September 7, 2010


ME + me : More about psychiatry + some good NIH-news

I continue being not well and today I have only two brief bits, one explaining a few points I made yesterday, and one related to the NIH.


1. A bit more about psychiatry and the DSM-5
2. Some good NIH-news

1. A bit more about psychiatry and the DSM-5

Yesterday I wrote about the (presumed) fact that 78% of the British are not sane which is at least what a recent paper in the British Journal of Psychiatry concluded, after massive doses of what they call 'evidence based science' [1].

Today I want to make a few remarks about some things I wrote yesterday, and hopefully tomorrow I will more say about the DSM-5. The last link is to a Nederlog of mine that consists of a the text of a good submission about it by ME agenda (Suzy Chapman) with a number of notes, and the subject is quite important, because in fact, as some doctors of clinical child psychology claimed

As I interact with colleagues I sense an incredible, almost exuberant, level of excitement and anticipation for the DSM-V. “It will change psychiatry”, “it will answer the questions”, “it will abandon categories”, etc, etc, etc. [2]

Well... I can agree that the DSM-5 "will change psychiatry", but I am meanwhile convinced that it will be for the worse, and quite possibly very much so.

This will be my subject tomorrow - if I find the energy for it, and if nothing interferes - in part because I found quite an interesting paper about it, namely Controversial issues for the future DSM-V by Sarah Kamens, that has the merit of clearly detailing what these issues are. [3]

And please note that I am interested in the DSM and ICD stuff [4], because it falls squarely within my 'academic specialisms' (i.e. logic, methodology, philosophy of science, and psychology).  Also, I am appalled by the DSM-5 stuff, but then it turns out that I am not the only one, including the important man behind the DSM-III 

But more of this tomorrow and now to the remarks I wanted to make about a number of points I made briefly (and as so often these last 32 years feeling exhausted) yesterday in a footnote, that I will hear repeat as number points

  1. Psychiatric theorizing, from its origins to the present day, is not scientific; usually is quite untestable (which makes it something else than empirical science); and is not related to neurology or the neurosciences (other than superficially), simply because to this very day there is no adequate neurology to explain human experience.
  2. In fact, neurology and psychiatry know less of the brain than was known about the geography of the earth in medieval times. That is, if there is a map of the territory, it is a very partial, very incomplete, for a considerable part false or misleading, and for the most part hypothetical map of the very incompletely known territory that is the living, feeling, desiring and believing human brain.
  3. The extended psychiatric theories I know of are not really testable in any rational scientific sense. This is not the fault of psychiatrists, but it turns into a serious personal fault, both morally and rationally, both medically and scientifically, if they insist that their beliefs, hypotheses and guesses are scientifically based systems of empirical knowledge about human experiencing. 

I think this is mostly clear - I am not going to argue it here and now, because I am academically qualified in the relevant subjects and to argue the above, that are in fact theses most non-psychiatrists with relevant scientific knowledge will find little to fault in, if anything - but being a philosopher of science, among other things, I do want to comment on my saying in thesis 3. that

The extended psychiatric theories I know of are not really testable in any rational scientific sense. This is not the fault of psychiatrists (..)

This needs some comment because - let's say - hard core physical realists or precise methodologists will insist that what is not testable cannot be science, and so psychiatry is not science, and that this also is the fault of psychiatrists, at least to a large extent.

What is definitely the fault of psychiatrists is pretending that their extended theories (I speak of 'extended' to exclude those particular nearly always tiny bits that can be tested, that even if confirmed are never enough to carry the weight of the theorizing that implied that bit) are real science, in the sense physics and bio-chemistry are sciences, with worked out methodologies, laboratory procedures, experimental designs, and piece-by-piece testing, of issues and theories and predictions of things that are always many orders of complexity less than even parts of a functioning human brain.

In that sense psychiatry is as little or less a science than sociology is, another soft science that has few if any decisive experimental testing, and few extended theories that are testable, as extended theories, and hardly any working technology surrected upon the science, which is a distinguishing mark of real science, for the bits that work in psychiatry are mostly not derived from psychiatry, but from pharmacology, biochemistry, and biomedical science. [5]

In fact, the same is true of psychology, as soon as one poses the question for large questions such has "how do human beings learn?"; "what is a human self, personality, character?"; "what are the causes of mental illness, psychological suffering, insanity?" and for the same reason as the answers by the psychiatrists are mostly non-scientific: There is not enough existing knowledge of how the brain works.

But then this is no reason for psychologists and psychiatrists not to think about the wider questions and extended theories of their subjects, nor to write about them, nor to test such parts and predictions as seem testable and worthwile.

