Dr Rudolph Tanzi’s Rainbow Bridge to Quackery

April 22, 2014

As mentioned in an earlier post, Deepak Chopra and neuroscientist Rudolph Tanzi have written a book claiming that you can “use your thoughts to alter your biology” including your DNA. What’s more, you can even pass on your spiritual virtues to your off-spring via epigenetics. It all disproves Darwin, apparently, and enables something they call self-directed evolution.

The human genome is set to be the stage for future evolution that we ourselves direct, making choice an integral part of genetics… 

Self-directed evolution is the emerging paradigm.

(Hmmm, I thought the whole point of a paradigm shift is that it happens fairly swiftly and is only clear in retrospect, but who am I to say?)

Customers can demand some good evidence for these claims, given that Tanzi (unlike Chopra) is a reputable academic with impressive credentials. (Dr Rudolph Tanzi is Professor of Neurology at Harvard University and Director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital. Deepak Chopra MD, is a holographic expression of the entire universe that is manifesting as a continuum of probability amplitudes for space/time events.)

cnn2Chopra & Tanzi display their Super Brains on CNN

Together, they claim that science is currently dominated by an “old paradigm” of genetic determinism, (which they characterize as the view that genetics alone determines behavior). This is not true — modern genetics acknowledges a vast array of influences on behavior. But whatever the case, let’s not allow that to spoil the story, because Chopra and Tanzi’s new paradigm has transcended genetic determinism and replaced it with…..

….Well……..Epigenetic determinism.

According to real, actual scientific genetics, each individual gets to make a clean start at trying to make the best of their genetic heritage. The sins of the fathers are thankfully NOT passed on genetically to the sons. Nor, (according to the evidence so far), are acquired traits such as habits or learned behaviors passed on epigenetically either. 

But many New Agers believe that acquired traits are mystically transmitted via some kind of “genetic memory” in their DNA. They probably turn to Chopra and Tanzi (or the many other DNA-altering crackpots), hoping to update their genome, purge the past, and now, thanks to Chopra and Tanzi, to enforce their spiritual nutbaggery on subsequent generations as well, through the supposed power of epigenetics. 

There is no evidence for any of this…. unless Chopra and Tanzi can produce some. And who knows, maybe they have — they’ve already written a book about it (with an entire support program), called: 

Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-Being.


As mentioned in the earlier post about this, Chopra and Tanzi were roundly criticized by biologist Jerry Coyne. In response, Tanzi and his Super Brain appeared in the comments on Coyne’s article to defend his work.

So then — does he have evidence that thought can really alter DNA in controllable ways? Or that such changes, if they exist, can be passed on to subsequent generations via epigenetic mechanisms? And if so, will this enable self-directed evolution?

Or as one commenter put it to Tanzi directly:

Can you provide any kind of evidence that human thought can voluntarily influence gene expression, that this supposed effect is epigenetic, that it can be stably inherited and that it can be adaptive?

Tanzi’s answers were clear and incisive:

Typical of a professed atheist to only attack the person and not address the science put forward…

…It is you who is using the militant and fundamentalist religion of atheism to attack a fellow colleague unprovoked.

And your insults and bullying will not work here…you are accountable for your defamations of reputation and character. You cannot hide behind a website and assume you are immune to libelous behavior…

Man, this is a dark website! Rest assured…this is my last post. Over and out! Phew!

Of course, in true New Age style, after his “last post” Tanzi returned, possibly realizing that the only insulting comments on the thread came from a certain “Rudy Tanzi”; and that several of his critics were well qualified academics who had asked important questions.

Eventually after much evasion, complaining, insults, obfuscations, threats of libel suits, and hand-waving, he mentioned, among other things, a study on mice. Here, epigenetic changes relating to stress were inherited by offspring for a generation or two, before disappearing. Well and good. But making a grand leap from lab mice to humans — isn’t that rather a lot like the very worst of the “old paradigm”? And just because it works for stress in mice, will it also work for consciously directed thought in humans? Is it heritable by epigenetics? And if so will it be stable enough to eventually affect evolution?

Tanzi finally admitted he has no evidence for any of that…. “yet”. In his words:

So, no, we do not yet have direct molecular evidence of humans changing their DNA epigenetically in response to life experience and perceptions accompanied by biochemical and molecular genetic reactions…..

