November 13 is the birthday of Valentin Gayui, a talented teacher and a good person. He was the first to start at his own expense, on his own initiative, to teach blind children crafts and literacy. Before him, no one cared about the fate of the unfortunate, blind. As a token of gratitude and to perpetuate the memory of V. Gayui, the World Health Organization has decided to celebrate the International Day of the Blind on November 13 every year.
In our time, there are also people who declare their desire to help those who are blind to gain sight. True, the intentions of these people sometimes look very dubious. MedAboutMe understands the theory of alternative vision. From the point of view of science, of course.
History of the question: how it all began
Attempts have always been made to find a way to see without the aid of the eyes. They were looking for scientists and doctors, they were looking for yogis, mystics and mystifiers. The latter sought not so much to benefit humanity as to gain fame and money.
One such figure was Vyacheslav Bronnikov, who appeared out of nowhere in the mid-1990s. Troubled times always give birth to strange characters. The appearance of Bronnikov was a logical continuation of Alan Chumak's TV shows and the full halls at Kashpirovsky's performances.
What did Bronnikov bring to the general public? According to him, the ability to see without using the eyes. As well as the possibility of teaching clarity, foresight and modeling of the future, non-contact diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the body. All this, of course, at the energy-informational level, how could it be otherwise.
Bronnikov proposed to teach visually impaired and blind children and adults to do without visual organs, to practically return them the opportunity to live and work fully, getting rid of disability and all restrictions caused by loss of vision. The "guru" of alternative vision recruited a group of children and adolescents with whom he toured on television, demonstrating the possibilities of his method.
Of course, after the television advertisement, Bronnikov began organizing courses and classes in which everyone could help their children to acquire extraordinary skills and abilities for a certain amount. Why only children? Because they "see differently."
To what extent did the “achievements” of the students of Bronnikov's school correspond to reality?
Gullible parents, children in black masks and skin vision
Many eyewitnesses had doubts about the reality of what was happening, while others readily believed that a child in a wide black mask was really able to read any text, name the color of the presented card and accurately determine what is shown in the pictures shown to him in random order.
It's great - just a few dozen lessons on teaching "skin vision", and you can look under the sofa not with your eyes, illuminating yourself with a flashlight, but just with your heel. But in fact, skeptics have repeatedly proved that all the demonstration performances of the "group of Bronnikov's students" are pure fraud. Talented children showed not so much the phenomenon of "skin vision" as the phenomenal ability to peep into the cunning slits of the mask and use other methods well known to illusionists.
Putting on the mask of the Bronnikov students, anyone could cope with demonstration performances under the "skin vision" program. Except for really blind people.
Interestingly, the parents of the "superchildren" seem to sincerely believed in the superpowers of their offspring. Perhaps not all, but many.
Even more interesting is the fact that after a series of humiliating revelations, Bronnikov still managed to get the staff of the Institute of the Brain of the Russian Academy of Sciences to agree to conduct a study of the phenomenon of alternative vision. And as a result, he even received the conclusion of scientists, which allowed the dubious method to acquire science. An article on the phenomenon of alternative vision was published in the journal Human Physiology in 2002.
However, the scientific community made a number of statements about the incorrectness of the experiments. This resulted in a second study of the "phenomenon of blind reading." Other conclusions had to be drawn: the "unique" abilities of adolescents, Bronnikov's students, were no longer considered phenomenal. Since it became quite clear that "skin vision" is nothing more than a myth.
Adepts and followers
Despite repeated embarrassment, Bronnikov did not refuse to promote his "revolutionary" method to the masses. Moreover, he had followers who also wanted to fall to the source of fame and money. On television, various "gurus of alternative vision" have repeatedly appeared, like the imposing Mark Komissarov, who gathered a whole group of children who happily played along with the teacher. True, none of them was really blind, no one was able to "see" through any other material barriers, except for a special mask, no one could recognize the image embedded in the most ordinary paper opaque envelope.
Russian "ill-wishers and envious people" offended Komissarov so much that he fled from unpleasant questions in the United States. But even there, local skeptics upset him: the best student of Komissarov N. Lulova could not pass the tests for reliability.
Viewers of "Minutes of Glory" may remember another adept of "sight without the aid of the eyes", a certain Pavel Epifanov, who brought three of his students to the show. The boys demonstrated the same techniques that could be seen in the pupils of Bronnikov and Komissarov: special masks, recognition of images and texts with supposedly closed eyes. However, the jury did not react to Epifanov's tricks as he expected. The guys were invited to show their skills in front of a commission of real scientists. And the result was quite predictable: changes in the usual scheme, elimination of the ability to pry showed the true value of the "method of teaching alternative vision." The children suddenly stopped "seeing without the help of their eyes."
From high hopes to bitterness of disappointment
A person wants to believe in a miracle. Especially if this person is deprived of something important and necessary, something that everyone else has - vision, for example. The very opportunity to perceive the world around us with the help of the most complex optical device created by nature itself over millions of years of evolution - our eyes. I really want to believe that you can learn to see in some other way - with the skin of your hands or face, a mysterious invisible third eye, or an organ of perception unknown to science, hidden in the depths of the brain.
