In Praise of Science

This is a letter that I had published in the BACP Journal, Therapy Today, December 2013.  It was in response to an article. ‘Spirit-based healing in the Black diaspora by Roy Moodley. (I had to look up ‘diaspora’, apparently it is a scattered population.) The article and subsequent letters, support the possible acceptance of traditional healing practices such as voodoo and shango into the counselling and psychotherapy communities.
I have no objection to  these practices in themselves and of course individuals and communities have every right to continue their ancient traditions but so do counsellors and psychotherapists, and I do not wish to have any association with them and so I wrote this letter.
It made me laugh when I read it in the journal. 

 Dear BACP

I have to have a rant. I nearly pulled my hair out and then I almost tore up my accreditation. Then I wondered if I was being a bit unfair or politically incorrect – aren’t we supposed to be pluralist and open to all possibilities and all ideas and notions and be non-judgmental and accepting? Of course we are, and that ideology has certainly led to a more liberal society and a greater acceptance and understanding of difference.

It was reading the letters pages in the October issue of Therapy Today that caused my tolerance to evaporate. I was surprised by my reaction on the one hand, but know that I am intolerant of the supernatural having any sort of presence in my profession. I cannot exclude that there is mystery in the universe and that many aspects of the natural world remain unexplained, but I know that over time science will get there. In the meantime I prefer to remain with what I know and what can be demonstrated.

This was the sentence in one of the letters that prompted this response: ‘The point is that there is now a counter position to that of scientism and it is supported by a growing number of people, many of whom hold the highest scientific and other qualifications’ (‘Spirituality takes many forms’; Letters, Therapy Today, October 2013). This statement causes me the same sharp intake of breath and anxiety as the notion that creationism is a counter position to evolution.

A Google search brings the following definition of scientism: ‘Scientism is a term used, often pejoratively, to refer to belief in the universal applicability of the scientific method and the view that empirical science constitutes the most authoritative worldview or most valuable part of human learning, to the exclusion of other viewpoints.’

What is the counter position to science that might support, for example, telepathy, as suggested in the letter? Would it benefit clients if therapists could read their clients’ minds?

I read the BACP Ethical Framework in search of a smart quote that would support my rant but I could not find one. In fact the whole of the Ethical Framework is against the idea that it would be beneficial to be telepathic, to be able to read a client’s mind. Our task surely is to help individuals know their own mind, to bring a sense that their own mind is more significant than their therapist’s? Would I want to attend a therapist who could read my mind? Would you?

I know that today we are all entitled to our views, opinions, beliefs, quirks and so on, but please, if BACP is going down the road of the paranormal and counter positions to scientism, then frankly I would not want to be a part of it. I noticed the standard disclaimer next to one of the letters and I just shook my head.

Christopher Murray
Humanistic and integrative psychotherapist, rationalist, naturalist and scientist