The tone of this article may be snarky, but my goal is dead serious. Various TM-connected organizations are currently pushing to get TM into schools, health centers, etc., throughout the world. The 350+ studies they quote have unfortunately been designed to skew results in favor of TM. They avoid assessment of possible risks. If TM is going to be spread to large populations, isn't it responsible to make sure that negative as well as positive results are uncovered? To the best of my knowledge, the questions I ask here have never been asked in the "[s]even volumes of Collected Papers of Scientific Research on Maharishi's Transcendental Meditation"(2).
I am not a scientist; I am not a trained researcher. The quality of my research is undeniably open to question. But at least I am honest in admitting my design weaknesses and my biases. I think I compare favorably with the TM-approved research in that regard.
Here are some of the flaws in my research:
1. Subjects should be randomly chosen. Since my subjects are readers of TM-Free Blog, they can hardly be considered random. At minimum, they are people who are interested in reading about "independent, skeptical and critical views of TM claims and research."(3) Some of them may be downright critical of some aspect of TM.
Oh well. My non-random sample probably doesn't matter, because lots of TM research didn't use random samples either. For example, TMers have sometimes been "pre-screened" to make sure only TMers with specific brain waves patterns were allowed to be research subjects.(4)
2. My research design is composed of subjects who self-report subjective experiences on a questionnaire. You could barely have a poorer scientific design. I mean, self-reporting of subjective experiences is a gateway to reporting expectation, placebo, belief, desire to slant the results, desire to please researcher, etc., etc.
I hope this minor flaw in my design is balanced by the fact that some TM research also uses self-reporting. My favorite example of this is the brilliant and witty critique, "How to Design a Positive Study: Meditation for Childhood ADHD...."(5).
3. This researcher is not neutral. I'm a writer for TM-Free; how objective could I possibly be in my research design, my interpretation of the results, etc.? A basis for objective research is that the researcher or funder should not have an ax to grind.
But please don't be too discouraged by this flaw. After all, many TM research studies have been funded or conducted by TM college students, TM professors, pro-TM foundations. (The foundations often have names that obfuscate their origin - "Quiet Time, " "Consciousness-Based Education," etc. Some of these objective-sounding research facilities are located on Maharishi University campus!) Open the TM "Collected Papers" at random and see for yourself how many non-neutral researchers and organizations sponsor TM research (1, 5, 6).
Many of the research papers done by TMers claim to have been produced by "independent researchers." I looked up the definition of "independent researcher," and it turns out that an independent researcher can mean a grad student who is independent of his/her teacher, or a researcher who works without co-workers, etc. It is a title chosen, I believe, to mislead the reader as to the objectivity of the research.
4. Where's my control group? My placebo group? My "correlation does not prove cause and effect" group? Nowhere, that's where. Oops.
But not to worry. So much of the research in the "Collected Papers" has this flaw that I'm sure it will all even out.(2) At random, I bring to your attention the scientific chart, "Increased EEG Coherence," which is given a place of honor on the home page of the TM organization's main website.(1) Notice how in this chart there is no non-TM control group, and how correlation has been equated with cause and effect. See also my TM-Free article, "TM Leader Hagelin Perverts Science to Sell Expensive TM Products."(7)
5. And finally, my questionnaire asks for ONLY deleterious results from TM! So if you have anything good to say about TM, please don't even bother to fill out the questionnaire, because we will not post or tally your comments!
Before you are too incensed by my insultingly obvious bias, please read the Roark Letter (8). "...Confirmed to me by investigators at MIU was the suppression of negative evidence that these investigators had collected. Strong bias was present in selecting only data favorable to a conclusion that was made prior to the data collection...."
So without further ado, here is my:
SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH QUESTIONNAIRE
Question 1: Have you had any negative results from practicing the TM technique for 20 minutes twice a day? If "yes," please describe.
Question 2: Have you had any negative results from any other aspect of the TM organization's offerings? (Advanced techniques, TM-Sidhis program, rounding, Maharishi Ayurveda, Maharishi yagyas, etc.) If "yes," please describe.
Question 3: Have you stopped doing TM for 20 minutes twice a day? If "yes," please describe, and explain why.
Question 4: Over time, did you find that "TM just stopped working"? If "yes," please describe.
Question 5: Do you know of someone who might answer the above questions negatively? If so, please ask them to fill in this questionnaire. If they are dead, hospitalized, etc., please fill it in for them to the best of your ability.
END OF RESEARCH QUESTIONNAIRE
Dear readers, please help us do the research the TM organization has avoided for over 40 years in over 600 studies. These questions, consistently omitted from the official body of TM research, may begin to offer an important window into the dangers as well as the benefits of TM.
Please provide your answers in the "comments" section. If you need anonymity, please feel free to use a pseudonym. Thank you very much for your help, and for the help you may provide to people around the world who may be harmed by TM.
(3) TM-Free Blog homepage, introduction
(4) TM-Free Blog, reported in various comments. Unfortunately I haven't had the time to dig up the quotes. If anyone wants to take that on, I commend you. Or, alternately, maybe someone will be kind enough to write up their experiences a second time in the comments section.
(6) TM-Free Blog, "Who Are These People? The Background of David Lynch's 'Researchers' " by Mike Doughney tmfree.blogspot.com/2010/12/who-are-these-people-backgrounds-of.html
(8) TM-Ex Newsletter, Spring 1992
(8) TM-Ex Newsletter, Spring 1992