In Forbes Paul Hsieh finds himself obliged to defend himself, and us, against a proposal by a NYU psychology professor that therapists address “not just the demons of a patient’s subconscious, but the horrors of climate change.” Which, she added, is difficult because “Together with the colonialist past we all share, this history of slavery and its ongoing effects, of which we rarely speak, blinds us to the misery that our carbon-and-methane spewing lifestyles are creating in the global south.” The tendency of the “social sciences” to turn into grievance studies, and become thinly disguised politics, is to be deplored in all areas, but especially ones with potential medical consequences.
Now it might be tempting to dismiss adjunct professor at New York University and psychoanalyst Donna Orange as just one oddball person giving one weird talk, and to adapt Cicero’s crack that there is nothing so absurd but some philosopher has said it. But the notion that skepticism about climate change is a mental illness to be cured rather than the product of rational inquiry is regrettably gaining ground.
The same idea was put forward by two authors in Psychology Today back in January in what an amateur might consider a rather paranoid piece about how “we are the victims of a well-funded and sophisticated misinformation campaign that attempts to keep us in the dark about climate change” but that psychology can help us overcome our “denial” reflex. And in a November 2018 TED talk, Dr. Katharine Hayhoe brushed aside various questions about natural cycles, the role of the sun and the tendentiousness of heavily funded alarmist science, before a chuckling audience, by saying “these are just sciencey-sounding smoke screens, that are designed to hide the real reason for our objections, which have nothing to do with the science and everything to do with our ideology and our identity.” Naturally this sad state of psychological chaos never afflicts those who feel virtuous because they are saving the planet from us messed-up chumps.
One might well hesitate to entrust a fragile friend or relative to a psychotherapist inclined to berate them about colonialism and seek to cure them of scientific curiosity. The more fields from history to psychology become infused with radical leftist ideology, the less, ironically, they retain their capacity to enhance the human dignity of which radical leftism speaks so highly, instead crushing individualism under a rock of dogma.
It’s especially troubling in psychology, Hsieh notes, given the history of abuse of that profession “in countries such as China and the former Soviet Union to stifle political dissent by labeling unpopular views as “mental illness.”
Physician, heal thyself.