Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Ask Anna: Are 1-L Bootcamps Worthwhile?

Ivey is a private admissions counselor who works with people applying
to the top business schools and law schools, as well as the author of The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions: Straight Advice on Essays, Resumes, Interviews and More. If you have a question for Anna Ivey, send her an e-mail.

Formerly the Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law
School, she has also practiced corporate and entertainment law in Los
Angeles. She received her BA from Columbia and her JD from the
University of Chicago Law School, where she served as an editor of The
University of Chicago Law Review. To learn more about her admissions
counseling, visit

Question: Have you heard of pre-1L boot camps? What do you think of them?

By the time you apply to law school, you have likely mastered how to
"do" college. You’ve been doing it for a while, and you have the system
down pat: how to take notes, how to read the class materials, how to
discuss them in class, how to prepare for exams, how to write exams.

However, law school is a very different beast from college, and even
from pre-law programs, which typically have little do to with the
graduate law school experience. From my own law school days at the
University of Chicago, I remember well how many people were caught off
guard by their first set of grades, both the people who did very well,
and the people who didn’t. Being a superstar in college – and there are
many such people in law school – seemed to correlate very little with
success in law school. Having great LSAT scores didn’t necessarily
correlate either, not least because many law schools use a forced
grading curve, and half the class by definition ends up in the bottom

The ones who did very well in law school figured out from day one
that they had to retool their approach completely. Your first-year
curriculum is designed to teach you how to "think like a lawyer" – it’s
a unique skill, one that you learn only in law school. It actually
retrains your mind: how you think, how you approach a problem, how to
process information quickly and in a specific way, how you arrive at
and defend your answers. For most people, that retraining is humbling
and uncomfortable, but the dividends are great.

What most people don’t know before they start law school is that it
is very front-heavy: your first-year (1L) grades shape your
post-graduation options to a disproportionately large degree. Your 1L
grades determine what kind of summer job you’ll line up after your
first year, a job that in turn typically leads to a permanent,
post-graduation offer. It’s great to have an offer in your pocket
before you’ve even started your second year, but that also puts a lot
of pressure on you to ace your first year, and it can feel as if you’re
still trying to find the bathroom when your first exams hit. Many firms
use class rank cut-offs in their hiring decisions, and many law review
journals fill at least some of their slots based on 1L grades. Your
first-year grades also determine what kind of judicial clerkship you’ll
have after you graduate, because you’ll be interviewing with judges as
early as the fall of your second year. Your 2L and 3L grades matter
too, of course, but they have far less impact compared to your 1L

The other kicker? Most grades are based entirely on a final exam, if
you’re lucky also a mid-term. Unlike college, law school generally
doesn’t reward trying really hard, or talking a lot in class. It’s also
a surprise to many people that one doesn’t have to write particularly
well to excel on a law school exam, so don’t think you’ll have an edge
on law school exams just because you’re a gifted writer. It all comes
down to whether you’ve mastered studying the law and taking law school
exams. Most people figure out how to do that over the course of their
law school studies, but doing so earlier rather than later offers
substantial advantages.

Is there a way to get a jump-start on those skills if college
doesn’t teach them? Yes! There are some excellent pre-1L prep courses
that make it much easier to hit the ground running. Most of them are
classroom-based, last a week during the summer, and are available in
large cities around the country. My favorite pre-1L prep course is
offered by Law Masters Series.
It is a week-long webinar, which means that you can watch it live from
anywhere in the world and participate in interactive
question-and-answer exchanges, or you can view the sessions afterwards
at your own convenience and at your own pace. Each subject is taught by
a well-known law school professor and will give you a real taste of law
school before orientation even starts. It’s money well spent.



Can prayer harm?
(Psychology Today)

By: Larry  Dossey


    Opinion. Presents an author’s view about the dark side of prayer.
    Science and supplication; Prayer’s paradox; Power of negative prayers.
    INSET: The evil within us all?

The doctor who almost single-handedly legitimized the study of
    prayer inmedicine now talks about prayer’s surprising shadow side.


