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article imageFace-Off: Physicist Leonard Mlodinow says Deepak Chopra is wrong

By Bart B. Van Bockstaele     Mar 30, 2010 in World
In this 9th part of an ABC News Face-Off debate, the first part of the question-and-answer session, world-renowned theoretical physicist Leonard Mlodinow suggests that Deepak Chopra could use some lessons in quantum mechanics.
The first question is about near-death experiences. The woman asks if the soul could be light and if it could still be communicating via bio-entanglement with the body and the brain before it decayed to much, and what science could tell us about that and if it could point to the validity of the intuitive truth of certain wisdom-traditions or religions.
Michael Shermer: The word says it, they are not dead, just near-dead. Since these experiences can be created in the lab and in numerous different ways, we can safely conclude that it is happening in the brain and not outside of it.
Deepak Chopra: Near-death experiences don't prove nor disprove anything. The brain is a localising device. In the absence of a brain, you can still have consciousness which has no thought and which is nonlocal and which is awareness in itself.
Moderator: What's your name?
Red T-Shirt: Leonard Mlodinow
Moderator: You are a quantum physicist?
Mlodinow: I'm a theoretical physicist and I'm also writing a book with Stephen Hawking, so I could comment on the god question and Stephen Hawking.
Moderator: In the spirit of our no comment, just questions, what's your question and to whom? I'll hold the mike.
Mlodinow: That means it really has to be a question. Deepak, would you like to have a short course in quantum mechanics so that we could straighten out your slight misuse of quantum notation?
Chopra: ... as long as your explanations would help me understand infinity, I would be honoured...
Mlodinow: That'll be good, we'll have to keep it local though, I don't think we can make it nonlocal.
Chopra: Do you believe in the infinite?
Mlodinow: I believe I understand to some extent the concept of infinity, I'm not sure what it means to believe in the infinite.
Chopra: Do you think that your mathematics requires the infinite to explain things to people?
Mlodinow: We use the concept of infinity quite a lot.
Chopra: Thank you.
Mlodinow: You're welcome.
Moderator: What is it about Deepak's use of quantum physics that bothers you?
Mlodinow: The term nonlocal, the use was not correct with the pacemaker and all the electrical...
Chopra: I happen to disagree by the way.
Mlodinow: I assume you did since you said that.
Chopra: I think consciousness is nonlocal.
Mlodinow: You know, I have never really come across a definition of consciousness that I understood, so maybe you can teach me something.
Chopra: a field, a superposition of possibilities.
Mlodinow: OK, well, all-right, I know what each of those words mean, I still don't think that...
Chopra: Right now, I'm speaking to a conscious being.
Mlodinow: I hope so.
Chopra to Shermer and Sam Harris: Help me understand why we have this deep yearning to understand the nature of the beginnings of the universe and to understand ourselves.
Harris: Well, we don't all have this deep yearning. If you took the 100,000 people on this planet who feel this yearning most acutely, and you dispatch them, we would be left without a lot of people thinking about the origins of the universe.
People want to be happy, they want to find ways to not feel miserable when adversity strikes, so they tell each others stories that death is an illusion, that we all get together at the right hand of Jesus after we die... that does the trick for a lot of people.
That story is both in its products and in the way of getting there, the antithesis of the scientific frame of mind, and we must know this, when we are lying to ourselves and our children and we must know that there is a liability to pretending to know things that we don't know.
More about Abc nightline face-off, Shermer harris, Chopra houston, Leonard mlodinow
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