I used to enjoy Deepak Chopra a lot more than I do now. I don't know whether he has changed, or whether I've changed. Probably it's both.
My impression of him used to be that he was a spiritual maverick, someone who sifted out the crap from religiosity and rejected just have faith dogma. But I've come to see him as a New Age entrepreneur who makes big bucks by peddling his own brand of irrational, unbelievable pseudoscience.
This view was strengthened by watching Nightline's most recent "face off," Does God Have a Future?
Chopra was the champion of the "yes" side. Michael Shermer, a well-known religious skeptic, headed up the "no" side. Each got to pick a sidekick to help them in the debate. Chopra's was Jean Houston; Shermer's was Sam Harris.
A summary of the debate makes for interesting reading. It says that Chopra and Shermer have feuded repeatedly, but this was the first time they'd gotten it on face to face. The antagonism between them is obvious from Nightline's videos of the debate.
Shermer doesn't like Chopra's attempts to found his spirituality on findings of modern science. Shermer sees Chopra as engaging in "woo-woo" when he uses quantum physics inappropriately to bolster New Age'y all is one notions.
I read a lot of books about quantum physics back when I was researching my first book, "God's Whisper, Creation's Thunder." At that time I was much more of a true believer, but even then I did my best to keep my interpretations of quantum phenomena as scientifically true as possible.
Aspects of quantum physics are rather mysterious, for sure. Nonlocality is an example. Also, how a decision to measure a subatomic entity in a certain way -- as a particle or wave -- manifests the seeming strangeness of wave-particle duality.
But this doesn't mean that God exists as a universal creative consciousness, which is Chopra's unfounded conclusion from his shallow understanding of quantum physics. So I enjoyed seeing a member of the Cal Tech audience challenge Chopra in the Q & A portion of the debate.
(Click on "scientist takes on Deepak's science" in left column.)
The guy is a quantum physicist who says he is writing a book in collaboration with Stephen Hawking -- and obviously disagrees with Chopra's contention that Hawking believes in God.
He tells Chopra that he has some misunderstandings of quantum physics. Chopra gets defensive and says that he disagrees with the criticism. Looks like humility and open-mindedness haven't been qualities that Chopra has developed during his many years of spiritual "development."
This non-local connection is what quantum mystics have latched onto offering it as scientific evidence that everything everywhere is intimately and instantly connected or holistic. Ostensibly this might seem to be a reasonable mechanism for telepathy, assuming that it even exists, but this belief stems from a misunderstanding. Quantum Mechanics does not imply that information can travel instantly, in fact superluminal information transfer has been proven impossible in any theory consistent with relativity or quantum mechanics. (Eberhard and Ross 1989)
It has been shown that if a faster than light communication device were setup using non-locality, each isolated observer would only see a random fluctuation of signals, nothing comprehensible could be interpreted. Therefore, even if our brains could operate nonlocally they would not receive any usable information. The violation of locality only occurs within our macrosopic description of the quantum event. So even in the strange world of Quantum Mechanics psychics and mystics cannot find scientific sanctuary.
Quantum mechanics, the centerpiece of modern physics, is misinterpreted as implying that the human mind controls reality and that the universe is one connected whole that cannot be understood by the usual reduction to parts.
However, no compelling argument or evidence requires that quantum mechanics plays a central role in human consciousness or provides instantaneous, holistic connections across the universe. Modern physics, including quantum mechanics, remains completely materialistic and reductionistic while being consistent with all scientific observations.
The apparent holistic, nonlocal behavior of quantum phenomena, as exemplified by a particle’s appearing to be in two places at once, can be understood without discarding the commonsense notion of particles following definite paths in space and time or requiring that signals travel faster than the speed of light.
No superluminal motion or signalling has ever been observed, in agreement with the limit set by the theory of relativity. Furthermore, interpretations of quantum effects need not so uproot classical physics, or common sense, as to render them inoperable on all scales-especially the macroscopic scale on which humans function. Newtonian physics, which successfully describes virtually all macroscopic phenomena, follows smoothly as the many-particle limit of quantum mechanics. And common sense continues to apply on the human scale.