Jul 01 2008

Deconstructing the Cranks

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Comments: 23

Regular readers may have noticed that I occasionally get hostile comments in my blog. I would be shocked if I didn’t – in fact I would worry that I was not doing my job if I did not regularly infuriate the purveyors of nonsense and promoters of anti-science. I frequently respond, even to the most inane of such comments, if I think it will be instructive to point out common fallacies and misconceptions.

Sometimes I view comments from a sociological point of view – they may demonstrate a social phenomenon worthy of discussion.

I recently received this comment in response to my blog on facilitated communication. Gigi Jordon (writing as “Holly Light”) commits so many fallacies that any meaningful treatment requires a separate blog entry, so here it is. She begins:

Hey Steve Novella,

What a load of arrogant pseudoscientific self aggrandizing tripe. Truly!…….. First of all I used to observe from an relatively anonymous standpoint patients being seen at the most elite levels of academic medicine on the east coast over a period of 10 years being treated for lets say motor neuropathies. These patients, inevitably would become frustrated with the limits of either the treatments offered or the bedside manor of their physicians or some combination of both, and go to another equally pedigreed academic neurologist say……….Latov or Dalakis , et. all…………. It was a big joke among my cohorts at the time that every time the patient switched to a new big wig in academic neurology, say every 3-5 years on average, and for the lay audience, I’m talking the best neurologic specialists in this highly specialized field of medicine in the world, people Steve Novella would look up to by the way…….. The patient would get a new diagnosis! MMN (multi motor neuropathy), No wait – now it’s CIDP! (chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy), no, no, wait its dermatomyocytis!
So brilliant are you all at the mental masturbatory facility of your “science”. So very objective!

Holly opens up with the “arrogant” gambit. This is a cheap shot that anti-intellectuals frequently trot out because it’s easy. Any pretense to knowledge can be attacked as “elitist” and “arrogant” – it is an attempt to get people on your side by implying, “This person is not one of us regular folks, they think they are better than us.” It is a dismissive ad hominem logical fallacy – attempting to dismiss a person’s position by attacking the person.

Here Holly isn’t even addressing the point of the blog post, facilitated communication, but rather is going off on an irrelevant rant about neuromuscular disease. In her attempt to “poison the well” by denigrating me professionally and intellectually, she is attacking academia, scientific medicine, and my specialty. At least she is exposing herself to any discriminating reader.

Holly also demonstrates the true arrogance of those who equate their tangential knowledge with expertise. One theme I promote in this blog is proper humility when dealing with areas of knowledge in which one is not an expert. This does not mean you cannot have an opinion – but one should fairly account for the consensus of expert opinion and be wary of those who casually dismiss it.

Holly seems to be impressed with her knowledge of neuromuscular disease, but demonstrates that (as she admits) she has the limited knowledge of an outsider who does not truly understand the subject. She criticizes the fact that neuromuscular patients are often given different diagnoses by different recognized academic experts – as if this calls into question the entire field. Here’s the real story (and just FYI – this is my particular area of expertise).

There is a category of diseases known as immune mediated neuropathies – auto-immune diseases in which nerves are the target. All auto-immune diseases are difficult to categorized specifically because they are not discrete diagnostic entities – one disease tends to blend into the next. This is particularly true of immune-mediated neuropathy. Add to this is the fact that there are different ways to classify them – by clinical syndrome, by physiological characteristics on nerve conduction study, or by the presence of specific pathological antibodies. These various classification schemes do not overlap very well – meaning that patients with the same antibody may have different clinical syndromes, for example.

For this reason there have been confused, evolving, and at times competing schemes for specifically classifying these diseases. One person’s MMN might be another person’s CIDP. But progress is slowly being made, and efforts are underway to standardize the diagnostic scheme as much as possible.

Further – the patients that are being referred from one specialist to another are the ones that are slipping through the cracks in the current diagnostic scheme. If someone has typical MMN and responds to the accepted treatment for MMN – they don’t get referred for a second opinion. So Holly is referring to particularly challenging patients with a particularly challenging category of diagnoses. She does not put her example into any meaningful context – I suspect because she does not understand the context, and she seems content with her self-serving interpretation and gives no evidence of having tried to understand the context.

