More Psychiatric ‘Myth’ Debunking

On July 15, I wrote a post called Psychiatry Debunks the ‘Myths.’  In that article I focused on the myth-debunking of Cognitive Psychiatry of Chapel Hill, but in researching the topic for that post, I came across a psychiatry resident named Shan (no last name) who blogs on a website called Exploratory Encephalotomy.

With regards to the name of the website, Dr. Shan explains on his About the blog page:

“…’exploratory encephalotomy’ implies opening up somebody’s brain in order to search for something.  To the best of my knowledge, it’s not a real medical procedure yet…”

On February 13, 2013, Dr. Shan posted an article titled 6 common misconceptions about psychiatryHere are four of his six myth debunkings interspersed with my comments.

“Myth: Psychiatrists treat and counsel people regarding their emotional problems

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who diagnose and treat medical illnesses that affect the brain and the mind.  These illnesses can often cause emotional problems (just like any other medical illness can cause emotional problems), but the psychiatrist’s role is to treat the illness, not to tell the patient how to deal with life concerns.  In fact, most psychiatrists try to avoid providing counseling, except as it relates to a patient’s medical therapy.

Psychologists and counselors, by contrast, may counsel people regarding emotional problems.  These professionals, however, are not medically trained, so they do not treat medical illnesses.”

Not much ambiguity there.  Standard bio-bio-bio-psychiatry.

“Myth: Psychiatrists talk to a patient about their deeper conflicts while they lie on a couch and face the other direction 

This process, known as psychodynamic psychotherapy, was invented by Sigmund Freud in the 1800′s.  Freud is famous because he was the first psychiatrist; however, his methods have very little evidence-based support.  In the modern age of evidence-based medicine, this approach has fallen out of favor.  In the middle of the 20th century, a group of scientists at Washington University in St. Louis started a charge towards an increase in evidence-based practice in psychiatry.  Since then, the psychiatry world has developed objective diagnostic systems and advanced treatment methods that involve pharmacological therapy as well as surgical/procedural therapy.”

The inaccuracies about Dr. Freud we can let go.  But in other regards, Dr. Shan is telling it like he’s been told:  “objective” diagnostic systems; “advanced” treatment methods including drugs, surgery (lobotomies?) and procedures (electric shocks?).

Myth: Psychiatric illnesses are caused by emotional conflicts

There was a time when it was widely believed that psychiatric illnesses are emotional in nature.  Modern advances in genetics have helped to disprove this notion.  We now know that a predisposition towards mental illness is largely influenced by your genetic makeup.  This can be exacerbated by mental stress, much like in most medical illnesses – for instance, if you have a strong family history of diabetes, you can prevent/delay the onset of the disease by eating well and exercising a lot, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a biological disease with biological consequences.”

There it is – “psychiatric illnesses” are real illnesses – just like diabetes: biological diseases with biological consequences.

Myth: Psychiatrists only treat crazy people 

This is false in the same way that the statement ‘cardiologists only treat failing hearts’ is false.  Most psychiatric patients have a genuine illness that is caused by a defective balance between different compounds in their brains (much like diabetes with insulin and sugar).  When that balance is corrected, they are no longer ill.  The illness may manifest as depression, anxiety, or a variety of other features that can make a person feel “sick,” but wont’ make them act ‘crazy.’

Other illnesses, such as mania and schizophrenia, may affect a person’s ability to function within societal norms, but we can usually treat them and allow the person to go back to their previous level of functioning.  This is a big change from the days of big “mental asylums” and the like – instead of hiding people who are just ‘crazy,’ we can now treat people who are ‘sick’ and allow them to go back to real life.  As a result of that, words like ‘crazy’ have become antiquated.”

Here we see clearly articulated the chemical imbalance theory, which the eminent psychiatrist Ronald Pies, MD, assures us that no well-informed psychiatrists ever promoted.  And we even have the assurance that when the balance is “corrected” – “they are no longer ill.”  (Corrected, presumably, by the drugs, the surgeries, and the other unspecified procedures.)

