Ideas That (We are Told) are Too Urgent for Science
It's a familiar and effective marketing technique: You make an offer and then you add, "Hurry. Spaces are limited, so sign up now!" or "These models won't last, so act fast!"
Of course, in most cases, spaces aren't really all that limited, and whether or not you act fast, there were probably only a couple of advertised models, anyway.
The same sort of strategy or stance demands of us to act now in political or social issues: "This is too urgent; no time to wait for the science!" Which, of course, is another way of saying, "I have a belief and it's a very strong belief that, if true, requires fast action. But I don't know what's actually true and I don't want to wait to find out."
The unspoken reason being: "Because I have too much invested in this belief."
During the sixties and seventies, there was a push for something called "The Human Potential Movement." This was in some ways a very exciting and inspiring movement, based on some good ideas, and some questionable ideas.
Some of the good ideas inspired me to become a psychotherapist, and over the years I have seen much good come of them. Some of the questionable ideas caused me to doubt a lot about this element of my chosen profession over the years.
What allowed the questionable ideas to exert such power over our culture - and do so much damage in the process - was the impatience of their authors and advocates.
For example, Abraham Maslow, one of the pioneering theorists of the Human Potential Movement said:
"There is now emerging over the horizon a new conception of human sickness and of human health, a psychology that I find so thrilling and so full of wonderful possibilities that I yield to the temptation to present it publicly even before it is checked and confirmed, and before it can be called reliable scientific knowledge." (Maslow, Toward a Psychology of Being, p. 3. Italics mine)
What this "too urgent to wait for science" stance enabled, on the negative end, was the illusion of professional scientific support for valuing momentary pleasure in pursuit of peak experiences, an enforced tolerance for deviant and dangerous lifestyles and a belief system that is at once idealistic and inconsistent with human nature.
For example, Timothy Leary was greatly influenced and supported by Maslow's theories. I met Leary at his home years ago, in 1988, at a Ron Paul for president fundraiser. He was personally charming, friendly and in some ways delightful; but the damaging effects of his popularization of LSD in pursuit of peak experiences have done some people grave and mortal harm. His prescription to "Turn on, tune in, drop out," was one of the many cultural poisons unleashed on our country as a result of not wanting to wait for scientific validation.
The idealist feels strongly and believes deeply, which can be a compelling and inspiring trait. Such enthusiasm and devotion is exciting and moving, and if it is based on truth and focused toward worthy pursuits this can be a great positive force, for example, the founding of America and the ideals enshrined in the Declaration of Independence.
But feeling strongly and believing deeply might be a sign that something is true − or it might not. That is why we use the scientific method and reason to test things out, to get a more reliable sense of whether something is true or not.
Maslow felt so strongly that he was on to something big that his enthusiasm couldn't wait to check it out. I have personally been very excited about certain psychotherapeutic techniques and theories over the years that did not have the research to back them up. But it looked like it worked so wonderfully that I was drawn to learn more.
In retrospect, much of what I was seeing as so promising was likely placebo (which does have a significant effect in itself) and confirmation bias (seeing what confirms your belief and not seeing what disconfirms it). Oh, to have all that money back ... but that was the cost of my education in the value of being more rigorous.
And in fairness, finding out what's true is in practice often a very messy business. Very few, if any, of the people with whom I studied were purposefully misleading. They were searching for the truth as best they could. They just got too excited and, frankly, didn't have the training or background to do research. It looked true to them and seemed to check out okay.
The trouble is, we want so much for things to be better in every way. That is humanity's blessing and our curse. This desire moves us to do things that improve our individual lives, the lives of our families and the state of our communities, countries and the world. It is also what can get some people to lose all sense of proportion and judgment in a frenzy of idealistic hope or doomsday scenarios.
Maslow's willingness to yield to the temptation to present what he thought was true as in fact true was an example of idealistic hope.
On the other end, we see an example of the doomsday scenarios in the present hysteria over global warming. Al Gore and the others who have whipped up this frenzy have people so freaked out that there is no time to wait for science to confirm what they think is happening; after all, "We only have ten years to solve this or we're all going to die!!!!"
