Medicine and Behaviour

IANAD, but the lesson seems to be as much as it is in your power, explore every other avenue of dealing with the root problems before rushing into a prescription based treatment. I gladly acknowledge the validity of such drugs, used wisely.

“This means that depressed people can improve without chemical treatments. Given these results, there seems little reason to prescribe antidepressant medication to any but the most severely depressed patients unless alternative treatments have failed to provide a benefit.”

Depression drugs ‘little better than placebos’: study

On a related topic, Al Mohler on parenting and ADHD drugs for boys:

“a diagnosis of ADHD lets everyone off the hook, so to speak. The boy is told he is not responsible for his behavioral problems, the parents are relieved of anxiety over inadequate parenting, teachers and bureaucrats have a new pathological slot into which boys can be filed, and drug companies get to sell pills. Everybody wins.”

OK, So What Kid Doesn’t Fit this Description?

IANAD = (I am not a doctor)

Good Experience – Interview: Barry Schwartz, author, “The Paradox of Choice”

I haven’t read this book, but it seems to make the same point as Affluenza (one of my favourite books in recent years). The more choice you have, the less satisfied you become. Exhibit A: Miserable affluent Western society. Is it possible to learn contentment apart from Christ? Not for me…

Q – What can customers do to avoid the paradox of choice?Most importantly, learn that “good enough is good enough.” It’s what I call “satisficing” in the book. You don’t need the best; probably never do. On rare occasions it’s worth struggling to find the best. But generally it makes life simpler if you settle with “good enough.” You don’t have to make an exhaustive search – just until you find something that meets your standards, which could be high. But the only way to find the absolute best is to look at ALL the possibilities. And in that case you’ll either give up, or if you choose one, you’ll be nagged by the possibility that you may have found something better. We have evidence about this, by the way. People who are out to find the very best job (“maximizers”) feel worse than people who settle for good enough. We’ve tracked them through and after college. Maximizers did better financially – they found starting salaries that paid $7,000 more than satisficers’ starting salary. But by every other measure – depression, stress, anxiety, satisfaction with their job – maximizers felt worse.

Good Experience – Interview: Barry Schwartz, author, “The Paradox of Choice”

Subprime fall may trigger Tsunami, Spitzer says |

We can’t just blame regulators.  Greed is idolatry, the national religion of secular Western nations. Will the “Tsunami” bring nations to repentance?

Stopping the lenders and mortgage brokers from making inappropriate mortgage loans to borrowers who couldnt afford them would have been the best way to prevent the subprime problems, Spitzer said.

Subprime fall may trigger Tsunami, Spitzer says |

Neo-natal specialist recognised in Australia day honours list – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Professor Yu’s dedication in the field of neo-natal medicine and his services to religion in his capacity as an Anglican Deacon has earned him the title of Member of the Order of Australia, in this year’s Australia Day honours.

Congratulations Victor! Unfortunately this ABC article fails to discuss anything about his gospel ministry as an Anglican deacon. The praises of men mean nothing, but God is much glorified through his faith and witness in saving the lives of countless premature babies and in his own preaching of the gospel to inner urban Asian migrants.

Neo-natal specialist recognised in Australia day honours list – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Judge Rules in Sermon Sharing Scandal

I have only ever downloaded one Keller sermon and I confess I very promptly reused the introduction in one of my own Bible talks…

At the center of the suit are the sermons and writings of Rev. Timothy J. Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. After an intensive three year investigation the justice department uncovered an extensive network of pastors, seminary students and other church workers who downloaded hundreds of sermons by Rev. Keller, distributed them and preached them regularly in churches across America

JOLLYBLOGGER: Judge Rules in Sermon Sharing Scandal

Book review: “No Sex Please, We’re Parents”

I recently finished reading “No Sex Please, We’re Parents – How your relationship can survive children and what to do if it doesn’t”, by Melanie Roberts-Fraser and Oliver Roberts (published by ABC Books, 2007).

What a controversial title about three important topics of great interest to myself and many of my friends! The book is the result of 150 questionnaires, as well as some interviews with parents of young children.

