by Perry Bulwer
Natural disasters tend to bring out the best, and the worst, of people. There were amazing stories of rescue and survival in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti. There were also sad stories of exploitation by charlatans taking advantage of the situation to proselytize or practice their pseudo-science quackery.
Take those American Baptists, for example, who attempted to smuggle dozens of children out of the country without authorization. They claimed, of course, that they did it with the best of intentions, for the sake of the children. However, good intentions alone are not enough since they often have unintended consequences that make things even worse. Those Baptists thought they could 'rescue' a few dozen children, some of whom were not even orphans, but seemingly gave no consideration to the consequences of their good intentions. Here is just one major consequence:
Some groups are urging a long moratorium on new adoptions from Haiti, saying there is too much chaos, and the risks of mistakes or child trafficking are too high.
Other groups fear any long-term clampdown will consign countless children to lives in institutions or on the street, rather than in the loving homes of adoptive parents.
Chuck Johnson, chief operating officer of the National Council for Adoption, said the arrests of 10 U.S. Baptists would probably undercut his organization's push to expand adoptions from Haiti.
"It was a critical mistake — the Haitian government has been very clear they did not want any children leaving without its express permission," Johnson said Monday. "Maybe the Americans thought they were helping 33 kids, but now there's going to be a much slower process and maybe even a ban on future adoptions — and that would be a tragedy."
see: Arrests stir debate over Haiti adoptions
Claiming the best of intentions to help a few Haitian children in a tragedy does not legitimize what they attempted to do. Their good intentions had the opposite effect, making it more difficult for all Haitian orphans to be legitimately adopted. Perhaps one good result is that this case highlighted the issue of religiously motivated child-trafficking, particularly by Christian evangelicals.
Christian kidnappers were not the only fraudsters to invade Haiti in the aftermath of the quake. So too did the Scientologists with their pseudo-science quackery. The science-fiction cult actually has a doctrine called 'Casualty Contact', which founder Ron L. Hubbard invented as a way of recruiting followers in times of tragedy. Here's what he wrote in 1959:
"Casualty contact is very old, is almost never tried and is almost always roaringly successful... This is a pretty routine drill really. You get permission to visit. You go in and give patients a cheery smile. You want to know if you can do anything for them, you give them a card and tell them to come around to your group... Your statement, 'the modern scientific church can cure things like that. Come around and see' will work. It's straight recruiting!
Although certainly deceptive, it does not suggest they are trying to intervene medically in disasterous situations, but are only interested in proselytizing. In other words, as that doctrine was articulated 50 years ago, the idea was not to 'heal' disaster victims on the spot, but to convince them they could be 'cured' by attending a Scientology 'church'. The 'casualty contact' doctrine developed into a formalized program called Volunteer Ministers and is now being used in far more dangerous ways that actually endanger or cause harm to those targeted by Scientologist's recruiters. Just think of New York after 9/11 and that pseudo-science, 'Purification Rundown' promoted by Tom 'Fool' Cruise, which was derided by toxicologists as pure quakery.
As I monitored news reports from Haiti and first heard that John Travolta was flying his own plane filled with supplies to Haiti I thought that perhaps he had finally come to his senses, prompted by the needless death of his son due to Scientology's quackery, and was going to do some actual good for the unfortunate Haitians. My optimism only lasted until the next news report that revealed that Travolta's plane had been given priority landing at the congested Port-au-Prince airport, controlled by U.S. military, even though there were hundreds of relief planes on the waiting list ahead of him. The medical aid organization, Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders, reported that several of their planes loaded with medical supplies and real doctors and nurses were denied landing permission in Haiti and were instead rerouted to the Domincan Republic, resulting in unnecessary deaths. No doubt Travolta's intentions were good, just like those Baptists, but the consequences were very bad for those who got 'treated' by the quacks he brought with him instead of actual doctors with real medical training.
Scientologists claim they can heal and cure people by merely touching them, which they call 'Touch Assists'. Hundreds of unprepared, yellow-shirted Scientologists went to Haiti pretending to heal the wounded. A group of them supposedly helping out in a courtyard of a hospital in Port-au-Prince claimed that “they were healing patients through 'the power of touch to reconnect nervous systems'. Sylvie, a French woman, said: 'We are trained as volunteer ministers, we use a process called 'assist' to follow the nervous system to reconnect the main points.'” But doctors in Haiti said that many wounded were coming to them saying they didn't want to be treated by those people in yellow shirts. Obviously, a quack sounds the same in any language, and those that recognized that sound are the lucky ones. Not so lucky are those that were given food by Scientologists, even though they were scheduled for surgery, thus causing complications during the operation. Again we see good intentions result in very bad consequences.
