Sunday, January 20, 2008
The most striking moment in the recently released Tom Cruise Scientology video (see it on www.gawker.com) comes about five minutes in, where Cruise laments his inability to, say, frolic mindlessly on vacation, because he "knows". Just what does Tom Cruise know?
It is no good looking for any explicit answer to this question in the video itself - Cruise is - almost unnervingly - nearly incoherent through much of it, leaving sentences unfinished, speaking in the vaguest terms, jumping instantly from topic to topic, etc. But from the context and other remarks in the video, it seems that what Cruise thinks he knows is just how the world really is. Mindless frolicking is out of the question because his special knowledge about the true state of the world imposes on him the obligation to eschew idleness and help redeem the world from its impurity; or as he might put it, from its overabundance of "SP"s (Scientology-speak for "suppressive personalities").
This is what Cruise thinks he knows. But what does he really know?
I suggest that the most Cruise can know is that Scientology has "worked" for him (which is to say, that he likes Scientology); and that it has worked for others (that is, that others like Scientology, too). But that is only what everyone already knows. In short, what Tom Cruise really knows, is hardly anything at all, and nothing that any normal eight year-old couldn't instantly grasp. His actual knowledge can be summed up like this: "Scientologists like Scientology". (Or, if you like, "Scientology has worked for Scientologists", or "Scientologists believe in Scientology").
But here is something that Tom Cruise doesn't know, but which he thinks he knows: that "Scientology will work for everyone". This conclusion comes from the following (invalid) inference. We could call it the Fanatic's Inference:
P1.) X (Scientology in this case) has worked for me;
P2.) X has worked for others;
C.) Therefore, X works (for everyone).
And implied in this invalid inference is another invalid inference (call it C2): that if Scientology doesn't "work" for someone, it means that that person didn't really give it a proper chance, or wasn't really sincere to begin with. There is yet another implied invalid inference here (C3): "Therefore, X (Scientology) is all it claims to be (X is 'true')".
The point is that neither C, nor C2, nor C3, follow from the premises, and so they cannot constitute knowledge. It is, in fact, perfectly possible that X (whatever it may be) can rescue someone from drug addiction, or an unhappy marriage, or suicidal depression, or anything else, and yet not do anything for others with different natures, goals, and experiences. It is also perfectly possible that X be a fraudulent claim, salutary effects notwithstanding. For example, we might tell an ill-behaved child that if he obeys, Santa Claus will fly from the North Pole and give him lots of presents - and the story might very well "work": Johnny will change his behaviour, and find his life much improved as a result. But this doesn't mean the Santa story is true. Indeed, it only worked because it wasn't true. It was a fiction calculated to appeal to certain aspects of Johnny's nature: acquisitiveness, for example. So Johnny might "know" that his life has improved (after all, he's now getting smiles instead of frowns, and treats instead of time-outs), but that's pretty much it. He doesn't have "special" knowledge at all.
So, that Scientology has "worked" for Tom Cruise - whatever that may mean in his particular case - cannot validly lead to the conclusion that it will "work" for anyone else, nor to the conclusion that ex-Scientologists weren't sincere about improving or weren't intelligent enough to understand Scientology, nor to the conclusion that L. Ron Hubbard's stories about an alien dictator named Xenu who, 75 million years ago, presided over "The Galactic Confederacy", are true.
And this means, I suggest, that Tom Cruise doesn't actually know what he thinks he knows, by any stretch; and by extension, that he doesn't bear the burden of redeeming the world through Scientology that he thinks he does.
And of course, that means that he might as well go ahead and enjoy his vacations, guilt free.
I know you're sincere, Tom - but honestly, you don't need to worry about us or 75 million year old dictators from outer space. Go forth and...mindlessly frolic!