Deepak impact

By Phil Plait | April 7, 2010 10:00 am

Deepak Chopra is a peddler of nonsense, woo, and alt-med garbage. I’m not a fan — duh — so I missed his tweet which is causing a minor stir on the intertoobz:

Had a powerful meditation just now – caused an earthquake in Southern California.

Reading his tweets is like trying to read a book whirling around in a blender, but it does appear that he thinks he caused the earthquake in Baja the other day.

However, in a later tweet he said:

Some people were upset at my remarks re earthquake. Sorry about that. I was actually meditating when it happenned [sic] and thougt [sic]” Whoaaa!”

So either he was joking, and haha if he was, or he was serious. So if it’s the latter, y’know what I’d love to see? A class action suit against him. That’s right, the people of Mexico and southern California should sue Chopra because he caused a major earthquake! If you win, he goes bankrupt and we’ll never hear his quantum enmangled word salad again. And if you lose, it’s because he’s a charlatan.

I don’t see a downside here, frankly.

Comments (47)

  1. MarshallDog

    The downside would be if the suit gets thrown out of court (it sounds pretty frivilous) and Deepak peddles that decision as validation of his psychic powers. Then again, maybe the courts in Mexico wouldn’t consider such a lawsuit frivilous. There are courts in other countries that put people on trial for being sorcerors…

  2. Dan

    The thing that bothers me most about this is…

    Some people actually take him serious.

  3. alph

    I don’t know who Deepak Chopra is, but I lol’ed when I read the tweet ( or your copy of his tweet ). Are you sure it wasn’t a joke? Calling for a class action suit for something like this seems a little over the top.

    By the way, I am a regular reader of your blog ….. thanks for what you do.

  4. Lukas

    It was quite obviously meant as a joke. Not a particularly good joke, but still, I think we’re doing ourselves a disservice when we start debunking jokes :-)

  5. Douglas Troy

    Well, I’m super glad he came back and clearly said he did NOT, in fact, cause the earthquake. I’m sure everyone already knows that the LHC caused it, and any moment now, we’ll be sucked into a black hole.

    Yup.

    Any moment now …

    Any moment …

    Ok, I’m going to eat my lunch while we wait.

  6. Gary Ansorge

    5. Douglas Troy:

    In 1960 I was attending school at the American Community School in Beirut, Lebanon. My father took me to a lebanese friends house for lunch,,,three hours later,,,we finally finished.

    Now, that’s MY idea of a “waiting on the LHC black hole scenario” lunch,,,long, lazy and full of food.

    Dang, those Lebanese know how to eat.

    Gary 7

  7. Jim T

    Come on now, it’s a dumb joke made on twitter, get over it.

  8. IVAN3MAN AT LARGE

    Deepak Chopra cartoon (mildly NSFW): CLICK_HERE.

  9. Mchl

    You’re wrong. He quantum-ly caused it and not caused it at one time. Anyway, there was no such earthquake anyway, because Deepak was not even there to see it. He didn’t see it, so it did not happen! That’s applied quantum physics!

  10. m5

    …who’s the real animals?

  11. Remember Hugo Chavez saying that the Americans caused the Haiti earthquake? (http://bit.ly/6ByLjM) He didn’t specify how they did it, but it might have been Chopra.

    To all you meditators out there: try to have quiet thoughts, please.

    Of course, wherever scientists throw up their hands, charlatans of every stripe are free to roam. And one of the things that really baffles scientists is earthquake prediction. Hence all the legitimate confusion about whether animals can predict them: http://bit.ly/cyKEap

  12. Heather

    In my family when I was a child, “meditation” referred to a biological process that took place in a closed bathroom (preferably with the fan on.) That was said so much that whenever I see the word “meditation” my brain automatically thinks of that, and then goes to the more traditional meaning of the word.

    So when I read his tweet, my first reaction (especially with the word “powerful”) was: “Oh my god, what did he eat?!?!?”

  13. I think Chopra is on a mission to make it ever easier for skeptics to dissect his pseudoscience. How else can you explain this attempt at “humor?”

  14. MichaelL

    Methinks thou dost protesteth too much…

    Obviously this was meant as a joke. The guy might be out there, but he’s not that stupid.

