Friday, 21 October 2011

My differences with Freedomain Radio

In the last couple of weeks, I have expressed in a number of Facebook threads that I have begun re-examining many of the central beliefs that are generally held within the Freedomain Radio community. As I have said a couple of times now, I have recently come to recognise that over the course of my 2.5 years of FDR fandom, I had almost completely suspended scientific scrutiny when it comes to Stef's claims about the human psyche.

So far, I have been very positively surprised by the responses I've gotten to my non-FDR-compliant Facebook posts. I did get some of the hostility I expected, but most responses have been curious, or even positive, or even highly appreciative.

What I want to do in this first post is go through all the things that I am re-examining or that I intend to re-examine, or on which I have already reached a non-Molyneuvian conclusion. Hopefully many of those topics will eventually make it into full-fledged, properly researched blog posts or series of blog posts.

I consider that I currently have a certain anti-FDR bias, with the pendulum swinging the other way and all that. I think that's ok, if such zigzags are how intellectual development tends to work then so be it, but I thought I might as well explicitly state it.

Maybe I should also say at the outset that I have not become a statist or a theist or an advocate of child abuse. But then, I already wasn't any of those things before I discovered FDR.

Here they come:

Psychotherapy, and why it works (when it does)

A number I've often seen quoted is that 80% of people who go through psychotherapy benefit from it considerably, at least in the short term (Lambert & Ogles, 2004; Wampold, 2001). I don't currently know of any studies that have assessed the long term effects of therapy, but I haven't done much research into this yet.
Two things that must be considered regarding the 80% number: It has been estimated that about 8% of the people who undergo therapy are worse off after at least 12 sessions (Lambert & Ogles, 2004). Also, a meta-analysis of 125 outpatient therapy studies has concluded that the mean dropout rate in these studies is 46.86% (Wierzbicki & Pekarik, 1993). Are those all people who have wasted money on therapy that didn't work for them?
I'm also quite interested to know more about the control groups used in these studies. Wiki says: "As early as 1952, in one of the earliest studies of psychotherapy treatment, Hans Eysenck reported that two thirds of therapy patients improved significantly or recovered on their own within two years, whether or not they received psychotherapy".
This doesn't leave me feeling enthusiastic about the odds of therapy being worth the cost.

This isn't even the question I'm most interested in, though. Another oft-reported finding is that the type of treatment, and hence the psychological theories held and applied by the therapist, are not a factor for the effectiveness of the therapy (Imel & Wampold, 2008).
So the theories can completely contradict each other and it will work all the same? So… it doesn't matter whether they're true?
According to Bruce Wampold's 2001 book The Great Psychotherapy Debate (nope, haven't read it), the factors that do matter are, in ascending order (copypasting from Wikipedia here): the therapist's strength of belief in the efficacy of the technique, the personality of the therapist, and the alliance between the patient(s) and the therapist (meaning affectionate and trusting feelings toward the therapist, motivation and collaboration of the client, and empathic response of the therapist).
The question I have, then, is: Exactly how do we know that the ways in which psychotherapy makes people feel and cope better differ fundamentally from the ways in which religion makes people feel and cope better? If you plug Wampold's factors into the priest-flock relationship, you would indeed expect religion to work magnificently.
Which is more impressive: the evidence for the benefits of therapy, or the evidence for the benefits of religion? I am yet to have a proper look at both of these, but from what I've heard so far (from psychologists like Jonathan Haidt and Daniel Gilbert) I expect religion to win this contest.

"Psychology" books

I'm putting "psychology" in quotes, because the books I mean, while they do make claims about the human psyche, have little to do with the science of psychology. Nonetheless, I would imagine that they make up the great majority of books in the "Psychology" sections of book stores.
The books that I mean are written by psychotherapists, and the claims made in them are conclusions that the therapist has drawn from his or her experience of talking to clients or patients. I'm thinking Alice Miller, Daniel Mackler, Richard Schwartz… and Sigmund Freud, on whom I would love to do quite a bit more research and blog extensively.

A psychotherapist's experience of talking to clients isn't worthless, of course. Therapists will sharpen their intuitions over time, and their experience is certainly a fertile ground for hypotheses about how aspects of the human mind work.

But it's not evidence.

Scientific studies on psychopathology use things like double-blind trials, to control as much as possible for the well documented effects of things like reactivity and experimenter's bias, as well placebo effects, and whatever aspects of suggestion might not be covered by the preceding terms.
If you were to try and dream up the exact opposite of a double-blind situation, in which the room for suggestion and confirmation bias to operate in would be maximised, what would you come up with? It seems to me that the psychotherapeutic setting is a pretty good approximation of this; although surely those who "abuse" suggestion and confirmation bias the most liberally are religious leaders.

