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Blogging “The Power”: A Critique of Rhonda Byrne – Part 6: Gregg Braden

June 7, 2012

Welcome to the second last installment in the series on Rhonda Byrne’s Secret follow up, called The Power.

So far, Ms Byrne has informed us that positive poles of a magnet attract each other, that love is literally the same force as gravity, and that a glass of water can get angry with you. What does she have in store for us today?

The inside of your body is an exact map of the solar system and the universe. Your heart is the sun and the center of your body system. Your organs are the planets, and just as the planets depend on the sun to remain in balance and harmony, so do all the organs in your body depend on the heart to remain in balance and harmony.

An exact map. Not just a metaphor, or a “you might like to think of it as-“, but an exact map. Not even a schematic map, or a badly drawn map from 300 years ago which got some ram’s blood spilled on it and made all the lines run together so the distances aren’t exact anymore…. No, the inside of your body is an exact map of the solar system and the universe.

It’s no surprise that someone who thinks the entire universe is a vast conspiracy to make her rich, should fail to distinguish between metaphor and reality. Rhonda Byrne has been doing this all the way through the book: taking a traditional mystical idea that would sound familiar to most of her readers, and then calmly asserting that the idea is literally true and is now an established part of science.

And then of course, following it with some work by a qualified pseudo-scientist. Cue Gregg Braden, qualified pseudo-scientist….

Scientists at the Institute of Heartmath in California have shown that the magnetic field of the heart is 5000 times more powerful than that of the brain.

Surprisingly, the heart’s magnetic field is indeed greater than that of the brain! Ok, it’s only 100 times greater, and not 5000 like Braden claims, but still this is quite an event. Braden has exaggerated it by a mere order of magnitude, making it one of Rhonda Byrne’s closest approaches to a fact in the entire book! Congratulations to both of you!

Byrne then babbles on for a while about how the heart organizes your world for you by the force of its almighty magnetic field. Everything has a frequency, she claims, radio stations and words and dogs and cats and caterpillars and subordinate clauses and zebra-crossings. And they radiate their frequencies out into the ether where you can attract them if you truly love them. She’s a bit more wild eyed than Gregg Braden on these things, because although Braden likes to build up systems too, he also likes to base his distortions on at least some content which is at least tangentially connected to reality.

Gregg Braden and 9/11 

Braden has written a lot on frequencies and magnetic fields. He sees all that stuff as the “field of consciousness”, the “ether” which connects all things and surrounds the earth in dense layers. In a particularly effective piece of pseudo-scientific research, Braden looked at data from satellites which measure the earth’s geomagnetic field and found that on September 11 2001 a distinct spike in measurements was recorded!!!

… 

Satellite reading from September 2001, showing dramatic spike on the 11th 

… 

As can be seen, the readings usually hover around 100 nT (nanoTeslas), but then suddenly leap up to an unprecedented high of 153 nT before dropping down again. Is this clear evidence that the emotions of masses of people can affect the earth’s magnetic field so much that it can even be measured by scientific instruments?

Braden has gotten a lot of mileage out of this compelling statistic. The data are real, and most importantly for Braden, it all fits into a preconceived framework of energy fields and human consciousness. Readers who are either well versed in pseudo-scientific method, or those who read the previous post about Masuro Emoto’s humbuggery, will already have some ideas about what Braden might be up to….

Astrophysicist (and skeptical blogger) Stuart Robbins, who has been on Braden’s case for years, dug out the raw data from the GOES website, and also contacted the GOES satellite station. As well as confirming the validity of the above reading, he checked some other months at random.

… 

Satellite reading from June 2011, showing even bigger spike on the 18th

Satellite reading from November 2007, showing massive spike on the 20th 

(All GOES graphics reposted from the PseudoAstronomy blog*)

… 

Clearly, it’s perfectly normal for measurements to spike above 150 nT at least once a month. November 19 2007 shows a spike up around 190. But, exactly in accordance with standard pseudo-scientific practice, Braden has found a single result that supports his hypothesis and, as always, run off with it immediately to the PR department.

Gregg Braden’s pseudo-science, however, is superior to that of Masuro Emoto, who simply tweaked an experiment to force it to give him the results he wanted. Braden on the other hand, conducted authentic pseudo-scientific data-mining, using real data as the foundation for an ideological superstructure that has over many centuries proved to be completely and reliably marketable. No doubt it took a lot of digging to find the right piece of data, but now that he’s found it, it will continue to be used for decades to come.

Braden in his pre-pseudo-scientific days 

I want to add Braden has mastered another effective pseudo-scientific tool. This one is especially important for ambitious practitioners who want to integrate data from authentic scientific research in their work: 

SHODDY REFERENCING

Stuart Robbins in a podcast about Gregg Braden:

“I will note that in many of Braden’s interviews, he references papers and authors in the scientific journals, but in all of the ones that I’ve heard, he has always made mistakes. In one, in fact, I could not find the paper by the authors or the subject matter within a year of when he said it was published.”

