Caroline Leaf. The name is popping up more and more around Christian circles. I was curious to hear her speak, since as a Christian and a (family) physician, I like to know how people integrate science and spirituality. So I took the opportunity to drive down to Kings Christian Church on the Gold Coast to hear what she had to say.
I left with more questions than answers. And some serious concerns.
The following blog posts are a discussion on some of the points that she raised. I simply don’t have the time to go through all of them, although I’m seriously considering whether to do a formal review and response to her teaching.
I had to divide up the original post into three parts to make it more manageable. Here’s part 1, in which I review her academic qualifications, her link of thoughts and illness, our innate wiring, and the myth of the mini-brain.
Part 2 of this post will look further at the pecking order of the mind and brain, some miscellaneous issues, and her ‘professional’ opinion on ADHD.
Part 3 will examine her claim that “Toxic thoughts are sin” and why such a statement is incongruent with the Christian faith.
IS SHE A COGNITIVE NEUROSCIENTIST?
For a start, she was introduced as a cognitive neuroscientist. Her CV lists her degrees as a Bachelor of Science, Masters in Speech Therapy and Audiology, and a PhD in Communication Pathology. She did not advise where she has tenure or does her research. Her CV lists guest lectures at a few Universities (Wits, University of Pretoria, University of Cape Town, University of Western Cape Annual Education Conference, SASHLA, Rotary Foundation), but no tenure.
Admittedly, the definition of a cognitive neuroscientist is somewhat vague (http://careersinpsychology.org/becoming-a-cognitive-neuroscientist/) but the term ‘cognitive neuroscientist’ confers the idea that one is actively involved in cognitive neuroscientific research, or at least in the recent past.
So the question remains: is she really a cognitive neuroscientist, or is she just a woman with a PhD that reads a lot?
THE CORRELATION OF ILLNESS AND THOUGHT
The next thing to grab my attention was her statement: “75 to 98% of ALL illness is related to our thought life.” Somehow I doubt that. The influence of stress is high. But I am a GP – I see sick people everyday, on the coal face, before they are collected in subspecialist clinics, or improve spontaneously. It’s a real stretch to ascribe stress to more than 30%. Looking at her book ‘Who Switched Off My Brain’ (Leaf 2009, p15), she says that 80% of all diseases are the result of our thought lives. So her own figures are conflicting. (The other thing is that, for a PhD recipient, she has poorly referenced her book!)
Besides, stress causes illness, but I’m not yet satisfied she’s proven that ‘negative’ thought and stress are the same thing.
She also claimed that the brain and the heart connect to every cell in your body. Again, it’s a bit of a stretch. Every cell needs to be bathed in nutrients from the blood which in turn is connected to the heart, and nerves are every where. But there are many cells that are not innervated directly.
The only way that the brain or the heart are connected to every cell is simply because, technically, every cell is connected to every other cell. Like if everyone in a church stood up and held hands, the man in the front row would be “connected” to the woman in the back.
But she went further on her theory, by claiming that the heart has a mini-brain that directly influences the real brain – by making moral decisions on its own, and that it is part of our conscience. She justified her statement by saying that the heart has 40,000 interconnected nerve cells, and the heart is directly connected to the brain. But on that same logic, my rectum could be a mini-brain and be part of my conscience.
She alluded to the effect of ANF, atrial natriuretic factor. There are actually three natriuretic peptides. ANF, produced by the top two chambers of the heart, actually regulates blood pressure (http://www.cvphysiology.com/Blood%20Pressure/BP017.htm). If it has an effect on thought, it is secondary, not primary.
WIRED FOR OPTIMISM?
She also states that we are wired for optimism, and that emotions like fear are learned. That doesn’t make sense since I have seen research that shows a newborn baby is wired for pleasure and emotions like disgust. These pathways are developed and refined during childhood, but we are born with built-in templates for basic emotion.
I will have more in the next 24 hours, including her statement on the pecking order of the mind and brain, some miscellaneous issues, and her ‘professional’ opinion on ADHD.
Leaf, C. (2009). Who Switched Off My Brain? Controlling toxic thoughts and emotions. Southlake, TX, USA, Inprov, Ltd.
Hi Dr C. Pit,
It is a pity you did not seek to clarify the comments you have posted above with us before you posted them. We hope you allow our comments to be displayed so that your readers can make informed decisions and not to judge Dr Leaf as you have done without getting accurate information. By your comments it is obvious that you have not kept up to date with the latest Scientific research.
Dr Leaf can call herself a Cognitive Neuroscientist because of her field research (published in peer evaluated Journals) …see the Science articles in the media/downloads section at drleaf.com. If you require, we can also send letters from her peers in the field of Neuroscience
She also developed the Geodesic Information Processing model theory.
Yes she does read a lot as the field of Neuroscience is constantly evolving and one has to be as informed as possible.
Some research links re the correlation between illness and thought are presented in Dr Leaf’s November the 30th blog at drleaf.com…blog. There are many more statistic correlation research links.
Dr Leaf has listed references differently in the different books and has a full list of references in the ‘thought life’ section at drleaf.com. The references were listed simply in that book for the lay person. This is an accepted literary format for the lay person. Subsequent books have fuller references.
The mini brain in the heart research can be found at Heartmath.org
Heartmath and Dr Don Colbert both reference the effect of ANF
The wired for optimism bias research has been evidenced by various scientific researchers
For easy access to this research please see the Google links to TED talks and Time Magazine’s article.
Please send us your E-mail address so that we can send you further documentation.
BELOW IS A LETTER OF REFERENCE FROM A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL ENDORSING DR CAROLINE LEAF
My name is Dr Peter Amua-Quarshie and I am presently a full-time Adjunct Professor (lecturer) at the University of Wisconsin-Stout in Menomonie, Wisconsin. I have a B.Sc (Hons) in Medical Sciences (specializing in Neuropathology) and a Masters of Public Health (MPH), both degrees from the University of Leeds (UK). Additionally I have a medical degree (MB ChB) from the University of Ghana Medical School, Accra, Ghana, and a Master’s of Science (MS) in Behavioral and Neural Sciences from Rutgers University, Newark, New Jersey. I started teaching anatomy in the University of Leeds Medical School in 1996. I have taught Neurochemistry to graduate students and Neuroscience to undergraduates at Delaware State University and the University of Wisconsin respectively. I have known Dr. Caroline Leaf since 2006 and have worked closely with her since 2008 on various projects in the field of cognitive neuroscience.
Caroline Leaf received her training in Communication Pathology (BSC Logopaedics) at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. The University of Cape Town has produced many outstanding graduates, including Max Theiler, a Nobel Prize laureate in Physiology or Medicine and Christaan Barnard, the first person to successfully transplant a human heart. Caroline Leaf was a contemporary to the eminent neuroscientist Henry Markram, director of the Blue Brain Project and the new one billion Euro European Union Flagship Project, the Human Brain Project. As well having to study the cognition, she had to endure the rigor of the first 2 years of the medical course, in which she had to study neuroanatomy and neurophysiology. Dr. Leaf also holds a Master’s degree and PhD in Communication Pathology from the University of Pretoria, South Africa. In her Master’s degree her dissertation concentrated on cognitive neuroscience of Traumatic Brain Injury (Closed Head Injury). In developing her groundbreaking Geodesic Learning™ Theory (brain-compatible learning) in her ground breaking PhD thesis, she examined cognition and neurobiology of thinking. The Geodesic Learning™ Theory has been implemented among approximately 100,000 students in South Africa with great success. I have personally helped implement her Geodesic Learning™ Theory in a School District in the USA and was able to demonstrate quantitative improvement in scholastics across the board among the students. She is widely published in journal, book, DVD, television and the internet in the field of cognitive neuroscience in South Africa, USA and other parts of the world.
I have discussed neuroscientific subjects with her for multiple hours many times and have been thoroughly impressed with her knowledge and insight in neurobiology. However what really thrills me is revelation God gives her about the brain. She is an example to me of a neuroscientist who glorifies God in her pursuit of understanding the brain, and who is able to demonstrate that we are truly fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).
