UA's Conference on Consciousness Brings Together the 'Quirky' Folks

By Beal, Tom | AZ Daily Star, April 12, 2012 | Go to article overview

UA's Conference on Consciousness Brings Together the 'Quirky' Folks


Beal, Tom, AZ Daily Star


Dr. Deepak Chopra was clearly miffed, if not a little angry, though it might be stretching it to attribute that strong an emotion to a man known worldwide for his practiced equanimity.

Chopra is clearly all right with himself, as he has demonstrated in 64 books, countless appearances and the occasional television shows about the connection between body, mind, spirit and healing.

On Tuesday, he was not all right with Susan Blackmore, a writer who described herself as a reformed parapsychologist.

Blackmore had been given the role of skeptic at a "War of the Worldviews" session that opened the "Toward a Science of Consciousness" conference at Tucson's Ventana Canyon Resort.

Blackmore's slide show contained a series of critical comments about Chopra's books, including one that called him to task for preaching that the path to enlightenment can be strewn with abundance. "Deepak, you may be happy to call this spirituality, but I don't," Blackmore said.

"Spiritual people should not be ashamed of being wealthy," Chopra said when it came time for his rebuttal.

"I am very wealthy, and I put that money to good use," Chopra said, noting that his foundation "feeds 1.5 million each day and sends them to school."

Perhaps Chopra was asking for it. He had pretty much dismissed the work of many of the folks in the room by telling them their attempts to scientifically measure or philosophically express the concept of consciousness were futile. Some snippets:

"Consciousness cannot be observed or measured."

"There is no scientifically testable theory of consciousness."

He was even bolstered by the so-called other side - Cal Tech physicist Leonard Mlodinow, co-author with Chopra of a book called "War of the Worldviews: Science vs. Spirituality."

Mlodinow stood up for the scientific method, and said it had little to say about the subject at hand. "Scientists are not embarrassed at not having a theory of consciousness," he said.

He told a questioner later that scientists stay away from consciousness studies because they have a hard time disproving things they can't measure or test. "Nobody really knows anything yet, and let's just accept that," Mlodinow said.

Case closed. Cancel the remaining three days. Everybody go home.

But of course they were back the next day to continue with the roster of 150 speakers and 200 poster presenters, not to mention the yoga and meditation classes, poetry slams and "Zombie Blues" jams. …

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