Monday, January 28, 2008

Have You Learned The Secret?

Are you one of the people who has kept Rhonda Byrne's The Secret at the top of the best-seller list for months?

If you are, I would love to know if it has changed your life for the better (as indeed it is supposed to do). The results of the survey are for an article I want to write.

Now then, that was the easy-peasy part. The harder part is this - if you checked either of the two boxes saying that the book had changed your life for the better, I would love you to give me a concrete example of how it did that.

And yes, you can put in any comments about how you found the book or other similar titles.

I have (temporarily) switched off my default-mode cynical inner voice today and would love you to prove it wrong.

*Uggh 'scuse the spelling mistake in the title. I do know better but don't know how to change it!


Glenda Larke said...

I just voted it didn't make a difference to me. Actually that's not true. It made me utterly furious, spitting rocks furious. A con artist selling books to the gullible, promising them they can have the good life too by imagining it so. Are you starving in Darfur? Too bad; you should have imagined food in your belly. Got cancer? All your own fault, mate.

Think positive and you'll be rich. You don't actually have to work for it...and don't worry too much about the poverty stricken; it's all their own fault.

The writer is one step down from another of my pet hates; Tillian Loo, who will tell you all you have to do is put your bed facing the other way, and lo and behold, you'll be rich. AARGH.

starlight said...

i would vote that the book itself has made no difference to my life simply because i knew of this concept way before The Secret was published. rhonda has just repackaged an age-old idea and is living very comfortably off it, which annoys me to no end. i reluctantly leafed through the book at the insistence of a friend and i was proven right. BUT. the visualisation concept has changed my life.

glenda, you're absolutely right. it's ridiculous to simply visualise something and expect it to happen. and if that is what rhonda is extolling in her book, then it's a load of crap. visualisation only works when you have an image of the desired outcome fixed in your mind and you work towards it, believing that it will happen.

this worked for me when i was searching for my new apartment. i wrote out exactly what i wanted my apartment to look like, complete with measurements, level, price, etc. i read that list everyday and pictured the apartment in my mind. meanwhile, i continued apartment-hunting. a month later i found the perfect place and when i looked at my list, everything i wanted was on it. of course, it wasn't 100% like my mental picture but the requirements fit. i've used visualisation at work too and it has gotten me the clients i want. but i didn't sit back and wait for those clients to knock on my door. i worked my a** off knowing that i would eventually get them.

but i was once a cynic too and i understand that it's a sticky concept for many, so i won't ramble on anymore. :)

Catalina R. said...

How good would your sample be? I have a feeling that most of your readers are fairly well-versed themselves, either in their leisure reads or in their personal beliefs.

My guess is that stuff like The Secret sells especially to people who are relatively new to the idea, and who don't over-think their beliefs. At least, that's how it seemed like from people who did enjoy it. Those are probably the people who find The Secret most enjoyable / beneficial, and if it's a good sample that you want, your blog readers may not quite fit the bill.

Lola said...

I too have seen the Oprah shows and had wondered myself. Book Excess used to sell the audiobooks of the Secret for about RM25 I think but I thought it was too much money to spare..

Personally, I think this Rhonda person is a very clever lady to repackage New Age stuff and good on her for making millions of this book !

animah said...

Completely agree with Starlight and Catalina. This "concept" has been around for a long time, but supported by a bit more substance than you would find in The Secret. Those who have been practising it, should really do so with an element of responsibility and accountability - and that's tough! It really is a "you get what you wish for" concept, but then is what you wish for really beneficial for everyone, including yourself?

Unfortunately this does not come through in The Secret. I find it rather shallow, though I do believe in what it preaches.

As to my latest "success", well after nearly 2 weeks of focusing on "my car's not working, poor poor me", I finally pulled out of it and visualised driving my car home happily on Friday.

I drove my car home happily on Friday. Proclaimed its good health, by parking right at the entrance of Seksan's on Saturday.

I'm not voting as I do use the techniques sometimes, but not from the Secret.

bibliobibuli said...

catalina - quite right. this can't be a very scientific survey here. was really just hoping to prod some readers into providing what they consider to be "evidence". if i get really ambitious about effective data gathering i should go stake out a branch of mph!

k said...

I WAS going to vote 'changed somewhat for the better' but in the end went for no difference.

