Why do medical conference organizers keep inviting Deepak Chopra to speak?

Way, way back in the day, before I took an interest in pseudoscientific medical claims, I knew who Deepak Chopra was. Back then, though, like most doctors, I didn’t pay much attention to him and didn’t know much about him other than that he was some sort of alternative medicine guru, a physician who had embraced Ayurvedic medicine and blathered about “quantum” consciousness. It didn’t take long once I embraced skepticism to run face-first into the utter woo that s Deepak Chopra’s message, in part thanks to other skeptical bloggers introducing me to his woo. Indeed, back in the early days of this blog, Chopra was a frequent topic, so much so that I coined a term for the sort of quantum drivel that he regularly laid down. The term was “Choprawoo,” and I think its definition is pretty self-explanatory for anyone familiar with Chopra, but for those who are not, I’ll briefly explain. You know how Star Trek had “technobabble,” science-y-sounding terminology that even within the fictional world of the science fiction TV show didn’t make much, if any, sense? Woo babble is the same thing. It all sounds really impressive, but it doesn’t take much of a look beneath the surface to realize that it’s nothing but complete and total bullshit. Indeed, so hilariously nonsensical is Choprawoo that it’s even been studied as pseudoprofound bullshit. Right now he's pushing his latest book, Supergenes: Unlock the Astonishing Power of Your DNA for Optimum Health and Well-Being, which asserts that you can control the activity of your genes, which is appealing but based entirely on a misunderstanding and misuse of the science of epigenetics typical of quacks. In fact, Chopra arguably “pioneered” that particular use and abuse of epigenetics, in which epigenetics is presented, in essence, as magic that allows you to change how your genes work however you want, either with diet or just by thinking about it.

Unfortunately, far too many people find Deepak Chopra's combination of mystical sounding pseudo-profundity, his invocation of "cosmic consciousness" and rejection of genetic determinism, and his advocacy of "integrating" all manner of quackery into real medicine (a.k.a. "integrative medicine, formerly "complementary and alternative medicine," or CAM) to the point of getting actual legitimate medical school faculty to assist him with an actual clinical trial compelling. He is, alas, one of the most influential woo peddlers out there. Worse, he was once a legitimate MD; now he's a quack. Indeed, as I've described before, of all the quacks and cranks and purveyors of woo whom I’ve encountered over the years, Deepak Chopra is, without a doubt, one of the most arrogantly obstinate, if not the most arrogantly obstinate.

So why is it that he gets invitations to speak from respectable medical venues? Why? Here’s one recent example, described in an article in The DO entitled Deepak Chopra on the future of medicine: It’s already here. The DO is a publication of the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), and the article describes a talk Chopra gave to OMED 2016, the yearly AOA conference. Now, I frequently defend osteopaths, at least in the US, because I’ve worked with a number of them and recognize that, in general, their training is the equivalent of most MDs and that most of them don’t actually use any of the spinal manipulation they’re taught in osteopathic school. Basically, it’s scienced out of them when they graduate and go on to do a standard residency. Seeing Deepak Friggin’ Chopra at the AOA’s yearly conference almost makes me have second thoughts. I mean, seriously. If you want the DO to be considered as rigorous as the MD, inviting Deepak Chopra to give the keynote to your yearly meeting is not a good strategy, especially when he lays down a heapin’ helpin’ of Choprawoo:

“People are now beginning to look at systems biology as a single process,” Dr. Chopra told a crowd of DOs and medical students gathered in Anaheim Saturday evening for an OMED 2016 general session focused on renewal.

Taking note of the osteopathic medical profession’s emphasis on preventive, whole-person care, Dr. Chopra described the future of medicine as precise, participatory and process-oriented. “I think we can say the future is already here,” he said.

A person’s physical, emotional and mental health make up a unified process in perpetual flux, according to Dr. Chopra. “Don’t think of your genes and microbiome as static—they are constantly going up and down in their activity and regulating your body with only one idea: total balance,” he said.

“Total balance”? What the heck does that even mean? I’ll tell you what it means: Nothing, at least nothing that one can measure. It’s basically a traditional Chinese medicine precept, in which there needs to be “balance” between the five elements (between damp and dry, for instance). It’s also no different from ancient European medicine, otherwise known as the theory of the four humors, in which the various humors must be balanced for their to be good health.To that end, he invokes—you guessed it—epigenetics:

According to Chopra, approximately 95% of a person’s genes can be influenced by what he’s termed the five pillars of well-being: sleep, movement, emotions, nutrition and meditation. Healthy behavior in these pillars can lead to a higher state of consciousness that transcends mental and physical discord, he said.

After leading the audience through a guided meditation exercise, Dr. Chopra shared that, in his experience, adding a small amount of simple meditation when you start your day can go a long way toward achieving balance.

“Setting the right intentions, allowing your body to settle into its most fundamental state of awareness, which is just being, begins the body’s process of self-regulation,” he said. “If you carry that presence with you wherever you go, you won’t allow stress to overshadow your experience of life. Otherwise, we become biological robots.”

When I see a statement like this, my first thought is: Citation needed. Actually, a whole lot of citations needed.

Obviously, too much stress is bad. No one denies that. Meditation might be useful for relaxation. However, even if it’s true that “95% of a person’s genes” can be influenced by sleep, movement, emotions, nutrition and meditation, that doesn’t mean that we can consciously control our gene expression, and it especially doesn’t mean that healthy behavior in these areas can lead to a higher state of consciousness.

