Thursday, April 21, 2011

Happiness therapy

President Dwight Eisenhower famously deplored the growing dependence of scientists on federal funding. "The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by federal employment, project allocations and the power of money is ever present—and is gravely to be regarded." Eisenhower had been a leading and successful soldier whose merits are part of US history. He should have known - and he did.

Now happiness therapy sounds a great idea, but according to a Scientific American article, God help us all if neuroscience and psychology are reduced to dependence on the military for funds. An article in Counterpunch outlines the facts and is worth reading carefully.

IMO: I like the idea of happiness therapy, within reasonable bounds, but it seems a pity if scientists are voluntarily limiting their work in the way the Counterpunch article seems to claim. The absence of consent to a massive program,certainly larger than any psychological program I can remember, the real lack of factual justification, the omission of factors against the program, and many other ideas suggestive of a Stalinist military approach are indeed a consideration to be borne in mind. During the so-called Cold War, I can well recall the years of anxious waiting for the success of the Russian harvest, vis-a-vis a nuclear war because of the use of Stalinist methods applied to Russian science. The US were more or less forced to subsidise Russian harvests for many years. Is the USA going down an equivalent doctrinaire and wrong road ? With usual US 'enthusiam' the slippery slope is only too easy to slide down.

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