Psychiatry: The Profession of Atheists September 3, 2007

Psychiatry: The Profession of Atheists

A month ago, a study was released that showed “Atheist and agnostic doctors are as likely to provide care for the poor as religious physicians.”

Now, a study shows that “the least religious of all medical specialties is psychiatry“:

Among psychiatrists who have a religion, more than twice as many are Jewish and far fewer are Protestant or Catholic, the two most common religions among physicians overall.

The study, published in the September 2007 issue of Psychiatric Services, also found that religious physicians, especially Protestants, are less likely to refer patients to psychiatrists, and more likely to send them to members of the clergy or to a religious counselor.

That’s disturbing. If you have a serious mental illness, why is anyone sending you to non-expert clergy members? What do they have to offer that will fix the problems? Prayer won’t do it. And usually, talking through a problem by itself won’t do it in these cases.

It’s one thing to see clergy if you’re going through a rough patch or need to talk to someone. But if you’re hearing voices in your head, the last person you need to talk to is someone else who hears voices in his head.

Joel at Pax Nortona has this to say:

I have known people to give up their meds on the advice of a faith healer and consequently end up arrested after embarking on wild sprees. The problem is that many patients are looking for magical answers and when they are offered reality-based somatic therapy (replete with side effects) they balk.

What is the reasoning for the non-religious psychiatrists?

“Something about psychiatry, perhaps its historical ties to psychoanalysis and the anti-religious views of the early analysts such as Sigmund Freud, seems to dissuade religious medical students from choosing to specialize in this field,” said study author Farr Curlin, MD, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago. “It also seems to discourage religious physicians from referring their patients to psychiatrists.”

“Patients probably seek out, to some extent, physicians who share their views on life’s big questions,” Curlin said. That may be especially true in psychiatry, where communication is so essential. The mismatch in religious beliefs between psychiatrists and patients may make it difficult for patients suffering from emotional or personal problems to find physicians who share their fundamental belief systems.

I feel like there’s a God Delusion joke to be made here, but I just can’t think of it…

[tags]atheist, atheism, medicine, study, University of Chicago[/tags]

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  • Tom

    It is not at ALL surprising to me that psychiatry is the most secular. Indeed, psychology, psychoanalysis, and therapy are the secular version of what people look for every Sunday in church. And most importantly of all, understand the unconcious drive of fear that keeps most people in belief.

  • Dorsey

    I would guess that neurologists would be a close second. For me the nature of the brain is one of the biggest strikes against theism. A person’s personality can be altered on such a fundamental level by a chemical imbalance or brain tumor or just a big whack to the head, and I find it impossible to reconcile this fact with the idea of an immortal soul, which is such a cornerstone for most theistic systems.

  • Bad

    Oh, I wouldn’t say that the clergy is 100% helpless. A very large portion of mild psychiatric disorders are best aided by talk therapy, and not any particular kind either: they are self-esteem issues, social phobia issues, and so forth, all of which need to be worked through. Medication is definitely helpful in many cases, but most such medications only work so long as you take them: stop, and the effect stops. Therapy, whether by a trained and licensed therapists or really, by anyone that the patient find credible and a good sounding board can have lasting positive effects.

  • Bad- That’s what I’m saying, though. I understand how the clergy could help in mild cases. But for serious conditions, you need real help. You need experts. You don’t need church at that point.

  • A person’s personality can be altered on such a fundamental level by a chemical imbalance or brain tumor or just a big whack to the head, and I find it impossible to reconcile this fact with the idea of an immortal soul, which is such a cornerstone for most theistic systems.

    The expression of a person’s personality can be altered by a chemical imbalance or a brain tumor, etc. Whether or not that is all there is isn’t a matter of science, it’s speculation. But, then, so is most of what psychology and psychiatry has been doing since its inception. And that’s not even getting at the fact that the “science” on which they are based spawn cults, uh, “schools” at a rate not much less rapid than Pentecostalism does. And you’ve got to wait for the old school “treatments” to die out with the practitioners. There are still Freudians who “cure and prevent” homosexuality based on absolutely nothing but make believe and the authority of long dead men, fully licensed professionals. Considering their success rate in treatment, you want the shrinks, you can have them.

  • Miko

    Curious. They don’t mention Scientologists at all.

  • Oh, Miko, as eager to answer points with clear refutations instead irrelevant implications as ever, I see. Though, Scientology does have a lot in common with the “science” in question. Lots of psychology and psychiatry is taught and practiced on the same level of empirical evidence mixed with argument from authority. So perhaps you aren’t strictly off topic.

  • featherlessbiped

    FWIW, the study question that suggested religious physicians were less likely to refer patients for psychiatric attention was intentionally ambiguous about the condition for which the patient sought help. It sounds to me much more like normal grief than serious mental illness. As stated, consulting a clergyperson, if the patient is religious, could be an appropriate first step. I’m sure the GPs surveyed would have responded differently if presented with a clear-cut case of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, for instance.

    As a believer myself, I have witnessed people who were seriously screwed up making matters worse for themselves by religious-based refusal to seek psychiatric help when needed. I have also had friends seek such help, only to struggle more when matched with a caregiver who treated their most cherished beliefs as part of the problem. It seems to me that the antagonism between some in the psychiatric community and some in religious communities is mutually aggrandizing and only hurts patients.

    For myself, I’m grateful to have mental health care professionals who take my convictions seriously and a church that offers not stigma but support for a person who struggles with mental illness. In my case, it’s a both-and situation, not either-or.

  • miller

    At the risk of starting a long thread…

    Quote Olvlzl,

    The expression of a person’s personality can be altered by a chemical imbalance or a brain tumor, etc. Whether or not that is all there is isn’t a matter of science, it’s speculation.

    I don’t understand this false dichotomy you are always setting up. It is not “just” speculation, it is inductive reasoning. If there were something else besides the chemistry, there is at least a small chance that we would have noticed it. Since we have not, it is reasonable to argue that there is nothing else. As with all induction, there is no absolute proof, just a small amount of supporting evidence.

    Much of science is based on induction, albeit usually stronger induction. Under the much wider definitions of “science,” all induction is science. You may disagree, as I do, on this absurdly wide definition of “science,” but I don’t think semantics is proper grounds for mocking everyone. I’m not saying that in this case, the inductive reasoning is strong enough that it should be considered science, I’m just pointing out that there is no dichotomy between science (stronger induction) and speculation (weaker induction).

  • Miller, science is the methodical study of those aspects of the physical universe that can be studied with the means available at the time the study is made. Science is actually a very speciaized and specific type of activity and it can not study anything which cannot be studied within its limits. Any possible non-physical aspects of consciousness could not be studied by science and so would not be found by it. That doesn’t mean those aren’t there, just that science can’t find them. The question of whether they are there is, therefore, an open question.

    If they are there, expecting to find them with the tools of science would be as effective as looking for soundwaves in the air with a magnifying glass.

    When people pretend that science doesn’t have pretty definite limits and they pretend that science is the only means of addressing the universe, they have passed from the realm of science into the superstition of scientism. The most basic limit of science is that it can only study the physical universe as noted above. I’d suspect that, ironically, it is in the quasi-sciences such as psychology, which routinely pass off junk science as science, that scientism is most prevelant. There and among the wannabees who watch the Discovery Channel and read pop-science while not being able to balance a simple linear equation. One of my reservations about evolutionary psychology is the folly of imposing the slipshod standards of psychology onto the real science of evolutionary biology. It’s the rage now but I’ve got an uneasy feeling that biology will suffer the consequences. My sister-in-law, a research biologist, has similar reservations.

