Bloggingheads Community

Bloggingheads Community (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/index.php)
-   Diavlog comments (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=9)
-   -   Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan) (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?t=6856)

Bloggingheads 07-02-2011 12:17 AM

Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)
 

JonIrenicus 07-02-2011 03:14 AM

degrees of freedom...
 
reminds me of chaos, really complex, maybe so complex that we cannot ever determine how x input will ultimately effect y output, and yet, does anyone doubt that this output is deterministic?

the mechanism may be too complicated for most exaggerated primates to understand, but it's still a cause and effect model, whether human beings are able to decipher those mechanisms or not.

testostyrannical 07-02-2011 08:26 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)
 
Causality is an epistemological phenomenon popularly confused for an ontological one. We do not understand how complex 'causal' (say physical) systems scale up (when we say 'complex,' we mean 'too much shit happening a once for us to keep track of everything), more or less by definition. Because we lack the tools to follow every variable operating in something even as simple as a paramecium, we can have no empirical basis for claiming that fully deterministic physical systems exclude the possibility of something like Horgan's degrees of freedom. Our tendency to assume determinism and free will are incompatible is an artifact of theology, not science.

Ocean 07-02-2011 08:34 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by testostyrannical (Post 214925)
Causality is an epistemological phenomenon popularly confused for an ontological one. We do not understand how complex 'causal' (say physical) systems scale up (when we say 'complex,' we mean 'too much shit happening a once for us to keep track of everything), more or less by definition. Because we lack the tools to follow every variable operating in something even as simple as a paramecium, we can have no empirical basis for claiming that fully deterministic physical systems exclude the possibility of something like Horgan's degrees of freedom. Our tendency to assume determinism and free will are incompatible is an artifact of theology, not science.

I haven't listened to this diavlog yet, but your comment seems right on target. The duality between determinism and free will comes from a narrow definition of both that makes them mutually exclusive. However, there are ways of making both concepts compatible. Eeeeeeeli started a thread on the topic a couple of months ago.

I'd better go listen to the diavlog now.

Ken Davis 07-02-2011 10:31 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)
 
Here's Mike Gazzaniga, director of the Law and Neuroscience Project, giving a Gifford Lecture on free will, in which he discusses the idea that conscious states are emergent from physical states, but can influence subsequent physical states and thus subsequent conscious states. The catch is that conscious states are emergent not only from physical states, but also from social conditions. This process is not well understood, but the idea of top-down causation of this sort seems to be gaining credibility. If this is the actual process by which decisions are made, the fact that the process is constrained remains. Please forgive my clumsy synopsis.

Free Yet Determined and Constrained

chamblee54 07-02-2011 11:46 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)
 
The fogey fest is always fun, with or without George. Bob is a good substitute. Today they discuss enhanced interrogation.

chamblee54

tickknob 07-02-2011 11:51 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)
 
I have a challenge for anyone who does not think Gould was a total intellectual thug.

1. Read The Bell Curve.
2. Read Gould's review of The Bell Curve.
3. Come up with a definition of intellectual thug that doesn't fit Gould.
Good luck.

AemJeff 07-02-2011 12:53 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by tickknob (Post 214934)
I have a challenge for anyone who does not think Gould was a total intellectual thug.

1. Read The Bell Curve.
2. Read Gould's review of The Bell Curve.
3. Come up with a definition of intellectual thug that doesn't fit Gould.
Good luck.

Look: more thuggery! Maybe Herrnstein and Murray's piece of crap isn't the best place to base this argument. (And what's the point of posting if you can't be bothered to link to the article you're complaining about?)

AemJeff 07-02-2011 12:59 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by AemJeff (Post 214935)
Look: more thuggery! Maybe Herrnstein and Murray's piece of crap isn't the best place to base this argument. (And what's the point of posting if you can't be bothered to link to the article you're complaining about?)

From Gould's review:
Quote:

The Bell Curve is even more disingenuous in its argument than in its obfuscation about race. The book is a rhetorical masterpiece of scientism, and it benefits from the particular kind of fear that numbers impose on nonprofessional commentators. It runs to 845 pages, including more than a hundred pages of appendixes filled with figures. So their text looks complicated, and reviewers shy away with a knee–jerk claim that, while they suspect fallacies of argument, they really cannot judge. In the same issue of The New Republic as Murray and Herrnstein's article, Mickey Kaus writes, "As a lay reader of 'The Bell Curve,' I am unable to judge fairly," and Leon Wieseltier adds, "Murray, too, is hiding the hardness of his politics behind the hardness of his science. And his science, for all I know, is soft.... Or so I imagine. I am not a scientist. I know nothing about psychometrics." And Peter Passell, in the Times: "But this reviewer is not a biologist, and will leave the argument to experts."
That seems like a pretty good summary of the consensus view on The Bell Curve. Where's all that vaunted thuggery?

Ocean 07-02-2011 01:52 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ken Davis (Post 214930)
Here's Mike Gazzaniga, director of the Law and Neuroscience Project, giving a Gifford Lecture on free will, in which he discusses the idea that conscious states are emergent from physical states, but can influence subsequent physical states and thus subsequent conscious states. The catch is that conscious states are emergent not only from physical states, but also from social conditions. This process is not well understood, but the idea of top-down causation of this sort seems to be gaining credibility. If this is the actual process by which decisions are made, the fact that the process is constrained remains. Please forgive my clumsy synopsis.

