Debunking Denialism

Defending science against the forces of irrationality.

Dispelling Myths about Human Female Sexual Anatomy and Physiology

Justifiably angry

From virginity-obsessed religious theocrats and fake sex gurus who fetishize over their own misunderstandings of human anatomy for financial gain to serious scientists publishing methodologically flawed research that turn out to be non-reproducible and unscrupulous doctors promoting untested and potentially dangerous surgical procedures, the scientific realities of human female sexual anatomy and physiology has come under fire from a diverse range of sources. Aggravated by media attention and bad science journalism, this area has become filled to the brim with a great deal of distortions and misconceptions. It is time to strike back.

The “evidence” for the existence of a female G-spot consists mostly of anecdotes and a flawed study that did not even save a histological sample, so it is most likely not a general anatomic feature in women. G-spot amplification surgeries have not undergone rigorous clinical testing and carries serious potential risks. Many women cannot achieve orgasm by just having vaginal penetration. Virgin tests are based on discredited notions about vaginal anatomy and virginity. Finally, there is very little credible evidence that menstrual synchronization occurs when women live together for an extended period of time and the fact that most of these studies could not be replicated suggests that initial findings were capitalizations on chance.

Fact #1: The “G-spot” probably does not exist as a general anatomic feature

The G-spot is a hypothesized distinct anatomical area situated in the anterior vaginal wall that is said to incite especially intense sexual pleasure when stimulated. However, it has proved to be elusive to identify this area using scientific methods. Despite this, some women are convinced that this area exists and the notion has been quickly exploited by charismatic sex gurus, popular women’s magazines and unscrupulous surgeons.

However, the scientific state of knowledge differ substantially from popular imagination. Two recent reviews by Puppo and Gruenwald (2013) and Kilchevsky et. al (2012) converge on the general conclusion that the G-spot is a myth without any anatomical reality. Puppo and Gruenwald (2013) state that “All published scientific data point to the fact that the G-spot does not exist” and Kilchevsky et. al (2012) concludes that: Read more of this post

Mailbag: Creationism and Moving the Goalposts

Mailbag

Time to respond to yet another reader feedback email! If you want to send me a question, comment or any other kind of feedback, please do so using the contact form on the about page. For more answers to feedback emails, see the mailbag category.

When we last saw Joe, he had sent me a feedback email were he deployed some common creationist complaints about the mainstream science of modern evolutionary biology: chiefly the equivocation of the “theory” concept, faulty appeals to the second law of thermodynamics and the “random chance” gambit. I explained the flaws in these assertions in greater detail here. After my previous response to him was posted, he decided to send me another feedback email. He starts off by thanking me for my response:

Firstly, I would like to thank you for answering my previous questions. I would like to ask a couple more questions.

Joe thanks me for answering his previous questions. Yet he neither address any of the arguments I made, nor does he state that he now accepts that his creationist objections to modern evolutionary biology are wrong. Instead, he wishes to ask more questions. This is a classic creationist debating strategy: never accept that your arguments have been debunked and keep moving onto other alleged creationist “problems” with evolution. Never retreat, just advance in a different direction. The intellectually honest approach would be to accept that those arguments were wrong and never use them again in any discussion about evolution. However, the typical creationist complain about evolution is very old: the same arguments (like the equivocation of the “theory” concept or appeals to the second law of thermodynamics) are often recycled over and over. Read more of this post

Abusing Heritability: “Libertarian Realist” Edition

Libertarian Realist Twitter

With his 250+ videos spread over several accounts, the Youtube user Libertarian Realist is a prolific video creator. Most of his videos center around his obsession with ethnic origin, crime and intelligence. He is an intense advocate of the pseudoscience of race realism and the scientifically flawed thesis that African-Americans are somehow genetically inferior when it comes to intelligence compared with European-Americans.

He also promotes a number of crank ideas from conspiracy theories about water fluoridation quackery, Jews-run-the-globalist-media, anal sex as a potential threat to the future of civilization and anti-immigration falsehoods like Eurabia as well as classic misunderstandings of evolution and ravings about alleged cultural Marxists. Despite these severe and recurrent lapses from rationality, he ironically claims to “follow truth wherever it may lead”.

