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David Chalmers and the Drug War

how reductive materialism ruins American healthcare

by Ballard Quass, the Drug War Philosopher

June 16, 2023

David Chalmers is the author of The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory. It is in that book that Chalmers avers that reductive materialism can explain almost everything -- except consciousness. Brian counters that, yes, reductive materialism CAN explain almost everything, but not necessarily in ways that are productive of human health and happiness.

Dear David:

I hope you have time for a quick comment.

You say that reductive explanations can be given for almost anything. That is no doubt true -- but the question is, what are the effects of these reductive explanations in the real world?

Reductive explanations have a body count when it comes to mental health care, and I speak from experience. Reductive explanations have been responsible for keeping me from using godsend medicines for my depression for the last 40+ years. Everything that could have helped me has been outlawed, in part with the help of reductive materialism.

Dr. Robert Glatter is the poster child for how reductive materialists harm patients like myself by denying us godsend medicine. He wrote an article in Forbes in 2019 entitled "Can Laughing Gas Help People with Treatment-resistant Depression?" (His answer was a very nervous and a highly qualified "maybe.")

The fact that Glatter even asks this question shows that the reductive approach has left him purblind to common sense. He is like Mr. Magoo, stumbling around for the answer that is staring him in the face, namely that laughter is the best medicine, just like the Reader's Digest has been telling us for the last 100 years. Laughter HAS to help, by definition.

But Glatter does not care if I laugh exorbitantly under the influence of laughing gas or if I enjoy looking forward to using it and thereby improve my health.

No, Glatter wants me to have a "REAL" cure for my depression -- that is to say, one based on reductive evidence.

And so his absurdly cautious ideas on this topic help enact laws that keep millions from using godsends like NO2 on the grounds that laughing gas is not a "REAL" cure.

This purblind reductive approach has worked in tandem with the fear-mongering Drug War over the last 40 years to outlaw all substances that could definitely and obviously help me with my depression, from chewing the coca leaf to using MDMA.

Indeed, the reductive approach to medicine is responsible for the psychiatric pill mill thanks to which 1 in 4 American women take an SSRI every day of their life. The pills were created by doctors like Glatter, who were looking for "REAL" cures. Such researchers don't care if the patient reports being happy -- they want molecular data and numbers that can be shown on a chart. All medicines that do not work according to reductive criteria are demonized as "crutches."

So yes, there is a reductive explanation for almost everything -- but that does not mean that it's the explanation that leads to sane outcomes.

I would like to remind you in closing that the philosophy of William James was inspired by his use of laughing gas, and as James wrote in "The Varieties of Religious Experience":

"No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves these other forms of consciousness quite disregarded."

It is ironic that we DO have to disregard these forms of consciousness today thanks to the Drug War -- a Drug War supported by reductive materialists who tell us that outlawed medicines are not "REAL" cures, even though some of them have inspired entire religions.

In light of these facts, it's little wonder that materialism is the reigning philosophy these days in academia. After all, prohibition has outlawed precisely those substances whose use can conduce to other far more holistic ways of seeing the world around us.

Author's Follow-up: June 16, 2023

Chalmers tells us in "The Conscious Mind" that "materialism is a beautiful and compelling view of the world." I cannot agree. Materialism is the science of "nothing but-ism." It looks at a sunset and tells us it's really nothing but the scattering of gasses and particles in the air. The materialist qua materialist is like Leslie Nielsen standing before an exploding warehouse shouting "Nothing to see here!" Materialists only wax poetic when they are forgetting their principles. If they want to be REAL materialists, they should listen to Richard Dawkins and keep reminding themselves that, appearances notwithstanding, everything in the world is just physical manifestations that could not have been otherwise thanks to causal laws. The materialist qua materialist embraces the morbid doctrine of Francis Crick that we're nothing but "a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules." That's not beautiful, that's dreary.