Obviously Dr. Shan has completely accepted, presumably from his med school teachers, the medical model of human distress.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

To me, and I imagine to most of us on this side of the debate, the logical and evidentiary shortcomings of psychiatry are glaringly obvious.  I have often wondered how it is that people with sufficient intelligence to complete a medical degree not only don’t see through the fraud and the travesty, but actually embrace it with apparent fervor and dedication.

I realize, of course, that once a psychiatrist has been practicing for a number of years, the need to make a living can effectively eclipse any reservations he or she may have on the subject.  But it’s harder to understand why people, nearing the end of their medical training, who presumably have a wide range of choices, would set their sights on the only medical specialty that invents, rather than discovers, the “illnesses” that it treats.

Dr. Shan’s website provides, I think, some insights into this matter.  Here are some quotes.  The first is from the About page linked above.

“Soon after I started medical school, I found myself stuffing my mind into the proverbial box that I so detested in the past.  I surprised even myself at how quickly I’d acquiesced to the stringent rules of the medical field as they attempted to execute a subtle Machiavellian attack on my hopes to continue my young writing career.  Before long, I started to notice the gradual corrosion of the unique outlook that I’ve developed thanks to my scientific training combined with my interest in the social sciences and the amalgam of cultural settings around which I was reared.  This outlook was slowly being replaced by the guidelines of your favorite local medical board; in an attempt to ensure quality healthcare, those guidelines find a way to become ingrained into the medical student’s mind while extinguishing any iota of creativity and independent thought.”

And from a post Re-introduction, dated August 2012:

“I was soon to find out that medicine is not just a subject to study or a set of ideas to learn.  It is an entire frame of mind to which a student must adhere.”

“At first, I felt like a robot, relying entirely on the memory centers in my brain while completely disregarding any remaining smidgen of independent thought.  As optimistic as I may have been about the ultimate destination, it seemed like the journey asked for my humanity as a toll.  I began to come to terms with the idea that in order to be a Doctor, I must first cease to be a human.  I had to think in flowcharts, not ideas.”

“After a few years in medical training, I’ve finally started to understand where that outlook comes from: in the process of learning medicine, it is strikingly difficult not to let one’s mind turn into a hard drive.  It happened to me after a while too.”

In other words, if I’m reading Dr. Shan correctly, in order to become a physician, one has to switch off one’s own critical thinking ability, and accept the tablets of stone as handed down by the lecturers and professors.  This model may have some merit in the teaching of anatomy, physiology, etc., and even in the specialties like nephrology, cardiology, etc…  After all, there is a great deal of factual material to be learned, and a pedagogical approach is probably economical and effective.

But it is disastrous as a method of preparing people for a career in the alleviation of distress, despondency, painful memories, feelings of inadequacy, etc…

Whatever initial thoughts or orientations trainees might have, in order to become qualified in, and practice, psychiatry, they must internalize the illness mantra, the spuriousness of which is evident to anyone with an ounce of critical thinking.  They must dish out the pills.  And they must never question or challenge the orthodoxy.  They must never say that the Emperor has no clothes, because once that admission is made, the whole charade comes tumbling down.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Psychiatry doesn’t just damage its victims.  It takes its toll on the practitioners also.  A human being cannot internalize this nonsense and inflict it on his/her fellow travelers day in and day out for years on end, without doing profound violence to his/her own humanity.

  • boomerangman

    Oh jeez where do I start with ‘Dr. Shan’. No. 1…”Psychiatrists are medical doctors who diagnose and treat medical illnesses that affect the brain and the mind” False. Psychiatric mental disorders/illnesses/diseases have never been proven to be ‘medical illnesses’. Not a single one. Btw, I’d like to see the psychiatric definition of ‘the mind’. That would make for a wonderful laugh.
    The real reason Psychiatrists avoid counselling is because it is not time-money profitable compared to quick ‘diagnoses’ and simply doling out psych drugs.

