Posted on Friday 7 March 2014
- the unforgotten unremembered… [01/06/2014]
- the twilight zone… [01/09/2014]
- learning from mistakes… [01/28/2014]
- perhaps bigger… [02/17/2014]
Mistakes were made, Part 2
gary greenberg blog [12/30/2014]
Like Salem’s ‘witches,’ it’s time for NC to exonerate the Edenton Seven
News Observer By Lew Powell [01/18/2014]
The Little Rascals Day Care Case
multiple posts By Lew Powell
Sex and Satanic Abuse: A Fad Revisited
Huffington Post by Allen Frances [01/28/2014]
Psychiatric Times retracts essay on “satanic ritual abuse”
Retraction Watch by Ivan Oransky [02/13/2014]
The details are cataloged in the posts. Briefly, Richard Noll wrote an article about the crazy episode from the late 1980s to the mid 1990s when patients and children reported something called Satanic Ritualized Abuse, and many therapists caught the bug and began treatment based on the stories. Parents accused Day Care Centers of these activities and some Day Care workers went to prison. Journals appeared, Organizations pro and con appeared, conferences and workshops were held, diagnoses were created [MPD, DID] and added to the DSM-IIIR, and the news media couldn’t get enough of it. And then it was gone. At the time all this happened, Richard Noll was a young psychologist who spoke out against it as mass hysteria.
So now, twenty years later, Richard wrote an article about it, noting that we have all forgotten that it even happened, and suggested that since 20 years have passed, maybe we could take a look at back then. He submitted it to Psychiatric Times, and they eagerly accepted it. It was published on-line on December 6, 2014, but a week later, it disappeared. When Richard inquired why, it seemed that one of the psychiatrists had objected and apparently threatened litigation. After that, Psychiatric Times was going to publish it, then they weren’t, then they were, now it’s in maybe·limbo. I’ve lost track of how many times they’ve waffled back and forth.
by James L. Knoll, IV, MDThe Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law. 2008 36:105–16.
The author notes an increased interest in the concept of “evil” in the fields of psychiatry and psychology. In particular, there is some interest in defining and testifying about evil. It is argued that evil can never be scientifically defined because it is an illusory moral concept, it does not exist in nature, and its origins and connotations are inextricably linked to religion and mythology. Any attempt to study violent or deviant behavior under the rubric of this term will be fraught with bias and moralistic judgments. Embracing the term “evil” into the lexicon and practice of psychiatry will contribute to the stigmatization of mental illness, diminish the credibility of forensic psychiatry, and corrupt forensic treatment efforts.
An ancient reaction to fear, distress, and calamity has been to rely on religion. “When cause and cure are unknown, magic and religion supply welcome hope”. In biblical times, mental illness was seen as the opposite of what was “good.” During the Middle Ages, most progress in medical science was severely squelched. The Christian church, consumed with superstition and demonic possession, rode herd on the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. During the Renaissance, an obsession with evil in the form of witches became prominent. The official practice guidelines on detecting witches, the Malleus Maleficarum , assisted inquisitors in finding evil lurking amid women, the socially disenfranchised, and the mentally ill.
The witch-hunting of the 15th and 16th centuries serves as a fascinating and sobering example of an official recognition of a hitherto unknown form of deviance.14 Once the crime of witchcraft was officially recognized, serious problems developed in providing “proof ” and legal restraints to the hysteria. The powerful legal and religious emphasis on the reality of witchcraft helped to reinforce the legitimacy of the trials, in addition to the public’s belief that there was evil afoot. It has been theorized that the English government’s systematic efforts for dealing with witchcraft served as a form of repressive deviance management. In addition, one of the benefits to church and state of the witch-hunting hysteria was that it effectively shifted public attention away from growing demands for more equitable redistribution of wealth.In retrospect, evil (in the form of witches) was nothing more than what the English legal system claimed that it was. Those who were found to be witches were often ill equipped and powerless to fend off this creative label of deviance. Once the definition of witchcraft was officially accepted, very little could be done to prevent or limit the system’s abuse of the term. As a result, large populations of “deviant” witches were discovered, particularly among vulnerable lower-class groups, which, in turn, fostered the growth of an “industry” revolving around the detection, prosecution, and punishment of witches. The industry included the proliferation of “rackets,” and entrepreneurs seeking to profit from its operation…
Evil can never be scientifically defined because it is an illusory moral concept, it does not exist in nature, and its origins and connotations are inextricably linked to religion and mythology. The term evil is very unlikely to escape religious and unscientific biases that reach back over the millennia. Any attempt to study violent or deviant behavior under this rubric will be fraught with bias and moralistic judgments. Embracing the term evil as though it were a legitimate scientific concept will contribute to the stigma of mental illness, diminish the credibility of forensic psychiatry, and corrupt forensic treatment efforts…
by Michael Welner, MDThe Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law. 2009 37:442–9.
Forensic science research intended to standardize the distinction of the worst criminal behavior, specifically the Depravity Scale, has been the topic of academic and public discussion in the Journal and elsewhere. Some early impressions have been published without substantive attention to the goals of this research and the application of the results. In a recent article in the Journal, for example, James Knoll argued, “Evil can never be scientifically defined because it is an illusory moral concept,” adding, “it does not exist in nature”.It is my contention that evil does exist in nature. In fact, evil exists in the very law with which advanced societies judge the actions of man. In the United States, different state and federal sentencing guidelines distinguish among heinous, atrocious, cruel, vile, horribly inhuman, and, yes, evil criminal behavior. Such designations elevate culpability in a variety of offenses, ranging from murder to burglary, and affect parole eligibility in states as diverse as California and Louisiana…
To be clear, I am not here condemning philosophical investigation into the problem of evil. Rather, it is the search for it through a scientific lens that I caution against. As regards the philosophical route for studying evil, we might keep in mind that “the honest course is always to begin at home”. Surely, this is the more difficult, yet profitable course. Tracking down the roots of evil is a process that requires delving inward in an attempt to discern what we don’t know about ourselves, yet do to the other. In closing with this point, perhaps it is fitting to quote a piece of poetry popular in our age:
I shouted out,“Who killed the Kennedy’s?”When after all,It was you and me.