It’s not just osteopaths, though. A few days ago, I learned that Chopra will be the keynote speaker for the Children's Autism Services of Edmonton's Annual Conference in January. My first reaction when I learned of this was: What the hell does Chopra have to do with autism? I mean, seriously. Look at the description of his talk:

Join Deepak as he creates a roadmap for “higher health,” based on the latest findings in both mainstream and alternative medicine,

Are we in the midst of a major paradigm shift in science?

  • Is there an ultimate reality?
  • Does consciousness conceive, govern, construct and become the physical universe?
  • Is the universe becoming self aware in the human nervous system?
  • Is the next stage of human development conscious evolution?
  • Do we have the ability to influence the future evolution of the cosmos?
  • How does our understanding of consciousness as pure potentiality enhance our capacity for intuition, creativity, conscious choice making, healing, and the awakening of dormant potentials such as non local communication and non local sensory experience?

How does our understanding of consciousness also enhance our capacity for total well being (physical, emotional, spiritual, social, community, financial and ecological)?

Deepak will address all these questions as well as practical ways to experience higher consciousness, transformation and healing. Please mark your calendars to join us at the intersection of autism treatment, and personal well-being. This will be a must attend event not only for those in the autism community, but for all Edmontonians interested in improving their quality of life.

Basically, it sounds like the same talk he gave to the osteopaths. It’s chock full of a number of tropes that Chopra has been promoting in the more than a decade that I’ve been paying attention to his woo, namely that:

“Consciousness” is the universe.
We can control our own evolution with that consciousness.
That this “cosmic consciousness” allows non-local communication and sensory experience; that is, communication across vast distances with the mind. You might ask, quite reasonably: WTF does any of this have to do with treating autism, helping autistic people, or assisting parents and careggivers who take care of them? The answer, of course, is nothing. It’s just feel-good drivel, directed at a community that is so often subjected to quackery and pseudoscience, in particular antivaccine quackery. (At least, as far as I can tell, Chopra has never espoused antivaccine views, for instance:

That’s good, but it doesn’t excuse him from the other quackery he lays down. Let Tim Caulfield explain:

"He's like the great de-educator. He legitimizes these ideas that have no scientific basis at all and makes them sound scientific. He really is a fountain of meaningless jargon," said Caulfield.

"This is a community — the autism community — which is often subjected to treatments that don't have science behind them, that are portrayed as if they are scientific. This is a community that is struggling with a profound issue, so I would I like to see a more scientifically informed person in that place."

The “great de-educator.” Nice. I’ll have to remember that one for future use.

So what was the rationale of the organizers of the conference for inviting someone like Chopra to be the keynote speaker, especially given that Chopra certainly don’t come cheap? Take a look:

Terri Duncan, executive director of Children's Autism Services, a non-profit organization which provides services to children with autism and other developmental disorders, defended the group's decision to hire Chopra as its keynote speaker.

Duncan said the talk will provide the audience with new insights on health and wellness.

"We choose special event speakers who bring a variety of views on a variety of issues. In this case, our goal was to raise awareness of issues surrounding wellness," Duncan said in a statement to CBC News.

"Deepak offers a unique perspective, a mix of traditional and alternative views, which some may disagree with, but there is no question it will raise awareness of wellness, and kick-start a conversation."

“Kick start a conversation”? Give me a break! It’s admirable to want to give the audience new insights into health and wellness, but not so much if those new insights are based on mystical pseudoscience coupled with the wholesale appropriation, misuse, and distortion of quantum mechanics, epigenetics, and basically any science that Chopra can torture beyond recognition to justify his mysticism and quackery. Caulfield is right. Autistic children deserve much better.

So why do ostensibly respectable medical organizations invite Deepak Chopra to give keynote addresses at their conferences? I’m tempted to say: Damned if I know, but I think I do know. Chopra sells. People want to see him. Also, organizers of conferences hiring Chopra can oh-so-piously make idiotic statements like Duncan’s, painting themselves as progressive and open-minded, while painting critics as close-minded and behind the times.

It’s how Chopra works, and it’s why his pseudoscience persists as such a profitable business.


More like this

Orac is currently hiding from the Federation in an undisclosed location (somewhere warm and out of the country, the better to avoid election news after having cast an absentee ballot), where he is charging his Tarial cells, the better to return fully recharged and ready to dive back into the…
I’m sure that most of you watched the Presidential debate on Monday night, just as I did. Over the years, these debates have always always painful for me to watch, given the candidates’ tendency to answer the question they want to answer rather than the question actually answered; to find ways to…
Of all the quacks and cranks and purveyors of woo whom I’ve encountered over the years, Deepak Chopra is, without a doubt, one of the most arrogantly obstinate, if not the most arrogantly obstinate. Sure, a quack like Mike Adams wins on sheer obnoxiousness and for the sheer breadth of crankery…
I’ve frequently referred to “integrative medicine” as the “integration” of quackery with conventional, science-based medicine for the very good reason that that’s what it really is. However, advocates of medicine not based in science are nothing if not masters of marketing, which is how, over the…

The aim of these conferences is to make money. When they invite Chopra, it becomes obvious. We should not worry but be glad that it makes it clear for everybody.

By Daniel Corcos (not verified) on 03 Nov 2016 #permalink

"Choprawoo" is a good word. But I'd change it to "Choprababble" which rolls off the tongue with more authority.

