From the archives: In the eye of the beholder – Keeping an eye on iridology Hocus Pocus The Skeptic

This article originally appeared in The Skeptic, Volume 3, Issue 4, from 1989.

A skeptic has a duty to society and to himself to be a doubter, not an unbeliever; willing to investigate the most bizarre of claims or supposed happenings and to apply care, discretion and judgement to whatever evidence may be presented. At the end of the day he should be satisfied that his conclusion has been fairly arrived at after scrupulous investigation.

For instance – Acupuncture. This extraordinary discipline has been practised and investigated over a long enough period that it should no longer be uncertain whether it is a proven scientific medical method which works or just another old wives’ tale or superstition-an example of how the unscrupulous take advantage of the ignorant and unwary. But are we in fact so sure? It seems utterly absurd to believe that numbers of needles stuck into various parts of the body can influence the course of an illness or induce insensibility or anaesthesia. But it is a medical tool which has been in constant use in China for over two thousand years and is in common use today. There are one billion Chinese. Can they all be wrong?

What would be your immediate and automatic reaction if told that the irises of both human and animal eyes, are directly linked with the body’s internal economy and that one’s wellbeing or otherwise is indicated by marks and lines showing in your irises? And that such guide lines conform with an ordered system that can be mapped and interpreted as an early warning to determine that you are in fact suffering from a condition-or its early onset-of which you were unaware?

It is a fact that the condition of the blood vessels in the interior of the eyeball indicate symptoms of certain diseases – diabetes and cancer being the most obvious – but there are no claims that particular locations within the eyeball are related to specific parts of the body. It is reasonable to accept that if one suffers from a disorder of the blood or lymphatic system, or a condition where foreign substances or microscopic growths are suspended in the blood and circulate throughout the body, expert examination of the eye where blood vessels can be inspected, will betray by their appearance that there is a problem. An ophthalmic specialist who inspects eyes every day will notice unusual symptoms and recognise the signature of various diseases.

Such investigations however are surely very different from the suggestions of the iridologists that every degree around the circle of the iris corresponds exactly with specific organs and parts of the body, so that should a person (or animal) break a leg a mark will show in a particular sector of the iris, enabling a practitioner to diagnose problems and suggest treatments or remedies.

The eyes may mirror the soul but how many readers believe that the soles may mirror the body? This is what another way-out quasi-medical ‘science’ and treatment known as reflexology would have us believe. Is there really any proven basis for belief that certain areas of the soles of the feet relate to other parts of the body? To this writer such suggestions are on a par with the claims of psychic practitioners and mystics who claim to be able to detect the whereabouts of a missing person or body by looking at a map-or the Uri Geller type claims to locate existence of precious substances and valuable deposits in the earth either by examining maps or flying over the territory. · These practices are really not far removed from ‘fortune telling’ by inspection of the soles of the feet or palmistry. I’d just as soon rely on the Tarot-much more fun too.

Once the door to such beliefs is opened even a crack, numbers of similar weird possibilities are disclosed, each mutually supportive and claiming positive results. Nevertheless it behoves us not to prejudge but to examine the evidence. If our readers find this subject sufficiently intriguing, we hope they will submit their views, supported by evidence wherever possible. Who knows, we may even contribute to the ever-growing store of human knowledge.

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From the archives in 1989, The Skeptic’s roving correspondent takes a look at the alternative diagnostic practice of iridology
The post From the archives: In the eye of the beholder – Keeping an eye on iridology appeared first on The Skeptic.