Wywiad z dr Lori Marino o naukowych i etycznych wątpliwościach odnośnie delfinoterapii


Poniższy plik dźwiękowy zawiera wywiad z dr Lori Marino – neurobiologiem i senior lecturer w  Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology Program, na Emory University.

Badania Lori Marino dotyczą mózgu i ewolucji zachowań ssaków. Opublikowała szereg prac naukowych dotyczących procesów kognitywnych u ssaków, zachowań delfinów, ich inteligencji oraz analiz dotyczących poprawności metodologicznej badań nad skutecznością delfinoterapii.


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Dla wygody zamieszczamy również anglojęzyczną transkrypcję wywiadu.


JG = Justin Gregg, host of The Dolphin Pod
LM = Lori Marino


JG: I am speaking with Dr. Lori Marino, senior lecturer in the neuroscience and behavioral biology program at Emory University. Lori’s research focuses on brain and behavioral evolution in mammals, and she has written numerous scientific articles on dolphin cognition, dolphin behavior and dolphin intelligence. In addition, she has written a handful of articles discussing the pros and cons – mostly cons – of Dolphin Assisted Therapy. Thanks for talking with us today, Lori.

LM: O, you’re very welcome.

JG: Can I get you to first explain what Dolphin Assisted Therapy is, and what it claims to do?

LM: Yes, sure. Dolphin Assisted Therapy is a form of animal assisted therapy. It’s an industry that is marketed as a treatment for a variety of illnesses – everything from autism to cancer. Basically, it involves patients, either children or adults, entering the water with captive dolphins, typically, and they engage in several activities from swimming with and riding on the dolphins to just touching the dolphins, to feeding the dolphins, and typically there are several sessions that are offered at usually between three and five thousand dollars for the whole treatment. So it basically involves people getting into a tank or a pool with dolphins and engaging in different interactive activities.

JG: And where do they offer these programs?

LM: DAT is offered all over the world. There are several facilities in Florida, in Hawaii, in the Bahamas, but there are also facilities all over Asia, all over Europe, the Middle East, South America, Dubai, I mean they are literally popping up everywhere.

JG: Hm. And how did you develop an interest in investigating the claims of DAT?

LM: Well, as you know I have been studying dolphins for many years and I began to get interested in the effects of captivity and the effects of human-dolphin interaction. And then also I have a co-author, Scott Lilienfeld who is a clinical psychologist, and he is very interested in pseudo-scientific claims. So we put our interests together and we began to realize that this was something that needed to be investigated. And then I became very interested in that, and concerned about the proliferation of a pseudo-science so we decided we would just take a look at the literature to see what it says.

JG: The two of you have written an article that appeared recently in 2007 called ‘Dolphin-Assisted Therapy: More Flawed Data and More Flawed Conclusions’. Can you describe a little bit about that paper and what it discusses, and what you have found?

LM: Yeah, sure. This is a follow-up to a similar study that we published in 1998, and basically what we did is, we looked at all the peer-reviewed papers on dolphin therapy since 1998 and we found that there were five published papers in the peer-reviewed literature that claimed that there was some therapeutic effectiveness to DAT, to Dolphin Therapy. So what we did is we conducted a rigorous analysis of the methodology used in these studies to see if the conclusions were warranted, and we basically applied basic research and knowledge, looked at whether or not these, given what each study, how each study was conducted whether the conclusions were warranted and the study was a valid study. And we found that all of the studies were so lacking in validity that none of the conclusions were warranted. And this echoed the findings of our 1998 paper, so basically to date, we have done a rigorous analysis of the methodology used in all the peer-reviewed DAT or Dolphin Therapy literature, and there is currently absolutely no evidence that this type of therapy is effective for treating illnesses.

JG: You list in the paper a number of threats to validity, but I just want to pick some of the big ones, and just have you quickly discuss what they mean in terms of these therapies. The first is the placebo effect. Can you describe what that is, and why it is such a problem?

LM: The placebo effect is a ubiquitous effect that you have to guard against in all treatment studies, and there is no exception here. Basically the placebo effect is improvement from someone expecting improvement, so if you give somebody a pill and say ‘this pill will make you feel better’, they will feel better, but you don’t know whether or not it is because you have told them that they will feel better, or whether there is a chemical in the pill that is actually helping them. So if people know the purpose of the therapy, then they are going to show some improvement that has nothing to do with the specific therapy, and none of these studies control for the placebo effect. And so what that means is that even though the placebo effect may actually be “real”, it may have nothing to do with swimming with dolphins.

JG: So it is not necessarily the dolphin – it could have been anything.

