Women in Secularism conference: a summary, part 1 »« Another Rock Beyond Belief?

The great renovation

My Scienceblogs site is a-changin’. National Geographic has been working behind the scenes to convert and move all the old data to a newer and prettier website, and the final surge of fixes is going into place tonight and tomorrow — so don’t bother commenting over there for a while until it’s all stabilized.

I suspect it will all go smoothly (and the new site is looking good) except for a little bit of drama. NatGeo has informed Abbie Smith that they want the ERV slimepit posts taken down, according to Abbie’s own account on facebook. There are various accusations as well that it’s us here at FtB who are responsible for the complaints that are bringing it down — which is not true. All along, NatGeo has been telling me that there will be new Standards & Practices rules at the National Geographic-branded Scienceblogs site — it’s why I took proactive steps to move all of the new godless anti-religion content to the new site at Freethoughtblogs. I’ve said since last August that there were posts that bugged our new NatGeo overlords, and that there were changes coming.

Abbie Smith is in denial. Now, in addition to implying that Sb crew at FtB are responsible for shutting down the slimepit, she claims I’ve been lying about the imminent changes.

NatGeo have been just fine. Not being sarcastic. PZ was blatantly *lying* about censorship from NatGeo last year.

So I said NatGeo would be lightly censoring content last year. This year, NatGeo is telling Abbie Smith to censor some offensive posts. Therefore, in Abbie Smith’s world, I was lying when I said NatGeo would be asking us to censor some content.

I don’t get it.

Comments

  1. says

    SC,

    If you have the time I’d appreciate an answer to my #468 if you get a chance.

    Would I be correct in summarising your answer (based on the little I’ve read from you here and elsewhere) to be along the rough lines of:

    “Medicalising” a series of behavioural/experiential phenomena we loosely call “mental illness” leads inherently to stigmatisation of people exhibiting these phenomena and is suspiciously convenient for a large industry to make profit from by dishonestly twisting the science to fit preconceived notions.

    BTW I’m happy for that summary to be wrong, I’m just trying to get a clearer picture on where you’re coming from here.

    Thanks.

    Louis

    Sorry – I completely missed your #468. Yes, that is a good partial summary. I’d add a few things. The behaviors and experiences included in that medicalized category grows and grows. I was talking about schizophrenia particularly here (I’ve discussed depression and a few other so-called diseases here in the past and at my blog – if you’re interested you can take a look at the “health” tag there), and didn’t want to get sidelined by derailing references to ADHD, the autism “spectrum,” bipolar or whatever in this conversation.

    I’m not arguing that experiences and behaviors can never have purely biological causes (including related to drugs and injuries), and of course I’m not denying that people have behaviors and experiences that are painful, frightening, and harmful to their lives (although some of the harm is in the cultural meanings given to them*). But with regard to “schizophrenia” and depression and several other alleged mental illness I’ve discussed specifically, I don’t believe the scientific basis for understanding these as brain diseases is there at all, and some of the claims made about their biological basis, such as the chemical imbalance explanation for depression, are demonstrably false. I agree with the arguments in my second link @ #332 about the other negative effects besides stigmatization.

    And I am making a “Won’t somebody please think of the children?!” argument here, because I’m horrified that kids – and not just those diagnosed with “schizophrenia” – are being put on dangerous so-called antipsychotics. (In addition to these being advertised** and prescribed for adults with depression on top of so-called antidepressants without people really understanding the dangers or how lacking in a scientific basis these are.) This is tragic.

    *Incidentally, next on my reading list is Crazy Like Us. Since I haven’t read it yet, I have no idea if it’s good or not.

    **I think I read recently that the US and New Zealand are the only countries in which DCTA or prescription drugs is legal. This should never have been allowed, and needs to end immediately.

  2. Esteleth, Raging Dyke of Fuck Mountain says

    Tigger, calculating the joules would be the way to do it, yes.

    Also, WRT the McDonald’s coffee case, half of the woman’s problem was the fact that she was wearing clothing. That is, the coffee soaked into her clothes, spread to touch more of her skin than the initial splash zone, and held the coffee close to her skin. If the coffee had it bare skin, it could have been brushed off.

  3. richardh says

    richardh – is there some way of comparing (joules? It is many a long year, nay, decade since I last was in a science classroom) the amount of energy that can be transferred to skin by liquids of differing temperatures?

    For a definitive answer you’d want some kind of medical physicist.
    I’m just a plain non-medical one but I think you can get most of the way there by calculating the temperature at that depth in the skin where cells get damaged. Assuming that the amount of coffee is small and the vascular system is an efficient cooler, the core temperature really deep in the body hardly changes. Then apply physicists’ hand-waving the diffusion equation, which says the rate of flow of heat (joules per second) through a layer is proportional to its thermal conductivity times the temperature gradient (degrees per metre). Turned the other way round, once you know that heat flow the diffusion equation tells you what the eventual temperature at any depth into the skin will be. If that’s high enough to cook, and there are live cells there, you are in trouble.

  4. ChasCPeterson says

    Now try comparing excess over body temperature, which might actually be vaguely relevant to something.

    ? Why would that be relevant? Even vaguely? Proteins from a 15C fish, a 30C snake, a 37C human, and a 41C desert iguana all cook up (i.e. denature) at the same rate in boiling water.
    No, if you’re just comparing 2 temperatures, Morales’s calculation is the only correct one.
    If you’re instead interested in comparing the extent of tissue damage caused by two temperatures, then it’s not very edifying, I agree, but neither is excess over body temperature.

    calculating the joules would be the way to do it, yes.

