Monday 1 October 2012

Intellectuals: people who believe explanation more than observation


Probably, psychiatrists are more extreme in their enthralment to explanation than most intellectuals - yet they are not unusual among intellectuals in being explanation-driven.

Psychiatrists willingly adopt ineffective treatments when there is an 'accepted' explanation of why they work; and ignore effective treatments when the explanation for their operation is unsatisfying in some way.


For example, the SSRI group of drugs is ineffective in the treatment of melancholia/ endogenous depression (although they can be effective in anxiety, 'neurotic' depression, and premature ejaculation).

But these drugs have been uselessly or harmfully given to countless people with melancholia on the basis of a made-up, baseless and incoherent (but nonetheless 'convincing') theory that depression is caused by a deficiency of serotonin - which the drugs are supposedly treating.

Meanwhile Electroconvulsive therapy/ Electroshock is very obviously, rapidly and striking effective in most melancholic patients; yet is often not used or used as a last resort because there is no 'accepted' theory for effectiveness.


Thus a fake and false theory can become accepted almost universally without evidence (indeed in the teeth of evidence), and can lead to massive and international behaviour change; while effective intervention can be thwarted by the lack of consensus among relevant intellectuals.

And the business of getting a theory 'accepted' and of either building or demolishing 'consensus' is one which can be and is managed as a matter of daily routine by Big Pharma.

The process has been authoritatively and meticulously described by David Healy over the past few decades, and brought together in his recent book Pharmageddon.


The process by which psychiatric consensus is manipulated among psychiatrists is a microcosm of the process by which secular Leftist modernity operates among the intellectual elites.

If you read Healy's work, you can see exactly how this has operated in practice and unfolded over several decades over and how remarkably powerful the whole thing is - the Pharmaceutical corporations make increasingly vast amounts of money from psychiatric drugs despite that no major useful classes of drugs have been discovered since the late 1960s (SSRIs) and that some recent pseudo-discoveries have not merely been ineffective, but clearly dangerous and immiserating.


This all shows the extent to which intellectuals, and perhaps humans in general, are controlled by explanations - and the extent to which they can be led to ignore what they can see with their own eyes and experience with their own bodies.

In an era of mass media and mega communications; he who controls the explanations controls the people.


josh said...

In my own life, I am constantly subjected to propaganda meant to explain why every job can be better done by a committee, and generally how we will see the greatest results when all aspects of education are standardized to conform with an agentless process called "research" (which is done by some people somewhere who apparently always agree that there is a "best practice" for everything). Of course our results don't seem to get any better, but obviously we should be using more "best practices". I mean, they are the *best* practices. Who could argue with that?

JP said...

What I don't get about SSRI drugs is (according to wiki anyway):

"SSRIs are frequently prescribed for anxiety disorders, such as social anxiety, panic disorders, and obsessive–compulsive disorder". Yet at the same time, their adverse effects include increased feelings of depression and anxiety (which may sometimes provoke panic attacks). So we are presecribing a drug for anxiety, and the drug's side effect includes anxiety?

Along the same lines, if the drug is prescribed for premature ejaculation, the adverse effects include "anorgasmia, erectile dysfunction, and diminished libido." So we're prescribing a drug for sexual dysfunction whose side effects include sexual dysfunction?

I understand that not every user of the drug experiences every side effect, but still.

Along the same lines, I note that Prozac is used to treat "major depression" and yet the adverse effects include "a 2-fold increase of the suicidal ideation and behavior in children and adolescents, and 1.5-fold increase of suicidality in the 18–24 age group." Yeah, nothing will cure major depression faster than suicide!

Bruce Charlton said...

@Jp - the answer is that SSRIs are not antidepressants (like Imipramine), nor are the anxiolytic drugs (like diazepam) but are emotion blunting or serenic (serene-making) drugs (more like a milder version of chlorpromazine) - and whether this is desirable or not depends on previous personality and symptoms.

But drugs derived from the antihistamines (and before that from coloured dyes) - which include antipsychotics, tricyclic andtidepressants and SSRIs - all share a rare but very dangerous side effect of akathisia (a kind of inner turmoil, sometimes with physical restlessness) which leads to suicidal ideas and sometimes to suicide. The antipsychotics are the worst (especially haloperidol) and tricyclics least bad, but SSRSs are something in the middle.

As for sex - ejaculation and erection are mediated by different nerves/ neurotransmitters - so one can be affected by a drug but not the other, or one get better and the other worse.

ajb said...

I find it interesting when I am listening to an expert (a doctor, nutritionist, and so on) and they will dismiss a person's testimony on the basis that it doesn't fit with their theories. "Well yes, there's a striking correlation which would normally strongly suggest a cause and effect relationship here, but that doesn't make sense according to theory x, y, or z I hold, and therefore I will ignore it."

The same is true with Christianity. There is a huge amount of contemporary and ongoing evidence for certain phenomena relevant to Christianity, but to the typical intellectual the testimony of individuals doesn't matter because ... it doesn't conform to the intellectuals' theories of what is!

CorkyAgain said...

Another area where explanations overrule evidence of ineffectiveness is economics and economic policy.

The Crow said...

Hehe :)
I just came here from a 'philosophy' forum, where its members demand proof of anything you might care to observe.
"Hi, my name is Crow, and 'm an alcoholic"...
"Prove it, provide reasoning, your logic is warped, quote your sources" etc.
It's really not very funny at all, but ultimately, it might as well provide some humour. It doesn't provide much else.

Matthew C. said...

"Intellectuals: people who believe explanation more than observation"