DR LEAF’s BIOGRAPHY
Since 1985, Dr Caroline Leaf, a Communication Pathologist and Audiologist, has worked in the area of Cognitive Neuroscience. She holds a Bsc Logopaedics with focus on in Neuroscience, Neuronanatomy and anatomy, Communication Pathology, Psychology, linguistics and audiology) , Masters in Communication Pathology She specialized in Traumatic Brain Injury and PhD in Communication Pathology (TBI) and Learning Disabilities focusing specifically on the Science and neuroscience of Thought as it pertains to thinking and learning. She developed a Cognitive Neuroscientific theory called the Geodesic Information Processing Theory for her PhD research and did some of the initial research back in the 1990’s showing how using non-traditional techniques, based on neuroscientific principles of neuroplasticity and neuropsychological principles, that the mind can change the brain and can effect behavioural change as seen academically, behaviorally and emotionally. A large part of her research in recent years has been to link scientific principles with scripture showing how science is catching up with the bible.
She applied the findings of her statistically proven research in clinical practice for nearly 20 years and now lectures and preaches around the world on these topics. She is a prolific author of many books, articles and scientific articles. She has been a featured guest of Enjoying Everyday Life with Joyce Meyer, and LIFE TODAY with James and Betty Robison, Marilyn Hickey, Sid Roth and TBN Doctor to Doctor, amongst many others. She has her own show on TBN called Switch on Your Brain.
Her passion is to help people see the link between science and scripture as a tangible way of controlling their thoughts and emotions, learning how to think and learn and finding their sense of purpose in life.
Caroline and her husband, Mac, live in Dallas, Texas with their four children.
Dr Leaf’s Qualifications
Web page: http://www.drleaf.com has my full qualifications and links to the Universities where I studied
Dr Leaf’s Reference list
1. Leaf, C.M. 1985. “Mind Mapping as a Therapeutic Intervention Technique”. Unpublished workshop manual.
2. Leaf, C.M. 1989. “Mind Mapping as a Therapeutic Technique” in Communiphon, South African Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 296, pp. 11-15.
3. Leaf, C.M. 1990. “Teaching Children to Make the Most of Their Minds: Mind Mapping” in Journal for Technical and Vocational Education in South Africa, 121, pp. 11-13.
4. Leaf, C.M. 1990. “Mind Mapping: A Therapeutic Technique for Closed Head Injury”. Masters Dissertation, University of Pretoria.
5. Leaf, C.M. 1992. “Evaluation and Remediation of High School Children’s Problems Using the Mind Mapping Therapeutic Approach” in Remedial Teaching, Unisa, 7/8, September 1992.
6. Leaf, C.M., Uys, I.C. and Louw, B. 1992. “The Mind Mapping Approach(MMA): A Culture and Language-Free Technique” in The South African Journal of Communication Disorders, Vol. 40, pp. 35-43.
7. Leaf, C.M. 1993. “The Mind Mapping Approach (MMA): Open the Door to Your Brain Power; Learn How to Learn” in Transvaal Association of Educators Journal (TAT).
8. Leaf, C.M. 1997. “The Mind Mapping Approach: A Model and Framework for Geodesic Learning”. Unpublished D.Phil Dissertation, University of Pretoria.
9. Leaf, C.M. 1997. “The Development of a Model for Geodesic Learning: The Geodesic Information Processing Model” in The South African Journal of Communication Disorders, Vol. 44, pp. 53-70.
10. Leaf, C.M. 1997. “The Move from Institution Based Rehabilitation (IBR) to Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR): A Paradigm Shift” in Therapy Africa, 1 (1) August 1997, p. 4.
11. Leaf, C.M. 1997. ‘”An Altered Perception of Learning: Geodesic Learning” in Therapy Africa, 1 (2), October 1997, p. 7.
12. Leaf, C.M., Uys, I. and Louw. B., 1997. “The Development of a Model for Geodesic Learning: the Geodesic Information Processing Model” in The South African Journal For Communication Disorders, 44.
13. Leaf, C.M. 1998. “An Altered Perception of Learning: Geodesic Learning: Part 2” in Therapy Africa, 2 (1), January/February 1998, p. 4.
14. Leaf, C.M., Uys, I.C. and Louw, B. 1998. “An Alternative Non-Traditional Approach to Learning: The Metacognitive-Mapping Approach” in The South African Journal of Communication Disorders, 45, pp. 87-102.
15. Leaf. C.M. 2002. Switch on Your Brain with the Metacognitive-Mapping Approach. Truth Publishing.
16. Leaf, C.M. 2005. Switch on Your Brain. Understand Your Unique Intelligence Profile and Maximize Your Potential. Tafelberg, Cape Town, SA
17. Leaf, C.M. 2008. Switch on Your Brain 5 Step Learning Process. Switch on Your Brain USA, Dallas.
18. Leaf, C.M. 2007. Who Switched Off My Brain? Controlling Toxic Thoughts and Emotions. Switch on Your Brain USA, Dallas.
19. Leaf, C.M. 2007. “Who Switched Off My Brain? Controlling Toxic Thoughts and Emotions”. DVD series. Switch on Your Brain, Johannesburg, SA.
20. Leaf, C.M., Copeland M. & Maccaro, J. 2007. “Your Body His temple. God’s Plan for Achieving Emotional Wholeness”. DVD series. Life Outreach International, Dallas.
Well said, Mr. Leaf! Just spent a weekend listening to your brilliant wife. Haters gonna hate. We respond in love. Praise Jesus.
Blessings on you, Mr. Pitt. Our heavenly Father will convict you in due time. In the meantime, I will pray God’s love over you, just as I pray over ISIS.
Dear Susan, Thank you for taking the time to “respond in love” by linking me to ISIS.
I’m not particularly offended, and I understand that it was probably unintentional. But given the recent tragic events in Paris, your glib metaphor was in poor taste. I strongly suggest you choose your words more carefully next time you wish to show off your faux moral superiority with a passive-aggressive contemptuous swipe.
Blessings on you, Ms Mitchell.
Mr. Pitt…Just an FYI…
IF YOU WONDER WHY PEOPLE DON’T RESPOND TO YOUR DEMONIC SPIRIT (AND DESIRES TO ARGUE)…..
By Rick Warren — Oct 12, 2015
“I depend on God alone; I put my hope in him. He alone protects and saves me; he is my defender, and I shall never be defeated. My salvation and honor depend on God; he is my strong protector; he is my shelter.” (Psalm 62:5-7 TEV)
There are always going to be people in your life who misunderstand you and people who don’t like you. There will always be people who criticize you, judge you, attack you, and spread rumors about you.
When you are misunderstood, you’re going to have a tendency to get in there and defend yourself. When you’re attacked, your tendency is attack back — just like the rest of us. When people criticize you, you want to criticize back. When people insult you, you want to insult them back.
Don’t do it! Let God be your defender. Every time you are under attack, criticized, put down, or misunderstood, you have two choices. You can defend yourself, or you can let God defend you. Which will it be? Who do you think can do a better job defending you? God can.
Pay attention to this: You’re most like Christ when you say nothing in the face of attack, lies, and unfair criticism. You’re most like Jesus when you remain silent and leave it in God’s hands.
When Jesus was insulted, “he did not answer back with an insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but placed his hopes in God, the righteous Judge” (1 Peter 2:23 TEV).
Even Jesus did not fight back in the face of his unjust conviction and persecution. He trusted God to defend him when it mattered most and to have the ultimate justice.
In the Bible, King David was criticized and attacked his entire life. In fact most of his life people wanted to kill him because they were jealous of him.
David said this in Psalm 62:5-7: “I depend on God alone; I put my hope in him. He alone protects and saves me; he is my defender, and I shall never be defeated. My salvation and honor depend on God; he is my strong protector; he is my shelter.”
A lot of people are going to be jealous of your success, too, and they’re going to want to attack you for many different reasons. But, like David, you need to let God be your protector, your Savior, your defender, your victor, and your shelter.
Let God handle it. Let him be your defense
Thank you for taking the time to forward this article.
