How to argue illogically: Tony’s ten top tips

Last Friday, the Irish Examiner published an opinion piece by pop psychologist Tony Humphreys, presenting a re-hash of the now anachronistic view that autism is caused by poor parenting (the so-called “refridgerator mom” theory). Oh, and despite claiming to explain the causes of autism, he simultaneously sought to argue that autism doesn’t exist.

Several authors have already described the various factual inaccuracies in the Humphreys article, the unwarranted distress it causes to parents of children with autism, its stigmatization of people based on their personality or occupation, its stigmatization of persons with needs for mental health and psychological services, its promotion of scientific myths, and its misrepresentation of the field of psychology (both professional and academic).

However, whatever about the errors in its subject matter (which are manifold), there is at least one sense in which the Humphreys article can be welcomed. For it gives us a wonderful opportunity to examine the various ways in which people in positions of professional authority can end up talking rubbish. In fact, seldom have I seen so many logical fallacies crammed into such a brief piece. It really is an excellent teaching tool, and I highly recommend it to teachers of critical reasoning, logic, epistemology, clinical decision-making, and scientific communication.

Therefore, I present to you: Tony’s Ten Top Tips for mounting illogical arguments…

* * *

#1. Imply that ‘facts’ are arbitrary

Here is Humphreys expressing shock at some research by Cambridge neuroscientist Simon Baron-Cohen:

What is shocking is that Dr Baron-Cohen and the team of researchers are… assuming that autism is a scientific fact…

Assuming that autism is a scientific fact”…is a strange construction, in that it equates a noun (autism) with a truth-statement (fact). I guess what is intended here is a claim that the team are “assuming that the existence of autism is a scientific fact”. Even so, this is still strange. Why not simply say “assuming that autism exists”? After all, that is what he is getting at.

The term “scientific fact” is a misnomer, because the word “fact” is unqualifiable. There aren’t different ‘kinds’ of fact. Either something is a fact (such as an axiomatic truth) or it isn’t a fact (such as a theory, hypothesis, belief, or empirically supported position). Terms like “scientific fact” are often used by critics of science to imply that what scientists have to say cannot really be trusted. However, the term is incoherent, and its use is a sign of an unfamiliarity with how scientific research works.

* * *

#2. Appeal to common belief (or employ argumentum ad populum)

Humphreys continues to express shock at the Cambridge researchers as follows:

…[Dr Baron-Cohen and the team are] missing the glaringly obvious fact that if the adults they researched live predominantly in their heads and possess few or no heart qualities, their children will need to find some way of defending themselves against the absence of expressed love and affection and emotional receptivity.

By declaring this to be “glaringly obvious”, Humphreys is asserting that we need not look for evidence to test whether or not it is in fact true. Any claim that begins with the implication “it is glaringly obvious…” is unlikely to be scientifically sound, or even – in plainer terms – to be logically coherent. If something has to be signposted as “glaringly” obvious, then it almost certainly is not that obvious at all, or at least will not be obvious to some people. Such phrasing indicates a type of argumentation described in epistemology as an appeal to common belief. It is an unsavoury and almost fascistic type of argument, because it warns the listener in no uncertain terms that contrary views will not be tolerated. It is purely rhetorical and scientifically nonsensical.

* * *

#3. Present opinions as though they were facts

Here is a key passage in Humphreys’ overall argument. It is critical because its content represents his overall justification. If this passage is not true, then his entire argument falls:

Children’s wellbeing mostly depends on emotional security – a daily diet of nurture, love, affection, patience, warmth, tenderness, kindness and calm responses to their expressed welfare and emergency feelings. To say that these children have a genetic and/or neurobiological disorder called autism or ASD (autistic spectrum disorder) only adds further to their misery and condemns them to a relationship history where their every thought and action is interpreted as arising from their autism.

However, when Humphreys states that “Children’s wellbeing mostly depends on emotional security” and that a diagnosis of ASD “only adds further to their misery”, he is presenting opinions rather than facts.

It is entirely reasonable for a person to earnestly argue the opposing positions, namely, that (a) children’s wellbeing depends mostly on other factors, and (b) a diagnosis of ASD actually reduces misery. Therefore, in order to sustain his argument, Humphreys needs to corroborate his statements. However, he doesn’t. In fact, he offers these opinions as though they were facts. This is a hallmark of pseudoscience.

