Victim of the Scam

Snake Oil Conference in Session: Junk Science is King at the Canadian Symposium for Parental Alienation Syndrome in New York This Weekend

In Domestic Violence, Dr. William Bernet, Joseph Goldberg, Parental Alienation, Parental Alienation Disorder, Parental Alienation Disorders, Parental Alienation Syndrome on October 4, 2010 at 6:03 pm

Well, those snake oil salesmen are at it again.  This time they are in New York City selling their goods and services.  Joseph Goldberg, alleged to have left the country for owing $86,000 in back child support, has operated his snake oil kingdom from Toronto for some time now, cold-calling psychologists to get them to sign up with him to provide “services” for so-called “parental alienation syndrome,” the legal tool of abuse most popular with abusers to get custody of children away from their victims.

Many of the so-called “experts” at this snake oil conference have issues, and it could be downright dangerous to deal with them.  Their main concern is to make money from their testifying services and book sales.  Tops on the list is Dr. William Bernet, the inventor of the new and improved “parental alienation disorder” that is up for consideration “from outside sources” for inclusion into the DSM-V, the diagnostic and insurance code bible used by psychiatrists and psychologists.  Dr. Bernet sells his “testimony” to those who need it, such as violent murderers, postulating his theories on why they should be excused for murdering.  While I was down in the hospital after my accident, I had a comment come in from the ex-wife of the murderer Dr. Bernet was making excuses for, and I wasn’t surprised.   Everyone knows that court hearings have very little to do with the truth, especially where violence against women is concerned.  It centers on experts who sell their testimony, often on highly subjective topics such as psychology, where truth has nothing to do with anything they say.  Here is her comment (unedited):

pennywaldroup

william bernet did you do the study on brad waldroup that how well he lies and how he was never able to except fault for his actions he wasnt abused as a child he was a spoiled bratt i know because im his ex wife and has known him since the age of thirteen i have four children with this man and if it was genetic then your saying my children could be passed this gene whatever how much money was you paid to take that stand by the way you sound like mr dry eyes commercial talkin on the stand you bored the whole courtroom with your bullcrap you tell me how do you sleep at night knowing that you help a cold blooded murder i just want you to know maybe your back pocket is full from doing your job but there was nine children that was terrible affected by this

This was from Psychology Today this summer:

July 13, 2010, Evolutionary Psychology

Pity the poor murderer, his genes made him do it

Did his genes make him murder?
Published on July 13, 2010

by Nigel Barber, Ph.D.

A criminal defense attorney has many arrows in his/her quiver. The latest is the “warrior gene.” Having this gene saved Bradley Waldroup from a first degree murder conviction.

The charges stemmed from a bloody rampage in which Waldroup shot his wife’s friend Leslie Bradshaw, eight times, killing her before attempting to kill his wife by chopping her up with a machete.

Waldroup had been drinking as he waited for his estranged wife and their four children who were to spend the weekend at his trailer home in the mountains of Tennessee. When his wife said that she was leaving with her friend, he removed the key from Penny Waldroup’s van to ensure that they could not leave, thereby establising criminal intent. Waldroup then launched his deadly attack on the pair.

The “warrior gene”
Waldroup’s defense attorneys ordered a test and established that he had the warrior gene. Like most such biological defenses, there is a germ of scientific truth combined with a hefty dose of junk science, including clever labeling. The warrior gene might be called other things, such as the gambling gene, the depression gene, the irritability gene, or, even the live-in-a-trailer gene because its effects are contingent on an abusive childhood.

The scientific rationale for diminished responsibility is that a variant of the relevant gene, known as MAO-A is linked to an under active prefrontal cortex, this being a key area of the brain that inhibits antisocial impulses. The gene is also associated with antisocial behavior in European Americans (but not others) but only if they were abused as children (1).

The gene has recently acquired some evidence linking it to impulsive aggression. In an experiment where subjects were provoked by having money winnings taken from them, people with the MAO-A variant proved slightly more vengeful but only if they lost the higher of two amounts of money(2). They asked for the provoker to drink a larger amount of hot sauce as punishment. Whether this experiment is more relevant to homicidal aggression, or sensitivity to the taste of hot sauce is anybody’s guess.

So far, a skilled defense lawyer might weave a tale that the bad gene had gotten the better of the European American defendant. The key scientific problem is that about 34 percent of Europeans have the warrior gene. Yet, homicide is extremely rare at a population level with only about one person in 100 committing a homicide during their lives. If the gene were used to predict homicide, it would be wrong more than 33 times for every one occasion that it was right (3).

Just the facts
This brings us back to the Waldroup case tried in March, 2009, where the warrior gene formed the kernel of a diminished responsibility defense. This defense received enthusiastic endorsement in a recent NPR report by Barbara Bradley Haggerty (“Can Your Genes Make You Murder?”)

Waldroup’s defense was not a simple genetic defense because it was combined with the normally ineffective abuse excuse. Defense expert William Bernet of Vanderbilt University argued that the combination of the warrior gene and being abused as a child was a dangerous cocktail that increased the likelihood of committing a violent offense.

Some of the jurors were persuaded by this defense. According to one, Debbie Beatty: “A diagnosis is a diagnosis, it’s there. A bad gene is a bad gene.”

Junk science is also junk science. There is no getting away from that either, especially if it helps the defense to save a defendant’s life.

1. Crampton, P., & Parkin, C. (2007, March 2). Warrior genes and risk-taking science. Journal of the New Zealand Medical Association, 120 (1250).
2. McDermot, R., et al. (2009). Monoamine oxidase A gene (MAOA) predicts behavioral aggression following provocation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106, 2118-2123.
3. Caspi, A. et al. (2002). Role of genotype in the cycle of violence in maltreated children. Science, 297, 851-854.

What really brought it all home was, whether it involves so-called “parental alienation disorder” or murder, removing responsibility for what an abusive parent or murderer may have done is what these people specialize in.  There’s always an excuse when you use JUNK SCIENCE.  Thanks Penny for your thoughts.  I am so sorry for all your family has gone through dear.

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