Free Yet Determined and Constrained

Isn't that along the lines of what John was trying to explain about Dennett's ideas?

I was very disappointed on Bob's attitude towards John when he brought up Dennett's book. I just read the reviews on the book, and for what I could gather, I find it not only interesting but actually pretty much on target. I ordered the book right after reading the reviews. I wonder whether Bob's reaction to Dennett's ideas was determined (no pun intended) by Dennett's lack of agreement with Bob's views on "purpose".

Both testostyrannical and Ken Davis bring up relevant aspects of the topic. From a scientific perspective, determinism seems to be the only possible concept (like Bob said). But current non-religious proponents of free will aren't saying that there's some external agent that gets added to the natural world and it is out of this agency that free will emanates. Rather, within the boundaries of determinism and the natural world, there might be an emergent function, which is the product of complex interactions between biologically determined qualities, environmentally determined (culture, learning, conditioning, etc) qualities, and the dynamic interactions occurring at the moment in time when "free will" takes place.

The executive function of the brain is able to handle multiple pre-existent mandates of behavior while assessing their applicability to the current situation. The complexity of this process may be such that while multiple options are being explored, there is a sense of "freedom". The freer the mind of preexistent ties and limitations the more vast that range of freedom will be. Perhaps there lies an aspect of so many of the Eastern meditative practices, to free the mind from its conditioning.

Bob and John discussed a good example of a narrower range of freedom. They talked about scientists who are too attached to their hypothesis and are biased towards continuing that path instead of being more open to explore alternative options. In this case there's a good example of limitation of freedom due to attachment to one's previous ideas. By the way, I didn't think that scientists (or others) remain attached to their ideas only because they will be famous or make money. I think we have a tendency to continue a line of thought, an interpretation of the world which makes sense to us. Challenging that view can fragment, at least momentarily, that continuity and be unconsciously perceived as a threat. There lies another issue relevant to those in my trade, about attempts to dig too deep in those pre-existent structures of the mind, while unprepared to stand the momentary fragmentation.

Wow, I've been all over the place with this comment. I apologize for that.

AemJeff 07-02-2011 02:03 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ocean (Post 214941)
Isn't that along the lines of what John was trying to explain about Dennett's ideas?

I was very disappointed on Bob's attitude towards John when he brought up Dennett's book. I just read the reviews on the book, and for what I could gather, I find it not only interesting but actually pretty much on target. I ordered the book right after reading the reviews. I wonder whether Bob's reaction to Dennett's ideas was determined (no pun intended) by Dennett's lack of agreement with Bob's views on "purpose".

Both testostyrannical and Ken Davis bring up relevant aspects of the topic. From a scientific perspective, determinism seems to be the only possible concept (like Bob said). But current non-religious proponents of free will aren't saying that there's some external agent that gets added to the natural world and it is out of this agency that free will emanates. Rather, within the boundaries of determinism and the natural world, there might be an emergent function, which is the product of complex interactions between biologically determined qualities, environmentally determined (culture, learning, conditioning, etc) qualities, and the dynamic interactions occurring at the moment in time when "free will" takes place.

The executive function of the brain is able to handle multiple pre-existent mandates of behavior while assessing their applicability to the current situation. The complexity of this process may be such that while multiple options are being explored, there is a sense of "freedom". The freer the mind of preexistent ties and limitations the more vast that range of freedom will be. Perhaps there lies an aspect of so many of the Eastern meditative practices, to free the mind from its conditioning.

Bob and John discussed a good example of a narrower range of freedom. They talked about scientists who are too attached to their hypothesis and are biased towards continuing that path instead of being more open to explore alternative options. In this case there's a good example of limitation of freedom due to attachment to one's previous ideas. By the way, I didn't think that scientists (or others) remain attached to their ideas only because they will be famous or make money. I think we have a tendency to continue a line of thought, an interpretation of the world which makes sense to us. Challenging that view can fragment, at least momentarily, that continuity and be unconsciously perceived as a threat. There lies another issue relevant to those in my trade, about attempts to dig too deep in those pre-existent structures of the mind, while unprepared to stand the momentary fragmentation.

Wow, I've been all over the place with this comment. I apologize for that.

Interesting points, I think. I don't have an opinion about Dennett's book, but I was on Bob's side for most of his criticisms of John's point of view on the topic - which I found (as it seems Bob did) much too assertive. Ironically, considering the good conversation they had about confirmation bias, I think John seems to be a little too attached to a particular point of view. I do think John was right that it's quite possible we'll never have a definitive answer on the topic of free will.

I'm interested in whether you have any reaction to John and Bob's shared assertion regarding the "corruption" of the field of psychiatry by pharma.

sapeye 07-02-2011 02:46 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)
 
To me the question of freewill/determinism is deeply paradoxical, which, I suppose, is why it remains an open question. Bob states the problem clearly here. John answers with a statement of faith about degrees of freedom in biological entities, but brings no evidence to bear other than that he feels that he has freewill and so must other biological entities.

Stating that consciousness is an emergent property of complex physical systems (which as a staunch materialist he must do) and then attributing causality to consciousness seems like circular magical thinking. Christian de Quincey explores this issue very clearly in "Radical Nature" and argues for the panpsychist position that all matter is inherently sentient. They both agree that the current scientific model is in fundamental need of revision or expansion, although I doubt that either of them would look very kindly on panpsychism.