The basic premise of the book is that if you are not careful, your marriage will crumble under the extreme pressure of babies and parenting. That it is easy to become part of the 20% of marriages that will fail before the first child turns 5. That little children are marriage-killers. All of this would be terribly alarmist, except for the fact that it is true! For this point alone the book is a helpful wake up call, possibly even worth giving to grandparents, caring friends and anyone you want to guilt into giving you some free babysitting!

It is fascinating for me, as a Christian reader, to look through the many quotes from parents that are littered through out the book. It’s full of gems like:

I had no idea that becoming a parent essentially meant giving up my relationship with my wife” (p6), “One day I looked at everything I had – a house, pool, boat, wife, children (that was the order I looked at it) – and I thought: ‘I’m so unhappy I’ve got to get out.’ So I did.” (p12), and one couple talking about “getting their marriage back” after their oldest child went to school by “getting drunk again… we’re returning to us and the things we always used to do” (p58).

Unfortunately the book is largely observational, and reads more like an long high school essay than a researched book. The authors never seem to ask the “why?” question, and so neglect to deal with any actual issues of philosophy or worldview such as:

  • What is the ideal balance between parenting and marriage?
  • Does one serve the other? Which? How do you decide?
  • Why are we failing so badly at this?

The lack of thoughtful ethical reflection includes obvious issues such as:

  • A lack of critique of the failings of Western individualism
  • Misunderstanding of what marriage is (a life-long covenant or something to fulfil needs? Can you really decide when “it has ended”? (p238))
  • Misunderstanding the value of motherhood (the glory of raising God’s image bearers or a mere economic injustice?)
  • Misunderstanding the priority of marriage over parenting
  • Misunderstanding the purpose of parenting (to train godly character and discipline foolish sin or simply to survive with your new cute accessories?)
  • Misunderstanding the purpose of sex (Mum’s body belongs to who? Do pay packets really make women more sexually attractive? (p163))

Without proper analysis of the underlying worldview issues the advice given in the book is shallow and nearly always falls back to: don’t try to be perfect, communicate better, and remember to relax and have a laugh. The book adds nothing to the ongoing public debate on child-care and the balance of women’s career and motherhood. It quotes dozens of lazy, irresponsible, selfish, acquiescing husbands without outlining anything even remotely like the ideal of husbands self-sacrificial servant leadership and initiative taking.

In the end the book is plain sad that it ends on two chapters on how to get divorced and what your “rights” are. The book’s “medicine” is simply another symptom of the disease of selfish individualism. The book encourages parental realism but it fails to ask any significant ethical questions about the meaning of marriage and parenting and Western lifestyle. Parenting and marriage are the toughest challenges you will ever face. Being so, they require much better advice than the shallow suggestions on offer here.

We cannot go back in time

Often in the discussion of Christian ethics in the public sphere you hear the catch-cry, “we can’t go back to X“, where X is the Reformation, the first century, the 19th century and so on.

People normally say this for two reasons, both of them wrong:

Firstly, they have created an incorrect association between a biblical ethic and a certain era, that doesn’t logically hold. For example, when teaching Biblical roles of husbands and wives, it is common to hear people cry out: “we cannot go back to the 1950’s”. But actually Biblical teaching on roles has as much to critique of the 1950’s white picket fence marriage as it does the modern crash-and-burn egalitarian marriage. A pox on both your houses.

Secondly, the claim “we can’t go back” simply might be masking the fact that biblical ethics is challenging us to a repentance we are unwilling to consider today. Dorothy Sayers has an excellent discussion of this in her “Lost Tools of Learning” education essay:

“What, then, are we to do? We cannot go back to the Middle Ages. That is a cry to which we have become accustomed. We cannot go back – or can we? Distinguo. I should like every term in that proposition defined. Does ‘Go back’ mean a retrogression in time, or the revision of an error? The first is clearly impossible per se; the second is a thing which wise men do every day. ‘Cannot’ – does this mean that our behaviour is determined by some irreversible cosmic mechanism, or merely that such an action would be very difficult in view of the opposition it would provoke?”

In short, Biblical repentance is not physics!

Book review of “Beyond Greed” by Brian Rosner

Greed is a (the?) great Australian religion, though most people would not admit it. This is a great book to challenge us to think hard about whether we are worshipping the Lord Jesus Christ or whether greed is our true god. This is the second best book I have read on this topic.

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