Recently, I and a couple of other scientific skeptics active on Twitter got a tweet from Libertarian Realist.

Libertarian realist first tweet

It seems to be a way for to advertise a recent video that he uploaded earlier that month called “Race and IQ Denial Explain”. Unsurprisingly, he repeats the same stale falsehoods that have been spouted by race realists and destroyed by scientists and skeptics for many decades. Some of these erroneous claims have been discussed on this website before and others will undoubtedly be discussed in the future. This post, however, will focus on his misunderstandings of heritability and our recent Twitter exchange.

As was discussed in a previous article on this website entitled The Widespread Abuse of Heritability, heritability is “the amount of phenotypic variance (“variation”) in a particular population in a given environment that can be attributed to the genetic variance (“variation”) in that specific population in that given environment, but not a measure of the relative influence of genes on the phenotype of an individual compared to environment and is not informative about between-group differences”.

Yet race realists, out of wishful thinking or willful ignorance, frequently misunderstand heritability. They may occasionally quote the variance ratio definition, but then slip into the bad practice of thinking that heritability tells us anything about the relative influence of genes on an individual’s phenotype or the causes of between-group differences.

In the video he linked, Libertarian Realist makes these errors repeatedly. A representative example occurs at 17:20, where Libertarian Realist claims the following (my transcript):

And then, Evogen accepted the mainstream scientific viewpoint on general IQ heritability. He accepted that IQ was about 75% heritable. Of course, he did not really understand what the term heritability meant [Libertarian Realist laughs - Emil's note]. If you are going to deny that genetic variation plays any role in shaping any extent of any of the group IQ differences within a country, whether they be between blacks and whites, or between east Asians and Hispanics, then acknowledging that IQ variation overall within that country is 75% conditioned by genetic variation within that country pretty much undoes your position. It renders it untenable.

This section shows Libertarian Realist making at least three of the classic race realist fallacies with respect to heritability: (1) stating that general IQ is 75% heritable (instead of stating that the heritability of general IQ is 0.75) insinuates that heritability is informative about the relative merits of inheritance over environment for individual phenotypes, (2) stating a single figure instead of a range of values shows that he does not understand that heritability depends on environment and population and (3) failing to understand that heritability estimates are not informative about the causes of between-group differences. It is also very ironic that Libertarian Realist asserts that his opponent does not understand heritability, when it is himself who so thoroughly misunderstands the concept.

Read more of this post

Intelligent Design Creationists Still Abuse NFL Theorems

Uncommon Descent and NFL

Creationists rarely come up with any new arguments. Rather, they keep repeating the same flawed assertions that have been disproved thousands of times in the past. Sometimes, however, they attempt to reinvent themselves. Not by discovering evidence or presenting new arguments, but by dressing up previous arguments in a cheap tuxedo. Claims about “what use is half a wing or half an eye?” gets changed to “what use is half a flagella?”, claims about evolution somehow contradicting the second law of thermodynamics gets replaced by appeals to an imaginary conservation law about information and so on. Another common creationist trope is asserting that evolution is just “random chance”. Since random chance cannot produce complex adaptations, creationists argue that there has to be an intelligent designer behind life. In reality, selection is a non-random process and it is the generation of genetic variation that is essentially random. Because this creationist trope can readily be debunked, they had to throw out some smokescreens in an effort to rehabilitate this approach.

That smokescreen is the abuse of the so-called No Free Lunch (NFL) theorems. Simplified, intelligent design creationists claim that these show that no evolutionary algorithm can outperform a random search, so therefore, evolution is not better than “random chance” and since “random chance” cannot produce complex adaptations, evolution cannot do it either. However, this is based on a key misunderstanding of the NFL theorems. Mark Perakh (2004, p. 102) explains:

The NFL theorems establish that performance of all algorithms is the same if averaged over all possible fitness functions. Dembski illegitimately applies this results to the algorithms’ performance on specific fitness functions where different algorithms can (and do) perform very differently. Dembski’s assertion that no evolutionary algorithm can outperform a random search because of the NFL theorems and that therefore Darwinian evolution is impossible is absurd. The NFL theorems in no way prohibit Darwinian evolution.