"THE Unconscious"

Obviously most of the processes in our bodies and minds are unconscious, and most of the information in our memories is unconscious to us most of the time. Unconscious processes influence our thoughts and actions a great deal; if we had to go through all the factors that influence our decisions consciously, we might be dead by the time we're ready to make our first decision.
Freud claimed to deserve to be put on a pedestal together with Copernicus and Darwin for having discovered The Unconscious, and Stef has stated, very clearly I think, that this claim of Freud's was justified. Freud certainly did not discover that unconscious processes are important, though. In 1890, ten years before Freud published The Interpretation of Dreams, William James, in his 1,400 pages long Principles of Psychology, examined the ways in which Schopenhauer, von Hartmann, Janet, Binet, and others had used the terms "unconscious" and "subconscious", and, while he agreed that unconscious processes exist and play an important role, issued a warning: "the distinction between the unconscious and the conscious being of the mental state is the sovereign means for believing what one likes in psychology, and of turning what might become a science into a tumbling-ground for whimsies". Many of the ideas of these aforementioned philosophers and psychologists, Pierre Janet in particular, appeared again in Freud's theories, although he wasn't one for giving them any credit.

Freud conceived, and Stef conceives, of THE Unconscious as something that has agency, which is to say as a second person who lives with you inside your body. Stef seems to grant The Unconscious (near?-)omniscience when he says that "everybody knows everything all the time". And, according to Stef, your Unconscious communicates with you through your dreams and your emotions, and by making you do seemingly irrational things, always with your best interest at heart, even though it can be extremely demanding at times. And when you find yourself feeling puzzled by your Unconscious's mysterious ways, you can turn to Stef to have him interpret its meaning for you, and it will all sound impressively convincing and make you feel like everything's finally falling into place.

That such a guardian angel like being exists inside each of us is an extraordinary empirical claim. Well then, how do we test it? How could it be falsified if wrong? How can evolutionary psychology account for The Unconscious? Why is nobody asking these questions?

Psychological disorders are the result of childhood trauma

This is a central belief in Stef's worldview, and it informs time and money investments of people who aspire to live an FDR-like philosophy to an enormous extent.
It certainly sounds reasonable, doesn't it? After all, it's what psychotherapists have been saying for well over a century. (And no, it's not Freud who first came up with this.) Not many people have been particularly bothered by the fact that Stef didn’t care to put forth much if any evidence for this claim for a long time, and I have been no exception.

And then came the ACE Study (long list of references here), and the Bomb In The Brain series.

Slam dunk? No. As I've discussed on my Facebook, the ACE Study is just a particularly large study that has found this same thing that many studies before it had found: That dysfunctional parents are more likely to have dysfunctional children than functional parents.

In minutes 25 to 27 of this talk by ACE Study leading author Vince Felitti, he makes fun of people who conclude that the cause of depression is genetic from the fact that depression runs in families, since, after all, "so does speaking the same language". This is baffling, since he is actually the one making that exact mistake, except in reverse. He is perfectly right in pointing out that the fact that something runs in families doesn't tell us anything about the extent to which its causes are genetic or environmental. And yet he goes on to claim that the correlations found in the ACE Study are proof of environmental causation.

How can you tell environmental factors apart from genetic factors? Well, twin studies and adoption studies, mostly. Are psychological characteristics better predicted by biological or by adoptive parents? Are monozygotic twins more similar to each other than dizygotic twins? How similar to each other are monozygotic twins who were raised by different foster parents?

Such studies have been conducted since the 1980ies. So far, I haven't seen any evidence for the idea that childhood trauma, or general bad parenting, is an important factor in causing psychological disorders. All the evidence I've seen so far is against that. In his 1994 review, Robert Plomin wrote: "the way in which the environment influences behavioral development contradicts socialization theories from Freud onward. For example, the fact that psychopathology runs in families has reasonably, but wrongly, been interpreted to indicate that psychopathology is under environmental control. Research shows that genetics generally accounts for this familial resemblance. Environmental influences on most behavioral disorders and dimensions serve to make children growing up in the same family different, not similar."
He also points out that genetic factors rarely account for more than 50% of the variation, hence leaving lots of space for environmental factors to operate in. These would have to be "nonshared" environmental factors, as he and Denise Daniels stated in their 1987 article, since the fact of having been raised by the same parents had not been found to make children similar to each other once genetic factors were controlled for. (For example, adoptive siblings grow up to become no more similar to each other than any two strangers.)
From what I hear though (and I intend to research this question properly), attempts to account for the rest of the variation by measurable environmental factors have been largely unsuccessful. And, while Plomin, at least back in the day, regarded the fact that only 40% of the variation of characteristic X could be attributed to genetic variation as proof that the other 60% were environmentally caused, there really is a third possible cause of variation, the role of which we pattern making humans have a very strong tendency to grossly underestimate: Random chance.

A word of caution: I do not know that there are any studies of this kind that would allow any conclusions about the possible effects of things like child sexual abuse. The variation within the groups studied will always be limited in some ways, such as all the families studied being part of the same culture. This means that there are some conclusions that cannot be drawn from them – but please let's not pretend like it follows from this that no conclusions can be drawn from them. As I wrote on my Facebook yesterday, if this account of the existing research is fair, then you certainly cannot claim that the idea that parenting is an important factor in causing psychological disorders has any evidence in its favour.

