Tuesday, February 23, 2010

i am jack's complete lack of surprise

Remember Rom Houben the magic coma guy? In an entirely unsurprising turn of events it turns out he's not actually magic after all. Note that this does not of course rule out the possibility of him actually being conscious (in some sense at least), just that it means that it's been proven that the technique used to attempt to communicate with him and to allow him to communicate with the outside world has been shown to be completely bogus - as most of the scientific blogging community pointed out at the time, in stark contrast to most of the mainstream media.

Apparently what happened was that after much lobbying by the Belgian sceptical organisation SKEPP, the doctor in charge of the case - one Steven Laureys - allowed them to supervise the carrying out of the tests to determine whether any "real" communication was in fact happening - as I understand it these are very simple tests like sending the communicator out of the room, showing the patient a picture, and then getting him to (via the communicator) spell out the name of the object afterwards. Needless to say the "facilitated communication" technique failed these most basic tests utterly.

So thumbs up to SKEPP, and a clip round the ear for Dr. Laureys for being credulous enough to be taken in in the first place. Plus, to be fair, thumbs up to Dr. Laureys subsequently for eventually allowing the tests to be done, and for unequivocally admitting that he'd been wrong about the whole thing afterwards when presented with the evidence. Of course much valuable time has now been wasted which could have been spent devising proper ways to help the unfortunate Mr. Houben, for which the charlatans who preyed upon the Houben family's understandable desperation and Dr. Laurey's arrogance and naïveté should most appropriately be burnt as witches. Seems only fair, really.

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