  • miller

    I would prefer it if you addressed my argument by referring to it, and using the same terms I did. Otherwise, we’re just arguing at each other, not with each other. Until you do, I will take this opportunity to drop it completely.

  • I’m sorry, Miller the vocabulary you were using doesn’t get to the root of the problem. Until you can demonstrate an ability to use induction to reliably deal with aspects of reality which are not of the physical universe it can’t address any proposed part of consciousness held to be non-physical. Logic in all its aspects are developments of peoples’ experience of the physical universe just as math and science are. Logic can be used for wider purposes in human experience than can be contained within the fairly restricted limits necessary for science but its application to anything outside of the physical universe is unknown. I’d like to know how a materialist would explain how that isn’t true.

  • PrimateIR

    Friendly Atheist

    Per an article in the Washington Post from Dr. Dennett, many clergy tell him privately that they do not believe in God.

    From Wapo

    I get mail all the time from religious leaders who admit to me in private that they do not believe in God but think that the best way to continue their lives is to swallow hard and get on with their ministries, concentrating on bringing more good than evil into the lives of their parishioners and those for whom their churches provide care.

    Is the psychiatry drawing the atheists or does assisting others with mental hygiene issues bring about more critical thinking with regard to faith?

  • Mriana

    Sadly what they say about Protestants, esp the Evangelical Fundamentalists, it true. My grandfather was Dx with depression, but he refused treatment. He said Psychologist and Psychiatrists were of the devil. He then accused his medical drs of playing God and were keeping him alive longer than God wanted. He stopped taking his meds, including his heart meds, and was dead in three days from heart failure. My step cousin committed suicide a couple weeks ago. He was in sever pain, even after 4 surgeries. On top of it, he was being pressured by my Fundamgelical relative to be saved. He committed suicide. My mother has her own set of mental issues, but is reluctantly seeing a psychologist. Even so her religious delusions are out of this world, even for my liberal Christian friends.

    As for those in the Psych field, yes they are the least religious group in the medical field. I was told years ago when I decided I wanted a degree in psychology, that if I went that route for a degree again by my austere relatives, the devil would steal my soul. 🙄 RIIIIGHT!

    Now I’ve gone back for another degree at a Secular Uni. My major is English and my minor is Religion. I’m the only Humanist student, but that’s OK, I’m learning about Hinduism, Buddhism, and other religions. My mother is upset because it is not at a Theological College. 🙄 In her opinion, I’ll lose my faith. I haven’t said, “You’re too late mother. I got an education already.” That also was a thorn in their bonnets, even with my first degree, because I refused to go to a Christian (close-minded) College and because of that, I would end up losing my faith. 🙄

    Guess they did not realize I was never religious like they are, even in my younger years, but I knew a religious college, even when I was 18, was not for me. I knew I had to go to a Secular university, because I wasn’t into all that religious stuff even then. Mind you, I wasn’t really raised religious until I was about 14, then it’s too late to brainwash a child. That’s another story though.

    When it comes to psychological matters, I have little faith in faith, because just as Dawkins sees religion as a virus, I see it as a contributing factor to mental illness. Not necessarily the cause though, just a contributing factor with people who are suffering from a mental illness. It does not make their illness better and sometimes, depending on their religious beliefs, it doesn’t help them get help to begin with either. So, their religious ideas can be extreme even for the Liberals. 🙁

  • miller

    Ok, olvlzl, at least this time, you mentioned induction (though you still haven’t mentioned speculation).

    I would say that in the “non-physical” world as you call it, which I’ll just define as being where induction no longer applies, the concepts of “true” and “false” do not apply either. After all, these are also concepts from logic. Materialists are inclined to call everything here “false”, and this can be achieved by modifying the definition slightly. This definition is perhaps oversimplifying, but again, I don’t think semantics is proper ground for mocking people.

  • pansies4me

    My psychiatrist is a liberal Protestant, though he has told me he doesn’t believe in an afterlife. After I admitted my atheism to him he told me how reading Why I Am Not A Christian really shook him up in college and recommended it to me. He didn’t lose his faith, but he obviously doesn’t believe in at least one major tenet of Christiantiy!

  • Lewis Cawthorne

    Science may not be able to find and measure the immaterial “soul,” but the scientific method can make statements in relation to it.

    For instance, if a person has a personality and state of being that is separate from their physical brain, then why does brain damage cause major changes in personality? The major changes in the personality and the damage to the brain within this world are within the realm of science to measure, and they do lead one to the conclusion that there isn’t a separate sense of being outside ourselves keeping us ourselves, or else the changes wouldn’t occur.

    Another interesting example, I’m bipolar. I’ve gotten rather used to it, it’s basically a recognized part of my identity. It can be explained as a chemical imbalance in my skull. When I die, I am me without the mood swings since I’m no longer controlled by chemicals? What would me without the mood swings be like? I definitely wouldn’t feel like me; it would be a change in my personality. If that part of my personality doesn’t survive death, what part of my personality does survive death?

    Christians tend to toss around vague terms like, “You become perfect in the afterlife.” But, for anyone to become perfect they have to be stripped of a certain measure of who they are, and not just mental disorders. Not only is this a violation of free will, but does anyone really want to be modified to an external standard of perfect? Do you even know what that standard will be? I’ve seen it suggested that you enter heaven with the capability to love your god and sing his praises all the time, but that’s what I thought angels were for. And what if this external standard states that you should love no other than your god? Would you willingly want to relinquish such healthy personal aspects such as loving family or mate (or in the afterlife mates since many people remarry after a spousal death, and theoretically you could have two or more wives or husbands waiting for you in heaven)?

  • pansies4me

    I am a dyed-in-the-wool materialist, so I fully believe that “the mind is what the brain does”. I too am bipolar, but of a milder sort called Bipolar II. I sometimes struggle with the question of “who is the real me?” I suppose you could say that the real me is the one with the brain chemicals that make me emotionally unbalanced, and the one on three different meds is “Lisa plus”. When it comes down to it though, I am unable to function with the chemically unbalanced brain so I’ll gladly take the new and improved version. I do have relatives though, that at one time would have told me that taking psychiatric drugs is wrong because it alters the person that God made – until one of them suffered deep depression that was only helped by an antidepressant. Go figure.

  • Loren Petrich

    Mr. Curlin seems like he’s squirming in embarrassment.

    It must be troubling for believers in traditional theologies to discover that the scientists whose work takes them closest to the human mind are unwilling to believe in mind-body dualism, that those closest to the “ghost in the machine” are sure that there is no ghost in that machine.

    Also, those who believe that believing in and practicing their favorite sort of religion is essential to being a worthy human being must be disappointed in how this does not seem very evident to those scientists who study the human mind very closely.

    This conclusion is supported by some other studies, which indicate that psychologists and anthropologists are the least religious scientists of all.

  • Mriana

    The thing is, Loren, we cannot separate the mind from the body. What affects the body affects the mind and vice versa. They cannot be separated, thus there is no mind-body dualism. They are one no matter what you do. So what is there to be unwilling about when we have found, via science, that the two cannot be separated? It is not unwillingness when looking in the face of the evidence.

    Depression is not just all up in the head. It affects the body too. Pain is not just physical, it affects the mind too. You cannot separate the mind from the body no matter how hard you try.

