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Real Science vs Science Reporting of SpongeBob

This post was written by Donald Michael Kraig
on September 12, 2011 | Comments (0)

Lab mouse. Photo by Rama

The techniques of magick are at the root of scientific procedures. You begin by seeing an issue (magick: formulate your goal). Then you design an experiment (magick: design your ritual) based on experience and protocols that limit unwanted influences on the experiment (magick: perform banishing). Next, you perform your experiments and document the results (magick: do the ritual and record it in your magickal record, diary, or journal). Finally, you observe over time to see if the results of the experiment/magick hold.

This is the nature of good laboratory science/magick. Recently, I saw a great article that seems to unite the two. If you want to read the entire article, it can be found at this LINK.

The research is on the form of psychic healing commonly known as Therapeutic Touch or the Laying on of Hands. The researchers gave preliminary tests to 50 healers. Only one achieved total remission of cancer in lab mice. This one healer was then tested with a slightly larger number of mice and again achieved a very high rate for remission of cancer. The healer taught the technique to one of the researchers who, in testing, also received amazing cure rates. The research then taught the technique to students who, in turn, also achieved high remission rates.

If you read the full report, you’ll see that there were some issues with the research. One skeptical observer broke protocol, resulting in confusing results. The samples of lab mice were small. And yet, there is enough good, documented research to warrant further experimentation. Will the results hold up with larger samples? Can the exact means by which the healing is achieved, not merely the technique, be determined? Will this carry over from mice to humans?

Did you read about this research? I didn’t even hear about it when it was initially reported in volume 14 of the Journal of Scientific Exploration over a decade ago. You would think that the scientific media would have been in a frenzy over this, including debunkers giving all the reasons why this research was meaningless. But the media didn’t attack this research. They did much worse. They ignored it. This scientific research indicates that a magickal healing technique was more than a placebo and more than someone simply believing they were better. The potential for treating cancer is enormous. But it was ignored.

Such an approach by the media should have been expected. The media supports the status quo and rejects or mocks anything dealing with the occult or paranormal. The fully-reported research here could not be mocked, so it was ignored.

If you are interested in learning about healing, there are several great books I can recommend, including The Healer’s Manual, Healing Alternatives for Beginners, The Art of Spiritual Healing, Ancient Healing Techniques, The Book of Shamanic Healing, Gnostic Healing, and Healing Body, Mind & Spirit.

SpongeBob Squarepants. Photo taken at Legoland by Jj98.

Compare this to some reporting of a new study on kids who watch SpongeBob SquarePants. For those of you unfamiliar with SpongeBob and are more familiar with Ren and Stimpy or Tom and Jerry or Adult Swim, SpongeBob is a wildly popular cartoon show set under the ocean. According to this article, a study shows that watching SpongeBob “impairs the thinking” of four-year-olds in a way that could limit success in school.

Uh, not so fast.

The article gives such an incredibly limited amount of information that it’s impossible to draw any conclusions from the article.

How were the test subjects chosen? Unknown.
How were they divided into test groups? Unknown.
How many times were the tests run? Unknown.
Why did the experimenters choose to only watch 9 minutes of the show? Unknown.
Why did the experimenters not include similar, non-SpongeBob material, only differing material? Unknown.
How did the experimenters choose the particular 9 minutes? Unknown.
The test shows immediate results. What are the short term results? What are the long term results? Unknown.

In an editorial accompanying the original article somewhere (the original source is not listed in the report), a pediatrics professor writes, “Connecting fast-paced television viewing to deficits in executive function … has profound impacts for children’s cognitive and social development that need to be considered and reacted to.” [ellipsis in original]

Really? Since the original research did not test similar fare, only SpongeBob, how does this professor come to that conclusion? The ONLY possible conclusion is that this particular part of one show indicated a reduction in a certain set of skills when compared to other activities. It is unknown if this reduction is only immediate or also lasts for longer periods. I would be inclined to say that the professor has a certain belief, that this limited research tends to give minimal support to that belief, and he therefore feels free to draw his unproven and unsupported (by the evidence revealed in the article) conclusion in a very unscientific way.

Now it may very well be that the actual research is much more thorough than the execrable reporting supporting the supposed status quo, that fast-paced TV is bad for kids. Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t. I remember similar scares about how playing with dolls limited girls’ potentials (and yet some of the leading feminists played with dolls and turned out wonderfully) or how playing with guns would make boys aggressive (and yet the vast majority of men who played with guns as children are not shooting up their neighbors). In 1954, a single psychiatrist named Fredric Wortham published a book entitled Seduction of the Innocent claiming that comic books were ruining children, resulting in Congressional hearings, the formation of the “Comics Code Authority,” and the ending of exciting comics for decades.

My mother told me that every time she was ill as a little girl, her mother would get her the latest book in the Wizard of Oz series of books. But a doctor claimed they were bad for children and my grandmother took all of those first edition books and destroyed them.

Bad science reporting and the unquestioning repeating of one person’s opinion (if that person has letters after his or her name) seems to be the fortĂ© of the popular media. As true skeptics, I would hope that magickal people see through this.

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