In a quiet and private room, somewhere in the northeast of England, an earnest debate was taking place.

“I do understand that the human mind is the stage for a complex interplay between thought and emotion, in which it can be nigh on impossible to determine which comes first,” opined the old man.

“Oh no!” objected the middle aged lady, as she looked up from her notes. “The thought always comes first. You feel the way you do only because of the thoughts you entertain.”

“Surely that can’t be the whole story,” persisted the old man. “For when I feel down, I can only entertain certain trains of thought.”

“Now, now, Mr Ridgway,” warned his counsellor, “I do hope you’re not going to prove difficult for me!”

Thus ended a rather brief and unproductive encounter between a jaundiced and disillusioned old sceptic and an enthusiastic exponent of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy – the psychological snake oil of our modern age. I had been referred for such treatment (in case you were wondering) by my GP in a rather optimistic attempt to cure me of a generalised anxiety disorder that I had been putting up with for a good fifty odd years whilst trying my best not to trouble the medical profession. To me, it was my personality – to the doctor it presented as a disease worthy of the NHS’s attention. I was supposed to see a CBT expert to cure me of being me, but the truth is I only went along for the debate. As you can see, it didn’t end well.

For those who are not familiar with CBT1, it is the medical intervention of preference (as far as NICE is concerned) for a whole raft of psychological and emotional ailments embracing: depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress, eating disorders, dissociative identity disorder, chronic pain, insomnia, phobias, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, obsessive compulsive disorder and a good deal more. You will even find it advocated for the treatment of psychotic conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorders. Is there nothing that CBT cannot cure? Apparently not.

And the best thing about CBT is that it is an evidence based intervention. Everyone knows it works and anyone who doubts its legitimacy will have to answer before the full might of the medical hegemony. Doubting CBT is as anti-science as, say, denying the irrefutable evidence for Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming. Indeed, not only do CBT and CAGW both enjoy the firm endorsement of a scientific community, they are both government sanctioned. No wonder that my counsellor could label me as a trouble-maker, simply for questioning the central premise of CBT. I was a CBT denier because I challenged the idea that thought always determines emotion (but never the other way round) and that the key to controlling unwanted emotions will always be to eradicate the pathological thinking strategies that are causing them.

Actually, that is a slight over-simplification. I don’t deny that there are circumstances where maladaptive thinking can lead to emotional distress, and even the staunchest of CBT proponents will concede that emotion feeds back into the thought process. However, the CBT expert insists that the emotion will only exist in the first place as a result of a thought – the thought always comes first. Hence the primary line of questioning upon which CBT counselling sessions are based:

“When you felt that way, what had you just been thinking?”

The idea that one might have been thinking nothing at all just doesn’t enter the frame; which is a problem for me. When I was first diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder, they didn’t call it that. They called it ‘free floating anxiety’. The whole point of free floating anxiety is that it exists irrespective of the situation one is in, or what one might be thinking of one’s situation. Furthermore, acute episodes of anxiety will often be experienced as a purely reflexive response to a physical stimulus – there is just no time to think. This happens because the amygdalae and hippocampus collude to instigate a paralimbic reaction long before the pre-frontal cortex and any language centres of the brain have had chance to construct the inner dialogue associated with the experience.2

So when the experts tell me that CBT is ideal for curing my anxiety state, I can either bow down to their expert authority or I can reflect upon fifty years of introspection that contradicts them, together with the fact that CBT lacks a sound neurological underpinning. Except, it turns out that my extensive, direct experience doesn’t impress the experts one little bit. Take, for example, the following claim, extracted from one of the many expert proclamations made on the internet:

“It is common for clients to experience emotion prior to any conscious recognition of their preceding thought(s). This can make it difficult to ascertain the actual thought(s) that activated the emotional response.”

It seems that, rather than admit that CBT’s central premise is refuted by patient testimony, the CBT proponents posit a mysterious delay in conscious recognition of thought. Which, of course, calls into question just exactly what is meant by a ‘thought’. Already, my bullshit detector is flashing frantically. For the purposes of a counsellor’s enquiry, a thought is a consciously experienced internal narrative, but, for the purposes of shoring up dodgy theory, it becomes any subconscious mental activity that suits the purpose. I’ve even seen it suggested that these ‘subconscious thoughts’ also include the activities of the emotional centres of the brain! Which, of course, makes a mockery of the whole thing.

Well there you have it. CBT is based upon a neurological model that was discredited many years ago but nobody on the CBT bandwagon seems to have noticed. Day after day, the therapists encounter ‘clients’ that tell them that they have emotions that are not directed by conscious thought, but their testimony is dismissed as that of the confused, even though this explanation results in CBT descending into gibberish: CBT exponents are adamant that thought precedes emotion, and yet, when put on the spot, they can’t even make a clear distinction between the two.

Notwithstanding all of the above, we are told that CBT is evidence based. Studies have shown, blah blah blah. Oh really?

As with CAGW, when one chooses to look beyond the headline hype, it turns out that not everyone with the requisite expertise is convinced by such studies. There is dissent within the ranks but one just doesn’t hear that much about it. Back in 2009, Dr Oliver James (as seen on TV) accused government ministers of being “downright dishonest” when they claimed that new NHS CBT-trained therapists will cure half of 900,000 people of their depression and anxiety. “There is not a single scientific study which supports that claim,” he said. “Being cheap, quick and simplistic, CBT naturally appeals to the government. Yet the fact is, it doesn’t work,” he added.

At the time, CBT proponents dismissed such ideas as “out of date”. And yet, by 2015, articles such as “Why CBT is Falling out of Favour” were starting to voice puzzlement over why CBT no longer seems to be working as well as it did. All sorts of theories have been proposed3, but the obvious one is overlooked. Many pharmaceutical drugs have suffered the same fate; they seemed effective in trials but lost their potency over time. It turns out that the initial studies proclaiming their effectiveness were subject to p-hacking, and it was only the emerging body of evidence, following widespread use, that finally exposed the subterfuge. Accordingly, the CBT experiment had simply failed the most fundamental of scientific tests – it wasn’t reproducible.4

Not that any of this matters. The world’s intellectual, political and financial investment in CBT is now so huge that there is no amount of counter-evidence that will impress its stakeholders. I can’t say for sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the medical consensus in favour of CBT currently runs at about 97%. Is that enough to accept the dogma unquestioningly? Not for this old curmudgeon. Rather than swoon when confronted by the experts’ CVs, I tend to reflect upon the nonsense that lies behind the ‘science’ they spout, and I wonder how such orthodoxy could have established itself in the first place. The answer, of course, lies in the sociology of science. Where there is plausibility, there will always be plenty of motivation to jump upon the bandwagon and, as long as there are no laboratory experiments available to prick the bubble, the sphere of influence can be blown up to any diameter that suits the zeitgeist. Such is the situation in the world of psychotherapy – and such is the situation in the world of climatology.

There are times when I feel that even the suggestion that the climate science canon could be bogus must be ridiculous, because scientific communities are just too self-critical to allow this to happen. Then I remember about CBT, and in an instant I’m cured of the thought. If CBT is any example, then scientific naivety is not that rare after all. And, contrary to what the CBT expert will tell you, sometimes it isn’t the thought that comes first – it’s the sentiment.


[1] My apologies in advance, but this essay is not going to tell you everything you might want to know about CBT. For those who are interested, I recommend that you start with the Wikipedia entry and then take it from there. Believe me, you will not find the internet short of things to say on the subject!

