Thursday, March 5, 2009

Those Crazy Beatles

I have not used this blog to criticize many of the worthless or harmful causes of musical artists, actors, and other celebrities because, well, I would never get any work done. However, I could not resist this. That's right, The Bee-At-els have decided that a worthwhile cause is to teach meditation to stressful children through transcendental meditation with the help of the David Lynch Foundation. On the surface, this seems harmless enough. How can one be against teaching stressed-out kids a way to relax?

The problem is that transcendental meditation (TM) is pure pseudo-scientific nonsense. I want to distinguish it against the regular idea of meditation, which is basically a "deep" form of relaxation. Transcendental meditation is supposedly hundreds of years old, but there is little evidence to support this. It was "introduced" to the Western world about 50 years ago by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It has spawned many ridiculous and unfounded claims such as levitation and The Maharishi Effect, where it said that if just 1% of a population is practicing TM, then crops will improve, the area will become a haven from crime, and automobile accidents will decrease to abnormally low levels. Further, this effect is supposed to be scientifically proven. However, all of these claims have been debunked by James Randi in his book, Flim-Flam! Further, the evidence of this effect comes from the most dubious of source - The Maharishi International University and these claims have been further disproven or found to be poor science. My favorite example in the link is the study that did not have a control group because "not one person was willing to be part of the control group." The whole point of the control group is to account for the placebo effect where people will believe they are better just because they feel they have gotten treatment.

Simply put, TM reduces stress as much as any other relaxing activity and is by no means special. Again, I have no problem with teaching children ways to cope with stress, but let's be honest, that's not what the David Lynch foundation is really doing. The reality is that they are using the "think of the children" argument to indoctrinate children into an illogical belief and promoting bad science. If it's stress reduction they are after, then they should be open to any types - sports, reading, talking, going for a walk, etc. My problem with this is the same as if Creed taught religion and prayer behind the disguise that this would prevent kids from hanging out on the streets and developing drug habits. It might, but so would an afterschool basketball league.

Note: Creed is an example since they are the most famous religious group I can think of. As far as I know, their humanitarian efforts are as successful and spirited as their music.

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