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  #1  
Old 04-09-11, 06:30 AM
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A powerful logical refutation of the genetic causation of ADHD.

Now I know this will stir controversy, but here I go again. We are all well familiarised with the data supporting a familial tendency in ADHD- however the idea of so troublesome condition being so common and still having a genetic basis, has never made sense to me- and still does not. Strangely enough the argument takes us straight back to the question of our roots, and the issue of existing as hunter gatherers.

I would appreciate an attempt to stay on topic here in the responses- and the topic is the serious logical inconsistencies in the formulation of ADHD as a genetic condition, versus the alternative explanation of a response to a stressed society in individuals who share a genetic heritage but would not have become dysfunctional in a less dysfunctional society.

I hate to sound like I am getting into anything resembling a conspiracy theory here, but it pays us to remember that virtually all of the media is under the control of the people who are doing the best out of current social conditions- and these people, who so dominate mass communication have a vested interest in ensuring that nobody questions that we are living in the best of all possible worlds and that the argument that I am running here does not come to be widely discussed. Heavens - if that happened- everybody might understand why SB wants to change the way our society does business.

I was reading John Kabat Zinn's book "Coming To our Senses" today.

For those who don't know, John is one of the pioneers of the clinical uses of Mindfulness, and runs the Stress Reduction Clinic at The University of Massachusetts Medical Centre.

John rightly observes that a genetically based defect in attention would prove rapidly fatal in a hunter gatherer environment.
Given that only 11,000 years have passed since we were all hunter gatherers, it is quite inconceivable that a gene causing a defect in attention could have proliferated to cause ADHD in 9% of the population currently. While the condition is familial the argument that it is due to genetic defect simply does not hold up to the broader scrutiny that can be applied by right brain thought.

Another string to this argument is the rate of ADHD in the aboriginal population A Melbourne psychiatrist I know, who treats many indigenous people says virtually every aboriginal person he has met has overt ADHD.

Bottom line is - an epigenetic response to a fundamentally flawed social structure in times of high stress is a far more plausible explanation.

So- I would be interested to hear any thoughts that address this line of argument.
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Old 04-09-11, 11:44 AM
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Re: A powerful logical refutation of the genetic causation of ADHD.

Genetic "defects" or differences most certainly do not prove rapidly fatal in any population, or many of the common problems we have in today's genetic pool would be nonexistent.

For example, poor vision would be equally detrimental in a hunter-gatherer society compared with ADD, and yet we still have people who need vision correction. Would you argue that vision problems are not genetically heritable?
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Old 04-09-11, 12:40 PM
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Re: A powerful logical refutation of the genetic causation of ADHD.

Quote:
I would appreciate an attempt to stay on topic here in the responses- and the topic is the serious logical inconsistencies in the formulation of ADHD as a genetic condition, versus the alternative explanation of a response to a stressed society in individuals who share a genetic heritage but would not have become dysfunctional in a less dysfunctional society.
Just some thoughts on some of items in the post. Not enough time to tackle all.

I understand what you are saying and it is interesting but the fact that there is a huge number of studies indicating a strong genetic basis for ADHD has to be taken into account when evaluating your thesis.

How do you handle the quantity of studies showing the genetic linkage of ADHD?

Also, as far as I know, there is not a lot of research backing your proposal. I am interested in how you plan to deal with this stumbling block.

I do not see ADHD as an either or with your thesis. I see it as a function of both; the interaction of genetics with the environment.

A thought, I am not aware of any large scale societies that are or were not dysfunctional in some manner. Some smaller, homogeneous societies have been reported as functioning fairly well with more tolerance for the individual but on the whole, dysfunction to some degree seems to be the norm. It may just be an inherent condition of larger more concentrated populations but it is something that might be interesting for you to address.

Also, as I understand the current consensus view, pretty much all agree that characteristics of ADHD would not be as apparent nor as problematic in a simpler society. No one, as far as I know, is arguing that the problems of ADHD are not more severe in modern urban society. It is there where the deficits show up, just as reading disorders do not become apparent in a non literate cultures.

If you are looking at causation from society pressures however and reject the genetic factor then you may have a hard row to hoe to get your ideas accepted. It doesn't mean that you are wrong however and I think that more emphasis of the effects on ADHD of culture and society is something of importance. You are drawing attention to this so keep on plugging.

