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The 1999 Healing Arts Expo

Originally written for the column “THE SKEPTIC’S CORNER” by members of R.E.A.S.O.N.: Rationalists, Empiricists And Skeptics Of Nebraska. In the winter of 1998-99 six of us attended the Fourth Annual “Alternative Healing Expo,” held at Unity Church of Omaha.

Contents:

1.  System 9 From Planet 9 - A report on "Etheric Healing"
2.  Jabbing Whoopi - Pet care through chiropractic and acupuncture
3.  What Studies?  Bend Over and Spread 'Em - Ayurveda Workshop
4.  What's That Stench?  - Aromatherapists
5.  Hydroelectromagnetoquackery From Hell
6.  Don't Roll Your Eyes at Me - Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing
7.  Wash Your Bowls - Vibrational Healing With Crystal Bowls
8.  Ghosts in the Water - Homeopathic Medicine


 

SYSTEM 9 FROM PLANET 9

by Jim Bechtel.

A report on “Etheric Healing with System 9 Advanced Healing Instrument,” a workshop presented by Linda Granger.

(Plan 9 From Outer Space, the 1959 sci-fi turkey by Ed Wood, came to my mind when I saw the title of this workshop. Where did System 9 come from --Planet 9, or perhaps from Area 51?)

Seventeen of us -- 14 women and three men-- filed into our overheated little upstairs room for the System 9 Advanced Healing Instrument workshop. Much of the heat seemed to come from Linda Granger, the “Keeper” of the instrument. She greeted us with such a warm smile and radiated so much joy that she just made you want to smile back.

But before we could get down to business, we heard that someone had just slipped and fallen out in the icy parking lot and couldn’t move. Now, imagine this: he’s been hurt where he’s surrounded by healers! Reiki healers, Vipassana healers, vibrational healers, aromatherapy practitioners, acupuncturists ....So they call 911 and a regular ambulance shows up to take care of the guy! A rude intrusion of reality into their play-world.

(I fantasized: A guy falls down and they all come swarming out of the building and surround him, lighting aromatherapy candles, playing the crystal bowls, laying magnets on him, galvanizing his aura, and he promptly croaks.)

As our workshop got underway again, one of the attendees suggested to Linda that she send some healing energy at the victim of the fall. “Oh, no, I can’t. Not unless it’s requested. I could send it telepathically, but it’s so powerful it would just GOOOooooo ...” Linda didn’t say where it would go, but apparently not in the victim’s direction.

Now we’re ready to get down to some etheric healing. Linda tells us that “your etheric body probably looks like it’s shot full of holes,” all raggedy and ripped by everything that happens, like your pet dying, she says. People just don’t take proper care of their etheric bodies. (Ain’t it the truth?)

It turns out our “etheric bodies” are what used to be called our “auras.” Auras are the “vital energy” that allegedly envelops each human. Proponents claim that this aura is perceptible to clairvoyants or psychics. Aura reading or auric diagnosis is the examination of this energy. Non-psychics purportedly can analyze it through Kirlian photography or a Kilner screen. Dr. Walter J. Kilner (1847-1920) of St. Thomas’s Hospital in London invented the screen - it is two plates of glass, an eighth of an inch apart, containing a solution of carmine or coal tar in an alcohol solution, and it does produce images, in a perfectly natural way. “Auric” colors supposedly reveal the personal traits of the subject, such as impressionableness and “spiritual arrogance.” Decades of testing have failed to produce any basis for the diagnostic claims, or any evidence of auras. But, says Linda, our auras are torn.

Well, we’re in luck today, because whatever that thing is that Linda has on her lap, wrapped in red velvet, it’s the sure cure for raggedy auras. She tells us that a group this size will be completely healed in twelve minutes! Not ten, not fourteen, but twelve. Too long an exposure could “fry” us. Well, fry our auras anyway. (How could we tell?) As fast and precisely as the device works, however, it will still take a full 45 days to see the results. But then, says Linda, our lives will turn around and good things will start happening to us. “That’s really nice! That’s like Christmas,” says Linda. We’ll feel reborn, bursting with vitality and cheer. The only problem is that some of us will miss our old favorite complaints. (You can bet I marked my calendar, but 45 days later, neither complaining nor bursting with cheer, I was cleaning out the smelly pen of a pet pond turtle, --does that count?)

She pats the mystery device hidden in her lap. She found these in San Francisco last summer; they’re better than the old System 5, although she misses the old System 5s, they were “really cute.” The healing provided by the device is needed only once in a lifetime, but it can be done daily if you like. It rebalances anyone who has ever felt they don’t belong or who has experienced unrequited love. Linda said that with one client, a nice guy who always “stuffed” his feelings and never dealt with issues, “the healing energy hit him like a cold.” Linda said that every “Keeper” can send the healing energy telepathically. It goes through jail walls and into hospital quarantine wards. (That must really screw up their clinical research.)

Let’s do it! Arrange the metal folding chairs in a circle, so we can hold hands. Remove all metal. Watches, keys, coins, on the floor. Even belts and shoes. I have to ask, if metal’s no good, what about the metal chairs we’re all sitting on? Oh, they sat on metal chairs in San Francisco, and it was so strong it almost bounced her out of her chair.

At last she unwraps the red velvet package. It’s a sheet of plexiglass sandwiched between some smaller sheets of red plastic. I try to keep a straight face. There’s some fragments of circuit boards visible in it. You could crank these out in your basement for pennies!

