there’d be no reason not to accept the challenge. There’d be an eagerness to get scientists on one’s side rather than an eagerness to vilify them.

    Real things should be distinguishable from misperceptions when scientifically tested. The woomeister’s don’t trust that their “woo” is. It’s a valuable service to have Randi’s challenge out there, because it makes it very clear that there is not a secret conspiracy to deny gods, souls, or any other mystical notion. It’s just that such things are indistinguishable from delusions, illusions, misperceptions, and myths. A supernatural claim would have to be distinguishable from such to win the million dollar prize (and gain the attention of scientists eager to learn more). Chopra’s “woo” has no more truth value than Scientology “woo” and that is why they should be treated similarly.

  26. Posted April 20, 2013 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Mr Chopra should stick to plaiting fog or whatever it is he does.

  27. articulett
    Posted April 20, 2013 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    Why should Chopra’s woo be taken more seriously than belief in demon possession or witches? TED certainly wouldn’t give a voice to someone promoting the latter, and it seems that there is not a good argument for allowing some brands of superstition (supernatural beliefs) without implying that it’s respectable to believe in such things.

    I think that believers in the supernatural need to be encouraged to keep their supernatural beliefs as private as they want those with conflicting supernatural beliefs to keep theirs.

  28. Jeff Johnson
    Posted April 20, 2013 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    Chopra claims that science feels threatened by the promulgation of pseudo-science.

    This is nonsense because Chopra and his ilk provide nothing that can credibly challenge science.

    The Chopra-esque genre is not a threat, it is an annoyance. The huckster, the snake-oil salesman, the con man are familiar types whose penchant for preying on the uninformed and credulous is an age old form of larceny.

    The parties who actually have a reason to feel threatened are the dishonest charlatans like Chopra, who borrow bits of science and weave it together with dreamy themes of spiritual longing and wishful thinking in order to enrich themselves by selling it to easy marks.

    Chopra et al have a vested interest in preventing real knowledge and critical thinking from reaching their audience, whose hopeful innocence and lack of a well developed sense of skepticism make them rich targets for New Age Elmer Gantrys.

    Science isn’t threatened by pseudo-science any more than astronomy is threatened by astrology. Chopra and other such fanciful story-tellers are naturally threatened by the conflict between their tales and reality.

    • Suri
      Posted April 20, 2013 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

      Maybe not a threat to science directly but definitely a threat to society…the antivaccine movement being a great example.

  29. Posted April 20, 2013 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    “One of us (Menas Kafatos) has devoted many years of research on the connection of quantum theory to consciousness.”

    So many years wasted, then.

    /@

    • Posted April 20, 2013 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

      So true, but the company was cheerful and embracing, no doubt. There was, truly, no “research”, but the years cannot be denied.

      Completely off topic, how’s about we retire “OMG!” and resurrect Perry White’s

      “Great Caesar’s ghost!!!” from Superman?

      • Posted April 20, 2013 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

        I second that motion! It’s one of my favorite exclamations.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted April 20, 2013 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

          Me too! GCG instead of OMG!

  30. ridelo
    Posted April 20, 2013 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    We have already seen a Postmodernism Generator. Maybe Chopra uses a Deepity Generator. If it doesn’t exist someone should construct one.
    Could come in handy. If someone says a deepity, you use the generator to answer. Spares you a lot of time.

  31. Suri
    Posted April 20, 2013 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    When I read ‘science’ and ‘consciousness’ in the same sentence I think of Damasio (and others like him) who has published a number of papers in respectable journals including Science and Nature Neuroscience, and who also has been the recipient of several awards from reputable organizations.

    In contrast Deepak has published zero papers in zero respectable journals and is the proud recipient of the “Toastmasters “International Top Five Outstanding Speakers” award”.

    So, maybe it is just me but I think that if someone is going to make claims about what should be considered scientific or not it would be very nice and really helpful if that someone had good credentials.

    • Kurt Helf
      Posted April 20, 2013 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

      +1

  32. Old Rasputin
    Posted April 20, 2013 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    I will never understand why people like Chopra act as though atheists and skeptics are opposed to a particular idea because of some a priori aversion to it. As Jerry said, all we want is evidence. We oppose these ideas simply because we don’t think they are true, whereas Chopra would have you believe that we don’t think they are true because we oppose them.

    Personally, I couldn’t care less where/how/if consciousness is localized. If there are data that strongly suggest artichokes are conscious, so be it. Good for them. I guarantee you that the best neurologists and a whole fleet of mind/brain oriented scientists and philosophers would be all over those artichokes. They would have no peace!

