Iridology – Part 2

By: Dr. John Ankerberg and Dr. John Weldon; ©2006
Like everything else in new age medicine, iridology claims to be a logical, scientific, and natural system of diagnosis. The authors explain why these claims are wrong.

Claims

Like everything else in new age medicine, iridology claims to be a logical, scien­tific, and natural system of diagnosis. Bernard Jensen thinks that the only reason critics of iridology exist is because they have never studied it, and furthermore, that no medical doctor who has used it has ever rejected it:

Whenever anyone, whether doctor or layman, tells me he thinks there is nothing to it, I make it a practice to ask first if he has studied Iridology and whether he has spent more than three months with it. Invariably I find that those who have condemned it never have spent more than ten minutes or so reading about the subject…. Every medical doctor who has ever used it gave up many of his medical remedies and turned to nature cure methods for healing.[1]

As we will show later, Jensen is clearly wrong. Nevertheless, iridologists persist in calling iridology “a true, definite, accurate science.”[2]

Jensen even claims iridology is one of the most essential of diagnostic methods. Consider his assessment of its powers:

Iridology can be used in conjunction with any other form of analysis and diagnosis.
The iridologist can determine the inherent structure and the working capacity of an organ, can detect environmental strain, and can tell whether a person is anemic and in what stage the anemia exists…. He can determine the constructive ability of the blood, … He can determine the nerve force, the responsive healing power of [issue, and the inherent ability to circulate the blood.
The iris of the eye can show acute, subacute, chronic, and destructive stages in the body. Many other factors are also revealed such as organic and functional changes…. It foretells the development of many conditions long before they have manifested into disease symptoms.
No other science tells so accurately the progress from acute to chronic states.
Only iridology is capable of directing attention to impending conditions; only iridology reveals and evaluates inherent weaknesses.
In using iridology you need ask no questions yet you can tell where pain is, what stage it is in, how it got there, and when it is gone.[3]

But this is nonsense.

Because the iris of the eye has no such diagnostic powers, to conventionally trained physicians such claims smack of magic. In his article “An Eye for the Future” in Iridologist International Manual for Research and Development, 2-11/12, Jensen further argues for the powers of iridology: “We must realize that iridology represents a law of nature that cannot be changed. I believe that it is just as immu­table and unchangeable as any of the laws that govern the universe.”[4]

Practitioners and proponents of iridology repeatedly assert that the practice is a legitimate and valid clinical procedure, but surprisingly, they may also claim that they do not actually engage in the diagnosis of illness or disease. This is incredible because iridology is fundamentally a diagnostic procedure. No one argues that iridologists do not diagnose in the same manner that normal physicians do, but they do diagnose. Iridologists who claim otherwise may simply be protecting their assets by guarding against expensive lawsuits.

Articles in Jensen’s own publications prove that iridologists engage in diagnosis. For example, Iridologists International Manual for Research and Development, 2- 11/12, contains an article by Fernandiz titled “Hemicrania (Migraine) and Its Diagno­sis by Means of the Iris.”[5] Iridologists even claim that their iris diagnosis can divine future illness or disease, even though not a shred of evidence exists for such a conclusion—other than what iridologists think they see in the eye. But we cited Jensen above as teaching that iridology “foretells the development of many condi­tions long before they have manifested into disease symptoms.”[6]

Consider a second example. Armand Ian Brint is a charter member of Iridologists International and has taught iridology and other new age practices throughout Cali­fornia. He is the founder of the Berkeley Holistic Health Center and currently works with chiropractors. He argues that through iridology, “It is possible to detect signs of an impending heart attack or a cerebral stroke.”[7]

What is even more incredible is that iridologists may claim that they can deter­mine unknown past or future events—whether a patient will commit suicide and even whether or not the suicide will be bloodless; or whether or not a family member such as a grandfather or great aunt died from a stroke![8] Iridologists who diagnose in such a manner are just as likely to be engaging in diagnosis by psychic means, using the iris as a contact point for divination.