In other words, one evolutionary algorithms cannot outperform another averaged over all possible fitness landscapes. However, real-world evolution occurs on a specific subset of fitness landscapes not averaged over all theoretically possible fitness landscapes.

Even David Wolpert, one of the discoverer of the original NFL theorems, rejects Dembski’s false characterization:

Perhaps the most glaring example of this is that neo-Darwinian evolution of ecosystems does not involve a set of genomes all searching the same, fixed fitness function, the situation considered by the NFL theorems. Rather it is a co-evolutionary process. Roughly speaking, as each genome changes from one generation to the next, it modifies the surfaces that the other genomes are searching. And recent results indicate that NFL results do not hold in co-evolution.

The fitness landscape is thus not independent of the evolutionary algorithm, and the NFL theorems do not apply.

Recently, the pseudonym scordova wrote a post on the intelligent design creationist blog Uncommon Descent (UD) about the NFL theorems and Dawkins’ Weasel algorithm (another classic creationist obsession). Because the UD post shows (1) that intelligent design creationists, like their ideological predecessors, continue to appeal to claims that have long since been debunked and (2) that there is a large overlap between scientific creationists and intelligent design creationists in terms of what kind of arguments they use, let us go through it point-by-point. Read more of this post

Khalid Elmekki and “Questioning Evolution” Redux

Questioning evolution

It is fascinating how creationists, despite having had their errors explained to them in exquisite detail, continue to insist that their trivial misunderstandings of biology threatens to undermine evolution. If they were really interested in learning more about the world that science shows us, a simple Google search would reveal their errors. Instead, they prefer to wallow in their own ignorance.

One such example is Khalid Elmekki. Elmekki and his false claims about evolution has been refuted previously on this website after he make a video where he tried to lay out some of the reasons for why he rejected evolutionary biology. He later removed the video, presumably because of the backlash to some of the more embarrassing statements he made. Elmekki has also a number of other questionable videos on his Youtube channel where he claims that the U.S is a communist regime and promotes Illuminati conspiracy theories and so on.

Recently, Elmekki put up a re-make video were he attempts to discuss some of the “problems” that he sees with modern evolutionary. Elmekki has stopped using some of the most ludicrous arguments that could be seen in his previous video on the subject. He no longer states that he rejects evolution because it feels disgusting. He has also left out a lot of the material about phylogeny and systematics, such as the claim that birds evolved from pterodactyls. Unfortunately, a lot of creationist claims remain: such as the “if we evolved from apes…” and the feeble attempt to connect Charles Darwin to racism and ethnic cleansing. Despite denying that he is a creationist, Elmekki also throws in a couple of classic creationist falsehoods that he did not talk about before such as the equivocation of the theory concept and the denial of scientific evidence. Interestingly, he even produces some home-made arguments, such as claiming that cicadas are almost extinct because they have a long life-cycle and that humans and other apes cannot share a common ancestor because there are no non-human apes listed in human genealogies. For what it is worth, at least Elmekki tries to be original. Read more of this post

Skeptical Activism Online: How to Avoid the Burnout

Burnout!

Have you ever felt exhausted from seemingly endless struggles with creationists in Youtube comments? Spent too long time bickering on Twitter with quantum mystics who clearly are not worth your time? Gotten caught in a unproductive spiral of trench warfare on a forum with homeopaths? Spent hours writing blog comments on the placebo effect and statistical tests only to have them deleted because the blog owner is a acupuncture-promoting quack?

Most scientific skeptics who engage in online activism sooner or later come across these kinds of enormously frustrating situations. Combating pseudoscience in this way can sometimes become an unhealthy obsession. Here are some tips to make online skeptical activism less frustrating and reduce the risk of a burnout.