But the bitterness of the harsh reality is that such a possibility does not exist. At least, nature has not provided options for replacing the eyes with other organs. Otherwise, evolution would have gone a different way. The same is the case with other paranormal ideas. For example, if telepathy was provided for by nature, then there would be no need to develop the organs of speech and language. If one could see simply with the skin, there would be no need to create optic nerves, “rods” and “cones” that perceive light, a wonderful biological lens - a crystalline lens, combine all this into a compact eyeball and pack it into the eye socket. And to develop a whole part of the brain, whose task is to process optical signals and interpret them.
No, the hope of regaining the lost sight still remains. But not due to the development of dubious and incredible superpowers, but due to the improvement of technology. The first artificial eyes, capable of receiving an optical signal and transmitting it to the brain, have already been transplanted and are undergoing a “run-in” process.
In March 2016, 50-year-old American Jamie Carly, who was completely blind at the age of 26 due to a hereditary disease, got the opportunity to see with the help of a bionic artificial eye. A microchip is implanted into the retina of her eye, which receives a signal from a camera built into special glasses, and transmits it to the woman's brain. At first, Jamie saw only the outlines of the surrounding objects, but gradually the brain learns to recognize and interpret the signals it receives, so that the woman is full of optimism.
A year before Jamie, an elderly Briton, Roy Flynn, received a similar bionic eye. And in this case, the operation was successful: the man again began to see a little. Of course, there is no need to dream of perfect vision yet, but Flynn is now able to see moving objects, recognize the outlines of things, people and animals, and distinguish light from darkness.
In Cardiff and Osaka, scientists are tackling the problem of returning vision in a different way: they are looking for the possibility of growing a new eye from stem cells. The first experimental rabbits are already mastering artificially grown "eyes", consisting of the retina, lens and conjunctiva.
Research is underway in one more direction: the possibility of printing bionic eye prostheses on a 3D printer is being studied.
Can we conclude that vision loss will soon cease to be a problem? Soon or not, it's hard to say. Only charlatans work quickly. But there is no doubt that you should not try to learn to see with your hands, feet, nose or ears. Still, science and technology are much more promising than fraud.
And the last thing. The James Randi Foundation exists in the United States. Anyone who can prove the possession of paranormal abilities will receive a million dollars. Until now, no one has received this million, including none of the owners of "sighted skin".
Eduard Kruglyakov, Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences:
- The responsibility for advertising pseudoscientific methods lies in many respects with our television. In order to keep the viewer, any ridiculous theory can be presented in a scientific form. So it happened with the "Bronnikov method". Once I asked a journalist friend to take part in a program in which Bronnikov talked about his "direct vision" school. During the demonstration, the journalist asked for a mask and tried it on. It turned out that there is a gap between the nose and the cheek, through which you can easily see. But the moment when the journalist repeats the actions of the charlatan's students and explains the result by a simple peeping, was cut out from the program. The audience saw only "phenomenal vision without the aid of the eyes." This is how obscurantism is born.
Evgeny Alexandrov, Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences:
- As an optical physicist, I can say absolutely definitely: it is impossible to see with the skin. There are no creatures that can see without eyes. There are only those possessing groups of light-sensitive cells, but they are not able to recognize any image. And everyone with eyes inevitably obeys the laws of optics.
When Bronnikov's pupils were retested in 2010, the experimenters noticed that the children tilt their heads in a certain way or perform some actions before starting to "see." This was the reason to suspect them of peeping through the slit near the nose. The guess was confirmed when the experimenter placed a simple sheet of cardboard between the text being read and the subject's face. The child immediately stopped "seeing", and in the most literal sense.
Vyacheslav Ozerov, a public figure dealing with the problems of children with disabilities:
Unlike many enthusiastic admirers of Bronnikov and Komissarov, I have extensive experience in dealing with blind children. A careful study of the materials on the activities of these "gurus" shows the following:
Not a single video footage contains a single shot with really, totally blind children. This was confirmed after negotiations with the parents of the children who took part in the experiments: everyone had and still have residual vision. An unbiased observer can easily notice that all test participants always hold their heads in a certain way, allowing them to see through the narrow uncovered space between the edge of the mask and the nose. With this method, the effect of improving vision is manifested - any nearsighted person knows this, and therefore squints in order to see better. This effect is based on the method of vision correction using perforated glasses, known since the 19th century. A survey of teachers and parents of children, who studied according to the methods of Komissarov and Bronnikov, showed that the children did not acquire any new skills or abilities. Not a single child.
My experience of raising a son, doomed to total blindness, says: if you do not count on a miracle, on some mysterious ways to awaken superpowers, but simply create conditions for children to develop and socialize, then they will be able to live a full life. And to deceive a person who is faced with blindness, tricks, to give him false hope is meanness.