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Friday, February 23, 2007

The Secret

Passed down by ancient wise men from generation to generation, and known by cognoscenti such as Aristotle, Plato, and DaVinci, was a code that revealed the secret of the universe! Endorsed by king and cleric alike, there was no denying the power of consensus. Thus it had to be true. Written in a cryptic script that has only been fully revealed to this day, the Ptolemaic Code presented a shocking wisdom that when revealed anew will overturn the settled and complacent wisdom of today!

Stay tuned for more the Oprah show, and for the movie version directed by Opie. So what is this earthshaking wisdom? Namely, that the earth is the center of the universe, the planets revolve around it, and the stars are fixed on the surface of a rotating crystal sphere. Hokum? You bet, but only because by using telescopes we can see the reality of the night sky. Certainly in the 15th century it wasn't, and Claudius Ptolemy's (ca 150 ad) crack brained theory of the universe was catapulted to truth because it got a lot of important endorsements, and because the public, then as now, was gullible and stupid.

The Secret

Move forward a few centuries, and we endure another sort of hokum in another ancient cosmic 'law', again conveniently revealed after all these centuries. In Rhonda Byrnes' multi-media epic 'The Secret' , this #1 best selling/Oprah approved piece of BS reveals a profound and ancient 'Secret' (which is mainly a variant of positive thinking: a cosmic law of attraction, or believe and you will receive) that was also the secret of success for great scientists and entrepreneurs such as Galileo, Einstein, and Ford. Well, a can do attitude or positive way of looking at the world is no secret, but it wasn't their secret for success. Attitude can not make for accomplishment, but testability does, and the ability to scientifically demonstrate that your idea/contraption actually does work is the stuff that may not make for genius, but it sure validates it. So if your model T Ford couldn't get up a hill, or if experiment didn't bear out Einstein's claims of the relativity of time and space, then such genius evaporates, and becomes merely the oddball rantings of a fool.

And this is the problem for this oddball book. Product endorsements from Oprah, pop-psychologists, and grade D celebrities are as much related to science and the scientific method as an the pronouncements of an infallible pope. If you were to pronounce that tap dancing while whistling 'Dixie' cures cancer, you can only validate your genius if you can test your great idea, not because you get a lot of product endorsements. But evidently, this doesn't apply to Byrne's grand thesis. Thus, because there are a lot of product endorsements for this book, it means, like Ptolemy's theory, it must be true. In a pigs eye that is.

So 'the secret' is crap because it poses as sciences without embracing the self criticism of science. Better to read John Horgan's book 'the Undiscovered Mind' for those more inclined for a bit more sobriety in their thinking.

And for those of you (like me) who just have a terminal case of cynicism about the stupidity of popular psychological 'science', read this 'Sham'! can read the Onion's Take on the Secret.

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