A few weeks back, I was asked by Kelly Oakes, Science Editor for BuzzFeed, to write 100 words or so on what really scared me as a scientist. The ‘brief’ was that it could be serious, funny, silly — whatever I liked. Kelly also asked another eight scientists about their greatest fears. The BuzzFeed article was published yesterday and, my contribution notwithstanding, it’s a great read. I particularly like the closing quote from Hope Jahren: “I fear being misquoted on BuzzFeed, and having to spend the remainder of my career explaining the missing context.”
The hyperlinks in the piece I sent Kelly couldn’t be included so I’m posting the original, URL-enabled version below. While it’s certainly not a particularly restrained piece, when it comes to vitriol-fuelled writing I’m a rank amateur compared to Chad Orzel, whose post on the unholy pairing of Chopra and Michio Kaku is a masterclass in venting one’s spleen: The Physics Of The Imbecile.
Here’s what scares the bejaysus out of me…
Deepak Chopra has 2.5M followers on Twitter.
Let that sink in for a moment.
2.5M people follow a man whose key talent is the ability to generate vacuous pseudoscientific bollocks-speak at a rate hitherto thought to be beyond human capability. His books sell bucket-loads, he’s in huge demand as an ‘inspirational’ speaker, and even learned academics have urged us to take Chopra seriously.
As a scientist – indeed, as a human – I find this both rather depressing and deeply unnerving. The Chopra story is essentially a 21st Century reboot of the Emperor’s New Clothes — a cautionary tale of the extent to which valueless pseudoscience can sweep the world.