As I posted over on one of my other blogs, one’s first reaction to this paper is horrified amusement that it got printed in a reasonably respectable journal. The authors are mainly from the faculty of “Maharishi University” and it’s a study of the efficacy in reducing the frequency of terrorist incidents in Israel and Lebanon of installing a group of people practising Transcendental Meditation. It is, to be honest, pretty whacky stuff, although my personal opinion is that the meditators get the best of the methodological debate which followed (really, the yogis were not pulling any statistical funny business and they did find a significant effect; it’s discussed in this rather good article on statistical methodology generally)
But really, who is in the wrong here?
Second thoughts on this topic and a brief discussion with Henry have left me thinking that it is rather shameful that my first instinct was to think that the Maharishis ought to have been banned a priori from publishing articles in a reputable journal simply because they are Maharishis. This goes back to a lot of the issues that we discussed with respect to Steve Fuller’s article in the Chris Mooney seminar, which annoyed so many of our readers. My reaction to the Maharishi paper is exactly the sort of prejudice that shouldn’t exist in a scientific journal – it is clear from the paper (and I am afraid you will have to take my word from this unless you have a subscription to JSTOR, but I have read it and I am not intentionally bullshitting) that the Maharishis have gone not just some of the way to meet science in the middle, but all the way to meet science on its own ground. There really is nothing in the methodology of the paper that would give any grounds for rejecting it. The only grounds on which one would not want to publish this paper are that it is claiming that you can bring about world peace by sitting in a room going om.
I don’t know as much about “intelligent design” as Steve or some of the people who disagreed with him in that debate, so I don’t know whether the ID community has any members who are prepared to get involved in the scientific debate in the same way that the community of interest in the Maharishi field effect were in 1990  (I do of course know all about the ID practitioners who are utterly dishonest and not prepared to use anything resembling the scientific method, so perhaps we could not bother to go over that ground in the comments?). However, I think that the Maharishi issue shows what they are up against; as far as I can tell from a few minutes with Google Scholar, the JCR article is basically the only article ever published in a proper journal on the Maharishi field effect (there is a report of an experiment in Washington DC in Social Indicators Research 1999 but then that is it). I think that during a lot of the discussion of the ID crowd, we are probably underestimating the extent to which the “non-core” science types are being unfairly treated by the mainstream of science, for social rather than scientific reasons. This doesn’t make me a believer in creation science or transcendental meditation, but if we are believers in the scientific method, we ought to take it seriously.
By the way, because I am far more of an obsessive single issue nut than any follower of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, I will point out that the fact that the “natural experiment” methodology in social sciences can deliver the result that transcendental meditation stops wars, ought to give a hell of a lot more trouble to the fans of Steven Levitt and “Freakonomics” generally than it in fact does.
 I think that the Maharishi movement has gone downhill a bit since the 1990s; they don’t stand in UK elections as the “Natural Law Party” any more, and their main big field experiment in Skelmersdale didn’t achieve critical mass (btw, I am not sure that I agree with Dr Geoffrey Clement’s assessment of the data in that interview). They do still maintain the Maharishi Institute of Technology in Fairfield, Iowa, and the Sidhaland community is still going in Lancashire – I couldn’t quite be sure whether it still has the MMY’s endorsement though.