Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The "Uncertain" Deepak Chopra

This is going to be a really fun post. Gotta set it up a little bit, though.

A few years ago Deepak Chopra appeared on Lee Strobel's TV program "Faith Under Fire" opposite Christian apologist Greg Koukl to talk about the "future of faith." I have the show in QuickTime format and just had the occasion to watch it again the other day. It's a very instructive exchange, as Deepak Chopra feigns open-mindedness and Koukl demonstrates a vastly superior grasp of reason and logic.

But one of the funniest exchanges is when Chopra claims to "embrace" his own uncertainty. Actually on several occasions through the interview he champions his willingness to embrace his uncertainty, and points out proudly that in his books he talks about the "wisdom of uncertainty" and then later mocks Koukl by saying "That's the difference between you and me… you're certain and I'm not." Well, Koukl is quick to point out that Chopra has authored quite a number of books, all of which summon the reader to accept Chopra's spiritual solutions and world view and that, well, it would be unusual for someone who is "uncertain" to feel motivated to write and publish such books. Chopra's intellectual dishonesty is laid bare and, well, it's quite funny to watch.

Well, I started thinking… "What would Chopra's books look like if he was as uncertain as he claims?" Then I thought it'd be really funny to take a handful of Chopra's titles and alter them to reflect an author who really isn't sure of anything in particular. And so, I did just that. What follows are five of Chopra's book covers, actual vs. "altered", to demonstrate that Chopra's "open-mindedness" is merely a facade. He wants you to believe his way precisely because he thinks he's right.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Put The Secret to the Test

Now here's somethin' funny… I went fishin' on Saturday, April 25th, with my fishin' partner up on the Crooked River. Well, okay, THAT'S not very funny… but watch the relationship of this story to this "Law of Attraction" nonsense and, well, just play along. And if you missed it, read the previous post about "The Secret." This will make a lot more sense.

First off, I'm not that nuts about fishin' on the Crooked. Its very turbid water somehow subtracts from the overall feel of "trout fishing." Trout water should be CLEAR and CLEAN. But whatever. Point is, I don't look forward to fishing out there like I do the Fall River. In fact, you could say that I always have a negative thoughts about going out there. I've been skunked out there a lot… either that or all we catch are whitefish or a few very small trout. Whitefish just don't cut it. Catching one whitefish is only slightly better than not catching anything. Just slightly.

So, get this… on this occasion, my fishin' partner had been talkin' down the Crooked for the past week. He's got buddies that say the fishing's really been pretty bad there lately, with rumors of really low fish counts and that sort of thing. So why did go there? Well, we just decided not to take everyone's word for it, that we should find out for ourselves. And even though it's not my favorite place to fish, I'm willing to give it a try. But here's the key: I was expecting to do very poorly today. I was expecting to see no fish, get no strikes, I was expecting to get skunked. Now I ask you… how much more negative can you get?

Do you see this coming? Is this a good build-up? He, he.

So we met at Big Bend, right below Bowman Dam. Now for more negativity: We immediately noticed that the water was very high in the river. This compounded my negative expectations because the fishing is always much more difficult (if not completely hopeless) when the water is high. This is another reason why I love the Fall River… the level never changes. So we got wadered up and scampered down to a familiar hole. Within five minutes my partner had hooked a fish. Now for more negativity: He's playin' this fish and, well, from where I stood it seemed like it was acting more like a whitefish. Pulling deep, no acrobatics. And there are some big whiteys in the Crooked. So I'm thinkin' "Probably a whitefish… couldn't possibly be a trout, fishing's supposed to be lousy today!" but I kept watching and soon it was clear that, no, he had a beautiful rainbow on, about 17 inches. He landed the fish and we both admired it and then he handed the spot over to me and within another 10 minutes or so, I'd hooked another respectable rainbow, although probably only about 15 inches long. We each caught several fish in that hole, I had one on just for an instant that I'm sure would have approached twenty inches… He lept out of the water just after I set the hook and tossed the hook. Beautiful fish. I caught, oh, 6 or 7 fish there… the smallest was probably 12 inches… the biggest might've gone 16 inches. Then we moved upstream and found a broad flat filled with rising trout… I had fish swirling around me everywhere. I had several strikes that I missed, but also hooked and landed three more trout, this time on dry flies (and you don't get many opportunities to use dry flies on the Crooked!)

