Woo Woo is a Step Ahead of Bad Science

Rah, rah, Deepak Choprah, “King of Woo Woo” for taking on Skeptic Michael Shermer (former fundamentalist Christian) now the “King of Pooh Pooh”. Here’s the very latest volley in the ongoing war between religion and science…(a useless war since they actually coexist and overlap, ya know!)
By Deepak Chopra
Sunday December 27, 2009

It used to annoy me to be called the king of woo woo. For those who aren’t
familiar with the term, “woo woo” is a derogatory reference to almost any
form of unconventional thinking, aimed by professional skeptics who are
self-appointed vigilantes dedicated to the suppression of curiosity. I get
labeled much worse things as regularly as clockwork whenever I disagree with
big fry like Richard Dawkins or smaller fry like Michael Shermer, the
Scientific American columnist and editor of Skeptic magazine. The latest
barrage of name-calling occurred after the two of us had a spirited exchange
on Larry King Live last week <http://bit.ly/5AlD31>. Maybe you saw it. I was
the one rolling my eyes as Shermer spoke. Sorry about that, a spontaneous
reflex of the involuntary nervous system.

Afterwards, however, I had an unpredictable reaction. I realized that I
would much rather expound woo woo than the kind of bad science Shermer
stands behind. He has made skepticism his personal brand, more or less,
sitting by the side of the road to denigrate “those people who believe in
spirituality, ghosts, and so on,” as he says on a YouTube video. No matter
that this broad brush would tar not just the Pope, Mahatma Gandhi, St.
Teresa of Avila, Buddha, and countless scientists who happen to recognize a
reality that transcends space and time. All are deemed irrational by the
skeptical crowd. You would think that skeptics as a class have made
significant contributions to science or the quality of life in their own
right. Uh oh. No, they haven’t. Their principal job is to reinforce the
great ideas of yesterday while suppressing the great ideas of tomorrow.

Let me clear the slate with Shermer and forget the several times he has
wiggled out of a public debate he was supposedly eager to have with me. I
will ignore his recent blog in which his rebuttal of my position was
relegated to a long letter from someone who obviously didn’t possess English
as a first language (would Shermer like to write a defense of his position
in Hindi? It would read just as ludicrously if Hindi isn’t his first

With the slate clear, I’d like to see if Shermer will accept the offer to
debate me at length on such profound questions as the following:

  • Is there evidence for creativity and intelligence in the cosmos?
  • What is consciousness?
  • Do we have a core identity beyond our biology, mind, and ego?
  • Is there life after death? Does this identity outlive the molecules through which it expresses itself?

The rules will be simple. He can argue from any basis he chooses, and I will
confine myself entirely to science. For we have reached the state where
Shermer’s tired, out-of-date, utterly mediocre science is far in arrears of
the best, most open scientific thinkers — actually, we reached that point
sixty years ago when eminent physicists like Einstein, Wolfgang Pauli,
Werner Heisenberg and Erwin Schrodinger applied quantum theory to deep
spiritual questions. The arrogance of skeptics is both high-handed and
rusty. It is high-handed because they lump brilliant speculative thinkers
into one black box known as woo woo. It is rusty because Shermer doesn’t
even bother to keep up with the latest findings in neuroscience, medicine,
genetics, physics, and evolutionary biology. All of these fields have opened
fascinating new ground for speculation and imagination. But the king of
pooh-pooh is too busy chasing down imaginary woo woo.

Skeptics feel that they have won to the high ground in matters concerning
consciousness, mind, the origins of life, evolutionary theory, and brain
science. This is far from the case. What they cling to is nineteenth-
century materialism, packaged with a screeching hysteria about God and
religion that is so passé it has become quaint. To suggest that Darwinian
theory is incomplete and full of unproven hypotheses, causes Shermer, who
takes Darwin as purely as a fundamentalist takes scripture, to see God
everywhere in the enemy camp.

