Commentary on
ME in Lebanon
 
'Maharishi Effect': 1988 Report on Lebanon Debunked
1988 TMO Report on Lebanon


STUDY EXAMINED:
  Reference: Orme-Johnson, D.W., Alexander, C.N., Davies, J.L., Chandler, H.M., & Larimore, W.E. (1988). International peace project in the Middle East: The effects of the Maharishi Technology of the Unified Field. The Journal of Conflict Resolution, 32, 776-812. (Reprinted in Scientific Research on Maharishi's Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi Program: Collected Papers, Vol. 4, pp. 2653-2678.)

Claimed results: "Increasing numbers of participants in Maharishi's Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi program led to improved quality of life in Israel." Charted result "shows the strong correspondence between the numbers of TM-Sidhi participants and a composite quality of life index comprising many variables, including war intensity and war deaths in Lebanon, Israeli national stock market prices and national mood, and auto accident rates, number of fires, and crime rates in Jerusalem and Israel." "[1]

Basis for results: "Coherence group: World Peace Assembly of Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi program participants fluctuating in size from 60 to 240 (200 is the square root of 1% Israeli population), during August and September 1983 in Jerusalem."[1]


COMMENTARY:   The "coherence group" included roughly 38,000 non-Sidhi meditators in Israel and 2,000 more in Lebanon. However, the TMO provides "no information about the geographic distribution of these meditators or evidence to support their assumption that they were in the area and meditating during the vacation month of August which comprises half the test period."

Lagged effects were not specified prior to the research. The TMO "researchers then interpret any significant correlation at any non-negative time lag for any indicator as supporting their theory." A number of specific factors were not included in the TMO analysis but readily could have influenced the dependent variables. The TMO "research design also prevents us from knowing how many other factors may have contributed to a spurious correlation."

As stated in summary of the evidence below, "ME predictions cannot be derived from the MT." Also, "The claim that MT provides the only plausible explanation of these data cannot be sustained. There are alternative explanations that do not depend on esoteric or paranormal influences."[2]


PEER REVIEW:
  Mordecai Kaffman. The Use of Transcendental Meditation to Promote Social Progress in Israel. Cultic Studies Journal, Volume 3, No. 1, 1986, pp. 135-141.

A criticism of TM's "International Peace Project in the Middle East" which later appeared in the Journal of Conflict Resolution in December 1988.

The methods of TM Peace Project researchers are dismissed as unscientific, and their claims of positive results in the Israeli context are deemed unconvincing, anecdotal, and based on a conceptual error. The TM theory of the "unified field" is stated to be no more credible than was Blondot's 1913 claim--supported by many papers from his collaborators--that metals gave off N-rays.


PEER REVIEW:
  Prof. Evan Fales, Prof. Barry Markovsky. 1997, The University of North Carolina Press. Published December 1997 in Social Forces Volume 76 (2):511-25.

The following are excerpts from the Markovsky & Fales study which analyzes the "Maharishi Effect" (ME) and the 1983 Lebanon "coherence group":

"This brings us to interpretation of evidence. The MT [Master Thesis of the 'Maharishi Effect'] predicts correlations that are supposed to support its causal claims. Against those claims we have launched, in descending order of importance, (1) arguments that offer concrete explanations of findings without invoking the ME; (2) more speculative arguments from plausible serendipity; and (3) arguments that do not explain a correlation between two variables, but that suggest the dependent variable can be fully explained without recourse to Sidhi group sizes. In the first class fall our suggestions concerning fires, auto accidents, national mood, and the immediate consequences of the Begin resignation; in the second category, our speculations about the lull in the war during part of August; and in the third, our mention of some of the many factors affecting the vicissitudes of the war generally. Even without quantitative support, this sort of defense of normal science is sufficient to undermine claims of plausibility on behalf of unorthodox theories that claim quantitative support. The low prior probability of a heterodox challenger suffices to establish a presumption of guilt."

Do Predictions Derive From the Theory?

"To be credible, MT must explain (1) how group meditation affects the unified field, (2) how these effects in turn cause changes in the actions of individual human beings, and (3) how those individual actions have their claimed social impact. Not clear in the theory is how meditators’ brains spontaneously synchronize to produce "coherence," how coherence modifies physio-chemical structures within the brains of distant others, why coherence only causes phenomena that happen to be defined socio-culturally as "positive," and how the distribution of behaviors is affected at the population level.

"Hagelin (1987:69) concedes that MT does not explain how meditators affect the ostensible unified field, and the emotions, thoughts, and behaviors of people within it. Moreover, if the material world is presumed to be influenced by collective meditation (as it must be if the unified field is affected), then more direct measures are possible: inanimate ME-detectors should be placed at varying distances from the meditation group. As it stands, causal linkages from individual TM practitioners to, for instance, a diminished likelihood of Nebraskans wrecking their cars, are hidden in a very 'black box.'

"Another indication that predictions do not derive from the theory is that lagged effects were not specified prior to the research. The researchers then interpret any significant correlation at any non-negative time lag for any indicator as supporting their theory. This multiplies the likelihood of finding "supportive" evidence, but opens the door to Type II errors even wider.