So what's the moral of the story? Well, in spite of my multiple, compounded "negative thoughts" about how that day would go, I had what is probably my second best day ever on the Crooked River. And if this Law of Attraction stuff had any merit at all, I would have gotten skunked because that's what I expected.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Secret About The Secret

We have to combat silly ideas constantly in this world, and one silly idea that needs this treatment is the so-called "Law of Attraction", also known as "The Secret."

I have extended family who are into this stuff big-time… they are convinced that these ideas are valid and that they actually work. As a result, my wife and I are exposed to these ideas on a regular basis, and we own a copy of Robin Byrne's book called "The Secret" and have read it. (My wife, God bless her, recorded a number of quite blatant contradictions in the book… perhaps at a later date I'll post those here.) In addition to that, about a year ago I had the dubious pleasure of sitting through an 8-hour seminar on the "Law of Attraction" led by Paul Martinelli and so I have a fairly good understanding of what is taught.

The over-arching doctrine in the "Law of Attraction" can be expressed this way:

Every circumstance in your life is a product of your thoughts.

And the purveyors of this doctrine are emphatic about that first part. Every circumstance. This is how they phrase it.

Unfortunately, some Christians are inclined to accept this teaching, not recognizing that what they're accepting is completely incompatible with Christianity. Here are three reasons why "The Secret" is incompatible with Christianity:

One reason is that the teachers of "The Secret" define success entirely by how wealthy you are. In the seminar I attended, Paul Martinelli declared proudly that "I love money." Martinelli scoffed at the idea that "money is the root of all evil." Of course, this misrepresents 1 Timothy 6:10 which does not say that money is the root of all evil, but rather that "the love of money is the root of all evil." Big difference. In a Christian world view, our success is not measured by how much money we accumulate. Jesus and the apostles were anything but wealthy and yet they were successful. We are told in Proverbs 23:4 "Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, cease from your consideration of it." Now this doesn't mean there's anything wrong with becoming wealthy… it merely means that wealth itself should not be your priority. But Paul Martinelli believes that the end game in life is to get rich and get rich quickly.

Just for reference, here's 1 Timothy 6:10:

For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

During the seminar, Mr. Martinelli said these words:

"Do not ask whether something is right or wrong. Just ask whether it will help you achieve your goals."

Another reason these ideas are incompatible with Christianity is that the God described in the Bible is denied. Rather, "God" is presented as the universe itself, pantheism, and is pictured as an impersonal 'force" that will give you the goods in the life if you just learn to tap into it. This is not God, this is god with a lower-case g. And, according to Mr. Martinelli, it doesn't matter what you think "god" is or what you call it. You can call it "The Source" or whatever. To Martinelli, god is whatever you want him to be and there is no objective truth concerning who or what God actually is. This is a pagan idea and is completely contrary to Christianity.

A third reason is that, well, Christianity has its roots in reality. Properly understood, Christianity makes sense and is logically consistent. The Law of Attraction has no roots in reality, its followers are divorced from reality, and it is logically inconsistent.

Let's examine the basic claim of "The Secret" and see what conclusions we might draw from it:

"Every circumstance of your life is a product of your thoughts."

Every circumstance, huh? Really? Okay… let's go with that. Eight-and-a-half years ago my first child was born, and 18 days later he died. Conner had Trisomy 13, an extra copy of the 13th chromosome. He was a circumstance of my life. And he was a circumstance of my wife's life. This tragic ordeal, then, was all a product of our thoughts. We caused it, you see. We killed our son. That's their view. Sound good to you?

Now the idea that I hear constantly from our extended family is that you can't think negatively about things because thinking negatively will bring about negative circumstances. Even Paul Martinelli expressed this view when he explained that he canceled an insurance policy on the basis that, well, having the policy was a manifestation of having negative thoughts about what might happen, and that if he just ditched the insurance and thought positively, everything would be hunky-dory. This is what these folks teach. I was there.

