Saturday, 28 July 2007

What is Wrong with The Secret?

"The book perverts reality by encouraging people to equate a positive outlook on life with a childish, idiotic narcissism." --Longhorn24

One of my co-workers gave me a book to borrow. She claimed she saw it promoted on Oprah and after seeing it on Oprah she figured she had to get it. She hasn't read it but instead gave it to me. She gave me The Secret.

The Secret is a self-help book that claims to be able to better your life by giving you a secret that has been passed on from generation to generation. It is the law of attraction, that you attract things with your thoughts. The book tells you how to be successful, how to be rich, etc.

First off, I just want to say that this is one of the worst books I've ever read. It claims that everything in the universe is exact and that the law of attraction is exact, yet it provides no real evidence of this and then goes on to provide superstitious claims such as "Ask the universe for what you want and the universe will give it to you." How in the world do I communicate with the universe? How can the universe comprehend what I want? Can a subset of the universe, e.g. my mug on my desk, understand me when I try to talk to it?

The law of attraction states that everything we get in our lives is attracted to us from our thoughts. If you want a Lexus, picture yourself driving the Lexus, imagine yourself driving the Lexus and then magically the Lexus will come to you. I wish this were true. Right now I am thinking about a Lexus in my mind but I see no Lexus flying out of the nearest dealership towards my house. Of course, perhaps what the author is trying to say is more subtle than that. If you want something, you need to focus on it. E.g. if you need to study for a math test, if you think about the math test, focus on the math test, etc, then you will more likely actually study for test whereas if your mind is occupied by Harry Potter, pornography, sports, etc then you are distracted.

This book gives some examples of how you attract things with your thoughts. One example is the hassle of trying to find parking. If you drive into town and you are overcome with the fear of not getting a parking space, you will attract those negative outcomes. If however you drive into town expecting to get a parking spot, the universe will magically give you a parking spot because you expected it and because you were thinking about it. The reason why many people may think this works is, I hypothesize, because of a cognitive phenomenon knows as confirmation bias. "Confirmation bias refers to a type of selective thinking whereby one tends to notice and to look for what confirms one's beliefs, and to ignore, not look for, or undervalue the relevance of what contradicts one's beliefs."

Update 10/9/2007: The Chasers denounce The Secret in a very funny way.

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