Tag Archives: Isaac Newton

What’s Wrong with The Secret

The Secret teaches that victims are always to blame, and that anyone can have anything simply by wishing.

Brian DunningBy Brian Dunning via Skeptoid: Critical Analysis Podcast (2008). Read podcast transcript below or listen here.

Prepare to have everything you’ve ever wanted, simply by thinking happy thoughts about it; and be careful of negative scary thoughts which might cause those things to happen to you to too. Little did you know that, just like in the original Star Trek episode Shore Leave, whatever you think of — either good or bad — will actually happen! This is the premise of Rhonda Byrne‘s 2006 book and movie, both titled The Secret.

cccRhonda Byrne is an Australian television producer and author. Her book and movie propose that many of the most successful people throughout history have known a “secret” — a secret closely guarded in the marketing materials for the book and movie. The “secret” turns out to be nothing more than the old motivational speaker’s standby, that positive thinking leads to positive results. But she took the idea a step further. The Secret claims that you can actually cause events to happen by wishing for them hard enough, literally like winning the lottery or recovering from terminal illness. Similarly, a focus on fears or negative ideas will cause those things to appear or happen as well. The Secret calls this the “Law of Attraction”. The Secret further makes the completely unfounded claim that many great people knew and relied upon this wisdom, and taught it to others as “secret teachers”. “Secret teachers” included Buddha, Aristotle, Plato, Sir Isaac Newton, Martin Luther King Jr., Carl Jung, Henry Ford, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, Andrew Carnegie, Joseph Campbell, Alexander Graham Bell, and even Beethoven. This claim is just a made-up lie: Most of these people lived before the “Law of Attraction” was invented, and there’s no evidence that any of them ever heard of it.

As of today (2008), a year and a half after its release, The Secret remains #26 of Amazon’s list of best selling books, better than any Harry Potter book. It has over 2,000 customer reviews. Half of them are 5 star, and a quarter of them are 1 star. This is the sign of a polarizing book. Most people either love it or find it to be utter nonsense. In the case of The Secret, most people love it. Thanks in large part to promotion by Oprah Winfrey, The Secret sold 2 million DVD’s in its first year and 4 million books in its first six months.

“Wealth is a mindset. Money is literally attracted to you or repelled from you. It’s all about how you think.”The Secret

Many of the people appearing in the movie version of The Secret are motivational speakers who spout the same old “If you can dream it, you can do it” nonsense that Amway salesmen have been chanting for decades. In essence, part of what Rhonda Byrne has done has been to simply repackage Motivational Speaking 101 inside the wrapper of a century-old philosophical construct, which we’ll look at in closer detail in a moment.

As you’ve probably heard, The Secret has been roundly criticized from all quarters. The most common criticism is of The Secret’s assertion that victims are always to blame for whatever happens to them. Whether it’s a rape victim, a tsunami victim, or a heart attack victim, The Secret teaches that they brought it upon themselves with their own negative thoughts. This idea is, of course, profoundly offensive in many ways. Doctors attack The Secret for teaching that positive thinking is an adequate substitute for medical care in cases of serious illness: Wish for it hard enough, and your cancer tumors will melt away. Religious leaders criticize The Secret for its ethical claims that victims are always to blame, and for promoting the attitude that anyone can be just like a god by wishing hard enough. Many financial critics and advisors have pointed out the dangers of yet another baseless get-rich-quick scheme. The list of critics of The Secret goes on and on, as tends to happen to any mega-successful franchise.

So the question people ask me is “What do I think of The Secret?”

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What’s Next for Doomsday?

Space Rock or Last Pope?
End of World Predictions

via LiveScience

Is the next Pope the last before the apocalypse? Some writings, though discredited, would suggest yes. Regardless of validity, doomsday predictions abound, including end-of-world dates set for 2020, 2040, 2060 and 2080.

Is the next Pope the last before the apocalypse? Some writings, though discredited, would suggest yes. Regardless of validity, doomsday predictions abound, including end-of-world dates set for 2020, 2040, 2060 and 2080.
CREDIT: sdecoret | Shutterstock

Y2K? A bust. Judgment Day 2011? As quiet as a mouse. The Mayan apocalypse? Certainly not now.

As they have throughout history, failed doomsday predictions come and go. But with the Pope resigning, an asteroid whizzing near the planet Friday (Feb. 15) and a completely unrelated space rock exploding over Russia, it seems a good time to ask: What’s next?

Plenty, as it turns out. Previous failures have in no way shut down doomsday predictors, and dates are set for possible apocalypses in 2020, 2040, 2060 and 2080 (zeros have an appeal, apparently). One of these doomsdays was even predicted by Sir Isaac Newton himself.

“It’s clear that these kinds of scenarios return over and over and over again,” said John Hoopes, an archaeologist at the University of Kansas who has studied doomsday predictions.

The end is nigh

Doomsday prophecies date back thousands of years. The ancient Persians kicked off the hobby of apocalypse predicting in the Western world, Saint Joseph’s University professor Allen Kerkeslager told LiveScience in December 2012. Apocalypse_100_300pxWhen the Zoroastrian Persians conquered the ancient Jews, they passed their end-of-the-world beliefs into Jewish culture, which subsequently handed them to Christianity. Now, everyone from Protestant preachers like Harold Camping, who predicted Armageddon in 2011, to UFO cultists and New Age mystics occasionally jump on the doomsday train.

The most recent apocalypse prediction was tied to the Mayan calendar, even though actual Mayans and scholars who study ancient Maya culture pointed out repeatedly that the calendar was never meant to predict the end of the world. The appointed day (Dec. 21, 2012) came and went without fire and brimstone.

But failures haven’t stopped aspiring doomsday prophets in the past. In one of the most notorious apocalypse failures ever, American Baptist preacher William Miller predicted the return of Jesus Christ on March 21, 1844. Nothing happened, so Miller and his followers revised the prediction to Oct. 22. When that day, too, passed without incident, it was dubbed the Great Disappointment. [Oops! 11 Failed Doomsday Predictions]

Likewise, Camping predicted the Rapture three times in 1994 before his 2011 predictions.

The Pope’s doomsday

So it should come as no surprise that doomsday believers have plenty of dates to fixate on in the future. Friday’s ultimately harmless asteroid flyby may trigger more anxiety about world-ending asteroid impacts in the near future, Hoopes told LiveScience. A Friday morning meteor explosion that shattered windows and injured more than 1,000 in Russia is likely to do the same.

The surprise announcement of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI last week has also triggered doomsday chatter.

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