Quote:
Another string to this argument is the rate of ADHD in the aboriginal population A Melbourne psychiatrist I know, who treats many indigenous people says virtually every aboriginal person he has met has overt ADHD.
Interesting. Are there any studies supporting this thesis or is it just the one person's thoughts based on his experiences?

Interesting proposals.

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Old 04-09-11, 12:45 PM
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Re: A powerful logical refutation of the genetic causation of ADHD.

Quote:
For example, poor vision would be equally detrimental in a hunter-gatherer society compared with ADD, and yet we still have people who need vision correction. Would you argue that vision problems are not genetically heritable?
You took the response right out of my key board - although I am betting I will take it a slightly different route - {amazing how much worse my dyslexia seems before coffee and Adderall}

The thing I believe we so often forget is that genetic diversity is combined with a environment and social structure and function would also need to adapt to said environment - Using the eye sight example, being near sighted would be less of an issue for one living in thick forest then it would be for one living in open ranges. Thick forest where trees grow closely together would prevent any one from seeing more than two or three meters no matter how clear of vision they had - so having blurry vision that prevented one from seeing very far would be less hindering than if one lived in an open range and could see for miles if vision was clear.

It would also seem that those living in the thick forest would probably adapt hunting habits to fit the environment, relying on traps and bait as opposed to needing to see their prey. I also think it is important that in hunter gather days human not only hunted themselves they were hunted by other animals - this aspect is so frequently over looked in these discussions. We think being distracted would prevent us from effectively being able to focus on our prey, so ADDer would have starved. Few consider the flip side , that being distracted easily it may well serve to prevent one from becoming dinner


I see ADHD itself as being genetic as most main stream proponents do; how ever I see the impairment of ADHD as being a result of our society. Near sightedness may not have been a problem for my ancestors living in thick forest however it is a problem for those of us living today because most of society has good vision therefore activities requiring clear vision are expected. I have to adjust my vision with lenses so I can function as expected. No matter how "natural" my myopia is, in today's society of driving, reading street signs, ect . . . it is an impairment requiring "correction" - This is how my neurodiverse perspective is modified - I believe my ADHD is nothing more than a diversity however it too must be corrected in order for me to function as expected -

I guess where I differ is my opinions regarding our screwed up money hungry dysfunctional crap heap we call society is a separate issue that has nothing what so ever to do with my ADHD - The only way I will have a snow balls chance in Hades to have even the slightest influence on a small part of this crap heap of humanity is to be able to function within it well enough to be heard.

I think Barilman has a point to a point, our society is screwed up and intolerant but I tend to disagree with his dismissal of the genetic factor of ADHD - I think it is a simple over sight in that HOW we deal with stress is also genetically based.

I have always been a misfit so to speak but it does not effect me the way it does others. In part this is because temperamentally I am easy going despite my hyper tendencies the other influencing factor is the way I was taught by my mother - to be accepting and work within who I am while still contributing to society as it is. I am more than my genetic components, I am more than my external environmental influences. I am an individual whose responses are determined by a variety of factors. While mindfulness may help some I think the more altruistic encouragements are of greater value than the mindfulness /meditation portions.
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Old 04-09-11, 08:44 PM
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Re: A powerful logical refutation of the genetic causation of ADHD.

Hi Dizfriz- the answer to the key question is in the second paragraph of my main response.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dizfriz View Post
How do you handle the quantity of studies showing the genetic linkage of ADHD?
ie
the alternative explanation of a response to a stressed society in individuals who share a genetic heritage but would not have become dysfunctional in a less dysfunctional society.

IE - there is a genetic contribution- but the condition is epigenetic- and the gene expression would not occur in less toxic conditions.

You have touched on this to some extent with your later comments about dysfunction being less prevalent in a simpler society.
However I believe that the total number of people manifesting clinically diagnosable ADHD in those societies would be much less, not that there would be the same number of people with ADHD but that they would be more able to cope with it because of the simplicity of society.
The figures on the lower incidence of all mental illnesses in better integrated societies (esp Japan and Scandanavia) are robust, and do bear this out.
IE The ADHD genetic heritage only delivers a dysfunctional phenotype in particular environments.

