I am devastated!
I have been going to a local GP for the past three years. He is smart and easy to communicate with, “Popular Mechanics” magazines can be found in the waiting room and beautiful, large prints of astronomical bodies adorn the walls. I thought I had found the perfect GP after a string of God-pushing disasters.
Today, however, he ruined all of that when he recommended I look up a group called “IONS”. We had been discussing my blogging and he thought that this group to which he subscribes might be of interest to me. When I got home I eagerly googled “IONS” and discovered the truth…
After my initial shock, I did what any self respecting Skeptic would do when first encountering what appears to be a load of quackery, I went to wikipedia. The wiki entry on the Institute of Noetic Science sums it up very nicely;
“Institute programs include research in what they call “extended human capacities,” “integral health and healing,” and “emerging worldviews”. This includes research into spiritual energy, meditation, consciousness, alternative healing, spirituality, human potential, psychic abilities and life after death, among others.”
“the Institute lacks accreditation for scientific peer review”
That’s right. The IONS is crap-based medicine central! My next stop was the excellent website; quackwatch.org. The folks at quackwatch have been kind enough to put together a list of nine key questions to ask if you are suspicious about an organization. Let’s work through these questions one by one and apply them to the Institute of Noetic Science.
1. Are its ideas inside the scientific mainstream? It doesn’t take a degree in homeopathy to see that the “research” programs the IONS runs fall far outside of the scientific mainstream. “Spiritual Energy”, “Alternative Healing”, I think not.
2. Who are its leaders and advisors? IONS was founded by Edgar Mitchell, the 6th man to walk on the moon, a man who believes that extraterrestrials have visited Earth and that “the government” is hiding the truth. He also claims that he was healed of cancer remotely, despite never having evidence of actually being ill with the disease. The rest of IONS board is made up of “several business entrepreneurs, adventurers and explorers of other cultures” to use their own words. Deepak Chopra and Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu are advisers to the institute.
3. What are its membership requirements? Short answer; Money. The more the better. You can also upgrade your monthly “donation” if you wish.
4. Does it promote a specific treatment or treatments? The institute clearly focuses on “miraculous” healing modalities, specifically healing with the power of the mind. If you wish to find out more about their research projects, you can buy one of their books right off the website. How useful.
5. Does it oppose proven public health measures? This question is a little harder to answer, although the IONS is careful not to specifically say anything along this vein, they do pursue woo-woo healing to ridiculous lengths, even going so far as trying to heal AIDS patients through the power of prayer.
6. Does it espouse a version of “freedom of choice” that would abolish government regulation of the health marketplace? Once again, straight from the horses mouth, the institute “Practices freedom of thought and freedom of spirit”
7. How is it financed? The IONS is supported through “monthly giving” from its members, and the board of directors contributes heavily as well. Well, at least your tax dollars are not being used to fund this quackery.
8. Is it a real organization? Seems to be.
9. If it is a school, is it accredited by a recognized agency? As far as I can tell, these guys are not accredited by anyone.
To summarize, it seems like the folks at the IONS want it both ways, they want the respect and authority of a scientific institution without all of the tedious, slow scientific protocols, peer review and accreditation. You can’t have it both ways. Either you are a scientific organization, or you are a bunch of quacks trying to insinuate your woo-woo, flim flam into our culture.