A swine by any other name Henrietta Lacks and the ownership of genes
Mar 20
Posted by: nicholasswetenham

Two dolphins

I recently watched a harrowing documentary, The Cove. It documents a covert operation to film the regular slaughter of dolphins left in a cove after a drive hunt to capture dolphins for marine mammal parks.

Dolphins are intelligent creatures and their meat is not usually intentionally eaten by humans. Purely anecdotally, humans seem to have a greater emotional bond with marine mammals than most other wild mammals. This is an interesting observation, and there are probably interesting psychological and biological reasons behind it.

So I was quite pleased to see this BBC article on today’s front page explaining that swimming with dolphins or keeping them in captivity can be harmful to their health. But then I saw this paragraph:

“Humans do seem to feel a sense of kinship with dolphins, intelligent, playful, talkative creatures that they are. And separate research shows people feel the benefit from getting up close and personal with dolphins, says Dr Dobbs. This is because dolphins are thought to emanate “chi” – the essential life force in Chinese medicine – and the basis of various therapies for clinical depression, autism and brain damage.”

I feel that this completely undermines the serious point of this article.

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12 Responses to “BBC says dolphins emit chi”

  1. Tracy King Says:

    Have you emailed the BBC to point out the issue? They are usually very good at correcting this sort of thing if you send a complaint with evidence etc. I’ve had a couple of successes with them, including the removal of a psychic parrot story and a follow-up to coma man.

  2. Mawgen Says:

    It’s a bit of a ridiculous comment on the part of the author, as all plants and animals emit chi if one follows the Traditional Chinese Medicine philosophy!

  3. nicholasswetenham Says:

    Good point Tracy, I have now alerted them.

    Let’s wait and see how they respond.

  4. Alexander Justice Says:

    Dolphins are not only very intelligent, they are very similar to humans in many ways socially. A professor of business ethics at my university has studied and written about the ethics of human interaction with dolphins – he argues that we should recognize them as persons.


  5. Neil Says:

    But dolphins *do* emit chi! I have heard them on many occasions. ‘Chi, chi’ [flips beach ball with nose]

  6. Harry Says:

    It’s just report any old rubbish as long as you can enclose it in quotation marks, isn’t it. They really don’t give a damn.

  7. nicholasswetenham Says:

    Actually Harry, the quotation marks are mine. That was part of the text of the article, and therefore reported as fact.

    Their only possible defense is that it says “dolphins are *thought* to emit chi”. This is undeniably true, there are people who think that. That doesn’t make it sensible to promote that idea.

    In any case it’s the part about treating autism and brain damage that concerns me.

  8. Rita Wing Says:

    Anthrozoös Volume 20, Issue 3, Sep. 2007: “Dolphin Assisted therapy: More Flawed data and more flawed conclusions, Marino & Lilienfeld. Conclusion: “We conclude that nearly a decade following our initial review, there remains no compelling evidence that DAT is a legitimate therapy or that it affords any more than fleeting improvements in mood.”

    Talking nonsense about chi is indeed less important than talking nonsense about therapy for brain damage. The evidence is that this wretched business does no favours to the dolphins, either. Yet another instance of cuddly alternatives turning out noxious for other species and useless for humans.

  9. Kevin Smear Says:

    Drivel about ‘chi’ is absolutely typical of Dr Horace Dobbs of International Dolphin Watch, who really is a bit weird. He was memorably mocked in an interview by Chris Morris on BBC Radio 4’s ‘On The Hour’ as long ago as 1992:

    Morris: ‘There’s no such thing as a nutter in the dolphin world?’
    Dobbs: ‘There seems not to be.’

  10. pv Says:

    “…dolphins are thought to emanate “chi” – the essential life force in Chinese medicine – and the basis of various therapies for clinical depression, autism and brain damage.”

    Thought by whom?
    I notice “autism”, the maladie du jour, gets a mention too.
    Does anyone know if Horace Dobbs is brain damaged, or is it just an act that he does?

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