From: Barry Markovsky
Newsgroups: sci.skeptic
Subject: Re: Maharishi Effect: New Critique
Date: Fri, 3 Feb 1995 13:03:54 -0600
Organization: University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA, USA
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On 3 Feb 1995, Lawson English wrote, responding to Kal Marchi (kal@uh.edu)
> : Of course. That's why I suggested concentrating on a small neighborhood,
> : say, eight blocks square. Maybe 20,000 people. SQRT(1% * 20000) = about
> : 14. Twenty would be almost overdoing it. Surely there are 20 civic-minded
> : meditators living in DC who are willing to do this?
> >
> Now you're just baiting me, no? Statistics don't work well with smaller
> groups.
That's not quite right. It's not the group size *per se* that matters, but
the number of observations on which statistical inferences are based. I
could do a perfectly legitimate (from a statistical point of view) study
whereby 10 Sidhi-meditators sit in a room and meditate either at
randomized intervals or on randomized days, and measure moods, task
performances, etc. for "targets" in a nearby room over a number of
"trials." Assuming no information gets to the targets with regard to the
on-set and off-set of the group meditation, I'd have a legitimate
experiment. (The greater the number of targets, by the way, the more
reliable, in the statistical sense, the measures of their responses.)
> In the case of the proposed effect of group hopping, we are
> looking at a small group of participants. Who knows what (if it even
> exists) the threshold would be for the effect? Certainly, from Physics
> analogies, we wouldn't expect to find statistical effects on a larger
> population from a group as small as 14 individuals, even if the simple
> arithmetic suggested that we would...
In the 1988 Journal of Conflict Resolution article, Orme-Johnson et al.
suggest that their mathematical model of the Maharishi Effect should work
for "values of N over 100", referring to the equation
ME = aN1 + bN2^2
where N1 is the number of regular meditators (I'm not sure what they're
called), and N2 is the number of Sidhi meditators. The "^2" indicates the
square of N2. No basis for the "100" minimum was mentioned in that article.
> In other words, even if the properties of a system suggest that
> the square-root of 1% of the elements of the system can have an effect on
> the entire system, no-one seriously looks for effects on a larger system
> from only 14 elements. Not in Statistical Mechanics they don't.
Makes sense, but as far as I know, the principles of statistical mechanics
aren't invoked by the researchers as a theoretical basis for the ME
claims. But anyway, intuitively, if I sit in the center of a circle
of 14 TM-Sidhi meditators, only 100 of whom are presumed to have profound
effects on 1,000,000 people at unspecified distances from the group, well,
shouldn't I expect to feel *something*? The theoretical model indicates
enough coherence there to influence close to 20,000 people.
Perhaps the proof in the pudding would be to develop non-biological
indicators for the phenomenon. Are there physicists out there who could
suggest a way that one could construct a meter whose needle deflects when
changes are induced in the Maharishi Technology Unified Field?
............................................................................
Barry Markovsky / Dept. of Sociology / U. of Iowa / Iowa City, IA 52242
Ph: 319.335.2490 Fax: 319.335.2509 E-MAIL: barry-markovsky@uiowa.edu
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