There’s a large elderly woman on either side of me; we hold hands, close our eyes, and sit there like that for twelve minutes, letting the etheric energy from System 9 flow through us. The woman on my left is so large only about a third of her bottom can fit on the seat, so she shifts position now and then. We have opened the windows to let some of the heat out, so I listen to the occasional winter bird song and the Dodge Street traffic in the distance. As usual, focusing on present sensory input has a nice, relaxing effect. Linda gives us the one-minute warning, and we slowly open our eyes and resume activity.

If asked to explain the experience, I’d say it was very much like sitting in a warm room holding hands with two large elderly women and listening to birds and traffic. (You were expecting maybe kenosis?)

We killed the rest of the time with some questions and answers. Where’d this come from? One of the founders of the system experienced a channeling event during her Transcendental Meditation , and “downloaded schematics” that she showed to an electrical engineer who identified them as “circuit boards.” Linda said she’s “never been one for gadgetry,” but this thing just knocks you right out of your old life, and she “had to let go of a few prejudices” (like, evidently, belief in an objective reality).

Cost? The flyer handed out at the workshop says “a highly developed sense of appreciation and generosity are a normal result of profound healing. How you express this appreciation is between you and the Universe. The following are a few suggestions:” And one of the suggestions is, guess what, a “donation.” But not to the Universe --to the System 9 sponsors.

So. I’m sorry about YOUR etheric body, but mine’s healed! Well, let’s just see you prove it’s not! I dare you. In fact, let’s just see you prove there’s even such a thing as an etheric body.

Bring your tattered etheric body to any meeting of REASON, held every first and third Saturday at 3:00 PM at the Main Library, downtown.


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In the winter of 1998-99 six of us attended the Fourth Annual Alternative Healing Expo at Unity Church of Omaha. This is the second of eight columns about the workshops we attended. This week’s column, in two parts, is by Jim Bechtel and Jim Goeken

JABBING WHOOPI

Pet Care Thru Chiropractic & Acupuncture

 

Chiropractic was founded in 1895 when D. D. Palmer claimed he had cured a man’s deafness by adjusting a vertebra, “apparently unaware that the nerves of hearing are entirely in the skull.” (Health Quackery, by the editors of Consumer Reports). Bacteria and viruses are no longer ignored by chiropractors, but they still view spinal adjustments as the cure-all and core of their profession, despite the total lack of evidence for such claims. In 1974 a chiropractic ad maintained that the mythical “subluxations” of the spine kills “millions of people yearly.” Their texts often attack conventional medicine and make fictitious claims for chiropractic cure rates. When pressed for the statistical data behind these claims, they resort to anecdotes, engage in personal attacks on their critics, or ridicule the “scientific method.” As boring as they might be, statistics can inform us. According to specialists in internal medicine, the placebo effect cures about 1/3 of most ailments, and a similar proportion of office complaints “have obvious psychological components,” so naturally the comforting massage-like aspects of chiropractic, therapeutic touch, Rolfing, body oils, etc, sometimes work. (But that’s not what doubled our lifespans in this century.) Is spinal manipulation at least good for back pain, as many believe? Well, several studies show 60% of back pain is OK in three weeks, and 90% in two months, regardless of treatment.

A simple test: Go to any chiropractor, have him show you your “subluxations,” borrow your X-ray, take it to another chiropractor, don’t tell him where your supposed “subluxation” is, and ask him to point it out. They may not agree, because “subluxations” are essentially imaginary, like auras and chakra centers. (Minor variations in the spinal structure, perfectly normal and harmless, are what they’re labeling “subluxations.”)

How do chiropractors stay in business? Beyond P. T. Barnum’s famous phrase, there’s another explanation. Like any Big Business, they’re well organized, and heavily into lobbying. “For years, grass roots politics has been the lifeblood of chiropractic.” It was not impressive research results in peer-reviewed journals (nonexistent), but their lobbying power, pure and simple, that got them recognized for Medicare payment, and gave them an air of legitimacy. Already in 1984, before the recent New Age boom, a House Subcommittee found that “quackery” was a $10 Billion business, with powerful lobbying influence. Asked why they were not doing more about quackery, FDA Commissioner Hayes replied “we are simply overmatched.”

As for acupuncture, the National Council Against Health Fraud (NCAHF) advises: Acupuncture is an unproven modality of treatment; Its theory and practice are based on primitive and fanciful concepts of health and disease that bear no relationship to present scientific knowledge; Research during the past twenty years has failed to demonstrate that acupuncture is effective against any disease; Perceived effects of acupuncture are probably due to a combination of expectation, suggestion, counter- irritation, operant conditioning, and other psychological mechanisms; The use of acupuncture should be restricted to appropriate research settings; Insurance companies should not be required by law to cover acupuncture treatment; and Licensure of lay acupuncturists should be phased out. --J.B., from http://www.ncahf.org with permission.

Pet Care Thru Chiropractic & Acupuncture.” A 45 minute workshop offered by Diane Simmons, DVM, attended by 10 women, 2 men, and 1 female Doberman. --by J.G.

Dr. Simmons started by saying that she wanted us to take away two important points about pet care from her workshop. She indicated that she was providing this information to meet a requirement for her participation in the Expo, and that she wanted to get it out of the way so we could proceed.

