Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Mad Scientists and Melissa Farley

Good evening, I'm in Inverness and up to my stocking tops in it and after the last gent who thought reverse oral meant planking his hairy derriere on my face, suffice to say I'm really looking forward to my holiday in two weeks. ( Is it true that the age of consent in Turkey is 13 ? If so I will not allow my little princess to leave my side for a moment, and woe betide any fecker who so much as looks her way, I hope he enjoys picking up his teeth on the way out. )

I need to ask for your help in a relatively tame matter for once, I'm looking for the name and author of a book which I heard discussed on Radio 4. It's a new publication detailing the lives and methods of various mad ( but brilliant ) scientists, including the man who invented the first heart stent. Apparently, he couldn't find anyone else to experiment on, so he began dating a theatre nurse. He convinced her to let him use the theatre late one night so he could insert the stent in his own heart, after which he WALKED up to the X-ray department to gain photographic evidence of his work. It also talks about the number of inventions that have been born of LSD, it sounds like a fascinating read. If anyone knows the book I'm referring to, please email me or leave a comment, I will be most grateful.

You may recall a couple of weeks ago I was complaining loudly about Melissa Farley and her complete lack of professionalism when it comes to her "research". Well, it would seem that a group of sex workers and psychologists have moved to have the APA rescind her membership and not before time. The basis for the complaint is as follows -

Over the years, Dr Farley has published a number of papers and documents about sex work, making claims that all sex work is a form of violence against women. She has used several of her studies to back this up. In 2008 Dr Farley published the paper What Really Happened in New Zealand after Prostitution was Decriminalized in 2003? on her website critiquing the Report of the Prostitution Law Review Committee. This critique contains several errors of fact that appear to be deliberately designed to mislead people. Many of the false allegations made by Dr Farley in this paper have been repeated by her in her efforts to stigmatise sex workers and keep them criminal. Dr Farley appears to have read the complete report, but has only reported or critiqued those parts that match her ideology. In investigating her comments on this paper further, it was discovered that Dr Farley had completed research in New Zealand in 2003 without seeking ethical approval from the New Zealand Psychological Society (NZPsS). It was also discovered that during the course of this research, she
claimed to be able to diagnose sex workers as having post traumatic stress disorder, despite using a flawed questionnaire, and not doing in depth interviews.

It is noted that Dr Farley has also completed other studies overseas, and investigations this year indicate that she never sought ethical approval, and sought to deliberately deceive the groups who facilitated the research for her. She has also been cited as an expert witness, yet the testimony given is false or misleading. Finally, the Canadian courts have found Dr Farley to be a less than reliable witness, finding her evidence “to be problematic”. For the reasons in the text below, I believe her work is unethical, unbecoming of a psychologist, and is in breach of at least sections 5.01 and 8.10 of the APA’s Code of Ethics, perhaps more. I believe that because of these breaches, Dr Farley should be removed from the membership of the APA.

All good things come to those who wait. ;)

LL xx


  1. Hey Laura

    I think the book you're after is called Free Radicals.

  2. Hi,

    Thank you very much ! I have the title now, it's "They Called Me Mad: Genius, Madness, and the Scientists Who Pushed the Outer Limits of Knowledge" by John Monahan.

    Of course the problem now is that because of all the lovely people who sent me messages my reading list has just doubled, because there are a plethora of books along the same lines. :)

  3. Ideally in research one should be prepared for any current beliefs you have to be falsified. Unfortunately, particularly in history and the social sceinces, often only those results which reinforce you existing beliefs/prejudices are taken on board, contradictary findings are ignored. Thus it is important to have access to the original research in its entirety to se what was actually discovered rather than a carefully edited version.

  4. Ideally in research all of your own personal beliefs need to be suspended, I'd have thought. It would certainly be interesting to get a look at the original untainted evidence that was gathered, I suspect a whole different conclusion could be drawn.

  5. It is perfectly reasonable to engage in some research because you believe something is possibly or probably true and you would like to verify it. But you should be prepared for your prior beliefs not to be confirmed and to change them if the evidence points that way. A problem, particularly in history and the social sciences, is that the totality of the evidence does not support unambiguously the beliefs of any of the major schools of thought.

  6. Agreed, the problem with Ms. Farley's work is that regardless of the hypothesis, she would have twisted the evidence to suit her own agenda.


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