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Doc,
I think you need to become a fan:
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Deepak-Chopra-fans/284597052259

I dunno. Chopra to me isn't that much different from religious or spiritual leaders. He makes a lot of money at it though. I actually went through a read-Chopra phase a few years ago, but it didn't grab me. His books are very "samey". I don't understand how he got to be where he's at since he's not a great writer. I think I must be alone in thinking that though since a lot of people must like his books.

Here's the thing, Doc. Do you think that he believes what he's saying? I know that there's no evidence to back his claims and some of the claims are just wrong, but if he really believes them then it's not really snake-oil salesmany stuff, is it? I think skeptics have a habit of just putting everyone in the snake-oil salesman category. But if it's belief based, it's different.

The skeptics did have a point though - there should be more live debating with people like Chopra. What I think is that people don't really like debates here in America. Take a look at the politeness of the American Government here compared to what goes on in the U.K. Parliament - in the U.K. they get up and shout at each other and they really know how to debate. Doesn't happen here and even in the Presidential debates, it's not a real debate.

There's was a show on Veria channel (a really woo woo channel, Doc, you'd hate it) where a conventional Doctor and an Alternative Medicine Doctor (italicized in case you take offense - it's not intended) take a case and debate how to handle it. It's a brilliant show. They sit and shout at each other.
Yeah, so more debates would be cool. Chopra might even be up to it - he said that skeptics are chickensh*t. Would you be? (How come the skeptics haven't got a "skeptic channel"?)
There's another thing I'll throw in.
The skeptics need to be careful on how they even write about things like this. Because even though the writer wrote about how they didn't want to offend people and "how well they handled it all", there was a gist of "people are so dumb" coming through in this blog - not a lot, now, I've seen a lot worse, but it's still there.

That's not cool. The superiority elitist attitude doesn't do anything. You might disagree with me on that, but I have come across some skeptics with that type of attitude and they're total a**holes. PLUS, I think there's this wave of skepticism is now cool and the young people are jumping on it because not only do they get to adopt the superiority complex, they get to join a group. That's not cool either.

It's not about a movement or groups or anything cool. Nothing will change until kids are taught how to question - and that includes the 20 year olds joining the skeptic movement because it's cool and they get to hang out in the pubs in "skeptic meetings" with their new skeptic friends saying "people are so dumb and we're so smart"..........ugh.
What was the purpose of this post again?
It needs a purpose?

I just posted the link because I thought it was interesting and related to some of the things I've posted and talked about with people on here before.
I think you make lots of good points Vlad.

Does DC believe the outlandish stuff he says? Man, it's hard to tell. He certainly makes a lot of money from it, that's for sure, so that's a pretty big incentive to keep on saying it, and maybe even to believe it.

Debating - Yeah, debate can be good and interesting, but it's also true that some people just aren't influenced by it. The folks with better evidence should win a debate, but when the people you are trying to get through to are not impressed by evidence, what can you do? (Not much.)

Did you notice that DC said skeptics are too "chickenshit" to debate, and the guy who wrote the blog immediately responded that he'd be happy to debate right then and there at that speaking engagement, and DC declined? Ha! Pretty outrageous to call someone chickenshit, and then when they accept your challenge to decline it.

(Wanna see how DC performs in a debate? See him debate Harris and Shermer at this link -
http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/FaceOff/ You might need to scan down the page to select the right episode. Note this particular debate is not about AltMed.)

The Condescension Issue - It's a really tricky thing to present someone with information that runs counter to their beliefs. I agree that the guy who wrote the blog and his mates generally did a nice job of having a good attitude and avoiding coming off as elitists. But it's also true that it's hard to maintain that attitude and tone with certain folks, and it's also true that no matter how well one might do that, there will always be someone who thinks you are being elitist or condescending no matter how you present yourself or your information. It can be tricky, I think.
At the risk of taking the bait... why do these things--science and energy work--have to be mutually exclusive?
Hi Lara.

No bait! Just a topic.