LM: It could have been anything, right, exactly, and the thing that it would be in the placebo effect would be telling someone that you are going to help them, that has a positive impact.

JG: Right, like the sugar pill, essentially. There are a couple of other threats; one of them is novelty. How does that affect the validity of these studies?

LM: That is another sort of non-specific effect, and basically, this has to do with the positive effects of any new and exciting experience. So we know that if you do something fun, you do something novel, you do something exciting, that it is going to be uplifting. It is going to have a good effect upon your mood, at least in the short term. And it is fun to swim with dolphins, it definitely is, but it does not make it therapy, and again, you have to keep in mind that this effect, the novelty effect, was never accounted for in any of these studies. So it could very well be that anything fun and exciting and new, is going to have a short-term positive impact on one’s mood, or one’s attitude and so on and so forth.

JG: So again, this is sort of the idea that there is nothing special about the dolphins -

LM: Nothing special about dolphins

JG: – it’s just that it was fun. It could have been snowboarding or something, anything.

LM: Exactly.

JG: So in these studies they had not really controlled for that, they had not another group going out snowboarding to see if they had the same effects.

LM: They did not control for that. The controls for all of these really confounding factors were non-existent.

JG: Right, which is a big problem, obviously.

LM: A huge problem.

JG: And there is another one you mentioned; ‘construct confounding’ I think is the term you used. Can you describe what that is?

LM: Very simply, construct confounding is a fancy term for the fact that when you put someone through an experience like a treatment with a drug or DAT, that there are many different factors in that experience that would account for the outcome. And so without experimental control you really cannot tell in DAT studies whether there was something about being in the water that was perhaps mood-elevating, or is it any large animal – does it have to be a dolphin? Could it be the extra attention that the students get, that the clients get from the tutors and the trainers? Again, is it the new environment? So there is no way to disentangle these factors to determine whether or not there is anything special about the therapy with the dolphins per se. None of these studies really did that adequately.

JG: So each of the five studies, they failed to sort of separate out all those variables –

LM: Absolutely.

JG: – just threw them all in a soup together and said ‘it works’.

LM: And just decided that it was the interaction with the dolphins that was the therapeutic agent when in fact they had not shown that at all.

JG: Right. Okay. Out of curiosity, because these are some fairly major flaws -

LM: These are major methodological flaws, I mean, these are just… what is important to notice is that these are very basic experimental controls that should be done in any good piece of research, regardless of whether it is DAT, and it is just not good research.

JG: The papers themselves, they wound up in some credible scientific journals, so I wonder, what are your thoughts on the fact that reviewers during the peer review process should have spotted these and have been a little more conservative?

LM: Well, you know, I think that it is unfortunate – I mean, obviously a lot of flawed studies get through to the publication stage and you know, no studies are perfect. But I think it points to the fact that in this domain of research, that we need to be more stringent, and that we need to set the bar a lot higher than it is for publication in this area. And I think that is true for a lot of the literature in human-animal studies, and animal therapy and so forth. For whatever reason it is not as stringent as it really should be.

JG: Hmm. You mentioned earlier that you had published a similar paper back in 1998, discussing some other, some previous DAT articles that had come out, and Dr. David Nathanson, I think he was [the author of] at least two of them. He crops up in the media quite a bit, talking about DAT. And in the 1998 paper you did a similar kind of methodological review. Can you quickly discuss what Nathanson’s claims were, and your discussion of them?

LM: Yes, sure. Basically, Dave Nathanson argues that DAT, dolphin therapy, increases learning through increased attention focus in kids and people with autism, other forms of developmental disabilities, and so forth. And he has made some pretty extreme claims because he actually has said that he thinks that dolphin therapy is more effective than traditional physical or speech therapy, and in fact these claims are really outlandish. And really, his major hypothesis that for instance the problem with kids with autism is that they cannot focus their attention is just at odds with everything we know in the mainstream scientific domain about what the problem is with autism. So he does not have the right hypothesis, and therefore his thinking about the treatment, why it works, is equally off.

JG: Interestingly enough, I was researching him for this interview, and I saw a recent paper, a 2002  {*actually a 2007} paper, where he discusses what looks like they build an animatronic dolphin and put it in the therapeutic pools, and they found that this animatronic dolphin had the same effect on the patients as a regular dolphin. Do you think that that is a sign that he kind of had a change of heart, like he is backing off from his really strong claim that it is special to dolphins? 