Uhuh, so all that stuff in the Super Brain Kit

USERS MANUAL HARDCOVER BOOK, SUPER BRAIN SOFTCOVER BOOK, SUPER BRAIN – THE HANDBOOK SOFTCOVER GUIDE, SUPER BRAIN – GETTING STARTED NOW! 7-DVD LIBRARY 1. Super Brain (program DVD) 2. Super Brain Steps for Permanent Weight Loss 3. Your Super Brain & Your Money 4. Stop Worrying Now! 5. 10 Steps to Help Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease 6. Super Memory Now!  7. Steps to a Super Soul DIGITAL DOWNLOAD APP, BLISSFUL SLEEP

teaching customers how to

Use your brain instead of letting it use you Create the ideal lifestyle for a healthy brain Reduce the risks of aging Promote happiness and well-being through the mind-body connection Access the enlightened brain, the gateway to freedom and bliss Overcome the most common challenges such as memory loss, depression, anxiety, and obesity

was just based on speculation?

Well maybe they could have chosen a title that reflected the reality of the situation a little better. Like maybe —

Super Brain: hypothetically Unleashing the possibly Explosive but so far purely speculative Power of Your presumed Mind to Maximize or at least minimally affect Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-Being if we ever figure out how.

So that’s what an “emerging paradigm” looks like. Impressive isn’t it. Especially when it comes from a Harvard professor. And that’s what a bunch of speculative bullshit looks like when it’s promoted by a sleazy hack like Chopra.


And  finally, why are they so insistent about all this self-directed evolution nonsense?

Tanzi doesn’t seem to realize it, but his co-author has already been self-directedly evolving for some time now. That’s right, D-Bag Chopra is a certified Evolutionary Leader!

evoleadersEvolutionary Quacks & Scammers (Source)

Chopra and the other fine specimens in the picture are the herald of a future species of Quantum Humanity! Gaze in wonder upon people like Bruce Lipton, (cancer quack), Gregg Braden (cancer quack), Jack Canfield & The Reverend Michael Beckwith (scammers from The Secret)…. The list goes on.

And as always, once you start pulling on a thread of New Age Scammery, an avalanche is released. This Foundation for Conscious Evolution is a tax free religious foundation that rakes in about half a million dollars a year. Funny how such a highly evolved new paradigm remains true to the “old paradigm” of religious tax evasion. 

Perhaps Tanzi doesn’t realize it, but this elite cross-promoting network of scammers and cancer quacks will use his book as just another brick in the wall of manipulation and quackery that they are building around their unsuspecting fans/customers/victims.

And, incidentally, Chopra’s special evolutionary status was probably behind an earlier twitter message that he sent to his critic, the afore-mentioned Jerry Coyne:

twit 2Happy to give this joker Coyne some publicity -evolutionary maladapted Homo Erectus

That is more, I suspect, than just a random insult. Chopra really seems to believe he is somehow “more highly evolved” than the “maladapted Homo Erectus[sic]” Professor Coyne, and anyone else who has failed to develop their quantum consciousness according to God’s divine plan. It all sounds like a form of — I don’t know — epi-eugenics. He really seems to think he’s part of a spiritual master race from the future.

Posted by Yakaru


  1. Who needs evidence? When all you need is an open mind and this: http://sebpearce.com/bullshit/

  2. A lot of the newage nonsense seems to be centered around the notion that one is objectively superior to the sheeple in some way. “Epi-eugenics” sounds about right for capturing how they use such notions to dehumanize critics.

  3. Flickin’ brilliant. I’ll be sharing on IFHP.

  4. @wtf,
    I wonder how long that program would have to run before it equaled Chopra’s output!

    @Bronze Dog,
    I think a lot of the implicit elitism that new agers experience trickles down on them from those at the top of the hierarchy. They don’t realize what it smells like to others.


  5. This is all down to a few simple typos.

    1. Soup Fer Brains (program DVD)
    2. Soup Fer Brains Steps for Permanent Weight Loss
    3. Your Soup Fer Brains & Your Money
    4. Stop Worrying Now!: how can you with soup fer brains?
    5. 10 Steps to Help Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease Making Any Difference Anyway
    6. Soup Fer Memory Now!

  6. It is true that we can alter our DNA. For example, if we go to Chernobyl or Fukushima, get too many X-rays or hang out too much in UV light, our DNA will get altered as a result of our actions.

    We can probably also alter gene expression via epigenetics in similar way.

    None of this is revolutionary. Of course you can alter your DNA or gene expression by choice of environment. You can even take an educated guess as to the nature of the change (cancer from ionizing radiation, various predictable effects from variation in gene expression).

    But what you can do is not limitless. You can influence your DNA in some narrow, specific ways, based on the context you put the organism in, but you can’t do everything, and you certainly can’t direct it by “thought power” alone.

