Online since August 2002
Culture, Politics and Technology

Intelligent Design Quackery

Deepak Chopra, the physician turned New Age author and guru, says one's thoughts can stop aging and that yogis can fly – and I don't mean business class. Now Chopra, whose founded the Chopra Center at the La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, Calif., has spoken up in favor of intelligent design creationism.

"It's high time to rescue 'intelligent design' from the politics of religion," Chopra recently wrote on the Huffington Post blog. "There are too many riddles not yet answered by either biology or the Bible, and by asking them honestly, without foregone conclusions, science could take a huge leap forward."

DNA No argument here. All good scientists admit there are mysteries and holes in any scientific theory, including evolution. Since perfect scientific knowledge does not exist, there is always room for doubt and questions. So much for the alleged "dogmatism" of evolution. Scientists just don't think it makes sense to give up a theory that explains a lot in favor of a "theory" that explains nothing and isn't even scientific.

The trouble is that Chopra jumps from apparently innocuous questions, such as how does oxygen enter the body, to moonbat conclusions: "If the oxygen doesn't change physically – and it doesn't – what invisible change causes it to acquire intelligence the instant it contacts life?" he writes.

Here's another Choprism: "Consciousness may exist in photons, which seem to be the carrier of all information in the universe" (tinyurl.com/e2gtd). Chopra also advocates something he calls "Ayurvedic" medicine and which the evidence-respecting medical establishment calls "quackery."

Intelligent oxygen. Conscious photons. Chopra must have overdosed on patchouli while contemplating his navel.

Biologist P.Z. Myers takes apart Moonbat Chopra's babble at Pharyngula. The perfect soundbite response to Chopra's gibberish came from science writer Carl Zimmer: "Excuse me while I chat with my flashlight."

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In a related development, six students at Calvary Chapel Christian School in Murrieta, Calif., are suing the University of California system in Los Angeles federal court. Some of their classes are not being accepted by the university, including those using creationist materials supplied by Bob Jones University, that bastion of pseudoscience which until recently banned interracial dating.

Supposedly, refusing to admit unqualified students discriminates against their religion. But no one is forcing Calvary Chapel Christian School to change its teachings. It's the students who wish to lower U.C.'s standards by forcing it to admit them, despite their being taught material rejected by the scientific community.

Research CCCS students, listen up: The U.C. system is a secular public university, not a church. You claim to want equal access. What you're really asking for is special rights to remain ignorant of what other students are required to learn. You want religious affirmative action.

The U.C. system is one of the world's most highly regarded academic institutions because of its rigorous academic standards. This makes a U.C. degree a gateway to jobs in the sciences, mostly notably in biology and biotechnology. A good understanding of evolution is essential to understanding biology.

Evolution is the unifying theme in biology, enormously productive a theory and supported by many lines of evidence. Here is a good summary: tinyurl.com/60qt. Lowering admission standards to appease these six students would hurt all students – including the ones who are suing. If they were admitted with their deficient knowledge, these students would be at a serious disadvantage and at risk of getting low grades.

The Calvary Chapel students have been ill-served by being sheltered from the real world of science. They should take remedial courses, then reapply. Or if they want to reject mainstream science and never encounter a thought that challenges their religion, they can always attend an institution like Bob Jones University.

However, these students' eagerness to attend U.C. indicates they know a UC diploma is a much more valued educational credential than one from the likes of Bob Jones University. They should reflect on why that is so.

Published September 2005

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