I grew up in the buckle of the Bible Belt–the fundamentalist
    county of Limestone, Texas, where a lot of praying went all the time. I
    remember once when I was six years old, a young preacher was discoursing
    on the fires of hell in a tiny, country church, on a cold, wintry
    night–perhaps to warm up the room. There were about 12 folks in


For nearly 30 minutes he described Satan and the flames of eternal
    damnation, and began to beat on the pulpit to simulate the drums of hell.
    At the climax of his sermon he had someone turn off all the lights as he
    lapsed into prayer for lost sinners. My six-year-old mind was utterly
    hypnotized by fear, and when the invitation for salvation was offered, I
    numbly stumbled forward–only half-conscious-to be saved.


I learned early on that there could be a raw, brutal edge to
    religion and prayer. Even though I moved beyond this spiritual territory
    as I grew older, I carried with me a legacy I consider very important–an
    enduring interest in prayer. It’s impossible to grow up in a
    fundamentalist environment and not be fascinated by the capacity of
    prayer to catalyze change in people’s lives. For me, prayer remains one
    of the most effective methods of finding meaning, because it is a way of
    contacting a dimension of experience that seems wiser, deeper, and more
    real than an individual sense of self.


Claims that people can actually influence the health and well-being
    of others through prayer are often met with skepticism and derision. As
    one of my colleagues remarked, "This is the kind of thing I would not
    believe even if it existed." Yet it does exist. I’ve written at length
    about the astonishing capacity of prayer to heal, even over long
    distances and when the recipient does not know they are being prayed for.
    It’s unclear how any form of energy currently known to modern physics can
    account for the distant influence of prayer, but abundant anecdotal and
    experimental evidence supports this phenomenon.


I stumbled onto the research about prayer and healing in 1988, when
    I read a study by Randolph Byrd, M.D., a cardiologist at the University
    of California at San Francisco School of Medicine. Dr. Byrd tested the
    impact of distant prayer much like a new medication, recording its
    effects on 393 patients who all had severe chest pains and/or heart
    attacks; half were prayed for, and half were not. The prayed-for group
    required fewer antibiotics (three in the prayed-for group, compared to 17
    in the group not prayed for), had less need for mechanical respirators
    (zero compared to 12), required fewer diuretics (five compared to 15),
    suffered less congestive heart failure (eight compared to 20),
    experienced less cardiopulmonary arrest (three compared to 14), and fell
    ill with pneumonia less often (three compared to 13).


This study does not stand alone. David Larson, M.D., formerly at
    the National Institutes of Health, and now director of the National
    Institute for Healthcare Research, a private research organization in
    Rockville, Maryland, which explores the role of religious practice in
    health, has reviewed over 200 studies examining the role of faith and
    religion on health. In the majority of cases, faith is beneficial.


In 1995, a pilot study on the use of distant healing and prayer for
    AIDS patients was initiated by psychiatrist Elisabeth Targ, M.D.,
    clinical director of psychosocial oncology research at California Pacific
    Medical Center in San Francisco. Twenty patients with advanced AIDS were
    randomly selected, and half received 10 weeks of distant healing from 20
    professional healers across the country. Blood and psychological tests
    were administered before and after the study, as well as three months
    later. Results were encouraging, and Dr. Targ is now conducting a larger
    study involving 60 AIDS patients and healers. She’s also seeking funds
    for a similar study with breast cancer. It is studies such shed light on
    the way that prayer can be alongside conventional medicine.




Prayer, when studied, usually has positive results. But what about
    prayer’s capacity to harm? Most people choose to believe that thoughts
    and prayers work positively or not at all. But we cannot hide from the
    mind’s power to harm. Everyone is aware of the placebo response–the
    impact of positive belief. But the flip side of this phenomenon is the
    nocebo effect, the ability of negative beliefs and expectations to cause
    harm. For example, in a provocative British study of patients with
    stomach cancer, patients thought they were taking a chemotherapy drug,
    but were actually receiving a placebo. One-third developed nausea,
    one-fifth developed vomiting, and almost one-third lost their hair. (This
    study was conducted with the patients’ consent, and they were ultimately
    given the proper drugs.)


