What science is not?

I happened to stumble upon this press release  in MarketWatchNew Essay Offers Hope to Public’s Growing Disenchantment with Science. One really has to beware of any press release with a sensational build up of the sort we are given in this item.

The World Transformation Movement today published a ground-breaking essay titled What is science? by Australian biologist Jeremy Griffith that offers hope to the public’s growing disenchantment with science, by revealing that science will be the saviour of the human race.

Now where have I come across ‘savior’ before? Hmmm, I wonder?  We have heard much about the separation of politics and religion. I was never aware that science and religion made such great bed mates. Do they!?

The What is science? essay cites a 2011 Australian Academy of Science report that found a ‘staggering’ 43 percent drop over the last 20 years in the number of Australian Year 11 and 12 students studying science from 94 percent to 51 percent (reference:1).

One thing that is not science as well is the subject of the afore mentioned essay. I read it, and I encourage others to do the same, although not for scientific reasons, for critical and philosophical reasons. I suggest that the essay stands as a good introduction for a student interested in pursuing a career in the priesthood, or in psychiatry. To illustrate….

On this greatest of all breakthroughs in science, Professor Harry Prosen, a former president of the Canadian Psychiatric Association, is quoted in the essay saying: “I have no doubt this biological explanation of the human condition is the holy grail of insight we have sought for the psychological rehabilitation of the human race.”

Speak of the devil! The human race is “sick” and needs to be psychologically rehabilitated. After their downfall following exile from the garden of Eden, of course!

Just in case you were wondering, this essay speaks often of a human condition while not mentioning a hedgehog condition, or a cockroach condition, let’s say, once.  A fact I find fascinating. Science is perceived as being “in denial” concerning this human condition. Funny thing, no mention was made of a green house effect in this essay at all, nor was any mention made of any denial of such an effect.

I left the following comment regarding this essay under the Merriam-Webster definition of Metaphysical.

I was reading an essay that claimed to be about science. I had to look up the definition of science to tackle that one. There seemed to be a great deal of metaphysical speculation in this essay. As science is  about the study of the natural, physical, and material world, my conclusion was that the essay was not scientific. Metaphysical matters, being imperceptible to the senses, are not accessible to scientific investigation by definition.

That definition is as follows…

1 : of or relating to metaphysics.

2 a : of or relating to the transcendent or to a reality beyond what is perceptible to the senses

b : supernatural.

3:  highly abstract or abstruse; also : theoretical.

4 often capitalized : of or relating to poetry especially of the early 17th century that is highly intellectual and philosophical and marked by unconventional imagery.

Alright, if anybody should choose to write an essay about the nature of science I suggest they begin by searching Merriam-Webster or any other source  for the definition, always a good thing to have, first.

Advertisements

17 Responses

  1. These guys, Griffin and McCartney – Snape, are just flaky creationist christians.

    • Well, the chapter/essay I read seemed to have more to do with religion than science. I’m not sure flaky creationist is a fitting description. The author (J.G.) even alluded to Charles Darwin. Too much of the essay though had to do with concepts that came from religuous sources. I could imagine him searching for the Mother Teresa/Florence Nightinggale gene. I think it was instructive that the psychoanalyst turned to was Carl Jung, perhaps the most mystical of the early analysts. He also bashed scientifically oriented thinkers of a political slant, right and left, but especially those of the left. I guess the implication was that the middle road was the only Right way. There is a place for philosophy and speculative thinking, but that place is certainly not in a chapter/essay about science. Science is about what we can measure, and it can be used for good or evil. It is not innately good or evil. Science is not the transforming element people have the potential to become. Science is only a useful tool at their disposal. Secular humanism, by the way, isn’t science either.

  2. The guy’s a total wackjob. He used to call himself the Foundation for Humanity’s Adulthood. It’s only recently that he’s rebranded. There have been many complaints that it’s a cult. He’s been able to maintain some credibility by associating himself with imbeciles such as Birch and Prosen.

    Typical of creation/ intelligent design flakes his writings on science are pathetic, name dropping of real scientists aside.

