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Deepak Chopra teaming up with Fitbit should worry us about tech’s new love for pseudoscience

Deepak Chopra claims that considering Covid-19, the financial crisis, and “all this ideological conflict”, those who say they aren’t stressed are lying.

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Fitbit has announced a new tie-up called ‘Deepak Chopra’s Mindful Method for Fitbit’, with the controversial “pioneer of integrative medicine” himself. The company described it as an “exclusive wellness collection” for its premium members comprising ten initial sessions featuring content about mindfulness, stress management, mental wellness, sleep, and “the mind-body connection”.

Their announcement on social media was immediately met with a barrage of critical reactions from members who announced they would cancel their membership in response to the company signing on Chopra, who has on multiple occasions been accused of peddling pseudoscience.


Also read: ‘Citizen science’ can help India boost scientific understanding, curb WhatsApp pseudo-science


A salad of bad ideas

Chopra, who graduated from Delhi’s All India Institute Of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in 1968, is known for preaching Eastern mysticism, spirituality, and has been accused of pushing pseudoscience, including his ideas of “quantum healing”, which he claims can cure diseases like cancer based on the principles of quantum mechanics. He has also claimed that cataract can be reversed by brushing your teeth and using the residue to wash your eyes, that ageing can be controlled by learning to “direct the way our bodies metabolise time”, that our biological clocks stop during transcendental meditation, that there “has to be a way for matter to learn to think”, that he can levitate with meditation, and that healing visualisations can cure cancer. He has denied Darwinian ideas of evolution, saying that the human mind regulates flow of energy and information, and that “consciousness is the key to evolution and we will soon prove that”.

Chopra’s statements have attracted the ire of the scientific community. There was a 2015 study on the detection of “pseudo-profound bullshit”, which used his tweets as an example to recognise “vacuous” word salad that sounds scientific and meaningful. He has attracted criticism for misrepresenting medical studies, including ones on genotype expressions, saying that meditation will change the entire expression of the human genome.There is even a random quote generator called Wisdom of Chopra that generates “a set of profound sounding words put together in a random order”, which uses words from his own Twitter stream.

Chopra also published, with two others, an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) titled “Maharishi Ayur-Veda: Modern Insights Into Ancient Medicine,” which spoke about the Ayurvedic system. The article was soon retracted, and JAMA then published a detailed investigation about how the authors misled the publication and declared no conflict of interest, whereas they were “intimately involved with the complex network of organisations that promote and sell the products and services about which they wrote.”

The authors had misrepresented Maharishi Ayurveda as the ancient system of Indian medicine, but it was in fact a line of products that were marketed since 1985 by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, with help from Chopra, including treatments that costed multiple thousand dollars.

Chopra has also resorted to suing those critical of his methods, including JAMA, for large sums running into the millions, in vain.


Also read: Cow is a constant cool in Indian politics. But BJP’s mix of faith and science troubling


Questionable science, great business

Chopra’s metaphysical statements and ideas about quantum theory sound more like the storylines and character developments of super-powered beings in the Marvel comics universe than anything based on science, reality, or fact.

But Chopra has benefited greatly from his ideas.

According to the late Robert Carroll, he “charges “$25,000 per lecture performance, where he spouts a few platitudes and gives spiritual advice while warning against the ill effects of materialism”.

After appearing on the Oprah Winfrey show in 1993, Chopra has sold millions of copies of his 80+ books, and is said to be worth $150 million today.

He lives in a $26 million Manhattan condo that has Vitamin-C filtered showers and serves on the board for Delos Living, the company that claims to elevate health and well-being in living spaces. He sells products such as glasses that can emit light and sound and generate “beneficial states of consciousness”. The Chopra Foundation has allegedly received regular funds from Jeffrey Epstein’s secret charity as well.


Also read: Millenials love discussing Mercury retrograde on Instagram, but scoff at jyotish predictions


Not-so-fit collaboration

In his statement in the FitBit announcement, Chopra claims that because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the financial crisis, and “all this ideological conflict”, stress is a given — and those who claim they aren’t stressed are lying.

The FitBit-Chopra partnership follows several recent instances of tech companies tapping into pseudoscientific beliefs, such as astrology, when social media is already primed to amplify health misinformation. Tech billionaires, like Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, have been closely following in the footsteps of Hollywood actress and CEO of Goop, Gwyneth Paltrow, whose successful lifestyle empire is based on pseudoscientific products and ideas.

