Richard G. Petty, MD

Quantum Flapdoodle

Regular readers will know that I talk about a large amount of contemporary research relating to our central themes of Integrated Medicine and Personal Integration and Growth. And unless someone is making a dangerous recommendation, most of the time I let mistakes and misunderstandings go. But I’ve just seen some articles that really do need a response.

The authors are misleading us.

And even if you do not see the main article that I’m going to be focusing on today, you may see other similar articles or websites, and I do not want you to be deceived.

I am not a physicist by training, but I’ve spent years getting myself educated in fields like quantum mechanics and relativity theory by some of the foremost authorities in the world. I’ve read their books and papers; I’ve had meetings with them, visited their labs and had them answer a lot of questions, some of which probably tried their patience!

It took a great deal of time and effort. The reason for doing it was not idle curiosity, but because I need to be better able to understand the world, so that I can give sensible advice and we can all survive the critical next few years.

So it is a shame to see books and articles claiming that quantum mechanics or some other field of science “proves” what some writer is saying, when they clearly don’t understand anything about the field.

There have been some notable exceptions: Ken Wilber, Gary Zukav, Fritjof Capra and Deepak Chopra all talk about things quantum and have done their homework. Sadly the majority of people who write books and articles using quantum mechanics to buttress their arguments have not. They constantly show a complete misunderstanding of entire subject. It would not matter in the slightest if folk just wanted to entertain themselves. But when they use false information to try and influence other people to believe something, it gets to be a problem. Particularly if it has to do with your health and your personal destiny.

In some cases it is a matter of people “not knowing that they don’t know.” In others it’s been frank intellectual dishonesty.

I’ve just been sent an article for my comments. It’s one of the worst of its type that I’ve seen in months. And that’s saying something! I don’t want to take the paper and do a line-by-line critique: it’s not necessary.

Instead, I would like you to get some ideas about how to interpret an article that uses quantum mechanics, relativity or molecular biology to support what it says. You wouldn’t spend money on an infomercial with outrageous claims, so don’t get taken in by a pseudoscientist. So let me show you the first steps toward being a savvy reader.

Nobody expects a popular article to be a scientific treatise. But you, as a reader, have every right to expect honesty from the writer.

The author says that the “Law of Attraction” – an old alchemical and Theosophical concept – has been proven by modern science. He says that “Science calls it the Law of Quantum Physics. Metaphysics calls it the Law of Spiritual Attraction.” “Like energy attracts like energy.”

I honestly don’t like being critical, but this is bovine excreta.

The author must have forgotten about the North and South poles of a magnet. Or gravity, quark, strangeness and charm?

There is indeed a Law of Attraction: it is important and provable. But what the author writes about is not it.

He then uses some patently absurd interpretations of physics to buttress his arguments. We don’t need to go through the details of what he’s written. But why it all matters is this: what he has to say has no basis, either in logic, in intuition, or in an appeal to the Traditions. It holds serious work up to ridicule.

The writer then goes on to cite some interesting observations by a Russian scientist named Vladimir Poponin, who’s written some very interesting papers about coherent light: what has become known as the DNA Phantom effect. The writer of this article doesn’t seem to have read any of Poponin’s papers or bothered to analyze the debate that has followed his reports. Are the experiments any good? The writer doesn’t tell us, because he doesn’t seem to know.

Yet he writes about this work as if it is all cut and dried. Poponin’s work is extremely interesting, he’s a careful scientist with a good track record, but like the Emoto experiments on ice crystals that appear to respond to emotions, it needs to be replicated under controlled conditions. And so far nobody’s been able to do that.

Then we are told that photons are “particles of light.” I can only assume that the writer got that from some primary school text.

And here’s more: “Quantum physics is discovering that all physical matter is made of electromagnetic photon energy-light.” If anyone can explain that sentence, I’d love them to tell all of us.

Whenever someone is trying to dazzle us into believing what he or she has to say, there are some dead giveaways:

  1. Always cite quantum mechanics: chances are that none of the readers knows much about it.
  2. Then talk about the way in which quantum theory tells us about the way that everything in the universe is interconnected. It doesn’t. That is a separate field of inquiry. Though it a specialty that is generating many very interesting leads.
  3. Mention the work of some “independent scientists,” whose work is about to revolutionize the world. I’ve been keeping files on these “revolutionary ideas,” since the late 1960s. Looking back over the files I see that this same group of people was predicting permanent colonies on Mars by 1980; limitless power available to everyone before 1990, and scientific proof of the existence of Atlantis, God and the Grays by 2000.
  4. Talk about secret government research. Yes, there’s been lots of it. But it’s unlikely that someone who thinks that in the quantum realm “like attracts like,” is going to be on the inside track of that work.
  5. Drop a few names of people who might vaguely support what you are saying. Throwing in Einstein’s name is common. I’m not alone in getting loads of papers from people who believe that they have found the secret of the universe. These papers usually come from independent scholars, and are usually light on facts or proofs. People that I’ve known, including the late David Bohm, Norman Geschwind, Karl Pribram, Colin Wilson and Rupert Sheldrake have all lamented the way in which they get inundated with papers from people wanting endorsements of their work. Professor Sir Peter Medawar once told me that Albert Einstein had – during his years at Princeton – a secretary whose main job was to provide polite responses to fans and people who would send him their papers about how he’d got things wrong, and how they could help. I have not met Ken Wilber, but I gather that he also gets his fair share of papers from people wanting his endorsements about their work, however “unorthodox” it may be. I’ve received more than one paper and then immediately found my name on a website claiming that I endorse work that I’ve not even read!
  6. Use your own unique terminology. Another writer tells us that there are differences between emotions and feelings, but without telling us what they were. A whole new theory of moods and motivations followed. But it was based on quicksand.