How silly. Shermer is a former Christian fundamentalist who is now a
fundamentalist about materialism; fundamentalists must have an absolute to
believe in. Thus he forces himself into a corner, declaring that all
spirituality is bogus, that the sense of self is an illusion, that the soul
is ipso facto a fraud, that mind has no existence except in the brain, that
intelligence emerged only when evolution, guided by random mutations,
developed the cerebral cortex, that nothing invisible can be real compared
to solid objects, and that any thought which ventures beyond the five senses
for evidence must be dismissed without question.

I won’t go into detail about the absurdity of such rigid thinking. However,
the impulse behind dogmatic materialism seems intended to flatten one’s
opponents so thoroughly that through scorn and arrogance they must admit
defeat, conceding that science is the complete refutation of all preceding
religion, spirituality, psychology, myth, and philosophy — in other words,
any mode of gaining knowledge that arch materialism doesn’t countenance.

I’ve baited this post with a few barbs to see if Shermer can be goaded into
an actual public debate. I have avoided his and his follower’s underhanded
methods, whereby an opponent is attacked ad hominem as an idiot, moron, and
other choice epithets that in his world are the mainstays of rational
argument. And the point of such a debate? To further public knowledge about
the actual frontiers of science, which has always depended on wonder, awe,
imagination, and speculation. Petty science of the Shermer brand scorns such
things, but the greatest discoveries have been anchored on them.

If you are tempted to think that I have taken the weaker side and that
materialism long ago won this debate, let me end with a piece of utterly
nonsensical woo woo:

“Nobody understands how decisions are made or how imagination is set free.
What consciousness consists of, or how it should be defined, is equally
puzzling. Despite the marvelous success of neuroscience in the past century,
we seem as far from understanding cognitive processes as we were a century

That isn’t a quote from “one of those people who believe in spirituality,
ghosts, and so on.” It’s from Sir John Maddox, former editor-in-chief of the
renowned scientific journal Nature, writing in 1999. I can’t wait for
Shermer to call him an idiot and a moron. Don’t worry, he won’t. He’ll find
an artful way of slithering to higher ground where all the other skeptics
are huddled.


Futurist Kurzweil Predicts How Technology Will Change Humanity by 2020

This is really intriguing stuff — in ten years we will not stare at glowing screens on our computers or iPods or whatever  because special glasses will beam the information/screen/images directly onto our retinas. It’ll be just like Star Trek where you see holographic worlds and it feels like you’re really living it.  In just ten years! And then by 2030 they’ll be able to reprogram our genes like we reprogram our computers! No more fat cells, even cancer cells might be on their way out. — +Katia


By Ray Kurzweil
New York Daily News
December 13, 2009


As we approach the end of the first decade of the new millennium, let’s consider what life will be like a decade hence. Changes in our lives from technology are moving faster and faster. The telephone took 50 years to reach a quarter of the U.S. population. Search engines, social networks and blogs have done that in just a few years time. Consider that Facebook started as a way for Harvard students to meet each other just six years ago; it now has 350 million users and counting.

Between now and 2020, the trend will continue, spreading cutting-edge technologies to every corner of the country and beginning to make innovations once consigned to the realm of science fiction real for millions of Americans. Specifically what can we expect? Solar power on steroids, longer lives, the chance to get rid of obesity once and for all, and portable computing devices that start becoming part of your body rather than being held in your hand.

What will drive all this accelerating change is precisely what has driven it this past half-century: the exponential growth in the power of information technology, which approximately doubles for the same cost every year. When I was an MIT undergraduate in 1965, we all shared a computer that took up half a building and cost tens of millions of dollars. The computer in my pocket today is a million times cheaper and a thousand times more powerful. That’s a billion-fold increase in the amount of computation per dollar since I was a student.

That incredible force — information technology that moves faster, then faster, then faster still — will power changes in every imaginable realm over the next decade.

Start with the basics. You’ve no doubt noticed that electronic gadgets are getting smaller and smaller; the iPod Shuffle holds 1,000 songs and weighs 0.38 ounces. Your phone is smaller than it was a few years ago and can do much more. By 2020, memory devices will be integrated into our clothing. And the very idea of a “smart phone” will begin to change. Rather than looking at a tiny screen, our glasses will beam images directly to our retinas, creating a high resolution virtual display that hovers in air.

