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Apr 21 2014

Polls of the American public are so depressing

Especially when they poll them on science knowledge. An AP poll on science doesn’t surprise me at all.

AP-GfK-March-2014-Poll_SCIENCE

At least it’s good to know that finally, after 50+ years of hard lobbying and information campaigns, it has finally sunk in that smoking causes cancer. What isn’t so good are the numbers on evolution and climate change. Only 31% are confident that humans evolved, while 42% are not confident. Why? Goddamn religion.

Confidence in evolution, the Big Bang, the age of the Earth and climate change decline sharply as faith in a supreme being rises, according to the poll. Likewise, those who regularly attend religious services or are evangelical Christians express much greater doubts about scientific concepts they may see as contradictory to their faith.

Here’s the problem, though: religious apologists. When even scientists, religious scientists in particular, are making excuses for a hoary old book of myths and poetry, how can we possibly advance understanding?

But evolution, the age of the Earth and the Big Bang are all compatible with God, except to Bible literalists, said Francisco Ayala, a former priest and professor of biology, philosophy and logic at the University of California, Irvine. And Darrel Falk, a biology professor at Point Loma Nazarene University and an evangelical Christian, agreed, adding: "The story of the cosmos and the Big Bang of creation is not inconsistent with the message of Genesis 1, and there is much profound biblical scholarship to demonstrate this."

OK, Ayala, define “god”. Go ahead, I keep waiting for a concrete, clear answer, but these apologists won’t give one, or they’ll mumble platitudes (the Ground State of All Being, they’ll say, which means fuck-all).

And hey, Darrel Falk, where in the scientific theory of cosmic origins is there a near-instantaneous creation of a garden on Earth (which didn’t even exist at the time of the Big Bang), a tree of magic fruit, and a talking snake? Sure, it’s compatible, as long as you ignore what the book actually says and pretend it’s all a big metaphor. Of course, you’re missing the One True Over-Riding Metaphor, which is “Humans are gullible saps who’ll believe anything.”

191 comments

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  1. 1
    doublereed

    Only 82% think smoking causes cancer? That’s pathetic. 28% aren’t sure? 28% is not a small number.

  2. 2
    doublereed

    Sorry, *18%. Still not a small number.

  3. 3
    Artor

    Francisco Ayala, a former priest and professor of biology, philosophy and logic

    Logic? Really? This guy teaches a subject he’s demonstrated he has no grasp of? Oh, how far UC Irvine has sunk…

  4. 4
    raven

    A recent poll found that 26% of the US population believes the sun orbits the earth, Geocentrism.

    This is up from previous years where it was 20%.

    This means 1 in 4 people can’t diagram the solar system, a task I learned in the first grade. There are only 9 (or 8) planets. How hard can this be?

    It’s only one data point but it implies that we are becoming less educated with time, not more. It’s also consistent with a very real attack on public education lead by the current Tea Party governors in places like North Carolina and Wisconsin.

    We really can’t afford a nation of near illiterates. You can find a lot of places like that. They are all poverty stricken countries in the Third World, poor, struggling and likely to get hit hard by climate change.

  5. 5
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

    The problem I have with those statements is that they’re so exact: Smoking causes cancer, antibiotics create drug-resistant bacteria.

    Though it sounds more wishy-washy, the use of “may” would help that poll.

  6. 6
    A Masked Avenger

    And hey, Darrel Falk, where in the scientific theory of cosmic origins is there a near-instantaneous creation of a garden on Earth (which didn’t even exist at the time of the Big Bang), a tree of magic fruit, and a talking snake?

    I think you’re missing something–one of those subtleties folks like you and Dawkins are accused of missing. Namely, that outside Fundie circles, theologians and biblical scholars (which are two different things) already don’t believe in a 6,000-year-old earth, a talking snake, a magic tree, or any of the rest of it. They recognize that Genesis 1 and 2 can’t be literally true because, among other things, they’re contradictory, and presuppose things like geocentrism and that the sky is a solid dome.

    When they talk about “the message of Genesis 1,” they’re talking primarily about a particular humanist conclusion. They read Genesis 1 as a temple-building narrative, written as an anti-Babylonian polemic by postexilic Jews, designed to counter the Babylonian myth that the gods created humans as slave labor. In the Genesis version, the temple is the (geocentric, solid-domed) cosmos (see? Our god is bigger!), and mankind is the idol inside the temple.

    As a matter of literary genre, they appear to have scholarship on their side. Genesis was written (or redacted) in Babylon, in no small part to serve as propaganda against Babylon and for the Jerusalem temple cult, in no small part by offering direct replacements for prevalent Babylonian myths.

    This “message” is clearly couched in theistic terms, which undercuts the “humanist” label I slapped on it above. And it has the dangerous potential to support an anthropocentric view that justifies all manner of harm to the environment, etc. I certainly get that. The bit that’s “humanist” is that it invests humanity with a particular dignity as “the image in the temple.” Mistreatment–or even disrespect–toward the “image” is seen as sacrilege. The rest of the Bible fails to carry that theme through consistently, but other parts do make it explicit: to hate one’s fellow human “made in the image of god” is to hate god.

    Going on about taking snakes is an effective attack on fundies, but for the likes of Darrell Falk it completely misses the target. He doesn’t believe in talking snakes either.

  7. 7
    kathleenmcnamara

    Well, I know the universe is really old, and started with a big bang, but off the top of my head, I don’t necessarily remember that it was 13.8 billion years ago, so I’d probably be less than extremely confident in answering that question. *Shrug*

  8. 8
    PZ Myers

    I am well aware of the excuse-making the non-fundies do. That’s my point: how can you say the book of Genesis is compatible with scientific explanations? Only by ignoring everything it actually says, waving it away and inserting an explanation that you’ve cribbed from an external source, the scientific literature, and which is not at all present in the text. On one extreme you’ve got fundamentalists who say every word is absolutely true, and on the other you’ve got these apologists who say that the words aren’t true at all, but that somehow the truth is manifest in denial of the text and some sort of metaphorical substitution.

    Darrell Falk does not believe in talking snakes. But he still believes that an old book with talking snakes is the word of God. I refuse to let them get away with that bullshit.

  9. 9
    John Horstman

    Well, “cause” is kind of a weasel word. I’d agree 100% with the statement, “Smoking greatly increases the likelihood of developing cancer,” or even, “Smoking can and often does cause cancer,” for example, but not necessarily with the statement “Smoking causes cancer,” since it’s framed as an absolute assertion, and that’s not actually true (in an extreme case, if you smoke a single cigarette in your entire life, it’s unlikely to prompt the development of cancer; or, if you smoke cigarettes continuously for days, you’ll die from nicotine or carbon monoxide poisoning before developing cancer). However, that’s likely not causing (ha!) most of the less-certain answers (unless there are more people who are well-versed in the relevant philosophy and science AND unashamedly pedantic than appears to me to be the case). Most of the rest are oversimplified/poorly-stated as well. Does “through a process of natural selection” mean natural selection alone? ‘Cause if it does, it’s obviously wrong – at the very least, human selection has shaped our own evolution and that of countless species we exploit (I would argue that human selection IS natural selection, but it’s not what most people mean by “natural selection”). Even the global warming question isn’t ideal – while I certainly agree that a significant portion and probably most of our current warming cycle is the direct or indirect result of human activities, I’m not so sure about the phrase ‘man-made gases’ (at the very least, the gendered language is bad, though perhaps partly accurate, as men tend to be in charge of the worst polluters, like most human institutions at present).

    By the way, you (general you) probably don’t ever want me as a witness in a court case. The one time it’s happened, I got into an argument with the prosecutor and judge about what the words they were saying actually meant. I took my oath to tell the truth very seriously, and I wound up looking contradictory and untrustworthy becasue the lawyers were bad at asking questions that actually would elicit the information they wanted. Garbage in, garbage out, people.

  10. 10
    a_ray_in_dilbert_space

    The New Testament is basically Jewish Fan Fic, and even the authors of the Old Testament didn’t take it literally for the most part. The OT is basically a myth the Jews told themselves to justify their place in the world–much like the Greek myths or the Ramayana. That doesn’t make what’s there any less pernicious. It’s a just-so story designed to satiate rather than pique curiosity. It fixes in place the social order of a tribe of nomadic shepherds and claims it to be the will of the sky daddy. It emphasizes supernatural explanation over naturalistic reasoning.

    The real criticism of the “liberal” xtian faiths is not that they preclude acceptance of the Big Bang, but rather that if we had adhered strictly to the tenets of their faith, we never would have discovered the evidence for it.

  11. 11
    a_ray_in_dilbert_space

    People are getting hung up on wording. To say “smoking causes cancer” is correct. It does. They are not saying that smoking causes all cancers, or that anyone who has ever smoked will get cancer or that smoking is the only cause of cancer.

    And the “man-made” gasses–that is just because they don’t want to trip people up with multi-syllabic words like “anthropogenic”. People are as stupid about language as they are about science.

  12. 12
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    “A mental illness is a medical condition that affects the brain.”

    Oh, for the love of… This – in any sense that people generally understand “medical condition” – is false.

  13. 13
    moarscienceplz

    I wouldn’t place too much faith in these polls. I have participated in a number of polls, not about these particular topics, usually about the local political picture or funding for schools, and I have really tried to make my position count for something in them.
    Trouble is, 1) They take a loooog time and they call my landline so I am trapped in one room unable to do anything else or even find a position that is comfortable for half an hour or more, plus usually my dinner is growing cold while I talk to the pollsters.
    2) The number of answer choices is often quite large so it is hard to remember which choice bet fits my opinion.
    3) The questions themselves are often long, with lots of dependent clauses that are tough to parse, or they literally make no sense at all.
    4)The interviewer is usually some hack they found on the street who doesn’t know how to speak clearly and almost never understands the questions themselves.
    What I find is that I start out with good intentions to answer honestly and clearly, but after listening to about 15 minutes of droning, I lose focus and will say pretty much anything just to get the torment to end.

  14. 14
    A Masked Avenger

    I am well aware of the excuse-making the non-fundies do. That’s my point: how can you say the book of Genesis is compatible with scientific explanations?

    In this case, they’re saying it’s compatible in the same way that The Hobbit is compatible: science and myth have nothing to do with each other. Talking about their compatibility is like asking whether eating at McDonald’s is compatible with working at the flower shop.

    Darrell Falk does not believe in talking snakes. But he still believes that an old book with talking snakes is the word of God.

    He’s certainly a theist–there’s no way around that. A theist who believes that the Bible is in some way helpful for interacting with his deity. No way around that either.

    But he believes that talking snakes are a myth. So he believes that this Bible of his contains (some) myths. If he considers it “the word of God,” then apparently he believes that his deity is a storyteller, who tells myths for some particular purpose. Existence of this deity in the first place may be bullshit, but it’s less than clear how it makes matters worse to suppose that this deity sometimes tells mythical stories.

    Note however that his concept of “the word of God” is also not the fundies’ concept. I can’t speak to Falk’s particular view of “inspiration,” but Christians in his circle would generally don’t believe any such notion as God dictating the text to anyone. They would generally say that the Bible is a product of human authors grappling with theological questions, and that it reflects their own thoughts. They regard theology as an ongoing debate, not a matter of direct revelation. So it’s doubtful that they even regard Genesis as divinely-dictated myths, but rather as human-devised myths from a particular time and place which (for whatever reason) are valuable to ponder.

    Again, though I don’t know Falk’s specific view (and can’t be arsed to look very hard), his circle tends to clump on the end of the spectrum that either treats “inspiration” of the Bible similarly to the “inspiration” of Shakespeare, or that thinks the Bible writers latched onto some genuinely “divine” ideas, and then expressed them as best they could in their own words, with an admixture of much less divine stuff.

    For example, skip the talking snake and look at genocide in Joshua. The same people are mostly divided whether to simply condemn it, or whether to argue that Joshua was propaganda and the genocide it describes was never literal, and wasn’t mistaken for literal by its original audience. (As a matter of literary genre, again, they have some scholarship on their side. Most ANE rulers describe not only tiny victories, but even defeats, as if they had annihilated the enemy from the earth.)

  15. 15
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Biopsychiatry is not science. Science doesn’t look like this. Other medical specialties don’t continue to try to sell “illnesses” they’ve repeatedly and publicly acknowledged have no scientific validity. That is pseudoscience and quackery. It has no place in a poll about scientific knowledge (other than to show how far the misinformation and lies have spread). Its inclusion is an embarrassment to science.

  16. 16
    A Masked Avenger

    The OT is basically a myth the Jews told themselves to justify their place in the world–much like the Greek myths or the Ramayana.

    It’s a bit more than that: much of it is propaganda intended to help their culture/ethnicity survive diaspora. Much of the writing and final redaction occurred in Babylon during and just after the diaspora. American, Greek and Roman myths tended to bolster triumphalism in an established and successful people; the OT was intended to hold them together as a beaten and mostly deported people. And of course “purify” the religion by retconning the redactors’ particular views.

  17. 17
    One Day Soon I Shall Invent A Funny Login

    …the One True Over-Riding Metaphor, which is “Humans are gullible saps who’ll believe anything.”

    Needs a tiny bit of nuance. People won’t believe anything or we’d have more people “believing” anthropogenic warming. People will believe anything that:

    * Flatters them,

    * Confirms their prejudices,

    * Assuages their existential fears, or

    * Affirms that they are not personally responsible for bad things.

    Which pretty well summarizes the effectiveness of Genesis.

  18. 18
    Trebuchet

    So 65% believe overuse of antibiotics creates drug-resistant bacteria, a clear, ongoing, example of evolution, but only 31% believe in evolution. How does that work?

    I think it’s worth noting, however, that the leftmost column is the sum of the “extremely” and “very confident” columns, but does not include the “somewhat confident” column. That makes the total of positive/correct answers greater than it might first appear. On the other hand, the third bolded column is ALL of the negative/incorrect responses. The total of positive answers for evolution is thus 55%, counting the “somewhat” column, while the total negatives are still only 42%. Not good, of course. And the Big Bang still loses in absolute terms.

  19. 19
    Pierce R. Butler

    A Masked Avenger @ # 6 – Would you be so kind as to cite a book or two from which you drew that intriguing summary of the (ahem) genesis of Genesis?

  20. 20
    raven

    The OT is basically a myth the Jews told themselves to justify their place in the world–much like the Greek myths or the Ramayana.

    To make it worse, the bible was written by the Jerry Falwells, Ken Hams, and WL Craigs of their day. Power hungry wackos.

    AFAWCT, the average person, who was illiterate and busy trying to survive, didn’t pay much attention to it. Much like today.

    They wrote god’s wife, Asherah out of the bible. And yet, archaeologists frequently find cultic statues of Asherah when they dig up villages. There was probably a high religion of the educated leadership class and a folk religion for the peasants.

  21. 21
    anteprepro

    SC, none of the three to five experts you keep on citing really refute the argument in the OP. Yes, psychiatry is sloppy and has been wrong. Doesn’t mean that “mental illness” (even if that might be the incorrect word for it, which is also a distinct argument) isn’t ultimately rooted in the brain. To argue otherwise is to argue against neuroscience, not psychiatry. Psychiatry is practical and not very rigorous, because they just throw meds at a problem and see what “works”. The grounding for the belief that ANYTHING relating to the mental realm, illness or not, is ultimately rooted in the brain, is not the province of psychiatry. If you contend that that is wrong, your argument is against neuroscience. Otherwise, it seems sort of like a quibble.

  22. 22
    PZ Myers

    In this case, they’re saying it’s compatible in the same way that The Hobbit is compatible: science and myth have nothing to do with each other.

    And do they regard the Bible in the same way I do The Hobbit, as an interesting work of fiction?

  23. 23
    screechymonkey

    It’s interesting that the age of the earth is roughly as “controversial” as natural selection. (There’s a few more “uncertain” responses about the age, probably reflecting people who believe it’s a big number but aren’t sure whether 13.5 billion is it.) Wouldn’t that imply that Old Earth Creationists are close to non-existent?

    Sadly, though, at least some — and probably a lot — of the 31% who were confident about natural selection are still appending a “but God guided it/intervened to create humans” to the end.

  24. 24
    anteprepro

    I came up with some quick graphs of the responses. The ratio of “Extreme/Very” to “Not too much/Not at all” starts very high with cigarettes around 12:1, and goes consistently down the chart, hitting a roughly 1:2 ratio at the bottom. Also interesting was that the first five categories (including Design!) have a similar shape: basically a peak on the “extreme confidence” side and a smooth-ish curved slope down. Cigarettes have the highest peak and steepest slope down. The lower five? Well, vaccines are somewhat unique, in that they peak at “Very confident”, has roughly the same amount in “Somewhat confident” and then plummets down. The other four, the ones that are all marred by conservative political agendas, are all roughly V-shaped, with a peak at “somewhat confident”, with the final exception being the Big Bang question, where it looks roughly the shame shape, except that the “Not at all confident” region spikes up and becomes the true peak of the graph!

    So, yeah. Weep for science education.

  25. 25
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    SC, none of the three to five experts you keep on citing really refute the argument in the OP.

    All of them do, in fact. The leaders of psychiatry I’ve quoted directly refute it. The evidence plainly refutes it. That you would assert that shows that you haven’t read the materials or even my posts very thoroughly. [For the record, it wasn't actually an "argument in the OP but a survey item in a poll presented in the OP.]

    Doesn’t mean that “mental illness” (even if that might be the incorrect word for it, which is also a distinct argument)

    It most certainly is not. The argument concerns whether there is such a thing as a “mental illness” (disease, disorder). There is not. There is no evidence that these illnesses exist.

    isn’t ultimately rooted in the brain. To argue otherwise is to argue against neuroscience, not psychiatry.

    No, you’re confused. Get rid of the idea that the people saying biopsychiatry is pseudoscience are making a dualistic argument, read the books and articles, and then we can have a conversation. Until then, you’ll simply avoid the evidence by resorting to that straw man.

    I’m utterly flummoxed that people who consider themselves advocates for science are, in this case, so content to rely on assertions and avoid contending with the evidence.

  26. 26
    anteprepro

    A Masked Avenger: I think you’re missing something–one of those subtleties folks like you and Dawkins are accused of missing. Namely, that outside Fundie circles, theologians and biblical scholars (which are two different things) already don’t believe in a 6,000-year-old earth, a talking snake, a magic tree, or any of the rest of it….

    I think you missed the point of PZ’s very next sentence.

    OP:

    Sure, it’s compatible, as long as you ignore what the book actually says and pretend it’s all a big metaphor. </blockquote cite?

    Again, though I don’t know Falk’s specific view (and can’t be arsed to look very hard), his circle tends to clump on the end of the spectrum that either treats “inspiration” of the Bible similarly to the “inspiration” of Shakespeare, or that thinks the Bible writers latched onto some genuinely “divine” ideas, and then expressed them as best they could in their own words, with an admixture of much less divine stuff.Again, though I don’t know Falk’s specific view (and can’t be arsed to look very hard), his circle tends to clump on the end of the spectrum that either treats “inspiration” of the Bible similarly to the “inspiration” of Shakespeare, or that thinks the Bible writers latched onto some genuinely “divine” ideas, and then expressed them as best they could in their own words, with an admixture of much less divine stuff.