Moreover, in professional contexts, it is unethical. The code of ethics of the Psychological Society of Ireland, the professional body for Humphreys and his psychologist colleagues in Ireland, states that when communicating knowledge professional psychologists must “clearly differentiate facts, opinions, theories, hypotheses, and ideas.” Humphreys appears not to do this.

* * *

#4. Present claims that cannot be falsified (or, try to have it both ways) 

Here Humphreys describes the processes by which he says parents and teachers end up damaging the children they are caring for:

An unconscious collusion can emerge between parents and teachers to have these children psychiatrically assessed… the childrens’ lives are not examined and their mature development is often sacrificed on the fires of the unresolved emotional defences of those adults who are responsible for their care.

Terms like “unconscious collusion” and “unresolved emotional defences” refer to a view of psychology presented in psychoanalytic theory. Psychoanalytic theory is considered logically problematic (to say the very least) precisely because it invokes the idea of unconscious forces. Because such forces are, by definition, unobservable, it is impossible to establish whether or not they exist. As a result, it is impossible to falsify a psychoanalytic hypothesis. Therefore, it is impossible for a psychoanalytic theory to be coherent. So Humphreys’s position is incoherent.

Many psychoanalysts feel that such critiques represent unfair attacks of their ideas by (perplexed) scientists. However, this criticism doesn’t come from scientists; it comes from philosophers, and in particular from those concerned with logical reasoning and epistemology. Scientists, to be blunt, don’t give fields like psychoanalysis a second thought.

* * *

#5. Present anecdotes rather than evidence (or, make hasty generalizations) 

This is how Humphreys attempts to convince readers that he is definitely right:

Indeed, my experience in my own psychological practice is that when parents and teachers resolve their own fears and insecurities, children begin to express what they dare not express before their guardians resolved their own emotional turmoil.

Rather than point to empirical evidence from disinterested observers which might corroborate his position, Humphreys instead refers to “my experience in my own psychological practice”. This is a clear valorization of anecdotal evidence, which, in philosophy, is normally discussed as an example of fallacious logic.

In some ways, it is perfectly obvious why anecdotal evidence is unreliable. For one thing, who exactly frequents Tony Humphreys’ “psychological practice”? I doubt that the people doing so constitute a nationally representative sample of parents and children. Therefore, even if Humphreys were an unusually astute observer of his own clients, it should be obvious even to him that his capacity to generalize from these observations must be fatally limited. (And if he’s not astute enough to realise this, then why should we trust his anecdotes?)

Anecdotal positions are also subject to several basic errors of remembering and interpretation on the part of the person telling the anecdote. In summary, ignoring its obvious limitations suggests that the writer either doesn’t know or doesn’t care that anecdotal reasoning is intrinsically unreliable.

* * *

#7. Commit category mistakes

Ironically enough, when attempting to correct others on matters of fact, Humphreys say this:

A clear distinction needs to be made between the autism described by psychiatrist Leo Kanner in 1943 and the much more recently described ASD (autistic spectrum disorder, often referred to as Asperger’s syndrome).

Humphreys says that ASD is “often referred to as Asperger’s syndrome”. It isn’t. This is not just a demonstrable error of fact, it also reveals a type of flawed reasoning. Specifically, it is a type of error known as a category mistake. Asserting that ASD is referred to as Asperger’s syndrome is akin to saying that vegetables are “often referred to as apples” or that animals are “often referred to as tigers“. If a child said these things, you would no doubt offer a correction. But you would probably do so sympathetically, understanding that she or he is still just developing a proper grasp of the relevant grammatical structures.

However, Humphreys is not a child. In his case, the category error reveals nothing less than a startling unfamiliarity with the subject matter he has chosen to write about.

As does the following…

* * *

#8. Appeal to dualism

Humphreys presents the following observation:

Curiously – and not at all explained by those health and educational professionals who believe that autism and ASD are genetic and/or neurobiological disorders – is the gender bias of being more diagnosed in boys (a ratio of four to one).

