Deja Vu ... Kirlian photography? Opinion piece

Deja Vu ... Kirlian photography?

This section is compiled by Frank M. Painter, D.C.
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This appeared in the March 24, 1997 issue, of Dynamic Chiropractor as a reply to a Jan. 27, 1997 article entitled Chiropractic & Kirlian Photography, which suggested Kirlian photography was a viable tool for chiropractors.

In 1973, while finishing my senior year at college, I jumped at the opportunity to take an elective course from a renown economics professor. The course, "The Future - year 2000" , required analyzing current economic, political and scientific developments and forecasting their influence at the turn of the century. In addition, each student must find and make a presentation on some obscure discovery that might have future importance. So, I researched Kirlian photography.

I'd already read the literature from the Russian and Chinese parapsychologists who reveled in their "discoveries" in psychokinesis and other paranormal phenomena. After all, I was living in the "Age of Aquarius", where my generation was then enamored with the paranormal. I made an appointment to meet with Thelma Moss, Ph.D., the primary researcher studying Kirlian photography in the U.S. It was an eye-opening day I spent with the gracious Dr. Moss, and her assistants.

Kirlian photography basically involves placing an organic object (such as a body extremity, plant leaf, etc.) against a piece of unexposed photographic film and then exposing it to a high voltage field. The developed film will reveal a corona, alternately called an "aura" or " life-force" , being emitted around the area where the object is contacting the film. At Dr. Moss' lab, I had the opportunity to take numerous photos of my fingers. Each displayed a corona. It soon became apparent that the intensity and size of the corona could be easily manipulated by varying the level of pressure on the film. Further, if I grounded the high-voltage field by placing a leg or my arm against the metal table, the image of my fingertips then displayed very large "auras." So, a great variety of images are possible by simply varying the pressures on the film or the amount of electrical isolation.

Variations of humidity, temperature, and dampness of the fingers can also influence the magnitude of the image. In short order it became apparent that Kirlian photography would not have any ethical influence on the future. In my mind, it would forever remain a pseudo-science, a parlor trick, like other alleged paranormal marvels.

It's not uncommon for a scientist to believe that because they have been trained in the physical sciences of healing arts, that they are capable of flawless judgment even in the investigation of alleged paranormal phenomena. The better trained the scientist the more easily they can be duped, especially when the human element is involved. Dr. Moss was a fine psychologist, but not trained in electrical engineering. The "paranormal feats" of Uri Gellerr's mental spoon-bending and Peter Hurkos' psychic abilities dazzled many scientists. Later, a professional magician taught investigators how to examine their "tricks" and reveal them for the frauds they are. Of the Russian and Chinese claims of paranormal feats, in the 1960's and 70's, those that have been reviewed under a new light have all shown that the scientists were mislead. It should be noted that of the references cited in Dr. Courtney's article ("Chiro & Kirlian Photography", DC Magazine, Jan 27, 1997), none were in peer- reviewed media or more recent than the 1980' s; this is because that all serious research had long been abandoned when the level of evidence could not support the hypothesis of the technique.

For those interested in objectivity in evaluating paranormal claims, a good starting point can be found in a publication called "The Skeptical Inquirer". This journal is produced by the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of the Paranormal (CSICOP). This 20-year old group of renown scientists, authors and scholars is devoted to examining "The New Irrationalism: Antiscience and Pseudoscience." Their research and the references they cite can help light the way for the seekers of truth in the sea of junk science.

Kirlian photography can make some pretty pictures, but it has no place in the realm of chiropractic. Chiropractic, with the support of science, can have the stars in its future, and that future is too important to be lost under the burden of practitioners who erroneously embrace pseudo-science. Further, Dynamic Chiropractor should be more selective in choosing articles to better represent our profession within its publication.

Jay Perrin, DC
Los Angeles, CA

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