    I don’t see why we get so much flak for not addressing these people. They have no position . What they believe and why is probably as much of a mystery to them as it is to us. Yes, there are people out there with Sophisticated Theology who consider themselves Christian while not actually trusting the Bible, believing in miracles, or believing in a God that is anywhere near that which is described by the Bible or traditional doctrine. Or they at least claim, but still arbitrarily incorporate elements of Christian dogma insofar as it resonates them. They are the absolute worst of cafeteria Chrisianity. Their entire ideology is like that sleight of hand at the end of every philsophical argument for God: “Therefore there is a First Cause, and I call this First Cause ‘Jesus Christ’”. They don’t have a better position, it is just they trade in actively contradicting reality like fundies do, into having an even more incoherent and disjointed belief system. To the degree that they most likely don’t have anything resembling a belief system at all.

  27. 27
    A Masked Avenger

    Would you be so kind as to cite a book or two from which you drew that intriguing summary of the (ahem) genesis of Genesis?

    I’m afraid that’s non-trivial, because I’m summing up a fair bit of reading over the years, and am (needless to say) neither a theologian nor biblical scholar myself. However, the consensus view of the Pentateuch is some variation on the original documentary hypothesis that dates the J strand to the early monarchy, E to a hundred years later or so, D to roughly the time of the exile, and P to late-exile or early-post-exile. The priestly writer is also regarded as the redactor. So it’s generally agreed that the Pentateuch was redacted sometime late in the Babylonian diaspora by an editor with a priestly agenda to enhance his form of worship, with Jerusalem as the cultic center.

    It’s also the general consensus of scholars–and Jewish interpreters dating way way back–that most of the pentateuch makes sense as a retcon to explain (1) why the diaspora happened, and (2) how it’s possible to be in god’s good graces after a thing like that. The recitation of blessings and curses at Ebal and Gerizim, for example, “predicts” the Babylonian diaspora in terms clear enough not to be missed, but vague enough not to be an obvious retcon. The story of the garden and the fall in Genesis 2-3 is such an obvious parallel to Israel’s (supposed) history–of being led into the promised land, and then exiled from it–that Jewish commentators have been pointing it out since forever. Most of it hammers the theme, “We were favored by Yahweh, then we pissed him off, but he’ll restore us to favor if we’re sorry now.”

    There’s also the obvious parallels between Genesis and the Enuma Elish, Atrahasis, and Epic of Gilgamesh. It has elements in common with most ANE religions, but the parellels to those Babylonian myths are too powerful to overlook. Genesis 1-11 may draw on pre-exilic sources, but they were pretty obviously finalized as a direct response to Babylonian myths.

  28. 28
    anteprepro

    SC, if that’s how you are going to play it: how about linking to science articles instead of your own blog posts and the same four or five people’s opinion pieces? Kthnx

  29. 29
    jrfdeux, mode d'emploi

    anteprepro @21

    Doesn’t mean that “mental illness” (even if that might be the incorrect word for it, which is also a distinct argument) isn’t ultimately rooted in the brain.

    I was just going to say. Writing as someone who has struggled with depression and anxiety for the past decade, I’m biased towards the idea that pharmaceuticals can and do have an affect on my brain chemistry. I wasn’t entirely sure if SC was claiming that conditions like depression aren’t a mental illness or if xe was just going after psychiatry as a science.

  30. 30
    anteprepro

    jrfdeux:

    I wasn’t entirely sure if SC was claiming that conditions like depression aren’t a mental illness or if xe was just going after psychiatry as a science.

    I think both. More like psychiatry isn’t valid science, and psychiatry is essentially the one that defined mental illnesses, so there is no logical, scientific basis for mental illness diagnoses. That’s what I interpreted it as. And I think it is good, if slightly overstated, point.

    But insofar as “mental illness” is presumed to exist, then I don’t think it should be controversial to say that the brain is responsible for it. That is based on solid science established beyond the purview of psychiatry. Not knowing exactly what causes what isn’t a basis to dismiss that, anymore than we would with genes/etc.

    And on this note, before I delve further:
    Could I get a verdict from the mods on whether the mental illness discussion counts as on topic or whether it should be dealt with in the Thunderdome?

  31. 31
    Kevin Kehres

    Here’s the thing. Selection bias.

    Who actually takes these polls? Not me. Why? Because I screen all my phone calls. And any call coming in from a number I don’t recognize as family/friend, I don’t answer.

    And if by chance I mess up and do answer the phone, and if it’s a company wanting to poll me on something, I politely decline and hang up. Every time. Always.

    And there was also a mail component to finding people to take this poll…those things get dropped right into my recycle bin, unopened.

    So, even though the world is average, and these results might seem to be reflective of the average American’s understanding — I don’t trust them as far as I can throw them. Which, being pixels on an expensive computer screen, means not far at all.

    I also find it pretty worthless that this kind of survey is being conducted at all. The AP knows the correct answers to the survey questions. Why in the world do they need to point out what a shitty job they’ve been doing at communicating those facts to the public at large?

    The headline should read, “US Media Fails To Educate Public About Basic Science Facts”.

  32. 32
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    SC, none of the three to five experts you keep on citing really refute the argument in the OP.

    The group of psychiatric proponents I’ve quoted includes the current head of NIMH and the task-force chairs of DSMs III, IV, and 5. They have all publicly and explicitly acknowledged that the alleged illnesses listed in the DSM and/or the notion of “mental illness” itself lack scientific validity. They lack scientific validity. They’ve had to acknowledge this because it’s what the evidence shows. There is no scientific evidence for the existence of these illnesses. No pathophysiology, no biomarkers, nothing.* If you’re going to consider a lack of scientific validity to be a minor or marginal issue, we’re no longer talking about science.

    By the way, here’s my list of suggestions, one more time: Robert Whitaker, Mad in America and Anatomy of an Epidemic; James Davies, Cracked; Marcia Angell, “The Epidemic of Mental Illness: Why?”, “The Illusions of Psychiatry,” and “‘The Illusions of Psychiatry’: An Exchange” (all available free online); Joanna Moncrieff, The Myth of the Chemical Cure and The Bitterest Pills; Irving Kirsch, The Emperor’s New Drugs; Stuart Kirk, Tomi Gomery, and David Cohen, Mad Science; Gary Greenberg, The Book of Woe (I can’t speak to the quality of this one); Brett Deacon, “The Biomedical Model of Mental Disorder: A Critical Analysis of its Tenets, Consequences, and Effects on Psychotherapy Research” (available free online); Jonathan Leo and Jeffrey Lacasse, “Serotonin and Depression: A Disconnect between the Advertisements and the Scientific Literature” (available free online); Ethan Watters, Crazy Like Us. Oh – and Christopher Lane, Shyness.

    *Even if these were to be found, the question of causality would of course remain.

  33. 33
    A Masked Avenger

    anteprepro, #26:

    I think you missed the point of PZ’s very next sentence.

    OP:
    Sure, it’s compatible, as long as you ignore what the book actually says and pretend it’s all a big metaphor.

    I didn’t miss it. It misses the point: PZ is asserting something about “what the book actually says,” which presupposes that Genesis 1-3 was in fact put forward as factual history, and that anyone who says different is “ignoring what it actually says.” Ancients had an ambiguous relationship to myth anyway–did Greeks actually believe Hercules performed the seven labors? Did they recognize it as myth? Did they actually give a fuck either way? However, whatever exactly a myth meant to the Greeks, Hercules was always one. In the same way, Genesis 1-3 was always a myth, and was clearly based in part, and designed to counter, Babylonian myths like Atrahasis and Enuma Elish. Recognizing it as a myth isn’t “ignoring what it actually says”; it’s recognizing it for what it actually is and always was.

    Basically PZ is repeatedly taking the viewpoint of fundies as a given, which is ironic because fundies are at least as rare among actual scholars of Bible text and history as theists are among actual biologists. They’re talking out their arse, but for whatever reason PZ treats their views as normative.

    PZ, #22:

    And do they regard the Bible in the same way I do The Hobbit, as an interesting work of fiction?

    Yes. This is obscured somewhat by the fact that people often refer to fictional characters as if they were real, as a convenience. I recently referred to Norman Bates in that way. Respectable people do it with Hamlet, but only extreme nerds do it with Bilbo or Captain Kirk. But in any case, these folks will refer to Adam and Eve in similar terms, just as Greeks would have referred to Hercules.

    Shakespeare (or Star Trek) are probably better analogies than The Hobbit, because they consider it more than “interesting.” They think it’s a timeless classic. It’s rather an obsession with them.

  34. 34
    jrfdeux, mode d'emploi

    Thanks SC. This is the one I’m very interested in:

    Jonathan Leo and Jeffrey Lacasse, “Serotonin and Depression: A Disconnect between the Advertisements and the Scientific Literature”

    I’m on an SSRI for therapy, so I’ve queued that one up for reading this week.

  35. 35
    A Masked Avenger

    Damn quote monster at my last. Second try:

    anteprepro, #26:

    I think you missed the point of PZ’s very next sentence.

    OP:
    Sure, it’s compatible, as long as you ignore what the book actually says and pretend it’s all a big metaphor.

    I didn’t miss it. It misses the point: PZ is asserting something about “what the book actually says,” which presupposes that Genesis 1-3 was in fact put forward as factual history, and that anyone who says different is “ignoring what it actually says.” Ancients had an ambiguous relationship to myth anyway–did Greeks actually believe Hercules performed the seven labors? Did they recognize it as myth? Did they actually give a fuck either way? However, whatever exactly a myth meant to the Greeks, Hercules was always one. In the same way, Genesis 1-3 was always a myth, and was clearly based in part, and designed to counter, Babylonian myths like Atrahasis and Enuma Elish. Recognizing it as a myth isn’t “ignoring what it actually says”; it’s recognizing it for what it actually is and always was.

    Basically PZ is repeatedly taking the viewpoint of fundies as a given, which is ironic because fundies are at least as rare among actual scholars of Bible text and history as theists are among actual biologists. They’re talking out their arse, but for whatever reason PZ treats their views as normative.

    PZ, #22:

    And do they regard the Bible in the same way I do The Hobbit, as an interesting work of fiction?

    Yes. This is obscured somewhat by the fact that people often refer to fictional characters as if they were real, as a convenience. I recently referred to Norman Bates in that way. Respectable people do it with Hamlet, but only extreme nerds do it with Bilbo or Captain Kirk. But in any case, these folks will refer to Adam and Eve in similar terms, just as Greeks would have referred to Hercules.

    Shakespeare (or Star Trek) are probably better analogies than The Hobbit, because they consider it more than “interesting.” They think it’s a timeless classic. It’s rather an obsession with them.

  36. 36
    Sili

    3. Artor

    Francisco Ayala, a former priest and professor of biology, philosophy and logic…

    Logic? Really? This guy teaches a subject he’s demonstrated he has no grasp of? Oh, how far UC Irvine has sunk…

    I was more troubled by the fact that he holds three professorships.

  37. 37
    Inaji

    Anteprepro:

    And on this note, before I delve further:
    Could I get a verdict from the mods on whether the mental illness discussion counts as on topic or whether it should be dealt with in the Thunderdome?

    I’m not a monitor, but as a statement about mental illness is part of the poll under discussion, seems it’s in the right place. Carry on.

  38. 38
    nich

    Yes. This is obscured somewhat by the fact that people often refer to fictional characters as if they were real, as a convenience.

    So why is exactly NO-one going out of their way to point out science’s compatibility with the message of the Hobbit?

  39. 39
    nich

    Shakespeare (or Star Trek) are probably better analogies than The Hobbit, because they consider it more than “interesting.”

    Nor are they going out of their way to point out that science is compatible with the message of The Tempest.

  40. 40
    chigau (違う)

    anteprepro #30
    The subject matter in the OP is pretty broad.
    I don’t think you are off-topic.

  41. 41
    A Masked Avenger

    So why is exactly NO-one going out of their way to point out science’s compatibility with the message of the Hobbit?

    Because nobody ever said it wasn’t. That’s kind of a silly question, isn’t it?

  42. 42
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Surely people can appreciate how saying that the brain plays a central role in our cognition and emotion is different from saying psychological and emotional problems are or are caused by* (“ultimately rooted in,”…) diseases/conditions/disorders of the brain.

    ***

    Writing as someone who has struggled with depression and anxiety for the past decade, I’m biased towards the idea that pharmaceuticals can and do have an affect on my brain chemistry.

    They do have an effect on your brain chemistry. But they don’t treat, as medications, any illness of depression or anxiety, because there are no such illnesses. (For the thousandth time, that is not to say that your experience of depression or anxiety aren’t real or that you can just “snap out of it.”) At the very least, you should take a look at the pieces by Marcia Angell that I mentioned in my previous comment – they’re easily found through google.

    *Outside of established cases of injury or neurological disorders.

  43. 43
    nich

    @41: Oh for fuck sake.

  44. 44
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Thanks SC. This is the one I’m very interested in:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for being open to reading. Like I said (for when you’ve read that one :)), the pieces by Angel and Deacon are also free online, and I think you would find them of interest.

  45. 45
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    But insofar as “mental illness” is presumed to exist,

    Aaaaaaaargh! :)

  46. 46
    jrfdeux, mode d'emploi

    SC @42:

    Yes I understood that — I don’t think you’re dismissing my experience as someone who suffers from depression and anxiety. I get that you’re tackling the validity of claims being made by drug companies, et. al. I have some reading to do, thank you for the references.

    Without having done any reading, the first question this all raises for me is whether or not the SSRI therapy I’m being treated with is merely a placebo. If it is, it’s a staggeringly powerful one, anecdotally speaking of course.

  47. 47
    A Masked Avenger

    nich:

    @41: Oh for fuck sake.

    Seriously, your question was stupid. The Hobbit wasn’t the sacred text of the interests who ruled Europe for roughly 1,000 years. It hasn’t accumulated 50 schools of interpretation, most of them operating in ignorance of Tolkien’s cultural milieu and without having heard of quest stories in general or Old English literature in particular.

    You appear to be arguing that what was written (in its final form) around 500 BCE as a piece of religious and political propaganda that (quite brilliantly in places) subverted the myths of the conquering Babylonian culture to define and spread a Jewish religious, cultural and nationalistic identity as part of a larger effort to motivate Jews to return to Palestine or, failing that, to provide material support to the Jews in Palestine, should actually be recognized as a scientific text per the claims of individuals who don’t know a word of any semitic language, can’t differentiate between pre-exilic and post-exilic Hebrew, are completely ignorant of the literature of Babylon or the composition of the text, and lack the education even to read up on any of these subjects with any hope of understanding them.

    Uh, yeah.

  48. 48
    anteprepro

    SC, thank you for the cites. I

    Surely people can appreciate how saying that the brain plays a central role in our cognition and emotion is different from saying psychological and emotional problems are or are caused by* (“ultimately rooted in,”…) diseases/conditions/disorders of the brain

    So is the distinction between “psychological and emotional problems” being caused by the brain vs. being caused by a disorder of the brain? Because if so, I agree. The distinction was not initially clear to me, but I definitely see the problem now.

  49. 49
    neuzelaar

    This poll is not nearly as depressing as PZ makes it. I expected much worse. Look at these details:

    85% self-identified as Christian, yet only 35% goes to church weekly so can be characterized as ‘practising’.

    The way the data is presented splits the ‘good’ side. If you try to combine somewhat, very and extremely confident together, and combine that with all deniers (not confident), it looks like this:

    13.8B year old universe: 46% yes
    4.5B year old earth: 63% yes
    Natural selection is true: 55% yes
    Global warming is true: 61% yes
    Vaccines are safe: 83% yes
    God does not guide creation: 25% yes
    Antibiotics cause resistance: 88% yes
    DNA exists: 91% yes
    Smoking causes cancer: 96% yes

    Given that 43% have only high school or less education, this ain’t too bad. Yes, religion is a problem, but education level is probably a bigger one. You cannot expect from people with only cursory science background to have a strong position on global warming or the age of the universe. Any strong position is is guided by ideology, and its surprising that a majority still accepts it given the media campaign.

    The internal inconsistency is striking for when squaring off the biblical creation myth with natural evidence: 55% are OK with natural selection, but only 25% think that natural selection is without supernatural guidance. I wonder what would happen if instead of ‘natural selection’ the dirty words ‘evolution’ or ‘Darwinism’ were used. Natural is such a positive word that it nudges people to the correct answer.

  50. 50
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Yes I understood that — I don’t think you’re dismissing my experience as someone who suffers from depression and anxiety.

    Thanks. I’ve faced a lot of that sort of accusation over the past few years, it’s been upsetting, and so I do tend to be a little aggressive in trying to head it off.

    Without having done any reading, the first question this all raises for me is whether or not the SSRI therapy I’m being treated with is merely a placebo. If it is, it’s a staggeringly powerful one, anecdotally speaking of course.

    One of the books discussed in Angell’s articles (here’s the first) and which I mentioned above, Irving Kirsch’s The Emperor’s New Drugs, concerns precisely the placebo question. He was on 60 Minutes talking about it in 2012.

  51. 51
    anteprepro

    33 Masked Avenger:

    In the same way, Genesis 1-3 was always a myth, and was clearly based in part, and designed to counter, Babylonian myths like Atrahasis and Enuma Elish.

    Always a myth, huh? Citation needed. I think someone lost the memo on that one. Well before modern day fundamentalism too.

    47:

    Seriously, your question was stupid. The Hobbit wasn’t the sacred text of the interests who ruled Europe for roughly 1,000 years. It hasn’t accumulated 50 schools of interpretation, most of them operating in ignorance of Tolkien’s cultural milieu and without having heard of quest stories in general or Old English literature in particular.

    And? Why does the fact that it was a sacred text warrant people who acknowledge it as myth still defending its veracity? Still identifying themselves according to those myths that they supposedly don’t believe in?

  52. 52
    Juliana Ewing

    I think one of the hardest parts of religion to throw off is mind/body dualism, so yeah, that tremendously influences how we look at psychology (heck, look at the origin of the word “psychology” itself). But I think the point of the question was about whether the group of problems that we call mental illness originates in the body or not, to which my answer is: of course it does, because we ARE bodies. Such problems aren’t “spiritual” in nature — they aren’t, e.g., due to God’s punishment for sin, or demonic possession — and they aren’t “mental” in the sense of being “not bodily.”

  53. 53
    anteprepro

    SC

    I’ve faced a lot of that sort of accusation over the past few years, it’s been upsetting

    Wow. Sorry you’ve had to deal with that.

    neuzalaar

    The way the data is presented splits the ‘good’ side. If you try to combine somewhat, very and extremely confident together, and combine that with all deniers (not confident)

    I think part of the problem is that “Somewhat confident” is supposed to be The Neutral Position on the subject, being the middle of the scale and all, yet the “somewhat confident” label just makes it sound like “Yes, I agree, but with caveats”, rather than what the middle of the scale would typically represent: “I’m in between, leave me alone”. So it all comes down to how the actual respondents interpreted “somewhat confident”. I think leaving it out of the Agreers is a good policy, but I think your point is good in that it points to a general flaw with this study: That it is looking at “confidence”. Someone who knows all of this shit but is humble or doubtful or unsure of themselves would answer more cautiously and get lumped in with denialists of all stripes. But I think the general trends would still hold…

  54. 54
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    So is the distinction between “psychological and emotional problems” being caused by the brain vs. being caused by a disorder of the brain?

    No, those are saying something close to the same thing. It’s between “the brain plays a central role in our general cognition and emotion” and “disorders/diseases/illnesses… of the brain cause psychological or emotional problems.”

    To use other examples: The brain plays a central role in our acting out our sex roles, in our resistance to existing sex roles in our culture, and in the distress that can accompany resistance. Similarly, our brains play a central role in racism, in resistance to racism, and in the distress that can accompany resistance to racism. But saying that is different from claiming the existence of a “feminine brain,” a disease of “hysteria,” or a feminist pathology, or similarly a racism disorder, drapetomania, or an “angry black brain.”