Hope this isn't off topic, but did you know that Gallup, the polling company (who is trying with moderate success to become a business consulting company using data), employs Deepak as one of their "Senior Scientists" advising them on...wtf? So here we have an organization trying to pass itself off as methodologically objective and data-driven (excusing the fact that they completely screwed up polling in the 2012 presidential election) paying Chopra to spout his nonsense to the business world and lend what little credibility they have to his woo and nonsense. I know a few of their "proper" senior scientists and have written to them about their association with Chopra, but I guess it's not dissimilar to some scientists happily receiving Templeton money to justify their actions.


Maybe Dr. Oz was too busy to make these engagements.

"Is the universe becoming self aware in the human nervous system?"

Like in The Terminator. A lot of the other topics seem to come out of Arthur C Clarke's book Childhood's End.

By Jesus Baby (not verified) on 03 Nov 2016 #permalink

I've long since lost the link, but on a previous post about Chopra someone pointed me to a short blog post by a woman who said that Chopra inspired her to study quantum physics, and one of the first things she learned in quantum physics is that Chopra is full of it.

I wish more people would react to Choprawoo in a similar fashion. Unfortunately, too many people in the US are afraid of math, and most quantum physics classes require a significant background--even at the "Physics for Poets" level, one must be comfortable with algebra.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 03 Nov 2016 #permalink

Eric: "Unfortunately, too many people in the US are afraid of math,..."

That's true, but it goes deeper than that. At first glance (or hearing) Chopra's proclamations appear quite profound - for any number of reasons. But if you look at what he says with a modicum of critical thought, the idiocy of his statements is glaringly apparent.

@ Eric

I am severely math impaired (not afraid--just incapable and I’m very good with language BTW), but I am still capable of understanding the basic laws that explain the real world. I certainly get it well enough to know that Chopra is whackawoo. Happily, although I never succeeded in passing Algebra I, (in spite of a series of remedial courses and individual tutoring) I did take all the 100 level intro science classes and majored in a soft science that taught me a lot of science history. It is that background that enabled me to become science literate in spite of not being able to do the math or comprehend the math-y parts of scientific papers.

By darwinslapdog (not verified) on 03 Nov 2016 #permalink

"Kickstarting a discussion" is too often now used to justify bringing in people to talk about nonsense. It's like the old cliche about being so open-minded that your brains fall out of your skull.

Some individuals are so afraid to sound like they are being close-minded that they want to give everyone a chance to voice an opinion. That may have some validity with politics and philosophy, but science needs to be predicated on facts and evidence. Facts and evidence are not nearly as subject to personal taste.

Those conference organizers should be directed to the paper that won a recent 2016 Ig Nobel Peace Prize: "On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-Profound Bullshit"

One of the tools they used was the "Wisdom of Chopra" website to get nonsensical rantings. The author of that website was told about the Ig Nobel Peace Prize when he gave a presentation about his ChopraWoo generator at a recent skeptic's conference:

Here's a copy of the email I just sent to the conference organizers:

To Children’s Autism Services:

I am dismayed with your organization’s choice of Deepak Chopra as a keynote speaker for your January conference in Edmonton. Having a background in physical sciences, I am fully aware that his obsession with quantum theory is based on utter nonsense. What really disturbs me is his thoughts on AIDS, where he seems to be casting blame on the sufferer for his or her disease:
This is appalling. Sadly, it is an all too common attitude among the alternative medicine set.

Would Chopra take us back to the bad old days of “refrigerator mothers”? I wouldn’t be surprised.

Ugh! I am in moderation for one weblink.

Short version: Tom Williamson created the Wisdom of Chopra nonsense generator. He gave a presentation about it at the recent skeptics conference in the UK, which is called QED.

Some one in the audience told him that his ChopraWoo generator was on of the tools mentioned in the methods section of a paper titled “On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-Profound bovine manure” (certain word changed). The authors of that paper received the 2016 Ig Nobel Peace Prize.

Tom Williamson tells the story at his website "SkepticCanary."

Someone should tell conference organizers about that Ig Nobel winning paper.

Thanks, I realized that later. So I edited the word in the paper title. Apparently the authors were delighted to use it often in their academic paper.

Which should be forwarded to Terri Duncan, the executive director of Children’s Autism Services, and any other group that invites Chopra to speak.

In one of the debates on YouTube, Chopra was asked during the Q and A about his use of Quantum terminology. The questioner was a quantum physicist who allowed that, while he understood most of the words in Chopra's reply, the way that they fit together made no sense.

By machintelligence (not verified) on 03 Nov 2016 #permalink

That this “cosmic consciousness” allows non-local communication and sensory experience; that is, communication across vast distances with the mind.

As a physicist, it always drives me nuts when Chopra uses the the term 'non-local'. Physicists use 'non-local' to describe the situation where two particles which have been entangled can be separated by great distances, yet still exhibit correlated statistics. The conclusion of that experiment is that quantum mechanics is non-local, which is to say that the mechanics don't break down with separation by distance. I know people already qualitatively know this, but this physics does not necessarily mean anything about communication. The physicists like to talk about spooky action at a distance, but it isn't really right to call it communication because the physics does not allow for any passage of information. We see it connected with 'communication' here simply because of how Chopra uses it! The proper word for what Chopra advocates is simply telepathy, no ifs ands or buts.

Pardon my speaking up. I have a strong reaction to Chopra and take it as a professional insult when he mangles so badly something I put a lot of effort into learning.