    Except that tissue damage is determined by an interaction between heat energy and time of exposure.

    (joules per second)

    like that

    Would it be a straight line or some kind of curve?

    Again, it’s not just damage vs. temperature; you’d need the third dimension of exposure time. Here are some data:
    http://www.accuratebuilding.com/images/services/charts/hot_water_burn_scalding_lrg.gif

    (yes, yes; thanks for the reminders. fucking off now.)

  5. Tigger_the_Wing says

    Thank you, Esteleth and richardh for your responses. I’m delighted that you confirmed that there is indeed a way of working out the relative energy inputs from liquids of different temperatures and that it can be calculated.

    I suppose that there is a very narrow band of temperatures at which human cells can thrive; a slightly wider one in which they can get along fairly well; a wider one on the edges of which they’d be having a tough time surviving and an enormous range outside that in which life is impossible. I can see that a 20 degree increase can put cells outside the boundary of survivability even if that is only a 6% increase in temperature.

    Are there no health and safety regulations in place to stop firms selling dangerously hot liquids to the public, without adequate warnings?

  6. richardh says

    Now try comparing excess over body temperature, which might actually be vaguely relevant to something.

    ? Why would that be relevant? Even vaguely? Proteins from a 15C fish, a 30C snake, a 37C human, and a 41C desert iguana all cook up (i.e. denature) at the same rate in boiling water.

    Relevant because it gives you a measure of heat flow:

    an interaction between heat energy and time of exposure.

    (joules per second)

    like that

    From which you can, in principle, given a model of the heat flow network (there are layers with different conductivities and heat capacities, and layers being actively cooled by blood flow, so it’s complicated), predict the temperature vs time profile at the depths where those proteins occur.

    No, if you’re just comparing 2 temperatures, Morales’s calculation is the only correct one.

    No. It’s only “correct” if relative absolute temperature(!) is a measure of something meaningful in the given context. Morales’ calculation was mere snark, and you know it.

  7. ChasCPeterson says

    Relevant because it gives you a measure of heat flow

    Ah, I see; you were talking about temperature gradients. Sorry for misinterpreting.

    Morales’ calculation was mere snark, and you know it.

    Actually, having read Morales’s stuff for many years now, I strongly suspect it wasn’t.

  8. Pierce R. Butler says

    Much weirdness in the FTB comment handling here: the subhead reads “508 Responses …”, yet the display only includes 8 comments (the first of which, a reply to Louis from Salty Current, cites a # 468).

    Has the friendly neighborhood commenting software decided to amputate the first 500 items and start over?

  9. life is like a pitbull with lipstick ॐ says

    Pierce, click on “« Older Comments” right above “Leave a Reply”.

    +++++
    SC,

    If someone gets hit really hard in the head and for a few weeks they smell an unpleasant odor which no one else smells, it’s fucked up to mock them for it.

    This is a bizarre hypothetical and I don’t see the connection. And you’ve moved from terribly stigmatizing to not very nice.

    It may sound bizarre, but it’s a not-too-uncommon result of a concussion. The connection I’m trying to make is that for a while there is false sensory perception.

    Yes, for the purposes of that comparison, I’m deliberately trying to drop the notion that the experiences themselves are stigmatizing. I’m trying to meet you on what I understand to be your terms.

    So you say it would not be very nice to mock someone for the head injury. That’s what I’m looking for. And I’m trying to get some agreement that both in the current world, and in the better world you would like, it would not be cool to mock someone for hearing voices.

    I get that in your better world it would not be stigmatizing. So maybe most targets of such mockery would take it with bemusement, like “okay whatever, that says more about you than me”? And the person mocking might be seen the odd one for getting fixated on whether so-and-so is hearing voices? What I’m hoping is this would tend to cause most to consider this douchey behavior, at least a mild embarrassment, a faux pas.

    I mean surely you’re not trying to say that we should consider it completely morally neutral behavior, let alone encourage it?

  10. Esteleth, Raging Dyke of Fuck Mountain says

    Yes, Pierce. That change was made about a month ago now.

    Right above the commenting box, you’ll see a link that says, “<< Older Comments" and if you click on it you'll see the first 500 comments.

  11. Louis says

    SC, #(50)8,

    Open mind? Oh I’ll try!

    But given the fact that I am one of those “evil” pharmaceutical industry research scientists*, I probably don’t have one! I’m probably more critical than you can imagine! ;-)

    From a quick peruse of your blog, I have a lot of reading to do. And since I am always looking for good, trenchant criticism and analysis of my industry (how else could improvements be made if not for analysing and criticising the status quo?), I’m grateful for the resources. Any starting points/hints would be very welcome.

    Since I am working in drug development, some of your comments have intrigued me. It’s nice to get a starting idea about where you are coming from. I’m also looking forward to Ben Goldacre’s new book.

    It might sound weird to you, but I work in the pharma industry because I want to do some good. So useful critique helps me improve. Believe me when I say it’s genuinely welcome.

    Louis

    * Actually this means I just see the shennanigans up close. Oh the stories I have…

  12. says

    It may sound bizarre,…

    Yes, I saw this comment earlier. I ignored it intentionally because I thought it was silly and that my response would be repetitious. I’ll let you have the last word, sorry though that word may be.