Stop having unproductive struggles

One major contributor to skeptical activist burnout is probably unproductive struggles on social media sites and comment sections on various websites. The common problem with these debate avenues is that they are unsuitable for discussing complex scientific topics. Some of them (such as Twitter and Youtube) restrict the number of characters you can use to communicate your skeptical arguments. This forces you to break them up into tiny pieces that will obscure the larger context of your objections. In other avenues (such as Youtube, some Facebook pages and comments on pseudoscientific blogs), the power over your skeptical material rests in hostile hands. This means that proponents of pseudoscience can refuse to publish, delete or edit your comments. Material you have spent hours and hours writing can be distorted or removed in a few seconds Read more of this post

How to Spot a Pseudoscientific Paper

A scientific paper (or is it?)

With the rise of low-impact journals and predatory open-access journals, the journal jungle has become considerable more difficult to navigate for the informed reader. There are even journals started by groups promoting pseudoscience: young-earth creationists have Answers Research Journal, intelligent design creationists have the BIO-Complexity journal, homeopaths have the Homeopathy journal, proponents of acupuncture have the Journal of Chinese Medicine & Treatment and so on. Even more alarmingly, high quality journals (such as JAMA) have on rare occasions published what appear to be promotional pieces of quack treatments (Gorski, 2013). Thus, it is more important than ever to be able to sift the gems from the trash and approach published research papers with a skeptical eye.

This post exposes many of the common tricks used by proponents of pseudoscience to make their research papers appear more credible than they actually are: unjustified claims in the abstract, misrepresentations of previous research.

Abstract:

In a real scientific research paper, the abstract contains a summary of each major section of the article. This allows researchers to quickly get a grasp of the main methods and conclusions without reading the full text version. In the ideal case, the abstract accurately reflect the content of the paper.

Watch out for:

  • Claims not found in the paper
  • Claims not justified by the results
  • Cherry-picked and/or spun results

However, proponents of pseudoscience can distort the abstract in a number of different ways. They can report claims in the abstract that is not found in the paper, not justified by the data or they can select the most impressive finding and ignore or otherwise downplay the rest in a deceptive manner. Read more of this post

Response to Anti-Immigration Proponents and Their Criticisms

Related: Debunking the “Immigration and Cover-Up” Ad in Dagens Nyheter

Debunking Anti-immigration

A few days has passed since Dagens Nyheter (DN), the largest morning newspaper in Sweden, published a highly misleading full-page advertisement for the anti-immigration book “Immigration and Cover-Up” written by Karl-Olov Arnstberg and Gunnar Sandelin. As the name sounds, the book promotes a conspiracy theory that Swedish media is systematically distorting, oppressing and covering-up the allegedly horrible effects of immigration on Swedish society. The advertisement made a large number of dubious claims, equivocations and insinuations. I took on these problems in a post called Debunking the “Immigration and Cover-Up” Ad in Dagens Nyheter and it spread like wildfire over social media like Twitter and Facebook.

Naturally, it also received a lot of commentary and criticisms from supporters of anti-immigration sentiments. Because I suspected that the post would attract a lot of right-wing political extremists and because I did not want this blog to be a platform for an endless and unproductive war of attrition between different kinds of political extremists, I turned on manual comment moderation. Looking back at what kind of comments I got, I have decided to decline publication of all past, present and future comments on that post, both supportive and critical. If you want to praise or criticize that post, do it somewhere else.

Nevertheless, I think it is worth to examine and refute the counterarguments I got. This would counteract the cries of “censorship” (you keep using that word, but I do not think you know what it means), provide ammunition to others challenging the pseudoscience of anti-immigration and give the critics what they ask for. The rest of this post will take on every single objection and criticisms that I have personally gotten or seen thrown around on social media websites (I am sure I have missed some). Some are clearly less viable than others, but they are discussed in no particular order.