So… it appears that any thought you have about something which is negative, maybe some occurrence against which you could purchase an insurance policy, might actually cause whatever it is you were thinking about to actually become reality. This is what they teach.

Now… pay attention 'cuz this is gonna get confusing: What if the thought that I'm having is that some negative circumstance might manifest in my life if I think thoughts which are negative? Isn't that thought negative? And if it is, then doesn't that mean that I'm doomed to have the negative thoughts anyway, and that if I'm going to have the negative thoughts anyway, then am I not doomed to experience whatever negative circumstances that result? And, by the way, isn't my thought that I should avoid negative thoughts also a circumstance of my life? What negative thought produced that circumstance?

Instead, why shouldn't I think that my negative thoughts will produce positive circumstances in my life? Why be so negative in thinking that negative thoughts always produce negative circumstances? If your thoughts are where the "power" is, then why do I have to live with the idea that negative thoughts always produce negative circumstances?

If it's so important to avoid negative thoughts, then wouldn't this thought be much better to have:(?)

"I know that my negative thoughts will never bring about any negative circumstance in my life, and so I'm free to think what I want when I want without worrying that my negative thoughts might bring upon me negative circumstances"

Isn't that a much more positive, liberating and empowering way to think? Why live in fear all the time about having negative thoughts about things? Isn't that negative?

What we see here is that the Law of Attraction is self-refuting. It is not merely logically inconsistent, but it is logically incoherent. And yet, people are getting sucked into it by the millions.

Thanks a lot, Oprah.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Discrimination is Okay, if You're On the PC Side

So I caught this story on about the recent Miss USA pageant… apparently an openly-gay gossip blogger named Perez Hilton was a judge (who's brilliant idea was that? A gossip blogger gets to be judge?) and asked Miss California (Carne Prejean) whether she believed in gay marriage. Here is Miss California's reply:

"We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite. And you know what, I think in my country, in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there, but that's how I was raised."

Of course, I share Miss California's belief that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. It's too bad that she had to massage her answer so much, however. Obviously, she knew she was in hot water and was trying desperately to put forth her view with as little offense as possible. Kudos to her for that. But look at the fallout from this, and while you're looking, be thinking about how the gay rights advocates preach "tolerance" of alternate views.

Keith Lewis runs the Miss California competition, and he told that he was "saddened" by Prejean's statement:

"As co-director of the Miss California USA, I am personally saddened and hurt that Miss California believes marriage rights belong only to a man and a woman. I believe all religions should be able to ordain what unions they see fit. I do not believe our government should be able to discriminate against anyone and religious beliefs have no politics in the Miss California family."

Perhaps he meant that religious beliefs have no place in the Miss California family, or maybe a journalist mis-typed that. But no matter, I cannot help but notice Keith Lewis' intolerance of a religious/political view that is in opposition to his. So intolerant is he of this view, that he wants to keep it out of the Miss California family… whatever that means.

Apparently Miss California's answer sparked a shouting match in the lobby after the show. A gay man named Scott Ihrig had this to say:

"It's ugly, I think it's ridiculous that she got first runner-up."

Hmmm. So this gay man, who supposedly preaches "tolerance" wants to disallow Miss California from the first runner-up position based on the fact that her religious or political beliefs don't match his. How "tolerant" is that, Mr. Ihrig?

Again, I just cannot resist the sweet, sweet, irony of this. These people claim to be above any kind of moral judgment, and yet they are quick to make moral judgments according to their personal moral standard, such as it is. They want to set the moral standard and anyone who recognizes a higher moral standard is, by definition, immoral and deserves discrimination.

They preach "tolerance" and yet they are extremely intolerant of views which oppose their own.

What's even more disturbing is the fact that these intolerant bigots who are discriminating against Miss California will never be called on it in the major media. The articles will be all about Miss California's "intolerance" even though she was obviously struggling to present her opinion on the matter in the least offensive way she could.