[2] Actually, your brain will sometimes create the illusion that its mental narrative is setting the mood, perhaps because such self-deception reassures us of the essential rationality of the human condition. In ‘The Decisive Moment’ (ISBN-10: 1847673139) Jonah Lehrer explains how our decisions are predetermined subconsciously by the brain’s emotional centres, but its higher executive functions trick us into thinking we arrived at a rational and dispassionate decision.

[3] For example, CBT’s waning efficacy has been ‘explained’ by suggesting that all the easy cases have now been dealt with and we are only left with the difficult nuts to crack – like me, presumably.

[4] Or maybe it is just experiencing a hiatus, and CBT efficacy will return once the short-term effects of a natural variability have passed.


  1. Thank you John, I found your last paragraph (excepting your notes) most valuable. As you can imagine, within UEA I was often beset by similar doubts. I wish I had had your CBT example.


  2. Alan,

    Although I accept that this article is a bit off topic I think it serves the purpose of demonstrating that the claims sceptics make regarding climate science are not as extraordinary as the likes of Lewandowsky would have you believe. Too much is made of the infallibility of the scientific method and too little of the essentially social nature of science. The phenomenon of the dodgy scientific consensus is not a myth, it is a common and recurring problem. Perhaps the more that we can demonstrate this, the less will be made of the sensationalist nature of the climate science controversy.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I would say that it is on topic, but written (you sly devil) as if it were off topic. As you read it you find one after another similarity or analogy with AGW until you are fully prepared for your final paragraph. A fine piece of writing. It’s good to have another analogy – the story of stomach cancer was getting rather overused.
    Having just thought about your topic, it seems clear that both routes – thought followed by emotion and emotion followed by thought – are valid and in some cases the two routes are hopelessly enmeshed as when a scent causes an emotion that only later triggers a memory (thought). Every link causing feedback loops. I wonder if this interlinkage is the reason smell, in particular brings back memories and strong emotions.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Alan,

    Here’s another analogy for you:

    According to the Wikipedia entry, “…CBT and IPT are the only psychosocial interventions that psychiatry residents are mandated to be trained in.”

    If there is any truth to this (a reference is given but it is to a book) then we have a situation in which the popularity of a particular viewpoint has been locked into the education system, ensuring that alternative viewpoints are downgraded and marginalized. This is obviously to the detriment of open enquiry.

    Your example of smells evoking memories and strong emotions is particularly relevant since it emphasizes the role of the hippocampus in the limbic system. The hippocampus is instrumental in forming long-term memory and whenever the brain processes external stimuli (a process in which the amygdalae are particularly involved) reference is made to the hippocampus to determine their emotional salience. Once the assessment has been made, the anterior cingulate cortex communicates with those parts of the brain that mediate the appropriate response. The anterior cingulate cortex has extended dendrites, so it enjoys direct connectivity to many other parts of the brain. In particular, it connects directly to the primitive centres that instigate a somatic reaction and also directly to the pre-frontal cortex, at which point one becomes conscious of what is going on. So, by the time the executive functions of the brain have kicked into action, you may very well already be puking up!

    This is, no doubt, a gross over-simplification of the process and I am sure that any neuroscientists out there could readily shoot me down. The actual situation will be fiendishly more complex, involving, as you say, many feedbacks. Nevertheless, the essential point is this: Basing the industry of psychotherapy upon the simple mantra that our emotions are slaves to our thoughts is at best simplistic and at worst downright nonsense. And yet, that’s where we stand.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Even a passing consideration of our evolutionary past would raise serious doubts about CBT as you have described it here. Instinctive / emotive responses developed long before conscious thought, or even those more complex thoughts that might be termed ‘pre-conscious’, to your point about CBT supporters blurring the line. While brain functions co-evolve together, in general the higher / later functions rest more upon the earlier / lower ones than vice versa, simply because the latter were already available for use when the former started to appear. This might be a useful way to challenge your medical professionals, given that evolution is frequently used as the benchmark test for science / anti-science behaviour (albeit wrongly, given all cultural groups support the science that reinforces their values and resist the science that challenges their values). In practice, it is common for social psychology and related disciplines to resist evolutionary explanations themselves, usually citing that these are ‘too reductionist’ (i.e. “hands off our ball it’s too complex for you”). Nevertheless your GP probably won’t be aware of that, and will have trouble branding you anti-science for bringing up a persuasive evolutionary argument. There’s also plenty of evidence for the argument even within social psychology, let alone more biology orientated studies. For instance Dan Kahan’s work showing that the more knowledge folks have about a science topic that has become culturally conflicted, and too the more science proficient they are, the *more* polarised they are, not less. i.e. both greater familiarity and proficiency with the subject matter does *not* lead to a convergence of views, but actually more divergence. This is so in the climate domain as in many others, and it is very helpful to show the existence of a culture based upon the belief in a climate calamitous narrative. Our belief in cultural narratives is based on emotive mechanisms, not on higher reason or the detailed knowledge that reason processes, and this increased polarisation clearly shows that the former is dominant, not the latter, whenever the context is such that they are heavily entangled regarding a particular topic. Indeed in such cases, the emotive state drives the direction of reasoning.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. John. Your description of how various parts of the brain interact suggests
    1. Many routes are completely unconscious and therefore cannot involve any thought, (so the core belief of CBT cannot be 100% correct) and
    2. The possibility of conflict between neuroscientists (especially neuroanatomists) and CBT practioners (similar to the much underplayed differences between solar physicists and climate “scientists”?*)

    * I was sustained in my climate heresy by a friendship with a solar physicist from another university who would feed me other opinions, especially those from Russia.


  7. Lest anyone out there chooses to focus upon my lack of expert authority, I would like to quote from Steven Pinker’s “How the mind Works”. On page 373, he states:

    “The emotions are mechanisms that set the brain’s highest-level goals. Once triggered by a propitious moment, an emotion triggers the cascade of subgoals and sub-subgoals that we call thinking and acting. Because the goals and means are woven into a multiply nested control structure of subgoals within subgoals, no sharp line divides thinking from feeling, nor does thinking inevitably precede feeling or vice versa (notwithstanding the century of debate within psychology over which comes first).”

    If that was understood back in 1997, how did we get to where we are today with CBT?


  8. I think, therefore I emote (I think)
    Or maybe I emote, therefore I think.
    Or perhaps I both emote and think in circular fashion where cause and effect can never be separated.
    All thoughts are conscious, events which take place ‘inside’ one’s head, triggered by either external stimuli via the five senses, or manifested via the re-emergence of a stored memory, or both.
    What are emotions? Anger, Fear, Grief, Joy, Hatred, Love? More ancient, more physiological/hormonal/biological in origin than the relatively recent ‘pure’ thoughts generated by the higher functioning human intellect but, in order to qualify as ‘human emotions’, necessarily conscious, therefore just different forms of thought. Consciousness consists of a visible, therefore ego-perceived, spectrum, going from violet (pure, unemotional, abstract thought) to red (raw emotion), encompassing all possible combinations thereof in between.
    I think and I emote, therefore I am.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Jaime. I would question whether “human emotions” exist as separate entities – either some mammals have so called “human emotions” or those considered exclusively human are not. My dog can be scared or can be made to salivate and therefore express a range of emotions before a meal. These might be considered primative, animal emotions. But it has learned complex behaviours that I find difficult to separate from “jokes” and goes around with its mouth hanging open and its tail vibrating deliberately doing actions that it associates with play – actions it and we associate with it being happy. It anticipates something pleasurable and is communicating this emotion – and how. When being chastised, it emotes totally differently. In other circumstances it tries desperately to communicate, uttering frantic verbalizations and showing every indication of emotions associated with frustration. So either it must be accepted that animals like dogs have human like emotions and/or they think, can reason and anticipate, and thus have so called “human emotions”. After more than 50 years observing a number of my pet dogs I have become convinced that a sharp distinction between the mental abilities of humans and other mammals is over emphasized.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Andy,

    I agree, the evolutionary argument is a valid one; although I would apply the rider that the relatively late development of the neocortex would have been accompanied by evolutionary development of the more primitive brain centres upon which it ‘layers’. This would reflect in the degree of interconnectivity and feedback existing between the various layers.