And yet this is all supposed to vaguely call into question what? – scientific medicine?

Holly continues:

Then let’s move on to the vast array of medications that you utilize to treat these (and all) patients ( this will get to facilitated communication later my friends worry you not!). If you look at the PDR (again to the lay audience, the “bible” of prescription medications it’s basically listing of all of the FDA required information for approved prescription and over the counter medications in the US), and look under mechanism of action (or how does this drug work?), you will find that in over 85% of the drugs in use today helping patients cope with disease, they (read medical community) have absolutely no idea how the drug works. They usually venture a guess but are very cautious to disclaim not really knowing the true bio-physiological effect of the drug. So they have no idea.

The ignorance false dichotomy – equating not knowing everything with knowing nothing. And again this is just an attempt at impugning by association my arguments regarding facilitated communication.

The PDR is indeed a key reference for medications. Holly calls it the “bible” of medications – which is an attempt to portray it as a dogmatic source, rather than a systematic reference of scientific data. But she also does not get it quite right – there is a great deal of information on many medications not contained in the PDR. The PDR contains essentially the official required FDA package insert of information for each drug, but many drug studies are done and published in the peer-reviewed journal outside the context of FDA approval. In practice the PDR is just a slice of the scientific information on pharmacotherapy.

Holly’s clearly stated point is to exaggerate the apparent ignorance of scientific medicine when it comes to drug mechanism. This is a flawed line of reasoning on many levels. I have already addressed that her factual premise – the PDR contains all relevant information – is wrong. I also pointed out that she is equating lack of complete knowledge to “they have no idea.” Let me address this point.

Any honest reading of the PDR – a thick and ever growing tome – reveals how incredibly much we do know (at a minimum) about all the drugs we prescribe. The PDR is a testament to our vast knowledge, not our ignorance, as Holly would have you believe. But it certainly is true that we do not know the precise mechanism of action of every drug. That is not the same thing as having no idea, however.

For most drugs we at least know some or all of their physiological actions. For example, we may know what receptors they bind to, the effect of the drug on that receptor, and the physiological function of that receptor. We may not know, however, how that action has its ultimate effect on the symptom or disease that is being treated (these are areas ripe for further research). Also most drugs have more than one effect, and we simply may not know which effect is the important one for any specific application.

For the vast majority of drugs we have a great deal of information about how they work, and a good idea about their specific effects on the symptoms and diseases we use them to treat. In fact many drugs are classified by their mechanism of action (like beta-blockers, for example). Others are classified by their use, but knowledge of their basic mechanism of action is key to their use. I lecture on neuropharmacology and I emphasize the importance of understanding the known mechanisms of action of the drugs we use, while also recognizing the limits of our current knowledge. Summarizing all this as “we have no idea” is absurd – it is the kind of statement that someone who is overly impressed with their own limited knowledge would make.

Now that she has mangled her premise, she follows up with the logical fallacy (and another false premise):

In fact, in the “old days” (think pre–1990’s) the academic medical community actually had some balls and were willing to humbly defer to the fact that we don’t and can’t know everything but should offer the benefit of exploiting and using drugs that are helpful even if we don’t know exactly HOW they work.
Now, (read post 1990 or so) our cowardly doctors in the name (and spirit of Novella above) have taken up the shield of “evidence based medicine” to cower from pressure the insurance companies and HMO’s, setting new standards for the use of new discoveries to not help patients saying it’s not enough that a drug works,we have to know how it works to offer it to patients! The truth is the doctors gave yup fighting the insurance companies using this new”standard” and adopted it as their own to not look as insipid and cowardly as they really are. Give it a big harvard name “evidence based” and all is well, don’t worry about what we’re supposed to be doing in life like, oh yea curing disease. just publish papers about nothing (read of no clinical significance, i.e to help anyone get better or lead to true clinical advancement in treatment). Then you’ll do real well in medicine. Oh, and then write some sniping articles about pseudoscientific practices like FC and sneer all the way home thinking how you don’t make as much money as your fathers generation when adjusted for inflation – gee I wonder why?

