Hypothesis vs Theory vs Law
In this amazing world of science God created, there are three categories of understanding that help us explain observed phenomenon:
- Scientific Theories
A hypothesis is a limited explanation of a phenomenon. A scientific theory is an in-depth explanation of the observed phenomenon. A law is a mathematical description of natural phenomenon. 1
That means scientific theories and laws are supported by a large body of empirical data, accepted by the majority of scientists within that area of scientific study. Hypotheses are only assumptions, proposed for the sake of argument so they can be tested to see if they might be true. 2
There are many well known theories and laws, all well-tested to support their validity:
- Theory of General Relativity
- Quantum Theory
- Game Theory
- Newton’s Law
- Law of Thermodynamics
- Pascal’s Law
- Ohm’s Law
- and many more
The “New Thought” Movement
Yet, when it comes to the Law of Attraction, it would be better named the Hypothesis of Attraction.
This teaching was introduced in the late 1800’s through what is known as the New Thought Movement. Names such as Phineas Quimby, Wallace D Wattles and William Walker Atkinson are among the founders for the rise of the New Thought movement. What most popularized the movement were several books, one written by Wattles called “The Science of Getting Rich” and another written by Atkinson called “Thought Vibration or the Law of Attraction in the Thought World.”
Adherents to this concept believe the following core principles: 3
- God or Infinite Intelligence is “supreme, universal, and everlasting”;
- divinity dwells within each person, that all people are spiritual beings;
- “the highest spiritual principle [is] loving one another unconditionally… and teaching and healing one another”; and
- “our mental states are carried forward into manifestation and become our experience in daily living”
As you can see, the first three have a familiar ring to Christian thinking. In fact, this movement has become what we know as Christian mysticism. The teachings of Christ are woven into their philosophy and then a magical element is the foundation.
Since then, the concept has been adjusted to various aspects of life with a different spin on the core concept:
- like attracts like
- think positive thoughts, positivity will come
- think negative thoughts, negativity will come
It is a simple concept that allows for many interpretations.
The Law of Attraction
More recently, the Law of Attraction has found resurgent popularity from the 2006 self-help book, “The Secret” written by Australian author Rhonda Byrne. It was later adapted into a movie. Her book takes the core concepts of the New Thought Movement and pushes it into the physical realm of control – that you have the power to get anything you want just by thinking it.
Let me restate that: Byrne teaches that you can get anything you want just by concentrating on it. The book went viral after Oprah Winfrey wildly asserted the law of attraction as universal truth. It wasn’t long before Oprah proclaimed that there are many ways to come to God, not just Jesus. Watch the video here.
I knew an adherent to this philosphy, very well, who would start the day chanting : “I have a new red Corvette and a new red Corvette comes easily to me.” She would also chant many other things in a similar fashion such as, “I have a raise and a raise comes easily to me.” Knowing her for many years, her Chevy never became a Corvette nor did she ever get that raise.
Byrne admits she just made up the law of attraction, cobbling together ideas from quantum physics, New Age mysticism, segments from the New Testament, some common-sense principles, and Wattles’ 1910 book “The Science of Getting Rich.”
One thing is for sure, Byrne has become very rich. Her secret, however, is not the Law of Attraction, but rather a slick marketing program and playing on the weakness of new-age thinkers naively trusting pseudo science to give life meaning.
Science Behind the Law of Attraction
Actually, there is quite a bit of real science mingled within Byrne’s fantasy teaching:
- positive outlook supports a healthy immune system
- daily affirmations are recommend by psychologists
- Plato himself noted “like tends toward like”
However, what Byrne purports as the scientific foundation for this “law” (which is really her hypothesis) is the idea that our thoughts somehow send out vibrations that something in the universe somehow deciphers and responds to, giving us what we focus on, whether bad or good.
If we applied the scientific method to the law of attraction, it can safely be called junk science or pseudoscience.
Law of Attraction and Christianity
For Christians, the Law of Attraction is contradictory to the surrender that comes with following Christ…not looking to the self to bring about human desire, but rather, trusting God to bring about his perfect will.
