So here’s a fun game you can play: put randomly generated words into PubMed (a search engine for science research for those that don’t know) and see what you get! When I typed in the words ‘legendary locust excessive’ it brought up a paper on Phthiriasis, an almost mythical disease from antiquity (and well deserving of its name ‘the lousy disease’ – lousy indeed as insects parasitize your skin). Or you can type in ‘cattle blaster difficult’ and get a weekly Public Health Report from 1899. The strangest of all was when the words ‘murder pretend disease’ produced a kooky paper claiming that mental illness doesn’t exist with the curiously inept title: ‘Mental Illness: psychiatry’s phlogiston’. You can feel the burn as you read this paper with phrases such as:
Attributing all human actions to choice, the basic building block of our social existence, explains human behaviour better than attributing certain (disapproved) actions to mental illness, a non-existent disease.
Mental patients responding to the commands of “voices” resemble persons responding to the commands of authorities with irresistible powers, exemplified by “suicide-bombers” who martyr themselves in the name of God.
It’s not every day that you see a paper using God as an argument (how did this get published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, I dare say?):
Paradoxically, the old, prescientific-religious explanation of human behaviour is more faithful to the facts than the modern, scientific-psychiatric explanation of it. When man invents the Perfect Judge and calls him “God,” he creates an arbiter who does not distinguish between two kinds of conduct–one rational, for which man is responsible, and another irrational, for which he is not. Being held responsible for our actions is what renders us fully human: it is the glory with which God endows everyone, and the burden He imposes on everyone.
It seems the author of the paper, Thomas Szasz, is not particularly friendly to the mentally ill, and it can probably be inferred that there were a fair number of psychiatrists who wanted to hurl their DSM manuals at his prominent brow. While psychiatry may not be an exact science at least they refrain from making up entities in order to explain their discipline (or deride it), not unlike how the new chemists superseded the staunch phlogistonists.
Anyway, if you find yourself getting tired of this game you can always type in ‘rats and cocaine’ and find that addicted rats prefer cocaine over food. Who said science was ever boring?