You may or may not have noticed, but I have edited this reply. My response this morning was less than gracious, and I’ve been thinking about it all day, and I feel as though I owe you an apology, and to edit the reply to be more appropriate. So I’m sorry if my initial reply came off quite harshly.
Having said that, there is no way of skirting the content of my reply, which I’m not apologising for. With all due respect, there are only so many ways one can interpret an emboldened opening sentence, “IF YOU WONDER WHY PEOPLE DON’T RESPOND TO YOUR DEMONIC SPIRIT (AND DESIRES TO ARGUE)”. Sure, Rick Warren wrote it, but the title is particularly pointed, and by using it, you are clearly suggesting that my desire to argue is from a demonic spirit.
That, and likening me to ISIS in your previous comment, means that you either have no understanding of the connotations of the words you write, or that your intention was a veiled, passive-aggressive denigration of my work all along.
Either way, I suggest you quit while you’re ahead. Personally, I don’t care if you hate me or disagree with my work, and you’re not the first person to accuse me of being a child of the devil, and probably not the last. But I won’t continue to publish personally critical comments.
If you are serious about knowing the truth, then I strongly suggest you review your reasons why you accept Dr Leaf’s teaching and dismiss mine. Why EXACTLY do you believe in Dr Leaf’s teachings? Because she’s an energetic and engaging speaker? Sure, she spins a good yarn, and she throws a few out—of-context scriptures in for good measure. But beyond her bubbly exterior, how strong are her facts? Would you know? Have you looked?
I encourage you to look beyond the style of Dr Leaf’s presentation to it’s content. If you still agree with her, that’s fine with me. But don’t accept her words simply because she’s professional and polished, and a pastor’s pet.
All the best to you.
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its very nice Dr, no one think as u thinking.
we r Pakistani Christans,
Thanks Aamir 🙂
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This “switch on your brain” and “21 day brain detox” stuff looks and smells like a money-making gimmick and pseudoscience, preying on the general populace who understands virtually nothing concerning how scientific research works and what constitutes real science, especially the brain, mind and conscience. It slyly mixes in faith, and in so doing suggests that there is a mystical spiritual side to all this that cannot be tested. Hence, her teachings are off the hook from any real demand of proof. Dr. Leaf, if you disagree, please provide tangible evidence otherwise. These sorts of claims demand proof. My initial opinion from your work suggests that you are a loving person with the right intentions and some truly useful insight. In fact, I agree with some of your “philosophies” about how the mind and brain connect the spiritual and physical. However, I get the feeling that the shiny allure of money making and fame building has poisoned this project. Why does every page on your website have a nice pretty picture of you on it? What are you selling again? But you’re on a roll, why stop now…
While I appreciate what Caroline Leaf is trying to do, I’m expressing my opinion that she is not being entirely honest with folks or herself. There is a difference between telling people “this is my opinion, based on my own experience” and “this is scientific fact.” In an effort to help people and convince them to try her approach, she has moved into a dangerous area. Much of what she is now saying is quite a stretch and, frankly, unproven. She takes various observations or scientific points and connects them to come up with explanations and possible applications, those are called theories or hypotheses. Those now need to be tested and proven or disproven. That is the difference and that is why I don’t care for Dr. Leaf’s brand of “self-help.” Even good Christians with good intentions can lead people on the self-will / self-help goose chase when they try to share or teach the gospel but don’t fully understand the grace and sovereignty of God. Like treating the symptom, It may work for a little while.
Now before you discount me as one of “those people” who would make such hateful claims about Dr. Leaf, lets look at a real-life example. Typical medicines have to go through years of grueling testing and proving in the clinic before they are FDA approved and released to the public to treat diseases. That’s because sometimes people can have adverse reactions, and certain people with certain issues can’t take that medication or it could cause serious problems, even death. We need “those people” because they protect us and demand real proof. Or else who knows what snake oil we would be getting from our doctors and pharmacies? How would you like going to the doctor to get a vaccine shot but the vaccine doesn’t really work, its a solution of sugar water? Imagine the outcry.
Let’s ask some simple questions: What authority does Caroline Leaf have to make these claims or teach these ideas? As pointed out above, she holds no tenure at any respected center of higher learning, nor has she ever. Her thesis and research were not shown to provide any ground breaking discoveries or lead to paradigm shifts in the field of cognitive science, and did not publish in anything other than obscure journals. The above writer is correct in that she is misrepresenting herself as a respected research scientist, and therefore in a way telling people that they should listen to her because she is an authority in this area. To put it lightly, that’s not entirely true. She is also not a pastor, not formally trained to teach the Word of God, and has no clear track record of being under the authority of the Church or serving in the church. If there is something I am missing, please enlighten me. While I know it could be argued that these are not absolute measures and there are exceptions to these standards, those are few and far between and need to be demonstrated as such by multiple other means. she is entitled to her opinions, but she is no authority in these areas and should not masquerade as such.
I’m only asking people to please be wary of snake oil salespeople. Let’s not forget that she is making good money and has a nice glossy website. But what is she telling us that is new under the sun that the bible doesn’t already teach us? And wouldn’t simply teaching some of Jesus’ parables have a better and longer lasting effect? Did Jesus feel the need to explain to us how our brains work in order for us to understand how faith works and our need for salvation and a renewed mind? I would advise that you might want to spend your time and money at your local church, not going to her conferences, buying her books, or trying to improve your consciousness. I’m afraid that this is detracting from the real gospel and can mislead young Christians into believing that they have some sort of power over their destiny. These sorts of delusions, much like the prosperity gospels, can mislead people for years from a true relationship with Christ, or even destroy their faith altogether.
I would challenge Dr. Leaf to put her ideas and theories to the real test with controlled studies. If she is really onto something, she will be driven to push this so that it moves from the realm of apparent pseudoscience to real science. If it is not the real deal, then it too will pass. She will make her small fortune and that will be it. If she is for real, and her cognitive therapies are of value, then lets put them to the real test and see how they hold up in real clinical trials. Is she in this for the money and fame, or to really help people?
I know what sound science is. I’m a tenure-track professor at a respected university writing professional grants, publishing research in international journals, training PhD students. I know how easy it is to make wild claims and have big ideas, versus how hard it is to do real science and prove something is true. I also know what solid Christian faith is. I’ve been a Christian since I got saved in college and have been actively involved in community outreach ministries for a couple of years. I appreciate how important it is, and how challenging it is, to know Christ and help people to follow Him.
Before you post a response, please make it thoughtful. Realize I’m not being hateful. I’m asking some obvious questions. You know, the hard ones we’re not supposed to ask, just assume that what we are told is true. Let’s put real teaching to the test, see if it stands up. I’m simply challenging Caroline Leaf to hold herself and what she is putting out there to a standard, and asking people to use their common sense and rather than take someone’s word for it, ask a few hard questions. Its OK to be skeptical of people and use a little discernment. If someone makes a claim, then OK, lets see it … I’m simply sad about these people who crop up and mislead everyone and make a bunch of money in the process. If that’s not what she is doing, then time will tell.
Thank you for the very cogent comment. It isn’t hateful at all, but rather, respectful and with a number of very pertinent points.
In the very first blog I wrote on Dr Leaf in August last year, I left a standing invitation for Dr Leaf to respond to any or all of the criticisms raised, and unfortunately to date, she has chosen not to reply, publicly or privately. The invitation remains open. If she chooses to make comment publicly, I will post it, full and unabridged, without hesitation.
In the meantime, all I can suggest is that you make your concerns known to your friends and colleagues, and to the National Executive of the denomination that you are part of. With enough expressed concern, I hope that our church leaders will take these concerns seriously.
Again, many thanks for your interest and comment, and Merry Christmas.
Dr. Pitt & vertex,
I am neither a scientist or a doctor. I am just a normal layman who always seeks to improve his life. I accepted Christ in ’83 and have been involved in various ministries in two different churches. I have also been burned in the past by fast talking scammers. Consequently, before spending any of my hard earned money on the latest book, DVD, or snake oil, I do research. I stumbled upon Dr. Leaf on YouTube and found her talks interesting. After reading several blogs supporting her and her teachings, I came upon yours. You seem to be intelligent, honest, and respective, if not supporting of Dr. Leafs views. And then I read the response from ‘Mac’ (August 28,2013). He was very thorough in responding to your critique of Dr. Leaks hypothesis. I thank you for having the integrity to post his response. However, you have had more then enough time for a rebuttal, but I see none. Why?