Here Holly is simply making stuff up – or regurgitating anti-scientific propaganda that others have made up. This is a complete rewriting of history from a rather bizarre point of view.

First – the FDA does not require that any information pertaining the mechanism of action be presented in order to approve a drug (which ironically was her previous point). The FDA requires only that the drug is proven safe and effective for a specific indication. That’s it. So it is simply not true that in the past we did not require knowledge of mechanism but now we do. As long as there is adequate evidence for safety and efficacy it is reasonable to use a drug (or any treatment). Knowledge of mechanism makes it easier to use a drug rationally and effectively, and of course this also helps progress our medical knowledge, but it has never been a pre-requisite to accepting a treatment.

This is a straw man preferred by promoters of unscientific medicine – it is an attempt to make the rejection of their fake treatment or claims on the part of scientific medicine seem unreasonable. But it is simply a fiction.

Next Holly completely misrepresents evidence-based medicine. This is a new one on me – EBM was invented by the insurance companies and adopted by physicians out of laziness. Wow. That will come as a surprise to the Cochrane Collaboration. The goal of EBM, ironically, is to focus on evidence for efficacy – not mechanism of action. In fact, even more ironically, that is my primary criticism of EBM, that it does not adequately consider mechanism of action when dealing with highly improbable therapies.

Finally, Holly gets to FC:

Now to facilitated communication, Steve, motor planning 101. I had a friend who was a professor of psychiatry he was 80 at the time but still played tennis every week, unbelievable fit, looked like 60. So we used to meet and 1 week he doesn’t show up. Brusk message on my voice mail sounding irritated from him instead of apologetic about canceling after the fact. Next week I go to meet him and I see him in his car outside the tennis club parked just sitting and not getting out of his car. I go and knock on the window. He looks startled and peels out of his parking spot leaving me in the street. @ weeks later he’s diagnosed with a frontal lobe tumor which was thankfully removed and he recovered nicely. He later told me that he had been very irritable and found himself in multiple situations where he would go somewhere to do something and was then paralyzed in an inexplicable way from initiating the activity at hand, in my case it was getting out of the car. He knew why he was there he knew what he wanted to do – HE COULDN”T INITIATE THE VOLITIONAL ACTIVITY REQUIRED TO CONDUCT THE MOTOR PLAN STEVE.

Volitional inhibition, ever heard of it Steve? The list of specific dyspraxic disorders are legion. So the crime of ignorance you commit as as an “expert neurologist” is harmful in the extreme to so many people locked in a world of silence by ill informed opinions that have given so little thought to the issues at at hand. It annoys me to no end (this I’m certain you ARE aware of by now) because your have the training and background of thought to give so much more sensitive consideration to the subject were you not blinded by arrogance. You assume cognitive dysfunction where in fact there is nothing more than a global dyspraxia of volitional movement. Just another ill defined motor disease Steve.

Holly’s unstated major premise here is that disorders of communication are motor dyspraxias – the inability to speak due to a motor problem, even when the cognitive ability is there. She gives a long wind-up to this basic premise, but it is all a huge non-sequitur.

Yes – there are many neurological disorders that involve a problem with the motor aspects of speech and not the cognitive aspects of language. Neurologists are very careful to distinguish such things. I treat many patients with various motor problems impairing speech, and there are a number of legitimate methods for helping them to communicate – none involve FC.

Other patients have impaired language – a cognitive impairment involving the language centers in the brain. These patients require different interventions, like speech therapy, or augmenting their communication with non-verbal methods. Again, FC is not useful.

And a third category have neither an isolated motor or language problem but an impairment of global cognition. It may be their ability to think that is impaired – not their ability to express what they think.

What, exactly, is Holly’s point? She does not make it clearly. Is she saying that there is no such thing as a language disorder or global cognitive impairment? That all non-verbal patients have a motor problem and not a language problem? How does she presume to know this, and why should anyone think that her knowledge is superior to the experts in the field? Oh yeah – that’s right. Anyone who disagrees with her is an arrogant coward, while she has enough tangential knowledge to use the occasional technical term.

Even if she is only claiming that in some cases a motor disorder is mistaken for a language or cognitive disorder – again how would she know this and why would she presume that dedicated clinicians are not making a serious effort to make such distinctions.

She continues:

Of course they can’t be put in a stringent double blinded testing environment with a wall between their helper and them. It’s antithetical to the process.

That’s like taking a post stroke patient who cant talk and trying to grill them in an “objective testing environment” to see whether gentle supportive encouragement and therapy to help them retrieve words and produce speech using patience and multisensory reinforcement helps them to talk. But if they can’t perform as well when stripped of that support in a cold and advesarial testing , let’s say sitting in a room with a tester being drilled on vocabulary, claiming that supportive speech therapy is a hoax if the patient didn’t perform nearly as well as within the confines of a known trusted speech therapist providing support and giving the person needed cues or time.

This is the “My woo cannot be tested by your cold indifferent science” gambit. This is a straw man and amounts to nothing more than a lame excuse for the absence of compelling scientific evidence for FC.

FC makes a specific claim – that the non-verbal client has hidden language ability that can be tapped into with help. I have nothing a priori against this claim – I just recognize that it is important to find out if it is really true, in general and in specific cases. This is especially important if allegations of sexual abuse are going to be based upon this assumption.

The claim of FC, (again – in general and in specific cases) can easily be tested – simply give specific information to the client while the facilitator is out of the room, then allow the facilitator to use FC in whatever way they feel comfortable to convey that information back. No walls are necessary, no artificial controlled environment. The only thing that needs to be controlled is the access of the facilitator to the information you are testing for. When tested in this simple way, FC completely fails. A rational response to this utter failure is to question the assumptions underlying FC. An irrational, ideological, arrogant response is to rant about “cold and adversarial testing.”

She finishes:

Let’s just throw out speech therapy too, why should we presume that the person has the cognitive ability to speak?

Why because they did it before………..Ignorance guides your thinking about people with communicative dysfunction related to “developmental delay”. They have voice you just refuse to hear it.

Let me see if I have her logic correct – we can know that people who lost the ability to speak have the cognitive ability to speak because they had it before they lost the ability to speak. OK – but what if they lost the ability to speak because they lost the cognitive ability, and not just the motor ability? What if a patient has aphasia because a stroke destroyed the language center of their brain? That is not a motor problem – that is a language problem.

But also – this does not mean that there is no role for speech therapy – and all patients with aphasia do get speech therapy because the brain has plasticity and perhaps the aphasic patient may be able to recover some speech. But sometimes they don’t.

Holly then draws an analogy between someone who was cognitively normal at baseline and then suffered a stroke or some damage to their language center and those who are developmentally delayed. She seems to be concluding that we should therefore assume that even those who have a completely distinct neurological situation (developmental delay) also have normal cognition and an isolated impairment of language. She gives no justification for this assumption. Common sense tells us that such an assumption is not warranted, and this is backed up by the evidence.

I, on the other hand, am not making any assumptions that any individual does have impaired cognition. My education and experience tells me that every permutation is out there – including those who have relatively normal cognition but impaired communication or language, as well as those who have impaired communication because they have impaired cognition. Each individual needs to be assessed individually.

Holly is just dodging the real question by attacking her straw man. The question is – in any situation does FC work? How can we be sure that the facilitator is not the one doing the communicating? Holly and other FC apologists would have you believe that by asking such questions we are being cold, we are refusing to listen to the evidence, and we are being mean to these children. The truth is, not asking these critical questions is neglectful, irresponsible, and sometimes tragic.

I want people with all kinds of neurological impairments and challenges to be helped by methods that actually work – ones that are based upon science, not wishful thinking and sloppy logic.

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23 responses so far

23 Responses to “Deconstructing the Cranks”

  1. DevilsAdvocateon 01 Jul 2008 at 9:09 am

    Novella is a medium – he’s facilitating communication between Holly/Gigi and her demons.