A very recent book that makes the same case I'm presenting here and that should provide many more recent references than the book that has, for the most part, been my starting point in recent weeks (The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker), is Bryan Caplan's 2011 book Selfish Reasons To Have More Kids.

I should probably add that, unless it is your view that child abuse is only bad if it causes psychological disorders, none of what I've written can serve to condone it.

Statism and theism are the result of childhood trauma

This one has enormous influence on how people who adhere to Stef's worldview relate to virtually everybody around them. It seems to have tremendous explanatory power, which, of course, makes it very attractive. I think Stef's explanation of how this causation works is quite elegant, too.
It's also an empirical claim that can be empirically assessed, which Stef doesn't seem very interested in doing from what I can tell.

I first saw this talk by Jon Haidt in 2007, before I'd discovered Freedomain Radio, and I was very enthusiastic about it at the time. Unfortunately there wasn't very much more to read about Jon Haidt's research on how different people's moral intuitions differ from each other. I've recently gone back to Jon Haidt's talks on Youtube (link link), and I have learned that he was finally publishing a book on this topic called "The Righteous Mind" in 2012.
My feelings towards other people change considerably if I appreciate that their minds work a bit differently from mine, in ways that have important implications. According to Jon Haidt's work, most people have a greater emotional need for fairness, loyalty to a group, respect for tradition and authority, and purity, than I do. And I absolutely don't know that this is anything to do with trauma.
While Haidt has a theory of how such moral sentiments may have come about that differs greatly from Stef's, from what I've read he himself hasn't done much empirical work on the causes of the interindividual differences he has found, and I suppose that they could, in principle, be compatible with Stef's views about the role of child abuse in determining this kind of stuff. One thing that Haidt reports, though, is that the people who pursue all of the aforementioned emotional needs are also the happiest. How was their happiness measured? I don't know yet. I'll be happy to let you know when I'll have learned more about this.
Many of Haidt's scientific papers are available for free online, and you can easily find them from his Wikipedia page. (Generally my favourite starting point.)

Research about the possible causes of political orientation does exist, though. There are even names like genopolitics and neuropolitics for the fields of study concerned with such questions. In 2005, John Alford published a study on "nearly 10,000" twins, and from his comparison of monozygotic with dizygotic twins, found genes to play an important role in shaping political attitudes and ideologies. From the Wikipedia article, it sounds like what studies on this topic generally find is that genetic and environmental factors are both important. Wikipedia does not mention the relative effect of shared family environment, unfortunately.

As to the causes of religiosity, here's an interesting snippet from Wikipedia: "Koenig et al. (2005) report that the contribution of genes to variation in religiosity (called heritability) increases from 12% to 44% and the contribution of shared (family) effects decreases from 56% to 18% between adolescence and adulthood." (From the article on religiosity.)
As I mentioned earlier, I hear that many studies find religiosity to be a very strong predictor of happiness. Psychologist Dan Gilbert reports that religion is in the top 2 of predictors of happiness, together with marriage. His book Stumbling On Happiness is one of next books on my reading list.

Reason = Virtue = Happiness

Another empirical claim that can be empirically assessed. I don't know much about this at this point, but you can go up one paragraph for a few rather uninformed thoughts on the relationship between religiosity and happiness.


I have only listened to the audiobook of UPB once. I have half intended to properly read the book pretty much ever since then. I think one reason why I still haven't done so is because for a long time, I wanted to think highly of Stef, and based on my listening to the audio version I did not expect that I would think much of the book if I had a closer look at it.
Maybe I shouldn't say much more until I've read it with some care, and hopefully without too much influence from prejudice. What I'd like to do here is let you know what I've gathered about UPB from listening to both the audiobook and to many many podcasts in which Stef discussed the ideas relating to it. If what I tell you here is way off the mark or misses the point, please let me know. That would probably lead to me kicking reading UPB up a few notches on my To Do list.

Because all I really remember from it is:
Some relatively trivial ideas that certainly aren't revolutionary, like that many behavioural preferences are overwhelmingly shared among the members of the same species, and the criterion of whether a proposed moral rule can be equally applied to everybody without this leading to inconsistencies.
And then I remember what seemed to me to be baffling false dichotomies, which always left me thinking "I can't have understood what he meant right, because what I understood is just so obviously wrong." Namely: Stef showing how the rule "It is morally required to be constantly murdering somebody" leads to absurdities if universally applied, and then pretending like he has thereby proved that "It is morally impermissible to ever murder anybody", as if those were the only two options. I'm actually not aware that Stef has ever addressed the idea that "Murder is permissible". But it seems unlikely that he really wouldn't have, and if my impression of UPB is completely off the mark then I would certainly like to try and find out why that is.