“Facts cannot be racist” / “The statistics in the ad was accurate”

Facts by themselves cannot be racist, but it is possible to systematically twist and distort facts through various means (such as equivocations, insinuations and deceptive phrasing) so that when they are put together in a certain way, true facts become false and misleading by virtue of the context. If there is no ideological bias behind the presentation, one would expect that the direction of these errors should be random. However, if you read a text were the direction of these equivocations, insinuations and deceptive phrasing are almost always in the same direction (in this case in an anti-immigration direction), it is probably the case that a systematic distortion has taken place. Read more of this post

Debunking the “Immigration and Cover-Up” Ad in Dagens Nyheter

DN and anti-immigration falsehoods

Founded in 1864, Dagens Nyheter (DN) is the largest morning newspaper in Sweden and tend to stand above popular Swedish tabloids that often play hard and fast with the truth to sell single copies. However, recent events have called into question the ability of this newspaper to maintain a basic degree of credibility.

Dagens Nyheter decided to publish a full-page advertisement for the anti-immigration conspiracy book “Immigration and Cover-Up” earlier today. The ad, bought Karl-Olov Arnstberg (one of the authors), consists of a list of eight enormously misleading anti-immigration falsehoods without any sources, a picture of the book and how to order it. In response, here are brief refutations of each of the points, backed reference to primary statistics were applicable. As we will see, Arnstberg exaggerated the number of refugees given permanent residence permits by 400%, provided many deceptive formulations, performed an appeal to popularity and ignored confounders.

During 2012, Sweden granted ~25k permanent residence permits to refugees, not 111k

According to statistics from Swedish Migration Board, the total number of permanent residence permits given to refugees was around 25k. Data extracted from the Swedish Migration Board document “Beviljade uppehållstillstånd och registrerade uppehållsrätter, första och andra instans. Förstagångstillstånd. Helåret 2012.” (“Approved residence permits and registrations residence rights, first and second court level. First-time approval. Full year 2012″). It can be found here (webcite). A lay summary can be found here (webcite).

Here is the break-down per category:

—-> People who fulfill UN refugee criteria (“Konventionsflyktingar”), i. e. people “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country”. For 2012, this figure was 4617 individuals.

—-> People who fulfill the criteria for “in need for protection” (“Asyl-Skyddsbehövande”) i.e. do not fulfill UN criteria for refugee, but that there is a rational reason to presume that the immigrant if he or she would return to his or her home country, “would be at a high risk for being punished by death, corporal punishment, torture or other humiliating treatment or punishment, or as a civilian have a serious and personal risk to be harmed due to arbitrary violence due to an external or internal armed conflict”. For 2012, this figure was 9095 people. Read more of this post

Being Transgender is Nothing Like Having a Psychotic Napoleon Delusion

Transgender and Napoleon

There are some assertions about reality that are so wildly out of touch with scientific evidence and rational thinking that is extraordinarily difficult to grasp why some people consider them even remotely sound. Presumably, the maelstrom of blind ignorance, breathtaking stupidity and ingrained ideology engulf them and force a complete disconnect from any sensible view of the world. Despite considerable efforts, these individuals are typically highly resistant to correction.

One such assertion that keeps getting resurrected and regurgitated no matter how hard it has been bombarded to shreds is the flawed notion that being accepting towards transgender individuals or providing hormone-replacement therapy and gender reassignment surgery is akin to supporting the psychotic delusion of someone who believes himself to be Napoleon. Here are just a few recent examples of this problematic trope:

Pretending that a man who thinks he’s a woman really is one is like giving a man who thinks he’s Napoleon an army with which to invade Russia.

To make the claim that everyone in society has to take part in their hallucination is akin to opening the doors of the mental hospitals and having to recognize that everyone that thinks they are Napoleon are actually Napoleon. They are mentally dysfunctional – treat THAT.

GID patients have a mental illness and society should be looking into ways to eradicate that mental illness through some form of treatment that isn’t the equivalent of giving a paranoid schizophrenic who thinks he’s Napoleon a bicorn hat and a saber.

Treating a man as a woman would be like catering to the delusion of a paranoid schizophrenic. Their hallucinations aren’t real, and pretending they are doesn’t actually help the person.

…and so on ad nauseam.