    The spittle-drenched vitriol that typically accompanies these crankish outbursts is, I think, ultimately motivated by the implications of science, that FC is devoid of efficacy and value, devoid of reliable evidences, and the joy felt by FC’s proponents over its perceived value has been a chimera – there is no help for patients down the FC path. Propelled by anger, it is now time to shoot the messengers.

  2. theoon 01 Jul 2008 at 9:21 am

    You’re far more kind in your reply than I would have been…

  3. MKandeferon 01 Jul 2008 at 10:09 am

    Despite hearing the phrase, “scientists don’t know what they’re doing”, numerous times from cranks, I never thought to associate it with a false dichotomy. Usually I question, the response is the science isn’t “certain”, and then I must educate the woo proponent on the provisional nature of science. Labeling this as a false dichotomy gets to the point. I’ll have to borrow it for future debates. =D

  4. Blake Staceyon 01 Jul 2008 at 10:13 am

    You get much better hate mail than I do.

  5. superdaveon 01 Jul 2008 at 11:41 am

    This is an absolutely brilliant post. Concerning your detractor I don’t think there is much I can add, but I love how she criticizes scientists as arrogant on one side of her mouth and then tries to impress with her technobabbel through the other side. I do have a bit of expertise in neuroscience. I think you did an excellent job deconstructing this email but there is one obvious point I think you missed. The basis of her whole argument is anecdotal evidence based on two patients she knew. Basically it boiled down to “because person a wasn’t treated adequately, no people are.”. This is flat out wrong, but I am glad you pointed out the more specific reasons for her wrongness.

    Lately, this woman clearly did not come up with this information on her own, it has all the earmarks of rehearsed propaganda and I am willing to bet she got all this info from somewhere else and maybe in did a copy paste job. We need to find the sources for these false accusations against the medical community and shut these down. Take away the ammunition of the cranks.

  6. weingon 01 Jul 2008 at 12:20 pm

    As usual, an excellent post. I really like the false dichotomy part. Damn, it’s so obvious. Why didn’t I think of that? Thanks Steve, for your usual brilliance.

  7. mattdickon 01 Jul 2008 at 12:44 pm

    Here’s a test for expertise my father taught me years ago:

    If you are generally intelligent and interested in a topic, but you can not understand what you are being taught, the person explaining it to you either does not know what they are talking about, or they don’t *want* you to know what they are talking about.

    In this case, I was interested in the topic, and I have a general intelligence.

    What I found interesting was the contrast between Holly’s and Steve’s posts. Holly and he used the same terms to discuss neurology, pathology, cognition, etc. In the case of Holly’s post, I was often confused and had to look up words and had to reconstruct her sentences to make sense of what she was saying. In Steve’s case I was able to understand what he was telling me without a tortured reconstruction.

    The additional layer of subtlety, which contains the real gem of eduction in this whole affair is that Holly was trying to make a simple argument and was hard to understand, and Steve was trying to make a nuanced and more complicated argument as easier to understand.

    Clarity and simplicity are not the same thing, and one’s approach to one with language, and the other with concepts reveals a tremendous amount about the intent and ability of the writer.

    Now the question is, did I convey what was try to convey well enough that you all understood it?

  8. jimon 01 Jul 2008 at 1:23 pm

    I often read and don’t comment but I really must just say thanks for taking the time to make such complex issues understandable to the lay person. I look forward to reading many more such posts.

  9. Jeremyon 01 Jul 2008 at 1:24 pm

    superdave said:

    The basis of her whole argument is anecdotal evidence based on two patients she knew. Basically it boiled down to “because person a wasn’t treated adequately, no people are.”.

    To be a little more precise it boiled down to “because a person wasn’t, in her opinion, treated adequately, no people are.” No information was supplied that would allow for anyone to verify whether these people recieved adequate treatment or not so all we have to go on is her opinion.

    Further, she does not offer any time frame of when these people were supposedly inadequately treated, it could have been yesterday or it could have been twenty years ago, so she may also be trying to disparage today’s neurological practices by comparing them to the practices a decade or more ago. This is a common method of attack with psuedoscience. Just look at the autism/ vaccination people or the creationists. Generally speaking, they are not experts in the fields they disparage so it is unsurprising that their knowledge, which is usually limited, is not up to date. Unfortunately, the same goes for those they try to convince which is why they gain so much traction.

