I am pleased to have the opportunity to be part of the Mad In America website. I plan to provide a critical perspective on genetic theories and research in psychiatry and psychology. I will highlight the numerous problems with widespread claims that studies of families, twins, and adoptees have provided indisputable evidence that psychiatric disorders and psychological traits have an important underlying genetic basis.
I will also examine the implications of genetic theories of mental disorders and how such theories, in addition to being based on very weak evidence, divert society’s attention from the need to change or eliminate social and other environmental conditions that cause human suffering and dysfunction. Since 1998, I have explored these and other issues in numerous book chapters and articles. I have also written two books on genetic research in psychiatry and psychology: The Gene Illusion: Genetic Research in Psychiatry and Psychology Under the Microscope (2004), and The Missing Gene: Psychiatry, Heredity, and the Fruitless Search for Genes (2006). (For an updated list of my publications, seehttp://www.jayjoseph.net/publications)
A critical analysis of genetic research and theories in psychiatry and psychology occurs in the context of the ongoing stunning failure to uncover genes at the molecular level for the major psychiatric disorders, as well as for psychological traits such as I.Q. and personality. In psychiatry the search for genes has been going on for decades, and despite sensational media reports of alleged gene discoveries, most such “discoveries” have not been replicated.
I plan to discuss the paradigm-shattering implications of these failures in the context of larger issues, such as the medicalization of human suffering and abnormal behavior, and the role of the drug companies in promoting biological and genetic theories of mental disorders. I look forward to keeping readers informed about the latest ideas, debates, and alleged discoveries, and to stimulate discussion of these issues in Mad in America and elsewhere. Stay tuned.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.