Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The dictatorship of the science of psychiatry

Author: Spiros Kakos

Religion-Science Philosophy articles series
Main Thesis: Harmonia Philosophica [English] (Credo quia absurdum!!)
The limits of science
Religion and Science unification - Towards religional science
Earth at the Center of the Universe?
The Source of Ethics
Human Consciousness and the end of Materialism


How psychiatry tends to be the new Holy Inquisition


The purpose of this article is to show how medicine and, in particular, the science of psychiatry is more and more becoming the new "dictator" of human affairs. It shows how medicine paid by pharmaceutical companies is something that should really trouble us. It demonstrates how psychiatrists are the tools of modern societies to define the "proper" way of thinking and behaving, via containing the people who behave in an unorthodox way that we cannot (and we may not want to) explain.

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Science as a Dogma

Many people argue that religion is dogmatic while science is not. My goal is to show that science can be as dogmatic as religion and that free-thinking people should be always careful not to believe everything  "official" science says without analyzing it first with their own logic. Unfortunately societies use both religion and science to promote a specific agenda and that is what is happening in our civilization with psychiatry. What we call "official" science today could be laughed by tommorow. Our duty as thinking human beings is to think independently and try to make our own mind at least for the things we can.
Science, like Religion, can be dogmatic if practiced incorrectly. Nowadays many scientists dogmatically believe that the soul does not exist, that science can answer everything (even though Godel has proven otherwise - see my article about the Limits of Science), that we are programmed by our instincts like every animal. Although not every scientist thinks that way, the fact that some professions or scientists' groups (like medicine or psychiatry) are dominated by materialistic narrow-thinking people has some peculiar effects that I will analyze below. If science is the art of doubting everything and not being dogmatic, then modern medicine and psychiatry should change how they think...

Brain MRI image
Important note: As I mention in body of the article, the purpose of this article is not to give medical advice. I am not a professional trained doctor and do not hold any degree in medicine whatsoever. I am a thinking person and chemical engineer though and can understand a valid argument what I see it.
The purpose of this article is to arise public awareness on the way mental illness is regarged today and the critiques of that "way of thought". All things written here have supporting bibliography. I am not telling anyone not to go to the doctor. In case of trouble or indications of any illness everyone should go to the doctor (I do the same as well). And it  should be clear to everyone that one should always trust his/her doctor than an online article. However, as the things some known psychiatrists (e.g. professor Szasz) say suggest, asking more than one doctor could prove useful sometimes...


Paid Medicine

During the last years we have witnessed a vast increase in the expenses for medicine worldwide. More and more people feel "sick" and seek the help of a specific drug. That is something that is - up to a great point - driven by pharmaceutical companies. All normal values for various human body parameters (like for example the cholesterol) are getting smaller and smaller each year, thus leading many of us to medication that we would not need if based on the previous' year values!
One may argue that new researched indicate those new values and that we should listen to our doctors. I agree that one should listen to his/her doctor! I also listen to my doctor! The reason is simple: the doctors are the only professionals who have the right training so as to advise you on medical matters!
But what happens when you see that most doctor's medical conferences are paid by pharmaceutical companies? What should we think when we realize that most research on the proper values of cholesterol are also supported financially by the pharmaceutical companies which produce the drugs our doctor says we should get? Recently Harvard Medical school pinpointed the problem and asked for more transparency in its dealings with pharmaceuticals [1]Is paid science "free" science? And more importantly, does paid science pose any danger - whatsoever - to our health? What if the one doctor you visit is paid by a pharmaceutical company to promote a new drug, while the drug that best fits your case is another one? And - even worse, what if you don't even need a drug to get well?




Are you feeling anxious about a deadline at your work, or an exam? Do you feel worried about an interview or an upcoming important date? If yes, the "official" psychiatry says that you suffer from a disease called "disturbance of general social worry" and even recommends a drug you must take! So worrying about something in your social life has been "defined" as "not-normal" by the psychiatric society (it is important to note that what is a disease and what is not is defined via democratic processes and voting and not by hard scientific data!). [2] Should everyone worrying for his first date take drugs?
Listen to your doctor, but be careful not to fall into the trap of what is called "scientism". Maybe it would be nice if you also asked the opinion of other 2-3 doctors who are paid / related to different pharmaceutical companies or even someone who is not paid by any such company.