John points to his own direct inner experience of choice as clear and valid evidence for the existence of freewill, but then denies the validity of others' direct inner experience of the existence of God. This is deeply inconsistent.

jimM47 07-02-2011 02:47 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by AemJeff (Post 214935)
Look: more thuggery! Maybe Herrnstein and Murray's piece of crap isn't the best place to base this argument. (And what's the point of posting if you can't be bothered to link to the article you're complaining about?)

Interesting (thanks for the link). After numerous descriptions of the Bell Curve suggesting to me that the reviewers had not read it, I read the portions of it then available for free on Google Books. I'm quite surprised to say that Gould's seems to be about the fairest critical review I've seen thus far. Indeed, my impression is that Gould seems to have the rare virtue of criticizing the claim the authors are actually trying to make — not a crypto-racist "they deserve their lot"-type claim, but a naive-alarmist "only stupid people are breeding"-type claim. ('Twas ever thus.)

Ocean 07-02-2011 02:48 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by AemJeff (Post 214942)
Interesting points, I think. I don't have an opinion about Dennett's book, but I was on Bob's side for most of his criticisms of John's point of view on the topic, which I found (as it seems Bob did) much too assertive. Ironically, considering the good conversation they had about confirmation bias, I think John seems to be a little too attached to a particular point of view. I do think John was right that it's quite possible we'll never have a definitive answer on the topic of free will.

I also agree with Bob in many of his comments and objections to John's assertions. John seemed to be mostly concerned with one aspect of determinism: its consequences when it's interpreted narrowly as lack of ability to shape one's future or take responsibility for one's behavior. Bob kept saying that the potential consequences wouldn't invalidate its scientific accuracy. But he didn't address what concerned John. So, in fact, they were talking past each other.

The interesting part of the discussion would have been the area that overlaps both of their positions. Determinism is in fact most likely to be correct, but it either allows or mimics freedom, which has been called "free will". The bottom line being that we are not powerless creatures unable to influence our own destinies. We just have different degrees of freedom.

Quote:

I'm interested in whether you have any reaction to John and Bob's shared assertion regarding the "corruption" of the field of psychiatry by pharma.
John has gone against psychiatry so many times, either the medication or the psychotherapy part, that I don't really pay attention to it any more. Yes, I tune out like kids do to a nagging parent. ;)

Whenever I hear "corruption" as applied to Psychiatry or psychiatrists, I do have a negative reaction. It sounds like there is a conspiracy by corrupt people to create and carry a fraud for some selfish purpose. And, of course, I know for certain that neither I nor most of my colleagues are so lacking in ethical standards. The psychiatrists that I know and interact with are dedicated to their patients, to their research and teaching and they are far from being corrupt.

So, why are Bob and John talking in those terms? I assume that what they refer to is something that applies, not just to psychiatry, but to other fields in medicine. We know that pharmaceutical companies have been manipulating, to some degree, their studies to show that the drugs they promote are effective to the required standards. For years they have hidden negative results. In addition, there are other ways that they can be viewed negatively, for example in the way they submit their requests for FDA approval or their marketing strategies.

A lot of these studies have limitations. Placebo effect is an amazing topic that I rarely see discussed to the depth that it should. However, in clinical practice, we see patients that come in with their symptoms and after taking medications their symptoms improve or go away. Is that true for 100% of patients? No. But most do well with medications. If anybody reading this has taken antidepressants, which wouldn't be unusual, they probably can tell how they responded.

Medications are extremely expensive. If there were studies that showed that medications don't work and that the results are due to the magical placebo effect it would be great to know. We could save a lot of money that could be used for other healthcare needs by giving people a little sugar pill. However, when I see a patient who is having auditory hallucinations and doesn't respond to medication A or B but after trying a few, we find that he does well with medication C and the "voices" go away, it's hard to think that there's some misunderstanding about whether the medication is effective or not.

There's another topic related to corruption or possible prescribing bias pushed by pharmaceutical companies, but I don't think that's what Bob and John were talking about since it would be far removed from their topics today.


You asked.

cbjones1943 07-02-2011 02:53 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)
 
1. I found today's Science Saturday fun, informative, interesting, and thought-provoking.
2. re: your comments on terrorism, this recent article from Science may be of interest...if you haven't seen it:

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/33...cience.1205068

3. Horgan asserted that a defining difference between the "hard" sciences and biology is the property of "degrees of freedom", an interesting thought. However, the conventional property advanced (by Lewontin and many others, not just Marxists) is "contingency"...not suggesting that the two of you are unaware of this.
4. Robert Wright is my favorite science writer; however, his description of environment/genotype/pheotype interactions/effects (in whatever order) is wholly unsatisfying. Please read: Pigliucci M & Muller G. 2010. Evolution: The Extended Synthesis. MIT.

latrellwatkins 07-02-2011 03:01 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)
 
John Horgan's failure to grasp the fundamental distinction between the normative and the positive was somewhat surprising for an experienced science writer. Furthermore, the normative argument that "Even if there is no free will, society will be better off if that fact is kept secret, because people who believe there is no free will commit more bad acts" makes no sense even on its own terms. That's because, if there is no free will, then the number of bad acts is fixed and predestined (as are the number and nature of all acts and occurrences), and it makes no difference what people believe about free will or anything else. To me, the fascinating thing about the free will question boils down to the following choice between two seemingly impossible states of affairs: either (1) physical events can have non-physical causes; or (2) it is rational to jump out of a 40-story window. (Because, if there is no free will, it follows that there is no reason not to jump out the window - it absolutely was going to happen regardless of your "decision-making" about it.) I've never found anyone who accepts the latter proposition, much less who is "willing" to act on the courage of the conviction.

miceelf 07-02-2011 03:12 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by AemJeff (Post 214935)
Look: more thuggery! Maybe Herrnstein and Murray's piece of crap isn't the best place to base this argument. (And what's the point of posting if you can't be bothered to link to the article you're complaining about?)