    • You get creation and destruction myths with religion. Religion is made from stories. The first, or the more appealing, the explanation the better the explanation in religion. Science, on the hand, is concerned with getting to the bottom of the matter behind the fiction. Science is neutral. It can aid in saving the world, and it can aid in destroying the world. It must be remembered that the A-bomb was developed through an understanding of physics. NAZIs had, and biological psychiatrist’s have, their scientific pretensions, too. Humanity’s Adulthood, I think we’ve probably been there for awhile, ends with extinction, or species death. I suppose that an early, and engineered, extinction could become a problem for all of us. War, pollution, and poverty, we know what the threats are. Tell me that they haven’t been with us as long as, and longer than, civilization. As far as the people behind this Foundation go, we’ve seen false prophets before, and we will see them again. If there is ever to be a passable solution to the problems we collectively face, it is going to have to include most of the people on the planet (or the community anyway), and it won’t be a matter decided upon by any ivory tower elite.

  3. I think I can lend a unique perspective to this debate as I am someone who has taken the time to understand the material. I joined the Foundation for Humanity’s Adulthood in about 1989. I am one of the few individuals who ever had a life membership. (They disbanded them as they realised that the membership fee was way too little to cover the photocopying cost of their newsletters, which at one time increased in size to about 60 to 80 pages.)

    I am a person who had a long history of mental illness – depression and OCD. I read Jeremy Griffith’s first book – Free : The End of the Human Condition – some time after it was released in 1988 having seen it given a mocking review on an Australian television book show. They mocked. But to me it seemed intriguing. I desperately wanted to believe that an end to the human condition – the propensity for depression like my own and all of the conflicts, greeds and needs which were tearing apart the world and destroying the environment – was possible. I was very scared about actually reading the book though. It dealt with things I found disturbing. As a depressed persoon I was particularly prone to feelings of guilt – about sex and about being selfish, things like that. But, even though I was feeling depressed, I decided to grasp the nettle and read the book. It seemed to make sense. It was a theory on a grand scale. It did say that sex was, at base, an attack on innocence. I couldn’t understand why this should necessarily be. I could understand that some people use sex as a weapon – as in rape – and that some people are selfish about sex and even use forms of psychological pressure to persuade others to give them pleasure. But I couldn’t understand how two equal individuals sharing physical pleasure could be an attack on anything. But, I told myself, you do feel guilty about masturbating. There must be some reason for that. And the book suggested that we have a tendency to evade uncomfortable truths, so maybe my inability to understand how consensual sex was an attack on innocence was a failing of my own based on my inability to confront the truth.

    Over time I would get to know Jeremy personally. We talked on the phone. I met him when he came to Adelaide. And later I would go to his home in New South Wales a number times to listen to talks, meet other members and organise his library, much of which consisted of books I had donated to the Foundation. I also sent him other books which I felt backed up his theories. You will find quotes from R.D. Laing and Soren Kierkegaard in his book A Species in Denial. I introduced him to the work of those two thinkers and pointed out some of the quotes he later used. I read his first three books, as well as many Foundation newsletters, listened to talks in person and on tape. I typed up a transcript of his taped discussion of Laurens Van Der Post’s essay – The Other Journey.

    I desperately wanted to keep believing. I didn’t want to go back to being without hope. And I could see noone else tackling the issue of the human condition in this kind of depth.

    But there was so much that didn’t make sense. And my own intuition kept throwing up alternative ideas. In the end Jeremy and I had a falling out. I won’t go into the details. I don’t want to be sued. I had a major psychotic breakdown and ended up in hospital. I had previously been diagnosed with depression and OCD. Now I was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Whenever I tried to contact the Foundation after that they said that it was important for a person like me with a mental illness not to try to be involved with something so confronting. This was good and responsible advice. Attempts at contact did tend to lead to destabilisation for me for quite a while. Later, as I broke further and further free of what I now see as Jeremy Griffith’s dogma and have discovered my own way of looking at the issue of the human condition I have become more and more stable and happy.

