As [PZ](http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/11/chopra_go_play_with_steve_irwi.php) pointed out, Deepak Chopra is back with *yet another* of his clueless, uninformed, idiotic rants. This time, he’s written [an article trying to “prove” that there is an afterlife](http://www.intentblog.com/archives/2006/11/what_happens_af.html). Normally, when PZ comments on something like this, I have nothing to add; he does such a good job fisking
credulous morons. But this time, I actually have something to add.
We’ll start with the trivial, and move on to the egregious:
>Thousands of patients have died, almost always from heart attacks, and then been resuscitated who
>experience some aspect of the afterlife. One Dutch study put the percentage at around 20% of all
>such cases. Amazingly, these patients were brain dead, showing no electrical activity in the cortex
>while they were dead. Yet they experienced sights and sounds, met deceased relatives, felt deep
Yes, a whopping 1 in 5 people who’ve been “clinically dead” have had so-called “afterlife experiences”. If you’re trying to claim that we all have souls that continue to exist after our body dies, the fact that only 1 in 5 people who’ve *been* dead have experienced anything isn’t exactly compelling evidence for life after death. 1 in 5 people reporting an experience is a large enough number to say that people who have near-death incidents remember *some* sort of experience; but it’s *not* good evidence for the idea that the experience was what everyone goes through when they die – because the *vast* majority of people *didn’t* experience anything.
And people who are “brain dead” do not come back to life. If your cortex *dies*, meaning that the cells are dead, then you’re dead. You’re not going to come back because someone zapped you with a big electric shock, or anything else. And people whose hearts stop because of a heart attack *are not* brain dead; their brains *do not* show no electrical activity. When electrical activity in the brain stops is when they stop trying to bring you back. Chopra is an M.D.; it’s scary that he doesn’t know this.
>If consciousness is created by brain chemistry, there is little likelihood of
>a conscious afterlife. However, many intriguing experiments now exist to show that a person’s
>thoughts can move beyond the brain. Besides the various experiments
>in telepathy and ‘remote viewing,’ which are much more credible than
>skeptics will admit, there is a replicated study from the engineering
>department at Princeton in which ordinary people could will a computer
>to generate a certain pattern of numbers. They did this through thought
>alone, having no contact with the machine itself.
Yes, he’s citing *PEAR* as *evidence*. You know, PEAR, the idiots whose work I
[thoroughly](http://scienceblogs.com/goodmath/2006/07/pear_yet_again_the_theory_behi.php) [mocked](http://goodmath.blogspot.com/2006/05/repearing-bad-math.html) on [several](http://goodmath.blogspot.com/2006/04/bad-math-of-paranormal-research-pear.html) occasions for being sloppy, dreadful crap based on deliberately
invalid mathematical analysis? The guys who *admit* in their own papers that their
measurements are *not* statistically significant? Who do things like pick a supposed
time-stamp, and then go back and retrospectively *select* samples that match their
Yes, that’s what he considers a good study. And he even claims that it’s been replicated – which not even the PEAR folks are bold enough to claim!
And now for the crown jewel of his nonsense:
>In the area of information theory, a rising body of evidence suggests that Nature preserves data in
>the form of information fields. The most basic units of creation, such as quarks and gravity, may be
>interrelated through information that cannot be created or destroyed, only recombined into new
>patterns. If this is true, then it may be that what we call the soul is a complex package of
>information that survives death as well as precedes birth.
Remember how I always say “The worse math is no math”? This is a perfect example. Chopra *wants* to use information theory to support his argument. But his argument is gibberish – he absolutely
*can’t* express his claims in the actual mathematical language of information theory. But he
wants to claim the *credibility* that comes from the field of science and math that studies information. So he just randomly strings words together, and asserts a connection that he can’t actually make.
People like Steven Hawking *have* studied how things like elementary particles can be viewed in terms of information, and the properties of that information. [Hawkings had a long-standing bet concerning whether or not *information* can ever escape from a black hole.](http://www.hawking.org.uk/info/iindex.html) The difference between Hawking’s discussions
about information theory and quantum physics and Chopra’s babblings is: if
you go to Hawkings writings about the subject, you find *lots* of very careful math, setting out
exactly *what* information is carried by particles, what it means for that information to
be preserved or lost, what the implications of that are, etc. Hawkings *does the math*.
(Not to mention that Hawkings has the dignity to admit when he’s wrong. He *lost* that bet. But
when the *math* showed that he was wrong, he accepted it.)