The most important, and most powerful organ in our body is the brain. We are learning more and more of how it works every day. Many new theories of how it functions will be criticized. This is human nature. Only time and on-going research will prove them valid. As for me, I will purchase the book and apply her teachings (as long as they do not disagree with scripture) and see what happens. I think it will be positive, but only time will tell. Thank you for your time and have a happy new year.
Thanks for taking the time to respond Paul. I think it’s great that you’ve taken the time to consider all options open-mindedly. All the work that I’ve done over the last two years has been to provide people that option, and no matter what choice you make, I’m glad that you’ve had the information available to be able to make that choice. Good luck to you.
I’m a little surprised by your statement, “However, you have had more then enough time for a rebuttal, but I see none. Why?” My response to Mac Leaf can be found at https://cedwardpitt.com/2013/08/29/dr-caroline-leaf-contradicted-by-the-latest-research/, and I have published a 68,000 word rebuttal of Dr Leaf’s teachings in my book “Hold That Thought: Reappraising the work of Dr Caroline Leaf” https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/466848 or on iBooks https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/hold-that-thought/id908877288?mt=11. Both versions are available for free. I would encourage you to read Dr Leaf’s books and then read mine. I hope you will see it’s an adequate rebuttal. If you still disagree with my assessment, then that’s fine. Like I said, I’m not here to win arguments but to provide an alternative viewpoint so that open-minded people such as yourself can have a choice.
Finally, you’re correct in saying that our current understanding of our brain and the various models and hypotheses of thought, learning, volition etc will be tested and refined. This is the way of good science, vital to the progress of knowledge and the progress of mankind in general. I contend that Dr Leaf has not kept up with the current science, despite her spruiking to the contrary, and this shows in the conclusions that she attempts to draw. I would also encourage you to review the scriptures she uses in their full Biblical context. I think you’ll find that she uses them out of context. Stay open-minded and curious as you continue to explore Dr Leaf’s work.
All the best.
Thank you for your timely response Dr. Pitt. My ‘More then enough time for a rebuttal, but I see none. Why?” comment was because I saw none in the “Reply” section immediately following ‘Mac’ comments. This could be due to my lack of computer savvy. I can promise you that I will follow up and read the info in your response. “The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouths of fools feed on folly” Proverbs 15:14 (ESV). Thanks for your time. God bless.
this thing about reprograming dna by your thought process..makes me very wary..
I’m very much an ordinary guy with no qualifications to have an opinion on this subject. I did however feel the need, as sufferer of severe clinical depression and anxiety, to say that a lot of the stuff popping up about Dr Leaf on my Facebook page flies in the face of what I have been told through countless visits with psychologists, psychiatrists, Dr’s and the readings i have been directed too. I have found a great many things that Dr Leaf says to be distressing as i wrestle with this disease on a day to day basis. From what I have read I believe the brain to be negatively wired and our mind to throw out random thoughts that we cannot really change but diffuse, accept with practise. I believe that the fall brought this negativity into our minds.
As a Christian, i have also struggled with the context be derived from the scriptures she uses but I’ll leave wiser theologians to argue that. I enjoyed finding this article that spoke to my concerns.
Anton, thank you for your bravery and openness in sharing your ongoing struggles. You’re not alone. I pray for God to give you strength and peace as you grow in healing.
I, too, have a problem with Dr Leaf’s misrepresentation of scripture. It may be something I formally deal with in future posts, with guidance from a mature theologically trained Christian, as I’m not theologically trained.
In my humble medical opinion, I’m not sure if the brain is negatively wired, though I don’t agree with Dr Leaf that the brain is wired for love either. Our brain is wired for survival, perhaps as an adaptation after the fall. We have “negative” thoughts and emotions all the time to warn us of danger, and help us negotiate our complex social environment. But our thoughts are just that … thoughts. There was a really interesting article in ‘Psychology Today’ this month about the positives of the so-called ‘negative’ emotions. Here’s the link: https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201501/beyond-happiness-the-upside-feeling-down. It’s a good summary of the growing understanding of psychology that we need all of our emotions and thoughts if we are to live well-rounded and fulfilling lives.
You’re right when you say that our minds throw out seemingly random thoughts that we don’t need to change, but simply defuse from them and accept them for what they are, just thoughts. This is one of the main pillars in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, which is an upgrade to the current CBT model used by most psychologists.
All the best.
Thank you for that! I suffered from clinical depression for many years as well and Dr Leaf’s books were recommended to me by my Connect Leader at church. I did listen to the DVDs and I’m far from a scientist so I have no basis for agreeing with you apart from that IT DIDN’T SIT RIGHT with me. I was daily struggling with MDD and being told I was sinning was damaging. Thankfully, I trusted my gut and tossed out her resources, sticking to prayer and professional help, as well as taking anti-depressants and modifying my diet, sleep, exercise and lifestyle. I’m glad to report that I’ve been free of MDD symptoms for 9 months, now and I honestly attribute it to medical science and sincere faith. I’ve also trained myself to ignore ignorant but well-meaning Christians and to just pray for them and people who fall onto every bandwagon passing through town. I’m trusting God to heal you however He wishes and in His own time, but encourage you to continue to be circumspect and discerning in accepting “help” claiming to be from The Bible and ‘for’ you yet efftively condemns and in a way shames or blames you for your brain’s functioning. I know that it can be hard, as clinical depression is such an awful illness and causes us to really become desperate for obvious and immediate solutions. I’ve learnt that there is nothing new under the sun. If the content of Dr Leaf’s work was legitimate, the remainder of the scientific community would be able to verify it. Yes, medical science does evolve and develop, but some of the claims in her resources are just too far out to have been missed over the thousands of years of recorded scientifc history, globally. There is hope for you and the depression. God Bless you.
Hello. I am so glad I found your page. A very good friend of mine recommended Dr Leaf’s book ‘Switch on Your Brain’.
I am an ordinary Christian mom. I have 2 children with significant but very different disabilities; the concept of neuroplasticity is not new to me. I have, however, always kind of poo-pood the ‘rewiring’ side of it because I do that with most things, lol.
Dr Leaf sounded legit, I had reservations but mostly I was alarmed when I saw that she is recommended by Joyce Meyers (I hope I don’t have to explain this). Also her credentials seemed out of place for her profession. And numerous other things that I observed to be ‘off’ but cannot quantify because i’m just a high school dropout 40 something mom of 7 kids who is sleep deprived. People will often say autism can be ‘cured’- I hate that. People have also told me my quadriplegic daughter (who has microcephaly) can be cured by rewiring her tiny, badly damaged brain. Please insert my silent scream here.
I am generally a positive person, I love my life and am always trying to improve it even though I am under a tremendous amount of stress caring for my spevial needs and ‘normal’ kids. My husband is loving Dr Leafs cd’s but I am very wary.
Sorry for the long post, any advice?
Thanks for your comment. I guess there are a few things I can touch on here.
First of all, seven children!! Wow, you’re amazing. I only have two which is more than enough for me. So I wouldn’t say you’re just an ‘ordinary’ mom.
I understand that not everyone agrees with Joyce Meyer’s theology or teaching. I’m honestly not familiar with it, so I can’t really comment.
With regards to Dr Leaf’s credentials, I don’t believe that Dr Leaf can legitimately call herself a cognitive neuroscientist, although her she and her husband disagree.
Neuroplasticity is one of sciences new frontiers. It offers very exciting potential, but it has fallen victim to the self-improvement life coaching fraternity, and unfortunately it’s has become a cliched buzzword. So it’s no wonder that you’re first response is to poo-poo it. The reason why neuroplasticity isn’t the key to unlocking the untapped human potential is because there are controlling factors to neuroplasticity which vary person to person. We all have some level of neuroplasticity although some people will have a greater capacity for neuroplasticity and some people will have less.
