Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The hair apparent

Just recently, there's been a claim making the rounds of social media sites by virtue of the "Forward," "Repost," and "Share" functions.  The original seems to have been written about a year and a half ago, but for some reason it's really been circulating in the last few weeks, which is odd given that it is composed of pure, unadulterated, USDA-Grade-A bullshit.

The claim?  That you shouldn't cut your hair (that includes facial hair, guys), because it's an "extension of your nervous system."

Naturally, we have to begin the whole thing with allegations that this critical information has been covered up by the government, because nothing is complete without a hint of conspiracy:
Our culture leads people to believe that hair style is a matter of personal preference, that hair style is a matter of fashion and/or convenience, and that how people wear their hair is simply a cosmetic issue. Back in the Viet Nam war however, an entirely different picture emerged, one that has been carefully covered up and hidden from public view. 
We then hear from "Sally" [name changed to protect privacy] whose [unnamed] husband worked as a psychologist for a VA hospital.  He uncovered something really strange in some reports of mysterious "government studies:"
Sally said, “I remember clearly an evening when my husband came back to our apartment on Doctor’s Circle carrying a thick official looking folder in his hands. Inside were hundreds of pages of certain studies commissioned by the government. He was in shock from the contents. What he read in those documents completely changed his life. From that moment on my conservative middle of the road husband grew his hair and beard and never cut them again. What is more, the VA Medical center let him do it, and other very conservative men in the staff followed his example. As I read the documents, I learned why.

It seems that during the Viet Nam War special forces in the war department had sent undercover experts to comb American Indian Reservations looking for talented scouts, for tough young men trained to move stealthily through rough terrain. They were especially looking for men with outstanding, almost supernatural, tracking abilities. Before being approached, these carefully selected men were extensively documented as experts in tracking and survival.

With the usual enticements, the well proven smooth phrases used to enroll new recruits, some of these Indian trackers were then enlisted. Once enlisted, an amazing thing happened. Whatever talents and skills they had possessed on the reservation seemed to mysteriously disappear, as recruit after recruit failed to perform as expected in the field.

Serious casualities [sic] and failures of performance led the government to contract expensive testing of these recruits, and this is what was found.

When questioned about their failure to perform as expected, the older recruits replied consistently that when they received their required military haircuts, they could no longer ‘sense’ the enemy, they could no longer access a ‘sixth sense’ , their ‘intuition’ no longer was reliable, they couldn’t ‘read’ subtle signs as well or access subtle extrasensory information.
This, we are told, is why "Indians keep their hair long."

But what is the science behind all of this?  Simple, they say; hair is actually a bunch of... nerves:
Each part of the body has highly sensitive work to perform for the survival and well being of the body as a whole. The body has a reason for every part of itself.

Hair is an extension of the nervous system, it can be correctly seen as exteriorized nerves, a type of highly-evolved ‘feelers’ or ‘antennae’ that transmit vast amounts of important information to the brain stem, the limbic system, and the neocortex.

Not only does hair in people, including facial hair in men, provide an information highway reaching the brain, hair also emits energy, the electromagnetic energy emitted by the brain into the outer environment. This has been seen in Kirlian photography when a person is photographed with long hair and then rephotographed after the hair is cut.

When hair is cut, receiving and sending transmissions to and from the environment are greatly hampered. This results in ‘numbing-out’.
Right!  Because highly complex cells, with nuclei and other organelles, and an intricate set of transport proteins, that are capable of sending and receiving electrical signals, are exactly the same thing as a bunch of dead strands of keratin.

In one sense -- one very limited sense -- they are correct.  Hairs on the skin do increase its sensitivity, and some animals (cats are an excellent example) use whiskers as tactile sensors.  But the idea that hair is acting as some kind of conduit for psychic energy is ridiculous.

And as for Kirlian photography, of course you get a different image if you remove someone's hair.  Kirlian photography is just a method for photographing the static electrical discharge from something (or someone) when you subject it (or him) to a high voltage at low current (the equivalent of a bad carpet shock).  Have you ever seen photographs of people who are holding on to a Van de Graaff generator?