I was about to say--- if the proof of thuggery is the well-deserved criticism of that peice of pseudoscientific BS, then sign me up for thuggery.

Wonderment 07-02-2011 03:22 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)
 
Quote:

Whenever I hear "corruption" as applied to Psychiatry or psychiatrists, I do have a negative reaction. It sounds like there is a conspiracy by corrupt people to create and carry a fraud for some selfish purpose. And, of course, I know for certain that neither I nor most of my colleagues are so lacking in ethical standards. The psychiatrists that I know and interact with are dedicated to their patients, to their research and teaching and they are far from being corrupt.
No argument there. Psychiatrists are healers (i.e, indispensable health care providers) and should not be casually disrespected.

There are a couple of things going on in John's over-the-top critique of shrinks. One is that he believes anti-depressants are largely useless and grossly over-prescribed. Second, he probably is suspicious of the shift in the profession from psychotherapy (largely talk therapy) in which a psychiatrist saw one patient per hour to practices where a psychiatrist often has a career of strictly quicky appts. for medication management:

Quote:

Psychiatrists are talking less and prescribing more. Many of the nation’s 48,000 psychiatrists no longer provide talk therapy, the form of psychiatry popularized by Freud that has been a mainstay of psychiatry for decades, writes Gardiner Harris in Sunday’s New York Times. Instead, they typically prescribe medication, usually after a brief consultation with each patient.

The switch from talk therapy to medications has swept psychiatric practices and hospitals, leaving many older psychiatrists feeling unhappy and inadequate. A 2005 government survey found that just 11 percent of psychiatrists provided talk therapy to all patients, a share that had been falling for years and has most likely fallen more since. Psychiatric hospitals that once offered patients months of talk therapy now discharge them within days with only pills.
Pharma makes for an easy villain, but like with most things, it's more complicated. Psychiatric medications do save countless lives; talk therapy is probably better reserved for therapists who are NOT physicians; and a lot of psychotropic meds are being handed out by physicians who are NOT psychiatrists (not a good idea, in my view).

I have family members and friends who probably would not be alive today without proper psychiatric interventions. It's hard to sit in a psychiatrist's waiting room, however, and not despise the pharmaceutical companies. Their logos are everywhere; their ad displays are blatantly offensive and misleading; their trinkets are ubiquitous (note pads, pens, calendars, etc.) and their hot chick models (sales reps) are frequently on patrol with free samples (at least for the male practitioners). It's like being in a Bud Lite advertisement.

But this is true throughout medicine in the USA. My daughter works at a low-income clinic, which also has a county fair atmosphere of drug and medical supply hucksters touting their wares.

Bottom line: John has tried to debunk psychiatric medications as One Big Scam, but he's jumped too quickly to dubious conclusions.

sapeye 07-02-2011 04:44 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ocean (Post 214947)
We know that pharmaceutical companies have been manipulating, to some degree, their studies to show that the drugs they promote are effective to the required standards. For years they have hidden negative results. In addition, there are other ways that they can be viewed negatively, for example in the way they submit their requests for FDA approval or their marketing strategies.

This is not directly related to the diavlog or to psychiatry, but your comments re the FDA brought to mind this documentary about the new cancer treatment developed by Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski and his on going battle the FDA and big pharma. It can be watched for free now, but I'm not sure how much longer it will be available. It spends too much time portraying the human interest aspect for my taste, but it's still very interesting and troubling.

jimM47 07-02-2011 04:47 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)
 
John asks what I regard as the correct question: apart from whether the physical processes which produce "me" or "my consciousness" are deterministic — and I hope they are — to what extent does the resultant product ("me," "my consciousness") in turn deterministically produce behavioral outcomes? (Or, regardless of whether you can say A --> C, can you also say, A --> B --> C? -— where B may not have materialistic significance, but it is what we regard as human consciousness.)

My own perception is that what I think of as "me" is basically riding around inside an animal that is mostly pretty self-sufficient in terms of controlling, and initiating all sorts of both voluntary and involuntary behaviors, but which gives "me" quite a bit of stimuli regarding its internal processes, and which I have the ability to control pretty effectively when it comes to actions on the scale of morally relevant choices.

Ken Davis 07-02-2011 05:39 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)
 
When Bob speaks of "choice" re: the uncertainty principle, John says he's getting too anthropomorphic, but he is making an assumption that human beings make free choices. If they don't, there is no anthropomorphism.

Ken Davis 07-02-2011 06:03 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ocean (Post 214941)
Isn't that along the lines of what John was trying to explain about Dennett's ideas?