This sentence is indeed curious. Embedded within is the following argument: “A gender bias in diagnosis is not (at all) consistent with the belief that autism and ASD are genetic and/or neurobiological.” In essence, Humphreys is stating that if something differs by gender, then it cannot be genetic and/or neurobiological.

This is truly bizarre. It would be more accurate to state the opposite: if something differs by gender, then it is quite likely to be genetic and/or neurobiological. Here are some examples: facial hair, height and build, presence of sex organs, susceptibility to cardiovascular disease, etc.

Arguing that if something is a psychological difference then it cannot also be a biological difference is an example of an appeal to dualism. As a purported expert, for Humphreys to adopt such an argument betrays a command of his subject that is deficient on a truly breathtaking scale.

* * *

#9. Use absolutist statements

In complaining about diagnostics, Humphreys states that there is:

[an] absence of any scientific basis or test for either the originally ‘detected’ autism or for the broader construct of ASD.

By stating that there is not “any” scientific basis to such things, Humphreys is presenting a type of claim known as an absolutism. Absolutist statements tend to be avoided in logical discourse, because they are ultimately unreasonable. Just one exception will render your claim false; therefore, you should never use an absolutist statement unless you have good reason to believe that no such exception exists. There are in fact a number of scientific bases for distinguishing the diagnostic categories of autism and ASD. There are also several tests. Therefore, Humphreys’ statement is not just poorly constructed scientifically, it is also poorly informed factually.

* * *

#10. Misrepresent your sources

Humphreys cites a book by Timimi and colleagues in support of his overall position:

What they are saying is – and I concur with them – that the focus needs to be on the relationship contexts of these children’s lives, and to take each child for the individual he or she is and to examine closely the family and community narratives and discover creative possibilities for change and for more dynamic and hopeful stories to emerge for both the children and their carers.

Humphreys is arguing that Timimi’s claim that “the focus needs to be on the relationship contexts of these children’s lives” and on their “family and community narratives” corroborates his theory that autism is a condition caused by poor parenting. But the Timimi book does not support this at all. In fact, this is what the authors assert regarding such theories (p. 293):

We are NOT saying any of the following: 1. Autism is a condition caused by poor parenting…

How Humphreys interprets the conclusion “We are NOT saying that autism is a condition caused by poor parenting” as corroboration for his theory that “Autism IS a condition caused by poor parenting” is unclear.

* * *

So there you have them. Tony’s Ten Top Tips for mounting illogical arguments. (Creating unnecessary distress in vulnerable groups while stigmatizing families living with autism is purely optional.)

In response to what has been a wave of public complaints, Monday’s Irish Examiner featured an editorial asserting that people like Tony Humphreys have an entitlement to freedom of expression. I actually agree with that position. The Irish Examiner can indeed publish what they choose.

Of course, it is interesting to note that they are currently choosing to publish at least some articles that are so incoherent and illogical as to stand as actual case-studies in bad argumentation.

At least that’s a contribution I suppose…

=  =  =  =  =  =  =  =  =  =  =  =  =

Post-script, 9 Feb 2012: Congratulations to the reader who spotted that my so-called “Ten Tips” doesn’t contain a number 6! The only explanation I can offer is that my brain was addled by all the mangled logic I was trying to summarize. Suffice to say, there are several possibilities for that tenth slot, which space prevented me from including. These include appeal to authoritystraw man argumentation, cherry picking, moving the goalposts, single-cause fallacy, etc., etc. Some other suggestions appear in the comments below. I’ll do better next time!



Categories: Authority appeals, Autism, Irish Examiner, List, Newspapers & Magazines, Pseudoscience, Psychology, Scientific literacy

49 replies

  1. First class.

    As a man who claims training in theology, Tony will no doubt recognise many of the tricks and evasions listed here.

    Maybe you should have added Mental Reservation

  2. I love this. Fantastic demonstration of illogical arguments. I’m ashamed I didn’t even consider logical fallacies in my assessment.

    His reply to the criticism was also fallacy laden. He wrote, “My goal was to show there is another perspective on this and that what has been presented as fact is not fact; it is simply a perspective. It is very important we hold an open mind and keep ourselves informed.”
    “Perspective…open mind”- typical quack obfuscation.

