ADHD as Cargo Cult Science

“[Richard] Feynman argued that Cargo Cult Science involves cherry-picking evidence to support an assumed conclusion, ignoring contradictory evidence, and giving the appearance of science while failing to actually follow the scientific method.”

This article by Sheelah Mills has been published by Mad in America. It begins:

“I began seriously researching ADHD in 2010 with the purchase of Barkley’s Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A Handbook for Diagnosis and Treatment. Positive reviews indicated that this would be a worthy source of information for my fourth-year psychology dissertation. At the end of Chapter 1, there was a copy of an International Consensus Statement on ADHD, which stated:

Occasional coverage of the disorder casts the story in the form with evenly matched competitors. The views of a handful of nonexpert doctors that ADHD does not exist are contrasted against mainstream scientific views that it does, as if both views have equal merit. Such attempts at balance give the public the impression that there is substantial disagreement over whether ADHD is a real medical condition. In fact, there is no such disagreement—at least no more so than there is over whether smoking causes cancer, for example, or whether a virus causes HIV/AIDS.

Somewhat cowed by the tone and the status of the 86 signatories, I continued with Barkley’s voluminous account of all things related to ADHD.

However, halfway through Chapter 2, Barkley once again criticised ‘nonexpert professionals’, before concluding:

Therefore, any claims that ADHD is a myth reflect either a stunning level of scientific illiteracy or outright attempts to misrepresent the science of ADHD so as to mislead the public with propaganda.

Throughout this section Barkley repeatedly referenced an article by Sami Timimi. Curious about what might constitute ‘scientific illiteracy’, I sourced the document to find Timimi was not the sole author; there were 33 co-endorsers, who were anything but ‘nonexpert’, judging by their qualifications, academic standing, and publications1 …”

You can read more from here.

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