Long time readers (like, um, me for example) will remember a post showing how Dean Radin gave four different sources for one paper, each time talking about it as if it were a different study; and never gave the source correctly.

Byrne continues blabbering on about love until the end of the book. And that’s it. The last part of this series will be a general summing up.

___________________________________________________

Stuart Robbins’ excellent blog, Exposing PseudoAstronomy and his regular podcasts cover plenty of good science clearly explained, and plenty of  poor science like Gregg Braden’s and plenty of others, including coverage of 2012 hysteria.

… 

Previous episodes in the Rhonda Byrne series:

Part 1: A Hommage to Her Lawyers

Part 2: Love Is Gravity

Part 3: The Truth About Magnets…Or Not

Part 4: Dollars Want You

Part 5: Masauro Emoto

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19 comments

  1. An exact replica, really? I had to read that one again to see if it was a direct quote, or what. Does that mean that my organs revolve around my heart and I wasn’t aware of this? That’s the funniest thing I’ve read today!!!!

    Excellent commentary, Yakaru. I love your explanation of Emoto’s trickery and Braden’s as well. I wondered about that guy!


  2. Didn’t know about your blog before, but got an e-mail due to the link. I’ll clarify that I contacted the GOES folks because, while the data is freely available on their website (as in, I didn’t have to go through any special process to get it), it’s not really well linked / findable. I make this distinction in case people read what you wrote as saying, “Well, it’s only available if you’re a scientist and contact them specially for it.”


  3. @Mariah,

    Yes, Rhonda Byrne has certainly opened people’s eyes to a world of possibilities they never dreamed of before. I guess we must only have 8 organs as well. Maybe the planets are in fact shaped like the various organs?


  4. @Stuart Robbins,

    Thanks for the clarification. I’ve altered the text accordingly. It’s an important point too, that the science is publicly available. I unwittingly under-emphasized it because I was trying to acknowledge your work in exposing Braden’s errors.

    I found your blog about a year ago while looking for stuff on 2012.


  5. So, are vestigial organs like Pluto and Ceres?


  6. Maybe the universe will stop growing one day when it reaches maturity? Maybe it will get a job and stop hanging around without any sense of purpose?


  7. I admit, I chuckle every time I think “exact replica”. Do some of our organs have yet-to-be discovered moons? Which organ represents Earth, anyway?


  8. It’s a pity that she didn’t go into details like she usually does. I wonder if she thinks the sun attracted all those planets to itself.


  9. Well, Esther Hicks when posing as “Abraham” says that when it comes to eating, the only difference between cows and humans is that humans think so much more about their food. I wonder if this so-called infinite intelligence would be able to explain why cows are called ruminants.

    I wonder if cow internal anatomy is an exact map of some other solar system?


  10. You raise some profound and complex issues Mariah, and I won’t pretend to know all the answers unless somebody pays me.

    But we can speculate about a few things. Astronomers may one day discover solar systems that exactly replicate cow anatomy, maybe with four suns representing the stomachs, and some closely circling asteroids representing the microbes and bacteria in the stomach lining.

    And it might be in an alternative universe, as the whole of this universe is taken up with replicating the human body.

    But it is certainly enlightening to know that from a higher perspective, the amount humans think about their food compares favorably to the amount cows think about theirs. Especially as cows spend their whole day eating grass, while standing on grass and looking at grass. Does Esther chew gum, by any chance?


  11. I’m not sure if Esther Hicks chews gum! It has been noted that she holds her stomach a lot during the workshops. Maybe she wishes she had more stomachs. But then Rhonda Byrne’s “Power” wouldn’t work for her, would it?

    I wonder if that’s why Rhonda Byrne cut her out of The Secret.


  12. Yes, innacuracies are evident… However, I have manifested – the law of attraction works! It may not be the Hollywood produced version as depicted in the movie: The Secret, but what you focus upon does tend to expand in your reality. If you choose to focus upon the inaccuracies of the supposed “Gurus” and all the reasons why you can’t attract what you desire – then you will attract circumstances and events that prevent your desires from entering your life and you get to say “see, I told you!”
    Some things that I have had little or no resistance to have manifested “almost” instantaneously. Others, such as “money” – have been slower and more of a struggle, but with persistance it too has come… and yes, I have manifested unwanted things as well (there can be some discipline and practice involved in abstaining from the negatives…).
    The people who transcend cancer against nearly impossible odds are more inspiring to me than those who assume the fetal position and “wait” for the inevitable. Why does the placebo effect work? If just one person can heal themselves against nearly impossible odds then you can to… and so can I, but it starts with the belief that it can happen, which turns to an attitude of hope. Then you start looking for things that may work instead of counting all the things that didn’t! Then you look for improvements… and so on. You can not attract options or miracles into your life when the door is closed and your back is turned.
    Some may be inclined to read this post and expound boundless energy to criticize and discount the words here written… but, perhaps, there may be one (or a few) who find the inspiration to move forward and start enjoying the truly miraculous life that awaits those who seek it. If you’ve read this post – you’ve attracted it! What you choose to do with the information is up to you. I’ve chosen miracles! :)
    “Whether you believe you can, or you can’t – you’re usually right!” Henry Ford.