Scientific Evaluation

Before we proceed to examine the basic theory of iridology and why it is scientifi­cally incorrect, we should note that there are certain medical conditions that can be recognized by a medical examination of the eye. For example, jaundice usually shows up first in the white of the eye. Also, the transparent cornea of the eye can be affected by viruses, usually the herpes virus. The lens of the eye itself can be in­volved in general disease. Physicians routinely examine the inner lining of the eye called the fundus. Here the arteries may give an indication of general diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes.[9]

But none of this is iridology. No iridologist’s exam is in any way comparable to a physician’s exam, either in theory or practice. Iridologists claim to read endless physical conditions from the iris alone. The renowned ophthalmologist Professor Schreck, M.D., observes:

The iris interpreters employ a completely different and in no way comparable examination technique. They claim to “see” diseases of the human body from normal tissue by simply looking at its surface.
We have here a grotesque, absurd paradox, unique in all medical history, that these people want to read diseases out of completely normal tissue. Worse still, they do not even refer to disorders of this tissue itself, but to diseases of organs that are far from it, and in no way related in any way to the iris…. What the iris-interpreters refer to and where they claim to “see” bodily diseases is nothing else than simple variations of the normal structure and coloring of the iris that carry no pathological significance and therefore have no value for diagnosis.[10]

The Problem of Diagnosis

Scientific medicine is based upon consistent and proven methods of medical diagnosis. But a major problem of new age medicine is that, having rejected sci­ence, practitioners as a whole rarely agree when it comes to methods of diagnosis. This is illustrated in iridology.

For example, there are some twenty different iridology charts that a practitioner may choose from in his practice. As Dr. Worrall observes, “Confusion is the first order of business in the clinical application of iridology.”[11] The iridologist has the same problem as the astrologer. Which chart among many conflicting charts does the iridologist choose? On what logical basis is one’s chart proven to be better than another that contradicts it? Even though most charts are in general agreement in major divisions (such as the leg area being positioned at the six o’clock segment) this does not help the case of the iridologist. Considering iridology as a whole, there are a great number of differences in both interpretation and location of iris signs.

Iridologist Theodore Kriege confesses that “Nearly every iris researcher has tried to evolve something special for himself, with the result that varying perceptions and interpretations are current. … In comparing the available literature in this respect we find considerable differences.”[12]

Incredibly, Bernard Jensen freely admits that the charts do not agree and yet says, “Let us look at all charts with an open mind. We do not wish to criticize or break down anyone else’s ideas.”[13] One can only wonder how the problems of diagnosis revealed in contradictory iridology charts can be remedied by an “open mind.” In fact, only his chart “can be used for certain of our purposes.”[14] Why, one wonders, if iridology is really a “science” as he claims?

But to see how unscientific iridology is, one only need compare iridology charts with standard medical anatomy charts, such as the kind you see posted on the walls of doctors’ examining rooms. The iridology charts are not uniform. This means that when an iridologist trusts one particular chart, another chart will contradict it. This makes deriving useful information from such charts impossible. But it is an entirely different situation with standard anatomical charts. Do these scientific charts conflict and disagree? Not at all. One may compare the charts published by a dozen differ­ent companies. They will each agree down to the smallest anatomical details. Can we imagine the confusion in medical schools, not to mention operating rooms, if all of the charts contradicted one another and doctors could not agree on basic human anatomy? Why then do iridologists claim their practice is scientific when their most fundamental premises are in conflict?

Dr. Samuel Pfeifer illustrates the problems faced by the iridologist in diagnosis:

Although every iris-interpreter tells the patient that there was only one diagnostic key, one author has counted no less than 19 different Iridology charts. According to the various charts, the same small area between 230 and 240 degrees—an area the width of a pin—can indicate disorders of the following organs: the liver, the little finger, the arm, the diaphragm, the hand, the ribs, the axillary lymphnodes, and the gall bladder.
It is estimated that there are about 10,000 diseases. It is not clear how they would all find their reflection in the tiny space of the iris.[15]

For this critique, we examined the iridology charts of Bernard Jensen, LaDean Griffin, Theodore Kriege, Korvin-Swiecki, and others. Anyone who does this will prove to himself that iridologists do not agree on what parts of the iris relate to what parts of the body.[16]

How then can iridologists possibly claim that they can give accurate diagnoses based on their conflicting charts?

Another characteristic of new age medicine is its expertise at rationalizing fail­ures. It is particularly adept at finding reasons to ignore or reinterpret scientific testing disproving its claims.

Scientific tests of iridologists reveal a high degree of what are called false posi­tives—iridologists diagnosing diseases that are not even present. How do iridologists respond?

They seek to explain this by telling us that iris diagnosis has the magical ability to predict diseases that will happen even years in the future—so, of course, they will not show up through a physical examination in the present! In other words, even though not a shred of evidence exists to confirm the iridologists diagnosis, it must still be true, because iridology cannot fail.