However, even a cursory understanding of the relevant scientific background makes it painfully obvious that being transgender is nothing like having a psychotic Napoleon delusion. Read more of this post

Science and Pseudoscience in Law Enforcement

Related: Neuroscience, Memory and the Courtroom, The Criminal Profiling Deception.

ResearchBlogging.org

Pseudoscience in law enforcement

Pseudoscience seems to be everywhere: from anti-vaccine activism and HIV/AIDS denialism to postmodern pseudomathematics and quantum quackery. It would appear that no area goes unharmed by the enormous reach of pseudoscience. It has even infiltrated law enforcement where it injects pseudoscientific notions such as hypnosis and graphology, prevent safeguards against error in interrogations and fingerprint analysis or making it more difficult to remove practices that are not supported by the evidence, such as criminal profiling, the use of truth serum or lie detector tests.

This article will discuss a paper by Lilienfeld and Landfield (2008) published in the journal Criminal Justice and Behavior that examine these issues in detail. Lilienfeld and Landfield provide a tentative definition of pseudoscience and then goes on to list ten warning signs of pseudoscience together with an example of each from law enforcement. Finally, the make some recommendations for combating the influence of pseudoscience in law enforcement. It must be pointed out that some of these examples, such as interrogation and fingerprint analysis, are not by themselves pseudoscience. Rather, it is the way that some proponents make use of these tools without the proper safeguards against mistakes that is deserving of the label of pseudoscience.

What is pseudoscience?

Lilienfeld and Landfield (2008) point out that pseudoscience, like the concept of day and night, are fuzzy concepts. Nevertheless, they manage to encapsulate a couple of key aspects of pseudoscience in their descriptions. They state that “pseudosciences are disciplines that possess the superficial appearance of science but lacks it substance” and “pseudosciences are imposters of science: they do not play by the rules of science even though they mimic some of its outward features”.

Ten warning signs of pseudoscience (with examples)

Lilienfeld and Landfield describe ten key warning signs of pseudoscience and provide examples for police work. These warning signs stretch from lack of falsifiability and self-correction to the use of testimonials and the absence of connectivity with broader scientific research fields. Read more of this post

Mailbag: Flawed Race Troll Rhethoric vs. Confounders

Feedback email

Time to respond to yet another reader feedback email! If you want to send me a question, comment or any other kind of feedback, please do so using the contact form on the about page. For more answers to feedback emails, see the mailbag category.

Most race realists I encounter online hesitate to directly state their opinions of African-Americans (or other ethnic minorities). If they did, it would be pretty obvious that their position is based on nothing more than lazy stereotyping and ingrained prejudice. This means that they have to attempt to dress up their delusional beliefs in scientific terms to make it appear respectable. As a result, they tend to spread misinformation about scientific topics such as heritability, genetic risk factors, intelligence and aggression. Typically, they also add condescending complains about “cultural Marxism” or “suffocating political correctness gone mad” or something similar. Debunking these allegedly “sophisticated” race realists often demand both deep and broad knowledge covering topics such as adoption and twin studies, genome-wide association studies, haplogroups, principal component analysis, heritability, statistics and the biological influences of behavior. In addition, a lot of patience.

Ever so rarely, I come across what we might call an unsophisticated race realist. This simplified archetype typically do not bother to attempt to discuss the details of human genetic diversity or attempt any of the traditional pseudoscientific gambits. Instead, this kind of race realist just blurts out their favorite stereotype about a given ethnic minority Read more of this post

Mailbag: Creationism, Scientific Theories and Entropy

Feedback email

Time to respond to yet another reader feedback email! If you want to send me a question, comment or any other kind of feedback, please do so using the contact form on the about page. For more answers to feedback emails, see the mailbag category.

