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Old 12-24-2018, 05:40 PM
nearwildheaven is offline
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Three Identical Strangers (documentary)


Has anyone else seen this? I watched the DVD, which I got from the library, last night. It's a CNN film, and when and if they show this, I do highly recommend watching it if you don't see it through other channels. It also has a commentary track, to which I plan to listen before I have to return it.

I was in high school when the story broke about two young men who were adopted at birth found out they were identical twins, and when their story was written up in the newspaper, discovered that they were actually triplets. (There were rumors that there was a quadruplet out there, but this was not true and isn't in the movie.) I did not know that they were part of a study on multiples who were separated and adopted by different families, and that this was done deliberately for the purpose of a nature/nurture study, nor, for that matter, did they or their parents; the parents just thought the scientists came to their house and examined their kids as part of a general study on adoption.

Robert, David, and Edward went on to open a restaurant, and all married and had at least one child, but sadly, Edward is not in the film because he died by suicide in 1995.

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/...-scott-galland

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/...-scott-galland

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7664504/

Last edited by nearwildheaven; 12-24-2018 at 05:41 PM.
  #2  
Old 01-26-2019, 06:27 PM
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CNN is airing it this weekend. Watch it if you can - and bring the children into the room.

Last edited by nearwildheaven; 01-26-2019 at 06:28 PM.
  #3  
Old 01-26-2019, 07:04 PM
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Thanks for the tip, Thelma! We've got the dvr set.
:-)
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Old 01-26-2019, 11:12 PM
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I heard about this, and got to see it in the theater. I thought it was well done, and pretty fascinating.

But what struck me was the irony:
SPOILER:
That the psychiatrist who "orchestrated the experiment" was Jewish. After all the bizarre, cruel, sadistic experiments that the Nazi's had done to the Jews in the camps, it just floored me that this psychiatrist would use these triplets for his own experiment
  #5  
Old 01-28-2019, 02:21 AM
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I remember when the story originally broke, and it was all over the media. When they opened up their restaurant, that's pretty much where the story ended as far as we knew. The rest of the story is chilling... especially the part where
SPOILER:
the guy asks himself a hundred times why his brother died, and not him instead. After all, they were identical, weren't they?
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Old 01-28-2019, 02:29 AM
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I watched it Sunday evening. It was well made I think. It was serendipitous how they found each other. Their media ride after was a bit sad.

Last edited by Beckdawrek; 01-28-2019 at 02:30 AM.
  #7  
Old 01-28-2019, 02:55 AM
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Originally Posted by cormac262 View Post
But what struck me was the irony:
I know I love being a contrarian, but in this case I do honestly think the documentarians had a narrative to push about
SPOILER:
"eeeevil doctors", and the test results being kept secret some sort of gigantic conspiracy... when in fact, as I understand, separating siblings back then was pretty standard, nobody would have batted an eye about it, and the big reveal would be that the whole experiment was pretty irrelevant and uninteresting when all was said and done. I mean, middle class-ish Jewish kids growing up to be sort of similar? How surprising!


And the whole story about them being so utterly similar only to pull the rug at the end and show that they weren't that similar at all was very artificial.

Excellent documentary, don't get me wrong. But it's also telling a story, and to make that story more compelling, they pick and choose what to show and when.

Last edited by Go_Arachnid_Laser; 01-28-2019 at 02:57 AM.
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Old 01-28-2019, 09:00 AM
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...
And the whole story about them being so utterly similar only to pull the rug at the end and show that they weren't that similar at all was very artificial.

Excellent documentary, don't get me wrong. But it's also telling a story, and to make that story more compelling, they pick and choose what to show and when.
The impression I got: The reason for the rug pulling was that the doctor and the documentary producers wanted the experiment to show nurture is greater than nature but the doctor never published the study because it ended up indicating that nature is greater than nurture.
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Old 01-28-2019, 09:18 AM
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The impression I got: The reason for the rug pulling was that the doctor and the documentary producers wanted the experiment to show nurture is greater than nature but the doctor never published the study because it ended up indicating that nature is greater than nurture.
Nah. I think the documentarians wanted a twist to make things interesting, so they leaned heavily on their similarities at first, to then drop the bomb and show their deteriorating relationship.

Also wanted a clear villain, or in this case a set of villains, so they went and exaggerated how relevant the research was.
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Old 01-28-2019, 09:53 AM
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My wife's been yacking about this for a day or so now. Looks like I'll have to watch it now....

But I'll DVR it, so I can skip the commercials.
  #11  
Old 01-28-2019, 12:35 PM
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I thought it was very well done, although, I agree that they were playing up the (very superficial) similarities to play up the differences later. I remember hearing when the story was new, that some very high percentage of smokers in their geographical area smoked Marlboro's, so it wasn't a statistically staggering similarity, for one.

But I thought it was very well done with the gradual reveal of all the various levels of the "research." It wasn't just the first obvious thing, it was also this, and then THAT. So, very sad.

