Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Deep like a graveyard, ripe as a peach

If I were to catch someone sexually assaulting someone I love, I'd go far more medieval on his ass than chemical castration. So, it isn't that I'm philosophically opposed to this new Polish law:
Poland on Friday approved a law making chemical castration mandatory for pedophiles in some cases...pedophiles convicted of raping children under the age of 15 years or a close relative would have to undergo chemical therapy on their release from prison.
What concerns me is that we here in the U.S. have a crazy history of hysterical legal reactions to sexual assault allegations. Take for example this case of a 17-year-old girl giving a blowjob to a 15-year-old boy. The outcome of our great justice system: Found guilt of sodomy. Or this 17-year-old guy who got a consensual blowjob from a 15-year-old girl. The outcome of our great justice system: Guilty of felony aggravated child molestation, and over two years in prison before being released.

And who can forget the great outcomes of the daycare sex abuse scandals of the 1980s and 1990s, when Americans of all walks of life came to believe there was a huge, satanic cult sexually abusing children all over the country...so much so a woman could end up in prison for years when she was accused of amputating children's penises? Until a jury of my peers wouldn't convict me of such a crime until there were kids with missing cocks, I'm not sure I'd trust our justice system to castrate the right people.

As a disclaimer, I'd like to note I think our justice system is the best system there is. It is just that I know the people who make the laws, and I've met the peers who might make up my jury. I don't trust 'em.

Title from here:

Posted at Reverse Sickology

Monday, September 28, 2009

And I guess I just don't know

I recently commented on research conducted in Canada finding heroin users like prescription heroin. Seems similar research was conducted in England, too:
(R)esearchers divided the 127 participants into three groups, giving one group heroin and giving the other two intravenous methadone and oral methadone. Although all three groups showed improved physical and mental health thanks to the counseling and social services offered by the clinics, the heroin-using group fared much better than the others. After half a year, three-quarters had largely stopped taking street heroin. And the number of crimes committed by those in the group dropped from 1,700 in the 30 days before the program began to 547 in the first six months of the trial.
Now, England is considering government implementation of such a treatment program:
Now, with results showing the trial succeeded in reducing street-drug use and crime among participants, Britain could soon become only the second country in Europe to institutionalize the program. That would mean permanent, state-funded heroin clinics would be set up across the country to treat the most heavily addicted people.
Fine and dandy, but why make state-funded clinics, requiring other people to pay for the user's heroin? Why not just make heroin legal? That's what they did in Portugal in 2001. Here are the results:
(B)etween 2001 and 2006 in Portugal, rates of lifetime use of any illegal drug among seventh through ninth graders fell from 14.1% to 10.6%; drug use in older teens also declined. Lifetime heroin use among 16-to-18-year-olds fell from 2.5% to 1.8% (although there was a slight increase in marijuana use in that age group). New HIV infections in drug users fell by 17% between 1999 and 2003, and deaths related to heroin and similar drugs were cut by more than half. In addition, the number of people on methadone and buprenorphine treatment for drug addiction rose to 14,877 from 6,040, after decriminalization, and money saved on enforcement allowed for increased funding of drug-free treatment as well.
Not only does it not increase drug use, but it would drastically decrease the number of people diagnosed with substance use disorders. Why? Because so many necessary symptoms for diagnosis are a function of the laws about drug use rather than the drug use itself. For example, one can get a DSM diagnosis of Substance Abuse with only the following symptom:
Recurrent substance-related legal problems.
So someone who gets arrested for smoking pot can get diagnosed, but I wouldn't get diagnosed for drinking alcohol - irrelevant is who uses more or any other consequence - simply that my drug of choice is legal means I can much more easily avoid that symptom.

Title from here:

Posted at Reverse Sickology

Monday, September 21, 2009

I Can Try, But I'm Not Promising

So, children in the UK can get wristbands that allow them to go to the front of the line at (some) amusement parks if they're diagnosed with ADHD:
Hyperactive children do not have to wait in line at theme parks because they cannot cope with the stress of waiting. The youngsters are being given wristbands that allow them to sail past the crowds queueing for rides and other activities.
I don't necessarily have a problem with the policy, but can certainly understand the position of some teachers who are opposed to it:
'Part of having ADHD should be teaching them to live in the world as we know it,' one said...'They cannot queue jump in later life in the post office, therefore they need to be taught this.'
What concerns me is that the so-called experts are either ignorant themselves, or (more likely) using public ignorance to their advantage. For example,
Andrea Bilbow, of the ADDISS support service, said: 'Children with ADHD are very impulsive and just can't cope in a queue or when there is a delay in gratification. They can't stand and wait for an hour because there will be a nice ride at the end of it. They physically can't cope with that.'
This highlights a very common and very important misunderstanding of the diagnosis of mental conditions. The misunderstanding is this:
A diagnosis DESCRIBES behavior only. It does not EXPLAIN behavior.
The argument being put forth by the expert is that the child can't cope with delaying gratification *because* the child has ADHD. But that is an objectively inaccurate understanding of a diagnosis of ADHD, whether the DSM version or the ICD-10 version. A diagnosis descriptively labels behavior, and that is all. Thus, it is actually the opposite of what is being claimed - because the child acts impulsively, his/her behavior is labeled as ADHD. What the woman should have said is this:
'Children are diagnosed with ADHD because they are very impulsive and just don't cope in a queue or when there is a delay in gratification. They don't stand and wait for an hour...They don't cope with that.'
A child diagnosed with ADHD is diagnosed based on what he or she DOES or DOES NOT do, whether or not the child CAN do otherwise. "Can" & "Cannot" are irrelevant to diagnoses.