    Yes, I have a degree in Psychology and I have been in the field too. Yes, I fit the criteria for those working in psychology and/or who have studied it. I’m a Humanist. I am not a dualist when it comes to the mind and the body, for I know they cannot be separated. What else can I say?

  • Miko

    The thing is, Loren, we cannot separate the mind from the body. What affects the body affects the mind and vice versa. They cannot be separated, thus there is no mind-body dualism.

    I’d say the mind is more of an unfalsifiable hypothesis. We’ve shown that to the extent we understand the body and to the extent that we understand the mind that there’s no need to suppose the existence of the mind, but that’s not really a conclusive argument against its existence. Thinking of the brain as an interpreter between the mind and the body satisfies the existing evidence perfectly well (if we suppose that different parts of the brain control different interpretive functions, so that damage to one area would prevent the mind from communicating certain signals). It gets a bit difficult to explain evolutionary (e.g., did minds always exist and merely not interact with the material world until organisms evolved that could connect with them symbiotically or do minds evolve too?) and it’d be knocked away immediately by Occam’s Razor, but in a theoretical sense there’s no reason (yet) why the mind couldn’t be separate from the body. Probably the best argument for the other side is that all of the brain’s cells periodically die and are replaced by new cells without a cessation of functioning: thus, at the very least, the power of the brain is stored in patterns and not in the actual material. Of course, the same exact thing could be said for pretty much every muscle and organ in the body, so supposing a mind separate from the brain is neither more or less valid than supposing the existence of a mind separate from the liver.

  • Mriana, how would you account for those surveys that indicate religious believers have a longer life expectancy while the mentally ill have a much shorter life expectancy than normal. Wouldn’t that tend to negate the “religion as mental illness” nonsense. And, by “religion” would you mean that the “religion” of the Rev. Phelps in Topeka is the same “religion” as the Metropolitan Community Church?

    Dawkins is one of the sloppiest users of language on the best sellers list. Anyone with moderate intelligence can see that there is no one thing which is “religion”, it’s a myriad of different things called one thing for convenience. Not that that wouldn’t stop Dawkins from making that word flesh.

  • Mriana

    When I say mind, I mean brain, Miko. Not some cosmic deal.

    It doesn’t necessarily negate what I said, olvlzl. Extremists don’t have a longer life. If anything their lives are shorten due to their extremism. I said it was a symptom of mental illness, not mental illness itself. You are reading far too much into what I said.

  • Miko

    When I say mind, I mean brain, Miko. Not some cosmic deal.

    Certainly. And I do as well. The problem comes when we talk to people who don’t (e.g., those who’d identify themselves as non-materialists) and everything becomes confused since we can’t even agree on what the words mean.

    I said it was a symptom of mental illness, not mental illness itself.

    I’ll believe that in the sense that “if a person has a mental illness, then religiosity may be displayed as a symptom,” but I wouldn’t believe the converse “if a person is displaying religiosity, then he/she must have a mental illness for which the religiosity is a manifestation.” The degree to which it’s a cultural phenomenon makes me extremely doubtful that it’s strongly correlated to mental illness.

  • Darryl

    God damn, olvlzl, you are such a pain in the ass! Do yourself, and all of us, a favor and find another subject to harp on. Jeez!

  • Mriana

    I’ll believe that in the sense that “if a person has a mental illness, then religiosity may be displayed as a symptom,” but I wouldn’t believe the converse “if a person is displaying religiosity, then he/she must have a mental illness for which the religiosity is a manifestation.” The degree to which it’s a cultural phenomenon makes me extremely doubtful that it’s strongly correlated to mental illness.

    That is exactly what I’m trying to say. My grandmother was very religious, but she was not mentally, yet she saw there was something seriously wrong with my mother before she died. She even told my mother locking herself in her house was not healthy. Yet, my mother doesn’t want to leave her home in part because she is afraid of other people, esp the non-religious, because something bad might happen to her or she might do something she shouldn’t because of others. Socializing to my mother could take her soul and she wouldn’t go to heaven. 🙄 See what I’m getting at now? My mother is emotionally ill and one of the symptoms is religious delusions. Even my grandmother didn’t understand my mother’s fear of socializing. Even to my very religious grandmother it was abnormal.

    You see, my grandmother was still well adjusted even though she was religious, but my mother, well… You get the point and my mother has attempted suicide, via not telling her various drs what meds she was taking, twice now due to her irrational beliefs about God.

    My grandfather refused treatment for his depression because, he believed, those in the mental health field were of the devil and would steal his soul. He believed the medical drs were playing God and keeping him alive longer than God wanted. So, along with refusing treatment for depression, he stopped taking his heart medication and basically committed suicide, believing that God wanted him “home in heaven”. He died three days after going cold turkey on his heart meds.

    It’s a Catch 22. One can be religious without being mentally ill, but one who is mentally ill displays abnormal religious ideological symptoms that are not normal. However, my grandmother refused to discuss her husband’s mental illness, because to do so would mean to her, she might not see him in heaven. She denied the connection of what happened, but I don’t think she was mentally ill though. She just did not want to think her husband committed suicide, much less in the name of religion.

    All mental illness is is an extreme of the normal or rather the normal becoming abnormal due to the thinking one has when ill. My grandfather was 75 when he died, but his very religious cousin is still alive at 99. His atheist brother was over 80 when he died. His wife, my grandmother, lived to be 94 and her mother lived to be 94 too. Her sister was 98 when she died. All happily religious, but given my grandfather’s cousin’s age currently and his brother’s age when he died, my guess is, if he had not become ill or had not refused treatment in favour of what he believed God wanted, he MIGHT have lived to be to a very ripe old age or at least into his 80s.

    Then take a look at the young men and women who are suicide bombers in the name of Islam. Yes, they have been brained washed, but behind that brain washing lies a very emotionally disturbed person, who ends up killing themselves (and others) at a very young age.

    Something to think about. It’s not so much religion itself I am criticizing, but what it does to those who are emotionally disturbed. It then becomes a symptom of the illness they are suffering and not really a religion. I’m not sure if that came out right, but true religious delusions (not what Dawkins talks about) are generally a symptom of a mental illness.

    So a person has an invisible friend. Big deal, but it is a problem when it becomes part of a mental illness’s delusion.

  • Darryl, Ok, let’s cooperate, I’ll be the pain, you just be yourself.

  • Mriana, religion is a symptom of mental illness? That would mean that the vast majority of humanity is what they used to call “teched”. I don’t think that’s a viable theory. I can’t believe that you mean that atheists are immune from mental illness, that is simply not on. Just the display of irrationality found on the threads of atheist blogs would show that’s not accurate.

    Having seen a case of severe mental illness from quite close it was just about any aspect of personality that could become distorted and in danger of ruling the entire personality. To single out religion might suit your ideological purposes but it’s a distortion in itself.

    Dawkins, as I’ve noted elsewhere in these threads, has asked people to accept his memes on faith, since there is absolutely no empirical evidence they exist and even the “experts” on them disagree and knit tangles of explainations for why they are like genes, often by saying that they are nothing like genes. Anyone who believes in memes or the absurd memetics is committing an act of faith, quite often based in their adoration of Dawkins or, in particularly pathetic cases, Susan Blackmore. That faith is held about something pretending to be science when there is no means of validating the idea through science, it is more irrational than the belief in a supernatural God for which there is not supposed to be scientific verification.

