Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Novella v Baughman 2007 Is the Field of Psychiatry Scientific? CHECK

This debate ( audio | 1h08m59s ) took place in 2007 on the topic: "Is the Field of Psychiatry Scientific?" It was between the SGU's Dr. Steven Novella and author of The ADHD Fraud, Dr. Fred Baughman.

4 stars. CHECK

Okay enough Craig and enough religion, how about a debate on something else? Unfortunately for you, dear reader, this is another topic close to my heart.*

This debate occurred after Baughman appeared on the Infidel Guy Show to take calls. Baughman holds that ADHD isn't a disease (or disorder, which is what it really is) and wrote a book against it and many other disorders of the mind. Dr. Novella is famous for hosting the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, a podcast on skepticism that has a place in my heart as it was one of the first skeptical resources when I became interested in the community. I stopped listening back in 2008, though.

I always liked how straight forward Dr. Novella was and I stumbled across this debate on an SGU fan site, for all I know Novella has done other debates since, like I said, I stopped listening in 2008.


The debate was on whether or not psychiatry was supported by enough evidence to justify its existence and more specifically, the prescription medications psychiatry doles out to patients. Baughman feels that ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder) is not a real disease...or disorder - the definition of the two and the difference becomes a huge and pretty much unresolved issue of the debate - and that big pharma are lying to kids to get them to take meth...okay I might have simplified the argument a little but, there it is.

Novella on the other hand, feels that the field has proved itself, disorders (he distinguishes between the two like any sane person and unlike Baughman) of the mind do exist and have been researched extensively, plus: the prescription medications used for ADHD are highly effective in curbing the issues that arise from it and other learning disorders.

Baughman counters by ignoring this and saying that there are no purely objective tests available to demonstrate things like dyslexia or ADHD etc are diseases. Repeatedly he complains that these disorders aren't diseases even after Novella explicitly defines the two different terms. When asked by Reggie to explain the difference (over 30 minutes into the show), Baughman just says they're the same thing and that psychiatrists use the confusion to dupe parents into drugging up their kids. Near the end of the program a caller nails him pretty badly on it and Baughman only says the same thing over and over again.

I used to love this debate but I just can't consider it great after relistening to it. It's too short, Baughman talks at such long lengths and it isn't until the end of the program that Reggie finally asks him to get to the point on one of his rants - his voice doesn't help either. He comes off as senile at some points, like I said, he drones on and on and talks over Novella and doesn't counter almost anything Novella says. A little into the debate he does address one thing and it's where Novella really devastates Baughman. After Novella asks him this one question there is a long pause and he just falls apart.

Another issue that irked me is that Baughman droned on so much and kept talking and interrupting when Novella responded, he would just cut him off and talk over him which resulted in both he and the audience not hearing what Novella had to say. Novella doesn't repeat himself a few times after this happens and some of the really good points he makes become lost in this mess. Otherwise, Novella was great and it was obvious who the victor was, despite the fact that Baughman obviously learned nothing in the dialogue.

Technical: Okay AQ.

*I have ADHD and wasn't diagnosed until after high school. It is a thing and it has been pretty annoying dealing with those who think that it is just kids being lazy.

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