The law of attraction and «The Secret»: pseudoscience with quantum batter
Almost every week an opinion column or a letter written by the newspaper appears in the newspapers Some reader criticizes the popularity that individualism has been gaining in Western societies . The examples that are usually put to denounce the tendency to look at one's navel are usually quite stereotyped: young people who do not give their seat to elderly or pregnant, crowds that avoid crossing glances with a person asking for help, etc.
Faced with this type of writing it is difficult to defend individualism as a way of life, but, of course, there are people who are capable of it. Ultimately it is a philosophical position, totally debatable and that is usually taken as something that goes beyond logic and reason.
The most serious problems come when one day someone decides that the ideology and morality behind individualism are more than a philosophical position, and are part of the basic structure of reality. This is what has happened, for example, with the law of attraction, which has become very popular in the wake of the book and the movie The secret.
What is the law of attraction?
The law of attraction is the idea that everything we experience depends in essence on our thoughts and our will . Literally. In fact, the motto associated with the law of attraction is something like "you get what you think". It is assumed that the thoughts are actually positive or negative energy that, once issued, obtains a response according to its nature. This would allow us to reach certain goals or move away from them according to what we think and depending on the type of mental "requests" we make.
It may be that the law of attraction is so absurd that at first it is difficult to get an idea of what it really means, but in reality its implications can be summarized in two words : imaginary Christmas.
Since the law of attraction is based on the idea that reality is made up of thoughts, the results we can obtain depending on how we visualize our objectives can be material or, let's say, imaginary. Acting as if the expected results were achieved is, in itself, obtaining the expected results. A triumph of lies.
For example, thinking about wealth in the right way can be translated into obtaining literal wealth (money) or any other conception of the term that we believe has been given to us because we have acted taking into account the law of attraction ... which means that the law of attraction can neither be proved nor serve to predict anything at all. You have not obtained what you were looking for? Maybe you have not thought about it in the right way. Or maybe you have obtained what you wanted, even if you did not realize it. Apparently, the law of attraction is always fulfilled, because it feeds on ambiguity. As the Forer effect.
Word of mouth and The Secret
One of the biggest media trampolines that has had the law of attraction has been The Secret, a documentary film that later gave way to a book with the same name written by Rhonda Byrne . In these works the law of attraction is presented as a simple formulation of a series of principles related to a religious movement called New thought.
The simple message and marketing of the film did the rest: The secret It became a success that even today is recommended by many people . After all, the law of attraction offers two beliefs that are quite attractive: the power of thought is practically unlimited, it only depends on ourselves and puts us in contact with a metaphysical entity that acts according to our will and our way of perceiving things. And, well, as we are still suffering the throbbing of the New Age culture It is also very possible that this halo of oriental mysticism makes the product more attractive due to the fact that it has no scientific basis.
Criticism of the law of attraction
The law of attraction has the dubious honor of putting people from circles as diverse as physics, neuroscience, philosophy or psychology against it, and this is for good reason. This belief is based on assumptions that not only have no scientific basis, but go against virtually everything we know thanks to decades of rigorous research and progress in different sciences.
This means that, although the law of attraction interferes in scientific fields such as biology or psychology by putting ideas on the table that have not been demonstrated and do not deserve any attention, the criticism of it does not come exactly from these fields, but from philosophy. And, more specifically, from the philosophy of science and epistemology.The point is not that the law of attraction does not serve to explain reality or to predict events, but rather, to begin with, the ideas on which it is based are absurd and do not emerge from anything resembling scientific research.
Playing at being science
It is totally valid to put a lot of emphasis on the importance of motivating oneself to think about what one wants to achieve and to devote time and effort to perform "mental exercises" to make our goals more achievable. There is nothing wrong with choosing to focus more on the mental and subjective factors than on the external objective factors that affect us in our day to day life. They are, without more, preferences about how to live life. If the law of attraction were something like a philosophical principle about how to order one's own ideas and priorities, it would not have unleashed so many criticisms .
But the law of attraction plays to pass itself off as something like a scientific law, or at least part time. As the law of attraction can be explained by theoretical formulations as ambiguous as diverse, it may cease to be scientifically verifiable during the minutes when someone puts their defenders on the ropes ("the reality is too complex for measuring instruments"). "," we can not just rely on classical scientific theories to understand everything ", etc.) to be again when the danger has passed and the audience is sufficiently gullible.
In fact, where the flirtation of the law of attraction with that coating of legitimacy that science can offer is more evident in its use of ideas associated with quantum physics , which is confusing enough for pseudosciences to seek refuge in it using language as complicated as it is imprecise.
Do not forget that the law of attraction can not be understood at all if the question is not answered: who gives us back our thoughts in the form of consequences of these thoughts? Who recognizes the "positive vibrations" and the negative ones to send us consequences in the same harmony? The answer falls far from the scientific terrain .
In addition to not having empirical solidity, the law of attraction is in itself very dangerous: it infiltrates "therapeutic" workshops and strategies to energize work teams, making the people who are intervened follow instructions based on absurd ideas and can end up worse than they started . Both NLP and the proposals that spring from humanistic psychology have been permeable to the law of attraction, and the belief that reality is essentially what one thinks, feeds a philosophy so alienated and egocentric that it may like in certain sectors political and business.
This makes the law of attraction and the message of The Secret are more than the fruit of intellectual laziness and magical thinking: they are also a marketing product that can have disastrous consequences for the quality of life of people.
You're poor? Your problem
But, in addition to all this, the law of attraction has political implications that fuel an exacerbated individualism. It denies the influence on our lives of all those factors that we can consider as alien to ourselves and our will, and can give way to a mentality that blinds us to what happens around us.
It is part of a type of thinking with perverse implications on a planet where the place of birth is still the best predictor to know the health and wealth that a person will have throughout their life. Under the law of attraction social problems disappear as if by magic, but not because they are gone .