If It Seems Too Good To Be True – It Probably Is

by DavalosMcCormack on February 22, 2010

_47340372_houben-apWhen I was a journalist we always worked with a basic rule in mind; if something seems too good to be true, it usually is. Now, it wasn’t because we were all hard-headed cynical bastards who didn’t believe anything,  it’s because experience had taught us to suspect that stories or people who seemed just a bit too perfect, usually were not.

I was reminded of that when I read the story about the Belgian “miracle” man who apparently emerged from a coma after 23 years and began communicating. Initially doctors say Rom Houben suddenly came out of his coma and began to communicate with them, tapping out messages on a computer keyboard with the help of his speech therapist. The therapist says by holding Rom’s forearm and finger she was able to feel sufficient pressure to guide her to the right key on the keyboard.

The story, not surprisingly, went around the world in a hurry, embraced by some as a sign of the miracle of life, that people can emerge from comas even after decades, and by others as a warning against ending life support even for people diagnosed as being in a permanent vegetative state.There was something there for everyone to hold on to as a sign of hope.

But it turns out that that hope was false.

When doctors tested the validity of the communications they found they simply weren’t true. It was a simple test. They asked the speech therapist to leave the room then they showed Rom a series of objects. The therapist was brought back in and asked to get Rom to tell her what those objects were.  She couldn’t.

Was the therapist deliberately lying about Rom communicating through her? Who knows. Maybe she was caught up in the excitement of the whole episode too, saying she felt Rom was using her to type out words because she really wanted him to be doing that. Who knows what was going through her mind, but whatever it was it doesn’t seem that it was Rom’s thoughts.

So why did the rest of us fall for it so quickly and completely, even Rom’s doctors to begin with? Sometimes we just want to believe in the possibility that miracles can happen. I think we are surrounded by so much bad news about war and misery, earthquakes, recession and job losses, that we are hungry for good news, something that can give us a sense of possibility. Sometimes we just really want to believe that despite all the crud, amazing things are possible.

And they are. Just not as often as we would like.

That doesn’t mean we have to be cynical or suspicious of anything we hear. Just that we need to approach everything with an open heart, but a questioning mind. Don’t believe something just because you want to. Believe it because you know it is true.

Somethings we can’t prove – the existence of God or UFOs for example – other things we can – that water can freeze and turn solid and make margueritas even more delicious. We just need to be able to step back once in a while and make sure that we can tell the difference. Not being able to prove something doesn’t mean it’s not true but it should push us to ask lots of hard questions before accepting it.

In the immortal words of the “Who” it will help ensure “we don’t get fooled again”

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