Seductive Obfuscation

Bullshit Asymmetry Principle: The amount of energy necessary to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it. — Alberto Brandolini

In the middle of the nineteenth century, Phineas Parkhurst Quimby—self-proclaimed mesmerist, magnetizer, healer, and father of the New Thought movement—influenced an unforeseen brigade of mental manifestationalists throughout the twentieth century who have subsequently contributed to the growing popularity of the misappropriation and misapplication of science as it relates to the subject of human cognition. Quimby, in a state of unverified, self-aggrandized presumption, simply believed that disease was a manifestation of inappropriate mental processes. He further claimed that nature is little more than the outward projection of an inward activity “far more real and enduring.” It wasn’t long before Mary Baker Eddy, founder of Christian Science and a contemporary of Quimby, borrowed and augmented this philosophy in her risible version of mind-over-matter faith healing (see critical essays by Samuel Clemens).

The most recent permutation regarding this wishful form of attraction grandiosity can be found in the indolent mangling of theoretical physics by New Age peddlers who appropriate contemporary scientific terminology for purposes of creating a narrative that supports specious claims about the nature of the cosmos and our relationship to it. Volumes of books on this topic, written almost exclusively by individuals with little or no formal scientific training, have been published in recent years attempting to establish these seductive ideas. In less than a few pages, the reader is assured of their powers to achieve limitless prosperity (after they embrace the supposed implications of quantum indeterminacy), and the universe quickly becomes a 24-hour, drive-thru convenience store.

Richard Feynman, a Nobel Prize winning physicist who is considered one of the great grandfathers of quantum theory, once stated, “If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics.” Indeed. Merely placing the word quantum in front of a statement does not obligate unmitigated deference to said proposition. Promises of unlimited possibility, telekinetic attraction, and mental collaborations with indifferent forms of matter are overtly marketed for their emotional appeal and user-friendly guarantee that complex ideas in science are immediately accessible without the need for a sufficient educational background. When applied to the social sciences, these statements are irresponsible assertions that do a disservice to epistemological standards by placing unfounded value on overreaching pronouncements while being dismissive of contextual circumstances, random interpersonal variables, and socioeconomic considerations. When applied to human psychology, such claims demonstrate a blatant disregard for empirical restraints and neglect the professional responsibility of providing verifiable information in a clinical setting.

In conclusion, such tropes as “dig into your quantum consciousness” or “let the universe manifest itself through you” make about as much sense as an oncologist saying “life is about magic and pasta” to a cancer patient.

One thought on “Seductive Obfuscation

  1. Pingback: Teleology Gone Wild | armchair deductions

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