    No. 2…”objective diagnostic systems’. That’s hilarious since there isn’t a single objective test that can definitively show that anyone has any psychiatric mental disorder. Any tests, including brain scans, are simply theories, hypothesis, presumptions, inferences, agreements of subjective opinions. After all, every psychiatric mental disorder is a SUBJECTIVE construct not founded on any objective test or proof in the first place! As Dr. Niall McLaren, psychiatrist, stated “Psychiatry cannot be considered a science…because it has no formal model of ‘mental disorder”. Get that. Not even a formal model of mental disorder yet it diagnoses almost 400 of them in people. Huh?

    No. 3…’a predisposition towards mental illness is largely influenced by your genetic makeup and “biological disease with biological consequences’. The first one is not been proven. In fact, genetics has to do with genes, which are actual physical material. So how Dr. Shan thinks a SUBJECTIVELY-created ‘disease’ can be proven by using physical (objective) means (genes) is silly. Like trying to prove ‘snapping your fingers’ (let’s surmise it’s called a ‘mental illness’) or ‘liking boating’ is genetic. The second one is false. It has never been proven that psychiatric ‘mental disorders’ are biological diseases’. Again all Psychiatry has are simply theories, assumptions, hypothesis, and oh yes, agreements of subjective opinions.

    No. 4…’Most psychiatric patients have a genuine illness that is caused by a defective balance between different compounds in their brains (much like diabetes with insulin and sugar). When that balance is corrected, they are no longer ill.’ Completely false. The ‘chemical imbalance’ theory was disproven decades ago. What has been substituted in it’s place are various ‘synapse malfunction’ theories (of which again there are no proofs).

    In the medical field, the vast majority of real medical illnesses/diseases have objective tests to verify the diagnosis in some way. In Psychiatry, the vast majority (if not all) of the almost 400 ‘mental disorders/illnesses/diseases’ do not. Big big big difference.

  • Cledwyn B’stard

    “… they must internalize the illness mantra, the spuriousness of which is evident to
    anyone with an ounce of critical thinking.”

    Problem is, you can’t reason with people arguing at the kind of jejune level regularly encountered amongst the faithful whose thinking, on this issue, takes place outside of reason’s jurisdiction and in that murky realm where the most chimerical notions are hatched; to wit, the third-rate imagination of the believer in psychiatric scripture and superstition; believers whose myopia is writ large in the proselytical, dogmatic writings of some of the missionaries and heretic-hunters of the psychiatric church who come on here, compelled by the force of the certainty that holds their minds in its iron grip, to hunt down the infidels, a certainty given expression through words designed to give off the impression that the articles of faith of these hypocrites, who would have us believe they have consecrated their existence to ameliorating the suffering of the species (which if history is anything to go by, is little more than a pretext for augmenting it), have a basis in fact, of which this article furnishes a number of examples.

    “…it takes its toll on the practitioners.”

    As the finest flowering of our British national genius knew, corrupt conduct breeds corrupt character and ideas. Yet nevertheless, there remains this belief in good and bad state psychiatrists, as persistent an error as the belief in good and bad democratic politicians. The requirements of the job “state psychiatrist”, much like the requirements of the job of politician in democratic society, I would say possess little allure for the true aristocracy, men who understand the vanity of fame and the approbation of any but a few (and often nobody); men whose principles withstand the blandishments and temptations of worldly success (which in our age is simply called “success”, as if the sole end of existence is social success, which makes Stalin one of the most successful men who ever lived); and men whose ideas withstand the crucible of conflict with a society sempiternally inhospitable to anything new or truly radical and the man who conveys ( it is not for nothing that Mencken said, “the smallest atom of truth represents some man’s bitter toil and agony; for every ponderable chunk of it there is some brave truth-seeker’s grave upon some lonely ash dump…”).

    Psychiatry is a rotten barrel and its rotting all the apples in it.

    Such jobs do on the other hand command the gaze and interest of men of capacities of self-deception and shamelessness that lie beyond the ordinary range; and men guided by expediency rather than principle, who draw on these redoubtable powers of self-deception in the ennoblement of the work they do through its outward attachment it to something considered a noble cause that is nothing more than a smokescreen.