  55. 55
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Wow. Sorry you’ve had to deal with that.

    Thanks.

  56. 56
    A Masked Avenger

    anteprepro

    Always a myth, huh? Citation needed. I think someone lost the memo on that one. Well before modern day fundamentalism too.

    The consensus of scholars (practically none of whom are fundies, since there virtually aren’t any fundie textual scholars) is that Genesis 1-3 and the flood story are, in their final form, a response to specific Babylonian myths that we now have access to, but that were largely unknown before the 20th century. (Atrahasis, Enuma Elish, and the Epic of Gilgamesh were all first published around 1876 by George Smith.) That puts it pretty much beyond dispute that whatever those stories were to the Babylonians, Genesis was the Jewish answer to them. If they were myths, so was Genesis. If Genesis was not, then neither were they.

    This does raise the difficult question (that I already alluded to–did you miss it?) whether ancients understood their myths as myths. Did they recognize the same distinction between fact and fiction that we do, and did they regard their myths as factual? For some discussion of this see: Did the Greeks Believe in Their Myths? However, regardless of the conclusion we come to, we’re forced to classify Noah with Gilgamesh and Hercules. Whatever the hell “myth” meant exactly to ancient people, Genesis was one, and they knew that it belonged in the same category as the Babylonian myths that it subverted.

    Why does the fact that it was a sacred text warrant people who acknowledge it as myth still defending its veracity?

    What the fuck? Who said that? The fact that it was a sacred text explains why some assholes decided that it must be an infallible source of scientific truth. Had no assholes decided that, there would be no debate about its scientific accuracy.

    If some culture ever adopts The Hobbit as a sacred text, then some asshole will conclude that hobbits are, or were, real. This will in turn give rise to a debate whether The Hobbit is a reliable guide to geography (where the fuck is the Shire?), biology (hobbits are hominids! But orcs are closer to elves than to either hobbits or men!), and linguistics (Quenya is Finno-Ugric!).

    Nich wondered aloud why there’s no such debate about The Hobbit. If it were a sacred text to enough people, for long enough, these debates would occur, because if enough monkeys sit in enough theological seminaries, they will produce a giant pile of monkey shit.

  57. 57
    Artor

    Masked Avenger @33
    Are you really insisting that the ancients regarded the OT and Heracles as entirely mythical? That’s a pretty tall order, since we have many people in the here & now, with our modern educational system & worldwide media, that still insist the Bible is a true and accurate account of real-world history. I’m pretty sure that just about everyone but the most cynical of philosophers regarded Heracles as a real flesh & blood being, and the stories of the OT as the real history of the world. (obviously not the same people, but the ones for whom the particular myths were relevant to)

  58. 58
    jrfdeux, mode d'emploi

    A Masked Avenger @56

    because if enough monkeys sit in enough theological seminaries, they will produce a giant pile of monkey shit.

    QFTS (Quoted For a T-Shirt!)

  59. 59
    pikaia

    I hate the way that people confuse the Big Bang with the origin of the universe – there is no logical reason to do so. In some cosmological theories the universe is infinitely old and had no beginning, and the Big Bang was merely a rebound from an earlier period of contraction.

    http://old.richarddawkins.net/articles/3220-big-bang-or-big-bounce-new-theory-on-the-universe-39-s-birth

  60. 60
    Pierce R. Butler

    A Masked Avenger @ # 27 – Aw shucks. It looks like you’ve gone beyond Asimov’s Guide to the Bible and Friedman’s Who Wrote the Bible?, which (along with Finkelstein & Silberman, and some Gilgamesh studies) are the best such readings I’ve found so far.

    A Masked Avenger @ # 35: … did Greeks actually believe Hercules performed the seven labors?

    Twelve, actually – but who’s counting?

    I’m currently enjoyed Richard Miles’s Carthage Must Be Destroyed: The Rise and Fall of an Ancient Civilization, which includes a lot of background on the politics of the early Mediterranean. It seemed that as his 10th Labor, Hercules (aka Heracles) voyaged to the very western edge of the Med (still often called the Pillars of Hercules) to steal cattle from the ogre Geryon. He then herded the cattle back to Argos via what we now know as Spain, France, and Italy (with a side trip to Sicily when some low-down thievin’ varmint dared to rustle some of his beeves!):

    As a famed terrestrial wanderer who roamed the lands of the west civilizing the indigenous inhabitants by abolishing savage customs and clearing away brigands and monsters, Heracles set something of a precedent for the Greek colonists’ sometimes aggressive dealings with the indigenous peoples. … by the end of the sixth century BC, when the memories of the first settler leaders had begun to dim, and the desire to be considered a the equals of the Greek cities of their forefathers grew, a number of communities in southern Italy and Sicily began to claim Heracles as their actual founder. … Heracles was thus gradually transformed from a talismanic figure strongly associated with terrestrial wandering and mercurial violence to an exuberant symbol of the success of the Greek colonial project in the West. … these colonists were no alien arrivistes. This was Greek land, bequeathed to them by none other than the son of Zeus.

    So, while the Greek intelligentsia may not have “believed” in Big H with evangelical fervor, the Greeks collectively sure got a lot of real-world leverage out of his stories.

  61. 61
    CJO

    Ancients had an ambiguous relationship to myth anyway–did Greeks actually believe Hercules performed the seven labors? Did they recognize it as myth? Did they actually give a fuck either way?

    The ambiguity (as perceived by us) has a lot to do with an entirely different conception of historical time. In ancient cultures, it was generally understood that “it was different” in past ages: there was no concept of continuity between the past and the present, which was usually regarded as a fallen or debased age. Everyone could agree that events such as narrated in the Iliad did not happen anymore, and still maintain that they could, and did, happen “in those days”.

    However, whatever exactly a myth meant to the Greeks, Hercules was always one.

    Yes, but, like, say, Abraham, Hercules was a figure of myth from whom entire populations could in all seriousness claim lineal descent. It’s not enough to shrug and say it was an “ambiguous relationship”; the early rabbis’ idea of an unassailable position was one whose reasoning began with the absolute literal truth of events narrated in the Torah. “Always a myth” isn’t helpful if what that meant long ago doesn’t constrain or even inform its reception by the vast majority of modern readers.

    In the same way, Genesis 1-3 was always a myth, and was clearly based in part, and designed to counter, Babylonian myths like Atrahasis and Enuma Elish. Recognizing it as a myth isn’t “ignoring what it actually says”; it’s recognizing it for what it actually is and always was.

    But no member of any modern society can recapture or really even apprehend the ambiguity of the ancients’ relationship to their “true myths”. Part of PZ’s and others’ point is, I believe, that an ambiguous relationship to myths is not a reasonable stance anymore. Myths are curiosities, artifacts of lost worldviews, not compatible with our own and its empirical-rational basis.

  62. 62
    anteprepro

    My point, Masked Avenger, is that the original authors may have intended it as myth (with their peculiar take on what “myth” meant in regards to reality), but that 1000 years of people taking it as sacred text? The people in Medieval Europe? Not so clear that they thought of it the same way.

    What the fuck? Who said that? The fact that it was a sacred text explains why some assholes decided that it must be an infallible source of scientific truth. Had no assholes decided that, there would be no debate about its scientific accuracy.

    I thought we were talking about the liberal Christians. The scholarly Christians. The ones you brought up who know that this shit is mythic and don’t believe it is infallible and don’t believe it is scientific. Why do those Christians , modern day Christians, arguing that myth and science are compatible?

  63. 63
    nich

    If some culture ever adopts The Hobbit as a sacred text, then some asshole will conclude that hobbits are, or were, real. This will in turn give rise to a debate whether The Hobbit is a reliable guide to geography (where the fuck is the Shire?), biology (hobbits are hominids! But orcs are closer to elves than to either hobbits or men!), and linguistics (Quenya is Finno-Ugric!).

    Then some too-cute-for-words douchebag will hop into the debate and tell us Gnu A-eruists how we are all just missing the nuance of The Hobbit and gosh don’t we all realize that the REAL Hobbit scholars determined long ago it was all just a metaphor and that they really mean that science is compatible with the METAPHORICAL MESSAGE of the Hobbit!

  64. 64
    chimera

    anteprepro @ 30

    But insofar as “mental illness” is presumed to exist, then I don’t think it should be controversial to say that the brain is responsible for it.

    Except that to say something is “in the brain” is pretty meaningless. What area of human experience, society, culture or behavior can be said to NOT be –in some form or fashion– “in the brain”?

  65. 65
    A Masked Avenger

    Artor, #57:

    Are you really insisting that the ancients regarded the OT and Heracles as entirely mythical?

    No–I agree that this is a difficult question. Exactly what did ancients think about their myths? Did they believe them to be factual history? Or did they even have a concept of factual history as we understand the term?

    I think we can take it as given that they knew the difference between truth and falsehood. If someone said, “I loaned you 10,000 shekels, and you promised to pay me back today,” they knew how to call it a lie and conduct [their version of] a lawsuit over it.

    What sticks out about ancient myths is that they are consistently unverifiable. They’re set in primeval times, or faraway places. Although not any sort of relevant expert, I suspect that (1) they didn’t bother to distinguish myth from history, and (2) they got away with it because it was unverifiable. 18th century travelogues had this same quality: they were interesting; they served a purpose; they were liberally mixed with bullshit; and they were unfalsifiable to the average reader.

    we have many people in the here & now, with our modern educational system & worldwide media, that still insist the Bible is a true and accurate account of real-world history.

    True. My own suspicion is that ancients “believed” their myths, where I suspect “belief” was less a conviction of its truth and more a lack of interest in the whole question of truthfulness. I.e., as long as it wasn’t directly falsifiable, a good story was just as serviceable as a true one.

    However, I do say that the original audience–post-exilic Jews–had access to a critical piece of information that was later lost until the late 19th century. They were familiar with Babylonian mythology, and knew immediately that their own stories were of the same genre. Most of their “message” lay in the differences between Jewish and Babylonian myths. Today this is well known, except in fundie circles–because fundies recognize intuitively that even acknowledging this Babylonian literature severely undermines their literalist reading. The few fundies who engage it, dismiss it casually as either borrowing from Genesis, or distorted memories of actual events.

    I’m pretty sure that just about everyone but the most cynical of philosophers regarded Heracles as a real flesh & blood being…

    It’s hard for you or I to put ourselves in the shoes of an ancient person. However, I mostly agree with you. My agreement is informed from some contemporary experiences:

    * I’ve lived in rural upstate New York, among people who were often called “hillbillies.” Although not an anthropologist, I was fascinated to observe the way they told tall tales, and on several occasions I tried to verify elements of their stories. At first I got mad, and regarded them as pathological liars. Eventually I concluded that storytelling was an end in itself, and the truth or falsehood of the stories was irrelevant. They told easily-disproven stories, but by tacit cultural agreement they pretended to believe them, by repeating them or inviting the original teller to do so, and refrained from investigation that might falsify them. They had a collection of “myths” that they “believed,” but must have known on some level to be false because they actively protected these myths from debunking.

    * I’ve also worked with colleagues from India, including one woman in particular who loved to discuss these things. She was a Hindu, and faithfully traveled to the temple in far-away Pittsburgh at least once a year–but she explained that she didn’t believe any of these gods literally existed, and said that most educated Brahmins would say the same. She wouldn’t commit sacrilege, she said, mostly for the sake of less educated Hindus who believe it, but for her these rituals were important only as part of her cultural heritage. She described a kind of doublethink where she threw herself into the spirit of the pujas she did, all without believing a word of it.

    On the assumption that the human brain hasn’t changed that much in the last 3,000 years, and that cultures have lots of rhyming elements, I suspect that these kinds of things offer some insight into how myth functioned for ancient people. Namely, I think they treated it as true, by tacit agreement; that they didn’t bother to distinguish “true” from “false” for stories that were remote or unfalsifiable; and that the brighter members of the community actually recognized it as the cultural construct it was, and saw through it. There is evidence in Greek writing that some philosophers at least saw through their own mythology.

  66. 66
    paul

    “Inside our cells is a complex genetic code that helps determine who we are” is very badly worded. I would disagree with the statement, because “who we are” sounds like a philosophical issue rather than a medical one, and thus beyond the scope of genetics.

    Simlarly, “A mental illness is a medical condition that affects the brain” is way too general. Conditions that are absolutely, beyond a shadow of a doubt “hardware” issues often tend to get re-classified as “neurological” rather than “mental”. As far as the less clear-cut conditions, whether to treat them with drugs or other methods, and which drugs, tends to change with each edition of the DSM. Homosexuality was classified as a “mental disorder” until the seventh printing of the DSM-II. Psychiatry just can’t meet the empirical standards that we hold other branches of medicine to.

  67. 67
    anteprepro

    Bicarbonate:

    What area of human experience, society, culture or behavior can be said to NOT be –in some form or fashion– “in the brain”?

    Well, I would argue that society and culture aren’t products of the brain in any sense, because it is an emergent property of multiple people’s behavior (many people, thus not in any one brain). “In the brain” isn’t meaningless: It’s just vague and non-technical. And probably a little inaccurate as a result.

  68. 68
    A Masked Avenger

    Nich, #63:

    Then some too-cute-for-words douchebag will hop into the debate and tell us Gnu A-eruists how we are all just missing the nuance of The Hobbit and gosh don’t we all realize that the REAL Hobbit scholars determined long ago it was all just a metaphor …

    No. Someone might come along and point out that the Hobbit was written as a novel by an Oxford don, in conscious imitation of the medieval quest romance, as part of a larger hobby of constructing a distinctly Anglo-Saxon mythology and (being a philologist by trade) a set of made-up languages, his favorite being the “Elvish” language that he designed on purpose to sound a bit like Finnish. The REAL hobbit scholars acknowledge this, because it’s a fact.

    Of course that won’t stop some precious douchenozzle from responding with scorn that if you dispute the reality of hobbits, you’re failing to read what The Hobbit actually says.

  69. 69
    A Masked Avenger

    anteprepro, #62:

    My point, Masked Avenger, is that the original authors may have intended it as myth (with their peculiar take on what “myth” meant in regards to reality), but that 1000 years of people taking it as sacred text? The people in Medieval Europe? Not so clear that they thought of it the same way.

    True. In fact it’s clear they did not recognize it as myth. They were completely unaware of the context–especially the competing mythologies of Babylon. And they had no knowledge of textual composition, nor even the tools to invent such knowledge. The vast majority of them couldn’t even read the book in any language, because (1) the were illiterate, and (2) it was written in a dead language known only to the educated.

    If a bunch of people adopted The Hobbit as their sacred text, all manner of nitwittery would result–none of which would change the fact that The Hobbit is a fictional quest novel set in a fantasy world loosely based on Britain.

    I thought we were talking about the liberal Christians. The scholarly Christians. The ones you brought up who know that this shit is mythic and don’t believe it is infallible and don’t believe it is scientific. Why do those Christians , modern day Christians, arguing that myth and science are compatible?

    That brings us back to Nich’s question, which I already answered: they’re arguing that it’s compatible, because so many people (especially fundies themselves) argue that it’s incompatible. The terms of debate were already set in the mid-twentieth century, when young-earth creationism was founded on the premise that accepting scientific fact, and appreciating the myths in Genesis, are mutually exclusive.

  70. 70
    nich

    …because so many people (especially fundies themselves) argue that it’s incompatible

    So why are THEY doing that?

  71. 71
    A Masked Avenger

    CJO and Pierce Butler:

    Awesome comments. Thanks!

    But no member of any modern society can recapture or really even apprehend the ambiguity of the ancients’ relationship to their “true myths”. Part of PZ’s and others’ point is, I believe, that an ambiguous relationship to myths is not a reasonable stance anymore…

    Agreed. Everything in your post was great, but I just wanted to quote that bit particularly.

    Yeah, like the Hindu friend I mentioned in an earlier comment, there’s something different about a modern person self-consciously keeping myths while recognizing them as myths. I doubt the ancients had to resort to as much doublethink as the moderns do. But without the doublethink, the whole thing breaks down–just like Christmas is no fun if you keep reminding people that Santa Claus isn’t real. If you can’t believe, you have to pretend to believe, and it’s helpful to have some kiddies around who can do some of the heavy lifting by believing for you. We can’t recapture the innocence of a time when myths were (ambiguously) believed, any more than we can again be kids believing in Santa.

    My only quibble with one of PZ’s remarks is that pointing and saying, “Ha ha! You believe in Santa!” is kind of silly, because they don’t believe in Santa. There are lots of valid criticisms of Christmas and its traditions, but one of them isn’t that everyone believes in Santa. That’s pretty much a cheap taunt, even though it’s true that five-year-olds and maybe even some developmentally challenged adults do indeed believe in him.

  72. 72
    chimera

    anteprepro 67

    See, to make your argument you have to interpret “in the brain” as meaning “a product of the brain” but “in the brain” can mean just about anything.

    There is for example a very prominent cognitive psychologist who claims that literary genres are “cognitive”, i.e. “in the brain”, through many convoluted arguments about a series of experiments he conducted that show that people are able to identify literary genres quickly and readily and so have expectations about how the story will unfold. He believes this somehow proves literary genre to be “natural” rather than cultural or traditional. Or, take a story that was running say 5 years ago across every major news source, that conservative and liberal brains were different because conservatives and liberals reacted in a consistently different way to the same stimuli and that they actually recorded this with MRIs or whatever, therefore being conservative or not is “in the brain”. That’s meaningless.

  73. 73
    A Masked Avenger

    Nich, #70:

    …because so many people (especially fundies themselves) argue that it’s incompatible

    So why are THEY doing that?

    Why do you keep asking obvious questions? Because fundies believe that the Pentateuch was dictated word-for-word by God to Moses around 1,300 BC as a historical account. They do this in blissful ignorance of empirically knowable things such as the fact that the language in which the Pentateuch was written wouldn’t exist until some 300-500 years later.

  74. 74
    mikeyb

    I can tolerate religious apologists like Ayala, who are well practiced in the art of cognitive dissonance, because they at least honestly believe their own delusions. I cannot tolerate atheist scientists or science writers who make up pretend arguments for religion to go along to get along. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that religion is the only factor involved in American’s believing in nonsense across so many areas. There are other factors, like the 24/7 entertainment and consumer propaganda as well as blind patriotism and myths about American exceptionalism/the American dream (to me myths every bit as gigantic as the genesis flood) and all those associated lies and distortions which also factor into the stupidified gullible America. It’s not just Christianity either. There is a very large subculture of new age/mystical/astrology/healing woo which blends and mixes in with both Christians and non-Christians as well, that definitely factors in as well. I actually love mythology if we understand it for what it is – mythology. Without mythology there would be no Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter or Hamlet for that matter. The mistake is only when fiction is mistaken for reality.

  75. 75
    A Masked Avenger

    …as well as blind patriotism and myths about American exceptionalism/the American dream (to me myths every bit as gigantic as the genesis flood)…

    QFMFT

  76. 76
    LykeX

    Salty Current:

    For the thousandth time, that is not to say that your experience of depression or anxiety aren’t real or that you can just “snap out of it.”

    Actually, in the context of this thread, it’s the first time you’ve said that and it comes after you’ve said things that might very easily be interpreted to mean the exact opposite. It may be in some of your links (I’ve only scanned a few), but if your first post doesn’t convince me that you’re worth listening to, I’m not going to bother reading longer blog entries.

    I’ve faced a lot of that sort of accusation over the past few years, it’s been upsetting, and so I do tend to be a little aggressive in trying to head it off.

