September 26, 2001

Iridology — Still! Astrology — More! Dowsing — Yet!

Having some printing done recently, I was shown a beautiful, expensive, laminated chart turned out by a Dr. David J. Pesek, Ph.D., illustrating the quackery known as "iridology." This is a notion that the iris of the eye is a chart of the body, indicating weaknesses that show up as irregularities in the patterns displayed in the colored portion of the eye.

Such notions are, and always have been, very popular. Phrenology assigns significance to "bumps" on the head, palmistry examines lines on the hand, reflexology does the same with the sole of the foot — and the configurations of the toes, and physiognomy determines character by the layout and appearance of the various features of the face. Any aspect in which human beings differ from one individual to the other, has been embraced by the pseudoscientists and developed into full-blown quackery.

Iridology was originated by Hungarian homeopathic physician Ignatz von Peczely and revived in 1950 by an American chiropractor named Bernard Jensen. It assumes that a homunculus (miniature representation of the body) is shown in the iris of the eye, which is meticulously charted into zones which are said to represent all areas of the body. Discolorations, streaks, and spots present in these areas are interpreted as problems — either present or future. Since there is no differentiation made between existing, already terminated, or yet-to-come physical defects, the interpreter/diagnoser cannot be wrong, a convenient aspect. Iridology has been tested many times and has always failed. Nonetheless, it is still popular, particularly in Belgium and France, and increasingly her in the USA.

Dr. Pesek's detailed color photographs of various eyes are accompanied by descriptions of his diagnosis of the ailments he deduces from examination of each iris. One example will serve to illustrate how comprehensive and penetrating his discernment is. Under the heading, "Thought/Emotion Predisposition," we see:

Reduced mental and emotional stamina; feeling less control in life; increased psychological challenges; sensitivity to imbalances; intermittent motivation.

And under "Physical Predisposition," he writes:

Lowered metabolism and elimination of waste products; tendency toward hernias; prolapsus and joint weakness; overall decreased vitality.

Isn't it remarkable how much can be determined just by a glance in the eye? Now, Dr. Pesek, as with all those other Ph.D.s, is eligible for the JREF million-dollar prize if he really can perform such a diagnosis — and I invite him to get on line. I urge you to go to to read a definition of this "art" as written by the practitioners themselves. You will note that, in common with so many of these "alternative" systems, they identify them selves with recognized, tried-and-true, methods of diagnosis that are immediately recognized. Quote:

. . . . x-rays, blood tests, other types of tests and MRI's are examples of several other assessment tools, of which there are many more. Last, but certainly not least, is Iridology.

I've not mentioned on these pages the recent granting of accreditation to astrology schools in the USA. I'm just too bewildered by the fact. Friends in Europe and the Far East have asked me about it, and I've been unable to explain it. Next, can we look for courses in Tooth Fairy, Astral Projection, and Palmistry, to lead to PhD's?

You'll love this. Our web master received an earnest request — immediately granted — from the moderator of a John Edward site, who wanted me to put a stop to a "misuse" of her system: "[You are] allowing [your] BBS users to misuse my bandwidth. . . . My URL is being posted over and over at Randi's web board, and . . . the click throughs alone are eating up my bandwidth, just so these intolerant people can get a little kick." She went on to complain about our "forum users listing my link over and over, organizing group visits to my forum, to challenge us to debates." Now, I want to discourage any such process, please. At least we'll agree to fight fair, okay? I responded to the moderator, "You see . . . we encourage debates, and visitors. I thought that perhaps you did, too. Just a difference in philosophy and needs."

In my opinion, the fakers such as John Edward and his promoters will have a tougher time now to sell their claims to the public. Profiting from personal grief and tragedy just may not be as popular as it was before 6,000+ persons perished in an act of madness on September 11th.

Or am I hoping too much?

This excerpt from a recent new book interested me, and I offer it here for your consideration. It discusses how the media handle dubious claims and discussions:

Political, scientific, or religious debates are often distorted according to an immutable principle: one brings together the person who is wrong, who is a hardened demagogue, and whose cause one secretly espouses, to face an opponent who is right but who does not know the case well enough to counter his adversary on precise technical points.

Take the case of the charlatan who claims to transmit thoughts at a distance. A newspaper that claims to be objective, well-balanced, reader-respectful, and nonpartisan will put two discourses in opposition: that of the charlatan who claims to have abilities not explained by physics, and that of critics: academicians or Nobel Prize winners who will bring out their authority, express their righteous indignation, say that they cannot give any credence to a phenomenon so manifestly opposed to the most sacred laws of physics, and the like. The reader to whom the two contradictory discourses have been served up will not fail to congratulate the newspaper for its remarkable objectivity.

The only one who will not be given the floor is the professional magician who "knows the trick" and could perform it without further ado for the public. Had he been allowed to speak, the reader would understand everything right away, and there would be nothing left to write in the next few days on this subject. The whole art thus consists of getting the charlatans to speak on the one hand and the distinguished scientists to speak on the other, provided the latter have nothing relevant to say on the subject. But it sometimes happens, alas, that an independent journal comes along and lets the cat out of the bag.

That was taken from "The Science of Illusions," translated by Franklin Philip and published by Cornell University Press, written by Jacques Ninio, senior research scientist at the Centre National des Recherches Scientifiques, Paris.

Remember how Sylvia Browne assured Larry King that she was "working with Stephen Xanthos out of the Rumson, New Jersey, police department on a case" that she was "getting ready to close"? Well, as we told you last week, no person named Xanthos ever worked with that police department, though there was a Stephen Xanthos who was canned from another New Jersey police department. Looking a little further into this mythical claim of Sylvia's, we discovered that Xanthos had a private investigator's license at one time, but it expired in 1994. It's interesting to note that if this man really had been working with Browne, as she stated he was on the Larry King show, he would be subject to charges of a third degree felony, under New Jersey State law — that's on a par with burglary and car theft. Not that we ever believed Sylvia was telling the truth, but she should be a bit more clever with her mendacity.

Yes, the vultures are really out there. I had an inquiry from ABC-TV News about the fact that the DKL people had shown up at the World Trade Center site, offering to detect living humans under the debris with their stupid dowsing-rod with the fake electronics in it. Just how can people like this continue to push their quackery, when in this case, particularly, human lives might depend on whether or not applied methods are effective? The DKL is a total hoax, tested thoroughly by the US government, and shown to be a hoax. If the law won't stop these opportunists, using a major tragedy to promote their pseudoscience, then can't we at least hope that human decency might prevail? They find grief and desperation, and they capitalize on it.

Note: Due to technical considerations, the page went up 2 days days early. Enjoy.