Deepak Chopra says it angers him that I and other skeptics call him Dr. Woo and accuse him of practicing "woo woo." But the first time I heard this phrase used in association with Chopra was from Deepak himself. Woo woo is the practice of stringing together scientific-sounding but meaningless words, such as "acausal nonlocal superposition of possibilities" and "quantum consciousness." Here's a gem of Deepakese from a debate we had on Larry King Live about "near-death experiences": "There are traditions that say the in-body experience is a socially induced collective hallucination. We do not exist in the body. The body exists in us. We do not exist in the world. The world exists in us." Or this nugget: "Birth and death are space-time events in the continuum of life. So the opposite of life is not death. The opposite of death is birth. And the opposite of birth is death. And life is the continuum of birth and death, which goes on and on." Unless such concepts can be attributed to an underlying causal mechanism in the brain subject to scientific testing, they are not science but pseudoscience.
Michael Shermer Altadena, California
Shermer is executive director of the Skeptics Society (skeplic.com) and author of Why People
Believe Weird Things, Why Darwin Matters and The Believing Brain.
I am disappointed that Chopra, who has contributed so much to the evolution of our culture, does not mention the source of much of his knowledge and insight, namely Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and Transcendental Meditation. You note in the introduction that "celebrities liked him, too: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Jackie Onassis...all came calling," but Maharishi certainly did not "come calling" to Chopra. It was precisely the opposite.
Fort Bragg, California
While I found much to like in Chopra's observations on pornography and Fox News, most of the interview left me cold. He dismisses critics such as Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins as "high school teachers" peddling "old science." What does that even mean? When you make claims regarding people's health and well-being you need to have evidence. Vague pronouncements supported by anecdotes are the foundation of religion but have no place in science. With regard to Chopra's belief that Barack Obama should be a one-term president, I agree with Bill Maher, who says anyone who takes this position must say who should replace him. The alternatives range from bad to awful to appalling. And as far as I can tell, none is able to unblock a chakra.
Andrew McEwan Dayton, Ohio