But can our thoughts affect events and peoples’ actions? Various
    experiments suggest that they are capable of distorting the classic
    double-blind experimental design, influencing the outcome of medical
    studies. In several different studies on the effectiveness of vitamin E
    on angina, the results could be directly correlated with the researchers’
    positive or negative expectations. If researchers thought the vitamin
    would affect the disease positively, it did, and if they thought it
    wouldn’t have any effect, it didn’t. In another landmark study by
    parapsychologist Gerald Solfvin, Ph.D., professor at Rosebridge Graduate
    School of Integrative Psychology in Concord, California, experimenters
    who believed they were injecting mice with two different doses of malaria
    recorded differing degrees of illness in the mice–despite the fact there
    was no difference in the strength of the two injections.


Several studies suggest that people can use their minds to promote
    or inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungi at a distance of up to 15
    miles. Jean Barry, M.D., a physician practicing in Bordeaux, France,
    chose a destructive fungus, Rhizoctonia solani, and asked 10 people to
    try and inhibit its growth merely through their intention. The growth of
    the fungus was significantly retarded in 151 of 194 cases. The
    possibility that these results could be explained by chance was less than
    one in a thousand. When the study was repeated by different researchers,
    individuals up to 15 miles away inhibited the growth. A third remarkable
    study tested 60 university volunteers’ ability to alter a common strain
    of bacteria, Escherichia coli. The strain normally mutates from the
    inability to metabolize milk sugar-lactose negative–to the ability to
    use it–lactose positive–at a known rate. Using nine test tubes of
    bacteria, subjects tried to influence three of them to become lactose
    positive, three to become lactose negative, and three to remain just as
    they were. Each group of test tubes mutated in the desired


The implications of these and similar studies are sobering, to say
    the least. They suggest that we can use our minds to help or harm other
    living things, at a distance, and outside their awareness. These
    experiments may be relevant to humans. Even though we are far more
    complex, we share many identical biochemical processes with
    microorganisms, harbor billions of microbes within us. If we can harm
    bacteria and fungi with negative intention from a distance, might we be
    able to harm humans as well?


Studies of purposeful negative prayer have only taken place in
    lower organisms, because it’s unethical and illegal to attempt
    experiments in humans that might intentionally cause harm. However, that
    doesn’t mean we don’t carry on such inadvertent experiments every day,
    outside scientific laboratories.


Indeed, even when our prayers are overwhelmingly positive and
    sincere, their results can be harmful. Consider some of our most common
    prayers for happiness, prosperity, and fertility. If all the prayers for
    prosperity were answered, the environment would probably not be able to
    survive the impact, simply because of our limited resources. This problem
    would be compounded by prayers for fertility, which, if answered, would
    make the problem of overpopulation incalculably worse; and in areas of
    the world where prayers for fertility focus solely on sons, answered
    prayers have truly harmful consequences for the future of women.




Today, negative prayer is all around us. It’s I not confined to
    sorcerers, dabblers in black I magic, or occult religious traditions. By
    and large, it is a practice unconsciously engaged in by perfectly normal,
    well-meaning folk.


Growing up, I was always puzzled by that paradoxical high school
    football phenomenon, the pregame prayer, in which opposing teams gather
    in their respective locker rooms and pray to Almighty God that they will
    beat the daylights out of the* rivals. I wondered how such prayers could
    possibly be answered. What was a god faced with competing prayers to do?
    In The Future of the Body, Michael Murphy, founder of the Esalen
    Institute, a center for consciousness research located in Big Sur,
    California, writes, "Many sports fans consciously or half-consciously
    feel that rooting has an effect that goes beyond mere
    encouragement….Witness the many hexes aimed at games via radios and
    television sets. If rooting channels or triggers powers of mind over
    matter, it is no wonder that during certain contests balls take funny
    bounces and athletes jump higher than ever or stumble


Prayers for victory–whether in sports or in any other of life’s
    competitive situations–are often at another’s expense. When grasshoppers
    invaded Mormon crops in Great Salt Lake Valley, Utah, in 1848, church
    leaders asked parishioners to pray to avert a disaster. Seagulls arrived
    in hoards, ate the grasshoppers, and the crops were saved. From the
    standpoint of the Mormons, the effects of prayer were positive. But what
    about the grasshoppers?