Mainly because life was already good before I read the book. And also because visualisation is something I do practice occasionally, even before I read the book. Being such an introverted person, visualisation works like a charm for me each time I have to get up and do public speaking.

As for the general 'law of attraction' I believe in my own logical interpretation of it, in that, positive thinking starts from our own thoughts and beliefs, and that in turn can change our attitudes and actions (and with it the vibe we give out to others) and that 'vibe' attracts others who are most similar to it.

But the book irked me in the absoluteness of the message. Ask and you shall receive. (the psycho-babble of The Universe and Fields doesn't help at all).
I am more of a believer of 'Earn and you shall deserve'.

The one time I consciously made an attempt at The Secret's method: I asked for (and visualised) two very specific things: a pregnancy, and a BMW 3 series (haha!) - the very next day, i kid you not, my best friend called to say she got the former, and my sister got the latter.
go figure. The Universe needs a better postman.

bibliobibuli said...

The Universe needs a better postman. brilliant!

k said...

practise, not practice. sorry.

Another thing, the way The Secret's message is delivered, it takes away accountability for our actions, and seem to completely dissociate life from its creator.
That's a huge gap I cannot ignore.

There are bits that make sense, if you ignore the mumbo-jumbo, but they are hardly secrets.

by the way, I didn't -couldn't- finish the book.

GUO SHAO-HUA said...


wat u described is called "single-mindedness."

and you are right. visualisation is not something mystical that helps you to work hard towards a goal. visualisation just helps you to focus. most sportspersons know this.

The Secret makes it out like its something magical, although it tries to cloak everything in pseudo-science. i saw the first 20 mins of the show and its absolute garbage.

The Secret's "law of attraction" is rubbish.

enar arshad said...

hi...i read it. realised that what i read was actually what i knew beforehand but my it was not organized knowledge.for muslim, i am sure you have heard of the phrase if you are going to mecca be careful with your thots, wishes etc....basically to me that's the whole thing about the secret and spending RM 60 for the book was actually quite a rip off.

Antares said...

Didn't vote because I haven't read the book and never will (even though my entrepreneur son-in-law probably still has a large stack of giveaway copies in his office). However, some friends screened a pirate copy of the DVD at the Pertak Cineplex 3 years ago and I was impressed by the glib efficiency of the presentation but viewed the "docufeature" more as a glossy electronic brochure for the American Dream (I know Rhonda Byrne is Australian, but during the Howard years Australia was actually the 51st state of America; and, anyway, she shot most of 'The Secret' in the US with American success gurus). It's pointless to dismiss a product as popular and commercially successful as 'The Secret' - obviously, like 'The Da Vinci Code,' the DVD (and book) came out at just the right time and struck a resonant chord with consumers everywhere. The so-called Law of Attraction has long been expounded by many esoteric teachings, though not in these exact terms. Our minds are holographic projectors that apparently reify whatever we vividly visualize or imagine, in accordance with the parameters of our belief systems. Some folks are better at focusing and others get distracted or short-circuited by contradictory beliefs and thoughts.
I don't begrudge Rhonda Byrne's hitting the jackpot with 'The Secret' - indeed I'm more disturbed by J.K. Rowling's lucky strike with Harry Potter (which entertains but doesn't nourish). This is mainly because the basic principles taught by 'The Secret' are sound and will ultimately lead those who practise the Law of Attraction to freeing themselves from the paralysis of victimhood. I know most of us enjoy conflict and duality because we are addicted to drama (which I define as the dynamic interplay between light and dark, as in a shadow play). And so we enjoy getting an adrenaline rush from raging against scenarios like the Bush-Cheney regime (and its Project for the New American Century) or greed-driven gargantuan multinational corporations. But in moments of profound quietude, our mind clears and we know that God and Devil are ultimately the Dum and Dee of our bi-polar consciousness. And that's why it's healthy for us to occasionally disengage from getting emotionally drawn into adding our energy to disaster and tragedy scenarios like Darfur, Acheh, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine (and Malaysia, too, if we allow Umno to continue ruling!). In the holographic universe, events occur across a broad spectrum of emotional charge - ranging from the heavenly to the hellish. At each moment the Awakened Soul chooses its own frequency location. For instance, if we consciously choose at the instant of our physical death to laugh rather than cry, that choice will serve as the trimtab (the tiny rudder that alters the course of a huge vessel) of our destination and destiny.

Mister D. Bunker said...