  13. Pierce R. Butler says

    life … @ # (5)11 & Esteleth … @ # (5)12 – thanks for the clue: otherwise I’d’ve wandered around all day without one.

  14. life is like a pitbull with lipstick ॐ says

    If you would please address it, I think it would help me understand what you’re saying.

    The impression I’m getting is that you do believe people should be mocked specifically for hearing voices — although not for “having schizophrenia” or “being psychotic” — that somehow mocking people for hearing voices would help make the world a better place.

    This surprises me, but I can find no other clear reading of what you’ve said.

    If you just clarify that you think it is unkind to mock people for hearing voices, and doing so would not make the world a better place, I would be happy to — indeed I am obviously eager — to resolve my cognitive dissonance by figuring that anything you said which seemed to encourage such mockery must just not have been meant that way.

  15. says

    But given the fact that I am one of those “evil” pharmaceutical industry research scientists*,

    It’s interesting that the other person who’s been most open to these arguments is, too.

    It might sound weird to you, but I work in the pharma industry because I want to do some good.

    It doesn’t sound weird to me at all. It’s my base assumption. Nor, of course, do I think psychiatrists have nefarious motives (with some possible exceptions). I don’t think Ewan is evil for working for M*nsa*nt*. I don’t believe for-profit corporations should be involved in any aspect of medicine – really I don’t think they should exist – but I don’t think every employee of one is evil. In pretty much any industry I’ve criticized I have friends or relatives who work or did in the past.

    I also believe that people who work in drug development would be far better off and better able to fulfill their social goals in a context in which this was a public trust. (It’s interesting…The people who’ve seemed to me most open to considering that idea were at Science-Based Medicine, some presumably medical professionals themselves. There might be a greater relative willingness to think critically about these questions amongst people who’ve chosen professions like this for the reason you mention. Hm…)

    Anyway, thanks again, Louis. (By the way, I’ve laughed out loud at several of your comments lately.)

  16. Esteleth, Raging Dyke of Fuck Mountain says

    Mmm. SC, I mostly agree with you on this, but I do have to quibble with your seeming dismissal of the autism spectrum. Because ASD is really about recognizing that there are more mild variants of a condition. Not to say that this hasn’t been abused – because it has – but the existence of the spectrum in and of itself is not the problem.

  17. says

    If you would please address it, I think it would help me understand what you’re saying.

    I don’t care. I’ve explained it as clearly as I can and with a mountain of words, even responding to your silly hypotheticals. If you haven’t understood me yet, I’m not going to waste more time.

    The impression I’m getting is that you do believe people should be mocked specifically for hearing voices — although not for “having schizophrenia” or “being psychotic” — that somehow mocking people for hearing voices would help make the world a better place.

    No, that’s wrong. Read my posts again. (Maybe take a break and come back.)

  18. says

    Mmm. SC, I mostly agree with you on this, but I do have to quibble with your seeming dismissal of the autism spectrum. Because ASD is really about recognizing that there are more mild variants of a condition. Not to say that this hasn’t been abused – because it has – but the existence of the spectrum in and of itself is not the problem.

    I knew those scare quotes would be a problem! :) Why didn’t I just say I didn’t want to talk about other issues and leave it at that? Why?

    The quotes weren’t about the existence of milder forms of autism, but were meant to reflect the way the spectrum addition has played out in practice. I don’t know enough about it specifically to have a well-formed view beyond the square-quote snark (though I do have some understanding of the broader DSM-diagnostic history not related to autism specifically). I think Allen Frances is onto something here and here, but I’m not making any strong statements about it one way or the other.

  19. Esteleth, Raging Dyke of Fuck Mountain says

    Okay, SC. We’re good.

    Sorry, as someone with an ASD, my hackles got raised.

  20. life is like a pitbull with lipstick ॐ says

    (Maybe take a break and come back.)

    I waited for hours this morning for you to respond to my question, since I don’t want to misunderstand you on this.

    No, that’s wrong. Read my posts again.

    Here’s the part where you suggest that we should mock people for hearing voices:

    Look, if acne were considered the result of something fundamentally broken inside people, with a diagnosis of Acnic considered an identity having the same stigma and terrible effects as that of schizophrenic, a changed world in which people mocked one another for pimples, recognizing that it’s simply a skin problem that’s usually temporary (the causes of which in some cases usefully point to larger problems) and something many people deal with would not only be a vast improvement but would confirm and foster this better understanding.

    I.e. to get to your better world we’re apparently going to have to mock people for their own good. Or maybe not “have to” but it would be okay if we did.

    It’s the same logic which says we should mock people for same-sex attraction, because in a better world, there would be no homophobia and thus definitionally it would be not-homophobic to mock people for same-sex attraction. And I understand that some well-meaning people find this to be compelling logic. But it turns out not to work in practice.

    We already have, for acne, basically the world you want for mental health. Lots of people get acne at some point in their lives, it’s not considered to mean anything about being “fundamentally broken”, it’s not an identity.

    And yet mocking people for acne does hurt, it can be really traumatizing for some people. It’s a fucked up thing to do. I wish you would reconsider what you’re saying, and say clearly that just as mocking people for acne does nobody any good, mocking people for hearing voices would do nobody any good.