Like you, I don’t like it when people claim that autism can be ‘cured’. People with autism can augment their weaknesses and adapt, and neurotypicals can meet them half-way by understanding how they think and why, which will help those with autism and Aspie have the opportunity to better use their strengths.
If you haven’t seen it yet, I recommend reading my book “Hold that thought: Reappraising the work of Dr Caroline Leaf” (iBooks = https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/hold-that-thought/id908877288?mt=11 or Smashwords = https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/466848). In chapters 2 and 3, I discuss how our genes, nerve cells and thoughts all relate, and what that means for each person.
When it comes to Dr Leaf’s teaching, I encourage you, like I encourage everyone, to stay open minded. Read Dr Leaf’s books, then read mine, and decide for yourself. The same goes for your husband. There may be some positive messages that you can take from her teaching. I disagree with Dr Leaf, obviously, because I think that if you take her at her word, she blames congenital disorders like your daughters condition on the parents and grandparents ‘toxic’ thoughts, and suggests that simply eliminating ‘toxic’ thinking will help those people with brain disorders and injuries recover. I don’t think that’s very scientific at all. So I think you’re right to be wary, but don’t simply take my word for it, ask questions. Ask doctors, ask your daughters therapists, ask your pastor, talk to your friends. If you have any specific questions about my writing, I’m happy to clarify (I just can’t give specific medical advice on the blog). I understand that seven children and sleep deprivation makes this difficult, but give yourself the space and time you need to come to a conclusion that you’re happy with.
I hope this helps a bit. All the very best.
Good to see someone pointing out problems here with the Dr Leaf sales pitch. I don’t think her relationship with ‘Christian Company’ PRO MA Australia (Amway) has been pointed out but does make me think that she is benefiting from well understood marketing techniques to people with a vulnerability due to their Christian beliefs. Any academic or scientific researcher can see the inconsistencies in her writing and claims of expertise. Sadly most lay people will not. It’s a shame because some of the issues and developments in mental and physical health she talks about are very important. Luckily there are other reputable medical practitioners and researchers also working and publishing in this field.
Thanks Grant. I appreciate your feedback.
I agree that “Any academic or scientific researcher can see the inconsistencies in her writing and claims of expertise”. It would be helpful to the lay-population if those academics, scientists and doctors were willing to raise their concerns about Dr Leaf with their churches and their church leaders. It is only through voicing concern about Dr Leaf that she will lose traction amongst the church population.
I’m not aware of any connection that Dr Leaf has with PRO MA / Amway. If you have any definitive evidence of this, I’d be happy to look at it.
All the best to you.
I wanted to thank you Dr Pitt for your thoughts on Dr Caroline Leaf, and recommend a book for people who are considering their thought life. A friend of mine highly recommends Dr Leaf’s writings and so I simply googled “review drcarolineleaf” to get to this site, as I found it very interesting because I have been struggling with anger and negativity for some time, even though I am a follower of Jesus by his grace. Some would say that I haven’t let the work of God on the cross be “complete” for my salvation and restoration but I only partly agree with that; we need to “work out our salvation” Phillipians 2:12 (not work for our salvation) in other words the cross is not a superstitious saving act, it is Jesus’ offer of forgiveness and relationship that we can only receive if we accept it and hence enter into it using our brains. So that’s where I’m coming from.
I would encourage anyone considering Dr Leaf’s views, to read Dr Pitt’s main review, Dr Leaf’s husband’s reply, and Dr Pitt’s reply to that. These writings give a good summary (but necessarily longish) by applying basic principles of critiquing the claims by Dr Leaf. While we may want to believe peoples offers of hope, and may find it hard to believe someone could be wrong, it is very important to carefully test teachings as instructed in God’s word (I’m sure anyone can find the references if interested), and this is not being hateful or negative, in contrast it is making sure your hope is based on facts, not wishful thinking, and for that we can be thankful to Dr Pitt. People must be allowed to respectfully disagree as Dr Pitt has done, without the claim to “hate” in attempt to stifle proper discussion. Dr Pitt’s reviews have prompted me to be careful about believing Dr Leaf’s claims as a neuroscientist, and the claims that nearly all illnesses are caused by toxics thoughts, without evidence. As Dr Pitt said, claims to be associated with eminent academics is not evidence, and I found these claims to be a disturbing way to back up Dr Leaf’s writings.
Can I recommend a book that I have just finished which I believe is on topic and may be one better option. It is “Choosing Gratitude” by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. While this book is about our thought life, it is also about our responses in relationship to others and God. So the difference with this book and some others is that it is not just about me and improving myself, but about being the person God intended me to be in the wider context of relationships with others, in worshipping Him and serving Him and the people in our lives. It’s not just about gratitude because it works, it’s because it is an appropriate response to the God who blesses all of us so richly every day compared to what we deserve. Believe me I am a beginner at this gratitude stuff and it is hard work rebutting my negative, ungrateful thoughts, but I highly recommend it. Sorry this was so long, not my intention.
Hi Jeff. Thanks for your encouragement and support, and for your honesty and humility in sharing your journey. Your second paragraph is very pertinent, and is actually quite a good way of summarising what I do what I do. I may even borrow your phrasing from time to time if that’s ok. One other thing, talk to others in your church and friendship circle about your concerns with Dr Leaf’s teaching so that as many other people can have the chance of seeing Dr Leaf’s from an alternative perspective. All the best to you.
Can i ask if you may be able to comment on Dr Norman Doidge’s book The Brain that Changes Itself and in particular the Pons device on trial which appears to be showing real results already for creating permanent new pathways in the brain for such things as strokes and MS. I am not a medical professional (RN) but i have a dad affected by strokes who would benefit from this.
Hi Jeff. I can’t give any specific advice on the Pons device, as I’ve not looked at any independent trials performed on it. Dr Doige’s book is a good read, and offers some interesting insights, but he writes about neuroplasticty as if it’s uniform across every person, when in reality, it tends to be variable. He discusses case studies which seem to be the best example of neuroplasticty or response to treatment, not the typical. While that sort of cherry-picking is good for book sales, it’s not very scientific, so my best advice is enjoy the book, but take his findings with a pinch of salt, and look for independent evidence for benefit from the therapies he discusses before buying into them too much. Cheers.
Hi Dr. Pitt. I am interested in knowing what are your credentials and scientific research completed in neuroscience. Are you suggesting that proven scientific research is complete in its findings and free from any further investigation or discovery? Can you please refer me to some proven scientific or medical research that is based on infallible truths completed in its findings and requires no further research and investigation? I am also interested in how you as a doctor and a christian, have seamlessly reconciled medicine, science and God? Does your spirituality have any bearing or influence on how you understand science or practice medicine? In order for my to understand your post better, answers to these questions would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks for your interest. From the tone of your questions, you sound very passionate about the quest for truth, which is something I deeply respect.
In regards to my credentials, I am a medical doctor by training. I have an MBBS from the University of Queensland, which was a six-year degree at the time I did it, spanning basic science, clinical science, and clinical medicine. Further, I have completed post-graduate fellowship training in the specialty of General Practice, which was another three years of work and study. I have also done a number of further clinical courses in various aspects of sub-specialty clinical medicine, as well as training in clinical research. I have recently written an article for a major Australian medical journal, which has been accepted for publication, although its publication is still pending.
I am not a cognitive neuroscientist, and have never claimed to be one. And to pre-emptively answer the inevitable follow-on question, neither do I have to be one in order to critique the work of Dr Leaf. In all of my training, from the basic sciences at university through to my post-graduate subspecialty modules, I have been taught to understand the scientific and clinical strengths and weaknesses of various theories and research articles. Throughout the entirety of my critique of Dr Leaf’s ministry, this is what I have endeavoured to do.
You ask, “Are you suggesting that proven scientific research is complete in its findings and free from any further investigation or discovery? Can you please refer me to some proven scientific or medical research that is based on infallible truths completed in its findings and requires no further research and investigation?” Respectfully, I think you may have misinterpreted my work. If I have not adequately explained myself, or if I’ve appeared to suggest that my work is infallible, then you have my sincerest apologies. Science is never infallible, and neither am I. But science is built upon the scientific method, logic and critical thinking. One may postulate anything, but the strength of that hypothesis is in the robustness of the factual evidence on which it’s based, which in turn is determined by how well it holds up to external critique.