    Whatever the case, I detect a considerable oversimplification built into CBT’s theoretical basis. This seems to be a recurring theme: in order to arrive at a consensus, we have to dispense with uncertainty, even if this means dispensing with key elements of the science. In the case of CBT, basic neurology and the lessons of evolution have been discarded. In the case of CAGW, basic control theory seems to be under threat.

    As for convincing the medical practitioners that I had a valid point, I don’t think I came anywhere near doing so before they had already stamped ‘Uncooperative’ across my medical file.


  11. Alan, by using the term ‘human emotions’, I was not meaning to imply that non-human species don’t have emotions, or indeed don’t share the same emotions that we have. The intention only was to evoke the common conscious experience which we as humans have of those emotions. Dogs and many other higher mammals definitely appear to experience a complex variety of emotional mental states, but I have no idea really how those emotional states might manifest in their consciousness whereas I’ve got a pretty good idea of what joy, rage, fear, hatred, envy for instance consciously ‘feel’ like in humans. That’s why I called them ‘human emotions’.


  12. John:
    ‘This would reflect in the degree of interconnectivity and feedback existing between the various layers.’

    For sure, which is why I mentioned co-evolution of function. But from the evidence nowhere near enough to fundamentally rewire the more primitive functions nor to dominate them. Indeed higher function, also having occupied much less development time in which to get a grip, typically serves the lower, unless there is little that is emotive at stake. ‘By our own aspirations, we are but half-men’; quote from someone famous whose name I can’t recall.

    ‘This seems to be a recurring theme: in order to arrive at a consensus, we have to dispense with uncertainty, even if this means dispensing with key elements of the science.’

    Indeed. But it’s more than just a theme, it’s an expectation. A *social* consensus is formed via a deeply embedded (and emotively driven) process bequeathed to us by evolution, which *necessarily* has to leave the truth / evidence behind in order to fulfil its purpose (‘purpose’ doesn’t imply agential or sentient, just the benefit the process evolved for). And which has to cause an active policing of banishment (and / or manipulation) of uncertainty, in order to prevent the kind of questioning that would break ranks. Such behaviour is likely as old as homo-sapiens-sapiens at least (certainly as old as religious behaviour, which is based upon same), and potentially older. Writ large or writ small, many such social consensuses have clothed themselves as ‘scientific’ ones in the recent era, simply because this furthers that purpose more, and the opportunity for such an emergent feature to occur has been increasingly available as the authority of science has spread. Actual science (i.e. that fortunate enough not to be heavily entangled with these mechanisms and associated cultural conflict), requires no consensus if it is mature (can simply be replicated as proof), and is actively open to challenge / improvement if not mature (any scientific consensus is merely a fluid parking place for where folks have gotten to thus far within an uncertain domain).

    ‘…before they had already stamped ‘Uncooperative’ across my medical file.’

    Um… that can happen. I guess plan B is to humour them.


  13. Marvelous commentary!

    From my teens I sometimes felt a free-floating anxiety, not attached to anything other than the setting sun, and decided it was the legacy of evolution; now is time to find your cave because dangerous things are coming out.

    Other things trigger my fight-or-flight; but I’m not much of a fighter and how can you fight what you cannot see? So that leaves flight; but that too is thwarted since you aren’t sure where to go since you cannot consciously detect the danger and you might run toward the danger if you haven’t figured it out.

    This is likely why the old saying exists, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”.

    It is pretty clear to me that emotion leads thought; but both of them follow the limbic system whose detection system for danger is tuned to the non-symmetry of consequence; little harm is done reacting to a thing that does not exist; but failing to react to real danger is probably fatal.

    I cannot “think” myself into an emotion; but an emotion can certainly stimulate thinking!


  14. Michael,

    Thank you for expressing your appreciation. Your comment also gives me the opportunity to point out an important caveat to my criticism of CBT.

    When I say that CBT is based upon unsound theory, I am referring to its incorrect neurological model. It is this defect that undermines the claims made for CBT’s universal efficacy. That doesn’t however, mean that CBT cannot be of benefit in the right circumstances. In many cases, there is a long-term psychodynamic cycle in which thought does play a vital role in determining behaviour and emotion, which in turn affects thought. On such timescales it isn’t actually important to say which comes first; the only important thing is that the therapist can help the patient break the cycle by changing the maladaptive thoughts (or behaviours, for that matter). However, the following should be borne in mind:

    a) This is a psychodynamic that would be relevant to any form of talking therapy. It does not justify the medical profession’s obsession with CBT.

    b) Thought is assumed to form part of a cycle and in many conditions this is not the case.

    c) Any truth there may be in the psychodynamic model tells you nothing about the neurology at play in real-time. Confusion between neurology and psychodynamics lies at the heart of the nonsense perpetuated in the name of CBT.

    d) Notwithstanding the above, CBT could have a placebo effect, resulting from the therapeutic benefit of having any human being pay an interest in the emotional welfare of another. Psychoanalysis benefitted from a similar effect even though it was based upon nothing more than Freud’s non-scientific speculations.

    As with climate science, one cannot dismiss everything about CBT just because there are elements that are flawed.


  15. Jaime, Alan,

    Your debate concerning the nature of emotion reminds me of a theory I recently came across called ‘Constructed Emotion’ (as outlined in Lisa Feldman Barret’s book, ‘How Emotions are Made’). This holds that there are no genetically programmed, universal emotions. Instead emotions are construct by the brain in a process akin to cognitive simulation, i.e. the method by which the brain creates a model of reality based upon limited external sensory information. In the case of emotion, so the theory goes, the brain is attempting to make sense of somatic sensations, i.e. pulse rate, etc. Such sensations have no inherent emotional association. The brain takes context into account before deciding upon what emotion it is experiencing. Since culture plays a key role in determining context, it follows that emotions are a purely cultural artefact. Essentially, neurologists who believe in constructed emotion are taking an extreme position on the nature vs nurture debate.

    Your mention of canine emotionality is obviously very relevant to the idea of constructed emotion, since one might ask what constitutes doggy culture. Feldman Barret includes a chapter titled, ‘Is a Growling Dog Angry’. I’d love to tell you what it says, but it starts on page 254 and I didn’t manage to get past page 40 before giving up on the book. I found it to be a veritable smorgasbord of incoherent straw man reasoning that seemed to serve as an instrument for self-aggrandisement rather than the communication of ideas.


  16. John. My thoughts about dogs have been much influenced by a book “How dogs love us” by Gregory Burns. I recommended it to Jaime, but have yet to hear from her about it. Essentially it’s about the application of MRI to dogs. The brains of pet dogs light up in the same regions as those in humans displaying empathy – when those dogs see their owners. The author concludes this is near as dammit tantamount to concluding that dogs exhibit empathy, a prerequisite of affection and love. If dogs love (and dog owners have no doubt) it follows that many thought processes previously considered exclusively human may occur in other mammals in at least rudimentary form.
    I seriously recommend the book to any dog lover as a confirmation of what they already know.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. John Ridgway “When I say that CBT is based upon unsound theory, I am referring to its incorrect neurological model. It is this defect that undermines the claims made for CBT’s universal efficacy.”

    Emotion cannot be directly engaged, generally speaking, but thought CAN. So it is a way to break a cycle where a person feels danger, but then imagines the source, often incorrectly. Break that cycle; you still feel the danger but are one step closer to discovering its true source.

