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Thinking About Stopping The Oil Spill In The Gulf of Mexico? Think Again!

As I commented on my Facebook page over the weekend, I have no idea how we missed this story on this past week’s show.

Carl Fuermann, an employee at the University of Colorado’s registrar’s office, has the solution on how to stop the now infamous Deepwater Horizon oil spill. In his own words:

“The basic concept is to try and get as many people to visualize that the valve is actually functioning and is working and closing.”

Also from the article:

“I’m very known for fixing things and making things work,” Fuermann said, adding that he believes his meditation helped fix a friend’s Flip video camera. “I visualize things working and hold the belief that they actually work.”

And this too:

“I completely understand that most people would have a healthy skepticism about these things,” said Jahnavi Stenflo, also of Boulder, in an e-mail. “To all those skeptics, I would simply ask them to participate in the exercise if they would like to try. … Ultimately, there is nothing to lose in trying to visualize the valve shutting off. It either will help or it will not.”

The article ends quoting a deep-water mining engineer who suggests the meditators focus on breaking up the weakened rocks around the leak.

This article reminded me of the time the hippies tried to use meditation to levitate the Pentagon back in 1967. More recently, we’ve had Deepak Chopra claim responsibility for having caused earthquakes. Let’s also not forget the efforts of Dr. John Hagelin, the man who believes we can meditate the world into a state of “peace”.

Claims heralding the benefits and/or dangers of meditation are widespread. Meditation has been in practice by humans for five thousand years. The scientific investigation into the effects of meditation took a foothold in the 1950’s. Over the past half century, scientists have come to realize some of the true benefits of meditation, such as the “relaxation response” of the body. Scientific research of meditation continues to this day in hopes of realizing more of its positive potential in the areas of stress reduction,  anxiety relief, and even pain management.

Aside from the carefully studied effects of meditation on an individual’s body, anything else that meditators claim bears no evidence to support such claims. Stopping oil spills through meditation is nonsense. Believing you caused an earthquake using meditation is imaginary. Effecting world peace via meditation is entirely implausible, if not outright delusional.

Even if I decide to “visualize that the valve is actually functioning and is working and closing” (I think the valve was blown away in the initial explosion, but details like that are probably not important to the likes of Mr. Fuermann), and lets say the problem does miraculously solve itself with no direct intervention of efforts on behalf of the BP oil company, the Coast Guard, or any other physical human efforts … how could it ever be verified that my meditation had anything to do with helping solve the problem?  It can not be falsified. It is improvable. I would guess that Mr. Fuermann would argue that so long as I BELIEVED that I actually helped, then I (and the rest of humanity) would have to accept it as a fact … just my guess.

There are no knows forces in the universe to explain the extraordinary claims of meditators. Yet millions of people around the world believe these kind of claims to be true. It is vary hard to chip away at a wall that took five thousand years to build using only the last fifty years of science as the proverbial pick axe.

And as the article helps illustrate, belief in supernatural abilities does not phase reasonably intelligent people. The deep-water mining engineer seems perfectly fine with the possibility that meditation might help, going so far as to offer guidance on what they should actually be focusing on (instead of the blown-away valve.) Too often, ordinary folk are willing to nonchalantly suspend their reality at the most peculiar suggestions. This laziness of critical thinking among everyday people is what helps advance folks like Chopra and Hagelin forward into the realms of notoriety and recognition.

And a note to the University of Colorado: is this the kind of media attention you are looking to be associated with? Perhaps a statement clarifying the University’s position would be in order.

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