"The ME equation, from which specific hypotheses might have been derived, was ignored completely in the research. The time-series analysis employed each day’s higher number of Sidhi meditators rather than its square, and the number of non-Sidhi meditators was not included in the test. There also were periods during the study when meditation group size fell below assumed thresholds for affecting Lebanon, or both Lebanon and Israel, but Sidhi-group size rather than zero was used as the independent variable. In fact, the Sidhi group should not have been powerful enough to influence the Lebanese war, or even most of Israel. O88 argue that the roughly 38,000 non-Sidhi meditators in Israel and 2,000 more in Lebanon provided the needed boost. However, O88 provide no information about the geographic distribution of these meditators or evidence to support their assumption that they were in the area and meditating during the vacation month of August which comprises half the test period.

"In sum, ME predictions cannot be derived from the MT. There are gaps in the causal chain from group meditation to the phenomena supposedly affected, there are no specified time lags for the ME, and despite the capacity of MT’s formal component to generate specific ME predictions, the model is ignored. Thus, evidence offered for the ME cannot significantly increase confidence in the veracity of the MT."

Can Alternative Hypotheses Explain the Evidence?

"O88 presented their empirical findings several ways, but the most compelling showed superimposed graphs of (1) a daily composite index of Jerusalem crime rates, auto accidents and fires; Israeli crimes and "national mood," and Lebanese war intensity; and (2) the number of meditators in the larger of each day’s two meditation groups. Time-series analyses confirmed a statistically significant relationship between the number of meditators and the composite index for lags 3 0. Our analysis focuses on a few specific factors that were not included in the analysis but readily could have influenced both the meditators’ decisions to participate and the social indicators used as dependent variables. Importantly, the research design prevents us from knowing how many other factors may have contributed to a spurious correlation.

"Holidays and Vacation Month. O88 recognize that mundane events affect both meditation group size and their social indicators: Their statistical model compensates for weekend effects and for three Jewish holidays. There are other factors for which the authors failed to invoke statistical controls, however. Perhaps the most obvious omission was that of three other major Jewish holidays during the study period -- Succoth, Shemini Azeret, and Simhat Torah. Nearly all of the meditators who participated in the research came from the liberal end of the Jewish religious spectrum. As was clear in the graph of meditation group sizes, they were willing to travel and meditate on the Sabbath and holidays. In contrast, Orthodox Jews do not cook, light fires, or travel in cars on religious holidays or the Sabbath. Undoubtedly the holidays also produce some elevation in mood, and may coincide with reductions in war hostilities measured from nearby Lebanon. Therefore, the same factors that increase meditation group sizes at certain times would also correspond to the abstinence from cooking and travel for a very significant portion of the Israeli population. We might then expect to find not only a heightening in national mood at the same time larger numbers of meditators turned out for the study, but also coincident reductions in domestic fires and automobile accidents.

"Another effect, obvious in the graph of meditation group sizes, is attributable to August being vacation month in Israel. During August Israelis leave the country in large numbers. Critically, the investigators did not take into account the effects on fires and auto accidents of the lower population in Israel during August, of the tendency to cook less during hot weather, and of the potential for reduced war hostilities in the desert heat. It may be difficult, but the burden of eliminating these possibilities rests upon the researchers.

"The Lebanon War. O88 highlighted the negative effects of meditation group size on war intensity in Lebanon. Hostilities in the Lebanon war involved an enormously complex interaction between a multitude of social, political and military forces. A good sense of this complexity can be gleaned from The New York Times Index "Middle East" entries for this period. We offer several observations:

"O88 make no mention of the many widely-publicized military and political events that may have both influenced the Lebanon war and induced meditators’ patterns of participation. Many such events occurred around the midpoint of the study, coinciding with the wildest fluctuations in group size and war intensity. For example: (1) Israel announced it would withdraw its army from the Shouf mountains overlooking Beirut to a line along a river to the south. Major fighting erupted in Beirut just before the announced withdrawal date. (2) During the study period Prime Minister Begin both announced his intention to resign, and did so. (3) The Lebanese army completed a successful sweep of Beirut. A lull then occurred until the Israelis withdrew from the Shouf. Fighting promptly erupted among various factions. (4) Within days battles were being waged over the Shouf by U.S. and Druse militia, and the U.S. congress voted to keep the Marines in Lebanon for 18 more months. No effort was made to ask meditators why they showed up or stayed home in droves at various times during this period of the study.

"In sum, it is hardly unreasonable to suppose that the fluctuations of the dependent variables measured by O88 would have remained exactly as they were even if there had been no meditators at all. The claim that MT provides the only plausible explanation of these data cannot be sustained. There are alternative explanations that do not depend on esoteric or paranormal influences."[3]



Notes to Text:

[1] Source: TMO's Maharishi University of Management
http://miu.edu/m_effect/29_lebanon/index.html

[2] Excerpts taken from: "Evaluating Heterodox Theories", Markovsky, Barry & Fales, Evan. 1997, The University of North Carolina Press. Published December 1997 in Social Forces Volume 76 (2):511-25.


[3] Footnote references edited. Article with footnotes may be viewed in its entirety at
http://www.lightlink.com/trance/research/markovsky2.shtml
 
[Home]