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One of America’s fine doctors wrote a commentary last week entitled “PBS’s latest infomercial”, and posted it on Salon.com.  Mark Hyman, MD, did a show for PBS called “The UltraMind Solution”, and Robert Burton, MD, cited the scientific method as his reason for disapproval.  So, after seeing Dr. Burton’s commentary, Dr. Hyman decided to fire back with rebuttal.  Did anyone see that show?  How about the Salon conversation?

There was another show I watched on PBS called “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life”, with Dr. Daniel Amen, and it was sort of similar to “UltraMind” (well, they were similar to me, after having watched each PBS special exactly once).  Dr. Burton had something to say about that, too.  Both shows proposed that there are things we can change about the way we eat and live that can significantly affect our biochemistry.

Dr. Burton had a point, and so did some of the other viewers who wrote in and complained to PBS.  There are so many theories about good mental health floating around that I can see why he thinks the scientific method is getting pushed aside for whatever sounds good at the moment.  I don’t blame the doctors for feeling a little undermined.

If I could write to Dr. Burton, though, I would have to ask him to lighten up (for lack of a more scientific term).  He and the others have done a good thing by reminding people about the need for peer-reviewed controlled research studies.  The scientific method produces the most universally reliable information.  It does not produce the only good information.

Dr. Burton, I can’t believe that if it hasn’t been researched and proven true, then it must not be true and shouldn’t be seriously discussed.  There are so many potentially valid hypotheses that research has not had the time, the inclination, or the money to “prove” or “disprove” them.  Research couldn’t get to me in time to tell me that twelve years of lithium carbonate was going to take out my thyroid gland.  I never needed the scientific method to tell me that sugar was capable of acting like a drug in my system.  My guess is that there isn’t a controlled study in the world that can verify my hunch that the nature of what we currently think of as mental illness is about as individualized as our body chemistry, and that associating one specific category of mental or emotional disorder with one specific course of treatment is a little like categorizing snowflakes.

Like I said, Dr. Burton, it’s just a hunch.  I don’t have any scientific methods in my head.  I just live this every day.

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