The creators of behaviorism intended that the new scientific knowledge gained be applied to devise the technology and techniques with which human behavior could be altered to shape human behavior, improve humanity, and reduce things like hatred, war, poverty, and greed.

Behaviorism is attractive precisely because reducing humanity to empirical science makes it possible to scientifically analyze, and scientific understanding usually brings technological control. It has already revealed some general principles of learning and promoted rigorous scientific standards in the study of human nature. It must then be decided if behaviorism be accepted on its merits, if it philosophically sound, and if it has produced the results it promised.

Behaviorism, Science and Technology

Behaviorism was originally devised as a means to improve humanity. The intent was to gain knowledge of human nature by scientific study and apply it to a technology to shape and condition human populations to improve their lives. Behaviorism assumes that scientific knowledge of human behavior will allow a 'social engineer' to make value judgements about how to improve it.

This concept of social engineering fails to distinguish knowledge from the use of knowledge. Observational data cannot indicate right or wrong behavior. To produce a technology of human conditioning requires decisions about right and wrong, which cannot be observed. Judgement requires interpretation of the observations, which requires a free will and mind.

The behaviorist's stated objective is to improve the quality of human existence, yet the 'social engineer' is a 'condition-response machine' so her ideas can not have any meaning or value. Since the actions of any human (including the 'social engineer') are completely deterministic, there is no way for the social engineering to make value judgements.

In addition, behaviorism leads to the idea that morality, ethics, respect for others, dignity, pride, self-esteem, and so on, are simply trainable skills, rather than philosophical principles based on individual insight into human nature and the intrinsic value of human beings.

Learned behaviors are not inherently right or wrong, so the reduction of human existence into conditioned responses eliminates any criteria by which improvement can be measured.

Behaviorism used for manipulation

If behaviorism is not philosophically perfect, it still seems to have discovered powerful tools for changing behavior. If someone who has the ability to make good value judgements can create the proper set of reinforcements for the rest of society, the masses can be conditioned to live better, happier, more moral, and be harder working. If this is the case then behaviorism may be worth keeping.

A scientific analysis of humans has enabled better understanding of how humans respond to conditioning. Unfortunately, behaviorism has not brought us truly closer to understanding human nature, culture, and society. The techniques of psychometrics, economic analysis opinion control, social planning have the same destructive potential with human society as ordinary technology does with the environment.

Ironically, though behaviorist techniques are not beneficial for the general betterment of society, they are finding their most use by those who best realize the failure of behaviorism. Advertisers use knowledge of sights, sounds, colors and themes that produce different emotions to make more profit. Governments and politicians maneuver to pull the right strings, say the right words, and do enough to make citizens feel happy, yet in some areas shockingly little is really being done to improve conditions.

The biggest winner in behaviorist theory is big business. Corporations everywhere have human resources departments. Employees are treated as objects, they are dehumanized, given less and less security, fewer benefits, and they are conditioned to accept it.

Behaviorism is a dehumanizing approach to technological welfare. People are seen as manipulable tools. Behaviorism was meant as a technique to improve life, but it has become a tool of manipulation and authority to control those who don't know the methods by which they are being controlled.

Conclusion

Behaviorism assumes that scientific study of humans will lead to social technology to improve life, but observation cannot scientifically define right or wrong, and it cannot provide the criteria for improvement. Without any concept of right or wrong, behaviorism becomes a tool for manipulating people. Behaviorism is an insidious, dangerous view of human nature that contradicts our basic conceptions of individuality, morality, and free well.


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