Sunday, 29 September 2013

6 Effective Ways to Avoid Engaging With Quantitative Data in Mental Health

1. Imply that Quantitative Data is Inherently Flawed:

One of the most effective ways to undermine anyone trying to appeal to principles of empirical research is to remind them and everyone else that the whole project of obtaining supposedly "objective" data is doomed to begin with. We all know that all research in psychiatry is hopelessly biased by its connections to Big Pharma, so be sure to muddy the waters and block further discussion by asking profound sounding rhetorical questions like "what research? conducted by whom?" Ignore the fact that questions about prospective bias, methodology and misuse of statistics are already central to the effective interpretation of any research and that some of the most effective ways to guard against them are statistical procedures.

If you don't feel that accusations of an inevitable and pervasive bias are a strong enough slur against the principle of empirical data collection, be sure to make bold assertions to the effect that the whole principle of obtaining quantitative data on people is an act of "violence" on the holistic truth about humanity.

2. Remember that a Focus on Subjective Experience is the Only Worthwhile source of Knowledge:

Researchers are supposed to be interested in experience right? So why are they all faffing around with experiments and longitudinal surveys? There are plenty of people around who have actually had experiences and their testimonies should be entirely sufficient. Be sure to remind researchers of this whenever they suggest the spurious use of numbers to try and figure things out.  You are more than just a number!

3. Remind People that You Aren't Interested in the Entity Being Studied:

"Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts" Einstein said that didn't he? Or was it Eleanor Roosevelt, or Winston Churchill? It doesn't matter, the principle is sound. Maybe researchers want to pigeonhole people into entirely irrelevant categories and measure things about them, but why should the rest of us give a stuff? They say that they are interested in learning about groups of people who meet a set of agreed upon characteristics, but it is pretty clear this is just a front for the propagation of a sinister medical model. Further proof of this can be seen in the fact that almost no researchers ever mention a strict biological conception of mental illness; they're keeping it under wraps!

4. Accuse Anyone Deploying Empirical Reasoning Of "Scientism":

This one is particularly effective because very few people actually know what it means. Sciencey people all hate religion don't they; so if you accuse them of an irrational faith in the power of science you can win any debate while simultaneously getting on their nerves. Ignore the fact that a belief in the use of the best available empirical evidence is not even close to being scientism proper, anyone who dabbles in science is unlikely to have retained their common sense and will almost certainly be out of touch with reality. If someone has used "Schizophrenia" or "Bipolar Disorder" in their work then they plainly believe these entities to be illnesses just like Hepatitis or diabetes and certainly don't have any curiosity regarding their ontological status. They are no better than mystics or astrologers, and anything they say can be dismissed.

5. Remind People of the Nazis:

Scientists always drift back towards biology and genetics, they can't help themselves. Even if they are only suggesting that genetics and constitutional physiology account for a relatively small proportion of variance in any given problem, there is no telling how long it will take before they drift towards a policy of eugenics and ethnic cleansing. You are only ever doing anyone a favour by reminding them of phrenology, eugenics and--ideally--the Nazis before they walk foolishly out onto this slippery slope.

6. ...Continue to draw on Data when it Suits You:

None of this should leave you feeling that you can't preface your own views with comments to the effect that "it has been shown..." or "data proves..." In fact, now that you have an arsenal of tools to discount any research that doesn't back up your own case, you are free to deploy research of any quality; it cannot be countered by anyone else's!

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