LM: Well, I do not know, I mean I read that article – it was very interesting. You know, the same methodological issues apply to the animatronic dolphin study as to studies with real dolphins, I mean, a good study is a good study and a poor study is a poor study, regardless of whether you are using a real dolphin or not. And I would say that, you know, if someone could show with good science that there were specific therapeutic effects to swimming with an animatronic dolphin, then you know, I suppose it wouldn’t be objectionable. But again, regardless of whether we are talking about an animatronic dolphin or a real dolphin, the onus is on Nathanson to show the effects with good basic research, and he has not done that yet.

JG: So it is kind of the same problem, I mean, you just swapped in a real dolphin – it could still be placebo effects, novelty effects, you do not know if that is the problem.

LM: Absolutely. The same problems apply, exactly.

JG: Interestingly, and this is going out there a bit, I was researching the websites for places that do offer this kind of therapy and reasons as to why it works – or their claims as to why it works, and there is the AquaThought Foundation online and they make some claims that the reason it is specific to dolphins and not, say, animatronic dolphins, is that dolphins are using their echolocation to somehow change neurotransmitter production or brainwaves and things like that, which is kind of out there from what is standard science anyway. There was a 2003 Brensing et al. paper that you mentioned in your recent article which kind of did it an experiment to talk about the dolphin healing energy idea. Do you think that article will close the door on that idea, or is there still some possible truths about those claims?

LM: I do not think there is any evidence that ultrasound can heal in the way people claim in the form of dolphin echolocation. The AquaThought Foundation has made this claim and there is absolutely no evidence to show that dolphin ultrasound has an effect on brain neurotransmitters – that is entirely unfounded. The Brensing paper really did a really good job at disputing these claims, so given that the Brensing paper really did show that there was really nothing much to this claim and the fact that as a neuroscientist I can tell you it is a preposterous claim, and there is no evidence for it, I think it just cannot be taken seriously at this point.

JG: Right. Out of curiosity, people speculate about this, and this has a lot to do with different things, but why is it that dolphins have been singled out as the animal that has all these ‘healing powers’ – why is it not pigeons or cats or dogs, why not other animals? What is it about the dolphin that makes them so special to so many different people who have these sometimes fantastic claims?

LM: It is so interesting because it is true that there has always been a mythology around dolphins, for thousands of years. It has always been that way – you go back to the ancient Greeks and they made dolphins into gods, and there have always been these sort of spiritual types of thoughts surrounding dolphins and so forth, and really, dolphins are the ultimate New Age animal, they really are, and I think it might have to do with the fact that they are intelligent – people perceive that they are intelligent, and interactive, but at the same time, they live in a strange environment: they live in the water, they are under the water, and mysterious and so there is this juxtaposition of two factors that these are clearly intelligent, curious beings, but they come from a strange world and it could be that those are the kinds of things that reaches folklore. Because it really it true that we know so little about them and so they are quite mysterious.

JG: Definitely. So it is sort of a meme running through the population at this point?

LM: I think it is, I truly think it is and I think that if you look on the Web and you look at a lot of New Age types of healing sites and things like that, things that do not explicitly have anything to do with dolphin therapy, you will often see dolphins – it is the iconography. So yeah, there people have all kinds of ideas about who dolphins are. 

JG: Yes, and so DAT is building on the effect.

LM: It is trading on that – exploiting that dolphin folklore, exactly, and people will not buy it when it comes to guinea pigs or cats, but they buy it when it comes to dolphins.

JG: So that is an important part then of the therapy, really, this mythology and folklore behind it.

LM: Well, it is an important part of getting people to pay thousands of dollars for the therapy.

JG: There are a lot of facilities out there all over the world, some of them charging an enormous amount, some of them charging less, some of them making some pretty fantastic claims and some of them making some more innocent claims. Do you feel that there are any facilities offering DAT that are worth visiting?

LM: No, I do not, I cannot recommend any DAT facility at this point, and the reason I say that is that there is absolutely no evidence that this is therapy. So any facility that advertises itself as a facility that is offering therapy – it is false advertising. And I think that parents of sick children should be made aware of this. There is no justification for asking people to mortgage their homes and fly halfway around the world to swim for five days with a dolphin – there is just no scientific justification for that. And I think it also desensitizes people to the plight of the animals in captivity. Also, there is a very real potential for harm to a person swimming with a dolphin in captivity – we have seen that time and time again, so really, it is a lose-lose situation for everybody but the people that run these facilities. There is just nothing to recommend it. Now if someone wants to have their children swim with a captive dolphin, and they are not under the expectation that this is therapy, well, you know, there are opinions about that, but the fact that this is touted as therapy is just basically modern snake-oil. And people need to be made aware that they are being exploited very badly in this situation.

