Sunday, March 01, 2009

I Could Be Wrong…

… but I sincerely doubt I am this time.

An old commenter has revisited my posts about Dr. Wayne Dyer, “Wherein I Believe That Dr. Wayne Dyer is a Gibbering Idiot” part 1, and part 2. I responded in the comments section and repeated that response below. I think some points need to be more specifically addressed.

The fierce Pet Food Emergency of Now (formerly known as Black Leopard) accuses me in his/her first recent comment of not addressing the points of the earlier comment. Let’s see if that holds water.

The Comment:

He may not be correct about everything he says, but it is actually idiotic to call him a gibbering idiot. Putting that label on the man is an instance of failure in analytical reasoning. Understand that I am not defending everything Wayne Dyer says. His model of reality may be over-extended, but he does have areas that he does very well in. His description of the behavior of neurotic people (and their failure to think positively in situations which truly call for it) in his earlier work is actually right on target. I do not agree with absolutely everything he says. It might be a 75% agree 25 % disagree kind of thing and I've often wondered what he would think of that. I don't believe that having an ego is necessarily a bad thing or causes one to be selfish,materialistic or unspiritual. What is interesting is how he can be so "cocksure" of mysticism as truth. He does have a good grasp of literary concepts. Also I don't believe that there is anything wrong with achieving goals, being proud of achievements, getting an "A" in a college course or reaching any other type of high standards of performance. You can have this big ego and still be liberal, humane, compassionate and altruistic. It depends on the semantics of the term ego. Maybe if one has high self-esteem we call that having a strong ego as opposed to overcompensating for feelings of inadequacy with a weak ego, but people assume that this is the case if they see someone striving to reach difficult goals.

My response at the time:

As stated in the post above.“Some prominent researchers* believe that our intelligence, creativity, and imagination interact with the energy field of intention rather than being thoughts or elements in our brain.”

This is a massive confusion of ideas, bordering on gibberish.I stand by my assessment. I know a flim-flam man when I hear one, and Dyer's work is a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing. In other words, he gibbers. If he believes that mystical stuff himself, he's an idiot. Anyone who tells you that you are tapping into a power outside yourself to accomplish your goals is both setting you up for magical thinking, and giving you a built-in excuse for failure.

I admit the phrase, “gibbering idiot” is a sound bite, calculated to create controversy and debate. The phrase, “I think that Dr. Wayne Dyer is a shrewd individual who creates semantic rat’s nests of intellectual-sounding oratory without much material content calculated to confuse an audience into thinking they are not smart enough to understand what he is trying to say, when in fact he is not saying much of anything” just does not have the same flow. There is also a well-documented phenomenon wherein con artists start believing their own bullshit. L. Ron Hubbard was such a case. If Dr. Dyer has succumbed to that ego trip, then in my opinion, that makes him an idiot, no matter how well educated he might be. How is that a failure in analytical reasoning?

Your statement: “He may not be correct about everything he says…” is also interesting. Persons running this kind of con depend on being given the benefit of the doubt. I extend no such courtesy. You meant, “might” by the way, but that is a battle long lost, and also subtly to the advantage of the con men. He can be correct about the composition of steel, the weather, the right way to burp a baby. It makes no difference regarding the assertions that I am “calling bullshit” on.

“I don't believe that having an ego is necessarily a bad thing or causes one to be selfish,materialistic or unspiritual.”

No, but we’re talking about the hypothetical state of Wayne Dyer here, not in generalities. I neglected to comment on this before for perceived lack of relevance. For the record, I think a healthy ego makes one unspiritual, and I couldn’t be happier about that. The rest of your comment is a bit of a word salad, I’ll address the points individually.

1. I’m not sure he is so “cocksure”. He might be faking for fun and profit.
2. A good grasp of literary concepts is helpful in creating fiction. The average human mind wants everything neat and formulaic. We like it when things meet our expectations or agree with our prejudices. Life is not so obliging.
3. Egoism does not necessarily correlate with achievement or striving to achieve. One can be goal-directed without being egotistical. One can be afraid of failure.
4. The only goal I can be sure of in Dr. Dyer’s case is the goal of banking his next million.
5. You say his model of reality is overextended. I say that it is a pure distortion that conforms nicely to the superstitious prejudices that have been aggressively programmed into the human race, but has little to do with reality . Reality is not decided by a consensus of opinion. You don’t get to vote on whether or not angels or leprechauns, or some pool of psychic intention energy are real. You must put up, or shut up. Just saying so is not proof.

Some other points you raise:

“Wayne Dyer would never feel that he had a need to respond to you because he believes in the principle of not caring what other people think of him and he is correct in identifying this as a fundamental principle of what is emotionally healthy.”

Not that he even knows I exist, but this behavior too is a façade. One must appear to be above one’s detractors, or have that much courage in one’s convictions or the façade cracks. His assertions cannot stand up to intense scrutiny, and this is a way to avoid it while appearing superior. Humans are social animals. While it is wrong to be a slave to public opinion, the opposite extreme is equally wrong, especially if your chosen profession is influencing other people. For them, you are merely replacing one source of external opinion with another, your own. Peer review is an important scientific and psychological principle, and that sort of opinion needs to be given some weight.

