How a Scientific Field Can Collapse: The Case of Psychiatry

Evolution News & Views May 8, 2013 3:50 PM | Permalink

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Psychology has long struggled to be considered scientific, given the checkered history of its eccentric pioneers, like Freud and Jung. Each of the contradictory theories emerging from psychology has struggled to do better at prediction or explanation than the “folk psychology” ordinary people use to gauge the motivations and behaviors of their fellow human beings. And the recent cases of outright fraud among some of social psychology’s leading lights (examples in the New York Times and Nature) have made the field suspect, some would say a laughingstock as science.

Psychiatry, though, was supposed to be better. Its practitioners had to earn an MD. It had a widely accepted, peer-reviewed guidebook, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by its professional society, the American Psychiatric Association. With its focus on observable symptoms, presumably rooted in biology, it had all the trappings of science. The things being said about psychiatry now, though, on the eve of publication of its latest upgrade, the DSM-5, are revealing it to be a science in crisis — if it ever was a science at all. As we list the problems, ponder whether many of the same criticisms could be leveled against Darwinism.

DSM-5, coming out on May 22, is the latest edition of the official diagnostic “bible” for psychiatrists that had its genesis in 1952. Writing for Nature, David Dobbs says,

Each such manual, DSM or others, has tried to improve on its predecessor. All have failed, says psychotherapist Gary Greenberg in his entertaining, biting and essential The Book of Woe. But none has failed so spectacularly as the DSM-5. (Emphasis added.)

Read the rest of the story here:


This article is well worth heeding!

Each DSM version has drawn criticism from within and outside the mental health arena, and not just from those in the anti-psychiatry/psychology camp. Diagnosing people’s mental health issues using the ‘tick-a-box’ approach of the DSM can easily result in misdiagnosis. Labeling people with some of the nonsense ‘disorders’ contained in the DSM (which appear to change according to society’s moral and spiritual ailments) can simply provide people with an excuse for continuing sinful behaviour. At other times it results in missing the signs of genuine spiritual issues or symptoms of more complex genetic disorders. 

This is particularly problematic when Christian medical and mental health professionals are accepting the DSM content as valid. Even a genuine disorder is not an excuse for sinning. However, it is essential when someone has an underlying neurological difference such as Asperger’s Syndrome (a high functioning form of autism) to:

a) recognize the existence of the disorder or difference;

b) understand how for each individual person, the disorder is directly impacting behaviour and why, (e.g. anxiety, social difficulties, sensory overload) and;

c) help the person and their family gain insight and develop appropriate ways of managing their challenges (particularly in light of the Scriptures, for Christians). 

It is my observation that the use of the DSM (IV or V) produces abysmal results in correctly identifying genuine disorders and certainly does not provide insight into the complexities of human beings, or their emotional and spiritual challenges. It seems encourage the treatment of symptoms whilst effectively discouraging further inquiry into causes. This is a key reason why I abandoned my training in counselling and psychology. As a required set of diagnostic criteria for psychologists, I could not support its use. There is an extraordinary absence of genuine science in these fields, and the DSM is no exception. From the perspective of a Christian, this is the result of scientific inquiry without God…our creator, and the giver of true knowledge, wisdom and understanding.

I think there have been some very helpful insights into human thought, behaviour and emotion gained over the centuries.  I could be wrong, but that is my observation at this stage.  However, it certainly is difficult to sort the small amount of good from the bulk of the godless, false ‘science’…in fact, it is impossible without your Bible in hand.

Constructive comments and discussion on this topic are most welcome!!