Free will and determinism

I have never agreed with Stef on this. This is not a subject that I've recently come to re-examine my views on, in fact my views on it have not changed since before discovering FDR. So I'm not particularly interested in doing any more reading on this at the moment.
But I'm happy to let you know what I think: I wouldn't call myself a determinist, since I don't know that processes at the quantum scale aren't objectively indeterministic, and from what little I know about the current state of quantum mechanics (very little indeed), I don't think anybody knows this. But Stef clearly agrees that the existence of probabilistic processes would not serve the case for non-causal free will, which is supposed to be neither causal nor random.
I do not, however, believe in any kind of free will that isn't compatible with determinism, nor do I think it would be desirable for any such kind of free will to exist. I think that by all the useful ways in which their meaning can be defined, things like morality, responsibility, beliefs, etc etc, are perfectly compatible with determinism.
If you want to know more about my views on free will and determinism, you can look into Dan Dennett's views on this subject. I don't believe I have any disagreements with him on this. In fact, I don't remember ever disagreeing with Dan Dennett on anything pertaining to philosophy of mind. For his take on free will, you can pick up his book Freedom Evolves. I've only read about a third of it, but that third was good. You can also watch this talk of his on Youtube.

We're maladaptive because we're more virtuous

I think this is a popular idea in the FDR community. The logic is that the state of society is bad, and that since we have the insight to recognise this, we can't make ourselves adapt to that society. Hence we're maladaptive, uncomfortable, depressed…
I don't see that this kind of reasoning is inherently inconsistent, but here's a different hypothesis to also consider: Maybe the causation could also go the other way, i.e. maladaptiveness comes first and superior clarity about the state of society follows. I can see a few reasons why that would happen. If you're maladaptive anyway, you have less to lose, you're freer to critically examine social norms since you don't stand to be rejected from an emotionally supportive group for parting with its norms. Also, if you're maladaptive, you should expect to have a certain bias towards rationalising your maladaptiveness. Finding things that are wrong with the world around you might actually serve an important emotional function for you.

Examine your motives

Just a very simple and obvious thought, which I think is worth mentioning in this context:
Freedomainers, including Stef, often respond to people who criticise their views by asking them what they're feeling, or by asking them to talk about their childhood at great length. Stef will sometimes only go back to the argument the person was making under the condition that they give him a satisfactory account of their childhood.
The idea behind this is along the lines of "examine your motives". Maybe the person has an unconscious emotional agenda. According to the psychological theories that Freedomainers adhere to, such emotional motives are very likely to be caused by childhood events. But of course, if instead of answering someone's arguments you change the subject to that person's childhood, you might want to also examine your motives. While it is conceivable that you might uncover their emotional agenda, it is also true that this approach would be very convenient to anyone whose motive is to immunise themselves against criticism.

Healing through grief

According to psychotherapists like Alice Miller, John Bradshaw, and Daniel Mackler, who come highly recommended by Stef and other Freedomainers, the path towards greater happiness or authenticity or personal freedom is to thoroughly grieve your childhood trauma. In Toward Truth, Danny Mack describes this as "feeling every ounce of the painful loss".
This approach encourages going into negative states of mind a lot. It encourages emphasising past trauma and present insecurities. The immediate negative sides of this are obvious.
Do you believe you have good evidence that you can reasonably expect the effects of this to be worth the cost, or to be predominantly positive at all?
If you have been doing this for a while, I encourage you to look back and draw the bottom line, consider whether you have good indications that this is a project worth pursuing further. How much time and energy have you spent on it? How much money have you spent on therapy? And what have you gained?
If it is indeed justified to draw the conclusion from twin and adoption studies that parenting has very little effect on how a person turns out when they're grown up, then it seems to me that the Miller-Bradshaw-Mackler theory is very unlikely to be true. On the other hand, you might want to consider the possibility that this approach will predominantly serve to condition you to feel consistently quite bad.


  1. You covered A LOT here, so I can't really address all my thoughts. I definitely share some of your skepticism regarding a lot of what is talked about at FDR, but I don't quite follow some of your conclusions either.

    The main point that is coming to mind, is that people are not affected, or as affected as they think, by childhood trauma. This completely contradicts my experience. My brain developed and my thinking and behavior developed around my family. The family system is an incredibly powerful structure and of course it affects our thinking.

    When I look back on my own development, I can see that there are many times when my present reality is distorted by defenses I've built around the dysfunction of my family. When I make a mistake, especially when cooking, my first reaction is quite over-blown. I call it emotional flinching. I can trace this behavior directly to a very traumatic experience I had while learning to cook with my dad. I could list a ton of similar examples.

    I would agree that a lot of introspection is incredibly painful and unpleasant, but I don't think that anyone is necessarily better off avoiding it so they feel happier more often. One example that comes to mind, is working through my phobia. I had a phobia of vomiting, probably related to my parent's alcoholism, and the older I got without addressing it, the more paralyzing the phobia became. After a year or so of very focused and unpleasant work, I barely have any reaction to seeing people vomit.

    Also, I've had some thoughts on the unconscious that might help fill in some gaps. I think evolutionary biology does support the theory of the unconscious and conscious mind. Our older, lizard brain consists of the amygdala, which holds our memories. This part of our brain is very reactive, and I think it makes sense that our defenses are developed there. I think our more developed primate brain is the conscious, and allows us to question the messages sent from our lizard brain.

