Forbes goes after The Chopra

Perhaps this is a bit self-aggrandizing, but I’ll note it anyway. Steven Salzberg, a professor of Biostatistics and director of the Center for Computational Biology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, has written a post for Forbes called “Deepak Chopra gets upset, tries the Harvard gambit.” It’s largely about Deepak’s trying to pwn me by touting his credentials, but Salzberg gets his own licks in.

Chopra’s claim that photons have consciousness, I have to say, is the purest nonsense. Does Chopra even know what a photon is? (Doubtful: he’s been throwing around the term “quantum” for decades with apparently no understanding of what it means.)  Chopra says this sort of stuff all the time; Coyne also gives us this example:

“The gaia hypothesis says nature does have a mind, that the globe is conscious.”

So both photons and the entire planet are conscious. I can see why Coyne called this psychobabble. If Chopra doesn’t want to be ridiculed, he shouldn’t make ridiculous claims. (He also claims that telepathy is a serious research topic. Right.)

Chopra has become very wealthy spouting this kind of nonsense. His website heavily promotes his line of nutritional supplements, books, videos, and seminars (which he calls “meditation experiences”). He’s particularly fond of Ayurvedic supplements, which he claims provide a wide range of vague health benefits. One example: $35 for a 25-ounce bottle of fruit juice called Zrii (or 2 ounces for $4.75). This is little more than modern snake oil.

Visiting Chopra’s website is a deep dive into the world of pseudoscience. Jerry Coyne got this one exactly right – which is not surprising, because he went to Harvard.

I had visited The Chopra’s website only briefly, so I missed all the woo-ish goodies, but, inspired by Salzberg’s post, I made a longer visit to the Chopra Marketplace.  Oh, the goodies that lie within! Here are but a few ways that The Chopra Regimen can improve your life:

Cleanse and detoxify yourself!

Picture 5

Rejuvinate your nervous system and become more fertile at the same time. It’s also an aphrodisiac!

Picture 1

Scavenge those nasty free radicals, and improve your digestion at the same time!

Picture 3

Boost your metabolism and lose weight! (What a crock!)Picture 6

And (I can hardly say this without laughing): GUGGULU!  Clean out those “unhealthy tissues,” raise your white blood cell count, and rejuvinate your skin. (It also helps you lose weight and “cool inflamed joints.”)

Picture 2

Remember, Chopra flaunts his credentials as an M.D. I wonder how many of these health claims have been tested in double-blind studies?

But wait–there’s more! For only twenty-four bucks you can have your own Deepak-approved double-walled tea tumbler, embellished with a soothing lotus bud and some Tibetan symbols.

Picture 7

For a man who boasts of his impeccable scientific credentials, he sure pushes some weird remedies.

68 Comments

  1. Cara
    Posted November 24, 2013 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    Subscribe

  2. Diana MacPherson
    Posted November 24, 2013 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    What does a general sense of ungroundedness feel like? I need to know so I can tell if I should spring for the $18 Ashwagandha that also makes you randy.

    • Alex Shuffell
      Posted November 24, 2013 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

      It probably feels really vague, not specific enough to consult an actual Doctor about, but something that an expensive placebo would do nicely on.

      From it’s description: “In Sanskrit, the name ashwagandha means “the smell of a horse”…” That’s probably a good thing.

      • jeffery
        Posted November 24, 2013 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

        The whole thing smells like something that comes out of the BACK end of a horse!

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted November 24, 2013 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

      It feels like one of those business/academic post-meeting bacterial chicken, sausage & quiche buffets, where there are no available seats, no places to put down your paper plate or plastic glass & the department bore has cornered you…

      Or it’s like pushing a dodgy-wheeled shopping trolley around a supermarket to quickly buy the absolute essentials, only to discover… the bastards have rearranged the displays, the only bread you like has sold out, the aisles are logjammed with nattering retired folk AND the run-it-up-to-xmas Crosby Christmas muzak tapeloop is in full swing ~ in mid-November

      Hope this helps 🙂

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted November 24, 2013 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

        Ah good. I don’t think I need it then. 🙂

        • Suri
          Posted November 24, 2013 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

          You do need it, that is if you want to become one with the quantum universe. 😉

      • Posted November 24, 2013 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

        Sounds like somebody has gone off of their Ashwagandha!

