Most people have three varying images of psychology. One is of a scientist poring over notes derived from a patient – the Robin Williams-in-"Awakenings" brain specialist. The second is of a patient, lying on a divan, telling a psychologist stories about her parents' unstable marriage – the therapist. The third is of a patient and her psychologist in flagrante delicto.
The truth is somewhere between the first and second images. Psychology is a field that is part science, part hand-holding and lots of speculation. The truth is that we know very little about the inner workings of the mind, and even less about abnormalities of the mind.
That inherent vagary is troubling because politics tends to fill the gap where scientific knowledge is thin. Take, for example, the latest edits to the Diagnostic and Statistical of Mental Disorders, or DSM. Every couple decades, the psychology establishment rewrites this basic diagnostic textbook for the field, which is analogous to a "Gray's Anatomy" for the mind. And every couple decades, political correctness ensures that true science of the mind is obscured in favor of liberal niceties.
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Back in 1974, for example, the DSM removed "homosexuality" from its list of mental illnesses. There was no actual scientific reason to do so – homosexual men still have higher rates of suicide and depression than heterosexuals, homosexual women still have higher rates of substance abuse, homosexuals are statistically deviant (a crucial issue when discussing normality in any statistical sense), and homosexuals are definitionally incapable of natural reproduction. But due to pressure group influence, homosexuality was out.
The DSM then replaced homosexuality with "ego-dystonic homosexuality," which they defined as persistent lack of heterosexual arousal and distress from homosexual arousal. That wasn't good enough, either, and in 1986, the DSM dumped it completely.
What of the countless thousands who wish they could be treated for homosexuality? They don't matter, since the gay movement says that anyone with homosexual feelings should learn to be happy with those feelings – a position they don't take with regard to men who think they are women and vice versa.
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The current DSM is no better. It, too, reflects a not-so-subtle liberal bias. The definition of pedophilia, for example, has been changed substantially. While the old definition stated that you had to be at least 16 years of age and had to molest a child to be diagnosed with pedophilia, the new definition states that you must be 18 years old and molest "two or more different children." That's right – pedophiles now get one freebie before being diagnosed with pedophilia. If this isn't defining deviancy down, it's difficult to see what would be.
On a similar note, the DSM has redefined gender identity disorder, or GID – or rather, they've renamed it. Gender identity disorder is a mental condition where members of one sex think they're in the wrong bodies. The DSM now calls this condition "gender incongruity," explaining that the new term "better reflects the core of the problem: an incongruence between, on the one hand, what identity one experiences and/or expresses and, on the other hand, how one is expected to live based on one's assigned gender."
Clearly, this is propaganda – gender is not assigned at birth. It is assigned with biology; as scientific studies have amply shown, males and females have significant differences in brain biology. But the DSM isn't concerned with actual science – they're more concerned with the issue that "many [transgendered people] very clearly indicated their rejection of the GID term because, in their view, it contributes to the stigmatization of their condition." This is inane. Sufferers of a condition do not get to rename that condition at will to spare their feelings. Otherwise, kleptomaniacs would be able to call themselves "friendly borrowers."
The left consistently argues that the right wants to shut down science. But when the left has an agenda, it ignores science at will, whether with regard to global warming, abortion or mental health. Psychology is a young and still-evolving field, but the more it subjects itself to the whims of political actors, the less legitimate it will be.