    I know this is merely anecdotal evidence, but I wanted to share it anyway, because it seemed to conflict with what you're saying, or what I interpreted from it, anyway.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Marisa! :)

    Ok, there are 3 things here.

    1. Your response to the thing about childhood trauma causing psychological disorders: I wouldn't want to dismiss your personal experience and your personal interpretation of it, or the emotional significance that your interpretation has for you. However, you have responded to this section of my post as if I had not referenced any evidence. I am saying there is lots of empirical data that flatly contradicts such causation, at least in all cases that are still within the range of the existing studies.

    2. "I don't think that anyone is necessarily better off avoiding [introspection] so they feel happier more often."
    I have not said this. I did not use the word introspection, and what I wrote about is much more specific than that.
    To be clear: I am well aware that many people will answer the question "What have you gained?" with "A lot!". And that's fine. I would suspect that that's due to placebo effects in many cases, but even then, I don't have a problem with that.
    But I'm addressing the people who DON'T benefit from it here, and saying "Well then feel free to stop doing it, because the ideas underlying this approach are contradicted by a lot of evidence anyway."
    I think it's important to appreciate that different people will respond differently to the same approach, and that, if some will experience placebo effects (whether the approach is valid or not!), others will experience the reverse: "This should help me, but I don't think it IS helping - so I must really be a lost cause!", and feel worse as a consequence.

    3. The unconscious: I agree with your approach (although I think it's well known to not be the case that the amygdala "holds our memory", it just plays an important role in memory consolidation). I don't really see how what you've said addresses the conception of the unconscious as a second person living in our bodies together with us. What I'm saying is that I think it's extremely implausible that the unconscious would be like a being with a conscious mind of it's own - conscious to our unconscious, but not to us. It makes a lot of sense to me that we can learn very interesting things about what's going on in parts of our mind that aren't conscious to us by looking at our dreams; but I think the idea that our dreams are designed for us by a being that has certain intentions in sending us the dreams, is an extraordinary claim that would require extraordinary evidence.

  3. Great post.... pretty much matches my current thoughts after being very immersed in FDR for 6 months or so. It's great to know there are others out there with the same thoughts that are willing to constantly challenge their own beliefs and are really interested in seeking the truth. If you have not heard him allready, Youtube poster Aaron0883 is another I have been listening to over the last few weeks who I think is just absolutely brilliant.

  4. Though I do agree with Marissa and Stef/fdr in that I think childhood trauma has a massive affect on people. I think good child raising is of massive importance.

  5. Nice to meet you, Mr (or Ms?) McDonk, and thanks a lot for your comment! :)
    I am aware of Aarono883, but I think I've only ever seen one video he made, so I'll watch some more. Thanks for the recommendation :)

  6. What do you make of the evidence from behavioral genetics I mention in the post?

  7. Btw: I'm planning on writing a summary of the chapter about children in Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate, soon. I will list all the scientific references at the end of that post.

  8. Nice touch on the Reason = Virtue = Happiness.

    The only way that works is if we keep changing the goal post - where, in my pre-FDR Objectivist days - I needed X, Y, and Z to be happy. Now since Z is unavailable due to the course of "virtuous" actions I've taken - I'll just have to be happy with X and Y.

    Thanks Seb

  9. I take it you're not actually an "FDR Objectivist", are you? :) Otherwise I find your comment confusing.

    Thanks for reading and commenting! :D

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. Thanks a lot for this comment! It's a very useful one, because I now realise I expressed myself imprecisely. The effects of parenting on their children (the effects of shared environment, to be more precise) are (at least often) significant for as long as their children are still children (presumably because they still live with their parents). Once the children are grown up, though, they no longer are. This is perhaps most famously true of IQ: children's IQs are more closely correlated with the IQs of their adoptive parents than with those of their biological parents; but the effect of the adoptive parents disappears by the age of 16 or so, and later in life the heritability of IQ is as high as .8 (or 80%).

    Also: It's not true that I haven't seen any evidence that environment is an important factor in causing psychological disorders; the evidence I've seen at least very strongly suggests that it is. It's "shared environment" that is consistently found, in study after study, to have very surprisingly low effects on just about every psychological characteristic. (Again: long term.) "Shared environment" meaning "environment shared by siblings". Other things in the environment are likely to play a role; for example, it has been shown that people grow up to speak the language of their peers rather than that of their parents, with the accent of their peers rather than that of their parents. (I'm too tired to get you a reference for that now, but I will get it some other time if you or anyone asks for it.)
    I should probably have made this distinction more clearly, too.

    I agree with your point about devoting individual articles to the different topics. This first post is supposed to be one of a kind. It was my response to several Facebookers' request for a post on my differences with FDR, and I wanted to make them all into one single overview - mostly for my own benefit.