Many years ago, just after the "What the Bleep" movie came out, I was curious & attended an event in Portland, OR, structured around the movie concepts. It didn't have Chopra but did have J Z Knight who I recalled from her Ramtha channeling news stories from even longer ago. That was enough to make me realize what a load they were trying to sell me and spurred me to skepticism so not a bad outcome overall? Also discovered a tiny but excellent Mexican restaurant and I loved the memory foam mattress on the hotel bed so much I later bought my own.

By Katatonic (not verified) on 03 Nov 2016 #permalink

Katatonic -- I remember when I saw that movie. My mother was just *raving* about it and the fascinating ideas it put forth about how our personal histories influence our perception, potentially making it literally impossible to see things. Her favorite example was the claim that the ancient Aztecs were literally unable to see the ships of the conquistadores because they did not know what ships were. Not just didn't recognize them, or failed to properly gauge distance or scale or anything like that, but actually fail to see them at all. This claim bewildered me so much I had to actually see it; I was sure my mother had misunderstood the claim. But no, she hadn't misunderstood. I went in expecting to love the movie, because my mom is usually a good judge of these sorts of things, and a skeptical sort of person, but by about a third of the way in I was getting some seriously "um, what?" vibes, and by the end I was baffled at the whole thing. It just didn't make sense.

And then I saw Ramtha cited in the credits, and it all made sense.

"Ohhhhh, so THAT'S who that lady is! She's the Ramtha lady! Oh . . . oh god, what the bleep did I just watch?"

So then I got to explain who Ramtha is to my mother. She was stunned.

By Calli Arcale (not verified) on 03 Nov 2016 #permalink

"Her favorite example was the claim that the ancient Aztecs were literally unable to see the ships of the conquistadores because they did not know what ships were. Not just didn’t recognize them, or failed to properly gauge distance or scale or anything like that, but actually fail to see them at all. This claim bewildered me so much I had to actually see it;"

Especially since the Aztecs were not on any of the islands that Columbus landed on in the first voyage. Mostly because they were in Mexico, and Columbus did not get there until the last voyage.

The native people of the Caribbean islands had sea worthy canoes to travel to other islands. They were on islands! Of course they had vessels to traverse on water, some fairly large vessels.

Though it didn't help that the Spanish enslaved the populations, worked them to death... or just killed them. So not much of a footprint left. I am presently reading Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James W. Loewen. An entire chapter is dedicated on how bad Columbus (who sent Native Americans back to Spain as slaves) and the Spanards treated the whole area.

viggen @18: No, please do speak up! Quantum physics was one of my better attempts at college physics (well, better than relativity), but it was a short class and I wasn't very good, so while I'm pretty sure that what Chopra is saying is nonsense, I don't have the expertise to be sure.

I do think that at least some of my resistance to this nonsense comes from a healthy diet of sci-fi as a teenager: If Anne McCaffery wrote an awesome series about it, it's probably not real. (Psi powers)

By JustaTech (not verified) on 03 Nov 2016 #permalink

One group of Spanish settlers offered the Indians the chance to become slaves. The Indians thought about it, decided it was not a good idea, and killed the Spaniards.

-- David Byrne, True Stories

You know why. The motto of every conference is: "posteriores im sedibus". Chopra draws crowds.

By Guy Chapman (not verified) on 03 Nov 2016 #permalink

@viggen, indeed, do speak up! We need more to speak up that have knowledge of sciences that are abused by the con men out there.

Indeed, I think that that keynote should be conducted via spooky Chopra at a distance. ;)
As communication is indeed impossible that way. C isn't just a good idea, it is indeed the law. :P

As for one thing that our host did mention about osteopaths, I am quite agreeing. How can we begin to trust you as peers with MD's, when you undermine that trust by inviting someone who is a quack to speak at a keynote speech at a major conference?

I do take offense on the part of BS, when utilized in relation to Chopraspeak. Unlike Chopra's words, which are useless, BS can compost and be utilized as a fine fertilizer. To malign such a useful substance by association with his gibberish is unacceptable to anyone who loves plant life. ;)

Somehow, I'd not be surprised to see someone coming up behind me with a wet trout...

"Indeed, I think that that keynote should be conducted via spooky Chopra at a distance."

Chopra has been entangled with a bowl of spaghetti.

Amazingly prescient, as we just finished linguine for dinner, with my home made pasta sauce (last weekend, I made 10 quarts and froze them down). :)

Still, that begs the question, does Chopra have an event horizon or is he a naked singularity?

By Wzrd1 (not verified) on 03 Nov 2016 #permalink

In reply to by rs (not verified)

Everything old is new again. Thirty years ago we had Chaos and Fractals, now we have Systems. All of these are serious ideas with which intelligent people do important work - but somehow they are easily coopted by the frauds in service of the fairy tales that please the desperate.

Case in point, several years ago one of my oldest and dearest friends became ill. No one could figure out what the underlying problem was, so she took refuge in the comforting hands of the naturopaths. You can see where this is going, one day she came and asked whether I knew anything about quantum mechanics. I said yes, it was a big chunk of my PhD thesis and I have worked with QM for decades, and what was on her mind. She told me about quantum consciousness and healing powers, and I told her about Stalking the Wild Pendulum and how this twaddle had been around since the very beginning and no less an authority (because these people love authorities) than Erwin Schroedinger - himself an expert on Eastern Philosophy - had declared that there was no connection and people should stop embarrassing themselves with such dumb speculations.

