This is a guest post by Matthew Bailey, a fellow South African Skeptic. For more of Matthew’s writing, check out his profile on News24.
It has been a mission of mine for many years now to isolate and ridicule superstition and primitive mythology that masquerades as genuine science, to the detriment of all around. My usual target is religion.
Arguing evolution with creationists has been likened to hunting dairy cows with a high powered rifle and scope. This is getting tedious for now, and in the interests of equal opportunity scepticism I will turn my jaded eye to the world of New Age alternative healing methods, and just how much of a holy racket these are too.
Creationism and religion seem to hold themselves above science, in the misguided view that science is fallible due to it’s rejection of the supernatural. Religionists hold that their views transcend the human mind and because of their divine origins, are beyond analysis.
That is one way of getting around the pesky laws of physics – simply invalidate the scientific laws that invalidate your own viewpoint. However, when it comes to pseudo-science such as the esoteric New Age alternative therapies, they simply lie and claim false science to back up their claims.
This is disingenuous to the extreme, and the fact remains that the large majority of these so-called therapies have no positive medical effect on an organism, and in some cases may be harmful.
Firstly in the properties of these concoctions, and secondly because they divert the poor sucker away from seeking genuine allopathic medicine that actually works.
I will go through a few of these quack remedies, almost like a beginner’s guide to what NOT to do if you are ailed by any illness.
Homeopathy rests on two basic beliefs. a) What has caused the damage can cure it, and b) that something can be diluted with water to such a degree (10 to the power of -30) that absolutely no trace remains of the diluted substance. In order to extract one molecule of the diluted substance, an amount of solution greater than the scientific estimated size of the entire universe would be required.
To the rational, this sounds a lot like taking little amounts of (very expensive) water. Homoeopathists will assert that water has a memory (more pseudoscience) and thus retains a memory or ‘energy vibration’ in hippy-lingo, of the diluted substance. I postulate and put it to you that this is complete and utter unadulterated rubbish.
If that were the case, surely water would have more memory of the glass bottle it was stored in? What about every molecule that those combinations of hydrogen and oxygen atoms has come into contact with? I hope that next time you take your little vial of water; you will remember that I have urinated in the sea previously, as well as all the other urine that has been through the waterborne sewage system?
Enjoy the little vial of my and everyone else’s micturation-tainted wonder formula! And as for the fundamental precept that the same substance that caused the damage can also heal it – that is completely made up dangerous effluence. I often treat burns by holding a lighter to the affected area, and I have found the best cure for a streptococcus infection is the liberal application of dirty sewerage. Completely insane.
This is a system of regulating essential body energies, which flow through a system of meridians throughout the body, like a shadow lymphatic system. Only difference being that the lymphatic system actually exists and is a tangible network of organic byways.
This allows for the travelling of a magic energy substance called ‘Qi’. The fact that it is unobservable and imaginary has no effect on the mind of the human pin-cushion. All medical tests of acupuncture have shown no effect greater than placebo levels.
Acupuncture is a dangerous pseudoscience in that it is an invasive technique, and as such is certainly not risk-free. Recorded acupuncture-linked trauma includes nerve injury, brain damage or stroke, pneumothoraxis, kidney damage, HIV, Hepatitis etc. Apart from the dangers inherent in letting Mr Miyagi stick his needles into you, there is always the ever present risk that whilst diddling around in eastern fairy tales, the actual disease, (not blocked fairy-dust chakras) will progress and even thrive in the absence off genuine allopathic intervention.
Risky, ineffective, and for Christ’s sake – it is old Chinese needle torture!
Basic tenets – There is a universal and inexhaustible spiritual “energy” which can be used for healing purposes. Through an attunement process carried out by a Reiki Master, any person can gain access to this “energy”. This “energy” will flow through the Reiki Master’s hands when he/she places his/her hands near the patient.
This “energy” has human-like intelligence. As this “energy” is intelligent, there is no need for diagnosis. This “energy” will automatically judge the disease and will heal the patient.
That’s right. A smart-android type of healing app that does not even need a diagnosis to heal the affected area. Whoa. Back up there. All I have to do is lie down and let some hippy move their hands all over me, and presto! The magic Jedi-energy will locate, analyse, diagnose and effect remedial therapeutic action all on its own!
