Last week we were discussing real and unreal diseases. We have learned that there is a disease mongering of socially unwanted phenomena with the reputation of addictions. These addictions, most of them of a behavioral nature, are based upon an a prior assumption to be real disorders. There is no unambiguous scientific report about these purported diseases, though: many studies are tendentious, or pointing up just correlations instead of causal connections, or are just poorly designed. (For an increasing list of poorly designed studies and retracted papers see this blog.)
What already is an annoyance when scientists deliver bad science becomes a political issue when whole social entities are becoming the target of puppet masters. All the worse when complacent scientists (and those who pretend to be scientists) and politicians are going hand in hand. Because the consequences could also be touching you. Let me give you an example.
From its founding in 1948 up to 1992 the World Health Organization (WHO) was listing homosexuality as mental disorder in its health care classification system ICD-9. Under the token 302.0 homosexuality was classified as ego-dystonic sexual orientation. This definition disappeared finally with ICD-10. WHO’s influence on jurisdictions, political decisions, and social acceptance can’t be emphasized enough.
Pseudo-scientific quacks and conservative politicians are keeping on making people believe that homosexual behaviour is still a mental aberration. Groups with often evangelical background have built the ex-gay movement, offering so-called conversion therapies, that means: a cure for a ‘disease’ called gayness.
In a normally mad world nobody needs to care about this. But in our madly mad world fundamentalist groups have gained a lot of political power. And it has still to be proven that the core of our civilian and educated societies has the composure to tolerate social subgroups: our cultural varnish is just a thin layer. There are many people looking for victims, because they need this assurance there are people even weaker than they are.
Reflexes of times long ago are still existent. Or how would you explain the sensation about Christian Jessen, British PhD and TV doctor, when he announced that he would undergo a ‘reparative’ treatment for a Channel 4 documentary? Jessen, living in a gay relationship, will test the medical credibility of such conversion therapies as described above. I guess his damage report will be most interesting. And if you follow that link, please assure yourself on the enlightenment of the commentators to that news story.
But we were starting with addiction. You might think that behavioral addiction and homosexuality are too different to be lumped together. Of course they are, but that’s not the point here. Instead, we are talking about influence and control. The definition of a social phenomenon and a society’s understanding of this phenomenon is dependent on those who are offering definitions to society. It is our duty to check the theses of opinion leaders and to distinguish knowledge from manipulation. Just ignoring them is not enough. This is a laborious task, but you wouldn’t like the alternatives.
Or would you like to be called abnormal because you’re enjoying pornography?
Post Image: The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, John Martin, 1852. Taken from Wikipedia