There once was a child of philosophy that aspired to become a science. After all, nothing lends credibility in our material world more than the discipline that studies the material world. So that child, psychology, rebelled against thousands of years of tradition and began beating its own path through history — and the human psyche.
The human mind has been pondering itself probably for almost as long as the self has existed. As early as 550 B.C., ancient Greek philosophers began developing an intricate theory of what they termed the psuché, from which we derive the first part of “psychology.” Fifteenth-century thinker René Descartes, dubbed the “Father of Modern Philosophy,” developed the idea that came to be known as Cartesian Dualism, that the mind and body are different but can influence each other. But it wasn’t until quite late in history, 1879, that German physician, physiologist, and philosopher Wilhelm Wundt — often regarded as the “father of psychology” — separated psychology from philosophy. It was a development that would result in the separation of the scientific study of man’s nature from the nature of that nature.
The problem is that psychologists claim to be pursuing authentic science. Why is this an issue? Because science investigates and recognizes the material world and only the material world. Thus, if they’re true to this scientific mandate, psychologists will view man merely as a material being. (If they conceptualize him as something more, they’re going beyond science.) And proceeding in this manner makes it difficult to remedy mind-based problems because therapists won’t be treating what man is — a being of body and spirit — but what he isn’t — an organic-material robot.
In fact, this decoupling of philosophy and psychology to create a new “science” has, ironically, birthed a field that disgorges both bad philosophy and bad science; it consequently has had, many would say, a thus far short but quite sordid history. Its physician arm, psychiatry, was responsible for 50,000 cases of the brain mutilation known as lobotomy in the United States alone, not to mention all the excessive use of extreme electroconvulsive therapy.
More recently in history, parents were inundated for decades with “gender neutrality” theory, unscientifically stating that the sexes are the same except for the superficial physical differences and thus, if you raise them identically, identical will their personalities be. All was nurture; a person’s “gender identity” was shaped completely by society. (Know that you were an idiot, a knuckle-dragging mouth-breather, if you denied this.) Then 1990s brain research indicated that the sexes really are innately different, from the womb to the tomb. All was nature, and after some more twists and turns the current theory — unscientifically claiming that “gender identity” can be whatever a person feels it is — became all the rage. And those promoting it again rage against the knuckle-dragging mouth-breathers who dare deny Science’s Latest Findings™.
Then there’s eugenics, the science of improving the human race via selective breeding, which was widely accepted by social scientists (i.e., anthropologists) until after WWII; now, even suggesting group differences exist gets you lumped in with Nazis. Of course, overlooked here is that eugenics grew out of evolutionary theory (in fact, Sir Francis Galton, who originated the term “eugenics,” was a cousin of Charles Darwin), which dictates that profound group differences must exist. After all, if peoples “evolved” separately from one another for eons, subject to difference environments and stresses, it’s a practical impossibility that they would have wound up being precisely the same in all worldly measures. But missing such points of logic is possibly why G.K. Chesterton called common sense “that forgotten branch of psychology.”
But perhaps from mainstream social science we shouldn’t expect common sense because it’s not an endeavor of the common man. For example, note that while fully a third of Americans reject evolution altogether, “evolutionary psychology” is so widely accepted among social scientists that the American Psychological Association wrote in 2009 that it “is not a distinct branch of psychology, but rather a theoretical lens that is currently informing all branches of psychology.” Moreover, most Americans who do subscribe to evolution apparently believe it’s the vehicle through which God created life, as only about 11 percent of Americans are atheist or agnostic (according to Gallup). In contrast, a solid majority of psychology professors — 61 percent — are atheist or agnostic, making psychology the least religious discipline. Then there are the studies long indicating that psychologists suffer higher rates of mental disorders than the average person. Some have theorized that this is because many troubled people enter psychology to try to figure themselves out, yet what they’d learn in today’s prevalent school of psychological thought certainly wouldn’t bring them closer to Truth. My own experiences bear this out.
In my years working with children, I was struck by how psychologists’ kids were so often ill-behaved brats, no surprise given the permissive child-rearing dogmas the field disgorges. Then there was the 60-year-old psychiatrist I knew from the public tennis courts (I once was an aspiring player) in my late childhood. I have no idea how the subject was broached, but one day he saw fit to tell me, 12 years old at the time, that some people derive sexual pleasure from being whipped. Well, one day a while later, he was playing tennis shirtless (not uncommon in that city park) and, wouldn’t you know it, he had whip scars on his back. How scarred his soul was, however, was further illustrated by how, at another time, he told me I was “gay” and that he knew because I had the “build of a gay.”Because of my age, I didn’t know at the time the concept of a “sexual-identity crisis,” which he obviously sought to create in me, but I was smart enough to realize that the notion of a “gay build” (are happy people blessed with great physiques?) wasn’t very plausible and that he was trying to play with my mind. But, anyway, talk about violating your Hippocratic Oath.
This article appears in the October 23, 2017, issue of The New American. To download the issue and continue reading this story, or to subscribe, click here.