Uta Frith http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/tls
Is a jolly, smiling, retired, naturalised UK dwelling, German, Psychologist/Neuroscientist, married to similarly trained Englishman. She forty years ago came over and embarked on a career investigating Dislexia and, later, autism. She thinks both are inbuilt, innate conditions and resolves that, using our modern neuroscientific imaging and other modern skills we can in future identify unfortunate people developing these characteristics and run them through especially devised educational routines and they’ll all be happy ever after. End of story. Amen. Close the book.
She is, of course, a much praised elder person of this academic stream. She has clones of ex-students aligned in strategic points throughout psycho-academia to preach these gospels of rational interventionism. Intensive interventionism. And to read the scriptures of the brain-scan imagery, interpreting them as to the future prognoses of these genetically pre-determined outcasts. “Oh but you see we can help these people and no it wasn’t really their parents’ fault.”
I heard her interviewed on the radio by a physicist. (Not a physician!) He was reasonably prepared as an academic but with no understanding of the areas of understanding and his questions were so weighted. The word “environmental” was used once, but only in exonerating the parents of any guilt. She deals with the savant sector of the autistic framework without any shadow of a doubt as there is no question of looking at children who cannot perform basic social tasks, scream when addressed and show other more outlandish actions.
So there was no discussion of damage being due to early medical interventions in the form of a regime of infant vaccinations and so one has to deem her as either totally unaware of these facts – making her of questionable empathic standing herself – or to have actively shut them out from her investigations/understandings – which makes her grossly unscientific and so unworthy of the adulation showered upon her. Either way she loses so why does she have this situation of security, with her reputation knitted into the fabric of academic psychology and, hence, the general body politic and soul of the established reality?
Well, I’m sure she had an unbroken career within her discipline and worked in the education of many hundreds of students. She has also written a number of books and papers all following the established frameworks of peer review and grant applications backed by all the correct paperwork. There’s been no breaking of the array of rules which guide the maintenance of the structure of knowledge and the transference of that knowledge.
But, quite clearly her work is too singularly focused and has no wide objectivity. If she works with other disciplines she then accepts a “baton of established data” from them such as she does not question. “They, too, have their own peer review systems and so this data has been through a system of screening and is prepared so that I may use it as I now find it. I must use my basic intelligence to advance the materials into my personal specialisms but otherwise can depend upon their veracity.” Well, how can she question them? She does not have the skills to set up or interpret their experiments other than superficial understanding of their relevance to hers.
That which they have chosen to include, should be included as it is within their area of understanding. She can thus back their decisions and proceed with her use of their data. Ah, the scientific method. All mutual back scratching and benevolent beams. And the more you do it the more specialist you get the less anyone may deign to question your propositions. And the deeper the pit that you dig. “How the hell can I get out of this?” the subconscious could ask – maybe does – but soon would answer “Thank Christ that I don’t have to!” It is a self supporting, self protecting, self sustaining mechanism.
To negate ideas that you have taught cannot work – you’ve awarded students with PhDs for saying that and cannot tell them “Sorry that was wrong – you must forfeit your degree”. So the students learn a mechanism and to apply that mechanism to a restricted range of accepted truths.
To interact with other subject areas they have to accept neat the provided information and use this, together with any they have generated “internally” to slowly push outwards, onwards the understandings of their own subject. We’re looking at evolutionary mechanisms here, adaptation by the process of tiny mutations. To continue the analogy we realise that as the sciences have progressed they are less and less able to “interbreed” their ideas. At best we get sterile hybrids!
But there is worse, too, as you could argue that there are now breeding experiments going on where the “genotypes” put into the program have been modified, with control sequences added and specified deletions made. Unnatural, irrelevant and can only survive within the laboratory.
My course on entering University was in the Department of Combined Science, although I eventually for my final year honed it down to single Genetics. More than ever there appears to be the urgent requirement to cross relate the sciences deeply. This bowing obeisance between subjects covers over a mass of miscomprehension, misinterpretation and downright irrelevance. Like giving someone a five pound note to go to the corner shop in Bogata.
Scientists should be trained to question always and not fall into patterns of repetition. I like aspects of Mauist thaught and I still believe in continual revolution. These situations explain why. The equilibrium we maintain must be dynamic, changing and kept open. Otherwise the scientist may just as well be a librarian [With apologies to any such as read this. I in no way criticise that discipline. Indeed it is more useful and relevant than ever in this era of information overload. Good distribution, access to and reassociation of data is essential, but it is not a science per se!]