    I have no desire to see you associated with the notion that insults about hearing voices are a good thing; I’d much rather see you be clearly associated with the obvious. And I know you know I’m not stupid. So if I’m somehow misunderstanding you I don’t see why it should be such an unworthy effort for you to speak up clearly against this. And if I’m not misunderstanding you, well, I don’t know. I don’t know yet what to say about that; I’m still not really ready to think that this is really what you’re meaning to say.

  21. life is like a pitbull with lipstick ॐ says

    … I’d much rather see you be clearly associated with the obvious opposite. ….

  22. says

    I.e. to get to your better world we’re apparently going to have to mock people for their own good. Or maybe not “have to” but it would be okay if we did.

    Sigh.

    Look, if acne were considered the result of something fundamentally broken inside people, with a diagnosis of Acnic considered an identity having the same stigma and terrible effects as that of schizophrenic, a changed world in which people mocked one another for pimples, recognizing that it’s simply a skin problem that’s usually temporary (the causes of which in some cases usefully point to larger problems) and something many people deal with would not only be a vast improvement but would confirm and foster this better understanding.

    This changed world would be equivalent to the existing world in which someone now might be teased for having a pimple. I’m assuming its existence in this hypothetical. A response to this of “But you KNOW that it’s not nice to tease someone for having a pimple!” [and by the way, I don't appreciate your relying on linguistic ambiguity to turn "a pimple" into "acne"] is just too trivial to answer, particularly when set against the moral question of perpetuating scientifically unsound ideas about people that have harmful effects including and far beyond stigmatizing mockery.

    In a culture changing for the better, as I think ours is just beginning to on the subject of “mental illness,” forms of mockery – aside from any not-niceness inherent in insulting – can have different effects, and some, at some moments and in some contexts, can be progressive. By no means do I believe they always are or are predominantly. Thinking that I “suggest that we should mock people for hearing voices” results from not fairly or thoughtfully reading my posts.

    I’ve said probably a hundred times now that the reason mocking someone for these things is a nontrivial problem is that it’s in a context that relates them to a stigmatizing identity. This applies not only to mockery, but to the many well-intentioned or neutral or unintentionally hostile statements (“Don’t take my sister seriously – she’s an unmedicated schizophrenic,” “If she’s a schizophrenic not on her meds, why is she allowed to participate in a public forum?”). It applies to well-meaning arguments against characterizations or mockery that themselves perpetuate the beliefs (“You shouldn’t use schizophrenia as an insult because it’s a disabling disease!”). It applies to anything regardless of intent that serves to perpetuate these false and stigmatizing notions. This is not about mockery per se or mockery that stigmatizes, because mockery here doesn’t stigmatize more than well-intentioned or neutral statements (I do believe that in some cases at some times some mockery could have the opposite effect, but by no means do I think that’s always true, nor do I condone or recommend it in some general way).

    This is not about mockery. A debate about when mocking people is good, bad, or indifferent would be an interesting one, but in this context pales beside the morality of perpetuating the larger false beliefs that stigmatize and harm and make the mockery nontrivial. I am not going to have that mockery debate here.

  23. Louis says

    SC, #(5)17,

    Oh indeed! Whilst some of the stuff I’ve read here from you on the science has appeared a little suspect,* I completely agree that the best medical model, i.e. the best for patients, for getting drugs developed and out there is not a capitalist/the current one. That is a twelve page six hour rant from me, with excruciating detail and swearwords, so I’ll spare everyone!

    Louis

    * I haven’t given it any great analysis, nor can I remember any specifics off the top of my head. I’m going to go and read your blog and resources/references contained therein. If anything comes up I’ll let you know. My eyebrow just raised once or twice, from memory!

  24. life is like a pitbull with lipstick ॐ says

    This is not about mockery.

    Hi! For me it is. That’s why I’ve been involved in the conversation. I asked very early on not for what you claim I asked:

    Um, no. The analogous case is one in which the thing said by Person A that’s offensive about gender is offensive because of essentialist cultural beliefs. Person B, with the best of intentions, is saying “Please don’t say that because [explanation based on gender essentialism].” Person C recognizes that the serious offense and harm are real because of the essentialist understandings, and wants to challenge the essentialist meanings so that the insult wouldn’t be directed at an oppressed group but just a general thing that actually lessens gender essentialism. Person B then says he only wants to talk about the insult and only wants to do it in a way that promotes essentialism and prejudice. Person C finds this odd. That’s analogous.

    I’ve bolded the misunderstandings of what I said. Here is what I really asked for:

    Then please let me know how I can make objections about the inappropriate labeling of schizophrenia which: 1) will not entangle me in a deconstruction of the very idea of mental illness, which I am not willing to participate in, and 2) do not require me to implicitly accept the premise that there is no such thing.

    It wasn’t a request to “hey SC, tell me a way to talk about this as mental illness which will keep you from arguing with me about mental illness.” I wouldn’t ask that of you; it makes no sense.

    What I was looking for is something neutral on the issue of mental illness. Surely you must allow the possibility that there are ways to object to the use of schizophrenia as an insult, ways which can be employed by people who are undecided on the whole debate about whether there is such a thing as mental illness but who can see that there is something obviously morally fucked about using schizophrenia as an insult. (And I’m not saying that I’m undecided on it, but I think it’s likely that there are some other Pharyngulites who are. Possibly Jadehawk. Probably others.)