    You say you have a degree in psychology. Do you believe in the theories of Freud? Do you believe in the tabla erasa of the behaviorists, do you believe in the humanist teachings of Laing? Do you reject the ideas you do because they lack scientific verification? What do you call the belief of those who believe those schools you reject? Isn’t it faith, in the end? Certainly it is in the case of those who pour through Freud or other entirely non-science based ideologies of psychology. Freudianism, founded in the faith of his own effectve intuition by an atheist, certainly took on the practices of religious faith, complete with heresies and schisms. The same could be said for many of the succeeding schools. Only, since there are still pretty full-fledged Freudians in practice, it can’t be said to have been succeeded.
    Psychology is a quasi religious field, it’s seldom science. Its practitioners and scholars have no credibility to be talking about the irrationality of religion while their own field is faith based.

  • Mriana

    olvlzl, you didn’t read what I posted very well and obviously you haven’t studied psychology. IMO, you don’t want to comprehend what I’m saying, so why should I play into your game? I’m not biting and I never said atheists were immune to mental illness. I was talking about the religious and nothing more. I’ve seen mental illness up close and personal many times over and it included religious delusion, so unless you know what you are talking about, don’t say anything. BTW, as I said, I do have a degree in Psychology too and you can think what you want of it, but it has become a science in its own right.

    However, I’m not going to play into your rediculous and bogus mind games.

  • Karen

    However, I’m not going to play into your rediculous and bogus mind games.

    Excellent decision, Mriana. I suggest we all – at least all the regulars – follow suit and quit taking the bait.

  • Mriana

    Thank you, Karen. I think I know why CFI fired him now, if he ever did work at CFI that is.

  • 21.Miko :”all of the brain’s cells periodically die and are replaced by new cells without a cessation of functioning”

    I don’t know where you get your information, Miko, but this is inaccurate and better describes skin or the lining of the gut. There are two types of cell in the brain: neurons and glial (support cells). In postnatal life, neurogenesis (birth of new neurons) occurs only in the hippocampus and the olfactory bulb.

  • 28. olvlzl, no ism, no ist said,

    “Dawkins, as I’ve noted elsewhere in these threads, has asked people to accept his memes on faith, since there is absolutely no empirical evidence they exist and even the “experts” on them disagree and knit tangles of explainations for why they are like genes, often by saying that they are nothing like genes.”

    Are you saying that you have not heard/read/heard of Dawkins’ ideas about atheism?

    You must have heard of because you allude to them. In doing this you are demonstrating that memes do indeed exist.

    Do you have any conception, beyond your Latter Day Distortion, of what Dawkins means by “meme”. I’ll explain — a meme is a concept that can be modified as it passes through different “thinkers”. In misrepresenting what Dawkins says, you have demonstrated the process in action.

    Do you know what a gene is? The only resemblance between memes and genes is that both can “mutate”.

    Ideally, “fit” memes should outlive the mutations (distortions) because they are the most accurate representations of reality. Unfortunately, people being people, and natural selection no longer selecting only for better cognition, grossly distorted memes survive and flourish. A pantheistic panoply of creation myths and religious dogmas survives, superstition survives, magic thinking survives, ignorant distortions of science survive, utter illogic based on false premises survives, etc.

    Of course, theists fear Dawkins, theists fear science, theists fear atheists. Theists fear the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. Why? Because theistic arguments don’t have a neuron to stand on.

  • Mriana, since I said “I can’t believe that you mean that atheists are immune from mental illness”, which is a true statement you might reconsider the charge of not reading your post.

    Asking you to account for the different, major schools of psychology, which contradict each other in the most basic tenets of their orthodoxies is a mind game? I’d have thought it was a basic logical requirement to establish the scientific credibility of the field as well as your position in it. I asked some rather simple questions which are logical points of inquiry from your assertions about other peoples’ adherence to reason and science. If you are embarrassed that psychology affords such an abundance of questions as to scientific bona fides, the logical conclusion is that it’s the fault of psychology and not of those who raise the questions. The few I raised, and which you obviously are reluctant to answer, are hardly comprehensive. I’m also hardly the first to raise these points. Real scientists have been known to have similar reservations about the “science” of psychology.

    Karen, CFI? Contract Freighters, Inc., Certified Floorcovering Installers, Carter Flygare, Inc? Oh, you must have some hope that I’m associated with the Center for Inquiry. You have an over active fantasy life. I’ve been many things, mostly a professional musician, but I’ve never claimed to have any connection to any group interested in things associated with the paranormal. My only knowledge of those areas stem from taking the time to look at CSICOP and making a fair assessment of the targets of its index of prohibited ideas. Something I’ve never known a materialist fundamentalist to do, really look at what is there instead of the Kurtz Cult propaganda about it. My interest stems from my interest in a cult whose post adolescent goons told some public lies about me, only that. I take no position except that the legitimate scientific research conducted by real scientific means should continue instead of being suppressed. You ever read Jessica Utts’ papers on the subject? She’s a pretty reputable mathematician, if you go to her UC Davis faculty site you can find some of her papers. You might want to read her exchange with Ray Hyman. She’s very polite, not mentioning his suppression of the Rosenthal paper as I recall.

  • Loren Petrich

    olvlzl, why do you claim that Richard Dawkins asks people to take the existence of memes on faith? And given how you yourself likely believe in the great importance of Faith, why aren’t you applauding him for that?

    Memes are abstract ideas, not physical objects; I find it curious that people who pride themselves on their willingness to believe in immaterial objects are so quick to reject the existence of memes.

    Chain letters are good examples of memes. Chain letters induce their readers to make copies of them for other readers because they seem like something that their readers might want to tell others about. Perhaps not surprisingly, Snopes has a page on them, as does Wikipedia. Some chain letters even go so far as to promise rewards for those who copy and send them on, and threaten punishments for those who do not.

    As to psychology and psychiatry, that field has advanced beyond Freudianism. Psychiatric medicines certainly do not fall in the tradition of Freudian talk therapy and search for buried childhood sexual conflicts.

    And the argument from multiple schools of thought can easily be turned against religion.

  • Loren Petrich, because there is absolutely no empirical evidence that memes exist or that they had even a fantasy existence before the first edition of The Selfish Gene by Dawkins. Why would he invent the idea if he didn’t want people to adopt it without his presenting hard, scientific evidence for it? That’s pretty much the same kind of faith that he requires about his tales of life in the Pleistocene, for which, as well, there is absolutely no scientific evidence. Chain letters are good examples of chain letters, associating them with “memes” is as silly as associating them with good or bad luck, none of those associations are based in scientific evidence. I’ve never pretended that any of these ideas are science.

    I don’t either approve or disapprove of faith, just that it is inescapable since no one can verify every idea they adopt. Faith, the acceptance of ideas as truth based on little more than reputability and desired situations accounts for the largest part of what we think of as our personal “knowledge”. I’m not the one pretending that faith is the source of all that is evil, though some ideas people have faith in do cause evil.

    As to the advancement past Freudianism, why are there still licensed psychiatrists who practice Freudian style “therapy”? Why are there people who still study it as if it was science and are fully accepted within the profession if it is old hat? No, Freud is still with us, as are many of the various and equally science-free heresies his students spawned.

    I have never advocated religion here, I don’t understand why you think I would be upset about your final point. Yes, it’s true, it’s also true that psychology, and most of the behavioral “sciences” are faith-based orthodoxies pretending to be hard science. Again, I never pretended that religion was science or that it could contribute to science and I’d never make that mistake about just about all of psychology either.

  • Mriana

    Psychology has nothing to do with religion. It is not faith based in anyway, Olvlzl, nor is it orthodoxy. What you know of psychology doesn’t seem to be very much from what I can see.

