Why People Believe that (L Ron Hubbard’s) Bullshit is Actually Profound

bullshitOn the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit | Gordon Pennycook, James Allan Cheyne, Nathaniel Barr Derek J. Koehler, Jonathan A. Fugelsan | Judgment and Decision Making, Vol. 10, No. 6, November 2015

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Anyone who has read “Dianetics”, let alone the material which makes up ‘advanced’ Scientology courses, will have come across many passages that make them ask, “what is that supposed to mean“?

This leads to the question of why people read nonsense and ascribe deep meaning to such passages – even when they cannot actually articulate what that meaning is?

There are several explanations for this. This paper describes an experiment which possibly provides another. It not only demonstrates how some people uncritically ascribe meaning to a nonsense passage which ‘sounds profound’, but also provides a means of identifying individuals who are most vulnerable to this kind of confusion. Continue reading

The Compelling Effects of Simply Staring: Understanding the Scientology Mindset Part 13

stareDissociation and hallucinations in dyads engaged through
interpersonal gazing | Giovanni B. Caputo| Psychiatry Research 228 (2015) 659-663   Download Full Text as .pdf

In plain language, this scientific paper describes a series of experiments which investigate the psychological consequences of two people (a dyad) staring at each other for a period of time (in this case, no longer than 10 minutes).

The author concludes that this can bring about visual hallucinations and a dissociated state, including a feeling of being disconnected from your body.

This is highly relevant to the ‘Training Routines’ (TR’s) taught to beginners in Scientology and Narconon – especially “TR0 Confronting“which is described on the linked page. During this exercise participants (who stare  at each other for two hours or more) commonly recruit strange hallucinations and a feeling of leaving their body.

Note: page numbers given are from the .pdf reader software, not the article itself. Continue reading

A ‘Scientific’ Paper About Narconon, Financed By The Church of Scientology and Written by Scientologists. What Could Go Wrong?

hawking2006 | Drug residues store in the body following cessation of use: Impacts on neuroendocrine balance and behaviour – Use of the Hubbard sauna regimen to remove toxins and restore health | Medical Hypotheses (2007) 68,868–879 | Marie Cecchini and , Vincent LoPresti
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Narconon is presented to the public as an independent drug rehabilitation programme. However, the organisation is wholly owned by the Church of Scientology, and the ‘treatment’ it uses is identical to the ‘training’ that is given to new Scientologists.

An essential part of both Scientology training and Narconon ‘treatment’ is a practice called ‘The Purification Rundown’.  This was initially described by L Ron Hubbard in the 1950s (when the fear of a US/Soviet nuclear war was widespread) as a means of treating radiation exposure and drug addiction.

Hubbard’s central claim was that drugs (and ‘radiation particles’) are stored in the body’s fat cells, and can be ‘reactivated’ in times of stress, unless the user’s body is ‘detoxified’ by a programme which includes taking long saunas and overdose quantities of vitamins and minerals (notably Niacin). This is termed the ‘The Purification Rundown’ and presented in his book “Clear Body Clear Mind“.

If this claim is shown to be false it brings not only Narconon, but also Scientology practice into serious question. There is very little independent research available into the Narconon programme, and it is all negative. In contrast, this paper presents Hubbard’s ideas, and Narconon’s practices, in a positive light. However, there are multiple reasons to doubt the honesty of the authors and the validity of the observations presented.

Continue reading

Scientology and the Presumed Fragility of Unconventional Beliefs

fragile belief1982 | On the Presumed Fragility of Unconventional Beliefs | David A Snow and Richard Machalek | Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 21 (1) 15-26
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To an outsider, it is an understatement to say that the doctrines of Scientology appear implausible and lack credibility. A common question from people who encounter them for the first time (for example the Xenu story) is, ‘how can anyone believe this nonsense?’.

Scholars tend to assume that because such ideas are easily disproved, belief in them is “fragile” – this is, it may be broken or lost at any time. They have developed various theories  to explain why it often persists despite this fragility.  Most hold that fringe groups exert powerful social pressure on believers, who rationalise away their doubts in a psychological process known as cognitive dissonance.

The authors of this paper observe that scholars are (by nature and training) analytical and sceptical –  and  that this may be a form of bias. They suggest ‘true believers’ do not share these characteristics, and may have no difficulty in holding weird beliefs. In other words, scholars are over-thinking it, and inventing complex theories to solve a problem which, in fact, only exists for them.

They turn the tables on scholars and ask, “perhaps it is disbelief, rather than belief that is in need of attention”.

This is a genuine, well-argued, minority viewpoint.  I think it has some merit – but is dangerously inappropriate when applied to Scientology (which is one of their examples).