The points were:

1) Change Nutrition -- by carefully reading labels, nutrition could be improved by eliminating such things as preservatives and by-products.

2) Vaccinations -- maintain schedule, keeping them spread out and avoiding over-vaccination, as this could actually result in increased disease susceptibility.

I thought it ironic that the two things she wanted us to take away from her workshop had nothing to do with acupuncture or chiropractic, but then we were on to the good stuff. Acupuncture is the insertion of needles into specific points located throughout the body for a healing purpose. Dr. Simmons claimed that energy (in an undetectable form) travels through the body along lines called “meridians.” How the meridians are detected when the energy they carry is undetectable, she didn’t say. Disease or illness is a result of an imbalance or “energetic blockage.” According to her handout, “acupuncture is believed to balance this energy and, thereby, assist the body to heal disease.” Dr. Simmons explained that acupuncture can help the body heal itself by causing certain physiological changes. Again, according to her printed material, “acupuncture can stimulate nerves, increase blood circulation, relieve muscle spasm and cause the release of hormones, such as endorphins (one of the body’s pain control chemicals) and cortisol (a natural steroid),” although she qualified this by saying that many of the effects are “still in the theoretic stage.”

Dr. Simmons claimed that acupuncture is successful in treating such ailments as pain, arthritis, diabetes, kidney and liver failure, respiratory problems, and something called “inflammatory valve.” When asked how many treatments are required, she replied that the average is five, but it could take up to eight depending on the severity and the length of time the problem has existed. The handout stated that a “simple acute problem, such as a sprain, may require only one treatment, whereas more severe or chronic ailments may need several or several dozen treatments.”

She next discussed chiropractic treatment, stressing that her “Holistic Veterinary Practice” has a preventive emphasis. “A proper alignment means a better old age,” she said.

At this point she introduced Whoopi the Doberman, who had been an agile dog in the past, but had developed “an instability in her back legs.” Her owner volunteered that the condition had been so severe that she had considered euthanizing the dog, and that Whoopi had even had a seizure at one point. Whoopi appeared to be a clean and beautiful animal - alert, friendly, and well mannered. By this point she had sniffed out everyone in the workshop at least once. In my unprofessional opinion, she was a very healthy dog.

Dr. Simmons began her chiropractic exam by looking over the back legs and joints. She then began massaging and feeling each vertebra along Whoopi’s spine, moving from back to front. Whoopi, a former “agility dog” in competition, seemed to greatly enjoy the massaging and attention. Dr. Simmons said that the joints should exhibit an up and down “bounce”, as well as flexing from side to side. She “looks for what’s not moving, not what sticks out.” She pronounced the dog in good shape with the exception of a still slightly loose back end and one leg slightly shorter than the other - conditions undetectable to the workshop attendees. She went on to say that Whoopi’s situation was due to a chronic problem which began in the neck area and manifested itself in the back legs. The condition could have been congenital or the result of some previous injury.

A treatment course from Dr. Simmons generally involves a chiropractic exam followed by an acupuncture treatment and/or chiropractic adjustment if needed. She determined to give Whoopi an acupuncture treatment as a continuing course of action for the problem with her back legs. Whoopi stood quietly, flinching only a couple of times, as Dr. Simmons inserted needles into “acupuncture points” just barely beneath the skin, along meridian lines on both sides of her spine, both ears, and rear legs. She inserted approximately a dozen needles in all. Upon completion, Whoopi sat down beside her owner, sitting right on some of the needles, several of which fell out. Dr. Simmons was not concerned and said it didn’t matter. She said it was common for “patients” to relax after a treatment and both the dog’s owner and Dr. Simmons agreed that Whoopi was “relaxing” (she had sat quietly during earlier periods of the workshop as well). After a few minutes Whoopi was up and about as usual. When asked about the cost of an acupuncture treatment, we were told that it was $50 with an exam.

Dr. Simmons concluded the workshop by demonstrating a type of “light therapy,” a technique using a small hand held device emitting a “cold laser” beam, which she passed along the same meridian lines used in the acupuncture treatment. She claimed that this too could be effective in the treatment of disease.

Dr. Simmons said that she does treat with antibiotics when indicated. When asked about her training, she said that she’d had formal training in acupuncture and chiropractic, specifically for the treatment of animals. I also asked if she treats exotic pets such as iguanas or birds. She said no, although there is another alternative veterinarian in Omaha who does treat birds. She said cost is a deterring factor when it comes to treating such animals, but didn’t say what made the costs higher for exotics.

In the end, Whoopi certainly did seem healthy and well adjusted - much as she’d seemed at the beginning.

You’re invited to drag your misaligned bones to any meeting of REASON, held every first and third Saturday at 3:00 PM at the Main Library, downtown.

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This is the third of eight columns about the workshops we attended.

WHAT STUDIES? BEND OVER AND SPREAD ‘EM

Ayurveda Workshop with Angela Howard

by Jim Bechtel

Angela, a follower of best-seller Deepak Chopra, did not provide any history or analysis of Ayurveda. So, before describing her presentation, I want to fill that gap. Here’s what she didn’t say:

Ayurveda is the ancient folk medicine of India. Like everything about India, it is massive. The Hindu scriptures, for example, aren’t confined to a single Holy Book but consist of thousands of books. The Mahabharata, of 100,000 verses, is the longest work of literature in the world, of which the famous Bhagavad Gita or “Song of God” is one part. The Sutras are instructions for rituals and spells. The oldest scriptures are the Vedas (“knowledge” or “wisdom”), of about 10,000 verses. “Ayur-veda,” meaning “life-knowledge,” is a collection of spells and treatments for illnesses.

