Monday, February 19, 2007

The Left: Tomorrow's Creationists

As the Book of Revelation warned us, the First Trumpet shall be sounded by Deepak Chopra.

Now, that day has come to pass. And the ultimate battle between science and religion has begun. But unlike the battle over creationism, this time, much of the left will line up to oppose science. Chopra has volunteered to lead them.

I discussed a while ago how the sequel to the creationism battle will be the battle over the (alleged) human soul. Our increasing understanding of the brain (and ergo the mind) is rendering the concept of a soul obsolete, absurd and quaint.

Unfortunately, a lot of people on the left don't take kindly to the scientific concepts underlying this assault on the soul, and all the warmfuzzy infantilized nonsense that accompanies souls. Enter Deepak Chopra. In a two-part posting at Huffington Post, Chopra takes on the single discipline currently posing the greatest threat to the soul: Evolutionary biology.

For someone with his reputation and presumably enormous brain, Chopra makes a lot of kindergarten-level mistakes not just about the specifics of evolutionary biology, but also in his reasoning.

What's most interesting is that he seems blind to just how well his reasoning parallels the reasoning of creationists. Consider this statement: "...let me take one issue, the claim of evolutionary biology to explain something as complex as generosity, altruism, or music. Such claims are thoroughly bogus. They do not invalidate the whole field of evolutionary biology. they simply step over the boundary of believable explanations."

Even today, creationists still argue that the claim of evolution to explain something as complex as the eye is thoroughly bogus; it simply steps over the boundary of believable explanations. As Marc Maron has summarized this reasoning: "I don't understand it; it must be magic."

And, of course, evolutionary biology makes no claim to causal exclusivity. In other words, it certainly does not reject, as Chopra implies, the impact of "culture, human values, religion, and philosophy."

After all, it's those cultural forces that help shape whether a trait--such as generosity--is beneficial or detrimental to survival. (And, as I'm sure he'd hate to hear, those cultures, values, religions and philosophies were all shaped in part by evolutionary biology...just ask the multitudinous anti-contraception Catholics, or try to find one of the remaining pro-celibacy Shakers and ask them.)

So what's Chopra's real beef? He wants to maintain an irreducible aspect to humanity's mental aspect. Another word for that is the soul.

And a lot of people on the left will sympathize with him. They'll buy into the childish notion that there's something romantic--as opposed to awful and creepy and prima facie paradoxical--about the soul. They'll claim that advocates of evolutionary biology are pushing eugenics or some other immoral viewpoint. They'll say that those who would explain bad behaviors (such as rape, violence, hatred) are in fact excusing them. They'll say lots of these things.

And in doing so, they'll be the next generation of creationists. And they'll help impede the advance of science. And they'll hurt our country as a result (see here and here).

Unless we make it clear it's time to declare a winner in the battle between religion and science.

2 comments:

Joshua said...

Fortunately, despite his venue at HuffPo, I don't think anybody really takes Deephack Copraphiliac very seriously, aside from the loonie new agers who have always thought science was evil anyway.

I agree that this kind of muddle-brained new age philosophy is a major problem with the left, though, and it's certainly not helping us win the war of reason versus magical thinking. Still, the same forces that fight the right's creationism and ID are already arrayed and prepared to smack down the Chopras of the world. In fact, a lot of the Sciencebloggers have already done so.

Jose said...

The article is a load of bunk. It's a useful reminder that the "left" aren't free from magical thinking. Lefty magical thinking is easier to ignore because it's all over the place and a bit less obnoxious.

I'm not a big fan of magical thinking myself but if I had to chose between a whole bunch of reiki enthusiasts and people who think nuking Iran would make the world a better place I'd happily take the former.

Btw, judging by the Huffpo comments Deepak's article wasn't well recieved which is encouraging.

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