Why? Well, it all goes back to statements like this one, from Chopra himself:
“Consciousness may exist in photons, which seem to be the carrier of all information in the universe.”Chopra is upset that evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne pointed out how absurd this statement is. More specifically, Coyne wrote that:
“[Chopra's] lucrative brand of woo is finally exposed as a lot of scientifically-sounding psychobabble.”Prof. Coyne’s main topic was another pseudoscientist, Rupert Sheldrake, but he also criticized Chopra, whom he called “Sheldrake’s American counterpart.” As a result, Deepak Chopra is very unhappy, as he makes clear in his very touchy response published last week in the New Republic. I didn’t know Deepak Chopra had such thin skin.
So how did he respond? Well, his entire indignant riposte is essentially a list of his credentials:
“I regularly write articles and books co-authored by full professors … at Harvard,” Chopra protests.And he tells us that he is regularly invited to give talks by conferences sponsored by Harvard Medical School, and he’s an Adjunct Professor in the business schools at both Northwestern and Columbia. And more!
With such impressive credentials, how can anything Chopra says can be wrong? But hang on a minute: Jerry Coyne is a Professor at the University of Chicago, and he got his Ph.D. in evolutionary biology at Harvard, under renowned biologist Richard Lewontin. So he must be right too!
What’s wrong with Chopra’s defense is that it’s a classic argument from authority, a logical fallacy that amounts to little more than saying “I have impressive credentials, so I must be right.” As Coyne explains in his rebuttal at the New Republic,
“Science doesn’t work that way. Scientists don’t defer to authority and credentials. We defer to the quality of one’s arguments and the evidence that backs them up.”Chopra's claim that photons have consciousness, I have to say, is the purest nonsense. Does Chopra even know what a photon is? (Doubtful: he’s been throwing around the term “quantum” for decades with apparently no understanding of what it means.) Chopra says this sort of stuff all the time; Coyne also gives us this example:
“The gaia hypothesis says nature does have a mind, that the globe is conscious.”So both photons and the entire planet are conscious. I can see why Coyne called this psychobabble. If Chopra doesn’t want to be ridiculed, he shouldn’t make ridiculous claims. (He also claims that telepathy is a serious research topic. Right.)
Chopra has become very wealthy spouting this kind of nonsense. His website heavily promotes his line of nutritional supplements, books, videos, and seminars (which he calls “meditation experiences”). He's particularly fond of Ayurvedic supplements, which he claims provide a wide range of vague health benefits. One example: $35 for a 25-ounce bottle of fruit juice called Zrii (or 2 ounces for $4.75). This is little more than modern snake oil.
Visiting Chopra's website is a deep dive into the world of pseudoscience. Jerry Coyne got this one exactly right - which is not surprising, because he went to Harvard.