Letters to the Editors, November/December 2011

Letters to the Editor about the July/August 2011 issue of Scientific American Mind

I read with great pleasure “Reflections on the Mind,” by Vilayanur S. Rama­chandran and Diane Rogers-Ramachandran [Illusions]. These experiments involving the senses are indeed fascinating. Similar experiments were first done by a well-known behavioral optometrist, Robert A. Kraskin, more than 40 years ago in Washington, D.C. He used the techniques in diagnosis and for vision rehabilitation—including for Luci Baines Johnson while her father was in office. He called his regimen of eye exercises “squinchel” and taught it to many optometrists and vision therapists nationwide at various professional meetings and workshops. As a member of the advisory board of the Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation Association, I thank you for bringing this useful and interesting phenomenon back into public awareness.
Diana P. Ludlam
via e-mail

Painful Pessimism,” by Janelle Weaver [Head Lines], is misleading: most drugs are taken to effect a cure, but the study was only on pain management. It has long been known that pain management is very complex and involves both physical and psychological factors. My wife has ovarian cancer, so I have ­become very aware of how many people truly believe that a positive attitude is the key to a cure. It ain’t necessarily so! We have had drugs fail totally when we expected them to work, and vice versa. Please, please, please, Scientific Amer­ican Mind, don’t feed the antiscience, antipharma sentiment.
commenting at

Melinda Wenner Moyer’s article “The Sunny Side of Smut” [Perspectives] misleads readers by painting a “sunny” and innocuous picture of pornography. Not only does Moyer’s account leave out much research that depicts pornography in bleaker terms, it also overstates the sunniness of porn. The overall insinuation one gets from the article is that porn is not all that bad.

When children are in porn, no one simply looks at the declining rates of child sexual abuse and blithely insinuates that child pornography has a “sunny” side to it. There it is acknowledged that the children depicted in child pornography (mainly girls) are harmed in its creation. Nonchild pornography is still a form of prostitution (paying women for sex acts), and there is ample evidence that women are harmed in systems of prostitution. Pointing to those who claim they were not harmed does not erase the harm of those who claim they were.

To indicate that porn does not harm relationships, Moyer looks at studies that take the porn users’ side of the equation (their reports of sexual satisfaction and intimacy), as if that is sufficient to indicate that relationships are not harmed by porn. She ignores other research that indicates wives and girlfriends report being deeply hurt by their boyfriends’ or husbands’ porn use.

Finally, I think the “benevolent sexism” Moyer indicates that pornography produces hardly compensates for the “more negative attitudes toward women” that she concedes it brings about.
Saffy Casson
via e-mail

I am a senior family and individual psychotherapist. My long experience is that pornography is not at all harmful to anyone, even adolescents. I am a clinician, however, and not a scientist.

I do know that statistics establish correlations, not causes or effects. The correlations some cite about bad marriages and pornography do not establish anything causal. Spouses who are jealous of their partners’ autoerotic private life need to grow up. A jealous partner who interprets the other’s interest in porn as rejection might consider whether the other finds one an unsatisfactory partner in sex and life in general and get to work on making things better.
“Dr. Whom”
commenting at

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