Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Was Freud right about anything?

Evolution professor Jerry Coyne writes:
About fifteen years ago, I decided to read Freud. After all, he was touted as one of the three greatest thinkers of our time, along with Einstein and Marx (all Jewish men), and while I found Marx boring, I could at least try to read Freud. And I did: I read a lot of Freud, including his major books on dream analysis, the psychopathology of everyday life, The Future of an Illusion, his book on jokes, his General Introduction to Psychoanalysis, and many of his famous case studies, like “Little Hans” and the “Wolf Man.”

I was appalled. As a scientist, I recognized that his works were tendentious in the extreme. He wasn’t following the data, but massaging the data to conform to his preconceptions. In other words, he was ridden with confirmation bias. In fact, I couldn’t find a single idea in his works that was new (the “unconscious” had been suggested by others), and a lot of ideas that were complete crap (e.g., the Oedipus complex). In the end, I couldn’t figure out why he was regarded as such a great thinker. While psychoanalysis was touted by Freud as a “science,” there was no science in it: it was in fact the opposite of science—pseudoscience based on faith (a religion, really) and, ultimately, on Freud’s ambition to be famous.

Then I discovered that a professor named Fred Crews, once chairman of English at UC Berkeley, had devoted a lot of his writing to criticizing Freud in an objective but hard-hitting way. ...

“Statistically, it’s conceivable that a man can be as dishonest and slippery as Freud and still come up with something true,” Crews said. “I’ve tried my best to examine his theories and to ask the question: What was the empirical evidence behind them? But when you ask these questions, then you eventually just lose hope.”
The conclusion is that Freud was never right about anything.

I had a similar experience. Freud was just an obvious charlatan that it is baffling that anyone would respect him for anything. And yet they do. Not only that, but he was supposed to be "one of the three greatest thinkers of our time".

At least it has become acceptable to trash Freud in the last 30 years. But still, most of the trashing comes from non-psychologists.

One explanation for this is that other theories of the mind are also problematic. True, but not really an explanation.

The Einstein story is also interesting. He got some things right, but he got a lot wrong, and was also dishonest and slippery. He is credited for a lot of things where he deserves little or no credit. The discovery of the theory of relativity was almost entirely the work of others. I have explained this in great detail elsewhere.

So why are these three Jewish men considered the greatest thinkers? What do they even have in common?

Several things, besides all being Jewish men. All were not really religious in the usual sense, but very strongly identified with their fellow Jews. All were extreme leftists and communists. All have an army of Jewish academics worshiping them. The worship is so silly it is almost like a religious cult.

None of this is new. These guys were exposed as impostors in their lifetimes. A well-respected 1953 book attributed relativity to Poincare and Lorentz. Einstein's friends urged him to defend himself, but he had no defense. Most physicists agree that Einstein was wrong about most of what he said in the last 30 years of his life. But he is idolized anyway.

Update: I see Netflix just started streaming a biographical series on Freud.

No comments: