Friday, April 13, 2007

Heart To Heart

The ABC upheld its fine tradition of promoting woo as science again this week, with a spectacular documentary following the Catalyst science program: "Thanks for the Memories" (you have to imagine that with a little heart over the "i" - it was that sort of show) a worthy successor to Psychic Investigators. There were even lots of the same blurry shaky shots for the psychic visions. Four scientists were presented spouting their magic. Paul Pearsall, the main instigator of the "theory" that memories are transferred via the heart during heart transplants, two supporters of his argument (Andrew Armour and Rollin McCraty) and Gary Schwartz, without whom no such program would be complete (and who urged the first scientist to write a paper, based on his "three best cases" ie cherry picking data).

The heart has energy, we were told. More - it's magnetic energy! So it's like a radio. Or magic. Or something. Anyway, it has its own "unique" intelligence. Which must be pretty complex, since we're led to believe one man learnt to spell
and write poetry (well, doggerel) as a result of having the heart of a man who liked to write poetry for his wife. Which doesn't explain why braindead people can't still hold intelligent conversations.

The brain sends signals to the heart! The heart sends signals to the brain! So it's just got to have intelligence, damn it! No mention was made of why anal sphincters aren't equally as valid as candidates for intelligence. And much more altie-friendly. When they start doing sphincter transplants, EoR suspects people will start getting their donor's memories from those as well.

Another man suddenly started exercising after his transplant. Eerily, his heart came from a Hollywood stuntman. There could be no other explanation! If he'd started jumping motorcycles across chasms, or leaping through fires, EoR might have believed it.

A cystic fibrosis sufferer suddenly starts doing sport, which he was incapable of doing before. More proof!

A woman who was an extremely passive person prior to the transplant, and received a heart from a boxer, suddenly became "very aggressive", watching the football on the TV (which, in the world of this program, was not passive at all). If she'd started beating her husband up, that might have been more logical.

Two naysayers were shown, but they repeated the old "we can't disprove it" and "science doesn't understand this" stuff.
Which is all very true, but put up against the relentless onslaught of "visions" and scientists evangelising for their worldview, they came off a sorry second best.

No discussion was made of the fact that heart transplant patients are generally not the most active of people prior to the transplant, which is why they're getting a heart transplant in the first place. It was mentioned that around 10% of people undergo some form of personality change after a heart transplant, but the only possibility to cause this offered was the memorable heart option. Nothing like feeling better, being more physically fit, even the old "life changing conversion". Instead, vague coincidences ("Gee, I do sort of sporty things now, and the donor did as well! It must be a psychic magic power at work!") of exactly the same sort that fake psychics (yes, EoR knows that's a tautology) use.

And so the scientific literacy of the Australian populus is yet further dumbed down through the use of taxpayers' dollars.

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