Debunking Denialism

Defending science against the forces of irrationality.

Creationist Anti-Psychiatry: The Worst of Two Worlds

creationist anti-psychiatry

Crank magnetism refers to the discovery that people often believe different forms of pseudoscience at the same time. The classical examples are social right-wing conservatives who are creationist and reject the science of climate change, alternative medicine proponents who promote homeopathy and reject vaccines, creationists who are HIV/AIDS denialists and so on. Maybe the different forms of pseudoscience reinforce each other or maybe they are united in their opposition to the mainstream scientific establishment.

One such form of crank magnetism is creationist anti-psychiatry. It is a strange chimera, as proponents of anti-psychiatry often are secular liberals or social libertarians, who have very little in common with socially conservative creationism. Answers in Genesis published an article on the topic of mental conditions and treatment for mental conditions called Psychology Without Sin by Ernie Baker, a “certified biblical counselor”. The post contains an astounding level of ignorance of psychology and psychiatry and the proposed solution is laughable.

Fear, uncertainty and doubt

Baker tries to explain mainstream treatments for mental conditions and fails spectacularly.

Imagine a street named Counseling Street where you can visit therapy shop after therapy shop. In each store you present your struggles with chronic depression and anxiety and listen to the solutions. But it gets confusing—almost every shop offers different solutions. One therapist diagnoses low self-esteem and says you need to feel better about yourself. Another explains that your brain chemicals are out of balance and the wiring needs help to fire properly. Yet another says that you have all the symptoms of repressed memories.

First of all, treatments of mental conditions have been made a lot more uniform through the process of scientific research and recommendations from health organizations.

Second, “low self-esteem” is not a psychiatric diagnosis. It is, at most, a symptom. Furthermore, “repressed memories” have been debunked as pseudoscience decades ago.

Like a doctor, a therapist bases diagnosis and treatment on what he or she believes is the source of the problem. But secular psychologists do not agree on the problem, so their treatments vary dramatically. In fact no standard psychology or therapy exists. There are hundreds of psychologies and therapies! Do we have any hope of finding the right treatment?

Baker seems to be confuse the terms psychiatrist, psychologist and therapist. To make a long story short, a psychiatrists is a medical doctor, a psychologist is a scientist and a therapist is a provider of psychotherapy.

Mental health professionals do debate the merits of different explanations, but there is general agreement on many things, and treatments for mental conditions have undergone careful clinical trials. For a condition like depression, it is acknowledged that antidepressants and cognitive behavioral therapy together is one of the best treatments. To say that “no standard psychology or therapy exists” is simply wrong. It is just an attempt to spread uncertainty and doubt about mainstream treatments. You find the right treatment by communicating with your doctor.

The bible as a psychiatry/psychology/psychotherapy reference book?

The Bible reveals the root of all human problems: sin’s effects on the soul.

There is a small problem with this: there is really no evidence for the existence of sin as a supernatural entity or of the soul as a non-physical spirit.

Sadly, though, God’s Word is not among the references in the therapy shops.

Why should we believe that a book that was written by scientifically ignorant humans thousands of years ago contains anything of value for modern day neuropsychiatry? Why should we believe it has anything of relevance to say about the clinical trails of psychotherapies?

The secular psychologies do not allow for an inherent sin nature, so it is hard to imagine how they could stumble upon the right treatment.

Is it hard to imagine how real scientists and therapists can reach an effective treatment? Ever heard of science? Clinical trials? Mental health professionals are not just randomly guessing, they are actually doing hard work (and producing better and better treatments, unlike creationists).

Unlike the shifting theories of the world, these chapters speak absolute truth about mankind’s need.

Treatments and explanations do not shift arbitrarily. They are updated and improved based on scientific evidence. That is a huge strength of science, not a weakness. Wallowing in absolute error and ignoring scientific evidence is a weakness.

Carl Rogers versus the bible

Rogers, like many before and after him, blamed our problems on our experiences. We cannot adopt that view without turning everyone into a victim who does not have to take responsibility for his or her actions. The Bible, in contrast, places the responsibility on us for how we respond to our circumstances, while still remaining merciful to sinners and sensitive to those sinned against.

So in other words, people get mental conditions because they did not take enough responsibility for our actions? That is ironic since creationists believe that sin came into the world by the actions of Adam and Eve. So is it the fault of Adam and Eve, or the fault of those suffering with a mental condition? So either Baker blames the person with a mental condition for inviting sin into his or her life, or the encroachment of sin into the life of people is inevitable as the result of the Fall? Ironically, Baker is either committed to victim blaming or asserts that no “secular” treatment (i.e. psychotherapy or psychiatric medication) is going to work.

It is also ironic that Baker claims that Carl Rogers humanistic psychology turns “everyone into a victim who does not have to take responsibility for his or her actions”. On the contrary, humanistic psychology focuses on self-actualization, which is the opposite.

God made the cause of our problem clear in Genesis 1–3, and He has prescribed the only cure, Jesus Christ. The details of applying God’s answer to each person’s problem may be complex and varied, but the reference book and its basic prescriptions are the same for everyone.

So the only successful treatment for mental conditions are Jesus? Then why do clinical trials show that psychiatric medication and cognitive behavioral therapy are effective treatments for a wide range of mental conditions?

Where are the clinical trials pitting cognitive behavioral therapy against creationist obsessions with a religious figure?

3 responses to “Creationist Anti-Psychiatry: The Worst of Two Worlds

  1. Adam Benton September 11, 2012 at 18:23

    I’ve encountered a fair bit of this before and I think it partly stems from the fact that psychology has the potential to explain what most religious-types normally attribute to a “soul.” If your personality is the result of the brain and not some ephemeral “other” then a lot of religious ideas loose their foundation, thus it is imperative they are as dismissive of the field as possible.

    I think we saw a similar thing with the recent higgs-boson “discovery.” Although only tangentially related to the whole creation/evolution debacle most big creationist institutions still downplayed it as much as possible in an attempt to sully the good name of physics. Physics, after all, disagrees with them at nearly every turn.

  2. Pingback: More Creationist Anti-Psychiatry at Answers in Genesis | Debunking Denialism

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