    Then I strongly suggest that you do a better job of it. Not of being aggressive, mind, but actually communicating your intent. It wasn’t at all clear to me at first, and it seems I wasn’t the only one.

    When you say there’s no such thing as a mental illness, you really, really need to be clear about what you mean, or a lot of people will write you off as a crank. It won’t be their fault that they don’t get what you mean. Remember, there are plenty of wackaloon anti-psychiatry morons out there. You don’t want to be mistaken for one of those.

    I’m not trying to be mean about this, but I think you have a bit of a communications problem here and it may at least be partially responsible for the response you get.

  77. 77
    Callinectes

    Is the positive poll results for confidence in the harms of smoking really down to successful education and campaigning, or the fact that most of those who doubt it are dead now because of it?

  78. 78
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Actually, in the context of this thread, it’s the first time you’ve said that and it comes after you’ve said things that might very easily be interpreted to mean the exact opposite.

    They might, if you’re interested in going with the most uncharitable reading of my comments without asking any questions.

    It may be in some of your links (I’ve only scanned a few), but if your first post doesn’t convince me that you’re worth listening to, I’m not going to bother reading longer blog entries.

    I was actually going to mention this aspect of such accusations earlier – the use of an assumption that I’m denying or dismissing suffering as an excuse to ignore the evidence I’m pointing to. It’s the same sort of accusation we hear as vocal atheists and when we try to challenge any other sort of woo, pseudoscience, or medical quackery. Consider: If I were saying the same thing about any other quack notion about a human problem, would you be responding this way – making it about my tone, and making my alleged lack of concern a factor in whether you’ll engage with the evidence? I’ve provided several reading suggestions above @ #32 and linked to one @ #50. I can assure you that all of those authors care very much about people who are suffering with psychological and emotional problems. Does that make a difference? Do you require the same sort of demonstration of sympathy from the promoters of biopsychiatry as you do from its critics?

    I’m not trying to be mean about this, but I think you have a bit of a communications problem here and it may at least be partially responsible for the response you get.

    I think you’re probably right. I should probably be more cognizant that some people who are reading my comments are seeing these claims for the first time and don’t know enough about me to know that the uncharitable reading isn’t correct. The most upsetting aspect is that the idea that I’m denying people’s suffering has been suggested and maintained by people who know enough about me to know it’s not likely to be true, and that this sort of ad hominem argument is so often used to avoid engaging with the evidence that shows not just the falseness but the profound harms of this model. Over and over, on my blog and elsewhere, I’ve talked about these harms, especially to children and other people who don’t have the luxury of choosing to accept the labels or the drugs. It’s very hard to read posts by science advocates championing this model when I know it’s false and extremely harmful. If I didn’t care about people’s suffering, I would have stopped posting about this long ago. I’ve been attacked, banned, called names,… But this is a false belief that is hurting people, and I can’t, in good conscience, shut up about it.

  79. 79
    Tobinius

    SC, as someone who is bipolar, I really appreciate your input. Admittedly, my first response was to be defensive and read your comments as coming from a Scientology-like denial of the issue. But I read your linked blog post and your other comments here, and agree (actually, I guess I should say accept) that it is not a disease, just like alcoholism is not a disease (at least that is what I think you mean).

    Anyway, I’ll look into some of your reading suggestions to help me get a better grasp of trying to understand the root of my condition. Thanks again.

  80. 80
    whiskeyjack

    You want something really depressing? Check this out: http://www.montrealgazette.com/technology/Blinded+scientific+gobbledygook/9759485/story.html

  81. 81
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Thanks, Tobinius. You’d probably find Whitaker’s Anatomy of an Epidemic the most interesting/useful to start with.

  82. 82
    Steve LaBonne

    Medicine is both art and science, and not all parts of it are equally well-founded in science at this stage of the game. I’m not interested in quibbling about that, the definition of the word “illness”, or the extent (which I do not doubt is substantial) to which psychoactive (or believed to be so) drugs are overprescribed. What I do know is that my wife is largely free of crippling anxiety attacks and agoraphobia only since she began to take paroxetine (and has suffered recurrences when she has tried to cut back the dose) and my daughter was able to climb out of a serious depression that forced her to drop out of college only with the help of venlafaxine (SSRIs didn’t help at all, which leads me to be skeptical that the SNRI acted as a placebo.) I share the concern expressed above about SC’s combination of aggression and weak communication skills. High horses are not useful in this kind of discussion.

  83. 83
    David Chapman

    6
    A Masked Avenger

    Prof. Myers:

    And hey, Darrel Falk, where in the scientific theory of cosmic origins is there a near-instantaneous creation of a garden on Earth (which didn’t even exist at the time of the Big Bang), a tree of magic fruit, and a talking snake?

    I think you’re missing something–one of those subtleties folks like you and Dawkins are accused of missing. Namely, that outside Fundie circles, theologians and biblical scholars (which are two different things) already don’t believe in a 6,000-year-old earth, a talking snake, a magic tree, or any of the rest of it. ……..
    When they talk about “the message of Genesis 1,” they’re talking primarily about a particular humanist conclusion.

    56

    A Masked Avenger

    The fact that it was a sacred text explains why some assholes decided that it must be an infallible source of scientific truth. Had no assholes decided that, there would be no debate about its scientific accuracy.

    Masked Avenger, I’m afraid I can’t accept your thesis about the mindset of ancient Hebrews with regard to this matter of Genesis. You suggest above that people, both ancient and modern, frequently say they believe in things that they must know or do know are not true, particularly in religious matters, as a matter of social convention.
    Or that they may be somewhat ambivalent in their own mind about things that they say they believe. And that therefore it makes perfect sense to suggest that the wacky mythologies of the Old Testament were never meant to be taken seriously. I think you’re wrong.

    Your general suggestion about the frequently fuzzy nature of people’s epistemological commitment is valid. People do stuff like that in the modern World, so it certainly makes sense to think that there was a lot of it about in pre-scientific ancient times.

    However, it’s a different story in this context. Consider the following passage from Deuteronomy:

    13
    1 If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder,

    2 And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them;

    3 Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

    4 Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.

    5 And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the Lord thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.

    6 If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers;

    7 Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth;

    8 Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him:

    9 But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.

    10 And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.

    11 And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is among you.

    12 If thou shalt hear say in one of thy cities, which the Lord thy God hath given thee to dwell there, saying,

    13 Certain men, the children of Belial, are gone out from among you, and have withdrawn the inhabitants of their city, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which ye have not known;

    14 Then shalt thou enquire, and make search, and ask diligently; and, behold, if it be truth, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought among you;

    15 Thou shalt surely smite the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly, and all that is therein, and the cattle thereof, with the edge of the sword.

    16 And thou shalt gather all the spoil of it into the midst of the street thereof, and shalt burn with fire the city, and all the spoil thereof every whit, for the Lord thy God: and it shall be an heap for ever; it shall not be built again.

    17 And there shall cleave nought of the cursed thing to thine hand: that the Lord may turn from the fierceness of his anger, and shew thee mercy, and have compassion upon thee, and multiply thee, as he hath sworn unto thy fathers;

    18 When thou shalt hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, to keep all his commandments which I command thee this day, to do that which is right in the eyes of the Lord thy God.

    OK, my point’s fairly obvious. When we’re talking about the Bible, we need to keep in mind that we’re dealing with a totalitarian document. And Professors Dawkins and Myers know this, ( it’s obvious that you do to, but for some reason you’re ignoring or forgetting it ), and it’s on that basis that they deduce, as do I that, just as during the tragic near-two millenia that Europe lay under the thumb of this hideous tract, so when it was originally written or compiled, questions or ambiguity about whether such and such a passage was actually, you know, in the full sense, true would not have been permitted. ( Consider the mention of the story of Exodus, above, in this context. ) You can if you like theorize that the scripturally-approved account of Creation was not subject to such draconian inquisitions as the Exodus story apparently was. I’d just shrug my shoulders; the assumption to be made is that it was. Suggesting it was just a myth would have been tantamount to suggesting that another people’s account of Creation might be equally acceptable. It was part of the Holy Scripture of a hideous system of mind control. But you know, here’s a time machine and an ancient Hebrew phrasebook, if you want to travel back and try out that interesting theory on the first High Priest you see. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you. Mind you according to this thought experiment you’re already stoned to death. But I digress…

    At any rate, epistemological ambiguity in a free society is a very different concept from epistemological ambiguity under such a regime as Deuteronomy envisages. It inevitably tends to be a much more private, and clandestine matter. Even if it were understood at some periods back then that Genesis was not literally true,
    discussion of such matters would have been an intimidating and risky business. Thoughts about the Nature of the Universe would have been best avoided, simply because such matters involve discussion of god(s). So this is the accurate way to see such documents as Genesis; a very different state of affairs from the light-hearted open-mindedness as to whether there really was a talking snake and all that, that you have been suggesting. Comparisons with ancient Greek and Roman mythology, are not very relevant; these were famously tolerant and diverse societies.
    It is of course conceivable that there was no such regime, that the vile subservience and mass conformity that the author of Deuteronomy lusts after was never in fact a reality. Archaeologists I hear frequently dig up figurines of non-Yahweh gods and goddesses from ancient Jewish dwellings in Israel — where they are not of course supposed to be. ( Which brings a smile to my face. ) The Bible itself is a mass of evidence that Yahweh was never actually that popular. If the contention that ancient peoples were not necessarily the talking termites that their rulers and priests wanted them to be is one of your motives for holding the position you do, then I admit it’s an important issue. But your position obscures a still more important issue, about the real nature of Genesis. This issue is not ultimately about the people, but about the scripture itself. We’re talking about the tenets and the ideological nature of the religion, or rather of the Judeo-Christian religious continuum. About how Genesis and all the other crap was intended to impact, according to the wishes and schemes of those — the ruling class and the Priesthood — who were inscribing and touting them. In a word, we’re talking about the Bible. And it’s the Bible that makes it hideously clear that the Lord is rather keen on our unstinting ideological commitment.

  84. 84
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    What I do know is that my wife…and my daughter…

    What you also no doubt know is that anecdotal testimony is notoriously dangerous in medicine and science.* Perhaps if you sought to understand that experience in terms of the evidence I’ve pointed to…

    I share the concern expressed above about SC’s combination of aggression and weak communication skills.

    Your concern is noted. It won’t make the reality go away.

    *Of course you know this. If you’re going to toss that aside in this case, then to be consistent you have to do the same when responding to any other personal testimony about quack remedies or to, say, Jay Gordon’s “clinical experience” about vaccines.

  85. 85
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    (A man is concerned about my aggression – gasp!)

    What I do know is that my wife is largely free of crippling anxiety attacks and agoraphobia only since she began to take paroxetine (and has suffered recurrences when she has tried to cut back the dose) and my daughter was able to climb out of a serious depression that forced her to drop out of college only with the help of venlafaxine (SSRIs didn’t help at all, which leads me to be skeptical that the SNRI acted as a placebo.)

    If you know this with such certainty, then naturally it won’t affect your beliefs at all to read, say, The Emperor’s New Drugs. So you might as well just do it.

  86. 86
    David Marjanović

    I think you’re probably right. I should probably be more cognizant that some people who are reading my comments are seeing these claims for the first time and don’t know enough about me to know that the uncharitable reading isn’t correct.

    Well, yes.

    I had also never seen the term “biopsychiatry” before this thread; because inventing terminology is a common symptom of crankery, I’m sure it contributes to people misinterpreting you.

    alcoholism is not a disease

    …That strikes me as a matter of definition.

  87. 87
    chimera

    Well, Mr. Marjonovic, you are just young if you’ve never encountered “biopsychiatry” before. Don’t take what you know and don’t know as a standard of what is known. In the 1950s to 1970s “bio” was often appended to medicine and its specialties to contrast it with earlier 19th century medicine.

    I

  88. 88
    Rob Grigjanis

    DM @86:

    I had also never seen the term “biopsychiatry” before this thread

    Would looking it up be really difficult?

  89. 89
    Steve LaBonne

    The problem, SC, is that your selective reading and ideological fervor don’t necessarily correspond to reality. The evidence of double-blind trials for efficacy significantly > placebo of SSRIs in treating panic disorder is actually pretty good. That’s not anecdote, regardless of the fact that the mechanism is not really understood.

  90. 90
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Well, Mr. Marjonovic,

    That’s Dr. Marjanović. While a whippersnapper, very, very smart and well read. And Biophyschiatry isn’t something this old fart is familiar with either.

  91. 91
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Well, yes.

    Regardless, you of all people should recognize that claims about someone’s alleged lack of affect are irrelevant to the truth of their claims.

    I had also never seen the term “biopsychiatry” before this thread; because inventing terminology is a common symptom of crankery, I’m sure it contributes to people misinterpreting you.

    Possibly. But some of the people who are the most vocal opponents of this model (like Joanna Moncrieff) are themselves psychiatrists, and even though they’re a small minority I want to distinguish the model from all psychiatrists. And again, these “symptoms” should only be an ongoing issue is you’re willfully incurious and determinedly hostile to evidence.

    As I’ve said, I accept that misinterpretations are more likely than I generally anticipate and try to counteract every time I enter these discussions, but at the same time there is no reason for them to persist indefinitely or to excuse a refusal to engage with the evidence. This really isn’t about me or any specific terminology (I didn’t use that term back in 2010 or ’11 when I started posting about this, and faced the same responses). People are going to look for justifications not to look into evidence that challenges their beliefs; it’s true that as someone challenging beliefs I should be constantly aware of that and try to enter every conversation with that in mind (although my own emotions about the continuing harm of this false model and my anger at some of the responses make that difficult), but that in no way subtracts from the duty to believe according to the evidence that we here claim to uphold.

  92. 92
    chimera

    Steve @89

    SC, as far as I have read and I’ve just spent several hours reading her around the web, does not ever claim that the substances prescribed in psychiatry do not alleviate symptoms. That is not the issue, not what she’s talking about. She is basically saying that mental illness is not like a disease due to a virus or bacteria (presumed causes) that can be “treated” with substances that destroy or inhibit the action of those viruses or bacteria, or like heart coronary heart disease that is caused by hardening of the coronal arteries, in turn cause by diet and other things, and which can be “treated” by flushing out those arteries, or like a genetic disease whose cause can be pinpointed and isolated. She is saying mental illnesses are not like these models, the causes are generally unknown (though many things, including specific types of brain activity) may correlate with the illnesses in question) and the treatments do not act on the underlying causes of the symptoms.

    In fact, it has been in the last ten years or so that mental illnesses have been regrouped, reclassified according to what substances produce an alleviation of symptoms. Anorexia nervosa is now considered a type of addiction because its symptoms can be alleviated in part by drugs that treat addiction or compulsive/obsessive behavior.

  93. 93
    chimera

    Nerd @ 90

    Being smart and having a doctorate are no reason for arrogance.

  94. 94
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    The problem, SC, is that your selective reading and ideological fervor don’t necessarily correspond to reality.

    Don’t you ever get tired of this? Don’t you ever just want to investigate the arguments against your position? Aren’t you even a little bit curious about them and the evidence they present? Doesn’t the fact that leading representatives of biopsychiatry have stated that these alleged mental illnesses lack scientific validity make you even a little suspicious? Do you ever think your own ideological fervor might be playing a role?

  95. 95
    Steve LaBonne

    Kirsch’s book, for example, does not by itself constitute “evidence”. There is considerable room for doubt that the old drug company data used by him are actually of much value for asking the questions he wants to ask. There is also a fair amount of evidence (though like everything available in this area, far from conclusive) that SSRIs may be meaningfully better than placebo only for severe, but not mild or moderate depression. The evidence, as I already mentioned, is also better for some kins of anxiety disorders than for mild to moderate depression. There is much room for questioning of received wisdom in this area, but none for emotionalism and self-righteous crusading and. Those things, too, are not science.

  96. 96
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Kirsch’s book, for example, does not by itself constitute “evidence”. There is considerable room for doubt that the old drug company data used by him are actually of much value for asking the questions he wants to ask.

    What? I encourage everyone to read it – critically but fairly – (especially alongside some of the other articles and books I’ve cited) and determine whether his findings constitute evidence relevant to these questions.

    Here’s the thing, Steve. You’re making assertions. I’m pointing people to books and articles providing evidence and analysis to help people evaluate those assertions. Some people will continue to avoid those books and articles, but others won’t. People committed to science won’t. People who care about the truth in this important matter won’t. The facts are the facts, and they’re not going away. Biopsychiatry will be recognized as pseudoscience, and its vast harms recognized. It’s inevitable, because it’s the truth. I want it to happen sooner rather than later.

  97. 97
    chimera

    By the way, I agree with SC that mental illnesses are not illnesses (in the terms I state above). The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) has been rightly ridiculed and decried in many quarters (most recent article I can recall was in The New Yorker but I can’t remember date or title), and the creation of illnesses for purposes of drug peddling is a claim that can be found on the lips of loons and the well-informed alike. But neither of these topics are the principal informants of my agreement with SC that mental illnesses are not illnesses.

    To think of them as illnesses at first represented progress to the extent that it destigmatized them, took the shame out of the affliction and encouraged people to treat sufferers with compassion and solicitude rather than disdain. Still, it can be said they are not really illnesses and this is more than a problem of definition and semantics. It is about how we view or understand illnesses, how we view health, how we conceptualize different sorts of suffering and how as a society we institutionalize and treat that suffering.

  98. 98
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    It’s not relevant to the substantive discussion, but I want to put on the record the various ways Steve LaBonne has characterized my contributions:

    “quibbling” (a dismissive remark based on a misplaced characterization)
    “aggression”
    “weak communication skills” (these last two in the third person, “seconding” the concern of another man)
    “high horse”
    “emotionalism”
    “self-righteous crusading”

    It’s interesting to be accused of demonstrating callousness and emotionalism based on the same posts, but it’s…typical. It’s also interesting that the other feminists around here have had nothing to say about these standard characterizations of women’s comments.

  99. 99
    Steve LaBonne

    What I’m pointing out, SC, is that you yourself seem pretty unaware of the serious criticism Kirsch has received, but never cogently addressed, for highly selective use of data and studies. What I’m saying is that you would do well to heed your own admonitions, tone down the moral favor, and learn more about serious, scientifically informed points of view other than the ones you happen to favor. You also need to learn more about the history of medicine, which offers many examples of genuine illnesses for which treatments which we recognize to this day to be valid were discovered long before either illness or treatment had any scientific basis. The state of play is by no means as clear-cut as you believe.

  100. 100
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    To think of them as illnesses at first represented progress to the extent that it destigmatized them, took the shame out of the affliction and encouraged people to treat sufferers with compassion and solicitude rather than disdain.

    Unfortunately, that’s not true, either. The stigma question isn’t of course a reason to accept or reject the model, but there’s overwhelming evidence – including some from Brett Deacon, who I cited above; Ben Goldacre has discussed it – that these false biological explanations didn’t reduce social or self stigma, and in fact increased it. It’s another (secondary) myth.

  101. 101
    chimera

    Continued from 97.

    Mental illnesses appear and disappear. What ever happened to hysteria? Why doesn’t anyone suffer from that anymore? In the 19th century there was a very curious but well-documented affliction where people would leave their homes, totally forget who they were and everything about their lives and go off and start a new life somewhere else and then suddenly remember their previous lives some decades later. What caused that? Was it something in the water? Why doesn’t it happen anymore? Were these people just faking it (always a possibility)? And then there’s the fact that homosexuality was listed as an illness by the DSM in 1952. Why was it listed as an illness only in 1952 and not before? And why was it later withdrawn from the list of mental disorders? Why are there so many children suffering today from Attention Deficit Disorder? Why is major depression such an important phenomena today when it wasn’t in 1920? Why is masturbation no longer treated as a mental perversion to be treated by surgery (circumcision or clitoridectomy)?