During World War II, the famous pilot Eddie Rickenbacker was forced
    to land in the Pacific Ocean and, with seven companions, drifted for 24
    days in a lifeboat before being rescued by a navy plane. On the verge of
    perishing from lack of food and water, the men prayed for help. Out of
    nowhere, a bird landed on Rickenbacker, and he captured and killed it.
    From Rickenbacker’s point of view, his prayer was positive. But what
    about the bird?


When the torturers of the Inquisition tightened the racks and
    twisted the thumbscrews on "heretics," they mumbled prayers that their
    victims repent and their souls be saved. The inquisitors’ tears mingled
    with the blood of their victims on torture chamber floors throughout
    Europe. Unfortunately, the pattern endures. Prayer continues to be mixed
    with violence in the name of religion, as the recent orgies of ethnic
    cleansing by devout Christians and Muslims in Bosnia show.


We may insist that we’re not religious nuts or killers, but all of
    us find ourselves in situations where we believe, at the end of day, that
    we’re right and others are wrong. So, in our culture, where 80 percent of
    people pray regularly, the stage is set for prayers in which we ask God
    to defeat those who don’t share our views.


A woman named Melissa recently told me that for l0 years she had
    struggled unsuccessfully to be a writer. Finally her mother admitted that
    from the time Melissa was a teenager, she had prayed to God every night
    that her daughter would fail. "Writers tell things that should not be
    told, about themselves and their families," she said to her daughter.
    "I’ve always known that God had something better for you."


Melissa saw her mother’s prayers as a curse offered in the name of
    God. She began to pray for protection and guidance. Three years later she
    published her first novel.




Of course, negative prayer is not a new phenomenon. As long as
    people have prayed to an absolute and almighty being, they have prayed to
    both help themselves and harm others. The breadth of negative prayer can
    range from the mild to the deadly, from the simple prayer for individual
    gain to curses to an ancient death prayer that flourished earlier in this
    century among shamans in Hawaii.


Curses–which can be considered a form of negative prayer–are
    right at home in the Bible and have often been employed by the spiritual
    elite. The prophet Elisha, for example, caused 42 children to be devoured
    by bears for making fun of his baldness. The apostle Paul struck a
    sorcerer blind. And even Christ blasted an apparently innocent fig tree
    for not bearing fruit.


In the Hispanic cultures of southern Texas and the Southwest,
    witchcraft (brujeria), sorcery (hechiceria), and the evil eye (mal ojo)
    are integral parts of folk culture. Vibrant traditions involving hexes,
    spells, and curses continue in the Sea Islands off the coasts of South
    Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. The Vodoun tradition, with its famous
    voodoo practices, has spread from Africa to the Caribbean and the West
    Indies, and then to many major urban centers in the United States.


One of the most dramatic pieces of anthropological research
    suggesting the power of negative prayer is the custom of ana-ana, or the
    "death prayer," which originated in Polynesia and spread to the Hawaiian
    Islands. This practice was reported in great detail by American
    psychologist Max Freedom Long, who went to Hawaii in 1917, and from his
    position as a schoolteacher had the unique opportunity to investigate
    this custom. Quite simply, shamans would "pray to death" a person who was
    causing social unrest, who often lived on another island and did not even
    know he or she was the subject of harmful prayer.


