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South Park – North Park – Golden Hill

An Ecumenical Ministry in St. Patrick's Catholic Parish

Friday, March 13, 2020

Drugs or Therapy?—that Is the Question

Drugs or Therapy?—that Is the Question

I’ve yet to be impressed with anything we’ve discovered through brain research. I’ve read many articles that have waxed eloquent about how we now know that attitude X or action Y is located in this or that part of the brain or that our brains physically change as a result of changing physical habits. That some feeling or action finds a specific place in the brain—I would have assumed that already. That habits change how we think and feel—well spiritual directors have known that for centuries.
But there is one feature of brain research that has dangerously misled us, at least according to Allen Frances, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Duke University School of Medicine in North Carolina.
Drug companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year influencing politicians, marketing misleadingly to doctors, and pushing pharmaceutical treatments on the public. They successfully sold the fake marketing jingle that all emotional symptoms are due to a ‘chemical imbalance’ in the brain and therefore all require a pill solution. The result: 20 per cent of US citizens use psychotropic drugs, most of which are no more than expensive placebos, all of which can produce harmful side-effects.
He has data that suggests that old-fashioned therapy can help people more than drugs.
Expensive Ambition
This week’s Lenten meditation is a short essay, “Against Ambition.” In American culture, we worry about people who have no ambition. This writer worries about people who do. While the biblical writers point to ambition as a social disaster (e.g., “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice”—James 3:16), this article argues,
Ambition … depends on a host of misjudgements, confusions, and temptations. We overestimate its benefits, overlook its costs, and overbid our time and energy.
Global Warming and the Poor
Freeman Dyson was “a polymath whose interests included mathematics, numbers theory, biology, physics, nuclear energy, space travel, weaponry, and arms control.” So writes Robert Bryce in the National Review upon Dyson’s passing on February 28. Other than knowing he was a genius, he was just a name to me, so I’ve appreciated learning more about him in the recent obits about him. Bryce notes one contrarian feature of Dyson was his skepticism about climate change computer models. He didn’t deny global warming, he just thought the models artificially magnified the problem and, more to the point, failed to keep in mind the world’s poor.
Rather than demonize energy and energy producers, Dyson focused on equity, human development, and the need for more energy so that more poverty-stricken people can live better lives. “The humanist ethic begins with the belief that humans are an essential part of nature,” he wrote. “Humans have the right and the duty to reconstruct nature so that humans and biosphere can both survive and prosper. For humanists, the highest value is harmonious coexistence between humans and nature.”
This would also be a high value for Christians and Jews, who tend to put a lot of stock in Genesis 1, wherein humans are commanded to manage the earth’s resources.
The Coronavirus Comes to Church
Much has been written about the coronavirus in relation to international travel, hospitals, museums, political gatherings, and so forth. But for most readers of The Galli Report, the context they most think about is about the local church. No one covers this beat better than Christianity Today, and this collection of articles, Coronavirus and the Church: CT’s Latest News and Advice,” is a great resource.
Moving Fruit
And now for something completely different: “How would fruits move if they could?”
Grace and peace,

Mark GalliMark Galli

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