Me not see anything wrong with pre-visualisation to achieve what you want. Happiness is a state of mind, after all, so while being poor might not get your tummy full, putting a positive spin on things can make you whine a bit less. Something that, alas, is getting increasingly lost on younger Malays more exposed to the ravenous existentialism of the West.

Plus, where the mind leads the body (and will) tends to follow. Not a new technique at all, as most monks, millionaires and, later, sportpeople could attest to. Modern sprinters and tennis players make full use of it; that's why when they lose it's usually a psychological failure, not physical (the opponents face the same handicap).

Just look to the recent Australian Open for a superb example: if actual conditions are the only thing that matters, how else could newbies like Djokovic and Tsonga be able to beat out far more experienced top dogs like Federer and Nadal?

There have also been medical cases where patients with terminal diseases (cancer, mainly) actually get fitter by just thinking happy thoughts. It's also the reason why placebos work.

It's easy to debunk what you don't subscribe to. But that doesn't mean it's bunk.

Glenda Larke said...

Antares, you think a child's book that is entertaining but not "nourishing" is worse than something that tells us that if you have any kind of bad luck, it's all your fault????

Byrne preaches a pernicious doctrine - just believe in magic (and she's not writing a kid's fantasy, she's writing it as fact) and you'll be rich, you'll be a winner. She ignores the fact that for there to be a winner, there are always losers. Oh, of course, they'll be the people who don't read her rubbish. I forgot.

Hard work and practical achievable goals - and yes, a positive attitude, I'll agree with Byrne there - will HELP give you what your want (but even those things won't guarantee you'll arrive at your goal). Her fairytale magic will NOT get you anywhere by itself. However, it IS so much easier to believe in magic than hard work and common sense.

Unfortunately, the Malaysian Education system does not encourage critical thinking (because we might learn to criticise authority), so we fall prey to scams like this book.

Mr dB - I debunk this book because it is bunk. I don't subscribe to its ideas because they are bunk. How do I know? Science, logic, critical thinking, and understanding how arguments can be structured to manipulate the gullible.

If you want to see the fallacy behind her ideas, try using logic. Read Carl Sagan's "A Demon Haunted World" and you will understand just how you are being conned.

Chech said...

I was introduced to The Secret by my husband (way before it became a bestseller).

The Secret, to me, rekindled what I have always known before but was not conscious enough to practise; that it is all in the mind.

I always welcome positivity in my life because of the changing power it offers. Listening to my husband reading The Power of Now, for example, has changed me from being a temperamental drama queen to (at least) a person who is only frustrated at things worth to be frustrated at. Even when I'm angry, my anger doesn't linger for long.

I actually tried a visualisation technique mentioned in The Secret.

After a year of marriage without any child, my husband and I decided to seek treatments from a gynaecologist. We have been very positive about being childless. Simultaneously, we never relinquished the hope to have our own children. Still, another year passed by, sans any child.

Then, we watched The Secret.

A day after, I added a 'Vision Board' on my blog. The vision board was first dedicated to our wish for a child. My husband suggested that I put a picture of my niece and nephew because my nephew, in particular, has my eyes. We believe that the clearer the resemblance, the more vivid our wish would be.

Months later, my husband and I were surprised to look at the positive result on the pregnancy test kit. That was after two months of quitting clomid which I took for six cycles. I am now four-month pregnant.

I am not asserting that The Secret and the vision board were the primary cause for the gift of us becoming parents-to-be. Nevertheless, we regard the visualisation as a technique that affirms our belief, aside it being form of continuous prayer to God Almighty. Every single utterance and act is a prayer nevertheless.

That's how The Secret helped me (and my husband) to rediscover the concept of optimism.

Mr D. Bunker said...

Ah, yes. Science. The wonderful ointment that can explain everything in the known universe. Like how a woman trying to save her baby from being crushed could lift up a car. Probably just some kind of freak energy surge or false reporting or something.

Too bad as a Muslim I also have to believe in an unknowable universe and a God that has the power to do as He likes when He likes. The difference between a materialist (NB: not "materialistic") and a Muslim is given in the tale of the Prophet's ascendance to heaven -- if you believe totally and only in science, it's impossible to be a Muslim.

Anonymous said...

