Mystical Woo

on Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I ran into an old friend recently, back "in the day" I wanted badly to be her boyfriend but that never worked out. I hadn't seen her in years and she's still as pretty as she was then. She's also still a big proponent of what I call "mystical woo" and that just doesn't sit right with a skeptic like me.

Let's start with the so-called "Law of Attraction," wherein a person thinks of something and that thing happens, or a person thinks of someone and then sees that person for the first time in years. Obviously, that subject came up, especially the second part.

The first thing you need to know about the "Law of Attraction" is that is was made up around the turn of the century by William Walker Atkinson, an attorney, merchant and publisher -- you will notice a profound lack of the word "scientist" in his list of occupations. Like many people, he looked for some divine or mystical principal that drives something as simple as coincidence and "found" it (easy to do when you know what you want your outcome to be and you cherry pick your results).

The second thing you should know about the "Law of Attraction" is that it has never been independently verified or confirmed in any way.

To be considered a "Law" an observed phenomenon must be consistently repeatable and invariable. Let's take Newton's Third Law as an example: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Row a boat into the middle of a lake, stand on the edge and dive into the water... you'll do a belly flop because the force you apply as you jump pushes the boat in the opposite direction. And it will happen every time you try it.

If the "Law of Attraction" were a true Law a person would just have to think of something to make it happen. Hungry? Think of food. Thirsty? Think of water. Poor? Think of money. Lonely? Think of company. Ridiculous! If something is going to be a law, the expected outcome has to happen every time, if it doesn't it's no law.

Now, an adherent to mystical woo would probably suggest that only thoughts of "True Merit" would manifest themselves, but to me that implies that there is someone or something that is weighing the relative morality of each thought. If so, that entity is an evil son of a bitch. You can't tell me that a starving person doesn't think of food, and to deny a starving person food is an immoral act.

Or they might say that the person doing the thinking didn't "do it right" which directly flies in the face of the "Law of Attraction" being an actual physical law. That also sounds an awful lot like "you pray wrong," one of the main reasons wars have been fought.

Next on her list was the Mayan calendar. Dozens of Mayan scholars have figured, and they all agree, that the end of the Mayan calendar will fall on December, 21, 2012, but there are a few who think it's actually October 28, 2011, and those are the ones she listens to. I'm positive that her interpretation was extremely flawed because she was talking about levels and triangles, yet every Mayan calendar I've ever seen is disc-shaped.

Somehow, one of these people has figured that the Mayans knew the exact age of the universe and that it is 16.5 billion years old. However, current estimates based on actual observable science estimate the age at between 13 and 14 billion years. That's a rather significant difference.  Thankfully, she doesn't believe that the world will end, but that the human race will enter a "new level of consciousness" -- another unmeasurable phenomenon.

There was some other stuff in which she told me about a "scientist" who is finding that the Power of Thought can affect the outcome of experiments. I looked him up, his methods are scientifically flawed -- he is out to prove something instead of experimenting and recording his findings, his findings cannot be replicated or verified by other scientists, and he has published no peer reviewed papers in any scientific journals. But that doesn't stop her in believing that what he is reporting is valid because he is supposedly on the "cutting edge" of science. No actual scientists think so.

When she got on the subject of "water memory" (a big part of homeopathic "medicine") I had to stop her because that's one thing I've done some reading about. Water doesn't have memory and they guy who claimed it did had all of his findings falsified by actual scientists.

So why the burr under my blanket? It was the pitied pat on the arm she gave me while being accusing me of denial of something Bigger Than Us. I wouldn't take that from a religious person who believed in God and the Bible and I won't take it from a friend who believes in mystical woo.

I am a skeptic. I refuse to accept things that cannot be measured, predicted or verified by actual observable phenomenon. Things like the Law of Attraction and water memory have been discredited by science, yet people still believe in them. I cannot, I will not do so. I come to this decision with as much passion as the most fervent and devout worshipper of the divine or mystical.

Show me a new estimate about the age of the universe based on science and I will accept it, "figuring" that the Mayans "knew" the "actual" age of universe won't suffice. And if the science comes in that puts the age at 16.5 billion years it will mean that new, observable information has come to light, it won't mean that the people who figured the Mayan thing were right -- it will mean that they guessed right.

(Let's take a jar filled with marbles. I can state that there are 120 marbles in the jar. If we take them out, count them and find 120 it doesn't mean I knew how many marbles were in the jar, it means I guessed correctly.)

I love science fiction and the Jedi Mind Trick, telepathic communication or the Vulcan Mind Meld are fun things to imagine, but I don't believe in any of them any more than I'd believe in a "Law of Attraction" -- they are all equal ideas, having been dreamed up by someone. And just because something sounds believable doesn't make it real.