This time, I got a feedback message from Joe who seems to have some issues with modern evolutionary biology. Unfortunately and unsurprisingly, the problems Joe sees with this scientific discipline is based on the same old creationist misunderstandings that have been discussed and destroyed thousands of times before: the equivocation of the term “theory”, flawed ideas about entropy and evolution, misunderstandings of taxonomy and the impact of culture on intelligence. Read more of this post

Scientific Reality Versus Anti-Psychiatry: Once More Unto the Breach

Related: Entertaining the Denialism of Yet Another Anti-Psychiatry Troll.

anti-psychiatry

Why should scientific skeptics care about refuting anti-psychiatry? Compared with other forms of pseudoscience, such as creationism or climate change denialism, anti-psychiatry has received considerably less skeptical attention. Yet anti-psychiatry is a dangerous pseudoscience that causes real harm. Like alternative medicine quacks, anti-psychiatry exploits vulnerable people and by denying the existence of psychiatric conditions or dismissing them as harmless, proponents of anti-psychiatry deny the suffering of human beings.

After debunking the claims made by the anti-psychiatry proponent Tin, this person continued to make a long list of assertions about psychiatry. When your opponent blasts you with multiple, long texts, it is very difficult to ensure that you responded to every single assertion (I am sure I accidentally missed some in this post, and I’m sure I will be hearing about it too). To a certain extent, that is the goal of this kind of shotgun approach (sometimes called the Gish Gallop in honor of the young earth creationist Duane Gish who frequently used this technique): make as many flawed and unsupported assertions as possible in an attempt to overwhelm the opposition. If any claim is forgotten or not decisively refuted due to time or space, declare victory. This is also related to what is known as the asymmetry of pseudoscience: it takes a few seconds to make a pseudoscientific claim, but anywhere from ten minutes to several hours to research and refute one of the claims in detail. In that sense, scientific skepticism is always an uphill battle. However, once the refutation is out there online, anyone who comes across a similar claim can find it with a search engine and review the material in the references. So although I have little hope that the arguments and evidence I present will convince a ingrained anti-psychiatry proponent, it is still worth doing. Read more of this post

Entertaining the Denialism of Yet Another Anti-Psychiatry Troll

anti-psychiatry category

Out of all the pseudoscience that are criticized on this website — from creationism and the anti-vaccine movement to anti-GM sentiments and alternative medicine — no subject has attracted more malicious attention from denialists trolls than the articles refuting anti-psychiatry. I often respond and end up in never-ending debates where they simply repeat the same arguments over and over again despite having had their errors explain to them in great detail with references to the scientific literature. When they fail their misguided war of attrition, they resort to verbal abuse by calling me fascist, pig, dickhead, Führer etc. and claim that I must consider individuals with mental conditions who receive evidence-based treatment to be “roadkill” (I do not). After a while this comes very tiresome, so those individuals have their comment privileges removed for violating the comment guidelines. However, they do not let this stop them from spouting their nonsense. They simply use proxies, new names and email addresses to continue with their behavior (while keeping the assertions exactly the same). Some even try to impersonate me. I ban the new identities or turn off comments. This makes things calm down for a while, but it starts back up again the next time I publish a post debunking anti-psychiatry.

Recently, a previously banned user now going by the name of Tin attempted to post an anti-psychiatry diatribe on an argument describing some common anti-psychiatry archetypes that scientific skeptics are likely to come across when they take on anti-psychiatry proponents online. Although using a new name and IP, he still used the same email address as he did when he was banned the first time, thereby giving it away and so the comment got caught by the spam filter. Usually I would not bother to write anything about it and just empty the spam queue, but some of the claims he made in that comment was absurdly wrong on so many different levels that it could be useful for other scientific skeptics to have access to a detail refutation of those assertions.

In his comment, Tin confuses a debate about the scientific details with a debate on the validity of the entire field and tosses in appeals to false balance. He also makes a number of other flawed arguments, such as calling Psychology Today an academic journal, when it is really just a magazine and blog website. He also asserts that antidepressants are not better than placebo despite the fact that meta-analyses taking publication bias into account show that they do outperform placebo in a clinically significant way. Tin even fails to understand that ICD-10 also has an ADHD diagnosis and that ADHD is diagnosed outside the U.S. Finally, the five papers that allegedly show that anti-psychiatry is based on evidence either do not support his position, directly contradicts his position or is irrelevant to the discussion. The rest of this article examines those anti-psychiatry claims in additional detail. Read more of this post

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