    • I agree. It really is one of the most insincere forms of self-exculpation to claim that you were not trying to be offensive, you were just trying to be open-minded. Basically, when you parse the logic, it implies that being polite is a form of narrow-mindedness…!

    • There were more factual errors in his reply as well. He claimed that Timimi and one of his co-authors of The Myth of Autism had been diagnosed with ASD in childhood. Timimi has never been diagnosed. But both his co-authors were diagnosed as adults. I do not think he has even read Timimi. He is relying on a review or a publishers blurb and even then he has not read it very well.

  3. Excellent article Brian. This kind of rigourous thinking and awareness of how science and logic work should be central to education at every level. And your point on free speech and illogical articles was very well made.

  4. Excellent Article Brian.. wish you’d send it to the Examiner and give them permission to publish it… Enjoyed reading it and your disection of the piece was well done. Many (mostly Tony) could learn from this. A salute to you. Will be passing this on… ;-D

  5. Like you, Brian, I felt I could go through his article line by line, and reveal his shabby logic in every single word, but what would be the point?

    I’d be more interested in knowing what follows from this. It seems that anyone can set up practice as a psychologist in Ireland, even if they didn’t manage to pass the Junior Cert.

    But what about claiming to be a medical practitioner?

    The title Doctor is widely employed. Even the bishops use it, and while they’ll certainly treat you with disdain, they won’t attempt to treat you for any medical condition. Context is all-important, and it seems to me that the juxtaposition of the words Doctor and Clinical create a powerful alignment of expectations in a person’s mind.

    Therefore, the question needs to be asked. if somebody uses the title Doctor, while at the same time describing himself as a clinical psychologist, is he creating the impression that he is a medical practitioner?

    • This has always been a tricky area. Thankfully the Irish govt is finally getting its act together a bit with regard to statutory registration (see http://www.coru.ie/registration-section/statutory-registration/). This has been a long and drawn out process and the PSI (Psych Soc of Ireland) deserve credit for pushing the govt on it for a number of years, if not decades. It should soon mean that people will need proper quals to declare themselves psychologists.

      However, I’m pretty sure that Humphreys is actually properly qualified, so such regulation would have no bearing on this case. I don’t really know what can be done to deal with properly qualified professionals who hold pseudoscientific views. I guess this can happen in any profession. I would consider it an ethical issue — if the profession has an appropriate code of ethics and conduct procedures with due process, then things like recklessness and neglect can be dealt with there.

      Finally, as you say, clinical psychologists hold the title “Dr” and often work in healthcare settings. However, lots of non-medics are in the same situation. I don’t think it is usual for them to be mistaken for medical doctors. But I might be wrong.

      • To quote you: “clinical psychologists hold the title “Dr” and often work in healthcare settings. However, lots of non-medics are in the same situation. I don’t think it is usual for them to be mistaken for medical doctors.”

        I think their chances of being mistaken for medical doctors would be greatly increased if they set up websites emphasising their titles and if they made a point of appearing on radio and TV shows in their capacity as self-help gurus while using the same titles. What do you think?

      • I would compare this situation with that of the Wessely school of thought on M.E, Wessely is a British psychiatrist whose qualifications are not in doubt but whose psychiatric model of an illness that has been proven again and again to be of biological origin is a nineteenth century throwback. He holds both the patients and their carers responsible. This has led directly to an ethically indefensible situation of severely ill people being sectioned for “faulty illness beliefs”. His position on Gulf War Syndrome is pretty much identical, but those patients are not quite as vulnerable and so his attacks on them are not nearly as vitriolic.

        I believe Wessely’s blaming of the victim only has currency because it fits in with a political agenda of cutbacks, and I would question whether Humphreys is playing the same game.

        • Oh, I forgot. Wessely also holds that most people diagnosed with PTSD don’t actually have it; they simply lack sufficient stiff upper lip, as evidenced by the fact that people during the Blitz just got on with things. This was in an interview with the Irish Medical Times, if I remember correctly..

