30 April 2010

More about how to do research

What I last wrote about “B” reminded me of another indication of how much less effective in its methods the Hardy Centre was than us.

One day B brought in to the Department* a collection of reports of would-be religious experiences, and asked those present to see whether they could pick out the subjects with a psychiatric history. Only Charles was able to do this; nobody else could do it at all, and it did not appear that B or anyone else at the Hardy Centre would know how to do this.

The first time I told an academic about this some years ago, they said, “How can you tell?” (which ones are psychiatric). And I said it depended on being aware of psychological dimensions which were not recognised in modern psychology.

People often ask questions like this in relation to fields of research which one can see how to make progress in, as if anything one knows about them must be so simple and obvious that it can be explained to them in one sentence. Or, maybe, that it must be so subtle and complicated that nobody could understand it, including myself.

Actually, I had very extensive information about psychological dimensions which might be relevant, which I had acquired by surviving the psychological attacks on me in the course of my ‘education’, by absorbing the past history of the Society for Psychical Research and the life experience of Salter and Sir George, by reading old-fashioned psychology and modern psychiatry, and by interviewing the subjects who came into the SPR office to report experiences, including some who clearly were classifiably psychotic.

What is recognised in the personality tests of modern experimental psychology is very limited, the object being to recognise as the norm the psychology of a decentralised person with an IQ of 100. In order to extend the range of personality factors that could be taken into account, it would be necessary to set up new questionnaires from scratch, which would be very time and labour intensive. Most tests are not standardised for different levels of IQ, although some are standardised for different occupations.

It is not only the case that I had discovered a lot more about psychology than had been known previously, but also that modern experimental psychology had deliberately reduced its range, so that the potentially threatening parts of the most enlightened pre-1945 psychology were excluded. (Hence the name ‘Experimental Psychology’ to distinguish it from old-fashioned ‘Psychology’. )

* Oxford’s Department of Experimental Psychology

19 April 2010

How to do research

What I wrote about Professor Hardy recently reminded me that “B” had said how impressive he had found the books we wrote on the basis of our appeals for cases, showing how much information we had got out of them. Tacitly he admitted that the Hardy Centre had, in contrast, really got next to nothing out of its appeal for cases of religious experiences.

“B“ was another person (with a degree in psychology) who was employed by Professor Hardy as an assistant, to avoid employing either me or Charles, since I had rejected the constant approaches which were made to persuade me to work for Hardy for nothing, and especially to get something out of the cases which lay around in boxes.

So perhaps I ought to explain how remarkable was what I derived from the work that was possible within the very constricted funding provided by Cecil King. Nobody else could have produced anything so constructive even by spending far more money and working in far better circumstances than I was forced to do.

Plenty of people with (at least fairly) high IQs and academic status had known about the phenomena as reported, without recognising the various types into which they could be classified, and how they might be related.

This work should have been seen, and still should be seen, as ample justification for providing me with a professorship and at least one research department within which further research could proceed within the areas that had been opened up.

In fact, the breakthroughs that had been made in defining previously unrecognised areas were acknowledged only in the sense that “research” in those nominal areas was initiated, and carried out by people who already had academic salary and status and who were sufficiently identified with the modern outlook to avoid any sensitive issues. On the other hand, I and my associates were kept statusless, unsalaried and deprived of support in any form.

17 April 2010

The risks of consulting a doctor

In Tuesday’s Daily Mail there is an article headed:

Pharmacists are selling more and more drugs over the counter to patients who haven’t consulted their doctor, posing the question ... Is your chemist putting your life at risk?

But no one ever makes the point that any contact with a “doctor", or “socially authorised sadist” as we call them here, is putting more than your life at risk and should be avoided at any cost. The medical “profession” in the oppressive society is totally immoral.

“Medical ethics” is an impossible association of terms, but socially accredited “philosophy” departments of “universities” continue to pour out books and papers on this topic, of which the philosophy department of my suppressed and unrecognised university is being prevented from publishing criticisms, which would analyse the unquestioned assumptions implicitly being made.

Meanwhile intrusions on individual liberty continue to be made at a rate of knots. I remember a time when pharmacists did not consider it their business to interrogate a customer before allowing him to make a purchase. Now they are evidently legally required to do so.

Further comment

The Mail article about “medical ethics” is ostensibly triggered by the deregulation of a medication which is used by middle-aged men, described in the article as “a segment of the population which is notoriously slow in asking for medical help” (or “exposing themselves to medical abuse”, as I would put it).

The current system is clearly discriminating against those who, for whatever reason, avoid exposing themselves to the dangerous and abusive situation of “asking for medical help”. Statistically, men are more disinclined than women to do this (being less tolerant of decentralising situations – i.e. more realistic) so, if the obvious and ascertainable benefits of seeking “help” from a doctor are statistically greater than the harm that results from the lack of those benefits, men are being placed at a disadvantage to women in the oppressive society, because the detrimental psychological aspects of what is on offer are evidently more damaging to men than to women. It is very similar to the way they are discriminated against in the “educational” system, in which girls have become not only as “successful” as boys, but more so.

08 April 2010

Reflections on Professor Sir Alister Hardy, founder of the Religious Experiences Research Centre

If you are motivated to believe that innate ability does not exist and all ability is the result of social interaction, then it is important to keep people who have been obviously precocious deprived of opportunity.

When Professor Sir Alister Hardy gave a paid research job to someone with a PhD in law so that he could make something of the boxes of case reports (of religious experiences) which had been received in response to an appeal superficially resembling those which I had previously made, he did not even attempt to contribute suggestions about how they were to be analysed. This was in the early Seventies, a few years after he had founded the Religious Experiences Research Unit (as the Religious Experiences Research Centre was then called) based at Manchester College, Oxford.

The person he employed as paid Research Assistant - without offering the job to either me or Dr Charles McCreery, who had extensive knowledge of all relevant areas as well as previous experience of analysing our own appeals, although not while holding an academic appointment - was a PhD in law, with no relevant knowledge or experience. But no doubt Hardy and his advisors, who included Rosalind Heywood and Dame Janet Vaughan of Somerville, thought no one could criticise him for appointing someone with a PhD instead of me, who had only a BLitt. All that counts is academic status. His qualification was in nothing relevant, and mine was as relevant as possible, although the work I had done in getting it had provided only a small part of the information which I had acquired in areas which were actually relevant.

Although Dr McCreery did not have a research degree at that time, he also was really much better qualified than the PhD in law, since he had a degree in Experimental Psychology (supposedly relevant, although really not much, though certainly more relevant than law) as well as the extra information which he had acquired in working with me on the research I was able to do while partially funded by the King money, including the appeals for cases.

The PhD in law who was hired was just waved at the boxes of cases and left alone to do whatever he could think of. He conceived the idea of running the cases through a computer to analyse the frequency with which certain words occurred, but I never heard that he had any idea which words might be more relevant than any others.

But the object of the exercise was to keep me destitute and inactive, and it succeeded in that.