    I’m not willing to make your whole deconstruction argument when I object to insults like the ones by Azkyroth and Ichthyic which started this discussion, and I’m not willing to implicitly accept your premises. But I am open to the possibility of making my objections in a way that is agnostic about causes, brain disease, mental illness — whatever you think is stigmatizing, I am willing to try to avoid it just in case you’re right.

    Maybe you can’t yet think of a cause-agnostic way of talking about this. Okay. But obviously you shouldn’t rule out the possibility that such could exist.

  25. Pteryxx says

    *crawls out of lurker swamp*

    …That quoted acne comparison has an “if” at the beginning. Where’s the “then” that denotes the dependent clause? I can’t find it to figure out what the statement says.

    /relurks

  26. life is like a pitbull with lipstick ॐ says

    “… schizophrenic, [then] a changed world …”

  27. says

    Surely you must allow the possibility that there are ways to object to the use of schizophrenia as an insult, ways which can be employed by people who are undecided on the whole debate about whether there is such a thing as mental illness but who can see that there is something obviously morally fucked about using schizophrenia as an insult.

    There are ways to object to it, but the nondeconstructing ones perpetuate the root problem. An unproblematic condemnation would have to take the form of “Using schizophrenia as an insult is nontrivially problematic because [reason that doesn't assume schizophrenia is a thing / brain disease and recognizes that the stigma is rooted in this belief].” Otherwise, you’re either perpetuating the core problem or you’re just saying that it’s morally fucked up to insult people.

    You’re saying that surely I must allow for that possibility, but you haven’t provided any examples and I can’t think of any, so… In any case, I find the fixation on insults and desperate determination to try to find a way to focus on insults in a manner that avoids the larger issue in this context puzzling.

    I’ve talked about how and why I, as someone who doesn’t believe it, see responding to such remarks or insults as a dilemma several times now, and I’m not going to repeat it. But I’ll point out again that I have the same dilemma when faced with any comments that perpetuate the beliefs – mockery, characterizations, protectiveness, and so on.

    (And I don’t necessarily agree with your blanket characterization of those comments as insults. IIRC, and I might not, Ichthyic’s was one of his typical psychological characterizations. Again, there was no condemnation of the suggestion that she has “anger issues,” or, for that matter, of the multiple comments about my alleged paranoia. …which, by the way, I found annoying for a few reasons, though I do think the way people talk about paranoia, including “insultingly,” can be progressive in some ways.)

    I really think we’re done here. I’m repeating myself a lot, and it’s tiring.

    ***

    …That quoted acne comparison has an “if” at the beginning. Where’s the “then” that denotes the dependent clause? I can’t find it to figure out what the statement says.

    Go back and read it in context. The “then” is implied before “a changed world.”

  28. cm's changeable moniker says

    Louis, thank you for asking @#490, exactly the question I was going to ask.

    And SC, thank you for the response, which confirmed and clarified what I thought you were saying upthread, and what I got from reading your blog to try and make sure.

    My interest, I have to admit, was piqued by having recently read The Psychopath Test (which is short on hard science but raises interesting questions; it also features Allen Frances). One interesting story in it:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosenhan_experiment

    The first part involved the use of healthy associates or “pseudopatients” (three women and five men) who briefly simulated auditory hallucinations in an attempt to gain admission to 12 different psychiatric hospitals in five different states in various locations in the United States. All were admitted and diagnosed with psychiatric disorders. After admission, the pseudopatients acted normally and told staff that they felt fine and had not experienced any more hallucinations. Hospital staff failed to detect a single pseudopatient, and instead believed that all of the pseudopatients exhibited symptoms of ongoing mental illness. Several were confined for months. All were forced to admit to having a mental illness and agree to take antipsychotic drugs as a condition of their release.

    Once he went public with the results, to predictable outrage:

    [A hospital challenged] Rosenhan to send pseudopatients to its facility, whom its staff would then detect. Rosenhan agreed and in the following weeks out of 193 new patients the staff identified as potential pseudopatients, with 19 of these receiving suspicion from at least 1 psychiatrist and 1 other staff member. In fact Rosenhan had sent no-one to the hospital.

  29. life is like a pitbull with lipstick ॐ says

    There are ways to object to it, but the nondeconstructing ones perpetuate the root problem.

    [For a moment granting your premise about what is the root problem,] this is only necessarily true in the trivial sense that standing there and saying nothing also perpetuates the root problem. And even in that case, the person who’s objecting is doing something slightly more useful than those who say nothing.

    An unproblematic condemnation would have to take the form of “Using schizophrenia as an insult is nontrivially problematic because [reason that doesn't assume schizophrenia is a thing / brain disease

    Yes, I'm willing to say something which is agnostic on the nature of schizophrenia, brain disease, mental illness, the ontology of things in general.

    and recognizes that the stigma is rooted in this belief].”

    But here you seem to be requesting that every objection should not only implicitly, but explicitly accept your premise.

    I think this is an unfortunate request. It does not allow for cause-agnosticism at all, and thus ensures that we have this fight every single time.

    Otherwise, you’re either perpetuating the core problem or you’re just saying that it’s morally fucked up to insult people.

    Well I do think it is morally fucked up to insult people for things they did not choose, and cannot choose to stop. While you correctly point out that people make these sorts of insults a lot, I think there is also a fairly widespread understanding that it’s generally fucked up, which can be appealed to.

    Is that a kind of cause-agnostic objection which you could let pass without argument?