Dr Leaf has made several scientific statements. I have countered them, citing what I believe is the best evidence currently available. You, Dr Leaf, or anyone for that matter, are welcome to agree or disagree. Future scientific evidence will eventually come to light, and I will need to review my stance based on that new evidence. There may be other evidence currently available that I did not consider in reaching my conclusions, and if such evidence is pointed out to me, then I’m happy to review my conclusions accordingly. However, the same applies to Dr Leaf. As a scientist, she should be willing to re-evaluate her theories in light of the evidence I have presented. If she disagrees, she should at least explain why and cite evidence to support her unchanged position.
How do I reconcile medicine, science and God? Well, first, medicine is an art and a science, but good medicine relies on good science. Good science, as I stated before, is a study of the natural world using logic, critical thinking, and the scientific method. God, on the other hand, is supernatural, above nature, not something that can be studied by the scientific method, but a sentient being who is outside the confines of space and time. My favourite quote, which reflects my philosophy in this, comes from William H. Bragg, British physicist, chemist, mathematician and Nobel Prize recipient, “From religion comes a man’s purpose; from science, his power to achieve it. Sometimes people ask if religion and science are not opposed to one another. They are: in the sense that the thumb and fingers of my hands are opposed to one another. It is an opposition by means of which anything can be grasped.”
To conclude, I do want to make it clear that I’m not a neuroscientist and I’m not infallible, but I do know what constitutes good research, and I am willing to call bad science when I see it. You’re welcome to disagree if you wish. I only ask that you weigh up the strength of each argument, not how you feel about the people making them. If you feel that any of the points I’ve made in my book or my various blogs need correction, please feel free to point out where you think I’m wrong and the citations that you have to support your position. If I’m wrong, I’m happy to correct my work.
Thanks for requesting clarification. I hope that my answers have helped. All the best to you.
Dr. Pitt, the greatest error committed is spiritual. I am very taken a back at the lack of humility, patience, and love displayed in handling your disagreement with Dr. Leaf. And that scientific proofs are a justification for a persons approach and behavior. It may be socially and culturally acceptable, but the question at hand is it spiritually. If spiritual people are not held to a higher, then why mention it or preface your argument with it. I would hope you and Dr. Leaf as professionals and spiritual people would be able to come together to reason with each other. You have every right to disagree with her findings and challenge them. But the earnest is on you to prove your position is the infallible truth. This day the truth is overshadow by real spiritual injustices. Thank Dr. Pitt for your time.
I’m going to reply by working my way back through your comment. Firstly, the burden of scientific proof is on any and all that claim they speak scientific truth. However, even if the onus did legitimately rest on me alone, I would hope that my 68,000 word rebuttal with hundreds of references and citations, reviewing the scientific evidence and comparing it to Dr Leaf’s teaching, would be satisfactory. See for yourself – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/466848 or https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/hold-that-thought/id908877288?mt=11.
Though personally, I think the onus is on Dr Leaf to respond. She has chosen not to at this stage. My offer to publish any reply she makes remains indefinitely open. The ball is in her court. The same goes for meeting with her. I, like you, would like nothing more than to sit with Dr Leaf face to face and discuss the differences in her teaching to the modern scientific evidence. I have left an open offer on this blog to do so, and I even tried to introduce myself to her when she was last in my home city, but I was blocked by her minders. So it’s not for a want of trying on my part.
As for my perceived lack of humility, patience and love … well, I’m sorry that you feel that way. If Dr Leaf felt aggrieved, then I would be willing to apologise to her, if I ever meet her face to face. But I don’t apologise for my passion. And let me assure you that my primary motivation is love:
Love for the body of Christ, love for those members of Christ’s body that are suffering from mental health and its stigma, love for those who live stressed and distressed because they care for those with chronic illness or pain, love for those parents who live with special-needs children, whose lives have already worn them down to little more than raw emotion and adrenalin, and love for those Christians who are vulnerable, sick, and down-trodden. I am standing up for Christians who are weak, vulnerable, stressed and down-trodden.
In contrast, is Dr Leaf really showing ‘love’ when she incorrectly teaches that ADHD doesn’t exist and that medications for depression are harmful, or when she advocates for treatments that have already bee proven not to work? Her teaching on the power of the mind frames mental and neurological ill-health as self-induced, which makes living with mental illness, or caring for someone with mental illness, all the more difficult. Is she showing love then too? Personally I don’t think so, but I guess it’s a matter of individual opinion.
One final thing, I don’t think there’s anything morally wrong or spiritually wrong with justifying a persons approach and behaviour with science. If we understand why we are the way we are, then we can better focus on our strengths, learn to accept our weaknesses, and put all of our resources into changing those things in us that really can be changed. It is empowering, not enslaving.
I’m not sure what you meant by, “If spiritual people are not held to a higher, then why mention it or preface your argument with it.” Sorry. If you can please clarify, I’ll do my best to discuss it.
If you have any other comments, I’m happy to discuss them further.
I just watched Dr. Leaf’s video message on prayer overcome depression, I found it very inspiring, I thank God for the gift God has given to Dr Leaf in making us who knew nothing about the science behind depression and how to overcome it through prayer, may God bless her ministry, and may her ministry be a blessing to those who are helpless in dealing with their illness.
Thanks for your comment. If you want to believe Dr Leaf then that’s fine. But inspiration is not commensurate with accuracy. I would encourage you to look at some other sources if you really want to understand the science of depression. You can start here: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/depression/what-causes-depression, but if you want something in more depth, I suggest Palazidou, E., The Neurobiology Of Depression, Br Med Bull (2012) 101:127-145. Good luck to you.
I am still not sure about Dr Leaf. My biggest concern is that she aligns herself with Kenneth Copeland, who looks demonic to me, not to mention all the false teaching he spews. For her discernment to be so wrong is a big, big caution to me. She has referred to the Copelands as her “mentors”. Something is very wrong there.
Hello D. I understand your concern about Ps Copeland. He’s been heavily criticised in the past, some of which is quite legitimate (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7y1xJAVZxXg but mind the language). I understand why that would be concerning. Though in fairness, I don’t think it’s appropriate to call Ps Copeland demonic, nor should we judge Dr Leaf by association. However, we can and should review Dr Leaf’s work against science and scripture, and on that criteria alone, Dr Leaf’s work has been found wanting.
Thanks for taking the time to express your concerns. All the best to you.
I would like to add that anyone interested should watch a few of the shows on You Tube where she is a guest on the Copelands tv program. While he rambles on incoherently, is rude and dismissive, she sits there like a little puppy looking adoringly at her master. Finally after 20 minutes, he asks her a question, she has a few minutes to answer and the show is over. This is the same pattern on every show I have ( painfully) tried to watch. It is so disturbing. Physician “heal thyself”. Because anyone who can’t see the wickedness of the Copelands truly needs help.
Thank you so much for your post and all your responses, Dr Pitt. As someone who actually DOES suffer from mental illness, I’ve found your simple use of the English language as well as clear, concise and well-referenced communications incredibly encouraging and helpful. I pay no nevermind to the people who state their support for someone they only know from YouTube by name-calling or inferring you are demon-possessed etc. Nor do I agree with calling out Pastors Kenneth and Gloria Copeland or Joyce Meyer, as their ministries are irrelevant to this discussion as well as Dr Leaf’s ministry. (Empasis on my issue being her science, not her as a person or even a Christian minister.) Christian bullies is all they are! But for those of us who actually ARE struggling to heal and recover from mental illness and are overwhelmed by the abundance of information available to us, I want to thank you for providing and explaining FACTS and making it clear and simple. I wholeheartedly agree – from living it everyday – that some of what is suggested by Dr Leaf is not scientific. Thank you, again, Dr Pitt. God Bless You.
Thanks for your comment. It was good timing, a word in season if you like, as I was in need of encouragement.
