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Posts Tagged ‘Roger Callahan’

As part of a smear campaign against me that has nothing to do with TFT, there has been rumor mongering recently on the internet that I have in some way returned to TFT, simply because I choose to call myself an “Independent Scholar”, a title which has been used by TFT proponent Steven Barger, but also many other people who have nothing whatsoever to do with TFT.

Even though to the best of my knowledge, the people involved in this smear campaign are upset about other therapies I have criticized, not TFT, they are attempting to use my past association with TFT to discredit me and are now making insinuations I have returned to TFT when nothing could be further from the truth. I want to state clearly that I have not returned to TFT. I remain and have remained since March 2004, firm and unwavering in my repudiation of TFT. I have had absolutely no regrets or second thoughts about this since that time and as my upcoming publications will show, I remain a critic of  TFT, which still has not met the burden of proof to support its many, grandiose claims.

Steven Barger certainly has no monopoly on the term “Independent Scholar” and I doubt very much he would claim to.

In point of fact, the term Independent Scholar is used by highly respected scholars such as the social psychologist Carol Tavris who uses the term on her CV under “EMPLOYMENT” from 1976 onward, to describe herself. Dr. Tavris’ usage predates Barger’s usage of the term by decades. I consider the work of Carol Tavris, who is among other things, known as a critic of pseudoscientific practices as well as being a feminist writer, to be highly influential on my current work. I consider the career path she has chosen for herself to be a possible role model for my own post-PhD career path and a possible alternative to obtaining a tenure track faculty position. Given the internet smear campaign I have been subjected to, such a faculty position might no longer be possible, although I still remain open to the possibility of accepting such a faculty appointment, should one be offered to me. In any case, Carol Tavris is a prominent example that one does not have to be affiliated with any faculty in order to be a highly respected scholar and make valuable contributions to the field. In addition to being a highly respected scholar, Dr. Tavris also highly values activism and for that reason, I regard her as a kindred spirit since this combination is quite rare and one I value and aspire to as well.

Also relevant to the topic of this article, Carol Tavris and social psychologist Eliot Aronson recently published a book Mistakes Were Made but Not By Me which discusses the unwillingness of people to admit they have made mistakes and the admission of having made mistakes and willingness to change ones position as an admirable quality to be valued, not something to trash a person for as my detractors have attempted to do with me for changing my mind about Scientology and TFT. This topic is even more important for people who are continuing to practice potentially dangerous therapies for children and parents who are listening to such “professionals” who have failed to update themselves on the latest data on the dangers of techniques such as prone restraints and harsh boot-camp style interventions which I consider to be far more dangerous than any tapping therapy. At least no one has ever been asphyxiated by tapping therapies.

In any case to get back to Barger, who at the time he wrote his response to critics of TFT (I have no idea what his current status is), made his living as a bicycle security guard and possessed no advanced degrees in mental health or mental health credentials of any kind, by his own admission, has nothing to do with my choice to use the title Independent Scholar. Barger’s response to critics is still available on the Callahan’s Thought Field Therapy website. Last I heard from Mr. Barger (which was in 2006), he indicated to me that he was working on writing a response to my Journal of Clinical Psychology retraction article and rejoinder to Callahan’s response to me that he claimed would be a devastating rebuttal to my critique of TFT that he indicated he intended to submit to the Journal of Clinical Psychology, but as far as I know, nothing to date has been published in his name in any peer reviewed journal.

Will I ever again embrace TFT? I consider myself an open-minded skeptic, which means I remain open to actual evidence, but I set the bar very high. The only way I would ever again approve of TFT is if double-blind randomized clinical trials were conducted by people who had no vested interest in the practice of TFT and 1) those trials compared tapping on TFT points to sham points; 2) a wait list no treatment control group was also included; 3) the results showed a both a statistically and a clinically significant difference between the group that received tapping on actual TFT points and the group that received the sham points with the TFT group showing superior results.

