Oddly, the two people in the public eye that I cannot stand the most are Chopra and Oprah. The fact that Oprah and Chopra rhyme with each other would likely trigger Chopra to insist it’s no coincidence, that it’s Oprah’s quantum field tickling souls or some shit. Oprah and Chopra, Chopra and Oprah. The world would be a far, far better place without the empty-smiled, dead-eyed, plugged-eared Chopra and Oprah who think and act as though Oprah and Chopra know it all well enough to have millions of followers. I’ll admit, I had a far greater hate-on for Oprah than Chopra, until Chopra recently kicked stupidity into high gear with his million dollar challenge. Now Chopra has pulled out ahead of Oprah in my Oprah/Chopra race for loathing.
What is this million dollar challenge, Godless Mom?
Oh, but let me tell you.
Deepak, clearly in the smug throes of an Oprah “aha! moment”, has tapped the shoulders of Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, James Randi, Dan Dennett, and Jerry Coyne, all because they are outspoken atheists. He’s asked them, self-assured of his own cleverness, to show him how a thought is formed in scientific terms. If one of these already well-off men can complete the challenge, they get a million Deepak Dollars, which can probably only be spent in the celestial quantum astral plane gift shop.
So, what’s wrong with that challenge, Godless Mom?
Oh, but let me tell you what’s wrong with it.
First, the whole thing smacks of the god of the gaps argument. The inability to explain something scientifically at this point in time, only means we cannot explain it at this time. If all of these highly respected men, whose work is centered around reason, logic and evidence, fail to be able to explain how a thought is formed in scientific terms, it simply means that we have not found the explanation for it yet. There is no other information you can deduce from that unless you reach really far. Of course, this is providing any of them respond – an entirely laughable idea.
If you read between the lines of the Chopra Challenge, you can hear Mr. Deepak say that the inability to explain such things must mean the supernatural world is real and true. This is the god of the gaps argument, and it doesn’t work. Time and time again, things we didn’t understand or have no explanations for have been attributed to god, the spirit world, and supernatural bullshit until we actually do find the explanation. The sun used to rise because it was the eye of Horus flying across the sky. Now we know, it rises and sets because the Earth is turning. Before we understood that, Chopra could have offered Dawkins a hundred goats and his daughter’s hand in marriage to explain how the sun rose and set each day. Dawkins’ inability to do so, in a time when we didn’t quite understand it yet, does not prove the supernatural to be true. It wouldn’t have made Horus real. It simply means we don’t know yet, and nothing more.
The god of the gaps argument makes religious people look more arrogant than LeBron James with a hard-on. They simply cannot admit that there are things we don’t know yet. For them, we must always have an answer for everything. There are no mysteries in their world. That which cannot be explained is attributed to god, and no need for further exploration.
Thinking this way, denies the fact that this world is full of unanswered questions. Scientific exploration reminds me of the game Civilization. If you’ve ever played it, you’re probably familiar with the exploration part of the game, where tiles on the map are blacked out until a player reaches them. You never know what will be uncovered on each square, but it’s exciting to explore and find out. We’ve uncovered almost every inch of our real Earth, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t black tiles out there waiting to be revealed. The questions we answer with science, lead to new questions and more questions and the mysteries of our Universe are so plentiful that each one of us could spend our entire lives uncovering them and still not even make a dent in the endless expanse of unanswered questions. I admit we don’t know a lot of things, because it’s exciting. When we discover new answers, it’s like the blacked out tile turning to full colour and revealing an ancient settlement or a resource or a pile of angry villagers. On the flipside, looking at these tiles and insisting that because no one else can explain what’s under the blackness, it must mean that your wild guess about what is there is right, is more absurd than Charlie Sheen’s idea of “winning”. If you don’t explore that blacked out tile because you’re sure you know what’s there, you’re choosing ignorance willfully.
The second thing wrong with the Chopra Challenge, is that it goes ahead and assumes that atheism is more than just a lack of belief in god. By targeting the atheist community in this challenge, Deepak is saying that we don’t believe in anything at all, not just god. His assumption, I think it’s pretty clear, is that somehow the human thought process must be attributed to the supernatural or spiritual world which all atheists do not believe in. Of course, he’s desperately wrong. There are spiritual atheists, atheists who believe in all sorts of supernatural crap. Albeit many don’t, the only thing we all have in common, is the lack of a belief in god based on poor evidence. Atheism is nothing at all but a response to the claim that there is a god. It makes no statements about ghosts, witches, magic, the spirit world, the astral plane, psychic powers, etc. To target the atheist community in this challenge, is to make very clearly his deep lack of understanding of what atheism is. I’ve always believed it takes a set of nards to stand up and tell the world you don’t understand something. Those nards have clearly crawled back up into Deepak’s Chopra, though, because not only can he not admit that he doesn’t understand what an atheist is, he makes clear his lack of understanding while talking as though he does understand it.
In a blog post, Deepak says,
Without a doubt we live in a skeptical age, and it affects everyone. To doubt is a tool for finding truth, but like every positive value, there are pitfalls. Skepticism, of the kind advanced by characters as diverse as James “The Amazing” Randi, Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, and Jerry Coyne, does far more harm than good.
While I agree that there are pitfalls in the skepticism community, skepticism itself is healthy. There are things that you should not be skeptical about. For instance, if you’re a man who’s been married to his wife for a long time, and had no indication of any unfaithfulness on her part, you should not question your fatherhood when she becomes pregnant. This sort of skepticism is destructive. However, when there is good reason to doubt something, then you absolutely should. Lack of evidence that something exists, is a great reason to doubt it. There is no evidence that the spirit world is somehow responsible for our thoughts. The existence of our thoughts is only evidence for our thoughts.
What makes this movement [new atheism] particularly strange is that there is no real need for it to exist.
Right. Of course not. We should just be fine with 13 countries being able to punish us with death, or 8 states not allowing us to run for office, or sending our kids to schools that teach lies, or women not being viewed as equals and being forced to do things with their body that they don’t want to. Sure, no reason at all to stand up to any of that.
Does anyone seriously believe that our current problems arise from too much reliance on faith in God?
Oh, Deepster, honey. Yes, many people seriously believe that some of our current problems arise from too much faith in God. How can you not? The single most destructive force in this world today, is overpopulation, and yet we still have vacuous Bible brains running around screaming about how sinful contraception is. These asshats even travel to developing countries struggling with overpopulation and starvation under the guise of doing “god’s work”, to spread the word there that contraception is wrong. The very thing that could save us all and our incredible, wondrous planet so full of mysteries, is being vilified by the army of god. Religion, in my opinion, is the force that will end us unless we do something about it.
Deepak blabbers on for a couple of more paragraphs about his unproven mysticism, which can be whittled down to nothing more than a tingle in his nuts, before he says that this challenge is a direct attack on materialism. Because if we can’t prove that something comes from material effectively today, then clearly it cannot be material, right?
Wrong. Chopra, all you’re doing with this challenge is showing the rational world how very little you actually understand. While your nipples are likely to end up on Oprah’s favourite things list when she runs out of your insipid books to hawk, you will be remembered in history like the bloodletters of medieval times or the witch hunters of Salem; you’ll be remembered as an hysterically inaccurate, self-important soothsayer.