    When a behavior (I include thoughts and feelings as behaviors) causes suffering or disruption or is seen as a problem by an individual, by the people around them or by society at large, it can be construed as a mental illness, as something to be treated with medication (or surgery such as lobotomy or techniques such as electroshock and so on). This is a way of dealing with the problem, to try and make the behavior fit the illness paradigm.

  102. 102
    chimera

    SC @ 100

    Well I should have hedged that: “may have at first represented progress…”.

  103. 103
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    What I’m pointing out, SC, is that you yourself seem pretty unaware of the serious criticism Kirsch has received, but never cogently addressed, for highly selective use of data and studies.* What I’m saying is that you would do well to heed your own admonitions, tone down the moral favor, and learn more about serious, scientifically informed points of view other than the ones you happen to favor. You also need to learn more about the history of medicine, which offers many examples of genuine illnesses for which treatments which we recognize to this day to be valid were discovered long before either illness or treatment had any scientific basis. The state of play is by no means as clear-cut as you believe.

    You’re funny.

    *Oh – here’s where I addressed this back in 2012. (I’ve discovered that I have a ridiculous number of posts under “health.”)

  104. 104
    Steve LaBonne

    That post, like the responses your hero Kirsch has made to his critics, makes excuses but simply doesn’t address the substance of the criticisms. It won’t convince anyone who isn’t already convinced.

  105. 105
    Rob Grigjanis

    Bicarbonate @97:

    the creation of illnesses for purposes of drug peddling is a claim that can be found on the lips of loons and the well-informed alike.

    Including the guy who was in charge of DSM-IV, Allen Frances. See here. He gave an interesting talk in Toronto a couple of years ago.

  106. 106
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Bicarbonate:

    And then there’s the fact that homosexuality was listed as an illness by the DSM in 1952…. [W]hy was it later withdrawn from the list of mental disorders?

    Needless to say, that close vote was the turning point at which psychiatry became totally scientific and medically sound.

    :)

  107. 107
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    That post, like the responses your hero Kirsch [!] has made to his critics, makes excuses but simply doesn’t address the substance of the criticisms. It won’t convince anyone who isn’t already convinced.

    Once again, I encourage everyone to read the book, the criticisms, and the responses.

  108. 108
    Jerry

    SC, I read all of the comments up to #103. I was at first put off by your commentary about psychiatry and about mental illness not being a real illness. As others have said, the nonspecific way you present your points has a lot to do with the not totally welcoming reception you get and the replies you receive. It took me several pages to understand that your point was truly scientific in nature, not CT, but I was still grasping. (I have fairly good reading comprehension, so I was quite frustrated.) In contrast, it only took one comment (#92 by Bicarbonate) for me to see the whole picture you were trying to convey in your multiple longer comments and references to other posts. If you bring up this (very interesting) topic again here or elsewhere, then you might want to consider writing a much shorter and clearer version.
    If I understand you correctly, you are saying that psychiatry is less a medical science than a collection of symptoms, a book of anecdotes, and a catalog of drugs all collected and organized by trial and error. It is in the pre-science stage of medicine, trying to use scientific and medical terms but failing to reach the rigor of, say blood chemistry. … Well, actually, this seems to be true of a lot of medical fields. Surgery is just starting to adopt a statistically based clinical trial model instead of ‘cut, see what happens, then publish’.

  109. 109
    thrw

    Then if it is not an illness what is wrong with me, what is the solution for it. I am not trying to play devils advocate here or anything. I just want to know if there are practical solutions or not.

  110. 110
    chimera

    thrw @109

    It depends on what is wrong with you. There isn’t always a solution.

  111. 111
    anteprepro

    thrw:

    Some psychiatric methods would work, some don’t, but part of SC’s point is that the vast majority of the time, even certain medications are actually proven to help, they don’t actually understand WHY. And of course, there are plenty of psychiatric meds that don’t really work better than a placebo, aren’t beneficial in the long-run, or are otherwise unreliable (side effects, etc.). There is also the point that there is more to “mental illness” than just the biology. Various kinds of therapy could help. Changing your social situation, if possible, could help. It all depends.

  112. 112
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    SC, I read all of the comments up to #103. I was at first put off by your commentary about psychiatry and about mental illness not being a real illness. As others have said, the nonspecific way you present your points has a lot to do with the not totally welcoming reception you get and the replies you receive. It took me several pages to understand that your point was truly scientific in nature, not CT, but I was still grasping. (I have fairly good reading comprehension, so I was quite frustrated.) In contrast, it only took one comment (#92 by Bicarbonate) for me to see the whole picture you were trying to convey in your multiple longer comments and references to other posts. If you bring up this (very interesting) topic again here or elsewhere, then you might want to consider writing a much shorter and clearer version.

    Your concern and unsolicited condescending advice are noted.

    If I understand you correctly,…

    You don’t. You could try to understand by reading my posts and/or the articles and books I’ve recommended. I doubt that you will, but hope springs eternal.

    ***

    (This is turning into a fascinating exercise in sexism and epistemology.)

  113. 113
    Juliana Ewing

    Why is major depression such an important phenomena today when it wasn’t in 1920?

    Oh, wow, do you ever not know any medical history.

  114. 114
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Then if it is not an illness what is wrong with me, what is the solution for it. I am not trying to play devils advocate here or anything. I just want to know if there are practical solutions or not.

    It’s a complicated question. Recognizing that biopsychiatry is false doesn’t provide any positive answers, though there are suggestions in the books I’ve mentioned. (Similarly, recognizing that there are no gods doesn’t provide values or goals or meaning.) But there is a tradition of humanistic-liberation psychology that can start to lead to some answers. Between, approximately, 1940 and 1990, there was a – limited, flawed, problem-ridden – outpouring of ideas about feminist, LGBT, anticolonial, antispeciesist, anarchist/socialist psychology. There are many practical responses there. And there are just caring traditions in psychology that can be helpful. Open Dialogue and Soteria programs might be helpful. Part of the importance of getting past bogus biopsychiatric notions is that it opens the door to these other possibilities. It isn’t hopeless at all. At all.

    (This isn’t to argue that every idea that isn’t biopsychiatry is true or useful. Obviously not.)

  115. 115
    shockna

    @SC:

    It’s been an interesting (if evoking a severe sense of creeping dread) discussion on the merits or not of psychiatry, but I was curious about the post @ 112:

    (This is turning into a fascinating exercise in sexism and epistemology.)

    The epistemology angle is pretty clear, but where’s the sexism in this discussion (serious question; I have pretty much every form of privilege but straight/neurotypical, and I can be pretty privilege blind at times)?

  116. 116
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    It happens that as I read Tauriq Moosa’s post about harassment of women online this morning I was just finishing a chapter in Ellyn Kaschak’s 1992 Engendered Lives: A New Psychology of Women’s Experience. Here’s a paragraph:

    When Emma Goldman spoke against conscription, the crowds would yell, ‘Strip her naked’ (Chernin 1985, p. 32). Would a man be threatened this way by a crowd of women? How does this come to be a way both to humiliate and to silence a strong and visible woman? It reminds her of her place – in a woman’s body. and that is equivalent to vulnerability and shame, that in itself puts her in danger and diminishes her. (85)

    Whose problem was/is this? What practical solutions were/are useful?

  117. 117
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    The epistemology angle is pretty clear, but where’s the sexism in this discussion

    The characterizations of my comments I quoted @ #98, Jerry’s condescending “If you bring up this (very interesting) topic again here or elsewhere, then you might want to consider writing a much shorter and clearer version” @ #108, and the continuing lack of comment on, for example Steve LaBonne’s “I share the concern expressed above about SC’s combination of aggression and weak communication skills. High horses are not useful in this kind of discussion.” This referred to, and mischaracterized, another man’s description of my comments, discussing me and my problematic aggression – which offered an excuse to delegitimize my arguments – in the third person.

  118. 118
    chimera

    Juliana @113

    It was a rhetorical question.

  119. 119
    chimera

    Sexism

    Yes, well, I agree that Steve Labonne’s reactions to SC smack of sexism, “high horse”, “emotionalism” and all that. The kind of things my father used to say to disqualify my mother’s concerns and that so terrified me as a young girl when I contemplated having to become a woman.

  120. 120
    Ichthyic

    In this case, they’re saying it’s compatible in the same way that The Hobbit is compatible: science and myth have nothing to do with each other.

    You’re simply an idiot if you define that as a subset of “compatible”.

    it’s like saying red and metal are compatible because one is a color and the other is a metal. it’s fucking nonsensical.

    it’s basically a lie, and you fucking well know it. so does Ayala, and so does Miller, and so does Collins.

  121. 121
    Ichthyic

    Recognizing that biopsychiatry is false

    nor is that statement true.

  122. 122
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    nor is that statement true.

    Riiiight.

  123. 123
    PatrickG

    @ SC (Salty Current), OM:
    I haven’t read comments past the 80s, because, well, I’m a bit upset.
    Let’s TL;DR this straight off the bat: You are terrible at basic communication, and it’s ludicrous that you’re whining that people just don’t understand you.
    Let’s revisit your response to LykeX at #76:

    Actually, in the context of this thread, it’s the first time you’ve said that and it comes after you’ve said things that might very easily be interpreted to mean the exact opposite.

    They might, if you’re interested in going with the most uncharitable reading of my comments without asking any questions.

    For fuck’s sake. Why should I be required to read you charitably when you yourself acknowledge you’re terrible at communication:

    I should probably be more cognizant that some people who are reading my comments are seeing these claims for the first time and don’t know enough about me to know that the uncharitable reading isn’t correct.

    Yes, you should fucking be more cognizant. Why is the burden on me, or anyone, to know that you don’t mean it that way?
    When you say “mental illness doesn’t exist”, you’re using the exact language of many woo-meisters (herbal remedies! man up! chakra balancing! find Jesus! acupuncture! just get over it! etc.). As someone who struggles with what I identify as mental illness, I really can’t read that kind of assertion without seeing red. My initial response is certainly not to go read your links, because what you’re asserting is factually contrary to my lived experience. To then whine that people aren’t giving you a fair shake is absolutely contemptible.
    Intent isn’t fucking magic, and all that. And yes, it’s impossible — for me — to read the flat assertions in your early comments as anything but dismissing my lived experience. That’s not lack of charity, that’s you completely failing at your self-described mission.
    Now, here we have you at #78:

    I’ve been attacked, banned, called names

    World’s tinest violin, meet Salty Current.
    Now, I managed to make it further through your comment at #78, and I’ll block out some time to look at your links, but I strongly want to support what LykeX said in #76. The fact that I had to read through at least five of your comments before accepting you’re just incompetent at basic communication should be a data point that You. Are. Doing. It. WRONG.
    In any case, I’ll come back to this thread later, because right now I want to throw my monitor through a nearby window. If you’ve clarified or retracted other things, I’ll have to read it later, because I’m absolutely not in the mood to do so now. Thanks, SC, for taking the time to help me! So very much appreciated! You’re doing good in the world!
    Again, when I’m not so fucking angry, I’ll go look at your links. In the meantime, perhaps rethink your entire sales pitch?

  124. 124
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Again, when I’m not so fucking angry, I’ll go look at your links.

    Great.

    In the meantime, perhaps rethink your entire sales pitch?

    It’s not a sales pitch.

    Fuck, but I hate capitalism.

  125. 125
    PatrickG

    As I said, I’ll read your posts, and perhaps I’ll comment at your place with more, but in the meantime… thanks for dismissing me because I’m influenced by … capitalism?

    Do you actually care about the impact of what you say? If you care so much about spreading the word, perhaps you could take a stab at not being an obnoxious asshole?

  126. 126
    LykeX

    SC:
    On the assumption that the problem was related to how long you’ve been at this, I went digging a bit for some earlier stuff and I think this post is quite a bit more accessible.

    I think maybe what you need is some kind of standard introduction, a 101 page or FAQ, that explains the basics and gives people the background for understanding the rest of your links. Much of what you’re saying (and linking) assumes that people already know what you’re talking about.

    E.g. your very first link in this thread makes reference to years of background, criticisms and responses. Your second link starts out talking about Donald Rumsfeld. This may be fine for regular readers of your blog, but as an introduction to a subject, it’s useless.
    People have limited time. Nobody is going to dig through books, articles and multiple blog posts until they’ve first been reassured that it’ll be worth their time. You need to provide that assurance right up front. It has to be the first thing people see or they’re never going to get to it.

    I’m trying to give constructive criticism. I hope it’s working.

  127. 127
    Ichthyic

    Riiiight.

    we’ve been through this before.

    when you can run your own studies that reject the literally tens of thousands of studies that have provided us with knowledge of how brain chemistry actually works, and has resulted in medicines that work just like medicines for any other body ailments, I’d think you have some merit to your arguments.

    but you can’t do that.

    you have NEVER done that.

    I can only conclude that your crusade is based on a poor personal experience with the American medical systems attempts to treat your own, or someone close to you.

    that happens with many other conditions as well. medicine isn’t a perfect science, but it is, still, science.

  128. 128
    Ichthyic

    Nobody is going to dig through books, articles and multiple blog posts until they’ve first been reassured that it’ll be worth their time.

    I did. two years ago. I went through all the articles she provided then.

    it wasn’t worth my time.

    it isn’t worth yours, either.

  129. 129
    Ichthyic

    It’s not a sales pitch.

    funny how that works. sure always has sounded like one to me as well.

    you want to change the science on this? it’s like we tell the creationists… go do some science.

    me, I can go grab any of a hundred medical journals that are still publishing productive and sound articles on the biology of how our psychology works any given day of the week.

    I’ll trust the science, thanks muchly.

  130. 130
    rorschach

    By the way, I agree with SC that mental illnesses are not illnesses

    Firstly, I would like to say that I agree with antepropro @21. Secondly, as far as I can tell none of the people theorizing about mental illness here are physicians or scientists. Obviously SC has a certain history and, in my view, rather creationist-like bias when it comes to what she calls “biopsychiatry”.

    As a clinician and now general practitioner, I am able to point to many occasions, and they are in fact some of the most satisfying in my job, where the use of psychotropic medication has saved lives, families, relationships, careers.

    I would challenge any of the anti-psychopharmacy warriors out there to explain to the woman overcoming postnatal depression, with pharmacotherapy as one part of a comprehensive treatment program, that “the drugs don’t work”.

    Reading books is fine, but practical knowledge and experience should not be disregarded. If they are in fact disregarded, the person doing that may justifiably be accused of having a blind spot, and ignoring the evidence in favor of strong yet false beliefs.

  131. 131
    A Masked Avenger

    Ichthyic, #120:

    You’re simply an idiot if you define that as a subset of “compatible”.

    We’re talking about people (in Falk’s case at least) who understand that common descent is fact, and Genesis is fiction. Talking about the “compatibility” of a certain fact and a certain fiction story is asinine, if you understand that the fiction story is, in fact, a fiction story. And Falk does. There are plenty of objectionable things that Falk thinks, but belief in talking snakes is not one of them, because he doesn’t believe such a thing.

    Sorry if you’re having trouble grasping this point.

  132. 132
    A Masked Avenger

    davidchapman, #83:

    Masked Avenger, I’m afraid I can’t accept your thesis about the mindset of ancient Hebrews with regard to this matter of Genesis. You suggest above that… And that therefore it makes perfect sense to suggest that the wacky mythologies of the Old Testament were never meant to be taken seriously. I think you’re wrong.

    I said they were always intended as myths. You paraphrased that as, “never meant to be taken seriously.” That’s a bad paraphrase: people take their myths VERY seriously. The myth of American exceptionalism has indirectly killed millions. Identifying it as a myth is important for figuring out how it functions and what to do about it, but being a myth doesn’t make it nothing. I think you’re extrapolating from the fact that you don’t take Greek myths seriously, but that’s the wrong analogy because you’re not Greek. You do take YOUR myths, whatever they may be, VERY seriously.

    An ancient could probably not participate in the “myth vs history” conversation, because to them there’s probably no meaningful difference. See above for a great post about how “those days were different.” They would have used myth as a placeholder for truth, in the absence of anything else to put in its place. Which is a fancy way of saying they pretty much believed it by default.

    The rest of your post talked about things that could get you killed, if Mosaic law were enforced. You’re quite right–there’s plenty that’s toxic in there. Nobody, least of all me, is saying otherwise.

    But that’s not what I was talking about. I was talking about the fact that Falk, like many Christians who accept common descent, doesn’t believe in talking snakes. He regards Genesis 1-11 as (mostly) myth. He still takes it seriously–he just doesn’t mistake it for historical or scientific fact.

    Tangentially I mentioned that fundies’ regard for Genesis as fact is not normative, because they’re as ignorant of their own book as they are of science. Their superstition is a force to be reckoned with, but the fact remains that in an objectively verifiable sense they’re reading it wrong. Reading it “right” still requires one to be a theist, so I don’t recommend it to anyone, but nevertheless fundies are doing it wrong not subjectively, in the opinion of some competing superstition, but objectively, in light of the actual historical and literary setting of their own book.

  133. 133
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    LykeX,

    I appreciate that you want to help (though I’d prefer that you just read the materials :)). A 101/FAQ isn’t a bad idea. But there’s also something you should understand, The “accessible” post you linked to is from 2011. I’ve been posting about this for three years. I linked to that post in 2011 and the responses here were similar to those on this thread if not more angry, dismissive, and evasive. There are people in this community (look at Ichthyic’s inane comments, which are much the same as his comments from two years ago) who do not want to engage with the evidence on this subject and will use any justification to avoid it. We face the same sort of resistance as atheists talking about religion and as feminists talking about, well, anything related to feminism, including the insistence on making it about our tone and motives and presentation. It’s not that these are irrelevant, but at some point people who consider themselves supporters of science need to recognize what they’re doing and take responsibility for learning.

    ***

    rorschach:

    As a clinician and now general practitioner, I am able to point to many occasions, and they are in fact some of the most satisfying in my job, where the use of psychotropic medication has saved lives, families, relationships, careers.

    I would challenge any of the anti-psychopharmacy warriors out there to explain to the woman overcoming postnatal depression, with pharmacotherapy as one part of a comprehensive treatment program, that “the drugs don’t work”.

    rorschach, you know clinical experience is a treacherous and faulty basis for scientific conclusions. Everyone seems to appreciate this when they’re arguing with someone like Jay Gordon, but forget it when it comes to psychopharmaceuticals. The books and articles I’ve cited and linked to discuss this issue. Angell does (in the article I linked to above!), Kirsch does (in the interview I linked to above!), Moncrieff does,… Could you just please keep this in mind, put your experience-based ideas aside, and read some of the books and articles?

  134. 134
    consciousness razor

    A Masked Avenger, #132:

    An ancient could probably not participate in the “myth vs history” conversation, because to them there’s probably no meaningful difference. See above for a great post about how “those days were different.” They would have used myth as a placeholder for truth, in the absence of anything else to put in its place. Which is a fancy way of saying they pretty much believed it by default.

    So they believed these myths. But because they’re not modern people with modern notions of “fact” and “history” and “epistemology,” believing it is somehow totally different. Sure…. Even if it’s a “default” belief (whatever that means) or however you want to paint it, it is nevertheless still a belief they had. But if your point was not supposed to be that most ancient people didn’t believe these myths, I still haven’t figured out what your point actually is.