These enterprising entrepreneurs, who can easily afford the most expensive medical treatments should they ever need any, seem to have tapped into an emerging market of gullible people looking for easy, fancy solutions to health and lifestyle problems. Their empires today are aided greatly by social media platforms that are yet to strictly regulate medical misinformation in the face of a pandemic.

It is unclear if a beloved company like FitBit takes its consumers and their feedback seriously, at least on social media. This ambiguity is visible blatantly even in FitBit’s own announcement tweet. The company’s Twitter official account made several replies from consumers calling out Chopra’s pseudoscience and their intentions to cancel their membership ‘hidden’ under the original tweet, effectively barring Twitter users from seeing existing consumers asking for accountability.

Meanwhile, despite mounting scientific evidence to the contrary, Chopra, and many other proponents of balderdash science, regularly enter into highly lucrative collaborations with brands that further their own monetary well-being, while diminishing those of their followers.

In Chopra’s own words: “I don’t take myself or what I am doing seriously.”

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31 COMMENTS

  1. Dr.Deepak Chopra Saheb..a wise entity… material science to its original form …as pertaining to natural Divine science which ofcourse is interrelated with meditation…..I m sure of Dr Saheb s wisdom and looking at all studies from a far off venture…

  2. Deepak’s quantum healing is NOT a pseudoscience. In fact the person writing this article needs to recover from superstition of materialism

  3. Deepak’s quantum healing is NOT a pseudoscience . In fact the person writing this article needs to recover from superstition of materialism .

  4. Quite surprised by the backlash that the article is getting.
    Great work by the author. Definitely need more articles like these.

  5. Seeing all the comments here – one thing is clear – even after getting educated, the Existential Crisis element of Desi’s looks eternal to me. This article is not against Deepak Chopra – it is just against the pseudoscience element he brings in his distorted logic and now pertinent to the fit bit part of it. Many took it as an allegation on Ayurveda or some ancient Indian culture. And then she talks about how twitter reacted to it. To me, a very good journalism. Spirituality sounds good but gives happy eyes and you will never focus on the true issues. Meditation, like UG Krishnamurthy says – it is a simple lie – I wont go there. Why the hell are you thinking un necessary stuff in the first place – then you focus your energy on stopping to think – what kind of fun is this.

    • Education has nothing to do with what one believes. If Mr. Chopra’s technique works for some people, so be it. Why try to categorise this into good/bad, true/untrue? Also, just because we do not have the scientific tools at this time to measure and quantify things like consciousness, energies from biological tissue, etc, does not mean we classify them as false. Maybe the best approach is to keep an open mind and reserve judgement for the future.

    • Nonsense. Chopra is a US citizen now and Fitbit is an American company. Where is India bashing in this, except in your twisted bhakt brain ?

  6. You, (the author of this article) write from an obvious place of fear, deep within yourself.
    Deepak Chopra is a decent human being with a strong desire to help people, and makes a healthy fruitful living doing exactly that.
    As I read this article, all I could think was, “What on earth (or in his own head) is this dude so afraid of that he has to put down someone that is so influential/important to so many people, including Oprah Winfrey?”
    I know that facts and I can see how you have twisted them in an attempt to depict him as an unreasonable, extreme, even delusional, personality.
    Thankfully, he has a solid enough resume/education/background/reputation … so much so that FitBit is using his name.
    The truth is showing itself through people like Deepak C., Eckhart, T., Oprah, etc.
    Maybe it’s time to surrender to it dude, cuz it’s happening with or without your support.

  7. At last a concern. This piece speaks more than what it says.
    The media goes to town when some restrictions are imposed on the media and the social media. But here is case where the media is waving the red flag. Why this hypocrisy.
    So there is possibility that the all media is being misused one way or another. And who is to decide what is use and what is misuse, if you are not in China?
    Tail piece: Let us accept the fallibility of the social media. Some regulation is a must.

  8. I’ve used Deepak Chopra free meditations for the past 6+ years and have benefited both physically and mentally from doing so. Your article bandied around accusation with no evidence other than any detail as opinions… and o e thing I ‘ve learned from social media is opinions are not facts

  9. This article comes across are nothing but spiteful and narrow minded. There is no contradiction between scientific progress and recognising the power of the Mind, as expounded in ancient Eastern teachings [from which Mr Chopra channels much of his work]. We all have much to learn, let us be humble in our journey and not eschew knowledge because of dogma. My own mantra is to be cautious at all times, but open….Three cheers for Mr Chopra and everyone else in pursuit of a better way to live our lives.