    (And I don’t necessarily agree with your blanket characterization of those comments as insults. IIRC, and I might not, Ichthyic’s was one of his typical psychological characterizations.

    Well that’s remarkably naive.

    Again, there was no condemnation of the suggestion that she has “anger issues,”

    Maybe there should be. (I didn’t see that comment.)

    or, for that matter, of the multiple comments about my alleged paranoia.

    From me there was! I know that thread was a fast one but didn’t you notice?

  30. cm's changeable moniker says

    Ugh. Pffftgarble. Better 2nd quotation:

    Out of 193 patients, 41 were considered to be impostors and a further 42 were considered suspect. In reality, Rosenhan had sent no pseudopatients and all patients suspected as impostors by the hospital staff were ordinary patients.

  31. cm's changeable moniker says

    [meta]

    The “Reason evolved to win arguments” link amused me because it instantly implanted in my head this Onion headline:

    Reason evolved to win arguments, say scientists trying to win argument about why reason evolved

    ;)

  32. says

    My interest, I have to admit, was piqued by having recently read The Psychopath Test (which is short on hard science but raises interesting questions; it also features Allen Frances).

    I haven’t read that, but I have read the article. I thought the same thing – raises interesting questions. My absolute favorite part was one of the pseudo-patients in the ward taking notes, described by one of the staff in the record: “Patient engaged in writing behavior.” “Patient engaged in writing behavior” is just awesome. You could write an essay about that one line alone.

    Frances is really interesting. It’s not like the DSM-5 people can dismiss his relentless criticisms with “Well, what do you know about it?”

  33. says

    An unproblematic condemnation would have to take the form of “Using schizophrenia as an insult is nontrivially problematic because [reason that doesn't assume schizophrenia is a thing / brain disease and recognizes that the stigma is rooted in this belief].”

    oh good. after fuck-knows how long, I’ve finally got an answer to my question

    so yeah. basically the same as with racism and gender stereotypes.

  34. says

    this is only necessarily true in the trivial sense that standing there and saying nothing also perpetuates the root problem.

    In the same sense that not responding to every single instance of sexist language perpetuates the problem. I’m one human being, and don’t have the time, energy, or inclination to do that, especially when it typically results in drawn-out arguments in a hostile environment (this is, to the best of my recollection, the first time it has felt much less so, thanks to a few people who might not agree with me in the long run but were kind and intellectually open, but early on it looked to be going that way) and in which I’m often the only person arguing my position. I accept that saying nothing in that circumstance doesn’t help, but I prefer to spend far more of the time I’m devoting to the matter doing research and writing, and I know that I can’t address every instance.

    And even in that case, the person who’s objecting is doing something slightly more useful than those who say nothing.

    Not if the character of the objection is just as problematic as the remark it’s responding to.

    Well I do think it is morally fucked up to insult people for things they did not choose, and cannot choose to stop.

    Like having a pimple. I get it. I don’t agree with this blanket assertion, as I’ve said more than once.

    [For a moment granting your premise about what is the root problem,]

    The thing is that it’s not just my premise. It’s something I believe, and think is a serious issue. Because of this, you’re not going to convince me that the real issue here is insults and that it’s important to find ways to object to them while ignoring it.

    I think there is also a fairly widespread understanding that it’s generally fucked up, which can be appealed to.

    Again, this to me – even if I agreed with it fully, which I don’t – is trivial. If you’re going to start objecting to every single such insult, it will be fairly annoying, I assume. In this case, I don’t agree that insults should be the focus, other than as an opening to discussion of the far more important problem.

    Well that’s remarkably naive.

    Given the history, I don’t think so. He’s offered at least one psychological speculation in the majority of discussions I can remember. He’s linked to Altemeyer probably 150 times.

    From me there was! I know that thread was a fast one but didn’t you notice?

    I didn’t. I stopped reading carefully after a while.

    Look, we’ve each made our cases, repeatedly, and I think we’re just going to have to agree to disagree at this point and do our own independent thing that we think is best.

  35. says

    Yes, I’m willing to say something which is agnostic on the nature of schizophrenia, brain disease, mental illness, the ontology of things in general.

    I think an objection that might be acceptable to me and properly “agnostic” would possibly be something along the lines of:

    It’s not OK to use schizophrenic as an insult because it’s stigmatizing in our culture. Some people, including people who’ve been so diagnosed, have argued that “schizophrenia” doesn’t really exist [perhaps insert link here :)]. I don’t know whether that’s true or not, and I’m looking into it. But I do think that using a term that’s a stigmatizing label currently in our culture as an insult is a bad thing to do.

    Maybe?

  36. andyo says

    hyperdeath #148

    To be fair to the “what is going on?” people, it’s very difficult to get the gist of internet drama unless you’ve been in the middle of it. Yes, the information is available online, but it’s usually split across multiple sources, and spread throughout long comment sections. These sources usually assume a familiarity with the topic and hand, and lack any form of indexing, and so it’s not even clear what to read.

    That’s not the problem. The problem with these people is that even though they admit they’re uninformed, and they admit they don’t wanna get informed, they still say shit like this (my emphasis):

    Chengvang #137
    Sure, if you want to label everyone who disagree with you as a heretic. So I didn’t buy the whole Rebecca was almost raped by a socially awkward guy who asked her to coffee super early in the morning, and that Richard Dawkins is a rape apologists for not agreeing with Rebecca. I’m a woman hater for that, I just hate all woman based on that example.