Indeed. If you truly believe in logic and science, it's impossible to also subscribe to religion (as "religion" is normally defined) :-) . Science doesn't claim to *currently* explain everything in the universe; only that everything in the universe *will eventually* be explained by science if we don't blow ourselves up or poison ourselves first. And we've been heading in that direction since the beginning of recorded history. Science has explained a whole lot of things that early man ascribed to supernatural forces: night and day, rain, lightning, thunder, the seasons, conception, I could go on and on but I won't, because here I am arguing from a logical standpoint, and as you have said yourself, religion and logic are incompatible.

What I really came here to say was, Glenda, who are you, and when I'm next in KL, can we have a cup of tea and talk about how much we hate The Secret?

-- Preeta

-- Preeta

Cat R. said...

I don't think science detracts a person's ability to wonder at the marvels and irrationalities of the universe. If anything, I feel that a love for science enhances it; the ability to detract mythical explanations sometimes makes you marvel at the sheer wonder of the natural world. Some atheists I know have some of the most beautiful and humane perceptions of the world. It is so compelling, that sometimes, if it were not for my faith as a Christian, I would joyfully be an atheist.

I also feel that if this little debate were to continue in this vein it'll end up as an 'I'm right -- No, I'm right!'. There have been some interesting responses here (hence my reason for following this thread), and I don't want to scare anyone else from revealing their testimonials.

Anonymous said...

cat r -- I agree with you re: a sense of wonder. I don't think science has lessened my sense if wonder at the natural world; to the contrary. And there are certainly lots of things I can't explain. The difference is that I choose to admit I can't explain them; if you ask me, I say I don't know, rather than inventing a story to avoid saying I don't know, or accepting someone else's invented story. I mean, we could all invent stories to explain the things we don't know. Why did Mr. X win the lottery and not me? Because Mr. X stared at a picture of money for a year. Why are babies dying in Africa? Because they did terrible things in a previous life. How did that lady manage to lift a car to save her baby? God helped her.

The fact is, we have as little evidence for these explanations as any other "explanation" that anyone else might choose to come up with. So someone else might come along and say: No, Mr. X won the lottery because he broke two coconuts at the temple and I only broke two. Babies are dying in Africa because they parents aren't performing human sacrifices. That lady managed to lift her car with the help of invisible little green men that only special people can see.

What's scary is that some are so convinced of their "explanations" that they're willing to kill for them. It's dangerous to abandon critical thinking in favour of fairy tales. I think that's what Glenda is trying to say.

-- Preeta

bookseller said...

Wah, this entry just opened a big can of worms/words...

In the retail world, the Secret has made a difference in that it has:
1. Gotten the bookstores (and their distributors) into a whole lotta hullabaloo of stocking up the book on the shelf when it started getting hot
2. Driven many anxious-looking, I-must-have-it Malaysians who normally do not read nor step into a bookstore, into a bookstore
3. Spin off a further rip-off in the timely release of the Secret Bk of Gratitude (blank Journal-like edition), at another RM60
4. Hogged the Bestseller spot of ALL bookstores for far too long

Glenda Larke said...

Ah, Preeta, you say it so much better than me! Click on my name and it will take you to my blog where there is a contact email. Love to chat some time!

Mr D. Bunker said...

Hmm. There seems to be two tracks running from the same station. There is a difference between religion and superstition, and if we're going to now discuss science vs superstition then maybe someone else might want to jump in.

Thinking that what you can perceive with your senses is all there is to it, and that everything is ultimately measurable... God said it best: "Even if I were to extend a stairway right up to heaven in front of these people, they still wouldn't believe."

Faith is illogical, but it's not bunk. So there we stand.

Thank you for the mental exercise.

Mr D. Bunker said...

"It's dangerous to abandon critical thinking in favour of fairy tales. I think that's what Glenda is trying to say."

"Fairy tales" of course depends on the person talking. To some people, angels, heaven and hell are fairy tales. I wonder what one would use to measure (thereby, prove the existence of) angels: physics? Chemistry? Oh, I know... since no one can claim to have seen one, ergo it must be bunk.

I like how science itself has turned into a religion.

bibliobibuli said...

preeta - if you are having tea with glenda i want to come too

cat r. - is there stuff in the universe that is "irrational" or is it just that there is stuff we haven't learned to understand yet. (and probably never will ...)?

much moved by cheech's story and wish you all the best with the baby

bookseller - exactly right. it's a marketing miracle!

but i would like some more miracles from readers of "the secret". how many thousands spent already, bookseller? there must be more miracles for that kind of dosh! hasn't anyone struck the lottery or inherited a legacy? please poke any friends or relatives of neighbours who might have stories of phenomenal success.

interesting conversation! i'm just going to sit here and listen some more

Antares said...