Whelp, she's still alive (and she still talks to me) but she still goes to naturapaths and I say that's more of a coincidence than a causal relationship.

By Robert L Bell (not verified) on 03 Nov 2016 #permalink

Quantum mechanics is a field unique in the popular miscomprehension of it and its contributions to very real world science.
A great deal of our current solid state electronics in use today comes to us courtesy of scientists utilizing quantum mechanical effects.
Quantum mechanics also has lead to a superior understanding of what happens in a nuclear reactor.
Laser physics is entirely quantum mechanical in nature.
Quantum chemistry is an extension of chemistry into the realm of considering the effects of quantum mechanics as is applicable to chemistry.

Where quantum mechanics fails to be applicable is in macro scale fields, such as medicine. Useful for diagnostics, not useful for managing diseases.
Needless to say, quantum telepathy is totally out, don't make me get that wet trout out. ;)

One joke I have used though is, had a better understanding been present at the time, SL-1 would likely still be functioning.
The joke being, utterly inapplicable, as it was a lousy reactor design and it ties in with my other joke about the US Army never meeting a reactor that it couldn't blow up.*
The latter being quite accurate.

*The US Army owned and operated SL-1, a research reactor, which had a number of design flaws, one biggie, a control rod with graphite at the end, resulting in dangerous power excursions. This resulted in a situation where the rod was sticking and when it was withdrawn a bit too much, caused an excursion that resulted in explosive disassembly of the reactor core, killing the operators and pinning one operator to the ceiling of the building.
This very design flaw was also part of what happened at the Chernobyl plant, many years later.**

**Erm, very seriously oversimplified. But, I'm known for physics jokes. :)

By Wzrd1 (not verified) on 03 Nov 2016 #permalink

In reply to by Robert L Bell (not verified)


Especially since the Aztecs were not on any of the islands that Columbus landed on in the first voyage. Mostly because they were in Mexico, and Columbus did not get there until the last voyage.

I said "conquistadores", not Columbus. ;-) I don't recall if the movie actually claimed it was Columbus; as stupid as the rest of it was, I wouldn't be surprised, but honestly I don't think I could stomach watching it again to find out. Not unless I had a bunch of friends with me, some good beer, and a couple of hours to heckle it like we're on MST3K. :-D

By Calli Arcale (not verified) on 03 Nov 2016 #permalink

@Calli & Chris, but the Godful Europeans saved their soles, although I fail to understand how either their feet or a specific type of fish were endangered.

Although, I'll admit to a very certain type of specific argument utilized by their side, which is nearly verbatim of what the Taliban and similar religious fundamentalist groups try to use today and are branded terrorists for using the very same tactics.

I'll also add, at the risk of remaining utterly off topic, having a discussion with a local over our Bosnian intervention, where a Serbian objected to our presence, asking how we had we suddenly were world experts in anything related to what was happening in the region.
I simply replied, we're most certainly subject matter experts in the matter of ethnic cleansing, due to our interactions with our Native Americans.
Suffice it to say, he ceased objections and looked quite thoughtful.
I joke that diplomacy isn't my strong suit, that isn't entirely accurate. My most powerful weapon in my arsenal, when dealing with a diplomatic situation is singular, truth and honesty. Not exactly State Department methodology, but quite effective.
In Afghanistan, our unwelcomed presence was explained with an ipod video of the WTC collapse. Mentioning the fact that my cousin was on the floor above the crashed plane damage, his grave remains unfilled even today.
That was easier to comprehend for the audience than any political BS that state could provide.
Although, I omitted the fact that the single time that I had met that cousin was when he was shipped out of state to avoid some legal issues revolving around using some rather hard drugs, to his uncle that we were spending our summer vacation visiting.
Glad to see that he straightened out, shame that he didn't get to meet his grandchildren.

The real world is complicated, for many, far too complicated for them to even begin to comprehend. Taking parts of what is going on and unwelcome is better accepted and more appropriately dealt with is better conducted by taking the entire mess and cutting it up into smaller views and parcels of knowledge.

Still, I don't regret history, it's past and over, regardless of the desires of some. I accept it and hope to do better in the future and also realize, if Columbus didn't get lost and land near this continent and if the Spaniards didn't do what they did, as horrific as it was, I'd not be here today.

One major issue that US citizens have with dealing with other cultures is our short memory within our own culture.
Most cultures on this planet have very long cultural memories, which are treated as near-personal memories. A slight or significant harm by one culture is remembered thousands of years later as current harm.
The closest that we in the US come to that is "Rebel vs Yankee", which is not much more than a century old and only remembered by a minority of the populace.
Knowing that, when dealing with Serbians, I entirely forgot to mention the fact that a Serbian group started WWI.
As small talk already revealed my rather generous knowledge of history, both global and within their region, I think that they got a point that I was trying to make.
The past, beyond living memory is best recalled as dead and buried, but a good lesson on what not to do in many, many, many cases.

Because, here, in the real world, there ain't no saints, but there are plenty of sinners.
Deal with today, work toward a mutually better tomorrow and not repeat the errors of the past is the lesson I do my best to impart.
When dealing with Indian and Pakistani groups, that suggested autonomy, due to both issues in dealing with a very specific cultural group and the history, now largely useless, as a land bridge area to China is not worthwhile.
That notion was novel for those I discussed it with and is gaining ground, albeit slowly.

