Palmistry of the XXI century: is it unscientific to study palm lines? PART 2.

30 September 2019

Excessive credulity

Imitation of science is not the only key to success for dermatoglyphic test companies. Another technique they use is the positive reviews of famous people. Such reviews cannot serve as confirmation of the reliability of testing for two reasons.

  1. First, we run the risk of making a “survivor mistake”. Negative reviews may reach us less often than positive reviews, or may be less likely to be stored on company websites.
  2. Secondly, there is the so-called Forer effect.
In 1949, psychologist Bertram Forer published an article entitled "Error in personal validation: demonstrating excessive credulity in the classroom." The article describes an experiment in which 39 students were asked to take a psychological test. After a week, the students were seated one at a time and handed out the test results, as well as a personality description, consisting of 13 statements. Students were asked to evaluate the method of personality diagnosis on a five-point scale and indicate which statements about them are true. Only five out of 39 students rated lower than four in their “personality profile,” and the average number of statements marked as “true” exceeded ten out of thirteen. The catch was that all students were given exactly the same (very general) personality description.

Not harmless

Dermatoglyphic testing can be far from harmless, and it is not only that tests cost money. Who knows what damage parents can inflict on the psyche of their children, who will be guided by the data of such tests during parenting? Children can be sent not to those sections that interest them or in which they show real successes, but to those that are recommended on the basis of pseudoscientific tests. However, for some sports there are real medical contraindications.

In addition, some companies resort to dermatoglyphic test services in determining the professional qualities of workers. Obviously, this reduces objectivity and can lead to the fact that the work will not be the most worthy, but those who are more fortunate to have the “correct” fingerprints. But the most dangerous is disease prediction. People think that they have passed timely and full-fledged “genetic testing”, and they risk missing out on some real disease.

Dermatoglyphic tests have come to replace palmistry - the practice of determining personality traits and predicting the future along lines and tubercles in the palm of your hand. It is believed that palmistry originated several thousand years ago from Indian astrology, and from India this direction spread throughout the world, including came to ancient Greece, where both Aristotle and Alexander the Great were interested in it. Apparently, there is something very seductive in the idea that the answers to important questions of life are on the surface of our body.

What is written on them

However, fingerprints still contain some information. They are truly unique to each person, and therefore they are used for personal identification - in forensics and in biometric access systems. However, personal identification should not be confused with the definition of personality traits - the latter cannot be done with fingerprints. Only in the case of some very rare genetic diseases, usually associated with chromosomal abnormalities, is there a certain connection with the characteristics of fingerprints. Such diseases include, for example, Down Syndrome, Shereshevsky-Turner Syndrome, Patau Syndrome, Edwards Syndrome or Williams Syndrome. But even these diseases, doctors diagnose using more reliable tests.

A forensic nightmare

In 2007, a Swiss citizen, trying to get to the United States, faced unexpected problems: border guards could not take her fingerprints due to their absence. It turned out that a woman suffers from an extremely rare genetic syndrome - the absence of fingerprints, adermatoglyphia. Soon, adermatoglyphia was discovered in nine more relatives of the woman. Scientists from the Medical Center. Sourasky in Tel Aviv analyzed DNA samples from the whole family and revealed a fragment of the SMARCAD1 gene, which is expressed (active) in the skin tissue cells. People with a mutation of this gene lack finger patterns, and palms sweat less. But the main known negative effect of this syndrome is the difficulty in crossing state borders.

Fortune telling by the eyes

Often, along with testing by fingerprints, diagnostics by the iris of the eye is also offered. Although the adherents of this method - iridodiagnosis - speak of a history of many thousands of years, referring either to ancient Egyptian priests or to ancient Chinese healers, the first more or less similar description is found only in the middle of the XVII century in the work of Chiromatica Medica.

The term “iridodiagnosis” (more precisely, “eye diagnostics” - Augendiagnostik) was introduced by the Hungarian homeopath Ignaz von Pescheli a hundred years later.

The author of the first atlas is Niels Lillequist. Like homeopathy, iridodiagnosis grew out of an incorrect interpretation of correct observations: for example, Lillequist suffered from lymphadenopathy and took quinine and iodine during exacerbations. These drugs can cause discoloration, that is, focal scleral discoloration. Liljenquist, on the other hand, mistakenly believed that changes occur in the iris (the first mistake) and that they are associated with exacerbations of lymphadenopathy (the second mistake).

According to iridodiagnosis, all organs and systems have their “representations” on the iris - sectors and rings, changes in which indicate pathology in the corresponding parts of the body. Homeopaths liked the iridodiagnosis very much, because it corresponded to a holistic (holistic) approach to the body, but in normal medicine, it did not take root for quite objective reasons.

  1. First, it quickly became clear that the color and structure of the iris is a phenotypic constant. An individual pattern is formed by the eighth month of fetal development, finally stabilizes by the second year of life and no longer changes even under the influence of diseases and injuries (this fact is actively used in one of the methods of biometric identification).
  2. Secondly, in the course of controlled experiments, iridodiagnosis show the specificity and sensitivity of the technique only at the level of random guessing: they do not see the real problems, but easily find the pathology where it does not exist.

So the iris test is exactly the same pseudoscientific deception of unsuspecting consumers as dermatoglyphic testing.