One of the more remarkable features of the death prayer was that
    the victims often died in the same way–from what we now call ascending
    paralysis. First, the lower extremities became numb and then paralyzed,
    the paralysis gradually rising through the body until it reached the
    lungs, when the victim died of respiratory failure. Today, we would
    probably identify this kind of illness as Guillain-Barre syndrome, a
    disease that is virtually clinically identical to that induced by the
    death prayer. The illness sometimes follows a viral infection, but half
    the cases arise spontaneously, and their cause is unknown. Patients are
    kept alive on ventilators until the disease subsides, which can take
    weeks. Could this disease, and other illnesses of unknown origin, be due
    in part to the negative wishes or prayers of others? Unless we consider
    the possibility that prayer can harm, we will never know.


It’s easy to think negative prayer practices are confined to only
    primitive cultures. But after years of study, I’m convinced that the
    malevolent use of prayer is quite common, woven into our society and our
    lives. In a 1994 Gallup poll on the prayer habits of Americans published
    in Life magazine, five percent of people confessed they’d prayed for harm
    to come to others. And that was only the number that admitted it.




The temptation to manipulate other individuals and situations
    through prayer is very strong. Even when we voice the prayer, "Thy will
    be done," how many times are we really saying, "My will be done"? Are we
    really handing over the outcome of events to God, or are we prayer
    vigilantes trying to take matters into our own hands? Even if we fully
    believe we are praying for the good of ourselves or others, do we know
    the full impact of our prayers? As Beryl Statham, a British writer,
    notes, "There is an important difference in demanding a specific answer
    and an open-ended prayer for help. Making specific demands can have
    tragic results." She relates the experience of a young man whose wife was
    dying, and who recruited members of his church to pray for a miracle.
    When his wife died anyway, he suffered a mental collapse from which he
    never fully recovered.


We constantly underestimate the awesome complexity of the world,
    and the way in which we are linked in feedback loops and systems that
    even computers cannot decipher. Our prayers may reflect this. Sociologist
    Charles Perrow has shown that unintended negative consequences often
    follow when we intervene in situations that are extremely complex. We
    often don’t understand the consequences that our prayers, if answered,
    might generate.


Think about our prayers for happiness. What could be simpler than
    praying for joy? Yet George L. Engel, M.D., professor of medicine and
    psychiatry at the University of Rochester School of Medicine, has
    provided chilling evidence that happiness is not always compatible with
    health. Over a six-year period, Dr. Engel collected 170 cases where
    sudden death had occurred and analyzed the psychological state of each
    individual before their demise. Although most of the fatalities were
    accompanied by negative emotions such as intense fear or depression, 6
    percent were immediately preceded by experiences of sudden happiness,
    such as receiving good news. States such as happiness may not be as
    simple or benevolent as we’d like to think. There may be a hidden
    calculus, according to which all emotions are more complex than they




The dark side of life, if properly understood, can be valuable. I
    learned this when I served in Vietnam as a battalion surgeon, and wound
    up with the worst assignment I’d ever heard of for a physician. I’d gone
    to war wanting nothing to do with the madness of combat, but soon I
    became completely intoxicated by the warrior archetype. I volunteered for
    combat assaults, flew in helicopters to rescue ambushed platoons, and
    even applied to paratrooper school. I fantasized returning to the States,
    enrolling in infantry school, and returning to Vietnam with my own
    platoon. I was an agnostic, and a physician, yet I found myself offering
    prayers of thanks to a God I no longer believed in every time a mortar
    missed hitting me.


War unmasked my own contradictions, and I was never again able to
    convince myself I was as innocent as I’d once believed. Yet many
    spiritual traditions, such as Buddhism, explore exactly these
    contradictions, and speak of the indissoluble unity of all apparent
    opposites. This idea even surfaces in modern physics. The late physicist
    David Bohm used the example of a magnet, whose opposite poles cannot
    exist without each other.