    And IF I remember correctly you said something a while back about getting into it with CFI (Paul Kurtz and alike) concerning something you wrote. IF that is the case, I can see why you got into it with them and refused whatever it was you wrote. Antaganism is not something they appreciate and they only tolerate so much of it.

    Psychology has earned the right to be called a science. The fact you just tried to call it a religion tells me you don’t know squat about Psychology and probably not about other sciences either.

  • You know, Mriana, it’s rather ironic that you refuse to address my comment based on the fact that its analysis goes father than you want to go. Not really in keeping, either psychologically or scientifically. Rejecting it as a “mind game” is hardly an adequate means of addressing the arguments.

    Oh, psychology isn’t faith based. Tell me, then, what was the basis of belief in any of the “insights” of Freud? What was the basis of most of the Freudian apparatus? Rorschach Tests? Dream analysis? You certainly can’t claim that there aren’t people still practicing this stuff, fully authorized by the officialdom of psychology. Heck, the American Psychoanalytic Association is an affiliate of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. And, with the exception of the little of psychology that is actually based on non-ideological scientific research, you could replace Freudianism with most of the other named schools of the field.

    Do you, Mriana, believe that all of the various schools of psychology are scientifically valid? How? If you don’t, and I don’t see how a rational person could, on what basis do the adherents of those schools which you reject, accept them? If on the basis of science, why do you reject them. If not on science, then what? Appeal to authority? Belief in that authority? Belief in the truth of those on whose authorities the schools you reject hold those ideas? Faith, in short.

    You might notice something about this line of questions, it’s essentially those that are asked about religious belief to make the point that they are based in authority and not in science. Any religious person with a brain in their head already knows that, those who pretend that their religion is science are fundamentalists.

    I don’t think I ever mentioned CFI, being unsure if I was even aware of its existence, though with the alphabet soup of Kurtz outlets it does get confusing. Needless to say, I’ve never been a member or employee or an acolyte of any of the Kurtz empire of cults. I’ve got a feeling I must have stepped on a few toes. If that’s true, I”m not at all sorry.

  • ash

    leaving aside the olvlzl baiting for a minute here (and am i the only person whose noticed that he’s actually been a lot more relevant and polite recently? musta been a good holiday…) and focusing on what i consider to be fairly important points he’s making; Mriana, can you answer his questions? how has psychology earned the right to be called a science? if psychology works, who does it work on, and are the effects testable?
    sorry if i’m coming off as facetious, but i’m on the other side of your equation – i’ve done the rounds of psychologists, psychotherapists, psychiatrists etc., and have yet to find any of them a blind bit of help. so, i’m left wondering…does it work for other people? how? why? are they more gullible? was there less wrong?….i could add loads more, but you get the point and this was only supposed to be a quick post…

  • Mriana

    No, I will not fall for olvlzl’s aggitator behaviour. If you want to know the answer either take a Psych class or more. You will find they do empirical studies which are repeatable, just like any other field of scientific study. IMO olvlzl is just being gamey and wants to be a problem.

    If you really want to learn some without taking a college course you can learn a lot from the APA: The AHP: The AJP: Or any other Scholarly and Scientific journal of Psychology.

    I have gone around on three different threads on another board- at least 8 pages, dealing with ignorant people who did not want to learn anything and still don’t. Personally I’m tired of it all and if someone else who is in the Psych field wants to debate it all they can.

    I put up with too many people who are uneducated about the field of Psychology and really don’t want to learn about it to deal with one more. I don’t have the time to deal with ignorance, esp with one who just wants to play games.

  • ash

    actually, come to think of it, question for olvlzl too – given that i guess we agree on the existence of mental illness, what would you suggest would be appropiate measures for tackling the problem? if psychology is currently unscientific in it’s methods or explanations, is there a way to make it so? how?
    not trying to piss anyone off, but i would actually like answers + put as clearly as possible…i have a vested interest here…;)

  • Mriana

    Ash, olvlzl is living by the old phrase: “dont confuse me with the facts my mind is made up”. I didn’t spend all that time getting and receiving a degree in Psychology to educate the world about it single handly, esp when they don’t want to learn differently. Let someone else do it for a while or olvlzl can tell us why he doesn’t believe it’s a science, if he likes, but I didn’t spend all that time at a university to educate others about it.

  • Mriana, what facts? You haven’t provided any. How could you say my mind is made up when I asked you to answer questions? I’d have thought since you have a degree in psychology you could answer such basic and important issues about your specialty. I don’t think you can comfortably answer them but that doesn’t mean the questions are illegitimate or unimportant. To pooh-pooh them as “mind games” or other dodges wouldn’t be seen as an adequate response in most academic fields. But then, psychology has a built in defense mechanism, it can claim that the questioner is displaying some quickly improvised psychological condition invented to deflect attention from the question.

    You certainly know I’m not the only one asking these questions, many scientists resent that psychology gets away with maintaining some of the shoddiest standards in what gets to call itself science and that it gets funding to conduct its “studies”. The issue of quality alone would cause a major review and reform in a real scientific field, it’s just another day at the office in psychology.

    I’m interested in that but it’s the political ramifications of people buying into the ever shifting sands of psychology and related fields, quite often shifting in directions that would seem to be dangerous to democracy. The issues of treatment, the lack of effectiveness and at times the dangerous and even malign manipulation of patients are certainly also important.

  • ash, I’ll only address what I’m most familiar with,a case of very severe mental illness. I wish I knew an answer to the question of what to do about severe mental illness. The case I’m most familiar with seemed to require very long term custodial care, something the “mental health” establishment in my state seemed to want to avoid at all costs. And it was an issue of the cost, not what was needed. My relative, after sixteen years of some horrifyingly ineffective and at times clearly dangerous out-patient treatments, died as a direct result of her illness. Watching her as she went from psychiatrist to psychologist to clinical social worker, back and forth as one after another passed the ball, and collected their fees, was a real education in just what psychological science has provided in the way of public good. The worst aspect of it was when these “health professionals” gave a very irrational and very manipulative patient permission to see herself as being the put upon victim of her family. We were supposed to be supportive of every destructive choice and whim, to pay the fees and to pick up the pieces, but we were not supposed to so much as make an observation that could “damage her autonomy”. Keeping the customer satisfied and on their billing list seemed to be a higher priority than keeping her from self-destruction.

    Mental illness was certainly known before psychology started up, it’s an indictment that the mental health industry has done so little to bring us back to the days before the state hospital system arose to at least house the worst cases. Those hospitals were horrifically bad in some cases, but the present day system of phony “treatment” on an outpatient basis ending up on the street and in prisons is much worse than what it replaced.

    After all the decades of money on research, all the money on treatment, all the prestige and blind obedience, psychology has produced very little. Real science earned its reputation through reliable knowledge and public good produced. Unless they reign in psychology the reputation of science will be damaged.

  • ash

    cheers both, i shall go check out those links…

  • Mriana

    Olvlzl, like I said you don’t know anything about Psychology and don’t want to know. What scientists are saying Psychology is not a science? How has the field not advanced?

    We rarely see hospitals that are Bedlam anymore and if we do, they get shut down. We aren’t doing lobotomies like we were in the 50s. We have better medicines to treat mental illnesses now days and if you really think nothing good comes out of Psychology, why don’t you research Patty Duke and others who struggle with mental illness:

    As little as 10 to 20 years ago, it use to be thought children did not suffer mental illness. Now we know this is not true and many mental illnesses start in childhood.