Also, I think it showed that nuture was a lot more important than they originally thought. David seemed the most stable of the three, and he had the most loving, nuturing, involved father.
  #12  
Old 01-28-2019, 05:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Go_Arachnid_Laser View Post
I know I love being a contrarian, but in this case I do honestly think the documentarians had a narrative to push about
SPOILER:
"eeeevil doctors", and the test results being kept secret some sort of gigantic conspiracy... when in fact, as I understand, separating siblings back then was pretty standard, nobody would have batted an eye about it, and the big reveal would be that the whole experiment was pretty irrelevant and uninteresting when all was said and done. I mean, middle class-ish Jewish kids growing up to be sort of similar? How surprising!


And the whole story about them being so utterly similar only to pull the rug at the end and show that they weren't that similar at all was very artificial.

Excellent documentary, don't get me wrong. But it's also telling a story, and to make that story more compelling, they pick and choose what to show and when.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Go_Arachnid_Laser View Post
Nah. I think the documentarians wanted a twist to make things interesting, so they leaned heavily on their similarities at first, to then drop the bomb and show their deteriorating relationship.

Also wanted a clear villain, or in this case a set of villains, so they went and exaggerated how relevant the research was.
I agree with these comments. Of course the documentarians did their job well in the sense that one comes away feeling compassion for the brothers, and for any other siblings involved.

But as Go_Arachnid_Laser points out, separate adoptions were not unusual at the time. The writers of the documentary appeared to be doing their best to imply that what happened was basically no different from what Josef Mengele or Aribert Heim did during the Nazi period----and that's really kind of ridiculous (and offensive, frankly).

They were able to interview only that one researcher, and got very heavy-handed with the symbolism---more than once they filmed her walking in a deep cut in the building complex, as if to show her, what, descending into hell? It was rather obvious. And stupid, I thought.

There was a real anti-science vibe to the whole documentary that I didn't find to be legitimate (much less admirable).
  #13  
Old 06-18-2019, 08:52 AM
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The impression I got: The reason for the rug pulling was that the doctor and the documentary producers wanted the experiment to show nurture is greater than nature but the doctor never published the study because it ended up indicating that nature is greater than nurture.

Agreed. Or, more precisely, that both are roughly coequal, which the nurture or "blank slate" side cannot abide (Stephen Pinker's book of that name is a must-read BTW).

I just finished the movie on Blu-ray. Here is the review I wrote on Facebook:

Quote:
Ranking/grading a documentary film like this is tricky. The subject matter is undeniably fascinating. But as a piece of filmmaking, I would call it a little on the weak side given the good production values, which demonstrate that even though documentarians often struggle to have the resources to complete their vision, this obviously had a big enough budget that it could have been much better in someone else's hands.

I'm also not super keen on the editorial slant against this project as being akin to some kind of Dr. Mengele "Nazi shit", as one of the triplets says. (This rings especially false after having just seen "The Pianist", an excellent biopic about ACTUAL Nazi shit.)

The only view briefly presented that really dovetails with mine was that of the elderly woman who was part of the researching team (and had the cute moment showing off her photos with Michelle Obama, Barack Obama, Al Gore, and other Democrats and luminaries). She articulated how midcentury psychology was an exciting field, looking to answer questions of nature vs. nurture, as well as what parenting styles produced the best outcomes. I just wish we could see the data! But it will be released in 2066, so it is preserved for posterity. And as the woman I liked pointed out, it was the first of its kind and almost certainly the last of its kind, as (similar to other landmark studies like Milgram's), evolving standards for the use of human subjects in psychological research mean it will not be replicated.

Grade: C
ETA:
Quote:
Originally Posted by carrps View Post
Also, I think it showed that nuture was a lot more important than they originally thought. David seemed the most stable of the three, and he had the most loving, nuturing, involved father.

I do want to add that as a strong proponent of attachment parenting, I definitely agree that this is a very important factor in the other 50% that the blank slate crowd wants to see as nearly 100%. Authoritarian parenting is not good, yo!

Last edited by SlackerInc; 06-18-2019 at 08:56 AM.
  #14  
Old 06-19-2019, 08:24 PM
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My wife and I watched it. I thought it was good but not great, she was very irritated by it. In particular, she had the same reaction that some in this thread did, that it staked out a pretty-strongly anti-science stance. She basically thought the research was ethical.

My feeling is that it's not ethical, but I think it's a complicated enough issue that they really should have explained WHY it was not ethical, rather than just kind of taking it for granted. I mean, sure, it feels kind of ooky, but "feels kind of ooky" isn't recognized by any major code of medical or scientific ethics.

My feeling is that those giving the babies up for adoption, and the scientists themselves, were taking advantage of a loophole, which is that normally one asks a subject for consent to be studied, and if the subject is a child, one asks the subject's parents. But the studies were begun while the child was between parents. So they had no reason to think that the children, once they grew up, would actually retroactively be OK with what was done to them. And they had no reason to think that the new adopted parents would be OK with what was done to the kids. But, fortunately, they didn't have to get permission from either of those people, so, hey, ethically they were in the clear, hurray!