    • Alex
      Posted November 25, 2013 at 2:28 am | Permalink

      @Diana
      “What does a general sense of ungroundedness feel like?”

      Have you ever had this problem, that on some days, with some shoes, whatever metallic thing you touch, you get an electric shock? That’s ungroundedness for you.

  3. Dermot C
    Posted November 24, 2013 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    Christmas gift problems solved! Thanks, Jerry!

  4. NewEnglandBob
    Posted November 24, 2013 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    I prefer my radicals free range and grass fed.

    • gbjames
      Posted November 24, 2013 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

      Sub

      • kennyrb
        Posted November 25, 2013 at 9:44 am | Permalink

        So if I scrub my free radicals with ZRII and boost my metabolism with ACCELL I can go in a radical circle and end up back where I started for only 85 bucks. If dollars are conscious then mine are laughing in MY bank.

  5. Alex Shuffell
    Posted November 24, 2013 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    Big Placebo is expensive!

  6. Alex Shuffell
    Posted November 24, 2013 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    In the “Gifts & Home Decor” tab there is a section for kids! This one is particularly disturbing – https://www.deepakchopra.com/marketplace/view/637 – Don’t some people do this to lobsters, rest them on their claws and head, then the they supposedly fall asleep? I never would have thought that applicable to children before.

  7. gluonspring
    Posted November 24, 2013 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    The tea tumbler is the most useful thing there.

    • Brian
      Posted November 24, 2013 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

      To be fair, that one probably works without the need for a double-blind study.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted November 24, 2013 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

        +1

    • flounder
      Posted November 24, 2013 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

      And it is gen-u-ine boro-silly-cate so it must be all scien-tificated. Unless you know that borosilicate is just the common name for pyrex.

      • Dale
        Posted November 24, 2013 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

        Actually, Pyrex TM is Corning’s trademard for Borosilicate glass….as contrasted with soda lime.

    • onkelbob
      Posted November 24, 2013 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

      In all fairness to the woo woo one, it’s the same as Bodum version if not a bit bigger for the same price. Mind you that’s full retail, and you can get them on sale sometimes.
      No idea whether if it helps one cleanse. I use something similar to hold my morning coffee and well, you know can guess happens 20 minutes after that beverage. The same thing happens if the coffee is in an opaque ceramic mug too.

  8. potaman
    Posted November 24, 2013 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    while I am wary of all the benefits claimed.. Most of these things are not something that will cause bad things to happen to you.
    The primary ingredient in the “zrii” stuff is amlaki (or indian gooseberry), which is actually a very common ingredient in Indian cooking and is thoroughly awesome. It can be candied (called a murabba when wet, there is also a dry version). It is also awesome in an awesome tangy raita that my mom makes.

    • Posted November 24, 2013 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

      I didn’t say that these things are harmful, although they should be tested to make sure they’re not (and perhaps they are). What I am suggesting is that perhaps Deepak is selling untested “remedies” at exorbitant prices. In other words, he’s a quack separating people from their money.

      • potaman
        Posted November 24, 2013 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

        No problems with that.. I just wanted to point out that amala is awesome.

    • Vicki
      Posted November 24, 2013 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

      I hope your mother isn’t paying $35 for less than a liter of gooseberry juice.

      That’s high even compared to what some Americans are willing to pay for pomegranate juice.

      • potaman
        Posted November 24, 2013 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

        Ha ha no..she’ll get it fresh from the market, I don’t think it will be more than a few dollars per kg. (this is in rupees)

        • Dale
          Posted November 24, 2013 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

          Your mom should import it to the US, reduce by 90% with water and sell it as a “treatment” for toe fungus & headaches….whatever ails you. Deepak just took PT Barnum seriously when it came to making money.

    • steve oberski
      Posted November 24, 2013 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

      Chopra does cause very real harm to those people, who having limited time and money to research and pursue a therapy for their afflictions, waste both when they purchase and use his quack nostrums.

      For many diseases, for example cancer, there is a limited amount of time where an evidence based medical approach is most effective, and Chopra is putting these people in harms way by his actions.

      This man is a criminal who preys on those who are most vulnerable.