Simply put, if this is true, there would be no need for the entire medical or pharmaceutical industry as a whole. It has only been around since 1922, having been invented by a Japanese gentleman named Usui Mikao. So it is not traditional ancient oriental medicine, it is new pseudoscience aimed at emptying people’s wallets whilst pandering to their belief that anything ancient must be wise. Wrong on all counts.
As a pointer to its efficacy, it is claimed that the healer does not have to be in the same room, city, or even continent as the sufferer. Useful for treating people without even having to get off your arse to do so! But although the healing power is so pervasive that it auto heals with no knowledge of the ailment or patient, without any contact at all, fortunately payment can be done via sending your credit card number or cheque!
Really, if anyone needs alerting that this is pure and unadulterated bovine stool, you probably deserve it.
Difficult one this, on more than one level. Firstly, ‘Yoga’ as such has been misrepresented to stupid fat westerners. Yoga is actually a combined system on disciplines, but the one most of us are familiar with is hatha-yoga, or the stretching and alignment exercises. Whilst this may be beneficial, and proven so, it is only one aspect of the discipline.
It is an overall spiritual discipline, and as such can epistemologically be likened to ‘martial arts’ – an umbrella name taking in myriad of different and even contradictory doctrines. It is difficult to gauge because some of it has been scientifically analysed and it is beneficial, but some of it definitely is not.
Whilst not throwing out the baby with the bath water, it is also not good to keep all the dirty bathwater that comes along with the baby either. So, as my own personal rule of thumb, if it is a tangible physical regimen on alignment and stretching, all well and good. However, when one starts straying into realms such as ‘aligning chakras’ ‘balancing the energy body’ and centering ones core (where the bloody hell else would it be found, and furthermore what exactly is a ‘core’?) my bullsh!t detectors start ringing madly and I feel the urge to call it for the unscientific fantasy it really is.
Also difficult to condemn because my wife is a yoga teacher, so I am hoping this post doesn’t get noticed. I can honestly say that after attending one or two classes, the physical exercise and workout is really good, and most definitely beneficial, I do not feel inclined to sit and meditate and chant Om. It is silly and I won’t do it.
Angel, Magnetic, Colour Therapy, Aromatherapy, Chiropractice, Iridology, and a host of other really, really scientific sounding stuff
This is really, really easy to sell to those liberal self-haters out there, who by virtue of something being scientific, western, pharmaceutical and not derived from nature, must be decried as bad, wrong, harmful, exploitative. But as soon as a bloody native-american reference is heard, it automatically becomes pure and wholesome and healing.
This really makes me sick and gets my aggression up, because these are usually spoilt brats with too much money idolising the ghetto, basically. They force their hippy rubbish on all and sundry around them, to the point of nausea (which can be cured by adopting the native American healing spirit of the Eagle. Or the Beaver, can’t remember which.)
When one of these new age hippies (usually very wealthy to afford the fees these charlatans charge) actually gets really sick, the first thing they do is rush straight to the nearest hospital or medical doctor, with their supplies of evil antibiotics and proven pharmaceuticals. Double standards, and showing your pretentious snobby elitism.
Next time you get diagnosed with a severe infection, I challenge you to NOT get professional medical help, burn your smudge-sticks and centre your chakras. The more scientific something sounds, the more people will la it up. Especially pretentious spoilt brats who should know better.
But I suppose as long as stupidity reigns in this world, then people will continue to look for the easy way out, a way to rebel against their comfortable western middle class life, and a way to stick it to the church as well. Christianity scorns such alternative treatments as being of diabolical or evil origin.
Well, they are halfway right, the only motivation behind all this claptrap is pure profit for minimal effort, and sod all the people who have gotten sicker and even died whilst waiting for the spirit of Quetzcoatl to heal them once the energy world was in alignment with their anal chakra.
The fact is most diseases run their course on their own, and any primitive ritual undertaken will probably be credited for the dispersal of the sickness. People need to wake up, leave their superstitions, stop trying to bash the allopathic system of medicine that actually works, and be grateful to science for antibiotics and all the other western medicine that has raised the life expectancy to the late 60’s, from the early 30’s where it was when witch-doctors, imaginary energies and fairy-tale animal spirits were the only cures known to the uneducated savages of antiquity.