    Emotion can be engaged vicariously. In my younger years I was reading many science fiction books and a few of them resonated in a way that I would not have guessed in advance; and it was this resonance that let me see inside my soul in a way that otherwise would have been impossible.

    Then there’s PTSD. The “T” need not be all that traumatic; I’d substitute “trained”. Having gone through some severe politics at work, survived it but it was very unpleasant for rather a long time, I am now exceptionally sensitive to that sort of thing. Mere mention of any of their names means I’m going to have to take some sleep helper tonight. Even a thought that doesn’t quite surface will produce an anxiety and it is really annoying when I don’t know what caused it so I run through the usual causes, deliberately triggering all of my PTSD’s and see which one DOESN’T enhance it; that’s the one that was already triggered 🙂

    And when I know what it was, suddenly my anxiety mostly vanishes. It is when you know there’s danger but don’t know who, what, when or where that your body is energized and ready for F-or-F.

    This can work the other way, too. Pleasant thoughts and memories work well; reading a book, watching a movie about pleasant things (not many of those). Sometimes I’ll pick a region on Google Earth and study it, maybe play with Google Earth flight simulator and land on an extremely challenging runway such as Lukla in the Himalaya.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. ‘Even a passing consideration of our evolutionary past would raise concerns’ …
    maybe if they, the School of CBT, ‘seriously thought’ about it.’ Origins of ‘us’

    An origins of human ‘thinking.’ Philosophers Arthur Compton and Karl Popper
    see evolution of consciousness acting as a control’ of human behaviour, evolving
    with the development of critical language.

    Karl Popper, ‘Objective Knowledge, An Evolutionary Approach,’ Ch5, Of Clouds
    and Clocks, ‘ argues the evolution of human language on human behavior, the
    language mode we share with animals, the expressive and signalling functions to
    the evolution of the descriptive function and most importantly the argumentative,
    critical function that has been a decisive influence on human ability to think rationally.
    And development of productions of thought, alphabets, writing, printing press, libraries…

    But rational thinking doesn’t come easily to us, not enough careful deliberation, argues
    psychologist Daniel Kahneman in his book about human cognitive illusions, ‘Thinking
    Fast and Slow.’ Daniel Kahneman is a psychologist who turned psychology into a
    quantitative investigation, subjecting human responses to calculations and measurement.
    A large part of his book is made up of studies indicating the various illusions which
    supposedly rational people demonstrate when confronted with choices under controlled

    Kahneman argues the existence in our brains of two independent systems for organizing
    knowledge, one he labels System One, a fight or flight survival mechanism which
    probably evolved with our mammalian ancestors, a fast thinking system making
    judgements and taking action without waiting for our conscious awareness to catch up.
    Making use of memories and heuristics linked with strong emotions like fear and pain,
    its judgements are often wrong, though the fast thinking system probably worked well
    for survival in a jungle. Our System Two is the slow process of forming judgements
    based on conscious thinking that checks the actions of System One and allows us to
    correct our mistakes. Human art and science have been created by System Two.

    Says Kahneman, bottom line, we’re machines for jumping to conclusions, prone to
    associative bias. For System One, the measure of success is coherence of a story,
    it’s consistency that matters most, not completeness of evidence… ‘what you see is
    all that there is.’ There’s a grab-bag of simple heuristics we adopt to make adequate
    but often wrong answers to difficult questions like ‘the availability heuristic, what comes
    readily from memory, first in line. There’s also a ‘law of small numbers’ bias whereby
    small samples closely resemble populations from which they are drawn – and more.
    And the bad news is, as Kahneman first discovered, working with Israeli Defence
    Forces in the 1950’s, that your System Two thinkers are also prone to similar thinking
    errors and heuristics, more apologist than critical of the emotions of System One.

    Machines for jumping to conclusions…CBT experts might think on’t.


  19. Michael,

    Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences. Your method for discerning what was at the root of a particular bout of anxiety was particularly interesting. It ably demonstrated the complex interplay between thought and emotion and how the former may invoke the latter, but not necessarily so. Whether a CBT expert would claim it as proof of their mental model, I’m not sure. As I have tried to explain already, it all depends upon what qualifies as a thought, as opposed to a reflexive emotional response. Once one delves into the subconscious such taxonomy becomes problematic, and the brain is notoriously adept at providing after-the-fact rationales for its own behaviour.


    That’s an excellent synopsis of Kahneman and Tversky’s work, if I might say so, and you’ve saved me the job of drawing attention to it. In fact, I thought long and hard about System 1 thinking and whether the existence of such undermined my criticism of CBT. After all, is System 1 not the embodiment of the ‘subconscious thoughts’ that the CBT counsellor invokes to explain their patients’ confusion? After much deliberation, I decided that System 1 thinking was not the CBT expert’s magic friend after all, pretty much for the reasons I outlined to Michael. The term ‘thought’ is too ill-defined in this context and has been extended to encompass a class of mental activity that embraces the emotional circuitry of the brain. Therefore, the whole idea of the thought/emotion dichotomy has dissolved and CBT is left with taxonomical egg on its face. Besides which, CBT flip-flops between focus on System 1 and System 2 in a way that I find vaguely disingenuous, and I certainly do not buy into the CBT idea that System 1 thinking is System 2 thinking in some inchoate condition.


    Inspired by your comment, I decided to retrieve my copy of ‘How Emotions are Made’ from the bin, just to read the chapter on animal emotions. Basically, the author does not accept that animals experience human emotions because they lack the mental apparatus to construct the conceptual framework we have created for our emotionality. This strikes me as a rather philosophical position to take since it hinges upon what one means by ‘experience’. Incidentally, the author mentions the Gregory Berns book as an example of a, ‘popular book that explores the issue’. She does not, however, say anything further to suggest that she has read it.

    I don’t know about you lot, but I find this a much more pleasurable way of spending Sunday morning than trying to deal with ATTP’s equivocations.


  20. @Beth

    Indeed, which Dan Kahan takes further with ‘motivated system 2 reasoning’ (MS2R):

    ‘A species of motivated reasoning, cultural cognition refers to the tendency of individuals to selectively seek out and credit evidence in patterns that reflect the perception of risks and other policy-relevant facts associated with membership in their cultural group. Cultural cognition can generate intense and enduring forms of cultural polarization where such groups subscribe to conflicting positions.

    Because in such cases cultural cognition is not a truth-convergent form of information processing, it is perfectly plausible to suspect that it is just another form of bias driven by over-reliance on heuristic, System 1 information processing.

    But this conjecture turns out to be incorrect.

    It’s incorrect not because cultural cognition has no connection to System 1 styles of reasoning among individuals who are accustomed to this form of heuristic information processing.

    Rather it is wrong (demonstrably so) because cultural cognition does not abate as the ability and disposition to use System 2 styles of reasoning increase. On the contrary, those members of the public who are most proficient at System 2 reasoning are the most culturally polarized on societal risks such as the reality of climate change, the efficacy of gun control, the hazards of fracking, the safety of nuclear power generation, etc.’

    He demonstrates this very clearly indeed via experiment. One way of thinking about this behaviour is that in cases where cultural modes dominate, for instance where particular science subjects are entangled with cultural conflicts per the cases he lists above, an ‘entrenched’ system 1 behaviour is driving the goals of system 2 capabilities and acquired knowledge. So the more of the latter there is, the more individuals are polarised according to system 1 derived positions. The ‘entrenched’ comes from the consideration that we are not, essentially, individual thinkers anyhow, we are essentially group thinkers (e.g. see Who’s in Charge by Michael Gazzaniga). So many system 1 reactions are configured or ‘set’ in accordance with our membership of cultural groups, and not only that these are constantly policed / reinforced via emotive group action (I’m sure you’ll have noticed the policing of values associated with calamitous climate culture).

