Sunday, January 25, 2009

Stream of consciousness, Re: The Secret.

(I spend a lot of time on the internet, exploring the best of what it has to offer on some topic or another. I love blogging, because I consider it something like an internet book club; I invite you not only to my thoughts, but you can also peruse the context in which my thoughts are couched and come to your own conclusion.)

I'm feeling pretty lazy. So I'm going to talk about prayer. Or more accurately "The Law of Attraction" a.k.a "The Secret". You can find the believers' definition here, but the Wikipedia article is much more accurate.

The Law of Attraction is standard magical thinking: "like attracts like". My mom is a big fan of the New Age stuff, and one of my best friends truly believes in something like it. It's basically that your beliefs influence what happens to you - if you think about good things, good things will happen; if you think about bad things, then bad things will happen. If you constantly worry about losing your job, then chances are... Oh, and, If you really believe Obama's going to win...

(Right now I'd like to mention confirmation bias, and also that one can reach a true conclusion with completely false premises. Anyway...)

And when I ask, why? Why do you, who I think is very reasonable and intelligent, think that the world works this way?

They tell me, I have experienced it! I have wanted things very badly, and it didn't look like I was going to get it, but then at the last minute something unexpected happened and I got what I wanted! I wanted it so badly, and the thing that happened was so random and unlikely, that I'm sure that my thoughts mattered.

(What runs through my head now is how the human reward system works: you receive the biggest "rewards" when there's a large mismatch between what you expect and what actually happens - no wonder it seemed so significant!)

I hate it when my boyfriend does this kind of thing, so I feel like a real snot for saying here that I've taken some statistics, not a lot, but enough to appreciate coincidence.



That applies to prayer, too. I find even the best video that illustrates this to be very patronizing, maybe good for children but adults might prefer the text.

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