Richard Dawkins Demonstrates His Fundamentalismthoughts & comment — 02 Feb 2010
IN THIS VIDEO, Dawkins interviews Deepak Chopra:
There is nothing more embarrassing than seeing a leading scientist have to resort to ridicule and emotional appeals in order to dismiss a world view. And this is exactly what Dawkins does when he interviews Chopra on the latter's healing paradigms.
Whilst Dawkins is right that quantum physics is being used by many New Age teachers to justify all sorts of crazy looking theories, this does not mean that it does not have a legitimate scientific place in theories of how consciousness works. Dawkins must know this, but he is so emotionally determined in his crusade again anything remotely threatening to the materialism he so obviously cherishes that his technique of defence, like that of many scientific fundamentalists, is to build up a series of Aunt Sallies using what he perceives as the easy target of New Age spirituality, and then takes great delight in triumphantly smashing them to pieces.
Dawkins shows his ignorance of quantum theory when he describes it as "notoriously difficult to grasp" and quotes physicist Richard Feynman as saying: "If you think you understand quantum theory, you don't understand quantum theory." Quantum theory is only notoriously difficult to grasp philosophically; the mathematics can and is grasped by the many thousands of physics students at university each year.
The reason that it is difficult to grasp philosophically is that it is paradoxical — particles can be in two places at once, for example, and the act of measurement seems to have some effect on what is being measured. So when Feynman is talking about understanding quantum theory, he is most certainly talking about understanding it philosophically. (After all, you can't really "understand" the mathematics of a physics theory… you can follow it, you can apply it, you can pick holes in it, but you can't understand it because the very term "understand" implies that you are translating the language of mathematics into the language of everyday spacial-temporal reasoning.) Most working physicists give up trying to understand quantum theory and merely use it as a mathematical tool to predict particle behaviour.
So from Dawkins' perspective, just because Chopra has a worldview that freely incorporates some of the philosophy of quantum theory, that worldview can be dismissed because quantum theory cannot be understood, ergo, Chopra is speaking nonsense — QED.
Dawkins tries later to dismiss Chopra for using quantum theory both as a metaphor and as a possible literal justification for his theories. But why? As mentioned above, quantum theory is at the heart of some very serious scientific theories of how consciousness works, and as Chopra is dealing with consciousness then there is no reason why quantum theory might not have direct relevance to his work. But Dawkins cannot see that because he is blinded by his own blind dismissal of any theory that questions the reductionism to which he clings.
Finally, when Chopra talks about "fundamentalists in science" Dawkins angrily dismisses this with a non-sequitur saying that "science's role is to sort out, tease out those bits that we don't understand… " Fortunately, Chopra shoots straight back about the arrogance of science in its insistence of a mechanistic approach to everything, an arrogance so clearly displayed by Dawkins himself in this interview.
As a fundamentalist, Dawkins should stick to biology as he clearly does not have the capacity to understand other branches of science, let alone completely different systems of knowledge such as spirituality. Fundamentalists are only able to attack anything that threatens their own world view.