“In your conception of the world you must see yourself as a skin encapsulated ego that knows better than anyone else how the universe works.”

Straw Man Fallacy.

“As far as the distinction between mental faculties interacting with an energy field versus being thoughts in your own brain....., THOUGHTS IN YOUR OWN BRAIN?I hate to disappoint you but 1) Every thing comes from somewhere especially since 2) conservation of matter and energy states nothing is destroyed but simply changes form 3) Every bit of the matter and energy (and possibly consciousness)that you are made of came from processes such as chemical evolution that came from the "big bang" and the 4 basic physical forces of nature that were there before the "big bang". Did you think that you brought yourself into existence?”

1. I am well aware of the electro-chemical processes that allow the brain to function. I have a reasonably good understanding of how our bodies process food. The parts of the brain required to perform specific cognitive and motor functions are known, as can be demonstrated through the specific and predictable changes observed in victims of traumatic brain injury.
2. The Universe itself might be a closed system, but it is so immeasurably vast that the human brain cannot grasp it all at once. The Earth, and my body on the other hand are not closed systems. The Earth gets energy from the sun. My body ingests food and water, makes chemical changes designed to store and release energy, and excretes waste. I even make vitamin D from sunlight.
3. To directly attribute the process of chemical evolution to “the big bang”, one must first postulate alternative outcomes for the big bang. It is equally possible that the nature of proto-matter (black hole stuff) and energy made this outcome inevitable. Are there not enough possible variations in matter-energy particles without seeking more that do not conform to the nature of that which is already known? Do they not all share common building blocks?
4. There was no “nature” as you and I understand it before the big bang. There may indeed have been axioms of matter and energy. I think I was brought into existence by the process of sexual reproduction.

This is getting pretty long to be a single post, so I’ll end here with my initial response to these new comments.

Hi "The fierce Pet Food Emergency of Now",

You have done quite a bit of work here and given me some things to think about.

My blog is not abandoned. I have written a few things lately that I am not satisfied with, so they were not posted.

You accuse me of an Ad Hom. attack. I very carefully stated that this was my belief. I am not presenting it as an established fact as most mud-slingers attempt to do.

The man is a huckster. That statement is easy to prove. He sells unfounded New-Age pseudo-science to those who are subject to the techniques of mass hypnosis he employs in his "lectures". His intent is to make money. I cannot state with 100% certainty that he and the other mutually validating ilk at Hayhouse Publishing are wrong, but the burden of proof falls on those making the assertions. They have not one shred of scientifically verifiable evidence for their wild extrapolations on some of the wilder speculations of quantum mechanics. They are the modern snake oil salesmen. It doesn't matter to them whether or not their product is valid or effective, they have made a market and are vending for profit. They do not dazzle one with brilliance, they bamboozle with bullshit. Don't believe me? Watch Dr. Dyer with the sound off. Notice the props. Notice the symbolic weight of the props and what he does with them - he "endows". These are the actions of a calculating manipulator. Those who are trusting, and who have no prior experience with this type, and who are struggling to make sense of the nonsensical metaphysics they have been subjected to practically since birth, are like deer in the headlights.

So if I call Dr. Dyer an egomaniacal shitheel, that's not an attack against his beliefs. That's how I size him up.

As to his product, it shares many of the attributes of religious products and similar scams. It exploits a flaw in authority-based human behavior. I'm going to assume I don't have to take you through all the aspects of tribal alpha/non-alpha behavior. If you don't know what I'm talking about, say so, or watch a show on apes. Humans are not that different, just more language and symbols to go along with the rituals. At the outer ring of magical thinking, there is a construct. It is born of fear. Fear of adults when one is little. Fear of retribution. The construct goes, "If I push all the right buttons in just the right order, everything will be ok." The exploit is simply this: if the magic formula that promises enlightenment and/or wisdom and/or salvation and/or wealth isn't working, you must not be doing it quite right. Or put another way, you still don't quite get it, so buy another book.

* Those "promenent researchers" are other members of the Hayhouse Mutual Validation Society by the way. As far as I can tell, they gain promenence by pulling on each other's bootstraps.

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At 10:13 AM, Blogger Romeo Morningwood said...

Wow! I personally do not prefer Dyer's Straits and as far as I can assess, the whole New Agey Schmagey school of feeling over thought, and it's line of self-help products, is sheer hucksterism.

I totally enjoyed how you used his use of bamboozling with bullsh*t over substantive scientific testing. Seriously, these people have nothing to stand on other than how they feel. Which is nice and touchy-feely but it is also the perfect product for the aging Baby Boomers and the hyper-individualistic self-absorbed Me-o-sphere that they live in.

Great stuff...and I wish that you didn't worry about your unpublishables..they are still miles ahead of the pack.
Just sayin' is all.