    So not only are we machines for jumping to arbitrary conclusions, for the sake of unity (a huge evolutionary advantage), some of those conclusions are adopted and constantly reinforced at the group level, which then directs the system 2 efforts of individuals towards this established unity. In fact the detail works out rather worse than this, because to get close to a realistically enforceable unity the candidate consensus has to be as far from reality as possible within domain constraints. This distance is what puts the consensus ‘beyond reach’ so to speak, beyond ‘current reality’, hence also beyond the kind of awkward questioning or measurement that might cause a breaking of ranks; it has essentially got to be magic, a lie, which all strong cultural consensuses are. The actual consensus is emergent via selection of candidate narratives and sub-narratives in optimal mix, with the most emotive impacts having the higher selection values. (NOTE: For a group level deception, ‘lie’ doesn’t mean any individual is actually lying. We all have very deeply embedded mechanisms that enable us to fully and honestly and indeed passionately believe strong cultural narratives, even while internally / subconsciously understanding that it is just a lie for the sake of unity, hence not acting upon it in the same manner as though it were actually true. This is the origin of the hypocrisy that non-believers detect in all strong cultural narratives, though if they happen to believe in an opposing culture they will have the same behaviour themselves). MS2R is very likely the cause of the strong bias Kahneman noticed in the Israeli defence forces, but he hadn’t established the link between the two that kahan has been working since only the last 5 or 6 years I think.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. @ John
    ‘Besides which, CBT flip-flops between focus on System 1 and System 2 in a way that I find vaguely disingenuous…’

    Sounds like yet another flaw in this theory is to fail to take into account that we are group thinkers. Per above to Beth, there are strong connections between the two; S2 will be under the reins of emotive S1 via long-evolved gene / culture co-evolution that results in powerful in-group / out-group behaviours, so whenever these are brought into play for whatever reason. I don’t know much about CBT, but maybe their ‘magic friend’ you propose could simply be that so much territory and connections are still unexplored or barely explored, they can morph whichever way they like to support a predetermined conclusion without anyone being able to prove that they’re wrong. However folks are making inroads, which means there will come a day when ‘scientific backing’ for such wriggly theory cannot be claimed.


  22. ‘CBT flip-flops between focus on System 1 and System 2 in a way that I find vaguely
    disingenuous, and I certainly do not buy into the CBT idea that System 1 thinking is
    System 2 thinking in some inchoate condition.’

    Inchoate ‘thinking. ‘ 🙂

    Fraught aren’t we as herd animals, I feel it. But sometimes, as in Socrates’ Athens,
    we get a society, briefly, that respects the individual and critical investigation.

    I like Harold Bloom and the Western Canon, where he identifies in great literature,
    the ‘strangeness,’ Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dante, stepping outside a mode of thought
    we take for granted. Like scientific revolutions, I guess.


  23. ANDYWEST, re yr comment on the tyranny of custom:

    ‘A species of motivated reasoning, cultural cognition refers to the tendency of individuals
    to selectively seek out and credit evidence in patterns that reflect the perception of risks
    and other policy-relevant facts associated with membership in their cultural group.’

    Reminds me of the rational pessimist, Michel de Montaigne:

    ‘The laws of conscience, which we pretend to derive from nature, proceed from custom;
    everyone having an inward veneration for the opinions and manners approved and
    received among his own people, cannot, without great reluctance, depart from them,
    nor apply himself to them without applause… But the principle effect of its power is to
    seize and ensnare us, that it is hardly in us to disengage ourselves from its grip, or so
    to control ourselves, as to consider of and to weigh the things it enjoins.’

    … Embark on a sea journey, or come up against a new problem situation, like that scene
    in ‘2001, A Space Odyssey,’ (tho’ there’s a deux ex machina there, ) and sometimes,
    like yr James Watt, yr Richard Feynman, drawing on past knowledge and considering
    new possibilities … now that’s THINKING.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Andy,

    I think your contribution to this forum is important since it throws a light on how unsubstantiated belief systems can evolve without the need for explicit conspiracy. Consensus views do not automatically converge on the truth, they converge upon the stable meme. This process may involve a certain amount of skulduggery on the part of certain individuals (Mann’s wretched Hockey Stick comes to mind) but by and large the outcome is an emergent phenomenon resulting from the collective effort of well-meant, sincere, but ultimately social animals. We are all slaves to our cognitive biases.

    In the case of CBT, we have to appreciate that it owes its popularity to the fact that it is instinctively plausible, and its therapeutic value rests upon a certain degree of practical wisdom. Its overselling, however, is enabled by a bogus neurological theory that results from System 2 thinking at its most motivated.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. JR – Although I accept that this article is a bit off topic I think it serves the purpose of demonstrating that the claims sceptics make regarding climate science are not as extraordinary as the likes of Lewandowsky would have you believe.

    There is a much stronger connection between CBT and the normal subject of discussion on this blog than most grasp, and one which I think more should be made of.

    Following WWI, pioneer of ecology Arthur Tansley left Britain, not to study the natural world, but to study under Frued, who he believed to be the most important person since Christ. Long after his return to Britain and botany, and just before the outbreak of the next war, in an essay called ‘The Use and Abuse of Vegetational Concepts and Terms‘, Tansley proposed a new understanding of ecology, specifically, ecosystems:

    The fundamental concept appropriate to the biome considered together with all the effective inorganic factors of its environment is the ecosystem, which is a particular category among the physical systems that make up the universe. In an ecosystem the organisms and the inorganic factors alike are components which are in relatively stable dynamic equilibrium. Succession and development are instances of the universal processes tending towards the creation of such equilibrated systems.

    Though this at face value appears to be an attempt to formulate a technical understanding of the natural world, one cannot rule out the influences of the human world on Tansley’s work. Europe by that time had been in a state of disequilibirum for decades. And many of those who had borne the brunt of that geopolitical disequilibrium returned from the trenches in states of total mental breakdown, to become fodder for the psychoanalysts. War and psychoanalysis had as much to do with Tansley’s outlook as plants, bees and climate. On the psychoanalyst’s perspective, chaotic forces had been unleashed in individuals, leading to wars. Similarly, ecologists grew concerned that the fragile balances underpinning the natural order would topple over.

    To cut a nearly century-long story short, it’s my view that psychanalysis and ecology met similar fates. Their early promises to make sense of the world came to little as sciences in their own right, yet they came to frame political understanding, with far reaching consequences. The scientific failures of psychoanalysis led to CBT, and the failure of ecology to offer a blueprint for ‘Spaceship Earth’ prefigures climate change alarmism.

    There’s more to it than that, of course, and much more particular to each movement’s history over the century. But the point is that the promises of both schools from the outset was the myth of equilibrium, and that they are more like twin siblings, born out of the same historical social context than they are distant cousins, with only vague familial resemblances. The myth of equilibrium persists, and offers more political utility than it produces scientific insight.

    (Of course some would not like my view of psychoanalysis, and claim that they have got a lot out of it. That is for them. In the same way, I think many people have quite likely found the principles of ecology rewarding, and I would hope that they would not misunderstand my point as being directed against their choices about their own lifestyle. I am talking here about politics, my starting point for which is precisely the point that people are capable of making their own decisions, and should be free to experiment with lifestyle, or even therapies, to make their lives more rewarding. I’m talking here about politics, which is often smuggled in under superficial ‘science’ and expertise.)

    Liked by 1 person

  26. John, thanks, appreciated.

    ‘Its overselling, however, is enabled by a bogus neurological theory that results from System 2 thinking at its most motivated.’