That virtual display will be able to take over our entire visual field of view, putting us in a three-dimensional full immersion virtual reality environment. We’ll watch movies virtually and read virtual books. A lot of our personal and business meetings will take place in these 3D virtual worlds. The design of new virtual environments will be an art form. We’ll even have ways to touch one another virtually.

There are already beginning to be apps available for your iPhone or Android phone that allow you to look at a building and have the display superimpose what stores are inside it; Google Goggles, released last week, is the first free, widely-available version of such software. By 2020 we’ll routinely have pop ups in our visual field of view that give us background about the people and places that we’re looking at.

In other words, your memory will be constantly, instantaneously aided by the information available on the Internet. The two will begin to become indistinguishable.

How about energy? That doesn’t sound like an information technology. Fossil fuels, after all, are an early first industrial revolution, 19th century technology. But we are now applying nanotechnology — the science of essentially reprogramming matter at the level of molecules to create new materials and devices — to the design of renewable energy technologies such as solar energy. As a result, the cost per watt of solar energy is coming down rapidly and the total amount of solar energy is growing exponentially.

It has in fact been doubling every two years for the past  20 years and is now only eight doublings away from meeting all of the world’s energy needs.

When I shared this fact with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a few weeks ago, he asked, “but is there enough sunlight to double solar energy eight more times?” I responded that we have 10,000 times more sunlight than we need to do this. The prime minister announced an Israeli energy initiative the next day at the Israeli Presidential Conference based on our conversation, setting a 10-year goal to create the technologies to completely replace fossil fuels.

It’s not just the gadgets we carry around and the power we use to fuel our lives that are subject to what I call “the law of accelerating returns.”

Health and medicine, which used to be a hit or miss process, has now become an information technology.

We now have the software of life (our genes) and the means of upgrading that software. How long do you go without updating the software on your cell phone? Not long: it does it itself every few days or weeks. Yet we are walking around with obsolete software in our bodies that evolved thousands of years ago. Within 10 years, that will change.

Already today, there are over a thousand projects to change our genes away from disease and toward health, not just in newborns but in mature individuals. The Human Genome Project, which has catalogued our genetic material, was itself a very good example of the law of accelerating returns; the amount of genetic data that is sequenced has doubled every year and the cost has come down by half every year. We can now design health interventions on computers and test them out on biological simulators. These technologies are doubling in power every year and will be a thousand times more powerful in a decade.

By 2020, we will have the means to program our biology away from disease and aging, and toward significant advances in our ability to treat major diseases such as heart disease and cancer — an approach that will be fully mature by 2030.

We won’t just be able to lengthen our lives; we’ll be able to improve our lifestyles. By 2020, we will be testing drugs that will turn off the fat insulin receptor gene that tells our fat cells to hold on to every calorie.

Holding on to every calorie was a good idea thousands of years ago when our genes evolved in the first place. Today it underlies an epidemic of obesity.

By 2030, we will have made major strides in our ability to remain alive and healthy — and young — for very long periods of time. At that time, we’ll be adding more than a year every year to our remaining life expectancy, so the sands of time will start running in instead of running out.

No, it’s not going to be an entirely brave new world. Some things will look pretty similar in 2020. We’ll still drive cars — although they will have the intelligence to avoid many accidents and self-driving cars will at least be experimented with. All-electric cars will be popular. And in cities, don’t expect subways or buses to go away.

But in more and more ways big and small, hang in there and we’ll all get to see the remarkable century ahead.


Kurzweil is former recipient of the MIT-Lemelson prize, the world’s largest for innovation, and in 1999 was awarded the National Medal of Technology. He is the author of the books “The Singularity is Near” and “The Age of Spiritual Machines.”


NHNE Singularity Resource Page:

Singularity University:

NHNE Ray Kurzweil Resource Page:

Kurzweil New Book: “Transcend: Nine Steps To Living Well Forever”

Transcendent Man (movie):

The Singularity Is Near (movie):