    “… and allow them to go back to real life.”

    So we’re allowed to go back, we have your permission do we? And the psychiatrist said, “I pronounce you healthy; you may go back in to society.”

    Concspicuous by its absence in the tendentious writings of obscurantists (as in the sense of one who withholds truth from the public) like Shan is any mention of the iatrogenic epidemic that modern psychiatry has authored and that serves as an ironic commentary on the self-congratulation of organized psychiatry, the kind of self-congratulation that throws into sharper relief the self-serving nature of the profession and the indifference to the suffering it has caused.

    They’d have to be blind and deaf not to see the harm they are causing. You don’t need research to give credence to the spectacle of tormented humanity that often presents itself to the eyes and ears of psychiatrists and other assorted social control agents. When I was locked up in one of these de facto carceral institutions (which also function as receptacles for the surreptitious preservation of torture in a society that represents itself falsely as having consigned this practice to the museum), and when I’ve seen my psychiatrists qua probation officers, I have often presented with the various afflictions associated with psychiatric drugs, such as akathisia, cervical dystonia, and hyperacusis (specifically sensitivity to everyday sounds occasioning the most unpleasant sensations. and shocks followed by muscle contractions), amongst others, and they just do not give a shit, yet supposedly these people are ignorant.

    People like Dr Shan remind me of certain military spokespeople I have encountered on TV who, surrounded by the debris of the buildings and the sound of the advancing enemy, bombs crashing into the rubble directly in front of the camera, nevertheless seem to genuinely believe that victory will come, that everything’s fine. Panglossian optimists like these are no futher removed from reality on this issue than quacks like Shan, both possessing a remarkable capacity for obscuring from vision anything that might their fun.

    Irrationality and delusion are blind; it’s always someone else who is mad, someone else who is detached from reality, someone else who is crazy.

  • Nanu Grewal

    “I have often wondered how it is that people with sufficient intelligence
    to complete a medical degree not only don’t see through the fraud and
    the travesty, but actually embrace it with apparent fervor and
    dedication.”

    Hi Phil,
    I think you need look no further than the concept of “double-think” as outlined by Orwell. The more wedded to an idea that you are, the more that challenges to it become a threat to your very core. The more intelligent you are, the more skilful are your mental gymnastics and rationalizations.

  • Anonymous

    “I came across a psychiatry resident named Shan (no last name)”

    His name is Shan Siddiqi
    Resident Physician
    at
    Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri.
    http://www.linkedin.com/pub/shan-siddiqi/18/634/abb

    A Pakistani-American, he went to Australia to medical school, and then came back to America immediately upon graduation last year.

    For future reference information like this can be gleaned from whois, a service that archives the registered owner of a website domain name, if they give their name, in this case, the guy gave his name when he registered “encephalotomy.com”

    http://www.whois.net/whois/encephalotomy.com

    This is his CV, he confessed to feeling like a human “hard drive”, and with his CV one can see that his achievements are of this variety, chess, MCAT practice question ghost writer, it’s all there, question in, answer out, I suppose this is the sort of physician that Japanese robotics experts hope to eventually replace with a robot.

    http://shansiddiqi.com/cv-2/
    A picture of him can be seen here:
    http://www.psychiatry.wustl.edu/Education/CurrentResidents

    This is one of his “presentations” from medical school called “brain networks and the human mind”, where he claims an “underactive” dorsolateral prefrontal cortex causes “schizophrenia” or something,

    http://prezi.com/9dmoj4aetx5j/brain-networks/

    Here he is again on his blog, musing about the simplistic explanations patients have for drug action, this time outside of psychiatry:
    http://encephalotomy.com/2012/11/lessons/

    Here he talks about how he’s about to “get a license to kill”:
    http://encephalotomy.com/2013/02/hubris-and-the-fragile-ego/

