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Thank You | Psychological Testing | You're a Total Fool I | You're a Total Fool II

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Thank You
I just wanted to take the time to thank you. I've been able to use your posts on what science is as an explanation that's detailed enough to be complete, but parsimonious enough to not cause confusion. Believe it or not, as a father passing this thinking on to his children, most places “dumb down” science to the point of losing both the meaning and integrity of scientific thinking, or overwhelm with an assumption of prior knowledge.

I've added your explanations to a collection I use for them, and anyone else who cares to ask in my day to day life, alongside such other work as the beloved Carl Sagan's “baloney detection kit”. You are of course, properly credited. Thank you.
You're most welcome. I should say that, if one should set out to learn the reason science exists, nothing is quite so efficient as several years spent talking to psychologists.

There's a property of psychological training, something absent from any individual psychologist or course of study, but clearly present in all such courses and in psychologists as a group, that either efficiently extinguishes a latent predisposition toward science, or exploits and amplifies some innate inability to grasp science's essentials, or both.

I have no idea how or why it works, but at the end of the process, it creates a large population of trained professionals who haven't the slightest idea what constitutes science.

In my conversations with psychologists, I regularly hear that, because a panel of experts voted Asperger Syndrome into DSM-IV, and another panel of experts voted Asperger Syndrome out of DSM-5, this constitutes proof that (a) Asperger Syndrome was falsified in a scientific sense and therefore (b) psychology is a science.

Or I hear that, because psychological studies have control groups, often something called a "no-treatment control" (meaning people told they won't be treated), and because such studies seemingly always confirm the expectations of their authors, that the scientific method is honored in psychology.

Over a period of time, through conversations with psychologists, one comes to realize people like that are the reason science exists — as a method to defend against what we want to believe, or want not to believe, absent empirical evidence to resolve the issues.

In decades past, when people asked me, "Why does science exist?", I would reply, "As a counterpoint to religion." Now I'm likely to reply, "As a counterpoint to psychology." But it's a small change.

Thanks for writing.
Psychological Testing
I just want to start with a big thank you for your website. I am not a professional in the field of psychology; however, I have had some experience in the field both academically and as being on the receiving end of forced analysis. I would like to know how you view psychological testing as being scientific,specifically the written multi-phasic personality inventory type tests that, supposedly, can accurately identify and predict any number of behaviors a person is capable of exhibiting, or has exhibited in the past. How scientific is it when psychologists use empirrical data to make their claims of validity and reliability? That's easy to answer — these outcomes aren't remotely scientific. Here are some of the reasons:
  1. The tests don't attempt to explain their results, they're only descriptions. As a result, they have no depth and cannot make reliable predictions. It is on this same ground that the NIMH has recently decided to drop support for the DSM. Like personality tests, the DSM is only a set of descriptions with no scientific depth, a depth that would require explanation. Both psychological testing and the DSM show some correlations with behavior, but as has been often said, correlations aren't science until a cause-effect relationship is uncovered.

  2. The history of psychological testing shows no progression from crude to refined, and from hypothetical to reliable and scientific. As one example, psychologists who serve on parole boards and who rely on various kinds of psychological evaluations including testing, cannot produce worthwhile predictions of the future of parolees above the chance level. This is a particularly telling example because those receiving the psychological evaluations are tracked by the legal system and either do, or don't, meet the psychologist's expectations later.

  3. The history of psychological testing is filled with examples in which tests were used to support the goals of those who designed the tests, rather than any objective criteria. One example are the I.Q. tests that were designed and administered by R. M. Yerkes in the early 20th century, tests that seemed to show that Eastern European people were genetically inferior and should be denied immigration to the U.S.. Later reevaluation demonstrated that the cohort to which these people belonged in fact have a higher-than-average I.Q. when tested using different methods. This is not to argue that one result or the other is "right", only that they differed dramatically (the later tests came to the opposite conclusion), and the earlier results had the very unfortunate effect of denying immigration status to many people who were later exterminated by the Nazi regime.

In the overview, if psychological tests were anything more than a codification of the biases and tastes of their designers, they would include objective criteria and testable, falsifiable explanations for their properties, and their outcomes could be used to make specific, reliable predictions that were anything more than unexplained correlations.

