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  • William H. Douglas

The Limitations Of Science & The State



There is a dream that has haunted human society since its development in the primordial past – the dream that a chosen group of elites, educated and enlightened far beyond the abilities or knowledge of the average man, could design, through a complete application of their cunning and brutal legal force to compel the recalcitrant, create the perfect society in which all the sorrows and trials of mortality have been either rendered negligible or completely eliminated. This dream today goes by the modern term “the State,” the form of government where those in power use the violence at their command to extort monies from the public (taxation) and to terrorize the masses into compliance with their edicts (laws) by vowing to rob them (fine them) or to beat, cage, and kill them (arrest and imprisonment) if they disobey.


The common belief is that by doing so the government will use its power to avenge the innocent, protect the people, provide for the masses, and ensure that peace and justice reign in the land. This dream has been tried in multitudinous forms – monarchy, oligarchy, dictatorship, republicanism, constitutional monarchy, socialism, minarchism, democracy, etc. In every instance it has failed. In every instance it has delivered the exact opposite of what it has promised. In every instance the dream has proved to be a nightmare. Some are more terrifying than the others, but all of them end in brutalization, violence, and oppression. So why on Earth do we keep trying it?


That is a question I have puzzled over for some time now because I’ve never been able to wrap my head around it. But, I’ve finally found an answer. I have found the answer to not only why we keep reverting again and again to the State in all its different forms, but I’ve also found the answer to the question of why democracy always slides in to autocracy – one man authoritarian rule. Additionally, I have discovered exactly why minarchy – the belief that a minimal state can be maintained that will safeguard our rights with its violence and power but never violate them – also always fails and descends first into populism and finally into oligarchy or dictatorship.


In short, I have found the explanation of why voluntaryism and anarchism are the only ways in which to build a functional society which allows for any form of social governance without descending either into authoritarianism and autocracy on the one hand or chaos and self-destruction on the other. And I didn’t find it in any political treatise as such. Rather I found it in a place that, for me, is a total surprise – in the writings of Carl Gustav Jung.


Dr. Carl Jung is one of the most important men in the history and development of psychology. The founder and father of analytic psychology, Jung believed that if we are to understand the mental health problems people have, we must begin by analyzing their immediate life and seeing how it related to their problems and not just trying to tie current problems to past childhood trauma and/or sexual problems, as Sigmund Freud did. In 1958, towards the end of his life, Jung published The Undiscovered Self, a fascinating book about the conditions of modern society and the situation that people find themselves in relative to the State.


In this book, Dr. Jung essentially psychologically analyzes humanity and the way the State functions. In doing so he explains why any form of the State will ultimately develop along authoritarian and autocratic lines, diminishing the liberty and humanity of the individual in exchange for collectivized identification and action. All the various rivers of the State eventually flow into the ocean of autocracy. Additionally, Dr. Jung insightfully ties this into the threat of what we would today call technocracy, the idea that political power should be held by a group of highly educated elites who use their technical and scientific prowess to manage all functions of society in the name of the common good and how this inevitably ends up in totalitarianism.


What follows, both in this article and in the series that will follow it exploring the insights that Dr. Jung’s work provides us, are excerpts from The Undiscovered Self, with commentary on the insight offered into the modern State offered by the excerpt.


Scientific education is based in the main on statistical truths and abstract knowledge and therefore imparts an unrealistic, rational picture of the world, in which the individual, as a merely marginal phenomenon, plays no role. The individual, however, as an irrational datum, is the true and authentic carrier of reality, the concrete man as opposed to the unreal ideal or normal man to whom the scientific statements refer. What is more, most of the natural sciences try to represent the results of their investigations as though these had come into existence without man’s intervention, in such a way that the collaboration of the psyche – an indispensable factor – remains invisible. (An exception to this is modern physics, which recognizes that the observed is not independent of the observer.) So in this respect, too, science conveys a picture of the world from which a real human psyche appears to be excluded – the very antithesis of the “humanities.” [pg. 7]


Dr. Jung here makes an invaluable point about the way that looking at society through purely scientific lenses – through, data, studies, statistics, and tests – does more to obscure than it does to reveal. Humans do not act or exist as collectives, conglomerates, and near-identical groups. We are individuals. And individuals do not act in ways that can be understood without knowledge of that individual person. In this sense individuals are irrational, the things we think, believe, and do are not bound by scientific exactitude and are driven as much by our desires as they are by any sense of cold logic.


We value our life based on how much we are able to pursue our hopes and dreams without the constraining hands of others telling us what we can or cannot do in order to pursue happiness as we understand it. In this sense the individual, in all his unscientific irrationality, is the vessel of true reality, the only real being that exists as no one ever exactly matches the results of scientific study and the pronouncements of statisticians.


Further, Dr. Jung points out one of the most important (and ignored) limitations of scientific discovery. Namely, that it originates in the human mind. Data, studies, statistics, experiments, and tests tell us little about reality or humanity. At best they provide us with nothing but a morass of possible facts, facts which then are filtered through the cultural beliefs of those doing the testing to state an objective “truth” about reality. We pretend as if these conclusions are correct and ignore the fact that they’re really subject to the vast cultural constructions through which the scientists in question understand themselves and the world.


Remember that scientists once “proved” that African peoples are biologically inferiors and marginalized and suppressed any scientist challenging these claims as doing spurious science. How is that possible? Because the culture in which these academics lived created within their minds a schema, a mental framework that underlies the entire way they conceptualize the world, process information about it, and make conclusions concerning it. Racism was the assumed truth of reality, the cultural schema, so scientists interpreted their findings to prove it and to disprove anyone challenging it.


The same process takes place today as scientists, academics, and everyone else take the mere facts discovered through experimentation and try to make them support their political, social, economic, and ideological worldviews. The picture of the world presented by science is therefore not an objective fact, but an image shaped by the psyche of the scientists writing the narrative. This is an essential insight to understand because of the role that science plays in contemporary secular societies replacing religion as the arbiter of “truth” which those in power use to attack their critics, rationalize their actions, and justify pushing their ideologies on the public through the apparatus of the government – a process which we will further explore as the series continues.


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