Glenda, your mantra - "Hard work and practical achievable goals" - brings to mind unpleasant memories of Anglican missionaries utterly convinced of the absolute correctness of their own narrow and limited worldview. Bungalow Bill certainly has got nothing on you!
However, I'll have you know that some of my best friends are fairies. And, if you don't mind, I choose to view Magick as the synthesis of Art (right brain) and Science (left brain). May you remain happy in the 3rd Dimension
you're so certain is all that exists :-)

Roxanne said...

I always get what I want by staying so focussed that what I want is drawn like a magnet to my intense concentration field! That's my secret, courtesy of big God. And of course, it was sheer hard work at first ... but once I grasped the principle behind it, it became so simple la.

Mine is free, courtesy of big God. But then people are fools, they rather believe in what they pay money for ...

I've not read Rhona but I know her secret. Her secret is not giving her secret free and it's making her one hell of a rich bitch. If success is measured by how much is in a bank account, she's VERY successful indeed because people who hate her are "selling" her books for her too.

Glenda Larke said...

Two things have astonished me about this discussion: First, that obviously deeply religious people are not deeply repulsed by this book.Her mantra includes disregard for the unfortunate and is about as uncharitable as you can get.
Secondly, that some deeply religious commentators seem to be saying superstition and religious faith are one and the same thing, which somewhat shocks me, as I thought that was a anti-religion criticism levelled only by the secular. I was naively thinking this was a discussion about gullibility and superstition, not religious faith.

It has been pointed out to me by someone who is not commentating here, but is reading the comments,that The Secret was a marketing project but that even members of that team resigned, made uncomfortable by the aggressive marketing tactics employed.

Oh, and if hard work and pragmatic goals are denigrated (for any reason), I despair for the world...

bibliobibuli said...

The Secret was a marketing project but that even members of that team resigned, made uncomfortable by the aggressive marketing tactics employed now that i must investigate!

agree with you wholeheartedly, glenda on the difference between superstition and religious faith.

the implication made by an early commentator about science and faith bothers me ... why shouldn't they be totally compatible? if you beleive in God, you surely have to believe in a God who creates a consistent universe not with some bits of it scientific and some bits completely irrational according to his whim!

what is fascinating about science is that the patterns are all there to be discovered ... and discovering them could be said to be drawing close to the mind of God. i don't think it was an accident that islam supported scientific discovery in its earliest centuries. what a pity that tradition is mostly lost now, particularly in the middle east which has the lowest rate of scientific innovation in the world.

the closing of the human mind can never be condoned.

Catalina said...

Sharon -- I used the word 'irrationality' perhaps too loosely. I have a pretty sentimental relationship with the word, but I might save that for some creative writing or something ;). I'm not keen about the whole 'science will save us!', but I'm certainly not going to jump into the total opposite: rejecting the wisdom of the world for fear of it staining one's self.

Glenda -- I don't know if you included me in your list of religious people, but I never liked the book because I don't like self-serving spirituality on principle (again, Lillian Too). Nevertheless, I understand that some people found it useful and enlightening, and I respect their beliefs.

I suppose being familiar with things like Calvinism and religious fundamentalism at a fairly young age (and being one, for that matter) has made me somewhat wary of people who want to argue their beliefs to me too strongly. Likewise, I don't want to push my points too strongly either.

Anonymous said...

Antares, the question is not whether to allow BN to continue, the question is what choice have we got ? you have to vote for someone, and they're better qualified than any other. I mean who else would you vote for ? of course I hope for a better party to come along, everyone does. But for now we're stuck with BN the same way we're stuck with MS. They're not perfect, but what REAL choices have we got really ? the honourable members of the opposition can't even write a press statement without glaring grammar mistakes.

Anonymous said...

Right then, I may be the only one in this comments thread, but I don't make any distinction between religion and superstition, except that the former gets a lot more public respect. Natalie Angier says it all much more eloquently and wittily than I can in the time I have, so here, if you're interested:

She also, in that same essay, addresses the question of why religion and science are incompatible. Again, I might be the only one here, but I do think it's impossible to subscribe to any mainstream religion and *also,* at the same time, believe in the scientific method. You're always going to have to abandon some parts of your religious belief (virgin births? bodily assumptions into heaven? transubstantiation) because they are inconsistent with what is scientifically possible. They cannot be replicated, no matter what the conditions.