    • Thoren
      Posted November 24, 2013 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

      Harmful to your wallet though…

  9. Posted November 24, 2013 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    Guggulu? Sounds like something from R’lyeh.

  10. Jules
    Posted November 24, 2013 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    I very much doubt that Chopra believes anything he says. He does in fact seem relatively well educated. I am fairly certain that he is an atheist, but that he pretends to follow the “new age” movement just so that he can make money.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted November 24, 2013 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

      The more I observe his behaviour, the more convinced I am that he is narcissist*. He has such a thin skin and when he’s criticized, he flips out. I can’t believe he believes his own crap and selling this stuff well how low in empathy do you have to be to do this?

      I call narcissism.

      *I’m not a psychiatric professional, but I have come into contact with many narcissists in the corporate world so I’m familiar with the breed.

    • Posted November 24, 2013 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

      I personally believe that he does believe his own crap. As a narcissist (and that too fits, IMO), he will automatically believe whatever nonsense he says.

  11. potaman
    Posted November 24, 2013 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    Also, while I agree with the argument that he is throwing around unsubstantiated claims for a lot of these things, making fun of the traditional name for a plant kind of lessens the impact of the argument.

    • Wild Juggler
      Posted November 24, 2013 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

      Sure it may weaken the impact of the argument, but in this case it was almost impossible to resist making an ad plantinem argument!

    • Marta
      Posted November 24, 2013 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

      Not really.

      There are many, many words which don’t translate into English without sounding hilarious.

      A Thai restaurant in a small town where I used to hike opened with the name “Fuk Luck”, with the name painted on the front window. With some imagination, you can probably estimate what the common reaction to the name was, and how quickly the name was changed.

      Can’t we just enjoy the accidental humor of language issues like these without being considered insensitive?

      • None
        Posted November 24, 2013 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

        There’s a serious history of “Those people talk really funny over there”, cf. “ching chong wing wong”.

        So, yeah, I think it makes sense to steer clear of that kind of stuff.

      • potaman
        Posted November 24, 2013 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

        It is a question of context. is the funny sound of a plants name in any way relevant to its medical efficacy or lack thereof.

  12. Linda Grilli Calhoun
    Posted November 24, 2013 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    From Psychology 101: If you reward obnoxious behavior, you get more of it. L

  13. ploubere
    Posted November 24, 2013 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for helping to expose this charlatan. He is preying on the ignorant under the pretense of helping them.

  14. history57
    Posted November 24, 2013 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    Guggulu,Ashwagandha,Ayurna…What next? Quadrotriticale? No doubt, Deepak was able to utilize the quantum singularly of the flibbitergibit of ineffability of the universal Godhead to obtain this super-food directly from Sherman’s Planet. Just be sure to keep it away from your pet tribble.

    • LB
      Posted November 24, 2013 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

      Great post! But my tribble prefers the Chopra Quantum(TM) quadrotritcale.

  15. Posted November 24, 2013 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    Chopra: “You and I are essentially infinite choice-makers. In every moment of our existence, we are in that field of all possibilities where we have access to an infinity of choices.”

    Translation: Sh*t happens.

    More brainless quotes:
    http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/d/deepak_chopra.html

    • Dawn Oz
      Posted November 24, 2013 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

      And also crap, as we don’t have an infinity of choices. Try being born in Afghanistan!

      • gluonspring
        Posted November 24, 2013 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

        I think perhaps you mean to highlight that people in Afganistan are deprived of many choices, but I read it as actually trying, by force of choice, to be born somewhere other than where you were. That sounded fun so I tried, just a moment ago, to be born in New Zealand (I’m not stupid enough to try to be born in Afganistan). It didn’t take.

  16. jeffery
    Posted November 24, 2013 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    It’s always fascinating to me to see the word games played by these ad writers, being sure that they don’t claim to “prevent or cure any disease or disorder”: “Helps; helps improve; is useful; supports; was recommended (thousands of years ago, which means it MUST work, right?); people use it for……” and on, and on- I wonder if they can really PROVE that Guggulu “increases white blood cell count”?

    • Dale Caldwell
      Posted November 26, 2013 at 10:54 am | Permalink

      If it really does increase WBC, one should really be concerned about one’s health!