    While I have a lingering fondness for Jeremy and those who I met in the Foundation, I no longer try to show them that he is wrong. When people have invested that much of their ego in an idea it is too much to expect them to be open to the possibly that they were 100% wrong. And there is no need to challenge the Foundation. They are irrelevant. Jeremy’s previous books were widely distributed. The latest one can’t be bought on Amazon. There was a proposal for a documentary involving a broad selection of the scientific community. That could never happen because Jeremy would never share a platform with people who did not accept his theories. And people like Stephen Hawking, who expressed interest in the proposal, would find Griffith’s ideas ridiculous if he took a close look at them. So now all that is left is some YouTube videos which look like nothing more than the workshops of the New Age self-improvement gurus that Jeremy loves to mock. If these people are really liberated why are they not inspired enough to speak without a script?

    Initially Jeremy Griffith believed that the “information” he was providing would liberate people directly. One of his early videotaped lectures, of which I still have a copy, finishes with him going outside into the garden and holding up a sign saying : “Let’s Go!” It didn’t happen that way. If what he was putting forward was the truth maybe it would have. Certainly it wouldn’t have required a strategy of “holding the key aloft” (i.e. living through support of something which cannot actually liberate you but which you believe will liberate future generations). This is comparable to “born again” Christianity. In fact Jeremy himself made the comparison when he reluctantly came to the conclusion that his “understandings” were unable to directly liberate people. The problem was originally described in the Foundation newsletters as “the Mexican standoff” – the unwillingness of those supporting the “information” to “abandon their resigned minds” and “adopt serving”. “Serving” meaning serving the needs of the world.

    To pick just one example of how unaccountable parts of Jeremy’s theory are he says that infants are born with an instinctive expectation that the world will be ideal and that the people in it will be behaving selflesslessly and that what causes the trauma of chlldhood is that this expectation is not met. The world is not ideal and adults are selfish rather than selfless. But this makes no sense. How is this expectation of ideality encoded in the genes? And how many children, before the age of adolescence when they have become ego-bound themselves, point at their parents and accuse them of being bad (as Jeremy’s cartoon of the inner child does in his first book Free). He says that we acquired this dictatorial program insisting on selfless behaviour (he identifies it with the conscience) when the nurturing period of our ape ancestor’s increased two million years ago. The mothers, operating according to the principles of the selfish gene theory by which we try to make sure that our own gene’s prosper, nurtured the children for a longer time and this allowed the children to become “love indoctrinated”, i.e. they interpreted the genetically selfish behaviour as selfless loving behaviour on the part of the mothers and learned from this example that being selflessly loving was the right way to be. Griffith then believes that this orientation towards selflessness allowed for the birth of full consciousness because only a selfless individual can acknowledge the integrative nature of reality and perceive the meaning of the world around them. He believes that this hardwired dictatorial programming for selflessness is a part of our genes, and that our deepest moral beliefs are therefore not cultural but genetic. And then he believes that this orientation was too dictatorial to allow us to experiment with our newly developed intelligence, so we had to repress it. But without it we lacked a moral compass. And anyway it was still there deep down attacking us for not obeying it. So we became angry, egotistical and alienated and driven to attack “innocence” (i.e. anything which reminded us of our dictatorial selflessness-requiring genetic programming).

    There are loads of problems with this. One is the very concept of a dictatorial instinct for something as complex and dependant on circumstances as selfless behaviour. Jeremy uses an analogy of a stork and its flight path. But a stork’s flight path remains the same. What constitutes selfless behaviour in one situation differs from what constitutes selfless behaviour in another situation. One cannot do anything selfless without making a rational decision based on one’s current circumstances. And if our orientation were that flexible it would have not had a problem with experimentation. The implication in Jeremy’s theory is that selflessness and love are synonymous. I’m not sure that selflessness is a terribly meaningful term when taken literally – to have no self would be to not exist – though it is usually meant to mean self-sacrificing. But one thing we can see from observing human behaviour is that love is an improvisation not something which happens under the guidance of something dictatorial.

    My view is that the conscience is not genetic, but rather a part of the ego. It is that part of our ego structure in which we store our expectations about ourselves (at least to the degree that those expectations are related to beliefs on what constitutes good behaviour). Mostly we learn these values from our parents, our teachers, our peers and our broader culture (particularly religions). But each of us has a different conscience, hence the fact that different individuals and different cultures tend to feel guilty about different things. If it were genetic there would be greater universality about what initiates feelings of guilt.

