Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Crazy Ideas

I want to talk about crazy ideas. Most crazy ideas are not influential nor socially useful. A good example is the perpetual motion machine. No one has heard of the vast majority of crazy ideas, for good reason.

Some crazy ideas are influential, some are socially useful, and some are both. I want to talk about 2 crazy ideas that came into existence about the same time, at the beginning of the 20th century: Freud's psychoanalytic theory and Einstein's Theory of Relativity. Freud's theory was influential, but socially useless. He came up with the theory at a time when psychology was in its infancy. He could get away with creating an unverifiable and unfalsifiable theory that captivated and influenced many mental health professionals, including psychiatrists. After a century of practice, there's no evidence supporting his ideas. An enormous amount of time and money has been wasted on psychoanalytic therapy. Experimental psychology has advanced enough now that he wouldn't be able to get away with perpetuating such an unscientific theory today.

Einstein's theory was both influential and socially useful. It laid the groundwork for modern physics, which is behind much of the technological advances in the 20th century. Einstein couldn't get away with a speculative and unverifiable theory like Freud's. The reason for this is that physics had several centuries of development prior to Einstein, and was much further advanced than psychology.

My human magnetoreception hypothesis, in which I claim that my OCD and tics are connected to the Earth's magnetic field, is definitely high in craziness, probably higher than Freud's and Einstein's theories. Whether it will be influential or socially useful remains to be seen. It's not quite as crazy as the idea that my symptoms are caused by the Martians, but it's close. Since I'm writing this in 2009, and there's been over a century of research in psychology, I can't get away with what Freud did. So if no one is able to verify my theory, it won't become influential. In my paper, I list specific experiments that can be done to verify my theory. Even though my data is based on subjective experience, it is still empirical, and can be verified in a double-blind manner. Compare this to Freud's theory, which is pure speculation. Compare it to the Martian idea, which obviously cannot be verified.

The key problem with my hypothesis is that human magnetoreception isn't accepted by scientists. But we know that animal magnetoreception exists, and we know that humans are animals. So there's no reason a priori to reject human magnetoreception. I'm hoping that the necessary research will be done to verify or reject my hypothesis.

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