Such a study would need to be published in a peer reviewed journal with a decent impact factor and would need to meet all the accepted reporting requirements and include features such as fidelity checks and a full detailed description of how the randomization to treatment and control groups was conducted, as well as a full “intention to treat” analysis for any drop-outs.  The study would also need to have a follow-up period of at least one year and would need to use reliable and valid standardized assessment measures for the condition being addressed, not the SUD as an outcome measure. It would need to be replicated at least once. If such evidence were presented, then I might begin to reconsider my current position. I emphasis begin because what it would take to fully convince me is a full, Cochrane-style meta-analysis that included a systematic review and adhered to all the guidelines for conducting and reporting on meta-analyses, showing that TFT vs. sham points produced large effect sizes of between-group differences.

Note that studies comparing TFT to some kind of other control group such as supportive therapy or something not involving alleged “meridian points” would not be acceptable. The mechanism of action would need to be directly tested by having sham points as the control group. Note that changing ones mind based on evidence is not flip-flopping although to date, no such evidence has been forthcoming even though TFT proponents have had decades now to produce it.

These two peer reviewed published critiques of mine from the Journal of Clinical Psychology, which are highly critical of TFT also illustrate that contrary to what those who would smear me online would like people to believe, my use of “Independent Scholar” to describe myself is nothing new. I used that term in both of those critical articles since at the time (written 2004, published in 2005), I was unaffiliated with any academic institution. In 2006 when I began the PhD program at Florida State University, I dropped that term since I was the affiliated with FSU and I resumed using it following my graduation.

I hope this clarifies any confusion generated by thus-far-unidentified anonymous individuals who lack the courage to put their name to what they post about me — who now (following the dismissal of Federici v Pignotti et al) appear to be desperate to discredit me with any far fetched lie they can make up.

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Another reposting from the Monica Pignotti, MSW blog, still relevant today as they are continuing efforts along these lines. Just so readers are clear on what I am referring to, this article is about TFT proponents traveling to Africa and having people tap on acupressure points on the body to supposedly treat Malaria. These efforts, fortunately, began after I had already ceased practice of and involvement with TFT, so I never participated in any of this. In a 2006 NPR interview, Callahan claimed:

Dr. CALLAHAN: Its really remarkable the number of things we can successfully treat. We just successfully treated malaria down in Africa.

Here is the “research” his claim is apparently based on, as published in an Association for Thought Field Therapy newsletter. To date, I am not aware of any peer reviewed research.

So-Called TFT Malaria Research: Sloppy Reporting or Fancy Cooking?

February 19, 2007

A write-up of the TFT “humanitarian” mission to Africa and their so-called “research” has just been posted on the ATFT website [the reference is ATFT Update, Issue 4, Winter 2006, p. 5-6].

I have to say that I have never seen anything like this in my life. The infamous Journal of Clinical Psychology Special Issue Oct 2001 on TFT doesn’t even begin to compare.

First, there’s the stunning theoretical overview that I will fair use quote from without comment (ATFT Update, p.5-6 at above URL):

“Then in September of 2004, during a TFT training in Mexico City, one of the nurses from a nearby village told Joanne and Roger how she helped with dengue fever using TFT algorithms. While at dinner that evening with friends, including Alvaro and Dr. Racquel Hazas, Joanne and Roger talked about an article in Science News that reported that mosquito-born illnesses, such as malaria and dengue fever, are an electrical phenomenon in the body. Racquel, a physicist, verified this fact. They realized this might offer an explanation why TFT has been able help with these problems and talked about the possibility of the ATFT Foundation, of which Joanne is President, sending a team to Africa and explore how TFT might help relieve the suffering caused by malaria.”

And then there is the methodology (although I’m being overly generous to call it that). The report reads (see p. 6):

“In order to determine what kind of effect Thought Field Therapy had on malaria patients, we needed to collect certain data before and after TFT treatment. The plan was to focus on people whose blood tested positive for malaria.

