What to say about the hapless, happy couple who flew from South Carolina to Hawaii in hopes of having a “dolphin-assisted birth”? It takes the scam known as dolphin-assisted therapy (DAT) to a whole new level.
Heather Barringer, who’s due to give birth in July, and her husband, Adam, say they’ve been led to this after experiencing “signs” all through her pregnancy.
“It is about reconnecting as humans with the dolphins so we can coexist in this world together and learn from one another,” Heather told the Charlotte Observer. “Dolphins are very intelligent and healing which in turn calms mother and baby for the whole process.”
Dolphins are indeed highly intelligent. Smarter, frankly, than this couple, who have been spending much of the pregnancy living out of their car, hippie-style, and taking odd jobs as needed.
But the plan has captured the attention of news media around the world – and that’s a boon to the Sirius Institute of Hawaii, which is seeking your donations so that they can sell lots of dolphin-assisted births and even “dolphinize the planet.”
It’s hard to know exactly where to draw the line between delusion and scam, but it’s always drawn with $$$ signs – and no less so when the “therapy” is in Sedona, Arizona, the New-Age capital of the United States, hundreds of miles from the nearest living dolphin. That’s where Linda Shay and David Rosenthal can bypass the ocean entirely at their Dolphin Heart World and introduce you to the dolphin living inside of you.
It’s hard to know exactly where to draw the line between delusion and scam, but that line is always drawn with $$$ signs.One of Linda and David’s Dolphin Energy Sessions will set you back $111, while a Personal Journey Session ($188) may bring you an actual message “from Dolphin, other spiritual sources, or your soul.” After that, you can go on a Journey of Discovery with Archie, who is described as “the Dolphin aspect of the Archangel Michael” and “spokesdolphin for the Cetacean Spiritual Council that has guided our service in the world from the beginning.”
Better yet, you can pay $1,222 to join a Dolphin Attunement Session.
At one such session, as captured on video, one of the participants seeks advice from a dolphin or her inner dolphin on whether or not to leave her job at a dog training school. On the one hand, she doesn’t believe her boss is running the business with integrity; on the other, she needs the money – as is apparent when you see her big toe poking through a large hole in her sock. So she writes each of the two options, stay or quit, on a paper plate and asks The Dolphin to guide her while Ms. Shay shuffles the plates and puts them face-down on the carpet. The dog trainer lady then says the magic words “Field activate!” and chooses one of the plates. The guidance is clear: Stay at the dog training school.
Well, at least that way she’ll have enough money coming in to pay for another weekend session and more guidance from The Dolphin.
It’s all documented in a classic 30-minute Penn & Teller video. (Fair warning: lots of sarcasm, bad language, and joking references to dolphins as “fish”.) The references to the Dolphin Heart World begin at around the 10-minute mark:
Sitting out in the canyons of Sedona, Dolphin Heart World might seem relatively harmless to real dolphins. But how many gullible customers have gone on to a Dolphin Assisted Therapy session with captive dolphins? DAT has been debunked over and over by an army of scientists, led by neuroscientist and dolphin brain expert Dr. Lori Marino – for example in this article and this one. (Psychologist Dr. Hal Herzog recaps more of the evidence here.)
And now, with dolphin-assisted birth, DAT is taking another step in the exploitation of both species. They’re not reincarnations or ambassadors of the Archangel Michael, and if they take a dislike to you, or indeed become attracted to you, they can do a lot of damage.
As far as we know, while the Sirius Institute has been around for several years and money has certainly changed hands, no dolphin-assisted births have yet taken place. But scientists who understand the nature and behavior of dolphins are alarmed – and for both species. Certainly, dolphins are among the largest-brained, highly intelligent, socially and culturally complex of all animals. But they’re not reincarnations or ambassadors of the Archangel Michael, and if they take a dislike to you, or indeed become attracted to you, they can do a lot of damage.
According to Paradise Newland, founder of the Sirius Institute, one dolphin “will help massage the baby down.” After all, she says, “What could be easier than having a dolphin help your baby be born?”
Then again, what could be worse than having a dolphin attack you and your baby? In this next video, a captive dolphin attacks a woman vacationing at a dolphin swim program in the Dominican Republic:
And in the next one, a captive dolphin in Cuba takes a “kiss” a little too far. Worse yet, the other vacationers seem to think this is funny:
And what if a dolphin decided to take what the Sirius lady calls a “massage” a little further? Here’s another “kiss” – this time in Brazil:
And now, at SeaWorld, a dolphin attacks a young girl:
Nor does it only happen in captivity:
… nor just to women. Here a dolphin gets sexually aggressive with Michael Maes, an experienced male diver:
(Maes writes to other divers about the dolphin who goes after him, known as Stinky: “Please be prudent people and get out of the water when you see him. Believe me, if he decides, you don’t stand the slightest chance!”)
Here’s Moko the dolphin, who used to enjoy rough-housing with humans at a New Zealand Beach, despite warning from dolphin experts:
In Moko’s case, it wasn’t just the humans who got hurt. Not long after this news report, a body identified as Moko washed up on the beach.
Back, then, to dolphin-assisted birth. Writing in Discover, Christie Wilcox calls it “possibly the worst idea, ever“:
Male dolphins are aggressive, horny devils. Males will kidnap and gang-rape females with their prehensile penises, using alliances of several males to keep females isolated from the rest of the group. As Miriam Goldstein once explained to Slate, “To keep her in line, they make aggressive noises, threatening movements, and even smack her around with their tails. And if she tries to swim away, they chase her down.” Male dolphins don’t just rape their females — they’ve also been known to assert authority by forcibly mounting other males.
They also get a kick out of beating on and killing other animals. Dolphins will toss, beat, and kill small porpoises or baby sharks for no apparent reason other than they enjoy it, though some have suggested the poor porpoises serve as practice for killing the infants of rival males. That’s right, not only do dolphins kill other animals, they kill baby dolphins using the same brutal tactics. No matter how cute they might appear, dolphins are not cuddly companions; they are real, large, ocean predators with a track record for violence — even when it comes to humans.
But the worst thing about all this New Age nonsense isn’t whether or not it’s beneficial to humans, whether it’s safe or dangerous, a scam or just a delusion, or anything else to do with us humans. It’s about the damage it wreaks on the dolphins themselves. Those who are led to believe that there’s something “spiritual” about connecting with captive dolphins, whether in “therapy” or “birth rituals” or “swim programs” are missing the entire point of what is and is not “spiritual.”
Very simply, and by definition, anyone who’s involved in any of this kind of activity doesn’t have a spiritual bone in their body. That’s because spirituality isn’t about your own needs or wants; it’s about the needs of others – in this case the dolphins. Spirituality isn’t about you, me or us; it’s about looking beyond yourself and reaching out to do good for others. And the first thing you discover when you learn about dolphins is that what they need most is to be left alone.
Being entertained, healed or “dolphinized” by any animal held in captivity is the very opposite of a “spiritual” experience. It’s pure exploitation.
And there’s nothing spiritual about exploiting other animals.