A while back in these pages a local New Age guru wrote, about Ayurveda:

“Let’s face it. There’s enough good-intentioned (and often contradictory) advice out there” to be confusing. “How does one choose what to do or believe what is best? Wouldn’t it be great if there were a system, a straightforward and logical way” to decide? He then went on todescribe claims for Ayurveda, uncritically. His question remained unanswered. Let’s answer it.

There are two systems for deciding what to believe. One is to listen to people (like the practitioners of alternative medicine) and believe whoever sounds the most appealing. Ideas that “sound good” and make people “feel good” will do well under this approach. With this system, reality is opinion.

The other system is empiricism, basing beliefs on evidence, testing theories against facts. Originating with Locke and Hume in the 18th century, it works so well it has (as the “scientific method”) enabled us to unlock the secrets of DNA, of the atom, of distant galaxies, and of the etiology of diseases. With this system, reality is what is verifiable (the word “verify” comes from the Latin for “truth”). Opinions are verified by testing against the facts. It is not a popular system, because sometimes it exposes as false the ideas that people would prefer to believe, ideas that feel good.

Let’s apply that second system to Ayurveda. “The beliefs and practices of Ayurvedic medicine fall into three categories: (1) some that are obvious, well established, and widely accepted even by people who have never heard of Ayurveda; (2) a few that proper research may eventually prove valid and useful; and (3) absurd ideas, some of which are dangerous.”

The second category “is illustrated by the case of Rauwolfia serpentina, one of the few Indian medicinal herbs to find its way into Western medicine. Beginning in the 1950s, the main active component of the herb, reserpine, was used to treat psychosis and high blood pressure. Careful studies since then have shown that the drug can cause depression, headaches, nightmares, irregular heartbeat, diminished libido, aggravation of ulcers, and a variety of other adverse effects. At the same time, safer and more effective drugs were developed for treating psychosis and hypertension. The turnaround took place over a decade or two. Ayurvedic physicians, on the other hand, have used the herb for hundreds of years without a thorough understanding of its dangers and limitations. Because they don’t evaluate the effects of their prescriptions in a systematic, scientific manner, the same is true for most of the herbs they use.” (K. Butler, A Consumer’s Guide to Alternative Medicine.)

The third category includes various Ayurvedic treatments that cause infections or other hazards, such as washing your eyes in your saliva, drinking your urine, having enemas of peacock testicles for impotence (move over, Viagra), drinking goat feces mixed with urine for constipation, and hundreds more, codified in the Caraka Samhita.

Ayurveda has enjoyed a revival in recent years as a very profitable New Age moneymaker. Some big-city Ayurvedic centers are real mints, putting modern hospitals to shame. A week in one Ayurvedic center costs $4,000. At another, performing a yagya, a sacrificial ceremony to please the Vedic gods, will run as much as $12,000. The cost in money and emotional resources can be high - “TM-EX” (POB 7565, Arlington, Va 22207) is one of the organizations formed by victims of Ayurvedic and former followers of gurus such as Deepak Chopra and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who publicize their exploitation and suffering at the hands of these movements.

Angela Howard displayed no awareness of any of this. With a shy, big-eyed naivete, she told her audience of mostly women that Ayurveda means “Science of Life” (stretching “science” beyond its definition) and that she teaches it “because it works!” Incredibly, she said she was a graduate of Creighton’s School of Nursing. She was attracted to Deepak Chopra’s teachings and to Ayurveda because it treats “body, mind and soul” all at the same time.

According to the brochure I picked up, she teaches a seven week course for $285 per person. The course isn’t called “Ayurveda,” but rather “The Magic of Healing.” Per her brochure, she has been “personally certified” by Deepak Chopra. However, in fine print is a disclaimer requiring students of the course to avow that: “I have not been made any promises…that I will receive any benefits. …I understand that the Magic of Healing course is not a substitute for treatments or services ordinarily provided by health care professionals ....”

So The Magic of Healing disclaims any promise of healing. On the other hand, the brochure also states that: “This course grants 21 contact hours by the State of Nebraska for nurses. (Nurses need 20 contact hours every 2 years for re-licensure.)” How a course that disclaims any healing effectiveness can help qualify a health profession for re-licensure is a good question.

Angela gave us an outline of her beliefs, using the set of transparencies from her course. The slide for Week Two introduced us to the three Doshas: the Vata, the Principle of Movement; the Pitta, the Principle of Digestion; and the Kapha, the Principle of Structure. Each has a corresponding body type.

The slide for Week Six introduced us to the Five Gateways to the Inner Pharmacy, the Five Codes of Intelligence: 1) Sound --healing music; 2) Touch --marma points; 3) Sight --colors, mudras, yantras; 4) Tastes --effects on emotions; 5) Aromatherapy.

Pulling all this together, Angela told the twelve women and four men present that the Vata body type combines the elements of space and air, the pitta, fire and water, and the Kapha, water and earth, so that Vata is associated with dry, moving, cold, light and other qualities; Pitta with hot, sharp, light, moist; and Kapha with heavy, cold, oily, sweet, etc. Vatas have high blood pressure and insomnia because of the elements that are dominant in them. Pittas have poor eyesight and are balding. “The color green stabilizes Pittas.” Kaphas suffer from obesity and sinus problems. Eating honey is good for these types because “honey yanks kapha right out of the body.” And so on.

Now, this elaborate scheme could all be something Angela just made up ten days ago, or that Deepak Chopra made up ten years ago, or that an unknown saddhu made up ten centuries ago. How do we know if any of it makes sense? Our old Method Two, “empiricism,” to the rescue. We can ask: What evidence is there for this? What is it based on? What reason is there to believe it?

I asked Angela, “how do you know which characteristic goes with each type, like how does the poor eyesight get listed under the Pitta type and not the Kasha?”

“I’m glad you asked,” said Angela, and she promptly projected this onto the wall, a chart reminiscent of the medieval medicine of the Dark Ages:

-ELEMENT -PERCEIVED WITH -SUBTLE ELEMENT

space ear sound

air skin touch

fire eyes sight

water tongue taste

earth nose smell

She proceeded to explain more of the system, how Pittas are hot, can’t stand to be in the sun a lot, and are a little moist, slightly oily and sour smelling. This goes on for a while, assertions with no hint of a connection to the real world. One of the transparencies shows that Vattas are thin and insomniac. I raise my hand again: “Maybe I didn’t make myself clear before. My question is [pointing at the list] are there any studies, for example, showing that 80% of people who are thin are also insomniacs?”

Interesting reaction: She sort of short-circuited for a moment, struggling with this bizarre idea. Then she brightened, and said, “Oh, these are PRINCIPLES that are TAUGHT!” She smiled, satisfied.

Then, as a kind of afterthought she murmured, as if it were a really silly thing, totally irrelevant, “I’m not aware of any studies.”

No one in the room seemed aware of what a momentous admission she had just made. She continued to assert of this or that body type that “they usually” have this or that characteristic. “Pittas are of medium build, sharp intellect, fair or ruddy skin, and they are usually freckled.” She and her audience seemed unaware that “they” and “usually” have meaning and can be quantified. These aren’t meaningless nonsense words. How many people of medium build and sharp intellect are also freckled? Ten percent? Ninety? Not only did she not know, she didn’t care to know. These were, after all, “principles to be taught” as opposed to verifiable observations about the real world.

It’s very Pitta to live by your watch, wake up at night. It’s very Kapha to mull things over, to wake up slowly. When the time came for a general question and answer session, the women simply asked for more unverified assertions. What about a fever? First use peppermint oils and green color to treat the imbalance of pitta. What if I’m cramming for an exam? Keep your vata in balance by eating hot, heavy food. Vatas should massage themselves with sesame oil, Pittas with olive oil, and Kaphas with safflower oil, “organic, cold-pressed cooking oils.” Rub the oil in using the balls of your fingers so you don’t activate the vata. And so forth.

A section on metaphysics was included, to provide a “spiritual” underpinning: We move from the Etheric and Psychonoetic levels to the Physical level the way water turns to ice, and so forth. It was a magic show of words used carelessly. But the audience ate it up. (Why the predominance of females? Is this an avenue to empowerment? A New Age alternate to the male-dominated worlds of traditional business and science? These are issues that beg to be explored further.)

Bring your Vata self (but no Kaphas, please) to any meeting of REASON, held every first and third Saturday at 3:00 PM at the Main Library, downtown.

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This is the fourth of eight columns about the workshops we attended. This week’s column, in two parts, is by Jim Bechtel and Jim Goeken.

WHAT’S THAT STENCH?

I burn a little incense now and then; it evokes the two years I lived in India. But the claims of many aromatherapists go far beyond pleasant evocations. In her essay for CSICOP, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims for the Paranormal, Lynn McCutcheon reviews the writings of aromatherapists and the available research, and finds that “confused causation” permeates aromatherapists’ writings:

‘Hoffmann (1987, p. 94) claims that chamomile is good for insomnia if taken in a late bath. Is it the lateness or the chamomile that makes you sleepy? For stress, Lavabre (1990, p. 108) recommends relaxation, a better diet, nutritional supplements, more exercise, and a few drops of an oil blend. Heinerman informs us (1988, p. 197) that jasmine oil massaged into the abdomen and groin promotes sexual stimulation. I’ll bet it does, with or without the jasmine. On page 301 he suggests that to make unsafe water safe, boil it and add rosemary, sage, or thyme before drinking. The [boiling] kills most of the germs. Edwards (1994, p. 135) mentions that many patients in hospitals in England receive massages with essential oils. According to her, “the relaxing and uplifting effect of the oils helps boost the morale of the patients.” Isn’t it possible that the massage did as much to boost morale as the oils did?

‘One of the favorite tactics employed by aromatherapists is the use of ambiguous claims. Any good psychic can tell you that you never make a specific prediction. You always leave yourself enough room so that whatever the outcome, you can claim success. Judging from what I read, the aromatherapists have mastered this strategy. Here are some of my favorites, followed by my brief commentary.

