Social science vs. neuroscience

NationalPost.com – news/opinion
Oct. 13, 2011.   Norman Segalowitz

Critics of the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) in this story present a flawed assessment of the nature of mental illness and, as a result, of the commission’s work. First, by framing mental illness in terms of a sharp ideological divide between social science and neuroscience, they wrongly assume that all mental illnesses reduce to one and the same, that “one explanation fits all.”

Second, by forcing a decision between social and neuroscience, they oversimplify the issues and impose on us a false choice.

In my several years as a member of the commission’s Family Care Advisory Committee, I have never encountered within the MHCC any group systematically pushing an ideological position as such, pitting social science against neuroscience. Rather, debates have been about how to frame these complex issues to help policymakers and Canadians at large understand and support a nationally coordinated, focused, evidencebased approach to mental illness. It is time to put aside these simplistic, outdated and ultimately divisive disputes and get on with the important but really difficult work.

Norman Segalowitz, professor, Department of Psychology, Concordia University, Montreal.

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