From Abracadabra to Zombies
reader comments: kirlian photography
18 Jun 1999
I am aware of 2 errors of fact in your Skeptic's Dictionary.
The first concerns your skeptical criticism of the Rorschach Inkblot. You criticize the putative scientific status of the Rorschach because the scientific evidence for its validity is based as it must be on correlation alone. You compare this to the efficacy of interpreting dreams. In point of fact the Rorschach has a more immediate source of validity: clinical usefulness. It is in fact a powerful tool in properly trained hands, and your skeptical criticisms amount to nothing more than "character assassination", that is, you have neither proven it to be useless or invalid, nor have you proved to be invalid the claims of those who find it useful and valid. Therefore, I consider your propositions regarding the inkblot to be errors of fact, in that they are speculation posing as proof.
reply: I don't criticize the ink blot test because the evidence for its validity rests on correlation alone. I criticize it because it is too subjective and its application and validation rests completely with the therapist's "insight" and intuition. As such, it is no different from making a diagnosis based on conversations with someone.
The attempt to standardize a projective test is akin to what Freud did in his Interpretation of Dreams. There is no objective set of rules for what either the ink blots or dreams mean.
I never claimed the ink blot test to be useless. A good therapist ought to be able to use any interaction with the patient to some purposeful and useful end.
I think, however, that you, like many therapists, don't know the difference between a statement of fact and an opinion.
The second error of fact is more egregious. You claim that the images seen on Kirlian photographs are due to "moisture" emanating from the object. Again you have not studied your subject in enough depth to offer better than speculative criticism. The moisture effect is your theory, nothing more, and it is disproved by two observations: first, that aura's have been captured from objects that were bone dry, such as stone or metal, and second, that if the photographic emulsion is separated from the object by a thin layer of glass, the aura can still be detected even when it is impossible for moisture to have penetrated the glass. Finally, you are guilty of bad faith, because you essentially imply that persons reporting such things as phantom half leaves are either so foolish as to conduct the experiment sloppily so as to confound the results with the effects on which you speculate, or else that they are liars who misrepresent their technique. From what I have seen the people conducting both Kirlian photography research and those doing research on the Rorschach are working harder and more intelligently, and certainly with more good faith, than what you have done.
reply: Apparently, you have a difficult time reading. I claim that the "auras" in Kirlian photographs can be due to several things: pressure, electrical grounding, humidity, temperature, changes in moisture, barometric pressure, and voltage.
Moisture left behind by a section of a leaf that has been sliced accounts for the appearance of "phantom" sections of the leaf in Kirlian photographs. Moisture is not what is photographed. Electrical discharge is what is photographed.
I haven't heard anyone being accused of "bad faith" since my college days when existentialism was the rage. I don't doubt that your researchers work hard, nor do I challenge their intelligence. Whether they have good faith or bad faith, I can't say. However, I think your critical comments demonstrate the uselessness of such expressions.
21 Mar 1998
According to an article in Aerospace America, Kirlian methods can be used to achieve the same results as nuclear magnetic resonance. Just in case you want to explore: Lerner, Eric. "Kirlian Photos Find Hidden Flaws." Aerospace America, Vol. 24, pg. 11-12. Aug. 1986.