    The branch of neuro-psychology has made great progress. If one was really interested in knowing, they can easily find these things out instead of living in ignorance and attacking what they know very little about. It’s not like it would be ethical to put people in a skinner box, but we can give them a Bobo doll to see how violent they end up being after given factors. Then we can do the test again and see if we get the same results.

    To insist that Psychology is not a science is to live in ignorance, IMO, and I pity the person who doesn’t get help when they become ill just because they think Psychology is worthless.

  • Mriana, you have any practical experience with someone who is severely mentally ill and without personal resources in these days of enlightened scientific psychology? Instead of state mental hospitals, prisons. A second story referencing the shrinks themselves. And for those not so fortunate as to end up in prisons, there’s the street, it’s estimated that a third of homeless people are severely mentally ill. I went into quite a bit if detail into my family’s experience with a member who, though she landed in jail once and was homeless during several of her more psychotic episodes, due to her refusal to move in with one of us, was always able to count on someone. Many people don’t have that luxury. Dealing with the mental health industry remains the single most traumatic experience we’ve had, those of us close to the situation. Coping with the ravages of advanced cancer treatment was less damaging to the survivors than the the psychology racket.

    Patty Duke is hardly your average person who suffers from mental illness, she’s got a bit of money and fame and friends who have both too. I’ve got a strong feeling you live in a bubble of affluence attached to Hollywood, it’s not that way for most people.

    If psychology is so scientific, answer my questions about why it keeps the Freudian and other ancient clap trap as part of its teaching and “therapy”? I’ll go into detail about the junk science that becomes part of the folk lore of psychology where other fields use real science of the kind that gets falsified and dumped. But that would take a lot of typing.

  • Mriana, since you won’t deal with more detailed questions. How about this one. Is the Rorschach Test an example of applied science? Give details as to how it can be. If you don’t believe it is, why is it acceptable within the science of psychology?

    If you don’t want to deal with that, most famous example of scientific psychological evaluation, how about the Myers-Briggs test, that’s got a Jungian pedigree. Though, you could name the Minnesota Multiphasic or any other rigorously developed, tested and administered examples of the finest in psychological science. These three hardly exhaust the scientific methods of creating billable hours of diagnosis and treatment.

    Since many of these can have a profound impact on the lives of those unfortunate enough to take them, especially if ordered to by a court of employer, it’s not a frivolous matter.

  • Mriana

    olvlzl, I worked in the field, both in the mental ward at a hospital (not a Federal Medical Center, but on for the non-criminally insane) and at a mental health center. I put up with individual with schizophrenia who went off their meds and were on the revolving door system. I’ve seen people who attempted suicide and a whole lot more. I’ve paid my dues and I don’t have to answer to anyone concerning what I’ve seen or learned working on the field.

    Mental illness is mental illness. It strikes the poor just as it does the rich, so it doesn’t matter if Patty Duke is common or not, but she does advocate for the mentally ill too.

    Lastly, I never said it was a frivolous matter, so stop putting words in my mouth, besides taking things out of context.

  • Mriana, I didn’t say you said mental illness was a frivolous matter, I said that the well-established, well-accepted and practiced psychological testing racket wasn’t frivolous since it can have an devastating impact on real peoples’ lives. That impact has nothing to do with reality but with the pseudo-scientific practices of psychology. People have had their lives destroyed by what psychologists have made up about their responses to tests like that. I know a man who lost his job and was reported to law enforcement officials because when asked during one of those phony tests if he liked children he said “yes”. The fact that he was a new, first-time, father counted as nothing compared with the mania for finding pedophiles under every rock in the 80s. Remember that wonderful use of psychological rigor?

    I think you’re avoiding dealing with the question by coming up with dodges. If I believed in some psychological hodge podge I’d call that by some fancy name. As it is, I think you’re dodging the question.

  • miller

    Mriana, I think Olvlzl is referring to many of the sins of psychology throughout its history. Aside from Freud, there are several “projective” methods that have little grounding in evidence, and yet appear to be in use by at least some practitioners. Some of the worst sins I think of are the “recovered memories” of child abuse, which can lead legal action, all in the name of pseudoscience.

    However, it is wrong to think, olvlzl, that there are no reputable psychologists, or that psychology is not improving at all. For instance, I’m fairly sure that psychoanalysis is no longer taught as real psychology (perhaps Mriana can clarify this). The few psychologists I’ve met don’t believe in projective methods either. There’s no reason to badger Mriana as if she were responsible for everything that is wrong with psychology, except maybe to keep your style consistent.

  • Miko


    Something to think about. It’s not so much religion itself I am criticizing, but what it does to those who are emotionally disturbed. It then becomes a symptom of the illness they are suffering and not really a religion. I’m not sure if that came out right, but true religious delusions (not what Dawkins talks about) are generally a symptom of a mental illness.

    I’ll agree completely. Of course, since other types of delusions are symptoms as well it basically just comes down to saying that delusion is a symptom of being delusional. The problem with religious delusions is just that there are so many benignly religious people for the mentally ill to hide among that it’s so much more difficult to pick out the truly disturbed.


    I don’t know where you get your information, Miko, but this is inaccurate and better describes skin or the lining of the gut. There are two types of cell in the brain: neurons and glial (support cells). In postnatal life, neurogenesis (birth of new neurons) occurs only in the hippocampus and the olfactory bulb.

    Quite true. But as I said, it really is the best argument for that position: it just so happens that while valid (in a formal logical sense) it is not a sound argument. 😉

    But to be fair to the position, ten years ago no one (in the mainstream) would have thought there was neurogenesis in the hippocampus either. And I seem to have recall once having read something preliminary about neurogenesis in the cerebral cortex, but since I never saw a follow up it may not have withstood peer-review. Of course, it’s definitely not happening in sufficient numbers to substantiate such a claim: something that major we would have seen by now.

  • Miko

    The only resemblance between memes and genes is that both can “mutate”.

    The most important side effect of which (from what I’ve seen) being the ability to trace mutations in a sort-of family tree (or more precisely, directed acyclic graph). The idea had appeared in areas as diverse as genetics and linguistics before Dawkins discussed it; he essentially just added a layer of abstraction and applied it to memory. That said, I’ve always wondered whether it’s actually beneficial to study these things in the language of memetics; it seems to me to be more about changing vocabulary than about changing understanding, although I have had colleagues who loved them.

    But seriously: is discussing whether memes exist really a worthwhile endeavor? They’re a theoretical framework for describing ideas, not a physical tangible thing and so they exist simply because they’ve been defined to exist in a way that’s logically consistent.

  • Mriana

    No, you are right, Miller, I was not taught psychoanalysis and yes, there are some bad ones out there, but there are some pretty damn good therapists out there too.

    I’ll agree completely. Of course, since other types of delusions are symptoms as well it basically just comes down to saying that delusion is a symptom of being delusional. The problem with religious delusions is just that there are so many benignly religious people for the mentally ill to hide among that it’s so much more difficult to pick out the truly disturbed.

    You are right, Miko, it is difficult and makes it harder to prevent a tragedy, such as my grandfather’s, from happening.

  • Loren Petrich

    olvlzl, you say:

    Loren Petrich, because there is absolutely no empirical evidence that memes exist or that they had even a fantasy existence before the first edition of The Selfish Gene by Dawkins. Why would he invent the idea if he didn’t want people to adopt it without his presenting hard, scientific evidence for it?

    olvlzl, I suggest that you explain to us what you think a meme is. For my part, I refer to this Wikipedia article about memes.