The truth is, of course, much less dramatic than either Maslow's hope or Al Gore's doom.
In psychology, there have been significant improvements in how we can treat ailments like depression and anxiety and we are gradually learning some basic principles of living well.
I see this as significant, exciting and hopeful; but it is not perfection, and it is not a magic formula. Every effective treatment is helpful for a certain percentage of people, unhelpful for another percentage and sometimes even harmful for another (usually much smaller) percentage.
Psychotherapy is on the whole more effective and has fewer side effects than your standard over-the-counter cold medicine, and psychotherapy and coaching are interventions that can certainly help many people to live better lives. But it is most commonly a normal human kind of improvement.
Over the years I have had the privilege of seeing clients experience true breakthroughs that have significantly changed their lives for the better and which lasted and progressed over time. Nothing I have found leads to major breakthroughs consistently, reliably and with most people.
Breakthroughs happen, and we can be grateful for them; but most life improvement involves changes in habits of thinking and behavior that require perseverance over time.
This is not pessimistic. There is a great deal that you can do that is likely to improve your life significantly. And there is more and more substantial research exploring and fleshing out just what these are.
But if you want to live a better life, you have to work at it, and you sometimes have to learn to cope and deal with troubles that you would rather you didn't.
The idealism of the Human Potential Movement and the horror of the global warming scenario are all very dramatic, but the truth of real life is much more interesting, complex and extraordinary.
Joel F. Wade, Ph.D. is the author of Mastering Happiness.
Posted by SwifterMan on 02/13/12 04:50 PM
. . .
if you would have met Click to view linkn Hubbard instead of Timothy Leary - you would have moved forward - instead of having moved backwards . . .
But probably you're too young for that . . .
Posted by marty on 02/09/12 02:21 PM
The thing about LSD is not that there are terrifying visions, or that you will think you can fly, out of a tenth story window. Many drugs, taken in absurdly large doses can cause hallucinations, and delusions, caffiene for instance. Pure caffiene is a very dangerous drug. I used LSD several times in my high school, and college years, and it was universally a positive experience for me. The closest thing to a bad experience I had, was that I came to believe that there was a being of unspeakable malevolence, in the sunken den, of his mom's house(parent out of town of course). I realized in an intellectual sense that it was the LSD talking, and that it was a delusion, so that I did not run screaming from the house. Yet on some level I still had an absolute belief in it. I suppose in a way, I was correct, there was, after all, a television down there. I quite wisely avoided the den until the delusion passed. I still class it as a positive experience however, since it gave me an insight into what some psychotics must deal with. From then on, I treated those poor souls with the respect, and forbearance, that they deserve.
The dangerous thing about LSD, I came to realize, is the razor sharp insight, that it allows into one's self, particularly if you dwell, or are guided to the subject. I've always been a person that practiced the principal that, if you would be ashamed to do something, don't do it. Sadly, this is not a universal belief. I also like myself, as there is nothing much to dislike. I don't take advantage of people's shortcomings, unless it's in self defense. I practice the philosophy of non initiation of force in my private, and public life. I'm not thief, or a bully. However, for one who is deeply hypocritical, who lives with some great cognitive dissonance, or lives with some terrible truth, through self deception, it is a shattering experience. I've often thought that LSD would be helpful in the treatment of sociopaths. They could no longer hide, in the fiction that they are the only one that is real, and everyone else is imaginary, to be manipulated as a plaything. I don't imagine Newt Gingrich would survive the experience. He'd be out the window, before you knew it.
Posted by seer on 02/08/12 03:33 PM
"On the other end, we see an example of the doomsday scenarios in the present hysteria over global warming " You downplay global warming but fail to mention the valid science and data that tells us we have passed peak oil. Other natural resources are being consumed as fast as possible. Fresh water will soon be a major problem, The major aquifer supplying much of the irrigation of western crops in the USA is approaching its limits. Normalcy Bias is an inbred human trait and I suspect the masses will remain static until there is a tipping point caused by the changes in their life-styles. As oil gets more expensive to extract the cost of fuel will rise which will increase the costs of mining all other resources. There is a finite amount of "cheap" natural resources. No one has found a NEW energy source. Look around you, practically everything you see is derived from oil right down to the blacktopped roads you travel on and we all know even these roads have a very finite lifespan.