John mentions emergent abilities to make conscious choices, but I'm not sure that he's talking about the same thing as Gazzaniga here. And that's because of what he says a few moments later. No amount of agonizing over a decision, no matter of how great an import, can affect the decision that is made. Agonizing is not an indicator of free will. We do what we are capable of doing, based on our psychological makeup at that moment. Gazzaniga is talking about the social environment as having an epigenetic influence on our psychological makeup, as I understand him.

Ocean 07-02-2011 06:43 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Wonderment (Post 214954)
No argument there. Psychiatrists are healers (i.e, indispensable health care providers) and should not be casually disrespected.

There are a couple of things going on in John's over-the-top critique of shrinks. One is that he believes anti-depressants are largely useless and grossly over-prescribed. Second, he probably is suspicious of the shift in the profession from psychotherapy (largely talk therapy) in which a psychiatrist saw one patient per hour to practices where a psychiatrist often has a career of strictly quicky appts. for medication management:


Medication management only has become the rule since managed care became popular. The magic of free markets is that managed care will pay the lowest possible fee for a particular service. So if a service can be provided by a social worker, a psychologist or a psychiatrist, but the social worker's fees will be half those of the psychiatrist, managed care will go with the social worker. Unfortunately, as a result psychiatrists aren't being trained for psychotherapy as thoroughly as they used to be. There's no motivation. Also there are more MDs that enter this specialty with the only interest of prescribing medications since they know that psychotherapy isn't an option.

The only way of continuing to provide some form of psychotherapy is to rely on patients paying out of pocket or working for free.


Quote:

Pharma makes for an easy villain, but like with most things, it's more complicated. Psychiatric medications do save countless lives; talk therapy is probably better reserved for therapists who are NOT physicians; and a lot of psychotropic meds are being handed out by physicians who are NOT psychiatrists (not a good idea, in my view).
There are many wonderful therapists who are not physicians, and nowadays many or most psychiatrists wouldn't be qualified to provide formal psychotherapy. However, there was a time, not so long ago, when that wasn't the case.

It is accurate that most psychotropic medications aren't prescribed by psychiatrists but rather by primary care physicians.


Quote:

I have family members and friends who probably would not be alive today without proper psychiatric interventions. It's hard to sit in a psychiatrist's waiting room, however, and not despise the pharmaceutical companies. Their logos are everywhere; their ad displays are blatantly offensive and misleading; their trinkets are ubiquitous (note pads, pens, calendars, etc.) and their hot chick models (sales reps) are frequently on patrol with free samples (at least for the male practitioners). It's like being in a Bud Lite advertisement.
Those goodies from pharmaceutical companies are gone. In most places they are no longer allowed and reps don't even carry them anymore. I always found it interesting though, because I don't think that those supplies affect prescribing practices all that much. But I may be wrong since pharmaceutical companies have been offering them for some good reason. And there's always the unconscious operating behind the scenes, the experts say. ;)

In terms of the hot chicks, those don't affect me in the least. Not sure about the really handsome guys. (just kidding)

Quote:

But this is true throughout medicine in the USA. My daughter works at a low-income clinic, which also has a county fair atmosphere of drug and medical supply hucksters touting their wares.

Bottom line: John has tried to debunk psychiatric medications as One Big Scam, but he's jumped too quickly to dubious conclusions.
I've come to the conclusion that John has an uncontrollable contrarian reflex. It can serve him well at times but not in others. Bob said it.

miceelf 07-02-2011 07:33 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Wonderment (Post 214954)
No argument there. Psychiatrists are healers (i.e, indispensable health care providers) and should not be casually disrespected.

There are a couple of things going on in John's over-the-top critique of shrinks. One is that he believes anti-depressants are largely useless and grossly over-prescribed.

I think a wrinkle that John probably downplays in his view of psychiatrists/psychiatry is that this overprescription, to the extent it happens, is more likely to be done by primary care than psychiatrists (just as overprescription of ADHD meds, which I think is even more common) is more likely to be done by pediatricians than by psychiatrists. You noted this, but I think understated the extent of the problem.

Agree with you on the complex benefits offered by pharma. I think some simple reforms would get rid of a lot of the bad without doing much damage to the good.

Ocean 07-02-2011 09:07 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Ken Davis (Post 214968)
John mentions emergent abilities to make conscious choices, but I'm not sure that he's talking about the same thing as Gazzaniga here. And that's because of what he says a few moments later. No amount of agonizing over a decision, no matter of how great an import, can affect the decision that is made. Agonizing is not an indicator of free will. We do what we are capable of doing, based on our psychological makeup at that moment. Gazzaniga is talking about the social environment as having an epigenetic influence on our psychological makeup, as I understand him.

I listened to Gazzaniga's presentation. He emphasizes interactions with the social environment as a factor that dynamically shapes and modifies what was predetermined. In his example of traffic, it is the interaction between motorcycles that determines that individual bikers change their path for example.

But, the biggest problem I found with his presentation is that after explaining that studies have shown that we become aware of a decision (such as pushing a button) after the action was initiated by the brain, he concludes that "we" or "I", the individual, are not in charge but that it is our brain. And the problem with that is that it assumes that "we" are our consciousness and not our brain. I disagree with that. We may identify with our consciousness for obvious reasons (it is all that we are aware of, for the most part). But the brain may go through similar deliberation processes to the ones we are used to, some of which become conscious and some not. It is still "us" making the decision, even if determined.