    And why do you think that chain letters do not qualify as memes? It seems rather obvious to me that a chain letter is a kind of meme.

  • Miko, as an example of an idea adopted entirely on faith by people who deny they have faith (as they call people who honestly acknowledge they have faith mentally ill), the superstition of memes might achieve their ultimate usefulness to the cause of reality.

    Loren Petrich, there is no empirical evidence that memes exist. Where is it if it exists? You can find lots of assertions about them, lots of speculations about them but as to their actual existence or what properties they have, no, there is no scientific evidence that they are there anymore than the “ether” is. I think it was Lord Kelvin who once asserted he knew the ether was there because he could measure it. Memeticists can’t even make that claim.

    One of the problems with this widespread superstition of today’s scientism, memes, is that it isn’t particularly well defined even among Dawkins’ inner circle. And here we come to one of the core deficiencies of the “behavioral sciences” lack of basic definitions not only of terms but of the subject matter it goes right on to pretend to deal with. The idea is that there are these mysterious, unseen, ill-defined units of culture which correspond to genes and displaying similar properties are some of the more common features of some of the devotees of the cult of the meme. But even Dennett’s account in Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, says, “prospects for elaborating a rigorous science of memetics are doubtful.” then he goes on to say, but, nevermind that it’s not science, you should accept it anyway. What goes entirely unsaid is “because it suits the ideological purpose of my camp”.

    As I recall Dawkins, the author of the idea, endorsed that particular book so I’d assume he agrees that memetics as rigorous science is doubtful. But since he’s the one who wants to impose the standards of non-rigor used in psychology and the other so-called sciences on the real science of evolutionary biology a lack of scientific rigor clearly doesn’t trouble him, not when he’s the one getting by on slop instead.

    H. Allen Orr, in his response to one of Dennett’s regular attacks on people who give less than fawning reviews to his and Dawkins’ books had this interesting summary of “memes”.

    So does Dennett believe that memes are like genes? He admits: 1) Memes are produced by “directed mutation,” while genes are produced by random mutation; 2) exchange between long-isolated cultures has everything to do with cultural evolution, while exchange between long-isolated species can’t happen; 3) memes can blend together, while genes don’t ; 4) memes show a Lamarckian style of evolution, whereas genes show only Darwinian evolution. By the end of this list, one begins to suspect that the most important feature memes and genes share is the sound of the words. This does not, of course, mean that no sort of theory of cultural change is possible. But it does mean that Dennett’s memetics-founded on a strict meme-gene analogy-is in a bad way.

    I’ve never met a real biologist, the kind who study the physical evidence of life instead of making up stuff, who believes in “memes”. I don’t know as many people in the physical sciences but I know several who will chortle if the subject or, indeed, evolutionary psychology is mentioned. It seems to be that the farther you get from actual science and in to the nebulous study of “behavior” the stronger the adherence to this dogma of modern scientism gets. I’ve heard it bandied about like settled recieved wisdom among those quite innocent of science, especially on blog threads. I assume you might consider that a good example of a sucessful “meme”, I’d say it’s a good example of PR and getting a book on the best seller list and into the hands of lots of college students in the humanities and so-called sciences.

    If you want to consider this kind of junk science no one can stop you but don’t expect people to not notice.

    I hate to tell you but Wikipedia doesn’t constitute empirical evidence, I wouldn’t even let an elementary school student use it as a citation in an informal theme. I read over the article on “memes” and, like most of the articles touching on similar subjects, found it was “edited” primarily by the side supporting it. Wikipedia might be free but the cost savings don’t make up for professional editing, expertise of the authors of articles or the need to protect Wikipedia’s credibility due to reliability on the basis of objectivity instead of advocacy.

  • Miller, as you point out psychology isn’t just an allegedly scientific and academic field of study, it’s also the practice of psychological and psychiatric treatments. I’d say that the only way to get a handle on what the sprawling mass that falls into that category is to look at what is accepted and allowed by the professional organizations (some with quasi-legal power), research institutions and university departments accept and allow as officially constituting the “science of psychology”. And it’s a real mess.

    As noted in the beginning of my comment to Miko, the reason I addressed myself so specifically to Mriana on psychology was because she seemed to use her degree in psychology to back up her assertions about religion as a sign of mental illness. I asked specific questions about specific parts of what officially constitutes psychology, And I hate to tell you but every thing I mentioned is alive and doing harm in all it’s allegedly scientific glory today as we discuss this. People here get into a swivet about the potential harm of some relatively innocuous practice of the occult among a few eccentrics but the enormous harm done, usually at much higher cost, by the priesthood of psych is just fine by them.

    If Mriana is going to use “psychology” as the basis of an argument that religion is a sign of irrationality then it is entirely legitimate to use all of psychology in refutation. I did because there are vast stretches of officially accepted psychology that are clearly unscientific. She was free at any point to jettison any of those things mentioned, something which psychology itself hasn’t done. But you can’t defend the idea that “psychology” is a science when it contains entire schools that aren’t based in science and a myriad of practices that are clearly pseudo-science. If she rejects Rorschach Tests, for example, as unscientific she would have to explain why it is allowed by the official authorities of her “science” of psychology.

    Why psychology doesn’t get rid of the junk practices is due to the financial interest of the members of the profession who profit from that junk and often cause enormous harm to people in the process. Why it regularly prints “studies” in its professional journals which would get laughed out of the pages of anything with more rigorous standards than the Enquirer is also probably due to the financial interests of those in the profession. When you deal with something as complex as behavior, it is very, very difficult to do real science about it. Needing to publish something any old piece of junk seems to do. How this differs from the worst practices of the worst of religion would make an interesting discussion.

  • You know, if someone doesn’t disagree with me I’ll have to assume you agree. It’s not good for my character development when people don’t disagree. And nothing gets learned.

  • Mriana

    Ooo! He’s gamey tonight. 🙄

  • Maria

    olvlzl are you a scientologist? seriously. You sound like them when they attack Psychology. Just tell me in one sentence what you have against it? It’s hard for me to read the really long posts……….

  • Maria, Those things I said in my last response to Miller obviously can’t be reduced to one sentence. Perhaps if psychologists were less diligent in practicing bad science it would have been possible to give a short answer. Alas, the fact that is impossible is their doing, not mine.

    I’m not a member of the Elron Hubbard cult. My reservations about psychology are based in its pseudo-scientific practices, the damage it has done to people and many, similar reasons. There are a small number of people who do actual science in psychology, mostly dealing with fairly basic and simple things under well controlled conditions. An important part of their actually producing science is their strict adherence to accurate descriptions of what they’ve accomplished. It’s one of the worst features of the Steven Pinker style “cognitive science” that it makes the most outlandish claims about the most modest results. You might be interested to look for what some of the people who know something about brain physiology think of Pinker’s practically physiologically free brain science. As I said for psychology, the closer you actually get to physical science the more skepticism about it you encounter.

    Mriana, You and Karen (penpals?) did get me to thinking, though. All those cookie-cutter-Kurtz groups. Why? Some kind of dodge? Financial? There are always rumors about them having trouble making payrolls….

  • Mriana

    Perhaps if psychologists were less diligent in practicing bad science

    There are just as many other scientist out there who are not psychologist who practice bad science. Enrico Fremi is an example of that. Those on the Mahattan Project are more. Those who created the Hydrogen bomb, which creates a 10x more powerful nuclear bomb. Now why do we need a more powerful nuclear bomb? We don’t. All of them are nuclear, not to mention the ones who were barred from the scientific community. So bad scientists in in every branch of science. There are also good ones in every branch too, INCLUDING psychology. You really need to keep up with science before you start making accusations.