    As for our deepest nature, I believe that it is to be unconditionally loving. After all, that is how we were when we were babies – we bonded with adults without placing conditions on that bonding. Unlike a dictatorial imperative to be selfless, unconditional love is flexible and does not expect others to be ideal.

    By the time of A Species in Denial Jeremy’s theory had become ridiculously convoluted and illogical. A particular weak point was his insistence on explaining sex entirely in terms of an attack on innocence. This led to this laughable attempt to explain homosexuality :

    It follows that the more corrupted a man is, the less naive he is and thus the more he is aware that women are not innocent. Therefore, if a man is extremely hurt and corrupted in his infancy and childhood, when he becomes sexually mature he will thus not find women sexually attractive. The last bastion of ‘attractive’ innocence for such men is younger men, because they are not as exposed to sexual destruction as women have historically been.

    I know women are not innocent and it doesn’t stop me wanting to fuck them. Look at all the porn on the internet. Those women ain’t innocent, but plenty of us guys prefer a “corrupted” woman. And as for homosexuals, they don’t all go for younger men. And as Kinsey’s research showed, homosexuality isn’t a clear cut either/or option.

    I won’t go further into detail. I have an alternative theory to Jeremy’s about how the human condition came about, what its nature is and what a possible solution might be. Unlike Jeremy’s recent work it is short, easy-to-understand, and occasionally even intentionally funny. I make no claims for it beyond this – that I find it a more accountable way of explaining things to myself and I have found the ideas and techniques I put forward in it helpful in my progress to greater psychological stability and happiness.

    You can find it here. It’s free :

    https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/88690

    I feel concern for Jeremy, all of those who have been involved with the Foundation and the WTM and for the parents who miss their offspring. My view is that this has all been a tremendous tragedy. I truly believe that Jeremy utterly believes in his theories and truly has believed all along that he is doing this to save the world and thus the pain that it entails is justified. But I also believe that it has all grown out of a basic mistake he made in the very beginning which was to assume that his extreme idealism was evidence of exceptional innocence or psychological soundness. He says that his theories grew out of a desperate need to reconcile his extreme idealism with reality. And there are some stark examples of that idealism in Free such as when he says that at some time in the future, rather than using ostentatious silverware, everyone will carve their own wooden spoon and carry it around their neck. Now if, as I argue, the basic human nature (when free from the neurosis which comes with hurt and insecurity) is to be unconditionally loving, like the non-idealism-demanding infant, then we can see that extreme idealism, far from being a symptom of “innocence” and psychological soundness is rather an extreme form of neurosis which can express itself in a passive-aggressive or aggressive-aggressive insistance on ideal behaviour in others. Such an individual, before he starts building a more sophisticated strategy to get what he wants perhaps, may be “black in the face with anger.”

    In Free Jeremy said : The very last thing we will believe is that it is what it claims to be – the full liberating truth about ourselves. We will suspect it to be an expression of some form of disguised psychosis and will see its authority, its sense of conviction, as offensive arrogance.

    My contention is that it is, in fact, a disguised psychosis originating in a delusion about being unusually sound. This is why Jeremy has always had such a paranoid control mentality when it comes to public discussion of his ideas. Charles Darwin was viciously attacked by his critics, but he didn’t spend over ten years on a libel case against any of them.

    Even if one were to accept that Jeremy’s ideas were unavoidably confronting, the fact is that he presents them in a way which is even more aggressively “confronting” than has any practical purpose. In Beyond the Human Condition he says :

    It should be pointed out that our destruction and corruption of innocence has been going on at all levels. We even destroyed our own innocent soul by repressing it. All forms of innocence unfairly criticised us, so all forms of innocence were targets for our attack. Sunglasses aren’t always worn to shade the eyes from the sun. Often they were worn to alienate ourselves from the natural world that was alienating us. They were an attack on the innocence of sunlight.

