I have other plans today so I’ll miss this but if you’re in Saskatoon and happen to drive by TCU Place this afternoon, or planned on attending his seminar and thus will be walking by, you’ll see a some members of CFI Saskatchewan (formerly referred to as skeptics or Freethinkers) out there with some signs and handouts. Why? From the press release:
On February 20th, 2011, self-proclaimed spiritual advisor and mind-body medicine practitioner, Deepak Chopra will be in Saskatoon to give a seminar on “The Confluence of Science and Spirituality”. The seminar, with tickets ranging from $59 to $149, will begin with a VIP reception at 1:00 pm, followed by the main seminar at 2:30 pm. Centre For Inquiry (CFI) Saskatchewan will be on hand to dispute Deepak Chopra’s claims.
Chopra is billed as an expert in “mind body healing”, or ‘quantum healing’, a phrase designed to lend the credibility of science to his mystical views. This expertise is not reflected in peer-reviewed published research, as Chopra has none on the relevant subjects. Quantum mechanics is a theory governing the motions of atoms and molecules. The theory is overwhelmingly accepted as a valid account of reality, even if its implications remain disputed even among physicists. If physicists are still uncertain what quantum mechanics means for the nature of reality, then Chopra is talking nonsense when he asserts that he knows what it means for healing the human body. In reality, Chopra has no training in physics and is misrepresenting quantum theory in the interest of duping believers into handing over their hard-earned cash.
This makes Chopra no better than the snake-oil salesmen of yesterday. The only difference is his abuse of scientific language to lend an air of sophistication to his views. To combat this, members of CFI Saskatchewan will be on hand to distribute literature offering a more realistic account of what the science says. CFI Saskatchewan asks only for evidence.
Here’s the link to the pamphlet they’ll have on hand (pdf).
This is our second foray into what we’re calling Skeptical Activism, or Skeptivism. Last year a few of us stood outside the same place with handouts regarding Sylvia Browne and her track record, plus information about cold reading and other tricks showmen like her are adept at using to make them look wise and insightful.
Edit Feb 21: Friend Rebekah writes for Canadian Atheist and has some skepticism regarding this approach to providing people with alternative information:
While I agree with the content of the flyers that were passed out, and would happily discuss this issue with someone, there’s a part of me that doesn’t like the idea of standing in front of the entrance to an event, handing out this kind of material. It feels — dare I say? — evangelical. How is it any different than a bunch of Ray Comfort-esque folks handing out flyers in front of a venue where an atheist/skeptic is speaking? Do people who paid to attend such an event even take this kind of activism seriously?
Probably not, but it does remind people that there are other viewpoints. While we disagree with what Comfort and his ilk peddle, they have the right to say it, just as those who pass by have the right to ignore it. If even a few took the pamphlets, read them, and got curious enough to research this more and concluded the skeptics have valid arguments, then we’ve done our job.