If you want to see a vivid exhibition of the sort of illogic that plagues arguments for the existence of god, look no further than Deepak Chopra’s latest baloney casserole in the San Francisco Chronicle. A salvo aimed at Richard Dawkins, Chopra’s op-ed is a mélange of fallacies, travesties, and general buffooneries that would be laughable were it not written by a doctor of medicine. Sadly, this is the type of thing we’ve come to expect from a man who’s forged a second career as one of the world’s premier peddlers of New Age bunkum.
In his piece, Chopra actually says that because god as a hypothesis can’t be tested, this fact “would serve if anything to help God,” and that because “disbelief has no data, measurements, or experimental conclusions on its side, either,” this means, “The playing field is even on that score.”
By Chopra’s reasoning — if it can be called that — the playing field would be “even” on many scores. Because disbelief in Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, chupacabras, gnomes, unicorns, ghosts, goblins, angels, jinns, hobbits, and blonkfonkers — which are perpetually randy pixies I just made up right now — doesn’t rest on data or measurements, we must, according to Chopra, conclude that the playing field is “even” in these cases. Therefore, shame on the a-Bigfootists who scoff at the notion of the creature’s existence. For they deny his being without having performed a single experiment.
Chopra is one of countless believers in the supernatural who thinks the inability to disprove a fantastical claim makes that claim tenable. But science, philosophy, and plain common sense don’t work this way. The existence of god is not an even money proposition, and those who claim such a being exists must be prepared to marshal some extraordinary evidence for their extraordinary claim. This is because the burden of proof rests with those who make the claim, and not with atheists. Contrary to what some believe, atheists do not — and indeed cannot — argue against god in a vacuum. The god proposition must exist in the first place. Thus, one doesn’t argue for atheism the way one argues for the existence of god, but rather, the atheist argues against the arguments that are advanced in favor a god.
Our woo woo guru also admonishes the reality-based community, saying it shouldn’t be so quick dismiss subjective experiences. This is fair to a point, but Chopra of course plows on well past it:
“Let’s say that thousands of people claim to have seen a ghost. Their experience isn’t disproved by arguing that the universe is made of atoms and molecules, rendering non-physical entities impossible. The actual experience of seeing a ghost must be met on its own terms. The same holds true for the millions of people across the centuries who claim to have an experience of God, heaven, the soul, the afterlife, and so on.”
This is an appeal to the personal, if not the mystical. As awe-inspiring as it may be to think about the possibility of supernatural phenomena such poltergeists and deities, not one shred of scientific evidence has ever been presented that suggests such things exist. Chopra is making a blatant appeal to emotion when he says that “millions of people across the centuries who claim to have an experience of God.” This being the case, any argument based on subjective grounds can be dismissed on subjective grounds. When someone says they think god exists because they can feel his presence, you can simply rebut it by saying you don’t think god exists because you feel his absence.
Chopra’s piece then concludes in a spectacular intellectual self-immolation when he unwittingly concedes that conceptually, god is a sham:
I am not saying that science is moving closer to God, only that the possibility of a conscious universe is very real in scientific terms. On that basis, the very things Dawkins defends so vociferously — reason, logic, data, experimentation — can be applied to reality beyond the five senses. In the future as science expands to in this direction, God will have to be redefined to fit a new conception of reality.
Tossing aside the prospect of a “conscious universe” (whatever that means), we see that for Chopra, god is a malleable thing, defined not by fixed characteristics, but its conceptual amorphousness. As science continues to explain more of our universe in naturalistic terms, god will have to be “redefined” as science proceeds apace with no need for god as an explanatory principle.
This is goalpost-moving at its most extreme, and it shows that Chopra’s god is so shapeless and devoid of substance, it can slip seamlessly through any gap, no matter how narrow it may be. That is to say as a proposition, it is essentially meaningless.