Indeed, why would energy work and science be exclusive of each other? My position has always been that those claims are scientifically testable. Also, it is dishonest, or at least irresponsible, when folks like DC invoke scientific principles in vague and inaccurate ways to make it seem as if what they are presenting has scientific plausibility.
Did you notice that DC said skeptics are too "chickenshit" to debate, and the guy who wrote the blog immediately responded that he'd be happy to debate right then and there at that speaking engagement, and DC declined? Ha! Pretty outrageous to call someone chickenshit, and then when they accept your challenge to decline it.

I can understand him not wanting to do it there - it was a planned event.
I view this is a big opportunity for a planned debate and if they skeptic crew don't take advantage of what he said (the chickensh*t line) and get a debate organized, then they've dropped the ball. If there are any real brains behind the whole skeptic movement at all, they'd be organizing that debate - and it would be on T.V. It would be written about all over the net and in every newspaper. It would be talked about on all the Cable News Shows - that would be a display of using their brains in my book.

Who would he have a debate with?
Who is his match in the U.S.A in the evidenced based world that is charismatic and can win people over without sounding condescending or elitist who can appeal to the masses?

See - THAT is something that the "we're the side with so much brains" hasn't come up with. There is no Anti-Chopra. There should be (yin and yang and all that :)).

I'm off to hold my cat up in the air and sing the circle of life. (I don't like his whole anti-aging thing at all - I really dislike the whole anti-aging thing everywhere - "anti-aging" should be removed from our vocabulary).
Note this particular debate is not about AltMed

I watched some of the clips and I think you've hit on one of the reasons why there isn't an Anti-Chopra.
Most real skeptics don't believe in God because there is no evidence for the existence of God and they will state it clearly, which is cool. No harm in that. But rejecting the existence of God will never appeal to the masses, no matter how charismatic anyone is.
AltMed has become tied in with the God/Energy/Science-will-never-tell-us-all-that-we-need thing (I don't even know what to call it) because of the likes of Chopra. The only way that anything can happen is if the two are separated. He didn't appeal to me in his writing, but I know he appeals to others because of the spiritual aspect of his views.

Here's a guy that is way more interesting, obviously non-evidenced based, a medical doctor and who appeals to the masses: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPj2uuiReds He's not a spritual leader (which is really how I view Chopra). Different kettle of fish altogether and has a totally different impact.
Hi there.

I was one of the folk involved in the flyer-ing of the Chopra event. I spotted the pingback on Ian's site (the crommunist blog), and I just wanted to respond to a couple of the comments on here.

'Skeptics' aren't a unified group. 'Skeptic' doesn't really represent any positive beliefs about the world (i.e. "God exists", "Science is good", "Libertarianism is the best political system"), it more accurately represents a disposition about the world, the need to base ones beliefs on the best available evidence.

And that's the key point: "best available evidence".

The "best available evidence" contradicts Deepak at every turn. The "best available evidence" demonstrates that Reiki, Acupuncture, Homeopathy, Touch Therapy, etc, etc, etc, are all fairy tales that don't actually work.


Whether Chopra believes what he is saying or not is irrelevant: snake oil is a product that is sold for a purpose (typically a medical purpose), but is incapable of fulfilling that purpose. Thus what he sells is snake oil. He argues that 'good health' is merely the result of a disposition towards life. That entails that he denies the germ theory of disease (and a whole bunch of other medical facts). It's a matter of public record that he denies Evolution, without which modern Biology (as we know it) would be impossible.

This makes his stance not merely that of a travelling salesman with snake oil in his pocket, but a man who stands on a very public podium, denouncing science and all the benefits that that has brought to the world.


In terms of the specific question that was asked: "why do these things--science and energy work--have to be mutually exclusive?"

They don't *have* to be mutually exclusive.

The sad truth of the matter is that when someone who does [x] for a long time finds that science has looked into [x] and found that it does nothing more than the placebo effect (and energy work does nothing more than the placebo effect), that person typically responds by rejecting science, not [x].

In terms of energy-work, it's typically the practitioners of energy work that claim that 'science and energy work are mutually exclusive' in order to ignore the "best available evidence" that demonstrates that energy work is bunk.

Several studies have been done on this topic (the rejection of science in response to 'science' that dis-confirms a prior belief), and it's recently been discussed on a number of science based blogs. Here's one of the studies: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/123328312/abstract?CRETR...


