Among the case studies discussed in class was brief mention of L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology, and his “space opera” doctrines. Scientology, according to the church’s official website, “[draws] on the same advances in knowledge that led to the understanding of nuclear physics.” Central to Scientological doctrine is the idea of the thetan, “the source of all creation and life itself,” which is somewhat equivalent to what other groups of people consider to be the human spirit or soul. Our discussion of pseudoscience becomes particularly relevant when considering the backstory of the thetan and how they came to influence Earth’s human population. According to Hubbard, 76 life-supporting planets exist around stars visible from Earth and are organized into the Galactic Confederacy. About 75 million years ago, the Galactic Confederacy was overpopulated, and the evil dictator Xenu coerced a few billion of his aliens to travel to Earth, where he detonated hydrogen bombs that killed all of their bodies–their souls, or thetan, were then captured and brainwashed in Hawaii, and when humans evolved on Earth, the alien thetan became negatively influencing forces in human society. Scientology teaches that individuals must free themselves from the influence of the brainwashed thetan to achieve a sort of salvation.
Hubbard’s Space Opera doctrine has many of the pseudoscience-denoting red flags that were explored in class. Two particular assessment questions apply to Scientology: who is making the claim, and is enough information presented to make an informed decision concerning the validity of what is being asserted? As for who is making the claim, L. Ron Hubbard was a science fiction author who has no academic, religious, or philosophical credentials (unless science fiction writing awards are credentials). And in regards to the amount of information presented, Scientology is famous for its hierarchical system that requires progression through several levels of the church before certain information can be learned. The access to higher level information (from which the above paragraph was derived) was only made possible by leaks and publishing of evidence in court cases.
Additionally, many motives supported L. Ron Hubbard in his creation of the Church of Scientology and associated beliefs. First, money–in order to reach the higher levels of the hierarchy, in which the secrets of the universe are disclosed, an individual must make several hefty monetary donations to the church. Second, fame–L. Ron Hubbard presented himself as the prophet and messenger, the sole source of truth in a convoluted world. Finally, romanticizing the past–complex battles and coups of the space opera certainly create a wildly adventurous story of the history of the universe.
The reason people believe in the doctrines of Scientology is that they are embedded in a “religion” which also emphasizes mental health and doing good, which certainly aren’t inherently bad pursuits. Unfortunately, however, these easy-to-buy-into propositions coerce well-meaning followers into a sketchy world of pseudoscience masquerading as truth.