Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Junk Science in L.A. Times

Dear Editor:

In Lloyd Grove’s article on gossip columns (Oct. 15, 2006, p. M3), he stressed the need to “nail down” a story before publishing. Yet the Times fails to follow this good advice when they publish, on the very same page, Bettina Aptheker’s charge of sexual abuse against her late father, Herbert Aptheker, based only on recovered memory therapy. This discredited technique has also been known to generate memories of alien abductions that seem quite real to those who hold them. (Would the Times have published such accusations against aliens?) She recognizes this problem when she mentions “false memory syndrome”, but fails to respond to this possibility (other than to simply reaffirm her accusation).

Aptheker makes it seem like her father might have confessed. We only have her account of this, but even that is not quite clear. He allegedly asked “Did I ever hurt you…?” as if he might not have remembered doing such a terrible thing himself. And we are not told just what he apologized for.

It is tragic that Aptheker has memories of sexual abuse. Unfortunately, without corroborating evidence we cannot know whether these memories are genuine or therapy-induced. Shame on the Times for publishing an accusation against someone who cannot respond based only upon pseudoscientific evidence.

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