Tweeting while conscious

While idly browsing tweets this morning, this one appeared from New Age vessel of consciousness and Ig Nobel Prize winner, Deepak Chopra …

As long as there is no scientific explanation for the biological basis of consciousness militant atheism seems an irrational position”

So if science can’t explain consciousness from a biological point of view, then the only rational explanation is that a god exists (if he’s bringing in atheism, then it can only be tied to the existence, or not, of a deity).

But this is surely a false dichotomy – if there is not yet a scientific explanation of biological consciousness then atheism remains a perfectly rational option, perhaps even the only rational option. If you’re positing something else, which science does not back up, then you’re presenting a god of the gaps argument. You’re perfectly allowed to believe that thing, whatever it is (deities, quantum foam, the dream-dust from other dimensions), but until there’s evidence, it remains an unscientific idea born of imagination.

As all his Twitter replies, so far, had been agreeing with his great wisdom, I decided to grace him with my thoughts …

@DeepakChopra science hasn’t explained everything – doesn’t mean it won’t one day. You’re filling gaps with woo. How are atheists militant?”

He didn’t like that …

@FelisUncia Any explanation in science will come from consciousness. Science is an activity in consciousness.”

“Crying ‘Woo’ is the last refuge of the intellectually challenged @FelisUncia

“Militant atheist is term used by @RichardDawkins to describe himself & those of his tribe @FelisUncia

Like a naughty schoolboy, I decided to answer back. To the first one …

@DeepakChopra Well, science is an activity of conscious people.”

… and to his second one …

@DeepakChopra A great line, but merely saying it doesn’t make it true. Let’s give it a longer name: pseudoscience.”

Another Twitter user, tyDi, joined in …

@DeepakChopra @FelisUncia We can call it ‘making scientific claims without evidence’ if you like Deepak? ‘Woo’ just sounds cooler.”

Prompting this gem from Deepak …

‘Evidence’ is a species specific mode of observation in human consciousness which eludes scientific explanation. @tyDi @FelisUncia

By now Deepak had blocked me, but I was subject to notifications of dozens of his followers (a cluster of yogis, herbalists, spiritualists, beauticians, therapists, healers and ‘moms’) favouriting and retweeting his answers, especially the pithy ‘crying woo’ line.

As I said in my tweet, calling someone names (‘intellectually challenged’ – one of his favourite insults – and his intentionally provocative ‘militant atheist’) does nothing to provide an answer. It’s the kind of thing that happens all the time with conspiracy theorists – after two or three rebuttals to questions, they resort to calling you ‘indoctrinated’ and the conversation ends.

As for the idea that evidence is species-specific, this has to be the funniest thing he wrote, and the whole tweet is typical of the convoluted language he uses to sound scientific. Every term he types needs to be defined before you can move on, and he almost certainly has a different meaning from the one you (or the majority of scientists) might have. Jerry Coyne has dubbed the great guru Deepity Chopra.

The scientific method is geared towards ejecting such notions as personal observation – introducing randomisation, blind control groups and repeatability in order to get as objective a result as possible. Deepak seems to reject this, and everything becomes true as long as it is observed by the individual (or ‘consciousness’). If it’s real for you then it’s real, and if it’s real then perhaps you even created it. Anecdote becomes just as valuable as any robust clinical trial.

Deepak is a master of utilising scientific terms and bits and pieces of quantum theory to tie into his grand idea of higher consciousness. But all he has, in the end, is impressive-sounding speculation. He’s just another person who can’t believe that evolution is almost certainly the process that created the astounding human brain; another puddle amazed that he’s lying in a hole that fits him just perfectly.

Extra: This is my favourite debate that features Deepak Chopra – see him dismantled atom by atom by Sam Harris, Michael Shermer, and a real quantum physicist (at the end).

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