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Autism is Real
A Conversation with a Parent

Copyright © 2008, Paul LutusMessage Page

Autism is Real I | Autism is Real II

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  Autism is Real I

This continues an earlier exchange.

An email and it's content does not prove a person's aptitude for intellectual activity. An e-mail proves nothing, but it supplies evidence. In your prior post, you argued as though I had claimed psychiatry has no value and that autism results from bad parenting. As to the first, I have never said this, and as to the second, I've strongly argued the opposite position. All one need do is read.

Your prose is filled with unsupported assertions, positions for which there is no evidence — "Your response did not make me angry as you probably have wished it would" — which makes me think you have no intellectual training and cannot reliably gather evidence for your own positions.
I actually happen to agree with you. Psychology is not evidenced based. And I was angry when I wrote the email. Maybe it would be better and more productive to wait until you aren't angry, assuming that ever happens, before writing.

Do you know why I write as I do? It's a way to quickly and efficiently discover whether a correspondent can rise above emotion toward meaningful discourse. It's a miniature intellectual boot camp. Now either drop and give me twenty, or start thinking — it's your choice.
I understood you to say that autism is not real. No, you didn't understand me. You made that conclusion on the basis of no evidence whatsoever. I have never argued anywhere that autism is not real. I have argued that psychologists make unsupported, unjust claims about it, like psychologist Bruno Bettelheim's famous claim that it results from incompetent mothering (with no evidence at all).

Based on your posts so far, if I were to take a position against racism, I should expect to get a reply saying black people really exist.
My son did not become autistic at two years old like many parents are claiming their children to have become. Who cares what parents claim? Parents can say and do anything they please. There is no social rule more sacred than parents' right to do anything short of feeding their children into microwave ovens — and even then, someone tries to offer an explanation:

Modern society can create anything it wants out of silicon and oil — except children. For that it must go to independent contractors (parents) who work in cottage industries across the landscape (and who love their work). The contractors set the rules, and in exchange society gets a new generation of volunteer soldiers, obedient taxpayers, and whiners.
And, no, I am not as intelligent as you are. But that doesn't mean I do not possess the capacity for understanding evidence based scientific research. Since you cannot properly decode clearly written prose, a position for which there is plenty of evidence, it is fair to conclude that you also cannot decode scientific research.

If you were qualified to read and understand scientific writing, you would at the very least know what key property separates a scientific theory from an ordinary one. But I say you don't know this trivial distinction, and I invite you to prove me wrong. The property can be expressed using a single word.
My frustration lies in the fact that I wish to pursue a science that will allow me to do research in the field of autism without getting myself involved in the "googlely gak" of psychology. That option doesn't seem to be there as of yet. I would wish to be able to somehow make an impact in the field of psychology to make it more evidence based. And, no, I do not possess that experience. You aren't qualified to understand or produce science, but you can function as an informed consumer. You can point out the many strongly held positions psychologists have taken over decades, and then had to abandon for cause (as in the Bettelheim example above). You can refuse to add to the perceived acceptance of psychology. I think you are already disposed to do that.

In any case, even the president of the APA hasn't succeeded in pushing clinical psychology toward an evidence-based model, so you don't need to feel too bad about having little effect on the behavior of psychologists.
Your response did not make me angry as you probably have wished it would. I hoped for the opposite, and you are providing evidence that you can't interpret everyday prose. It helped me to step back and realize that your writings have caused me to understand the reason I wrote you the email. Too many children are being misdiagnosed. Too many gifted children are being called autistic. Hold on. Do you realize your original message took me to task for the position you are now taking? How many emails do you get every day from angry parents? Plenty. Why do you suppose that is? Many of them can't understand the article they've just read. People like you. People who think I am claiming autism isn't real, in spite of my arguments to the contrary. Is it because they're all mired with emotion? Among other things, yes. Is it because they do not possess intellectual capacity for anything other than writing angry emails? Think before you respond. I have, and yes, that's normally the reason. If this were not the reason, more parents would act intelligently toward psychology, require it to prove its claims, rather than becoming compliant drones and idea consumers.

Clinical psychology has its present form because clients enthusiastically pay for it to be that way. Ironically, the relationship between modern clinical psychology and its clients fulfills the classic definition of destructive codependence.
Autism is Real II
I don't have a scientific education or training. By now, you are probably well aware of that. It wouldn't have taken a genius such as yourself to figure that out. (irony). I am aware that I do not write in a scientific manner. I'm not going to give you reasons or excuses for such. Hold on. It isn't as though having a scientific outlook is the only legitimate mental state. It happens to be the most efficient way to sort out reality, but that is a special occupation and one can spend a lifetime without doing it. I say this because science is not a religion or a special social class, it is just a tool meant for a specific purpose. No excuse is required.

Science is simply a way for us to get around how we feel about things. Eventually, thousands of years from now, we won't need science any more, because we will understand how to think efficiently. This doesn't mean we won't have feelings. It means we won't trust them as a guide to everyday life.
However, it's always been my wish to begin a pursuit of scientific learning. I am at a point in my life which might allow me do to so. I'd like to learn how I may teach my very curious children. My eldest is very interested in all things scientific. He's only nine years old. The youngest child is 3 and she's holds a very strong imagination. It would be a very good thing if they understood what science is about. A scientific outlook is useful, even in a life spent focused on other things. My fear is that neither one of them will be educated to their full potential in any type of school. That's a virtual certainty, because (1) schools only teach us how to teach ourselves, and (2) education never ends. For a "full potential" education, one must be willing to learn new things perpetually. I understand that I do not possess the intellectual capacity that my son does, but I feel that it is my responsibility to provide adequate material for him to use. You've raised the issue of my lack of scientific knowledge or ability to understand such. This fact has been at the forefront of my thoughts for a while. There is plenty of literature to assist you in this endeavor, in libraries, bookstores and online. But try to avoid confusing science with the results of science. Science is not a vaccine, it is the thought process that led to the vaccine. I did not pursue a B.S. Instead, I have a B.A. When I was young, I wanted to study science, but was disassuaded. Now, I feel that I may be too old to begin where I left off 20 years ago. Recent studies have disproven an old belief that the human brain stops developing after a certain age. This turns out to be false — our brains can take on new challenges at any age. So don't give up based on your age. Other than me getting a brain transplant, do you have any suggestions as to where I may begin? (I know, first I argue and insult you and then I come crawling back for advice). Well, science is very easy to summarize, but somewhat more difficult to adopt as a mental discipline.

Here's the summary. First, science is a tool to help us see beyond our feelings, beyond what we wish to be true. Science does this by focusing entirely on evidence — nothing else matters.

Second, in our earlier exchange, I said there was a key property of scientific theories that sets them apart. That property is falsifiability. If a theory makes propositions that can be tested in practical experiments and if the theory would be falsified by an experimental failure, it is scientific. If a theory cannot be tested in practical experiments, or if it doesn't make testable predictions, it is not scientific. This requirement explains why clinical psychology isn't scientific.

Third, scientific theories can only be disproven, not proven true once and for all. Philosopher David Hume summarized this by saying, "No amount of observations of white swans can allow the inference that all swans are white, but the observation of a single black swan is sufficient to refute that conclusion." This is why there are only scientific theories, no scientific truths (even though one sees that phrase in popular writing).

Fourth is an important scientific principle called the "null hypothesis," which can be summarized by saying that without evidence, a proposition is assumed to be false. Most people assume things are true until proven false, but science takes the opposite view. It is because of the null hypothesis that scientists are regarded as having a skeptical outlook.

That's a short summary. Here is an article of mine that expands a bit on the science idea:

Levels of Experience: Ideas
I apologize, Paul, for not understanding you and for not making the proper attempts to do so. It's probably not the first time it's happened to you and I feel badly that I've added to the rubble. I don't care about that. Where you've been doesn't matter, only where you're going.

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