Mail On Sunday
By Peter Hitchens
Once again the sullen, obtuse, obdurate defenders of the absurd and revolting fantasy known as ‘ADHD’ advance hopelessly, sightlessly, like zombies, across the shell-cratered mud, yelling and droning their unresponsive nonsense and pretending that they know what they are talking about. They don’t. Like zombies, they are immune to all the normal rules of argument, especially to facts or logic.
Some of these people come to this site only to disagree with me, and would post a contrary opinion within minutes if I declared that two and two were four or the world was round. Some have interests (we have discussed these) in maintaining that this fictional complaint is true. When they deny having such interests, the rest of us have no way of deciding if they are truthful, since so many of them hide behind false names. By contrast, I defy anyone to show that I have any other interest in this argument apart from a love of truth and a deep, angry pity for the child victims of the ‘ADHD’ fantasy.
All these critics have a single fault in common. They ignore or try to slither round the glaring fact that the supporters of ‘ADHD’ themselves have admitted, at the famous ‘consensus conference’ at the American National Institutes of Health 12 years ago, that there is no objective test for its presence in the human frame.
Some examples of the pitiful attempts made to circumvent this:
1. ‘This statement is 12 years old, is “tired” and out of date’
Humbug. Scientific truths are not like supermarket prepared food. They do not go off simply because a certain amount of time has elapsed. This statement will cease to be valid on the day someone produces an objective test of the existence of ‘ADHD;’ in the human frame. They haven’t. So it remains valid.
Likewise, scientific truths are not like athletes. They do not become exhausted by being exercised. The use of these expressions reveals that those who use them, for all their claims of scientific knowledge and qualifications, have departed from their scientific method in this case. We have to ask why they would do that, if they really are scientists.
2. My insistence on an objective test for ‘ADHD’ is said to conflict with my religious belief in a created, ordered and purposeful universe. This is a simple category error, combined with a failure to pay the slightest attention to arguments often stated here. Anyone who reads what I write will know that I reject the idea that the existence of God or the truth of the Gospels can be proved this side of the grave, which is the side of the grave all contributors to this site find themselves on. I maintain that it is a choice, which rational beings may make on the basis of preference. Nor does Christian belief impel anyone who holds it to ingest anything stronger than bread and wine.
Religious belief is therefore not in the same category as scientific knowledge, and cannot be judged on the same basis, any more than you can measure height with a thermometer, or temperature with a compass.
3. ‘You know nothing about science, so you cannot judge a scientific question’. This again is a (rather moronic) misunderstanding of how human knowledge is acquired and organised. Were ‘ADHD’ to be supported by a genuine scientific proof, then it would indeed be open only to those skilled in chemistry and neurology to debate the validity of such a proof. But it isn’t, which is the absolute precise hinge of this argument. No knowledge of chemistry, neurology or physiology is necessary to determine that, if experts agree there is no proof, there is no proof. The definition of ‘ADHD’ given in the DSM-IV is in clear English and open for any normal human being to read and understand, as he or she wishes, since it is crammed with expressions and definitions for which there can be no objective standard or proof. Any literate adult may form an opinion upon it. Which brings me back to the unalterable fact, that it doesn’t have an objective proof. There is therefore no objective scientific dispute about this, and no requirement for scientific skills or knowledge in determining the state of affairs.
And, as I have said time without number, this would not be so important were it not for the fact that in many cases, alleged sufferers from ‘ADHD’ (usually powerless children in the hands of trusted adults) are dosed with powerful, objectively existing, measurable doses of chemicals. These chemicals are known *to* affect the operation of the human brain, largely because they alter the behaviour of those who take them, making them more docile and able to endure tedious and repetitive tasks (this description of the drugs’ effects should give any free human being cause to shudder, in my view). However, there is very limited knowledge about *how* they affect the human brain, an organ of which we know startlingly little. I might add that there are disturbing suggestions that long-term use of these drugs can also result in unpleasant and considerable physical side-effects, for which there is a growing quantity of objective evidence. What is more, once these drugs are ingested, permanent, irreversible changes are effected on the brain of the patient. (Indeed at one stage ‘ADHD’ partisans grotesquely attempted to claim that these changes, caused by the very ‘medication’ they had themselves fed to the children, were objective evidence of the existence of ‘ADHD’. Fortunately, this outrageous claim was dismissed. The obvious truth was that the physical changes were the consequence of the drugs.)
Further, the chemical involved would have the same effect upon anyone who took them, whether ‘diagnosed’ with ‘ADHD’ or ‘diagnosed’ not to have ‘ADHD;’ or not diagnosed at all. This makes them different from proper medicines, which will generally affect the symptoms of those given them for specific complaints. Eg, antibiotics, properly prescribed will cure the specific complaint for which they are prescribed. Wrong antibiotics, that is to say, those which are not specific to the disease being suffered (as I can testify from personal experience) will not cure that disease. And a person who has nothing wrong with him at all could take those antibiotics and feel no effect whatsoever. This stark difference between the juju ‘medicine’ of ‘ADHD’ in which allegedly sick and undoubtedly healthy are affected in the same way by the supposed ‘medicine’ – completely different from the normal practice of medicine – should surely give pause for thought to anyone seriously interested in science or medicine. Why doesn’t it? Because the partisans of ‘ADHD’ do not see because they do not want to see. They do not want to see because they are interested parties.
Any proper scientist knows this simple rule. A scientific proposition, to be taken seriously, has to be set forth in the form of a proof. This proof must be clear, demonstrable and repeatable, based upon objective and measurable facts.
Finally (at least according to the great Philosopher of Science, Sir Karl Popper, whose view on this is widely accepted among serious scientists) it must be, potentially, capable of disproof by subsequent discoveries.
It cannot be circular – that is to say, the argument cannot assume its own truth as part of its proof. It has to start from the position that – until the proof is established – the thing which needs to be proved does not exist. ‘Proofs’, which start by assuming the existence of ‘ADHD’ and then pronouncing that supposed sufferers of ‘ADHD’ can be shown to have certain things in common are like a house built without a ground floor. They are impossible.
This process of proof, with the burden upon the supporter of the hypothesis, not on his opponent, is very similar to the presumption of innocence in law. The accuser has to prove that his accusation is founded in fact, in a way that can survive presentation in public, and hostile cross-examination.
So anyone calling himself a ‘scientist’, or ‘doctor’, who simply ignores this rule, is betraying his craft.
I think that will do for now. The wretched techniques and evasions adopted by the supporters of this scandalous horror seem to me to be yet more reason to call into question the diagnosis.