Deepak Chopra, a man often described as the "prophet of alternative medicine," has no place at an Edmonton autism conference, says an Edmonton health expert.
Chopra is the "embodiment of pseudoscience," according to Timothy Caulfield, a professor of health law and science policy at the University of Alberta.
"I understand the desire to bring in someone who is going to help people think about the big picture, and perhaps help with stress strategies, but Chopra is the icon of pseudoscience," Caulfield said in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.
"I'm disappointed that someone who embraces so much pseudoscience has this status, and I`m disappointed that he was selected."
Chopra, an author and prominent member of the New Age movement, will be appearing as the keynote speaker at the Children's Autism Services of Edmonton's Annual Conference, Jan. 25.
Chopra believes that human aging and illness can be reversed by the power of the human mind, and argues that his practices of "quantum healing" can cure any number of ailments, including cancer.
'He's like the great de-educator'
His ideas have been regularly criticized by medical and scientific professionals, and Caulfield fears his Edmonton talk will only serve to alienate autism patients and their families.
"He's like the great de-educator. He legitimizes these ideas that have no scientific basis at all and makes them sound scientific. He really is a fountain of meaningless jargon," said Caulfield.
"This is a community — the autism community — which is often subjected to treatments that don't have science behind them, that are portrayed as if they are scientific. This is a community that is struggling with a profound issue, so I would I like to see a more scientifically informed person in that place."
During his address at the three-day event in Edmonton, Chopra will be speaking to caregivers about a "roadmap for higher health, based on the latest findings in both mainstream and alternative medicine."
According to a post on the conference website, Chopra will be providing answers to questions including, "Is there an ultimate reality?" And, "Do we have the ability to influence the future evolution of the cosmos?"
'Deepak offers a unique perspective'
Terri Duncan, executive director of Children's Autism Services, a non-profit organization which provides services to children with autism and other developmental disorders, defended the group's decision to hire Chopra as its keynote speaker.
Duncan said the talk will provide the audience with new insights on health and wellness.
"We choose special event speakers who bring a variety of views on a variety of issues. In this case, our goal was to raise awareness of issues surrounding wellness," Duncan said in a statement to CBC News.
"Deepak offers a unique perspective, a mix of traditional and alternative views, which some may disagree with, but there is no question it will raise awareness of wellness, and kick-start a conversation."
However, Caulfield said that argument is absurd, arguing a conference intended for those struggling with developmental challenges should not be legitimizing anything but proven medical research.
"What people like Chopra do is they invite people to be suspicious and invite people to think there is some other kind of world view, that science is only one perspective, but science is a process ... it's a critical way of thinking," Caulfield said.
"I think we, as a society, have to be increasingly suspicious of people that are trying to twist science to put forward a perspective that has no evidence behind it."