Monday, December 25, 2006

Under the Microscope #3: Deepak Chopra on the Colbert Report

Welcome back to my play-by-play dissection of general woo. Deepak Chopra is one of those woos who's pretty well spread out, and I'm kind of hoping to take a break from whacking the usually unfalsifiable brick wall that is IDiocy. My brother will be joining me today on this one.

For those not in the know, Steven Colbert is an actor on Comedy Central who pretends to be a Fox News style right wing nutbar. (My brother, Austin Atheist, is quick to point out that some people still don't know he's pretending.)

So, here we go with a loose transcript:


SC: Welcome back, everybody. My guest tonight is a spiritual guru to millions. If he touches my soul, I will sue. Please welcome Deepak Chopra!

SC: Deepak Chopra, thank you for joining me today. I have been looking forward to this interview since my last life.
You...

DC: I had the impressions about that in my last life, yes.

SC: You did. You've been looking forward to this. So you knew this was coming.

DC: I did.

SC: I'm glad.

DC: It's called prophecy.

SC: Oh, really?

DC: Yes.

SC: Are you a prophet?

DC: If you spell it P-R-O-F-I-T.

SC: Good for you. William Morris?

DC: Sure, why not?

SC: Okay. SC: You think that reality isn't as real as we think.

DC: Well, you're my projection, my illusion.

SC: Oh, really? Oh, really?

DC: And I'm experiencing life after death right now with you.

SC: Hey, we're all here. I am, you are, he, she, or it is. Look at the table. Look at the book.

DC: But there's only one of us.

SC: Yeah. Me. But if you're saying everyone has their own reality, I agree. My reality just happens to be realer than anyone else's.

DC: The Islamic fundamentalists think the same.

SC: Oh, really?

DC: Yes.

SC: Well, I can beat them at their own game.

DC: I'm sure you can.

SC: Thank you very much. But it, uh, reality does exist. We're all here, we're all watching. You know. There are advertisers.

DC: It's a, it's a projection of our consciousness. Our perception, our cognition, our emotions, our biology, our behavior, our personal relationships, our social interactions, our environment are all a projection of our consciousness. So if my consciousness is constricted and afraid, then all of those things will reflect fear. On the other hand, if I have love, compassion, expansion, then all perception and cognition and relationships will reflect that. So yes, reality is a projection of a deeper self. And if you get in touch with that, then you'll realize that reality is infinite possibilities.

SC: If there are infinite possibilities, uh, can we win in Iraq?

DC: The question is not can we win, can we find a creative solution? Because winning is-

SC: You sound like you work for the UN right now.

DC: You know we have these metaphors, the war on terrorism, the war on cancer, the war on drugs, the war on AIDS, the war on poverty-

SC: Those aren't metaphors, those are realities! We're fighting a war, it is us or them or it!

DC: They're expressions of a violent mind. Why not find a creative solution-

SC: No, we're fighting fire with fire!

DC: Why not-

SC: People attack us, you've got to attack back. That's how the world works, my friend. We're all snakes in a pit together. Only one snake survives, he swallows all the other, and he is the giant king anaconda.

DC: But a permanently victorious species risks its own extinction.

SC: Well then, we'll just feed on each other.

DC: Yeah, but if that's the choice, we can make it.

SC: I think we should. It means kill or be killed. That's the law of the jungle. Isn't that nature? Isn't that the most natural way we could live? Like animals?

DC: It was, it was. Survival of the fittest was the old paradigm. The new paradigm is survival of the wisest. Wisdom will become the new criterion for evolution, if we are to survive.

SC: Okay, wisdom is for the old.
DC: Wisdom is knowledge. (Simultaneously)

DC: Well, I have the wisdom of aging, but the biology of youth, so you can have a combination of both.

SC: I'm sorry, you have the wisdom of aging and the biology of youth? How do you have the wisdom of age? How can you be old and young at the same time?

DC: Experience, experience.

SC: But how do you have the biology of youth?

DC: I exercise my mind and my body.

SC: Do you exfoliate?

DC: It's the way we renew ourselves. If you don't exfoliate, you'll have leathery skin, you'll be like a crocodile. Do you want that?

