Deepak Chopra desperately needs treatment for Maru’s Syndrome, for he simply can’t stay out of the box. In the last couple of day’s he’s put up two more videos on Randi’s “The Amazing Meeting” (TAM) and Chopra’s own Million Dollar Challenge, in which—mocking James Randi—Deepakity offers a cool million to anyone who can “explain” the Hard Problem of Consciousness (the origin of subjective sensation from brain activity) in a peer-reviewed journal.
The man has serious problems leaving well enough alone.
At about 1:10 in the first video below, Chopra plays the victim card (see also the next video). But he’s really using his clarification to heap more calumny on sceptics for being “bamboozled by their perceptions.” He claims that “whatever we experience as reality is the contents of our minds”. Indeed that’s true, but that doesn’t mean that there’s not a reality out there, nor that our senses tell us nothing accurate about it. Chopra’s claim reminds me of this old limerick:
There was a faith healer from Deale,
Who said, although pain isn’t real,
If I sit on a pin and it punctures my skin,
I dislike what I fancy I feel!
The heart of Chopra’s argument, and a major part of his “philosophy,” is in the quote below, which he proposes as the SOLUTION to the hard problem. (Does that mean if I publish it, I get the million? Will a peer-reviewed journal take it?):
The Big Claim comes up at 1:55:
“What I basically wanted to do was propose an alternative solution to the hard problem, which is a top-down solution. Instead of assuming that physical reality is fundamental, start with consciousness as being fundamental. Consciousness conceives, governs, constructs—and becomes the physical reality of the world, including our body and also our mental activity. If you assume that, and if you start with consciousness as a field of possibilities that’s [obscure] that produces qualia, which are experienced as both mental and physical world, then you may have a solution.”
This is like saying that urine is fundamental, and that its presence creates the kidneys.
The margins of this post are too small to describe all the problems with this, including the fact that things happened before human consciousness arose—or any organismal consciousness arose—that don’t seem to be the products of our minds. What about those craters on the moon, or the Big Bang? Were those produced by consciousness? (Apparently so, because Chopra once said that the Moon isn’t there until we perceive it.) If so, then our consciousness has done a very good job of making it look as if there were an external reality that preceded our evolution. Of course, if Chopra thinks that the Universe is conscious, and somehow creates itself, then the onus is on him to explain what he means.
Chopra’s “solution” (which of course would be rejected by any respectable journal on the grounds of sheer lunacy), is also cynical, because it shows that he doesn’t really believe in the Hard Problem that he’s offering money to solve. The Hard Problem is, after all, how neuronal impulses operating in a physical brain produces that notion of consciousness that experienced as subjective sensations (“qualia”). But that’s not the way he thinks it happens: he thinks that consciousness precedes the brain, and somehow creates it. If that’s the case, then there IS no hard problem.
Or, rather, there’s another Hard Problem: where does the consciousness come from without physical reality, and how does it create physical reality? If I had a million bucks, I’d offer it to Chopra to explain that. But of course he doesn’t need the dough, for he can already afford diamond-studded spectacles.
But on to his “clarification” of his million dollar challenge (love those glasses!).
Below is Chopra’s rant about The Amazing Meeting. His immaturity is amply on display here, evidenced by both his pervasive insults of the TAM attendees (“militant atheists and professional sceptics and professional debunkers”—not at all true!), and others like Dawkins and Dennett. He calls TAM a “self-congratulatory meeting” full of “hard core materialists” and “those who are self-appointed vigilantes for the suppression of QSD: creativity, imagination, and legitimate scientific inquiry.”
It goes on and on, but the gist is that Chopra is trying to tell D. J. Grothe to invite him and his woo-ey cronies so there can be a real conversation: a real “amazing meeting.” The best part is when Chopra says he would bring bodyguards to protect him from the “physical onslaughts” he’d surely experience at TAM. The last part of the video is a tedious reiteration of his theories of mind and matter.
Note that at 5:30 Chopra characterizes Richard Dawkins as “supposedly an evolutionary biologist but doesn’t seem to haven’t really [sic] kept up with epigenetics.” Really? I have kept up with epigenetics, and there’s nothing in it that supports Chopra’s new Big Idea that your mind can permanently change your genes. Even Chopra’s colleague, Rudolph Tanzi, has admitted that there’s no evidence for this. “Epigenetics”, it appears, is replacing “quantum” as Chopra’s new buzzword.
Finally, some unknown wag has produced a short parody of Chopra’s initial “challenge” video: