Feb 14 2013

Politics Trumping Science at the NHS

David Colquhoun is a tireless supporter of science-based medicine in the UK. He has used freedom of information requests to great effect in exposing all sorts on nonsense and CAM-based mayhem. Most recently he has exposed a disturbing episode of politics trumping science in the National Health Service (NHS), specifically the website NHS-Choices which is a forum for educating the public about health decisions and empowering their informed consent.

Unfortunately NHS-Choices has recently fallen victim to politically pressuring with respect to their entry on homeopathy. In my experience most academic and government outlets for explaining medical information to the public do a generally good job – except when it comes to CAM, then they fail miserably.  There seems to be three main reasons for this. The first is that most academics and scientists do not understand pseudoscience in general or CAM in particular. They are simply naive about what it actual is and how it operates. Second (and deriving from the first), in such situations they are happy to turn over responsibility for CAM entries to the “experts,” which means proponents. Proponents will even convince the naive academics that “skeptics” are biased and their input should be avoided.

The third factor is the one apparently at work here – political pressure from proponents combined with the desire to avoid controversy. Giving the public accurate information about health care choices seems to get lost in the calculation.

David now brings us a dramatically clear example of the latter. The NHS Choices page on homeopathy used to contain some clear language about the evidence. David goes over the history in more detail, but briefly – the original NHS Choices page on homeopathy looked like it was written by a homeopath. It was soundly criticized and as a result was removed pending revision. David was sent the draft of the revision, which included the following section:

Does it work?
Many independent experts would respond to this question ‘no, homeopathy does not work’

There is no good quality clinical evidence to show that homeopathy is more successful than placebo in the treatment of any type of condition.

A placebo is the unusual but well-documented psychological effect that sometimes occurs when a person is given a ‘dummy’ medication, such as a sugar pill. They feel better after taking the pill because they think that they are being given real medication.

Furthermore, if the principles of homeopath were true it would violate all the existing theories of science that we make use of today; not just our theory of medicine, but also chemistry, biology and physics.

Then the revision went through political review. During this process, according to The Guardian, Prince Charles’ charity for promoting CAM got involved.  

On 29 December, a letter was sent from the foundation to the department expressing strong feelings about a draft document. “It was just a bit horrifying as it was not only anti-complementary medicine and patients who might use it but clearly drawn up by someone who had no knowledge of this field and was largely factually incorrect,” said the letter.

The above criticism of homeopathy disappeared from the final draft. More evidence of meddling reported by David and reproduced by The Guardian:

The documents reveal subsequent changes to Mattin’s draft by DH officials. The draft stated: “A House of Commons science and technology report said that homeopathic remedies perform no better than placebos and that the principles on which homeopathy is based are ‘scientifically implausible’.”

That critique disappeared. A comment in the margin, apparently from somebody in the department, says: “Can we remove this statement? This report is really quite contentious and we may well be subject to quite a lot of challenge from the homeopathic community if published.”

That is smoking gun evidence of politics trumping science and evidence, and the concerns of the public. The NHS was more worried about the homeopathy community than the public they were entrusted to accurately inform.

The current page on homeopathy is a neutral and worthless bag of evasion. It contains many of the typical weasel phrases like, “practitioners believe,” “the central principle,” and “homeopathy is based on a series of ideas.” The word “evidence” is not even used until the very end, and then only to provide links to pro and con external sites. The page itself makes no comment about the evidence or the science of homeopathy.

In other words – it completely fails to honestly and accurately inform the public about the fact that the evidence overwhelming indicates that homeopathy does not work, and that homeopathy violates numerous basic laws of science.

This, of course, is not the first or only case of misguided political correctness trumping science and honesty, but it is, perhaps, the best documented case. Thanks to David Colquhoun for bringing it to light.

90 responses so far

90 thoughts on “Politics Trumping Science at the NHS”

  1. juga says:

    The Francis Report published last week told of “thousands of patients being cruelly neglected and 400 others, possibly many more than that number, dying dreadful deaths that could have been avoided if only the hospital had been functioning properly” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-21351031). This was just one hospital out of many in the NHS, but it was offering science-based medical treatment, not CAM.

    Is it surprising if many people don’t think the overriding factor in deciding the relative risk of different treatments is the degree to which they are science-based?

  2. Cow_Cookie says:

    @juga That’s like saying because people in developing nations die from vaccines we shouldn’t worry about whether vaccines really cause autism. The first clause is certainly a problem, but it isn’t related to the other question — except in that the lack of science-based treatments misallocates resources and causes further suffering and “dreadful deaths that could have been avoided.”

  3. juga – that is a complete non sequitur. From the same article:
    “Equally the Conservatives will be focussing on the target-driven agenda imposed by the then Labour government which they say put undue pressure sure on managers to slash budgets and cut staffing levels in pursuit of NHS Foundation Trust status. ”

    How does a problem with understaffing and slashed budgets have anything to do with the scientific basis of the treatments themselves?

    The most expertly executed pseudoscientific treatment is still worthless. A science based treatment that is safe and effective also requires competent administration. If the administration fails, that does not impugn the treatment, let alone science-based treatments in general.

    And none of this has anything to do with the legitimacy of homeopathy as a treatment. It is still worthless pseudoscience and magic sugar pills.

  4. ccbowers says:


    So just because harm can occur for reasons other than the scientific basis for treatments, you conclude that scientific basis for treatments is unimportant? Really?

  5. SARA says:

    I’d like to know if anyone really argued over this issue within NHS, or it was hotly argued.

    Because that likely answers where the problem is.

    If it was just a ‘I don’t care and am just doing my job so when someone else points out something that could be different I just do it’ attitude, then there is a systemic problem.
    But if it was hotly argued, then one person with power made a decision to solve the debate and forced that to be written that way.
    The second one is easier to identify and fix.

  6. cannotsay2013 says:

    Isn’t this exactly the same situation as with psychiatry worldwide? Meaning, the evidence for the effectiveness of psychiatry is the same as homeopathy. Homeopathy at least is completely innocuous, it doesn’t kill anybody. Psychiatry, on the other hand, “helps” its victims by shortening their lifespans 10-25 years on average http://www.amazon.com/Anatomy-Epidemic-Bullets-Psychiatric-Astonishing/dp/0307452425 . Mr Novella, I cannot take your outrage seriously with respect to homeopathy until you express a similar outrage with respect to psychiatry.

  7. cannotsay2013 says:

    Here is the best way to understand the psychiatric lie, meaning, the claim that behavioral issues can be, and are best, addressed by medication despite the fact that the APA admits that there is no biological marker that can be reliably linked to presence or absence of so called “mental disease”. This is not surprising.

    Let’s begin the argument by giving psychiatry the dogma that human mental functions are solely caused by brain chemistry (which is a lot to give because that leaves little room for theories about the soul, free will and stuff). But just for the sake of argument, let’s agree that mental activity is caused by brain chemistry. The type of interventions advocated by biopsychiatrists do not address anything.

    The best way to see why is to make the analogy with computers which, despite all technological advances are still less complex than the average human brain. Computers have both hardware and software. It is an indisputable fact that if you take a computer you don’t see the software anywhere, all you see is that the software is encoded in the computer’s hardware in the form of abstract zeros and ones (these zeros and ones are to software what the neurons are to brain activity). Software malfunctions take all forms and shapes. One of the most insidious, and difficult to fix, are the so called memory leaks, by which software takes increasingly memory in spite of doing nothing useful -the cause is that dynamic memory is not deallocated when it is not useful anymore. You can see that your machine slows down, that your Windows/MacOSX/Linux is slower than normal. You can temporarily fix the problem by adding more memory to the machine (more neurons so to speak). You could even put your X rays to work and pretend that you see “patterns” in the machine’s memory when the slowness appears. You might even be lucky and submit the RAM of the machine to some ECT sessions and by some random chance, the software problem gets fixed. However, as any software engineer will tell you, the right way to address a memory leak is not to do random hardware interventions in the computer in hopes that things get fixed but investigating the source code of the program, find the problem and recompile. In other words, the right solution is to reprogram the computer/brain.

    So this analogy is perfect to describe the situation we are faced when talking about biopsychiatrists. Biopsychiatrists are hardware engineers who think can fix software problems (in fact, who have the hubris to tell us which software is better despite knowing nothing about software) through hardware interventions. Such hardware engineers would be fired in the computer industry in a second. In the medical industry, they are called psychiatrists and given all sorts of unjustified powers to force their quackery onto innocent victims.

  8. Dmitri says:

    I think it’s telling that they were afraid of the backlash from homeopaths, but not from the science-based community. We need to figure out what we can do to be more vocal and politically powerful.

    I understand where popularity of alternative methods comes from – hope for a cure with few side effects, general distrust of pharmaceutical industry, general distrust of medical profession, naturalistic fallacy, etc. We need to work to educate the public and apply pressure to politicians and regulators.

    We may not be able to completely discredit these CAM practitioners, but we should be able to relegate them to the same status as psychics and shamans now enjoy.

  9. Dmitri says:

    Cannotsay. I think your analogy is less than perfect, but let’s go with it.

    It would be incredible if we had the technology to reverse engineer human brain, recognize function and structure of every component and then reprogram those we deem to be malfunctioning. (Sidestepping immense ethical questions here.)

    No such technology exists, of course. Not even close. We probably won’t have it for hundreds of years, if ever. It’s not even clear if such technology is even possible, because the “software” that runs human brain is certainly nothing like a program you can write in a procedural or even object oriented language.

    So yes, we are forced to resort to trial and error, we sometimes use tools that seem to be working, even though we don’t fully understand why. But it’s better than nothing. Plenty of depressed people are alive now because they were given medicine that admittedly isn’t perfect. Plenty of people with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, ADD, psychosis can have productive lives because there are medications that do work, imperfect as they may be.

    So yes, if we could deconstruct human brain into a C++ program we could do more, faster, with better precision and fewer side effects. But this is not happening any time soon, so we have to do with the tools we have right now.

  10. cannotsay2013 says:


    The analogy is less than perfect to be sure, but it is no less powerful. In fact, the things that you mention only add to the case against psychiatry since the human brain is something several orders of magnitude more complex than the computer systems of today for which no sane engineer would trust a hardware engineer in fixing software problems. I remind you that psychiatry does not claim to fix neurological problems like Alzheimer’s (that’s the realm of neurologists) but mental activity, which is, for all practical purposes “software”.

    This idea that psychiatry is better than nothing is laughable as is your contention that “plenty of depressed people are alive now because they were given medicine that admittedly isn’t perfect. Plenty of people with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, ADD, psychosis can have productive lives because there are medications that do work, imperfect as they may be. ”

    In fact the scientific reality is perhaps the opposite. I encourage you to either read or listen to one of Bob Whitaker’s talks on his book referenced above “The Anatomy of an Epidemic” such as this one http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtM1R2CKB30 . The massive use of psychiatric drugs has shortened the lifespan of people by 10 to 25 years on average. The FDA was forced by the evidence in 2004 to include a Black Box Warning that antidepressants increase the risk of suicide in young people. In the early 1990s Elli Lilly did an unprecedented PR campaign to prevent that even though by then there was plenty of evidence of this increase in suicide risk (we know now that it had secretly settled a case of Prozac induced violence in that 1989 shooting in Stockton, CA). Of course, to this day and age, psychiatrists bribed by Big Pharma dare to spin the studies in unbelievable ways (spins that get published in peer review literature) to claim that antidepressants do not cause that. Each and every single one of the infamous mass shooters in recent memory had been or was, at the time of the shooting, on psychiatric drugs: the Virginia Tech guy, the Aurora guy and yes, the Sandy Hook guy.

    As Jerry Cyone beautifully summarizes in his debunking of psychiatry http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2011/06/25/is-medical-psychatry-a-scam/

    “personal testimony that a drug has “helped” a person is not the same thing as positive results in a double-blind study. Many people claim that they have been helped by homeopathic medicine or other “cures” that can’t be documented scientifically. The placebo effect (which must be operative in homeopathy) is well documented.”

    And yet, the damaging effects of psychiatric drugs, and the psychiatric labeling is well documented and goes beyond “anecdotal evidence”.

    Psychiatry should be given the same consideration as homeopathy and other pseudoscientific endeavors. Make it optional for people, leave in the hands of insurers whether they want to cover it, but make it clear that there are no scientific basis whatsoever to justify biological psychiatry.

  11. cannotsay2013 says:

    Dimitry, this is the Prozac case,


    “An internal document purportedly from Eli Lilly and Co. made public Monday appears to show that the drug maker had data more than 15 years ago showing that patients on its antidepressant Prozac were far more likely to attempt suicide and show hostility than were patients on other antidepressants and that the company attempted to minimize public awareness of the side effects.”

    So please, leave the spin for another time. For a rational person it is clear that psychiatry not only does not have better scientific foundations than homeopathy or astrology, but in addition it causes more harm than good.

  12. Bill Openthalt says:


    Methinks you tar with too broad a brush. It is a fact that lots of superfluous prescriptions are written, and that many of the folks on anti-depressants would benefit more from practices like mindfulness training or simply meditation (and no, that doesn’t open a door for the soul, free will and all that stuff). The problem is that more often than not, these people are not interested in such solutions, and there is no way to force them. The same applies to all other fields of medicine, where doctors prescribe when the better solution would be to wait, or tell the patient to change their life style. Unfortunately, many patients are not looking for that kind of advice, and will get the pills they feel they need. This does not mean that people with genuine problems do not benefit from medical treatments (and that includes psychiatric medication). As someone with intimate exposure to people with psychiatric problems like psychoses and schizophrenia, I can assure you in these cases medication does make a difference.

    As far as your analogy with computers is concerned, the “chemistry” in the brain participates in the storage and transmission of the information. The information itself is not dependent on representation and the medium used to store it (a specific group of bytes on paper tape mean the same as those bytes on disk on in flash, even though their physical embodiment is completely different, and musical score in a musician’s memory is the same music as that score printed on paper), but defects in the medium affect the information, and it is either lost or damaged. Insofar as brain chemistry is involved in the storage of the information (and it is), problems with the chemistry will affect the quality of the information. If the brain cannot manufacture enough neurotransmitters because their chemical components are not available in the appropriate quantities and proportions, the brain will malfunction, just like a computer malfunctions when it doesn’t have clean power of the required voltages, even if the program in memory is correct.

    Obviously, problems with the program itself (logical errors, boundary conditions, etc) also lead to malfunctioning programs, and such errors are not dependent on the quality of functioning of the hardware. It is quite possible the brain has the wrong information, or routines that are not adapted to the circumstances. Contrary to computer programs, that hardly ever have the ability to diagnose and correct their own malfunctioning, the brain can and does fix such problems. It is when this mechanism does not work well enough to ensure a person functions acceptably, we surmise there might be something wrong with the hardware.

    No psychiatrist I know believes all mental problems can be solved through medication, but sometimes medication is remarkably effective.

  13. rezistnzisfutl says:

    Oo, looks like we have a conspiracy theorizing denialist in our midst. What to do; engage, ignore?

    I’m relatively new here, but I thought I remember there being another psychiatry denialist in a previous blog entry that took up a few hundred responses. I wonder if this is the same person?

    It’s interesting from a sociological point of view how similarly CAM proponents, anti-scientists of various sorts, creationists and religious apologists, and conspiracy theorists seem to come across. A definite commonality is a high degree of Dunning-Kruger…

  14. cannotsay2013 says:

    Bill Openthalt,

    Nothing of what you say refutes in any meaningful way my objections to psychiatry. As to person X being helped by drug Y, I remind you of Jerry Coyne’s quote, anecdotal evidence is not the same as positive results in a randomized, double blind study. For antidepressants, we have the data from these trials and the conclusion is inescapable, they are no more effective than placebos. That’s the fact. So I bet that if I were to give you an active placebo instead of Zyprexa or Risperdal you’d be just as fine (except that you wouldn’t suffer from the serious side effects nor you would have your life expectancy cut by 10-25 years).


    Again, your rebuttal are two logical fallacies combined: ad hominem attack and straw man (with that insidious accusation that I defend something like a conspiracy). There is no need to invent a conspiracy when something simpler does. To help you here, let’s talk for instance about how Americans’ demand for cheap electronics has led to these electronics being manufactured in China at factories where people work many hours in inhumane conditions. Is there a conspiracy of Americans against said workers? Of course not, it’s simpler, it’s human nature. They want cheap electronics, somebody offers them and these Americans couldn’t care less about how those electronics are made. With psychiatry we have pretty much the same story. Say that you are a student at a medical school and you know you are not good enough to be a surgeon or an oncologist. Most decent people would settle for primary practice and that would be the end of it. Then you have the aspiring psychiatrist. He is offered a field with shaky foundations, so shaky that pretty much anything goes and anything passes for good practice. They see the possibility of supplementing their incomes with generous bribes from Big Pharma for promoting their drugs. At the same time, Big Pharma has a way of making billions of dollars legally by engaging these shadowy “doctors”. Big Pharma wins, the psychiatrists win. Neither could care less about those who are on the receiving end of their practices, no more than the average American cares about the well being of those Chinese workers that manufacture their cheap electronics.

    Its’ really not that complicated: every serious attempt to validate psychiatric nonsense has ended up in failure (just as it happened to astrology with that Carlson study published in 1985 in Nature). And what my computer analogy shows is that they will indeed end up in failure because their basic hypothesis, that one can “cure” “software” issues with “hardware” interventions is ill-conceived. Then there is human greed on the side of Big Pharma and psychiatrists (something that is not exclusive to either, it’s just that psychiatry is a perfect way to channel it given its pseudoscientific nature). So you have the perfect cocktail.

    This reminds me of something that I heard once from Steve Jobs during an interview. He was lamenting about the low quality of the highest rated TV shows. He said that those with a conspirationist edge liked to blame it on a government wide conspiracy to dumb down the American people because they preferred to believe that explanation than to accept the fact that the prime reason why those shows were so successful is that people genuinely wanted to watch them. In other words, the average American is not a Nobel Prize winner in Physics wondering constantly about the Theory of Everything. And that’s OK. With psychiatry we have a similar phenomenon. I do not deny that there are people in the anti psychiatry movement that believe in nonsensical conspiracy theories. I do not. I think that the combination human greed and political power as an explanation is just fine. Just as don’t have any problem being associated with the word “anti psychiatry”. I am in the same company as other “antis” of the past: anti slavery, anti apartheid, anti discrimination. I am on the right side of history. No human rights struggle has been easy and this one is no exception. Besides, the most important battles were won, at least in an American context, 30-40 years ago. That doesn’t mean that the situation is perfect (I dream with the day in which psychiatry will go the same way other similarly pseudoscientific endeavors, like eugenics, went in the past) but I acknowledge that we are past the environment in which the type of abuse that I endured in Europe is common place here. That said, just as civil rights activists didn’t give up with the 13-th amendment and they were relentless until the 1964 Civil Rights Acts was passed, I will not stop my engagement with the anti psychiatry community even if I do not agree with the reasons behind everyone in it.

    Finally, so you know, I have a doctoral degree from one of America’s finest universities in a hard scientific field. The type of reasoning that passes for “good” in psychiatry would be considered scientific misconduct in my field. Not only papers with such shaky reasoning would not be published in our specialized publications but their authors would be probably expelled from the professional ranks.

  15. rezistnzisfutl says:


    You need to learn what strawmen and ad homs are. I didn’t actually pose anything that would constitute either. A strawman would require me to argue against a proposition that you did not actually make, which I did not do. An ad hominem would be for me to attempt to negate your actual arguments at their granular levels by impugning your character or pointing out something about you rather than addressing the argument themselves. The thing is, I never even attempted to address any of your arguments, so your assertion that I committed strawmen or ad homs is incorrect.

    The fact is, you are denying the science and efficacy of psychiatry, and you are doing this by creating elaborate conspiracies of wrongdoing and collusion (among other things). That’s the only thing I was stating – that those things are the very definition of conspiracy theorizing and denialism.

    You should note that I have not qualified anything about psychiatry – I have not made my stance on psychiatry as a discipline known. YOU have, instead, created a strawman, by arguing against points that I never made. You just assumed that I was opposing you and ran with it.

  16. cannotsay2013 says:


    Of course you did. I am quoting you:

    – The ad hominem: “looks like we have a conspiracy theorizing denialist in our midst.”
    – The strawman, included in the above, that I have argued for some kind of “conspiracy”. I have not, not here, not anywhere else.

    The mental gymnastics, demagoguery actually, that you engage afterwards, probably prompted by your own embarrassment, disqualify themselves.

    My argument was not a straw man, was a rational defense against your accusation that I am a “conspiracy theorizing denialist”. If you don’t understand it, it’s your problem, not mine. As I said, other than my own doctoral education I make a living of out practicing true science, not pseudoscience.

    From that perspective, it’s very ironic that you prostitute the word “science” by mixing it with psychiatry. The scientific reality of psychiatry is this: the data and the scientific experiments show unequivocally that antidepressants are no better than placebos or psychotherapy (which onto itself is a form of placebo). There is no work around to that. Calling me a “denialist” will not make that inconvenient truth go away.

  17. cannotsay2013 says:


    Preemptive argumentation. Since I am sure that your next defense is going to be to engage in a Byzantine discussion about what “statistical significance” means in an attempt to disqualify the work of Irving Kirsch, I invite you to watch this enlightening talk by Charles Seife (particularly minute 30 and afterwards) so you understand the futility of such reasoning,


    Enjoy the talk.

  18. rezistnzisfutl says:

    The ad hominem: “looks like we have a conspiracy theorizing denialist in our midst.”

    That’s not an ad hom. I could call you many different names. I could insult you and otherwise verbally abuse you. I could make several references to your lineage. None of those would be ad hominems. An ad hominem would require me to source an argument of yours, then attempt to counter that argument by impugning you rather than addressing the argument itself. I never did that.

    The strawman, included in the above, that I have argued for some kind of “conspiracy”. I have not, not here, not anywhere else.

    No, that’s not a strawman because you DID involve conspirizing:

    Of course, to this day and age, psychiatrists bribed by Big Pharma dare to spin the studies in unbelievable ways…

    This is but one example out of many I spotted in your posts. You are putting asserting the existence of a conspiracy between psychiatrists and “Big Pharma” without citing any evidence other than vague references of other conspiracy theorists.

    One of the points I do intend on making is that it’s interesting how conspiracy theorists, among the others I listed in my first post, are prone to misunderstanding logic and erroneously accusing others of logical fallacies that don’t actually exist because of their misunderstandings.

  19. rezistnzisfutl says:


    Like with creationism or CAM, I have no interest in subjecting myself to the punishment of conspiracy videos until you as the claimant post relevant and compelling evidence of the existence of the conspiracies, much less the veracity of your initial claim.

    You misunderstand skeptics – we’re not denialists. We withhold judgement on any issue until compelling evidence of adequate standard is presented, especially when it comes to claims that are directly contrary to what we DO know. Considering that you are denying a field of study that has mountains of actual evidence backing it up with, well, nothing other than bald claims, there’s no reason to accept anything that you’re saying. In other words, most of us here have seen what you’ve presented already and rejected it due to the dearth of positive evidence as well as evidence to the contrary.

  20. cannotsay2013 says:


    It seems you only have a stomach for a “splitting hairs” discussion. I do not. People are smart, can judge by themselves whether you actually made an ad-hominem attack and a strawman (hint you did, you don’t see it because your own dogmatic biases prevent you from doing so).

    With respect to the conspiracy, I am not claiming any conspiracy whatsoever. A conspiracy is (it doesn’t bode well for you to take this to semantics),


    “A civil conspiracy or collusion is an agreement between two or more parties to deprive a third party of legal rights or deceive a third party to obtain an illegal objective”.

    I am not claiming such a thing. And to illustrate to you what I claim I gave you the examples of cheap electronics being manufactured in China. A conspiracy would require all these psychiatrists and Big Pharma executives to collude. I am not claiming that. They are not colluding, they are just following their own self-interest as to how to make a lot of money in legally approved ways. It’s the pseudoscientific nature of psychiatry that allows the scam to go on. This “profit” motivation also exists in the manufacturers of planes and airlines. Except that in the case of planes they have to deal with the law of gravity: no matter how you spin things, a plane that does not fly, will not give you any profit. Nor will a airline whose flights are constantly late would survive very long. The unscientific nature of psychiatry allows the psychiatric scam to channel this self interest in a way that perpetuates a situation that only benefits Big Pharma and psychiatrists. Again, if you don’t understand the reasoning, it’s your problem, not mine.

  21. cannotsay2013 says:


    It’s ironic that you claim to be an skeptic when you blindly believe psychiatry’s fantastic claims despite no scientific evidence whatsoever to their truth. From what I stand, I see no difference, when it comes to your gullible nature, between your “belief” in psychiatry and somebody who believes in “astrology”. Same arguments, same pseudocientific explanations: “I have friend who was greatly helped by X” (X=psychiatry, astrology). When ask you guys to show the data in a scientific way (ie, eliminating publication biases and adding all available data not only the cherry picked one that supports your point of view), we have Carlson’s study in astrology and Kirsch’s study on antidepressants. That’s the bottom line.

  22. cannotsay2013 says:


    And something else that doesn’t bode well for you it’s your open proclamation that you see things as an “skeptic” not in the sense of being “skeptic” about things for which there is little scientific evidence (such as psychiatry) but in the dogmatic sense akin to religion. You are a “skeptic” in the sense that you have a belief system and those who disagree with your belief system are automatically labelled as “denialists”. I am a skeptic in the first sense, which is why I don’t believe in astrology, homeopathy nor I believe in psychiatry.

    Psychiatry has made a set of scientifically testable hypothesis over the years. Each one of those that has been given a chance to be tested in a scientific matter has failed. It has claimed that the disorders that they list in their book of fiction known as DSM have biological basis. Yet the APA is on record saying that no biological marker has been identified as a reliable indicator of presence or absence of said disorders. It has claimed the efficacy of antidepressants but if failed to show any efficacy in scientifically controlled double blind studies. It has claimed that antidepressants are safe but the data says that they increase suicidal risk (and that they have all sorts of side effects, including physiological dependency). It has claimed that those labelled schizophrenic only hope is to be put on anti-psychotic medications but the Soteria experiment not only showed otherwise but it concluded that the long term outcome of those who were not put on anti-psychotic medications was better than that of those put on the drugs. One after another, every single one of psychiatry’s scientifically testable hypothesis have turned out to be wrong. The cumulative case against psychiatry is stronger than against homeopathy.

  23. embeetee says:


    Early on here you post “Psychiatry, on the other hand, “helps” its victims by shortening their lifespans 10-25 years on average “. That’s pretty a pretty breathtaking oversimplification, at the very best.

    The book was written by a science and history writer who questions whether an over-reliance on psychotropics over psychotherapy is a root cause of the physical ailments that are asserted to reduce life expectancy of those in the mental health care system in the US by “at least 25 years”. He discusses a program in place in Finland which relies on specific psychotherapeutic approaches (details too technical for me) and a significant reduction in a reliance on psychotropics but not a wholesale refusal to use medications. He cites reports of considerable improvement in their overall success in dealing with psychotic conditions (I’m not refuting the reports, I simply haven’t investigated far enough to satisfy even myself).

    The Finns aren’t blaming psychiatry for killing people. The Finns aren’t banning psychotropics. The Finns aren’t banning psychiatrists.

    The 25 year stat you quote comes from the Nation Association of State Mental Health Directors (here’s a presentation with details), which site also has the study(s). According to the presentation, the major reasons for the lifespan reduction are (to quote a slide)

    Largely Due to
    Preventable Medical Conditions
    Metabolic Disorders, Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes Mellitus
    High Prevalence of Modifiable Risk Factors (Obesity, Smoking)

    They then go on to indicate that *some* psychiatric medications contribute to the risk of these conditions.

    Would be really interesting to see a similar study in Finland comparing those in the general populace against those under care of the mental health system.

    As to efficacy, again you completely overstate the case that “every serious attempt to validate psychiatric nonsense has ended up in failure “.

    You also imply that psychiatrists are those who wanted to be ‘real’ doctors (surgeons and so on) but aren’t smart enough for that, and not honest enough to “settle” for being a GP. I think we’re back to breathtaking again. So these dumb, dishonest doctor-wannabes see easy money by “taking bribes” from evil pharmacare. BTW, your case for a good analogy between psychiatrists who supposedly knowingly and willingly harm their patients in return for “bribes” and the average American who you say doesn’t care how workers in Apple’s factories are treated? Simple and basic psychology refutes that, as does simple experience. It’s much harder to do harm to someone face to face, repeatedly and over time, without guilt, than it is to lack empathy for someone who is remote.

    We are a long way, however, from the original point of the blog entry on CAM.


  24. Cannotsay is parroting anti-psychiatry denialist propaganda. Just about none of what they say is correct or fair.

    One glaring example – he says that antidepressants are no better than placebo in treating depression. This is wrong. Antidepressants are clearly effective in treating major depression (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23235671 for example). There is controversy over its effects in treating mild to moderate depression, because depression studies have a large placebo effect and this tends to statistically overwhelm and biological effect for milder symptoms. Even if we grant that antidepressants are not significantly better than placebo for mild to moderate depression, they still clearly work for major depression.

    To twist this into saying that antidepressants are no better than homeopathy is deceptive propaganda.

  25. BillyJoe7 says:

    Cannotsay is exhibiting trolling behaviour. This post is about the NHS Choices entry on homoeopathy. He has blatantly hijacked it to present his view on psychiatry. May I suggest that the entire discussion be scrapped for being off topic.

  26. Bill Openthalt says:


    “The cumulative case against psychiatry is stronger than against homeopathy.”

    Homeopathy is based on assumptions that are physically impossible. There is no “case against homeopathy”, like there is no case against Harry Potter magic. Both are figments of someone’s imagination.

    Psychiatry cannot be more wrong than homeopathy. For it to be as wrong, it would need to posit a non-physical mind (which is what you seem to be doing).

  27. cannotsay2013 says:


    “It’s much harder to do harm to someone face to face, repeatedly and over time, without guilt, than it is to lack empathy for someone who is remote.”

    Please take a look at the Milgram and Zimbardo experiments. You’ll be surprised.

    Mr Novella,

    I would expect better from you than an ad-hominem attack. How pathetic. Again, missing the forest for the trees. The issue of the lack of efficacy of anti depressants has been discussed at large lately in the specialized literature. This study by Kirsch et al is the golden standard because it includes all the relevant data submitted by the drug companies to the FDA, including both negative and positive results: http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050045 . In other words, it excludes publication bias because by law these companies were required to submit all that info to the FDA. The negative results were obtained largely through Freedom of Information Act requests.

    Now, sure enough Big Pharma is not going to let it go easily, so they do what they know how to do best, cherry pick stats to boost their case. Up until it is shown that the data sources of the study you brought are of the same quality as Kirsch’s, ie both positive and negative no publication bias, it’s hard to believe that the conclusion is going to be different. Let’s put it that way, you want us to believe that data collected by some researchers in Germany is better than the data the drug companies supplied to the FDA to get approval for their drugs? If it is so good, how is that Big Pharma didn’t submit it to the FDA instead of the data they submitted that shows that antidepressants are no better than placeboes? Not very convincing, really.


    “Homeopathy is based on assumptions that are physically impossible”. I just provided an analogy with the inner workings of a computer, that doesn’t need to postulate the existence of the “mind”, to show why psychiatry’s postulates are just as ridiculous. And as I said, any serious attempt at testing scientifically psychiatry’s hypothesis has turned out the way Carlson’s study on astrology.

  28. cannotsay2013 says:

    For those who don’t want to bother researching,



    There was no need to invoke any conspiracy whatsoever in either case. That’s pure human nature. Not more, not less.

  29. Sawyer says:


    I have no idea if the PLOS analysis is any good but it at least shows your willing to look at published literature. In the future you might want to start with this sort of evidence instead of an incredibly sketchy analogy and an attitude towards our understanding of mental health that would make Scientologists blush. I’d guess a large number of readers of this blog agree with the idea that some drugs are over-prescribed, but you’ve already ruined all hope of a rational conversation.

  30. cannotsay2013 says:


    The PLOS study is considered THE study. In fact, the data used in it was previously used by another author in a study that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine also in 2008 http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMsa065779 “Selective Publication of Antidepressant Trials and Its Influence on Apparent Efficacy” “We found a bias toward the publication of positive results. Not only were positive results more likely to be published, but studies that were not positive, in our opinion, were often published in a way that conveyed a positive outcome. We analyzed these data in terms of the proportion of positive studies and in terms of the effect size associated with drug treatment. Using both approaches, we found that the efficacy of this drug class is less than would be gleaned from an examination of the published literature alone. According to the published literature, the results of nearly all of the trials of antidepressants were positive. In contrast, FDA analysis of the trial data showed that roughly half of the trials had positive results. The statistical significance of a study’s results was strongly associated with whether and how they were reported, and the association was independent of sample size. The study outcome also affected the chances that the data from a participant would be published. As a result of selective reporting, the published literature conveyed an effect size nearly one third larger than the effect size derived from the FDA data.”

    While the NEJM author was more politically correct than Kirsch, the conclusion is that antidepressants are no better than placebos in most cases and that the reason they appear in clinical guides is the bias present in published results. In those cases where there is “statistical significance” (and I refer you to the Charles Seife talk to see the futility of arguing along those lines), the explanation of a more powerful placebo effect makes more sense.

    As I’ve said, I have a better scientific training than Mr Novella (I went to better schools and I make a living out the type of science that is tested against the law of gravity) . Because I am a survivor of psychiatric abuse I have to make my case anonymously. So this idea that all of use who oppose psychiatry are scientologists is preposterous. My analogy is a valid analogy, it shows that biomedical psychiatry is built on a false model because of the complexity of human thinking. And the hardware/software dichotomy underscores psychiatry’s falsehood beautifully.

  31. Bill Openthalt says:


    “As I’ve said, I have a better scientific training than Mr Novella (I went to better schools and I make a living out the type of science that is tested against the law of gravity).”

    What a marvellous example of appeal to authority. It would seem that frequenting better schools and regularly testing the law of gravity do not automatically result in fallacy-free reasoning.

  32. Cannotsay – nowhere did I make an an hominem statement, so your claim that I did is a straw man (a fallacy fallacy).

    The very reference you cite to support your case supports mine. It concludes:

    “Drug–placebo differences in antidepressant efficacy increase as a function of baseline severity, but are relatively small even for severely depressed patients. The relationship between initial severity and antidepressant efficacy is attributable to decreased responsiveness to placebo among very severely depressed patients, rather than to increased responsiveness to medication.”

    If there were no effect at all, then the severity of initial symptoms and decreased placebo response would not make any difference. This would only be the case if there were some biological effect.

    Your false equivalency with homeopathy (in fact concluding that psychiatry is worse than homeopathy) reveals volumes about your analysis and apparent bias.

    It is also interesting that you think your background (somehow involving gravity) puts you in a better position to evaluate neuroscience than a background in neuroscience. Interesting.

  33. ccbowers says:

    “As I’ve said, I have a better scientific training than Mr Novella (I went to better schools and I make a living out the type of science that is tested against the law of gravity).”

    It is intellectual hubris to the point of embarassing yourself to think that you have a better understanding of a specialty outside of your expertise, just because you claim to have gone to “better schools,” or learned a difficult science. Its not even clear what type of science you mean when you say it “is tested against the law of gravity.” Are you a catapult maker? Or perhaps you make those hammer games (High Striker?) they use in fairs and carnivals?

    All kidding aside, a lack of respect for the knowledge specialists have in their field (even in fairly closely related fields) is a red flag for a person demonstrating the Dunning-Kruger effect.

    I’m not sure what kinds of abuses you have experienced, and I am sorry to the extent that you were harmed, but the actions of those individuals does not shed light on the broader issue at hand.

  34. cannotsay2013 says:


    You’ve made an ad hominem attack. People are smart, so I let readers judge by themselves.

    As I said, there has been a lot of discussion in the specialized literature about the conclusions that can be derived from the meta analysis on data obtained from the FDA. Where there is no argument is in the fact that big pharma, and the researchers that have been funded by those companies, have systematically published results in the scientific literature to convey an apparent efficacy of antidepressants that could not have been reached if all the data had been published. The selective publication of positive studies is the reason antidepressants appear as recommended in the clinical guides. So with that you have a circular reasoning. How do you know that antidepressants are effective? Because the clinical guidelines say so. Why do they say so? Because of publishes bias data!

    Probably the most infamous study that belongs to the category of fake studies is the so called study 329 that was ghostwritten by an specialized PR company hired by GSK then signed by Martin Keller (the study was cited in the evidence presented last summer by the Department of Justice to fine GSK with 3 billion dollars to settle both civil and criminal complaints). To this day the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry refuses to retract the study despite the fact that it has been shown that the data does not support the efficacy of Paxil to treat depression in children and adolescents, that it increases suicidal risk in said population and that it was ghostwritten.

    With respect to the conclusion of the NEJM author, I said that he was more politically correct.

    As to whether that relationship that you mention is due to placebo or not, I take more seriously the analysis of an expert in placebos, such as Irving Kirsch, than somebody who is not an expert in placebos. Kirsch’s theory that the statistically significant, although not clinically significant according to 2008 NICE guidelines, response in the extreme cases of depression has to do more with the greater strength of the placebo effect due to the side effects of SSRIs makes perfect sense. Those with a more severe depression might have reached the conclusion that they were not taking the SSRI, given the absence of side effects, and the placebo effect stopped being useful. The fact remains that the placebo effect is huge and that those improvements detected in the severely depressed are small relative to the baseline of placebo. So even in that case, there is no question that the bulk of the improvement is due to a sizable placebo response. Where there is an argument is about how to explain the small difference in the case of severely depressed individuals. Obviously, big pharma is going to spin matters in a way that lets them continue with a business that gives them several billion dollars.

    With respect to my background and your background. Sorry if I hurt your feelings, but the fact is that I went to better schools than you did and that I make a living out the science that is tested by the law of gravity not by shaky assumptions about what human thinking is. Neuroscience is about “hardware” not “software” and you should know that.

    As I mentioned earlier, and those willing to listen instead of throwing insults about me being a troll, there are many scientists with impeccable credentials, including psychiatrists, that have raised the same issues that I have, including within your so called “skeptic movement” Jerry Coyne.


    What I said to Novella applies to you as well. And please, don’t make me laugh about the Dunning-Kruger effect. It’s precisely the dogmatic “skeptics” that suffer from it more than anybody else. They dogmatically put in the same bag AIDS denialists and people like me, or Jerry Coyne, that have a valid intellectual argument against psychiatry. In another thread Novella complained that big names in science stayed away from “skeptic” conferences. It’s hardly surprising. These “big names”, I happen to know quite a few, know better than to associate themselves with self appointed gatekeepers of science that have little knowledge of the issues they talk about in many cases.

  35. cannotsay2013 says:


    And regarding the abuses that I, and others, have suffered at the hands of psychiatry. That is the crux of the problem. It cannot be separated from the other issues that I have raised. I have no problem with people using psychiatric services in the same way they use homeopathic services. Some insurance companies even cover those. Make them voluntary. Those who want to go by the psychiatric nonsense should do it at their one peril and willingly. The problem with psychiatry is that it is used as an abusive tool to both deprive people from their constitutional rights (coercive psychiatry) as well as to deprive victims from the justice they deserve (with the nonsensical “insanity defense”).

    Here in the US we are lucky that there is SCOTUS case law (primarily Donaldson v. O’Connor (1975) and Addington v Texas (1979) ) that limits psychiatry’s ability to do damage. Although it is an outrage that you if you are labelled as “mentally ill” the standard to lock you in because of dangerousness is lowered from “beyond reasonable doubt” to “clear and convincing evidence”, it is still better than the lack of safeguards in the country where I was civilly committed. In that country you don’t even have to dangerous to anybody (or yourself), a psychiatrist says that you need to be locked in, and that’s it! The end result is that most psychiatric (though not all) abuse in the US is concentrated in foster children, the elderly and criminals. This is another piece of evidence that psychiatry is not medicine, it’s about control and economics.

  36. BillyJoe7 says:

    Steven Novella: “Cannotsay is parroting anti-psychiatry denialist propaganda”

    Cannotsay: “You’ve made an ad hominem attack”

    An “ad hominem” is where, instead of attacking your opponents argument, you attack the character flaws of your opponent that are irrelevant to his argument. Steven Novella did not do this. He accurately characterised you as parroting anti-psychiatry propaganda, and that character flaw of yours is directly relevant to your argument. He then followed up with an example of where you have indeed parroted anti-psychiatry propaganda. Finally, he demonstrated that the anti-psychiatry propaganda you were parroting is false.

    Seems like a well rounded argument to me.

  37. eiskrystal says:

    I remember when this article was about homeopathy…

    Ah, the good old days.

    The idea that royal celebrities and their pet projects can decide NHS policy in direct contradiction of our science and knowledge is a deeply disturbing one. You would think people would be a lot less spineless when faced with “a strongly worded letter”.

  38. jwalms2 says:


    Reveal your background or stop posting about it. People are smart, let the readers judge, 1) whether it matters, 2) if your schools are “better”, 3) whether your gravity related employment matters.

  39. ccbowers says:

    How is the quality of the school anyone goes to relevant to the quality of an argument a person is making? Of course it isn’t, but perhaps if their respective schools were making the arguments it could be in the discussion. Even the vague references to his background are enough to demonstrate that they are not relevant to this issue.

    Cannotsay2013, you shouldn’t laugh at the Dunning-Kruger effect, because its clearly on display here. You say that skeptics are prone to it? That is of course true (no group is immune from cognitive biases), but that point is a nonsequitur (something you are apparently fond of). You are clearly biased by your personal experiences that were influenced by the action of people, not an entire discipline.

  40. cannotsay2013 says:


    I don’t have a stomach for a splitting hairs discussion. Novella made an ad-hominem attack. His first attempt at making something akin to a rational argument resulted in him citing a biased study that supports his point of view but that contradicts the only serious study that exists on the matter. So! Again, people are smart enough (or should be smart enough) to decide by themselves.


    I have already said what happened and, because of the stigma associated with psychiatry, I am not saying anything else. See, few people are stigmatized after being hospitalized for treatment of cancer.

    Why I work in a field where the veracity of its postulates is tested by real science matters? Because of something called “physics envy”. You can Google what that terms means. A lot of the defenses of psychiatry and homeopathy are built on that concept.


    Of course the background matters. Given that you brought it in the first place, the Dunning-Kruger effect might make some of the staunchest dogmatic skeptics, who lack the appropriate training, believe that Novella’s arguments are like the word of God. They are not -even he admits that his “movement” is not attracting big names in science. Somebody has a problem here and it cannot be the case that those big names are the problematic ones. There are many scientists and doctors with impeccable credentials that have echoed my arguments. The most recalcitrant so called “skeptics” are people without a background in science or with a background in humanities that limit themselves to repeat “mantras” and to mimic what looks like scientific reasoning. To the untrained eye might seem impressive. To the expert, it’s just pathetic.

  41. steve12 says:

    cannotsay said:

    “Finally, so you know, I have a doctoral degree from one of America’s finest universities in a hard scientific field.”

    But he also said this, followed by a facile computer analogy:

    “Let’s begin the argument by giving psychiatry the dogma that human mental functions are solely caused by brain chemistry (which is a lot to give because that leaves little room for theories about the soul, free will and stuff).”

    Most scientists I know, even if they didn’t study the brain, don’t make amateurish nonsense statement like this.

  42. cannotsay2013 says:


    “Most scientists I know, even if they didn’t study the brain, don’t make amateurish nonsense statement like this.”

    I agree, I just made that assumption to show the falsehood behind the medical psychiatric model. What I showed is that EVEN if we agree that “human mental functions are solely caused by brain chemistry” the type of interventions advocated by psychiatry (medications, ECT, lobotomy) don’t have the potential to fix anything only to cause further damage (as they regularly do).

  43. BillyJoe7 says:


    “I don’t have a stomach for a splitting hairs discussion. Novella made an ad-hominem attack.”

    It’s not a matter of splitting hairs, it’s a matter of understanding the meaning of the “ad hominem” fallacy, and if you can’t be bothered to do that, then you should refrain from levelling that accusation against anyone.

  44. steve12 says:

    ‘EVEN if we agree that “human mental functions are solely caused by brain chemistry”

    Maybe I’m misunderstanding you.

    No one in neuroscience believes that cognition exists outside of the brain/CNS save for some low level functions are carried out int he PNS.

    So why the “EVEN”? Are you saying that there’s a soul or some such, and psychiatry/neuroscience should not be making such an assumption? I’m not clear on what you are saying.

  45. steve12 says:

    Ad hom is right behind slippery slope for most misunderstood dialectic fallacy.

  46. hadron says:

    Hey @cannotsay2013

    Settle a bet for me.

    Who was behind 9/11?

  47. cannotsay2013 says:


    As I said I don’t have the stomach for a splitting hairs discussion. Mr Novella’s only attempt to have a rational rebuttal, only after he threw his ad hominem first, was to cite a study that analyzed previously published data, missing completely the point of the two 2008 studies (NEJM and PLOS) that I cited. Nobody questions that psychiatry has been publishing in peer review literature positive studies (I don’t see how a meta analysis on them is going to change anything), the point of the two 2008 is that there was a severe publication bias that could only be corrected by asking the FDA for the RAW data that companies were legally required to submit to the FDA as part of the drug approval process, regardless of whether that data made it to the peer reviewed scientific literature. And what the so called study 329 shows is that IN ADDITION, said companies were able to publish studies giving the appearance of a positive result even though the underlying data did not support the conclusion. Now, one could say that psychiatry is not alone in pulling off this type of scams, however, and I point to the different scandals, psychiatry is overwhelmingly represented in this type of scandals. And the reason is very simple. While it is very straight forward to dispute whether drug X decreases the cholesterol level (do a cholesterol test, end of the story), the shaky nature of psychiatry makes this type of scams more prevalent in psychiatry.


    To be clear. While I have no doubt that most neuroscientists believe that the cells in the brain provide material support for human activity, I doubt that all of them, even most of them, believe that brain chemistry is the only cause of the higher functions of the intellect. And I don’t need to invoke any supernatural being to make that case. To make my case, when you take a computer with an operating system installed on it, the magnetic materials of the hard disk and the semiconductors in the memory system provide material support for the software. But that’s not what software is. The software is what a programmer (or a team of programmers) coded in source code (C, C++ or whatever), then compiled into a very long stream of 0s and 1s that gets encoded into the hard disk/semiconductor. Which is why fixing a memory leak via a hardware intervention is pretty much useless. There are even memory leaks for which adding more memory doesn’t even provide a temporary fix because the software will instantaneously take all available memory. So similarly, this idea that you can fix something as complex as feeling depressed by increasing the level of serotonin in the neuron synapse is ridiculous on its face (to make matters worse, psychiatry cannot even measure said level of serotonin or to provide a range of serotonin that could be called “normal”). Even being a hard core atheist, you have to admit that the programming of the “basic functions” of the brain is the result of millions of years of evolutionary process and that the “subjective functions” of one’s brain are the result of one own’s experiences over the years. That doesn’t mean that there cannot be genuine hardware malfunctions (like Alzheimer’s or in my analogy a short circuit in the memory chip) but that’s very different from a software problem of the kind psychiatry claims to fix.
    Hope you get it now :D.


    From all that we know , a group of around 20 terrorists, mostly from Saudi Arabia, loosely affiliated with AlQaeda, executing a plan masterminded by terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed at the request of the head of Al Qaeda, defunct terrorist Bin Laden. I don’t see what’s the point of your question, but that would be my most accurate description given the fact that there are many details that are not known, and probably will never be known, because the material perpetrators died in the attack.

  48. cannotsay2013 says:

    To explain how ridiculous the serotonin hypothesis sound, it’s like saying that changing the concentration of a dopant in a semiconductor (that alters the conducting properties of said semiconductor) can fix a memory leak or something similar to a memory leak. Completely preposterous. And yet, psychiatry has been making this type of fantastic and unscientific claims for a while.

  49. BillyJoe7 says:


    “As I said I don’t have the stomach for a splitting hairs discussion.”

    As I said, it’s not a splitting hairs discussion, it’s simply that you don’t understand the meaning of the “ad hominem” fallacy, in which case don’t use it.

  50. rezistnzisfutl says:

    Yes, he’s consistently misused the accusations of logical fallacies, which is a common theme with those aping, but not really understanding, skeptical speech.

  51. steve12 says:


    I think I understand what you’re saying. But I think your analogy is really rough. There is no discretely separable hardware and software in the brain, as tempting as the analogy may be. The software is what the hardware does. So in a real sense, cognition is nothing but the hardware, which can be wired flexibly in response to the environment to behave in some ways as we think of software.

    I don’t remember who said it (maybe many people), but what I like about science is that it can transcend analogy – you can go past what something is like and say what it is. Analogies can be great for understanding, but in this case this analogy is limiting and non-explanative. But tempting, I agree.

  52. elmer mccurdy says:

    Well, I’m in the mood to bite. The mood will pass, but… I understand about not feeding the trolls, but I’m guessing there’s a purpose to the trolling. I’ve been wrong about this sort of thing before…

    I believe the reason Dr. Novella responded the way he did is because cannotsay’s initial post included language suggesting he was parodying those who attack this site.

    I’m guessing that cannotsay knows there is an ongoing debate about antidepressants, and I’m guessing he knows there was a post (or a series of posts; my memory is faulty and I’m too lazy to check) on this issue a while back over at Science-Based Medicine, which had a very lengthy debate in comments. I think he does have some information on suppressed studies that post-dates the above, but again, I’m too lazy to double-check his comments. I’m guessing he knows that, whatever the legitimacy of the criticisms of antidepressants, that is not all there is to psychiatry.

    But now I can feel the mood passing…

  53. cannotsay2013 says:

    To those interested in splitting hairs, I really don’t have any time to waste on them. Good luck engaging somebody else.


    In the case of the brain, “software” is what we have learned from millions of years of evolution. That is encoded in our DNA which itself results in the brain. The analogy is almost perfect -with the only imperfection coming from the fact that a brain is several orders of magnitude more complicated than our most sophisticated computer. In the case of a computer you have the same situation, except that the computer can be programmed from scratch very quickly (who knows, maybe people will be able to be programmed as well in the future).

    We even have robots that can learn by themselves to do quite complicated stuff (comparatively speaking that is). No robotics engineer would think about fixing the learning problems of such robot by adjusting the conductivity of the transistors of its RAM.

  54. Bill Openthalt says:


    Your computer analogy is flawed. The brain is an information processing device, but that doesn’t mean it uses the same concepts as a binary stored program computer. Brains do not have programs or data stored as bits in a general-purpose memory device, used by a very small number of very fast, very complex processing units, but information encoded in chemically mediated connections between a humongeous number of fairly simple processing devices (neurons).

    A better model for the brain would be a analogue computer, where the wiring is the program, and voltage and current levels are meaningful.

    Anything that can be computed with an analogue device can be computed with a binary (or quantum, or neuronic) device, but the way in which the various technologies achieve the results is totally different, hence problems that are easy for one type of device are almost intractable for others. Similarly, implementation details, limitations and problems of one technology are irrelevant for other technologies.

  55. steve12 says:

    “In the case of the brain, “software” is what we have learned from millions of years of evolution.”

    That is encoded in our DNA which itself results in the brain. ”

    This is far from the current understanding. There are basic rules for how neurons willl develop in DNA, but the genome is too limited to “hard wire” (regardless of how you define this) much. Biochem is the result of genes + enviro feedback, and thought is the phenom that results from bichem activity.

    “The analogy is almost perfect -with the only imperfection coming from the fact that a brain is several orders of magnitude more complicated than our most sophisticated computer. ”

    Brains and computers are not really much alike at all past a cursory level, and this analogy is too vague to be of value anyway. Both process information,l that’s about it. Making DNA the software makes the analogy unrecognizable. If you have a science background you should just do a little research to see where the current understanding on these issues is

    “We even have robots that can learn by themselves to do quite complicated stuff (comparatively speaking that is). No robotics engineer would think about fixing the learning problems of such robot by adjusting the conductivity of the transistors of its RAM.”

    Again, we’re not robots. Our eyes are not cameras, ears not microphones, memory not a tape drive, etc… The mechanisms involved are completely different.

  56. steve12 says:

    ” A better model for the brain would be a analogue computer, where the wiring is the program, and voltage and current levels are meaningful.”

    Overall I agree. But in neurons you actually have binary processing of action potentials, and analogue-like dendritic summation. Not that i buy in any way this computer analogy, but I always found that to be really cool…

  57. cannotsay2013 says:

    elmer mccurdy,

    Using Novella’s reasoning: Angell is an anti psychiatry troll :D.

    Bill Openthalt, steve12,

    All that you say about the brain makes the basic assumptions of biological psychiatry look even more preposterous, which is why the real scandal is that anybody takes that model seriously. From the previous posting by elmer “Dr. Hoffman agrees that the chemistry imbalance hypothesis is simplistic, misleading, and essentially wrong”.

    Now, what I don’t agree with is with the conclusion that “indictments have their place, but we mustn’t ignore all the things modern psychiatry gets right. It has (mostly) rejected Freud and is making a valiant effort to become more evidence-based. It has prevented suicides, alleviated incapacitating symptoms, and helped patients enjoy a reasonably normal life at home instead of in a locked ward. Instead of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, how can we employ common sense and rigorous science to improve psychiatric care”.

    I am sorry, but psychiatry has given us in the past not only Freud, but insulin therapy (you can see it depicted in the movie about John Nash), ECT (still used today even forced ect) and lobotomy (winner of a Nobel prize that the Swedes will not retract and recycled today under the new name of psycho surgery). In addition to the victims of these barbaric “treatments”, we cannot forget either the thousands (probably tens of thousands) of people who have committed suicide or violent actions under the influence of psychotropic drugs (including Adam Lanza) nor the thousands more whose lifespan has been shortened because of being in psychotropic drugs. And, as I said, there is always the fact that psychiatry has been used, and is still used today, as a tool of social control. So the indictment against psychiatry is actually much stronger than against homeopathy. Homeopathy is harmless to the human body, nobody’s committed suicide under the effect of homeopathic remedies nor is homeopathy (or astrology) used as a tool of social control.

  58. steve12 says:

    “All that you say about the brain makes the basic assumptions of biological psychiatry look even more preposterous”

    I’m not talking about psychiatry. Pdychiatry has it’s problems, but you making judgements about the state of psychiatry is alos problematic because you have very fundamental misunderstandings about where the science of the brain is.

    Even if we assume psychiatry is 100% FOS (and it certainly has problems, I agree), you’re in no position to say one way or another, as you’ve demonstrated by masquerading a bad analogy as a cogent explanation.

    I realize that this seems a bit condescending, but if you are this worked up about all of this, you’d be better off spending your time finding out where the science actually is re: these matters rather than mining psychiatry for every untruth you can find.

    At the very least, you’d be in a better position to know what was true and what was not.

  59. cannotsay2013 says:


    It doesn’t sound condescending, it sounds “I am a sore loser” 😀 (ie, you are the sore loser, not me). The analogy was spot on and the issues you raised about the analogy not being perfect just makes psychiatry look even worse because the complexity of the brain is several orders of magnitude higher of that of our best computers. The brain being, in part, analog (vs entirely digital) only makes its complexity higher.

    What I didn’t expect in this discussion -thanks elmer mccurdy!- is to learn that one of Novella’s co-bloggers had discussed the same topic and reached pretty much the same conclusion: psychiatry is a shaky endeavor, the chemical imbalance theory is nonsense and the massive use of medications is motivated by greed (both on the side of Big Pharma as well as the psychiatrists themselves who make more money from “medication management” sessions than from therapy ones). Now, sure that blogger, Harriet Hall, ended her entry by making excuses (“rationalizing” if you will) for not getting rid of psychiatry altogether ignoring all the damages that psychiatry has made through its history to innocent people both in those who used (or were “forced to use”) its services as well as the victims of mass shooters who were on psychotropic drugs.

    I just wonder how Mr Novella handles the contradiction of having called me an “anti psychiatry troll” while one of his co-bloggers made exactly the same points in his website to attack psychiatric nonsense :D.

  60. steve12 says:

    You have no idea what you are talking about re: the brain.

    I’m now fairly certain that you do not “..have a doctoral degree from one of America’s finest universities in a hard scientific field “.

    Scientists don’t suffer from an illusion of explanatory depth to quite the degree that you so obviously do. You’re a bullshitter / conspiracy theorist.

  61. cannotsay2013 says:

    Instead of accepting that you lost, you are digging deeper. Good luck! I do have that doctorate, and I did win this argument, that’s your ugly truth :D.

    But I am still waiting for Novella to threat Harriet Hall with expelling her for being an “anti psychiatry troll”.

  62. steve12 says:

    Dr. Cannotsay:

    What’s your degree? What’s it in?

  63. cannotsay2013 says:


    I am not saying because I don’t want people to have enough information as to identify me. The prime reason I want to stay anonymous is that I am a survivor of psychiatric abuse. I only mentioned my credentials to make sure you guys understood I know what I am talking about. But here is the irony; all it took for you guys to concede defeat was the mention of another blogger in the Novella-verse that made exactly the same points I was making (different conclusion about what to do with the field of psychiatry but basically same points about its short comings). It just proves how dogmatic and blind you guys are. It’s like that laughable attempt to introduce a red herring on the meaning of “ad hominem” attack. It’s very typical of demagogues to take the discussion to semantics and small details when the large argument is lost.

    Then Novella complains that his so called “skeptic” movement doesn’t attract big names in science. I know nobody who has such background that would like to be associated with zealots like you.

  64. steve12 says:

    It’s not ad hom. I already explained in detail why your analogy is wrong. (and I actually have a neuroscience Ph.D.)

    I’m now – in addition to that – calling you out as a fraud, at least where your degree is concerned. Scientists do not talk about science as you do. No scientist would claim that facile analogy you keep using is an explanation of anything. It’s vague nonsense – and incorrect to boot.

    YOu wouldn’t be identifying yourself to say that you had a PhD in physics or whatever. You would, however, open yourself up to questions re: what you do or don’t know. That is why you will not divulge where you B.S.Ph.D. is from.

    YOu’re not fooling anyone.

  65. cannotsay2013 says:


    Get over it OK? You lost, it’s fine.

    What is missing in these discussions about fraudulent endeavors, such as psychiatry, is the devastating effect that they have in their victims, which should be the primary concern of so called “skeptics”. For all its idiocy, neither homeopathy nor astrology have ruined as many lives as psychiatry has. That’s one of the reasons I claim that the case against psychiatry is stronger than against homeopathy. The scientific case is also stronger, because psychiatry has had plenty of opportunities to validate their increasingly nonsensical theories (from “humor theory” to Freud, to Jung, to “chemical imbalances”).

    What is missing in these discussions, however, is the human toll that the victims of psychiatry endure because this scam has legal recognition. I remind you that my first intervention on the topic (the DSM thread), “you are more likely to hear of “victims of psychiatry” than from people that have been “helped” by psychiatry”. In that regard, the late Thomas Szasz has done more than anybody I can think of to expose the scam. Even after he co founded CCHR with Scientology (a move that I admit was a bit weird), he was awarded the Humanist of the Year award by the American Humanist Association. If you read the criticism that I or others have made to psychiatry, they are all spin offs of the ones he made in his breakthrough 1960 paper “The Myth of Mental Illness”: http://www.columbia.edu/cu/psychology/terrace/w1001/readings/szasz.pdf . We’ve been playing catch up. All of psychiatry’s attempts to refute Szasz’s criticisms have been unmitigated disasters.

  66. steve12 says:

    “Get over it OK? You lost, it’s fine.”

    OK Dr. Fraud. Got it.

    Just a tip in the future: don’t say you’re a scientist is you might be talking to scientists. Some people might be able to pull it off. You’re not one of them…

  67. cannotsay2013 says:


    You are a pretty damn sore loser :D. Get over it.

    Speaking of… This whole thread was a good psychological experiment and it should help you guys understand why big names in science don’t want to associate themselves with you.

    Zealots of the Novella-verse limited themselves to ad-hominen attacks, citations of biased studies and willingness to engage in splitting hairs discussions, instead of addressing the core arguments, until some blogger mentioned another sanctioned entry in the Novella-verse that made exactly the same points that I was making, at which point the zealots had no option but to accept defeat. This shows that you have no interest in addressing certain topics (that you consider sacred dogma of the so called “skeptic” movement) until somebody within your religion points out to you that in fact said topics are not part of the dogma.

    You’ve behaved exactly as the same dogmatic fanatics you so much despise.

  68. steve12 says:

    Loser? I’m not the one pretending to be a scientist to impress anonymous strangers.

    Then again, I am carrying on with one, so there is that….

  69. embeetee says:


    1. “my school is better than your school”. By what measure? By whose measure? In what faculty? Does the quality of a school, even if agreed, trump the individual qualities of the person? A sideshow, a distraction, and of no consequence in evaluating the quality of your arguments, steve’s or anyone else’s
    2. “my science is better than your science” – really? that’s even an argument, that testing your hypotheses against gravity is better than someone whose hypotheses are tested against something else, and that this makes you a better, a more ‘real’, scientist? I mean, does gravity trump chemistry? botany? do you have a chart somewhere to help us sort this out? A distraction. A waste of time.
    3. You can’t tell us what your PhD is in because it would identify you? Must be a pretty unique PhD. And you fear exposure because you are a self-defined victim of psychiatry, is that correct? And if you were exposed, identified, you fear…vindictive psychiatrists hunting you down? Or vilification among your peers because you suffer(ed) a mental disorder/behavioral issue (your words)? Nobody would have known, had you simply answered the original question about your PhD and not volunteered the rest; you chose which of those unsupported statements to write about here.
    4. Interesting article in SciAm this past month by Michael Shermer about a re-run of the Milgram experiments he oversaw a number of years ago. His experience was that those administering the ‘shocks’ were upset, resistant (some to the point of refusing even a single button push), guilty. I’m pretty confident if you take ten people off the street you’ll find they don’t find it easy to deliberately mislead and bring harm to someone, repeatedly over many meetings, face-to-face, especially when they are having to pretend they’re sympathetic and only trying to help…
    5. You completely ignored, BTW, one of Steve’s two original statements about homeopathy, that it also violates basic tenets of science. It *can’t* work. Drugs developed to address identified chemical imbalances in the brain may not help if chemical imbalances aren’t a significant cause of the original problems…but that’s a two part question. Does it violate basic tenets of science to suggest that one can address a chemical imbalance with a chemical solution? So it’s already ahead of homeopathy.
    6. Drop the ‘brain is a computer’ analogy. An analogy is helpful for broad-brush understanding, but though a heart is like a pump I wouldn’t attempt to understand or explain the detailed workings of the heart by referring to a mechanical pump (and I mean detailed enough to be discussing ways of dealing with a specific issue, like arrhythmia).
    7. You argue both sides of brain chemistry and the effect of drugs on the brain. First that drugs cause behavioral and other issues (“Prozac induced violence”, for example) by changing brain chemistry (unless you’re refuting that this is the path to the effect they have) and then in turn-about you argue that changing brain chemistry is all-to-obviously doomed to failure in improving behavioral and other issues, that they are attacking the problem with tools that can’t possibly have an effect. If you wanted to argue only that current drugs are ineffective, or that side effects outweigh the benefits, that’s at least arguable, but you can’t assert that chemistry can push the dial one way yet *it’s not even possible to consider* it could move the dial in the opposite direction.
    8. You didn’t address my questionning your characterization of psychiatrists; is it accurate to say you believe that psychiatrists are those who aren’t smart enough to be ‘real’ doctors (like surgeons) and aren’t honest enough to ‘settle’ for being GPs? It’s germane because a view as bitter as yours reflects a lack of objectivity, a requirement for honest scientific inquiry. It reflects on your arguments.
    9. You also didn’t address my questions about your use of the Finnish experience to support your assertion that psychiatry is a terrible and harmful fraud. The Finns reduced psychotropics, but filled the gap with psychotherapy, which in other places here you have also panned; their study presented it as very effective. They didn’t even ban drugs, mind, and they certainly didn’t ban psychiatrists. A bit of cherry picking here, seems to me.
    10. You also didn’t address the fact that the reduced lifespan stats, which you presented as proof that psychiatry does tremendous harm to patients, were primarily due to
    Preventable Medical Conditions
    – Metabolic Disorders, Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes Mellitus
    – High Prevalence of Modifiable Risk Factors (Obesity, Smoking)
    which were affected (note: affected) by some (note: some) psychotropics.

  70. cannotsay2013 says:

    steve12, embeetee,

    I’ll say in capital letters see if you finally get it: I DON’T HAVE A STOMACH FOR A SPLITTING HAIRS discussion. That’s it.

    It has been shown beyond reasonable doubt for those whose rational thinking is not clouded by their dogmas (or their greed) that psychiatry is a scam. The question whose interest is that the scam is not only allowed to continue but encouraged by zealots like you. In other words, why are you so afraid of calling psychiatry a scam. Other skeptics, like Jerry Coyne, don’t have a problem with it.

  71. JJ Borgman says:


    Isn’t Dr. Coyne an expert evolutionary biologist…a professor even? In fact, the autobiographical info on his blog site clearly notes that his “work is focused on understanding the origin of species: the evolutionary process that produces discrete groups in nature.”

    I think I’ve even seen others in the skeptic community of the opinion that he’s wrong, or mistaken, from time to time as are we all. (That is not any sort of criticism of Dr. Coyne). And blogs are, after all, a place for bloggers to express their opinions, no? Like, for instance, preference for felines or cephalopods.

    cannotsay2013, you have built a substantial part of your case on Dr. Coynes opinion, not to mention repeating that point effusively. Your case as argued by you doesn’t seem yet to be a made, or won, case…not even in the science community. Perhaps your opinions are ahead of your time.

    Maybe you should find another expert or two (in the field of psychiatry) that you can quote rather than that (admittedly intelligent and well educated) professor of evolutionary biology. If I have lost such references in the cascade of commentary on this post, please excuse me. Perhaps I’d recall them if their names had been trotted out nearly as often as Dr. Coynes. As you have so clearly asserted, expert writers in adjacent science disciplines, especially from lesser institutions of higher learning such as Harvard and Yale (where do you hail from?), are easily trumped by writers such as yourself.

    Finally, the lack of respect you have shown for your colleagues here by referring to them by last name only reflects very poorly on the professors and elite institutions from which you gained your education. That poor behavior must be a remnant of the psychiatric abuse you suffered at the hands of others, yes? Upon a little inward reflection, one finds that there’s always more work to do on ones-self.

  72. cannotsay2013 says:

    JJ Borgman,

    Sure I have been repeating many things that Coyne said. In fact, we were both (and Angell, Whitaker, etc) making the same arguments that Thomas Szasz made for 50 years before he died. In that regard, it’s Thomas Szasz to whom the credit belongs for having put psychiatry on trial at great risk to his own career. So much so that even Allen Frances now concedes http://www.cato-unbound.org/2012/08/08/allen-frances/a-clinical-reality-check/ “Let’s start with a summary of where I stand. I agree completely with Schaler and Szasz that mental disorders are not diseases and that treating them as such can sometimes have noxious legal consequences.”

    He goes on to say “But I strongly disagree that mental disorders are worthless “myths” and think it greatly over-simplifies a complex clinical and legal conundrum to categorically assert that involuntary treatment should be completely eliminated. ”

    I would commit Allen Frances for a couple of weeks, and force him on a high dose of Zyprexa/Prozac cocktail to see if he has a change of heart.

    This type of battles are won one step at time. The reason I feel so passionate about this matter is because I was at the receiving end of psychiatry unchecked and on steroids. OCD, as homosexuality before and as are the other so called “mental disorders”, is a made up disorder designed by self appointed “mind guardians”. It certainly does not warrant the type of abuse that I endured back then. I was forcibly detained, committed for several months and forced into SSRIs and antipsychotics that almost damaged irreparably my kidneys and my liver (in addition my cholesterol level reached danger zone). I committed no crime to deserve that. In fact, the legal status of psychiatry in that country even today, as it is in much of the European Union, is like the status psychiatry had in the US pre 1970s. The reason I can have peace of mind here in the US is because I know that that type of abuse cannot happen here in great part because of the great work that Thomas Szasz did during the sixties and seventies while people with a Novella mindset would have done nothing or side with the psychiatric oppressors.

    That is not to say that psychiatric abuse does not happen in the US, it does; but it focuses on those who are the weakest (foster children, old people in asylums and criminals). No psychiatrist would ever think of doing what those nut Europeans did to me because he could be at the receiving end of a medical malpractice lawsuit that would end his/her career. So when I said, no more drugs, good bye they could only say back: good bye, have a nice life.

  73. JJ Borgman says:


    I’m sorry to read of your experience in Europe and equally sympathetic towards victims here where psychiatry went awry. There are many horrible stories and examples of abuse to illustrate some of the problems uncovered while exploring and attempting to treat mental illness, or symptoms mistaken to be evidence of mental illness.

    In this case, I think you are being overly charitable toward Dr. Szasz and insufficiently charitable toward Dr. Novella. Both have their supporters and their detractors, but your experience on one hand and inexperience on the other certainly colors your perceptions of each. By that, I mean you probably have orders of magnitude more knowledge (perhaps even first hand knowledge) about one of the doctors than you do the other.

    Like the clinicians all those years ago should have done with you, you might want to get to know Dr. Novella better and not go “all in” on a single blog post. Look at the unnecessary damage done by ignorantly acting on a poorly executed diagnosis.

  74. cannotsay2013 says:

    JJ Borgman,

    We are all colored by our experiences. As I mentioned here,


    I had a pretty neutral position towards psychiatry until I was abused but its practitioners. After I decided to end the drugs, my marriage fell apart, rebuilt my life and this thing was distant in time I embarked on a journey to understand the “science” behind this scam. Surely, there must be something backing it up, I told myself. I cannot be the case that psychiatry is warranted such power based on shaky assumptions… Well, I was astonished at what I found. How is that, I asked myself, that his scam is allowed to go on. And the answer is simple, it’s what Thomas Szasz said: it’s politics, it’s economics. Psychiatry does not meet a medical need, it meets a political need -that of the powers that be to have a sanctioned way of social control- and it meets a financial need -that of Big Pharma and the practitioners of psychiatry.

    The reason I have been ballistic these last weeks is that from time to time something happens that is manipulated by psychiatry to boost their positions through the media loudspeaker. In this case, it’s the tragedy of Sandy Hook that has made my life a little difficult lately. Ask a woman that has been raped how she would feel if her rapist was lauded by all national media as an expert in sexuality that raped the woman for her own good (in fact the woman was too sick to understand the goodness that would result from the rape) and you get an idea of how it feels to have been a victim of psychiatry and to hear your tormentors on national TV boasting their tormenting ability and, in fact, asking for power to torment more people. I experienced that with the continuous calls by psychiatrists to lower the legal standard of civil commitment that followed Sandy Hook. These psychiatrists were interviewed everywhere so it didn’t make a difference whether you watched CNN, MSNBC or Fox. It is kind of subsiding now, so I’ll probably will go back to my life until psychiatry gets its next month of fame.

    Paula Caplan explains how she reached similar conclusions after being part of a couple of DSM committees,


    She was never abused by psychiatry, as are most in the survivor movement, but after witnessing with her own eyes the complete joke that these committees are (ie, how “disorders” are completely made up subjectively by the members of said committees to label those who do not conform to what they think is “normal”) she could not in good conscience just leave and look the other way. In that regard we should remind ourselves of the quote attributed to Edmund Burke “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”. Psychiatry is a prime example of that.

    Most doctors will not risk their careers, living and reputation attacking this evil endeavor. In that regard, I value way more Thomas Szasz, Paula Caplan and Robert Whitaker than people like Novella or those bloggers who rushed here to defend psychiatry. The former are the true heroes whose names will be remembered in the future for their commitment to human dignity and human rights.

  75. JJ Borgman says:


    I’ll have to agree with you completely on the issue of extricating the abuse of human dignity and human rights from psychiatric treatment. At this time, however, I remain unconvinced of the assertions that mental illness is illusory.

    I think that’s where Dr. Novella stands personally and professionally as well. He also happens to be well positioned to add to that conversation. For instance, the malfunction of a machine is not restricted to the machine being broken. The operational parameters may also be out of kilter (i.e. voltage, temperature, altitude, etc). The source of a malfunction is often not obvious.

    On the subject of the news media, well, it seems pretty obvious to me that our society is too often ,unfortunately, left to its own devices to determine the truth.

  76. cannotsay2013 says:

    JJ Borgman,

    I am happy there is common ground in the need to get rid of all psychiatry abuse and that would include, in my opinion, “forced treatment” on people that some psychiatrist thinks he/she “is too sick to make decisions”.

    The reason I am less convinced than you that people like Novella can be a part of the solution, -in fact, I think that they are part of the problem-, is that after my own experience I did a lot or background research on it.

    Psychiatry is all about defining “behavior that deviates from normal”. That’s their goal. The “chemical imbalance” theory is just the last of their scams. Now that it is being debunked they are in they are in the process of coming up with their next one (the fashion nowadays is finding abnormalities in brain scans). This is a pattern in psychiatry, finding some kind of “acceptable” excuse to back up their self proclaimed role in defining “normal”. When that excuse falls apart, they invent the next one. This is why I say that the case against psychiatry is stronger than the case against homeopathy. Psychiatry has been given way more chances to succeed than homeopathy; not only it cannot produce results that are any better in terms of outcome but they are much worse in terms of the lives that psychiatry has ruined.

    As Paula Calplan mentions above, the problem with the DSM model is that since it is not based on science, the void is filled by the personal biases of the committee members. So they define “crazy” the conducts that they don’t find acceptable. That’s it, end of the story.

    Human thought is as diverse as humans themselves. Highly creative people (in all kinds of fields not only science) are not the norm. Just as homosexuality is not the norm. Who decides that homosexuality is an “illness” but that high creativity is not. He/she who has a prejudice against homosexuals. All DSM disorders are made up exactly for the same reason.

  77. JJ Borgman says:

    If you have not had a discourse with Dr. Novella, you are leaving a stone unturned.

    When you say you “did a lot or (sic) background research on it”, did you research Dr. Novella himself? If not, you are stereotyping. Stereotyping is one of the major sins that causes forced medication in psychiatry, no? Well, that and a lack of regulation, I suppose.

    The workings of the mind. I’m not so sure there is a strict equivalency between what we know about the mind versus our physiology. In that sense, I think there is somewhat less mystery (aka less risk) and greater opportunity for the homeopaths and herbalists upon which they masterfully capitalize. Once psychiatry is fully prohibited from the atrocities for which it is famous, the exploration of the workings of the mind (soul/spirit) ought to prove to be fascinating. Could there be a ghost in the machine? It’s exciting to contemplate. Keep up the good fight for human dignity and rights. And do try to engage Dr. Novella privately a bit. I don’t think he is part of the problem you think he might be.

    Either way, suit yourself…and I hope life returns to normal for you soon.

  78. cannotsay2013 says:

    It was nice chatting with you.

    Sure, my life is getting back to normal…, until the next mass shooting perpetrated by some guy on psychotropic drugs that I will see again psychiatric tormentors on TV :D.

  79. BillyJoe7 says:


    “It’s like that laughable attempt to introduce a red herring on the meaning of “ad hominem” attack.”

    Hey, friendly advice (ie you don’t need to respond)…

    Okay, you’ve dug yourself in too deep now to be admitting anything here, but may I suggest that you look up that fallacy before you use it again elsewhere and embarrass yourself further.

  80. cannotsay2013 says:


    This is my advise to you. Instead of blindly believing all dogmas of your so called “skeptic movement”, think a little bit by yourself. Engaging in a splitting hairs discussion to introduce a red herring when the argument is lost is as old as demagoguery itself. It didn’t work here, it will not work anywhere. So if you ambition is to scare away those big names in science that Novella laments do not attend your conferences, you are doing a great job!

  81. BillyJoe7 says:


    “Instead of blindly believing all dogmas of your so called “skeptic movement””

    You know less about me than about the ad hominem fallacy, so please spare me your analysis. Regulars here would laugh at your characterisation.

  82. cannotsay2013 says:


    Regulars here are the same that have a “cult like” relationship with everything Novella says. It’s the same Novella that complains that his SGU is considered too political by the NSF and that big names in science do not want to be associated with the things he promotes.

    Go figure!

  83. steve12 says:

    “Regulars here are the same that have a “cult like” relationship with everything Novella says. ”

    And you know as much about this blog as you know about the brain.

    I must admit – I do believe that you had some difficulties that were handled poorly by psychiatry, and I think that this happens quite a bit. Psychiatry has a ton of problems rangin from overstating it’s understanding of the basic science to those it treats, to conflict if interest.

    But based on your zealotry (you are a true believer if every I’ve seen one), and your track record of misrepresenting yourself and your level of understanding of the relevant issues, I would say that you’re exaggerating those circumstances to add credibility to your claims. If I’m wrong (and I know, you’re going to say that I am – it’s pro forma at this point – but I mean if I’m REALLY wrong) I sincerely apologize. That would be a horrible thing to go through.

    But if you want to have a serious discussion about the very real problems of psychiatry, I would suggest that you:

    1. drop all of the nonsense you’re using to try to increase the credibility and weight of your posts, it doesn’t work.


    2. Don’t grind an axe with Manichean nonsense , make a specific argument and back it up with facts. Every single thing psychiatry has ever done is wrong and bad and evil, on and on. That just isn’t so. When you’re wrong on the particulars and someone calls you on it, which is inescapable with such an extreme stance, you simply say that you’re not going to split hairs (in caps). What is that?

    If you seriously want to convince others that psychiatry needs to be reformed or even remade, you’ll think about some of this advice.

    If, on the other hand you want to troll certain blogs with lies and extremist nonsense that no one is going to buy, carry on.

  84. cannotsay2013 says:


    Zealots like you are beyond convincing. You are driven by dogma, not by reason. And that’s fine. I found a couple of reasonable bloggers here and that’s more than I usually find in similar forums. I know I am on the right side of history on this and the reasons I gave, from the scientific ones to the ones related to the role psychiatry plays in perpetrating human rights abuses, are enough to, if not convince, at least make consider, reasonable, non dogmatic people that psychiatry is a scam. We will win this battle against the scam one blogger at at time :D. Have a nice day.

  85. jwalms2 says:

    Steve12 asks you to clean up your argument and he becomes a zealot beyond convincing?

    Oh well, maybe if I went to better schools I’d get it.

  86. steve12 says:

    “Zealots like you are beyond convincing. ”

    I just said I have a huge problem with psychiatry. How can I possible be a a pro-psychiatry zealot considering that?

    Do you actually read what people are writing, or do you just spout?

    Wait a second…I just figured it out! You are a Bot! You are a bot programmed by Scientology!

    It all makes sense now…..

  87. cannotsay2013 says:

    “I just figured it out! You are a Bot! You are a bot programmed by Scientology!”

    Sure, I am every bit a scientologist as Harriet Hall or Jerry Coyne are.

    Again, I already said what I wanted to say. I don’t think it’s worth wasting my time any longer here. You guys have a great time self absorbed in the Novella-verse :D.

  88. steve12 says:

    “I don’t think it’s worth wasting my time any longer here. ”

    Only a bot wouldn’t understand that this makes no sense ipso facto of the fact that the bot was still there!

    I’m right!

    And only a bot could call someone a zealous proponent of something they repeatedly criticized!

    I want you to talk to a friend of mine:

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