Which brings me to the oft-heard accusation "science is just becoming another religion" -- come on, that just bores me at this point. No, science is not a religion. The whole point of science is that you should be able to replicate its findings for yourself if you have the time and the training/equipment, or you can approach a scientist and ask him/her to repeat the experiment before your eyes. You are always welcome to investigate its claims and challenge them with evidence of your own. Science is *constantly* changing its mind -- that is the purpose of science, the very DEFINITION of the scientific method. Mr. d bunker: If your god built a stairway to heaven in front of me, and I could climb up it and see him and shake his hand -- hell yeah, I would most certainly believe in him! I mean, what on earth are you talking about? I change my mind all the time when presented with evidence.

-- Preeta

Antares said...

This thread is getting rather twisted methinks but it helps to ventilate. Suddenly the focus is on BN and electoral options, or the lack thereof. Somebody posed the question: "What choice have we got? you have to vote for someone, and [the BN] are better qualified than any other." First of all, one can choose to unsub totally from politics and simply ignore the elections. It may not be the wisest or most constructive course, but it's an option nevertheless.

The next question: "Who else would you vote for?" Anybody else really - but only if they promise to abolish repressive laws and restore the mechanisms by which we can monitor the government's behaviour and remove unethical politicians from office. And I'm positive that all the opposition candidates have sworn to abolish the ISA, OSA, and so on (that has to top the agenda!)

"I hope for a better party to come along, everyone does." There has NEVER been a level playing field for any political party that opposes the BN. The only time the BN lost its 2/3 majority was in 1969 - and that's what triggered the May 13 massacre. That 'better party' will NEVER come along unless we ALLOW it to! That means giving the underdog a chance. Vote DAP, vote PKR, vote PAS - just don't succumb to FEAR and vote BN!

"We're stuck with BN the same way we're stuck with MS. They're not perfect, but what REAL choices have we got?" This is what happens when you continue to read the GOP (Government-Owned Press) and watch TV. Voters' FEAR OF CHANGE is what has kept the stinking BN in power! And you DO NOT have to keep tolerating Microsoft. Switch to Mac or Linux. I did without a moment's regret.

"The honourable members of the opposition can't even write a press statement without glaring grammar mistakes." Come on now, can the BN's Information Minister do any better? Such a barrage of kiasu nonsense you're spewing, my friend. No wonder this country is in such a mess :-)

Now... coming back to 'The Secret'... I wonder if there's a market for a book on The Law of Distraction... Sharon, your blogpost on Rhonda Byrne seems to have set everybody talking at cross purposes. Nothing can be resolved this way but at least it's been fun letting off steam :-)

Glenda Larke said...

Preeta - it would be hard to say how many people here agreed with your last post. You see, over half the population of this country would be unable to make that kind of statement, or agree with it, without risking incarceration, having their marriage forcibly dissolved, legally losing their children, losing their rights to inheritance, being socially ostracised...

It's a whole lot safer sticking to talking about superstition.

bibliobibuli said...

"the law of distraction" yes, good one, antares

Madcap Machinist said...

Haven't read The Secret, but this thread is making me curious. A friend of mine was talking about the book sometime ago, and my verdict is that it's whack. Nevertheless, she seems to have taken its message positively.

But this concept that if you ask the universe for help (with whatever goal), it will conspire to help reach your goal, is an interesting one. Does it? Of course it doesn't, how could it? But if you believe it, I suppose you'd be tapping into a huge source of confidence: The YOOOOONIVERSE got my back y'all, PHWOARRRR! You're SO gonna get owned.

But it's just another idea like religion. Religion is just an idea.
My position would be: you don't need it, at least not as a way to explain the world, and how to live; for that we have science, and logic. But if you sense the presence of God in the world, who am I to tell you to not believe?

Last November, physicist Paul Davies wrote in the NYT (a brill piece in my opinion, if only for the ruckus it caused; here I am linking to The Edge so you can follow the discussion), from which I picked this plum quote:

"Clearly, then, both religion and science are founded on faith — namely, on belief in the existence of something outside the universe, like an unexplained God or an unexplained set of physical laws, maybe even a huge ensemble of unseen universes, too. For that reason, both monotheistic religion and orthodox science fail to provide a complete account of physical existence."

