The Science of Explanations
You’ll never convince anyone that something works by explaining away its failures.
Imagine a scientist demonstrating his new invention – an anti-gravity device – in front of an auditorium of his peers. He tries to make it work, and it fails again and again. And each time it fails, he has another explanation: “the temperature isn’t right in here,” “there’s too much humidity,” “the planets aren’t aligned properly,” or even “there are too many negative vibes in here.” Well, you’d see people walking out, disgusted. The man is obviously a charlatan.
Well, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he did get it to work in his temperature- and humidity-controlled lab. But then he should have demonstrated it in his lab and explained its limitations.
You’ll never convince anyone that something works by explaining away its failures.
Unfortunately this is a lesson that organized Scientology – and many Scientologists – have yet to learn.
Even Scientologists who have left the Church sometimes get into this. The failures of organized Scientology are explained away as “it’s all David Miscavige.” Sure, the man is a highly destructive sociopath. But, as I’ve stated before, this doesn’t even fit Hubbard’s own Data Series criteria for a real Why. A Who is not a Why. And this statement can be “how-comed.” How come a single SP can take over and corrupt an entire organization that claims to have the technology to handle SPs?
There are many Independent Scientologists who are genuinely interested in learning from the mistakes and failures of organized Scientology, really digging in and finding why the Church went bad and working to prevent it from happening again. But there are a few, what we might call fundamentalist or doctrinaire Scientologists, who refuse to consider systemic factors. And certainly the Church would never admit to any systemic flaws.
The Good Barrel
After my recent posting of what I consider to be the twelve systemic factors that make Scientology organizations toxic and abusive, we had a few of these explanations. To go back to our bad apple/bad barrel analogy, they claim the barrel, the Scientology system, is perfect, but it’s been corrupted and misapplied by imperfect people – “bad apples.”
“People are stupid,” I was told. “They are too stupid to correctly apply Scientology.” Well, outside of being arrogant, this statement doesn’t hold water. Isn’t Scientology supposed to raise intelligence?
“People are evil,” I was also told. “They will always corrupt a system like Scientology to evil ends.” Again, that makes no sense. Scientology has Ethics tech, FPRD and other things that are supposed to handle evil purposes and out-Ethics.
Someone even said, “What do you expect? We’re on Planet Earth!” I’m sorry, my understanding is that Scientology is supposed to handle Planet Earth. Wasn’t the whole point to “Clear the Planet”? If the majority of people are too stupid or too evil or too aberrated to correctly apply Scientology, then I’m sorry, how can you call it workable in any sense of that term?
To go back to the “bad apple/bad barrel” analogy, Scientology claims to be the ultimate “good barrel.” Put any sort of apple in the bottom and it emerges at the top not just a good apple, but a golden apple. Then when the whole barrel of organized Scientology goes bad, we are told it’s due to “bad apples.” Well, people would be justified in asking, “isn’t that exactly what you claim to handle? Bad apples?”
Whenever there is a discussion about the “workability of Scientology,” Scientologists tend to focus on the microcosm of specific individual wins and gains. “I had wins,” “My PCs had wins,” “As a C/S, I saw many people getting wins.” All very valid testimony, and that’s great that people get individual results from studying or applying Scientology. Seriously, that’s a good thing.
But when outsiders question the workability of Scientology, they are usually looking at the macrocosm of Scientology – the big picture. Where are the thousands of successful, booming organizations? Where are the tens of thousands of Clears and OTs visibly demonstrating the traits and abilities Hubbard said they would gain? Where is the tangible evidence of Scientology’s benign influence on society (outside of their own event puffery)? Where is the visible, solid, big-picture success of Scientology that anyone can see?
Scientology has had over 50 years to create the “islands of sanity” it claims to be able to create. Well, where are they?
But when you try to take this up with a Scientology fundamentalist to get some answers, you tend to get a litany of explanations. To demonstrate what I mean, here’s something I wrote a while back but never published here – a fictional discussion between a Scientologist and a non-Scientologist.
Conversation with a Scientologist
Non-Scientologist: So, tell me about Scientology.
Scientologist: Well, it’s a religious philosophy which contains tools that anyone can use to improve their life. These are workable tools that have been proven to be uniformly successful if they are applied correctly.
Non-Scientologist: OK, but forgive me if I question your statement about being uniformly successful. I’ve seen some disturbing things online. Apparently the head of Scientology is a sociopath who is physically and verbally abusive to his staff, many staff are treated no better than slaves, the organizations put incredible pressure on their members to come up with more and more money, people are forced to disconnect from their families, the Scientology organizations are failing, emptying out, and there are a lot of defections, including top level OTs. There have even been OT suicides. That doesn’t seem to indicate uniform success.
Scientologist: Well, you have to understand that people running the Church are not correctly applying Scientology. They’ve altered the technology. What they are doing is not Scientology.