  10. I have never been healthier, happier and less stressed than the years since training in meditation and yoga at the Chopra Center in Carlsbad, CA. Before you voice your opinion on someone maybe you should immerse yourself in the Ayurveda lifestyle for 30 days! It’s sad to see how close minded you are.

  11. Well, it’s not pseudoscience if it works. If the intended effects of the practices come out, that’s evidence of some causation, even if it’s just placebo effect. Putting those practices on a highly used app opens opportunity for large hard science studies on the matter. Like with meditation, that has many published peer-reviewed studies proving it’s many benefits. Chopra’s biggest problem might be just his explanations for ancient practices effects, not those effects per se.
    I am a scientist and I do some yogic practices and sadhanas and I can say by experience that they do wonders on my health, happiness and wellbeing. I’m highly skeptical though, so the only reason I do them is because they work. I don’t know how or why, but the experience, at least on my system specifically, proves their efficacy.

  12. Actual science most definitely supports the health and wellness benefits of meditation, but saying that meditating can cure cancer… What a load. If I owned a Fitbit I’d cancel my membership too for associating with Chopra.

  13. I am so sick of these kinds of woo spouting hacks being promoted just because people like the way their pseudoscience sounds. I don’t know if Chopra actually believes his own BS or not, but I am almost certain he full-and-well knows that by peddling profound-sounding BS in general to a gullible, and growing, audience one can benefit massively. Actual science most definitely supports the health and wellness benefits of meditation, but saying that meditating can cure cancer…? What a load! If I owned a Fitbit I’d cancel my membership too for associating with this charlatan.

  14. Mind body connections is not psedo-science, It shows how ignorant you are. Science hasn’t figured out, what happens inside your brain, but lot of attention is being padi to it now.

  15. I KNOW DR.DEEPAK CHOPRA JI from 1986,I worked with him in LANCASTER,Mass,USA.
    His knowledge is appreciable.He is an Allopath but turned as an Ayurvedic lover by beauty of Ayurveda.
    Ayurveda is not a pseudo science.You may be traveling in car with a sticker jesus(GOD)will save us but dies in an accident that doesn’t mean God is not there.
    Ayurveda practised from several centuries before Allopath has born.
    All systems are good,it should give benefit to sufferers.

  16. Jay Shetty, Deepak Chopra – they all are in same category – not only pseudoscience they live on human minds weaknesses like the baba and guru cults of subcontinent. Very interesting read but these guys are not stoppable in the near future. Mankind in search of something which never existed and Chopras cash on it.

  17. Deepak is a medical doctor and his books are fantastic. With the high rate of suicide and substance abuse in the US we can benefit from his wisdom.

  18. If people are paying him for getting cured and it is been for reasonable period, it is better to learn what he does than brand what he does as pseudo science. Go on wikipeadia which says Ayurved is quackary. I have moved to Ayurved and have been repeatedly cured by it. I chose any kind of medical treatment of my choice which is off course conducted by well trained doctors of such treatments – that’s not pseudo science

    ThePrint relishes bad comments on whatever is Indian and licks boots of who will do so. This is an example.

  19. Wow what a vicious article!! The pseudo journalist is spitting venom as of he had some personal enmity with Shri Chopra and the Bharat’s ancient system of medicine. I would even fo so far to suggest that this article is probably sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry.

  20. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi unsuccessfully tried for years to Qualify Ayur Vedic medicines in the West. To dialogue with the FDA in the USA, he invited and adopted Dr. Deepak Chopra in to his group. While Yoga was accepted even by Harvard, the medicines were found not scientific and hence unacceptable. Like Homeopathy, it too became a placebo at best. Dr Chopra too was unable to convince the FDA. It remains the Indian version of strong western belief, equally not scientific, in human life in Mars for centuries now.

    • The FDA is slave too the US Pharma industry. It will only do His Masters calling. The Pharma industry has a vested interest in keeping natural medicine, which is not made in their factories, out!

  21. I know little about Deepak Chopra’s methods. Won’t comment on the contents of this article. But, I can certainly state that the West is fanatical about Allopathy medicine system and calls all traditional medical systems as pseudo science. This is similar to religious bigotry.

    • No. It is good science and plain common sense. Claims not backed up by hard evidence deserve to be called as pseudoscience irrespective whether the east, west, north or south does it.

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