So, knowledge of history is critically important, placing it in context today, even more so.
Well, unless someone has a TARDIS. I've only found the TURDIS and that, briefly, in London and it "disappeared" on a lory.

By Wzrd1 (not verified) on 03 Nov 2016 #permalink

In reply to by Calli Arcale (not verified)

The "autism community" means autistic people, not our parents or caregivers. We are the ones dealing with being who we are in this world, which is often hostile to us, and parents and caregivers are often part of that hostility. Besides, we are not a calamity for them to cope with.

@M #33, with respect, as a parent and grandparent, our children and even grandchildren's problems become our own.
While our children suffer from PCOS, the issue remains a reality.

Now, I'm the male half of the couple, that means that PCOS isn't an issue for me physically, it remains a major impact on life within the household.
So, would you prefer to remove championship on your behalf, preferred with input from you, or would you prefer we ignore any obstacle in your path in life?

As parents, we're unlikely, indeed, incapable of ignoring such problems.
So, perhaps, for those who actually listen, you could include parents?
And hence, include those far less capable of communication.

By Wzrd1 (not verified) on 03 Nov 2016 #permalink

In reply to by M (not verified)

This part of your article intrigued me "Now, I frequently defend osteopaths, at least in the US, because I’ve worked with a number of them and recognize that, in general, their training is the equivalent of most MDs and that most of them don’t actually use any of the spinal manipulation they’re taught in osteopathic school. Basically, it’s scienced out of them when they graduate and go on to do a standard residency."

If this is the case what is the point of DOs? Why not just become an MD?

How can we begin to trust you as peers with MD’s
And how many medical schools in the USA and elsewhere have CAM courses? I think it is more “How can we trust any of these people?”

By jrkrideau (not verified) on 04 Nov 2016 #permalink

a unified process in perpetual flux

Young's modulus on line 2.

it “disappeared” on a lory

That was one big parrot.

By Herr Doktor Bimler (not verified) on 04 Nov 2016 #permalink

A person’s physical, emotional and mental health make up a unified process in perpetual flux, according to Dr. Chopra. “Don’t think of your genes and microbiome as static—they are constantly going up and down in their activity and regulating your body with only one idea: total balance,” he said.

When your doctor uses a definition of "health" that could equally well be described to a start of extreme morbidity, or indeed to a dead body (what is "death" if not "total balance"?), then it is time to back away carefully to the nearest exit.

By Herr Doktor Bimler (not verified) on 04 Nov 2016 #permalink

I have a strong reaction to Chopra and take it as a professional insult when he mangles so badly something I put a lot of effort into learning.

My first degree was in theoretical physics and yes, I hate it when charlatans steal our Worship Words.

By Herr Doktor Bimler (not verified) on 04 Nov 2016 #permalink

@Wzrd1 #32
I agree that a short memory of culture and history is a problem. Most people I talk to are totally unaware of how the present came to be, how other cultures have approached similar problems and how that context is useful.
History tells us what life was like before vaccines and antibiotics but how many people have no clue today about how far we have come?

I have a strong reaction to Chopra and take it as a professional insult when he mangles so badly something I put a lot of effort into learning.

My first degree was in theoretical physics and yes, I hate it when charlatans steal our Worship Words.

I encountered a dwark last night who insisted I was only allowed to edit math in Word documents and not LaTeX ones. Because "policy." The only question at this point seems to be who fires whom first.

Calli Arcale: "I said “conquistadores”, not Columbus. "

Sorry. When I first heard about that nonsense it was at a family dinner, and it was Columbus. I think I had to scrape my jaw off of the table. I don't think my gullible relative said "Aztec" but Indians. What makes her gullibility even worse is that our local tribes are known for some fairly large whaling canoes! (the one that we saw in the lobby to the Royal BC Museum in Victoria, BC was not much smaller than the small boats Columbus sailed with)

Even still, the Aztecs were in Central Mexico and when they did go to the coast they interacted with the island population who got around in some fairly good sized boats.

Venezuela gets its name because when the Spanish got there it was at Lake Maracaibo, a large tidal basin that is not terribly deep. The people who lived in houses on stilts over the water, and got around.. wait for it ... in boats. It reminded the Spanish of Venice, hence the name of the area:

As co-author of Super Genes, I do urge you to read the book completely and carefully. Everything we wrote about epigenetics came from studies published in well respected and in many cases, highest impact refereed scientific journals, e.g. Nature and Cell. The science is fully accurate. We then urge the reader to live a healthier lifestyle based on what the epigenetic studies have taught us. In that way, you are choosing to live a lifestyle that should affect gene expression programs in a way that is salutary and not detrimental to your health based on gene expression in response to your daily habits. Please, take some time to more carefully read the book and then consider this comment. I look forward to your thoughts.

Dr. Rudolph E. Tanzi
Joseph. P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology
Harvard Medical School
Vice-Chair, Neurology, and
Director, Genetics and Aging Research Unit
Massachusetts General Hospital
114 16th Street
Charlestown, MA, 02129

By Rudy Tanzi (not verified) on 05 Nov 2016 #permalink

They need to look back to the days when there was talk of restoring balance to the Force. That went really well.

By Darth Hello Kitty (not verified) on 05 Nov 2016 #permalink

Sorry Professor Tanzi, but Chopra is FOS and a quack and a half.

That you have fallen for his nonsense tells me your neurons ain't exactly firing on all cylinders either, which is a shame.