Author's Follow-up: July 22, 2023

I kind of feel bad for putting David through this. Even as we speak, he is no doubt struggling with his conscience: "Shall I maintain this pregnant silence with respect to Brian's admittedly well-aimed sally, or shall I respond?" I've forced him to pit his knee-jerk academic disdain against the long-term needs of futurity, thereby vouchsafing him sleepless nights full of pitiless self-cross-examination: "Is my failure to respond to Brian but a fitting snub to a non-entity in a debate that I, quite frankly, OWN... or does my silence in this quarter betray a desire to deflect all criticism, lest in responding I inadvertently publicize the existence of a trenchant qualification (if not an outright rebuttal) to my current views: to wit my almost unqualified belief in the diagnostic power of methodological naturalism?" I can see David tossing (and sometimes even turning) on his Australian bed as the ruthless catechism continues. One wants to write a letter of apology, but then one would first have to explain the many subtle inferences wherewith one has (or so one definitely believes) divined the angst for which one is seeking expiation. For now, Chalmers and I will have to continue our colloquy through this website, with me typing my no doubt nerve-plucking adumbrations and with Chalmers' rebuttals being inferred on my part through a variety of sensually empowered psychological processes, the precise nature of which, however, are well beyond the scope of this essay.

Author's Follow-up: October 22, 2023

I think we can take it as a given now that Chalmers has resolved to reply explicitly to my qualms, at least in the fullness of time, for what man so harried by the nuanced misgivings detailed above could prevent his own two hands -- will they or nill they -- from reaching out spontaneously (yea, even in defiance of the conscious will itself) for the nearest possible notepad in order to set matters straight at once (at least according to his own materialistic lights) by penning a firm if not an actually angry rejoinder?

My delayed receipt of the same was therefore, I admit, quite puzzling to me at first, until I reflected that a delayed response is precisely what one would expect from a troubled mind which has decided to give one's initial email a closer second read with an eye toward composing the ultimate comeback. One can actually conclude from the untoward delay of said comeback that the initial cocksure spirit in which David almost certainly undertook it at first has given way to a no doubt uncharacteristic onset of self-doubt such that he, David, is now on the tippy tippy point of yielding valuable philosophical ground to me. Perhaps he is even preparing to definitively abjure that irritating materialistic triumphalism of his for which I have so diplomatically chided him above. Who shall say?

I look forward to the continuation of this fascinating colloquy, even if Chalmers has somewhat unfairly tasked me with the job of divining his part of the conversation from various subtle considerations, the precise nature of which, however, remain well beyond the scope of this web page.

Next essay: Why Science is the Handmaiden of the Drug War
Previous essay: Jefferson

