Saturday, October 1, 2016

Are things taking off?

Just recently, I was in the town centre, watching people, full of life, walking around, and it occurred to me that if it wasn't for their false gravity beliefs, they would be able to fly. Really fly that is, not in planes or hang-gliders, but swoop through the air like Superman.

Excitedly, I rushed home. Well, to be honest, it wasn't exactly a rush, or even a stroll, but it was the best I could do. My first task was to come up with a hypothesis, then a treatment, then a method of testing it out.

So my hypothesis that the Cannot Fly Syndrome is based on a false belief in the powers of so-called gravity, a force which just does not fit into the known structure of atomic forces. Now I have lived on this planet for a very long time, and in observing people over that period, I have come to a lot of disturbing conclusions. One of these is that people can, under pressure, forget almost anything (even, as one Prime Minister discovered, forgetting a daughter when leaving a pub). So I propose to use a Clapping Bats Technique, to startle people into forgetting their perceived limitations. It is my belief, based on no evidence whatsoever, that this will work.*

Then I needed a good way of determining who could be classified as “people”. Using the Oxymoron Criteria to define people – living creatures capable of walking around for sustained short periods on two legs – I realised that I was fortunate in that my garden was visited by a constant procession of people, particularly if I had scattered some seed or breadcrumbs.

Before conducting the study, I produced my statistical analysis plan and published it in a very secure place: I can't remember where, but that isn't important, because I have no intention of actually using it: it seems that the only important point of such a plan is to pre-publish it. But I did calculate that I needed 720 people to take part in the study, so that even utterly minimal changes could be shown to be statistically significant**.

I employed random testing procedures, looking out of the window each morning and tossing a coin. If it came down heads, I would burst out of the door, clap my table tennis bats together and observe the reaction. Sure enough, virtually every time, the people would rise into the air and fly away. If I did not burst out and use CBT, they would remain in the garden, ostensibly inspecting the seed and breadcrumbs.

There were a couple of exceptions to this though. Neither my son nor my wife actually managed to take flight, although on occasions they did jump a bit. It was clearly a case of Pervasive Refusal Syndrome: I thank Esther Crawley for coming up with the term.

But I would like to emphasise that the ability to fly is not a simple state of affairs: rather it is the process towards that ability that is important. Consequently, I have reduced my targets in a very minor way, and now include an ability to have both feet off the ground at the same time as being indicative of the ability to fly. This minor modification to the criteria used to define flying has been approved by my trial committee, and defended by my good friend who pointed out that even transatlantic aircraft have to modify their flight plans according to local conditions.

You will be pleased to hear that I am now able to report a 100% success rate for CBT, and am now attempting to have my paper printed in that bastion of flight analysis, The Javelin. I'm already lining up my friends to give it a quick peer-review. I have also set up the Aviation Media Centre who will prime the media.

Of course, there will be naysayers: cynics who doubt the results of rigorous scientific studies such as these. I would simply like to point out that there is a precedent. In the study of M.E., a small group of psychiatrists created their own set of criteria that allowed them take the people suffering from ME and to add people with fatigue that was due to depression, anxiety, undiagnosed sleep problems, along with unusual and difficult to diagnose conditions such as hemechromatosis. Studies of this group showed that psychological therapies may have helped some of the group's thoughts about their illness, so recommended that this was an effective way to treat everyone in the group, including those with ME. They even managed to claim recovery by setting targets below the level that many scored at the start of the trial.

You don't believe that could have happened? Well, surprisingly enough, nor does it seem do many of the UK medical hierarchy or the media, despite the facts. I guess we will have to wait another thirty years for a proper tribunal to investigate the matter. At least they have come to their senses in America, and have decided to completely ignore any study involving the UK psychiatrists and their weird selection criteria for ME.

*The Department of Transport has funded this study in the hope that they will no longer need to maintain roads.

** For an explanation of this, wait for the next blog.