In the span of about a decade, Richard Dawkins has elicited enough criticism to fill a small library. He’s been called “sexist,” “racist,” “irresponsible,” “divisive,” and “not a scientist,” among other names. But of all the bizarre critiques blown in Dawkins’ direction, none — and I mean none — even comes close to the El Niño of hot air that came whooshing out of the mouth of Deepak Chopra on Huffington Post Live on Tuesday.
Chopra, who to remind you is a huckster, immediately poisons the well by claiming that Dawkins says that “if you’re not a a militant atheist, you’re stupid.” Being familiar with Dawkins’ writings and talks, I can’t recall him saying anything like this. Furthermore, a search of the words, Richard Dawkins, militant atheism, and stupid, yields no results of the sort described by Chopra.
What ensues is a litany of straw men, half-truths, mumbo-jumbo, and obscurantist woo woo that the Long Island Medium could only dream of spewing:
“[Dawkins’] version of reality is what we call empirical reality: If you can see it, it’s real; if you can’t see it, it’s not real. But we know you can’t see your thoughts, feelings, emotions, desires, imagination, creativity, choice, and they’re real. Your inner world is real. So in [The Future of God], I talk about the visible domain, and then the subtle domain, which is the rich inner world that you experience, and then something that’s transcendent even to that. You know, there’s a non-local domain, which is the source. So what his version of reality is what is called naive realism. He has no idea of what reality is.”
Let’s be clear: empirical reality is the only reality; at least, it’s the only reality we can talk about coherently with one another because it’s composed of verifiable phenomena we can observe and test scientifically. Empirical reality isn’t Dawkins’ “version of reality.” It is reality. If Chopra wants to posit the existence of a transcendent state of being, he is entirely free to do so. Where he goes wrong is that he insists that there exists a non-material reality, which, by Chopra’s own description is “transcendent,” and therefore not provable. Chopra’s argument is basically this: Dawkins is wrong because I have so many feels.
And speaking of feels, does Chopra honestly think that Dawkins doesn’t acknowledge the reality of our feelings, thoughts, emotions, etc. because we can’t “see” them? Not even Wittgenstein in his early days took such a position. And any person who sincerely denies that thoughts are real would be holding an absurd position best treated by the strongest anti-psychotics that psychiatry has to offer.
But just when you thought the interview had reached Peak Chopra, the good doctor out-Chopra-ed himself in an answer to this question from a viewer: “Dawkins’ logic is based on evidence. What is your logic based on?”
Behold this New Age snake oil salesman at work:
“Where does evidence come from, ok? What empirical evidence is, is an expression of our consciousness. If we weren’t conscious, we wouldn’t experience reality. So what is more real? Is that what you see, or that which makes seeing possible? So [Dawkins] talks about logic and rationality. What is the source of logic and rationality? Why does the universe make rational sense to us? Ok, where does rationality come from, if not in consciousness? So unless you address the source of rationality, you’re talking about a rationality that’s bamboozled by the superstition of materialism.”
There are 10 sentences in his response and six of them are questions, which, by definition, are not answers. So let’s look at his response again, but this time without the questions:
“What empirical evidence is, is an expression of our consciousness. If we weren’t conscious, we wouldn’t experience reality. [Dawkins] talks about logic and rationality. So unless you address the source of rationality, you’re talking about a rationality that’s bamboozled by the superstition of materialism.”
Imagine you are lost in New York City and your only hope of finding your destination is by asking Deepak Chopra for directions. You’d probably get something like this:
“How do you get to Central Park from here, ok? Central Park is an expression of our consciousness. Can you take a taxi to this expression of consciousness? You could, but the West Side Highway may be congested. Do you take the 2 train? What about an Uber? It will be cheaper than a taxi. But will the driver murder you? We also need to consider the possibility of the A or the C train. What is the source of the transit system? Why does the transit system make sense to us? So unless you address the source of the transit system, you’re talking about a system that’s bamboozled by the superstition of materialism, when in reality Central Park does not physically exist and you can only arrive there by transcending empirical reality.”
Finally, Chopra intellectually demeans Dawkins and those who share his reality-based worldview, which is ironic considering in The Future of God, Chopra writes, “Dawkins has alienated even those who share his atheism because he arrogantly supposes that he took out the patent on rationality. No logic works but his.”
The best way to rebut Chopra here and conclude this piece is to leave you with an important message from Dawkins himself:
“If you base medicine on science, you cure people. If you base the design of planes on science, they fly. If you base the design of rockets on science, they reach the moon. It works, bitches.”