Now to a quack of a different kind, one who doesn't need to touch people to 'heal' them, like Scientologists. One who claims not only that people can heal themselves merely by their intentions, but that anyone can heal anyone else simply by focusing their intentions, even at great distances between the 'sender' and 'receiver' of those intentions. Furthermore, he claims that the focused intentions of many people can even effect the environment, such as by reducing the size of tsunami waves. I'm not joking, I'm talking about a young Canadian who calls himself DreamHealer.
Dreamhealer, for those who have not yet heard of this new-age 'healer', is the pseudonym of Adam McLeod, a young man from the Vancouver area in British Columbia. Adam's claim to fame is that he can supposedly heal people by manipulating their energy or aura. He purports to be a trance healer and distance healer. He claims not only that he can heal others great distances away, but that he can also facilitate the healing of everyone in a large group by merging all of their energy or auras together. Perhaps his most famous claim, at least here in Canada, and one that he has been milking for years, is that he healed the musician, Ronnie Hawkins, of pancreatic cancer even though they were thousands of miles apart when the healing sessions took place. Skeptics, however, point out several other possible explanations for Hawkins' apparent cancer remission and even dispute whether Hawkins ever had cancer in the first place.
That so-called healing took place early in Adam's career. Eventually, he progressed from individual healing to group healing and has held large seminars attended by thousands of people mostly in North America. Out of curiousity, I attended one of his seminars in Vancouver a few years ago with a friend to see what all the fuss was about? There were well over 100 people there, some obviously very sick, and they hung on Adam's every word as he offered hope for healing and told his own personal myth describing healings and supernatural abilities. He even showed some photographs he took outside his home showing some strange lights that he claimed had no physical explanation. He didn't offer an explanation, leaving that to our imaginations, but the implication was that they must be of spiritual origin or that it was some kind of energy following him around. It reminded me of what cult leaders do, creating their own personal myths that include unverifiable healings, supernatural powers, mystical entities, secret knowledge, and promises, lots of promises.
It was a wasted two hours and a hundred bucks I'll never get back. I felt embarrassed just being there, especially since I had been conned into joining a cult when I was 16, and now I knew better. Watching Adam was much like watching one of those faith-healing televangelists that are so fun to mock, especially once he got into his trance state. The lights were dimmed and we were all supposed to close our eyes and focus our intentions, but who could resist taking a peek. I certainly couldn't, and if I wasn't yet convinced he was a quack, that certainly did it. There he was waving his arms about wildly like a mad maestro conducting an imaginary orchestra, supposedly connecting our auras and healing everyone there of whatever ailed them. It didn't work on me or my friend, but then Adam would say that it was our fault for not focusing our intentions, or in my case being too skeptical, just like a faith-healer would say it is lack of faith people don't get healed.
You see, intention is a big thing with Adam. He's all about intention and has set up an experiment of sorts called the Global Intention Heals Project to try and lend some scientific credibility to his incredible claims. The website for that project claims:
With Adam DreamHealer's innate healing abilities he is becoming one of the world's leading experts on intention. Most who are following Adam's journey know that our intentions influence our health and our reality. Since Adam knows without a doubt that our intentions have an influence on our health, he has a desire to prove it scientifically. Although many of you also understand this, it is important to conduct the scientific research to help others make decisions with regards to their healing.
So, what exactly was the first experiment that allows Adam to make his claims "without a doubt"? He arranged a specific time and place for a volunteer to be hooked up to a Q-EEG monitor and then 5 minutes before starting emailed a photo of that person to the thousands of people who registered to take part. Then at precisely the same time everyone was instructed to focus their intentions on that person. The monitor measured the volunteer's brainwaves, hoping to demonstrate that all those intentions affected a physiological change in those brainwaves.
