Thoughtful disagreement

A Facebook friend posted a link to my Freethinker column (published yesterday), and got some…lively comments.


Paul McEnery “Of course the idea behind the cartoons was to challenge authority: to challenge religious authority, clerical authority, theocratic authority, the authority of public opinion and taboo.”

Total motherfucking hypocritical shit-mouthed arsemongering.

The idea was to be cunts to Muslims on the grounds of they were subhuman mongrels who should get the fuck out of Denmark.

[Read more…]

Guest post: There is no one answer for all patients

Originally a comment by karmacat on Psychiatry is an important skeptical and social justice issue.

My anger comes from working as a psychiatrist and watching my patients suffer and scared that maybe there is nothing I can do for some patients. SC does have valid criticisms because the brain is so complicated that we have a limited understanding of it.

Mental illnesses do exist but we still don’t really understand the pathophysiology of the brain. We can see how patients with schizophrenia have different brains from “normal.” but one patient with schizophrenia can be different from another patient with schizophrenia even though they have the same diagnosis. [Read more…]

Thursday it was flannel, Friday they wore orange

Manly men fight back.

McGuffey High School in Claysville, Pennsylvania made headlines over the weekend when a group of students organized an “Anti-Gay Day’ in direct retaliation to the LGBT youth-supportive National Day of Silence (NDOS) on Friday.

So it’s necessary to “retaliate” against the LGBT youth-supportive National Day of Silence? So a group of high school students want to go on record as saying LGBT youth should be bullied and harassed at school? [Read more…]

The fox would be delighted to guard the hen house

John Tozzi at Bloomberg is also on the homeopathy story.

On a recent afternoon in midtown Manhattan, I popped into a chain drug store and picked up some $12 sleep tablets whose label promises both “courage and peace of mind” and “focus when ungrounded.” I also got a $17 tube of cream offering “rapid, soothing relief of pain” from conditions as varied as arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and bug bites. Both products sat on shelves alongside familiar drugs such as Tylenol and Claritin, which regulators have carefully scrutinized for safety and effectiveness. The half- dozen products I bought—labelled as “homeopathic”—aren’t vetted for either.

Tablets that give you courage and peace of mind – that’s funny. I suppose it wouldn’t have sounded spiritual enough to say “calms you the fuck down” – not that it does that either. [Read more…]

It’s a tough question

NPR covers the homeopathy issue in its usual insouciant way. It starts with a human interest story about a practitioner named Anthony Aurigemma in Bethesda (handy for NPR).

Aurigemma went to medical school and practiced as a regular doctor before switching to homeopathy more than 30 years ago. He says he got disillusioned by mainstream medicine because of the side effects caused by many drugs. “I don’t reject conventional medicine. I use it when I have to,” Aurigemma says.

Throughout his career, homeopathy has been regulated differently from mainstream medicine.

In 1988, the Food and Drug Administration decided not to require homeopathic remedies to go through the same drug-approval process as standard medical treatments. Now the FDA isrevisiting that decision. It will hold two days of hearings this week to decide whether homeopathic remedies should have to be proven safe and effective.

[Read more…]

Psychiatry is an important skeptical and social justice issue

Salty Current has an updated psychiatry-skepticism-social justice reading list on her eponymous blog. That’s a subject I know little about, so I appreciate having the list.

Back in 2012, I wrote about why psychiatry is an important skeptical and social justice issue and created a short list of reading suggestions for approaching psychiatry from these perspectives. The impending release later this week of Psychiatry Under the Influence has nudged me to update it.

Much has changed since 2012, and all of the developments point to the urgency of critically examining and speaking out about psychiatry and psychopharmaceuticals. Just prior to the publication of the DSM-5 in 2013, the NIMH announced that it would no longer use psychiatric diagnoses, acknowledging that they’re not scientifically valid,* which was then publicly admitted (again) by the leaders of the APA. Studies completed over the past three years have provided more evidence of the ineffectiveness andharms of psychiatric drugs, and others have demonstrated the profound psychological effectsof marginalization and socioeconomic trauma. Professional movements challenging biopsychiatry and its drugs have continued to grow.

Today, many continue desperately to try to sell the myths about brain diseases and disorders and chemical imbalances, at the same time as others have taken to claiming astonishingly that reputable psychiatrists never made such claims at all. Countless people, including children, have had their rights violated and been injured or killed by psychiatric drugs since 2012, while pharma has reaped the profits and its representatives in psychiatry continue to operate with impunity.** Tragically, the skeptical community continues to exclude and attempt to silence critical perspectiveswhile promoting psychiatric myths. I have no doubt that they believe their arguments and recommendations to be compassionate and helpful, but genuinely helpful approaches should be based in reality and not pseudoscience.

Head over there to get the list.

One book

Hillary Clinton said something very startling in an interview for the New York Times last June.

If you had to name one book that made you who you are today, what would it be?

At the risk of appearing predictable, the Bible was and remains the biggest influence on my thinking. I was raised reading it, memorizing passages from it and being guided by it. I still find it a source of wisdom, comfort and encouragement.

At the risk of appearing predictable, that’s an astonishingly fatuous thing to say. She must be pandering, but it’s fatuous anyway. Mind you it’s also a fatuous question, so maybe it’s forgivable to give a fatuous answer…but honestly.

A book for the global feminist struggle

Denise Balkissoon at the Globe and Mail talks to Mona Eltahawy.

In Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution, she dismantles what she calls the “trifecta of oppression” working against Arab women: the state, the street and the home, which “work together for their own benefit by keeping girls and women down.”

She takes the reader to Jordan, where a man can escape a rape charge by marrying his victim; to Egypt, where unending street harassment leads families to impose curfews on their daughters; and to Lebanon, which recently decriminalized marital rape.

[Read more…]

Cartoons that are detrimental to public order

Kate Mayberry at Al Jazeera talks to the Malaysian political cartoonist Zunar.

Zulkiflee Sm Anwar Ulhaque, better known by his pen name of Zunar, is one of Malaysia’s most acerbic and controversial cartoonists, picking apart the government in a country where deference to those in power has long been the norm.

Well let’s get real – deference to those in power has long been the norm everywhere, or almost everywhere. What’s the point of power if you can’t use it to make underlings deferential?! It’s not some quaint eccentricity of Malaysia to make deference to those in power a norm. But over the past couple of centuries that norm has had a rival norm of egalitarianism to deal with, and as communication has become more and more global and instantaneous, it has become every more difficult to confine that genie to the bottle. [Read more…]