Sunday, April 06, 2008

Crackpot Award for Sigmund Freud

I am awarding a Crackpot Award to Sigmund Freud for his outrageous pseudo-science. His theories about stuttering are not only completely unsupported by any evidence, no he has also consistently misrepresented his case studies. And so have many followers of his. They are a good example of what happens when an ambitious, cocaine-taking, intelligent but pseudo-scientific mind starts day-dreaming without constraint from reality-checking experiments. His criminal negligence regarding the accuracy of his theories has done more than anyone else to confuse the weak minds of the 20th century. His influence still lingers heavily today in stuttering theories about the influence of the subconsciousness and traumatic experiences in childhood.

He has done more harm to people who stutter than any one else, certainly more than any previous crackpots. If anyone thinks of Freud as a great mind who has led to great breakthroughs, think again. Here is what wikipedia says:
Although Freud's theories were influential, they came under widespread criticism during his lifetime and afterward. A paper by Lydiard H. Horton, read in 1915 at a joint meeting of the American Psychological Association and the New York Academy of Sciences, called Freud's dream theory "dangerously inaccurate" and noted that "rank confabulations...appear to hold water, psychoanalytically" [21]. Peter D. Kramer, a psychiatrist and faculty member of Brown Medical School, said "I'm afraid [Freud] doesn't hold up very well at all. It almost feels like a personal betrayal to say that. But every particular is wrong: the universality of the Oedipus complex, penis envy, infantile sexuality." A 2006 article in Newsweek magazine called him "history's most debunked doctor."[22]

Freud's theories are often criticized for not being real science.[23] This objection was raised by Karl Popper, who claimed that all proper scientific theories must be potentially falsifiable. Popper argued that no experiment or observation could ever falsify Freud's theories of psychology (e.g. someone who denies having an Oedipal complex is interpreted as repressing it), and thus they could not be considered scientific.[24] Author Richard Webster characterized Freud's work as a "complex pseudo-science"[25].

H. J. Eysenck claims that Freud 'set psychiatry back one hundred years', consistently mis-diagnosed his patients, fraudulently misrepresented case histories and that "what is true in Freud is not new and what is new in Freud is not true".[26]

Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen claims that "The truth is that Freud knew from the very start that Fleischl, Anna O. and his 18 patients were not cured, and yet he did not hesitate to build grand theories on these non-existent foundations...he disguised fragments of his self-analysis as ‘objective’ cases, that he concealed his sources, that he conveniently antedated some of his analyses, that he sometimes attributed to his patients ‘free associations’ that he himself made up, that he inflated his therapeutic successes, that he slandered his opponents."[2]


Anonymous said...

Tom - I think you weaken your argument when you describe Freud's activities as "criminal negligence". Bad science, maybe. Unsupported conclusions, possibly.

But “criminal”? “Negligent”? I don’t think so.

I also think that you’re on shaky ground when you quote Wikipedia. At its best, Wikipedia is pretty decent authority, but at other times it’s a hodge-podge of opinions, sometimes extreme. Freud is controversial, and Wikipedia is at its worst with controversial subjects.

The same Wikipedia article says "but few dispute his tremendous impact on psychologists and many academic disciplines." He may have had wrong ideas, but his theories and teachings and writings still provide the foundation for modern psychotherapy.

I’m no great fan of Freud, but I don’t think you’re supporting your points very well.

Tom Weidig said...

Let me explain why "criminal" and "negligence"

"Negligent" because Freud never did proper studies, and made theories public that were not supported by evidence.

"Criminal" because he changed case studies to fit his theories, and MOST IMPORTANTLY because he was treating patients who were vulnerable and desperate for help.

Yes, he had "tremendous impact", because he has corrupted thinking for 100 years. Facism also has tremendous impact.

So tell me which part of his theory stood up the scrutiny of time? Virtually none, because he was just a sloppy researcher. Unlike other like James who was a much better psychologist.

Anonymous said...

Comparing Freud to facism...what color is the sky in Europe? Had Freud ordered the extermination of 6 million Jews, you might have a point.

You don't take into account the context of Freud's era. Many things are criminal today that were socially acceptable then, such as marrying a youngster and bestiality.

Please don't delete this comment. I feel so unappreciated when you do that...6 to date. I hope I'm not causing you too much trouble by "arguing" with you, albeit strictly opinionated and not scientific reasoning. Who has time for that anymore. Thank god for sites like this that pull it all together.

Tom Weidig said...

I only delete comments that contain nothing but insults and do not refer to the post and do not contain arguments.

>>Comparing Freud to facism...what color is the sky in Europe? Had Freud ordered the extermination of 6 million Jews, you might have a point.

I did not compare him to fascism, but I pointed out that if a thing (be it fascism or Freud) has a tremendous impact it does not at all mean that the impact was positive.

>>You don't take into account the context of Freud's era. Many things are criminal today that were socially acceptable then, such as marrying a youngster and bestiality.

Yes, so why don't we treat Freud like those people today. Why do we need to hold him up high like a hero even today? He just be left buried.

Anonymous said...

Tom -

You wrote: "Criminal" because he changed case studies to fit his theories, and MOST IMPORTANTLY because he was treating patients who were vulnerable and desperate for help.

To me (and to most dictionaries), "criminal" means against the law, illegal, can be prosecuted as a crime. Are you deliberately using "criminal" in a casual way?

Freud's actions (as you describe them) would not be crimes today, at least in the United States. Did the criminal laws of Austria/Vienna at during Freud's time include crimes like this: "changing case studies to fit theories"? Or "treating patients who were vulnerable and desperate for help"?

We have to assume that Freud thought his theories were correct and believed that his treatments were helpful. It's too far-fetched to suggest that he was simply an evil man, deliberately trying to hurt people.

My point is not to defend Freud, but rather to suggest that exaggeration and hyperbole in your postings make you seem fanatical, and undermine your argument rather than support it.

Anonymous said...

I think that current US laws would allow at least civil suits against a practitioner who claimed scientific evidence for a treatment but there was no real "science" behind the treatment. In addition if the results of their treatments were not just innocuous, but were harmful I would imagine lawsuits would be likely.

Anonymous said...

Tom, you wrote "he has also consistently misrepresented his case studies". Where can I find the right and correct representation of his case studies, which gives you the argument of "misrepresentation", please?

Anonymous said...

For Lynne -

Civil suits against practitioners claiming scientific evidence for a treatment?

The current ASHA "Best Practice" recommended treatments for treating Stuttering --- Fluency Training/Fluency Shaping & Stuttering Modification -- have little, if any, credible scientific evidence for these "treatment" procedures. The "researchers" only do research and claim results that will support their own prior beliefs. Little, if any, true research is done in the area of stuttering.

One only needs to attend a NSA convention, a FRIENDS convention, or try and speak with one of the 1- 3 million or so adults who stutter in the USA (SFA figure) who have chosen silence as a result of these "Best Practice" and "Evidenced Based Research" therapies. Current "Best Practice" and "Evidenced Based Research" claims are a crock.

I do agree with you in one thought...We who stutter who have experienced these therapies - as well any any therapy regimen that made our stuttering worse - should sue the bastards.

Through the eyes of the most prominent "professionals" & "researchers", People who stutter need to understand this fact - FAILURE IN THERAPY IS NEVER THE FAULT OF THE THERAPY...NEVER THE FAULT OF THE THERAPIST...ALWAYS THE FAULT OF THE CHILD WHO STUTTERS, PARENTS OF THE CHILD WHO STUTTERS OR THE ADULT WHO STUTTERS. (Just practice the techniques more. That is the answer!)

Yup...Sue the bastards starting at the top and going down one by one...

Sad to say, this will never happen though.

Tom Weidig said...

Hi Karen,

well first of all, case studies are always very problematic even if done as objectively as possible because
1) therapists are subjective and
2) the patients might not tell the whole story.
3) observation period is short. stops after a few months like a fair tale: she lived happily thereafter.
4) vunerable to manipulation.

I cannot prove exactly what has happened, no-one can, but that does not mean that Freud did not misrepresent.

There are a lot of hints that Freud at the very least twisted the stories a bit and dropped those who did not fit.

Here is an extract I found on the Internet:
In 1881, Anna O. came to Breuer with a strange array of symptoms: hallucinations, lapses of consciousness, a cough, a squint, partial paralysis and an inability to speak her native language, German. Breuer discovered that when Anna O. could be cajoled, under hypnosis, into talking about her hallucinations, she felt relieved. She called it her ''talking cure,'' and its most impressive demonstration came after she developed an aversion to drinking water. Through free association, she traced her hydrophobia to a day when she visited an Englishwoman and saw, to her disgust, the woman's dog lapping water from a glass. After Anna O. recalled the event to Breuer, she asked for a glass of water and gulped it down.

Little by little, Breuer used the talking cure to get rid of most of Anna O.'s symptoms. And 10 years later, Freud persuaded Breuer to publish the case history as part of a Freud-Breuer collaboration, ''Studies on Hysteria,'' a book devoted to showing that hysterics are people who, as they poetically put it, ''suffer mainly from reminiscences.''

The old-line critics have already raked over this case. In 1970, Henri Ellenberger reported that Anna O. was far from cured when her treatment with Breuer ended in 1882. In fact, she checked into a Swiss sanitarium. And Freud knew this, the critics complain, when he pushed Breuer to publish the case. But while Borch-Jacobsen rails against Freud and Breuer, he reserves most of his bile for the patient herself. He calls Anna O. ''the archhysteric of psychoanalysis'' and insists that in order to get attention from Breuer, she ''faked her symptoms.''

In the critics' minds, then, there isn't a shred of credible material left in Freud's case histories. Even the patients are scheming. And the critics' paranoia doesn't stop there. According to Webster, all of Freud's basic concepts are tainted not only because he bent the facts but because he colored them with his secret Judeo-Christian predilections. Though Freud presented the idea of infantile sexuality as revolutionary, Webster believes it was nothing more than the idea of original sin, with the infant as fallen Adam. And though Freud presented psychoanalysis as a liberating cure, Webster says that in ''placing what was, in effect, a confessional ritual at the very heart of the psychoanalytic movement, Freud was . . . unconsciously institutionalizing his own profound religious traditionalism.''

Anonymous said...

Tom - You wrote: “Here is an extract I found on the Internet:”

Can I suggest that you give a more specific reference when you quote from “the Internet”? “found on the Internet” means next-to-nothing in itself. If that’s all I see as a source, I’ll dismiss it. We all know that the internet is full of garbage. The only way that people can evaluate the value of a quote from “the Internet” is to know its source.

In fact, in this case, I think you have a pretty good source – I assume you might have taken it from Why not reference it to give your quote a bit more weight?

Anonymous said...

P.S. Maybe long URLs don't post right - here's the full URL:

Anonymous said...

Lynne - I agree with you that civil lawsuits are possible, at least in principle.

My comment was specifically directed to the Tom's description of Freud's actions as "criminal" negligence. (Perhaps I interpreted "criminal" more literally than Tom intended.)

Anonymous said...

Why would you sue someone who is trying to help you. How can you possibly prove negligence.

Unknown said...

It is important to note that many of the seeds of modern science were formed on the basis of a human desire of furthering research on the initial contemplations of what people today might consider crackpots. Thier observation of an unknown phenomina and crude attempts to explain it are what sparked interest by believers, skeptics, and the scientists(or just plain curios people with money to invest) of thier day.

The TV series Connections by James Burke, while dated, portrays a progressive historically accurate timeline starting with what you may call "crackpots" or people with a human desire to understand and explain the world they live in or necessity to to find a better way to do things and how progressively these discoveries led to the things we knows today such as electricity, the combustion engine, airplanes, the modern assembly line and even the telephone and internet.

While Frued may have had some far out ideas about how the human psyche works he was one of the early pioneers of psychology that brought to question the nature of the harmony of our subconcious, conciousness, and emmediate primal desires and how this plays a part in our daily functioning. Think about this before assuming that crude understanding has no benifit to humanity.

Anonymous said...

I think that the Freud apologists here would do well to read some academic criticisms of Freud, like Richard Webster's book Why Freud Was Wrong. You seem to have fallen for the myth of Freud as a Copernican creator genius who single-handedly invented modern psychology. In actual fact what he did was he

(1) ripped off ideas from other thinkers (he did NOT invent the subconscious, for instance),

(2) used already existing ideas about the mind (much of his thinking is common sense ideas repackaged as novel insights) and then

(3) botched up his own exotic theories on top of (1) and (2).

The myth of Freud as an intellectual maverick is based on a fundamental confusion: just because some of the ideas he uses as the basis of his own theory are valid does not mean that the nonsense he amassed on top of them must also be valid. Once you learn to differentiate between (1) and (2) and (3) you begin to see past the propaganda that depicts Freud as psychology's Copernicus. This was a myth vehemently propagated by Freud himself and his disciples in his own lifetime. He was actually not as original or impressive, or as important for psychology, as he is made out to be in popular lore about the history of Western intellectual culture.

Had Freud never lived we would still be talking about people behaving unawares of the true motives of their actions; just one of the many psychological ideas that are commonly attributed to Freud but do not in fact originate in his work. The only difference would be that we would take these ideas more soberly as basic psychological insights, instead of taking them on a magical mystery tour of psychoanalysis to which they are now treated, thanks to Freud.