Update #2 – 11/27/2011
The Twitterlords reinstated @DBagChopra last night. As near as I can tell, the suspension was due to it not being clear that the account was satire. Savour that for just a moment.
Update #1 – 11/15/2011
I neglected to mention that the term “Quantum Bullshitverse” is not my own, but was coined by Dianne. Too full of awesome not to use.
Those of you on The Twitters may have noticed that a new resident moved into town last week: @DBagChopra, issuing 140-character pellets from his Pez Dispenser of wisdom. The DBag is an alter ego of mine, and at the risk of self-promotion, I wanted to take a few minutes here to give you some background on why he’s hit the scene.
I had a minor incident with the real Dr. Chopra about a week ago. I was musing, to my tiny band of followers, that I didn’t think Dr. Chopra could pass a Turing Test. Much to my surprise, he responded, and we had a brief exchange — polite if antagonistic – following which he blocked my account. I had a bit more fun at his expense that morning, and it would have ended there but for one comment from a follower:
Now, skeptics have taken Dr. Chopra to task on many legitimate issues: his promotion of dubious medical treatments; a dualist philosophy at odds with 30 years of research in the cognitive sciences; and his mischaracterizations of quantum physics to support his view of health, consciousness, and the structure of the universe. Important work has been done by important people within our community to debate Dr. Chopra on the merits of those arguments, and I think you’ll be hard-pressed to find a skeptic who gives him much credence. Personally, having long since been convinced of the wrongheadedness of his worldview, I mostly find him rather ridiculous.
But that’s not the case outside of the skeptic community. In the popular imagination, as Dan Gardner points out, Dr. Chopra remains a respected figure. He’s a medical doctor. He’s written dozens of books that have been read by millions. He speaks and lectures globally. He’s a frequent contributor to the Huffington Post. And his media footprint is only expanding, with the announcement this month of both a publishing deal with Amazon and a new video game for XBOX 360 and Wii.
In the war of popular perception, the tools of skepticism – reason, evidence, consensus science – are simply no match for this kind of reach. Frustrating as it may be, it simply doesn’t matter how cogently his positions are disputed if people like and trust him. And that, in a nutshell is why @DBagChopra came to life.
My hope is that through satire, more people can be made see how ridiculous Dr. Chopra really is. How much of what he says is better suited to a Hallmark card than an enlightened philosophy. And how at odds he is with what is substantiable about the universe we live in.
But in order to do that, The DBag has to first reach those masses. While I certainly hope the skeptical community gets more than a few laughs from this endeavour, my real aim is for you all share his “wisdom” with the less skeptical people in your lives. Humour is a unique tool with the power to cause us to think just a bit harder about things than we otherwise might, and this is really an attempt to harness that power to advance skepticism.
So retweet, forward, even Tumblog if you must. Let’s give @DBagChopra as much influence as his namesake.