  6. Excellent piece and an fine counterweight to some of the hyperbole about the net this last week.

  7. Excellent article. On point #8 I’d argue the significant gender bias actually argues for a genetic cause, take for example haemophilia as a case study. For most forms the gene is on the X chromosome so if the mother is a carrier half her sons (statistically) will have haemophilia as there is no second X to counteract the faulty gene. In order for a girl to have the disease her Mother has to be a carrier, father has to have haemophilia and the girl has to get the faulty gene from both. Hence a significant gender bias. So Tony fails on that level too. Unless he thinks haemophilia is caused by parenting……. (note: I know it’s not as simple for ASD but the assertion that gender bias is never caused by genetics is just wrong)

  8. Evidently Timimi also repudiated Humphreys in an interview which I htink is a podcast here: http://www.rte.ie/radio1/podcast/podcast_liveline.xml

    Guess I’ll have to do some transcribing.

  9. A superb piece in response to Tony Humphrey’s article. Thank you so much – finally managed to make me smile after several days of being totally furious with him and the Irish Examiner for publishing it!

    • Thanks. I’m glad you liked it.

      I really don’t think that the Examiner yet fully understands the distress caused by their Humphreys piece.

  10. An excellent, well written piece. Systematically reduced his article to the equivalent of a dropped Lego Firetruck… thank you, made me smile too… you should send this into the Irish Examiner, although your caliber of writing may be a big too high… :)

  11. Niamh O’Byrne on behalf of Info@psihq.ie
    Thursday 09/02/12 15:06
    The Psychological Society of Ireland’s response to the Tony Humphreys article on in the Examiner

    Psychological Society of Ireland disagrees with assertions made by Tony Humphreys

    The Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI) does not support the assertions made by Tony Humphreys in his recent article in the ‘Feelgood’ supplement of the Irish Examiner in relation to Autism Spectrum Disorder. PSI President, Dr Michael Drumm, stated:
    “Tony Humphreys’ assertions made in the article are not supported by the vast body of research in the field of Autistic Spectrum Disorders and are unhelpful and likely to cause upset. It is hoped that the article would be retracted.”

    The Psychological Society of Ireland is the learned and professional body for psychology in the Republic of Ireland. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neuro-developmental condition that is characterized by impairment in social interaction, communication and repetitive behaviours. The condition affects one in every 100 children.

    Ends.

    For further information/ comment, please contact:
    Lisa Stafford,
    PSI PR & Events Manager,
    087 945 2801

    (http://thesciencebitdotnet.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/psi_email.jpg)

  12. Thank you so much for taking the time and effort to write this excellent article. Having heard this man speak and read some of his articles, it was only a matter of time before his ‘unfounded’ theories were brought to light and now hopefully well and truly dismissed along with his reputation. I am a mother of the most fantastic ten year old boy who happens to have autism along with great looks, wicked sense of humour and an ability to cheer you up on the darkest days. Maybe a day in the company of my little hero is what Humphries needs, to learn the real truth – on second thoughts, the insight might prove too much for him. He might have to apologise!
    On behalf of all our children and their parents, THANK YOU.

  13. Well put! Love your logic.
    Thank you for the analysis

  14. A detail, but possibly relevant to the PSI: the Examiner Thursday wrote “Dr Tony Humphreys responded to comments on blogs and social media websites which questioned his professional background. He pointed out he had a BA (hons) and MA (hons) in applied psychology from UCC and a PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Birmingham.” (http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/parents-never-to-blame-for-autism-183181.html). This implies that he has a BA (hons) in Psychology from UCC.
    However he is described as “Dr. Tony Humphreys, B.A., with a Higher Diploma in Physical Education, Cork” (http://historical-debates.oireachtas.ie/D/0445/D.0445.199410130122.html) which equally implies that he has a first degree in Education, in the context of a Dail debate on teacher training.
    If he does not have a first degree in Psychology, and does not have appropriate in-practice training, then he is not a Psychologist and is certainly not a Clinical Psychologist by the very detailed requirements of the 2005 Act (http://www.politicalworld.org/showpost.php?p=226126&postcount=94).

  15. Your Tweet “b_m_hughes Brian Hughes: Commenter on my blog today states that Humphreys’s PhD is not in psychology, but in “hypnosis” #liveline”

    The full citation is Humphreys, A. An experimental investigation of hypnosis as an adjunct to the behavioural treatment of phobias. University of Birmingham, 1982. Thesis (Ph.D.) – University of Birmingham, Dept of Clinical Psychology, 1983.