    Thanks a lot for your comments tonight, I hope you'll keep commenting here in the future :)

  12. Hi Seb,

    Thanks for your response. I think I agree with much of what you're saying, but I find myself feeling defensive towards your view of environment and parenting affecting the lives of adults. I also feel intimidated by all of the statistics used in this post, mostly because I don't want to research it myself. From most of your comments, I think we basically agree. I definitely agree that different people experience things and process things differently. I also appreciate your argument that by claiming grieving childhood and introspection is the only way to happiness, you could be leaving people feeling very hopeless if introspection isn't seeming to help. Anyways, I just wanted to add this and I appreciate you bringing these interesting points up.


  13. Thanks, Marisa, that was a very nice and honest comment, I greatly appreciate it ^_^

  14. "So far, I haven't seen any evidence for the idea that childhood trauma, or general bad parenting, is an important factor in causing psychological disorders. All the evidence I've seen so far is against that."

    Hi, Seb. You should check this book, there are links to the studies with monozygotic twins and adoptive parents, which shows otherwise.

  15. Thanks a lot for the recommendation! I had heard of the book, but I hadn't looked into it yet.

    If it does actually present an account of existing twin studies that show parenting to be an important factor in causing psychological disorders, then that would be very impressive, since so much evidence to the contrary already exists (barring conspiracies and stuff).

    The description of the book on Amazon merely mentions a handful of case studies, and, in my experience, strongly suggests that this is all the author bases his claims on. Do you think the description on Amazon is unfair to him? He should really complain to Amazon if that's the case.

    I might begin by "searching inside" the book on Amazon. It looks like the entire list of references at the end of the book is available on it.

  16. *present an account of existing twin studies that showS parenting to be an important factor

    That was an unfortunate typo that completely changed the meaning of the sentence :D

    1. "So far, I haven't seen any evidence for the idea that childhood trauma, or general bad parenting, is an important factor in causing psychological disorders. All the evidence I've seen so far is against that."

      I would like to also comment on this statement. As a mother of a child diagnosed with autism, I did incredible amounts of research into what causes psychological disorders. What I found was that the brain is a physical organ just like any other organ in the body and as such it will be prone to malfunction when exposed to excessive toxicity and/or malnourishment. I have been recovering my child from autism (and consequently myself from depression and anxiety) just through supplements and proper diet! Please read this book "Gut and Psychology Syndrome: Natural treatment for autism, ADHD/ADD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, depression and schizophrenia". The author's website is also very informative,

      By the way, the way I found you was that I was interested in Stefan Molyneux's ideas, but a red flag came up when I heard his podcasts on how ADHD is not real. I found all his claims to be completely unsubstantiated. I have absolute personal experience that the condition is very real. So I began to research Stefan Molyneux's critics and found you. I believe if you read the book I suggested and visit the website, it may fill be the missing piece for you on how mental illness develops. Of course, I would not deny that an extremely traumatic childhood may contribute negatively to someone's psychology, however, I believe that is hardly the whole picture.

  17. Thanks a lot for that comment, lyako!

    Wow, congratulations on your success in dealing with your child's autism and your depression and ADHD. And thanks for your recommendations :)I will certainly have a look at them.

    Is your "supplements and diet" approach a result of not wanting to use anything that's classified as a drug, or any synthetic substances, maybe? If so, I would like to know exactly what your reasons are for that restriction :) I can easily imagine that synthetic substances are overused because of financial interests of pharmaceutical companies and bad patent laws and such (maybe Mucuna Pruriens works just as well for many people as Ritalin?); but I don't know of any reason to rule them out yet.

    I have done more research into this since writing that post :) A more recent long post on this blog is a summary of the chapter in Steven Pinker's book "The Blank Slate", on the extent to which the factors "who you got your genes from" and "who raised you" are found to contribute to the ways in which people differ from each other once they're grown up. The surprising finding is that "who raised you" plays a very small if not negligible role for most psychological characteristics (including mental disorders)! "Who you got your genes from" plays a large role, but it obviously far from determines anything.

    I agree about toxicity and malnourishment obviously being important factors; do you agree that genes are also important?

    I'm very curious to know to what extent your child has "recovered" from autism with your approach? Surely (s)he is still on the autism spectrum, but perhaps more toward the Asperger's end than (s)he would have been without your interventions?

    I will be doing more research into this kind of stuff as I have recently gotten very interested in nootropics :)
    Don't know if I will still be posting on this blog much. I don't really read blogs myself... I really like the idea of making videos, I hope it won't be too long before I find the drive to do it, and hopefully once I get the hang of it I would make quite a few :)

    This comment is long ^_^

  18. Sorry if any of this is messed up I edited it a lot in the process of gathering my thoughts.

    I am a sort of auxilliary member of the FDR community, who agrees with at least 80% of Stef's philosophy. I just wanted to say that I too have seen a lot of venom from a few of the FDR members, and I think I understand why it would make you not want to be a member of that community and perhaps second guess everything if these few assholes can also believe what you and I believe. Maybe the FDR forums are a bad place to talk if they're overrun with a minority of assholes who just happen to be reasonable enough to agree with most of Stef's philosophy but not reasonable enough to be beyond developing a radical fanaticism behind him. I think that just like in any other group, (especially smart people, as they might think they're immune) there's bound to be a few outspoken assholes who really don't get it but think they do. It seems like some of these guys are more interested in forcing people through cathartic experiences they may not need than in actually helping others think through their problems. I think this causes a lot of people to make the mistake of entirely abandoning everything they have in common with FDR because "if it has people this crazy around it, something must be very wrong with it" (I'm not accusing you of this though). I think that they are the minority of the people who follow Stef, but since they are so religious about their devotion to Stef they are the most vocal and get vastly overrepresented. I think they are the subset of the people who are perhaps sociopathic or something like that, and just happen to find Stef's ideas as a sort of justification for being an asshole, perhaps similar to the personality cult of Ayn Rand. I think a lot of people make the mistake of jumping ship when they see that, rather than taking it as proof that even smart people can have massive flaws.