    And for that matter, your “humanist” interpretation in your first comment has to be at least as confused and anachronistic as a “historical” interpretation. This is just a load of crap:

    The bit that’s “humanist” is that it invests humanity with a particular dignity as “the image in the temple.”

    They got their value out of how big and powerful their god was supposed to be. It can kick all of the other gods’ asses, or it would if they existed so let’s just decide they’re not even real. And they specifically were his chosen people, so that made them special too, more so than all of those other humans. They didn’t in fact treat other groups with the same “dignity” that’s supposed to have come from their god, so that evidently isn’t the message they took from it. The moral of the story? I don’t actually know what the hell you’re thinking, but it’s not humanism just because there are humans mentioned in it somewhere. The fact that it ultimately depends on something other than a human being should’ve been your first clue.

  135. 135
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Secondly, as far as I can tell none of the people theorizing about mental illness here are physicians or scientists. Obviously SC has a certain history and, in my view, rather creationist-like bias when it comes to what she calls “biopsychiatry”.

    From Wikipedia re the author of the article I linked to @ #50:

    Marcia Angell, M.D., (born April 20, 1939 in Knoxville, TN) is an American physician, author, and the first woman to serve as editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine. She is currently a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts.

    (Joanna Moncrieff is a psychiatrist.)

  136. 136
    Gerry Delonzo

    SC:

    I have previously read nearly all of the materials and links that you have provided, as well as any many other books and articles on this topic over the past decade on both sides of the issue. Put simply, you are only referencing authorities that support your view and are not engaging with contrary authority at all. If you are not able to constructively deal with contrary authority, you are only going to turn The canned response of “just follow the links” just doesn’t cut it. I think that you are doing people a massive disservice by presenting as truth one side of an issue where there is massive disagreement in the scientific community at the current time. Perhaps if you would actually engage in the debate instead of constantly appealing to one-sided authorities, you might gain some more traction. As it stands, you seem to be unintentionally sabotaging your own arguments.

    “rorschach, you know clinical experience is a treacherous and faulty basis for scientific conclusions.”

    This kind of comment worries me, and suggests to me that you do not understand the basics of the scientific method.

  137. 137
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    I have previously read nearly all of the materials and links that you have provided,

    I’m going to guess this is bullshit., but it doesn’t matter since you’ve said nothing about their substance.

    as well as any many other books and articles on this topic over the past decade on both sides of the issue. Put simply, you are only referencing authorities that support your view and are not engaging with contrary authority at all. If you are not able to constructively deal with contrary authority, you are only going to turn The canned response of “just follow the links” just doesn’t cut it. I think that you are doing people a massive disservice by presenting as truth one side of an issue where there is massive disagreement in the scientific community at the current time. Perhaps if you would actually engage in the debate instead of constantly appealing to one-sided authorities, you might gain some more traction. As it stands, you seem to be unintentionally sabotaging your own arguments.

    As soon as you present evidence that engages with and counters their substantive arguments and the evidence they present, I will discuss it. But there really isn’t any debate. The first few links I provided on this thread quote leading representatives of psychiatry admitting that there’s no evidence for the existence of these alleged illnesses, that the diagnoses lack scientific validity, and that they’ve long known the chemical imbalance myth was false. They’re not even trying to claim the model is supported by science, because they know it isn’t. That’s game over.

    “rorschach, you know clinical experience is a treacherous and faulty basis for scientific conclusions.”

    This kind of comment worries me, and suggests to me that you do not understand the basics of the scientific method.

    LOL.

  138. 138
    Gerry Delonzo

    For starters, you might want to look at these actual studies:

    (1) Pickard BS, Malloy MP, Clark L et al. (March 2005). “Candidate psychiatric illness genes identified in patients with pericentric inversions of chromosome 18″. Psychiatric Genetics 15 (1): 37–44.

    (2) Macgregor S, Visscher PM, Knott SA et al. (December 2004). “A genome scan and follow-up study identify a bipolar disorder susceptibility locus on chromosome 1q42″. Molecular Psychiatry 9 (12): 1083–1090.

    I can cite to many, many other studies if you would like, but please start with those.

    “The first few links I provided on this thread quote leading representatives of psychiatry admitting that there’s no evidence for the existence of these alleged illnesses”

    You’ve posted links to a couple of representatives of psychiatry, with whom most other psychiatrists in the field disagree. Trying to pass this off as some sort of revelation about the field as a whole is a logical fallacy, and further it is dishonest because I think you know better.

  139. 139
    A Masked Avenger

    consciousness razor, #134:

    So they believed these myths. But because they’re not modern people with modern notions of “fact” and “history” and “epistemology,” believing it is somehow totally different. Sure….

    The study of what mythology is and how it works is as legitimate as any other aspect of anthropology, involving among other things history and psychology. That you’re ignorant of it isn’t really a reasonable grounds for dismissing it. This is not about woo-meisters coming up with bullshit justifications for their woo; it’s about actual researchers asking, “So, what the fuck were these people actually thinking?”

    Ancient and modern people believe myths–more than one of us has mentioned American exceptionalism, more than once, for example. And it’s an interesting question: what the fuck are these people thinking? You can be as rational as Hitch, and still believe myths. So… what the fuck was Hitch thinking?

    An approximate answer has been given multiple times. Remember that ancient people (or people from indigenous cultures today) are not any different from us; evolution has bequeathed them with the same brain we have. They are perfectly capable of distinguishing fact from fiction in daily life: if someone fails to perform a culturally-expected function, and then insists that he did, they perfectly well grasp that this is a lie, and that a violation has occurred. Their epistemology doesn’t prevent them from spotting liars, thieves, or other violators of cultural norms. In short, they’re not stupid.

    The approximate answer is that they compartmentalize. As CJO said in #61, they distinguish mythical time from the present time and believe, “Those days were different.” They distinguish far away places from local places, and will believe wild stories about far away places yet refuse to believe that the same story did–or even could–take place here at home. I would summarize it this way: they will accept incredible stories as long as they aren’t falsifiable, and if they have a reason to do so. Myths are intentionally constructed to be unfalsifiable, and believing them is desirable because they prove that our people are the best, or because they provide a way of bonding with the social group.

    If you tried to claim that something similar to their myths actually happened yesterday, to someone they know, in a nearby location, you would not be believed. Myths are a separate category from daily occurrences. They recognize that distinction. If you violate that distinction, they understand that you’re doing it wrong.

    But if your point was not supposed to be that most ancient people didn’t believe these myths, I still haven’t figured out what your point actually is.

    I apologize for your lack of comprehension. Ancient people would have no difficulty believing that snakes talked to people, in a remote time and place. If, however, you informed one of them that you had just had a conversation with a snake, you would be at best mocked, and at worst deemed insane and treated accordingly. They did make a distinction between their myths and other kinds of claims.

    Specifically, they would have understood that Genesis should be classified with Gilgamesh and Heracles, and that it should not be classified with the account of how granddad bought this here farm for 600 shekels.

  140. 140
    A Masked Avenger

    A related question is what the fuck people were thinking in the 18th Century when they read travelogues. They were heavily laced with fiction. Did readers realize that? Did they believe what they read? Did they dismiss it as fiction? Did they understand on one level that it was fiction, but treat it as fact in conversation?

    And relatedly, would they believe the same stories if they were set in the next town over? (Clearly not.)

    The concept that narrative about the past, or remote events, should be reported “objectively,” really dates to the 19th Century. Before that, and still to some large extent today, people passed on stories that were heavily biased and embroidered. People knew that was the case. Yet people used those stories as sources of information. “What the fuck were they thinking?” is a good question. And it’s the sort of question anthropologists actually do spend time on. Historians spend some energy on the question as well, because they rely exclusively on sources that they know are embroidered and inaccurate. They spend quite a lot of energy trying to figure out what actual events happened to give rise to the version we’ve received.

    The upshot as relates to any ancient source, but particularly the Bible, is that regarding it as an objective history is anachronistic by some 2,400 years. Not only isn’t it, but nobody thought it was, prior to the 19th Century, because objective history wasn’t a thing. Whatever the fuck they thought it was, it wasn’t that, because they’d never heard of that.

    And in the OP, PZ should already know this. Suggesting that reading it as other than objective history is reading it wrong makes no sense. Only a fundie would think that makes sense, because only a fundie is so badly afflicted with last Thursdayism that he thinks his Bible is equivalent to yesterday’s New York Times or a college history text. (BTW, look for sermons that literally refer to the Bible as a newspaper from 2,000 years ago. You’ll find them. And you can be certain than when you’ve found it, you’ve found a fundie.)

  141. 141
    consciousness razor

    The study of what mythology is and how it works is as legitimate as any other aspect of anthropology, involving among other things history and psychology. That you’re ignorant of it isn’t really a reasonable grounds for dismissing it.

    Where the fuck did you get that idea?

    This is not about woo-meisters coming up with bullshit justifications for their woo; it’s about actual researchers asking, “So, what the fuck were these people actually thinking?”

    I have no problem with that.

    The upshot as relates to any ancient source, but particularly the Bible, is that regarding it as an objective history is anachronistic by some 2,400 years. Not only isn’t it, but nobody thought it was, prior to the 19th Century, because objective history wasn’t a thing. Whatever the fuck they thought it was, it wasn’t that, because they’d never heard of that.

    Yet they thought it was true. They believed it. That’s the only thing required here.

    I’ll add that your claim that “falsifiability” was somehow a criterion is also wildly ahistorical.

  142. 142
    A Masked Avenger

    consciousness razor, #141:

    Yet they thought it was true. They believed it. That’s the only thing required here.

    No, it’s not, because the question is whether Falk is “ignoring what the book actually says and pretend it’s all a big metaphor.” What the book actually says was understood by the original authors and audience to be equivalent to the Babylonian creation and flood stories; the same category of story as the Greek myths, or the creation stories of Egypt and all of Israel’s Canaanite neighbors. Knowing this makes a profound difference to the question what it “actually says.”

    Even the original readers, despite their belief, made a distinction (as best we can tell) between myths and other things. They regarded it (as best we can tell) as a separate category of “truth,” such that they could have said, “If you tried to tell me that this happened yesterday to you, I would know you were lying.”

    We don’t recognize separate “categories of truth” today, and we don’t distinguish between different kinds of belief. Well, mostly–I’ve pointed out that even today there are conventional “beliefs” that people don’t actually “believe” in the only sense you’d accept the term, but that nevertheless function a hell of a lot like beliefs. You sound about like I felt, living amongst the “hillbillies” of upstate New York: like all this blah blah blah is a lot of bullshit to talk around the fact that these people are EITHER completely gullible OR pathological liars. And yet they were neither.

    I’ll add that your claim that “falsifiability” was somehow a criterion is also wildly ahistorical.

    You know, I actually considered putting a footnote on my post, but decided against it, thinking you wouldn’t be so stupid as not to understand that my reference to falsifiability is my, 21st century, interpretation of an ancient phenomenon. Guess I was wrong.

    Although they lacked the formal Popperian concept of demarcation between the falsifiable and the unfalsifiable, ancient people (like people generally) can certainly grasp the difference between a statement whose truth or falsehood is unlikely to affect them, from one that’s likely to. And I would suggest that it’s not coincidental that myths are always framed in terms that guarantee the hearers are unable to confirm or deny the story. Ancient people were receptive to the possibility that Icarus could fly with artificial wings, but were not correspondingly likely to try on a pair and jump off a cliff, or to believe that their ne’er-do-well brother in law invented working wings.

  143. 143
    David Chapman

    I said they were always intended as myths. You paraphrased that as, “never meant to be taken seriously.” That’s a bad paraphrase: people take their myths VERY seriously.

    I never misunderstood you on that point, as my previous post gently hinted. These scriptures were a matter of Life and Death, that was the justification for the passing reference to Deuteronomy, which in your analysis is also a mythological document; not to establish that the Bible stories weren’t myths, but that, myths or not, they weren’t open to question.
    But you should acknowledge that your own thesis is fairly damn nebulous. You claim that the ancients regarded the Biblical writings as mythical, that people’s estimation of their truth was not straightforward. But it’s more or less impossible to ascertain what that might mean, nor where ( accepting your argument for a moment ) it ended and a hard-and-fast picture of reality began, because you can’t speak to these people and try and estimate their epistemological approach. And in whose mind? And under what circumstances? I’m afraid I think it’s a rhetorical trick to insist that spurious niceties be observed with regard to a concept that no-one, including you, can really pin down. But whereas I think your thesis is highly suspect, it really misses the important issue anyway.

    I think you’re extrapolating from the fact that you don’t take Greek myths seriously, but that’s the wrong analogy because you’re not Greek.

    Er, no. No, I’m not. ( extrapolating, or Greek. )
    The key issue here is that atheists frequently treat the myths of the Bible with scorn and merriment, as hopelessly unrealistic and silly. You say that scorn is inappropriate, they should instead be understood on their own terms, because they were never intended to be realistic scientific descriptions of the World or its history; that the way ancient peoples related to their common myths was different from a simple literal acceptance of their truth.
    I’m trying to say that, even supposing that view of these matters were accepted, it doesn’t make any difference, from the point of view of the atheist or agnostic who responds to these texts with derision. You write:

    An ancient could probably not participate in the “myth vs history” conversation, because to them there’s probably no meaningful difference. See above for a great post about how “those days were different.” They would have used myth as a placeholder for truth, in the absence of anything else to put in its place. Which is a fancy way of saying they pretty much believed it by default.

    I don’t know if you’re right there, but supposing you are, then what difference does it make to the justice of the derision and contempt response? Why are Professors Myers, Dawkins et al ( including me ), insufficiently subtle when we mock and deride these sorry excuses for an account of the World? Isn’t that the issue, that the Hebraic religion is based on accepting myths “in the absence of anything else to put in its place?”
    Elsewhere, marvelous things were happening because people were learning not to do that: science, mathematics, history and democracy were beginning to emerge just a short distance away in Greece, Italy etc; and the Hebrews’ crappy creation myths were the sort of ignorant formulation not only destined, but designed to form a bulwark against that kind of thing, to produce a barren landscape where imagination and curiosity are irradiated by dogma. It’s a very important point in the history of culture, when people do learn that there is a meaningful distinction between history and myth.
    It would be cruel and chauvinistic to proffer anything more than a passing jibe toward these documents, true, as such things simply represented the state of affairs in this part of the World at the time; except for one circumstance: that the documents themselves are cruel and chauvinistic, and they have cost us very, very dear in terms of human suffering and bloodshed and social retardation. So, fuck them.

    The rest of your post talked about things that could get you killed, if Mosaic law were enforced. You’re quite right–there’s plenty that’s toxic in there. Nobody, least of all me, is saying otherwise.

    The point I was trying to make: I was taking about Mosaic law killing dissenters, in order to point out that, whereas you are right to raise the issue that we don’t know what was going on in the ancient Hebrew’s heads when they thought of their Creation myths, the question is clarified immensely when you realize it would be analogous to the way that people ‘believe’ in things in totalitarian countries today. It’s a radical shift from the kind of epistemological ambiguity your talking about. It’s still epistemological ambiguity, but the real issue is that it reinforces the fact that contempt for Genesis and the Bible is well-merited, because the Bible would appear to be a document/body of scripture that is dedicated to maintaining, by hideous violence, the very pre-scientific, talking snake ideology that scientific atheists also view with loathing. I’m saying you cannot isolate the Hebrew mythology and epistemology from the dictatorial crimes that were used to make sure it remained the Hebrew mythology — i.e., that made sure that people didn’t try to question and criticize it. Prominent in the way that this was done would indeed be to attempt to abolish the distinction between myth and reality. That’s what totalitarian governments do. Are we supposed to be impressed? Are we supposed to be respectful?
    Your post concludes:

    Reading it “right” still requires one to be a theist, so I don’t recommend it to anyone, but nevertheless fundies are doing it wrong not subjectively, in the opinion of some competing superstition, but objectively, in light of the actual historical and literary setting of their own book.

    and you’re ignoring what I said, that the actual history and literary setting of their own book was Orwellian, it was a social context where you were forced to believe in six days of Creation, and dissent would not have been permitted. Or if in fact Deuteronomy was not respected, Deuteronomy was nevertheless what the priesthood and authorities that sanctioned these scriptures demanded, whether or not they got it. They certainly got it later on, for we’re talking about the same ideology that came to reign in Christendom. And no surprise, for that’s how the Bible tells you to organize your religion and state. I’m making the argument that you’re taking Genesis in isolation from the totalitarian instructions of the Bible; which doesn’t add up. You’re not listening to me.

    I was talking about the fact that Falk, like many Christians who accept common descent, doesn’t believe in talking snakes. He regards Genesis 1-11 as (mostly) myth. He still takes it seriously–he just doesn’t mistake it for historical or scientific fact.

    Well, I was raised as a Catholic and that’s their default position as well, at least if you’re not educated well enough to call “bullshit!”( My mother was raised to believe in Noah’s flood and talking snakes. ) Mainly though, the issue is understood to be one that the faithful do not talk about, that it’s unseemly to discuss. It’s sort of ‘believed’ in an ambiguous, nebulous manner. And of course this is of the first importance with regard to this matter, because this is the same sort of approach to ‘belief’ that you suggest with regard to the ancients. Yes, but so what? The whole ‘semi-belief’ or ‘social belief’ phenomenon is obviously insanely dangerous, once the cardinal importance of the relationship between rationality and belief is grasped.

    What Prof. Myers responded to you (@8) was:

    Darrell Falk does not believe in talking snakes. But he still believes that an old book with talking snakes is the word of God. I refuse to let them get away with that bullshit.

    You don’t seem to get that Falk-face does not regard the Bible as equivalent to the Hobbit.(@35.) He may regard the Old Testament as in some sense approaching an ‘interesting work of fiction’. But the guy is a Christian, I mean literally in the sense that he claims that Jesus worked miracles and that stuff. Or rather his crappy Biologos website does; ( he used to be the President of this cybertoilet until 2012. )

    Biologos:
    Yet we also affirm that God works outside of natural law in supernatural events, including the miracles described in Scripture. In both natural and supernatural ways, God continues to be directly involved in creation and in human history.

    I think this is where Professor Myers gave up trying to talk to you.

    Now the obvious questions for people like Falk are: If God is cool and powerful like he believe Him to be, why didn’t he proceed his incarnation on Earth by providing a true scriptural account of his mind, his intentions, and his morality, instead of allowing human beings to produce this hideous bedlam of stupid fairy stories and De Sadean ethics, as you claim Falk believes? I’m not asking you this, I’m pointing out why Professor Myers contempt for these people is accurate and fair.
    Secondly, if God does insist on doing this, why didn’t Jesus set the record straight about all this awful twaddle in the Old Testament? He could have transformed the nature of this religion by introducing the distinction between myth and factuality, breaking it to us gently that the planet was actually very, very old and that we emerged via a process of evolution. Oh and Abraham shouldn’t have obeyed God when God commanded evil. In short, why did Jesus have no respect for the concept of truth, even though he claimed to be its personification?

    Instead He comes and fulfills all these prophecies from the Torah, and cites Deuteronomy etc as sacred, and refers to the Flood myth quite glibly, as if it had actually happened:(Matthew 24:36-42) IsJesus, too, ignoring the distinction between myth and actuality here? Well if he is, how do we know if we are supposed to make the distinction when contemplating the Gospels?? Christianity itself??