So that's a question regarding the fact of the matter.



The next question is really one of PR:

Why call it nonsense? Why not dress it up in a nice way so that people don't object to it? Why act in a way so that people call you elitist?



People are going to complain about being condescended to no matter how you dress up the statements. If someone believes something that is contrary to reality, pointing out that it's contrary to reality, no matter how nicely, will be taken as a personal attack. Ian has a pretty good post on this topic: http://crommunist.wordpress.com/2010/06/07/i-am-not-my-ideas/

I engage with this kind of stuff fairly regularly. The only way to avoid the 'elitist' label is to bend over backwards so much that I'm effectively not saying anything.


And, to some degree, there's a benefit to merely standing up and being counted. So that someone who is all about the woo *can't* say "well, everyone *except* you thinks [x]", because there's 30 other people all standing up saying "no, we don't believe that either". Appeal to Popularity is a fallacy, but it's one of the mental short-cuts many fuzzy-thinkers rely on for their confidence. The only way to short circuit that (because telling them that it's a fallacy sure doesn't go anywhere...) is to have physical bodies demonstrating that the 'popularity' isn't as populous as they believe.



I'm happy to discuss this with anyone, either through email or in person. I won't take up any more of your space here, I just wanted to briefly respond to a few key points.


Brian
Hey Brian - good name (it's my husband's name - oh, and I'm female - and I'm not a squirrel).

Good post and I get where you're coming from.

Consider your point of:
And that's the key point: "best available evidence".

and then look at the title of this post:
Critical Thinking in Vancouver.

Then take into account that Chopra is all about spirituality for most people and yes, most of his quantum crap is crap, no doubt about that.

BUT, here's where things get tricky.

Best evidence can't be applied to God or spirituality and critical thinking skills is totally different from anything got to do with spirituality. You can still be a critical thinker and believe in God. And this backs up what I said before in that most skeptics are atheists because they go on "best evidence". Some of us believe that science and God can coexist, and that we should just never look for evidence of God.
"Best evidence" is good up to a point but when people mix up "Critical Thinking Skills" with "Skeptics" and then mix that in with going after someone that a lot of people view as being a spiritual leader (and yes, even though his claims are mad, I know), I'm not sure it's such a good thing. It could potentially put people off the phrase "Critical Thinking Skills" or being curious as to how to develop them - and that's a problem. Promoting critical thinking skills is different from promoting Going on Best Evidence.

As for the energy work debate and the placebo effect, that horse has been whipped on this site before and your point about rejecting science is well understood. It depresses the crap out of me that it happens.
"...when people mix up "Critical Thinking Skills" with "Skeptics" and then mix that in with going after someone that a lot of people view as being a spiritual leader..."


Vlad, you are absolutely correct here. And when you add people's unresolved issues and a dynamic of conflict, then you end up with militant skeptics who go to someone else's event to stir up trouble.

It seems to me that skeptics should set-up their own sell-out events, like Chopra does. Let the people decide who they would like to listen to.

"Spiritualists" tend to drive "skeptics" nuts, and I wonder why. Dr. Moyer, does psychology offer an explanation why that may be? Perhaps some research is necessary to get to the bottom of that. Are skeptics latent spiritualists? Are they out of touch with their spirituality? I just don't get the reason for the emotional charge. If you don't like what a person says don't listen to him, what's the big deal?

Of the many issues in this world, I would think that Deepak Chopra (who by the way is a medical doctor and comes from a family of medical doctors) is probably near the very bottom - or am I wrong?

Deepak Chopra is not the only scientist who irritates skeptics, Dr. Bruce Lipton is another one. I posted elsewhere on this site that I just finished reading his book "Spontaneous evolution" and loved it. I don't know if anyone saw that post, so here are the links to one of his presentations:

Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLZ7GqWpEqM

Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OuJdVdArDgc

Part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0iU_QcU4o4

Part 4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wy3arcY0KlQ

Part 5: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-jh9UCy1Fk

Part 6: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ib57yeRJ9cU

Part 7: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53ApMxcTw40

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