Archive for March, 2010

Mar 02 2010


The Diagnostics Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, a much maligned document, is in the midst of its fourth major revision (the DSM-IV will be replaced by the DSM-V). This process has been going on for over a decade. The revisions are now being made public in order to have a two year period of public comment and debate about the details of the revisions.

This has led to a new round of criticism of the DSM, and through it psychiatry, from those who either do not sufficiently understand, in my opinion, the nature of psychiatric diagnosis, and from those who are anti-psychiatry because of ideology (Scientologists, for example).

At the extreme end of criticism are those who deny the very existence of anything that can be called mental illness. I have already dealt extensively with their arguments, and won’t repeat them here. But even those are not so extreme fall into some of the same logical fallacies when criticizing mental diagnoses. Recently George Will, for example, wrote an editorial which I think confuses medical diagnoses with taking moral positions (I will get to his commentary below).

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Mar 01 2010

Armchair Skeptics

Published by under Skepticism

I am often asked if skeptics and skeptical organizations should undertake first-hand investigations. Of course, it depends upon what your goals are. But I think the question can be re-phrased to mean – is there any value or benefit to first hand investigation, and to this the answer is a definite “yes.”

But this is not to denigrate the value of skeptical review from the comfort of your computer chair. This kind of activity has sometimes been referred to as “armchair skepticism” – meant to be derogatory. While I see the value in going out into the field, armchair skepticism has a valuable and complementary role to play.

In fact, these two activities mirror what real scientists do, and are roughly analogous to peer-review vs experimental replication.

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