    Assuming one buys his basic thesis, it would be more compassionate to say : Sometimes we wore sunglasses to protect ourselves from the apparently condemning nature of sunlight. But his bias, and this runs through his work, is to emphasise attack, even, here, to the ridiculous extent of suggesting that we could mount an attack on something as insubstantial as sunlight.

    This emphasis on the idea that all humans are obsessed with attacking innocence and that all forms of what he personally sees as non-ideal behaviour amount to an attack on innocence, when combined with the fact that he views himself as having been (at least in his youth) exceptionally innocent, can be read as a projection of his own hurt over having been (or percieving himself as having been) under attack. And while his books spend a lot of time trying to appease this attacker (we the reader) by saying how necessary it was that we attack him/innocence and how courageous we were for doing it, ultimately he is also trying to force his extreme idealism onto the reader in an aggressive way. He says he wants to “lift the burden” of guilt from humanity, but, in my experience, his ideas, if one genuinely “confronts” them in a spirit of wanting to believe, actually lay down a totally unnecessary burden of guilt. And I believe that this is his subconscious purpose – to get revenge on the world for some past hurt. But I also believe this is totally unconscious. That is the tragedy. I’m sure he doesn’t want to cause suffering, but he can’t help it because he can’t face the genuinely confronting truth about himself.

    • Thanks for offering your unique perspective as a former lifetime member of this organization, Aussie Scribbler. I feel sure there is something we can all learn from that unique perspective of your’s. While I would say that Griffith’s view is not scientifically sound, I wouldn’t go so far as to pathologically label it. Everybody is crazy, it’s just that some of us have not been caught at that craziness yet. There was just too much religion involved in his thinking. I ended up thinking this man has a version of the Madonna/Whore syndrome, doesn’t he? Many of us have had bad experiences durring the course of our childhoods, many of us have gotten over those bad experiences. This leaves us with the bad experiences that adults are prone to experience. *kidding* Yes, there are good experiences, too. I was more startled by all the overtly religious statements coming from the lips of this man who was purporting to be the professor of a scientific discipline. I don’t think you could cut that kind of fog with a a pair of metal clippers.

    • Hey Aussie scribbler I have had similiar experience in haveing been offered “sound” advice from the WTM. Although never a member I have been exploring the human condition for around 13 years now and also looking at some things thst didn’t sit right. I attended Jeremys book launch beyond in Sydney some years ago now perhaps I met you there. Since however much has changed and it sounds as if a portion of our experiences maybe similiar I would very much like to discuss this at some stage if at all possible and you feel comfortable to do so. I also hold no ill will towards the WTM snd became quit close to some members throughout my contact over the years and in many ways they have helped me. I have also had to deal with depression throughout my life and only now am getting a good handle on it I feel as settled as I have ever been. Would be good to hear from you and have a chat. Take Care.

  4. I agree. We all are crazy. The problem is when we say we are the only sane person on the planet. With many hungering for a model of saneness and someone to lead us out of our individual dilemmas this can be a problem. There is no shame in not being able to be that person, but if someone claims to be that person and is not it can have unfortunate results for some people.

    Jeremy does have some strange views about women and sex. He likes to quote D.H. Lawrence : “Oh, oh, all the women in the world are dead, oh there’s just one.” He claims this is about the “Virgin Mary”. I don’t know. I haven’t read the original source. And this is the thing with Jeremy, he makes a lot of use of quotes to support his “insights”. This is not science. It proves nothing but that someone else thought the same thing once. And that is assuming that he hasn’t misinterpreted the quote or taken it out of context, which, I feel, he often does. He believes that sex destroys women’s “innocence” and that the more expose to this destruction a woman has had the less healthy an influence she will be on her offspring. Hence Jesus was psychologically healthy because his mother had only had sex once or twice (Jeremy doesn’t believe she was a literal virgin).

    Personally I think this is a dangerous idea, as I believe that what has a detrimental effect on a child is the neurosis of his or her parents, and having a healthy full sex life is often important to remaining non-neurotic. Better to have a mother who attends orgies every Friday night than a sexually-frustrated bitter puritan.

    It may seem unfair for me to attempt to psychoanalyse Jeremy, but it is the result of me having to fight my way back out of a belief that he was a more reliable guide to psychological reality for me than I was myself because he made out such a good case (at least so it seemed to me at the time) of being exceptionally sound.