    I also believe he is probably the author of this pro-electroshock comment here:
    http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2013/10/doctors-malcolm-gladwell.html#comment-1086698245

    I think he probably works here:
    http://www.barnesjewish.org/healthlibrary/default.aspx?id=4499&sid=1&ContentTypeID=85&ContentID=P00762

    Where they tell their “patients”, that “Schizophrenia is one of the most complex of all mental health disorders.
    It involves a severe, chronic, and disabling disturbance of the brain.” – needless to say none of the people labeled with “schizophrenia” have their brain examined in the process of making this allegedly scientific “determination”.

    http://www.psychiatry.wustl.edu/Department

    “The Department of Psychiatry extends beyond its 48 inpatient beds to include a busy electro convulsive therapy service”

    So when Shan talks about “procedures”, he’s probably talking about the “busy electroshock service” they run there.

    ” Our clinicians have championed the medical model of psychiatry, almost universally accepted now”

    The success of the “medical model” is measured in terms of how “accepted” it is.

    http://www.conte.wustl.edu/FirstContactAssessmentService.aspx

    They also have the “First Contact Assessment Service” that claims “early symptoms of Schizophrenia can mimic adolescent turmoil”.

    http://www.psychiatry.wustl.edu/Department/MajorContributions

    The department lists its “major contributions”, as including:

    “Elaboration of the Medical Model Concept in Psychiatry ”

    “Marijuana as a Gateway Drug”

    “Adoption Studies in Psychiatry”

    “Genetics of Nicotine Dependence”

    “Neurocircuitry of Depression (subgenual anterior cingulate cortex)”

    “Deviant Children Grown Up”

    And “In 1963, the Departments of Psychiatry and Neurology separated”… I wonder why that would be? I wonder what the “deviant children” had to say about that.

    Being such a prestigious medical training institution, it has garnered the attention of rich families that have bought into the psychiatry story, the Taylor family, rich people of the Enterprise rental car dynasty, only last year, funded a new institute associated with the Washington U School of Medicine, where $20 million bucks will be flushed down the toilet on “Research initially will focus their attention on neurosteroids,
    chemicals in the brain that are involved in regulating cognition,
    emotion and motivation. Changes in neurosteroid levels can be associated
    with mood disorders such as depression, anxiety disorders,
    schizophrenia, alcoholism” because, they believe, “Psychiatric illnesses are a heterogenous collection of disorders characterized by dysfunction of brain networks”…

    http://news.wustl.edu/news/Pages/24359.aspx

    ““The School of Medicine was among the first to define mental illness as a
    disease and not a character flaw, and to study it the same way we
    investigate cancer or heart disease. The beneficiaries of this gift
    ultimately will be the generations of patients who will lead more
    productive lives as a result of what we learn,” says Larry J. Shapiro,
    MD, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the School
    of Medicine.”

    “Institute scientists believe that replacing or enhancing these depleted
    neurosteroid levels with synthetic neuroactive steroids may be effective
    in alleviating altered stress responses allowing the brain to function
    more normally.”

    “Depleted neurosteroid levels”… that’s a new one. Needless to say the number of “patients” who get their “neurosteroid levels” tested each day in psychiatry, remains zero.

    Remind me to always choose Hertz instead of Enterprise. Remind me to stay away from Dr. “Sham”, and as for the place where all this crap goes down, let’s hope that the people of St. Louis survive this mecca of quackery in the heart of their city. A truly dangerous place filled with dangerous quackery. The “busy electroshock service” alone, shows this is a terrifying place that needs to be avoided.

  • Neo

    Normal human dissociation. It is incredibly blinding.

  • Phil_Hickey

    boomerangman,

    Yes! Completely different kinds of things!

  • Phil_Hickey

    Nanu,

    I see what you mean. Once the idea is bought, it has to be protected at all costs.

    Best wishes.

  • Francesca Allan

    Seems to be just another graduate with a serious case of academic bulimia.