In a way the "ADHD is less obvious in a simpler society" argument is similar to saying - lets construct living environments that are increasingly toxic and unliveable- then we will regard those people who cannot live in those environments as genetically defective. The real point is that those "simpler societies" actually provide a way of living that is more in tune with our nature.

Now in that context the emphasis on describing ADHD as a primarily genetic condition actually makes the environmental contributions invisible, and unamenable to being corrected.

We both know that we are unlikely to go back to a hunter gatherer way of life - at least not without a horrendous population crash.

So the questions become more along the lines of how do we modify our lives currently to live more in accordance with our true nature without going back to the stone age, and causing 955 of our population to starve to death?

More exercise and less time in front of computers are part of it ( Irony mode as I type this response in!).

However the bigger issues probably revolve around
1) Total hours worked.
2) Total hours available for parenting, and for low stress social interactions.
3)Total stress load at work- and here the very aggressive workplace cultures that discipline people aggressively in an attempt to wring maximum performance from them need to be addressed.
(As a family physician, I spend a great deal of time addressing the issue of workplace bullying and am well aware of the devastating effects on workplace morale brought about by management techniques that have proliferated since the late 1980's).

I posted a little while ago on Steven Porge's "Polyvagal Theory". one of the significnat facts underpinning this theory is that the ability to attune to other people depends very greatly on being relaxed. In a stressed situation the vagally mediated spontaneous facial expressions that occur as we show interest in another person and actively listen to them, are taken offline. There is very good evidence to show that this is the mechanism that derails effective communication and results in impulsive speech in ADHD. He also comments that the same mechanism comes into play in autism, and also, interestingly in the parenting of colicky babies ( baby cries all the time, parents look distressed and are unable to project loving facial expressions to their infant because of their own stress- than baby subliminally "reads' the unfriendly expression and cries more. [Babies come with this ability to react to facial expression and tone of speech hardwired in from birth])

The bottom line is if we put more emphasis on the environmental causes we will be more motivated to change them.

Wouldn't most of us benefit from sticking to a reasonable working week, spending more time with our friends and family etc?
(As a general guideline- most of the material I have seen suggests that if a couple spend more than 60 hours a week (total for the 2 parents) away
from home _ ie work +travelling hours combined- then there will be a problem with stressed parenting in that house.

Once again- we are all painfully aware of the practical problems presented by this question- but up until now the approach has been that we are the ones with the problem and we just need to suck it up and fit in - like well behaved work units in society.

The more of us who become conscious of this, and resist at every level the push to working more, and to a more harsh, aggressive society, the greater the momentum for change will become.

Putting ADHD aside for a moment- current statistics from the US show that 25% of the adolescent population are clinically depressed in any one year. Is that the mark of a healthy society? Is that the sort of society we want to be complicit in maintaining? Why aren't we all protesting this louder?
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Old 04-09-11, 09:11 PM
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Re: A powerful logical refutation of the genetic causation of ADHD.

Quote:
Originally Posted by meadd823 View Post
You took the response right out of my key board - although I am betting I will take it a slightly different route - {amazing how much worse my dyslexia seems before coffee and Adderall}

The thing I believe we so often forget is that genetic diversity is combined with a environment and social structure and function would also need to adapt to said environment - Using the eye sight example, being near sighted would be less of an issue for one living in thick forest then it would be for one living in open ranges. Thick forest where trees grow closely together would prevent any one from seeing more than two or three meters no matter how clear of vision they had - so having blurry vision that prevented one from seeing very far would be less hindering than if one lived in an open range and could see for miles if vision was clear.

It would also seem that those living in the thick forest would probably adapt hunting habits to fit the environment, relying on traps and bait as opposed to needing to see their prey. I also think it is important that in hunter gather days human not only hunted themselves they were hunted by other animals - this aspect is so frequently over looked in these discussions. We think being distracted would prevent us from effectively being able to focus on our prey, so ADDer would have starved. Few consider the flip side , that being distracted easily it may well serve to prevent one from becoming dinner


I see ADHD itself as being genetic as most main stream proponents do; how ever I see the impairment of ADHD as being a result of our society. Near sightedness may not have been a problem for my ancestors living in thick forest however it is a problem for those of us living today because most of society has good vision therefore activities requiring clear vision are expected. I have to adjust my vision with lenses so I can function as expected. No matter how "natural" my myopia is, in today's society of driving, reading street signs, ect . . . it is an impairment requiring "correction" - This is how my neurodiverse perspective is modified - I believe my ADHD is nothing more than a diversity however it too must be corrected in order for me to function as expected -

I guess where I differ is my opinions regarding our screwed up money hungry dysfunctional crap heap we call society is a separate issue that has nothing what so ever to do with my ADHD - The only way I will have a snow balls chance in Hades to have even the slightest influence on a small part of this crap heap of humanity is to be able to function within it well enough to be heard.