    According to http://www.politicalworld.org/showpost.php?p=226126&postcount=94 he does not qualify as a clinical psychologist in Ireland and http://historical-debates.oireachtas.ie/D/0445/D.0445.199410130122.html suggests that his first degree might be in education, not psychology.

    • Thank you for those links. The explanation presented on politicalworld.org is entirely consistent with my own understanding. The term ‘clinical psychologist’ is reserved for persons with appropriate practitioner-based training. Holding a PhD, which is a research-based training, might identify you as knowledgeable on (an area of) clinical psychology, but it does not make you a clinical psychologist.

      The one fly in this ointment is that, while the above standard is that of the professional bodies in Ireland and the UK, a person could argue that it is merely a convention among particular interest groups. In other words, it’s not the law. Therefore, a person could claim to be within their rights calling themselves a clinical psychologist by simply choosing to not recognise said convention and/or to not join said professional bodies.

  16. Agreed, but the PSI has effectively become the professional regulatory body in Ireland, in the absence of a state register of professional psychologists. Tony Humphreys is not registered and is probably not in an employment recognized as “practice”. The PSI could easily state their registration requirements and whether Dr Tony is indeed a clinical psychologist, or is an academic psychologist.

    On a similar note, “The National College of Ireland, a private college located in the IFSC, has confirmed that Tony Humphreys is not a Fellow, Senior or otherwise. The NCI do award honorary fellowships but have not given one to him. He has shared delivery with some courses with the NCI, but is not a staff member.” http://www.politicalworld.org/showpost.php?p=226277&postcount=123

  17. Is there anyone Wikipedia savvy here? I am sure that if an existing Wiki editor gets the ball rolling, then many others will be able to contribute to a complete and comprehensive biography of Tony Humphreys.

    If anyone does start a Tony Humphreys entry, then please keep every single statement relevant, truthful, accurate and supported by a reference to a reputable source. I can not stress reputable sources enough – every fact must be linked to a reference to an unbiased source, such as a newspaper, journal or book. You can quote ANYTHING that Tony Humphreys himself has printed.

  18. I am truly horrified by the Examiner’s choice to find the space to publish a 500-word reiteration of the Tony Humphreys article, having failed to find space to apologise for either their conduct or for Tony Humphreys’ errors of fact. I do not feel at all comforted by their sorrow for my being “upset” by Humphrey’s enlightenment.

    The letter http://www.irishexaminer.com/opinion/letters/helping-me-find-hope-183473.html continues to blur the diagnostic boundaries between autism and attachment disorders. Perhaps it is news to the writer “that all parenting starts with self and it is the responsibility of parents to unconditionally love themselves because you can only give to your children that which you have to give. I didn’t even realise that I ought to, or even could, love myself too.” Perhaps it also news to her that many autistic people and their parents have experienced years of blame for the behavioural and social difficulties caused by autism.

    Ill-informed name-dropping (Bowlby, Shore, Spitzer et al) does not help us. Reiterating an association between deprivation of love and autism does not help us. On Thursday somebody called this “digging with a shovel called ‘Mammy'”, and I only understood what she meant when reading this letter.

  19. For completeness, the DSM-V Reactive Attachment Disorder criteria state:

    C. Does not meet the criteria for Autistic Spectrum Disorder.

    D. Pathogenic care as evidenced by at least one of the following:
    1) Persistent disregard of the child’s basic emotional needs for comfort, stimulation, and affection (i.e., neglect).
    2) Persistent disregard of the child’s basic physical needs.
    3) Repeated changes of primary caregiver that prevent formation of stable attachments (e.g., frequent changes in foster care).
    4) Rearing in unusual settings such as institutions with high child/caregiver ratios that limit opportunities to form selective attachments.

  20. Tony Humphreys was brilliant on the Marian Finucane show:
    Claire: You wrote “the glaringly obvious fact that if the adults they researched live predominanently in their heads and possess few or no heart qualities, their children will need to find some way of defending themselves against the absence of expressed love and affection and emotional receptivity.” That is blaming the parents.
    Tony: Don’t be putting words into my mouth! You are saying what they are all saying … that I am blaming the parents [blah blah] Nobody consciously sets out to hurt.

