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>Lanza Through The Looking Glass

December 23, 2009

>Having advanced degrees, having devoted one’s life to scientific pursuits: neither of these guarantee a person will be rational or able to avoid slipping deep into the woo. It also is no guarantee of humility, unfortunately. Robert Lanza is, according to his bio on Huff Post, “one of the leading scientists in the world.” The problem with this claim should be immediately obvious. According to whom is this Lanza a leading scientist, not just in the US, but in the world? The world!

Lanza has what he believes to be an impressive pedigree and pushes that pedigree as an appeal to authority as a reason to pay attention to his theory of everything, biocentrism. The leading scientist in the world gambit is one used in his press kit, so it makes sense that it bleeds to Huff. It also makes a great deal of sense that he’s flooding Huff Post with his posts, pushing his theory of woo that takes quantum mechanics (and its application as a sci-fi favorite trick to allow main characters the opportunity to play quantum alters who are not heroes) and butchers it into something so full of woo-waahhh that it makes me peeved at the least (warning: blog post linked to involves adult language and an admission that Chopra has a sexy voice). He even brings in Deepak Chopra to sell it (repeatedly), so deep into the woo has this leading scientist gone. He may be crazy, but he’s crazy like a fox. Chopra is popular and his special brand of woo-mysticism sells big. Lanza latching on to Chopra’s coat-tails makes good sense.

It could be argued that Lanza’s self-annointed pedigreed biography, replete with name dropping of all the illustrious men he’s had the fortune to have worked with, like Skinner, Salk and others, reflects a life-long attaching to the coat-tails of more powerful men who could launch him farther into the heady heights of power. I’m not sure how well that’s worked out for him, though. I can tell you this, his biocentrism leap down the woo-hole will not and has not engendered warmth, support, or respect from the scientific community.

This appears to be a rabbithole that Lanza was going down as early as 1992, in an article entitled “The Wise Silence,” and again in 2007,where he was immediately smacked for his failure to grasp simple (okay, maybe not simple) concepts. Vic Stenger was there in 1992 to smack Lanza’s ideas down, and it may have kept him quiet for 15 years (may not, more digging may be needed). His recent groundbreaking (and sarcasm is dripping here) article that launched this spiral down, down, down, to where Chopra was waiting to meet and embrace him this year at Huff, was published in The American Scholar in 2007.

He’s not gone completely silent on the quantum woo, though. Lanza was interviewed in The Lancet (2005), where he was asked “Do you believe there is an afterlife?” To which he responded:

“A full understanding of nature cannot be found by looking
up at the sky through a telescope, or by looking into the
atom through a matter microscope. Space and time are not
external objects, but rather forms of our animal sense
perception. In that sense, Spinoza was right “The human
mind cannot be absolutely destroyed with the human
body, but there is some part of it which remains eternal.” (1767)

Bad as the 2007 piece is, his interviews make his overpreening arrogance more than readily apparent. Rowe (2007) asks Lanza how he thinks scientists will view this theory of his, to which he responds:

“People are not going to be very happy with what this all means. This theory is going to invalidate their (some scientists) entire life’s work. I will definitely get crucified.”

This Q&A was more than adequately rebutted by Rogers the same day. Criticism doesn’t seem to have any impact on Lanza, at all, as it merely reinforces his belief that he is a maverick, bucking the trends. Lanza was back at it after the 2007 article found him the acclaim he was predicting from the scientific community (negative, but any attention is better than no attention). In an interview with Weintraub (2008), Lanza makes clear that he sees himself as a trend-breaker, a renegade, a free spirit who has a better grasp on reality than those around him. As someone who has followed the mercury and vaccines side of the autism community with interest and irritation, he reminds me a great deal of the scientists like Wakefield, Haley, Deth, the Geiers, and Blaylock, all mavericky themselves, and all wrong, as well. Eck.

By 2009, Lanza had found someone to go along for the ride. Lanza and Berman (2009) write: “The farther we peer into space, the more we realize that the nature of the universe cannot be understood fully by inspecting spiral galaxies or watching distant supernovas. It lies deeper. It involves our very selves.”

Even with a background in psychology and intense fascination with people and why they do what they do, I wouldn’t be so, oh, biocentric, let’s say, as to think that this is at all accurate. We may be the centers of our own universe, but we are in no way the center of the universe (or the multi-verse, for that matter). This is intense navel-gazing gone overkill, hyperdrive and beyond absurd.

It gets worse: “According to biocentrism, time does not exist independently of the life that notices it” (Lanza and Berman). Ack. Seriously?

I suppose that’s okay, though. They are saying according to their theory of everything, time isn’t real. And since they are talking out their rears, rather than promoting a scientific priniciple or hypothesis, this is nothing more than bullshitting around a couple of beers or a bong. The biggest problem with this nonsense is that Lanza is using his past experience of hobnobbing with the scientifically illustrious to give his nonsense beer-or-bong-induced “theory” a patina of credibility. Ick.

Works Cited

Lanza, Robert, and Bob Berman. “THE BIOCENTRIC UNIVERSE.” Discover 30.5 (2009): 52-55. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 22 Dec. 2009.

“Robert Lanza.” Lancet 366.9499 (2005): 1767. Health Source: Nursing/Academic Edition. EBSCO. Web. 22 Dec. 2009.

Rogers, Adam. “Wired Science News for Your Neurons Robert Lanza doesn’t seem to be kidding.” 8 Mar. 2007. Web. 23 Dec. 2009.

Rowe, Aaron. “Will Biology Solve the Universe?” 8 Mar. 2007. Web. 23 Dec. 2009.

Weintraub, Pamela. “THE DISCOVER INTERVIEW ROBERT LANZA.” Discover 29.9 (2008): 48. MasterFILE Premier. EBSCO. Web. 22 Dec. 2009.

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