Steve Pavlina

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Pavlina in 2010
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Steve Pavlina (1971–) is a life coach/personal development expert who wrote a book called Personal Development for Smart People.[1] He was a Catholic turned-atheist before becoming New Agey.[2][3] He's also a crank magnet whose website, and especially the forums (before Pavlina closed them in 2011),[4] is filled with large quantities of the crazy.

Disagreeing with him on the forum and especially providing evidence against something he said can be a one way ticket to being banned from there. In late 2011, Pavlina got upset over a few forum moderators moving to another personal development forum due to disagreements on moderation. The ensuing drama (complete with liberal usage of bans by Pavlina) ultimately culminated in Pavlina closing the forums.[5][6]


See the main article on this topic: Pseudoscience

Pavlina is into raw foodism,[7] and thinks water fluoridation is evil.[8]

Pavlina, and presumably some of his "smart people" followers, also reject science as a way of knowing about health, and he claims that "health studies are worthless to those who care about health"[9] because big pharma is evil and everyone is unique and special and, well, statistics is hard! Consider this Kuhn-misquoting lunacy:[10]

The problem is that we lack an accurate paradigm of human health. As long as the current paradigms remain profitable for those invested in them, there isn’t much incentive for change to occur from within. Consequently, if your goal is to do what’s best for your own well-being, I wouldn’t put much weight in the studies that arise from today’s inaccurate paradigms.

In the philosophy of science, there is an idea called the pessimistic metainduction: this is the idea that given the long history of science being wrong about a particular subject, and further new levels of explanation being uncovered (again, with the paradigm shifts: from ether to atoms, from atoms to sub-atomic particles, from classical mechanics to quantum mechanics) there is good reason to infer that the current level of explanation will be supplanted in due course and is therefore likely to be wrong. As a philosophical thought experiment, it's very interesting. It doesn't justify ignoring the findings of medical science and preferring… crazy bullshit.

The other pseudoscientific gem is "Musings on Reality, the Scientific Method, and the Cure for Dandruff" where Pavlina argues that:[11]

The Scientific Method is a tool, and like any other tool it has limits. It is a tool for studying objective reality, and within that domain, it’s indomitable. But it’s a worthless tool for studying subjective reality. So if you want to study the possibility that reality is thought-created — that observer and observed are inseparably connected — then you can’t use the Scientific Method.


As the last quote might suggest, Pavlina believes in "subjective reality". The core of this concept borrows heavily from solipsism, but takes additional metaphysical motifs from his experiences with lucid dreaming as well as the simulated reality plot device in the 1999 movie The Matrix.[12][13] In practice, that means he believes that he can become a psychic, that "intention-manifestation" (his name for the woo peddled in The Secret) is real and lots more besides.

Similar to others that have misused Matrix plot devices, Pavlina is fond of using the red pill to promote his "subjective reality" concept.[14] This extended to a bizarre numerology-oriented post in which Pavlina became obsessed with the time 11:11, and how this obsession somehow was a "glitch in the matrix" and a "specific frequency of awakening" that allowed one to "(take) the red pill" and see the "truth about reality".[15]

The fascinating thing about 11:11 is that it runs backwards and forwards through one’s life. So when you first start noticing the 11s in your life, you’ll find they run through your past as well as your present and future. When I was first exposed to this idea, I thought I was going nuts because it seemed that my whole life was infested with these hidden 11s... Week after week and month after month, the 11s keep coming. You keep noticing 11:11 on the clock. It’s like you’re being stalked by the number 11 and just can’t shake it. Your logical explanations don’t stop the phenomenon from arising...11:11 basically acts like a glitch in the matrix of reality.

His ex-wife Erin is also a psychic, so at least when he decided to upgrade to a younger model, she knew about it ahead of time.[16] Needless to say, the divorce proceedings and child support payments are enabling her personal development…

Other rationality deficits[edit]

Pavlina has a long blog post explaining why he doesn't have anything to do with "news" and doesn't read news websites, newspapers etc.[17] This is a common enough trope among some life coach/self-development gurus: you have to be happy in order to live your life to the fullest potential, and news is all negative with stories about how people are mean and nasty and do terrible things to one another. So, just don't watch the news. Yes, yes, you won't be informed about politics, current affairs, developments in science and technology (or the next climate change-induced disaster that's about to hit one's home tomorrow) but none of that stuff is "actionable" or leads to you furthering your "life goals", except if one of your life goals is to be an informed citizen…

External links[edit]


  1. Personal Development for Smart People: The Conscious Pursuit of Personal Growth by Steve Pavlina (2009) Hay House. ISBN 1401922767.
  2. The Meaning of Life: Intro (June 19, 2005) Steve Pavlina.
  3. Thriving Without a God (December 16, 2020) Steve Pavlina.
  4. "Why I Shut Down the Forums",, 2011 December 27
  5. "Reflecting on Steve Pavlina's 2011 post, "Why I Shut Down the Forums", Hacker News ( entry, 2013 May 29, archived on 2024 Jan 16
  6. "Why Steve Pavlina is closing his forums", Steve Pavlina Lies, 2011 December 26, archived on 2012 Jan 9
  7. Raw Foods (December 31, 2007) Steve Pavlina.
  8. What's the deal with fluoride? (July 19, 2005) Steve Pavlina.
  9. Health studies are worthless to those who care about health (January 19, 2007) Steve Pavlina.
  10. Health Studies Are Worthless to Those Who Care About Health (January 19, 2007) Steve Pavlina.
  11. Musings on Reality, the Scientific Method, and the Cure for Dandruff (November 23, 2005) Steve Pavlina.
  12. "Subjective Reality vs. Solipsism",, 2007 September 16
  13. "Subjective Reality Simplified",, 2007 September 22
  14. "Take the Red Pill",, 2005 March 28
  15. 11:11,, 2009 February 3
  16. Steve Pavlina Facing Divorce Annihilation by by Welmer on (October 27, 2009) The Spearhead (archived from March 3, 2010).
  17. Overcoming news addiction (September 26, 2006) Steve Pavlina.