    Very succinctly put.


  27. @Ben.
    ‘The myth of equilibrium persists…’

    Indeed it does, even though for nature this myth is in direct conflict with the concept of evolution, and ironically, even though ecologists often use the acceptance of evolution (or not) as the benchmark for a wider acceptance of science (or an anti-science stance). Yet it’s only the typically long timescales and gradual nature of many changes (between more punctuated stages), that create a surface impression of net equilibrium.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Ben,

    “The scientific failures of psychoanalysis led to CBT…”

    Yes, that is how I understand it. A psychoanalyst named Aaron Beck turned to cognitive therapy in the treatment of depression after he noted the lack of empirical evidence for the efficacy of psychoanalysis. To cut a long story short, his cognitive approach was amalgamated with behaviour therapy (itself a development from the behaviorist school of psychology) to form CBT. Of course, what followed then were lots of studies that purported to demonstrate the efficacy of CBT.

    However, irrespective of any practical value that may have been discerned by such studies, it still needs to be said that the scientific foundation for CBT remained as flakey as that for the psychoanalytical approaches it superseded. Adler, for example, is often cited as an influential figure for those who developed CBT, but his approach owed a lot more to his socialist ideology than it did to any sound, scientific understanding of how the brain worked. Too often, the psychologists would employ scientific metaphors in their theories in an attempt to give them a scientific aura. For example, much of the theory of psychodynamics borrowed scientific concepts such as ‘force’ and ‘equilibrium’ and used them in a thoroughly naïve and facile fashion.

    Ultimately, I believe the key to CBT’s practical value lies in its adoption of the wisdom of Epictetus and the stoics’ position regarding the relationship between the human mind and the universe: Basically, you can’t change the universe, but you can change how you think about it. In other words, if you can’t get what you want, then want what you can get.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Far from being off topic, I think John’s article is extremely important, in that it underlines how two simple words in the English language: “scientific” and “useful” have been confounded. Unlike John, I couldn’t give a toss about the role of the hippocampus in the limbic system. It’s not what “works” that matters but what is true.

    Unlike Hans Erren (18 Aug 18 at 9:11 am ) I don’t believe that: “Freudian psychotherapy has also been debunked, but still is very popular.” On the contrary, Freud’s discovery of the unconscious, and of its contents has been the subject of one of the greatest coverups since – I dunno, nine eleven? The Skripal poisonings? Goodness, what am I saying?

    Freud’s “Interpretation of Dreams” was published in 1905 and largely ignored. Ten, twenty years later, it was probably the most influential intellectual theory in the Western world. Of course, very few people had read it. But those people were the poets, the artists, the philosophers who “made” our culture. The fact that Virginia Woolf, Ludwig Wittgenstein and John Maynard Keynes drank tea together matters . No-one drinks tea with anyone anymore, which allows Bob Ward to spread his slime.

    Further down this thread Ben Pile (19 Aug 18 at 1:44 pm) says of ecology and of psychoanalyisis:

    that the promises of both schools from the outset was the myth of equilibrium, and that they are more like twin siblings, born out of the same historical social context than they are distant cousins, with only vague familial resemblances. The myth of equilibrium persists, and offers more political utility than it produces scientific insight.

    This is bollocks. Ben may well be the most insightful commenter on climate hysteria, but he knows nothing about psychoanalysis, which is as far from proffering a myth of equilibrium as is cliscep. We don’t know where we’re going. That’s the glory of it, as Humpty Dumpty would say.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Contra yr human mythical thinking, y’ve got
    Evolution… so inconvenient, so unemotional,
    so trial and error, empiric feed-back orientated,
    so non-ideologue.


  31. Beth, you’ve also got
    Plate Tectonics
    So relentless, so inexorable
    Crushing marine dreams
    Shaking the world
    Melting and
    Raising aloft, changing climates

    Liked by 2 people

  32. Geoff —This is bollocks. Ben may well be the most insightful commenter on climate hysteria, but he knows nothing about psychoanalysis, which is as far from proffering a myth of equilibrium as is cliscep.

    Though he was no radical, Tansley too strongly believed science should serve a social end and he often expressed sympathy with leftist views. As the Russian revolution advanced he was even accused of promoting ‘Botanical Bolshevism’ and in effect was denied a professorship at Oxford because of his (botanically) radical views. Devastated by the conservative dons at Oxford he turned to psychology partly as a personal therapy, but also in order to be of some help in a society shattered by war. The result was his book ‘New Psychology and its Relation to Life’. […]

    Its success was partly due to Freud’s theories being in vogue. Tansley’s book was received in the larger audience as a thriller exposing hidden sexual forces in human societies. All the attention helped to establish Tansley as a scholar outside the closed circle of botanists and ecologists. He frequented psychology circles and lectured on Freud’s theory of sexuality before the British Society for the Study of Sex-Psychology. His book was a popularized explanation of such clinical psychology, and aimed at a broad audience. He was taken by surprise, however, when he discovered that it was used as a textbook for students of the topic.

    The book is largely a synthesis of Freud’s psychology and a discussion (as the title suggests) of how it relates to life. The human mind, Tansley argues, follows the laws of biology, and these laws are allegedly best expressed in Freud’s psychology. Tansley saw in that psychology a theory of how interactions of psychic energies search for an unconscious equilibrium within the mind and ultimately within society.

    In ‘New Psychology’ Tansley outlines how the mind’s psychic energy constitutes a person’s libido. The mind is not alone; its energy reaches other minds and hence creates social energies, clusters and networks. The mind’s social life includes primary channels to secure biological needs, secondary utilitarian channels which measure psychic cost and benefit, and luxury channels for pure enjoyment of life. Most importantly, the economy of psychic energy must be in balance with its environment. A good mind always tries to restore a lost equilibrium, and a good leader always tries to create a well-organized herd out of a messy crowd in a society. It is likely that Tansley was inspired by Herbert Spencer, the eminent Victorian philosopher and social theorist (he coined the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’). Although Tansley does not specifically refer to Spencer, Tansley’s writings about equilibrium of the mind and social herds clearly reflect Spencer’s principles.

    Whole essay, and others on the same subject at . This one is by Peder Anker, who has a broader critique of ecology & environmentalism, though probably wouldn’t welcome our perspective.

    The history of psychoanalysis includes in it Tansley, who it seems was close to Freud. Ditto, if Freud’s motivation was not towards an understanding of how some kind of disturbance or other caused in the individual some kind of aberrant psychology to develop, and that this mechanism, amongst others, once understood said something about the composition of society and its order, then what was he saying?

    Another, question concerns us more nearly. What means does civilization employ in order to inhibit the aggressiveness which opposes it, to make it harmless, to get rid of it, perhaps? We have already become acquainted with a few of these methods, but not yet with the one that appears to be the most important. This we can study in the history of the development of the individual. What happens in him to render his desire for aggression innocuous? Something very remarkable, which we should never have guessed:, and which is nevertheless quite obvious. His aggressiveness is introjected, internalized; it is, in point of fact, sent back to where it came from — that is, it is directed towards his own ego. There it is taken over by a portion of the ego, which sets itself over against the rest of the ego as super-ego, and which now, in the form of ‘conscience’, is ready to put into action against the ego the same harsh aggressiveness that the ego would have liked to satisfy upon other, extraneous individuals. The tension between the harsh super-ego and the ego that is subjected to it, is called by us the sense of guilt; it expresses itself as a need for punishment. Civilization, therefore, obtains mastery over the individual’s dangerous desire for aggression by weakening and disarming it and by setting up an agency within him to watch over it, like a garrison in a conquered city.

