Cognitive Dissonance

Two unrelated examples:

  1. This article starts out pretty interesting. It puts forward the possibility that Tom Cruise’s recent rantings about psychiatry had some sense to them, and cites the work of Thomas Szasz. It goes on to rail against the “pseudoscience” of the psychiatry “cult” – and then defends Cruise from accusations of being himself a member of a cult, because “Scientology is recognized by our federal government as a religion and demands the same respect and tolerance we show any other religion”. Never mind that Scientology is a money-sucking scam which employs brainwashing, coercive tactics, and condones violence against it’s detractors. Pot, kettle, black.

    I have some sympathy for the Szazsian point of view. Psychiatry and psychology are still in their infancy, relatively speaking, and are among the fuzziest of the sciences. The divisions between normality and disorder, maladjustment and disease are notoriously hard to pin down. And Schaller makes a good point that until relatively recently, homosexuality was considered a “disease” by pschiatric science, using the same types of slippery definitions with which other mental disorders are diagnosed (he also asserts that Szasz was largely responsible for it’s normalization, a claim I am not in a position to verify). The difference between an “alternative lifestyle” and a “mental illness” can be nothing more than whether society finds it acceptable or not. But contrary to the page linked at the bottom of that article, the enemey of your enemy is rarely, in fact, your friend. Defending Scientology while attacking the pschiatric establishment with terms like “cult” and “pseudoscience” does not help their case.

  2. It seems likely that the Left will never forgive Christopher Hitchens for jumping ship over 9/11 and America’s ensuing military adventures. Which is understandable and, Hitch beign Hitch, probably just as he would like it. What remains to be seen is whether they will ever grant him intelligence again. As yet, the left-leaning press seems to prefer to imagine that he was struck in the head by a stray bit of masonry on that fateful day, turning in an instant from a beacon of witty, erudite, and biting dissent into a hulking intellectual neanderthal, bereft of nuance and subtlety. That they disagree with him I understand. That they feel betrayed, I feel a certain amount of sympathy for. But the instant’s re-visioning of a noted intellectual into an insensitive troglodyte the moment he begins to depart from the party line – that is a form of denial for which I have no sympathy. One of the things we learn as we grow into educated adults is that smart people can still disagree with us. Forgetting that is an intellectual cop-out.
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  1. I don’t like this article

    The truth is standard textbooks on pathology do not list mental illnesses among real diseases like cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and syphilis.
    He must not have read very many textbooks recently.
    We cannot tell who is depressed by drawing blood, studying fluid balances, or looking at pictures of the structure and function of the brain.
    Ah, but we can tell by looking at the bright colored picture of people brain activity. Oddly, I can’t remember what they’re called at the moment.
    There is no such thing as asymptomatic “mental illness”—yet there most certainly is when it comes to real diseases like cancer and heart disease
    What about someone who has a family history of mental illness but shows no signs themselves until some traumatic event happens?
    rightly objected to the involuntary administration of psychiatric “treatments.”
    Most psychiatric treatments today are not involuntarily administered.
    Today, it is as fashionable to criticize Scientologists and Scientology as it was to criticize Jews and Judaism in 1930s and 1940s Germany.
    Saying scientology is a cult is like saying Jews are an inferior race and should be exterminated. Right….

  2. There seems to be an implication that the hostility between psychology and scientology makes them opposites, and one of a pair of opposites must be true. Psychology and Scientology aren’t that opposite. They can easily both be false. I suppose the rhetorical term would be that they are using eachother as strawmen.

    The truth doesn’t even lie somewhere in between them. It lies on a different axis altogether.

    AFAICT, when you strip away the pieces of the article built on that assumption and the ad hominum arguments, there’s hardly anything left to discuss. Like many essays, it is nearly semantically null.

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