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February 02, 2009

The Science-Pseudoscience Connection

Many educated people have heard of Phrenology and a substantial fraction even knows it is frequently cited as a classic example of pseudoscience. Predictably fewer are aware of work by two revered Eighteenth Century anatomists Broca , and Hughlings-Jackson , showing that specific neurological processes seem to be controlled by equally specific areas within the brain.

That concept, at first glance, offered support for the basic assumptions of Phrenology; but over time- and on the basis of further observation- those assumptions, and Phrenology with them, were found overly simplistic and Phrenology was downgraded into an example of Pseudoscience.

Ironically, a classic dilemma of human existence, one summed up as mind-body dualism; although similarly vulnerable to definitive scrutiny, can also be protected by doctrinaire thinking, as is illustrated by the slow, painful evolution California's Proposition 215 over the past twelve years.

A good example is how stubborn federal refusal to recognize any medical benefit from use of cannabis suddenly became more aggressive soon after the odious (and predictable) Raich decision was handed down by the Supremes in June 2005. A rash of punitive federal prosecutions of medical marijuana activists soon followed and is still in progress.

An understanding of how those prosecutions are conducted, along with an appreciation of the drug war's sickening impact on American Justice can be gained from reading Cool Madness by Vanessa Nelson. A very talented writer with a gift for accurate low-key descriptions of human interaction, Nelson has been quietly creating a new literary genre with her descriptions of the ordeals individual medical marijuana activists face in federal courtrooms with no more media scrutiny than that received by suspected terrorists in Guantanamo. Although their names, and the trial outcomes have been duly reported, the media have also been blind to what many would see as cruel and inhumane treatment.

For that reason alone, Nelson's accounts are important. A Pdf of Cool Madness can be downloaded for a modest fee from Lulu, an interesting new web site.

I'm nearly finished reading Cool Madness and will post a detailed review ASAP.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at February 2, 2009 09:34 PM