    Like it was said in the original Elevatorgate Pharyngula thread.

  37. andyo says

    shit, accidentally got posted. I’ll continue…

    the whole Rebecca was almost raped by a socially awkward guy who asked her to coffee super early in the morning, and that Richard Dawkins is a rape apologists for not agreeing with Rebecca.

    Like it was said in the original Elevatorgate Pharyngula thread a million times to these idiots full of uninformed opionions who just stumble in such a thread : Who the fuck said that?

  38. life is like a pitbull with lipstick ॐ says

    Even with the one-sided mention you suggest, I’d be very likely to get sucked in to some kind of deconstruction discussion as soon as anybody asked me more about it, and then I’d end up arguing that schizophrenia does exist and is a mental illness since that’s what I believe. While my point in asking about this was to avoid participating in all that whenever possible; this is one of the few things in life that I hate arguing about.

    Anyway, I can’t won’t do a one-sided mention like that. If I start presenting arguments that “schizophrenia doesn’t exist” I’m going to feel obliged to also present arguments that “schizophrenia does exist”, and note that there are people so diagnosed who take that side of the argument as well.

    What I can feel comfortable saying: “It’s not OK to use schizophrenic as an insult because it’s stigmatizing in our culture. And even professional clinicians are warned, ‘you can force a patient into a variety of diagnoses if you are strongly motivated enough to do so.’”

    +++++

    Given the history, I don’t think so. He’s offered at least one psychological speculation in the majority of discussions I can remember. He’s linked to Altemeyer probably 150 times.

    Altemeyer has naught to do with psychiatry. He is clear that he isn’t talking about pathologies.

    +++++
    Anyway my memory was faulty; I checked again and the comments I responded to didn’t mention “paranoia” specifically, just some generic mental health shittalk. But all of the above stopped at that point.

  39. says

    Even with the one-sided mention you suggest, I’d be very likely to get sucked in to some kind of deconstruction discussion as soon as anybody asked me more about it, and then I’d end up arguing that schizophrenia does exist and is a mental illness since that’s what I believe.

    So you weren’t really looking for an objection that takes an agnostic position, because you aren’t agnostic at all. The only acceptable responses for you are those that reflect your belief, and one that actually presents your position as agnostic is “one-sided.” What a waste of time. I’ll trust you less in the future.

    Altemeyer has naught to do with psychiatry. He is clear that he isn’t talking about pathologies.

    You seriously think this argues against my point about the nature of Ichthyic’s comment?

    I’m done with this nonsense.

  40. life is like a pitbull with lipstick ॐ says

    You seriously think this argues against my point about the nature of Ichthyic’s comment?

    Yes, pointing out that you supported that argument with an irrelevancy does lessen support for it.

    So you weren’t really looking for an objection that takes an agnostic position,

    Wrong.

    because you aren’t agnostic at all.

    I told you from the beginning that I’m not. Over and over again I’ve been clear about this. What I’m nevertheless willing to do is offer a cause-agnostic objection. But that’s not what you’re asking me to do.

    The only acceptable responses for you are those that reflect your belief,

    No, the only acceptable responses for me are those which do not contradict my belief. That is of course the whole point of trying to find something cause-agnostic to say, so that I don’t have to say something I don’t believe.

    and one that actually presents your position as agnostic is “one-sided.” What a waste of time. I’ll trust you less in the future.

    I’m actually surprised you can’t see how one-sided it is, what you said there:

    It’s not OK to use schizophrenic as an insult because it’s stigmatizing in our culture. Some people, including people who’ve been so diagnosed, have argued that “schizophrenia” doesn’t really exist [perhaps insert link here :)]. I don’t know whether that’s true or not, and I’m looking into it. But I do think that using a term that’s a stigmatizing label currently in our culture as an insult is a bad thing to do.

    Everything in bold is your beliefs, which you want me to present for you. Where is the other side? Just a bit of a shrug that “I don’t know whether that one side I’ve just presented is true or not”? (That would also be something I can’t honestly say; I can’t, or at least shouldn’t, pretend like I don’t think it’s wrong.) There’s nothing cause-agnostic about any of that. I already explained why this is unacceptable:

    and recognizes that the stigma is rooted in this belief].”

    But here you seem to be requesting that every objection should not only implicitly, but explicitly accept your premise.

    I think this is an unfortunate request. It does not allow for cause-agnosticism at all, and thus ensures that we have this fight every single time.

    As I indicated in the second paragraph of #41, there’s a longer version which would be cause-agnostic:

    «It’s not OK to use schizophrenic as an insult because it’s stigmatizing in our culture. [1] Some people, including people who’ve been so diagnosed, have argued that “schizophrenia” doesn’t really exist [insert link here]. [2] Some people, including people who’ve been so diagnosed, have argued that “schizophrenia” does exist [insert link here]. [Randomize order of 1 and 2.] But in any case I do think that using a term that’s a stigmatizing label currently in our culture as an insult is a bad thing to do.»

    Well there it is, that’s what a two-sided, actually cause-agnostic version looks like.

    But I’m really looking to avoid all that if I can, because it’s so obviously going to get me dragged into a sort of deconstruction argument as soon as someone starts wanting to discuss it all — and not only do I hate that sort of argument, if you or some other deconstructionist isn’t present then that argument is probably going to end up being all one-sided; I doubt anyone will competently take up the “doesn’t exist” side just for the sake of discussion. I’ll have to say “no I don’t believe that” and if no one else does either then that’ll be the end of it.