    It seems that you and I both agree with Stef on the bulk of the issues that matter. It is good that we both seem willing to admit that like any other human beings, we as well as Stef might feel compelled to go a bit further than the facts we're aware of might support, and maybe feel a bit compelled from time to time to do so despite that in an attempt to make things seem more consistent. I am sorry to hear that you felt enough pressure that you felt the need to leave the community, but respect that decision. It is sad that there are people who can become so deeply obsessed with something that they'll raise it up as a perfect untouchable image of perfection and attack all who oppose it. I think it is a holdover from religion or something.

    I am used to seeing anti-FDR dissenters or critics being disrespectful, illogical, and internally inconsistent, and I think you have done a good job of making sure that this is not the case with you. I do not find myself questioning your motives, just seeking the truth, wherever it may be. I don't know to what extent I would side with you or Stef in the relatively small area where you two differ, I don't think I know enough about psychology to be an effective critic in this case.

    I did however want to let you know that I'm pretty sure that these assholes are the minority of those who are like us, and that you're not alone.

  19. Hi RedScourge, thanks for your nice message :) Sorry I haven't replied sooner, I haven't had much quality internet time with a proper keyboard lately.

    I agree that there are quite a few aggressive or otherwise annoying people on the FDR forum, and that that might put quite a few people off from FDR.
    Like many others though, I pretty much stopped participating on the forum pretty early on in my time as an FDR listener, because I generally hadn't found it very valuable. So the presence of assholes on the FDR board had nothing to do with my "leaving FDR" :D

    I no longer support Stefan Molyneux because I think he enormously overestimates his judgement (and underestimates what it takes to evaluate empirical hypotheses) and thus ends up dishing out a lot of wrong (or at least unsubstantiated) information, including giving advice to vulnerable people on how to deal with their psychological distress that is based on empirical theories about the workings of the human mind that are demonstrably wrong.

    I certainly still agree with him on a lot of things, but that doesn't make his output valuable to me, and I think he does a lot more harm than good.

    To clarify further, it is not true that I "felt enough pressure that [I] felt the need to leave the community" (perhaps what gave you that impression was the recent article on FDRLiberated about critics of FDR, which extrapolated a short narrative about my FDR-deconversion from my blog posts which was actually not quite accurate :) ) I was already pretty much "out of FDR" when I wrote the blog post above, but I still had many friends who were into it.

    I'm always happy to answer questions on my points of disagreement with Stef, so if you ever have any, do shoot :)


  20. I'm very curious as to what harm he is doing vs good, considering I believe his main approach to suggest that people treat children with a higher degree of peaceful interaction than other relationships and don't continue relationships that aren't a positive influence on your life regardless of genetic relation. I can't seem to understand how either of these things would do more harm than good. And considering I do not find this to be common knowledge among my peers, it seems vital to get out into the population and I believe Stefan is doing a good job of it. I agree that some of his videos and podcasts are very much just his musings and not based on evidence, but I think he is usually pretty clear when that is the case.

    As for therapy possibly causing more harm. The study you mentioned doesn't seem like it could possibly account for all of the variability in the profession, which you mentioned, so no helpful conclusions can be drawn from it. I would imagine that if people stop the introspective process in the middle they would have a significant chance of becoming worse because they are no longer in total denial about particular aspects of their personality or history. Just a guess though. For how critical you are of the ACE study because of lack of causal proof, I would think you would not want to mention this study either.
    Also, how does the percentage of dropouts correlate to effectiveness? It could mean that it was effective in starting to heal them, but they were afraid of the implications regarding their relationships...just a possibility.

    I also did not find it helpful that you cited studies that attempt to measure happiness without defining what happiness is and how it was assessed, which is crucial to them being meaningful. I know many people who consider themselves "happy," whom I would not consider truly happy. A statistic that might be more interesting for me personally would be some assessment of their conflict resolution tactics in their personal lives. Happiness is such a nebulous thing to measure...maybe even harder than measuring the effect of the environment on psychology.

    As for UPB, I believe UPB statements must be in the form "x should or should not do y" like "people should not kill". Otherwise it is not a universally preferable behavior. The framework is designed only to evaluate a theory that defines something as preferable. Saying something is permissible, does not state whether or not it is preferable. thoughts?