I think that the most valuable part stays with the idea of an emergent function and how language mediates the interactions that make that dynamic feedback possible. Consciousness even if it only represents some aspects of our psychological processes, allows some other manipulations. We can decide that we will not act driven by certain stimuli, for example the baseball player who doesn't jump out of the trajectory of the ball as anyone else would reflexively do. So, indeed consciousness, interactions with others through language allow some modifications to the most simplistically determined responses.

I still think that all that occurs within the boundaries of determinism, but it creates a more interesting space for more complex manipulations that include our own conscious processes and exchanges with others.

Ocean 07-02-2011 09:34 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)
 
Towards the end of Gazzaniga's talk a woman in the audience asked whether the concept of emergent function and stimulation of certain areas of the brain may have an application to the treatment of mental illness. Gazzaniga acknowledged the interesting question but couldn't come up with an answer.

I would think that the idea of emergent function interacting with the social environment in a way that creates a top down change, seems very similar to the idea of psychotherapy modifying brain function, which also has been studied.

The idea of brain stimulation having an effect on mental illness, is also represented by deep brain stimulation, vagus nerve stimulation (VNS), Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). There are other (non-pharmacological) indirect ways of stimulating the brain for therapeutic purposes such as EMDR (Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing).

eric 07-02-2011 10:15 PM

Gould wrong, Horgan Goes to Dark Side
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by miceelf (Post 214953)
I was about to say--- if the proof of thuggery is the well-deserved criticism of that peice of pseudoscientific BS, then sign me up for thuggery.

Gould's critique of the IQ literature hasn't held up. His argument that IQ is a 'reified' thing without substance is not accepted by most psychologists, it remains an important variable in explaining a variety of important life outcomes. His argument that IQ is arbitrary due to rotational indeterminacy comes from a bizarre logical possibility that is empirically pointless, as evidenced by the strong stability of IQ scores over a persons life, and how people who do poorly on those tend to do poorly on all g-loaded tests. IQs are important, heritable, and vary systematically between well-known human ethnicities (eg, Jews and Aborigines). It's strange that the Left that so loves evolution thinks such forces can not possibly have relevance towards humans.

The fact that IQ is not nearly as important in explaining individuals performance as for groups, is counterintuitive, but it's still true. If this was all pure bias, BS, or racism, surely there would be some metro area where there wasn't an acheivement gap, or some selective school that didn't need affirmative action to acheive race target (oops! diversity). If you can create a g-loaded test that does not generate the standard achievement gap your idea would be worth many millions of dollars, so it's not like there's no incentive to fix such problems as using 'regatta' in vocabulary tests.

The discussion of Morton's skulls I found interesting, because Horgan seems to be saying, 'it's complicated and so I don't have to believe it'. The study was actually straightforward (no factor analysis) but involved some detail--what to include and exclude, all discussed--but Horgan seems to judge science by what the scientist's prejudices were or might have been. The data and analysis itself, he leaves alone. As there are true geniuses who will defend virtually any important theory from either side about the benefits of tax cuts to ethanol subsidies, he can simply wait and choose those studies done by those people who have his worldview. I can't think of any scientific dispute that would not be at least that detailed, thus, I suppose he thinks he can always say 'well, they were biased'. Its rather sad that someone who spent his life writing about the history of science has become comfortable with his ability to rationalize his prejudices, more so than someone more naive about science. I guess he highlights that brains aren't truth finders but persuaders, and he's happy with that.

SkepticDoc 07-02-2011 11:18 PM

Re: Gould wrong, Horgan Goes to Dark Side
 
Be careful of the slippery slope of rationalizing your prejudice:

from http://www.southerninstitute.info/ho...ation/ds1.html

Quote:

SOCIAL DARWINISM

In the late 19th century, the debate on the Jewish question entered a new chapter. Hitherto, the Jews had been viewed as different and unacceptable because of their religion. In 1873, with the publication of the book The Victory of Judaism over Germanism by Wilhelm Marr, the Jewish question became one of race. The Jews, it was argued, were different because of who they were, not what they thought. They were different because of birth. They were different because of blood. An "alien" people, the Jews could never be Germans. It was in this book that the term anti-Semitism first appeared. This so-called scientific basis of anti-Semitism excluded any possibility of Jews being assimilated into German culture. Once defined as such in the popular mind, a major obstacle to Jewish destruction, the common bond in humanity, was overcome.

Social Darwinism took root. This was the belief that people of different races were in competition with one another, and only the strongest of the races would ultimately survive.
Skull cavity size is bullshit science, any pseudo-scientific project, no matter how "scientific" will be a waste of time, even if a correlation was found, this information is useless in a society that regards all its members as equal citizens in the eyes of the community, law and government.

If you "prove" that skull size has any predictive value for intelligence, lets say that you are going to use CT scan data, what are you going to do with the information? Would you segregate the people with smaller sized skulls and assign them to menial jobs, or some other worse fate?

