Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sad Story, Sad Ending

Anyone catch the much-hyped story of the man in a coma for 23 years, found to be able to communicate? Anyone, like me, find it hard to believe, especially when the communication was "facilitated?"

Sadly, if you were skeptical, you were right.

I've seen it before, and it's a lesson that applies broadly: if people want to believe something, they will. In this case it's undeniably obvious; in the case of, say, followers of Glenn Beck, whereas the evidence is obvious to anyone outside the sphere of influence and nearly as easily demonstrated, it's close to impossible to convince the deceived. Perhaps the difference is understanding evidence; perhaps it's the openness to data. Stupid as they'd been, there were scientists -- of a sort -- involved in the coma case.

In the way-back, I watch a televised story of the miracle of facilitated communication involving severely autistic kids. So severe was their disability that they'd been fully unable to communicate; so strong was the belief of their care-givers, that in one case a "message" received via the facilitators led to prosecution and conviction of a dad accused of abusing the child. Yet video of the sessions made it clear there was no way the kids were actually providing input. The "facilitator" was poking the children's fingers on an alphabet board, spelling words, while the subjects weren't even looking. When it was clearly shown, by preventing the facilitator from knowing the answer to questions posed to the kids, that there was no communication, the response of the facilitators fell into two types: those that were crushed, sad, and embarrassed; and those that continued to insist it was real.

I find it at least as fascinating as sad. It reveals much about who we are; how easily led, by a need to believe things that give us solace or confirm our prejudices, into the most indefensible and easily disproved certainties. As it tells us about the limitations of human intellect, it also cries for a way to incorporate that knowledge into the public realm: would that it were possible. Were it so, tea bags would be in tea cups where they belong, bipartisanship would actually exist, and we'd be a lot further along the path to political solutions.

And, of course, this.


  1. Ah! It explains so much; this explains why all the varieties of neofascistjesusoids seem so weird.

    It suddenly becomes so clear!
    The Limbaughtomized are trying to communicate with us.

    The lights are on, but no one is home while Faux "News" facilitators poke the their fingers at an alphabet board, spelling words, while they aren't even looking.

    Thanks Sid, for reminding me about that particular bit of craziness.

    It puts things in perspective.


  2. People wanting to believe in something without evidence??? Oh you mean like Global Warming/oops I mean Global Climate Change...
    It was 63 in Atlanta today, maybe AlGores right.


  3. Right, Frank, although in the case of anthropogenic climate change, it's sort of the opposite. So, I guess I meant "wrong, Frank." Someone holding your finger and tapping the keys for you?

  4. Frank, I realize that it's a bit much to ask you to punctuate correctly, but could you do everyone a favor and at least try to write complete sentences?

  5. Perhaps Franky didn't use his checklist?


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