I think Barilman has a point to a point, our society is screwed up and intolerant but I tend to disagree with his dismissal of the genetic factor of ADHD - I think it is a simple over sight in that HOW we deal with stress is also genetically based.

I have always been a misfit so to speak but it does not effect me the way it does others. In part this is because temperamentally I am easy going despite my hyper tendencies the other influencing factor is the way I was taught by my mother - to be accepting and work within who I am while still contributing to society as it is. I am more than my genetic components, I am more than my external environmental influences. I am an individual whose responses are determined by a variety of factors. While mindfulness may help some I think the more altruistic encouragements are of greater value than the mindfulness /meditation portions.

Hi Meadd- look closely at my post- I do specify that there is a genetic element to it- but that that genetic heritage would not cause dysfunction in a less toxic society.

As I have said before_ I am proud of the genetics and biology of my brain. it is a first rate tool for thinking, arguing and debating. It is wasted on doing compliance audits for practice accreditation, and in spending hours slaving over a tax statement. Once again- I would stress that it is my natural curiosity/novelty seeking (underlying trait that can lead to ADD) that provides the fuel for some of the less mainstream conclusions that I reach.
That fuel is not available to the neurotypical, or to people who allow their lines of inquiry to be conditioned by what other, more narrow minded, people tell us is real or not.

I do agree with you about altruism as well as mindfulness.

However, the mindfulness path is actually all about altruism. The 4th stage of Mindfulness Integrated CBT is all about cultivating social empathy and embodying compassion.

We do altruism the wrong way in the west though.
We see altruism as putting everybody else's needs first.
My perspective is different- i know I am a kind and compassionate person, with skills that are worth sharing around. However I also know that I am merely human- and there is a limit to what I can do.
I know I can be irritable if overtaxed- and consider that resting myself properly and giving myself time for renewal and integration lies at the very core of skillful altruism.

In intellectual terms I am fully embracing and embodying my natural ADD oppositionality- and benefiting from it.
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Old 04-09-11, 09:38 PM
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Re: A powerful logical refutation of the genetic causation of ADHD.

ADD is supposed to manifest in early age. It is not a function of senescence, unlike decreased visual acuity.
Diminished eyesight is often a function of growing older and may manifest as being less capable to read small print. Primitive people did not read much and did not have long life spans.
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Old 04-09-11, 10:36 PM
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Re: A powerful logical refutation of the genetic causation of ADHD.

Quote:
John is one of the pioneers of the clinical uses of Mindfulness, and runs the Stress Reduction Clinic at The University of Massachusetts Medical Centre.
He is not a geneticist, he is not an anthropologist, he is not a specialist in ADD, and he has no training in behavioral genetics. I enjoy his meditation books, however. They are excellent. However, "John" should stay with what he knows, not go romping off into an area that he has no training for and no real experience with.

Quote:
John rightly observes that a genetically based defect in attention would prove rapidly fatal in a hunter gatherer environment.
Oh? And from what scientific studies does he draw his conclusion? Sounds like one more example of stereotyping to me. "Those ADDers are so worthless at survival, that they'd all run off a cliff like lemmings!" Does "John" have ANY empirical data to back up his musings about us?

The argument could just as easily be made that a group with one or two ADD members would have an advantage over a group with none. For example, everyone in the hunting party could be completely absorbed in the wooly mammoth they were tracking for dinner. The ADDer of the bunch would be walking along, his attention drawn toward a big butterfly and - "oooh listen to that bird! Wow, look at the rock over there - it looks just like a saber toothed tiger! It IS a saber toothed tiger! Run everyone!" And since ADDers often are night owls and/or have difficulty sleeping, they'd be the first to notice an enemy sneaking up and wake the rest of the camp. I could give endless more examples.

