From Slate

May. 27th, 2007 04:03 am
weswilson: (Default)
Slate Magazine has an article about Oprah's recent "clarification" of her support for "The Secret".

Not too long ago, one of your viewers—a woman named Kim—wrote you to announce that she had decided to halt her breast-cancer treatments and heal herself with her mind. Kim had just seen your two shows dedicated to The Secret, the self-help phenomenon that says we shape the world with our thoughts, and she was inspired to bet her life on it.

You're an optimistic lady, Oprah, but this gave even you the willies. So you went on the air to "clarify your thoughts" about the Law of Attraction, The Secret's underlying theory that mind conjures matter. You implored Kim to go back to her treatments. And you told your audience that the Law of Attraction "is not the answer to everything. It is not the answer to atrocities or every tragedy."

Everyone here probably knows how I feel about pseudoscience. It all seems harmless and fun till someone takes it seriously. And after that, even the harmless and fun stuff starts looking sinister. By creating an environment where unproven and unscientific principles get accepted as legitimate, one helps charlatans and con-men take advantage of good people. Worse, it puts good people into a mindset where they will go to faith healers and snake-oil salesmen rather than talk to a legitimate doctor. It is, quite simply, evil. Deliberately undermining the public understanding of what works and what doesn't is evil.

The Secret is a sham... it essentially says that positive thinking changes the world. I'm not sure about you, but I don't think I should hold a child psychically responsible for weight or health problems. "I'm sorry, son... but if you had just believed that twinkie had no calories, it wouldn't!" No child invokes any Laws of Attraction to bring misery, illness, and sorrow into their lives. That's just life...

Another quote from the article: I wonder whether they would be as enthusiastic if someone proposed running the government according to the Law of Attraction. As it happens, Cerulo [In her book Never Saw it Coming] spends a lot of time in her book documenting how even the public agencies designed to prevent disasters often fall victim to blindly positive thinking.

Take NASA, for example, which ignored repeated warnings from its engineers in advance of the Challenger explosion because it was so busy envisioning a perfect blastoff.

What do you think The Secret folks would say about Iraq? "We will be greeted as liberators" was good, but "Mission Accomplished" was even better. Visualize, guys, visualize!

It's all voodoo, smoke and mirrors. I'm glad that Oprah was sane enough to retract part of her support... but perhaps she should have retracted the whole thing. This kind of crap is dangerous.

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