Title reference here:

Posted at Reverse Sickology

Thursday, September 17, 2009

No liberty, no reason, no blame...

The modern take on science - I just knew it wasn't my fault. Article: Tasty Foods Send Signal to Brain to Keep Eating. Opening sentence:
Can't stop eating fatty food? Blame your brain, researchers say.
The study didn't look at humans, however. The researchers examined rodents...
But how is that important, really? I just want to be told I'm not to blame. Title reference here:

Posted at Reverse Sickology

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"I Learned It By Watching You!"

When I was in graduate school at FSU, I (at least) once wore a baseball cap to a meeting including faculty and students. A stats professor, who I knew well, somewhat mockingly said as I entered the room, "A good Southern male would never wear a hat indoors." I responded, "Dr. Brewer, please don't ever confuse me for a male from the southern United States." While my quip didn't go over so well in Tallahassee, Florida, I'm reminded of it when I read this article:
Rude behavior in college classrooms is often a matter of course: College students more disrespectful, professors find
I've noticed this at my college, too. Not the rudeness of college students, but instead the fact that a lot of professors are getting their undies all bunched up due to students texting, or students' clothing choices, or, basically, students not offering them enough respect. Profs I know frequently complain about the same things as those in the article:
(P)rofessors...find they must devote space in the syllabus to ask students to refrain from surfing the Web, texting or answering cell phones during a lecture. Some have to remind students that, when making a presentation, they should remove the backward baseball cap and save the bare midriff for a beach party. Others complain that students randomly leave and enter the classroom during class.
Indeed, students, like anyone else, can be rude. And I would never fault other instructors for trying to teach civility to their students or trying to structure class the way they'd like it structured. But I wonder, assuming that I might do something that helps students learn, whether it better to teach students how not to offend or how not to get offended. Face it, people get offended for the most retarded of reasons (words chosen purposefully):
  • People on the political right get pissed if the greeter at Walmart says "Happy Holidays" in December rather than "Merry Christmas."
  • People on the bat-shit-crazy right feel it okay to kill other people if they draw a cartoon that hurts their wittle feewings.
  • People on the left get all upset with the flag someone displays on their car.
  • People on the bat-shit-crazy left feel it okay to kill other people trying to cure diseases or feed the poor.
Seems to me, the only battle that might win any ground is *not* to get people not to offend, but rather to get people to fucking suck it up and take it when someone does something that disappoints you. Albert Ellis, one of my all-time favorite psychology dudes, called it rational other acceptance. Rational people recognize that other people are not always going to act in such a way that will make us happy. And we accept that. Obviously, there is stuff that shouldn't be tolerated. But I can't see backward baseball caps as part of that category. We in education are constantly bombarded with the buzzword diversity, and many throw it at their students like inflated grades. But then those same professors can't handle it when someone doesn't dress they way they want them to? Suck it up and take it. Otherwise, if we feel it appropriate to regulate clothing, it becomes very difficult to argue against bullshit like this:
Sudanese widow Lubna Ahmed al-Hussein, a former journalist who last worked for the media department of the UN Mission in Sudan was charged under Article 152 of Sudanese law which imposes 40 lashes for anyone “who commits an indecent act which violates public morality or wears indecent clothing.” She was wearing a pair of trouser at a restuarant (sic) on July 3.
Obviously, rational lines have to be drawn somewhere, lest students come to class naked. But "I find it rude because it wasn't like that when I was younger" is not sufficient to draw the lines. And if we assigned to instill critical thinking skills can't see that, how can we expect anyone else to?

Heading reference here:

Posted at Reverse Sickology

Monday, September 7, 2009

Sometimes when you're on, you're really f****in' on

Recently I commented on an article about childhood depression with the question, How come we can accept that some people have standard moods that fall above the norm, but not that some might fall below the norm? Seems I'm not the only one thinking about the normalcy of mood variability. This article in the most recent Scientific American suggests:
...that depression is not a malfunction, but a mental adaptation that brings certain cognitive advantages
The researchers hypothesize, with the support of a fair amount of research, that depression might have evolutionary advantages because is fosters intense, analytical thinking. For example,
Laboratory experiments indicate that depressed people are better at solving social dilemmas by better analysis of the costs and benefits of the different options that they might take.
The authors conclude by arguing:
...depression is nature’s way of telling you that you’ve got complex social problems that the mind is intent on solving. Therapies should try to encourage depressive rumination rather than try to stop it...
All of this interesting, and somewhat ironic (don't you think?), given that completely different research is beginning to show that many therapies seem to work on depression through the exact opposite of analytical thinking - the placebo effect for antidepressants is increasing drastically. Wired reports:
Some products that have been on the market for decades, like Prozac, are faltering in more recent...tests...Two comprehensive analyses of antidepressant trials have uncovered a dramatic increase in placebo response since the 1980s. One estimated that the so-called effect size (a measure of statistical significance) in placebo groups had nearly doubled over that time.
People aren't sure why the placebo effect has increased so drastically for antidepressants, but some hypothesize it has to do with, basically, fooling people into thinking they should be getting better:
In other words, one way that placebo aids recovery is by hacking the mind's ability to predict the future. We are constantly parsing the reactions of those around us—such as the tone a doctor uses to deliver a diagnosis—to generate more-accurate estimations of our fate. One of the most powerful placebogenic triggers is watching someone else experience the benefits of an alleged drug.
So if you consider what these two disparate lines of research might indicate, the outcome seems to be this: (1) Depression is (in part) the mind's way of making us thinking rationally, and (2) treatments for depression work (in part) by making us think irrationally. Excellent.

Title reference here

Posted at Reverse Sickology