As a physicist (undergrad) and a neuroscientist (phd) and now an MD I am deeply disappointed in what passes for "research" at some institutions, including yours. That Harvard would let a faculty member write a book with Chopra is pathetic.

By Chris Hickie (not verified) on 06 Nov 2016 #permalink

@ Chris Hickie:

It's not exactly fair to dismiss Tanzi or his book simply because he worked with Chopra. The science in the book should stand or fall on its own merits. In the humanities anyway, I'm aware of some worthwhile works that have been co-authored by one scholar I'd find legit, and the other a hack. Sometimes the 'hacks' have what amounts to two 'personas't: one a largely public celebrity puffery, the other capable of generating serious (if flawed) scholarship. I have no idea what Deep contributed to Super Genes, but it would seem he could do something like 'real' inquiry if he really wanted to, much like Dr. Oz can do real medicine if he really wants to. Even though Oz now devotes himself to gushing over dubious wooey hype on TV, if he ventured into a scholarly paper on cardiovascular surgery, I wouldn't automatically assume it was full of BS.

And what would be pathetic would be if Harvard was dictating who their faculty could and could not work with.

Good of Professor Tanzi to stop by and comment.

The following article cites a HuffPo review of "Super Brain" and cites Dr. Tanzi as making the following claims:

'Every experience will cause chemical changes in your body and in your brain, and those chemical changes will then cause genetic changes,” said Tanzi, who recently co-authored the book Super Brain with Chopra. “If those genetic changes occur often enough and with persistence, that can lead to modification of those genes such that they react the same way in the future because they’ve been trained.'...

The author of this article (Biology professor Jerry Coyne) comments:

"But Tanzi and Chopra use the few unstable examples found in the lab to construct an airy edifice of self-help...And here’s the telling admission by Tanzi (my emphasis):

'While scientists have found evidence for epigenetic changes that are passed down in mice and water fleas, Tanzi noted that there is only circumstantial evidence for the phenomenon occurring in humans.'

So, Dr. Tanzi, are the phenomena you present here and in that interview actually settled science, or is there only "circumstantial evidence" that has not yet been proven in humans?
And it would interesting to know why (as Dr. Coyne says) you threatened to sue him, and where that stands now.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 06 Nov 2016 #permalink

@ DB
It's a reasonable assumption that if the phenomenon exists in mice, it would exist in human. The main problem is that the results in mice seem to be due to a statistical artifact (see the comments in PubMed Commons)

By Daniel Corcos (not verified) on 06 Nov 2016 #permalink

Sorry Sadmar, but Tanzi clearly has lost grey matter if he thinks Chopra is a worthy colleague. I also smell a big fat ego in Tanzi with the link to his bio he so desperately needed to give us in his post. Maybe Tanzi has realized he won't be the one to cure Alzheimer's or win a Nobel prize, so now he's gone snipe hunting with Chopra. Barring Tanzi recently developing dementia or some other neuro-degenerative disorder altering his cognition, Tanzi's belief in Chopra does call into question how well he really understands the science behind his "over 500 research papers". And Coyne's article cited by Dangerous Bacon is (I hope) correct that faculty at Harvard will shun Tanzi, as he so richly deserves for doing a synchronized diving belly flop with Chopra into the deep end of the woo pool.

By Chris Hickie (not verified) on 07 Nov 2016 #permalink

@ Chris Hickle
Tanzi certainly understands some of the science behind his papers, and he is a very productive scientist. The question is whether one should evaluate truth and knowledge through productivity, i.e., obtaining grants, managing a team, and publishing.

By Daniel Corcos (not verified) on 07 Nov 2016 #permalink

@Daniel Corcos: Productive Scientist Good Scientist. My grad school work w/ an invertebrate showed me that the Nobel-prize winner who began his quest for fame claiming a simple monosynaptic sensory to motor neuron connection for a behavior was essential for learning in that behavior was wrong--but that didn't stop his relentless march (including over many other scientists' good research) for his golden goose. Good science to me are people like Erwin Neher and Bert Sakmann who invented the patch clamp technique for cells and happily taught it to all who wanted to learn it. And thank goodness they did get their Nobel for that in 1991. Fame chasers like Tanzi disgust me.

By Chris Hickie (not verified) on 07 Nov 2016 #permalink

"It’s a reasonable assumption that if the phenomenon exists in mice, it would exist in human."

Seriously? In that case, maybe we shouldn't bother testing drugs in humans if they appear safe and effective in mice.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 07 Nov 2016 #permalink

@ DB
We are not talking about the effect of a drug, which can depend on many factors, but of something which would be of fundamental interest, inheritance of acquired characteristics.You don't need to make experiments in humans to understand that Darwin's theory is also true for humans.
In the case of Lamarckian inheritance, if it were true that mice can transmit their olfactory experience through their sperms, this would suggest such a change in our view of evolution that we might also think it is possible in humans. Unfortunately, the experiments in mice are just what could be expected in the absence of a good hypothesis: a statistical artifact.

By Daniel Corcos (not verified) on 07 Nov 2016 #permalink

Ah! So, Danny, epigenetics can help one accept chloroquine and primaquine for malaria, regardless of ethnicity, right?
Just think yourself white, you're alright, yes?

Wrong side of history and science on that one.

By Wzrd1 (not verified) on 07 Nov 2016 #permalink

In reply to by Daniel Corcos (not verified)

I thought the only epigenetic things that had been seen in humans were bad, like if your grandparents suffered from a famine as children you would be more likely to develop heart disease. Or something else equally unhelpful.

