Monday, April 23, 2007

Debunking yet another pseudoscientific claim about birth

Dr. Phillip Gordon, the neonatologist over at Tales from the Womb, debunks yet another pseudoscientific claim about birth. In Debunking the Pseudoscience of Infant Memories, he writes:
For those of you have never heard of this type of belief system before, let me tell you that some derivation or another regarding latent infant memories being the root of all evil crops up every decade or two. The most famous is L. Ron Hubbard's Scientology religion which advocates Silent Birth as way of preventing disability and lowered IQ. This is a quote from their silent birth site: “What is said and done to a person when unconscious and in pain is recorded in the mind below one's awareness. These recordings can "play back" later in life, causing a person to react inappropriately, or even to suffer from unwanted psychosomatic illnesses, lowered IQ and disabilities.” It is total codswallop.

In other words, they believe the fetus has the capacity to remember events at birth and have these memories permanently debilitate a child's lifelong potential. So to does Dr Fredrick Wirth .., who states that the fetus has many more synapses than the adult. Well, that statement is just flat out wrong (they have more neurons at certain phases of development that undergo programmed cell death as some find their appropriate connections and others appropriately die off, but they do not have more functional synapses).
Dr. Gordon has a very astute description of the motivations for these kinds of pseudoscience (infant memories, vaccine rejection, "alternative" health):
... This is unfortunately, the kind of spin people put on harsh realities when they cannot come to terms with truth. The world cannot be indifferent. We must have control of our lives. It must be all in our heads... somehow. If only we can keep thinking positive. I have little patience with this ilk because intellectually, it is just one step up the slippery slope from Christian Science and their insistence upon faith healing – which has resulted in countless documented cases of child abuse.

Anyone who is leaning towards this sort of coping strategy is sooner or later headed for a traumatic life experience when their carefully crafted fantasies come crashing down. See Tom Cruise for exhibit A and George W. Bush for exhibit B.


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