The March issue of National Geographic has a featured article entitled “Why Do Many Reasonable People Doubt Science?” The article points to the organized and often furious opposition of scientific knowledge. “Empowered by their own sources of information and their own interpretations of research, doubters have declared war on the consensus of experts.” This quote captures the essence of the article and the menacing truth of a society immersed in a new dark age of irrationality.
In an unbridled consumerist society, ignorance grows exponentially. The public is attracted to information that fits their limited, erroneous, and often irrational perception of reality. Publishing companies and the media, seeking to maximize their profits, disseminate popular misinformation, reinforcing and spreading the misguided perception of the public and giving legitimacy to irrationality. Out of this morass of error, ignorance, and exploitation emerge leaders and prophets, to whom the public turns for assurance and confirmation of their misplaced beliefs. The king of the leaders of ignorance and the unquestioned “prophet” of irrationality is Deepak Chopra.
Deepak Chopra abuses science, especially modern physics, to give credence to his own mystical, unfounded, and irrational ideas, coaxing his followers into believing that his teachings have scientific basis. It is therefore worthwhile to give a detailed scientific analysis of his teachings. One of the recent posts on his website is entitled “Synchronicity, Evolution, and Your Genes (Part 1),” in which one reads:
The materialist explanation is filled with philosophical flaws, … Synchronicity is the commonly used term for a meaningful coincidence, such as thinking someone’s name and having that person telephone a few seconds later, …The spiritual link involves how to explain a meaningful coincidence. … The term synchronicity was coined by the eminent Swiss psychologist Carl Jung …. He [described] synchronicity as an “acausal connecting principle”. By using the word acausal he is pointing to the non-local nature of synchronicity. Non-locality is one of the major principles in quantum physics. Non-locality refers to behavior between particles that doesn’t need a specific cause or location in spacetime. … In the everyday world, however, non-locality is about people, not particles.
This quote sets the record for the largest number of scientific errors in the shortest number of lines! It is a treasure trove of incomprehension and misrepresentation of science, and begs a critical analysis in which the science is elucidated and the anti-science is laid bare.
Chopra starts with synchronicity, then goes to the related notion of acausality; from there he arrives at non-locality, which is a quantum phenomenon. I’ll tackle each of these separately, starting with synchronicity in this first of a series of posts to appear later. But first let me say a few words about the sentence at the very beginning of the quote.
By stating that “the materialist explanation is filled with philosophical flaws,” Chopra is implying that philosophy trumps science. That there is something wrong with science if it does not fit our philosophical beliefs. I could just as well say that the statement “moon has craters” has aesthetic flaws, because craters destroy the aesthetically appealing notion of a perfect sphere, and therefore the statement is unacceptable. Even if we accept the primacy of philosophy over science, we have to deal with the fact that there are many schools of philosophy, some of which completely oppose others. So, to which school is Chopra referring? Is he talking about the school of materialism with well-known philosophers like Pierre Gassendi, Julien Offray de La Mettrie, Baron d’Holbach, and Ludwig Feuerbach, or the opposing school of spiritualism with equally well-known philosophers like Plato, Aristotle, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz, Rene Descartes, and F. H. Bradley?
If anything, it is science that influences philosophy, because it opens new windows into the previously unknown worlds about which philosophers can contemplate.