    Alas, the fact that is impossible is their doing, not mine.

    It’s your biased opinion.

    If Mriana is going to use “psychology” as the basis of an argument that religion is a sign of irrationality then it is entirely legitimate to use all of psychology in refutation.

    Again, I did not say it was a sign of anything. You keep taking my words out of context and twisting them to suit your own agenda.

    And do me a favour, stop dissing Kurtz. You know even less about him than I do, so you have no room to speak. I have no clue why you are so anti-Humanists. What did we ever do to you? IMHO you need to check out the COHE courses more than I do, but then you might learn something. Forbid that would ever happen!

  • Ah, Mriana, the difference, what separates the science from the trade group is that physics and other real sciences get rid of those things which are falsified. Psychology keeps teaching it and, much worse, allowing it as “treatment” for those who have gotten the credentials and are making money off of them. I assume, since you refuse to address the question that the Rorschach and Myers-Briggs tests meet your standards as applied science. Someone who read my criticism of them sent me an e-mail to tell me about their unfortunate experience with a three day, $1500 “test” which I’d not known of. I’ll be checking that one out to add to the list.

    Paul Kurtz is not above criticism, he and his publications have never been shy about slandering people. It’s his stock and trade. I looked at the “Humanist” course, if I want to be propagandized I’ll go through it. Maybe you’d like to check out the “Star Course”. Not an endorsement, mind you, just that since you are promoting propaganda, it’s an alternative viewpoint.

  • Mriana

    Excuse me, but you need to update your ideas about psychology. No longer is it taught people should be treated like they were in Bedlam. No longer is a lobotomy done to the masses. ECT is used less frequently in favour of NEWER treatments. Again, you have no idea what you are talking about nor do you know what they teach in Psych classes.

  • Oh, I forgot to address your point about the atomic bomb, though it’s a bit ironic that you should single out Fermi for reasons I won’t go into.

    In her brilliant review of The God Delusion Marilynne Robinson made an excellent and relevant point far better than I could:

    The gravest questions about the institutions of contemporary science seem never to be posed, though we know the terrors of all-out conflict between civilizations would include innovations, notably those dread weapons of mass destruction, being made by scientists for any country with access to their skills. Granting for the purposes of argument that Dawkins is correct in the view that the majority of great scientists are atheists, we may then exclude religion from among the factors that recruit them to this somber work. We are left with nationalism, steady employment, good pay, the chance to do research that is lavishly funded and, by definition, cutting edge — familiar motives of a kind fully capable of disarming moral doubt. In any case, the crankiest imam, the oiliest televangelist, can, at his worst, only urge circumstances a degree or two farther toward the use of those exotic war technologies that are always ready, always waiting. If it is fair to speak globally of religion, it is also fair to speak globally of science.

  • Mriana, since you bring up bedlam and lobotomy, two things I never did, why not address the phony tests I named. I am going to have to conclude that you believe the Rorschach and Myers-Briggs are legitimate science unless you specifically say you don’t believe that.

  • Mriana

    I already said they weren’t used anymore or even taught in classes, except to say they are not reliable or valid tests. I guess you missed that.

  • So why are they still given if their unreliability and validity are finally admitted?
    Would a real science, as administered by its official bodies, not suppress them? Medical treatments and tests that are bogus are discontinued, but not in the “science” of psychology.

    And it really doesn’t answer my question, if they are not scientifically valid now how could they ever have been valid during the decades they’ve been foisted on an innocent public? I believe the Rorschach is still claimed to be under copyright by those with a financial interest in their publication, though they certainly shouldn’t be. Is the Able Screen or any of the myriad of other tests which seem to spring up as easily as new mental diseases in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, valid? Are some and not others? Since they are often used in the judicial system and to determine employment and educational opportunities a bogus test can have a major negative impact on lives of people, probably much more so than the average fortune teller. Just the fee for taking the test dwarfs what your typical, neighborhood fortune teller would charge and they don’t typically string people along for years at three figures an hour.

    No, psychology is a mess and there is no sign that it is willing to clean itself up and anyone who tries will have the full weight of a class of very wealthy practitioners fighting reform tooth and nail.

  • I found it. Any claim that the Rorschach is a thing of the past is false. In 1995 the APA, which pretty much defines the psychological establishment in the U.S., did a random survey of clinicians. 43% said they always used the inkblots, 82% said they use it at least occasionally. The almost as silly Thematic Apperception Test was always used by 34% and always by the same figure as the inkblots. So, any claim that they are ancient history is wishful thinking.

    You might want to read the entire article and see that even the shrinks who use the tests use them for things they aren’t supposed to be used for. And it’s a pretty important matter.

    But how correct would they be? The answer is important
    because psychologists frequently apply such “projective” instruments
    (presenting people with ambiguous images, words
    or objects) as components of mental assessments, and because
    the outcomes can profoundly affect the lives of the respondents.
    The tools often serve, for instance, as aids in diagnosing mental
    illness, in predicting whether convicts are likely to become
    violent after being paroled, in evaluating the mental stability of
    parents engaged in custody battles, and in discerning whether
    children have been sexually molested.

    Notice that some of these uses could clearly wreck someones’ life.

  • Mriana

    Now you are really going off the deep end about something you know nothing about and I don’t have time to sit here and teach a class about it. You need to sit in several psych classes to answer all those question.

    However the DSM-IV is soon to be revised.

    To be honest, I think you ran into one of the bad psychologists and are taking your anger out on everyone involved in the field. It’s not me you’re angry with, nor is it the field, but rather whoever it was that did you wrong. I’m sorry that happened and I’m sorry you feel you have to take it out on everything and everyone in the psych field, esp if I’m right with my theory. I seriously doubt you will admit it though and will deny it to the fullest extent just so you can find ways to prove that psychology is bad, when it really isn’t. That’s ok, I’ve dealt with people who had serious mental illnesses and survived their anger, so I can take it.

  • Apparently the authors of that article are as ignorant as you keep claiming I am, you did look at it, didn’t you, before you asserted I didn’t know what I was talking about. Odd that so many psychologists don’t seem to realize that you have deemed that their favorite tests aren’t used anymore.

    How many more newly discovered diseases are going to be in the new edition? Think of all those treatable people and the billable hours that will generate.

    Will there be a disease syndrome with criticism of psychology as its major symptom? That is what you meant about going off the deep end, isn’t it?

  • grazatt

    And all the monkeys aren’t in the zoo
    Every day you meet quite a few

  • grazatt, if you’re talking about what I’ve said, is that really the best you can do by way of refutation? Or, as some of the “rationalists and freethinkers” here seem to think, you don’t need to defend the faith based assertions of well entrenched establishments against citations and reasoned arguments. That is as long as the establishment is asserted to contain a majority of atheists.

    Apparently you’d rather be a mule.

  • grazatt

    No, I am talking about what everyone has said! Although props to you for catching my reference!

  • Mriana

    I struck a nerve. Apparently I was right and you have been hurt by someone in the psychology field. Sorry about that. There are good ones out there who are not bad and do try to help.

  • Mriana, I’ve never taken the gamble on the psych industry, never had the need. You really can’t deal with this on the basis of scientific discussion, can you. Obviously my joke about psychologists turning criticism of their field into a mental illness is exactly on target.

    As a rationalist a freethinker and a devotee of science, you are a fraud.

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