Monday, June 4, 2007

The Skeptic's Review of the Secret

Scientific American has a regular column by Michael Shermer called Skeptic which, as the name would suggest, debunks commonly held, but misguided, beliefs. In this month's issue, June 2007, Shermer reviews the book the Secret, which has hit the top of the bestseller list with the support of Oprah Winfrey.
Basically, the book says that if you think positive thoughts, good things will happen; or if you want something, you can get it by just thinking the right thoughts. Since it takes a whole book to say that, that must be a simplification, but for the sake of brevity, let's say that's it in a nutshell. Shermer, in his piece "The (Other) Secret" takes issue with that theory and gives excellent reasons why the theory is not only bogus, but misleading to the point of causing great pain and misunderstandings.
He says, "The secret is the so-called law of attraction. Like attracts like. Positive thoughts sally forth from your body as magnetic energy, then return in the form of whatever it was you were thinking about. Such as money. "The only reason any person does not have enough money is because they are blocking money from coming to them with their thoughts," we are told. Damn those poor Kenyans. If only they weren't such pessimistic sourpusses."
If the converse of the "law of attraction" is that people bring bad things on themselves or at least prevent good things from happening because they just aren't cheerful and hopeful enough, than most of us are in trouble and the poor, diseased and afflicted are just getting what they deserve. Maybe this is reduction ad absurdem and not what the author means, but I think, as does Shermer, that the law of attraction theory does tend to go in this direction: blaming the victim.
Take a look at Shermer's website Skeptic and his magazine of the same name. BHPL does not subscribe to Skeptic, the magazine, but we do get Scientific American in hardcopy and online in full-text from 1995 available from the EbscoHost database.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good appraisal of The Secret and it's illogical theory. It's yet another hypocritical New Age sell, posing as altruism.

Nice blog:)