On Studies and Ethics
By Barbara Janelle M.A.
The following is from a letter to Penelope Smith about comments made by RC in an e-mail on Interspecies Communication. Penelope’s response to the e-mail “Scientific Proof of Telepathy” appeared in Species Link, Issue 53, January-March 2004 and included some of my material.
I do have a number of comments to make in response to the e-mail from RC about studies and ethics in Interspecies Communication.
On Double-Blind Studies and the Scientific Approach
I have a number of things to say about the issue that he raises about wanting double-blind studies on Interspecies Communication. Relatively few ideas and “facts” in our world have been subject to double-blind studies. Indeed I would wager that whatever kind of work he does, has either not been subject to any such kind of study, or only in a very limited way.
Double-blind studies sound lovely but are full of difficulties. They attempt to look at only a couple of variables, when function in our world is very much more complex. Examples of this are studies done in animal psychology and health with mice to monkeys, in which animals were kept in artificial environments and usually in isolation for the larger species. These conditions stress animals and any study results are questionable because the impact of stress on immunity and behaviour was and is not fully understood.
There is a large and growing body of evidence that suggests that the researcher’s interest and attention can change study outcome. Even something like a lab technician’s interest in a particular animal can change that animal’s behaviour and health.
We have a very limited understanding about how information spreads. Rupert Sheldrake and others have written about species level shifts that occur once a threshold population knows something. Work on String Theory suggests that once cells have been in contact that they continue to show similar changes over time even when separated by thousands of miles. This again suggests a wide range of additional variables that we know little about.
There is a huge amount of material written on the philosophy of science that essentially says that the scientific approach is very limited as a testing procedure and what we learn from it are only approximations in understanding, not hard, unchanging facts.
Another way of looking at the validity of ideas and information is to examine the effects of using them. Indeed much of what we think we know through scientific study is based on examining effects. For example, very little is understood about what electricity is, but we have a lot of studies that show us what it does.
A principle of Hawaiian Huna Philosophy is “A measure of truth is effectiveness.” We can work with this principle in examining Interspecies Communication. Primary questions are:
a) Does Interspecies Communication change something in the behaviour, health or performance of the animal?
b) Does Interspecies Communication change the relationship between animal and owner?
c) Does Interspecies Communication change anything in the communicator’s life?
This is an avenue that we can explore both formally and informally through questioning clients about the effect of the work. Informally, as I look at the letters I have received from clients in the last 3 months, about 80% of them mention changes in the animal and/or in their relationship with the animal as a result of the communication consultation. Formalized studies using questionnaires can certainly be devised and done. This kind of approach is commonly used in health studies and in the social sciences.
There are other indicators that Interspecies Communication is real:
a) In almost every communication there is some piece of information that signals to the owner that the communicator is actually receiving information from the animal.
b) In classes, there is always some correlation in information received by the participants.
These can be examined in formal study ways as well.
Another issue raised by RC is about ethics. The Code of Ethics that you have developed Penelope, is a fine statement of the principles that those of us who are listed with you abide by. Again too, there is the measure of effectiveness in our work that determines whether we stay in business. For many of us, our clients come to us by word of mouth, and if a communicator is not ethical or accurate, the client base will disappear pretty quickly.
For whatever reason, RC seems to have an issue about communicators earning money from their work. My skill and that of many others in this work has been developed over years of training, practice, sharing of information through writing and teaching and self-examination. This is demanding work and we continue to grow in skill and clarity, as well as in our understanding about this cooperative existence. I think that there is no ethical concern about charging for skills used in service to animals and their owners.