Non-Scientologist: I’m sorry, you’re saying that Scientology doesn’t apply Scientology?
Scientologist: No. the official Church doesn’t apply Scientology.
Non-Scientologist: I see. Well, if alteration of the technology is such a major problem, maybe Hubbard should have warned people about it. Maybe he should have written an issue alerting them to the dangers of altering the technology, and had every Scientologist read it at the beginning of every course. And maybe he should have set up a part of the organization as a sort of Quality Control to police this sort of thing.
Scientologist: Well, actually, he did those things.
Non-Scientologist: Oh. Well, then, why didn’t that work?
Scientologist: Well, that’s because people have misunderstoods. They can’t duplicate what they are reading. They even have something called Crashing Misunderstoods.
Non-Scientologist: I see. That sounds like a serious block. Maybe Hubbard should have written something warning people about the importance of understanding words. Maybe he should have developed a technology of how to study, and how to handle these “Crashing Misunderstoods.”
Scientologist: Well, actually, he did. It’s called Study Tech.
Non-Scientologist: OK. Well, why didn’t that work?
Scientologist: Well, people don’t apply it! They don’t clear their words. They’re out-ethics! They are just blinded by their own overts –transgressions – and they have withholds.
Non-Scientologist: Well, I can understand that could be a problem. Hubbard should have invented a technology of ethics to help people be more ethical and disciplined. And maybe he should have directed some of his counseling techniques to help people become more honest and ethical.
Scientologist: Well, actually, he did. There’s a whole book on Ethics and a lot of auditing procedures to address that.
Non-Scientologist: OK, well, why don’t people apply that?
Scientologist: It’s hard to get anything standard done in orgs these days! The Orgs are a mess! They are off-purpose, more interested in money than really helping people. They are understaffed and harassed and insolvent and desperate!
Non-Scientologist: Sure, I can see how that would be a problem. Well, maybe Hubbard should have developed a technology of organization; how to keep organizations on-purpose and functioning properly. Maybe he should have written up all of their duties in detail so they know exactly what they should be doing.
Scientologist: Well, actually, he did do that. It’s been published in ten big volumes.
Non-Scientologist: Well, then, why doesn’t that work?
Scientologist: Staff don’t have time to study it. There’s too few of them and they are desperate. They can’t make enough on staff so they have to moonlight. There are just not enough public in the orgs!
Non-Scientologist: Oh, I see. Well, then, maybe Hubbard should have developed a technology of how to promote and market Scientology. Maybe he should have provided drills telling people how to effectively disseminate Scientology.
Scientologist: Well, actually he did do that.
Non-Scientologist: Ok, why isn’t that used?
Scientologist: You don’t understand! Scientology has terrible PR. It’s hard to disseminate to people because Scientology is so disliked in society.
Non-Scientologist: That is definitely a problem! Maybe Hubbard should have developed a technology of Public Relations so staff could learn how to create a good public image and good relations with the public.
Scientologist: Well, actually, he did that.
Non-Scientologist: Then why is there a problem?
Scientologist: Nothing standard can get done in the Church! The whole of the Church of Scientology has been taken over by Suppressive Persons. They are perverting the tech! They are destroying the Church! Everyone is PTS to them!
Non-Scientologist: Goodness, that sounds serious! Well, maybe Hubbard should have developed a technology to show people how to spot Suppressive Persons, and how to handle them once you’ve spotted them, so you don’t go PTS.
Scientologist: Well, actually, he did that too.
Non-Scientologist: Oh! Well, then, why doesn’t that work?
Scientologist: There are so many other factors I haven’t even mentioned! These Suppressives overwhelm people! They use implant technology!
Non-Scientologist: Well, why didn’t Hubbard develop some advanced techniques to give people freedom from being overwhelmed and proof them up against the effects of these implants?
Scientologist: He did! He did! But you don’t understand! This is Planet Earth. It’s a crazy place! You can’t get technology correctly applied when you have people who are not rational, who are stupid, who are not sane, who are low on the Tone Scale, who are aberrated…
Non-Scientologist: Well, maybe Hubbard should have developed a technology to make people rational, sane and intelligent, to raise them on the Tone Scale, to get rid of aberration…
Oh wait. Isn’t that what Scientology is supposed to do?
OK, this is a fictional, contrived conversation. But how many of these explanations have you heard in real life? And how often have you seen this kind of circular logic?
In my opinion, the most basic of Scientology’s system flaws is that Scientologists are trained not to see system flaws. Even when failure is obvious to everyone else, fundamentalist Scientologists will refuse to inspect the system. They will interpret all failure as individual failure. They become experts in explaining away failure.
Doctrinaire Scientologists can neither see nor correct systemic flaws, and thus Scientology is incapable of correcting itself.
And maybe we’re getting closer to a real Why.