But I'll give only one - me. And while I was not living in a "primitive society," I might as well have been. Five years ago I became homeless and ended up camped out in the high Rockies in a place so deep in the mountains that I saw exactly one other person pass by there the entire summer. My camp was next to a rushing mountain stream with a tendency to flood if it rained longer than a day. The area I was in is considered prime cougar habitat. There are also brown bears and lynx and a few poisonous snakes. There were some sharp cliffs not all that far away. At least, I didn't have to hunt my food. I had just enough gas to drive 40 miles round trip to a church in a small town that distributed commodities every few weeks. I WAS ALL ALONE - just me and my cat and my ADD. I wasn't even on meds at the time.

I imagine "John" thinks so little of me that he'd assume I would have died from the experience. Sorry, John here I am. We ADDer's are a spunky bunch and we are survivors. What a load of horse feather's "John's" "theory" is!
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Old 04-09-11, 11:51 PM
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Re: A powerful logical refutation of the genetic causation of ADHD.

@Possum.
You just provided anecdotal evidence for the point Barliman made.
See the title of this thread.
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Old 04-10-11, 12:24 AM
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Re: A powerful logical refutation of the genetic causation of ADHD.

In smaller and more tribal or clan-ish societies you also see a more realistic distribution of tasks.

The guy with bad long range eyesight is not given the job of watching the sheep on the range. He is given a job that requires close up work, repair work for example.

The guy who has the focus to track prey is given the job of tracking prey, the guy who is hypersensitive to his surrounding is given the job of watching the tracker's back.

I've lived in intentional communities. Basically those hippy types who build little villages and go back to the land to a certain degree. It is amazing how quickly you fall into this pattern.

Bob is a good handy man so that is his main function. Bob is also pretty good at haggling at the market and with sales people, when it's time to get supplies we bring him along. Bob is not so great with the kids, so he is not asked to mind them unless there is no one else.

Tracy is great with the animals so that is her main function. She is also pretty handy in the garden. But sewing and making clothes or general repairs are not her forte ... no problem ... someone else can do it and if needed she can assist.

The problem in our society is we live in a one size fits all model. Or perhaps it would be better to say we expect everyone to be able to fit into all sizes.

Bob has to be good at repairing, haggling and raising kids or he is a failure. Tracy has to be good at animals husbandry, gardening, sewing and repairs or she is a failure.

This is made worse by the nuclear family model. There is no longer a village to raise the child, or raise the barn, or fix the car. We either have to do it ALL ourselves or hire someone else to do it for us.

Hiring someone to do something for us is different than having an understanding and sharing of responsibilities with your neighbour and extended family. Tracy grows extra veggies which she trades with Bob in exchange for him doing some handy work. Tracy minds the kids while Bob runs into town to trade for goods.

Tracy and Bob are NOT married to each other, they simply live in the same community and therefore share responsibilty to ensure the continued quality of life within the community.

Tracy and Bob's short comings are not seen as terrible disabilities that must be treated. They are simply accepted as part of who they are, because they can contribute to the community in other ways.

"Oh yeah, Bob? He's a great handy man, not so good with kids though." No biggie. Not in a community-minded society.

In our libertarian and individualistic society we have all become islands unto ourselves. Even asking the in-laws to babysit the kids can be viewed as some kind of failing. We have to be super-moms and super providers and so forth. Fully capable of doing everything ourselves for ourselves.

Our culture is not structured in such a way to allow for people's true talents to shine and to pick up the slack for the skills and talents we lack.

In our society Tracy is socialized to judge Bob for not being good with kids.

Bob is socialized to not give a damn if Tracy gets a bum deal at the market. In fact, Bob may see Tracy getting a bum deal as something she deserves, for not being good at bargaining like he is.

Tracy is also socialized to not offer to grow an extra patch of veggies in her garden and offer them to Bob in exchange for repairs. No, she has to go get a job at a grocery store, get her pay cheque and hire Bob through his repair company to fix her roof and then pay him $$, which he will use to buy veggies from Tracy at the grocery store ... veggies grown in another country.
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Old 04-10-11, 01:07 AM
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Re: A powerful logical refutation of the genetic causation of ADHD.