“We would then obtain four pre- and post- TFT measurements of people testing positive for malaria:

“1) Ratings of malaria symptoms, from 0 to 3 (0=none, 1=mild, 2=moderate,

3=severe); “2) Body Temperature (fever is a common symptom of malaria);

“3) Subjective Units of Distress (SUD), from 1 to 10, for the overall problem;

“4) Heart Rate Variability (HRV).”

The most obvious post test outcome is not mentioned here. What about a post Malaria test? Blank out! Malaria tests were only done prior to the treatment, not after the treatment. Instead, they chose to measure relief of Malaria symptoms with subjective ratings of distress, body temperature, and Heart Rate Variability. Some of the patients were on legitimate medical treatments, such as Quinine drips, when the TFT was done. Do any of these folks know what a confound is or has Callahan developed amnesia for his past research training? The report emphasized that the Malaria blood tests were quick and easy to administer. Why not do a post test? Callahan, later in the same newsletter, said that one Malaria test showed changes but “Alas, our researchers did not have time to stay and take further blood tests.” Oh please. Does Callahan really think that any intelligent person would find it credible that these “researchers” who were on what was a very important and meaningful mission to them, would not have “the time” to administer a test that can be easily and quickly done?

And then there are the numbers. They just don’t add up and the report raises puzzling questions that ought to immediately come to the mind of anyone even remotely familiar with the scientific method or basic arithmetic, for that matter. Following the “Methods” section, is a rambling, rather confusing conglomeration of anecdotes, including trivia such as the team leader and then-ATFT President Mary Cowley having her luggage lost and how others would have to put up with the stench of her clothing (talk about TMI — too much information !). Once in awhile, between anecdotes, they threw in a few numbers here and there. They report hundreds of people coming to them for testing. At one site alone, 60 people came in for testing, they reported (p. 10) and 45% of those tested positive. Okay, that would be 27 participants just from that site alone. This raises another question. The “researchers” reported that they came with 200 test kits and ended up with a paltry sample of only 15 people, and only 7 on some of the post tests such as HRV. Did that low a percentage of people test positive for Malaria? It doesn’t seem likely given the numbers earlier in their report. What happened with the others who tested positive that they supposedly treated? Some, they claimed, were treated in groups but why were there no pre or post tests on them of any kind?

What gives here? Were the “researchers” on some kind of permanent safari or did they tap their left brains away so they could no longer perform simple arithmetic? There was no accounting of any kind in this report for the discrepancy in the numbers. What comes to mind here is the famous saying: If it doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t make sense. This is simple, but good advice since the more common human response is to try to rationalize or explain away things that just don’t make sense.

I have to wonder, was this just incredibly sloppy reporting or did these “researchers” fail to report all of the results, especially if they conflicted with their desired outcome? We’ll never know. A reasonable person might think that if they really wanted to see whether TFT helped with Malaria, the easiest most obvious test to do, pre and post, would be the Malaria test which they report is quick and very easy to administer. Instead all we have are subjective reports and meaningless HRV tests (there are no publications testing the reliability and validity of HRV as a measure of malaria whatsoever). And of course, as usual with Callahan TFT testing, there was no control group. Callahan doesn’t believe control groups are needed because TFT is so “robust” and “powerful” and he claims HRV doesn’t respond to placebo (even though most HRV testing in journal studies does use control groups).

It doesn’t look like this report is going to convince anyone who is not already such a true believer they have lost their ability to think critically or question the obvious gaping holes in this report. If there are any of Callahan’s therapists (or as he likes to call them, “trainees”) out there who still have any kind of ability to question, please, for starters, ask him and the “research” team the following (come on, I dare you):

How many people in the sample tested positive for Malaria? (according to their own report, there were at least 27 at one site alone, yet the final report had an N of only 15)

How many of those were included in the study? How do you explain the discrepancy?

How many post Malaria tests did you actually do? Was it just the one Callahan reported and if so, why didn’t you bother to post test the very small number of people in your sample (15) with such a quick and easy test? Why didn’t you have the time (as Callahan claims) to stick around for a few extra minutes and run a test that might actually measure what you’re claiming to treat?