‘According to Frawley (1992, p. 155), incense “cleanses the air of negative energies.” What are negative energies? The reader is encouraged to get massaged with oil regularly (p. 155) because this “keeps the nerves in balance.” How would we know an unbalanced nerve if we saw one? Hoffmann tells us (p. 95) that ylang ylang is “supposedly an aphrodisiac.” Is it or isn’t it? Lavabre declares (p. 114) that benzoin resinoid will “drive out evil spirits.” I’d love to see that. Presumably spruce oil is an even better essence because it is recommended (p. 64) “for any type of psychic work.” .... About tea tree oil, Edwards opines (p. 135), “There is hope [it] may play a role in the successful treatment of AIDS.” Is it hope or is it evidence? On the same page she tells readers that aromatherapy is good for “restoring harmony and balance between the mind and body.” Such a phrase can mean almost anything you wish.’ Quoted from http://www.csicop.org with permission.

The total of aromatherapy products sold through health-food stores was about $59 million in 1995 and $105 million in 1996, and goes on doubling. A general claim that a perfume’s aroma is beneficial, is a cosmetic claim that does not require FDA approval. In 1986 the agency warned that marketing a scent with a therapeutic claim would make the product a drug subject to regulatory action. Although several manufacturers have done so, the FDA has not made them stop, and peddlers at alternative health fairs across the country routinely make extravagant claims. They try to give their sales pitches a convincing sound by sprinkling pseudoscience over them. For example, the potential customers may be told that smells reach the brain faster and are therefore somehow more powerful, but the differences in speed between vision, sound, and smell are mere microseconds. While odors can evoke strong responses, so can the other senses - hence the market for movies, music, and porn videos. --J.B.

AROMATHERAPY: HOW IT WORKS - A 75 minute workshop led by Gary Morse, an educator with a “background in Counseling and Psychology.” --by J.G.

Mr. Morse began the workshop with a brief outline on the historical use of “essential oils,” which seems to be the preferred term for plant derivatives that fall under the name of Aromatherapy. The use of oils dates back at least to ancient Egypt (King Tut’s tomb contained a large quantity of oils, but he died young nevertheless), and biblical times which recount stories of anointing oils and even the gifts of Frankincense and Myrrh that were given by the Wise Men as gifts. It is one of the oldest healing methods of all time but, according to Mr. Morse, only since 1967 has scientific research begun in earnest, especially in Europe. He didn’t offer any references.

He began his explanation as to how aromatherapy works by explaining that plants are the lungs of the planet. The essential oils which are extracted from plants or distilled from resins are the life-blood of the plant containing more oxygen than any other part and are the “healing punch” of the plant. Their therapeutic value “makes anti-biotics look silly. Resin has more potential healing power than our own blood,” he claimed.

Morse urged the use of natural rather than synthesized oils. He said that a synthesized oil “loses its intelligence.” He asserted that natural substances have a certain energy and “intelligence” not found in synthesized compounds, and since we are natural, using the natural oils would be more biologically balanced. [This obsession with things being “natural” reminds me of George Carlin’s line about dog feces --they are “natural” and “organic.” They just “aren’t very good eating.” -J.B.]

Mores then claimed that oils, have high “measurable frequencies” ranging from 60 to 320 mh/sec. As a supposed proof, he displayed a chart claiming to show that almost everything vibrates at a certain frequency, e.g., healthy human 62-78, disease 58, cancer 42, produce 15, canned food 0. Apparently the higher frequencies are more natural and desirable.

Mr. Morse next discussed three methods of using essential oils- inhalation, topical application, and ingestion. On topical application, Morse said the oils can be applied several ways - directly to the affected area, to meridian (acupuncture) points, to reflexology points (on bottom of the feet), and to Ultraflex therapy points. He discussed the Reflexology points at some length, explaining that we have a “circuitry box” on the bottom of our feet from which any organ in the body can be affected.

Finally, Morse suggested that we “play around” with the oils, an individual experiment in self education. “You need to develop a relationship with the oils, see what works for you,” he said. “In this country,” he complained, “we seem to want to know why something works, test it to death.” According to Morse, that was proof that the medical and pharmacology industries are trying to protect their interests.

So forget about testing. Whether or not a product works as claimed appears to be of no interest to the typical “alternative health” peddler.

Follow your nose to any meeting of REASON, held every first and third Saturday at 3:00 PM at the Main Library, downtown.

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This is the fifth of eight columns about the workshops we attended. This week’s column, in two parts, is by Jim Bechtel and Jim Goeken.

HYDROELECTROMAGNETOQUACKERY FROM HELL

The father of the magnet fad would have to be the alchemist Paracelsus (d.1543), who claimed that since magnets have the power to attract iron, perhaps they can also attract diseases and leach them from the body - a simple and honest mistake given the nature of science at the time. The idea was next promoted by Maximilian Hell, an astronomer at the University of Vienna, who claimed several cures using steel magnets. However, he was soon eclipsed by a friend who borrowed his magnets to treat a young woman with a mental illness. The friend was Franz Anton Mesmer (d. 1815), and Mesmer’s alleged success with the “magnets from Hell” led directly to his theory of “animal magnetism,” to “Mesmerism,” and to hypnotism. Mesmer soon alleged that he could “magnetize” virtually anything -paper, wood, leather, water- and produce the same effect on patients. He concluded that the animal magnetism resided in himself, as a “universal fluid.” In 1784 King Louis XVI established a Royal Commission to evaluate Mesmer’s claims of animal magnetism, a commission that included Benjamin Franklin. Even the simple experiments of the time could expose the claims as false. The Commission concluded that the observed effects resulted from the power of suggestion, and that “the practice of magnetization is the art of increasing the imagination by degrees.” Thomas Jefferson, arriving in Paris soon after the Commission report, noted in his journal: “Animal magnetism is dead, ridiculed.”

