"It's been my experience that behaviorists are quick to recoil and become defensive with inquiry that challenges their "science". From my observation, behaviorist's reaction to skepticism is very similar to the alternative/biomed advocates."
I think it first necessary to draw a distinction between the science of behavior analysis and the philosophy of behaviorism. These are not quite the same thing. It is possible to practice the techniques of behavior analysis and not philosophically be a behaviorist. I would argue this happens regularly in clinical psychology.
Some may ask; doesn't it seem strange that there is both a science and a related philosophy? But I would argue that this is not strange at all. I myself belong to several philosophies which complement and direct my inclination to science, but are not part of science itself. These include the philosophies of skepticism, empiricism, determinism, and materialism.
But to return to the point, yes, some behavior analysts can be very quick to dismiss criticism. Our approach can be dogmatic. I would even argue that as a field, behavior analysts have been worse than average at accepting criticism from those outside the field. One of the ways I have selected to help counter this trend is to operate a blog, which at least on occasion, delves into behavior analytic issues.
However, it would be faulty logic, a non-sequitur in fact, to assume that because behavior analysts are on average worse at accepting criticism from the outside, that the science of behavior analysis is a pseudo-science.
"Both groups cite as evidence studies, anecdotes and faux terminology to support their positions."
The idea that it is faux terminology is the idea one would need to first prove. This is the fallacy of begging the question. As to the anecdotes, he is correct, even though this is a person specific error.
"The behaviorists use Lovaas' 1987 study and his unique 47% indistinguishable criteria HYPERLINK "http://www.autismpartnership.com/test/ibt.htm"(which has never been replicated independent of Lovaas' small group of behaviorists) to sell their "services".""
This is simply not true. There have been any number ABA autism group studies that were not conducted by Lovaas' immediate students. An even basic review of literature will show this to be the case. Also, Sallows & Graupner (2005) state:"We found that 48% of all children showed rapid learning, achieved average posttreatment scores, and at age 7, were succeeding in regular education classrooms. These results are consistent with those reported by Lovaas and colleagues (Lovaas, 1987; McEachin, Smith, & Lovaas, 1993)."
One can argue that Sallows & Graupner (2005) also had unresolved threats to the validity of their study (and I would agree) but one can not argue that they produced different results from Lovaas (1987).
Furthermore, it is the ad hominem fallacy, to argue that one is wrong and/or dishonest because of whom one is. The fact that some of the research has originated by Lovaas' students should not bias us in interpreting the results. I do not argue that Christschool is wrong for the following reason, but I will point out that the group I usually associate with this fallacy are the vaccine etiology of autism advocates. This seems like an appropriate comparison for the sake of accuracy, since Christschool states that his latest article compares behaviorism and the alternative/biomed advocates.
"However, they conveniently leave out from their marketing materials the fact that the children in that study were never randomized and were subject to physical aversives. Is that honest or is that protecting the dogma of behaviorism?"
Fair question, behavior analysts like any human service providership must make sure the public and specifically consumers have enough information to make an accurate judgment. This has not always been done correctly in my view. However, Christschool had best be careful to acknowledge that this is individual specific. It is not nearly true of all behavior analysts.
"Do scientists leave out very relevant facts (no randomization and the use of physical aversives) in discussing their results with prospective customers?"
Yes, sometimes they do. I don't agree with this practice, but this failure is hardly limited to behavior analysts. One of the most common (and most valid) criticisms we hear from the anti-vaccine movement, is the lack of correct sharing of information by pediatricians and vaccine manufacturers. Nor is it even specific to the sciences in the human service fields. This is a valid criticism of behaviorism (in some cases), but to be consistent, Christschool would have to be willing to apply this criticism broadly across many fields of science. I don't want a problem that exists in the broader subfields of science to be attached merely to behavior analysis.
"If challenged, both groups simply recoil like a viper"
Yes, some behavior analysts and advocates can react this way to criticism. Not all do. Some of my formative experiences in behavior analysis were learning the polite (or mostly so) give and take during debate about behavior analysis with course instructors and professors. So, when faced down by a glaring 19 year old angry about the accuracy of the Matching Law, what do you suppose the much older and well known professor did? Tell him to be quiet? Tell him he just didn't get it? Mark down his grade in participation points? No, he invited me to have an in depth discussion after class. The professor and I spent two hours going over the issue. During which time I was treated with patience and politeness.
That issue has still never been resolved to date. But that professor provided a wonderful example of how to approach disagreements. How many venerable professors in any field could be so patient and selfless with their time? Now the point of my anecdote is not that a dogmatic approach never occurs, but that here is at least one example were it did not. I would argue that there are others..... Many others.
"ready to strike rather than acknowledging that perhaps they could be wrong."
But doesn't this depend on the quality of the criticism? And why criticism may always be necessary to guard against dogma, not all criticism has merit. It is not the job of scientists to acknowledge any criticism, but to scour it for merit and see if it contains it. Not all criticism has this. There is some criticism so bad, it merits serious criticism in and of itself. That is the catch in science or scientific criticism. You can easily end up looking like a fool. And if you are not willing to take this risk, then you can not really do science of scientific criticism. And this is true for any advocacy movement as well.