  15. Gareth

    It must have been an attempt at humour, surely. I know Chopra has come out with some idiotic stuff, but it does sound like the sort of thing someone might say in jest.

  16. Jim, alph, MichaelL, Gareth…

    Please note the “humor” tag I used. Do people seriously think I am imploring taking up a lawsuit against Chopra? Well, at least you’re in good company with misunderstanding my humor.

  17. Jim T

    Smackdown acknowledged

  18. IVAN3MAN AT LARGE

    Phil Plait:

    Please note the “humor” tag I used. [...] Well, at least you’re in good company with misunderstanding my humor.

    Americans don’t understand humour, only “humor”. ;-)

  19. IMO the title for this page should have been Deep Impak

  20. I wish I could make as much money saying such silly things as Deepak… Sadly I have standards and integrity.

  21. Nivi

    Saw this on Pharyngula as well. What a moron! Looks like he did mean it as a joke, but it’s a very lame one.

  22. Follow me here:

    We might think Chopra’s “joke” about causing an earthquake was tasteless, but recall that Chopra is the master of manipulating quantum electrodynamics with mere thought – because he says so when I’m told he’s apparently not joking – and, from Professor Farnsworth we know that electrons taste like grape-ade (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_University). So, in fact, it wasn’t tasteless at all! Who knows what the various flavors Chopra experienced when manipulating reality into something where that joke might have actually been funny and not epically moronic, but my bet is that it tasted sort of like eating a whole mouthful of Skittles. Certainly I know that I find whatever he says to be hard to swallow.

  23. G Williams

    “I don’t see a downside here, frankly.”

    Perhaps because you aren’t considering the (potentially millions) in legal fees such an action could cost the litigants, not to mention that it would contribute to the already great cost of frivolous lawsuits on the American public, and the damage such lawsuits do to what respect is left for the court system.

  24. If it had been said by someone else, people might have more readily recognized it as a joke or some such silliness. But since it came from someone we see regularly making outlandish claims and engaging in sloppy thinking, it gives us pause. It seems entirely within the realm of possibility that Deepak was being sincere in his claim of causation.

    My first instinct was to see if this was a hoax story. No. Then I thought, maybe someone hijacked his Twitter account. It doesn’t seem so. Then I thought, maybe he was kidding around. I mean, I want to give him the benefit of the doubt, even though he has given many reasons not to. Could he really be making the causal connection between his behavior and geological events? Really?

  25. Aerimus

    Well, the current tweet up is “According to Gallup a country’s GDP is directly correlated to the Well Being of its citezens. Be healthy and you will be wealthy too”, showing that at the very least, he suffers from the same failure to grasp that correlation != causation.

  26. So either he was joking, and haha if he was

    Some people may have missed this part.

  27. Anderson

    Can’t believe an article was posted on this. It was a joke in bad taste. I think you’re crazier than Chopra for looking into this and bringing it into the light.

  28. Phil: It would be funny they did.

    MarshallDog : The downside would be if the suit gets thrown out of court (it sounds pretty frivilous) and Deepak peddles that decision as validation of his psychic powers.

    How? It would only get thrown out if the court were convinced that he didn’t cause the quake, which would be an invalidation of his psychic powers. It would be a frivolous lawsuit based on his frivolous claim of causing the quake. At least we (the critics) could say, “See, Chopra’s confession is not taken seriously in a court of law.” How many cases against murder suspects who offer public confessions (on something like Twitter) are dismissed?

    Yes, it was a joke, but not in good taste, given the number of deadly quakes that we’ve seen in recent months and the death tolls. I suggest Chopra get back in touch with the cosmic consciousness so that he can strengthen his compassion for the suffering of others.

  29. Catelli

    Perhaps because you aren’t considering the (potentially millions) in legal fees such an action could cost the litigants, not to mention that it would contribute to the already great cost of frivolous lawsuits on the American public, and the damage such lawsuits do to what respect is left for the court system.

    Still not seeing a downside. Only added benefits.

  30. Three hours after he tweeted that he had caused the earthquake he tweeted:

    On further reflection correlation is not causation :)

    OK. It took him a little while, but he got what the rest of us thought… um… immediately. So was it a joke to begin with?

