Hair Power

So lately I’ve seen a story going around with the headline,“The Truth About Hair and Why Indians Would Keep Their Hair Long”. The story claims that according to an anonymous source whose name needs protecting for some reason that is unclear that the US government once carried out studies involving Native American scouts during the Vietnam War.  Perhaps she’s scared the global elite, illuminati reptilians with their split ends will come for her conditioner.

The test basically placed the Native American recruits in the woods to sleep. As they were sleeping an “armed enemy” was supposed to approach. The claim made is that these scouts lost their ability to access extrasensory information  and detect the “enemy” shortly after enlisting due to the loss of their hair. The article includes no documents, no names of the scientists involved, etc. The paper goes on to claim that the tests would pair  men together,  testing them first with their hair intact, after seeing that the men had similar scores one man received a hair cut. Afterwards the man with the long hair is said  to have maintained high scores while the man who received the haircut failed to perform as well. Other variations of the test were also employed.

Friends don't let friends believe in nonsense because it draws upon cultures we are less familiar with.

There is nothing in the articles that states how many times they performed these experiments, or how many subjects there were, etc. What kind of statistics performed? Was hair length significantly correlated with performance in the test? What type of experimental controls did they use? Maybe the participants that the article suggests were more psychically in tune because of their long hair were just lighter sleepers.  I don’t know about you but sleeping in the woods would put me in a more alert state than usual.  Maybe the “armed enemies” made more noise in scenarios where the participants were alerted. Was that controlled for?  How did those who were responsible for conducting the experiments eliminate all other possible explanations?

These are the sorts of questions scientists and skeptics consider.

And what do we know about hair. Certainly we know that hairs can detect movement and pressure by way of mechanoreceptors embedded in the skin. These mechanoreceptors, like the Pacinian corpuscles and nerve endings surrounding the hair follicle. The displacement of the hairs on your arm in the form of vibration for example, is transduced by associated receptors into a signal which your brain interprets. Hair follicles are also associated with arrector pili, muscles that cause hairs to stand on end when contracted-also known as goosebumps. But no where is there any evidence that these or any other receptors that can pick up “extrasensory” information. Extrasensory by definition puts that information out of the realm of detection. All sensory modalities have limits. Our eyes dont’ detect infrared our ears don’t detect sounds outside of the range of 12 to 20,000 Hz. That said, information that we are incapable of detecting we have to gather through other means. And those other means are not hair. Hairs are not antennas. They are not like the “feelers” or antenna of insects, for example. Antenna of insects are known to pick up olfactory, gustatory, and other types of information in its environment.

Taken from Nature article entitled "Behavioural neurobiology: The treacherous scent of a human"

These notions that supernatural or paranormal abilities lie within us in some dormant or impeded state, is just a egocentric desire we have to be special. Often people who like to promote these ideas like to use indigenous cultures to  forward their positions. Knowing these cultures are not well understood by the public they can exoticize them and make claims which remain unverified.  But even when they aren’t distortions, it is still a fallacy to believe something is true simply because a culture or group has held it to be true for a long time. People make misattributions all the time. This is one of the reasons humanity developed science, to determine the truth about relationships amongst things in the physical world. Myths and long held beliefs don’t prove anything, you must always ask, what is the evidence?

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12 thoughts on “Hair Power

  1. You always write interesting stuff. And I’m bald, so I guess if sensory through hair were true I wouldn’t be alive. Thanks, Raina.

  2. brent mosher says:

    I like your point about how exotic cultures are used to make extraordinary claims, and how it is easier to get away with it because the audience lacks critical information about those cultures…witness Eastern mysticism.

    I have long hair…I don’t know about extra-sensory powers…but I’d be pissed if someone cut it off for a friggin’ experiment! I bet the natives lost their “extra-sensory powers” because they were so upset they lost their hair…it’s be the worst day of my life, anyway…bad hair day writ large…

  3. Rahk_Starr says:

    I think the we should go to the Bible for clarity:

    1 Corinthians 11:14
    Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?

    2 Samuel 14:25-26
    In all Israel there was not a man so highly praised for his handsome appearance as Absalom. From the top of his head to the sole of his foot there was no blemish in him. 26 Whenever he cut the hair of his head—he used to cut his hair once a year because it became too heavy for him—he would weigh it, and its weight was two hundred shekels[a] by the royal standard.

    Judges 16:17
    That he(Samson) told her all his heart, and said unto her, There hath not come a rasor upon mine head; for I have been a Nazarite unto God from my mother’s womb: if I be shaven, then my strength will go from me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man.

  4. markspeckman says:

    Well, this all sounds good until you have regular psychic experiences. Then it’s pretty hard to deny their reality. And no, I’m not talking about fooling oneself. Also, fairly well-documented that a disbelief in this kind of thing, or even just thinking inhibits the brain’s ability to do it, or at least for you to be conscious of it. Note: I understand chance and science pretty well, so this isn’t a case of just being an idiot and believing willy-nilly in unproveable things. 🙂

    • Sorry I haven’t gotten back to you until now. Personal experience is not sufficient evidence for psychic phenomena. Belief in a phenomena has no bearing on whether it is real. Whether or not you believe in gravity has nothing to do with it being real. The fact is that there is no evidence which demonstrates psychic phenomena is anything more than cold reading, or the result of perceptual errors, illusions, confabulation, or other types of manipulation. Check out my blogtalk show The RSS Feed and call in if you want to discuss it more.