Continue reading

Scientology and ‘Magick’ – A Realistic Assessment

crowley_parsons_ hubbard2012 | Hugh B Urban | Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions Vol 15, Issue 3, pages 91-116 | The Occult Roots of Scientology? L Ron Hubbard, Aleister Crowley and the Origins of a Controversial New Religion | Download as .pdf

Before his breakthrough publication of “Dianetics”, L Ron Hubbard made a precarious living writing stories for a variety of pulp magazines. During this period, he met Jack Whiteside Parsons, a pioneering rocket scientist and disciple of the occultist Aleister Crowley. Hubbard became one of many (rent-free) residents of Parson’s rambling Pasadena home, and took a significant role in the curious black magic rituals which Parsons performed.

Hubbard’s participation in Parson’s rituals is well-documented, and I have provided a number of links to books and videos providing details of this period in another post.

Some critics argue that Dianetics and Scientology were heavily influenced by Crowley and Parson’s ‘Magick’ – others that the influence is small, and Hubbard was mainly interested in conning Parsons out of his considerable assets (they fell out after Hubbard absconded with several yachts that he was supposed to be selling on as part of a mutual business enterprise).

Hugh Urban is an expert on occult groups and author of the excellent book, “The Church of Scientology: a History of a New Religion“. In this paper he examines the question of how much influence Hubbard’s brief involvement with ‘Magick’ really had on the creation of Dianetics and Scientology. Continue reading

The L Ron Hubbard Baby Formula (Pt 2) and A Case of Infantile Scurvy

scurvy2007 | American Journal of Clinical Dermatology
Infantile Scurvy: An Old Diagnosis Revisited with a Modern Dietary Twist | Cynthia J. Burk and Rona Molodow| Download as.pdf

This paper describes the case of 2-year child admitted to hospital suffering from scurvy as a result of her parents feeding her with a baby formula which L Ron Hubbard claimed to have discovered in a previous life as a citizen of Ancient Rome. He further claimed that this formula was superior to both modern breast and formula milk.The details are available in part one of this series.

Scurvy is a  debilitating disease with serious consequences for general health. Left untreated, it will kill. It was the plague of Sailors on long voyages (during which fresh fruit were impossible to obtain) until 1747, when James Lind, a surgeon in the Royal Navy,  discovered that it could be prevented if the men regularly drank the preserved juice of citrus fruits. Later, it was discovered that Vitamin C deficiency was the cause of Scurvy.

The two doctors who wrote this paper summarise:

A previously health 2-year-old Caucasian girl presented with refusal to walk secondary to pain in her lower extremities progressing over 1 week. The parents denied any frank trauma, but did report excessive bruising of her lower extremities. The girl’s parents also noticed an increase in irritability sleep disturbance and malaise.

Continue reading

Two Scientific Evaluations of the Claims of Narconon – a Scientology Front Group

narconon blackboardNarconon is a front group for the Church of Scientology which claims to operate successful  drug education and rehabilitation programmes, “based on the works of L Ron Hubbard” (the founder of Scientology). Narconon anti-drug education programmes target  schools and employers.

Narconon also operates residential drug rehabilitation facilities which claim a astonishingly high success rate (at least 76%).

The content of the Narconon rehabilitation programme is indistinguishable from Scientology training and the organisation pays ‘franchise fees’ to another entity controlled by the Church of Scientology, which passes them on to the Church. The theoretical and practical claims made Narconon have been evaluated by researchers on behalf of two public health organisations, and two documents containing their findings are provided below (after the break).

In the first,  the California Department of Eduction assess the claims made for Narconon’s ‘educational’ programme. It concludes that their educational presentations lack scientific accuracy and are poorly presented.

The second document assesses Narconon’s claims for both its educational and rehabilitation facilities. A team of researchers performed an  extensive literature search to uncover only five research papers that examined Narconon. One was unavailable and two were strongly negative. Only one suggested that Narconon’s practices were beneficial – and that was undertaken by Narconon itself. The overall conclusion is that the Narconon educational and  rehabilitation programmes are  not supported by science, nor is there any evidence that their practices produce positive results.

The fact that there have been a worrying number of avoidable deaths in Narconon facilities – expecially  in the US further suggest that Narconon ‘treatment’ is a very poor option. The third document included here is a  “Drug Education Presentation”  from Narconon. This purports to show that the theories underlying their programme are supported by academic references. It fails to do so, as its brief quotes are taken out of context. It is included to demonstrate that Narconon does indeed make the unsupported and pseudo-scientific claims that the other researchers condemn. Critics have long argued that Narconon is little more than a means to recruit vulnerable people into Scientology, and charge them for the privilege. One of the papers in this report explicitly supports this proposition, stating that  – from their direct observations of a Narconon halfway house –  “There appears to be little difference between Narconon and the Church of ScientologyContinue reading