Apr 24, 2013

TED Finds Deepak Chopra's Lost Talk

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

As discussed, one of Deepak Chopra's criticisms of TED's censorship referred to his own talk, in which he rebutted Richard Dawkins in 2002. He apparently shamed Chris Anderson into retrieving it from the vault of hidden ideas. He has posted it, but in "the naughty corner" like Graham Hancock's and Rupert Sheldrake's talks. As with those, it's in an unembeddable format. It also comes complete with snark and insulting framing about its "misleading" science. But at least we get to hear it and I now have. I also forced myself to sit through the Dawkins talk he was responding to, which can be found here. It's actually titled "Militant Atheism." Wow.

Chopra's write-up on the restoration of the talk is here. His talk turns out to be mystical in orientation, arguing that where science is failing is in viewing the universe as separate from the observer. His quote of Krishnamurti thoroughly won me over.

A Christian fundamentalist was once conversing with the noted India spiritual teacher, J. Krishnamurti.

"The more I listen to you, the more convinced I am that you must be an atheist," the fundamentalist said.

"I used to be an atheist," Krishnamurti replied, "until I realized that I was God."

The fundamentalist was shocked. "Are you denying the divinity of Jesus Christ?"

Krishnamurti shrugged. "I've never denied anyone their divinity. Why would I do it to Jesus Christ?"

That the audience laughed at this anecdote while militant atheists scowled, seeing an imminent danger to sanity, reason, science, and public safety, shows how far apart two worldviews can be. But I persist in believing that an expanded science will take consciousness into account, including higher consciousness. Until it does, our common goal, to understand the nature of reality, will never be reached. A universe that we aren't participating in makes no sense, and our participation takes place at the level of consciousness, nowhere else.

And so it becomes apparent why this talk would go afoul of TED's rules, at least as they have recently defined them. It fuses "science and spirituality" -- that thing Chris Anderson can't really seem to decide if he does or doesn't want.

I could not help noticing that his talk also focuses a great deal on non-locality of consciousness, which, as discussed, seems to be the recurring theme amongst TED's targeted speakers.

Dawkins's talk starts out reasonably enough, arguing for evolution to be taught in schools. He even acknowledges that many religious leaders are fully on board with the theory of evolution and are some of its strongest proponents. So far so good. But minutes in he reverts to his characteristically nasty, insulting self.

But here I want to say something nice about creationists. It's not something I often do so listen carefully. I think they're right about one thing. I think they're right that evolution is fundamentally hostile to religion. I've already said that many individual evolutionists like the Pope are also religious but I think they're deluding themselves. I believe a true understanding of Darwinism is deeply corrosive to religious faith.

And he's off and running. Atheists are the smart people. Religious people aren't. Blah, blah, blah...

In a stunningly absurd attempt to turn creationist theory on its head, he winds up arguing the exact same thing in reverse. Creationists argue that creation is too complex not to have a designer. Silly creationists, argues Dawkins. Any creator complex enough to design all this while doing all the other things he's expected to do is inconceivable because it would compound the problem of complexity. Darwinism is simple and elegant, therefore it must be true. Creationism is too complex to be true reasons Dawkins and without a trace of irony.

Dawkins explains that his idea for stopping creationists is to "attack religion as a whole." For someone looking for simple, elegant solutions to difficult questions, such a Herculean task seems out of character.

So in a TED talk, you can't combine "science and spirituality" but apparently you can combine science and anti-spirituality. It's perfectly acceptable to verbally bludgeon people for their spiritual beliefs using the "language of science" and to "present one [anti-]spiritual view as the 'truth.'"

As I always am with Dawkins, I'm struck by how much he sounds like a religious fanatic. Here, he expresses his lack of patience with the noncommittal nature of agnosticism -- echoes of the condemnation of "lukewarm" faith I heard ad nauseum during my own flirtation with evangelical Christianity. (Revelation 3:14-17) And then of course there's the victimhood. Everybody thinks it's just fine to pick on the atheists! Atheists are marginalized, isolated, targeted. They're lonely. They're so lonely. Honestly he sounds like Bill Donohue.

I also note that he pitched his books in this lecture, albeit with wink and a nudge. And here I was given to understand that this is the ultimate no-no. Where's Al Meyers when you need him? I don't hear him calling Dawkins "sleazy."

Honestly, that this is what TED thinks is stellar enough for its main platform -- this angry, hate filled diatribe cloaked in soft-spoken, British, professorial tones -- is just another reminder that I'd rather traipse through the TED ghetto or listen to its discards. That's were the real "ideas" are spreading.

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