I saw a commercial on TV today. Some guy (I didn’t get his name, and it’s not really important) was selling a book that he claimed contained his secret to overcoming any addition. You see things like this all the time. Someone has a cure-all for whatever might ail you.
I’m not going to talk about the details of this guy’s supposed cure. I’m not going to analyze the efficacy of him claims. I want to look at the idea of selling hope; why it is a sign of selfishness and perhaps even sociopathic.
There are plenty of reasons why dubious claims are harmful, just browse the what’s the harm website for a plethora of details. There are many examples there of people who have died because the chose to follow programs that promised a cure for a medical condition. These stories are sad and unnecessarily so.
What what I can’t help but wonder about guys like the one I’ve mentioned here is, if they truly have cure or treatment that is revolutionary and that does what they say it does, then why do they always insist on charging for it? Sure, I know people have to make a living, but I can tell you that if I came up with a treatment that could cure and help a lot of people, I’d want to help as many as I could.
To have a treatment, a real cure, for a disease like MS or cancer, or a treatment that will get people off their addiction and keep them off, would be an amazing thing. The ethical, the moral, thing to do would be to share this with the medical community, to allow others to test it and perfect it, so that it can benefit everyone.
Sure, get compensated. After all, you worked for it. You discovered it. Drug companies would pay millions for something like this. But to horde it, to sell it only to those who could afford your asking price, it the ultimate in selfishness and immorality.
The BBC has a sad, disturbing article about a totally preventable cause of death due to HIV in Africa. It seems that people who had been being successfully treated for HIV infection died when they stopped taking their antiretroviral medication because their pastors or priests told them to and instead put their faith, and lives, in the power of prayer.
If anyone has any doubts about the harm that superstitious, religious beliefs can cause, this story should quash them. People like to say that god answers every prayer, but sometimes the answer is “no”. Bullshit! What kind of loving, merciful god would let someone die in agony when they had abandoned worldly treatments of their illness and put their faith in him? If there is a god, then this just proves that he is a sick, sadistic fuck. But we knew that already from reading the Old Testament. Just look up the books of Joshua, Job, or, for that matter, most of the whole of the Bible if you want a taste of callousness, perfidy, and outright cruelty.
When skeptics point out the fact that alternative medicine like homeopathy and naturopathy don’t work, people ask, “What’s the harm?” Brian Dunning from skeptiod.com has a very sad and poignant example of just what the harm can be. He opines that Steve Jobs might still be with us if he had pursued modern medical treatment earlier rather than naturopathy. Go read the article.
If you want to read many more stories about the harm of alternative medical treatments, go to What’s the Harm.
The resources for people with mental illnesses in the country are sadly lacking. They are terribly underfunded and understaffed. The problem is somewhat better for those with health insurance, but even then, there is the social stigma that goes along with being mentally ill.
I would prefer a term such a Brain Chemical Imbalance or Brain Structural Anomaly. These terms are more accurate and better describe where the real cause of mental illness lies. It is a malfunction of various brain activities. Because these things are happening in our brains, where our mind resides, the effects can be profound and devastating to the person suffering from it and all those around him.
I have a son with ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder). Deal with him has been a constant and difficult struggle since he was a baby. While he is intelligent, attends high school like any other kid, ways of perceiving the world and relating to others that make life very difficult for him. He can come across as indifferent to feelings of others because he can’t understand the normal queues such as tone of voice or body language or facial expressions that most of us grasp intuitively.
I myself suffer from chronic clinical depression. There are days when I literally can barely function. Imagine wearing a suite that weights 200 pounds and goggles that are slightly cloudy and then trying to go through your day like that. Add to that a complete lack of motivation and even something as simple as standing up to walk to the printer at work takes an amazing effort. I’ve even had people remark that I look like I’m carrying a weight around on my shoulders. It actually affects how I move physically. It certainly effects how I feel physically. My head feels like it is full of cotton stuffing, my arms, hands, head feel like little needles are being poked into the. There are almost constant headaches and the pain in my neck, shoulders and arms are real and ever-present. When those commercials say that depression hurts, they are 100% serious and true.
I have begun to reach the point where I don’t know if I can work anymore. Of course, I have to because I can’t afford not to. I’m a single dad and there is no one else to take care of my kids. Taking a leave of absence is out of the question. I have not idea if my disability insurance at work covers mental illness. I suppose I need to find out.
I’m sure you are wondering what I’m doing to treat this? I am on various medications for depression and anxiety. I also regularly see a therapist. I try to get out, do some exercise. Not keep myself isolated. I’m doing the right things, but the depression just seems to worsen as each day passes.
Why do I bring all this up? I’m not looking for sympathy. I want people to be aware that mental illness is more than just homeless people mutter to themselves in parks and on street corners. It can effect anyone, in any walk of life. It is as debilitating as any physical illness can be, and that is because it is a physical illness. And just like other physical illnesses it needs to be treated with medication and therapy.
Unlike other physical illnesses, you can see the signs just by looking at someone. Instead it affects behavior and mood, which are considered to be part of our personalities. If your job performance is impacted because of a physical ailment like a back problem, accommodations can be made to help compensate. But what accommodations can you make for an inability to focus on tasks or to organize your thoughts enough to organize your work?
I don’t have the ability to even focus on possibly solutions. If anyone out there does, please comment.
I’m too angry to even comment rationally on this. For anyone who had any doubts that the Republican party only cares about rich, white men, go here and read on. I’d recommend doing it on an empty stomach because if you have even a modicum of decency, it will make you want to hurl.
I have written about cognitive dissonance here before (here, here, here, here and here). In brief, cognitive dissonance is holding two contradicting ideas in your head at the same time and the emotional discomfort that causes.
Cognitive dissonance is something that we all experience to one degree or another on a fairly continuos basis. Most of the time, the dissonance is easily and painlessly resolved simply by making a decision. For example, say you know that you need complete a project deadline by the day after tomorrow and you have planned on completing it today, but then you get a call from a friend asking you to go out for lunch and shopping. You feel unease because you know you need to get the project done. If you decide to work on the project instead of go with your friend, you have resolved the dissonance and the unease gone now that you know you will complete your project today. If, on the other hand, you decide to go with your friend, the dissonance remains. You justify your decision by telling yourself that you have all day tomorrow to complete the project. In this case you haven’t really resolved the dissonance, but you have rationalized it to yourself effectively enough so that you are able to go out and enjoy your time with your friend, even if the dissonance may be nagging at you in the back of your mind.
We deal with situations like this all the time. The vast majority of times, we resolve it by making a decision that makes the dissonance go away. Sometimes, we choose to let the dissonance remain and we rationalize it away in order to allow ourselves to function without the emotional discomfort.
In situations where the dissonance involves a very important idea to us though, it becomes much harder to remove the dissonance because that could mean making a very big change in our worldview. A good example of this is religious belief.
I was a devout believer in god for much of my life, but was constantly changing my reasons for believing because the more I thought about it the more I saw that the evidence for god’s existence was non-existence. For a while I found ways to rationalize the dissonance that arose from keeping the ideas of a perfectly good and loving god and of suffering and evil in the world in my head at the same time. Eventually, I could no longer justify away the dissonance and accompanying emotion distress without abandoning either my rational, scientific view of the world, or my belief in god. As those of you who have been regular readers of this blog know, I abandoned the later.
How we deal with cognitive dissonance has huge implications for our society’s future because those who are devout believers in god are actively trying to interfere with and limit government funding for much important scientific research. From climate change to stem cell research, vital research into subjects that will have a profound impact on our future is in danger.
I will be continuing to research, think about, and write about cognitive dissonance and what can be done to successfully deal with it here on this blog.
I’ve spoken here before of the harms of religious thinking. Today I want to talk about something that is a threat to our modern society and that is the religious antipathy toward science.
Science has done more to advance the health and welfare of the human race than anything else humans have yet devised. In the past 100 years alone, the average human lifespan at birth has almost doubled. Humans are healthier, taller and live longer than at any point in our history as a species. This trend is due almost entirely to the progress that science has provided.