  13. *gag*


  14. All you have done Theo, is presented a whole lot of assertions as if they are facts, which is exactly what I have just spent 6 posts criticizing Rhonda Byrne for.

    So why did you do exactly the same thing? Did you not notice? Did you fail reading for comprehension as well as science in fourth grade?

    Or more specifically, do you have a financial interest in the matter which you forgot to declare — and which makes it profitable for you to spout dangerous, exploitative nonsense in public?

    (See comment policy.)

    Please answer.


  15. Yes, I am sorry to have not included a URL in my comment or signature that leads back to another blog post that may have affiliate links or commissioned advertisements for Amazon… missed the boat on that one, I guess.
    I was saying that the message is what is important – even if I/you/we/god have issues with the messenger(s).
    I said that I have had success with the law of attraction… I have even had success with some of the principles presented by Rhonda Byrne despite her poor or incorrect examples exposed within your articles. Again, it is the “teaching” and not the “teacher” that is important.
    I am sorry to pose a statement that MAY be contrary to the article(s) or to the beliefs of members that frequent this Blog Post – I most certainly didn’t mean to ruffle any feathers.
    Offering a somewhat contrary perspective is usually welcomed… it creates interest amongst the members, provides discussion, and even improves your Google rankings by increasing traffic with fresh content. An insult to my character for posting with an alternate view point is disappointing – but not surprising…
    Thank you for allowing me to practice Freedom of Speach.


  16. I’m afraid I’m not sure if you mean you have a financial interest in promoting LoA teachings or not. If you have a blog which deals with this stuff, how about a link?

    And you seem to have missed the point somewhat. Contrary opinions are of course welcome here, and no one will be insulted just for disagreeing. But in fact, your first comment was NOT contrary to the blog post. That was the trouble with it.

    All you did was repeat Ms Byrne’s ideas; exactly the same ones I’d already presented and criticized. What am I supposed to do? Repeat my criticisms of them all over again?

    If you don’t want to defend Byrne’s particular version of the LoA here, well okay….

    The LoA as distinct from any particular teacher’s version, still has massive problems with it.

    To claim it’s a part of the natural world (i.e. a “law” that operates on physical objects and events) you need to show some evidence for it. And if you can’t show any good evidence for it, then how do you know it’s true?

    And if all you’ve got is weak evidence, then how about accepting that the case for it is weak, even if if you still believe in it?

    Again: mere anecdotes and assertions aren’t enough, especially as you are claiming that you have discovered a force of nature that the most brilliant minds and the finest instruments have missed.

    No problem with someone claiming something like that, but you’ve got to be able to back it up with something more substantial than rhetoric and claims of personal experiences like you have so far offered.

    Anyone can say “I have seen it working, this and this happened and that was the LoA”. But how did you know it was the LoA and not, for example, just confirmation bias?


  17. No. I don’t make money selling loa products, services, etc.. I am not a blogger.

    It appears that in order for you to admit to the law of attraction I must first offer proof that it exists. Does this mean that before…, oh – I don’t know… say, “subatomic particles” were proven – they did not exist? Did they simply “wink” into existence when enough people began searching for them?

    Is it not egocentric to believe that “all that exists” can be detected and therefore proven by the human senses?

    How many octaves of sound are beyond human auditory detection?

    How many frequencies of light can not be seen by the naked eye?

    Ah, yes but we have machines to detect such things and we can therefore say that they exist based upon the proof provided by our machines.

    Yes, and those machines were built from the limited perspective of human awareness and therefore are also subject to man’s perceptual biases as well as the physical limitations of the earth plane. In other words, there may be much more than “meets the eye.”

    As the first stages of the law of attraction operate mostly in the non-physical, from our limited human perspective loa most certainly could appear to be flawed or incomplete; this does not mean that it does not exist!

    “What is now proved was once only imagined.” William Blake.

    I doubt there is little I could do or say that would sway you… I do not need to prove the orchard to enjoy the apple, I however can offer directions for anyone who is craving some “fresh fruit” in their diet!

    Peace!


  18. Thanks for clarifying your financial status in this matter, (and thereby establishing your sincerity!)

    “It appears that in order for you to admit to the law of attraction I must first offer proof that it exists.”

    Yup.

    “Does this mean that before…, oh – I don’t know… say, “subatomic particles” were proven – they did not exist?”

