Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Secret? A Load of Bleep

Apparently, Ellen Degeneres and Oprah have both touted the book The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. If you aren't familiar with The Secret, and I wasn't until I saw this article on MSNBC.com, it is a self help book that is selling like it actually works (for the author.) The premise of the book sounds like the power of positive thinking. It claims, according to MSNBC.com, that if you think good thoughts and avoid bad influences that these positive steps will 'attract' more positive results, specifically the ones you want.

This 'secret' is nothing new. The laws of attraction have been touted for years in various books, such as Excuse Me, Your Life is Waiting by Lynn Grabhorn and others to numerous to mention. But, Rhonda Byrne, again according to MSNBC.com, tries to dress the idea up in metaphysics. To this end she enlists the aid of a couple of Quantum Physicists, Fred Alan Wolf Phd. and John Hagelin Phd. Don't get impressed just yet. Both of these 'scientists' also appeared in the movie What the Bleep Do We Know, a movie that attempted to explain how quantum physics can lead to a deeper understanding of life and a better life. A little research on the net shows that this movie was funded and produced and features many people who are followers of a woman named JZ Knight. Knight gets her wisdom because she claims to channel some ancient being known as Ramtha. See where I'm going with this? These ideas are not new, and they are usually latched onto by people involved or willing to believe in New Age movements. The Secret does not propound a new idea, and it doesn't even seek out new people to promote the idea. It is a total rehash of an already questionable idea. Yet, Oprah and Ellen are among the millions who have bought this book, and made it one of the fastest selling self help books in history. Woe to us. Of course, this is a perfect example of the economy of the new millenia; take a tired idea, dress it up in pretty marketing, and sell it to a public reviled by the reality of hard work and patience. Today, people want their reality from others, in a one hour prime time show.

The trouble with books like this is that they taint the idea of holding a positive outlook on life. It seems like common sense that, despite our cynical view of the world, most of the time good things happen to good people and vice versa. If bad things happen to you are you a bad person? If good things happen to you are you a good person? I didn't say that. It is a question of probability, seized and missed opportunity. For a deeper and well researched look at this idea, I suggest you pick up Breaking Murphy's Law, by Suzanne C. Segerstrom. It is a well thought, well written, and statistically grounded look at the topic The Secret turns into mystic gobbledy gook.

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