Why Academics Have a Problem With My Work
Reason #1 is that I’ve violated the status hierarchy.
You may be surprised to hear that my work is not accepted in academia. Many people think I am just simplifying what is already said in neuroscience and psychology. That is not true, and I tried to explain it in the past, but people didn’t believe me! So I just left it at that, except to say that my degree is not in neuroscience. But the recent unpleasantness with Psychology Today (detailed in my prior post) motivated me to explain my differences with academia. This is not “just academic,” because they are the gatekeepers of “Truth” in today’s world.
Psychology Today objected to my “oversimplification,” but in my opinion, the real issue is that I have said MORE, not LESS, in my simple language. I am saying things that academics do not approve of. Two reasons for this disapproval come to mind:
I’ve violated the status hierarchy.
I’ve violated the progressive agenda.
This post focuses on #1, and next week’s post explores #2. Later posts will show how this affects you, because the therapy-industrial complex has much power over our lives. Future posts will also explain the source of my information, so you can make your own decisions about what is true.
The nicest thing I can say about academia is that it operates in silos. That means you cannot use information from outside your discipline. And even within your discipline, you must interpret facts in the way that’s approved by those above you in the silo. Otherwise, it’s career suicide. Thus, people carefully to stick to the paradigm they’re credentialed in, and focus on tiny debates within it. If I had been credentialed in psychology or neuroscience, I would be excommunicated for saying what I’m saying, and put my career at risk.
Every society in human history has had a priesthood. High priests tell people how to be virtuous, how to make sense of the cosmos, and how to find peace in a threatening world. This role is so vital that priests have always had top status. Priests maintain their power by submitting to higher-ranking priests, and uniting to fight rival priests. Academics have taught us to disdain religion, and thus they became our priesthood.
The academic claim to THE truth is based on Science. If you disagree with the academic position on any issue, you are condemned as anti-Science and thus evil or stupid. Personally, I believe that science is our best path to truth, but I do not believe that academics are following the scientific method as advertised.
Instead, they do what mammals do: compete for resources. Weaker individuals ally with stronger individuals to gain resources, status, and mating opportunity. When a new alliance grows stronger than an old alliance, a new “Truth” emerges. You get a cut of the resources if you ally with a group that has power. Sound scientific evidence helps an alliance unite, so knowledge does slowly advance in our world of human mammals. Thomas Kuhn famously said this without actually explaining the mammalian impulses that drive it.
Academics hold monopolies on Truth the way medieval guilds held monopolies on cloth or shoes or horseshoes. The guilds claimed to serve the public interest by exercising quality control. There is some truth to this. If you bought a horseshoe from a blacksmith who wasn’t trained by the official blacksmiths guild, the horseshoe could crack and spill your milk or hurt your child. You might also buy from guild members to protect yourself from retaliation. In short, people accepted the guilds, and even sold their children into guild apprenticeships. And guilds leveraged their power by plying public officials with free horseshoes.
Academia has a similar dynamic. It claims to serve the public interest by protecting you from the misinformation of non-academic sources. This argument has worked so well that news media and social media have embraced it. They enhance their power by producing positive information about public figures who reward them, and vice versa. In the end, most people submit to their Truth, and offer up their children. Thus, it’s important to know how academics decide what’s true.
You need a PhD in order to work in academia. The process for awarding them is purely objective, in theory, but a closer look shows that resources are controlled by a constellation of dominant individuals. If you submit to a dominant monkey, they share resources with you. Many young people see this as an attractive way to get resources, compared to the alternatives.
In graduate school, you learn to get rewards by mirroring respected individuals in your field. You learn to avoid harm by observing what gets other people in trouble. The reward structure is always shifting, so you are always makking decisions about which coalition to support. No one consciously thinks they are doing this, of course. Everyone believes they are running on pure empirical evidence.
I’m not saying academics only care about money. They care about safety and respect too, like other mammals. In today’s culture, a good path to safety and respect is conforming to academic expectations.
Our brains learn from rewards, especially the rewards experienced in youth. So if you spend your youth in academia, you get wired to seek rewards in that particular way. You don’t know other paths to rewards, and of course the alternatives have their problems too.
We believe own circuits. Once you get wired to believe that your academic conformity serves the greater good, it’s hard to think otherwise. You never think you are making horseshoes the way your mentors made them because it gets you respect, safety, and resources.
When I took early retirement from academia, I started producing information without the approval of a certified gatekeeper. I missed out on a cut of resources, but I saw that as my choice to make. Alas, the guildmasters of academia do not believe I have that choice. To them, a non-guild supplier of information is a threat to all guild members. Like other mammals, they bond around common threats. That is where we are today.
I am not faulting anyone for conforming to the academic truth-of-the-day, nor suggesting that my way is superior. We all strive to meet our survival needs with pathways built from our own past experience. My experience wired me not to trust the herd. A biologist might call it a “lone wolf” strategy. There are disadvantages to being a lone wolf, and disadvantages to be a herd follower, and disadvantages to being a dominant monkey. There are no easy paths in life, so we all weigh the data around us and look for our best next step. Fortunately, it’s the job our brain evolved to do!
I have not yet explained the difference between my work and academic neuroscience or psychology. Next week’s post delves into that. The week after , I’ll explain where my information comes from. And following that will be a post on the therapy-industrial complex.
My new book, Status Games: Why We Play and How to Stop, offers deeper insight into the status games of academia, the media, and humans in general. The book is on pre-order for September 8 delivery, and I’d be very grateful for any pre-orders because they’re a big deal in this business. (When I say “business,” I don’t mean the pennies per book that I earn; I mean my hopes of a contract for a next book.) Here is a free pdf of the first chapter of Status Games, plus a slideshow and links to non-Amazon suppliers.
Wonderful to see you on Substack and look forward to reading your new book and seeing your thoughts here as well.
I'll be happy to join you in the land of 'don't/won't fit the mold of academia, Loretta' - Frankly, I think I like it here better.... :-P