Why science can lead us to bad religion (and vice versa): The Secret Behind The Secret

Religion / Science

Aaron Swartz, writing on his blog, has a post up about the silliness surrounding the #1 book and DVD for sale on Amazon at the moment (The Secret)

“What is this incredible secret? Namely, that the universe is governed by a heretofore unknown Law of Attraction, as yet undiscovered by conventional physicists, that the world rearranges itself to conform to your thoughts. Or, as one proponent put it, the universe ‘is akin to a big mail-order department,’ in which you ”order’ what you get by sending energetic messages out to the universe.’

This stuff is so blatantly absurd that it’s not really worth debunking. And it’s silly enough that Barbara Ehrenreich has already written the definitive mockery (‘Thoughts exert a gravitational-type force on the world, so that ‘whenever you think something, the thought immediately attracts its physical equivalent.’ If you think money — in a totally urgent, focused and positive way, of course — it will come flying into your pockets.’). Twice (‘I don’t have to write this blog, I can simply visualize it already written — or could, if I’d bothered to read the whole book and finish the DVD.’)”

This is a great example of the dangers that can come about by plucking an idea out of physics and applying it to some non-related field (like personal finance and dating.) It’s the same danger that has always made me nervous about “Process Theology” in Christianity and the sort of amalgamation between Hindu thought and particle physics that clogs up the inboxes of Physics professors everywhere…

I’ve said elsewhere that because science and theology are have radically different ways of uncovering ideas, it seems to me that they are most likely to find each other useful by drawing lessons from the methodology of each other rather than borrowing wholesale from each other.

(BTW: I expect the book’s hypothesized “secret force” is really just an attempt to borrow the name (but not the science) behind the phenomenon of strange attractors.)

Read the rest here: The Secret Behind The Secret

(Via Aaron Swartz.)

The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...