    Jeremy talks about demystifying religion. I think that is something which is possible and necessary. But I don’t think it is something Jeremy does. Jeremy uses religious quotes the same way he uses quotes from D. H. Lawrence or R. D. Laing, to back up what he is saying. This is not demystification. There are some points at which he could be said to be legitimately offering rational explanations for religious myths, as in the case of Garden of Eden story. Even here I think he gets it wrong though.

    Religion is a social manifestation of our psychology. Therefore it is a reasonable aim of psychology to give an explanation of why we came to believe what we did and to extricate the hidden meaning of religious myth and dogma in the way that a psychiatrist might try to interpret a patient’s dream in terms of his insights into the patients thinking and life. And since the purpose of myth is to record insights about our own psychology when we lack a rational way of explaining them, it seems likely that we will find in religion things which are very useful for self-understanding if we can find a co-relation between the raw symbol of the myth and scientifically-derived data about how the brain works and about the laws of Chaos Theory etc. under which human social systems operate. But this is not really what Jeremy does when he claims to be “demystifying religion”. It might be more correct to say that he is mystifying science.

    • Well, the divide between science and religion seems forgotten when he indulges his inquisitive spirit. Demystifying science makes sense, especially where it has been mystified by someone like Jeremy Griffith. Mystification is often the substance of religion. Religions typically involves first explanations, and science comes along later, and says, no, the first explanation is not the only explanation, nor is it the most probable explanation. Given an explanation based upon evidense, the first explanation ceases to suffice, and is rendered, by the preponderence of evidense, myth.

      His attitude towards women, as you show, has much to be desired. He also sounds ego maniacal. Religion (science) is okay as long as it is his religion (science), and advances his name. We’ve seen false prophets before, but few have been so brazen. His would be demystification is a real mystification. I imagine there are still plenty of searching and naive well meaning souls in the world eager and willing to be bamboozled, and with Jeremy they’ve got a ready leader. Having read him, I just don’t think he’s dealing with a complete deck.

      • My view is that if what one is offering is the truth one needn’t be a leader. One hands one’s insights to people and they run with it, with no need for organisations and ongoing contact between the provider of insight and those to whom it is given. This is how science progresses.

      • Science, scientism, or religion? The laboratory is a long way from the field. If one isn’t a leader, one tends to be a follower, and we know where that leads, don’t we? It leads to authoritarian dictatorial rule. When they’ve got that down to a “science”, we’re in trouble. Right now, I keep thinking about how progressive, in many ways, paleolithic people were in contrast to contemporaries. If they had “issues”, as in the animal kingdom, those “issues” didn’t include any “mental illness”.

      • “My view is”…etc.

        There is no progress without some kind of social contract being drawn up. For example, there would be no sense in talking about the progress of science in a scientific vacuum, that is, lacking a science to progress. What I’m saying here is that, as in other human enterprises, science is done by people and, as the adage goes, “to err is human”. Let’s just hope that human extends to correcting errors as well.

  5. Well, it is likely science will have to save us in the near future: from the effects of over-population, global warming, new diseases (real ones that can actually kill you, not psychiatric made up conditions) or something similar. However, the problem is to properly differentiate between the genuine article and counterfeit crap (like psychiatry) and also what politicians will decide to do with the produce of scientific inquiry.

    In any case: science isn’t about values but about facts and the relationship between facts (gathering empirical data, postulating hypothesis’, testing them and translating the results in mathematical formulae), anything else is just hoghwash. This is why the psychiatric notion of ‘mental illness’ is not scientifically’ sound: in essence it’s nothing but a secular version of christianity with ‘sin’ translated as ‘mental illness’, ‘sinner’ as ‘mental patient’, ‘believing’ as ‘adhering to treatment’ etcetera.

    What is considered ‘normal’ or socially acceptable is not an objectively measurable variable (the only thing that can established is how many people think X, Y, Z etecetera but the truth of their views can never be ascertained) but a value judgement based on socio-cultural norms which cannot be proven or disproven. Just look up the definition of mental illness/disorder in the DSM or any psychiatric handbook and you’ll see how incredibly vague and pointless it is.

