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Critique of "Evaluating Heterodox Theories"

By David Orme-Johnson, Ph.D. and Robert Oates

Dr. David Orme-Johnson, a prominent scientist (now retired) and Robert Oates at the Institute of Science Technology and Public Policy, critiqued a paper by Evan Fales and Barry Markovsky that is critical of research conducted on the Maharishi Effect. The abstract is posted below with a summary of the paper. Military analysts may recall the article "When Nothing Works" in the 28 Oct 85 issue of the Army Times. In the article, Dr. Orme-Johnson proposed military use of Invincible Defense Technology. Since this time, this technology has been successfully field-tested by the armed forces of two countries (for details, see Project: Coherence and Invincible Defense--A New "Secret Weapon!") Dr. David Orme-Johnson discusses the Maharishi Effect research in great detail on his personal website.

Journal of Scientific Exploration

Vol. 23, No. 2, pp. 139–166, 2009 0892-3310/09

A Field-Theoretic View of Consciousness: Reply to Critics


Maharishi University of Management
Fairfield, IA 52557


This paper replies to a critique (Fales & Markovsky, 1997) of a study reporting that group practice of the Transcendental Meditation program had a measurable effect on objective measures of the quality of life in Israel and the war in Lebanon (Orme-Johnson et al., 1988). The critics proposed various cultural/political events as alternative explanations for the results. These events could not explain the results, as indicated by (1) simple inspection of the published data; (2) statistical analyses controlling for these events; (3) analyses of reduced data sets that completely eliminated the days of the events from the analyses; and (4) analyses of six random samples of 50% of the data. Although some of the cultural/political events suggested did have a significant effect on a composite index of crime, traffic accidents, fires, war intensity, stock market, and national mood, the effects of these events were independent of the effect of the meditators and could not explain it. We argue that Maharishi’s theory of collective consciousness provides a unifying framework that explains these results through a logical structure of clearly defined, operationalized terms grounded in physiological and behavioral research, which makes specific quantifiable and socially important predictions that have been extensively replicated.

More indepth summary of the paper:

“Evaluating Heterodox Theories” (EHT) is a thinly disguised attempt to censor research on the Maharishi Effect – the objectively measurable peace-creating effect associated with large groups of meditation experts. The EHT paper does not recount the data in the original research study which EHT is attempting to criticize, data showing that as daily attendance fluctuated at a peace-creating assembly in Jerusalem over a 60-day period, crime, traffic accidents and fires in Israel, and warfare in neighboring Lebanon, also fluctuated with strong inverse correlation. Nor does EHT recount any of the data in 50 other studies on the same phenomenon, most of them covered in 23 published scientific papers on the topic. Instead, EHT attempts to dismiss the whole concept as a ‘heterodox theory” not worthy of the usual rigor associated with a scientific critique. In the social sciences, however, such an approach has little validity since there is no well-developed “orthodox” theoretical structure against which other theories can be judged as “heterodox”. In its theory section, EHT asserts that if a theory is discredited, then the data which supports the theory is discredited, which in fact is the opposite of the practice in science, in which theories are created, tested, and modified according to the data. EHT invokes Bayes’ Theorem as a seemingly objective means of evaluating a theory, but since only subjective opinions are entered into the equation by EHT, only subjective opinions come out of it. EHT claims that the primitive term of the theory-- “pure consciousness”-- is vague, when in fact the means by which anyone can directly experience this state of quiet inner wakefulness is operationally defined by the Transcendental Meditation technique, and a large body of research over the last thirty-five years has provided objective physiological definition of the state. EHT claims that the research on the Maharishi Effect theory did not test one of its most obvious quantitative predictions, which is that the effect will increase as a square of the number of people practicing the TM and TM-Sidhi programs together. In fact, the study in question did empirically evaluate this issue both in the original paper and in published debate on the theory. EHT asserts that “prior knowledge” makes the Maharishi Effect theory improbable, but in fact: 1) the basic theoretical tenets of the Maharishi Effect comprise the “Perennial Philosophy,” the most ancient and ubiquitous knowledge of the human race; and 2) the central proposition that EHT finds heterodox--that individuals directly interact at a distance by other means than the classical sensory modalities--is currently the focus of several active research programs. EHT criticizes the work of physicist John Hagelin showing parallels between the structure of natural law described by modern science with the structure of natural law described in the most comprehensive and ancient knowledge of consciousness, the Vedic Tradition. In fact, Hagelin is an award winning Harvard PhD in theoretical physics whose technical articles are on the leading edge of modern science and are among the most frequently quoted in physics. This background, together with the fact that for over thirty years Hagelin has personally explored consciousness using the subject technologies of the Vedic Tradition, and has engaged in hundreds of hours discussions of consciousness with Maharishi, the world’s foremost authority of consciousness, as well as with other leading scholars, makes him uniquely qualified to formulate an integration of consciousness with modern science. Hagelin’s work is in the tradition of other great physicists, such as Schroedinger, Planck, and Einstein, who saw the deep implications of their discoveries for a unified understanding of the physics and consciousness and he greatly extends their efforts in this regard in scope, rigor, empirical testing, and practical applications to improve society.

The empirical aspect of EHT intends to offer several alternate explanations for the data presented in a paper on the Maharishi Effect published in the Journal of Conflict Resolution in 1988. Whereas the predictions of the study were lodged in advance with outside scientists in Israel and the United States, and is based on daily fluctuations in crime, accidents, and warfare amenable to mathematical analysis, the “explanations” suggested by EHT are all post hoc, and consist of a handful of unrelated events. EHT points out a holiday that the study did not account for, for example, but quantitative analysis shows that this holiday did not account for any of the variance in the data. Furthermore, EHT’s listed events do not meet the minimum requirement of an “explanation”. What needs to be explained in this study is the strong relationship between daily fluctuations in crime, accidents, warfare and other variables, on the one hand, and daily fluctuations in the size of the coherence-creating group located in Jerusalem, on the other. EHT points out several events that happened during the study, such as Prime Minister Begin resigning, but does not even attempt to show how this event could explain either aspect of the data, not to mention the strong relationship between them. In a footnote, EHT says that the authors of the Israel study would not send them the original data, when in fact they were sent all the data in graphic form, which was also published as an appendix when the original paper was reprinted in a research anthology in 1990. Moreover, the EHT authors were told that they would also be sent the data in spreadsheet form as soon as they publicly retracted false statements that they had made about the research in television interviews and in the popular press. Finally, EHT maintains that if it discounts one study that it has discounted them all. Replication is the very essence of the scientific method, and EHT has not effectively discounted even this one study on the Maharishi Effect, much less any of the other 50 studies directly on the phenomenon, or any of the 600 studies testing ancillary tenets crucial to the theory. Often replicated evidence strongly supports the hypothesis that large groups of peace-creating experts, meditating together, are associated with a measurable influence of peace and orderliness in the surrounding society. Nothing in EHT undermines that evidence-based conclusion.


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