    — Civiliisation and its discontents. Freud. 1930.

    If you do not believe that this is an attempt to systematise the mind in relation to society, predicated on a presupposition of an equilibrium as the optimum state of a relationship between them, please tell me what it is


  33. Yes, Alan, yr inexorable plate tectonics
    and them oceans …

    Across the great continents,
    drifting shadows brush the plains
    with fugitive mist, distant
    mountains, rim the sky that lifts
    across latitudes from sombre
    indigo to brilliant azurite…

    Earth is the water planet,
    all its great continents shifting
    in a world awash with seas,
    crested waves rifting its shores…
    Noah’s flood is with us yet,
    its opal waters inundate
    the land with mirrored pools…

    Water planet, viewed from space,
    like a snap-shot from the gods,
    a shimmering orb,
    netted in a cloud haze.


  34. Alan, sorry for not responding about your book recommendation. I tend to be rather scatter-brained and have a short attention span. I lost the thread of this thread days ago! There have been studies which demonstrate the mutual production of oxytocin in both humans and dogs when they interact, This at least demonstrates that exactly the same biochemical triggers are present in both dogs and humans and probably evolved contemporaneously over the many thousands of years since dogs (wolves) first arrived in human encampments and the mutually beneficial relationship developed from there. How these biochemical signals are processed in humans, I have a good idea. What my dog is actually ‘thinking’ when he/she comes over and licks my face, I wouldn’t hazard to guess! But if love is devotion, dogs have it in spades, probably in excess of us humans.


  35. Geoff,

    “…psychoanalysis, which is as far from proffering a myth of equilibrium as is cliscep.”

    Well, I suppose it depends upon what is meant by the ‘myth of equilibrium’. The concept of equilibrium is certainly central to psychoanalysis in the guise of psychodynamics. In this regard, Freud was borrowing from thermodynamics as he spoke of flows of psychological energy and the balancing of psychological forces (both conscious and sub-conscious). If I had to sum up thermodynamics in one word I might very well be tempted to choose ‘equilibrium’. However, if by ‘myth of equilibrium’ we are talking about equilibrium between psychic energies and the environmental, then the matter becomes a little less clear to me.

    For example, if we are talking about the social environment, I can see a role for ‘equilibrium’ within the work of Adler as he makes a link between social inequality and the holistic integrity of the individual. However, I wouldn’t claim to be that conversant with such work and so I wouldn’t want to push this point too far.

    However, if it is the ecological environment that we are talking about then one finds the ‘myth of equilibrium’ in its starkest expression within the modern ecopsychology movement. You could not hope to meet a more well-meant, decent bunch of idiotic nut-jobs than the ecopsychologists. As I’ve commented before, there is a tendency within the psychological ‘sciences’ to overuse scientific analogy to bestow a veneer of respectability to what are, often, essentially non-scientific theories. But nobody does this more than the echo-psychologists. Evidence the following snippet of profound wisdom taken from their canon:

    ‘We helped each other realize that our love for or attraction to Nature that we were exploring was our 54 natural senses organically registering Albert Einstein’s Higgs Boson Unified Attraction Field attracting all things into consciously belonging in the Universe’s time and space of the moment’.

    One of these days I’ll write an article on echo-psychologists. They certainly have had a lot to say about me.


  36. Jaime. Obviously our dogs do not “think” in the way you or I do, because this requires a language within which to process those thoughts. However, it is reasonable to conclude that dogs “nuzzle up” to language in that they clearly gain a detailed understanding of some words especially those associated with pleasure – walk, dinner, toy’s names. From observation, those words elicit a squad of reactions that cannot be interpreted any other way than that the animal associates the words in the same way that we do.
    Over my life I have periodically returned to the subject of thinking in animals. At university I read zoology as well as geology. I recall a flaming disagreement with a lecturer on the subject. He would not entertain even the possibility of great apes thinking (and this was after several gorillas had been taught ASL and made up new words). The fear of being accused of anthropomorphism was then rife and still pervades a true understanding of our pets.

    I have no belief that my granddaughter’s budgie, with its reptilian brain, knows much.


  37. @John, I think it’s fair to say that and its resident ‘maverick genius’ are at the absolute fringe of climate psychology and then some. Certainly not representative. Which is not to say that what one might regard as the mainstream for this area, as contributed by a large raft of professionals, isn’t completely hi-jacked by calamitous climate culture. Per my series at WUWT and other posts, the most interesting characteristic is that all their work outside the climate domain solidly confirms all the biases and behaviours they exhibit within the climate domain.


  38. John. — ‘We helped each other realize that our love for or attraction to Nature that we were exploring was our 54 natural senses organically registering Albert Einstein’s Higgs Boson Unified Attraction Field attracting all things into consciously belonging in the Universe’s time and space of the moment’.

    Early on in my climate denial career, a green friend of mine suggested that Lomborg’s climate scepticism {sic} was owed to his being gay, and therefore ‘outside the continuity of nature’. (He was big on analysis, too, but became a constant anxious wreck, though had once been capable of being great company.)

    I’m looking forward to your article on ecopsychology. Here’s one of mine.


  39. Having been triggered by corvid mention; I remember a few years ago tossing some Ritz (If I remember right) crackers on the ground. A raven observed this and came down for the crackers. I expected the raven to choose one. But what it did was turn them all the same way up; the crackers are slightly concave on one side and convex on the other. So the raven turned them so the convex sides were up, then stacked four or five of the crackers, and flew off with the entire stack. Had it tried to stack them without turning them the same way up the stack would have been unstable.


  40. Having been referred for CBT and other talking therapies several times in recent years it seems to me that in order for CBT to work you have to believe that it will work. If, as I did, you start to think too much about it then it quickly becomes obvious that it makes no sense. However it seems to me that if you believe it will work then there is a chance it will, due to the placebo effect. The similarity to CAGW is therefore obvious, and believing that CBT works and CAGW is real are just that, beliefs and nothing more. In this way they are no different to other beliefs such as religion, in that believing comes first followed by trying to find evidence to support your beliefs. In the same way as some one who believes in the power of prayer will interpret evidence, e.g. I was feeling unwell, prayed for relief, and got better, as proof of their beliefs believers in CAGW think the Earth is warming and so will interpret a heatwave as proof of this. In both cases they ignore alternative explanations, and therefore show that their beliefs are just that, beliefs and not truths. In an age when many people are not religious in the traditional sense it seems like they need something else to believe in.
    In the same way as CBT therapists (and religious leaders) don’t like people asking too many difficult questions, believers in CAGW tell us to accept the view of experts and not question them, again showing that it is no more than a belief system.

    Liked by 1 person

  41. Matthew, sorry, your comment got stuck in moderation, since you are new here.

    Yes, I think you are probably right. If you go along to CBT sessions as a grumpy old cynic who is convinced that it’s not going to work, then it probably won’t, but if you’ve heard great things about it from others, and believe them, it’s much more likely to help.


  42. Mathew, Paul,

    You are both correct. Believing it would work was pivotal. I have simplified the story of my encounter. The point at which the session actually ended was when the counsellor said, “If you are not prepared to accept the truth of what I am telling you, then how do expect the therapy to work?” To which I responded, “I don’t”.

    I can’t imagine they would have withheld a drugs treatment just because I had expressed pessimism regarding the outcome.


  43. John it’s becoming progressively more apparent to me that you just didn’t deserve to be cured. CBT would have been completely wasted upon you. Using up a therapist’s time just to have a debate – whatever next (and bragging about it). You’re a denier and hankering back to the good ol’days of a good bleed.

    Liked by 1 person

  44. Alan,

    I am well rebuked. You’ve got me banged to rights. Still, I thought the wanted poster above the doctor’s receptionist desk was a bit OTT.


