The Intention “Experiment”

Reblogged from ChapmanCentral with permission.

In science, an experiment is something you do to test whether something works or not, or to make a measurement to quantify something. In pseudoscience, an experiment is something you do to demonstrate your delusional beliefs to a credulous world. Which sort is Lynne McTaggart’s “Intention Experiment”? (As if you had to ask). It works like this:

  1. Someone registers a medical issue, such as a sore shoulder.
  2. People care.
  3. The person is asked if they feel better as a result.

Can you see where the problem is? It would be relatively trivial to test wishful thinking (or “intention” as McTaggart rather pretentiously brands it). The group of people with medical problems registers up front, they are randomly assigned to wishful thinking or not, both wishful thinking and non wishful thinking groups are given identical-looking output in terms of messages of support, and at the end feedback is gathered, then finally we match responses to group membership and see if the wishful thinking group fares differently. McTaggart’s wishful thinking is identical to intercessory prayer, which has been tested in this way. Guess what? It doesn’t work. Just like homeopathy and other inert interventions, the more carefully you control for confounders and bias, the less likely you are to find an effect. McTaggart shows no sign of having the intellectual honesty necessary to do a test like this. In promoting “The New Science” she is, in fact, promoting the same old pseudoscience. But don’t forget to click-through and buy the book, because otherwise you can’t possibly expect to understand the subtlety of it all.1 —- 1Statement may contain sarcasm.

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