It is this that I meant: One needs informed rational imagining to get new or better ideas to explain anything - but it is speculation for the most part, even if rational and informed, and not testable let alone verified science.

And it is here also that so many psychiatrists and psychologists sin, namely by lying: By the pretension, to the public and to 'laymen', that their speculations, often at best tenuously connected to some more or less established facts, that only somewhat support only parts of the extended theory as such, are in any way 'evidence based science'[1], as physics and bio-chemistry are evidence based real sciences.

In that sense by far the greatest part of psychiatric theorizing, and all the parts that answer the general questions all human beings are interested in, is not established science, and namely for the utter lack of the required neurological and bio-chemical evidence, but is at its very best informed speculation not yet contradicted by serious evidence, and possibly, but very partially, supported to some extent in some bits of it.

2. Some good NIH-news

And now for some good news that relates to ME, albeit indirectly, namely the director of the NIH since July 2009, dr. Francis Collins.

As often - I am a man who insists that the most solid knowledge a human being may have is solid knowledge about all the things he or she does know he or she does not know - I start with a declaration of my relevant ignorance: I did not know of dr. Collins at all, even though he is less than a month older than I am, and very much more famous, until today while I still do not know much more of him than is in the following Wikipedia-link

  • dr. Francis Collins (geneticist) (Wikipedia)

Moreover, I went looking for this only after seeing and hearing the evidence that follows, which is the good NIH-news I have for today, and that I arrive at after providing you with the link where you can see and hear the present director of the NIH perform a Bob Dylan song, very well indeed, and with a much better singing voice than Bob has presently left:

  • Francis Collins & band 'The Times They Are A'Changing'
  • Rock Stars of Science: Francis Collins  (14 min 35 sec)

As indicated, the last item is a 14.35 long speech, dated Oct 3 2009, by Francis Collins, then 6 weeks director of NIH.

I think it's a very good speech, and he is a very interesting man, who may be able to do a lot of good: He has the right ideas about science, about the promises of bio-medical science, about advocacy, and about quite a few more things, and he clearly is a highly intelligent and highly qualified man.

And my reason for saying so is that, while the Wikipedia link should convince anyone that he is a very important and very competent real scientist, he also makes that impression on me, from the way he speaks and from what he says in his speech.

In Holland, there are no prominent scientists in prominent research posts like Collins:

First, most Dutch scientists are not at all of his level, and second - and that is for me an uplifting things in these times with universities for a large part blighted by po-mo and levelling - because he speaks and acts like a real intellectual, and not like ALL his counterparts in Holland, and very probably in England, after Blarification, in similar functions, who are all, to a man/woman/chair, bleak bureaucrats of little or no scientific merit, even if they are themselves fond of pretending otherwise (like the awful Plasterk, would be homo universalis, whose whole 'scientific career' was interwoven from his early twenties with Dutch Labour, the leading elite of which cannot possibly be less corrupt and totalitarian at heart than the Leaders of English Labour, also a sorry lot of conmen/conwomen/conchairs corrupt careerists).

Clearly, what I have been saying in this section is mostly my personal impression, but for me it is really heartening to see a real individual and a real scientist having arrived at his level of power and influence making a real speech that makes sense and that I agree with. [6]

It is so rare in my experience, that I never had that blessing in Dutch. And that's why it is good news for me, and for ME also, I assume.

P.S. It may be I have to stop Nederlog for a while. The reason is that I am physically not well at all. I don't know yet, but if there is no Nederlog, now you know the reason.


As to ME/CFS (that I prefer to call ME):

1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS (pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf)
5. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

6. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
7. Paul Lutus

Is Psychology a Science?

8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)

Short descriptions:

1. Ten reasons why ME/CFS is a real disease by a professor of medicine of Harvard.
2. Long essay by a professor emeritus of medical chemistry about maltreatment of ME.
3. Explanation of what's happening around ME by an investigative journalist.
4. Report to Canadian Government on ME, by many medical experts.
5. Advice to psychiatrist by a psychiatrist who understands ME is an organic disease
6. English mathematical genius on one's responsibilities in the matter of one's beliefs:
   "it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon
     insufficient evidence
7. A space- and computer-scientist takes a look at psychology.
8. Malcolm Hooper puts things together status 2010.

    "Ah me! alas, pain, pain ever, forever!

No change, no pause, no hope! Yet I endure.
I ask the Earth, have not the mountains felt?
I ask yon Heaven, the all-beholding Sun,
Has it not seen? The Sea, in storm or calm,
Heaven's ever-changing Shadow, spread below,
Have its deaf waves not heard my agony?
Ah me! alas, pain, pain ever, forever!
     - (Shelley, "Prometheus Unbound") 

    "It was from this time that I developed my way of judging the Chinese by dividing them into two kinds: one humane and one not. "
     - (Jung Chang)


See also: ME -Documentation and ME - Resources

P.P.S. ME - Resources needs is a Work In Progress that hasn't progressed today.

