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Steve Pavlina

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Pavlina in 2010

Steve Pavlina (1971–) is a life coach/personal development expert who wrote a book called Personal Development for Smart People. He's also a crank magnet whose website, and especially the forums, 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.


Pavlina is into raw foodism,[1] and thinks water fluoridation is evil.[2]

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"[3] because big pharma is evil and everyone is unique and special and, well, statistics is hard! Consider this Kuhn-misquoting lunacy:

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 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:

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 observer are inseparably connected — then you can’t use the Scientific Method.


As the last quote might suggest, Pavlina believes in "subjective reality". 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.

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.[4] 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.[5] 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, 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]