In eye-rolling news this week, New Age spiritualist author Deepak Chopra claimed, in the Huffington Post, that gravitational waves “are red herrings as far as understanding reality is ultimately concerned.” Chopra is known for using pseudo-scientific language to promote spirititual New Age ideas as fact. Among his outlandish claims is his belief that consciousness shapes reality, so much that he claimed to have caused an earthquake while meditating.
This latest article is an exercise in self-promotion of Chopra’s unproven ideas, while patronizing the hundreds of people who worked on the fantastic LIGO discovery. But the post also shows something really profound: Chopra has no idea how science and scientific method actually work.
Chopra and his two colleagues, Menas Kafatos and Rudolph Tanzi, said in the article, “the confirmation of gravitational waves wasn't a surprise or breakthrough in terms of understanding the universe. They fulfilled a prediction that was almost a century old, and most physicists fully expected them to exist.”
Even if every person on Earth agrees on an idea, until it is proven it remains just an idea. Science doesn’t care if your name is Albert Einstein or Peter Higgs. Every hypothesis needs to be tested, every theory needs to be confirmed over and over again. What we learn from science is just an approximation of the natural world. The more we learn the better we understand it, but we don’t know the consequences a single discovery could have as a whole. Einstein couldn’t predict that his discovery of the photoelectric effect would lead to digital cameras. Rutherford discovered the proton without knowing how proton beams are now used to fight cancer.
The existance of gravitational waves, from two merging black holes (illustrated), was confirmed last month. IFLScience/Chris Jones
The self-serving point (he’s got a new book out) of the article is that since we don’t know how consciousness works we cannot claim to understand reality. And if we don’t understand reality what’s the point in looking for gravitational waves? His pseudo-scientific spirituality focuses on our lack of understanding of how consciousness springs from brain activity.
“If you don't know how such activity produces consciousness, and then how it goes on to produce the image of a four-dimensional world, you can't claim to understand what reality actually is,” the article continues.
“Instead, you're like someone in the closed room who hears banging on the walls from outside. This banging can be measured in all kinds of ways, but everything you can say about it cannot be confirmed, because you'd have to escape the room to really find out what's going on.”
Reading this paragraph, people might see why Chopra’s tweets were used in a study that showed that meaningless profound-sounding bullshit is linked with lower intelligence.
The problem with his work is not the outlandish questions or the skepticism he brings to the table, those are always welcome in science. The issue is that he puts forward ideas without any backing evidence and without providing testable predictions, two cornerstones of the scientific method.
When he claims that light has consciousness and that genes victimize people, without any proof, he’s not interested in bringing forward the scientific discourse, only in selling his books.