Not quite. Daniel David Palmer, the same “D.D.,” as he was known, who founded the nonsensical system known as chiropractic, had also opened Palmer’s School of Magnetic Cure in Iowa in the 1890s, that Golden Age of Quackery. Magnetic cures revived with the invention of stronger permanent magnets: alnico magnets in the 1930s, ferrite (ceramic) magnets in the 1950s, and rare-earth magnets in the 1970s and 1980s, more than a hundred times more powerful than steel magnets. To avoid trouble with the Food and Drug Administration, most (but not all) suppliers emphasize only “comfort” and may specifically state “no medical claims are made.” Others claim to cure anything and everything.

Recently a study at Baylor College of Medicine caused an uproar in the media by concluding that permanent magnets reduced pain in post-polio patients. But the Baylor study had a number of possible flaws: unconscious biases of researchers (Drs. Vallbona and Hazlewood were both “believers”), the ease of distinguishing the active magnets from the sham magnets, and the highly subjective nature of the data. The rational approach would be for the TV shows and news magazines to wait for more studies (can the Baylor study be repeated?) before they go nuts over the “miracle” of magnets.

Literally thousands of research papers have in fact been published on biological effects of electromagnetic fields: Reviewed by Frankel and Liburdy (1996), they have concentrated mostly on high fields of the level encountered in MRI magnets, on the order of 10,000 gauss. Unfortunately, research has been very limited at field levels typical of magnetic therapy products, most of which are limited to a few hundred gauss, even right at the surface of the magnet. Except for the Baylor study, research has been negative. For example, a double-blind study of magnetic necklaces found that they produced no relief of neck or shoulder pain (Hong 1982).

That doesn’t stop the pyramid sales. As you’ll read, below, some peddlers promote “magnetized water.” However, water can’t be magnetized. Although water responds weakly to an applied field, the response disappears as soon as the field is removed. Likewise with blood: The net effect of the weak paramagnetism of the isolated iron atoms in hemoglobin is only a slight decrease in the overall diamagnetism of blood. (Blood, like water, is weakly repelled by magnetic fields, not attracted.)

Nikken, the Japanese health-magnet firm, used a multilevel marketing scheme to expand from an annual business in the U. S. of $3 million in 1989, to over $150 million and climbing rapidly in the New Age climate of gullibility. --J.B., based on James D. Livingston’s essay for CSICOP, from http://www.csicop.org with permission.

“Magnetics” A 45 minute workshop presented by the Magnetics Team (two women), representing Nikken, a manufacturer of magnetic healing products. --by J.G.

Our Magnetics workshop began with one member of the Nikken team stating that magnets have been known about for a long time. Before Christ even, shepherds observed magnetism by touching the metal tips of their staffs against lodestone, and there is evidence in African mines that goes back 100,000 years. Aristotle makes the first mention of magnets associated with health.

However, we were warned, a lot of the magnetism that is found in today’s modern society is bad for us. This is the (AC) Alternating Current found in all of our appliances. The magnetic energy of the earth, however, “puts your body in a state to be well.”

The women then teamed up on a “strength test.” A volunteer was asked to extend his arms straight out in front of himself and resist the woman as she tried to force his arms down. The man then placed both feet on Nikken magnetic insoles and the exercise was repeated. She then asked the man if he felt stronger when he was on the magnets, but he wasn’t sure because he kind of fell forward as he resisted while standing on the magnetic insoles. The test was done in reverse order, and when asked if he felt weaker after stepping off the magnetic insoles, the man still wasn’t sure, but thought maybe so.

A woman with a sore back muscle volunteered for a flexibility test. Starting from a center position she turned as far as she could from one side of the room to the other as she held a laser pointer straight out in front of her. She was then massaged with roller balls that had nodules on them. They had already demonstrated that the magnetism from two rolling magnets is greater than from one, allowing a deeper penetration (why not just use a stronger magnet?). After a thorough massage with the roller balls the woman repeated the laser exercise and to the amazement of everyone (except me) she was able to turn farther in each direction than before.

Another woman who complained of back pain was given a pair of insoles to place under her feet. When asked how she felt after sitting through the entire workshop she said that she didn’t feel any better but that her back was feeling kind of tingly, to which the team replied that this was good, it meant the magnets were working.

The demonstrations didn’t take up much of the time. The rest of the workshop was used to show the various Nikken products that were on hand. There were sleep masks, belts, necklaces, pillows, a small section of a mattress, etc. They used iron filings to show the world wide patented design of Nikken magnets. Their geometric design is supposed to cover an area more completely and evenly.

In answer to a question about how long the effect would last, we were told that it would vary with the individual. Magnetic treatment of water was also said to be useful because “water clusters” get broken down and the body can use the water more efficiently.

I don’t know, perhaps magnets might have some healing power, but one thing I do know is that these demonstrations certainly don’t offer any proof --they are seriously flawed. Both the “healer” and the “patient” know when they’re on or off the magnets, and observed improvements may be due to something else, such as the massage, the better sleep from the mask, the support from the back brace, and so on.

Give in to the magnetic attraction, come to any meeting of REASON, held every first and third Saturday at 3:00 PM at the Main Library, downtown.

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This is the sixth of eight columns about the workshops we attended. This week’s column, in two parts, is by Jim Bechtel and Chris Wade.