JG: Playing devil’s advocate here, I am sure that there are people who could argue that even though it is a placebo effect, the effect is real, so being in the water with dolphins has some value for people who are participating in it. So even if there is a problem with this concept, the fact that the dolphins are in a facility otherwise doing nothing – what is the harm in bringing someone to the facility for therapy?

LM: Well, I think the harm is the financial cost to the parents, or to the patients, and then I think the harm – there is a real potential for harm to the person swimming with the dolphin. There are numerous documented cases of people that have been seriously injured by captive dolphins. In fact, there was a recent incident in Curaçao where three people were swimming with a dolphin in a marine park and the dolphin launched herself at the people and seriously injured them. And you know, these facilities are not going to want their customers to be aware of these incidents so they are not heavily advertised. So they are putting their lives and the lives of their children at enormous risk. And finally, I think patronizing facilities provides more motivation for people in the marine park industry to go out and capture more dolphins from the wild for these [parks] and I think that if people understood that for the most part these animals were taken from these brutal drives and captures, that they probably would not want to patronize these facilities, but that is hidden from the public. Even captive-born animals have been found to exhibit strong stress responses to people entering their tanks, so again, it really is a lose-lose situation. I mean, the child might – anyone might have a good time swimming with a dolphin, but when you really do think about all these other factors, people need to be made aware that they are contributing to a seriously exploitive industry.   

JG: Getting back to the dangers for human participants, I have also heard of the dangers of disease transmission between humans and dolphins. Is that a real problem?

LM: Absolutely. Yes, disease transmission is a very real possibility. You have to remember that DAT, even in the United States, is a totally unregulated business. There are no standards, no professional standards for a marine park that hangs out a shingle that says ‘We offer Dolphin Assisted Therapy’, there are no degrees in this, it does not even require that the people involved have degrees in psychology or therapy, so there is absolutely no standards, no professional regulations – so anything goes. And under those circumstances, you really are left to the devices of the people running the facilities.

JG: Yeah, you take their word for it, in a way.

LM: You have to take their word for it, and they are not going to tell you that this is dangerous and so on and so forth – they want to get you in and get your money. And so disease transmission, injury – all of these things are very real in this industry, and the public is kept in the dark about these things, by and large.

JG: You touched a little bit on the dangers not to the humans but to the dolphins involved. Can you talk a little bit about the dangers for the dolphins in the tanks, but also for the impacts that DAT and its popularity has on wild populations?

LM: In the United States, DAT facilities have animals that are primarily captive-born, because they have not taken from the wild in several years but there are studies that show that even captive-born animals show stress in captivity. We all know that there are problems with quality of life in a captive environment for any cetacean, and that leads to psychological and emotional problems in these animals that really are only exacerbated when you have people entering the water with them. Many of these animals really do not have much of a choice as to whether they participate in these sessions, even though the people in the marine parks would want to tell you that they do, but in fact they really do not. Now, the worst part of all this is that because dolphin therapy becomes so popular all around the world, it is contributing to a greater and greater degree to the capture of wild dolphins, because outside of the United States, there are very few countries who have a moratorium on taking animals from the wild. So for instance throughout Asia, almost all the DAT and swim programs and just general marine parks are stocked with animals that have been taken from these horrendous drive hunts and these brutal wild captures.

JG: Those are like the ones that popped up recently in the news in Japan, in Taiji.

LM: In Taiji, every year in Taiji in Japan, they kill tens of thousands of dolphins and other small cetaceans. And what happens is that when these animals are driven into the cove they are slaughtered in an unimaginably brutal way. I mean, their throats are slashed, they are pummelled to death, they die of heart attacks, it is just absolutely one of the worst things you will ever see. And amidst all of this horror you see trainers from various marine parks all over Asia who are there knee-deep in the waters that are basically red with these animals’ blood, and they are picking out the strong, healthy, young dolphins to take with them back to the marine parks. So basically they are using this slaughter as a way to get their inventory, and a live dolphin pays a lot more than a dead dolphin. So by doing this they are maintaining the motivation of the fishermen in Taiji to continue the slaughter and this is happening all around the world. We now know that dolphins taken from the wild in the Solomon Islands have made their way to Dubai for resorts, so people can swim with these dolphins, we know that this happens all over the world. And so when people go to a captive facility, especially outside the United States, and they see these dolphins, I want them to know where these animals came from and for every dolphin that stays alive for a couple of years in a marine park, five or six have died getting that one animal to survive in that facility – at least five or six, I think some studies have shown that the survival rate is one in ten. So they have to think about the carnage behind that scene, and that is what I want people to know about. And it is getting worse, it is not getting better.

