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Gary Zukav’s Crackpottery

If the clout of an author is measured by his/her number of appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show and the length of time his/her books appear on the New York Times bestseller list, then Gary Zukav, who speciously applies the laws of physics to the conductof the soul, is indeed the Zeus of the New Age gods. He has appeared 34 times on The Oprah Winfrey Show and one of his books was the #1 New York Times bestseller 31 times and remained on the list of bestsellers for three years.

Zukav’s first encounter with modern physics occurred during the seventies, the decade of Eastern epidemics. The war in Viet Nam was coming to an embarrassing close, and Eastern mysticism was spreading rapidly among the young intellectuals. Zukav had no connection with the scientific community until one of his friends invited him to a conference at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in Berkeley, California. “To my great surprise, I discovered that (1), I understood everything that they said, and (2), their discussion sounded very much like a theological discussion. … [Physics] was a rich, profound venture which had become inseparable from philosophy.”1

What kind of physicists attend a conference in which a layman like Zukav could understand everything they say?2 In the acknowledgement of his book The Dancing Wu Li Masters, Zukav expresses his indebtedness and gratitude to several of the attendees, most of whose names end with a comma and “Ph.D.” A Google search on the web produces the biography of these people, among whom are:

  • Jack Sarfatti who holds a Ph.D. in physics from the University of California at Riverside. Part of Sarfatti’s work has been finding practical ways of creating spaceships capable of maneuvers similar to those reported in UFO sightings. His project is entitled ‘Stardrive’ and Sarfatti has compared the proposed technology to a warp drive. The overall aim has been to find a way to reach faster-than-light-speeds without disproving Einstein’s theory of relativity, which he claims can be achieved through the use of ‘time loops’. Sarfatti also has plans to turn Presidio, a former US army base, into an academy for those who would use his space technology. However, he has yet to gain any traction with authorities.
  • Brian Josephson, Nobel Laureate, and Emeritus Professor of Physics at Cambridge, who wrote “… developments [in quantum theory and theories of information and computation] may lead to an explanation of processes still not understood within conventional science such as telepathy.” When other physicists labeled Josephson’s statement as “utter rubbish,” he replied that there was a lot of evidence to support the existence of telepathy, but that no scientific journal wanted to publish them. Josephson believes that parapsychology should become a conventional field of research, even though its claims are still not accepted by the scientific community. He is a supporter of cold fusion, although a good number of researchers have failed to reproduce the original experiment. Josephson claims that he knows physicists who have confirmed the original experiment, but “prejudiced” journal editors have refused to publish their papers. (See Josephson’s website.)
  • Elizabeth Rauscher, who received her Ph.D. in Physics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1978,  claims to have developed a detailed theory of a hypothesis of consciousness and spacetime based on an eight-dimensional complex Minkowski space. She gave a talk at the IRVA 2001 Conference entitled “The Speed of Thought: Investigation of a Complex Space-Time Metric to Describe Psychic Phenomena,” in which she claims to have verified the psychics’ assertion that they are able to describe and experience events or information blocked from ordinary perception. What is IRVA? It stands for International Remote Viewing Association, which, on its website describes remote viewing as “… a mental faculty that allows a perceiver (a ‘viewer’) to describe or give details about a target that is inaccessible to normal senses due to distance, time, or shielding, … without being told anything about the target – not even its name or designation.”
  • Fred Alan Wolf (aka Dr. Quantum) a candidate in our list of crackpots.
  • Fritjof Capra, Ph.D., another candidate in our list of crackpots.

Zukav has a crafty tactic of legitimizing the unorthodox ideas he presents in his book. On page xix of The Dancing Wu Li Masters is a list entitled “Cast of Characters,” insinuating that the list contains the leading figures and ideas of modern physics. Alongside such great names and ideas as Planck, quantum, Einstein, relativity, Heisenberg, uncertainty principle, Schödinger, Dirac, antimatter, and Feynman, you find such fringe ideas and names as many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, David Finkelstein,  one-way membrane hypothesis, David Bohm, implicate order, Henry Stapp, and nonlocal connections. The overwhelming majority of the readers, unaware of the difference between true physics and unorthodox untested and unaccepted hypotheses, equate the names and ideas of the list, and are led to believe the nonsense as much as the true physics presented in the book. (Read more about Zukav and The Dancing Wu Li Masters here.)

  1. Zukav, G. The Dancing Wu Li Masters, Bantam Books, 1980, page xxvii
  2. By contrast, it is not uncommon for an average active physicist attending a professional conference to admit that he/she did not understand a word of what most speakers were talking about!

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