2017-01-26 08:34:43 UTC
mental illness is an attack on science
Barbara Kay | January 10, 2017
In November, the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), an
all-graduate school at the University of Toronto, announced it had
established a world first, a scholarship in the field of antipsychiatry,
to be named after its primary instructor, Bonnie Burstow, an associate
professor in OISEs Adult Education and Community Development department.
Burstow believes there is no proven biological basis for mental illness. She
believes that psychiatric treatment including drugs is inherently
oppressive and a violation of human rights.
If the image of Tom Cruise springs to mind at this revelation, youre not
alone. Burstows beliefs fall right into line with the Scientology
religion, for which Cruise is a much-beloved and valuable poster boy. In
fact, its Canadian chapter of the Citizens Commission of Human Rights,
established in 1969 by the Church of Scientology to promote its
antipsychiatry agenda, stated on its Facebook page that Burstows
appointment was very, very good news, describing Burstow as a rock star.
Burstow is clearly a social justice warrior first and a scholar second. She
says, The long history of psychiatry is the long history of pathologizing
women It is also an institution that pathologizes Blacks, lesbians and
gays. This intersectionality analysis is readily available through an
To be fair to Barstow, her distrust of psychiatry is not unfounded. For
decades, psychoanalysis often confused with psychiatry, but not a
scientific discipline or necessarily premised on a prior medical degree
was wrongly regarded with near-religious awe as a panacea to humanitys
ills. Many analysts did no harm, but others exploited their prestige to
promote bizarre theories and, eventually, make psychoanalysis a sidebar in
the treatment of mental illness.
Psychiatry, which does require a medical degree, is another story. It has
been a work in progress. It is true that psychiatrists gave their imprimatur
to homosexuality as a disorder. It is true that schizophrenia and depression
were once treated in ways we now regard as unethical. It is true that
Freudians infantilized women. But Ken Keseys 1962 novel, One Flew Over the
Cuckoos Nest, portrayed the damaging effect of Freudian thinking in the
metaphorical castration of men. Thats to say, psychiatry did not single out
women or minorities for special intimidation. Psychiatrys growing pains
But that was then. As in all medical disciplines, mistakes beget progress.
Through scientific and pharmacological advances, psychiatry is a much
changed discipline today. For Burstow to claim there is no proven
biological basis for mental illness is demonstrably untrue. Countless
studies have proved beyond any doubt that there is a genetic basis for all
major psychiatric disorders, such as bipolar disorder and depression. One
might just as well deny a genetic-biological basis for diabetes (which I
believe Burstows Scientology fan club does).
True disciplines spring from pure intellectual curiosity, not the pursuit of
social justice. They build on collaboration with similarly engaged scholars.
Fact is piled on fact, theories are debated, evidence is adduced, lively
debate ensues, and eventually a body of credible knowledge is established.
Real scholarship is for truth. The whole idea of any scholarly field being
called anti anything is bizarre, and runs counter to the raison dêtre of
the university. The prefix anti tells us that Burstows program is merely
organized political activism with OISEs endorsement and the use of their
resources. And her stated goal, to spur alternate ways of arranging society
so that we arent inventing diseases, contains a demonstrable lie in the
service of an extreme social-engineering agenda.
It is quite disturbing that at this institute of higher learning, which
presided over the discovery of insulin, stem cells, and the antipsychotic
Dopamime 2, a dean and his advisers would approve this endowment in
perpetuity on the grounds of academic freedom. And hypocritical. As we
know from too many previous controversial stories, OISEs concept of
academic freedom is a one-way street: political correctness rules, and those
that are incorrect find their freedom narrowly constrained.
Even though there isnt a shred of biological proof to uphold the feminist
thesis that men and women are socially constructed for difference, and
plenty of biological evidence to show that they are inherently different,
for example, we will never see an endowed scholarship in the field of
Anti-Feminism at OISE. On the other hand, given OISEs enthusiastic
history in promoting anti-Israel activism, a future scholarship in
Anti-Zionism would not surprise me.
Real academics are distressed by the Burstow scholarship; indeed many are
agitated and with reason. Hamilton psychiatrist Dr. David Laing Dawson posed
Burstow a question: Your university has a Faculty of Medicine and a
Department of Psychiatry. You are already on salary, I presume. Why dont
you offer to participate in Faculty of Medicine seminars and lectures and
workshops to promote your ideas and opinions?
Why? Because that would be the reasonable and ethical thing to do. Shame
on OISE for setting this terrible precedent.