By JustaTech (not verified) on 07 Nov 2016 #permalink

There's nothing intrinsically wrong with some group inviting Chopra to speak, and it's Streisand Effect shooting-yourself-in-the-foot to come off as 'he should be dis-invited'. Granting that neither Caulfield nor Orac say that, bystanders will still sense a whiff of 'thought police' in any so-and-so-should-not-speak critique.

The problem with the autism confab is the frame it employs to present Deep Ack: the unqualified promises of acquiring "practical ways to experience higher consciousness, transformation and healing" and "a must for all interested in improving their quality of life." Barf!

There's nothing intrinsically wrong with having Chopra speak at such an event, if it would in fact "raise awareness of issues surrounding wellness” and "kick-start a conversation.” In this case, the issue is the ideology of curing/preventing physiological afflictions through positive thinking, which is very much surrounding the discussion of 'wellness' with deleterious effect, thanks in no small measure to the popularity of Deep Ack's psuedo-profound musing and aura of scientific legitimacy. So, if his keynote claims were just presented as questions to be explored in the rest of the conference, including answers of "No!', that would a good thing. The guy already has a microphone, so if he appeared under a frame that required him to actually defend and justify his BS in the face of smart debunkers, there's no more harm to be done, only good in using his celebrity to get exposure to contrasting views in places they otherwise would not penetrate.

But, shilling for him by wooing potential attendees with promises their quality of life will be improved by Deep's lessons in "practical ways to experience higher consciousness, transformation and healing" pretty much screws that pooch.

The problem with Deep Ack isn't that he's "a fountain of meaningless jargon,” but that beneath the sprinkling of inscrutable contentless sentences, what he saying is all too clear. And it can, in fact, very much make your quality of life dramatically worse.

SBM had an article on 'positive thinking' today, which (somewhat oddly, I thought) didn't reference Barbara Ehrenreich's biting critique thereof, so, looking for a link to post, I Googled up an essay she wrote for The guardian in 2010. And lo and behold, she told a story about Chopra.

Rather than providing emotional sustenance, [the "tyranny of positive thinking"] can exact a dreadful cost. First, it requires the denial of understandable feelings of anger and fear, all of which must be buried under a cosmetic layer of cheer. Besides, it takes effort to maintain the upbeat demeanor expected by others – effort that can no longer be justified as a contribution to long-term survival. Consider the woman who wrote to Deepak Chopra that her breast cancer had spread to the bones and lungs: "Even though I follow the treatments, have come a long way in unburdening myself of toxic feelings, have forgiven everyone, changed my lifestyle to include meditation, prayer, proper diet, exercise, and supplements, the cancer keeps coming back. Am I missing a lesson here that it keeps reoccurring? I am positive I am going to beat it, yet it does get harder with each diagnosis to keep a positive attitude."

Chopra's response: "As far as I can tell, you are doing all the right things to recover. You just have to continue doing them until the cancer is gone for good. I know it is discouraging to make great progress only to have it come back again, but sometimes cancer is simply very pernicious and requires the utmost diligence and persistence to eventually overcome it."

You all know how this line of thought ends: If the cancer doesn't go away after all the unburdening forgiving and mediating, this woman can only conclude It's All Her Fault for falling short of "the utmost diligence and persistence". This isn't meaningless babble. It's cavalier cruelty carelessly reproduced over and over for fame and fortune.

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with some group inviting Chopra to speak, and it’s Streisand Effect shooting-yourself-in-the-foot to come off as ‘he should be dis-invited’.

Yes there is something intrinsically wrong with it. He promotes bullshit. Chopra promotes, among other things, the pernicious myth that mental attitude can affect risk and survival in cancer. That's been studied, it's not true, and spreading the myth lays a whole pile of guilt on those who get cancer, because they supposedly did not meditate enough or whatever.

By Guy Chapman (not verified) on 09 Nov 2016 #permalink

In reply to by sadmar (not verified)

HTML blockquote-end tag error in #59 above: Last paragraph is my words, not Ehrenreich's.

@ Guy #60

Did you read the whole comment? Do you not know what 'intrinsic' means? The point is that the pernicious guilt-tripping myth has already been spread, and people are already suffering from it. The rat is already out of the bag, so the task now is sic some cats on him. A speaking invitation is an opportunity to get Chopra out into a space where he can be challenged and exposed. Of course, the Edmonton organizers aren't going in that direction. But the critique shouldn't be 'disinvite him', but 'don't endorse him, and let him face friction from challenges'. Not-inviting him to conferences actually HELPS him, since his schtick already has momentum, and he has lots of access to big megaphones he can use to reach a broad public with nary a discouraging word to be heard. Railing against him here does little to help the cancer patients who could be drawn into his BS, since they're not reading science blogs. They're following him, so the best way to get their attention is to exploit places where he is but is not in complete control of the communication. He's just shown that his weakness is his egotistical over-confidence by getting into a Twitter fight with Orac. He'll go into spaces where he can be challenged because he thinks he's invulnerable. What if, when he shows up to give his talk at Edmonton, there's a protest demonstration by autism advocates outside the hall, and the media have been tipped to expect some dramatic confrontation footage? If you can't organize something that that because you're not willing to put in the work, or don't have enough peeps to make it happen, then you're just not in the game.

For me it’s good to hear Mr. Chopra in conferences. He is an experienced and experts person in the industry.