Alas, I doubt we’ll ever get answers to these questions, but I want to put Roger Callahan, Joanne Callahan and the so-called “research” team on notice that they are being asked.

PS: Since I see in my blog stats that someone Googled the question of whether ACEP is connected to Scientology, the answer is no, definitely not. ACEP has no connection or relationship whatsoever to Scientology. In fact, active Scientologists in good standing are forbidden to do the sorts of practices promoted by ACEP — that would be considered “mixing practices”, a major no-no in Scientology. Scientologists are forbidden to do any kind of “other practices” while doing Scientology. I’ve seen this come up before on the internet where someone apparently has the misconception that tapping therapies have a connection to Scientology. They definitely do not. I am wondering if this misconception got started due to the internet smear campaign against me, where I have constantly been hammered for my long-ago involvement in Scientology, which the cyber smearers conveniently neglect to mention that I fully repudiated and left 34 years ago.

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Since my Psychjourney blog, Monica Pignotti, MSW has closed down due to all Psychjourney Blogs on Typepad being discontinued, I am going to begin reposting some of the more salient articles from that blog. I will repost the TFT articles on this blog and certain others on another blog that will be replacing the Psychjourney blog. The following is a reposting of  two blog articles I wrote on a 2006 NPR program on TFT and its use with survivors of Hurricane Katrina, for which I was interviewed. Other guests included Drexel Professor of Psychology James Herbert and Roger Callahan. Fortunately, the links to this program on the NPR website that I provided, still work.

For those who would prefer to read rather than listen, a transcript is also available on the NPR website.

National Public Radio Program on Thought Field Therapy

March 26, 2006

This is an announcement to let you all know that on Wednesday, March 29th I will be a guest on the National Public Radio program “All Things Considered”. The topic will be the Thought Field Therapy.

James Herbert, who is a Psychology Professor at Drexel University and was co-author (with Brandon Gaudiano) of the 2000 Skeptical Inquirer article on TFT, will also be a guest on the show.

The Association for Thought Field Therapy has managed to get a team of TFT therapists into a Charity Hospital program in New Orleans to work with survivors of Katrina.  One of the reporters from NPR picked up on this and decided to devote a program to this topic.  I will be speaking about my experiences with TFT and my recently-published study on the TFT Voice Technology.

Link and my Comments on NPR Program on TFT
March 30, 2006

There is now a direct link for the NPR program (aired 3/29/06) on TFT, now available for people who wish to listen to the program on the internet:

In response to the comments, yes, I was very pleased with how Alix Spiegel put together this program. Given the tremendous amount of interview material she had to put together for a 12-minute segment, I thought she made wise choices on what to include and she gave a well balanced presentation and that the way she put together segments from my interview was very accurate. I give her kudos for not taking the ATFT’s claims at face value and really doing her homework.

Had there been more time available, there were a few additional points I would have like to have made. The saddest part of the entire program was the interview with the survivor of Katrina who blamed herself for not tapping enough when the results of the TFT treatment did not last with her and her panic returned. Callahan’s explanation is even worse than that; if TFT treatment results do not hold up over time, he maintains this is due to “toxins” and this (for paying clients) would require signing up for the more expensive TFT “Diagnostic” or VT treatments (I have discussed toxins elsewhere in this blog).

The biggest surprise for me was that Callahan actually claimed on the program that TFT could treat Malaria — he didn’t say the stress from Malaria — just “Malaria”! I was aware of the ATFT team’s activities in Africa but didn’t think he would openly claim such a thing without any qualifying statements. This amounts to making medical claims, as I understood him. Of course, I have known that privately many TFT proponents really do believe that they can actually treat diseases, but I thought that for PR purposes they would be more subtle about the claims they made in order to protect themselves. It looks like I was wrong about that.