  10. Michelle Bon 01 Jul 2008 at 2:08 pm

    Good post, very informative.

    Mattdick, excellent comment for putting into words what I was thinking while reading this post.

    Holly’s content has no substance, and her careless, messy, disjointed use of language adds an additional headache-producing punch. No content, no style. Ugh.

  11. BAon 01 Jul 2008 at 2:24 pm

    SN says:
    I want people with all kinds of neurological impairments and challenges to be helped by methods that actually work – ones that are based upon science, not wishful thinking and sloppy logic.

    Here, here! The FC proponents profer the arguments Holly uses but the stated purpose of FC is to allow communication for those who are able to communicate but cannot vocalize. Blinding the facilitator to content has definitively proven that FC does not free the communication from the constraints of a person’s disorder. As one who teaches persons with developmental delays to communicate, it is painfully obvious that we are not unlocking the cabinets once we teach the child their first few communicative responses. In practice one initially focuses on establishing requests because the consequence of the verbal exchange allows the person access to things we verify that they want access to. It is usually only once we are able to produce commenting that verbal behavior starts to expand rapidly beyond instruction (and this does not happen with everyone).

    One minor quibble though, many of us tend to prefer using the term vocal for speaking (non-vocal for those that do not talk) and verbal for communication more generally. For instance, a hearing-impaired person is often non-vocal but completely proficient verbally. Even our most impaired students tend to communicate in some fashion without instruction but others generally do not clearly understand the communicative intent. The job of the teacher is then to capitilize on the best match of communicative strategies (vocal, gestures/sign, picture-based, touch talkers, etc.) between the student and the verbal community with the ultimate goal of teaching the student to speak (and listen, verbal behavior is a two-way street).

  12. JustinWilsonon 01 Jul 2008 at 3:27 pm

    Steve – Excellent post. You are a wonderful teacher of logic and critical thinking. Thank you for that.

    Mattdick – Your comment is well put.

  13. DevilsAdvocateon 01 Jul 2008 at 3:47 pm

    Dr. Novella does an excellent job of selecting representative crank posts for deconstruction rather than tedious (for him and us) post-by-post refutations as other bloggers soemtimes do.

    What others are describing as a false dichotomy I had always seen as plain old hypocrisy, the practice of eschewing and denigrating all things science – unless some bit of science seems to support their particular slice of woo. Then it (and only it) is held aloft as Proof Postive: “I damn any science which refutes me and laud any science which supports me.” It’s a ‘file drawer’ sort of intellectual dishonesty.

  14. w_nightshadeon 01 Jul 2008 at 4:39 pm

    Well said, DevilsAdvocate. My favourite thing about Dr. Novella is his preference to teach about argument and debate, rather than simply participate in them. Argument is not one of my inherent skill sets, and I deeply appreciate all the resources (up to and including this post) provided by Dr. Novella and his colleagues.

  15. DevilsAdvocateon 01 Jul 2008 at 5:26 pm

    Resource for w_nightshade (and thank you):

    http://www.martinricher.net/part3logicalfallacies.html

  16. Algaeon 01 Jul 2008 at 5:50 pm

    Mattdick, I absolutely love the test for expertise that your father taught you! Here it is again:

    “If you are generally intelligent and interested in a topic, but you can not understand what you are being taught, the person explaining it to you either does not know what they are talking about, or they don’t *want* you to know what they are talking about.”

    May I please adopt it into my own repertoire of wisdom?

  17. daedalus2uon 02 Jul 2008 at 7:59 am

    Algae and Mattdick, be careful. I like that heuristic too, but it is only a heuristic. A lecture on advanced quantum mechanics is not something I would understand well. Neither would I understand a lecture on 12th century art techniques. I would be able to analyze the style of the arguments and the information to see if it fit together.

    Communication takes two parties, a problem in communication can occur on either end. The human tendency is to always externalize and blame the other for any problem in communication.