    No. It means that if there are indications that something might exist, then we can say it might exist. What we can’t say is “It DOES exist and I know how it works!” which is what LoA fans do. And it has never happened in the whole history of science that an entire fully formed hypothesis suddenly gets confirmed in one leap from drawing board (or “revelation”) to discovery. It happens slowly. Anomolies are noticed; explanations sought, and the poor explanations slowly discounted.

    A good example is the way anomalies in the orbit of Uranus led people to suspect that further planets might exist. When they found Neptune and then Pluto, the anomalies were accounted for.

    The “anomalies” which LoA fans claim supports the existence of the LoA (like the occurrences you report in your earlier comments) are all easily accounted for by confirmation bias and other factors.

    Did they simply “wink” into existence when enough people began searching for them?

    Funnily enough, according to the LoA that’s exactly what would happen. So I agree, the idea is absurd.

    Is it not egocentric to believe that “all that exists” can be detected and therefore proven by the human senses?

    Yes that would be egocentric, and I never said anything like it. And I completely agree with you that if the LoA exists, it cannot be detected by the human senses. Obviously that means that no one can claim to know if it exists, or how it works. Agreed.

    …As the first stages of the law of attraction operate mostly in the non-physical,

    Whoa there!!! Where did you pull that from? Surely you mean “IF the first stages..” and “IF the non-physical exists…” ????

    from our limited human perspective loa most certainly could appear to be flawed or incomplete; this does not mean that it does not exist!

    If it’s non-physical, then you cannot possibly know about it. And if it somehow “became physical” at some point, that is exactly the point where there would be an anomaly. And that is what is missing from this story.

    …I do not need to prove the orchard to enjoy the apple,

    The apple would be the proof of the orchard.

    I however can offer directions for anyone who is craving some “fresh fruit” in their diet!

    You just argued – successfully, according to my reckoning — that no one knows the first thing about the LoA. Now you are suddenly offering directions? Directions to WHAT? And if it can’t be proven, how do you know your directions work?

    Worse, how did you draw from this *no evidence* enough certainty for you to feel justified in advising others about all this?

    Peace!

    Likewise.


  19. I want to know what “non-physical” means, Theo. You’re defining something in terms of what it’s not instead of by what it is. The question does touch on one misunderstanding that’s perpetrated by a lot of mystics, and I’ve got a bit of a rant to clarify some things:

    Thoughts are physical. They exist as electric and chemical signals moving around in our heads. They’re just at a higher level of abstraction. Without abstraction, there’s the fundamental particles, super strings, or whatever the physicists are speculating is ultimately at the bottom. In principle, we could talk about the universe as if it was just those particles, but we tend to move up levels of abstraction for speed and convenience: Quarks interact with each other to for groups of three. We move up a level of abstraction by calling these groups “baryons,” which include the familiar protons and neutrons, which can be treated as discrete objects with their own properties. From there we move up to atoms and ions, to molecules, to complex proteins and DNA, to cellular life, to organ functions, to their context in a complex multicellular life form, to how those life forms interact with one another, and how those interactions change the organisms: I communicate an idea stored in my neurons by translating it into text, and when you read and decode the text, it causes a change in your brain as you think about what I’ve said. These abstractions are real things, just more fuzzily defined and more widely varied as you move up the levels, compared to the clear, fixed properties of individual particles. It’s particles at the bottom, but we typically talk about the complex interactions that arise from those base entities because the abstracted objects are useful and more intuitive to predict.

    Nowhere does it stop being physical in basis.

    Go is a game with some simple rules, a 19×19 grid, some black stones, and some white stones. As I understand it, skilled human players consistently outperform computers in part because they can think at multiple levels of abstraction: They can see if a formation of stones is “dead” (expected to be captured) or “alive” (able to hold territory at the end of the game) even though there is no explicit rule for those terms. The abstraction is a useful tool for quickly determining if you reinforce a formation or if it’s a futile waste of turns. The challenge for computer programmers will be teaching the machine to recognize and think in terms of abstractions instead of just crunching the very large raw numbers. Sometimes it’s hard for Go teachers to communicate the idea to their students, but those who can understand it will often talk about strategy in those terms. You could probably program a huge computer to just “solve” Go by calculating every possible board configuration, like they’ve “solved” tic-tac-toe and checkers, but the numbers pile up very quickly with so many positions, and it’d take forever for it to make decisions about early game moves.

    Talking about it, abstraction is essentially causally inert: It’s just changing the labels we have for large collections of fundamental particles.

    For me, that brings up the question of how the LoA could possibly work. I see no reason why one physical process like thought would produce so much more radical results than similar physical processes in different contexts. It’s inherently implausible, and the best “evidence” that it happens is usually anecdote by people who seem to go through life assuming they have a godlike immunity to well-known means humans can deceive themselves.



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