  45. Ben,

    “I’m looking forward to your article on ecopsychology. Here’s one of mine.”

    Eek! I hope you’re not expecting anything as erudite or well-researched as yours. I had in mind something a little more scatological and gonzo, but I’ll do my best to introduce a little gravitas.

    Liked by 1 person

  46. BEN PILE (20 Aug 18 at 8:55 am)

    Sorry, I’ve only just found your interesting comment. (The heat here on the Mediterranean coast causes my ancient Mac to play up, making writing hazardous until the temperatures drop about 4am. Then there’s the long meals and longer siestas that play havoc with my own operating system.)

    That there were people like Tansley connecting Freud to environmentalism is no surprise. People were connecting Freud to just about everything from circa 1920 to 1950.

    if Freud’s motivation was not towards an understanding of how some kind of disturbance .. in the individual .. and that this mechanism … said something about the composition of society and its order, then what was he saying?

    You’re quite right there. Freud’s great hope was to see the of the unconscious processes which he discovered reduced to physiology. (and in the quote you give, he applies a similar reductive method to cultural history) But that’s not what happened, either in the cognitive psychology which John so ably attacks or in the neurology he quotes approvingly. Instead, there’s been a massive attempt to efface Freud’s discoveries from the record.

    Insofar as Freud attempts to interpret psychology in terms of the search for an equilibrium state, I think he’s simply making the banal point that people, like amoebas, seek pleasure and avoid pain the way a ball rolls to the lowest point on the wobbly billiard table – a working hypothesis as general as Newton’s laws. It would take a lifetime of research to find out what the greens are after, but it seems to me that it’s something more like perfection than equilibrium, with a stable population which can only be sustainable once three quarters of us have popped it and not been replaced; with a minimum of plastic but a maximum of species in the oceans, etc. Yes, they’re looking for a stable equilibrium, but only because they’re seeking perfection like any millenarian cult, and once they’ve achieved it, there’ll be no need to change it.

    Liked by 2 people

  47. I see John Ridgway (20 Aug 18 at 11:30 am) makes much the same point rather better. And he has a lovely quote which Google tells me comes from I haven’t dared to go there yet.


  48. Just a quick point:

    good therapy is good because it works, regardless of whether it should work or if anyone knows why it works.

    So lack of a sound physical basis is not a fatal objection to CBT, though of course it DOES imply that therapists propounding just-so stories about why it works (to the extent that it does work) are not being honest. I prefer the answer given me by a lecturer and expert practitioner of ECT (which works, especially when it works): it works by rebooting the brain, like your ancient Mac. In other words, nobody is pretending to know why.


  49. Brad,

    As a child of the sixties and seventies, I have learnt everything I know from rock music. On this subject, I defer to the Sensational Alex Harvey:

    “If your body’s feelin’ bad
    And it’s the only one you have
    You want to take away the pain
    Go out walkin’ in the rain
    You watch the flowers go to bed
    Ask the man inside yah head
    Your spirit never has to grieve
    All yah got to do’s believe”

    Liked by 1 person

  50. Brad:- “good therapy is good because it works, regardless of whether it should work or if anyone knows why it works.”

    In this therapeutic age, can the same not be said for political ideas?

    Climate change policy seems to make climate change “advocates” (whatever that’s supposed to mean) feel better. That their malaise is more often than not narcissism is by-the-by… Walking, rather than taking the unnecessary car journey… sorting the rubbish and putting out the recycling… living ‘sustainably’… They are reportedly things that give a warm glow, where there was seemingly dysphoria and inauthenticity.

    Up the food chain, it brings meaning, purpose, and consensus to disoriented politicians, parties and institutions.

    Climate change advocacy ‘works’. OTOH, Jordan Peterson (See Paul’s latest) doesn’t think it will bring the world together in harmony and consensus, as his questioner suggested. Nonetheless, it has ‘worked’, whether or not it has achieved its face-value objectives.

    Obviously, there are problems with the ‘therapy’ metaophor, just as there are problems with the doctor metaphor, which the climate advocates{sic} claim is appropriate in the sub-debate about Who Do We Trust. We also bind ourselves if we too zealously enforce a no-woman’s-land between the inner lives of the advocates{sic} and their projects — not something that has ever worried them when they put us under the microscope, however. Clearly some do internalise the climate crisis, and equally clearly, some project it, and a bit of both.

    Liked by 1 person

  51. Ben,

    “In this therapeutic age, can the same not be said for political ideas? ”

    not sure I agree 100% with your paleontology there—the Age of the Theropods was some time ago, I’m afraid.

    However it would be hard to improve upon this paragraph…

    “Climate change policy seems to make climate change “advocates” (whatever that’s supposed to mean) feel better. […] Walking, rather than taking the unnecessary car journey… sorting the rubbish and putting out the recycling… living ‘sustainably’… They are reportedly things that give a warm glow, where there was seemingly dysphoria and inauthenticity.”

    …except by pointing out the non-segue-tur between climate policy and personal climate-mitigating lifestyle change. The former (by forcing us all to pretend to care about AGW) would indeed bring an all-but-orgasmic glow to most activists; but as to the latter, its effects remain speculative, since too few activists have actually tried it to draw valid conclusions.

    PS the confusing phrase is an abbreviation of “climate change retardation advocates.” As a matter of basic respect, I always address them by the full job title. You never know how informal terms can cause offense, so best to play it safe, methinks.


  52. Brad:- the Age of the Theropods was some time ago, I’m afraid.

    Indeed, but back then, men were men and women were women — to the extent that men and women existed. Since then, there was Prozac, and now only feelings are as big as lizards used to be. Prime ministers, pka psychopaths, explain what it is they ‘passionately believe‘, and to prove that their insides resonate with our insides, they hug-a-husky in front of a glacier (or a Greenpeace RIB). What better way to show that you really care than showing that you really care? The whole dying planet is but a prop for people who don’t want you to think of them as your ‘government’, but as your big sister. (Which is not to say that the planet isn’t dying, or that they’re not your government.)

    Back when giant lizards roamed, psychology was so much simpler. Mainly because it didn’t exist, but also because lizard brains are simpler than human brains (except deniers’ brains, obvs). Psychology was psychology, just as men were men, etc. And climate was climate. It was also a lot warmer, and there was more oxygen. But that’s detail. Now, all you need to know to explain anything is psychology and climate science.

    but as to the latter, its effects remain speculative, since too few activists have actually tried it to draw valid conclusions.

    Which is why we ask psychologists, “What makes us happy?” (We cannot know for ourselves.) With a 97% consensus, they say that the overwhelming (to the point of tears) evidence tells us that having almost nothing would make us ecstatic. The World Economic Forum’s pet Reader in Nineteenth-Century Studies, Vybarr Cregan-Reid, tells us we don’t even need doctors, medicine and hospitals to be as happy and healthy as stone age man. (Leaving aside all the dead babies and people who die along the way).

    Modern life does have many benefits, but when it persuades us to use transport, sit in a chair at work, or watch TV for extended periods, we increasingly have to turn to medicine for solutions because these habits are killing hundreds of millions of us each year.

    It only looks like bollocks that doesn’t even make a case that would pass a basic arithmetic check. But psychologists, and billionaire-funded think tanks are absolutely certain that civilisation was a bad idea. Except for them.

    You see, the lifestyle and the policy/politics are the same. As mid-twentieth century psychologists in Russia (far ahead of their time) have shown, only victims of some aberrant psychology could believe otherwise. Which is why psychologists now seek to explain why people don’t readily accept the facts that the psychologists present to them about what the science and the evidence and the truth says they must do.

    Liked by 2 people

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