    Try to tell the people who were conceived in conditions similar to the Dutch famine of 1944 that they’re dying from early onset diabetes because of epigenetics, but that they can change that by having positive thoughts. Nope, that’s not how reality works.

    What these hacks do is claim they stumbled upon some revolutionary idea, when they in fact, haven’t. Then they sell this over-hyped nonsense for as much money gullible westerners are willing to give them.

    If you want to learn something about epigenetics, Robert Sapolsky’s Stanford lectures on Behavioral Biology is the way to go.

  7. @Lazăr Lung,

    Yeh, Sapolsky’s lectures are excellent. People would benefit much more from watching that entire series online for free than paying for Tanzi’s Chopra-fied bullshit.

    Lecture one is here BTW

    And, incidentally, Sapolsky sued Chopra for plagiarism some years back — http://web.archive.org/web/20000308131349/http:/www.trancenet.org/chopra/news/plagmemo.shtml


  8. ” the view that genes determine behavior”

    Of course, certain genetic factors CAN affect behavior. For some anecdotal evidence: I have been strongly influenced by the bipolar disorder I inherited from my father. Alcoholism, schizophrenia, and many other mental illnesses may have a genetic factor.

    Of course, Chopra seems to be saying I can cure myself just by wishing it away. The fact I still have problems means I haven’t wished hard enough. I think such a statement is insulting, and, if I chose to believe it and, say, quit my medications, dangerous.

  9. […] is No Exercise, has followed up on this offer, describing his results in the post “Dr. Rudoph Tanzi’s rainbow bridge to quackery“.  Yakaru reports the kerfuffle on my own site, which I never reprised; so let me do so […]

  10. Thanks, Gopher. I added a word — genetic determinism = “the view that genes ALONE determine behavior”. That’s still a disgraceful over-simplification, but it’s better than it was.

  11. So, we can epigenetically change our DNA and our descendants, by x-ray ing our ovum and sperms .. (maybe inject some incandescent genes?) 😀

  12. Well, according to C & T, the possibilities are “almost limitless”, and I’m sure they are. Just sadly they’re also completely, utterly, and absolutely 100% hypothetical. That leaves you free to try what you want! I see nothing in their writings that would preclude the possibility of having fluorescent babies who glow in the dark (for safety reasons) and sing operettas instead of crying…. It only costs $144 to try!

  13. I still find it headdesk worthy that people actually believe that genetic determinism is proposed by anyone other than bigots, much less represents the scientific consensus.

    Yeah, there are some genetic factors that influence how we think and our natural talents. Most of the time, however, they’re dwarfed by environmental influences. Even if someone has “smart genes” that will give them a mental edge, they still need a diet that allows them to grow and power their brain as well as a nurturing environment and an education of some sort. For the reverse, people with ‘stupid genes’ can still be pretty darn smart if we give them a chance to learn.

  14. Yeh, as Sapolsky argues (in the lectures I linked to above), it’s important to consider a wide range of influences — how the mind influences the body; how the body influences the mind (which C & T don’t deal with at all); environmental & cultural factors; early childhood & pre-natal influences; genetics; evolutionary factors, etc.

    Dogmatically attributing everything to just one of these always causes problems. In fact, the “scientism” — the word Chopra throws at scientists each time they criticize him — should be defined as such, and applied to pseudo-scientists like Chopra & Tanzi.

  15. An old Einstein quote comes to mind, “Things should be as simple as possible, but no simpler.”

    It’s essentially both sides of Occam’s Razor. Don’t overcomplicate a theory, but at the same time, don’t remove complexities that are necessary for accuracy. Woos have an eagerness to do both in the name of convenience and ideology.

  16. Yes — as in the post above where adding the necessary qualifiers to C&T’s hubristic title turns into a joke instead of being a straight forward editorial correction.

  17. Great article. I just happen to see Dr Tanzi in a ‘documentary’ movie about John of God of Brazil. By lending his credentials and endorsing this quack faith healer he really lowers himself. Chopra is strike one, John of God strike two. What’s next? Esther Hicks and Abraham.
    Link to you tube vid.


  18. Thanks for that link. I couldn’t find anything else on the internet about Tanzi and John of Grope, and it’s also not 100% clear from that trailer if Tanzi is specifically referring to JoG or any healer in general. (It certainly looks like he’s advocating JoG.) I’d appreciate it if you know of any other material. I can’t a find a single reference to Tanzi and JoG on google.

    I guess you know about poor Jerry Hicks’ sad fate — after making a living off telling cancer sufferers to use positive thinking rather than chemo, he got leukemia, and he got chemo. Big surprise.

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