    Are you beginning to see from all this why contempt and mockery are exactly accurate ways of regarding Genesis? ‘Subtlety’ is no antidote to the anti-rational, myth-minded totalitarianism contained within the Bible, because in the nature of things, the infection contaminates every part of the doom-laden tome. It’s one of the greatest dangers facing Humanity, and it should be treated with the loathing it merits, not scholarly subtlety.

  144. 144
    Gerry Delonzo

    Ah, davidchapman. Spoken like a true bigot.

  145. 145
    A Masked Avenger

    davidchapman, #143:

    These scriptures were a matter of Life and Death, that was the justification for the passing reference to Deuteronomy, which in your analysis is also a mythological document…

    Exactly as I said, you’re confused: I never said Deuteronomy is a mythological document. Indeed, I expressed no specific stance about swaths of Genesis. Matter of fact, I included a disclaimer as regards Genesis 1-11, describing it as “(mostly) myth.”

    How you extrapolate from Adam & Eve and Noah to a conclusion about Deuteronomy is anyone’s guess–but you’re extrapolating and then imputing to me an opinion that would make me an idiot. A commandment isn’t a myth; it’s a commandment. In what dictionary does “thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” fit the definition of a myth? Is it the same dictionary in which “Shut the fuck up and go to sleep and don’t let me catch you sneaking out of bed” is a bedtime story?

    You don’t seem to get that Falk-face does not regard the Bible as equivalent to the Hobbit.(@35.)

    Reread post #35. I think you blinked and missed the part where I specifically referenced Genesis 1-3. Falk believes that his deity died on a cross and was bodily resurrected, so yes–he does indeed believe in plenty of bullshit. The bullshit in which Darrel Falk believes, however, does not include the specific bullshit that PZ referred to when he asked, “And hey, Darrel Falk, where in the scientific theory of cosmic origins is there a near-instantaneous creation of a garden on Earth (which didn’t even exist at the time of the Big Bang), a tree of magic fruit, and a talking snake?” Why are those specific bits of bullshit not included amongst the other bullshit in which Darrel Falk believes? Quite simply because Darrel Falk does not believe in them.

    Secondarily, PZ suggests that Falk unless Falk reads Genesis 1-3 as historical fact, then he’s “ignor[ing] what the book actually says and pretend[ing] it’s all a big metaphor.” This is exactly what a fundie would say, because fundies apparently share with PZ this notion of what the book contains. I pointed out that actual scholars have objectively demonstrated that this is untenable, because much of Genesis 1-11 is provably a product of late-exilic or early-post-exilic composition, around 500 BCE, with the dual agenda of countering the dominant Babylonian mythos and imposing on Judaism the redactors’ views about what the Jewish religion should be. (Not to mention the fact that Genesis 1 specifically describes the sky as a solid dome, and posits water out past the sun.) They have also objectively demonstrated that no deity ever dictated the text to a middle-bronze-age leader, for at least three reasons: the language in which it was written didn’t exist in the middle bronze age; at least two literary traditions are easily discerned within it; and it bears unmistakable evidence of redaction no earlier than the Israelite monarchy.

    Are you beginning to see from all this why contempt and mockery are exactly accurate ways of regarding Genesis? ‘Subtlety’ is no antidote to the anti-rational, myth-minded totalitarianism contained within the Bible…

    I believe I’ve said as much myself. At least, I’ve never said the contrary. However, it is also no antidote to tell people who don’t believe in talking snakes that they do, or to tell them that they should believe in talking snakes or else they’re doing Bible wrong. Appeasement is not the way to concur theism–but neither is dishonesty.

  146. 146
    A Masked Avenger

    @davidchapman, by the by:

    Is Jesus, too, ignoring the distinction between myth and actuality here? Well if he is, how do we know if we are supposed to make the distinction when contemplating the Gospels?? Christianity itself??

    You’re asking valid questions. From the second century through the 21st, there have been lots of attempts to grapple with them. Actually much more fundamental questions too–Christians have been aware since earliest times that the gospels contradict each other. The common theme throughout this time has been that there is not a normative way to read even the gospels. They recognize the problems, and understand that it’s impossible to read all four+ as accurate history, and have proposed various alternatives instead.

    Here I truly have no idea what Falk himself thinks, but folks on his end of the Christian spectrum tend to accept at least the scholarly consensus that the gospels are contradictory, non-eyewitness accounts, and are more likely to accept that they also contain myth-making.

    Here again it’s pointless to tell them they can’t even Bible unless they believe without question that the women who witnessed his resurrection both told and did not tell the disciples, who both went to Galilee to meet him and stayed in Jerusalem to meet him. That’s basically asking them to embrace a manifest absurdity, because we’d rather burn them easily for straw men than address the more convoluted absurdities they actually embrace.

    (And here’s where “subtlety” crops up. It’s perfectly understandable if we don’t want to grapple with them in their favorite mud puddle. It’s legit to refuse to engage them, or to engage them on some other ground. What’s not legit is to knock down a straw man and then explain that the rest follows because hey, it’s all bullshit anyway.)

  147. 147
    A Masked Avenger

    [The Bible is] one of the greatest dangers facing Humanity…

    By the way, shall I bring your clutching pearls to your fainting couch for you? Unless you mean to suggest the Bible is indirectly responsible for the nuclear arms race, global warming, and colony collapse disorder, then you’ve kind of jumped the shark melodrama-wise.

  148. 148
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    (1) Pickard BS, Malloy MP, Clark L et al. (March 2005). “Candidate psychiatric illness genes identified in patients with pericentric inversions of chromosome 18″. Psychiatric Genetics 15 (1): 37–44.

    (2) Macgregor S, Visscher PM, Knott SA et al. (December 2004). “A genome scan and follow-up study identify a bipolar disorder susceptibility locus on chromosome 1q42″. Molecular Psychiatry 9 (12): 1083–1090.

    The authors I cite are very clear about the fact that various genes and so forth have consistently been thrown up and failed to pan out. I’ve written about this on my blog. Citing “candidate genes” from 9 and 10 years ago (!) doesn’t exactly support your case, especially since anything replicated and confirmed would have made it into the new DSM. The people at the top of psychiatry, as I’ve said, have publicly acknowledged that no biomarkers for these bogus illnesses exist (which is the central question being addressed here: the reality or unreality of these illnesses), so searching for genetic susceptibility for them is a fairly strange project to begin with and kind of beside the point.

    I can cite to many, many other studies if you would like,

    I’m sure you can, and that none of them will make your case or engage with the evidence I’ve cited here and on my blog.

    You’ve posted links to a couple of representatives of psychiatry, with whom most other psychiatrists in the field disagree.

    I think most other psychiatrists would be surprised to learn that they disagree with current and past heads of NIMH and the task-force chairs of DSMs III, IV, and 5. If they did come to understand this, they might wonder what their beliefs are based on. Because it’s not scientific evidence, that’s for sure.

  149. 149
    irisvanderpluym

    A Masked Avenger 145:

    Appeasement is not the way to concur theism–but neither is dishonesty.

    That’s what I keep telling people! The way to conquer theism is mockery, people. That, and single payer healthcare.

  150. 150
    A Masked Avenger

    That’s what I keep telling people! The way to conquer theism is mockery, people.

    Yes! Mockery is a mighty weapon. The hard part is using it well–it needs to be actually funny and hit home. Otherwise you get something painful, like that Christian “comedian” whose video is making the rounds lately.

    My favorite:

    Knock Knock!
    Who’s there?
    It’s Jesus! I want to come in and save you!
    Save me from what?
    From what I’m going to do to you if you don’t let me in!

  151. 151
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    By the way, also publicly calling for the abandonment of what they correctly call “the unevidenced biomedical model implied by psychiatric diagnosis” is the Division of Clinical Psychology of the British Psychological Society.

  152. 152
    jrfdeux, mode d'emploi

    Knock Knock!
    Who’s there?
    It’s Jesus! I want to come in and save you!
    Save me from what?
    From what I’m going to do to you if you don’t let me in!

    I really, really like that joke! It goes to show how nasty the Christian proposition is: believe in me or I’ll see you burn.

  153. 153
    David Chapman

    I call Deuteronomy a mythological document according to your analysis because according to your way of thinking, an epistemological question mark must hang over almost any ancient religious document.
    Deuteronomy is ostensibly a set of laws handed down to Moses from the hand of the Almighty himself etc. Did everyone believe that was their origin? In what sense did they believe it?

    Not the point. As I was at pains to try to point out to you, they were not permitted to dissent from its instruction, nor its alleged origin. And this presumably was also the situation with the rest of the Bible. So really I think you’re discussion of the epistemological impulses and conventions of ancient peoples is irrelevant in this totalitarian context. I’d actually like to know what you think. But I wait in vain.

    All that stuff in the middle of your post about the actual origins of these documents, very interesting, you should tell fundamentalists about it, but it’s completely irrelevant to these matters.

    As for the rest, I’ll just point out that PZ Myers doesn’t claim that Falk believes in Genesis. He just doesn’t, not here in this thread anyway, so I don’t understand why you keep insisting he does, even that he’s being dishonest.
    It’s fairly clear what he’s saying, to me at least. He’s saying that Falk is pretending either to himself or to others that Genesis is some sort of extraordinary metaphor, and that that is complete bunk. You are saying no, Falk is not saying a metaphor but mythological thinking, which is sort of semi- or differently- or socially- believed in by the faithful. Various religious apologists have had recourse to this strategy of late. It runs into the tremendous problem that it calls the whole Bible into question, which is why it isn’t taken very seriously in skeptical circles either; and why these skeptical circles don’t take religious circles who espouse it very seriously, since it destroys the whole religious conception of Faith.

    Apart from disagreeing with you, I also fail to see where dishonesty comes in here either, apart possibly from the Christian apologists. You may be aggrieved that the Professor stopped arguing with you, but not only have you not presented convincing evidence to show that your contention about the ancient Hebrew’s epistemology is valid, as I pointed out, Professor Myers stopped posting after you replied to his question( In post #35, funnily enough ) :

    And do they regard the Bible in the same way I do The Hobbit, as an interesting work of fiction?

    with

    Yes.

    And of course, they do not. These characters (claim to ) regard Genesis as an interesting work of fiction, and possibly much of the Old Testament as an interesting work of fiction. They regard the New Testament as at least a fairly reliable account of the life of their saviour. I did not blink and miss anything, I was pointing out that you flatly contradicted the truth with that reply.

    Presumably that was a slip of the keypad on your part, that’s fine, we’re not engaged in a silly point scoring game here. But PZ Myers said explicitly ( in post #8 for fuck’s sake ) that

    Darrell Falk does not believe in talking snakes.

    Nothing deterred, you just accused him in post# 145 of dishonesty, on the basis that

    However, it is also no antidote to tell people who don’t believe in talking snakes that they do,

    You certainly don’t lack persistence. As for

    or to tell them that they should believe in talking snakes or else they’re doing Bible wrong.

    I’ve now told you twice why I think your argument, while valid and interesting in its own right in relation to other ancient peoples is irrelevant to this, the usual atheist attitude to Genesis. Because it seems to me and I believe it has seemed to generations of atheists and skeptics, that the ancient Hebrews were given to understand rather forcefully that they should believe in, or assent to, the talking snake thing, or else they’re doing the Bible wrong. In the original case, however, it would appear the treatment for people who did the Bible wrong was Death.
    You still haven’t responded to this objection.

  154. 154
    David Chapman

    147
    A Masked Avenger

    davidchapman
    [The Bible is] one of the greatest dangers facing Humanity…

    By the way, shall I bring your clutching pearls to your fainting couch for you? Unless you mean to suggest the Bible is indirectly responsible for the nuclear arms race, global warming, and colony collapse disorder, then you’ve kind of jumped the shark melodrama-wise.

    Religious irrationalism is destroying American democracy.

  155. 155
    Gerry Delonzo

    “The people at the top of psychiatry, as I’ve said, have publicly acknowledged that no biomarkers for these bogus illnesses exist (which is the central question being addressed here: the reality or unreality of these illnesses), so searching for genetic susceptibility for them is a fairly strange project to begin with and kind of beside the point. ”

    Again, completely dishonest on your part. They have manifestly not said that “no biomarkers exist”, only that they haven’t found them yet. Identifying biomarkers is an intensely rigorous process that can take many years to confirm. Again, the fine points of the scientific process appear to be alien to you. It seems that your only exposure to the actual science is reading summaries or comments from the few sources that you have been able to dredge up. You have not cited any hard science to back up your specious claims.

    The science has not progressed to that point where specific biomarkers for certain mental illnesses have been identified, but the actual scientific studies that HAVE been completed, including those that I noted above, strongly suggest a link, which warrants the further research that you so cavalierly would like to abandon. You also do not seem to understand that something as complex as any particular mental illness (yes, it’s real, I am sorry to tell you) is unlikely to be attributed to a single biomarker, but rather influenced by a number of genetic risk factors. The science is pretty clear on this point as well, but you do not seem prepared to address it. Instead you endlessly yell “read the authors that agree with me!” If anyone’s theories are unsupported by science here, it’s yours. I submit that your approach has little to do with actual science and instead is reflective of your ideological worldview.

    But since I am the only one out of the two of us that is pointing out actual scientific studies, here’s another one for you: Millar JK, Pickard BS, Mackie S et al. (November 2005). “DISC1 and PDE4B are interacting genetic factors in schizophrenia that regulate cAMP signaling”. Science 310 (5751): 1187–1191.\

    Or, how about this recent study: Identification of risk loci with shared effects on five major psychiatric disorders: A genome-wide analysis”. The Lancet 381 (9875): 1371–9. 2013.

    Again, I can go all day citing real scientific studies.

  156. 156
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Again, completely dishonest on your part. They have manifestly not said that “no biomarkers exist”, only that they haven’t found them yet.

    Yes, because adding the word “yet,” after several decades, magically changes things. That’s not at all faith-based. Once again, science does not work like that. You don’t get to claim or assume the existence of something unless you have good evidentiary reason to do so. They don’t. There is no evidence that these alleged illnesses exist.

    Furthermore, they’re only recently admitting this, and it’s news to people who believed their lies. When David Kupfer said last year that they’d been telling people for decades that they were waiting for biomarkers, he was not telling the truth. They haven’t been telling people that. They’ve been leading people to believe that they had found biomarkers and identified real illnesses. That’s why people believe these illnesses exist. The correct response to the recent admissions is to tell them to stop lying to people and to get back to us when they’ve actually identified something (which they won’t, and they shouldn’t be getting public funding for trying).

    The science has not progressed to that point where specific biomarkers for certain mental illnesses have been identified, but the actual scientific studies that HAVE been completed, including those that I noted above, strongly suggest a link,

    You’re failing to grasp how confused this is. First, the post I linked to discusses a recent metaanalysis of this genetics research – it shows a pattern of failure into which the individual studies you cite fit. Second, there’s nothing to link any supposed genetic findings to. There are no biomarkers; there is no pathology. As Insel and the others have attested, these illnesses have no scientific validity. It’s bizarre even to talk about genetic causes or factors in relation to illnesses that are acknowledged to be scientifically invalid constructs. It’s like looking for the genetic causes of hysteria. These so-called illness have been invented through a process of arguing, consensus, and votes, as have the arbitrary criteria for “diagnosing” them. This has all been described in great detail by the very people involved, as documented in several of the works I’ve cited.

    Instead you endlessly yell “read the authors that agree with me!”

    It helps that Insel, Hyman, Spitzer, Frances, First, and Kupfer also agree on this question. (By the way, here’s a recent post about some of these people trying to distance themselves from the model.)

    You’ve now acknowledged yourself that these illnesses don’t exist – “they haven’t found” biomarkers – yet you inexplicably continue to assert that they do.* You’re a waste of my time at this point, and I won’t be responding to your posts further. Anyone who would find your arguments a convincing reason not to read my links or the works I cite has limited scientific skills or a powerful determination to avoid dealing with the evidence, so reading probably wouldn’t help them to understand. If people can read “The weakness [of the DSM] is its lack of validity” and not understand what this means, there’s probably little I can do to help.

    * That’s faith, not science.

  157. 157
    Gerry Delonzo

    “There is no evidence that these alleged illnesses exist.”

    Except the multiple scientific studies that I gave noted, all of which support the existence of mental illness. That’s not faith, it’s scientific evidence that you continually fail to address. You just don’t like it. The massive weight of scientific evidence points to the existence of mental illness.

    “You’re a waste of my time at this point, and I won’t be responding to your posts further.”

    I’m not surprised, since you’re clearly losing the argument.

    “First, the post I linked to discusses a recent metaanalysis of this genetics research – it shows a pattern of failure into which the individual studies you cite fit.”

    Funny, I didn’t see the massive 2013 study reported in the Lancet cited in your links ANYWHERE.

    Keep peddling your non-science, and I’ll stick to the scientific studies.

  158. 158
    Gerry Delonzo

    Finally, citing outliers in the psychiatric community and claiming that they speak for the entire psychiatric community is false and intellectually dishonest. You really should be ashamed of yourself.

  159. 159
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    I can’t resist:

    Except the multiple scientific studies that I gave noted, all of which support the existence of mental illness.

    No. They don’t. They assume it. You’re very, very confused.

    I’m not surprised, since you’re clearly losing the argument.

    I hope your personal reality is a pleasant place.

    Finally, citing outliers in the psychiatric community and claiming that they speak for the entire psychiatric community is false and intellectually dishonest.

    That is hilarious.

    OK, now I’m done.

  160. 160
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    I increasingly understand why people like Insel and Kupfer feel like they can publicly admit that biopsychiatry has no scientific foundation. Because it doesn’t seem to have any effect on whether or not people continue to believe it does! The head of NIMH and the chair of the DSM 5 task force have come out and said that the DSM diagnoses lack scientific validity and that no pathology, no biomarkers exist to show the existence of these illnesses, and things just carry on. Now people are actually starting to suggest that they’re marginal – the head of NIMH and the chair of the DSM task force! And public statements from prominent psychiatrists that they’ve known for decades that the chemical imbalance notion was false, that they lied to people about it, or that they never really claimed it in the first place don’t seem to arouse anyone’s anger or lead them to question the drugs they’re taking or giving their children. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a mythology so firmly entrenched in the culture, so capable of withstanding such seemingly fatal scientific blows. It’s like some evidence-resistant virus.

  161. 161
    nich

    Salty@156, et al

    There is no evidence that these alleged illnesses exist.

    But what is causing the symptoms? When my mom would scream and rip her hair out and chase “the bad people” down the street, what was that? What was going on with the homeless guy ranting in the middle of the road? I know you hate being accused of dismissing these experiences, and I am trying not to do that, but the only people in the anti-psychiatry crowd who seem to be offering alternative explanations for these symptoms are quacks like Tom Cruise and Mike Adams. Thetans and toxins and other bullshit, and given the OM and what I’ve read of your output here in the past, I really, really doubt you are part of that crowd. If you say these illnesses don’t exist, and your links and such are compelling reading, what explanation is there for what seems to be so real?

  162. 162
    nich

    I am trying not to do that

    I mean I am NOT trying to do that.

  163. 163
    The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge

    nich @ 161:

    As near as I can determine, the point seems to be that one man’s ceiling…uh, sanity rather, is another man’s insanity, and the…differently…marbled…should embrace their departures from the norm, and if you’re annoyed at that homeless guy ranting in the middle of the road, that’s just a bill of goods that you’ve been sold by Big Pharma, that there’s any such thing as “the norm”! Let a hundred flowers bloom, man!

    Or something.

  164. 164
    Gerry Delonzo

    “No. They don’t. They assume it. You’re very, very confused.”

