Article was affront to psychologists Ronald Dworkin's...


January 22, 2000

Article was affront to psychologists

Ronald Dworkin's recent column was the most primitive, ignorant piece on psychology I have read in years ("Diagnosing problems with the `new' psychology," Opinion Commentary, Jan. 11).

Psychology may never achieve the hard data of physics, but to suggest it is comparable to astrology is an offense to many brilliant researchers and clinicians, and highlights Dr. Dworkin's ignorance or bias.

Dr. Dworkin's reference to "fleeting misery" is an insult to all persons who have suffered greatly as a result of personal trauma.

Perhaps Dr. Dworkin is unaware of psychologists' splendid interventions, not only to victims of trauma, but to paramedics and police during and after their rescue efforts.

These treatments spare people such long-term effects of trauma as nightmares, poor concentration and apathy.

Perhaps Dr. Dworkin is unaware that psychological counseling reduces complications from surgery, as well as the days patients spend in the hospital.

Perhaps Dr. Dworkin is unaware that those who have undergone "mere" psychotherapy incur fewer medical expenses, even including the cost of psychotherapy.

It is crucial that we understand why people act as they do.

Dr. Dworkin's approach would take us back several centuries and fails to grasp that the mind is far more complicated than the body.

Physician, heal thyself.

Harold S. Steinetz, Towson

The writer co-directs the Anxiety and Stress Disorders Institute of Maryland.

I am a psychologist. However, a degree in psychology is not necessary to see the multiple errors of fact and logic in Ronald Dworkin's misguided attack on the profession and science of psychology.

His descriptions of psychological theories are naive and simplistic.

He refers to something he defines as a "new psychology," which supposedly has convinced the unsuspecting public that an individual's future can be predicted.

Yet, no legitimate psychological theory pretends to make the kind of predictions Dr. Dworkin attributes to psychologists.

Dr. Dworkin presents a naive view of science in general, and then criticizes psychology for not living up to this unrealistic standard.

He asks, "Can psychologists . . . give an accurate description of the future the way doctors and engineers do?"

Is he referring to the engineers who worked on the recent Mars planetary probe?

Exaggeration and silliness can be found at the fringes of any scientific field. It is often magnified in the popular press and television.

I suspect Dr. Dworkin's arguments about psychology are based upon impressions he gathered through such popular media.

He would make the same mistake if he were to judge the field of medicine based upon an episode of "Chicago Hope."

Dr. Dworkin's confusion of the science of psychology, the profession of the psychologist and popular media representations of psychology is intellectually sloppy.

His angry and dismissive tone is simply offensive.

Ralph D. Raphael, Baltimore

Selling club short

In a weak attempt at humor, columnist Dan Rodricks promised not to join a Kiwanis Club in the year 2000 ("Resolving what not to do in next 1,000 years," Dec. 31).

It's his loss.

Last October, we had more than 8,200 members in the Capital District of Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Washington.

That month, they dedicated more than 19,000 hours to serving our communities, completing 1,470 projects and spending more than $100,000 to help others.

The Baltimore area has benefited greatly from such activities. Our 11 local clubs work closely with the Johns Hopkins Children's Center, the Salvation Army, Goodwill Industries, Our Daily Bread, the Maryland School for the Blind, Big Brothers, Meals on Wheels, the YMCA, the Boy Scouts of Central Maryland and the Gunpowder Conservatory, just to name a few groups we support.

We are perhaps proudest of our work with children and youth.

In the Capital District there are more Key Clubs (high school Kiwanis groups) than adult clubs. From these young people, we have gained great optimism for what tomorrow holds.

If Mr. Rodricks knew more about us, he might want to join the 600,000 members in more than 80 countries who donate their time, money and energy to help make this world a better place.

David Blumberg, Baltimore

The writer is lieutenant governor of the Kiwanis Capital District.

The fuller legacy of Dr. King

While it is true that Baltimore's recent mayoral election can be construed as a healing statement ("Dr. King's message heard in Baltimore," editorial, Jan. 17), it should also be remembered that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was more than a civil rights leader.

In a time when, despite relative economic prosperity, poverty is increasing and when, despite the end of the Cold War, trillions of dollars are squandered on weapons of mass destruction, it is important to re-examine Dr. King 's views.

Politicians and the mainstream press often characterize Dr. King as a liberal whose sole preoccupations were racial harmony and integration.

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