  17. potaman
    Posted November 24, 2013 at 3:51 pm | Permalink


    This stuff definitely doesn’t cost 35 dollars at your local indian grocery store and probably tastes a 1000 times better 😀

    • Posted November 25, 2013 at 10:18 am | Permalink

      Oh shoot. Amlaa pickles are delicious.

  18. Hempenstein
    Posted November 24, 2013 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    Deepak’s missing out – one of these makes a good floor polish too, but I’ve forgotten which. (Start @ 1:28)

  19. Greg Esres
    Posted November 24, 2013 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    “bit self-aggrandizing,”

    Nope. You’re doing good work here and publicity in places like Forbes means that your ideas will carry even more weight in the future. This is a good thing for all of us.

  20. Dawn Oz
    Posted November 24, 2013 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    Deepak offends me on just so many levels, and I’m glad that the warriors are taking him on. The people who have something to say, write a book, give workshops, however don’t sell stufffff. The snake oil (whoever coined it), is just so banal for any of us with an ounce of science, or ability to read Cochrane.

  21. tubby
    Posted November 24, 2013 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    ..What exactly is a sense of un-groundedness?

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted November 24, 2013 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

      see my answer at 2. above

      • tubby
        Posted November 24, 2013 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

        I feel bad for Chopra if that happens to him and the people around him enough times he needs to sell a remedy for it.

      • tubby
        Posted November 24, 2013 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

        Come to think of it, smelling like a horse might be helpful in that situation..

  22. Sastra
    Posted November 24, 2013 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    Many of the same people who fall for Chopra’s magic elixirs will castigate modern medicine for caring about nothing but profit. Apparently you only need to sling around a lot of spiritual bafflegab and suddenly your online store has the taint of capitalism completely removed.

  23. krzysztof1
    Posted November 24, 2013 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    Why would I spend $129 for an “ayurvedic cleanse” when I can get a Fleet enema for under $2.00?

    • Thoren
      Posted November 24, 2013 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

      Less painful ????

  24. Posted November 24, 2013 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    I’ve actually paid $80 (Canadian pffft) to see this clown. The sound bites that commercial tv give him make him sound much more intelligent than if you give him 90 minutes to chew on his own shoes.

    He didn’t even have a powerpoint slide show, just stood there and spouted off woo-bullshit like that’s all it takes to be convincing in this modern world. I bet it works a treat in the backwoods of India or anywhere that there are people who have no idea what his big words mean.

    • MikeN
      Posted November 25, 2013 at 12:21 am | Permalink

      Chopra doesn’t operate in the backwoods of India- backwoods Indians don’t have that kind of money to spend.

      And from all the disclaimers up front about “not treating any specific disease” and “don’t discontinue whatever medical treatment you’re taking” while pushing people to do exactly that, he’s got some pretty expensive lawyers on retainer.

  25. Mattapult
    Posted November 24, 2013 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    “Mixed with warm milk and taken before bed ashwaganda is useful for people with insomnia…”

    So what’s the difference between that, and just a glass of warm milk…

    18 bucks.

    • Posted November 25, 2013 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

      Actually, a physiological psychologist I took a class with pointed out that at least at the time (2001) the resarch showed that simply a stomach of warm water would work, too.

  26. kelskye
    Posted November 25, 2013 at 3:14 am | Permalink

    Methinks it’s time to open the 100% Scientific WhyEvolutionIsTrue cat accessories web-store.

  27. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted November 25, 2013 at 3:27 am | Permalink

    This is literally Off Topic for this thread, but it’s such a common theme of debates on this site that I just HAVE to point to today’s Non Sequitur…
    http://www.gocomics.com/nonsequitur/2013/11/25

    🙂

  28. Kelton Barnsley
    Posted November 25, 2013 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    Why is “borosilicate” in quotes? Are the tea tumblers not actually made from borosilicate? Or does that word sound too much like an evil, chakra-blocking chemical and the uncertainty implied by the use of quotes is meant to put the potential customer’s “mind” at ease?

  29. Nick D Waters
    Posted November 26, 2013 at 12:38 am | Permalink

    He is adept of cleansing the money out of wallets. Money talks, science walks.


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