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What science is...

April 5 2009 at 11:25 AM
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R.M. Robertson  (Login RobertRobertson)
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Response to Dr. Amen's theories

....isn't a matter of all for one and one for all, or anybody's being good people or not, who has what degree, or any of this stuff.

It's a matter of gathering data, producing testable hypotheses, testing those hypotheses through reproducible means, and subjecting one's results for peer review and assessment.

That's why I cited Quackwatch, which supports exactly those standards--and their people (who certainly do have the credentials, while I only have an aging BA in psych) put Dr. Amen on the list because his claims have NOT been tested, have NOT pruduced solid results, and have NOT been subject to peer review.

In short, it ain't science. It may be something just as good, but science, it's not.

I'm sorry to offend any of you worthy people (and pretty much all of you have done more in martial arts than me), but these sorts of "brain," claims have been around for a while. They trace back to Peale's positive thinking; they trace to belief structures such as those of Christianity; they trace to very old notions about the physical and spiritual differences between men and women that tend to privilege men; they trace to all sorts of contemporary pseudo-sciences such as NLP.

Here're the problems with these particular claims---they're easy to cite, because they are ALWAYS the problems with such claims: first, there're simply too many variables to test, when it comes to human behavior and human cognition. These are extremely complex matters, and every time thse claims come up they involve huge jumps from small, verified, genuinely-scientific results to grandiose claims about, "the brain."

Second, we can't run the experiments. The technology isn't there yet (fMRIs only work if you lie very, very still, for one thing); and we can't do to people what we'd do to rats and mice. That's why even guys like Steven Pinker are fairly cautious about any and all such claims--the data's shaky, and does NOT lead to anything like the direct cause-and-effect claims so often made.

Third: no real peer review. No, I've not reviewed the literature. So if somebody can show me where Dr. Amen's published these claims in serious scholaraly journals, and then won overwhelming support from his colleagues, great, I'm a dolt. And indeed that would've been the SCIENTIFIC response to my comments--not remarks about my credentials, not claims about being a meanie, simply a citation of the relevant research.

Here's the deal, as I see it. This stuff doesn't have to be, "scientific," nor do I have to agree with it, for it to be worthwhile. It's good enough for me to have good people argue such cases on the grounds of their religious beliefs, or their philosophy and sense of the world, or their whatever. Perfectly reasonable. I probably still won't agree, but so what?

But claiming that it's science--that's something else altogether. And, I'm afraid, from my viewpoint there are far too many of these claims of science running around.

I'm sorry if that offends, but there it is. And that's really my whole point--so if y'all will stay off the personal stuff, I'll depart the topic at this point.

R.M. Robertson

P.S. Mr. Shukla, that Quackwatch piece is not five years old. As it says rather clearly at the bottom of the page, it was written in 2005, revised in 2007. Additionally, it contains a number of relevant references, not least of which is the American Psychological Association's position on such brain imaging. I'd suggest you read them--and if you've better citations, I'd be interested in seeing them.

This message has been edited by RobertRobertson from IP address on Apr 5, 2009 11:30 AM

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