The gist of my argument is that men like Kraepelin, Bleuler and Freud were not what they claimed or seem to be — namely, physicians or medical investigators; they were, in fact, religious-political leaders and conquerors. Instead of discovering new diseases, they extended, through psychiatry, the imagery, vocabulary, jurisdiction, and hence the territory of medicine to what they were not, and are not, diseases in the original Virchowian sense.
Thomas Szasz, Schizophrenia: The Sacred Symbol of Psychiatry (1979) [3]


Mad people or Annoying people?

Scientific dogmatism is more intense in the field of psychiatry, as it will be illustrated below.
The notion of "mental illness" is a very common notion among people. We all think that mentally ill people exist and that we should treat these people as sick people needing attention. One would be very surprised to know that there are professors of psychiatry who deny the idea of "mental illness".
In particular, some leading psychiatrists argue that the so common notion of "mental illness" is nothing more than a fantastic (i.e. "not real") idea invented by societies in order to control their members inside some specific boundaries. All those people who think and act differently are simply named "mad" and in that way society controls unwanted ways of thinking.
Take for example a person who kills himself. Most psychiatrists would say that a man who commits suicide is crazy or, to put it more politely, "mentally ill". Why would they say such a thing? Why is everyone so sure that some kind of mental disorder and are not willing to even discuss an alternative? The answer is that the neat and clean and organized materialistic society of today would be very much startled if it realized that something beyond our material body exists. Most Darwin-fans would have a hard time accepting the fact that we are not just animals struggling for survival, but that we could give our life here for something "else" (see Russel Wallace , the founder of the evolution theory, for more on that). So the verdict is simple: the person who killed himself is crazy and we can all go back to our materialistic void lifes with no regrets...But is the case so simple as that? Is for example a noble warrior who chooses to die instead of getting away with his life a "mad" man? Generalizing is the most easy thing, but not the most correct all the times...

Another example is the case of drug addicts or criminals. Modern societies cannot accept that a person may be self-destructive, in the same way that they cannot accept the fact that a person may actually choose to commit a crime. Accepting something like that would lead to the conclusion that evil may be an integral part of human nature after all and the society cannot let people think something like that. The solution is again simple: they name those cases as cases of mental illness...

"There is no psychology; there is only biography and autobiography”
Thomas Szasz



Mind over Body?

If we do not characterize the above-mentioned people as "crazy", then the foundations of our today's materialistic societies will have a major problem.

The "official" dogma of today's physics is that everything that exists in the world is matter abiding to natural laws and nothing else. Accepting that people have free will with which they choose to harm themselfs for example, would have a devastating impact on that axiom.
The objections to that dogma are many: How and why do we feel that we actually choose our actions? Why and how can we be held responsible for everything "good" we do, but we are characterized as "mentally ill" when we do something bad? Do we have free will or not after all?

The "official" dogma of medicine is that the brain cells are responsible for all mental activity. Since most medical researchers today are narrow-minded and cannot (do not want to) accept the existence of a soul in the human body, it is very natural for them to reach to the conclusion that commiting suicide can only be a result of a disorder in the brain.
The objections again are many: If everything is material-based, then why can't we cure schizophrenia with a simple medication as other biological diseases?



The anti-psychiatric movement

Psychiatric professor Thomas Szasz (Professor of Psychiatry at the State University of New York Health Science Center in Syracuse) is a leading figure in the anti-psychiatric movement. He advocates against the idea of what we call "mental illness". He thinks that people who we call crazy are actually people illustrating things the society does not want to "see" and that psychiatry plays the role the Holy Inquisition played in the past: to punish the ones who are unorthodox. The only difference is that in the old days "orthodoxy" was defined by religion while now orthodoxy is defined by science...


