Sunday, October 5, 2008

Nonsense 101: A Very Creepy Open Love Letter

I'm taking a different tack this month. I'm giving props to someone who pointed out other people's nonsense.
That's always impressive.
It was made more impressive by the fact she was nine-years-old at the time.
We might as well complete the impressiveness hat trick -- she grew up to be incredibly hot.

Ms. Emily Rosa should relax before she wastes a lot of money on anti-stalking security. My drunkeness, laziness and inability to enter the United States (as my Grade 13 essay on The Grapes of Wrath is still in my permanent record) renders me relatively harmless. I promise to worship you from afar.

Her physical beauty should not overshadow the fact that she debunked a bunch of quacks and New Agey wieners in the Journal of the American Medical Association before she entered high school. With that accomplishment on her resume, I'm sure I'd find her sexy even if she wasn't ... well ... so damned sexy.

But enough of my creepy perversions.

Emily, in 1996, was searching for a sixth grade science project. She happened to glance at the TV screen where her mother, a registered nurse, was watching a videotape about therapeutic touch. This is a practice where 'healers' interact with the 'human energy field' by passing their hands over the body of the afflicted without actually touching them. Practitioners of therapeutic touch, oblivious to principles of modern science, claimed this relieved anxiety and pain.

Emily found her science project.

She designed an experiment in which she and the healer were separated by cardboard with two arm holes. She then decided, by the flip of a coin, whether to put her hand over the healer's left hand or the right hand. The healer was asked to decide where Emily's hand was hovering. If the healer could detect Emily's 'human energy field', they could easily tell where Emily's hand was.


Emily was able, through her mother's connections, to recruit twenty-one 'healers'. Her mother posits they didn't see a nine-year-old as a threat.

Oops. I think you know where this is headed.

In 280 tests, the twenty-one healers identified the correct location of Emily's hand forty-four percent of the time. The Law of Averages states that if they had flipped a coin -- like Emily -- they would have been right about fifty per cent of the time.

Two years later, Emily (along with her mother and a science writer) published her findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Sadly, therapeutic touch is still enabled by the gullible in healing and medical clinics worldwide. It is still taught at prominent universities and schools of nursing.

Still ... Thank you, Emily.

And thanks to 'Penn and Teller's Bullshit!' (season six, episode two) for pointing me in the direction of my One True (I promise I'll never try to contact you) Love.


ER said...

Well this girl was 11 at the time ;] You watch too much Bullshit ;)

emily said...

It was published when I was 11. The experiment was carried out when I was 9. :)