Friday, 12 September 2008

When truth gives up the ghost

The Dominion Post | Wellington, New Zealand | Wednesday, 10 September 2008.

I am not a cognitive neuro-scientist but I recently met one at a party. He told me rather a lot about memory. I've forgotten most of it, of course, but I do recall him telling me that memory comes in long-term and short-term varieties and that neither is much cop. The short- term memory's feeble; the long- term memory's fictional.

Every second of every day we are besieged by trillions of bits of sensory data. Most of it simply bypasses the memory banks and heads straight for the great sea of oblivion. If it didn't our heads would soon bulge out to one side and then burst.

Apparently the short-term memory, even when in mid- season form, can only hang on to about half a dozen separate bits of stuff.

Permanently excluded from that half dozen are the name of the person you've just been introduced to and where you put your glasses. But at least the short- term memory is honest. What little it hangs on to is by and large true.

The long-term memory is a lot more capacious but a lot less honest. It works like a Marxist historian. It revises the past...

Complete article at:

A response from Gordon Waugh

Joe Bennett’s article on how memory is continually re-written was impressive for its accuracy and simplicity.

It also explains how sex abuse counsellors have recently helped tens of thousands of ACC clients re-write their childhood memories and, in the absence of any credible evidence, claim that they were sexually abused by fathers, brothers, cousins, uncles, grandfathers ad infinitum. Those unverified stories qualify claimants for taxpayer-funded ACC compensation and other benefits.

Of course, ACC and its counsellors say they don’t need actual evidence of abuse. They merely have to believe the unverified client narratives and diagnose a constellation of effects from their absurdly unscientific list of hundreds of so-called indicators of sexual abuse - which most people on this planet normally exhibit anyway.

ACC won’t pay counsellors the munificent $75-per-session fee unless counsellors say the client was abused. I have yet to encounter a case in which a counsellor could not detect alleged sexual abuse.

Gordon Waugh
Auckland, New Zealand

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