    A scientific concept should be very clear and precise, otherwise it’s completely unusable: this is the problem with the great diagnostic discrepancies in psychiatry: ask 5 psychiatrists for a diagnosis of the same person and they’re likely to come up with at least three or four different labels. Contrast this with physical medicine: their definitions of illnesses is quite precise and clear, they can do actual tests to verify their ideas and they’re all trained the same way (no silly schools of thought as in psychology and psychiatry) so they’re bound to arrive at the same conclusion, barring incompetency of course.

    • As for saving the world, I’m not sure science can do that really. I think it has to be morality. Science can tell people what’s wrong, but as for doing something about it, that’s up to people.

      Dead right about psychiatry though. If any one person were to visit 5 different psychiatrists, that one person would likely receive 5 different psychiatric diagnoses. Psychiatric diagnosis is an art because it sure as heck isn’t science.

  6. There are certainly problems with the psychiatric approach, but many of the problems it sets out to address are real. We may not agree with the term “mental illness”, but many of we humans are prone to forms of psychological distress and desire help in freeing ourselves from them.

    At one point during my adolescence I spent quite some time curled up in the foetal position terrified that I was going gouge out my own eyes.

    Later in life, when going through an existential crisis, I suffered a breakdown. I became confused and began to believe that magical things were going to occur. I believed that if I started taking my clothes off next to a woman at a bus stop she would do the same. I thought that I could give my magical blessing to my work mates by touching them on the shoulder, and I walked away from work without telling anyone. It may be that society did not have the right to insist that my magical thinking was irrational, but the practicality was that, in that state of confusion, I was not able to work or look after myself.

    At various times I’ve been given different kinds of treatment – anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, talking therapy, cognitive therapy, shock treatment… Each of these things seemed to help somewhat at the time, and was welcome as I was desperate for some kind of relief or guidance.

    If someone is unable to work because they feel that, if they don’t spend all day rearranging the contents of their house, there mother will die, it may be unscientific to diagnose them as suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder. But can you say that we shouldn’t care about their suffering and want to help them to function better?

    What ultimately freed me from the forms of psychological distress which plagued me through much of my life was to find my own understanding of how the mind works through introspection. This isn’t scientific and I don’t pretend that it is. But the insights I’ve gained have enabled me to become a much happier, more stable and creative individual and to share these insights with others via free ebooks that I’ve written. People have told me that simply reading my book has done them more good than months of seeing a psychiatrist. Perhaps that isn’t very high praise. :o)

    The essence of psychological health is unconditional self-acceptance. What leads to mental suffering is when our self-acceptance becomes compromised either by a lack of acceptance from those around us or from adopting standards for ourselves which are too severe and thus bound to lead to self-disappointment. As we cultivate the habit of self-acceptance, it becomes less and less important to us what other people think of us. We no longer feel the need to conform to society.

    The comparison to sin is an interesting one. I believe that the religious term “sin” was invented as a way of referring to what happens to us when our self-acceptance becomes compromised. This leads to such things as self-obsession, greed, anxiety, addiction, etc. We think of “sin” as meaning “that which is morally wrong”, but this is a very superficial and unhelpful way of interpreting the concept.

    Today many people are very uncomfortable about talk of “sin” or “mental illness” because, as a society, our self-acceptance has become so compromised that anything which could be interpreted as criticism is too much for us to bear and so we angrily reject it. But to those of us who practice unconditional self-acceptance this isn’t an issue. I don’t care if someone calls me a “sinner” or “mentally ill”. It’s water off a duck’s back. I’m not looking for anyone else’s approval.

    Having said this I do recognise that there is a difference between being called “mentally ill” and having treatment forced upon one. This can be something very wrong and oppressive. In my case it is something I am glad was done as it stopped me from committing suicide.

    • “Sinner” is religion, and “illness” medicine. This is something that is very unclear in the case of “mental illness” as the “mental” in it makes it something of an abstraction. How is this resolved? By claiming that one meant something besides what one said? It is, after all, a whole lot easier than making one’s language concise and clear. This is especially true when one’s aim is deception, that is, the “illness” is not “illness” at all but a “behavior” one would see suppressed. Criminology and police science may resemble mental health treatment more closely than any of the other branches of science, but, funny thing, we are not dealing with criminals here, we are dealing with people who behave differently.