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Originally Posted by mechnik View Post
@Possum.
You just provided anecdotal evidence for the point Barliman made.
See the title of this thread.
How? The title is A powerful logical refutation of the genetic causation of ADHD. In English this means "a strong argument why ADHD is not genetic." The thesis is that ADD cannot be genetic, because if it were, ADD would have killed off those who suffer from it, and the ADD "gene" would have been weeded out since we're so flawed we can't survive.

So, do you mean my anecdotal evidence proves I don't have ADD since I survived? Or since ADD is an "epigenetic response to a fundamentally flawed social structure in times of high stress" that I became ADD because I spent a summer camped alone in the wilds? Believe me, I was ADD long before THAT ever happened.

I hate to tell you this, but the OP is an Emperor without clothes. It uses a lot of $4.00 scientific words, but it does not refer the reader to a single scientific study which might shore up its hypothesis. It's just a bunch of speculation from a person who works and was trained in an entirely different field.

My anecdotal evidence is just as good as his speculations, because this is NOT a scientific discussion. It's personal opinion beginning to end.
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Old 04-10-11, 03:14 AM
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Re: A powerful logical refutation of the genetic causation of ADHD.

I think that the society in which we live does impact on how dis-abled or abled we are in the context of that society. As RedHairedWitch's post illustrates just because we who have add find it challenging to function in one type of society it does not mean that we would even be considered dis-abled in another environment.
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Old 04-10-11, 04:21 AM
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Re: A powerful logical refutation of the genetic causation of ADHD.

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Originally Posted by zannie View Post
I think that the society in which we live does impact on how dis-abled or abled we are in the context of that society. As RedHairedWitch's post illustrates just because we who have add find it challenging to function in one type of society it does not mean that we would even be considered dis-abled in another environment.
and this is exactly the point that I am making- in another place and another time we would not be regarded as disabled- so to attribute the disability to the genes and not look at the context which is generating the disability is fatuous.

Equally- in response to Possums comments above I would stress that there are many of us here deeply concerned at the fragmentation of knowledge into hyperspecialties and loss of context.
The whole idea that one is only able to comment on a particluar area if one is a hyperspecialist in the area is actually one of the key intellectual failings of our times.
Not only that it is the core of the structure of social control known as corporatism - it is a means of defining people who have valid opinions out of the argument.

Just a few posts ago I actually linked to a segment on Google Books showing several pages of Kabat Zinn's "Clinical Handbook of Mindfulness."For those who cared to look at the link_ he actually references papers from some of the leading researchers in ADHD ( ie Kessler and Barkely) talking about the issue of allostatic (stress) load in ADHD.
I'm seriously thinking of buying the book- when I have a spare $200.
However- for those who missed it- here is the link again- the point is that John Kabat Zinn is well up on current academic knowledge on ADHD- as is proven by the literature he chooses to quote:
http://books.google.com/books?id=llw470lSDAcC&pg=PA326&dq=adhd+neuroplasti city&h\ l=en&ei=XJZ6TeOkCMKErQHMlqiMBg&sa=X&oi=book_result &ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CEUQ6\ AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=adhd%20neuroplasticity&f=false
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Old 04-10-11, 05:03 AM
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Re: A powerful logical refutation of the genetic causation of ADHD.

the title of your thread is misleading if you are arguing against the symptoms of/behaviors resulting from what we term adhd being maladaptive in all cultures in every point in history:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Barliman View Post
I do specify that there is a genetic element to it- but that that genetic heritage would not cause dysfunction in a less toxic society.
as witchy noted, whether something is maladaptive is a function of what's demanded/required, which is a function of social structure. that in no way refutes the symptoms/behaviors of adhd having a genetic basis. what it does is undermine the claim that so many indigenous persons have "overt adhd" insofar as an adhd diagnosis *requires* impairment in multiple arenas of life. that impairment is the result of behaviors being maladaptive. if the behaviors do not impair functioning...are not maladaptive...then there's technically no disability because no adhd. that in no way refutes the genetic basis for the symptoms/behaviors, which prove maladaptive in many contemporary cultures and provide the basis for diagnosing adhd.
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Old 04-10-11, 08:04 AM
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Re: A powerful logical refutation of the genetic causation of ADHD.

I guess that I should also be quite specific that a specialist in mindfulness is, by definition, a specialist in the subject of attention.
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