I am a mystic, but I am also a science geek. I used to teach science to elementary school students. I believe in miracles, but I believe these miracles occur within the framework of a very real world that is subject to certain laws of physics. Science is very complicated, and you cannot reduce the way the universe operates down to one simple formula.
Yet, many are accepting the idea that the so-called Law of Attraction is the way the universe works, or, in the least, the way people’s lives work. This idea, now put forth into the mainstream by The Secret, has been called “scientific” by many of its adherents. Yet, this label is not only misleading but downright false.
The basic idea behind the Law of Attraction is “like attracts like.” Adherents point to science as the reason this is true, citing magnets or quantum physics as “proof.” Actually, science does not say “like attracts like” whatsoever. In the most simplest of scientific explanations, the real truth is “opposites attract.”
Explained simply: A positively charged particle will attract a negatively charged particle and vice versa. Two positively charged particles will repel one another.
This is how magnets really work. This is how electricity works.
So right away, we see how science does not prove the Law of Attraction; in fact, science can be said to completely negate the Law of Attraction.
Yet, we’re not really talking particles here, are we? The Law of Attraction is dealing with human life and interactions, so what we’re really looking at is apples and oranges.
So let’s just step back and look at the concept that one simple law can explain everything that happens. I’ve seen, over and over again, people trying to justify the “truth” of the Law of Attraction by stating that universe is simple and runs by very simple laws. So, the logic goes, people’s lives must be just as simple.
Are the laws of the universe really that simple? Can they be reduced to one simple statement? In fact, when you study science at all, you realize that the universe functions smoothly not because of one reductionist law, but because of a complex series of forces and opposing forces that create a certain amount of equilibrium that allows for the creation of life. (Still, over time, this equilibrium will disintegrate, as entropy and energy dispersal breaks down the fabric of the universe as we know it.)
For example, if the only law of the universe was the law of gravity (and no other forces were opposing gravity), then everything would just stick to everything else and there would be no motion, no movement, no life.
The conflicting forces of the universe create a dynamic interplay that allows for the complex interactions that occur in the natural world. Inertia, for example, could keep that baseball you’ve thrown into the air moving on its trajectory for all of eternity, but it is gravity that ultimately pulls the ball down out of the sky. Inertia, however, is what helps the ball fly in the first place. It’s all interrelated.
It is thus scientific nonsense to suggest that one simple law such as the Law of Attraction is solely responsible for all interactions between humans. Is it possible that “attraction” can and does affect human interactions? Of course. But there are also other opposing forces that temper and mold “attraction” to create a complex system just like the one that operates in our natural world.
What then, of the idea that thoughts create our reality? Let’s give this the mystical benefit of the doubt. Perhaps it is possible that our thoughts have some organizing effect. Yet, those thoughts are also interacting with other thoughts and forces. What determines what will win out? The thought? Or the basic laws of the universe? Is the power of a thought more powerful than scientific law? Is it more powerful than gravity? Care to try that out by jumping off a tall building and believing you can fly?
Thus, when Law of Attraction proponents claim it is “scientific,” they are showing a poor understanding of science.
The true irony, of course, is that the people behind The Secret want you to believe the science “proves” their claims, yet, they are more than willing to dismiss science when it is inconvenient for them.
In a most egregious example, Rhonda Byrne, author of the book The Secret, claims that overeating will not make you gain weight. She writes:
“The most common thought that people hold, and I held it too, is that food was responsible for my weight gain. That is a belief that does not serve you, and in my mind now it is complete balderdash! Food is not responsible for putting on weight. It is your thought that food is responsible for putting on weight that actually has food put on weight. Remember, thoughts are primary cause of everything, and the rest is effects from those thoughts. Think perfect thoughts and the result must be perfect weight.”
This flies in the face of every study that has ever been done on the cause of obesity. It flies in the face of biology. It flies in the face of common sense.
And yet, when you look at Rhonda Byrne, she has aged. Isn’t it her belief about aging that makes her age? C’mon, Rhonda, make yourself younger already!
But it’s no surprise that Rhonda can’t take the wrinkles off her face. And you won’t see Rhonda Byrne flying around in the sky like Superman anytime soon. So one has to ask: Why isn’t she? If thoughts truly are the cause of everything, then why isn’t she defying gravity and wowing us with her mental prowess as a high-flying superhero?
So thoughts affect your metabolism, but not your aging or your flying ability? Hm.
Well, let’s give Rhonda the benefit of the doubt here. Maybe she can affect her metabolism, like a seasoned yogi on a mountaintop.
If this is the case, prove it. Here’s the way to do it scientifically. It’s called the “Supersize Me” Challenge, inspired by the documentary of the same name. So I challenge Rhonda Byrne:
Go overeat at McDonald’s every day for three months. We’ll monitor your health and fitness before, during and after. You must eat nothing but McDonald’s, and not just the salads but the hamburgers too. You must eat until you are stuffed and then some. And we’re going to follow you into the bathroom to make sure you aren’t purging yourself of the food. Finally, you cannot exercise during this time.
If, after three months, you show absolutely no weight gain or adverse health effects, then, maybe then, you will have shown some scientific evidence that what you say is true.
But Rhonda, as we can guess, probably won’t take up this challenge. There is always some sort of excuse or modifier put on these challenges. And that should be your first clue that the “truth” that they espouse isn’t so cut and dry after all.
We in America have been suffering from poor quality science education for decades. As our mystics continue to dilute the discourse with false science, we are in danger of creating an ignorant populace that bases decisions on superstition instead of critical thinking.
I am a believer in the mystical. But I don’t think mysticism or spirituality should conflict with science. The two, in fact, should support each other. True spirituality will not conflict with science whatsoever, but see science as evidence of the beautiful intelligent consciousness underneath it all.