The Weak Law of Attraction

So, our creative influence is limited. Some say this is because there’s an order of cosmic beings who grant us our divine power bit by bit as we gain the wisdom, love, and experience required to use it responsibly. Others say that, being separate from God, our power can only be limited; a person possesses power and identity in inverse proportion — his power grows as his identity is dissolved in the realization that separation is an illusion and that he and God are one and the same.

In any case, we as meager human beings don’t have ultimate power over our existence. But we have some, believers in the weak Law of Attraction argue. The question is, how much? Where do the boundaries lie?

To address this question, we must first ask two others.

Does the Law of Attraction necessitate a breach in the laws of physics as we currently understand them?

Take the classic example of the billiard table. You hit the cue ball with X amount of power at an angle of Y and it comes to rest in position Z. The laws of motion dictate that if you could hit the ball from the exact same place in the exact same way under the exact same conditions (yes, possible only on paper) it would come to rest exactly where it did before, and it would happen every time.

Now add intention to the equation. According to the Law of Attraction it’s possible for someone with unwavering confidence to sink a ball while someone with a self-defeating attitude just bounces it off the corner, even if the two shots they take are physically identical. After all, if a person’s mental state has influenced the way he physically hit the ball then there’s no need to appeal to mysticism in the first place; it’s just simple psychology at work. But believers argue that there’s more going on — that the intention itself has power. And if through intention alone we can cause a ball to come to rest where it wouldn’t have otherwise, could we say that the laws of motion have been violated?

It appears the answer to the question is yes. Even if the difference is measured in nanometers, one can’t break the laws of physics a little bit any more than a woman can be a little bit pregnant. They either hold up or they don’t. That’s what makes them laws.

There’s no substantial difference between making a better pool shot and attracting a new car. Outside of the “laboratory conditions” of our billiard table we’d have a million new steps and variables to keep track of, creating an environment thick with ambiguity in which a shaky belief is able to survive and flourish. But in each scenario, reality was moving in one direction and through mere intention (versus intention leading to action) it was steered into another.

The average believer in the Law of Attraction would respond to all this with: “What’s the big deal? Our current understanding of the universe is laughable. The laws of physics are incomplete and will undoubtedly be amended many, many times in the future. That our laws don’t encompass the Law of Attraction just illustrates society’s current level of ignorance.” Which is absolutely correct (well, except for that last bit) and it leads us to the next question.

If the Law of Attraction violates known physical laws, is it a big deal?

The thing about our current understanding of the laws of physics is that our vast technological infrastructure depends on that understanding reflecting reality. It couldn’t function otherwise.

For example, computer CPUs are now hitting the market with transistors that are only 45 nanometers thick. Every reduction in transistor size is a milestone, because at this scale you start running into strange quantum effects like electrons jumping from one transistor to another. There’s concern that CPU design will have to be drastically rethought once we hit the lower limit. The precision that this sort of engineering requires is mind-blowing. Overclockers (people who force their CPUs to run at speeds higher than what they’re rated for) know that any slight change in the conditions in which a CPU operates can trigger it to fail. At best, the computer will reboot itself at random; at worst, the CPU will burn out and fill the room with a lovely ozone smell.

We’re surrounded by other devices that are just as delicate. Your car relies on fuel and air behaving exactly as expected when subjected to a certain amount of pressure, and this success must be repeated thousands of times per minute. A tiny quartz resonator in your watch vibrates 32,768 times per second, allowing it to stay accurate for a year or more without adjustment depending on its quality. The average computer monitor repeatedly redraws a screen consisting of about a million tiny squares of color 60 to 90 times per second.

If the “intentional noise” that we all produce (according to the weak law) can cause little breaches here and there in the known laws of physics, shouldn’t we see things failing left and right? All of the precision machinery in the world has been designed taking the fixed nature of the laws of physics completely for granted. There are no protections or fail-safes whatsoever in place; today’s machines are utterly vulnerable to any sort of intentional interference, were it to exist. And with precision machinery even the slightest effect is enough to cause a visible disruption. In just the examples I’ve given you see millions of opportunities for failure every single day.

In a universe that includes the Law of Attraction we would have discovered long ago that any advanced technology would be useless without some sort of intentional shielding, just as so many devices require electrical or temperature shielding today. And how do you design such shielding when it’s just as vulnerable to a breach in the laws that govern it as is the object you’re trying to protect? This problem would only get worse with exponential population growth. Imagine how much intentional pollution almost seven billion human beings must generate.

NASA spends millions of dollars a pop to send probes millions of kilometers through space to arrive at exactly the right destination at exactly the right time. These journeys take years, and every single second is a chance for the trajectory to be thrown off by how someone feels about the project. Cause the probe to drift just slightly in another direction early in the trip and you may have ruined the whole mission. Probes that can steer themselves don’t have much fuel onboard for corrections; probes that can’t are screwed. In a world where we have so much physical influence (even just accidental), how could such a fragile endeavor ever be a success? How could we possibly defend it from ourselves?

As you keep asking yourself questions like these, eventually every known law gets crossed off the list of potential co-conspirators in attraction. It becomes clear that the Law of Attraction isn’t “a law just like gravity” — at least not at the Newtonian level. There’s just no room for its effects. For every physical law we know of there’s a machine out there that relies on its unwavering permanence. And these machines continue to work like clockwork, regardless of how we feel about or around them.

As usual I probably seem like I’m overthinking this, but I’m trying to make clear what a person demands of the universe when he supports even the weak law. To claim that “the Law of Attraction just works somehow” isn’t enough. It’s a big picture conclusion that ignores the dire small picture consequences.

Adherents typically solve these problems for themselves by appealing to quantum mysticism. They argue that the scope of our influence is at the quantum level rather than the Newtonian level. Somehow our intentions influence quantum probabilities, somehow causing the wave function to collapse in a configuration complementary to our intentions, somehow leading to a better likelihood of that new car appearing in our lives. Ambiguity galore.

New Age authors (the guiltiest perhaps being Deepak Chopra) have jumped onto this bandwagon in droves, and in thinking they have any business teaching quantum physics have done the public a great disservice. As scientists have repeatedly tried to explain, the bizarre quantum realm that they’re slowly coming to understand isn’t the reality that New Agers say is being uncovered. It just isn’t. The whole New Age conception of the quantum realm was borne from misunderstandings, misrepresentations, and massaging of findings to make them appear to conform to already held beliefs. And now that this mistaken view of quantum physics is rooted in people’s brains it’s going to be very hard to unroot because the true reality is so difficult to process. You can’t simply correct a person on what physicists have really discovered because it would take years of higher learning in the subject to start to grasp it.

But now I’m repeating criticisms that have been made about the Law of Attraction for years, so I think I’ll wrap things up.

There is a much, much simpler explanation for why the Law of Attraction is so incredibly convincing — one that when you finally digest it makes you wonder how you could have ever been so oblivious to it before. I hope to get to it in the near future.

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