    The Creationists can’t understand evolution because they don’t want to understand it. They have purposefully blocked their ability to think outside their religious beliefs. That is true for most cranks. They have adopted a rigid and arbitary belief system which they can’t think outside of even when it is clearly wrong.

  18. Oracon 02 Jul 2008 at 8:00 am

    Holly also demonstrates the true arrogance of those who equate their tangential knowledge with expertise.

    Prometheus did a fantastic post on this very issue, labeling this tendency the “arrogance of ignorance.”

  19. mattdickon 02 Jul 2008 at 9:55 am

    Algae: “May I please adopt it into my own repertoire of wisdom?”

    Yes, you are more than welcome to.

    daedalus2u: “Communication takes two parties…”

    Agreed, there is no question that like any heuristic it has its limits. But the point is a good one, that an expert often clarifies while a dilettante obscures.

  20. thethymeon 02 Jul 2008 at 10:22 am

    Great Post and a wonderful example/exercise on how to spot logcal fallacies. I really appreciate the post and read through it a couple of times. Thank you for all you do.

  21. aatishon 03 Jul 2008 at 5:14 am

    Wow. You are my new hero. That was an incredible detailed, informative and patient takedown. I wish I could have the kind of patience that you do when dealing with this kind of mumbo jumbo, but I often just give up in frustration.

    There’s a cectic comic that kind of explains my frustration: http://cectic.com/069.html

  22. arthurgoldenon 03 Jul 2008 at 7:13 am

    1. Dr. Steven Novella writes:

    “FC [Facilitated Communication] makes a specific claim – that the non-verbal client has hidden language ability that can be tapped into with help. I have nothing a priori against this claim – I just recognize that it is important to find out if it is really true, in general and in specific cases. This is especially important if allegations of sexual abuse are going to be based upon this assumption.

    The claim of FC, (again – in general and in specific cases) can easily be tested – simply give specific information to the client while the facilitator is out of the room, then allow the facilitator to use FC in whatever way they feel comfortable to convey that information back. No walls are necessary, no artificial controlled environment. The only thing that needs to be controlled is the access of the facilitator to the information you are testing for. When tested in this simple way, FC completely fails. A rational response to this utter failure is to question the assumptions underlying FC. An irrational, ideological, arrogant response is to rant about “cold and adversarial testing.””

    2. The above statement from Dr. Novella is very logical, but does that make it really true? At least with severe autism, is Dr. Novella correct when he states that “The claim of FC … can easily be tested?” Or, as I wrote over three months ago, but did not attempt to explain then, is the proposed test of FC instead really a test of autism? I wish I had a peer-reviewed scientific study to support my explanation, but I will attempt to give the information I have and leave it to qualified scientists to do the scientific study if they are willing to do so.

    3. As I did disclose before, my now 36 year-old son Ben, who is non-verbal with severe autism, did have a reliable physically independent point response sometime before he was 11 years old. If given one row of several objects or pictures and asked to point to a named object or picture, he could reliably physically independently point with his index finger. However, I believe that if Ben was shown an object or picture by Person A in one room and then was asked by Person B (who did not know what was shown to Ben) in another room to point to the object or picture which was included in one row of several objects, I believe (but I do not have actual scientific data) that he could not do so. But such a conclusion is consistent with my actual experience with my son. Of course, if my son Ben could not do so with his reliable physically independent point response, neither could he do so when asked to spell out the name of the object he was shown in one room by Dr. Howard Shane on May 3, 1994 (at age 22) when I was the facilitator and did not know the object he was shown. So, can the claim of FC be so easily tested, or did Dr. Shane, definitely an expert in the language skills of persons with autism, design a test that any person with severe autism would fail, as did Augustus at an earlier time when Dr. Shane used this same test because of allegations of sexual abuse?

    4. Before this comment gets too long, if any qualified scientist wishes to pursue this matter, I will be glad to dsiclose more information.

    Arthur Golden of Jerusalem Israel

  23. cuervoon 06 Jul 2008 at 8:30 am

    It always gives me a chuckle when I see
    “science” in quotes like that. Why didn’t she put the familiar ‘so-called’ in front?

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