    Again, false. In no part of any of those studies do they assume it. If you ever bothered to read ANY actual scientific studies on this topic, you would understand that. But it’s clear that you haven’t. In fact, you haven’t given any indication that you understand the scientific aspect of this issue at all.

    The studies that I have cited, and many others, provide a strong scientific foundation for a very complex issue for which significant further research is needed. The results of those studies all support the hypotheses put forth by the mainstream biological psychiatry community. Your desire to shut down this area of research is, quite frankly, appalling, and I am incredibly thankful that you hold no position of authority in any scientific field, and that your influence is limited to a fringe blog that no one reads except when you link to it on these forums.

  165. 165
    Gerry Delonzo

    Nich,

    SC supports the idea that what we call “mental illness” is nothing more than stress-induced response to societal and familial pressures. No scientific evidence to support it – it’s on the same level as Scientology.

  166. 166
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    But what is causing the symptoms?

    They’re not symptoms. Symptoms only make sense in relation to illnesses.

    When my mom would scream and rip her hair out and chase “the bad people” down the street, what was that? What was going on with the homeless guy ranting in the middle of the road?

    The short answer is that I don’t know. I know there’s research – especially in anthropology – on psychosocial factors that contribute to these sorts of experiences (not nearly as much as there should be, as so many resources have gone to this fruitless biological model). More important, though, it’s increasingly being recognized that the long-term picture for people going through this if often very good if they don’t take the drugs for any length of time or at all. There’s also a growing set of interventions based on psychosocial understandings – e.g., Finland’s Open Dialogue approach and Soteria programs – that seem to have demonstrated effectiveness, and can only continue to improve as they’re used, studied, and refined.

    It’s definitely not the case that all alternatives to biopsychiatry – in our culture or others – are accurate or useful, as can easily be seen from a reading of histories of psychiatry like Mad in America. But even if there were no existing or promising ideas or interventions, biopsychiatry would still be false. Having valid alternatives isn’t a requirement for accepting that. These experiences aren’t fully understood, and any psychosocial explanation is going to be complex, but only by discarding false and harmful models and interventions can we free ourselves to investigate accurate and helpful ones.

    The experiences are absolutely real. In fact, it’s biopsychiatry that, by falsely claiming they result from a brain disease/disorder, denies them any meaning in terms of people’s lives and their society.

  167. 167
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    I want the clueless people who don’t understand even the basics of my argument to stop misrepresenting my position.

  168. 168
    Gerry Delonzo

    “The short answer is that I don’t know. I know there’s research – especially in anthropology – on psychosocial factors that contribute to these sorts of experiences”

    Right, so instead of the many and varied peer reviewed scientific studies that support the biological model, several if which I have cited, you would have us rely on some completely unspecified anthropological “research.” Great argument! You ‘re really winning lots of converts here, I can tell you.

    “I want the clueless people who don’t understand even the basics of my argument to stop misrepresenting my position.”

    Actually, if you read my post and then your post that followed, I represented your argument even more succinctly than you did, which is a recurring theme for you on this thread.

  169. 169
    Gerry Delonzo

    “More important, though, it’s increasingly being recognized that the long-term picture for people going through this if often very good if they don’t take the drugs for any length of time or at all.”

    Another completely unscientific statement.

  170. 170
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Gerry Delonzo sounds a lot like Ichthyic.

    Again, false. In no part of any of those studies do they assume it.

    “A genome scan and follow-up study identify a bipolar disorder susceptibility locus on chromosome 1q42″

    “DISC1 and PDE4B are interacting genetic factors in schizophrenia that regulate cAMP signaling”.

    What don’t you get here?

    Another completely unscientific statement.

    Nope. (And again, the evidence is so compelling that it’s even induced Insel to change course. Oh, that’s right – he’s a marginal outlier.)

  171. 171
    Gerry Delonzo

    The link you posted simply says that psychiatrists should amend their prescribing protocols, not stop prescribing completely, as you’re suggesting. If you’re going to link to something, you might want to make sure that it supports your argument instead of hindering it.

  172. 172
    Gerry Delonzo

    “What don’t you get here?”

    No, I get it, you’re the one making false assumptions. You could take the nomenclature completely out of the equation and the report could say that the subjects of the study were all exhibiting similar behaviors, and the study would still hold and support a genetic link for the manifestation of such behaviors. You’re angry because the studies use terminology that you find distasteful, even though in this context the terminology is irrelevant. Sorry, but I am going to take the word of the scientists involved in the study over an untrained blogger. But, again, you still seem to have no answer to these studies, and you just keep digging a bigger hole for yourself.

  173. 173
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    You could take the nomenclature completely out of the equation and the report could say that the subjects of the study were all exhibiting similar behaviors, and the study would still hold and support a genetic link for the manifestation of such behaviors.

    Again, you’re hilarious.

    The link you posted simply says that psychiatrists should amend their prescribing protocols, not stop prescribing completely, as you’re suggesting.

    The link I provided supports my statement: “More important, though, it’s increasingly being recognized that the long-term picture for people going through this if often very good if they don’t take the drugs for any length of time or at all.”

    You’re tiresome. Bye.

  174. 174
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    I’m logging out. I’ve run out of patience for the stupidity and misrepresentation and dishonesty, and repetition would be pointless. I’ve provided enough links to the evidence already on this thread, and I’m not going to start relinking for people who can’t grasp their content.

  175. 175
    The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge

    Was that a Type I or Type II Starfart?

  176. 176
    Gerry Delonzo

    You’ve linked to your blog and opinion pieces. I have provided peer-reviewed scientific studies that refute your claims. Sorry, but you have established that you have no credibility on this subject.

    I look forward to never reading your blog again, and thus depriving you of the two visits you receive each day.

  177. 177
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    I have provided peer-reviewed scientific studies that refute your claims.

    This is ridiculous. I’ve cited books covering hundreds of studies (in the case of Kirsch, his own research that has been confirmed independently and never successfully challenged). You’ve cited – oddly like Ichthyic… – a few studies you apparently googled about candidate genes for various alleged mental illnesses. The ones from 9 or 10 years ago obviously haven’t panned out. None of them, over several decades, have been replicated. Again, from the conclusion of the Risch metaanalysis:

    Despite progress in risk gene identification for several complex diseases, few disorders have proven as resistant to robust gene finding as psychiatric illnesses. The slow rate of progress in psychiatry and behavioral sciences partly reflects a still-evolving classification system, absence of valid pathognomonic diagnostic markers, and lack of well-defined etiologic pathways. Although these disorders have long been assumed to result from some combination of genetic vulnerability and environmental exposure, direct evidence from a specific example has not been forthcoming.

    The studies you cite are evidence for my argument, and it’s amazing that you can’t see this. You can take any set of arbitrarily grouped experiences or behaviors (hysteria, criminality,…) and, over decades, come up with studies that show genetic correlations. They won’t be replicated because the whole thing is a fool’s errand: no one has produced evidence that any behaviors or experiences have biological and therefore potentially genetic roots.

    You don’t understand the meaning and use of the Lancet study (which will also undoubtedly be unreplicated, and can hardly be used as the basis for claims about the existence of mental illnesses). It’s the failure both to validate the mental illnesses in the DSM (which they have publicly acknowledged) and to find genetic correlates that has led to such efforts. They’ve been forced to recognize that schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and so on are scientifically invalid constructs and that they’ve failed to find genetic components of them, but they’re True Believers, convinced that they must just have the categories wrong and that, despite decades of failure to find it and no good scientific basis for believing it, there must be something there. That’s the rationale behind RDoC – faith. Faith that they’ll find something, but whatever they could find in theory it wouldn’t be evidence for the illnesses in the DSM – they’ve abandoned that fruitless and ill-fated search.

    These illnesses, scientifically, do not exist. They don’t have scientific validity. Making claims or assumptions about their existence in the present, whatever your faith about the future, is antiscientific. You haven’t produced anything to refute that and you can’t produce anything to refute that because there isn’t anything. “[T]he field has…failed to identify a single neurobiological phenotypic marker or gene that is useful in making a diagnosis of a major psychiatric disorder or for predicting response to psychopharmacological treatment,” as the editor of DSM-IV acknowledged. The DSM lacks validity. There are no biomarkers. If you have evidence for the scientific validity of mental illnesses – the ones in the DSM or some you’ve created – then by all means present it. You’ll probably win a Nobel Prize, and you’ll be a hero of psychiatry, since they’ve finally had to admit that they don’t have it.

    I don’t believe that you have read the materials I’ve recommended. You haven’t shown any real knowledge of their contents. You’ve just coughed up some studies you probably found through Google without understanding them in context or addressing the plain fact that the leaders of NIMH and the APA have themselves acknowledged that the mental illnesses they’ve been leading people to believe exist in fact do not – that they’re scientifically invalid constructs for which, after decades of desperate searching, no evidence has been found.

  178. 178
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    no one has produced evidence that any of these behaviors or experiences have biological and therefore potentially genetic roots.

  179. 179
    Gerry Delonzo

    “You can take any set of arbitrarily grouped experiences or behaviors (hysteria, criminality,…) and, over decades, come up with studies that show genetic correlations.”

    No, you cannot. Another falsehood. Keep peddling. The more lies you tell, the more credibility you lose, and the happier I will be.

    “These illnesses, scientifically, do not exist. They don’t have scientific validity.”

    Yes, they do. The science is actually quite overwhelming, it’s just not as specific as you’d like. The study cited in the Lancet report is one of the most rigorous of its kind, and you don’t even seem to be aware of it. Also, you keep citing Risch, which is funny, and yet he CLEARLY believes these diseases and mental illnesses, and repeatedly has said for the time being genomic research should focus on those complex diseases for which there is the strongest evidence of genetic linkage. He absolutely does NOT say that the diseases do not exist. You don’t even understand the actual views of the authorities that you’re citing. But please, let’s keep this conversation going, because it’s too much fun.

    “You haven’t shown any real knowledge of their contents.”

    I have both personal and professional knowledge of their contents, as opposed to you, who clearly has no scientific background and doesn’t understand the weight of a peer-reviewed scientific study.

  180. 180
    Gerry Delonzo

    I realize that you are heavily influenced by your negative personal experiences with psychiatry, but that is no reason to align yourself with the view of Scientologists. Actually the Scientologists at least attempt to offer an alternative explanation (however crazy it may be), which you can’t even do.

  181. 181
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    No, you cannot.

    Of course you can. That’s why replication and having a scientific basis for prediction and measurement are important.

    Yes, they do.

    No, they don’t. It’s simply absurd for you to continue to claim this after the leaders of NIMH and the APA have publicly admitted that they don’t. Again, the floor is open to you: produce the evidence, win a Nobel and the undying gratitude of psychiatrists.

    Also, you keep citing Risch, which is funny, and yet he CLEARLY believes these diseases and mental illnesses, and repeatedly has said for the time being genomic research should focus on those complex diseases for which there is the strongest evidence of genetic linkage. He absolutely does NOT say that the diseases do not exist. You don’t even understand the actual views of the authorities that you’re citing.

    I did not cite Risch as saying that. I cited Risch in relation to his findings about genetic research and its failure to identify replicable genetic correlates for these constructs (again, this is a weird project to begin with). He does continue, like many others, to suggest that these are actual disorders, though his own words – “a still-evolving classification system, absence of valid pathognomonic diagnostic markers, and lack of well-defined etiologic pathways” – clearly show that he shouldn’t. The fact that they’re invalid constructs makes his findings utterly unsurprising – this history of decades of failure is exactly what you’d expect from a search for genetic causes of or contributions to experiences and behaviors that have no evidence of being biologically or genetically based, no evidence of being illnesses.

    The study cited in the Lancet report is one of the most rigorous of its kind, and you don’t even seem to be aware of it.

    I’ve long been aware of it, and its context – it was cited by Insel more than once last year in his statements about the abandonment of the DSM for research, statements I linked to several times at my blog. It doesn’t show anything like what you think it does, and it’s a single, unreplicated study based on assumptions in any case. Nothing you’ve presented is evidence of the existence of any mental illnesses, much less anything that even begins to address the arguments and evidence in the works I’ve recommended. Anyone here can read them and see that. Anyone here should be clever enough to wonder why, if the evidence is so overwhelming, the top psychiatrists are saying they don’t have it.

    I have both personal and professional knowledge of their contents, as opposed to you, who clearly has no scientific background and doesn’t understand the weight of a peer-reviewed scientific study.

    That’s rich coming from someone who thinks “I’ve used this intervention in my practice and people get better so it must be effective” is a sound basis for scientific conclusions. Good luck with that in your dealings with homeopaths.

  182. 182
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    I realize that you are heavily influenced by your negative personal experiences with psychiatry, but that is no reason to align yourself with the view of Scientologists. Actually the Scientologists at least attempt to offer an alternative explanation (however crazy it may be), which you can’t even do.

    Still morning, and my patience with you is already exhausted. It appears your purpose here is to try to go after me personally, even using false claims and insinuations, to try to discourage others from reading the materials I’ve recommended. Sadly, it will probably be successful with some people due to their desire to avoid the evidence, just as it often works to say atheists are angry with God or just wish to be immoral. But it won’t be successful with everyone. That said, I don’t have to put up with it indefinitely as the cost of trying to present evidence, and I’m not going to. I’ll leave my recommendations and links here and leave you to your rants.

  183. 183
    Gerry Delonzo

    “I’ve long been aware of it, and its context – it was cited by Insel more than once last year in his statements about the abandonment of the DSM for research, statements I linked to several times at my blog.”

    You basically admit that you haven’t actually read the study, and have only read what someone who you already know agrees with your “viewpoint” has said about the study. Again, for shame. Here’s a hint: if you want anyone to take you seriously, you actually need to do the hard work and review the science and studies that support the science, and not just endlessly engage in confirmation bias by self-selecting authors who agree with your policy views.

    “No, they don’t.”

    Yes, they really do, despite what the few (out of thousands?) individuals in the field you have appealed to, or appealed to incorrectly, in Risch’s case.

    “Anyone here should be clever enough to wonder why, if the evidence is so overwhelming, the top psychiatrists are saying they don’t have it. ”

    Actually, the vast, vast majority of psychiatrists AND neurologists, top or otherwise, support the science. You have cited the few that do not. Once again, you appear to have no actual experience or training in this area, since you continually misrepresent the views of the psychiatric field as a whole. I hope that you’re misrepresenting those views by accident, but I’m beginning to believe that’s not the case and your misrepresentations are deliberate. Any objective observer can see that you have a personal crusade here, and your views should not be taken seriously.

  184. 184
    Gerry Delonzo

    “this history of decades of failure is exactly what you’d expect from a search for genetic causes of or contributions to experiences and behaviors that have no evidence of being biologically or genetically based”

    There are hundred upon hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific studies that connect genetics to mental illness (or an acute pattern of behaviors that deviate from the subject’s norm, since you think mental illness “doesn’t exist”). There are hundreds more being undertaken now, which will further solidify the connection. Ignoring the evidence won’t make it go away, I am sorry to tell you. Mental illnesses are real, they exist, and the vast weight of scientific evidence supports the theory that they are biological in nature and strongly connected to genetics. Your insistence upon specific “biomarkers” for proof of complex mental illnesses illustrates your fundamental ignorance of the science at work in this field.

  185. 185
    carlie

    Given the circles this conversation is going in, I don’t see how it’s doing anything other than further alienating people.

  186. 186
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    carlie:

    Given the circles this conversation is going in, I don’t see how it’s doing anything other than further alienating people.

    There’s no longer any conversation. I’m not even reading Gerry Delonzo’s comments. But I suspect that’s precisely his purpose: to alienate people so that they won’t look at the evidence and will continue to believe. If I engage with him, it’s an ugly, off-putting, and distracting conversation and lead to meta-comments like yours; if I don’t, he can suggest that I’m running away. As the person who wants people to look at evidence of which they’re predisposed to be suspicious and sometimes afraid to see, I’m automatically on the defensive, whatever the facts of the matter, and he knows it. On the other hand, I don’t have much to lose. If the number of people who do choose to read the books and articles is greater than zero, than that’s more than would otherwise have done so. And I have seen a few comments from people who’ve read the books and changed their minds. I’ve been posting about this long enough to know that there isn’t a huge contingent of people who want to investigate but will refuse to do so because of my tone or underhanded insinuations made to try to discredit me personally.

  187. 187
    jrfdeux, mode d'emploi

    SC (Salty Current), OM

    As the person who wants people to look at evidence of which they’re predisposed to be suspicious and sometimes afraid to see, I’m automatically on the defensive, whatever the facts of the matter[…]

    Well, for what it’s worth, your back-and-forth with Gerry Delonzo has made me even more curious about the state of psychiatric medicine. I’ll be reading a couple or three of the references you listed this weekend, along with some wider reading on the subject of mental illness (or “mental illness.”)

  188. 188
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Thanks, jrfdeux.

  189. 189
    sydmidnight

    I am very curious as to how this exchange would haven gone on one of the other FTB blogs such as Almost Diamonds, where the blog owner is a psychologist. Could Stephanie Zvan be part of The Conspiracy?

  190. 190
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    I am very curious as to how this exchange would haven gone on one of the other FTB blogs such as Almost Diamonds, where the blog owner is a psychologist. Could Stephanie Zvan be part of The Conspiracy?

    Well, any exchange at Zvan’s blog wouldn’t include me. I can tell you how it’s gone at other FTB blogs: generally, I’ve been accused of hostile motives and had my comments put into moderation. Some have gone preemptive.

    My argument isn’t that there’s a giant conspiracy involving everyone, or every professional, who believes in or promotes this model. Most people simply believe it, as I once did, because they haven’t been exposed to the evidence. Even refusing to look at the evidence while continuing to promote the model doesn’t make someone part of a conspiracy. Even the doctors who’ve admitted they knowingly lie to patients (telling them that they have chemical imbalances and so forth) likely don’t see themselves as part of a conspiracy. And belief is complex: I really don’t doubt that some believe so strongly in the model they’ve spent their lives working in, believe so strongly that evidence will be found for it someday in the future, that they don’t see themselves as being dishonest when they lead people to believe the evidence exists.

    As I said above, the public belief has become so strong at this point that it’s taken on a life of its own. A conspiracy isn’t necessary, and in fact the leading people in the field can publicly admit that the model and diagnoses have no scientific validity and the juggernaut powers on.

    That said, in the ’70s and ’80s there was something that looked a lot like a conspiracy to sell this model to the public, which you can read about in Whitaker’s Anatomy of an Epidemic, Part 4: “Explication of a Delusion.” That effort has been wildly successful, as the inclusion of this item on the AP poll shows. And when it comes to the pharmaceutical corporations who’ve had billions at stake you can see where much of the enduring power of the myth has come from. They’re major funders of the APA and its events, of academic psychiatry departments and individual psychiatrists* (especially “Key Opinion Leaders” and including a huge number of those involved with the DSM), of research, of NAMI and other so-called “grassroots advocacy” groups. They shape what’s published and what isn’t published in journals and even textbooks. Of course, as Whitaker describes, psychiatry had its own reasons for teaming up with the drug companies and has derived great benefits.

    So, what’s happened is hard to clearly distinguish from a conspiracy, but that doesn’t mean every professional who subscribes to the myth is consciously involved. But we all have a duty to believe according to the evidence, especially when it involves people’s health and human rights. This responsibility is even stronger for bloggers in the science-advocacy community, and perhaps strongest for science advocates in fields like psychology and social work.

  191. 191
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Oh, and in case you missed it, see my link @ #151 above re British clinical psychologists.

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