Advertisement- Science: a wonderful myth (Part One)

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Kristina Wyman's picture
Professor Fred Bauer

Dear student, when should you do your most critical thinking? One suggestion: when you take “Introduction to Subject X” courses. Why? Because those courses create the framework or mindset for your later, more detailed subject-X courses. They purport to teach you the foundational principles for those higher-level courses.

This is the first of three essays to advertise the books I’ve written, beginning with The Wonderful Myth Called ‘Science.’ It will focus on two of the foundational principles of ‘scientific’ psychology. That subject is listed in the AC Catalogue as one of ten “social sciences.” This first essay will raise the critical question, “Is it science?” Asking “Is it science?” in relation to psychology will help you decide which of your professors can give you the most help in becoming a critical thinker. (Can teachers who are not critical thinkers themselves teach you to become one?)

For several years, David Myers’ Psychology has been the text used for General Psychology. In an opening definition, Myers orients students to this alleged science. He writes, “Today we define psychology as the science of behavior and mental processes.” He then ‘unpacks’ his definition. “Behavior is anything an organism does—any action we can observe and record,” whereas “mental processes are the internal subjective experiences we infer from behavior.” He ends his unpacking with the claim, “For many psychologists, the key word in psychology’s definition is science.”

The first major problem for any critical thinker is a huge contradiction between that definition and what Myers later writes about the observing process, namely, seeing or vision. (Leave inferred mental processes till later.) Can the behavior of such organisms as rats, pigeons, and humans be seen? Before you answer, reflect for a moment on a related question, “Why is the sky blue?” Google it and read the answers, especially the website “sciencemadesimple.com.” (The answer is “It’s not.”) Can organisms or their behavior be seen? No. Not unless you can see colorless rats, pigeons, and people. Not unless you ignore modern physics and physiology.

Why not? For a reason good old Aristotle, long ago, pointed out. In the same way that nothing can be heard which makes no sound, nothing can be seen that has no color. The reason the sky isn’t blue is because it has no more color than the air you’re breathing right now. Take an airplane ride, look out the window, and see how colorless the air up there is.

In fact, Myers’ chapter on vision incorporates ‘scientific’ facts that have been discovered in recent times. Most basic of all is what Descartes discovered by dissecting corpses, viz., that the brain locked inside your pitch dark skull comes between your mind and everything in the outside world. Your eyes, ears, nose, tongue, skin, muscles, etc., feed nerve impulses to your brain. Sever any of those nerves and you’ll be blind or deaf or anosmic, etc.

Myers’ chapter on vision incorporates what Descartes, Galileo, Newton, Locke, Kant, James, Einstein, and all well-educated people know, namely, that nothing in the physical world has color. Color exists, Einstein notes, as an effect in us, hypothetically caused by frequencies of invisible light that reach our eyes. Myers agrees: “We talk as though objects possess color. We say, ‘A tomato is red. . . . If no one sees the tomato, is it red? The answer is no. First, the tomato is everything but red, because it rejects (reflects) the long wavelengths of red. Second, the tomato’s color is our mental construction. As Isaac Newton (1704) noted, ‘The [light] rays are not coloured.’ Color, like all aspects of vision, resides not in the objects but in the theater of our brains.”

Myers goes on to explain that we must “select, organize, and interpret our sensations.” This is done by the mind. We each construct an inner model of the outer, unseen, inferred physical world [if any such thing exists]. Myers writes, “To construct the outside world inside our heads we must detect physical energy from the environment and then encode it as neural signals.” Wrong. We do not detect physical energy. We see colors which, as he says, reside in our pitch dark brains (really our minds).

Myers tries to skirt the contradiction by appealing to naive realism, the belief that we see, not colors in our brains or minds, but organisms. Einstein called this naive-realist, common-sense belief, “a plebeian illusion.” It certainly isn’t science.

So, is psychology a science? Well, consider what Sigmund Koch wrote in 1969: “Whether as a ‘science’ or any other kind of coherent discipline devoted to the empirical study of man, psychology has been misconceived. This is no light matter for me to confess after a 30-year career given to exploration of the prospects and conditions for psychology becoming a significant enterprise.” What were Koch’s credentials? He was the editor of the seven-volume Psychology: a Study of a Science. Later, he co-edited A Century of Psychology as Science. Read what he had to say and decide.

So, is psychology a science? Well, who cares? What difference does it make?

Any professor who doesn’t know why it matters must be a sleepwalker, oblivious to the culture war going on in 2014. It’s a war waged by Richard Dawkins and other atheists who argue that religion is pre-scientific superstition, and who insist that ‘science’ proves we are created by evolution, not by God.

Oh?!

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