People are going to have to realize that those who preach moral relativism are not really moral relativists. They merely pose as moral relativists when it suits them. Someone who prides themselves in not making moral judgments must refrain from making moral judgments themselves, don't you think? Someone who claims to believe that morality is defined by individual choice can't very well object to someone who has defined their own morality differently, can they?

What it comes down to is this: Either morality is really relative, or it's not. Since nobody seems to be able to live consistently as a moral relativist, since even those who claim to be moral relativists end up resorting to their own absolute moral standard and expecting everyone else to obey it, then I must conclude that morality is not relative.

The only true moral relativist, it turns out, is actually a sociopath.

Weakness, Schmeakness!

Timothy Sandefur is an atheist legal commentator who believes that it is unconstitutional to teach the weaknesses, along with the strengths, of evolutionary theory in schools. Consider this quote from Mr. Sandefur:

…to teach the (non-existent) “weaknesses” of evolution in a government classroom is almost always (a) contrary to the lesson plan—and therefore a violation of a teacher’s employment contract—or (b) in reality an attempt to teach creationism to school children as true...[t]he Establishment Clause forbids the government from declaring any religious viewpoint to be true.

The last statement is an example of secular culture's deliberate misreading of the U. S. Constitution. The "Establishment Clause" does not forbid the government from declaring any religious viewpoint to be true. What it forbids, clearly, is the government punishing anyone who chooses not to accept Christianity. In other words, the government must allow people freedom to believe what they are inclined to believe, even if it is different from the particular religious beliefs which founded this nation.

Secondly, to state that teaching scientific weaknesses in naturalist evolutionary theory qualifies as "teaching creationism" displays a supreme level of stubborn ignorance. Frankly, it just demonstrates that, in fact, there ARE serious weaknesses so much so that the other side is scared stiff at the thought of those weaknesses being exposed. They know damned good and well that the weaknesses are so huge, so intractable, that reasonable people will promptly realize the inadequacy of Darwinian theory at explaining much of anything concerning the origin of life. This is why they must deliberately misconstrue the 1st amendment. They have no other way of salvaging their theory. Since science is not on their side, they must rely on government to intervene. Shameful.

Now Mr. Sandefur apparently believes that there are no weaknesses in evolutionary theory. Hmmmm, that's funny… because if there truly were no weaknesses, then you would think that all evolutionary biologists would agree on the specifics of the evolutionary narrative. But they don't! In fact, in a U.K. "Guardian" article Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne explain this very thing in their article entitled "One Side Can Be Wrong":

Among the controversies that students of evolution commonly face, these are genuinely challenging and of great educational value: neutralism versus selectionism in molecular evolution; adaptationism; group selection; punctuated equilibrium; cladism; "evo-devo"; the "Cambrian Explosion"; mass extinctions; interspecies competition; sympatric speciation; sexual selection; the evolution of sex itself; evolutionary psychology; Darwinian medicine and so on. The point is that all these controversies, and many more, provide fodder for fascinating and lively argument, not just in essays but for student discussions late at night.

In the article, Dawkins and Coyne are arguing that, hey, there are so many controversies within evolutionary theory itself, we don't need to add any more controversies by teaching any alternate theories regarding origin of life. Here's another snippet:

This is not a scientific controversy at all. And it is a time-wasting distraction because evolutionary science, perhaps more than any other major science, is bountifully endowed with genuine controversy.

Now this is a funny quote because it contradicts itself… in one breath Dawkins and Coyne claim that there is no controversy, and then in the same breath turn right around and claim that it's full of controversy. Interesting. But the point is, if there is so much "genuine controversy" within evolutionary theory, if no one can agree about which specific evolutionary scheme best explains all the data, then there obviously are weaknesses. That is, there are legitimate questions about how evolution accomplished certain things and scientists are having some difficulty fitting it all together. Folks, that's a weakness, and a big one.

I get a kick out of the fact that people like Sandefur, Dawkins, Coyne and others essentially are advocating that we lie to students and pretend that there are no gaps in evolutionary theory. I get a kick out of the fact that, at the end of the day, a guy like me (a vociferous advocate of Intelligent Design and essentially a young-earth creationist) actually supports teaching more about evolution than the purveyors of the theory. The irony there is delectable, don't you think?