(And while I don't have the necessary background to really dive in here, I do think that any time you're studying a subject, and you know a massive life-changing secret about that subject's life that they would absolutely positively want to know, and would be LIVID if they found out you were concealing from them (ie, that they were one of triplets and you were about to go study their two identical siblings), and you conceal it from them, and they in no way ever consented to that imbalance of information... well, I think that's a pretty good sign that you're on shaky ethical ground.)
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Old 06-19-2019, 11:10 PM
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I think a key issue here is whether it was or was not pretty standard practice to split up twins or triplets when adopting them out. I oppose doing that, and my heart aches when hearing about how they used to bang their heads against the wall (they had, after all, been together for six whole months--an eternity in baby time--in addition to the time in the womb. But if that was just what was done anyway, then studying the results presents a golden opportunity.

ETA: We can also wonder if it was unethical to put one of them in a household they knew was authoritarian (that dad, BTW, seems to have mellowed in his dotage). But it really was an open question at that time as to whether that was a legitimate parenting style, maybe even the best style. Hell, some people still believe it is!

And of course lifesaving cancer and heart disease drugs are tested by giving some sick people a placebo. When they find out the drug works, it's often because more people in the placebo group died. Was it unethical to test it that way?

Last edited by SlackerInc; 06-19-2019 at 11:13 PM.
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Old 06-19-2019, 11:15 PM
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Damn, just missed the edit window to close the parentheses!
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Old 06-20-2019, 04:36 AM
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.....And of course lifesaving cancer and heart disease drugs are tested by giving some sick people a placebo. When they find out the drug works, it's often because more people in the placebo group died. Was it unethical to test it that way?
I think it depends upon disclosure. I believe in studies like this, the subjects are told you may be getting the experimental treatment. Or you may be getting a sugar pill. Do you want to participate? ( In a double-blind study, even the treating physicians don't know who is getting what.) Apparently lots of people roll the dice and opt in. Probably easier if the subjects are terminally ill, and figure they have nothing to lose.

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  #18  
Old 06-20-2019, 09:29 AM
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Weren't they kind of opting in by agreeing to adopt and then agreeing to let researchers come engage in the study? It's normal in psychological studies not to reveal everything about what is being studied. It would bias the results too much to do otherwise.
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Old 06-20-2019, 09:49 AM
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My feeling is that it's not ethical, but I think it's a complicated enough issue that they really should have explained WHY it was not ethical, rather than just kind of taking it for granted. I mean, sure, it feels kind of ooky, but "feels kind of ooky" isn't recognized by any major code of medical or scientific ethics.
I agree with this. The ethical question was murky enough that towards the end of the documentary i stopped caring (i actually think i shut it off about 85% through the movie* - and i was even watching it on a airplane). Would i have liked the brothers to be informed about their brothers earlier and disclose to them that they were unknowingly part of a psychology study? Yeah... probably... i guess... shrug. But the film presented it like we should all be rioting in the streets because of this grave injustice.


*and i'm notoriously easy to please. i've sat through some bad documentaries to the end and even moderately enjoyed them.
  #20  
Old 06-20-2019, 11:57 AM
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And of course lifesaving cancer and heart disease drugs are tested by giving some sick people a placebo. When they find out the drug works, it's often because more people in the placebo group died. Was it unethical to test it that way?
That's generally not how drugs are tested for active deadly disease if there are existing treatments that give a chance of survival. Chemotherapy drugs for instance are usually tested in concert with an existing drug, or only on patients where other options have been exhausted without success. This because it's considered unethical not to give the patient the best chance of survival.

Maybe you meant the control group got "placebo and current best practice", but that's not how it read to me.
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Old 06-20-2019, 12:11 PM
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Oh yeah, I didn't mean to imply they were withdrawing all their current treatments. Hard to imagine they could get volunteers for that.

ETA: Still, if the drug has been very promising in animal studies and simulations, the actual "best chance for survival" would be to be in the test group and not the control group. (Like, if you were an administrator and had the power to interfere, you'd be tempted to move someone you cared about from the control group to the test group.)

Last edited by SlackerInc; 06-20-2019 at 12:13 PM.
  #22  
Old 06-20-2019, 05:25 PM
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ETA: Still, if the drug has been very promising in animal studies and simulations, the actual "best chance for survival" would be to be in the test group and not the control group. (Like, if you were an administrator and had the power to interfere, you'd be tempted to move someone you cared about from the control group to the test group.)
I think you vastly underestimate how high the frequency of failure is in human trials for drugs that did great in animal studies.
  #23  
Old 06-21-2019, 02:52 AM
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I don't claim to have detailed knowledge of medical research. I'm thinking of it a little more like a thought experiment but with some basis in reality (unlike, say, "philosophical zombies").
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