Reason and Authority - Better Eyesight, November 1919, Editor: W. H.Bates, M.D.

Discussion in 'Optometry Archives' started by Zetsu, May 28, 2009.

  1. Zetsu

    Zetsu Guest


    Some one - perhaps it was Bacon - has said: "You cannot by reasoning
    correct a man of ill opinion which by reasoning he never acquired." He
    might have gone a step farther and stated that neither by reasoning,
    nor by actual demonstration of the facts, can you convince some people
    that an opinion which they have accepted on authority is wrong.

    A man whose name I do not care to mention, a professor of
    ophthalmology, and a writer of books well known in this country and in
    Europe, saw me perform an experiment upon the eye of a rabbit which,
    according to others who had witnessed it, demonstrated beyond any
    possibility of error that the lens is not a factor in accommodation.
    At each step of the operation he testified to the facts; yet at the
    conclusion he preferred to discredit the evidence of his senses rather
    than accept the only conclusion that these facts admitted.

    First, he examined the eye of the animal to be experimented upon with
    the retinoscope and found it normal, and the fact was written down.
    Then the eye was stimulated with electricity, and he testified that it
    accommodated. This was also written down. I now divided the superior
    oblique muscle, and the eye was again stimulated with electricity.

    The doctor observed the eye with the retinoscope when this was being
    done and said, "You failed the produce accommodation." This fact, too,
    was written down. The doctor now used the electrode himself, but again
    failed to observe accommodation, and these facts were written down. I
    now sewed the cut ends of the muscle together, and once more
    stimulated the eye with electricity. The doctor said, "Now you have
    succeeded in producing accommodation," and this was written down. I
    now asked:
    "Do you think that superior oblique had anything to do with
    producing accommodation?"
    "Certainly not," he replied.
    "Why?" I asked.
    "Well," he said, "I have only the testimony of the retinoscope. I am
    getting on in years, and I don't feel that confidence in my ability to
    use the retinoscope that I once had. I would rather you wouldn't quote
    me on this."

    While the operation was in progress, however, he gave no indication
    whatever of doubting his ability to use the retinoscope. He was very
    positive, in fact, that I had failed to produe accommodation after the
    cutting of the oblique muscle, and his tone suggested that he
    considered the failure ignominious. It was only after he found himself
    in a logical trap, with no way out except by discredting his own
    observations, that he appeared to have any doubts as to their value.

    Patients whom I have cured of various errors of refraction have
    frequently returned to specialists who had prescribed glasses for
    them, and by reading fine print and the Snellen test card with normal
    vision, have demonstrated the fact that they were cured, without in
    any way shaking the faith of these practitioners in the doctrine that
    such cures are impossible. A girl of sixteen who had progressive
    myopia of such high degree that she was not allowed to read, and was
    unable to go about on the streets without a guide, was assured by the
    specialist whom her family consulted that her condition was quite
    hopeless, and that it was likely to progress until it ended in
    blindness. She was cured in a very short time by means of the methods
    advocated in this magazine, bcoming able to discard her glasses and
    resume all the ordinary activities of life. She then returned to the
    specialist who had condemned her to blindness to tell him the good
    news; but, while he was unable to deny the fact that her vision was
    normal without glasses, he said that it was impossible that she would
    have been cured of myopia, because myopia was incurable. How he
    reconciled this statement with his former patient's condition he was
    unable to make clear to her.

    A lady with compound myopic astigmatism [1] suffered from almost
    constant headaches which were very much worse when she took her
    glasses off. Every week, no matter what she did, she was so prostrated
    by eyestrain that she had to spend a few days in bed; and if she went
    to a theatre, or to a social function, she had to stay there longer.
    She was told to take off her glasses and go to the movies; to look
    first at the corner of the screen, then off to the dark, then back to
    the screen a little nearer to the center, and so forth. She did so,
    and soon bcome able to look directly at the picture without
    discomfort. After that nothing troubled her. One day she called on her
    former ophthalmological adviser, in the comany of a friend who wanted
    to have her glasses changed, and told him of her cure. The facts
    seemed to make no impression on him whatever. He only laughed and
    said, "I guess Dr. Bates is more popular with you than I am."

    In some cases patients themselves, after they are cured, allow
    themselves to be convinced that it was impossible that such a thing
    could have happened, and go back to their glasses. A clergyman and
    writer, aged forty-seven, who had worn glasses for years for distance
    and reading, had what I should have considered the good fortune to be
    very quickly cured. By the aid of his imagination he was able to relax
    in less than five minutes, and to stay relaxed. When he looked at fine
    print it appeared grey to him, and he could not read it. I asked him
    if he had ever seen printer's ink. He replied, of course, that he had.
    I then told him that the paragraph of printed matter which he held in
    his hand was printed in printer's ink, and that it was black and not
    grey. I ask him if he did not know, and believe that it was black, or
    if he could not at least imagine that it was black. "Yes," he said, "I
    can do that"; and immediately he read the print. It took him only
    about a minute to do this, and he was not more than five minutes in
    the office. The cure was permanent, and he was very grateful - for a
    time. Then he began to talk to eye specialists whom he knew, and
    thereupon grew skeptical as to the value of what I had done for him.
    One day I met him at the home of a mutual friend, and in the presence
    of a number of other people he accused me of having hypnotized him,
    adding that to hypnotize a patient without his knowledge or consent
    was to do him a grievous wrong. Some of the listeners protested that
    whether I had hypnotized him or not, I had not only done him no harm,
    but had greatly benefited him, and he ought to forgive me. He was
    unable, however, to take this view of the matter. Later he called on a
    prominent eye spcialist who told him that the presbyopia (old sight)
    and astigmatism from which he had suffered were incurable, and that if
    he persisted in going without his glasses he might do himself great
    harm. The fact that his sight was perfect for the distance and the
    near-point had no effect upon the specialist, and the patient allowed
    himself to be frightened into disregarding it also. He went back to
    his glasses, and so far as I know has been wearing them ever since.
    The story obtained wide publicity, for the man had a large circle of
    friends and acquaintances; and if I had destroyed his sight I could
    scarcely have suffered more than I did for curing him.

