Monday, January 25, 2010

Even Obama over uses "civic religion"

Obama can't even be totally blame-free on this.

Very interesting, noting that civic religion often invokes what really is pure, dumb luck, but noting that nobody wants to actually put it that way.

In talking about theodicy and this issue, James Wood notes:
Either God is punitive and interventionist (the Robertson view), or as capricious as nature and so absent as to be effectively nonexistent (the Obama view). Unfortunately, the Bible, which frequently uses God’s power over earth and seas as the sign of his majesty and intervening power, supports the first view; and the history of humanity’s lonely suffering decisively suggests the second.

Or god, at least as many people see him, doesn't exist.

The emotional power of how theodicy undermines the Western Judeo-Islamo-Christian all-powerful deity was as powerful for me, if not more so, than intellectual arguments.

Unfortunately, somebody as smart as Barack Obama doesn't think that through.

Rightly did Hume say, in light of things like this, that reason is the slave of the passions.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The shortcomings of cognitive behavioral therapy

A chapter in Jonah Lehrer's book, "How We Decide," along with a famous quote by David Hume, brought the title of this post to stark light.

Don't get me wrong. CBT is good to very good for mild, moderate and medium depressions. It's the bee's knees for panic attacks. In combination with densensitization therapy, it's very good for a lot of phobias.

But other neuroses, it might not help so much.

Lehrer talks about psychopathy in the latter portion of his book, and how psychopaths can read the emotions of others so well, but have no emotional connectivity to their own minds, so can rationalize, in a confabulating fashion, any decisions they may choose to take.

Autistic people, on the other hand, are just the reverse. They have an emotional life of their own, but simply cannot read other people's emotions.

Combine this with Hume's famous, and somewhat deliberately contrarian, observation that "reason is the slave of the passions," and you see CBT's shortcomings.

CBT says we can think our way through emotions.

Well, psychopaths can't. To the degree we can talk about a lesser version of them, and call that group "neuropaths" by analogy, they can't think their way through emotions very well. And, in a sense, autistic people can't think their way into emotions, if you will.

So, on counseling for emotional-based mental health issues where the emotions aren't irrational, or transcend the rational/irrational in some sense, being deeply rooted in the limbic brain (think PTSD), CBT really just can't cut the mustard.

Unfortunately, some CBT, or RBT (forgetting the "E") aficionados think it's almost a cure-all, or at the least, that it can do more than it can.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

MediaNews, one of the nation's largest newspaper companies, is also the latest to file Chapter 11. As I e-mailed a friend, Dean Singleton may have done a great job of building up MediaNews, but as chairman of AP, he was pretty clueless about how to monetize online newspapers, and related matters.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

SSRIs no better than placebo? Not quite

The truth is, no new study claimed that. Rather, that story last week was based on meta-analysis. Regular readers know my feelings about meta-analysis. Worse yet, the meta-analysis included only 23 original studies, which in turn focused on just two antidepressants.

Hardly scientific.

Nature VIA nurutre

If you haven't kept up with recent research on heredity, population genetics or anything similar, the new Time has a GREAT story on epigenetics. Look it up and read it. Then throw away any simplistic ideas you have about "genetic inheritance."

If you are familiar with the basic idea of epigenetics, some of the newest findings may still surprise you, such as the rate of influence, the depth of influence, and more. Giraffes' necks aside, maybe Lamarck wasn't so wrong. Certainly, Stan Prusiner looks ever more right on prions, in light of stuff like this.

Obviously, we are nowhere near the end of discovering what epigentic findings mean. But, I think we can put paid to a few of the more outlandishly positivistic ideas of late 20th-century genetics.

Individualized medicines? Not likely to happen, and certainly not any time soon. You'd have to check at least some epigenetic as well as genetic factors. The price for that and an even higher level of individualizing the medications, would seem to pretty much rule that out.

Insurance, insurance, privacy, snooping, pre-existing conditions? All in a new realm now.

Drug testing? Some lawyer will raise an epigenetic argument at some point, whether it's legit or a red herring.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Consciousness not in the brain? I disagree

Dr. Ray Tallis raises some interesting points, but I think, ultimately, his psychological and philosophical objections fall short of explaining away the potential for the scientific search for consciousness as exemplified by cognitive science, etc.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

How's that 'prosperity gospel' working?

Not so well at all, at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church.

A little schadenfreude for Bro. Rick. If not praying harder and believing harder, maybe he needs to preach harder?