Sunday, March 02, 2008

More anti-science from the News-Gazette

Every once in a while, I poke my head in to the News-Gazette blogs. I'm not sure why; they're usually just about sports and weather and are only intermittently updated. (These people aren't actually paid to blog, are they?) One of the more disappointing ones is Rhonda Robinson's. Her history of promoting creationism, anti-vaccination, anti-contraception, and oh-my-god-the-Muslims-are-coming paranoia never fails to make me shake my head and fear for the future of the children she homeschools.

A couple of weeks ago, she came out with a blog entry about how recent school shootings are caused by the use of antidepressants. She has no actual information, but supports her conclusion through innuendo, insinuation, conspiracy-theories, and an appeal to alternative (i.e. ineffective) medicine.

Here is the sum total of her argument:

No doubt there will be calls for more gun control, tighter security, but what I want to know most is will they look in [NIU shooter Steven Kazmierczak's] medicine cabinet.

The overwhelming majority of adolescent and young adult shooters have all been on, or withdrawing from psychotropic medications.

That's the totality of her argument. These shooters were taking psychiatric medications, therefore the medications are at fault for the shootings. The fact that these men were taking antidepressants for a reason doesn't seem to register with her. The fact that they were actually mentally ill is, apparently, irrelevant.

Her appeal to authority is rich, too. She cites Julian Whitaker when he says:

...guns and movies don't cause these tragically frequent episodes of inexplicable violence. The real reason is written out on a prescription pad by psychiatrists and doctors all over the country-these monstrous acts were done not by criminals, but ordinary people high on prescription drugs.

What she doesn't mention is that Whitaker is an alternative medicine quack, who treats people by means of diet and exercise changes, nutritional supplements, and chelation therapies. He actually believes there is a conspiracy among drug companies to over-proscribe psychiatric medications to children.

I'm not suggesting that psychiatric medications can't have serious side effects, or that they're not over-proscribed. I'm just saying that jumping to the conclusion that these shootings were caused by these medications based on no other evidence that the shooters were taking these medications, and ignoring the fact that they had underlying mental illnesses, is an example of poor critical thinking. Using that kind of logic to propose these medications be outlawed, as Whitaker does, is reckless and irresponsible.

Robinson doesn't mention that the two deadliest mass shootings in US history, the 1966 University of Texas Clock Tower shooting and the 1968 California State, Fullerton massacre, were both perpetrated by men who were seriously mentally ill, before the age of antidepressants. One was committed by a man who was depressed and had a brain tumor, the other committed by a paranoid schizophrenic. Undoubtedly, if their cases were discovered today they, too, would be on antidepressants. But that doesn't mean you can blame the violence on Prozac.

UPDATE: Just reacting to some of the stuff that's come up in the comments. I just want to say that we know that starting antidepressants can lead to an increased rate of suicidal behavior, especially in young people. So it's not entirely unreasonable to think that there might be a possibility that we might see an increase in violent behavior as well. Also, I don't think it's unreasonable to hypothesize that abruptly stopping antidepressants could lead to strange changes in behavior. As terrible as mass shootings are, they are fairly rare, so trying to establish a cause is difficult, at best.

My main complaint in this blog post was just to point out that Robinson sees a mentally ill person on antidepressants commit an act of violence and jumps to the conclusion that the antidepressants were to blame. Furthermore, she does so without evidence. She then goes on to quote a alternative medicine quack that thinks these rare events necessitate a complete ban on these drugs in spite of the fact that they have improved the quality of life for millions of people.


David said...

I took Prozac for years. I'm pretty sure I never shot anyone.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. How is that even remotely representative of CU. For a community with so many smart people how is it that her voice is being put out there by the local paper. I realize they have no money, but come on.

Anonymous said...

Someone needs to send her some more tinfoil. Obviously, just a hat isn't working for her.

I've taken Zoloft, Paxil, Effexor, AND Wellbutrin in their turn and have never killed anyone. I must be a fluke.

Oh, and using murdered people to trot out one of your pet crazy issues? Not cool, Rhonda.

David said...

Apparently, moon-grrl and I are the exceptions that prove the rule...?

Anonymous said...

david- Either that, or we are *so* overdue for our shooting spree.

David said...

moon-grrl: Have your people call my people, and we'll set something up. Maybe in June, when the weather's a little more comfortable? I think I have some old squirt guns in a drawer somewhere.

Narc said...

Just give me a heads-up so I can call in sick that day, OK?

David said...

I said squirt guns What, you're so sweet you'd melt?