[ExI] Top ten dumbest remarks

Stathis Papaioannou stathisp at gmail.com
Tue Oct 9 10:13:41 UTC 2007

On 09/10/2007, Mike Dougherty <msd001 at gmail.com> wrote:

> On 10/8/07, Stathis Papaioannou <stathisp at gmail.com> wrote:
> > I put a September 11 conspiracy theorist on antipsychotics once, and
> > he changed his mind. He stopped the antipsychotics, and the conspiracy
> > came back. Then he went back on the antipsychotics and the conspiracy
> > went away again. Presented as an extra piece of empirical data to do
> > with as you please.
> There's a scientific approach.  What if I told you I put an
> unrepentant atheist on antipsychotics and they found god, then they
> stopped taking drugs to chemically alter their thinking and went back
> to being an atheist.  That's proof, right?

Antipsychotics as a test of delusional thinking have a moderately high
sensitivity (low false negative rate) but a very high specificity (low
false positive rate). If you give them to a well person, all that
happens is that they get side-effects. If you give them to a psychotic
patient, if anything there will be a reverse placebo effect:
delusional patients by definition honestly believe what they claim to
believe, and get annoyed at the suggestion that their thinking might
be symptomatic of an illness that might be altered by medication,
insisting despite any evidence to the contrary that medication has had
no effect or has made them worse. The only way you might get a false
positive is if someone was pretending to be delusional and then
pretended to get better on medication and relapse off medication, for
example a criminal trying for a more lenient sentence.

> Proof that this argument makes no sense.

Fair enough, since even a paranoid person could turn out to be right
(mental illness is about cognitive processes, and only incidentally
about truth out there in the world). But I thought I'd report that
delusions about 9-11 conspiracies are now out there in the psychiatric

Stathis Papaioannou

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