As it so happens, I’m about to float a manuscript on a book about mental health and illness for Christians to a number of Christian publishers. I hope one will be interested. If not, I’ll make sure it gets to market somehow, so watch this space.
Again, thanks for your kind and uplifting encouragement.
All the best.
I do hope you succeed with that manuscript. I am a Christian and suffer with Bipolar Disorder. Several members of my extended family also have BD. My experience clearly shows it is biological in nature. I have learnt and apply cognitive strategies such as ACT and CBT. I eat a healthy diet and exercises daily. These things may help lessen the negative impacts of the illness when it’s really bad, but they have never in 15 years stopped the episodes from happening. I read “Switch on Your Brain” and bought Dr Leafs 21 day program. I was not impressed with the way scriptures were clearly used out of context, but I thought I’d give it a go anyway. I followed the 21 day program and it was as helpful as simply practicing Philipians 4:8. Thinking does not control Bipolar Disorder. The only thing that has worked with my BD is medication. Thank you for spreading the word. Dr Leaf may be well meaning but the inaccuracies and false conclusions she outlined in her teachings are very harmful to those of us suffering from biologically based mental illness.
Thanks very much for your encouragement. I couldn’t agree more with what you said.
And one way or another, the book will definitely be published! The only factor now is whether a publisher will be astute enough to pick it up, or whether I’ll self-publish. So watch this space.
All the best 🙂
This arguing and negative comments is the reason people dont become Christians.
If you dont agree with someone you dont need to announce it to the world. We are suppose to be a church unified under Christ. What works for one many not work for another. This type of feedback is also the reason people leave churches. Getting people to Christ is the main goal not some opinion on a book ! From a new christian…..
Hi Michael, Thanks for your heart-felt comment. I understand where you’re coming from. Announcing it to the world wasn’t my preferred option but it was the only one left open to me. If you want more information on the process I’ve followed, please see https://cedwardpitt.com/2016/07/30/dr-caroline-leaf-and-her-house-of-cards/.
I understand what you say, that we should be a unified body. But are we to tolerate untruth? Should we let preachers preach heresy for the sake of apparent unity? Should we ignore our calling because the majority of the church doesn’t agree with us? What would our society look like today if William Wilberforce had of stayed silent to try and maintain unity (http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/wilberforce_william.shtml)?
Ultimately, the church will do more damage to itself and to young Christians by allowing them to be influenced by poor theology and even poorer science. How are most young Christians going to feel when they try and think themselves better, think themselves happier, and they find themselves miserable or sick or depressed? Pernicious teaching is insidious, like a slow growing malignancy. The process of removal might be uncomfortable, even painful, but if it’s not removed, the end result will be much, much worse.
In regards to why people don’t become Christians, I think there are many reasons. I doubt that Christians advocating for the truth and for the protection of the weak and vulnerable is one of them. The intellectual implosion of the church might be though. In a 2013 blog for the Huffington Post, Charles Reid wrote,
“Christians must provide effective witness against both extremes. But before Christianity can engage atheism it must first address the scientific illiteracy in its own house. For the greatest danger Christianity confronts at the present moment is not incipient persecution, but increasing marginalization and irrelevance. If Christians cannot engage reasonably and responsibly with science, there will be no place for them in the public life of advanced societies.”
Reid was paying particular attention to Ken Ham in this blog, but the principle remains the same. Scientifically illiterate Christians quickly lose credibility with people. We can’t meaningfully engage with a person who has a rudimentary understanding of biology by proudly tell them that we create new genes with the power of thought.
I understand your concern, and ultimately you’re welcome to your own opinion. Keep whole-heartedly seeking God. I hope that over time you’ll see that my motives aren’t divisive, but come from a deep love for Christ and his bride, and a passion for the truth.
All the best to you.
My friend is just gaga for this C Leaf and wants to buy me her books. This friend teñds to jump on latest trends in diet, brain boosting, and the like, seeking shortcuts or some special magic. She’s a wonderful Christian woman, yet am concerned for her (being an easy mark). I found this review site first, and without any exposure to C Leaf, tend to agree with Dr. Pitt about the need to back up scientific claims. Then I looked up one of her videos. She was instructing on how we are all truly unique, and how this is backed by science – but expressed as if we could not have possibly known this. Felt presumptuous and patronizing! After 10 minutes it was quite tedious so clicked off. I’ve seen enough to see yet another wanna-be use scripture to try to validate their points. Looks and smells like yet another money-makin machine. I get irritated by these types who prey on the lost for profit. Struck me as more self-important than spiritual. Glad you are holding this stuff up to the light. This gal Leaf needs to be held accountable for playing fast and loose with self-help science when invoking and implying Christ’s seal of approval. And what’s with this nonsense of assuming “75-95% of illness is from sinful thought”?! Certainly stress factors in, but I find it very arrogant to make such a claim, kind of like going over God’s head. God in His Mercy has His reasons, so how can any mere mortal claim to decipher divine mystery? Think I’ll pass on her books and course. Big red flag when people use scripture to sell their ideas to those who fall for magical thinking for a quick fix. Kinda shameless.
God Bless you all.
Hey Christina, thanks for the vote of confidence. Voice your concerns about Dr Leaf to those around you. It’s the only antidote when pseudoscience goes viral. All the best.
In my point of view ,all scientist ,doctors ,researchers are like blind men try to describe an elephant, one holding it’s trunk ,the other holding it’s ear ,they have their own opinion and just fight over it but they don’t know the exact whole shape of the elephant ,…only God did.
Hi Susan. Thanks for sharing your interesting perspective.
The irony of your logic is breathtaking – you’ve used narrow-minded assumptions about scientists to accuse scientists of being narrow-minded.
The scientific method has its limits and scientists are human and fallible, but this does not negate scientific reasoning. Scientific and critical thinking are vital, and God gave us brains so we could do both.
Invoking God’s name doesn’t justify your post-truth thinking either. We may not know everything like God does, but that doesn’t diminish the power and place of science, without which we would still be living in the Dark Ages.
Thanks for your comment. All the best to you.
Having watched Dr Leaf on Youtube before coming to this site I was uncomfortable in my spirit about her teachings or rather non-teachings. I am a retired Senior Lecturer in education at a UK University but I found it hard nay impossible to understand what she was actually trying to say. I desperately wanted to find solutions to my problem of severe anxiety/depression but was disappointed to say the least. All I know is that New Age thinking/gnosticism abounds in the modern church. Peter, Birmingham UK.
Thanks for getting in touch.
I think your observations and assessment of Dr Leaf’s teaching are quite accurate. She offers very little in the way of actual science, and her only contribution to a discussion on mental health is to unfairly (and inaccurately) demonise psychiatric medication.
I’m wary of over-generalising, but I think it’s fair to say there is a streak of gnosticism that runs through the church, especially in the doctrinally weaker churches and televangelists which is the ecosystem in which Dr Leaf tends to operate in. One only has to compare her teachings to books like “The Secret” to see how doctrinally-challenged it is. Thankfully there are churches that are stronger in their faith and in the word and aren’t prone to being sucked in to Dr Leaf’s teaching like some others.
However, the church lags behind when it comes to understanding of mental health and illness which is why I wrote my book “Kintsukuroi Christians”, in which I have tried to combine the best of the scientific and scriptural understanding about mental health and illness. I am certainly not suggesting that it will have all the answers in it for you, but you’re welcome to have a look at it if it might help. Please don’t feel under any obligation – I don’t want to turn this into a sales pitch. In fact, please have a look at the free sample first before you buy it and see if it might be something that’s right for you (Sample: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/720425, you can buy it from Smashwords or from other online stores like Amazon UK).
Back to Dr Leaf, her legitimate scientific background was a PhD in a learning system which she called the Mind Mapping Approach and later settled on the “Geodesic Information Processing Theory” for her thesis. As someone with an academic background in education, you might be able to have a look at her work and compare it with your experience in the field. If you’re willing to share, I’d be interested in your opinion. I can pick apart Dr Leaf’s teaching from a medical point of view but I’ve always been interested to hear the view of an educational professional on her initial work. No pressure, but interested if you were (I discuss her PhD work in my blog https://cedwardpitt.com/2015/03/26/the-tedx-users-guide-to-dr-caroline-leaf/)
All the best to you mate.