Refusing to contemplate the dark undertow of life constitutes what
    Jungian psychologists call "repressing the shadow"–banishing our nastier
    qualities to the unexplored corners of the mind. But as Jung said, a
    whole person is one who has both walked with God and wrestled with the


The Devil may even have something to teach us. This is reflected in
    the root of Satan, stn, which means "one who opposes, obstructs, or acts
    as an adversary." The Greek term diabolos literally means "one who throws
    something across one’s path." This is virtually identical to the
    Trickster figure, one which Jung regarded as an archetypal force in the
    human mind, and which is described in countless myths, legends, dreams,
    and fairytales worldwide. There is room for this sort of Satan in our
    world. In fact, he can do good, because if a path in life is in error, it
    may need to be blocked.


Some might call negative prayer evil. Whether evil’s origins are
    external, internal, or both, our task in confronting it is always the
    same: to transmute it, to learn to act with love and compassion. To make
    the unconscious conscious, as Jung put it; to be born again, as Jesus
    said; to awaken to wisdom, as Buddha urged.


When I began to explore negative prayer, I asked Native American
    shamans in northern New Mexico, where I live, whether they thought this
    phenomenon was real. They all said yes. I inquired about their favorite
    methods of protection. One shaman asked me jokingly if I’d ever heard of
    the Lord’s Prayer. He urged me to read it again, focusing on the phrase,
    "Deliver us from evil." "You white people have one of the most powerful
    forms of protection, and you don’t even know it," he smiled.


We need to be courageous enough to embark on the hero’s journey,
    which involves an encounter with the dark aspects of who we are–not
    because it’s romantic or heroic, but because therein lies our one hope of
    escaping the compulsions that prevent us from becoming fully


The mere fact that negative prayer exists and that we may wish to
    harm others challenges us to engage the totality of existence. Light and
    shadow are always irrevocably linked. Or, as Friedrich Nietzsche
    reassured us in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, "The supreme evil is part of the
    supreme good."


The Evil within Us All?


Few scholars have done more to illuminate the history of the
    struggle between good and evil than Elaine Pagels, Ph.D., a professor of
    religion at Princeton University, and author of The Origin of Satan and
    The Gnostic Gospels, a national bestseller. According to Pagels, there
    has "always been another side to invocation and prayer. Christian
    cosmology, in particular, is split between God’s people and Satan’s
    people." That split has profoundly influenced not only the way we
    envision the universe, but the way we look at other people.


Pagels began to ponder the shadow side after she lost her young son
    to a genetic illness in 1987, and her husband died in a hiking accident
    the following year. "I asked myself, `What have I done to deserve this?’
    Our religious and cultural heritage suggests that nature follows a moral
    order, and so any catastrophe must be some kind of divine punishment. I
    found the idea that I could be at fault very enervating, and I felt I had
    to learn as much about that cultural legacy as possible, in order to move
    beyond it."


Pagels found an inspiring alternative to the cosmic war of good and
    evil in the Gospel of Philip, written between 70 and 100 C.E. Philip
    suggests that all opposites–light and dark, life and death, good and
    evil–are in reality interdependent. "Philip writes of gnosis, or
    spiritual understanding," says Pagels. "Essential to gnosis is to know
    one’s own potential for evil. If we remain unaware of our own darker
    tendencies, they’re powerful, but as soon as those tendencies are
    recognized, they can be destroyed," Pagels says. Philip’s teachings, like
    those of Buddhism, suggest that a person acting out of an impulse to harm
    can actually transform the action midstream, simply through awareness.
    "It’s harder to sustain the energy needed for rage, greed, or hatred when
    you see your own impulse rather than the other person’s supposed
    deficiencies," she explains. "You lose the illusion that your action is
    justified." Without that illusion, she says, it’s difficult to sustain
    the notion of evil as other, and easier to truly embrace a gospel of




PHOTO (COLOR): Negative prayer is not new. As long as people have
    prayed to an Almighty being, they haved prayed to both help and harm
    themselves and others.


PHOTO (COLOR): Studies of negative prayer show that we can harm
    bacteria at a distance simply through our intention. Can we harm humans
    as well?




Larry Dossey, M.D., is the author of six books, including the
    bestseller Healing Words, and Prayer Is Good Medicine. He is Executive
    Editor of the journal Alternative Therapies in Health and


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