Bernard Jensen argues, “Many times the conditions revealed in the iris today will not be apparent in the body for years to come, but time will inevitably show the analysis to be correct.”[17]

In other words, we are to have faith that iridology is always correct. This is true even though the underlying theory of iridology is anatomically false and iridologists routinely fail scientific testing of their diagnostic abilities.

Faith in iridology is what is important, not anatomy or clinical trials. This means the iridologist is willing to risk the health of his patient on the flimsiest of rationaliza­tions. It is equivalent to arguing in the following manner: faith in gambling is what is important; the odds against winning are irrelevant.

Iridologists have no excuses for other aspects of their practice; for example, diagnosing illnesses that are not even known to exist. “Many of the conditions de­tected by practitioners of iridology are ‘diseases’ whose existence has been dis­puted or discredited by scientific investigation. A common finding is a toxic bowel settlement…. The toxic settlement theory of disease was soundly discredited in the early part of this century.”[18]

In another text, Paul Reisser, M.D., observed:

Another fundamental theory problem for iridology is its insistence that each iris reveals what is happening on its particular side of the body. (That is, the right iris shows right-sided problems, and similarly for the left.) This contradicts a fundamental observation that incoming nerve impulses from one side of the body nearly always cross to the opposite side on their way to the brain. Dr. Jensen has proposed, in response to this problem, that the optic nerve serves as the final messenger between the nervous system and the iris. This explanation would allow for a second crossing of information back to the eye on the same side of the body, but creates two new problems. First, the optic nerve has been shown without question to be only a “one way” messenger, carrying information from the retina to the brain and not in reverse. (Indeed, the optic nerve is not known to connect directly to the iris at all.) Second, only half of the fibers of the optic nerve cross to the opposite side of the brain.
Since the precise way in which the iris tells us about distant organs is at best poorly defined, Iridology characterizes itself as an “empiric” science. That is, it is based upon the experience of its practitioners rather than controlled studies. Presumably, over the years iridologists have noted the appearance of the irises in many patients and then correlated these observations with the patients’ health problems. Unfortunately, however, iridologists use disease classifications which are not generally accepted outside of the subculture in which they practice. Terms such as “toxic accumulations” or “lymphatic congestion” abound in Iridology literature, but they are at best vaguely defined and at worst meaningless to the health care community at large.[19]

Notes

  1. Bernard Jensen, The Science and Practice of Iridology: A System of Analyzing and Caring for the Body Through the Use of Drugless and Nature-Cure Methods (Provo, UT: BiWorld Publishers, Inc., 1952), p. 13 emphasis added.
  2. A. LaDean Griffin, Eyes: Windows of the Body and the Soul (Provo, UT: biWorld Publishers, inc., 1978), cover jacket.
  3. Jensen, The Science and Practice of Iridology, pp. xv, 10, 21, 26.
  4. In Russell S. Worrall, “Iridology: Diagnosis or Delusion,” in Douglas Stalker, Clark Glymour, eds., Examining Holistic Medicine (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1985), p. 170.
  5. Stalker and Glymour, p. 174.
  6. Jensen, The Science and Practice of Iridology, p. 26.
  7. Berkeley Holistic Health Center, The Holistic Health Handbook: A Tool for Attaining Wholeness of Body, Mind, and Spirit (Berkeley, CA: And/Or Press, 1978), p. 161.
  8. Kurt Koch, The Devil’s Alphabet (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1969), pp. 38-39.
  9. Samuel Pfeifer, M.D., Healing at Any Price? (Milton Keys, England: Word Limited, 1988), p. 88.
  10. Ibid., pp. 88-89.
  11. Stalker and Glymour, p. 174.
  12. Samuel Pfeifer, M.D., Healing at Any Price? (Milton Keys, England: Word Limited, 1988), pp. 14- 15.
  13. Jensen, The Science and Practice of Iridology, p. 88.
  14. Jensen, The Science and Practice of Iridology, p. 88.
  15. Pfeifer, p. 89.
  16. Kriege, pp. 92-107; Griffin, pp. 205, 208; Jensen, The Science and Practice of Iridology, pp. 85- 96, 3223; Stalker and Glymour, pp. 168-170.
  17. Jensen, The Science and Practice of Iridology, p. 13, emphasis added.
  18. In Worrall, “Iridology,” p. 175.
  19. Paul C. Reisser, Teri K. Reisser, John Weldon, New Age Medicine: A Christian Perspective on Holistic Health (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1988), pp. 144-45.

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