SC: No, you've got to moisturize. Gotta stay hydrated and moisturized. But this I understand. That reality expanding part lost me. But hydration, moisturizing, this I do. I have a regimine

DC: Exfoliation is recreation, unless the skin cells die, you won't create new skin.

SC: Speaking of dying, you've got a book called "Life After Death: The Burden of Proof" Okay, what happens after we die? What is eternity like? You got ten seconds.

DC: Well, what happens, what happens to the space in this room if walls collapse? What happens to-

SC: I call the insurance company.

DC: Yeah, but the space still remains. The walls collapsed. What happens to the people who are watching us on their television screens? Let's say their TV stops working. Does that mean you and I disappear?

SC: Uuuuuuuuh, no.

DC: So what happens?

SC: People at home panic.

DC: What happens when we die is we lose a certain line of communication. The nervous system is a line of communication. You're not the nervous system. You're the user of the nervous system.

SC: Okay, but I'm talking about like-

DC: Do you get that?

SC: *Stammers* Do you mean by "I am the user of my nervous system" and that my nervous system is no longer is communicating or receiving communication when I die. By that, do you mean that when I die, I go up to clouds and there's a pearly gate and an old man with a beard?

DC: Well, if you want, you can upgrade the illusion.

SC: Well, that's not an illusion, that's a- What about, Hell, is that an illusion?

DC: That's downgrading the illusion.

SC: Does one of them cost more than the other or can I-- Is the same price for either one?

DC: No, Hell cost a little more, because it's more interesting. If you were in Heaven, you'd be doomed to eternal senility.

SC: Oh, wow. So you agree with David Burns that Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens?

DC: Yeah, because there's no creative impulse in the absence of discontent. You need divine discontent in order to create.

SC: Isn't that what we need on Earth? Don't we free ourselves of discontent when go on to Heaven?

DC: As I told you, it's an upgrading of illusion. This is the illusion, that's the illusion, the only thing that's real is you.

SC: Okay. For the $24 that this book cost me, does that upgrade me or downgrade me?

DC: All I can say is that it's a must read for anyone who's going to die.

SC: (End of interview book plug)

Wow. That was traumatic. Especially since AA and I had to rewind-pause-play over and over and over again to get it all. I hope our mental anguish will entertain you for 15 minutes or so. AA had to repeat a lot for confirmation, so he's preventing infection by washing his mouth with ethyl alcohol.

There was some back corner of my mind that made me think Akusai might have made up that "P-R-O-F-I-T" thing, but he actually said it. At least Hako Deepcrap is honest about being full of it on that front. Of course, above, Chopra had to confuse the difference between reality being a projection of his emotions and his perception of reality being colored by his emotions. Yeah. Had to take a laugh break when Colbert threw in winning in Iraq thanks to infinite possibilities. Of course, one thing that struck me as quite stupid was his line about "survival of the wisest." Beyond the vagueness of "wisdom", if you interpret it as knowledge and intelligence, Chopra would be dead. Humans do survive by knowledge, but have survived well enough for some members to waste time writing insipid books for little pieces of green paper.


That was indeed painful. And now that my mouth has been cleansed of any residual woo, I submit to you, ladies and gentlemen, that Deepak Chopra, in no uncertain terms, is a militant solipsist. Of course, solipsism is the thesis that only I and my mind exist. As Wittgenstein once pointed out, if this thesis is indeed true, then it's a wonder it can be expressed linguistically at all. Given that only I and my mind exists, how did I learn to communicate in the first place? But I think Chopra's particular brand of solipsism has a peculiar twist, which may be necessary to avoid begging such questions. Judging from his remarks transcribed above, he might be advancing the thesis that only we and our collective mind exists. But if this is true, then how is it we don't already know what everyone else knows? So it seems Chopra would rather beg the latter question as opposed to the former, not that doing so bestows upon him any particular advantage. Either way, my mind certainly hurts. I don't know about yours.

18 comments:

Akusai said...