Bottom line: The NPR program did an excellent job in conveying the message that Callahan and other TFT proponents are making grandiose claims that are unsupported by good evidence. I only hope that the hospitals and relief organizations that are supporting the ATFT team being there will take notice and do something about this. What they are endorsing is inexcusable. There are empirically supported, effective treatments for trauma and the kinds of symptoms the survivor on the show was experiencing. There are very effective existing treatments for panic so I have to ask these hospitals why this woman did not receive those and instead received a bogus therapy that did not help her in the long run? The administrators of these hospitals and relief organizations can expect to hear from me and a number of other concerned mental health professionals and doctors very soon asking why they are depriving their patients of empirically supported treatments and giving them quackery instead. We expect some answers.

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There’s a very interesting article in the current issue of E-Skeptic by Larry Sarner on Emily Rosa’s seminal therapeutic touch (TT) experiment that was published in the JAMA in 1998 of a study she conducted at age 9, making her the youngest person ever to publish in a peer reviewed medical journal.

Sarner addresses many of the misconceptions people have about this study and he lists the postulates (assumptions) that TT is based on, most of which also hold for the newer energy psychology therapies such as TFT and EFT. Emily Rosa’s experiment addressed postulate #3, although many people, even some skeptics, misunderstood it as addressing #1, which it was not designed to do. He makes an excellent point that many skeptics focus on #1, whether the HEF exists at all. If any of these postulates are falsified, however, the entire theory collapses. These postulates were induced and deduced from the TT literature since the TT proponents themselves seem to have resisted making any clear statements in this regard.

  1. THE EXISTENCE POSTULATE. TT is a widespread (primarily nursing) practice predicated upon a belief in the existence of a “human energy field.” This field may be too esoteric or “subtle” to be capable of measurement or detection by conventional technology.
  2. THE ETIOLOGICAL POSTULATE. The HEF is postulated as a physical reality that permeates a human body and extends beyond it. Disease, illness, injury, or discomfort are manifest in the HEF as “differences” (disturbances, imbalances, congestion, or the like). Also, the elimination of such differences in the HEF either returns the body itself to health or removes impediments to the body’s own healing processes.
  3. THE PERCEPTIBILITY POSTULATE. Each person’s HEF is perceptible by any other person, especially with the intention to do so, though it may be necessary in individual instances for the other person to be trained to recognize the perceptions as HEF-related. In particular, differences in an HEF can be perceived, thereby detecting the presence (and with refinement, the locale) of disease, illness, injury, or discomfort.
  4. THE MANIPULABILITY POSTULATE. One person can effect changes in another person’s HEF. Those changes can be controlled by the changer’s intentions, though training may be necessary to allow selection of the proper intentionality for accomplishing desired ends, such as the elimination of differences.
  5. THE MANUAL POSTULATE. A practitioner’s hand alone is an effective and reliable means for the perception and manipulation of the HEF of another person. Coupled with the proper intentionality, healing can occur through manual intervention in the HEF.

I have found this to be a useful framework for a critical examination of the assumptions between TFT/EFT. The only one that would not necessarily hold true for TFT/EFT is #3, which is the one that Emily’s experiment focused on, very important to TT but not so much, for TFT/EFT. With TFT/EFT, people finger tap on specified points on the body and so it would not be necessary for them to actually be able to feel the HEF. In other words, they can do #4 without having to do #3. All they have to do is know where and (for TFT) in what sequence to tap. My published experiment addressed and falsified the notion that sequence of tapping points mattered (the basis for Callahan’s $100,000 VT) and Waite and Holder’s experiment falsified the notion that the points mattered, since they had control conditions of sham points and tapping on a doll. Both studies were published in the peer reviewed journal, The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice.

Also, #5 is only partially applicable to TFT, although many of its proponents do hold that assumption, in full. TFT’s inventor, Roger Callahan has strenuously objected to the idea that intention had anything to do with his claimed results. His claim is that all a person has to do is to tap on specified points in specified sequences and results will occur. The person being treated must be thinking about the problem being treated, so in that sense, intention is important, but the intention of the practitioner to heal, presumably has nothing to do with it. However, many EFT/TFT proponents disagree and see intention as critically important to both successes and failures and that, of course, can be used as a way to explain away failure.

