Dianetics and the E-Meter from the Scientific Skeptic's Perspective I thought this might be a useful resource to those of us with a more hard line skeptical perspective (or at least an interesting read). Warning: Science content. Contains large amounts of debunking. Contains large amounts of tl;dr. If anyone from the Free Zone is reading this, no offense intended, dudes. For further reading, go to the actual links and scroll down to the bottom. The following comes from the Skeptic's Dictionary: (Dianetics) -------------------------------- --=- Dianetics (the "Bible" of Scientology) -=-- "Hubbard reveals a deep-seated hatred of women....When Hubbard's Mamas are not getting kicked in the stomach by their husbands or having affairs with lovers, they are preoccupied with AA [attempted abortion]--usually by means of knitting needles" (Gardner 1957: 267). In 1950, Lafayette Ronald Hubbard (1911-1986) published Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health (The American Saint Hill Organization, Los Angeles. All page references here are to this edition.) The book is treated as if it were a holy scripture by Scientologists and they treat it as if it were the cornerstone of their church, their religion, and what they consider to be their science. Hubbard tells the reader that dianetics "...contains a therapeutic technique with which can be treated all inorganic mental ills and all organic psycho-somatic ills, with assurance of complete cure...." He claims that he has discovered the "single source of mental derangement" (Hubbard 6). However, in a disclaimer on the frontispiece of the book, we are told that "Scientology and its sub-study, Dianetics, as practiced by the Church...does not wish to accept individuals who desire treatment of physical illness or insanity but refers these to qualified specialists of other organizations who deal in these matters." The disclaimer seems clearly to have been a protective mechanism against lawsuits for practicing medicine without a license; the author repeatedly insists that dianetics can cure just about anything that ails you. He also repeatedly insists that dianetics is a science. Yet, just about anyone familiar with scientific texts will be able to tell from the first few pages of Dianetics that the text is no scientific work and the author no scientist. Dianetics is a classic example of a pseudoscience. On page 5 of Dianetics, Hubbard asserts that a science of mind must find "a single source of all insanities, psychoses, neuroses, compulsions, repressions and social derangements." Such a science, he claims, must provide "Invariant scientific evidence as to the basic nature and functional background of the human mind." And, this science, he says, must understand the "cause and cure of all psycho-somatic ills...." Yet, he also claims that it would be unreasonable to expect a science of mind to be able to find a single source of all insanities, since some are caused by "malformed, deleted or pathologically injured brains or nervous systems" and some are caused by doctors. Undaunted by this apparent contradiction, he goes on to say that this science of mind "would have to rank, in experimental precision, with physics and chemistry." He then tells us that dianetics is "...an organized science of thought built on definite axioms: statements of natural laws on the order of those of the physical sciences" (Hubbard, 6). There are broad hints that this so-called science of the mind isn't a science at all in the claim that dianetics is built on "definite axioms" and in his a priori notion that a science of mind must find a single source of mental and psychosomatic ills. Sciences aren't built on axioms and they don't claim a priori knowledge of the number of causal mechanisms which must exist for any phenomena. Of course, science presupposes a regular order to nature and assumes there are underlying principles according to which natural phenomena work. It assumes that these principles or laws are relatively constant. But it does not assume that it can know a priori either what these principles are or what the actual order of any set of empirical phenomena is. A real science is built on tentative proposals to account for observed phenomena. Scientific knowledge of causes, including how many kinds there are, is a matter of discovery not stipulation. Also, scientists generally respect logic and would have difficulty saying with a straight face that this new science must show that there is a single source of all insanities except for those insanities that are caused by other sources. There is other evidence that dianetics is not a science. For example, his theory of mind shares little in common with modern neurophysiology and what is known about the brain and how it works. According to Hubbard, the mind has three parts. "The analytical mind is that portion of the mind which perceives and retains experience data to compose and resolve problems and direct the organism along the four dynamics. It thinks in differences and similarities. The reactive mind is that portion of the mind which files and retains physical pain and painful emotion and seeks to direct the organism solely on a