The night I hung out with Michael Shermer at a hotel bar, he talked quite a bit about Hako Deepcrap (that's fantastic, by the way). Specifically, he related how he told Deepcrap "If your mind creates reality, you can certainly prove that if you jump off a skyscraper." It was one of the highlights of the night.

Tom Foss said...

So, if I understand the woovian correctly, our nervous systems are like radio receivers, picking up the signal that is our soul. So, when you die, it's like turning off a TV set; your soul doesn't cease to exist, it just isn't broadcast through that speaker anymore.

The fact that he can use the phrase "the burden of proof" with sincerity is mindboggling. Or maybe I'm just receiving a crossed signal.

Deepcrap, I had a similar idea, way back in Junior High, when I thought that maybe all ideas were transmitted to people from one of the infinite universes where those events actually transpired (since infinite universes suggest actualization of infinite possibilities). I wasn't the first. But, unlike just about everyone else, you haven't realized that such a thing is completely unprovable and entirely fictional.

Tom Foss said...

Oh, and speaking of anagrams, I got "Dishrack Darwin" out of "Richard Dawkins." It doesn't sound flattering, but the fact that "Darwin" is in there is interesting.

Skeptico said...

The word "solipsism" sprang to my mind too when I watched that. I couldn't bear to watch it all though, Chopra is such a moron. How did you manage to watch it and write it all down?

Bronze Dog said...

Very, very painfully. Having it recorded on my DVR helped, though.

Rev. BigDumbChimp said...

I feel I should send you a bottle of Whiskey to dull the pain. But I know you don't drink.

Just watching it the one time was enough for me. My wife kept asking my if I was ok because of all the pained expressions on my face during the "interview".

MichaelBains said...

...not that doing so bestows upon him any particular advantage.

Umm.. Did you miss that part about P.R.O.F.I.T. ?

Colbert is just damn funny!

austinatheist said...

Point well taken, MB. Perhaps I should have said "rhetorical advantage." I'm slipping on my preemptive qualifications:)

austinatheist said...

Oh! And the good Reverend should feel free to send any bottles of whiskey to me, care of Deepak, of course.

JanieBelle said...

I once pondered the possibility that I was actually a princess from the distant future, and that this life was just an implanted dream to prepare me for ruling my subjects.

That was fun for about a week.

I was twelve.

I grew up.

Solipsism is about as silly an idea as they come, yet people -grown adult people- actually buy into it.

This amazes me.

Talk about mental masturbation. (I'm all good with the masturbation part, it's the "mental" qualifier that bothers me.) :)

Of course on the other hand, is it really any sillier than the great big invisible sky toddler that commits genocide when people don't bow down and worship him?

I guess not.

Akusai said...

A friend once ran into a guy who she said was really nice and cool and considerate, until the talk went a bit deeper and he said "I believe that I create the world with my mind. You don't really exist, I just create you with my consciousness."

As she rightly pointed out, there really isn't anywhere good the conversation can go after that.

austinatheist said...

In can anyone is wondering, I am fully aware that the phrase "militant solipsist" is an oxymoron.

austinatheist said...

Oops! "In case," not "in can."

I should stop torturing myself with Deepcrap's woo and go to bed.

Joshua said...

He'd have to be more of a self-hating solipsist, wouldn't he?

Descartes said...

There can be no way to prove or disprove solipsism, and any attempts limit what the belief really is. People are quick to judge ideas that distrust the empirical senses because, untill contemplation, there doesn't seem to be much of a reason to question them. However, once honestly questioned, we can only have faith that our empirical senses are correct.

Ignorantly disregarding solipsism or anything Deepak Chopra had to say on that broadcast is almost as ignorant as holding onto the idea of "free will" after understanding the ideas of determinism.

Bronze Dog said...

The problem with solipsism is that it leads to a brick wall. I'd rather learn something about the behaviors of the universe I'm in, since it seems to have consistent rules, whether or not I'm imagining them. In short, it's a moot point to me.

Chopra, on the other hand, seems content to just wallow.

austinatheist said...

No entry for solipsism in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philsophy (that's odd), but maybe this wiki entry will help poor Descartes climb out of that hole he dug for himself...

R2K said...

: )