Mistakes and misquotations happen all the time. I’m always grateful if someone finds a hole in something that I’ve written or said. That’s how we make progress. By constantly checking and revising we get ever closer to the truth.

It’s not just amateurs who sometimes misquote or misinterpret. I once heard a Nobel Laureate give a lecture at which he was trying to use neuroscience to confirm his religious beliefs. He was a kind and brilliant man and after his lecture we had a few minutes to talk privately. In one of the key studies that he used to support his views, he’d turned the data upside down. He was shocked to hear that he’d got it wrong. “How do you know the data so well?” he asked. “Because I was an investigator on the study,” I replied. I’m sure that he never used the data again: that’s “checking and revising” in action.

Does any of this matter? Shouldn’t we just let people say anything they want to? In general, of course they should; nobody wants some kind of thought police telling people what they can and cannot write. But the difficulty comes when people move out of their intellectual sandpit and use false information to give advice on how you should run your life or care for your health.

The authors of papers like this are misleading you. Either through their own ignorance, or perhaps even deliberately, the people who write these things are misdirecting you from the real findings about manifesting, consciousness, connection and enlightenment.

We are living at a time when the curtain seems to be coming down on some interpretations of reality such as string theory, and the veil between different compartments of reality is being torn asunder.

Articles like the one I’ve just quoted are futile distractions that lead skeptics to ridicule everything that we are doing to construct a unified model of reality and our place in it.

And any advice that’s based on these kinds of misunderstandings will not have much value for any of us.

What to do?
Nobody can be an expert on everything. But apart from the warning signs that I mentioned, here are some other warning signs that what someone is recommending to you might not be all that it seems:

  1. If people present testimonials as evidence
  2. If they use selective anecdotes to support a theory
  3. If they claim the support of science without using its principles of falsifiability, impartiality, replication, correction and revision
  4. If they misrepresent the basic tenets of science and its practitioners
  5. If they suggest that research is underway to confirm his or her pronouncements
  6. If they claim that a breakthrough is imminent
  7. If they make claims that he or she says are amazing, when to a specialist they are not amazing in the slightest: people do sometimes just get better on their own, and there are hundreds of diets, each of which will likely help someone somewhere
  8. If people use graphs and charts in place of empirical evidence
  9. If the author makes false claims for experience and credentials: somebody claimed to have treated 10,000 people in one year using a new technique based on quantum biology. If he had worked non stop, ten hours a day, five days a week for the whole year without a single break, he would have had to see, evaluate and treat a new person every fifteen minutes. During which he would also have had to make his notes, write letters and make calls to people that he had seen. Does that sound credible to you?
  10. If there are no credible scientific references to back up what the author is saying.
  11. If he or she bases claims on authority rather than verifiable data: remember a moment ago I mentioned a Nobel Laureate who’d made an honest mistake. Yet it wouldn’t surprise me if other people were still quoting that mistake all these twenty years later.
  12. And finally be very careful about people who use one mystery to explain another. People who wave their hands a lot (a sure sign of someone who doesn’t know what he or she is talking about!), and speak airily of the way in which quantum mechanics explains parapsychology have to prove what they say. Some fine people like Gary Schwartz and Dean Radin have peered deeply into the mysteries of physics and found a framework that may indeed be able to explain anomalous phenomena. Their books and papers are highly referenced and they have generated a ton of empirical data.

So the next time that you see someone say something about the Law of Attraction or tell you that “quantum mechanics has shown that…”

Caveat emptor!

About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

Comments

2 Responses to “Quantum Flapdoodle”
  1. Gwyneth Moss says:

    Thank you for Quantum Flapdoodle. I am now a psychological therapist in private practice working with techniques that are mostly beyond the pale of scientific acceptability. I am also a Cambridge Natural Sciences graduate and studied quantum mechanics at the Cavendish Laboratory. I cringe when I read the sort of claims and assertions of “quantum truth” that you refer to. However I do feel that we have reached a state of “that’s all very well in practice but does it work in theory?”. One day maybe I’ll polish up my very rusty maths and dive once again into my old text books because I have an instinct that what I studied long ago does explain what I see happening before my eyes now. But no claims can be made until someone does get to that deep mathematical level with theory and then verify in practice. With best wishes,
    Gwyneth

  2. Dear Gwyneth,

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write. We are clearly of one mind: many of us have spent years trying to sort out some of the theory to support our daily observations.

    I’ve posted some reading lists at Amazon http://www.amazon.com/gp/richpub/listmania/byauthor/A1VX6VPXNQTNUP/ref=cm_pdp_content_listmania/002-9848851-1628824 that you can also access from the left hand panel of the blog.

    I liked your website. You may have noticed that I’ve written a bit about the “Tapping therapies,” that can sometimes be so remarkably effective.

    Kindest regards,

    RP

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