Science has allowed us to understand how the world we live in really works which in turn has allowed us to improve sanitation, housing, agriculture, food safely and production, health care and more. Without an understanding of how the world really works, we would still be in the medieval ages in terms of our well being and technology, beset by famines, plagues and pandemics that, until the middle of the 20th century, killed millions annually.
To illustrate just why and how science is important, I’m going to discuss evolution as it applies to bacterial resistance to antibiotics.
Evolution is a fact. Yes, it is a theory, but it is also a fact just as much as gravity, which is also a theory, is a fact. Gravity exists. We know this to be true because we can successfully launch space probes and satellites, and we can predict where an asteroid or comet will travel.
In the same respect, evolution is a fact. We know it is a fact, for example, because we can see how bacteria evolves resistance to antibiotics. Because of our understanding of evolution we are able to predict how certain bacteria will likely evolve and use this knowledge to provided new drugs in time to treat bacteria that became resistant to older antibiotics. **
The problem we are now running into is that the funding for research and development into antibiotic resistance is in jeopardy because of resistance to science funding by the U.S. Congress, driven mainly by the GOP due to religiously motivated ideology.
Another problem that is possibly even more serious is the general lack of education in evolution in public schools. This lack of evolution education is caused mainly by religiously motivated anti-evolution groups all across the country.
The effect of this is that most students who enter college have littler or no knowledge of evolution or even science in general. This has lead to students who have little or on interest in science, or if they do, they tend to get discouraged because of the extra classes and work they have to complete just to get up to the level to be able to do college work in science.
This sad state of affairs means that the United States, once the undisputed leader in science and technology in the world, is quickly becoming a scientific has-been in the world. It is now countries like China, Russia, Korea, Taiwan, Japan and the European Union that lead the world in science and technology. It is no accident that these countries have very weak or nonexistent religiously based political groups.
In fact, if you look at countries that have the greatest infusion of religion in society and government, you will see that these countries are all scientific and technological backwaters. The Middle East is a prime example. Yes, they might embrace technology, but that technology is bought, not developed. Soon, unless we do something to change the current trend, the U.S. will also be a buyer of other’s technologies. We will become a nation of consumption instead of creativity and innovation. We will be entirely dependent on other countries for almost everything we need to function as a society. That is not a future that I think any of us wish to live in.
What is the solution? Get religious ideology out of government and public institutions. Base science funding and policy on what is proven to work or has the potential to work, not on religious dogma and ideology. Make science education as important as reading and arithmetic, just like we did in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
It is time to put religion back where it belongs, in our homes and churches, and keep it out of where it doesn’t belong, in government and our public institutions. If we fail to do this, we will soon find ourselves the greatest has-beens of world.
**Wikipedia, Antibiotic resistance, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antibiotic_resistance#Alternatives
I got the the hospital for my stress test this morning. It took half an hour for them to find a good vein for the IV then another half hour to get the EKG wires attached and do the resting set of echo pictures of my heart. Then the cardiologist came in so we could start the treadmill part of the test. After asking me a few questions about the pains I’d been having over the past week, she decided that since I’d been having some instances of pain with no exertion, that stress test would be too risky. She feels that there is a very high probability that I have some blockage in one or more arteries around my heart, given the symptoms I’ve been having.
So tomorrow, I have to go in for a heart catheterization. This will consist of having an IV put in, being sedated, and then they will insert a catheter into my groin and run it up to my heart, put contrast dye into the IV and see what the condition of my heart and surrounding arteries is. If I’m lucky, there will be no blockages. If there are blockages they should be able to either use a ballon or stents to open them up, unless there are too many blockages or they are too blocked, then its open heart surgery for a bypass.
It’ll take about an hour and a half minimum for the procedure. If all goes well, I’ll go to recovery for 6 hours and then get to go home tomorrow afternoon. If they need to do the ballon or stents, I’ll spend at least one night in the hospital. If I need surgery then that will be schedule for a week or two out.
I’m not too worried. I’m actually more nervous about the wound from the catheter than anything else. The literature the gave me keeps mentioning swelling and bleeding as possible problems. I’m not really too concerned if I need the ballon or stents since that will make me healthier and feel better. The possibility of open heart surgery isn’t very appealing, to say the least, but I think that possibility is pretty remote.
I’ll keep you all posted.