Thank you for your prompt reply.
I have not made up my mind about Christians and Mental Health as there seems so much variation taught. This ranges from chemical imbalance in the brain to demonic influence.
In my experience as a non professional I can see some truth in both of these approaches. However, although we live in a fallen world, we cannot blame the devil for everything.
I may read your book on the subject although I find it difficult to read books nowadays. I think there is a great need for spiritual discernment nowadays in the body of Christ. As we say in Yorkshire ‘It’s sooner felt than telt’. Translation ‘It is sooner felt than told’. I cannot really evaluate the work of Dr Leaf as she seems to jump from one topic to another at the speed of light! One is left with the impression that she is extremely knowledgeable but she leaves oneself totally confused.
Basically, in my experience, the best form of teaching is cultivating the art of simplicity. Is she covering something up by her rapid and forthright approach. In my opinion modern Christians cannot evaluate what is true from what is false. In other words they are extremely gullible and will fall for anything. She is so convincing that her opinions are the truth and nothing but the truth ;but when you evaluate what she has said it seems to add up to nothing.
Thanks once again for your reply
Aye up, Peter 🙂
No problems re: the book, just thought I’d offer, but ultimately the choice is yours. I have written some posts in mental health if it’s easier to have a look through a blog. Again, I won’t be offended if you would rather look elsewhere. I hope you can find some resources that are helpful to you.
Your observations are very astute – the church and mental health does have a very wide variety of teaching. As a Christian, a doctor and someone who has battled with depression and anxiety myself, I think the church rarely gets it right, which makes it very hard for Christians and their families who experience mental illness. We’re starting to have a conversation, but there are a lot of myths that are ingrained into the Western church mindset about mental illness.
In terms of Dr Leaf and the gullibility of the church, I think that’s pretty much right. Christians aren’t known for critical thinking skills, and if the Bible is taught from the pulpit on a Sunday, it’s either watered down and/or taken out of context to suit the speaker’s own philosophy. Dr Leaf is charismatic and she says enough sciencey sounding words to pass as a credible expert, but even the lightest interrogation of her teaching and the edifice crumbles. She survives because of the church’s aforementioned gullibility and that she remains unaccountable to anyone. She surrounds herself with her friends and actively avoids any form of criticism. Whether she is deliberately using her flight of ideas to cover her inadequate teaching, or she just has flight of ideas, I’m not sure.
All we can do is speak the truth so that anyone who is interested can listen if they want to.
All the best to you.
Dear Dr. Pitt,
Thank you for publishing your concerns. I believe in the importance of free speech and intelligent dialogue. I’m also very concerned about the amount of non evidence based assertions related to physical and mental health being touted by sincere, well meaning Christians these days. I’m in the middle of reading Dr. Leaf’s book given to me by my sister who has suffered with Von Hippel- Lindau syndrome for forty years. We are both in our sixties now. My initial response to Dr.Leaf’s book was that it sounded too good to be true and I am suspicious of authors who quote short verses of the bible to support their views. In any event, I plan to finish it and follow her recommendations for the purpose of my own curiosity. I would like to read your book afterwards. I applaud you for your sincere inquiry and respectful responses to every one of the comments.
Dear Mary, Thanks for taking the time to comment. I think it’s great that you’re approaching the work of myself and Dr Leaf with an open mind and genuine curiosity, but with an appropriate level of scepticism. There is so much out there now that is too good to be true, and an open mind and a sincere heart are crucial to navigating through them all. Very happy to answer any specific questions you have as you work your way through the process.
All the best.
Thank you so much for the extensive time and effort that you have put into examining and debunking the “scientific” claims made by Dr. Leaf. I am about a year into my third major bout of depression, and Dr. Leaf’s book Switch On Your Brain was recommended to me by a well-meaning counselor who assumed I would love it because it brought together science and Scripture. I am a Christian with a bachelor of science degree in psychology and chemistry and a Ph.D. in biology, so both science and Scripture are extremely important to me. But I didn’t even make it to the end of the first chapter before I was angry with the book (and trying hard to not project that anger onto the counselor who had recommended it) for twisting Scripture to say something completely different than its meaning in context and dismissing as “scientifically inaccurate” the evidence that depression can result from a chemical imbalance that can be treated by medication correcting that imbalance. By the time I made it through her chapter on quantum physics (having myself taken two semesters of physical chemistry in university), I was downright furious and went back through the the book to annotate all of the scientific and Scriptural errors I had found. Considering it was a borrowed library book, my extensive comments in the margins may not be appreciated, but I sincerely hope that pointing out egregious mistruths will be helpful to the next reader(s).
It was only after I had spent weeks looking up her references and annotating the book that I found your blog and the link to your book, which does much the same thing. Thank you for making your book freely available rather than using it to make money. I read your entire book and your comments on Dr. Leaf’s TedX talk this afternoon, and I greatly appreciate how much time you invested in careful research. You have saved me a great deal of time in looking up several of her sources that I had not and pointing out some errors that I had missed. And you have freed me from the burden of feeling like I needed to write my own book!
I expressed my concerns with my counselor (and loaned her my annotated copy of the book) and will discuss Dr. Leaf’s work with some of my friends who are counselors in the hopes that none of them will recommend her books in the future. I plan to direct them to your book as a sound critique. My church is too small to ever try to bring in Dr. Leaf to speak, but if any of her books are ever recommended for a women’s study, I will express my concerns with church leadership as well.
Thank you for letting me know that I was not alone in my concerns and for providing resources to which I can direct others who have been misled by her books.
Thank you very much for your comment. Believe me when I say, I hear you!! I felt pretty much exactly the same as you felt when I first read Dr Leaf’s books.
I think it’s great that you’ve spoken to your counsellor about it, and to your other friends who are also counsellors. We really need to get the word out.
To that end, if you’re still feeling motivated enough, can I suggest that you don’t abandon your idea of writing a book … or at least, writing some critiques of Dr Leaf’s teaching from your own perspective. There are a few reasons, primarily because the more there is on line to counter Dr Leaf’s teaching, the better. Secondly, at the moment, I am Dr Leaf’s main antagonist, and it’s easy for people to dismiss the opinion of just one person. It starts to become harder to dismiss when there’s more than one person publicly saying the same thing. Besides, I think you would also be in the perfect position to speak against Dr Leaf’s teaching – you have a very strong scientific background, you’re a strong Christian, and you have lived experience with mental illness. The combination of the personal, theological and the scientific elements would make your message very powerful indeed. You can self-publish at no cost or you can publish a series of blogs, and again, the message is out there for all to see.
No pressure or anything, but please take some time and think about it. I’d be happy to offer some suggestions or to talk about it more with you if you would like.
Whatever happens, thank you for the encouragement. Hearing stories like yours makes all of the time and effort so worth it. I’m very happy that I could be of assistance.
All the best to you.
Thank you for speaking out. For those of us who do the time and study with years of internship in the field of mental health, when someone claims to have experience and expertise in clinical practice, and claims to have a title that indicates a background that is other than their field, and are not licensed in a mental health field, it should be a cause for alarm. I don’t claim expertise in speech and language pathology and audiology, though I have professional coursework in my education in this field. The damage this can do is something she will have to answer to God for. The field of neuroscience needs to be regulated with a license and ethical and practice rules and codes like other fields of study. The field of neuroscience seems to be one where I continue to see individuals who do not carry valid licenses and are into new age teaching. Why wouldn’t she take the effort to get a degree in a field that she claims to be an expert in? Why not be honest and say, “I have a PHD in Communication Pathology, which is the field of speech and language pathology, and I specialize and focus my research in cognitive neuroscience. I am not a licensed mental health professional, nor a medical doctor.” I notice her website disclaimer does not mention that she is not a licensed mental health professional, yet she claims to help with all sorts of mental health conditions including PTSD. Having experience working with children and adults who have experienced sexual and other abuse and have PTSD, I would never utilize a treatment method that did not have proven efficacy for treatment of the diagnosis.