Lobotomy & young-earth creationists


My recent post on prefrontal lobotomy has been the most popular thing on this blog so far, and the comments on it are worth reading.

While searching for more information about lobotomies and the neuroleptic drugs that replaced them, I came across this fantastic webpage at NobelPrize.org, which contains more information about Egas Moniz, the Portugese surgeon who first performed the procedure.

That's where I found this diagram of the instrument designed by Moniz for the prefrontal leucotomies he performed with his colleague. From the diagram, one can see how the instrument (called a leucotome) was used: the open wire loop was retracted to cut the bundles of nerve fibers connecting the frontal cortex to the thalamus.

So what's the link between lobotomy and young-earth creationists? Well, it is tempting to suggest that creationists have been (or should be) lobotomized, but the link is actually rather tenuous.

In my post on lobotomy, I mentioned the case of Howard Dully, whose stepmother had him lobotomized when he was 12 years old. The post includes a link to this page on NPR; the MP3 on that page includes Dully himself talking about his lobotomy. 

I didn't mention the MP3 at all on my post, and Tiny Frog left a comment suggesting that I should have. Dully's is a heart-breaking story, and it's very interesting hearing him talking about it. The MP3 also includes recordings of Walter Freeman, the surgeon who performed the operation on Dully and some 3,500 others.

If a commenter has a blog, I always check it out, and on my first visit to the Tiny Frog blog, I read the About page with great interest:

I was born into a Christian fundamentalist, young-earth Creationist, die-hard Republican home. I grew up in a church where people spoke in tongues, had "faith healings", made "prophecies", and people were "slain in the spirit"...I went to a Christian school and Christian college. But, I am none of those things....I am a single 30-something evolutionist, agnostic/atheist, and moderate-democrat. 

Tiny Frog has been online since April of this year, so it's still relatively new. There are several other interesting blogs that I found via the comments on the lobotomy post:

  • Millard Fillmore's Bathtub, by Ed Darrell, on "history,  accuracy and education";

  • Inalienable Rights, by DuWayne Brayton, on human rights issues (something I'm very concerned with, not least of all because my father was tortured); and

  • The Other 95%, by Kevin Z, a graduate student in marine biology at Pen State University.

More like this

LOBOTOMY (from the Greek lobos, meaning lobes of the brain, and tomos, meaning cut) is a psychosurgical procedure in which the connections the prefrontal cortex and underlying structures are severed, or the frontal cortical tissue is destroyed, the theory being that this leads to the uncoupling…
In The rise and fall of the prefrontal lobotomy, I discussed the heart-breaking case of Howard Dully, whose stepmother had him lobotomized when he was12 years old. Dully relates his story in My Lobotomy, an autobiographical book which is co-authored by novelist and journalist Charles Fleming. My…
A forthcoming PBS documentary called The Lobotomist examines the career of psychiatrist Walter J. Freeman, who performed nearly 3,000 "ice pick" lobotomies during the late 1930s and 1940s. The hour-long program, which is partly based on Jack El-Hai's book of the same name, contains old footage of…
This week, I've received three books which I'll be writing about in the near future: My Lobotomy, by Howard Dully and Charles Fleming. Dully was lobotomized at the age of 12 at the behest of his stepmother - that's him on the right, holding an instrument identical to the one he was lobotomized with…

Thanks for listening. Our book "My Lobotomy" will be out September 4th in the United States and in Feb 2008 in England. It goes a lot deeper than the 22 minutes we had in the Radio Documentary.

Howard Dully

By Howard Dully (not verified) on 28 Jul 2007 #permalink

I'm not sure what it is about some M.D.'s but it seems that the God Complex is far too prevalent in that group.

Medicine has to change. Even with the recent advances I think we're still bumbling around in the dark.

I don't doubt that some docs are, well, arrogant, but I'm not sure what your specific critique of medicine is. It has become a real science over the last several decades, and even though not all docs are of the same quality, maybe you could consider using a finer brush.

Howard - thanks for dropping by. I'm looking forward to reading your book when it is published and will certainly mention it on here when I get a copy.

Thanks for the link and taking a look at my blog! I try to update daily, more or less, so check back often! My Worm Brains post has something to do with neuroscience if you are interested.

I hope you keep on with the interesting posts on the history of science.

Howard -

I am really looking forward to the book. The radio documentary had me in tears. Thank you so very much for sharing your story.