Friday, January 4, 2008

Chapter 1: The Scope of Dianetics

In this first chapter, L. Ron Hubbard discuses what "a science of mind" must entail and then describes how Dianetics fulfills these criteria and more.

Hubbard begins by taking a quick glance at the struggle man has had explaining mental illness. His examples include shamans, ancient Greek hospitals and Roman gods. More importantly, Hubbard discusses a dark time in early medicine when patients diagnosed with mental disorders were often lobotomized noting "they are brought forth only to demonstrate the depths of desperation man can reach when confronted with the seemingly unsolvable problem of deranged minds."

It is indeed sad that the preferred solution to many mental disorders was to destroy the prefrontal cortex of the afflicted. Hubbard blames man's decision to commit such atrocities on the pace of modern science, stating "for the physical sciences, advancing thoughtlessly far in advance of man's ability to understand man, have armed him with terrible and thorough weapons which await only another outburst of the social insanity of war."

While it is true that modern technology had led to the creation of terrible weapons, it seems unfair not to acknowledge the beneficial advancements of science. If we only look at the the technological advances relating to the study of the human mind, we see MRI and CT scan machines as well as myriad new pharmaceuticals, each of which have had a tremendous effect in aiding our understanding of the brain.

Hubbard continues by comparing the mind to a jigsaw puzzle, making many unsupported and confusing statements about times in history when different people were able to see and/or arrange different pieces of this puzzle. After the metaphor, Hubbard presents us with the purview of Dianetics. Supposedly, Dianetics is a science of mind and according to Hubbard, a science of mind must contain (I will address them one at a time):

1. An answer to the goal of thought.
I'm not quite positive what this is supposed to mean, but if pressed to answer, I would say that Hubbard means that a science of mind needs to answer the question, "Why do we think?". I agree that is a very important question and should be under the jurisdiction of "mind science".
2. A single source of all insanities, psychoses, neuroses, compulsions, repressions, and social derangements.
This seems like a tall order. To think that all these maladies have a single cause seems quite optimist (if not crazy). There is no a priori reason to believe all mental disorders should arise from the cause. We know that fever, bacterial infections, viruses, and social interaction all have tremendous effects on the brain. Also, there could be many causes of the same series of symptoms. For example, the common cold can be caused by more than 100 kinds of rhinoviruses. I know it's not a mental disorder, but if is a bodily malady.
3. Invariant scientific evidence as to the basic nature and functional background of the human mind.
Sounds good.
4. Techniques, the art of application, by which the discovered single source could be invariably cured; ruling out, of course, the insanities of malformed, deleted or pathologically injured brains or nervous systems and, particularly, iatrogenic psychoses (those caused by doctors and involving the destruction of the living brain itself).
Here, we see Hubbard is restricting the scope of "mind science" to psychological maladies. I would argue that "malformed" has a very broad definition which might cover chemical imbalances, but I think Hubbard most likely is referring to an error in normal brain growth.
5. Methods of prevention of mental derangements.
Sounds good.
6. The cause and cure of all psychosomatic ills, which number, some say, 70 percent of man's listed ailments
Setting aside the lack of citation for the statistic, I will agree that studying psychosomatic ailments should be an integral component of any science dealing with the brain.
Before Hubbard summarizes how Dianetics meets these goals, he makes an interesting remark regarding the precision necessary for his science to be successful.
A science of the mind, if it were truly worthy of that name, would have to rank, in experimental precision, with physics and chemistry. There should be no "special cases" to its laws.
I found this interesting because chemistry and physics to not pretend to know Truths (yes, with a capital T). Physics seeks to make a series of ever-more-precise approximations to what we observe in nature and there are exceptions to some of the rules. Newtonian mechanics goes to quantum mechanics in the very small and to general relativity in the very large. To claim to know Truth without exception is not science (I suppose if some omniscient being were to dispense Truths, that could suffice, but how could we be assured of its omniscience?).

At this point, Hubbard enumerates what it is that Dianetics actually does.
1. It is an organized science of thought built on definite axioms (statements of natural laws on the order of those of the physics sciences).

