We Need Controlled Experiments To Build Credulity
A few days ago the press was agog with news about a surgery that was performed without any anesthesia. The patient happened to be a professional hypnotist who reportedly used his own professional skills on himself, suggesting to his mind to withdraw all sensation from the organ that was under the scalpel.
As further news of the event trickled in, it became quite clear that this feat of hypnosis will go down in history as yet another one-off event. Grist for the drawing-room conversation mill, and nothing much besides.
Why? We have only the words of the good surgeon and his team and of course the patient for it, that's why. All evidence is hearsay. Now we know they are all good people and would not lie, yet, scientific protocol dictates that hard scientific evidence be fully disclosed in the form of data that peers can verify. Which unfortunately they do not have.
The problem with such events is that they are not conducted in a scientific manner. For this to happen, the event has to be planned and devised as a proper experiment, with all its parameters put under monitor. While the event is underway, data must be collected objectively and precisely. And after the event is over, this data must be placed in the public domain for everybody else to share and contribute to. Gradually, as this Body of Knowledge (BoK) grows and becomes more structured and comprehensive, credibility and belief automatically starts being built up. Until a stage comes when respectable universities begin conducting academic programs around the BoK, government begins creating regulations (and investing bureaucracy) on the BoK, and youngsters begin talking about a career involving the BoK. There is nothing new in what I am saying here; this is what any high school student will tell you is the right approach.
Unfortunately, the hyped-up event of the surgery-without-anesthesia has generated no light and no insight. The patient walked in, hypnotized himself, the surgery was performed, and somebody called for a press conference.
I think it is high time we undertook these events more seriously. The days of sensationalism are long over - today skeptics ask for hard scientific evidence and rightly so. The cause of the discipline of self-development - of which hypnosis is a part - will not be furthered by such events which people are now construing must be just a sensational attempt to gain publicity.
In order for CAM (Complementary Alternative Medicine) or alternative therapies to really prove themselves as credible alternatives to conventional medical intervention techniques, they have to stand the rigor of scrutiny by peers. Unless we don't believe in what we ourselves preach?