[1] Like very much in 'evidence based science', in this and in quite a few other things conforming to Orwell's explanation of what language would be like in a totalitarian state, in '1984', 'evidence based science' is not evidence based science, by which I mean that what I have seen presented by that label is hardly science, but a parody of it, and is not evidence based, but built on methodological and metaphysical sand.

I will not argue this here, but anybody who knows a sufficient amount of philosophy of science, methodology and statistics, and who also knows mathematics and physics or chemistry - a number of provisos hardly any soft, social, and psychiatric scientist or 'scientist' satisfies, by the way - knows this is true, and indeed cannot be anything but appalled or frightened by the common fare in the soft, social, and psychiatric 'sciences'.

In brief: Most of the called 'evidence based science' is not real science but is real cargo cult science, as described by the great physicist Richard Feynman in Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!

Feynman quote therefrom, somewhat optimistic also;

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself--and you are
the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful about
that. After you've not fooled yourself, it's easy not to fool other
scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after

True - but the unfortunate thing is that in the soft sciences in these postmodern days, in which also most universities and most courses have been levelled, it are often conmen and conwomen who rule in the soft sciences, and who do so because they are conmen and conwomen.

And that's so not only in psychiatry, but also in psychology, sociology, anthropology and related subjects such as philosophy, literature and humanoria-studies: Conartists craftily doing Cargo Cult Science, because that is what makes them in their hardly scientific fields prominent, and few or none who want to make a career dare to say that all these little emperors of all these soft and partial sciences are naked.

I KNOW, for I dared, and was removed for saying that truth exists and not all morals are wholly relative, namely as 'a fascist' and 'terrorist' and in spite of - as the Board of Directors of the University of Amsterdam wrote me, with gladness in their hearts, "the seriousness of your disease", for they wanted to make sure it hurt as much as they could.

See also my Real science & real psychology = joy, Mandarins with an IQ of 115, Yahooism & democracy, "I want to be read", my other Spiegeloog-columns (in Dutch),  Meditation on me & ME, Gifted with ME and see Note [5] below for some references to good philosophy of science.

[2] This is from Mr. Nestor L. Lopez-Duran, PhD. a clinical child psychologist.

[3] This essay - Controversial issues for the future DSM-V - and quite well done, but I fear it will be a bit boring for those who do know much of psychology, psychiatry, methodology or statistics, which also is not Ms Kamens fault. (If and when I treat her report, I will pick the juicy bits, so to speak.)

[4] "ICD stuff" stuff refers to another important diagnostic manual that is in review. As before, for more and background see ME agenda's DSM-5 and ICD-11 watch.

[5] As in note [1], I am not going to argue this here and now, but I will give some references, to be found in my Ten good modern philosophy texts:

My Ten good modern philosophy texts gives some backgrounds and short reviews for all of them.

[6] It so happens that dr. Collins is a geneticist, a medical doctor and an evangelical Christian. Since I am an atheist, it may be expected I see problems with that. In fact, I don't, and as little as with professor Malcolm Hooper, also a Christian.

My reason are, in general, that one can be an excellent real scientist while being also sincerely religious, and specifically if and as long as one does not confuse the two (as is not really difficult, at least in a free country) and specifically for dr. Collins that, first, he arrived at his faith in his twenties, after being baffled by ethical problems (so he didn't adopted it out of social or political convenience) and second, that his position on it, while not at all mine, seems tenable, in principle (as do Franklin's and Voltaire's beliefs in some form of God, though they were not Christians), albeit that dr. Collins seems to be able and willing to assume far more than I am, and indeed third that he rejects the more fanatic Christian faiths and tenets.

So no, I do not have problems with dr. Collins being a Christian (until his faith starts running havoc with his science, for which there seems to be no evidence whatsoever) - and also, it is more palatable than is the hypocritical and false assurances of being a Revolutionary Marxist of the members of my Dutch and German and French student generations that allowed these studentleaders and their friends and comrades to acquire soft positions for life in the European universities, which they then proceeded to level and ruin. See again: my Real science & real psychology = joy, Mandarins with an IQ of 115, Yahooism & democracy, "I want to be read", and the main reason to remove me, briefly before my MA in philosophy, from the study of philosophy:

39 Questions about the qualities
of education and government
in the Netherlands

(As I remarked before, questions and evens as just related make my position with ME in Amsterdam rather different, also legally speaking, than the position of other persons with ME.)

Maarten Maartensz

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