Szasz critique

Many people critisize Szasz for having founded the Citizens Commission of Human Rights with the Church of Scientology in 1969. Although this is true, it does not mean - at least according to the official Szasz site (http://www.szasz.com/) - that Szasz is a scientologist. An anti-Scientology website calls Szasz a “useful idiot” and suggests that he played right into the hands of the Scientologist anti-medicine agenda. The Szasz.com website though, paints a rather different picture:
The following statement is intended as response to requests for clarification regarding Dr. Szasz’s co-founding of the Citizens Commission for Human Rights (CCHR). Thomas Szasz is not now nor has he ever been a Scientologist or a member of the Church of Scientology.
Dr. Szasz co-founded CCHR in the same spirit as he had co-founded — with sociologist Erving Goffman and law professor George Alexander — The American Association for the Abolition for Involuntary Mental Hospitalization.
Scientologists have joined Szasz’s battle against institutional psychiatry. Dr. Szasz welcomes the support of Jews, Christians, Muslims, and any other religious or atheist group committed to the struggle against the Therapeutic State. Sharing this battle does not mean that Dr. Szasz supports the unrelated principles and causes of any religious or non-religious organization. This is explicit and implicit in Dr. Szasz’s work. Everyone and anyone is welcome to join in the struggle for individual liberty and personal responsibility — especially as these values are threatened by psychiatric ideas and interventions.
So Szasz isn’t a Scientologist, even if he does pose for photos with Tom Cruise. I guess this goes in the whole “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” category. All in all, it’s a very sticky situation to untangle, which we could look at in any number of ways. [4]
It is interesting that even though many people agree with the opinions postulated by Szasz, they position themselfs against him simply because he found himself working with a group of religious people (who have their own agenda on a whole spectrum of issues completely alien to psychiatry). As a blog on Szasz suggests: “Instead of asking why Scientology endorses Thomas Szasz's ideas, we should be asking why other religions do not.” Another in a long chain of interesting questions surrounding this issue...


Conslusion

Drawing conclusions in matters related to human mind is not easy. But the more one thinks about it, the more things seem more unclear than clear. If you hear voices then the official psychiatry might decide you are insane. If you manage to harness those voices and transform them into classical music then you might be called "genious musician". As Lou Marinoff correctly states, one must remember that he should be considered sane until proved insane and not the opposite. [2] Search your self and listen to doctors, but try to examine the opinion of more than one before reaching to easy conslusions. If we let the majority decide upon what is sane and what is insane, then we would never have such "insane" theories like "a body in space instantly creates an invisible field which exerts power over any other body which is placed in it"...


Bibliography - Links

The purpose of the article is to stimulate thought. I am a chemical engineer researcher and not a doctor. One should listen to the medical professionals in order to learn more on what is mentioned in this article. Some interesting sources from where you could start your personal search for the "truth" (is such a thing as an "ultimate truth" actually exists) are listed below:

1. The Thomas S. Szasz Cybercenter for Liberty and Responsibility [http://www.szasz.com/].
2. Ideologie et Folie, Thomas Szasz, P.U.F., 1976.
3. La Loi, la liberte et la psychiatrie, Thomas Szasz, Payot, 1977.
4. L'Age de la folie: L'Histoire de l'hospitalisation psychiatrique involuntaire, Thomas Szasz, P.U.F., 1978.
5. Theologie de la medecine, Thomas Szasz, Payot, 1980.
6. Psychiatry: The Science of Lies, Syracuse University Press, 2008.
7. Le Mythe de la psychotherapie, Thomas Szasz, Payot, 1981.
8. Lou Marinoff [Wikipedia article]
9. Le Mythe de la maladie mentale, Thomas Szasz, Payot, 1986.


References

  1. Harvard Medical School must be more transparent in its dealings with pharmaceuticals
  2. Therapy for the Sane (formerly titled "The Big Questions"), Lou Marinoff, Bloomsbury, New York and London, 2003.
  3. Thomas Szasz [Wiki Quote main page]
  4. Thomas Szasz & Scientology [timboucher]


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