      • Yeah, I see where you\’re going, but my point was having regular psychic experiences, knowing others who do, and all being scientific minded enough to know the difference between something actually happening and just fooling yourself… this is evidence. I didn\’t go into it, believing in ESP. I\’ve just seen enough stuff happen and know others who can corroborate the experiences.. stuff that can\’t be explained by any of the things you mentioned. This isn\’t a \”psychic\” in a conference room, \”guessing\” people\’s secrets. This isn\’t an extremely arbitrary lab setup with no emotional weight to anything, using abstract symbols that don\’t mean anything. But even so, there is a humongous amount of scientific evidence for this stuff, it\’s just note widely known. The mainstream basically believes in the absence of ESP, counter to the evidence. And the evidence that gets cited is the evidence that doesn\’t show it. Which doesn\’t disprove it, it just means that in that setup, it\’s not happening. I really do mean that point, that there is a basic belief in the nonexistence of this stuff. Mainstream science has believed that for a very long time, even in the face of contrary evidence. It\’s just basically too far outside of the mostly materialistic scientific worldview, even though it fits pretty nicely once you start looking at quantum weirdness.

        Also, I do talk to people who have what they think are psychic or religious experiences, and I can often tell when they\’re just fooling themselves. I would definitely not say that all or even most things that people think are religious or psychic experiences in fact are. Certainly I wouldn\’t agree with any of their theories about it. But say, when you encounter real precognition and know others who do, and we\’re talking beyond a shadow of a doubt–the chances of dreaming this thing and it coming true, and multiply that by a dozen separate specific events/people/situations, all of which came true and were seemingly random and very specific events, yet foreseen… I just have no other way to explain that stuff. The simplest explanation (like Occam\’s Razor) is ESP.
        🙂 Thanks for the offer to call in. I might do that sometime. If you feel like it, I recommend the book, THE ESP ENIGMA. It\’s a good summary of the scientific evidence, along with various explanations of how experiments fail, showing what parts of the brain are active when this occurs, and especially how the critical, thinking, left-brain or fore-brain stuff can be shown to shut those parts out. In terms of blood flow, activity. So you generally don\’t experience this stuff when thinking. Thinking meaning conceptualizing, contrasting, modelling, etc. One piece of evidence for that is brain trauma. Weird, weird psychic stuff manifesting in people who lost their frontal lobe or had brain damage in certain areas. I forget the details. Also MRI studies, etc. Which also goes a long way towards explaining the failure of a lot of experiments, as they rely on these parts of the brain for their study, thereby shutting off the part they\’re trying to study.

        Well, 🙂 that\’s enough reply. hehe.

      • There are people who regularly experience delusions. Several in fact. That doesn’t mean we should regard their experiences as valid without supporting evidence.

  5. As I said in the comment, there’s plenty of evidence of this stuff. Check out that book. As far as I’m concerned, psychic stuff is regularly dismissed, not because of a lack of evidence, but because of a belief in its nonexistence. Belief goes both ways. Not that everyone who claims to have psychic things happen is right. Psychic stuff is basically heresy in the mainstream scientific world, and it’s pretty stupid because there’s plenty of scientific evidence for it. Again, it’s belief in it not existing that is the main driver behind that. This is pretty common in science though–all of the new stuff goes through periods of the masses disbelieving in it. Most scientists reject the far out stuff that will become “truth” in the future at first. The crazier it is (the more outside of the conventional scientific belief system), the longer it takes and the harder it is to convince people to even look at the evidence unbiased.

  6. Peer reviewed evidence can often mean a bunch of peers who believe in something rejecting an outsider. But that book does have peer reviewed stuff in it. It’s not a hack job. I mean if you won’t entertain the possibility of it, then your mind is made up and there’s no point. I mean on the peer review, a good example of that failing spectacularly are medical journals, wherein it’s been shown and published (in the journals!) that something like half of that stuff is proven false eventually. Just check out the book.

    • “Peer reviewed evidence can often mean a bunch of peers who believe in something rejecting an outsider. But that book does have peer reviewed stuff in it. It’s not a hack job. I mean if you won’t entertain the possibility of it, then your mind is made up and there’s no point. I mean on the peer review, a good example of that failing spectacularly are medical journals, wherein it’s been shown and published (in the journals!) that something like half of that stuff is proven false eventually. Just check out the book.”

      Rejection of an outsider’s opinion offhand is not peer review. In peer review the evidence is well considered and weighed against all available evidence. I’m not apt to read the skewed opinions of one individual I would much rather read the direct science and review its methods, and shortcomings. If you would like to offer peer reviewed evidence we can discuss it otherwise we are done here.

      • We are done here. As far as I can tell, you’re being a hypocrite about this peer review and book stuff. Like I keep saying, this book is a summary of the science behind it, with tons of citations. I keep saying that, and you keep saying it’s not peer reviewed and not science, so what am I supposed to say? That I experience this stuff? That I know tons of people who do? That I see the evidence all of the time and know of plenty of scientific stuff (but not offhand so I can’t cite anything personally)? There are plenty of books out there that talk about ESP and 2012 and ghosts and all sorts of crazy stuff. Notice the book I cited is a particular book that I recommend because of the science in it. You’re biased against it because of what I say or because of the subject matter, and there’s nothing else I can say. I give up. 🙂

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