    Scientists are interested in consciousness, but if you can’t present any hard, peer-review-able evidence, your claim is just another brain-in-a-vat scenario. Hypotheses like that are fun and perhaps useful in certain contexts, but it’s dangerous to present them as established science. And anyone who does deserves a certain amount of criticism and scorn from the wider community. People were right to laugh at plate tectonics, but experiment, data and evidence will shut down laughter and scorn every time, and that’s all we ask.

  33. Hempenstein
    Posted April 20, 2013 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    Carnegie-Mellon & Pitt have a joint Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition. I used to think that that was a good example of a bloated title, since, what the hell other kind of basis would there be? (Digestive? Geological?). Now I understand that they’re just being careful to distinguish themselves from the Center for the Imaginary Basis of Cognition.

  34. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted April 20, 2013 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    You don’t need atheism to declare Chopra et al’s claim bunkum, it is enough with basic physics and biology:

    – “Non-local consciousness”, “action at a distance”.

    Bell test experiments, announced this week with the last loopholes closed off, shows that QM obeys relativity. Eg there is no “action” or “signal” transfer, only correlations.

    “Non-local consciousness” and “action at a distance” is rejected by known physics.

    – “Near-death experiences”, “telepathy”.

    The recent completion of the standard particles with the Higgs field by LHC means the few eV EM sector of biology is protected up to 100’s of GeV from significant physics.

    Oh, we can have the haphazard cosmic ray strike or insignificant heating from DM hitting a few nuclei at low rate. But the vacuum have every field interaction happen unless explicitly forbidden, and the existence of extraneous fields that significantly affects EM would be interfere with the 11 (eleven!) significant digits of QED predictions.

    So unless it is biological mechanisms (and as we have discussed here, radio is too low energy for organisms use), forget about it.

    “Near-death experiences” and “telepathy” is rejected by known physics.

    – “Purpose-driven evolution”.

    Biological mechanisms are known to be natural.

    “Purpose-driven evolution” is rejected by known biology.

    The theme of many of those letters is the same: some correct ideas in science were once impugned.

    The Galileo Defense merits 40 points in Baez’s Crackpot Index. Only claiming you have a revolutionary theory but giving no concrete testable predictions merits more points.

    Oh, they do that too. So Deepity Crackpot-ra et al racks up 40 + 50 points, – 5 starting points, so 85 points just for protesting ideas not worth spreading should not be presented at TED and TEDx. [ http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/crackpot.html ]

    • DV
      Posted April 21, 2013 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

      Gravity is action at a distance. But I think Chopra means instantaneous thought transmission.

  35. James-C
    Posted April 21, 2013 at 3:22 am | Permalink

    Good post, you may wish to correct the typo in the first paragraph: “psedoscience”.

    -James-C

  36. ForCarl
    Posted April 21, 2013 at 5:24 am | Permalink

    Between my life of being a mild Christian to becoming an atheist, I explored various other ways of trying to support my feelings that there was a “God”. Native American spirituality was one stopover and Deepak Chopra and the Institute of Noetic Sciences was another. So I am pretty well versed in Woo. However, when I began to work at a science facility and learned more about the scientific methods of observation, verification, etc. I started to see what Deepak was all about. I can tell you that physicists particularly loathe Deepak’s use of their scientific terms and theory language to spin his tales of how the universe works.

    We really need to advocate that our schools teach the basic methods of scientific thinking and approaches to dealing with the world. It certainly would help prevent them from being taken in by this stuff.

    And keep an eye on the Institute of Noetic Sciences. They are well funded and dangerous to true science.

  37. Brygida Berse
    Posted April 21, 2013 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Why Dr. Rudy Tanzi, a legitimate scientist and a distinguished researcher in the field of Alzheimer’s disease, wants to associate himself repeatedly with Deepak Chopra, is beyond my understanding.

  38. DV
    Posted April 21, 2013 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    Feynman said the first principle is that you must not fool yourself. Chopra first principle apparently is the opposite.

  39. Chris
    Posted April 22, 2013 at 5:12 am | Permalink

    Chopra is as difficult to read as he is to listen to. It has the same effect though: I feel that I need a bath.

    Not read any Sheldrake, but have got a Hancock book on a shelf somewhere.

    It’s quite interesting up until the point he goes all “OMG magic snakes11!1!!”. He seems to jump straight from similarities in primitive art and hallucinogenic experiences to capital-W-Woo, as opposed to examine the possibility that we evolved that way.


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