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If psychoactive drugs had never been criminalized, science would never have had any reason or excuse for creating SSRIs that muck about unpredictably with brain chemistry. Chewing the coca leaf daily would be one of many readily available "miracle treatments" for depression.
That's why we damage the brains of the depressed with shock therapy rather than let them use coca or opium. That's why many regions allow folks to kill themselves but not to take drugs that would make them want to live. The Drug War is a perversion of social priorities.
Weaponizing science is a bigger problem. Even as we speak, Laura Sanders of Sciam is promoting Shock Therapy 2.0 for the depressed, this in a world wherein reductive scientists aren't even sure that laughing gas will help the depressed.
It's because of such reductive pseudoscience that America will allow us to shock the brains of the depressed but won't allow us to let them use the plant medicines that grow at their feet.
David Chalmers says almost everything in the world can be reductively explained. Maybe so. But science's mistake is to think that everything can therefore be reductively UNDERSTOOD. That kind of thinking blinds researchers to the positive effects of laughing gas and MDMA, etc.
"Can I use poppies, coca, laughing gas, MDMA?" "NO," says Jonathan Stea, "We must be SCIENTIFIC! We must fry your brain and give you a lobotomy and make you a patient for life with the psychiatric pill mill! That's true SCIENCE!"
In "The Book of the Damned," Charles Fort writes about the data that science has damned, by which he means "excluded." The fact that drugs can inspire and elate is one such fact, although when Fort wrote his anti-materialist broadside, drug prohibition was in its infancy.
In other words, materialist scientists are drug war collaborators. They are more than happy to have their fight against idealism rigged by drug law, which outlaws precisely those substances whose use serves to cast their materialism into question.
Drug warriors have harnessed the perfect storm. Prohibition caters to the interests of law enforcement, psychotherapy, Big Pharma, demagogues, puritans, and materialist scientists, who believe that consciousness is no big "whoop" and that spiritual states are just flukes.
There are endless drugs that could help with depression. Any drug that inspires and elates is an antidepressant, partly by the effect itself and partly by the mood-elevation caused by anticipation of use (facts which are far too obvious for drug warriors to understand).
But materialist puritans do not want to create any drug that elates. So they go on a fool's errand to find reductionist cures for "depression itself," as if the vast array of human sadness could (or should) be treated with a one-size-fits-all readjustment of brain chemicals.
The search for SSRIs has always been based on a flawed materialist premise that human consciousness is nothing but a mix of brain chemicals and so depression can be treated medically like any other physical condition.
I'd like to become a guinea pig for researchers to test the ability of psychoactive drugs to make aging as psychologically healthy as possible. If such drugs cannot completely ward off decrepitude, they can surely make it more palatable. The catch? Researchers have to be free.
The drug war ideology of substance demonization actually outlaws such investigations. Why don't at least the saner half of the prohibitionists understand that this makes no sense in a purportedly free and scientific country?
Caveat: the experimentation must be done holistically, and not with the presupposition that brain waves and molecular analysis is more important than my perceptions -- for my perceptions are what really matter viz. psychological health.
I don't want purblind researchers telling me when I am happy or optimistic. Materialist researchers need not apply, especially those so immersed in minutia that they cannot even figure out if laughing gas could help the depressed!
To understand why the western world is blind to the benefits of "drugs," read "The Concept of Nature" by Whitehead. He unveils the scientific schizophrenia of the west, according to which the "real" world is invisible to us while our perceptions are mere "secondary" qualities.
This is why we would rather have a depressed person commit suicide than to use "drugs" -- because drugs, after all, are not dealing with the "real" problem. The patient may SAY that drugs make them feel good, but we need microscopes to find out if they REALLY feel good.
This is why the foes of suicide are doing absolutely nothing to get laughing gas into the hands of those who could benefit from it. Laughing is subjective after all. In the western tradition, we need a "REAL" cure to depression.
Both physical and psychological addiction can be successfully fought when we relegalize the pharmacopoeia and start to fight drugs with drugs. But prohibitionists do not want to end addiction, they want to scare us with it.
Materialist scientists cannot triumph over addiction because their reductive focus blinds them to the obvious: namely, that drugs which cheer us up ACTUALLY DO cheer us up. Hence they keep looking for REAL cures while folks kill themselves for want of laughing gas and MDMA.
It's "convenient" for scientists that their "REAL" cures happen to be the ones that racist politicians will allow. Scientists thus normalize prohibition by pretending that outlawed substances have no therapeutic value. It's materialism collaborating with the drug war.
In the Atomic Age Declassified, they tell us that we needed hundreds of thermonuclear tests so that scientists could understand the effects. That's science gone mad. Just like today's scientists who need more tests before they can say that laughing gas will help the depressed. Science today is all about ignoring the obvious. And THAT's why scientists are drug war collaborators, because they're not about to sign off on the use of substances until they've studied them "up the wazoo." Using grants from an agency whose very name indicates their anti-drug bias: namely, the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

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You have been reading an article entitled, David Chalmers and the Drug War: how reductive materialism ruins American healthcare, published on June 16, 2023 on For more information about America's disgraceful drug war, which is anti-patient, anti-minority, anti-scientific, anti-mother nature, imperialistic, the establishment of the Christian Science religion, a violation of the natural law upon which America was founded, and a childish and counterproductive way of looking at the world, one which causes all of the problems that it purports to solve, and then some, visit the drug war philosopher, at (philosopher's bio; go to top of this page)