Can quantum mechanics really explain the “law of attraction”?

“Dogs are so cute when they try to comprehend quantum mechanics!”

I’ll be the first to admit I am no scientist, although I did spend 20 years with one, amid scintillating breakfast conversations on topics like zinc and copper sediment in the Fraser River estuary. (Does that count at all?) Far brighter minds than mine, however, tell us what real scientists have often pondered: people believe an awful lot of “science” that isn’t scientific at all. Take the recent Reuters report from Russia that showed:

  • 32% of Russians surveyed believed the Earth is the centre of the solar system
  • 55% believed that all radioactivity is man-made
  • 29% believed that the first humans lived when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth

Study author Dr. Olga Kamenchuk wrote:

“It’s really quite amazing – it speaks of the low levels of education in the country.”

Well, it either speaks of their impoverished education, or it speaks of the universal willingness to believe what other (non-scientist) people tell us. It helps to explain why believers in the Law of Attraction (LOA) claim that their beliefs are actually based on pure science: the physics of quantum mechanics.

My own loose, and I do mean loose, grasp on this science is that it’s the branch of physics that interprets physical phenomena occurring on a very small scale (like the motion of electrons). Confusion around this science inevitably brings the opportunity for profit.

As Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University Dr. Neil Farber writes:

“The law of attraction is the belief that the universe creates and provides for you that which your thoughts are focused on. It is believed by many to be a universal law by which Like always attracts like.” The results of positive thoughts are always positive consequences. The same holds true for negative thoughts, always leading to bad outcomes.

“But the LOA is much more than generalizations: Thinking about red Lamborghinis will bring you red Lamborghinis—always. To the believers, questioning the validity of the LOA is akin to heresy and blasphemy; it creates religious fervor. To the uninitiated, it may seem silly to discuss even the possibility that such a law could exist.

Dr. Farber has created a terrific list of 14 reasons that the Law of Attraction doesn’t exist. Read it here.



Why there’s no such thing as “clinically proven”

I really like reading the common sense essays of Pennsylvania physician Dr. Lucy Hornstein. She’s also the author of the book, Declarations of a Dinosaur: 10 Laws I’ve Learned as a Family Doctor.  I like her writing mostly because I agree with almost everything she says. She’s brilliant, really. Last month, Dr. Lucy took aim at one of my own pet peeves: advertising for questionable health products that claim the benefits of such products are “clinically proven”.

For example, she picked on a radio ad for a colon cleanse product that helps remove the ‘five to ten pounds of waste some experts believe are spackled along the inside of the large intestine’:

“But ‘some expertsalso believe the moon landing was a hoax, the Holocaust never happened, and homeopathy is effective medicine. Somehow this colon cleansing stuff helps you preferentially lose belly fat. Not really sure what belly fat has to do with five to ten pounds of stuff spackled inside your intestine. But they’re not selling logic. Call right now for your free sample. Or not.  Continue reading

How doctors are selling weight loss surgery to teens

Overweight teenagers in America are now undergoing laparoscopic gastric band surgery, a weight-loss procedure that isn’t even approved for anyone under 18 years old. But one California study last year found that gastric band operations for patients as young as 13 had increased seven-fold over the previous five years.

In gastric band surgery, an inflatable silicon ring is placed around the upper portion of the stomach. This creates a smaller stomach, which makes people feel full sooner and reduces the amount they eat. And there’s big money in those little rings. Allergan, the company that manufactures the Lap-Band® device, has estimated that sales of its obesity intervention products will top $240 million in 2011.  Continue reading

British surgeon threatened with lawsuit for daring to question ‘Boob Job’ cream

According to The Guardian, a prominent British plastic surgeon named Dr. Dalia Nield of The London Clinic has been threatened with a libel action by the manufacturer of a cosmetic cream because she publicly questioned whether it worked as the company claimed. Dr. Nield had also told a newspaper reporter: “The manufacturers are not giving us any information on tests they have carried out.” The company, Rodial Limited, claims that its £125 ($192 Cdn) Boob Job cream, if applied regularly, can increase a woman’s breast size by up to 8.4% within 56 days. According to the company’s website, here’s how Boob Job works:

“As your fat cells move around the body after eating, Boob Job ‘blocks’ the fat into the area where the product has been applied, so the bust and décolleté areas. You will see a gradual increase in cup size within 56 days as well as gaining an instant lifting and firming effect.”  Continue reading

Top 10 posts from The Ethical Nag for 2010

There has been no shortage of intriguing topics to write about over the past year. As I’ve said before, marketers are smart, and we consumers need to learn how to outsmart them. Part of that learning, of course, involves just becoming more savvy about how things work out there in the world of marketing. This year, a first for me: threatened legal action by the mega-law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom who took exception to seeing their client’s name mentioned here.Continue reading

The Five A’s of Empty Arguments

A common warning sign of the misuse of science is trying to make the science appear conflicting and undecided (when it isn’t) by burying us in conflicting studies. Consider climate change research, for example, and internal documents found at Fox News ordering staff to cast doubt when reporting on all climate change science news.

The very cheeky Dr. T over at Thinking is Dangerous reminds us that, unfortunately, these techniques can be quite effective in confusing the public.

This is particularly true when people don’t understand how to recognize a well-designed, strong study of merit versus a poorly-designed weak one. So to help us all better understand, he presents us with his Five A’s of Empty Arguments:

Continue reading