Hard-wired 14: Why Freud was almost right

Although not a fan of Darwin’s theory of evolution by means of natural selection (he was more influenced by the earlier, Lamarckian evolutionary theory), Sigmund Freud was very nearly right with his hypotheses around the unconscious mind. It’s hard to describe Freud’s ideas as theories because, unfalsifiable as they were, they cannot be tested and so can never become more than speculative hypotheses.

This is a shame. Even if incorrect, a testable hypothesis has the advantage of teaching us something by virtue of its ‘wrongness’. Unfalsifiable hypotheses like Freud’s can’t even make it to those, dizzyingly modest’ heights. Freud wasn’t just wrong – he wasn’t EVEN wrong.

And yet he was so close to being right.

It’s easy for me to snigger behind the great man’s back, especially so long after the poor pioneer’s death. But the fact is that, mistaken and unscientific though he was, without Freud we’d be nowhere near as advanced as we are today.

So despite all his problems, I say…

“Three cheers for Freud – the man who was almost right about our deepest psychological drives a century before anyone else had any clue at all.”


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