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The Law of Attraction

February 18, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

The phrase Law of Attraction, although used widely by esoteric writers, has a variety of definitions. Turn-of-the-century references conceptualized the law of attraction as relating to physical structure and to how matter develops. A more modern consensus among New Thought thinkers is that the Law of Attraction says people’s thoughts (both conscious and unconscious) dictate the reality of their lives, whether or not they’re aware of it. Essentially “if you really want something and truly believe it’s possible, you’ll get it”, but putting a lot of attention and thought onto something you don’t want means you’ll probably not get it.

Widespread popular interest for the law of attraction reached its peak after the release of the The Secret, a 2006 cinematic release. After the film’s release, the book, Law of Attraction: The Basics of the Teachings of Abraham, by Esther Hicks and Jerry Hicks made the New York Times Best Sellers list, drawing more attention and interest to this topic. Prior to this, the couple had been in the field since the ’80s. In 2007, Oprah Winfrey began a series of interviews during her talk show on the law of attraction.

Since many of the claims of the law of attraction appear impossible without violating established scientific principles and our understanding of the universe, it has received criticism from the scientific community. Physicist Ali Alousi, for instance, criticized it as unmeasurable (and therefore unscientific) as well as questioning the likelihood that thoughts can affect anything outside the head. The Associated Press is also quoted as saying that “some medical professionals suggest it could even lead to a blame-the-victim mentality and actually be dangerous to those suffering from serious illness or mental disorders”.

Many modern proponents say that the Law of Attraction has roots in Quantum Physics, though no reputable scientist or publication ever supported the alleged scientific credentials of this theory.According to proponents of this law, thoughts have an energy that attracts like energy.In order to control this energy, proponents state that people must practice four things:
Know what you want.
Ask the universe for it.
Feel and behave as if the object of your desire is on its way.
Be open to receiving it.

Thinking of what one does not have, they say, manifests itself in not having, while if one abides by these principles, and avoids “negative” thoughts, the Universe will manifest a person’s desires.

Scientists are critical of the lack of falsifiability and testability of these claims. The evidence provided is usually anecdotal and, because of the self-selecting nature of positive reports, as well as the subjective nature of any results, highly susceptible to misinterpretations like confirmation bias and selection bias.References to modern scientific theory are also criticized. While brainwaves do have an electrical signal, quantum physical principles do not act in the way proponents of the Law of Attraction have described them.

The use of the term law has also come under fire. Critics have said that the use of the term and the vague references to quantum physics to bridge any unexplained or seemingly implausible effects are hallmark traits of modern pseudoscience. Proponents of the Law of Attraction however say that the nature of the ‘law’ is not one to be settled scientifically, and the word ‘law’ carries the same belief-based weight as non-scientific ‘laws’ from other religions, such as the ‘Law of Karma’ and the Ten Commandments.

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