Sarner’s article covers a great deal of ground, addressing TT’s basic assumptions, correcting misconceptions about Emily Rosa’s experiment and issuing a point by point rebuttal to the criticism of that experiment. The article is well worth the read and available on the E-Skeptic website.

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Is this the title of a satirical article from The Onion? It sounds like it but no, this is real life. Someone just informed me that a TFT true believer asked Roger Callahan if he had an algorithm to treat skeptics. Now I realize the person probably was saying this tongue and cheek, but it really is quite telling about the mindset of certain true believers . Such people appear to think that critical thinking and skepticism about a treatment that has offered scant evidence is an attitude that needs “treatment”. Since what they have done so far has failed to convince skeptics, some true believers would love nothing more than to tap their critics away.

Is TFT a method that can be used to shut out critical thinking? Given that the evidence is scant that it even can treat emotional problems, not very likely. However, the intent behind people who seem to want to do this is not so funny. I actually had an experience back in 2001 where in a meeting with other VT people, I was voicing some objections to how the voice technology was being portrayed and Joanne offered to “treat” me for it. I declined, saying “You can’t tap away an ethical dilemma” and I didn’t and wouldn’t but I have to wonder if some people are labeling their doubts as negativity and trying to tap them away. Even if TFT is not an effective treatment for this, the power of suggestion can be very strong with believers and the implications are concerning to me.

One thing is for sure. TFT failed to cure me of my critical thinking. My involvement with TFT only gave me a stronger motivation to develop my critical thinking further.

TFT believers take note: The only way you are going to change a skeptic’s mind is to produce well-designed randomized controlled studies that follow all the latest reporting guidelines and publish them in reputable peer review journals — the ones that have the high impact factors, not the proprietary ones and publish studies that are not funded by associations that have a vested interest in the treatment. To begin with studies should be on the people TFT treats most — people here in the United States or in the UK, rather than going into a different culture and then attempting to generalize to the people who are the paying TFT clients in the US or the UK. They should have waited to do the “humanitarian” work until they see if they are able to get evidence that TFT works in the culture in which it was developed.

Note that when I use the word “skeptic” I mean an actual skeptic, not the kind that are portrayed in Activia commercials or the kind that new age types like to portray. Sometimes the people who are referred to as skeptics are actually just people having knee jerk negative emotional responses to things and those are people who are actually very easily swayed in the other direction.

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On March 1, 2010, I celebrated my 6th anniversary of being clean and sober from pseudoscience. I severed my ties with Thought Field Therapy and related associations on March 1, 2004. Since that time, I have authored numerous publications related to pseudoscience and critiques of interventions that make unsupported claims. The result has been that I have been the target of personal attacks. Most of these attacks have been not from TFT proponents, but rather, from proponents of so-called attachment therapies and therapies that employ coercive restraints or questionable parenting methods with children. These interventions lack evidence to support their efficacy and yet make claims of superiority to existing interventions that do have evidence.

An analogy occurred to me. Suppose there was someone who had an alcohol abuse and dependency problem who managed to remain clean and sober for more than six years. Now, suppose that a person who currently has a serious problem with alcohol abuse and dependency, while in a drunken stupor, begins to attack the clean and sober person, put blogs up about that person and repeatedly attack that person for being an “alcoholic” neglecting to mention their own current problem and neglecting to mention that the person they are attacking has been clean and sober for six years. Any rational person would immediately see how ridiculous that would be.

