Why is it UNETHICAL to mention the telepathy of persons with autism?
The James Randi Foundation has a one million dollar cheque ready for anyone who can demonstrate any form of ESP including telepathy. Notably in the 1990s when Randi first encountered telepathy mixed with FC his first problem as he discovered was to authenticate the authorship of the communication. This he was unable to do and so the search for telepathy became moot in this context. [here]
Authorship authentication is what drives belief in telepathy. Here is one coherent explanation of why the client is expressing the thoughts and feelings of the facilitator; not because the facilitator is the only one communicating but because the client is reading the facilitator’s mind. This can reach ridiculous levels as demonstrated by the online writings of Mary Ann Harrington. Not only does she acknowledge that the facilitator can have enormous though subtle influence over the communication; [here] her thesis is that at a ‘higher level of consciousness’ the two can form a partnership, which is a different entity to either facilitator or client alone, based on telepathy.
Harrington is also a fan of the fairytale school of science. First, assume that fairytales exist. In her case she would like research, a great deal of research to be done, not to demonstrate the reality of telepathy but to explore its practical aspects. As the following list of questions for scientists to pursue suggests, she is firmly of the belief that telepathy exists:[here]
• Do our brain wave frequencies entrain during 'thought joining' creating a sympathetic resonance?
• What areas of the brain are being activated during the exchange? Are brain wave patterns altered during interactions?
• Is 'joining' occurring at a subconscious level? Does it assist in tapping into an emanating universal field of knowledge in addition to the knowledge base of the agent? Does adhering to the vibration of the agent help the brain filter material? Does it help the person with severe autism experience typical perceptual reality through the sensory system of the agent?
• Is it possible that two distinct frequencies blended together form a third frequency? (Think of binaural beats or chemical changes) How does this shared frequency affect communicative output?
• Can 'joining' be compared to the synchronization of coupled oscillators? Does this also help to explain group resonance?
• Does the agent serve as a catalyst, providing the stimulus necessary for the individual to access a response? Are his high-speed fleeting thoughts and chaotic flow being entrained by magnetic signals of the agent? Could these radiations produce image or thought receiving experiences by acting on the temporal lobe?
• Do sub-vocalizations enhance the process?
• Is the right brain being stimulated during the connection? Is that why the language used when paired with an agent is often prosaic?
• Does aligning with the rhythm of the agent help the person perform in a synchronized manner? Does it help the individual attune to the frequency of the earth? Do these signals smooth out circadian rhythm?
• Is the pineal gland primarily hyper active in kids with severe autism causing them to let go of ego based consciousness? Is it hypo active in higher functioning individuals resulting in rigid concrete behavior? Might this also be true of the amygdala? Might pineal gland and/or the amygdala be affected by the joining process?
•What role if any does the reticular activating system play?
But Harrington is not alone in fairytale science. These bona fide researchers ought to know better. Konstantareas and Gravelle conducted some research into the relative contributions from the facilitator of physical, emotional and mental support . Crucially they assumed that the communication was authentic. They found that mental support, that is, the advance knowledge of the mental requirements of the communication task by the facilitator was necessary for successful communication. As the authors note, performances with mental support were around 100% successful, but without this knowledge, performances bottomed out to near zero. A skeptic would not be surprised. All experiments on the independence of the communication found exactly the same thing. The communication is coming from the facilitator not the client in the majority of tested cases.
From what I can see, telepathy looks attractive to some people because it explains the apparent input from the facilitator. This is not an ethical position to take however when the bigger question, the authenticity of telepathy itself remains unanswered. There are other reasons why ascribing telepathic abilities to autistic individuals may not be ethical. Firstly given the experimental history of disconfirming the authenticity of the communication, the field does not need any more controversy. Secondly, autistics deserve the same standards of science as anyone else. Harrington shows they are a long way from gaining the minimum. Thirdly, belief in magical thinking blinds you to other and more realistic possibilities. Everything I have read points to the unusual degree of rapport that develops between client and facilitator. Facilitators are in a much better position than most to point out subtle communicative efforts of their non verbal clients, knowledge that would be invaluable to parents of such children everywhere. Telepathy as the explanation for the rapport is frankly unhelpful as well as unethical.
1. Facilitated Communication: The Contribution of Physical, Emotional and Mental Support, M. Mary Konstantareas and Gregory Gravelle, Autism 1998; 2; 389