stimulus-response basis. It thinks only in identities. The somatic mind is that mind, which, directed by the analytical or reactive mind, places solutions into effect on the physical level" (Hubbard, 39). According to Hubbard, the single source of insanity and psychosomatic ills is the engram. Engrams are to be found in one's "engram bank," i.e., in the reactive mind." The "reactive mind," he says, "can give a man arthritis, bursitis, asthma, allergies, sinusitis, coronary trouble, high blood pressure, and so on down the whole catalogue of psycho-somatic ills, adding a few more which were never specifically classified as psycho-somatic, such as the common cold" (Hubbard, 51). One searches in vain for evidence of these claims. We are simply told: "These are scientific facts. They compare invariably with observed experience" (Hubbard, 52). An engram is defined as "a definite and permanent trace left by a stimulus on the protoplasm of a tissue. It is considered as a unit group of stimuli impinged solely on the cellular being" (Hubbard, 60 note). We are told that engrams are only recorded during periods of physical or emotional suffering. During those periods the "analytical mind" shuts off and the reactive mind is turned on. The analytical mind has all kinds of wonderful features, including being incapable of error. It has, we are told, standard memory banks, in contrast to the reactive bank. These standard memory banks are recording all possible perceptions and, he says, they are perfect, recording exactly what is seen or heard, etc. What is the evidence that engrams exist and that they are "hard-wired" into cells during physically or emotionally painful experiences? Hubbard doesn't say that he's done any laboratory studies, but he says that in dianetics, on the level of laboratory observation, we discover much to our astonishment that cells are evidently sentient in some currently inexplicable way. Unless we postulate a human soul entering the sperm and ovum at conception, there are things which no other postulate will embrace than that these cells are in some way sentient (Hubbard, 71). This explanation is not on the "level of laboratory observation" but is a false dilemma and begs the question. Furthermore, the theory of souls entering zygotes has at least one advantage over Hubbard's own theory: it is not deceptive and is clearly metaphysical. Hubbard tries to clothe his metaphysical claims in scientific garb. The cells as thought units evidently have an influence, as cells, upon the body as a thought unit and an organism. We do not have to untangle this structural problem to resolve our functional postulates. The cells evidently retain engrams of painful events. After all, they are the things which get injured.... The reactive mind may very well be the combined cellular intelligence. One need not assume that it is, but it is a handy structural theory in the lack of any real work done in this field of structure. The reactive engram bank may be material stored in the cells themselves. It does not matter whether this is credible or incredible just now.... The scientific fact, observed and tested, is that the organism, in the presence of physical pain, lets the analyzer get knocked out of circuit so that there is a limited quantity or no quantity at all of personal awareness as a unit organism (Hubbard, 71). Hubbard asserts that these are scientific facts based on observations and tests, but the fact is there hasn't been any real work done in this field. The following illustration is typical of the kind of "evidence" provided by Hubbard for his theory of engrams. A woman is knocked down by a blow. She is rendered "unconscious." She is kicked and told she is a faker, that she is no good, that she is always changing her mind. A chair is overturned in the process. A faucet is running in the kitchen. A car is passing in the street outside. The engram contains a running record of all these perceptions: sight, sound, tactile [sic], taste, smell, organic sensation, kinetic sense, joint position, thirst record, etc. The engram would consist of the whole statement made to her when she was "unconscious": the voice tones and emotion in the voice, the sound and feel of the original and later blows, the tactile of the floor, the feel and sound of the chair overturning, the organic sensation of the blow, perhaps the taste of blood in her mouth or any other taste present there, the smell of the person attacking her and the smells in the room, the sound of the passing car's motor and tires, etc" (Hubbard, 60). How this example relates to insanity or psycho-somatic ills is explained by Hubbard this way: The engram this woman has received contains a neurotic positive suggestion....She has been told that she is a faker, that she is no good, and that she is always changing her mind. When the engram is restimulated in one of the great many ways possible [such as hearing a car passing by while the faucet is running and a chair falls over], she has a feeling that she is no good, a faker, and she will change her mind (Hubbard, 66). There is no possible way to empirically test such claims. A "science" that consists of nothing but such claims is not a science, but a pseudoscience. Hubbard claims that enormous data has been collected and not a single exception to his theory has been found (Hubbard, 68). We are to take his word on this, apparently, for all the "data" he presents are in the form of anecdotes or made-up examples like the one presented above. Another indication that dianetics is not a science, and that its founder hasn't a clue as to how science functions, is given in claims such as the following: "Several theories could be postulated as to why the human mind evolved as it did, but these are theories, and dianetics is not concerned with structure" (Hubbard, 69). This is his way of saying that it doesn't concern him that engrams can't be observed, that even though they are defined as permanent changes in cells, they can't be detected as physical structures. It also doesn't bother him that the cure of all illnesses requires that these "permanent" engrams be "erased" from the reactive bank. He claims that they aren't really erased but simply transferred to the standard bank. How this physically or structurally occurs is apparently irrelevant. He simply asserts that it happens this way, without argument and without proof. He simply repeats that this is a scientific fact, as if saying it makes it so. Another "scientific fact," according to Hubbard, is that the most harmful engrams occur in the womb. The womb turns out to be a terrible place. It is "wet, uncomfortable and unprotected" (Hubbard, 130). Mama sneezes, baby gets knocked "unconscious." Mama runs lightly and blithely into a table and baby gets its head stoved in. Mama has constipation and baby, in the anxious effort, gets squashed. Papa becomes passionate and baby has the sensation of being put into a running washing machine. Mama gets hysterical, baby gets an engram. Papa hits Mama, baby gets an engram. Junior bounces on Mama's lap, baby gets an engram. And so it goes (Hubbard, 130). We are told that people can have "more than two hundred" prenatal engrams and that engrams "received as a zygote are potentially the most aberrative, being wholly reactive. Those received as an embryo are intensely aberrative. Those received as the foetus are enough to send people to institutions all by themselves" (Hubbard, 130-131). What is the evidence for these claims? How could one test a zygote to see if it records engrams? "All these things are scientific facts, tested and rechecked and tested again," he says (Hubbard, 133). But you must take L. Ron Hubbard's word for it. Scientists generally do not expect others to take their word for such dramatic claims. Furthermore, to get cured of an illness you need a dianetic therapist, called an auditor. Who is qualified to be an auditor? "Any person who is intelligent and possessed of average persistency and who is willing to read this book [Dianetics] thoroughly should be able to become a dianetic auditor" (Hubbard, 173). The auditor must use "dianetic reverie" to effect a cure. The goal of dianetic therapy is to bring about a "release" or a "clear." The former has had major stress and anxiety removed by dianetics; the latter has neither active nor potential psycho-somatic illness or aberration (Hubbard, 170). The "purpose of therapy and its sole target is the removal of the content of the reactive engram bank. In a release, the majority of emotional stress is deleted from this bank. In a clear, the entire content is removed" (Hubbard, 174). The "reverie" used to achieve these wonders is described as an intensified use of some special faculty of the brain which everyone possesses but which "by some strange oversight, Man has never before discovered" (Hubbard, 167). Hubbard has discovered what none before him has seen and yet his description of this "reverie" is of a man sitting down and telling another man his troubles (Hubbard, 168). In a glorious non sequitur, he announces that auditing "falls utterly outside all existing legislation," unlike psychoanalysis, psychology and hypnotism which "may in some way injure individuals or society" (Hubbard, 168-169). It is not clear, however, why telling others one's troubles is a monumental discovery. Nor it is clear why auditors couldn't injure individuals or society, especially since Hubbard advises them: "Don't evaluate data....don't question the validity of data. Keep your reservations to yourself" (Hubbard, 300). This does not sound like a scientist giving sound advice to his followers. This sounds like a guru giving advice to his disciples. 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 such as the one about a patient who believes she was raped by her father at age nine. "Large numbers of insane patients claim this," says Hubbard, who goes on to claim that the patient was "raped" when she was "nine days beyond conception....The pressure and upset of coitus is very uncomfortable to the child and normally can be expected to give the child an engram which will have as its contents the sexual act and everything that was said" (Hubbard, 144). Such speculation is appropriate in fiction, but not in science. Thus, we may say that Scientology is a religion built on a fiction, but what religion isn't?