JG: So in a very real way these DAT programs are directly leading to a reduction in wild dolphin population numbers.

LM: They are directly leading to these DAT swim programs, and in general the captivity industry of marine parks, especially outside the United States, is leading to the capture of wild dolphins and it has a negative impact upon wild populations. And as I said, it really is getting worse, and usually none of these drives or wild captures are accompanied by any data on how the population was impacted, so we can only assume that there are negative impacts on wild populations. Certainly the animal welfare issue is one that is just among the worst in the world in terms of what these animals go through when they are captured.

JG: So in a way if you are a customer at one of these places and you are paying a large sum of money to swim with a dolphin, and if those dolphins are directly sourced from wild populations, you in a way are paying for that dolphin -

LM: You are paying for dolphins to be tortured and captured. And killed. And of course, the people that frequent these facilities do not know this and they are good people, and they need to know this.

JG: Can you talk a bit about the people who do visit these [facilities], because you mentioned that these are vulnerable people themselves – so in a way they are being preyed upon with the idea of DAT, because not necessarily being a real therapy at all, they are paying huge sums of money.

LM: They are paying huge sums of money; I mean a lot of people come from poor circumstances but they are desperate – they have an autistic child, or a child with cancer, any parent would do anything to help their child. And so you have a very vulnerable population, and many, many people have done things like mortgaged their homes, taken up donations, used all of their savings to go to these facilities with the hope that their child will be helped, and that is just one of the most base forms of exploitation – to exploit the hopes of parents of sick children. I can’t really think of anything worse, and the thing is with these DAT programs, they usually charge several thousand dollars for say a week to two weeks of a few sessions with dolphins, and that does not include getting there and the hotel and everything. So these people end up spending thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars in hopes that they will help their child.

JG: So what advice would you have for anyone that is listening who is considering seeking Dolphin Therapy for a loved one who is suffering from a mental or physical condition?

LM: My advice is consumer beware – do not be fooled. Save your money, it is snake-oil, and no matter how you look at it, whether you care about the fact that your child could be in danger by swimming with this wild animal; whether you are concerned about the fact that you are contributing to these beloved animals being taken from the wild – wherever your concern lies, it is a losing proposition. Do not give in to these claims, because there is nothing to it – it is snake-oil. And so this is really an example of the worst kind of exploitation of vulnerable parents and sick people and animals. So just be smarter, buyer beware, and do not give in to the temptation, because they are being exploited.

JG: Are there any resources online or campaigns that you know of where you can learn more about DAT and the problems with it?

LM: Yes, there is a campaign that I have been working on with the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society [WDCS], and they can go to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society website and find a lot of information on DAT, the information on the studies that I did with Scott Lilienfeld are on there, and some of the other studies that look at disease transmission and so forth. If anybody wants to contact me by e-mail, I am perfectly happy to be available to send out materials and also, talk with them.

JG: Fantastic – I will put some resources up on the Dolphin Pod website to the WDCS and [for] people who may want to contact you directly.

LM: Yes, absolutely, that will be fine.

JG: Great! Well, I am going to wrap this up, so thanks very much for this interview – this is fantastic information. I hope people learn something.

LM: I hope so, I hope so, I think the only way that this is going to end is if we let the public know that they are being victimized – not only the animals, but the public.

JG: Fantastic. Well, thanks very much Lori!

LM: Thank you.

Źródło: http://www.dolphincommunicationproject.org/

2 komentarzy

  1. Jae Ogaz9:53 am | Kwiecień 18, 2012

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  2. Ania Maciejewska10:53 am | Luty 3, 2012

    Siema. Słowem wstępu pragnę powiedzieć miłe słowo o tym blogu, faktem jest, że przyjemnie czyta się zamieszczane tu teksty. Niewielka liczba bloggerów poruszających się w tych klimatach tematycznych potrafi pisać językiem, który potrafi zachęcić mnie do przejrzenia i skomentowania artykułu. “Delfinoterapia: fakty, mity i opinie | Wywiad z dr Lori Marino o naukowych i etycznych wÄ…tpliwoĹ›ciach odnoĹ›nie delfinoterapii” – ten napis już widnieje wśród moich zakładek :) . Sądzę, że nie jest to moja ostatnia wizyta na tym blogu. Właśnie własnego bloga i zbieram wszystkie wskazówki, które mogą mi ułatwić życie. Czarna magia dla mnie to część techniczna i optymalizacja bloga, która ma się przyczynić do tego, żeby mój blog był odwiedzany.

    Pozdrawiam serdecznie – Ania Maciejewska

    P.S. Na jakim skrypcie najlepiej postawić bloga ?

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