Posted by dave jr on 02/08/12 12:05 PM
"always darkest before dawn"
Posted by rossbcan on 02/08/12 11:40 AM
"does not bode well"
always darkest before dawn. Reality ALWAYS wins against those in strategic denial (arrogant hubris). History is littered with their corpses and, the corpses of civilizations who followed such "leaders".
Posted by dave jr on 02/08/12 11:21 AM
It seems to be coming to an apex as the perps are smashing and grabbing at an ever increasing rate. By doing so, they are increasingly 'seen'. They are doing it to themselves, but I fear the result is a drawing of sides. This does not bode well.
Posted by rossbcan on 02/08/12 10:59 AM
"a better question is how to convince"
... that appears to be the point of current events. The "reality based constitutency" is at total war with the "decreed reality (rule of SOME men) constitutieny", with "we, the people", collateral damage in the crossfire, absorbing attrition costs until collective survival is threatened enough that enough of us state: ENOUGH (by actions) and, make the "unseen hand", seen, smiting the criminals, posing as faux "leaders".
Note that I do not claim "we, the people" are INNOCENT collateral damage. It was our inattention and lack of vigilence that created this sorry state of affairs. The perps are "smash anf grab" opportunists who have stepped into the power vacuum, created by our collective irresponsibility.
Posted by dave jr on 02/08/12 10:49 AM
Werks for me. Maybe a better question is how to convince?
You are doing a good job, btw.
Posted by rossbcan on 02/08/12 10:19 AM
"coping with the truth of a situation"
is impossible without personally facing and owning the consequences of YOUR OWN ACTIONS / INACTIONS. That requires justice:
Justice Defined: We are all free to profit or suffer and learn (adapt to excellence) by facing the consequences of our OWN choices. Injustice is to be forced to suffer the consequences of choices of unaccountable (irresponsible) others.
This lack constitutes a FATAL survival threat to civilization and, perhaps, our species:
Click to view link
Posted by dave jr on 02/08/12 10:11 AM
Thankyou Dr. Wade
"Nothing I have found leads to major breakthroughs consistently, reliably and with most people."
Not even discovering, learning and accepting, coping with the truth of a situation that is dogging them? But then there is that pesky problem of proving 'truth'. I like science because it contributes more to this end than any other thought process. If only I could prove that.
Posted by rossbcan on 02/08/12 07:36 AM
"Oh No! Science Supports... The Anarchists!!"
... duh. Interfacing with the real world, seeking goals requires choice. When (socially) dealing with fellow humans, choice methodology is restricted by natural law (reality) to some combination of force, fraud, honest, mutually agreed trade.
IF you choose to use force / fraud against your fellows in goal seeking, they experience a survival hit, thus, must defend. Dealing with their defense consumes time and energy (life) and thus, aggression constitutes a survival threat for the aggressor. Natural law, among socially organizing, division of labor species favors and selects for: PEACE.
Thus, to maximize time and energy (life) available for survival goal-seeking, best not to aggress, otherwise, your victims (prey) WILL defend themselves and seek reparations (unto the seventh generation). This fact applies to individuals and groups (professions, states, corporations, etc).
The current "barbarians in control" are, by these facts in the process of re-learning "the bigger they are, the harder they fall". They are being defeated by the attrition costs imposed by opposing reality, combined with lack of valid economic reasons for pursuing aggression. None of the west's imperialistic adventures since WWII have been successful economically, or in generating "faith" that the west is the "team to join".
Misplaced MSM generated "faith / terror" cannot hide this fact for much longer.
The links above merely prove that when "free to choose", people, in general peacefully ad-hoc organize with self-chosen rules (real definition of Anarchist) and form "division of labor" groups, under THE SOCIAL CONTRACT:
Click to view link
... and, "science" is merely "applied thinking":
Click to view link
It is crucial, just like in "law" to differentiate between what alleged "scientists" state versus what science actually proves.