    However, I’m a little creeped out by this: “…’exploratory encephalotomy’ implies opening up somebody’s brain in
    order to search for something. To the best of my knowledge, it’s not a
    real medical procedure yet…”

    Is the good doctor WANTING it to be a real medical procedure? Does he envision psychiatric diagnosis as opening up someone’s skull just to have a look-see?

  • Neo

    Plenty enough info for me. I need to digest some of this, but first the explanation. Dissociation came up yesterday. There might be something else at play in this instance–psychopathy.

  • Cledwyn B’stard

    I don’t know about that, then again perhaps we share different conceptions of intelligence. Montaigne was more intelligent than any quack I’ve encountered, and his imperishable writings will outlive the ephemera of any psychiatrist currently writing, though I digress. Point is, Montaigne possessed a prehensile mind, and was a great student of human nature and thought, understanding well the uses to which he often put his thoughts in deceiving and flattering himself, and it is with understanding of these processes, which for me is one of the surest indicies of intelligence and maturity, that some measure of control is exerted upon them, so that the individual knows when to pull himself up short.

    I have observed many ineducable criminals whose capacity for rationalization and self-justification are truly awe-inspiring, such as displayed on the programme Cowboy Builders in our country. Intelligence is perhaps the matrix, the essential precondition, in which is formed self-knowledge, whereas one of the great boons of stupidity is that one is so lacking in self-knowledge that shamelessness, arrogance, self-deception and self-justification all operate below the threshold of awareness and for this reason operate without impediment or regulation.

    The average psychiatrist isn’t intelligent; to say so is to dishonour true intelligence. They may have degrees, but a degree is no insurance against stupdity, and is often bought at large price, in intellectual atrophy, because of the nonsense being taught at universities and the propaganda being inculcated, as well as the tendency to educate the capacity for critical thought out of pupils.

    Your average university is in one sense like a microcosm of society, in that there is a pronounced hostility to independent thought, to anyone who dares to think for himself, which is one of the great heresies in an ochlocracy (where the masses are all in confederacy against the individual, the individual who doesn’t speak like others, who doesn’t walk like others, who doesn’t write like others, think like others, and especially the individual who does not prostrate himself at Hydra’s shrine; where the majority are envious of anyone of superior talent, as opposed to the tawdry, pointless talents generally admired, hence the hostilty against and loneliness of the true artist of genius; or the suspicion of the man simply having a good time, hence the prohibition of drugs and those who enjoy taking them, the hatred of prostitution and of porn stars, two of the only classes of professionals where job satsifaction is common, and for that reason, they are the legitimate quarry of the mob and the agents of its will).

    In my opinion, a superior capacity for self-deception and self-justification is not a property of superior intelligence, but merely a talent cultivated through years of practice and refined through misbehaviour and evil conduct, supported by self-ignorance, though such is the stupidity of the age we are living in, self-knowledge, perhaps because the sacrosanct masses have no interest it (and culture in democratic society is largely tailored to flatter the masses, to sacralize their bigotry, their persecution of the individual, their hatred of new ideas, their own particular brand of hysteria, paranoia, and delusion which on the matter of sheer irrationality concedes nothing to the people to the people it labels “schizophrenic” etc.), is viewed through an almost pathological framework, because of the worship of knowledge as purely a means to the ends of controlling others, the environment, and making money.

  • Neo

    I think he’s on to something with the mental gymnastics analogy. With posthypnotic amnesia I was able to forget parts of my autobiography, including my earlier view of reality. Situations which threatened my amnesia were handled with a twisted type of creativity that can be mind boggling. The gymnastics are performed by the “hidden observer.” The part of me that is smarter than me, I like to say.

  • Phil_Hickey

    Anonymous,

    Thanks for the fill-in.

    “early symptoms of Schizophrenia can mimic adolescent turmoil”.

    Where have we heard that before?

  • Anonymous

    Always happy to help.

    As to turmoil and it sometimes being “mimicked” by that awful brain disease we need to find the cure for, I’m sure the recently deceased Ms. Novodvorskaya would find many similarities between the Psikhushka and the “busy ECT service” in St. Loius.

