“Any sufficiently-advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
—Arthur C. Clarke (science fiction author)
The noted physicist Richard Feynman gave the commencement address at CalTech in 1974 with a speech providing guidance on how to avoid getting fooled: Cargo Cult Science: Some remarks on science, pseudoscience, and learning how to not fool yourself.
Feynman described the experience of people in the South Pacific who were briefly exposed to technological magic during World War II:
In the South Seas there is a Cargo Cult of people. During the war they saw airplanes land with lots of good materials, and they want the same thing to happen now. So they’ve arranged to make things like runways, to put fires along the sides of the runways, to make a wooden hut for a man to sit in, with two wooden pieces on his head like headphones and bars of bamboo sticking out like antennas—he’s the controller—and they wait for the airplanes to land. They’re doing everything right. The form is perfect. It looks exactly the way it looked before. But it doesn’t work. No airplanes land. So I call these things Cargo Cult Science, because they follow all the apparent precepts and forms of scientific investigation, but they’re missing something essential, because the planes don’t land.
Feynman’s speech goes on to give an example of how a little science-mistake became science-gospel, and how it took another 15 years of experiments before a more accurate value for the charge of an electron was settled upon:
Why didn’t they discover that the new number was higher right away? It’s a thing that scientists are ashamed of—this history—because it’s apparent that people did things like this: When they got a number that was too high above Millikan’s, they thought something must be wrong—and they would look for and find a reason why something might be wrong. When they got a number closer to Millikan’s value they didn’t look so hard. And so they eliminated the numbers that were too far off, and did other things like that. We’ve learned those tricks nowadays, and now we don’t have that kind of a disease.
Feynman says the later investigators who came up with the correct result fooled themselves into publishing incorrect values:
But this long history of learning how to not fool ourselves—of having utter scientific integrity—is, I’m sorry to say, something that we haven’t specifically included in any particular course that I know of. We just hope you’ve caught on by osmosis.
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful about that. After you’ve not fooled yourself, it’s easy not to fool other scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after that.
Cargo Cult Psychiatry
In Malignant Do-Gooderism: The Tragedies of Allopathic Psychiatry, I distinguished allopathic psychiatry from holistic psychiatry. Psychiatrists who practice allopathically tend to prescribe palliative medications to treat their patients’ symptoms without (much) concern for the causes behind the patient’s symptomatic presentation. Holistic psychiatrists try to put their patients’ symptoms into context, and tend to use gentle interventions that shouldn’t worsen their patient’s condition.
I borrow from Feynman’s speech:
In all of medicine there is a tendency to Cargo Cultism, where doctors try to assist their patients with interventions that can’t possibly help.
As medicine advanced over the course of the 20th century, one group of doctors saw other specialties advance to being somewhat helpful to their patients. They saw their colleagues rise in esteem and prestige, and they wanted the same thing to happen for their own medical specialty.
20th Century psychiatrists wrote manuals and procedures for the diagnosis of ‘mental disorders’. They order lab tests and undertake careful study of their patients’ symptoms, and they diagnose the conditions listed in their manuals. They seek regulatory approval of prescriptions to treat the diagnoses. They stopped doing psycho-surgery by mid-century, but still electrocute their patients’ brains when they think the patient will benefit.
They have their own special hospitals, where troubled patients are sent to be stabilized on palliative prescription drugs. The psych wards have little areas for staff to sit in. The staff wear scrubs and badges, keep medical records, and some prescribe prescriptions—[s]he’s the doctor—and they wait for their patients to get better.
They’re doing everything right. The form is perfect. It looks exactly the way it looks in the other medical specialties. But it doesn’t work. No patient recovers as a result of the allopathic drugs provided. Some patients get better anyways—perhaps because they’re fed, perhaps because they’re kept sober—compounding the profession’s confusion.
I call these things Cargo Cult Psychiatry, because they follow all the apparent precepts and forms of modern scientific medical investigation and intervention, but they’re missing something essential, because the patients don’t actually improve.
It’s not that the patients don’t have actual problems—they’re dysfunctional with depression or psychosis or compulsive behaviors or addiction or any of a number of other ‘behavioral’ labels.
The allopathic psychiatrist’s predicament is they have a tendency to see people at the worst of their episode, and they didn’t personally witness their patient a week or two before when they were much more functional.
Holistic psychiatry is true psychiatry. Allopathic psychiatry is worse than a harmless cargo cult, because palliative prescriptions worsen the ‘mental deterioration’ the doctors think they’re preventing.
[SIDEBAR: Thyroid medication for hypothyroidism is NOT ‘palliative’, as these are bio-identical medications that correct a deficiency. L-methylfolate for a poor methylator (#MTHFR) is similarly NOT palliative, as helps correct the malnourishment experienced by people who cannot turn the food fortification folic acid into Vitamin B-9. Vitamin B-12 corrects vitamin B-12 deficiency. Etc.]
In other vestiges of cargo cult medicine, like statins for elevated cholesterol, people are able to protect themselves by questioning and deciding for themselves whether they believe their doctor actually knows what they’re doing.
Cargo Cult Psychiatry uses the courts to force people, who are otherwise assumed to have the right to refuse treatment, to submit to the cargo cultists’ pseudoscientific approach to ‘mental health’.
Update on My Efforts at SCOTUS
My previous essay also shared my efforts at the Supreme Court of the United States [SCOTUS] to try to protect my friend from allopathic psychiatry’s standard of care. I think my videos prove she was fine before she ran out of alcohol, and that she was misdiagnosed by her involuntary doctors in September 2015. Other videos, evidence and witnesses prove that fraud was perpetrated on the United States District Court in January 2018.
But what good are videos, if no judge will consider them?
The justices denied petition #21-6444 without comment on February 22, 2022. On March 15, 2022, I filed a petition for rehearing. This provided updates from after the original petition was docketed on November 16, 2021. I also pointed out that the United States’ judicial system has make-work properties, and gave practical examples of how society is harmed by the criminal justice system’s use of the Soviet techniques of punitive medicine.
I told the justices how Soviet Psycho-Prisons used haloperidol to re-educate dissidents, and shared how my friend was apparently injected with haloperidol in January 2022 just like a Soviet dissident. I gave two more examples from Arizona that support my contention that the United States Court should not condone modern medicine’s use of #MedicalTorture.
The justices denied this petition too. Maybe my problem is that it’s too inconvenient to point out that doctors use the courts to make work for themselves.
My current SCOTUS petition, #21-1493 (readable in full here), focuses on whether the United States District Court may declare me vexatious without considering the videos which prove I was entirely truthful in my filings.
In the make-believe world of the District Court’s rulings, I’m trying to judicially-harass a person who no longer cares for my acquaintance. In the real world, I have irrefutable evidence that supports my allegations that my friend’s legal mail was intercepted by one of the respondents to the original federal petition, and that the supposed ‘motion to dismiss’ was actually written by the respondent herself.
“Fraud on the Court” is when one of the parties to a court case undermines the integrity of the judicial system. Classic examples are of bribing the judge or court staff to interfere with the fairness of a judicial proceeding. In my case, one of respondents to my habeas petition impersonated the party to the habeas petition by sending a fake letter to the District Court. The District Court was supposed to have held an evidentiary hearing on whether this letter was actually sent by my friend. I think the district court just doesn’t want to rule that allopathic psychiatry is a cargo cult.
I had a little bit of money appear, so this is a paid petition: $300 for the SCOTUS docketing fee, $2,011 for the printing company’s creation of 50 booklets of the required specifications for a paid petition. (SCOTUS rules for paid petitions require booklets of a size and paper weight that is NOT found at a typical office supply store. My previous petitions were “in forma pauperis”, and were printed on 8 ½” x 11” paper.)
All I want is for the Supreme Court to order an evidentiary hearing.
If you’d like to help with my petition at the SCOTUS, you can write the Chief Justice of the United States, or the Associate Justice in charge of the circuit of the state you live in:
Chief Justice of the United States / Associate Justice [LAST NAME]
Supreme Court of the United States
1 First St. NE
Washington, DC 20543
Dear Chief Justice of the United States / Associate Justice [LAST NAME]
I am writing in support of James Knochel’s efforts to remove the Soviet techniques of torture from American Medicine. I hope you will act favorably on his petition, #21-1493. While this petition is about whether the mental health industry may perpetrate fraud on the United States Court, I believe the simple evidentiary hearing he asks for is the quickest way to start the ball rolling on removing ineffective psychiatric drugs from the treatment arsenal deployed against people whose right to refuse harmful medical treatments is suspended.
I myself have experienced / witnessed the incompetence of modern allopathic psychiatry. [DETAILS HERE]
I agree with Mr. Knochel that forced psychiatry is a modern example of cargo cult science. Something ought to be done about allopathic doctors who don’t know what they’re doing.
You can also write your congressional representatives to let them know that you encourage them to exercise their oversight authority of the Supreme Court, for the Court’s having rubber-stamped #MedicalTorture of U.S. Citizens with their denial of #21-6444.
Pressing on the Twitter Levers
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich is supposed to respond to my petition by June 27, 2022. Twitter has a bit more reach than most other sites. If you retweet my tweet to AG Brnovich, it might help him realize that he needs to do something about Arizona’s implementation of Soviet-style medicine.
Were you tortured by #CargoCultPsychiatry? Share your experience with the hashtag #MedicalTorture.
If you’re making a new account, follow @Mad_In_America and some other accounts too, so you’re not just liking/retweeting my little tweet. Also let @SCOTUSblog and @AHoweBlogger that you’d like coverage of our efforts to remove #MedicalTorture from modern medicine’s treatment arsenal.
To borrow from Feynman again:
We’ve learned from experience that the truth will out. Other experimenters will repeat your experiment and find out whether you were wrong or right. Nature’s phenomena will agree or they’ll disagree with your theory. And, although you may gain some temporary fame and excitement, you will not gain a good reputation as a [medical specialty] if you haven’t tried to be very careful in this kind of work. And it’s this type of integrity, this kind of care not to fool yourself, that is missing to a large extent in much of the research in Cargo Cult [Medicine].
Medicine is hard because every patient is unique. While our modern doctors might aspire to be scientific, no patient is exactly like any other.
All of Medicine has its Cargo Cult moments. From time immemorial, physicians have used the techniques they’re trained in, and seem to only abandon what doesn’t work when they figure out something else to do instead. A question to help Medicine move itself forward is “how can Medicine gracefully retire harmful treatments?”
Allopathic psychiatry is the only medical specialty that has organized resistance. This is deserved because their commonly-used treatments have no basis in physiology.
The agony caused by the FDA-approved “anti-psychotic” drug haloperidol was also used by the Soviets to help their dissidents self-correct their behavior. Western psychiatrists called this ‘torture’, but still use Haldol on their own patients. Why is this?
We are all harmed by Cargo Cult Psychiatry, and we’ll all be better off when punitive medicine is retired from use.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.