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” – James 4:13,15
In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. – Proverbs 16:9
There is, however, a place for the Law of Attraction within Christianity. Positivity does in fact attract positivity; negativity also attracts negativity. What we focus on has a direct relation to the world around us and our perception of it.
The desire of the righteous ends only in good, but the hope of the wicked only in wrath. – Proverbs 11:23
Whoever seeks good finds favor, but evil comes to one who searches for it. – Proverbs 11:27
We can especially see this concept at work as Christian Professionals in Corporate America. Thoughts are a powerful beginning to whatever position we find ourselves. What thoughts go through your mind when that important customer demands more? How do we think through downsizing? What initial thoughts do we have when facing a difficult employee? How do we handle stress mentally?
Like attracts like. Righteousness attracts righteousness. Wickedness attracts wickedness. Seek goodness, you will find it. Seek evil you will find it. Focus on the negative, and you will continually see aspects in your life to support that negativity. Focus on the positive, and you will see the goodness in your life.
Christianity and the Scientific Method
If we can relegate the Law of Attraction to a simple hypothesis, what can we do with Christianity? Can it be proven? If not, is it only a hypothesis?
Archeology has done much to prove that Jesus Christ existed. In fact, no historian who teaches at the college level in the histories, anywhere in the world, disputes that Jesus Christ was real and lived. His miracles, as well as those recorded in the Old testament, on the other hand, can’t be scientifically validated. The historicity of the New Testament is without question. Some of its metaphysical claims, however, can be questioned.
We know there are aspects of this world that science can’t explain. In Philip Goff’s 2019 book, “Galileo’s Error: Foundations for a New Science of Consciousness”, he reveals an exciting truth about Galileo, the father, founder and creator of the scientific method: science was never meant to explain everything and can’t. The book focuses on the inexplicable truth of consciousness: we can’t explain it.
Atheists today put much hope in the scientific method, especially as a saboteur to Christianity. What they fail to realize is the founder of their sacred method, Galileo, himself was a Christian.
“Famous for his scientific achievements in astronomy, mathematics, and physics, and infamous for his controversy with the church, he was a devout Christian who saw not a divorce of religion and science but only a healthy marriage: ‘God is known by nature in his works, and by doctrine in his revealed word.'” 5
It Comes Down to Where We Place Our Faith
While our society continually teaches that humans are all-powerful and can solely determine one’s fate, for those following Christ, the modern application of this Law of Attraction opposes God’s word. Yet, the core of the Law of Attraction has been and can be used in ways that support the word of God especially as it applies to life and the workplace:
As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart. – Proverbs 27:19
I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. – Proverbs 27: 13
And yet, what it comes down to is faith. What will we put our faith in, a supposed law of attraction invented by a single human being, mashing together bits of knowledge, some scientific, some religious and some mystical? Or will we put our faith in the holy teachings of the written word of God, held flawlessly together for thousands of years, backed by hundreds of years of archeological proof, with teachings by Jesus Christ, about life, that are so profoundly true they are miracles in and of themselves?
I choose Christ.
Shawn Sommerkamp is a motivational speaker and Executive Coach with 20+ years of Fortune 100 leadership experience. He founded Motivationeer™ to coach Christian professionals how to bring the power of Christ’s word, as the foundation of career success, into corporate and small business America.
1 Bradford, Alina. “What Is a Law in Science?” LiveScience, Purch, 29 July 2017, www.livescience.com/21457-what-is-a-law-in-science-definition-of-scientific-law.html
2 Merriam Webster, “This is the Difference Between a Hypothesis and a Theory” https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/difference-between-hypothesis-and-theory-usage
3 Wikipedia, “New Thought” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Thought
4 Bradford, Benjamin. “What Is a Law in Science?” LiveScience, Purch, 29 July 2017, www.livescience.com/21457-what-is-a-law-in-science-definition-of-scientific-law.html
5 Christinaity Today. “Galileo Galilei.” Christian History | Learn the History of Christianity & the Church, Christian History, 18 Feb. 2016, www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/scholarsandscientists/galileo-galilei.html.