      I guess you changed your mind about ending your life, nonetheless, suicide is a right you have regardless of whether you acknowledge that right or not. If you didn’t think your life was worthwhile, and that was your decision to make, I’m not one to dispute it. I think, rather than prohibiting suicide, we need to make life more liveable for everyone. Given a more bearable existence, people would be less inclined to commit suicide. I don’t feel it is right for the government to determine these issues for other people. The government really can’t do that. People must make those decisions for themselves. If you had wanted to take another person’s life, that’s different. We have laws to prevent people from taking other people’s lives.

      • Terminology can be tricky thing. If you have fears of things which do not, in an objective sense, exist or you have negative feelings about yourself which appear not to be connected in a rational way to your current situation or you hear voices which do not arise from physically existing individuals or you base major aspects of your life on beliefs which seem to have no basis in objective reality and are not shared by anyone else, what do you call these things? Sometimes they can be aspects of religious belief. I’m not trying to argue that there is a specific framework within which we should categorise these things. Sometimes these things may not be viewed as a problem by the individual who experiences them. But there are also times when some of these things can interfere, according the individual’s own judgements, with their quality of life. Is it wrong to want to help them to either free themselves of the experiences they feel they would be better off without, or to help them to live with them more productively?

        There is sometimes a fine line it is true between helping someone and exercising control over them. Sometimes people use the cover of helping in order to exercise control. But sometimes exercising control over someone in a limited way is a necessary part of helping them. If a man is trying to kill his wife, we may have to lock him in a room until his anger dies down in order to help both him and his wife.

        There were times when control was exercised over me in the process of helping me to recover from a breakdown. I’m glad it was. To my way of thinking it would have been immoral for someone who was able to help me by restraining me from harming myself not to do so. This is, of course, a matter on which opinions differ.

        The ideal is for our mental health to be in our own hands, which is why I write books aimed at helping people to help themselves.

        When I tried to kill myself it wasn’t initially because I wanted to die. It was because I didn’t know how to go back to living independently outside of the mental hospital. They weren’t going to keep me there indefinitely. They wanted me to go home, but my head was full of confusion and I didn’t know how I was going to cope without someone feeding me and regulating my day. So I ran away and took an overdose. But I realised that what I took wouldn’t kill me quickly and painlessly. This wasn’t going to work. So I rang the hospital and got taken back in. Then my depression got even worse. I was strapped down to a bed for a day (because I had to be in a general rather than mental hospital while having my kidneys cleaned from my overdose). I begged the doctors and nurses to kill me. At the time I believed that the whole progress of the human race was going to come to nothing because I didn’t have the strength for a task I felt I was being called on to do. I couldn’t bear the thought that everyone who had ever suffered had suffered for nothing because I was incapable of fulfilling my part of in the collective human enterprise. When someone feels like that, what is the moral thing to do? Should we let them kill themselves because they have a free right to do so, or should we put them somewhere where they can’t hurt themselves, until they start to realise that they are not viewing their situation clearly?

        How do you propose that we make life more liveable for everyone? Do you have a plan that will allow us to do this before thousands more people take their own lives? I’m not saying that preventing people from killing themselves is an answer. It isn’t. But it is the only moral compromise until we do find an answer. There are plenty of us who say that society should be better and fairer so that people don’t kill themselves or cut themselves or starve themselves or become heroin addicts… But unless we have a practical plan for how to achieve this we might as well be saying that everyone has a right to live on Big Rock Candy Mountain and ride a unicorn.

        How do you feel about voluntary psychiatric treatment? Do you feel it is wrong for the state to provide talking therapy, drugs and/or shock therapy to those who feel the need for these things and freely chose these things? I’m highly skeptical about how some of these things are used, but I don’t feel I have the right to deprive people of things which they feel are helpful to them. I promote an alternative approach but the challenge is for me to prove that it is better, not to make it the only thing available by eliminating the opposition.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: