When it comes to subjecting objectivity to emotion, I have seen
it happen often and am occasionally guilty myself. If I, a physician,
a psychiatrist and former head of a Government Agency, can be
so misled, how do consumers make sense of experts giving conflicting
advice on every imaginable subject from child rearing to pollution?
I believe the answer to this question is the most important one
of our day, and I believe that many fall prey to those who claim
to have specialist knowledge. Awash in prescriptions and proscriptions
but lacking a means of judging the validity of what they hear,
people soon find themselves ruled by the tyranny of experts.
Who are these tyrants? Many are scientists, public interest advocates, researchers,
lawyers, physicians, psychologists, social workers, government
bureaucrats, and others who, through our mass media, parlay their
credentials into power bases. From these power bases, they tell
us what to eat, drink and enjoy, how to relate to one another,
how to live and perchance to die.
People now turn to experts, where once they were more self-reliant,
for what they believe is definitive information. In a world reeling
from the dizzying pace of growth and change, being told how to
act, what to eat, and how to rear children gives people a semblance
of certainty that is difficult to come by elsewhere.I believe
we are in danger of surrendering our intellectual and emotional
liberty to specialists. I want us to regain our right to think
for ourselves by withdrawing our consent to their ascendancy.
The irony of our surrender to the experts is that they don't even
deliver the peace of mind we crave. Ask yourself a simple question:
do you truly feel safer, saner, and more secure because of everything
you've been told by the health experts, the enviromental experts,
the legal experts, the alcohol experts? Or are you becoming more
fearful and less confident about the future? A life without limits
is a life dominated by obsession. The obsession with cheating
death has turned our pursuit of health into a sickness. Ironically
we have become more susceptible than ever to our fears.
The manufacture of "innocent victims" provides society with a simple way to think about complex social
problems. When dealing with drug abuse, crime, poverty, traffic
fatalities, abortions etc., our surrogate parents, the experts,
seem to provide easy and fast solutions. Our social guardians,
the policy makers, devise protective regulations, but neglect
to address the underlying problems.
The policy-makers give comfort in two ways; first their agenda
allows us to distance ourselves from the plight of the victims.
Secondly, the victim as an emotional symbol drives their larger
agenda: power and conformity.They do that by finding and punishing
the person or thing they deem responsible.They also have a simplistic
view of good and bad guys, victims and victimisers the innocent
and the culpable. Life, as we know, is rarely that simple.
The mythology of science
As children we learn that science is a way of dicovering new information
about the world through direct observation. A scientific experiment
may begin with a speculation or hypothesis about the outcome,
but the goal is not a perceived outcome, but the truth. Children
themselves are natural scientists. When a toddler plays with matches,
for example, his goal is not to start a fire, but to find out
what these funny smelling sticks can do. Even people who study
science as adultsoften maintain a child-like belief in the objectivity
of science and in its ability to sort out and find truth in the
confused messages of the world.
Trends or truth?
Our desire to read meaning into trends is an ancient human trait-we
have always seen omens in co-incidence. If the rain came when
a chant was sung, our ancestors believed it brought the rain.
More recently, when several studies found that young drug experimenters
in the 1960's and 1970's tended to use alcohol before they used
drugs, researchers concluded that experimentation with alcohol
led to experimentaion with drugs. The conclusion seems obvious
because we are predisposed to believe it. We could just as well
conclude that daily use of alcohol leads to financial well-being
since a study of Harvard's class of 1949 showed that those who
drank every day had higher incomes than occasional drinkers or
non-drinkers. Based solely on the data, we have no idea whether
daily drinking has anything to do with the subsequent use of drugs.
Life without delusion