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

  • Jorge_Videla

    I have often wondered how it is that people with sufficient intelligence to complete a medical degree…

    in the us one needn’t be very smart at all. that’s even more true of canada. the reason is that admissions and quality of ug degree depend on short-term, subjective, idiosyncratic, internal assessments called “grades” rather than on cumulative exams.

    many europeans and others come to the us for uni, because they are too dumb to get into their home country’s unis. in the us, they will often do very “well”. some will get phds.

    as a result, in american and canada educational “accomplishment” says almost nothing about how smart a person is. it does say, however, how pushy, obedient, unreflective, and striverish they are.

    as gore vidal said, “america is a nation of hucksters.”

  • Anonymous

    Big Gore Vidal fan here. I recommend the new documentary about his life. http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/gore_vidal_the_united_states_of_amnesia_2013/

  • Neo

    Rod Serling–Humanist

  • Phil_Hickey

    Francesca,

    I interpreted it as a feeble attempt at humor, but I agree, the word “yet” has an ominous overtone.

    Best wishes.

  • Francesca Allan

    Very witty. A veritable Neil Simon.

  • Jorge_Videla

    …a predisposition towards mental illness is largely influenced by your genetic makeup…

    it’s very unfortunate, but even otherwise very smart people cannot understand norms of reaction. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norms_of_reaction.
    from the link: This limited conceptual framework is especially prevalent in discussions of human traits such as IQ, Sexual orientation, altruism, or schizophrenia. (that is, psychological traits.) it’s also prevalent is discussions of cvd risk factors.

    the heritability of various psychological traits is meaningless, because these same traits may simply not exist in environments unavailable to the individual with the supposedly heritable trait. scz simply doesn’t exist in melanesia, or so i’ve read. depression simply doesn’t exist in any primitive peoples. and even if the trait exists, the genes which influence it may be different in different environments. the same is true for the heritability of various risk factors for cvd. hypertension, insulin sensitivity, cholesterol, obesity, etc. among the few humans still living a pre-agriculture existence there is no hypertension, obesity, type ii diabetes, high cholesterol, etc.

    big clue regarding all the jive talk of hereditists: heritability, h^2, is meaningful only when both genes and environment vary little, as in domesticated animals. it is just a linear approximation to a surface which may be quite non-linear.

    the typical twins raised together studies are 100% meaningless. when the “apartness” of twins is actually quantified in self-described, but not actual, twins raised apart studies, one finds that even the heritability of IQ drops to < .3, and all other traits' heritabilities to the negligible.

    hereditism is just ideology, the ideology of people who aren’t very bright.

    but the “environmentalists”, if there are any left, are totally wrong too.

    the truth is that the psychological phenotype is determined by a unique interaction of genes and environment, but so-called “behavioral genetics” persists in its linear model P = G + E, which is true only within a narrow range of genes and environments.

  • Francesca Allan

    I had been under the impression that the twin studies demonstrated that IQ was highly heritable and that the amount of time twins spent together prior to separation had little effect on the correlation. Of course, I “learned” a lot of crap at university so I’m not saying this is correct.

  • Jorge_Videla

    That’s why it’s so important to quantify the “apartness”. Apart/together is NOT a binary variable.

    Sometimes the twins were raised next door to one another or within a few miles and by their extended family. Here’s a NYTs article on what I was referring to: http://www.nytimes.com/1981/03/01/books/nature-vs-nurture-a-natural-experiment.html

    The behavioral genetics “researchers” have shown themselves to be either venal or vacuous or both again and again.

    And the family studies and GCTA are also meaningless. Both contain easily falsified assumptions, even though the GCTA people claim otherwise.

  • Jorge_Videla

    and btw, it’s not just a liberal/conservative thing. liberals tend to be hereditists on the issue of homosexuality, even though the balance of studies show it isn’t that heritable. of course it may be non-heritable but still biological. it may be congenital and not genetic.

  • Francesca Allan

    Yeah, 0.7ish is sort of what I remember.