Parallax 07-02-2011 11:20 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)
 
Wow. If this diavlog does not shame Horgan none of our comments will do. As of 8:20 PM Pacific time July 2nd of 2011 John Horgan is officially a lost cause.

miceelf 07-02-2011 11:49 PM

Re: Gould wrong, Horgan Goes to Dark Side
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by eric (Post 214988)
Gould's critique of the IQ literature hasn't held up. His argument that IQ is a 'reified' thing without substance is not accepted by most psychologists, it remains an important variable in explaining a variety of important life outcomes. His argument that IQ is arbitrary due to rotational indeterminacy comes from a bizarre logical possibility that is empirically pointless, as evidenced by the strong stability of IQ scores over a persons life, and how people who do poorly on those tend to do poorly on all g-loaded tests. IQs are important, heritable, and vary systematically between well-known human ethnicities (eg, Jews and Aborigines). It's strange that the Left that so loves evolution thinks such forces can not possibly have relevance towards humans.

First of all, not clear that all on the left love evolution, but evo psych is one of those areas that is prone to just so stories and other flights of fancy. Possibly due to the tolerance my psychologists have for unfalsifiability. And no one is claiming that evolution has no relevance toward humans, that's very different than what murray and herrnstein claim.

In any case, your claims about psychologists and IQ are pretty over-stated, and the argument is never over the predictive utility of IQ in certain specific areas, but in the meaning of IQ and its relationship to race qua race. Here, the work that supports Murray and Herrnstein is pretty lowly regarded by most psychologists, and most social sciences generally. That's why the work of Phillipe Rushton gets relegated to rags like Mankind Quarterly, rather than mainstream academic journals. You can argue that this is due to PC or somesuch, but you are the one who raise the issue of how regarded the theories are by most scientists.

Parallax 07-02-2011 11:54 PM

Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by AemJeff (Post 214942)
John and Bob's shared assertion regarding the "corruption" of the field of psychiatry by pharma.

When I was watching the diavlog I got the impression that Bob was not fully on board with Horgan's statement however he decided not to be too hostile to Horgan. I don't know if John realizes it or not but the first half of the diavlog was pretty embarrassing for him.

T.G.G.P 07-03-2011 01:03 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)
 
I don't know why Bob went at the level of genetics to argue for determinism rather than physics. Biology is just built on chemistry and chemistry is just built on physics.

How does John know how baboons think? Has he talked to any?

The only Dennet book I've read is "Darwin's Dangerous Idea", but in response to Bob I'd say whether something is "meaningful" is rather subjective.

I don't plan on reading John's book on war because he's a journalist, and what does he know? Azar Gat already did a really comprehensive job in "War in Human Civilization". You'd have to devote a considerable amount of effort to cover something he didn't already.

I like Steve Sailer's quasi-Marxist argument for the decline of war.

It's not Milgram/Zimbardo, but Robin Hanson argues another famous conformity study has been misinterpreted.

I don't remember the original authors of the restudy accused Gould of conscious dishonesty, but John Hawks did. I haven't read Gould's book (though in school we were assigned to read some of his commentary on The Bell Curve that appeared in a republished edition) but here's Arthur Jensen's review.

osmium 07-03-2011 09:32 AM

Re: Gould wrong, Horgan Goes to Dark Side
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by eric (Post 214988)
Gould's critique of the IQ literature hasn't held up. His argument that IQ is a 'reified' thing without substance is not accepted by most psychologists, it remains an important variable in explaining a variety of important life outcomes. His argument that IQ is arbitrary due to rotational indeterminacy comes from a bizarre logical possibility that is empirically pointless, as evidenced by the strong stability of IQ scores over a persons life, and how people who do poorly on those tend to do poorly on all g-loaded tests. IQs are important, heritable, and vary systematically between well-known human ethnicities (eg, Jews and Aborigines). It's strange that the Left that so loves evolution thinks such forces can not possibly have relevance towards humans.

IQ tests measure how well an individual copes with twentieth century western society. The idea that IQ is heritable is unprovable and unscientific. "Explaining life outcomes" might be useful while still having nothing to do with genetics.

badhatharry 07-03-2011 10:14 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)
 
Quote:

Quoting jimM47:My own perception is that what I think of as "me" is basically riding around inside an animal that is mostly pretty self-sufficient in terms of controlling, and initiating all sorts of both voluntary and involuntary behaviors, but which gives "me" quite a bit of stimuli regarding its internal processes, and which I have the ability to control pretty effectively when it comes to actions on the scale of morally relevant choices
I've been interested for quite some time in the question of whether we make conscious decisions or whether this is an illusion. I've come up with the conclusion that the definition of what consciousness is has not been fully determined and may never be. There will always be some question begging in any discussion of consciousness because we are so convinced that it exists while that might not be the case. It may be one of those things we are incapable of examining beyond setting up experiments and presuming that we have begun to be able to define the phenomenon by looking at the manifestations. We just will never be able to put it under a microscope.

But, surely, we all think we have it, so it has significance and is a key ingredient in what makes up a human being. It could be a cosmic consciousness illusion.

badhatharry 07-03-2011 10:19 AM

Re: Gould wrong, Horgan Goes to Dark Side
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by osmium (Post 215004)
IQ tests measure how well an individual copes with twentieth century western society. The idea that IQ is heritable is unprovable and unscientific. "Explaining life outcomes" might be useful while still having nothing to do with genetics.