    I don’t see how that’s obviously preferable to what I offered as being really comfortable with. I don’t even see what’s the problem with what I offered. It contextualizes the stigma of schizophrenia wrt current, and calls diagnoses into question in a way that I can feel honest about. But if that’s not acceptable then the long two-sided version is an honest option for me; I just don’t think it’ll lead to the kind of discussions you hope for.

  41. says

    Even with the one-sided mention you suggest,

    You know as well as I do that the brain-disease notion is the default in our culture, that if you said “Don’t use it as an insult because it’s stigmatizing,” people will fill in the rest. Not pointing out challenges that argue that this belief is itself stigmatizing would be one-sided. You know this.

    He is clear that he isn’t talking about pathologies.

    If the drug companies could make money off of it, RWA would be in the DSM and we’d be hearing all about the neurotransmittors or whatever associated with it, regardless of his opinions (and he leaves the door open).

    I really am going to try to exit now. I don’t think this is productive.

  42. life is like a pitbull with lipstick ॐ says

    You know as well as I do that the brain-disease notion is the default in our culture, that if you said “Don’t use it as an insult because it’s stigmatizing,” people will fill in the rest. Not pointing out challenges that argue that this belief is itself stigmatizing would be one-sided. You know this.

    Yes that’s why I offered also that “And even professional clinicians are warned, ‘you can force a patient into a variety of diagnoses if you are strongly motivated enough to do so.’”

    I think that implicitly challenges the framework of whatever’s being discussed. Evidently you don’t think it’s enough. Okay, but the only other option that I can honestly present is this:

    «It’s not OK to use schizophrenic as an insult because it’s stigmatizing in our culture. [1] Some people, including people who’ve been so diagnosed, have argued that “schizophrenia” doesn’t really exist [insert link here]. [2] Some people, including people who’ve been so diagnosed, have argued that “schizophrenia” does exist [insert link here]. [Randomize order of 1 and 2.] But in any case I do think that using a term that’s a stigmatizing label currently in our culture as an insult is a bad thing to do.»

  43. life is like a pitbull with lipstick ॐ says

    Anyway, even if you think this has all been a waste of time, I don’t think it’s fair to suggest that I’ve done something untrustworthy. Earlier I told you explicitly what I found unacceptable about being asked to “recognize that the stigma is rooted in this belief”. Maybe you overlooked it, but I don’t think my objection to this was at all unclear.

  44. says

    It’s not OK to use schizophrenic as an insult because it’s stigmatizing in our culture. [1] Some people, including people who’ve been so diagnosed, have argued that “schizophrenia” doesn’t really exist [insert link here]. [2] Some people, including people who’ve been so diagnosed, have argued that “schizophrenia” does exist [insert link here]. [Randomize order of 1 and 2.] But in any case I do think that using a term that’s a stigmatizing label currently in our culture as an insult is a bad thing to do.

    #2 is assumed both by the use of the term to begin with and the point about stigmatization, so it’s entirely redundant. But fine, go with that.

  45. John Morales says

    [meta + OT]

    richardh: Morales’ calculation was mere snark, and you know it.

    ChasCPeterson: Actually, having read Morales’s stuff for many years now, I strongly suspect it wasn’t.

    What Chas wrote.

  46. richardh says

    richardh: Morales’ calculation was mere snark, and you know it.

    ChasCPeterson: Actually, having read Morales’s stuff for many years now, I strongly suspect it wasn’t.

    What Chas wrote.

    If you say so.

    So what was the point of your comment? Stating that 90°[C] is “almost 6% hotter” than 70°[C] didn’t noticeably advance the discussion. Relative absolute temperature difference is useful for measuring the thermodynamic efficiency of a heat engine, but not for much else.

  47. John Morales says

    richardh:

    So what was the point of your comment? Stating that 90°[C] is “almost 6% hotter” than 70°[C] didn’t noticeably advance the discussion.

    It quantifies the difference in temperature, which is a calculation easily done incorrectly by those who have forgotten their secondary-school level science.

    Relative absolute temperature difference is useful for measuring the thermodynamic efficiency of a heat engine, but not for much else.

    It shows how much hotter something is at some particular temperature as compared to another, too.

    (Coffee, in this case)

  48. says

    Tigger
    TMK, it depends onthe temperature the skin/flesh reaches for X amount of time:
    From the German Pfft of all knowledge:

    Bei partieller Wärmeeinwirkung tritt eine Hautschädigung nach folgenden Wärmeeinwirkzeiten ein:[4]

    zwischen 45 °C und 51 °C innerhalb von Minuten
    zwischen 51 °C und 70 °C innerhalb von Sekunden
    über 70 °C in Sekundenbruchteilen

    With partial heating damage is caused after the following times:
    Between 45-51°C: within minutes
    Between 51- 70° within seconds
    Over 70° within splits of seconds.

    With liquids you have the added problem that the surface is very large (putting your hand on a 70° plate is not like putting into 70° water) and that with clothes it stays there.

  49. richardh says

    It shows how much hotter something is at some particular temperature as compared to another, too.

    Yes. That’s how “relative difference” is defined.

    ChasCPeterson, I now see your point.