2. It contains a therapeutic technique with which can be treated all inorganic mental ills and all organic psychosomatic ills, with assurance of complete cure in unselected cases.

3. It produces a condition of ability and rationality for man well in advance of the current norm, enhancing rather than destroying his vigor and personality.
Sounds a little like an Enzyte commercial.
4. Dianetics gives a complete insight into the full potentialities of the mind, discovering them to be well in excess of past supposition.

5. The basic nature of man is discovered in Dianetics rather than hazarded or postulated, since that basic nature can be brought into action in any individual completely. And that basic nature is discovered to be good.[emphasis mine]
Since when is it the job of science to make moral judgments on its findings? I'm looking forward to the scientific proof that the basic nature of man is "good".
6. The single source of mental derangement is discovered and demonstrated, on a clinical and laboratory basis, by Dianetics.

7. The extent, storage capacity and recallability of the human memory is finally established by Dianetics.

8. The full recording abilities of the mind are discovered by Dianetics with the conclusion that they are quite dissimilar to former suppositions.

9. Dianetics brings forth the nongerm theory of disease, complementing biochemistry and Pasteur's work on the germ theory to embrace the field.

10. With Dianetics ends the "necessity" of destroying the brain by shock of surgery to effect "tractability" on mental patients and "adjust" them.

11. A workable explanation of the physiological effects of drugs and endocrine substances exists in Dianetics, and many problems posed by endocrinology are answered.

12. Various educational, sociological, political, military, and other human studies are enhanced by Dianetics.

13. The field of cytology is aided by Dianetics, as well as other fields of research.
Instead of addressing each of these claims now, I will wait until they come up later chapters. If you read the above claims, you will have no doubt realized that Dianetics seems to be quite an earth-shattering system if is does all that is claimed.

Words Defined: shaman, consecrate, Goldi (a people from East Siberia), sanitaria, Aesculapian (relating to healing), Bedlam (a hospital), tome, Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton, Herbert Spencer, psychosis, neurosis, compulsion, repression, pathological, psychosomatic, biochemistry, Louis Pasteur, tractable, endocrine, cytology

Next: Chapter 2: The Clear

Note: All quotes are from L. Ron Hubbard's, Diantetics unless otherwise noted.


Prazzie said...

I feel sickened by all this mendacity.

So he postulates a single source of all insanities etc. It's typical of pseudoscientific claptrap. The goal is to define a single source for all your problems so that the con man may offer a single cure for all your problems.

Too transparent. It saddens me that people fall for this.

Flavin said...

Dianetics brings forth the nongerm theory of disease, complementing biochemistry and Pasteur's work on the germ theory to embrace the field.

I really want to see how he presents his evidence for this one.

...ruling out, of course, the insanities of malformed, deleted or pathologically injured brains or nervous systems and, particularly, iatrogenic psychoses (those caused by doctors and involving the destruction of the living brain itself).

You're right, he's restricting himself far too much here. The mind is created by the activity of the brain, so injured or malformed brains do create mental illnesses. What evidence does he present that ruling out these particular causes creates a meaningful or clinically useful group of mental illnesses? Is that in a later chapter?

Ben said...

I'm not sure if he does anything other than state that Dianetics can cure those "other" types of mental illness. The next book (I forgot to mention this is divided into 3 books) is about the "Single Source of All Inorganic Mental and Organic Psychosomatic Ills". If evidence is presented anywhere, it will be in there.

Anonymous said...

The basic nature of man is found to be "Good" - The reviewer is concerned with science making a moral judgment - is it a moral judgment or is it simply a statement of fact? Good = survival.

Ben said...

If that is the case, Hubbard must define it as such. For a man so concern with his language, he is quite loose with it.

Anonymous said...

Prazzie, is there an earlier similar time you felt "sickened" by a mendacity? [four flows please...]

A single source seems reasonable when dealing with the human mind. A claim such as his could only be True IF its components apply to all people in all places and all times, and Dianetics DOES!
This is something to be happy about!