  21. The message or understanding I got from Dr. Tony Humphries article is that currently there is no scientific evidence to prove that autism is a neurological or genetic disorder. I think the purpose of his article was to open a forum where a mature debate could take place surrounding all the different aspects of autism. I think basically what he was suggesting was that people needed a holistic approach to autism which took the individual’s environment and relationships into account, before a final diagnosis was given. Surely this is not too much of a burden for Society to take on board and if it is we need to ask the question why?

    Also I have read a number of Tony Humphreys books and he has always maintained that parents do their best with the knowledge and understanding that they have. If you read the article carefully he has not blamed or critised parents for their children’s behaviour or autism.

    In my opinion a diagnosis says more about the person/doctor giving the diagnosis rather than the person being diagnosed. If this is true, which I believe it is surely the question we need to be asking ourselves is “how is it that we accept the diagnosis’s of others so readily”?
    Finally, we all have the right to express our opinion.

  22. @Annette, http://www.facebook.com/people/Annette-Kenny/100002585839015, opinions are fine so long as we say they are opinions. When we dress them up as fact, in a health supplement and falsely claim thirty years experience as a consultant clinical psychologist, it is no longer a mere opinion.

  23. Brenda Power, Sunday Times, 12 February 2012 (page 13):

    Peers may take issue with Dr Tony Humphreys’s claim to be “Ireland’s most influential psychologist” but last week he was certainly the most discussed. Humphreys wrote an article for The Irish Examiner stating, in frank terms, that he doesn’t accept autism as a scientific fact and that it is the result of emotionally cold, high-achieving parents, especially engineers for some reason, withholding love in their children’s formative years. Outraged parents are now threatening to sue him.
    While a want of affection in infancy can inflict profound emotional difficulties – as some families who have rescued babies from harsh Romanian orphanages discovered as their children grew up – claiming it is always the case, and that troubled children must have been neglected, is a conclusion too far.
    Given that Humphreys’ argument was made in good faith, it deserves to be discussed, if only to be discounted, rather than punished and silenced. Critics have accused him of stirring a row in order to sell his new book. Last week’s outrage suggests that the only copies he’ll shift will be enough to fuel a small bonfire.

  24. I would like to focus on some action. I have no hope for Dr Tony Humphreys acting. I would like the following:

    1) The HSE, PSI, Department of Health – State whether Humphreys is entitled to use the terms “consultant clinical psychologist” or “clinical psychologist” or even plain “psychologist” to describe himself. He is not a registered psychologist and probably has not met the training requirements for clinical practice. Does his use of the titles comply with the Health & Social Care Professionals Act 2005 (http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/2005/en/act/pub/0027/print.html)
    and the Psychological Society of Ireland (www.psihq.ie) accreditation of Clinical Psychologist guidelines? (http://www.psihq.ie/ACCRED%20-New%20PSI%20Clinical%20Acc%20Guidelines%20-%20Jan%20%2709.pdf)

    2) The Irish Examiner – Retract the article. The Examiner has removed the article without comment or explanation (and despite a defence of freedom of speech). Dr Andrew Wakefield’s retracted paper on autism remains on the Lancet website with the word “RETRACTED” in large red type (http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2897%2911096-0/abstract) and accompanied by an editorial explaining precisely why it has been retracted (http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2810%2960175-4/fulltext).

    3) The Irish Examiner (and all news outlets) – Do not permit “experts” to style themselves with unverified titles and expertise.

    4) University College Cork – Restrict Dr Humphreys titles to those appropriate to an university psychologist, prevent his use of the university for advertising his private enterprises and ensure that he does not teach material in direct conflict with the Psychological Society of Ireland guidelines on diagnosis and treatment of autistic spectrum disorder (unless he wishes to formally state that has exited the psychological profession).

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  1. Autism Spectrum — Tony Humphreys, Clinical Psychologist, Blames the Parents » Bock The Robber
  2. That autism story: How psychologists get it wrong (but sometimes get it right) « Psychology, Society, & Human Values
  3. autism and asd-fault of the parents! - Page 12
  4. Why What a Gormless Irish Self-Help Guru Wrote About Autism Matters – What Is Autism In Children?
  5. De Valera, Asperger’s and psychiatry – where the truth lies « Siúlach Scéalach

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