I hasten to add that it's a dangerous quote to take out of its context, but here let's just take it at face value. Because I am somewhat familiar with Paul Davies' writing, I was quite surprised to see the reactions on the blogs to the piece.

He is saying that while some people have absolute belief in God, we have absolute belief in physics the way we can be confident that when we hold a cup of coffee the laws of gravity won't suddenly fail, causing the coffee to fly up and scald your face. That's my take on it, anyway.

Science is a philosophy of discovery. If it ever happens that you find yourself scalded by a levitating blob of coffee (to be clear: this is my equivalent to virgin births and walking on water), will you think "God did it"?

Another plum from Davies: "To invoke God as a blanket explanation of the unexplained is to make God the friend of ignorance. If God is to be found, it must surely be through what we discover about the world, not what we fail to discover." This is the epigraph on Chet Raymo's 'Skeptics & True Believers', a fine book on the Science vs. Religion that should interest a lot of people. Beautiful prose. Brought up a religious Catholic, became a physicist (i.e. I can relate), how do you reconcile faith with the degree of doubt required to do science? "The world is charged with the grandeur of God," says Raymo, following Gerard Manley Hopkins. Earlier: "Science cannot nor should not be a religion, but it can be the basis for the religious experience: astonishment, experiential union, adoration, praise."

I've gone very far afield. Mostly I am just adding kindling to the science/religion debate above. We really need to talk about this, and I'm glad we are. Glenda is being pessimistic, I will the first here to agree with Preeta. Now I must get back to the topic. The bottom line is, you probably won't get anything like this in 'The Secret'.

Madcap Machinist said...

ps: Thanks Antares for a new word. "Trimtab" makes a nice bingo.

Madcap Machinist said...

ps 2: Curse the law of distraction! I actually forgot what I was going to say about asking the universe for help--Why not? We are stardust.

bibliobibuli said...

madcap - love this, and hereby snaffle the line To invoke God as a blanket explanation of the unexplained is to make God the friend of ignorance.

i have a problem. i asked the yoooooniverse for something i thought i'd never get, and the yooooniverse may be in the process of giving it to me. thing is, if you visualise what you want first, you recognise it when you see it, and you do (what i believe we humans don't do often enough) ask for it.

i learned about asking for what i want from a remarkable lady called lorna tee whom i worked with on the first kl lit fest.

Anonymous said...

Madcap Machinist, thanks for the link to that article -- it's great. Lovely writing, for one thing, which already counts for a lot.

I confess I have a semi-personal vendetta against people like Rhonda Byrne -- my parents used to have these loathesome "friends" who belonged to a cult that shall remain unnamed in this space, and they used to INSIST -- I kid you not, INSIST to the point that I think they would've sworn it if we'd made them -- that all the furniture, appliances, everything in their house had not been bought but acquired by the simple act of them sitting down as a family, closing their eyes, and "visualising" what they wanted. "We decided before hand what-what we wanted. Then we sat there and focused our thoughts together: Hoover vacuum, Hoover vacuum, Hoover vacuum. And you see it comes, just like that! Thoughts have great power."

So yes, after these experiences I am more impatient than most with Secrets, especially when people are being conned into paying for them. At least my parents' loony friends' Secret came free-of-charge (except for the hours of our lives we lost sitting listening to their rubbish).

-- Preeta

Anonymous said...

P.S. Glenda -- re: your last comment, yes, I do fully understand that, and I'm not as unsympathetic to it as I may have come across :-) .

-- Preeta

Madcap Machinist said...


"if you visualise what you want first, you recognise it when you see it, and you do (what i believe we humans don't do often enough) ask for it." -- this is absolutely true! Or, to put it another way, the old wisdom: a problem well-stated is a problem half-solved.

bibliobibuli said...

nicely said too.

and we are visualising, planning animals because we have this frontal lobe thingy. we can't NOT visualise in fact.

my thing i asked for is so huge and wonderful it terrifies me, but there is a chance it might fall into my (our) lap. i can't jinx it by blogging it here but i would love to tell you about it when i see you, even if it doesn't actually come to pass it will have been too near a miss to discount. (and it is not something for me, it is something for us all.)