Last week there was a post on the ‘Change Your Life’ blog (down in my links list) inviting readers to have their say about the ‘law of attraction’. Fact or fancy?
I posted a short comment, but there’s a lot more that I could say. I did physics before I swung into the arts. (My niece doesn’t call me ‘Uncle Sheldon’ for nothing).
The ‘law of attraction’ was made popular a few years ago in The Secret, a book by an Australian author. I did read it. As far as I can tell, what you desire is attracted to you via this ‘law’ which, apparently, works by ‘quantum physics’. Apparently thoughts create ‘vibrations’. Positive thoughts create more powerful ‘vibrations’ than negative, travel further, and so attract the desired object or outcome to the individual. If it doesn’t happen, it’s because the person making the wish didn’t have enough desire for what they wanted.
It is, of course, gibberish. As I understand it, the ‘law of attraction’ not only violates macro-level physics – specifically, the Second Law of Thermodynamics – it also violates the real laws of quantum physics. As a friend of mine pointed out, quantum physics is stochastic – that is, it’s about probabilities at scales below the Planck length, which is 1.616199×10-35 metres. Kind of small.
By contrast, the ‘law of attraction’ is deterministic and operates in terms of abstract human desires.
This is something that has always bemused me – how so much that is actually metaphysical can be attributed to ‘quantum physics’. I know Einstein called it ‘spooky’, but it’s not THAT spooky! The principles are well established. Subatomic objects are waves and particles – the duality is an artefact of our classical physics approach; the blend is the closest we can come to defining what the subatomic object actually is. It’s possible to determine EITHER velocity OR position of this ‘wavicle’. Work by various physicists in the early twentieth century – Dirac, Heisenberg, Planck, Bohr and others – explored how the universe worked if the positions and velocities of the particles that made it up were indeterminate – if they existed as probabilities, not discrete and defineable numbers. It was utterly counter-intuitive. But it was also entirely about probabilities at subatomic level.
The cause of the ‘new age’ version, as far as I can tell, came out of a misunderstanding of Heisenberg and Schroedinger’s efforts to describe how a watching human might see the ‘spookiness’. This was then conflated with the problem of observational interference – that is, an effort to observe or detect a quantum event collapses the probabilities to a single outcome. This led to the idea that human consciousness causes the outcome. However, in real quantum physics, no human consciousness or personal observation is required. This was proven by experimental demonstration using a machine ‘observer’ as far back as 1998. Here’s the link.
To me real quantum physics is amazing enough without making it apparently magical as well. As for the ‘law of attraction’? Hokum. People get what they want because they work to achieve it. Affirmations and visualisations can be part of the journey , helping direction – a motivation, a spur to happiness - but they don’t create anything of themselves. Only our own actions do that. I think people need to have faith in themselves, in their own abilities – and to be proud of what they achieve. To accept that they get what they want through their own efforts – which to me is a far, far more rewarding result than wish fulfilment.
What are your thoughts on this?
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2013