This is not to say that such correlations don't exist, in fact some do exist — certain test outcomes are strongly correlated with subsequent behavior. But an equal number of expectations are dashed, for the reason that an unexplained correlation has no scientific standing.

In their recent article "What's Wrong with the Rorshach?" (PDF), four psychologists dismiss that venerated test as little more than "tea-leaf reading and tarot cards", yet this test is still in wide use. In her upcoming book "The Cult of Personality Testing", Annie Murphy Paul, a former senior editor of Psychology Today, argues that psychological test outcomes "are often invalid, unreliable, and unfair" and have sometimes grave consequences, among which are a blind social regimentation dictated by unexplained test outcomes instead of human qualities.
You're a Total Fool I
You are a total fool. Psychiatry is extremely valid. You were probably critiqued unfavorably and harbor a grudge against the profession. Furthermore, you science types are a joke. Wow — that's a perfect commentary on modern psychiatry: "You science types are a joke." I couldn't have written a better, more cutting indictment of the psychological outlook than if I had set out to caricature the group to which you belong. You're a perfect example of psychology groupies — narcissistic, lacking insight into themselves and the world around them, and indistinguishable from a religious True Believer.

Around you, people are thinking for a living, listening to evidence for guidance, and allowing nature to mediate disputes about what is real. You're obviously unqualified for this kind of work, but you go one step further — you have no idea how you sound as you wallow in ignorance.
Surgery is a skill. Would you want an unqualified surgeon operating on you? You compare a psychiatrist to a physician? Would you compare a butcher to a neurosurgeon? I ask because you just did. There are masters and there are apprentices.... Authority DOES matter- A LOT. We "science types" have been proving this myth wrong for about 500 years now, with some small victories like the long-delayed outcome of the Trial of Galileo, and some spectacular failures, like 9/11. The WTC attack is the perfect example of your outlook, the perfect standoff between authority and reason — and how angry people get when it dawns on them that they will never understand why science, and modern society, has the foundation it does. That is WHY they are authorities in their field. No, that is why they are authorities in psychiatry (and religion). There are no authorities in science, there is only evidence. A reliance on authority is a long-lamented and widely recognized logical error, first described by Francis Bacon and held as a central principle in law and science ever since.

It's very simple — either you craft knowledge using evidence and theory, or you appoint someone God and let him tell you what to think. There's very little territory between those extremes.
Do you even realize how stupid you sound glorifying Richard Feynman. He sure seems to be YOUR "authority." Huh? Your ignorance is astounding. Now I have to decide whether to include this exchange in my blog, because I realize you're such a perfect mix of ignorance and psychology worship that people will think I made you up.

On the other hand, you're so far over the top that people will realize I wouldn't think of making someone like you up — you're too unreal not to be real.
P.S. Richard Feynman and absolutely zero musical ability. In short, he sucked at music and art.He could not hold a candle to Alex Fox or Steve Vai.... You really should stick to one topic — to some extent it conceals your shallowness and ignorance.
Yes, dear reader, as astonishing as it may sound, exchanges like the above are daily fare for those who dare to criticize psychiatry and psychology. These people are so lacking in personal insight, so irony-disabled, that they can sit down at a computer, a machine designed by scientists, and type out a complaint, to a scientist, about the science that made the medium of communication possible.
You're a Total Fool II
Your response was filled with nothing but ad hominem logical fallacies ... First, when you opened this exchange by saying, "You are a total fool," you gave up the right to complain about ad hominem arguments.

Second, by "logical fallacies," do you mean the evidence I linked to, the evidence you didn't bother to read? Psychiatry is widely recognized as a pseudoscience, for example by the current director of the NIMH, Thomas Insel, who has recently advocated a move away from psychiatry toward neuroscience:

The Rats of N.I.M.H.
"Insel announced that that the D.S.M.’s diagnostic categories lacked validity, that they were not 'based on any objective measures,' and that, 'unlike our definitions of ischemic heart disease, lymphoma or AIDS,' which are grounded in biology, they were nothing more than constructs put together by committees of experts. America’s psychiatrist-in-chief seemed to be reiterating what many had been saying all along: that psychiatry was a pseudoscience, unworthy of inclusion in the medical kingdom."
So, which part of this public stand by America's highest-ranking psychiatrist — and most influential authority — didn't you understand? Insel has written extensively on this topic in his NIMH blog:

Transforming Diagnosis
"The goal of this new manual, as with all previous editions, is to provide a common language for describing psychopathology. While DSM has been described as a 'Bible' for the field, it is, at best, a dictionary, creating a set of labels and defining each. The strength of each of the editions of DSM has been 'reliability' – each edition has ensured that clinicians use the same terms in the same ways. The weakness is its lack of validity."