  31. The thing about Chopra joking about the quake is that, given everything we know about him, it seems entirely plausible that he was serious. It wouldn’t be the least bit surprisingly if he had been serious. It’s difficult to discriminate his lunatic jokes from his lunatic serious statements. He’s a classic Reverse Poe.

  32. G Williams (#23): I should’ve considered that, and I feel terrible, simply awful. Tell you what: those people can sue me instead. Then I can sue Chopra, and then… let’s see… oh! I’ll sue Chopra again! That way the money can pop out of the quantum foam and be held stable by his mighty mind powers, and we all win!

    Who’s with me?

  33. Miguelitrus

    Greetings from Mexico.

    Unfortunately, a class action suit is impossible in Mexico because Mexican laws do not acknowledge that legal mechanism. Any suit against Deepak Chopra for causing the Baja California earthquake with his meditation will only be admitted individually.

    However, there is motive to suspect that the alleged Chopra’s claim, serious or not, would be deemed frivolous. Besides we all know that, according to Pat Robertson, earthquakes and poverty are caused not by trascendental meditation, but by pacts with the devil (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5nraknWoes).

  34. You misspelled his name. I believe it’s “Deebag Chopra”.

  35. jcm

    Now, if he could just make his followers realize that they’re being taken for a ride from a (professional) snake oil salesman.

  36. Anonymous

    Deepak Chupacabra.

  37. Monkey

    Ill be your lawyer. Im a science teacher……..but im sure law cant be that hard?
    :)

    Im in….if he has mental powers of that nature, and chose to use them for negative purposes then it is a legal offense. Sue, baby, sue.

    And to those who claim “he cant be that stupid”. Well, yes, he can. And is. And forever will be.

  38. Gary Ansorge

    18. IVAN3MAN AT LARGE

    This is the land of Charlie Chaplin, so our humour tends toward the slapstick,,,

    Ah, correlation vs causation. Reminds of an old DeadHead story. The Dead were playing,as I recall, in Portland, Oregon and just as they swung into “Fire on the Mountain”,,,Mt St Helens blew its top.

    Nobody blamed THEM for it.

    GAry 7

  39. tudza

    Well, both the cause of this post and the post itself may be “jokes” and we don’t understand your “humour”, but really, this post is directly above a very serious court related issue involving Simon Singh yes? Its very position in my RSS reader causes me to mark this as being in bad taste.

  40. Pan

    You don’t see a downside to the state of California creating a legal precedent that acknowledges that someone can cause earthquakes by meditating?

  41. Zucchi

    When I was in California a few months ago, I met a married couple (from New Zealand, but living in SoCal) who were convinced the husband was preventing California earthquakes with his mind.

    They recently moved to Las Vegas, and I’m sure they’ll take this earthquake as a validation. (They also believed in every sort of pseudoscience and New Age bullshit.)

  42. Chris K

    I recognise that Phil is just cracking a joke but I think the skeptic community has been a bit over-zealous in jumping on what was clearly meant as a tongue-in-cheek comment. Deepak Chopra is an irritating woo merchant but that doesn’t mean we have to take even stupid jokes as a chance to lay into him.

    If Hitchens or someone else made a similar sort of comment and the other side jumped on it I’m sure skeptics would be quick to point out what a humourless lot the believers are. In this case though I think it’s the skeptical community thats being sour faced.

    Deepak’s comments might not have been funny but he is entitled to make a bad joke.

  43. Cindy

    38. GAry7,

    What were the Dead doing playing at 8:32 AM on a Sunday morning (time and day of the week of the Mt. St. Helen eruption)? Even for a Dead concert, that would be a rather long one. ;-)

  44. fred edison

    Perhaps we need to license and regulate powerful meditator’s like Chopra. More people than ever are meditating and earthquakes are on the rise. Just saying.

    The video link isn’t a discussion about earthquakes caused by a mind-wave quantum shift realignment of life-force energy in the sentient universe, but you’ll get the idea. Hint: fuzzy words.

    Chopra and Shermer.
    http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/FaceOff/

  45. Thus is the new religion of the new Socialist state here in the USA and the old one in Europe. Socialism, New Age and double speak. That’s what we’ve got now.

  46. Many people can cause destruction from the progression of thier thoughts. The TRUE test of power is ‘Correcting the destruction” to create harmoney again !!

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