  • Jorge_Videla

    too much? i hope there are other readers who will indulge my hobby-horse riding.

    hereditism is quite pernicious.

  • Cledwyn B’stard

    Coming back to the issue of the supposed intelligence of your average quack, I think, as is so often the case, Shakespeare can shed some light on this issue.

    Take Hamlet and Macbeth. Both, deep, philosophical characters who struggle to deceive themselves about what they have done, characters infused with the genius of their author. King Lear on the other hand….

    As for Richard iii and Iago, they are intelligent, but they are also Machiavels who do not endeavour to deceive themselves.

    Then you’ve got Raskolnikov from Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment”. Is he an idiot? I certainly wouldn’t say so, au contraire, yet the novel dramtizes as clearly as Shakespeare the perpetual inner torment he suffers because of his inability to deceive himself.

    I think Arendt’s description of Eichmann probably affords us the best understanding of these kind of people.

    In trying to fathom how Eichmann became such a well functioning cog in the bureaucracy of genocide, she came to the conclusion that he was just stupid, a mediocrity, partly deduced from his reliance upon cliches, which bespeaks a lack of deep-thinking (something I have also observed amongst psychiatrists, most worryingly amongst people such as Lieberman).

    Yet people have different conceptions, usually tinged with the ethnocentrism and egocentrism of the person doing the conceiving (practically everyone uses as the litmus test for judging the intelligence of others whether or not their views are in alignment with their own; if they aren’t, they’ll dismiss you as an idiot, almost invariably. The same applies to niceness; the sovereign criterion for determining niceness and decency in the average individual is conformity with said individual’s character and attitudes. Hence the reason why the Prince Myshkins of this world, the genuinely nice people, end up in psychiatric wards where they seek asylum from the calumnies, projections and predations of a mob never so malicious as when confronted with someone nicer than them), about what constitutes intelligence (notwithstanding those who aver that something as airy and as imponderable as intelligence allows of scientific measurement, but then again, conceptual imperialists, such as believers in psychiatric scripture and the validty of IQ tests, tend to appeal to science in rationalization of their intolerance of conceptual and perspectival pluralism, and who in the case of the aforesaid believers in the validity of IQ tests deny, through the rhetorical employment of the certainties and absolutes of science, that there can be different conceptions of intelligence, much in the same way that conceptual imperialists of the psychiatric variety deny that there can be different conceptions of extreme distress and deviations from socio-cultural and socio-ethical norms. The use of the language of certainty, be it in its positivist or religious guises, is the strategy by which the conceptual and perspectival imperialist tries to ensure the dominance of his own ideas over others).

    The consensus conception of intelligence utlimately reflects the self-flattering conception of small-minded phiistines, a conception refracted through the prism of the self-interests and self-love of the powerful and the spirit of an age characterized by scientism and the accession to power of the bourgeois philistine, to whose powers of imagination a chimpanzee concedes nothing, which perhaps explains his insufferable certainty.

    So coming back to my point, many people see archetypal irresponsible, faceless, impersonal bureacrats like Eichmann, and their direct descendants (such as your modern psychiatrist), as intelligent people, especially people who agree with them.

    True, culture confers intellectual distinction upon such people and they do display the accoutrements of intelligence, but they are mostly, I would surmise, not very bright.

    This is partly because their work neither requires nor facilitates intellectual advancement (I mean, some of the most idiotic theories in human history have taken up residence in the minds of psychiatrists). Instead, they just sit in their offices, day after tedious day, giving their Pavlovian responses to different categories of stimuli, reflexes whose successful inculcation depends for its success on the atrophied faculties of the people being conditioned to believe the profoundest gibberish.

  • Surviving ADs

    Well, Ron Pies was full of it, of course. They all bought into the “chemical imbalance” thing. Some of them are embarrassed about it now that’s it’s clearly so stupid. However, still being taught in med school, as we can see. It will take generations for this to die out. Shan is simply a run-of-the-mill psychiatry hack, pseudo-science and all.