The New Age Crystal Handbook to an Open Mind

November 5, 2010 Comments Off on The New Age Crystal Handbook to an Open Mind

I just read Sharon Begley’s column in Newsweek, “Wanted: BS Detectors.” In it she argues that kids need to be taught to identify bad science. She says that critical to our evaluation of scientific studies are basic statistics, knowledge of the limitations of our own brains, and the awareness of other factors in the outcome of a study. I agree, but I want to add to it. We need a smarter public, yes, but sillier scientists as well.

Begley makes reference to a study where teachers concluded that their students’ punctuality was better influenced by punishment than by incentives, when actually the arrival times were randomized by a computer. It put me in mind of a study that I once read about. There were a certain number of identical machines that performed a simple automated task and made a certain number of mistakes while doing it. People were assigned to watch the machines (but not participate beyond observing—not even recording data). Some machines were labeled something like, “Now performs 50% better!” and those machines actually did do better. The conclusion was that consciousness influenced reality.

Now. I don’t remember where I read this, but it is likely that the study was done by a group or an institution that would be scorned or dismissed by the kind of scientists that I am used to respecting. But why is that such a strange idea? Why would “real” scientists dismiss it out of hand? The way science is going, I’m starting to think that we don’t have any grounds at all for dismissing things like intuition, paranormal phenomena, or psychics. When you think about the groundbreaking things that are being taken seriously, like quantum theory, what separates them from traditional quackery? Just a willingness to study it, maybe.

You have to give gullible people credit: they always have an open mind. They are willing to entertain the possibility that you speak eighteen languages or that you make your own furniture…or that subatomic particles are 1-dimensional slices of a 2-dimensional membrane vibrating in 11-dimensional space. Once upon a time, someone had to be open to the idea that all matter was composed of tiny particles, or that blood circulated through the body, or that something could act as both a particle and a wave. If you aren’t open to an idea, the only way it can forcibly manifest itself is by a catastrophic intrusion on your life, and nature rarely works that way.

I thought about this when I had just started taking voice lessons from Wendy. I complimented her on a giant three-foot-high amethyst geode standing in her studio, and she told me the story of when she bought it. The woman who sold it to her said, “I can’t wait until you find out what her name is.” On the way home, Wendy looked in the rearview mirror at the giant geode belted safely into the backseat and asked, “What’s your name?” And the geode replied, “Cyrah.” As I listened to the story, I turned and looked at Cyrah standing there, and I couldn’t help thinking, What if she speaks to me? On some level, some part of me was willing to accept that a rock might say something to me. What nonsense, you might say. But suppose that the next major advance in physics consists of a theory of consciousness that may apply as well to rocks as to humans. You can’t say that’s impossible, given the kinds of things they’re looking at now. And suddenly it seems less impossible that a rock might talk.

All those New-Agey types who believe in crystals and auras, and psychics who believe in ghosts and fortune-telling, and all those fringey people who believe in “weird stuff” and don’t belong to a group with any clout—all these people are more open-minded than we are because they wouldn’t need to experience a catastrophe or a miracle before believing in something invisible or difficult to measure. I posit that sillier or more gullible scientists would result in truer experiments and conclusions, and would help the cause of science. (Cue gasps of horror from the scientists, doctors, and empiricists in my life.) At the same time, non-scientists should learn to be smarter and more critical when evaluating research. We need a double-edged movement, which, as usual, probably means nothing will happen. But we should all be in favor of silliness in general, and in science in particular.

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