"For instance, and I don't mean to pick on Interverbal here, but when I stated that ABA has caused PTSD in autistics (based on information supplied to me by 2 autistics who had been diagnosed with PTSD as a result of undergoing ABA as children) and that there aren't any studies that have been done to look into possible complications from ABA such as PTSD, his response wasn't what I would expect from a curious and science based person.
Me:"The field hasn't done any studies that I know of that look at PTSD in those that went through ABA
"Interverbal:"Nor should they. There is no real suggestion of an ABA-PTSD connection. The suggestion there could be, was made and continues to be echoed mostly by those in the psychodynamic paradigm. There are lots of genuinely good criticisms of behavior analysis and ABA in autism specifically. A possible PTSD connection isn't one of them. This is the type of comment that behavior analysts laugh off and correctly so.""
Christschool asks me to accept as evidence second hand information I have no way of checking. I can't possibly weigh this information against what I know about science, because I can't possibly access this information at this time. I do not accept this argument for behavior analysis and I would not accept it at any other time either. I am happy when I see that I have made an error to acknowledge it in full and move on. However, there is no error here. I completely reject Christschool's criticism in this regard.
Here is a rhetorical exercise that helps show this point:
"For instance, and I don't mean to pick on Interverbal here, but when I stated that vaccines have caused autism in children (based on information supplied to me by 2 children who had been diagnosed with autism as a result of undergoing vaccines as children) and that there aren't any studies that have been done to look into possible complications from vaccines such as autism, his response wasn't what I would expect from a curious and science based person."
"Based on Interverbal's representation of behaviorist's views, there is no need to accumulate empirical data in order to draw a scientific conclusion."
This was not my argument. My argument was there is insufficient evidence to justify a study in the first place. Also, behavior analysts will laugh this off and rightly so. Not because it is a criticism, but because it is a very poor criticism. Many behavior analysts in the field have worked with hundreds of children and adults with autism. None of the ones I have spoken to see evidence of this. Even I, a novice of behavior analyst must have worked with and collected data on over 100 people by now. Nowhere in my experience and in the experience of the people I have spoken to, was there a hint that PTSD was or could be an issue. Where is the reason I should take this criticism seriously?
"One would think that those interested in human behavior would be curious about how their "therapy" might affect the emotional well being of autistics?"
Well, I am "one" and here is what I would think. I think the whole ABA = PTSD is a residue left over from the psychodynamic tradition in autism (and they still say this). They argue that autism is caused by some psychological trauma, leaving the child with autism emotionally more vulnerable to PTSD. I think that this criticism has been adopted by certain parties in the self-advocacy/ally movement in the absence of clear thought on the issue. I think it is telling the some of the more scientifically oriented critics of ABA in this movement do not offer this specific criticism.
"Noam Chomskey is a professor of linguistics at M.I.T. and perhaps one of the most engaging and prolific intellectuals of the 20th century. In 1971, The New York Review of Books published his essay "The Case Against B.F. Skinner"HYPERLINK "http://www.chomsky.info/articles/19711230.htm". Chomsky makes the case that Skinner's theory of Verbal Behavior isn't really science but a sort of secular dogma (dogma is my interpretation)."
I am afraid I must argue against an engaging intellectual. However, first I will note that Christschool confuses the linked Chomsky article and Chomsky's earlier analysis of Skinner's 1957 book "Verbal Behavior". As to the earlier analysis: Some have argued that Chomsky in just 50 pages or so demolishes both Verbal Behavior and behavior analysis in general. I think this is a very fair analysis of these works. Provided one has actually read neither.
Skinner, created a classical book of theory, based on arm chair analysis and on observation of his daughters. This technique has a long history. The developmental psychologist Jean Piaget did just the same in his detailed and excellent "The Origins of Intelligence in Children". Chomsky himself does his fair share of arm chair analysis, as do I.
I won't try to break down Chomsky's criticisms here, some of which are quite sophisticated and good. And some of which have nothing to do with science and a great deal to do with wrangling over terminology (sound familiar?) and musings on just how important free will is.
However, if Chomsky's main criticism is a lack of science to back up Skinner, then I would agree this was a very fair criticism in the 70s. But, I respectfully submit to the reader that it is not 1967 anymore. Both the study of verbal behavior and behavior analysis has matured a great deal since the 60s and 70s and both of Chomsky's critiques. I myself was involved as a research assistant in a major review of all existing research in verbal behavior. In our review, we learned some ideas are well supported and some are not.
Verbal behavior being an interest of mine, I had a topic a few years back that fascinated me. It was stimulus-stimulus pairing to produce speech in non-verbal children. It made crystal clear sense theoretically. But, as more research came out, it did not support it. As pseudo-scientists shouldn't we have cried some intellectual variant of "This is Sparta!" and brushed off the results? Where was my... where was our.... arrogant and dogmatic dismissal of evidence?
Criticism must be able to be given, in the absence of which dogma may creep.
However, I have offered my arguments as to why a number of Christschool's criticisms were without merit. I now leave it to the reader to proceed from here.