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Sunday, February 13, 2005

Off to see the Wizard

As goes the tale, Dorothy was whisked out by a tornado to a strange land populated by quaint, odd, and sometimes scary creatures. Naturally, she wanted to find a way home. That required a trip to the wizard. Ensconced in green hall in a green castle and hidden behind a veil of fog and flame, he was an outsized face full of angry bluster. Dorothy just wanted a way out. It was a simple question that any oversized disembodied angry head could answer. The answer that Dorothy got instead was a scavenger hunt, just find a witch’s broomstick and the head would oblige an answer. When Dorothy returned with the broom, the angry head huffed and puffed, and asked her to come back later. As Dorothy stammered in frustration, her dog sniffed out the real wizard, a little old man turning dials and pulling cords behind a curtain. He was merely a road show magician, a con man really, and as he confessed, it seemed that Dorothy really knew the way home after all.

Mezmer asks Steven Pinker a question. Posted by Hello

As a writer with more than severe case of skepticism about the field of psychology, it’s often that when walking the odd paths of the land of academic psychology, I just want to get home, and return to the comfortable certainties of everyday existence. Yet when I lay these certainties out to the munchkins and fairies of rarefied academe, it’s always the same answer, ‘go off to see the wizard!’ When trapped in the twisty roads of this intellectual landscape, even the yellow brick road leads to a dead end, as the wizard himself is as clueless as a toadstool. Such an attitude pretty much frames my communications with academic psychologists, who like the wizard of oz, are more inclined to set you off on scavenger hunts, or more often, not respond to you at all. It’s enough to set one off in a spasm of ridicule and satire, a response to which I confess. But try it yourself. Have a question on psychology, or worse, an idea about psychology that you need some clarification, and google up some wizardly psychologist who knows it all and has the smoke, flame, and journal articles to prove it. Then ask him a question. If he responds, get ready to go looking for some old broomstick, and when you come back to be asked to come back some other day.

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