The Secret: Is It the Real Deal?

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A March 2, 2007 piece by Denise Mann describes the unfortunate rise to prominence of Rhonda Byrne, author of The Secret, a book pushing a vague misinterpretation of quantum physics as not only a key to career success but to improved health, as touted by Oprah Winfrey and others -- but not by ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross or ACSH Advisor Dr. Stephen Barrett:

Not so fast, says Gilbert Ross, MD. He is the executive director and medical director of the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), a New York City-based consumer education-public health organization. Sure, "studies show that people that are optimistic do tend to do better than people with a pessimistic outlook. But The Secret doesn't sound kosher to me," he says. "I don't believe it, and there is absolutely no scientific basis for these effects."

"Those who try to convince people who are suffering from various diseases -- most of whom are desperate -- and would link to any offer of hope, no matter how farfetched -- are doing a terrible disservice," he says. "One cannot hope a sunny disposition will replace appropriate medical evaluation and care."

Stephen Barrett, MD, a retired psychiatrist in Allentown, PA, who operates Quackwatch.com, a web site devoted to exposing quackery and health fraud, agrees with Ross. "There is no evidence that thinking can modify disease other than occasional relaxation exercises," he says. "Thoughts have nothing to do with physics. They are talking about a concept of energy that cannot be measured."

"The energy involved in physics can be measured in a number of different ways," he stresses. "There is nothing real about what they are talking about. They are talking about imaginary energy. The idea of a secret remedy is a classic quack claim."