The newswires and blogs (and Boing Boing
) have been burning up with the news that a man who's been believed to have been in a coma for 23 years was in fact conscious the whole time, something we've only discovered thanks to his newfound ability to communicate using special apparatus. But there's very little information about Rom Houben's communications, save for a few images. And these images appear to show Mr Houben and his aide speaking via "facilitated communication," wherein an aide helps a person with a disability or paralysis to painstakingly spell out words by lifting the disabled person's hand and responding to faint muscle signals.
And therein lies a problem, because facilitated communications has been widely discredited as a kind of Ouija board, in which the aide's unconscious movements guide the disabled person's hands around, without the aide even knowing that she's doing it.
Mr Houben's brain activity seems normal, and he can apparently communicate a little by moving one foot, but without more information, it's impossible to say whether the words attributed to him that we're reading are his, or a product of his facilitator's unconscious mind.
"If facilitated communication is part of this, and it appears to be, then I don't trust it," said Arthur Caplan, director of the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Bioethics. "I'm not saying the whole thing is a hoax, but somebody ought to be checking this in greater detail. Any time facilitated communication of any sort is involved, red flags fly...."
Reborn Coma Man's Words May Be Bogus
"I believe that he is sentient. They've shown that with MRI scans," said James Randi, a prominent skeptic who during the 1990s investigated the use of facilitated communication for autistic children. But in the video, "You see this woman who's not only holding his hand, but what she's doing is directing his fingers and looking directly at the keyboard. She's pressing down on the keyboard, pressing messages for him. He has nothing to do with it."
According to Randi, facilitated communication could only be considered credible if the facilitator didn't look at the keyboard or screen while supporting Houben's hand, and helped him type messages in response to questions she had not heard, thus ensuring that Houben's responses are entirely his own.
The James Randi Educational Foundation has offered a million-dollar prize to a valid demonstration of facilitated communication, and Randi invited Houben to participate. "Our prize is still there," he said.
Elenco’s Night ‘n Day Mechanical Globe uses a system of translucent, exposed gears to rotate an internally illuminated globe that displays the seasonally adjusted, real-time night/day terminator as it spins.
KSU plant biochemical geneticist Raj Nagarajan describes the properties of Thaumatin, Monellin and Brazzein, all found in west African plants that are generally considered safe for consumption; each is a protein, and they are, respectively, 1,000x, 2000x, and 3000x sweeter than sugar.
The amazing suckers on octopus arms aren’t just for sucking. They also are used to smell and taste. To deal with all that sensory input, the vast majority of an octopus’s brain cells are in its eight arms! “It’s more efficient to put the nervous cells in the arm,” neurobiologist Binyamin Hochner, of the Hebrew […]
Having a luxurious bed isn’t just a fairy tale from a catalog; it is a real, affordable possibility with offerings like this Olive+Owen bedroom set. If you’re thinking of doing some “spring cleaning”, this bed set is an easy way to completely upgrade your room in one purchase.This 20-piece collection has all of the expected slumberland elements, […]
Python is immensely popular in the data science world for the same reason it is in most other areas of computing—it has highly readable syntax and is suitable for anything from short scripts to massive web services. One of its most exciting, newest applications, however, is in machine learning. You can dive into this booming […]
Learning new skills is a great way to improve your resume and stand out from other candidates. Especially in a workforce in which many job-seekers have a wide variety of qualifications. With lifetime access to Virtual Training Company, you won’t have to choose a specific focus. You can pick up new expertise whenever you deem it […]