Pages

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Climate Change and Severe Mental Illness Deniers Use a Common Strategy




One topic I discuss on this blog is the tactics used by various advocacy groups to make misleading arguments in their efforts to advance their interests.

There is, of course, a large anti-psychiatry contingent that argues that severe and chronic mental illnesses like schizophrenia and (real) bipolar disorder are not real brain diseases.  They also argue that, since their brains are normal, the abilities of affected individuals to think rationally enough to properly take care of themselves are not highly impaired, so that involuntary commitment and treatment are never indicated under any circumstances. Of course, they seem to make a big exception for people who suffer from the brain disease of Alzheimer’s disease, but that’s another issue.

It recently occurred to me that the argument I have been hearing from those who deny that climate change exists, or that people are contributing to it, is very similar to one that is used by the mental illness deniers. They knowingly set a bar for “proving” the nature of these phenomena that is totally unachievable by science, and then use this ridiculously high bar to assert that, since the science is not "proven," then it is invalid.

In complex phenomena like weather or brain structure and function, the number of involved factors contributing to the final result is enormous, and their interactions unpredictable to a significant degree. Schizophrenia, for instance, is clearly not a disease of the gross pathology of the brain, which is what the deniers insist is necessary for “proof,” but is probably a disease of the interconnections between literally billions of nerve cell synapses that connect one neuron to others. We have no way currently to map out these connections in precise detail, and they change constantly over very short periods of time, so we cannot prove that they are pathological. There is, however, an astronomical amount of indirect evidence that they are.

Similarly, climate change deniers use the fact that the various computer models which predict how the process will unfold differ from one another in their predictions about the exact timing and locations of various expected weather events as evidence that the science is completely flawed. What they completely omit to mention, of course, is that no one is arguing that we have or probably ever will have the ability to predict weather patterns with that degree of precision. They also conveniently forget to mention that all the models point in the same direction, and that the patterns are already happening in ways that are consistent with the more general predictions.

Well, there are a lot of things that science cannot predict with absolute certainty, so we have to go with the preponderance of the evidence. In cases in which the consequences of inaction are enormous, we still have to act without this ridiculously high level of “proof.”

I would argue that allowing the mentally ill to languish in jails or in cardboard boxes on the streets of cities like San Francisco is such an instance. So is climate change that can lead to mass population dislocations with resultant wars, severe pollution, starvation, and the spread of tropical diseases that might kill us all.

I do not know if there is a name for this logical fallacy so glibly employed by science deniers. But there should be!

7 comments:

  1. Honest question, what do you mean by, "(real) bipolar disorder"?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Mr. Cranmer

      There's unfortunately a large contingent of mental health professionals who basically ignore the actual DSM criteria for mania and make bullcrap bipolar diagnoses like "bipolar II" and "bipolar spectrum" on patients who actually have personality disorders, anxiety disorders, substance use disorders, and normal reactions to highly stressful environments.

      Delete
  2. Thanks. I was given the diagnosis in the past and understand what you're saying.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I was a follower of the orthodox climate change line--that it is undeniably real and catastrophic--but have recently begun to challenge that and other orthodox left-leaning positions. I can't help but notice there is something sinister about the assumptions of the left regarding humanity which are reminiscent of Catholic "original sin." For instance, the idea that America is a white supremacist nation (all white people bad!), there is as "rape culture"(all men bad!), and we are destroying the planet (all humans, especially those with disposable income, are bad!) I can't help but to think climate change falls in line with this self-loathing ideological stance and why I have to question it. I was raised Catholic and experienced the same doubts regarding abortion and other dogmatic beliefs (beliefs that I ultimately rejected). I don't think it's unreasonable to question dogmatic, ideological beliefs, but still I wonder if I really know what ax I'm grinding in my reassessment of orthodoxy on climate change.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not sure I'd label the climate change science as "left leaning"(The Pentagon says climate change is the biggest threat to national security, and our military is not known for its leftist politics), although you are correct in that some people seem to think people are just a curse on the universe.

      Delete
  4. No one is denying anything... only using tactics such as skewing the data, conflating the issues, etc.,in order to persuade (manipulate) people into buying into their political/ideological/economic agendas... BTW- just ask anyone in the military right now how they feel about Ash Carter, and imposed transgender policy... "Not known for its leftist politics"? Puhleez... Stick to what you seem to be very good at...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, sure, if you look I'm sure you'll find several influential leftists in the military establishment.

      Delete