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Thought for the day: “I don’t believe in science; science is our defence against belief.”

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Dream Life: An Experimental Memoir

In “Dream psychiatrist: Freud was out to lunch” (September 15, 2011 New Scientist), Tiffany O’Callaghan interviews a recovering Freudian:

In the first two weeks of my psychiatry residency in 1960, I thought I’d see that my doubts about psychoanalysis had been mistaken. But it was just the opposite. I was told, “There must be something wrong with you if you’re asking all of these questions.” My chief suggested I really believed in science. I said, “That’s ridiculous. I don’t believe in science; science is our defence against belief.” Science is institutional scepticism. We need to ask these questions.”

– Jay Allan Hobson, author of Dream Life: An experimental memoir, in Dream psychiatrist: Freud was out to lunch

About his former icon:

Psychoanalytic theory is popular because it’s easy to understand, but I think it’s wrong. I don’t think dreams are caused by the release of repressed infantile wishes. There’s nothing scientific about psychoanalysis, there’s nothing scientific about Sigmund Freud. He didn’t do a single experiment, he didn’t do any direct observation, he used no controls. The guy was out to lunch.

Here’s the take-home point though. In Freud’s heyday, everyone knew that. But lack of evidence didn’t matter.

It didn’t need to. Mid-twentieth century critics were offered a Freudian diagnosis for their motives. That made the Freudians’ arguments unanswerable.

If your discussion partner claims you don’t – and can’t – know your own mind and that non-rational motives underlie all you say, rational discussion ends. It comes down to “He’s in charge.”

People who choose to live without bunk detectors don’t sense the lack, and must assign a motive within the range of their cult.

Now that “Darwinitis” (as theist philosopher Raymond Tallis has put it) and pop neuroscience scavenge the ruins of Freud’s once solid empire, an analogy does suggest itself.

See also: Atheist doctor: “Darwinitis” and “neuromania” are dangerous, rather than merely irritating

Hat tip: Pos-Darwinista

5 Replies to “Thought for the day: “I don’t believe in science; science is our defence against belief.”

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    Sorry, Mr Hobson also needs to bone up on basic epistemology.

  2. 2
    allanius says:

    Hey, it was all about sex, wasn’t it?

  3. 3
    markf says:

    I would argue that #1 and #2 are also quite ambiguous.

    Barry has found it necessary to clarify what he meant by #1 with an update which is longer than the OP and which links to an older post which is even longer. This is hardly suprising as the definition of what are the limits of “natural” are an ongoing dispute.

    #2 is clearly ambiguous. For example, assuming we can settle on what we mean by “natural”, can we win the competition by showing no natural being that we could reasonably expect to exist based on our experience of natural beings has the ability to design life? Or is something stronger required such as any conceivable natural being?

  4. 4

    Like Hobson, neither do I BELIEVE in science for science is an institutional scepticism!!!

  5. 5
    ScottAndrews says:

    The acceptance of Freud’s ideas demonstrates perfectly that even highly educated, intelligent people can lack a BS meter or don’t listen to it.

    The first thing I thought when read about Freud was that he’s taking his own weird kinky issues and projecting them onto everyone else. Imagine if a psychologist with a fear of frogs started treating every patient for a fear of frogs.

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