Home > Opinions, Toronto > Horatio and the Self-fulfilling Prophecy

Horatio and the Self-fulfilling Prophecy

Science has gone quite a long way in furthering our understanding of the world around us. It seems incredible that the bulk of human scientific knowledge has been discovered in the last 200 or so years. It wasn’t until 1824 that Sadi Carnot formalised the laws regarding the nature of conservation and transformation of energy in the world—Thermodynamics. Such scientific understandings alone do not seem to cover all the complex goings on of the universe, at least not yet. As Hamlet so wisely said “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamed of in your philosophy.”

Laws that govern the scientific universe are said to be immutable. Such understandings include:

  • All matter is made from the same building blocks: atoms bound together by an electromagnetic force.
  • Energy cannot be created or destroyed. It may however change forms, as electricity flowing into a light bulb soon becomes light and heat.
  • Consequent to the previous law, the amount of energy in the universe is finite. It can only be altered and reallocated.

These basic tenets of science, and I do not pretend to possess any great knowledge of science, raise some very innocent and incredibly difficult questions. First, if we are all made of the same building blocks, what accounts for the vast variety of substances in existence? What force is it that keeps one type of matter distinct from other forms of matter? How is it that some substances are so incredibly hard and durable and others so pliable and soft when at the most basic level both consist of atoms. Truthfully, I am unaware of whether there exists an explanation for the atomic organisation of matter. And I am also aware that such a line of questioning is rather esoteric and likely has little impact upon our daily lives. What our discussion means is that fundamentally everything in the world is cut from the same cloth. We, and everything we know, is made up of atoms.

Oh dear! Oh dear! I'm going to be too late

Albeit a big one, the next step involves the application of quantum physics and an understanding about infinite possibilities. Applied to our lives specifically, theories given voice in such videos as What The Bl**p Do We Know? and The Secret seem to point to a common understanding of the universe around us. Moreover, there seems to be at least some scientific rationale to such seemingly far out theories. The seemingly common theme of said videos is that basically we are far more responsible for the creation of the world around us than any of us truly realise.

These recent waves in popular thinking that have been surfacing suggest that on a day-to-day level, we create our own paths. We carve these paths through the world with our minds, creating the circumstances and the events to follow. An experiment cited in What the Bl**p Do We Know? was conducted by a Japanese scientist, Masaru Emoto. He studied water molecules from various places to compare their shapes and appearance. The effects of blessings, music, names, and emotions were also photographed by microscope. Examples may be viewed here.

By visualizing, in some sense, what we want to achieve we are helping to create that outcome. Suppose for a moment that such activities were in fact the means by which reality was manufactured. Suppose that each of us could help to shape our futures by envisioning them as we desire. Professional athletes have been using techniques of visualization for years to improve results shooting free throws, for example. Even if the universe did not bend to our desires, if the theories postulated by new age thinkers held no water whatsoever, visualizing our lives in a positive way couldn’t hurt, could it? Positive thinking may have a far greater impact on the course of our lives then anyone previously realised. Conversely, a view informed by bitterness, insecurity, or entitlement may be equally toxic. Perhaps each of us are in fact self-fulfilling prophecies. The Secret stated “Energy flows where Attention goes.” The attitude that we exude, the direction of our focus is what ultimately charts our course.

Food for Thought.

Categories: Opinions, Toronto
  1. Evo
    December 10, 2008 at 11:47 am

    It kind of scares me that these movies you mention are informing popular ideas about Quantum Mechanics (and science in general). I haven’t seen either of them, but I’ve read the book that started the trend, and I’m familiar with the new age/mystic interpretation, and frankly, it’s pseudoscience at best.

    The idea that we create our own physical reality is based on a misunderstanding of an important Quantum Mechanical concept (decoherence/wave function collapse) that occurs under certain conditions, in physical systems with few components that are highly isolated from their environment. It’s a concept that doesn’t apply to our everyday world, where we interact with aggregates of billions of particles and there’s little/no isolation. If Mystical thinkers want to discuss the possibility that we create our own reality in a philosophical context, I’m all for it, but when they try to lend it credence by pointing to an uninformed misinterpretation of Physics, I have a problem. I’m not going to dispute the fact that positive thinking and demeanor can help someone achieve their goals, but the claim that there’s a deep physical reason behind it is something I can’t take seriously. Positivity can reinforce your self-confidence, make you more capable of turning failure into success, and make other people react more positively towards you and your intentions, but to treat that like a physical LAW is ridiculous. If anything, I’d call it an emergent property of our mental architecture and social interactions…

    Not to rant, but this kind of misinterpretation of science for the purposes of some new age gospel really bothers me. It spreads ideas that, while intuitively appealing to some, have no real basis in science… but their proponents dress it up like it is science! Quantum Mechanics in particular is mind-blowing enough as it is, it doesn’t need to be distorted by mysticism to become something amazing and deep.

    /end rant

  2. Evo
    December 10, 2008 at 11:48 am

    Oops, missed an italics tag… that whole thing wasn’t meant to be in italics.

  3. December 15, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    I can’t help but wonder, assuming that it is the positive energy that leads to those water molecule shapes, is mental positivity and beauty defined in nature? How does nature know that it should react to that positive energy and create something that most of us would agree is beautiful, but, in our view, would be a subjective variable. I dunno, thinking out loud here.

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