At 1:18 PM, Blogger anton said...

This is the first time I have visited your blog. I agree with your assessment of "Wayne's World". He knows that there are millions of people out there who will pay lots to find in his ramblings at least one endorsement for their way of life, or at least, the life they envision for themselves.

In short, they want to feel the "warm and fuzzies" and he delivers it with style. He knows there is no need for substance. But, then again, don't try to tell any of his followers the truth.

At 6:28 PM, Blogger Tit for Tat said...

I agree with much of what you say about Dyer. There are many like him out there. I wonder though, how many people get benefit from what he does, compared to ones who are bamboozled. If he hits, lets say, on a 70% clip for good, wouldnt that be "good" enough? As far as psychic energy and stuff. Who knows whats out there. You dont know for sure, that much I know. There was time hundreds of years ago when someone thought they would fly like the birds, and werent they considered "nuts" too?

At 5:35 AM, Blogger breakerslion said...

Donn: Thank you. High praise coming from one with an obviously high standard for himself.

Anton: Welcome. You raise an interesting point. My focus was narrow enough to miss the unconscious motives of the audience. "Validation for everyone!" Lenny Bruce had a bit where The Lone Ranger never stuck around for "thank you masked man" because if he did, he'd get addicted. (If you're too young to remember the TV show, it often ended with some generic character saying, "We didn't even get a chance to thank him! Cut to: "High Ho Silver! Away!") I think modern child-rearing and childhood education techniques have created people addicted to validation.

Tit for Tat: Most scams have common elements. They will contain some mixture of theatrics, a circus atmosphere, a crowd on which to work mob psychology, unverifiable claims, endorsements, and a lack of accountability. Some form of misdirection, emotional appeal, or substitution will take place. The classic "Amway" style model also employs the slot machine mentality: give a little something back once in a while to keep people pulling the handle for the big payoff that probably won't be coming their way... but might.

Dr. Dyer creates a false construct that might indeed work for some people. Anyone who has been a student of psychology knows how this works. The model is an abstraction, describing some aspects or attributes of human behavior. It is helpful to describe and aid in understanding and prediction, but has only an analogous presence in the brain. Maslow's hierarchy, for example, does not mean that I hold a pyramid structure in my brain, consciously or unconsciously, and use it for all of my decision points.

For generations there have been people advocating that you get up in the morning, face the dawn, and ask for what you want. You don't even have to believe that someone is listening. The overt ideation and statement of your goals will help focus your actions and priorities. Ancient "Farmer's Almanac" style wisdom requiring no advanced degrees. If Dr. Dyer's construct works for anyone, I believe it is working on the same mental principle, bringing those priorities that require action to the forefront of your brain.

The actual success rate is probably not near 70% long-term, or even short term. A 16% success rate would be above average. Here's the thing about endorsements: you never hear from the failures. (Huked on fonix werked fer me!)

"As far as psychic energy and stuff. Who knows whats out there. You dont know for sure, that much I know."

That's true, but I'm not the one making assertions and pretending that I do. The motivation for placing "intent" outside my head and into some spiritual/dimensional nexus is obvious. "I discovered this "truth", so now you need ME (or my student/surrogates) to be your guide, conductor, guru, Medium, High Priest of the Mystery, so that you too can understand and tap into it. Pfui.

Your example of the birds and flying breaks down as a comparison. Mankind had the birds themselves as an example of how flying is done. The more scientific among them set about understanding the principles involved and overcoming the engineering of a solution. The detractors were the conservative and religious minded ("If man were meant to fly, God would have given him wings"). This was the type that thought those struggling with the problem were "nuts". Meanwhile, people like Da Vinci were compiling anatomical drawings and mechanical representations, and hard blueprints to explain the observable phenomenon. In Dr. Dyer's case, he has gone straight from hypothesis to behavioral model without any physical evidence to support his assertions.

At 9:28 AM, Blogger The Editor said...

Actually I was flabbergasted by the apparent shift in Dr Dyer's perceptions.

Having read 'Your Erroneous Zones' and that other tome 'Pulling Your Own Strings' a while back which seemed to make general sense, I could only conclude that Dr Dyer has more recently simply lost his marbles.

At 9:50 AM, Blogger breakerslion said...

the editor: I'm not so sure he's lost his marbles, I think he's just gone to the Dark Side.

At 8:46 PM, Anonymous Black Leopard said...

Who is O RLY?

At 9:13 PM, Anonymous Black Leopard said...

Congratulations. You seem to have built your own cadre or entourage of people whose philosophical biases as "pseudo-skeptics" and having a "false sense of being scientific" that accept your opinion without much thought on their part.

The only thing you have really accomplished in all this time is to promote your own "confusion of ideas" which is to confuse "critical thinking" with a minimalist picture of the universe known as materialism.

Fact is that Science is disproving the validity of materialism and one of the ways it is doing that, is by showing that matter is not what materialists would have to believe it is.


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