This photograph would look completely different if she was bald.

And I suspect that the Dalai Lama might disagree with the statement that guys who are bald are "numbed out."

As for me, I have had long hair.  Really long, at one point in my life, like down to the middle of my back.  I also, at one point, had facial hair.  I did not notice a bit of difference in my Sensitivity To External Stimuli the day I simultaneously had my pony tail cut off, (and in fact, got what was damn near to a buzz cut) and shaved off all of my facial hair.  Mostly what I noticed is that getting ready for work in the morning took drastically less time, my head was cooler when the weather was hot, and I didn't have to deal with unmanageable snarls on windy days.  But I was no more in tune with "the Sixth Sense" when I had long hair than I am now (i.e. not at all), despite what all of the vague, uncited "government studies" allegedly show.

So that's our dose of pseudoscience for this morning.  Leaving your hair long so you can pick up, and broadcast, psychic signals.  I'd like to say that this will be the end of the discussion, but that may be a forlorn hope given that this article seems to be making the rounds (one Facebook link to it I saw had been "liked" over 5,000 times, and had hundreds of comments).  Be that as it may, I'm done discussing it, because I need to go take a shower and wash my nerve endings.


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  2. I used to shave my head and face.
    I stopped around the beginning of 2016.
    My wife gave me shit about it.
    I couldn't explain why I didn't feel good to shave.
    So, after a few months of my wife's shit, I shaved.
    Then, I felt like killing myself, so confused and frustrated and .... blocked.
    After confiding in a friend, I was given this information about hair and the nervous system.

    I've hair long hair, too. I didn't make any cuts to the hair on my head for 8yrs, at on point.
    When my hair was long, I didn't recognize any ESP, either. But, I understand now that this was because of lack of connection.
    As I have been shifting with solfeggio frequencies for the past few years, connections have been securing.
    Connections that science may not recognize... yet. But, science is always learning and growing and accepting.
    So, maybe science will be able to explain my lapse in emotional security after hair cutting... next year.
    But, I live now.

    I used to be skeptical.

  3. I want to point out a few problems the author has here that will make alot of sense to anyone who uses reason and rationality as a foundation for social interaction. (Blah) That said, This will be very long so please read all of it before making any kind of reply or rebuttal, thank you.

    1) Assuming that your personal example and experience is all one needs to ascertain a complete answer or study. (21st paragraph)

    2) Thinking that we understand all there is to know about the human body and anything having to do with it at a 100% thoroughness and capacity.

    3) It is GOOD to question things, but the tone set after the 21st paragraph leans heavily into skepticism (BAD). The reason Skepticism is bad is because any "True" Skeptic should totally refrain from talking, social interaction of any kind, and completely remove themselves from modern society. Pretty much removing all but provided means to continue existing. The reason for this is because skeptics counter reason and question it with a bias. To subject reason and rationality to such a degree of question is to denounce it. If one denounces the very foundation for everything that we use in science and philosophy (really, any kind of social interaction)then one becomes totally subjective and cannot use that very same "tool-kit" in question, because then one becomes a hypocrite.

    Do not get me wrong, questions are fantastic tools and can be used the right way, IF AND ONLY IF it is completely removed from bias or subjectivity of any kind.

    Hair is dead Keratin, there is no doubt. However, we cannot claim to know all the properties of this material that exist, for that would be claiming to know "Eternal Law" (Out of Thomas Acquinas' outlook on law), and only a(?) "God" would know such a thing.

    That all being said and compiled, there is a doubt in which we can call upon to question whether this has some validity. In my OPINION, we do not have the means to prove it, but perhaps some day we will. For now, live and let live.

  4. If the author was not able to access any new state of awareness, then, of course, he would come to this conclusion. A color-blind person typically can't tell red from green. Or, perhaps skeptics are pre-disposed to not allowing much room for acceptance of anything "not normal" as judged by their own states of mind.

    There are a lot of things that some of us "get" that others don't. The spectrum of human possibilities, through gene expression alone, is staggering.

  5. Uh, yeah. Have you read This?