But some groups (if you believe in groups) do better than others, which was one aspect of IQ research. You can say that this is cultural but isn't the ability to do well or not do well ultimately biological and therefore a result of genetics?

badhatharry 07-03-2011 10:29 AM

Re: Gould wrong, Horgan Goes to Dark Side
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by miceelf (Post 214992)
You can argue that this is due to PC or somesuch, but you are the one who raise the issue of how regarded the theories are by most scientists.

I think IQ reasearch has certainly been tainted by PC attitudes. But really, one has to ask, what good does this kind of research accomplish? If some people or groups are smarter than others, what exactly is to be done?

Some would say that if some people just aren't smart enough because of biological fact that society should compensate them. I just don't see this working and would be devastating to self esteem (another PC concept).

osmium 07-03-2011 10:45 AM

Re: Gould wrong, Horgan Goes to Dark Side
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by badhatharry (Post 215010)
But some groups (if you believe in groups) do better than others, which was one aspect of IQ research. You can say that this is cultural but isn't the ability to do well or not do well ultimately biological and therefore a result of genetics?

One "group" can do better than another, but just like you said there can be a cultural cause or an environmental cause. The idea that culture and environment are the result of genetics is the part that should not be accepted.

AemJeff 07-03-2011 10:55 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by T.G.G.P (Post 214995)
I don't know why Bob went at the level of genetics to argue for determinism rather than physics. Biology is just built on chemistry and chemistry is just built on physics.

How does John know how baboons think? Has he talked to any?

The only Dennet book I've read is "Darwin's Dangerous Idea", but in response to Bob I'd say whether something is "meaningful" is rather subjective.

I don't plan on reading John's book on war because he's a journalist, and what does he know? Azar Gat already did a really comprehensive job in "War in Human Civilization". You'd have to devote a considerable amount of effort to cover something he didn't already.

I like Steve Sailer's quasi-Marxist argument for the decline of war.

It's not Milgram/Zimbardo, but Robin Hanson argues another famous conformity study has been misinterpreted.

I don't remember the original authors of the restudy accused Gould of conscious dishonesty, but John Hawks did. I haven't read Gould's book (though in school we were assigned to read some of his commentary on The Bell Curve that appeared in a republished edition) but here's Arthur Jensen's review.

Well, there you go again, citing Steve "White Doe" Sailer and making it that much more difficult to credit any of the content of one of your posts. Why not leave the (crypto-)scientific racists out of the discussion entirely, if only to provide a clearer stage on which your posts might be judged fairly.

Hal Morris 07-03-2011 11:22 AM

Artificial memories and all that
 
Well, the conversation may have died, but nobody seems to have picked up on the first segment.

Some thoughts:

* Artificial input: Artificial cochlea (and maybe in future, artificial retina): Seems easier than we would have imagined; apparently the brain will meet us half way.

* Artificial output (e.g. the paraplegic with build in virtual joystick. Something similar appears to apply. It seems to me our brains don't start out with a map of our body, but put out feelers, experiment (the "scientist in the crib") and figure it out. The mutation that causes one to have 6 fingers doesn't change the brain map - it doesn't have to; the 6th finger just becomes usable. Probably if one could splice a tail onto a human, and the body would accept it (maybe it was grown in a lab by manipulating your own stem cells), and the neurons could be brought in contact with the spine, the human would soon learn to wag his/her tail.

* Artificial memory? Not so fast, esp. as far as anything like "implantation" is concerned. My guess is in some sense "the code" doesn't exist; rather there are some general principals, as there are general principals for language construction, but the end result can take an infinite variety of forms. With estimates on the order of 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion synapses in three dimensions, vs on the order of 100 possible phonemes in 1 dimension (2 if you count time, but you can do that with the brain as well and come up with 4).
Conclusion: I suspect the implantation or "dropping in" of memories would require a staggering degree of knowledge of the individual target brain just to get started.

* New peripherals, including intelligent peripherals? Very feasible and in our future whether we like it or not. Given the brains ability to meet halfway what we try to give it, I can see these being accesses through a "voice in ones head", and/or visually through a virtual monitor screen that one could look at (instead of the visual image from ones eyes) through some "shift of attention" maneuver. It could feel like an alternate pair of eyes that one attends to when one wants to.

* If the above is possible, what one gets with just current technology is the possibility of a team of combatants communicating through a kind of telepathy, with vast databases (geographically, or the map of every structure in a city from the inside and out, ductworks, sewers, backdoors into subway systems, etc), pictorial and other identification of millions of people one might encounter, and using natural ocular images as keys to "look up" the identity of the person one is looking at, available instantly.

* As for "dropping in" skills or natural seeming knowledge, I don't think it's possible, but it might be possible to stimulate the brain to create new memories/skills, but there would be limits to how fast that would go. One would probably end up with not only the skills, but a memory of how one acquired them, although it might have a strange, perhaps cartoon like quality discernible from natural memories.

osmium 07-03-2011 11:28 AM

Re: Science Saturday: Egos on Parade (Robert Wright & John Horgan)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by T.G.G.P (Post 214995)
I don't plan on reading John's book on war because he's a journalist, and what does he know? Azar Gat already did a really comprehensive job in "War in Human Civilization". You'd have to devote a considerable amount of effort to cover something he didn't already.

I think journalism has the potential to reveal more about war than science or social science. I haven't read Gat, but there should be multiple viewpoints on every subject. Another book could add a lot.


All times are GMT -4. The time now is 05:38 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.