An Affront to God

November 7, 1927

The Department of Religion at Occidental College is up in arms today, but what could it be about?  Gin mills and jake legs?  The divorce rate?  The suicide rate?  The saucily exposed shins of young women?

Naw, it’s the scientists again.  And not just any scientists… social scientists.
Department head Dr. J. Hudson Ballard condemns behaviorist psychology, saying that it "destroys belief in self, in virtue, in immortality, and in God.  It kills the belief in sin, and in the necessity for a Savior, other than as a nerve specialist."

Then again, those early behaviorists were an ethically suspect bunch.  One, John B. Watson, was notorious for his 1920 "Little Albert" experiment, in which an 11-month-old boy was conditioned to experience fear when he was presented with a white rat (previously he’d gotten along swimmingly with the critters).  An unfortunate side effect of the experiment was that little Albert also became distressed when presented with a variety of white, furry things including, but not limited to: a dog, a fur coat, and Watson himself.

Apparently, Watson "meant" to uncondition little Albert, but never got around to it.

So perhaps Dr. Ballard was onto something after all — but just wait a few years until he gets a load of a fellow named B.F. Skinner.