You can read the results of that experiment here. The researchers involved with this experiment "are now considering writing a paper based on [their] findings to be submitted to a peer-reviewed scientific journal." But if the results are as conclusive and promising as Adam makes them out to be, then why are the researchers only considering writing a paper. If this is ground-breaking research, why the hesitancy to publish their findings? There is no such hesitancy on Adam's part. He plans similar experiments to confirm what he claims to already know, but already on his website and in his newsletter Adam uses the result from the first experiment as proof of his teachings. He can't be bothered to wait for peer reviewers to examine the experiment or for further experimental confirmations. He now declares, without a doubt, that:
The Intention Heals Project successfully proved that our intentions can change the physiology of others. At the exact time that intentions were sent to Christine, the scientists recorded a change in her brain waves. Two more world renown scientists will be analyzing the data and we will let you know when we receive their results. We cannot overestimate the importance of the initial findings of this research. It scientifically confirms the power of prayer and positive intentions. As self-empowerment is the focus of Adam's conferences and workshops, this establishes the importance of intentions. Every time we send thoughts or prayers to someone we are sending the energy of our intentions. This has been known and practiced since the beginning of time. Now we have scientific proof that the sending of intentions does affect another person's physiology at a distance. Now that we have conclusive results that our intentions can make changes to a person's physiology, the next project will focus on changing someone's health with our thoughts and intentions.
All that talk of conclusive scientific proof certainly seems premature, but that's not stopping Adam. Soon after the earthquake struck Haiti, Adam sent out a request to his followers:
We have all heard about the earthquake in Haiti and the urgent situation that exists. Everyone would like to help in whatever way possible. Very few of us are able to physically be there to help but all of us can send our positive intentions to those in need.
The power of our collective intentions is very real as demonstrated by the recent Intention Heals Project. We are requesting your participation in joining our intentions to encourage a speedy and successful rescue for those trapped beneath the debris. The next few days are critical, so please send your visualization intention of their speedy rescue over the next 3 days. Visualize all the rescue crews and equipment in place working unimpeded as they find many survivors.
Thank you for your participation as we influence our global community with our intentions.
That was on January 13, 2010. Incredibly, five days later Adam sent out another message, this time claiming that those 'rescue intentions' had an impact on the actual rescues taking place thousands of miles away:
Thanks to all for sending your positive intentions to the Haitian earthquake survivors. Your intentions are continuing to make an impact as stories of miraculous rescues and survival continue. There continues to be unprecedented global support for the Haitian people during their time of need. Our gratitude goes out to you for making our world a better place.
Who needs scientific proof when you "know without a doubt"? Adam claims to be a scientist (so do the Scientologists) yet he seems to be using the scientific method merely to verify what he claims to already know, his 'innate knowledge'. Furthermore, he doesn't wait for further experiments or peer reviews for confirmation before declaring success, and he makes pronouncements no true scientist would make, such as claiming credit for 'miraculous' interventions. To say he knows "without a doubt" strikes me as the same kind of certainty religious fundamentalists have.
Adam was at it again recently with news of the earthquake in Chile on February 27, 2010. He sent out an emergency request to his followers:
As you are now aware there has been an 8.8 earthquake off the coast of Chile. A tsunami warning has been issued for the Hawaiian Islands, expected to reach there at approximately 1:30 pm PST. We are issuing an emergency request for you to use your intentions to minimize the impact of the tsunami. Visualize the ocean absorbing the energy to reduce the impact. Know in your mind that your intentions are having a powerful influence on this tsunami. From our previous Global Intention Heals Project we know that our intentions can have an influence on such events.
Then five hours later, Adam sent out another message:
IT WORKED!!! Thanks to all of you who were able to send intentions to minimize the effect of the tsunami on the Hawaiian Islands. The media projected a 12' tsunami which fizzled to about a 1' surge or a 3' wave in some areas. This is remarkable considering that the earthquake was an extremely strong 8.8. As per our visualizations the ocean did indeed absorb the energy of the tsunami. Thank you so much for sending your intentions which made a difference to our global community.
Incredibly, Adam claimed that those intensions reduced the size of the tsunami waves by as much as 9 to 11 feet. One problem with that claim, however, is that waves were never predicted to reach 12 feet, as Adam claims. The New York Times quoted Charles McCreery, director of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, who said that "some early forecasts predicted that waves as high as eight feet could wash into parts of Hawaii." Eight feet is not twelve feet, something Adam the scientist should know. But even if the waves were only projected to reach 8 feet, that still means Adam is claiming a reduction of tsunami waves by 5 to 7 feet by merely getting gullible people to intend that to happen. However, it turns out that there are other more reasonable explanations for the lower waves that reached Hawaii, scientific realities that Adam ignored in his haste to claim more 'proof' of his abilities.
Adam is just getting starting, so we certainly haven't heard the last of him, but just exactly what his intentions are is difficult to determine. He may have nothing but the best intentions, but as we have seen, those could result in very bad consequences for some.
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