    I agree that many of the psychological studies Stefan uses may not provide causal evidence, but I think the studies you have looked at suffer from many of the same flaws. The Twin studies have all kinds of confounding problems like epigenetics in the womb and early life when the babies are still with the mother, for the first 8 months or so. Have you looked at many studies regarding epigenetics?

  21. Re-reading my post, just wanted to illustrate the point about the dropouts. You would not consider the people who stopped taking an AIDS medication in the middle or treatment and did not improve as particularly relevant to the effectiveness of the drug in the long term. right?

  22. Hi RJ! Lots of points here :) I'll try to go through them quickly.

    1. I do not maintain, nor have I ever maintained that it is harmful to encourage people to treat their children peacefully or to feel free to cut ties with their parents. I have no disagreement with Stef as far as that goes.

    2. The Lampold & Ogles study does not, from what I remember, state that it is true of all kinds of psychotherapies that around 8% of patients will be worse off after 12 sessions, so I'm not sure what your point about variability is. Correct me if I'm wrong. What invalid claims of "causal proof" does their article make?

    3. Yes, the validity of measures of happiness is debatable. I still think a lot of that research is very useful and would be missed if scrapped for that reason. Conflict resolution skills are also a worthwhile object of study.

    4. UPB: agreed, permissibility doesn't say much about preferability. I brought up permissibility in the context of saying that the fact that something is not mandatory does not imply that it is impermissible, as I think Stef has implicitly assumed in some of his "two guys in a room" arguments.

    5. Epigenetic and genetic factors are confounded in twin and adoption studies, and I don't know of anyone who would deny this. This is irrelevant to whether those studies prove Stef wrong, though. If Stef was right, then the shared environment would explain a very substantial part of the variation, but it doesn't. This contradicts Stef's claims regardless of how big a part of the remaining variation is explained by genetic factors (or by epigenetic factors).

    6. The observation from Wierzbicki & Pekarik is not about how much those who dropped out of psychotherapy studies have benefited from it - presumably this was not assessed. The observation is that the proportion of drop-outs is very high. If a sizable portion of those who dropped out did so because the therapy was ineffective for them, this would leave us with a pretty unimpressive proportion of patients who were helped by it, over all. But as you have mentioned, other reasons for why they dropped out are conceivable.
    Actually, let's do the math: With 80% of those who completed the studies benefiting from the therapy (at least in the short term), and a drop out rate of 46.86%, we have, of all the participants who began the study:
    46.86% drop-outs, 10.628% other, and 42.513% who benefited from it.

    Good night :)

  23. Thanks for the response!

    I'll do 4 for now) UPB quote "Any theory that justifies or denies the use of violence is a moral theory, and is subject to the requirements of logical consistency and empirical evidence."
    We have to consider that this is why morality is an important concept to discuss. There would be no point in debating the accuracy of relativistic physics if no one was using it in the real world. Ethics is like math in that it is conceptual but still objective and subject to logic and empiricism.
    We are considering only a subset of UPB called ethics because it is enforceable. so you've got to check whatever theory you're testing by asking whether or not it is universally preferable because it is a clear way to define "good" and "bad" actions, which is what morality generally is understood to delineate for people. "Killing is good" as a theory is simply too nebulous, so good has to be redefined as universally preferable, because that's what good means in a moral sense, otherwise it would be contradictory. Saying something is permissible does not conform to what an ethical theory is and how ethics is used in society to justify force.

  24. I should clarify, when I say otherwise it would be contradictory, I mean the action has to be preferable in all times, places, for all people etc in order to stand as a consistent moral rule. Think of it like, if we said 2+2=4 is good in math, this would not be very precise. We need to define the word "good" or just use the word "true" which means something like universally valid for all times, places etc and empirically verifiable consistently.

  25. Good, in the common moral sense, does not mean beneficial, but universally preferable for all humans, so examining the permissibility of an action does not tell you whether or not it is "good."

  26. Like a Christian moral rule, or any moral theory I know of does not say, "murder is impermissible" but that "murder is wrong" meaning it is universally preferable to not murder. "Right" and "wrong" are the essential concepts whenever examining the morality of an action. If impermissible simply means "not good" in your context then it can be translated into a universally preferable statement. The tricky thing about UPB is translating the theories into proper universal terminology.

  27. The book explains how you cannot derive an ought from an is, but with a conditional you can get an ought. So moral theories are useful only IF you want to be "good" or "moral" or want to evaluate someone else as "good" or "moral."
    If you don't care about being "moral" or "good" then it is not useful or relevant. You cannot say anything about whether or not an action is "moral" or "good" by establishing if it is allowed or permissible. It is a concept mismatch, unless you define the words allowed or permissible in relations to the concepts of moral or good. AH finally...thanks for bringing this up, really helped me clarify this stuff even more for myself!

  28. in relations lol... not sure words can have relations! meant relation...sorry for all of the other typos in my posts

  29. Hi Seb..My own unease with Stef and FDR, led me to start a group on facebook called "Rational Science"..still havn't fixxed that guitar I broke in Malagahh tho, LOL! Good to see you r still around! ;-)