"Unlike our definitions of ischemic heart disease, lymphoma, or AIDS, the DSM diagnoses are based on a consensus about clusters of clinical symptoms, not any objective laboratory measure. In the rest of medicine, this would be equivalent to creating diagnostic systems based on the nature of chest pain or the quality of fever. Indeed, symptom-based diagnosis, once common in other areas of medicine, has been largely replaced in the past half century as we have understood that symptoms alone rarely indicate the best choice of treatment. Patients with mental disorders deserve better."
In this quote, Insel takes exactly, precisely, the same position I have taken — psychiatry relies on anecdote, on a listing of symptoms instead of a knowledge of causes, on description instead of explanation, on narrative instead of science.

I post these quotations, not because there's any authority in science, but because psychiatry isn't a science, and because you earlier took the position that authority is central to psychiatry. What this means is that you believe any authority who happens to share your false view of psychiatry, and reject any who do not.
- a SURE SIGN of somebody who is full of poo. You have no argument and never did. You harbor a grudge against my profession. Wow, what a deep argument. I'm sure "full of poo" will be instantly accepted by the first scientific journal to whom you submit it as an argument in favor of psychiatry's scientific standing. Dr. [ withheld in the name of privacy ] ( well versed in psychiatry) is a colleague of mine and she thinks little of your nonsense. You provide no credible evidence that psychiatry is a fraudulent profession, only ad hominem fallacies. Apart from the fact that (a) I never made the claim you assert ("fraudulent profession"), and that (b) your claim that I offer no evidence is clearly and demonstrably false, according to the scientific and philosophical rules of evidence, the burden of evidence isn't mine, it's yours:

Philosophic Burden of Proof
"When debating any issue, there is an implicit burden of proof on the person asserting a claim. An argument from ignorance occurs when either a proposition is assumed to be true because it has not yet been proven false or a proposition is assumed to be false because it has not yet been proven true.This has the effect of shifting the burden of proof to the person criticizing the assertion, but is not valid reasoning."
As freely acknowledged by Freud and his descendants, psychiatry has never been a science, therefore to defend it as a science, psychiatry must shoulder its burden of evidence. This means you must shoulder your burden of evidence. In this exchange, by quoting the authorities in your field — all of whom freely acknowledge that psychiatry isn't a science — I have been meeting a burden of evidence that isn't mine.

A sure sign of a pseudoscientist is that he believes something to be true until someone else disproves it. By contrast, a scientist assumes a claim is false until he himself can support it with evidence. There is no better and more concise description of the distinction between science and pseudoscience.
I hope you post this to your site because it shows how badly I have demolished your phony arguments. [ It seems my correspondent lives in a parallel universe in which "You are a total fool" is accepted as a meaningful argument. ]

I do intend to post this to my site — it shows how confused you are about the nature of science and evidence, and how out of touch with recent events in your own field. But as this exchange unfolds I'm becoming aware that, because you're such a perfect caricature of the anti-intellectual psychiatrist, my readers are going to think I made you up. But don't worry — I won't reveal your identity. Your profound ignorance of the modern world will remain our secret.
There is FAR more to the world than only science..... Science has considerable limitations. Wait ... which topic are we addressing again? I happen to agree the world is much more than science, but science has its place, and for some issues it has no substitute. For example, when Beth Rutherford claimed to have been raped by her father, when she claimed she was forced to abort with a coat-hanger, the psychiatrists who gave her story credence didn't need art, they didn't need a knowledge of literature, they didn't need an emotional argument such as you're making, they needed science. And you need science. (Rutherford was later discovered to be a virgin.)
  1. I swear to God I didn't make this person up. Seriously. As a writer I'm not skilled enough to invent such a perfect representative of intellectual mediocrity.
  2. If other psychiatrists read this person's rant, they would say, "Please! Don't be on our side!"

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