Monday, September 04, 2006

Hubbard's here

Visited the book fair held at the World Trade, Roxas Blvd last Saturday. Saw a number of wannabuys. But as expected books have become too unaffordable. I did manage to find a bargain--a local reprint of the seventh edition (2004) of Critical Thinking by Moore and Parker, so I didn't leave empty-handed.

What made this year's book fair stand out for me (and the reason for this entry) was the presence of an exhibitor I might've missed had the sales reps not been handing out promotional material. That exhibitor is the Hubbard Dianetics Center of the Philippines.Yep, it's a local branch of the organization by science-fiction writer and Church of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard (1911 - 1986).

As the guy was handing me their newsletter he asked whether I'd like to have a "stress test." I could see one willing male victim seated and wired to a small desktop gizmo no bigger than a portable typewriter. Though I never inquired, I bet that's one of the latest models of Scientology's infamous and ridiculous E-meter--a glorified and insanely overpriced ohmmeter. Pressed for time and not at all in the mood to stress these guys out, I declined the offer to be another gullible guinea pig of the day. Feigning ignorance I asked the other rep whether they were in any way connected with Scientology. She enthusiastically replied they indeed were. She then politely asked why I was inquiring. Trying to find the right word, it took me a couple of seconds before I answered, "Because Scientology's kooky." Her brows shot up and I could see her mouth go, "Oh," but I guess my reply had inadvertently clicked the mute button. How I wish I could just as easily silence all the woowoos and quacks out there. Yeah, in my dreams!

Apparently, the company's main product is Hubbard's Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, available through them or through your neighborhood reap-more-profit-by-selling-as-much-poppycock branches of National Bookstore, Power Books, and Goodwill Bookstore. At PhP395.00 (USD7.80) a pop you'd think it's a bargain, but this 600-page wad of toilet paper's just a little too steep for me. Besides, my tushie's a tad sensitive to newsprint.

In the handout local celebrities Joey Ayala (composer and musician) and Ernie Reyes, Jr. (martial artist and actor) effusively endorse dianetics. Just goes to show being good in a certain craft or discipline and being famous don't translate into being critically minded and smart when it comes to assessing allegedly "scientific" claims. Brings to mind the baking engineer I studied under who believes in evil spirits, in blessings with holy water to rid abodes of such malevolent entities, and in the ludicrous yarn that Proctor and Gamble had a pact with the devil. An expert in technical stuff he was; totally bonkers when it came to mythology and folklore.

According to the Dianetics Center of the Philippines,
Dianetics is not psychology, it is not psychiatry, it is not psychoanalysis. Dianetics counseling does not use hypnotherapy, trance techniques, meditation or positive thinking. Dianetics does not involve drugs, supplements, or fasting. To use Dianetics you don't have to change your diet, your lifestyle or your religion. Dianetics is a science of the mind, based on the natural laws of the mind and employs an ability every person has but rarely uses.
Note that they claim dianetics is a science. But as Robert Carroll rightly points out Dianetics is in fact pseudoscience, because it doesn't offer evidence and is in many ways nontestable.
What Hubbard touts as a science of mind lacks one key element that is expected of a science: empirical testing of claims. The key elements of Hubbard's so-called science don't seem testable, yet he repeatedly claims that he is asserting only scientific facts and data from many experiments. It isn't even clear what such "data" would look like. Most of his data is in the form of anecdotes and speculations....
Testimonials, as those by Ayala, Reyes, et al. are hardly scientific evidence. We can find testimonials from people given sham treatments and placebos or even from people who've taken poisons such as arsenic. On the contrary, the only scientific study of dianetic therapy showed it had no effect upon intellectual functioning, mathematical ability, or personality conflicts.

I wonder whether this company is just trying to sell as many copies of Hubbard's books and materials or whether it has long term plans of establishing the Church of Scientology in this country. Well, we can thank such meatheads as Tom Cruise and John Travolta for keeping this woo alive. Thank singer David Pomeranz as well for promoting it in the Philippines. Most of all, thank the Intelligent Designer for deliberately leaving out critico-scientific thinking as an innate skill in his beloved Homo sapiens.

1 comment:

Skeptico said...

There’s an additional reason Scientology isn’t science. In science, anyone can perform experiments and question previously obtained data. But in Scientology this never happens because there was only ever one “scientist” – L Ron Hubbard. He is dead and so nothing can ever be questioned, nothing can ever change.

Plus, as you say, there is no evidence to support it and it is largely unfalsifiable.