This morning I read this rather strange blog post: What shall we do with Brian Cox? Selling science in the 21st century. Ignoring part of the title – I didn’t realise we needed to do anything with Brian Cox – the article discusses how science could be better promoted (“sold”) to the public.
There are a few things I disagree with in the article. For example, the author suggests that Cox wants us all “to become scientists to expand our horizons”:
Does he really want everyone to join in the grand scientific quests? Would that even be in science’s best interests?
I’m not sure that is correct. Cox certainly wants the public to appreciate what science can do for us, to find it wondrous, to be excited by it – but I don’t believe I have ever heard him say that we should all become scientists.
That’s not really what I want to go into in this post. What stunned me was this:
As a concrete proposal, I would suggest that Brian Cox team up with the San Diego-based best-selling physician Deepak Chopra, who promotes ‘quantum medicine’, in order to sell quantum physics as something in which members of the public should take an active interest.
Yes – Cox should work with Chopra. I ridiculed this a few times on Twitter. The author spotted those Tweets and challenged me:
Rather than reply in 140 characters, I thought I’d write this post. [I’ll get to what those “smears” where later].
First, if you don’t know who Deepak Chopra is, here’s a handy reminder.
Deepak – please can you tell me how telepathy/psychic healing/remote viewing/Ayurvedic medicine works?
Yes, Deepak Chopra is one of those people. He uses the word quantum to make things sound sciencey. And he uses his “knowledge” of quantum physics to sell a lot of books and what one may refer to as “woo”.
Here is physicist Leonard Mlodino having an “enlightening” conversation with Chopra about quantum physics:
Chopra even has his own Skeptic Dictionary page, which is well worth a read.
And there’s more. Tom Williamson has created a Wisdom of Chopra website (and accompanying Twitter account) that generates “quotes” by randomly sticking together words from Deepak Chopra’s Twitter stream. It is hard to distinguish between a real quote and a randomly generated one:
All this has been building up to explain why I was “outraged”. I think that suggesting that Cox work with Chopra on a quantum physics sci-comm project is…a little odd. I initially thought that the article was a spoof! You know what?…. to be honest… erm…. I don’t believe Chopra actually knows much about quantum physics, so might not be the best person to communicate the science of it.
In fact, it’s a comedy collaboration! I Tweeted a few more comedy collaborations during the day with the hashtag #fullerlogic – I think these are the “smears” being referred to above.
So, here are some comedy collaborations. Come on – who wouldn’t want to see these happen?
- Dr Ben Goldacre can work with homeopath Dana Ullman to ensure science-based medicine follows homeopathy’s lead and finally stops treating the symptom and gets round to looking at the cause.
- Astronomer Dr. Chris Lintott can work with astrologer Erich von Daniken to explain how a 12th of the world’s population will be lucky in love today.
- Evolutionary biologist Professor Richard Dawkins can work with Young Earth Creationist, and founder of Answers in Genesis, Ken Ham to finally explain why “the Creator had an inordinate fondness for beetles“.
- Mary Beard can team up with Erich von Daniken to show how the Great Pyramids actually were made by ancient alien astronauts. (Thanks Rob!)
Are there any more collaborations that you’d like to see?