Something very similar to this is happening with me, having nothing to do with drugs or alcohol, to which I have never felt any particular attraction. Although, I do not consider the practice of pseudoscience to be an addiction, the fact is that I have not practiced or endorsed any form of pseudoscience for over six years. Clean and sober is an appropriate description because refraining from the lure and highs one can get from pseudoscientific placebos indicate a sort of sobriety and clean, honest, critical thought. Yet there are malicious blog postings being spread all over the internet, playing up my association with Thought Field Therapy, which I have not practiced for over six years. The people doing these postings have current involvement in pseudoscientific practices that like TFT, pretend to be based on scientific theories, yet actually have no scientific evidence to support their efficacy and have no more evidence than TFT does. Having my past so excessively focused on by people who are currently practicing unsupported therapies would be like a drunk, raging person staggering over to his computer and posting blog after blog about someone who has been clean and sober for six years, calling them a drunk. It is all too obvious who has the real problem.

Instead of twelve-step programs (which are actually controversial for alcohol problems, but that would be a topic for a different blog entry), the way to become clean and sober from pseudoscience is to learn all about science and evidence-based practice and why it is important to do well-designed, randomized controlled studies rather than to rely solely on anecdotes from personal and/or clinical experience. Understanding cognitive biases that all human beings have is key. My aha moment came after increasing doubts, while reading the book, Science and Pseudoscience in Clinical Psychology and coming to realize that TFT proponents, including myself, were engaging in confirmation bias, focusing on successes and explaining away failures, not because we were being dishonest, but because we were unaware of the tendency all human beings have to do this. As Paul Meehl pointed out, therapists are vulnerable to the same kinds of biases all human beings are and thus have to move beyond their own experience into rigorous testing in order to know whether what they are doing is effective.

I have been clean and sober from pseudoscience for six years. My critics, unfortunately cannot validly claim the same although they are probably only at the first stage of Prochaska’s levels of change, pre-contemplation. In other words, they don’t even know they have a problem.

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In memory of Martin Gardner (1914-2010), he wrote a prescient essay  in 1950, entitled “The Hermit Scientist”. What comes to mind for me is a memory I have of a conversation with Roger Callahan in the early 2000s, where he told me he felt nobody, not even the people who studied with him, truly understood his work. He informed me that he thought that I came closest of anyone who had studied with him (at the time of his remark, of course, not anymore), but after something I had said he did not agree with, he informed me that not even I, completely understood his work.

I will present a quote from Michael Shermer’s synopsis in his Scientific American column, of the essay without further comment, since the reason it is relevant to this blog, speaks for itself.

How can we tell if someone is a scientific crank? Gardner offers this advice: (1) “First and most important of these traits is that cranks work in almost total isolation from their colleagues.” Cranks typically do not understand how the scientific process operates — that they need to try out their ideas on colleagues, attend conferences and publish their hypotheses in peer-reviewed journals before announcing to the world their startling discovery. Of course, when you explain this to them they say that their ideas are too radical for the conservative scientific establishment to accept. (2) “A second characteristic of the pseudo-scientist, which greatly strengthens his isolation,is a tendency toward paranoia,” which manifests
itself in several ways:

  1. He considers himself a genius.
  2. He regards his colleagues, without exception, as ignorant blockheads …
  3. He believes himself unjustly persecuted and discriminated against. The recognized societies refuse to let him lecture. The journals reject his papers and either ignore his books or assign them to “enemies” for review. It is all part of a dastardly plot. It never occurs to the crank that this opposition may be due to error in his work …
  4. He has strong compulsions to focus his attacks on the greatest scientists and the best-established theories. When Newton was the outstanding name in physics, eccentric works in that science were violently anti-Newton. Today, with Einstein the father symbol
    of authority, a crank theory of physics is likely to attack Einstein …
  5. He often has a tendency to write in a complex jargon, in many
    cases making use of terms and phrases he himself has coined.

We should keep these criteria in mind when we explore controversial ideas on the borderlands of science. “If the present trend continues,” Gardner concludes, “we can expect a wide variety of these men, with theories yet unimaginable, to put in their appearance in the years immediately ahead. They will write impressive books, give inspiring lectures, organize exciting cults. They may achieve a following of one — or one million. In any case, it will be well for ourselves and for society if we are on our guard against them.” So we still are, Martin. That is what skeptics do, and in tribute for all you have done, we shall continue to honor your founding command.

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