    Fifteen or twenty years ago the specialist mentioned in the foregoing
    story read a paper on cataract at a meeting of the ophthalmological
    section of the American Medical Association in Atlantic City, and
    asserted that anyone who said that cataract could be cured without the
    knife was a quack. At the time I was assistant surgeon at the New York
    Eye and Ear Infirmary, and it happened that I had been collecting
    statistics of the spontaneous cure of cataract at the request of the
    executive surgeon of this institution, Dr. Henry G. Noyes, Professor
    of Ophthalmology at the Bellevue Hospital Medical School. As a result
    of my inquiry I had secured records of a large number of cases which
    had recovered, not only without the knife, but without any treatment
    at all. I also had records of cases which I had sent to Dr. James E.
    Kelly of New York and which he had cured, largely by hygienic methods.
    Dr Kelly is not a quack, and at that time was Professor of Anatomy in
    the New York Post Graduate Medical School and Hospital and attending
    surgeon to a large city hospital. In the five minutes alloted to those
    who wished to discuss the paper, I was able to tell the audience
    enough about these cases to make them want to hear more. My time was,
    therefore, extended, first to half an hour and then to an hour. Later
    both Dr. Kelly and myself received many letters from men in different
    parts of the country who had tried his treatment with success. The man
    who wrote the paper had blundered, but he did not lose any prestige
    because of my attack with facts upon his theories. He is still a
    prominent and honored ophthalmologist, and in his latest book he gives
    no hint of having ever heard of any successful method of treating
    cataract other than by operation. He was not convinced by my record of
    spontaneous cures, nor by Dr. Kelly's record of cures by treatment;
    and while a few men were sufficiently impressed to try the treatment
    recommended, the facts made no impression upon the profession as a
    whole, and did not modify the teaching of the schools. That
    spontaneous cures of cataract do sometimes occur cannot be denied; but
    they are supposed to be very rare, and any one who suggests that the
    condition can be cured by treatment still exposes himself to the
    suspicion of being a quack.

    Between 1886 and 1891 I was a lecturer at the Post Graduate Hospital
    and Medical School. The head of the institution was Dr. D. B. St. John
    Roosa. He was the author of many books, and was honored and respected
    by the whole medical profession. At the school they had got the habit
    of putting glasses on the nearsighted doctors, and I had got the habit
    of curing them without glasses. It was naturally annoying to a man who
    had put glasses on a student to have him appear at a lecture without
    them and say that Dr. Bates had cured him. Dr. Roosa found it
    particularly annoying, and the trouble reached a climax one evening at
    the annual banquet of the faculty when, in the presence of one hundred
    and fifty doctors, he suddenly poured out the vials of his wrath upon
    my head. He said that I was injuring the reputation of the Post
    Graduate by claiming to cure myopia. Every one knew that Donders said
    it was incurable, and I had no right to claim that I knew more than
    Donders. I reminded him that some of the men I had cured had been
    fitted with glasses by himself. He replied that if he had said they
    had myopia he had made a mistake. I suggested further investigation.
    "Fit some more doctors with glasses for myopia," I said, "and I will
    cure them. It is easy for you to examine them afterwards and see if
    the cure is genuine." This method did not appeal to him, however. He
    repeated that it was impossible to cure myopia, and to prove that it
    was impossible he expelled me from the Post Graduate, even the
    privilege of resignation being denied to me.

    The fact is that, except in rare cases, man is not a reasoning being.
    He is dominated by authority, and when the facts are not in accord
    with the view imposed by authority, so much the worse for the facts.
    They may and indeed must win in the long run; but in the meantime the
    world gropes needlessly in darkness and endures much suffering that
    might have been avoided.

    [1] A condition in which the eye is shortsighted in all meridians, but
    more so in one than in the others.

    Zetsu, May 28, 2009
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  2. Zetsu

    Neil Brooks Guest

    Zetsu has long ago reached the level where he/she/it is nothing
    more than the online equivalent of one of those psychotic homeless
    people who stands on the corner, SHOUTING Bible passages, to ...

    What a pathetic little creature.

    Almost SURELY the illegitimate love child of Otis Brown (and ... who
    else?? Desperate people DO do desperate things....).
    Neil Brooks, May 28, 2009
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