DON’T ROLL YOUR EYES AT ME

Francine Shapiro, the founder of EMDR, claimed that waving fingers in front of patients’ eyes to produce “sets of saccades” while the patient imagines traumatic scenes, improved their mental health. Her report was published in 1989, and by 1992 it was estimated that 1,200 professionals had been trained in the method. It is now believed that over 20,000 professionals have been trained at workshops that cost over $350 to attend. Meanwhile, several researchers have gone through the laborious effort of randomly assigning patients to EMDR or standard imagery treatment without eye movements. When initial studies failed to support EMDR, Shapiro claimed that researchers had not received proper training in the techniques, so their work did not provide a fair test. After researchers took the appropriate workshop, the need for them to have “Level II training” was introduced arbitrarily. When more studies continued to show clearly that the eye movements were unnecessary, Shapiro shifted the rationale of treatment and offered alternative forms of stimulation such as finger snapping and tapping motions. What appears to have happened is that Shapiro took existing elements from standard cognitive-behavior therapies, added the unnecessary ingredient of finger waving, and then took the new technique on the road before science could catch up. All studies show EMDR’s claims are unsupported by evidence. -- J.B., based on Rosen and Lohr (National Council Against Health Fraud), from http://www.ncahf.org with permission.

”EMDR --Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing” with Lee Branham, PhD. --by C.W.

Dr. Branham held his discussion in a room of about 20 people, and began his lecture by defining E.M.D.R. as a psychological technique that uses directed eye movements to treat flashbacks, nightmares, jumpiness, and other after-effects of traumatic experience, its main application being treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. He said the technique was discovered in 1987 by a graduate student in psychology. After describing Francine Shapiro’s experience, Mr. Branham went on to discuss the application of E.M.D.R. used today. There was no mention of what had occurred between 1987 and the present, he just said therapists have been trying this out on patients and it seems to get results.

He claimed that one of the main benefits of E.M.D.R. was that it helped people stop being jumpy. By this point, I was feeling a little jumpy myself --Branham was making so many assertions about E.M.D.R. but giving absolutely no factual information to back it up. He mentioned that no one knows how it works (which seems to beg the question “does it work?”) and that it isn’t a type of hypnosis, distraction, or dual attention method but that it seemed to be related to the R.E.M state of sleep. He said that it seemed to be a communication between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. No explanation for any of these statements was given.

He then mentioned the dangers of the possibility of “leading” a patient being treated with E.M.D.R. into discussing a topic which might not be an actual memory, but may seem like it occurred in their past. He acknowledged that “leading” is a very common occurrence in many psychological regression techniques. When I questioned him about this possibility with E.M.D.R., he said that it may not be completely possible to know whether a patient he is treating is discussing a situation that really occurred or if it is being discussed because of unintended leading.

I then asked him how he could consider such a treatment ethical without having a solid body of evidence that supports his claims. I also asked him what kind of studies had been conducted to support this practice. He said that applying the E.M.D.R. technique was kind of like his golf swing, ”sometimes it hits and sometimes it misses.” He claimed that research studies had been performed but offered no information to back up his claim.

In the last part of the lecture, Dr. Branham conducted a demonstration on a participant from the audience. He acknowledged that the volunteer had been pre-selected, but gave no reason why. It was a woman about 26 years old who was a single mother of two small children. She was having recurrent anxiety attacks at night when she went to bed, apparently she believed that someone would enter her house when she was lying in bed and trying to fall asleep.

Branham had her sit back and relax in a chair and close her eyes. He asked her to imagine the situation in her bedroom and to describe what she saw and felt. She said that she was trying to fall asleep and sensed that a man was in the living room by the door. He had her rate her fear level on a scale of 1-10, 10 being extremely fearful. She rated it about an 8. After having her discuss this situation for several minutes, he had her open her eyes, focus on his two fingers in front of her face and follow them with her eyes. He would then ask her about her anxiety level on the scale he had described, and it was still an 8. He began the finger movements again, went back to the questioning, and continued, but she didn’t seem to be showing any improvement based on her stated anxiety level score. At the end she said it was down to a 6 or 7. He ended the demonstration and explained that of course this wasn’t a clinical setting and that more time would usually be allotted for an actual treatment.

I for one was very grateful that I wasn’t subjected to a full hour-long session. I was sorry, though, that Branham had apparently never been exposed to the maxim of the skeptic, i.e. ”Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof.”

Rollyour eyeballs on down to any meeting of REASON, held every first and third Saturday at 3:00 PM at the Main Library, downtown.

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This is the seventh of eight columns about the workshops we attended. This week’s column, in two parts, is by Jim Bechtel and Chris Wade.

WASH YOUR BOWLS

“Quackery” derives from the word quacksalver (someone who boasts or “quacks” about his salves). Dictionaries define quack as “a pretender to medical skill; a charlatan” and “one who talks pretentiously without sound knowledge of the subject discussed.” These definitions suggest that the promotion of quackery involves deliberate deception, but many promoters sincerely believe in what they are doing. Quackery’s main characteristic is promotion (“Quacks quack!”) rather than fraud or greed. Many promoters are unwitting victims who share misinformation and personal experiences with others. Customers of multilevel companies that sell health-related products typically have been persuaded by friends, relatives, and neighbors who use the products because they believe them effective.

Malpractice and fraud are not the same things as quackery, which, to avoid confusion, should be limited to “anything involving overpromotion in the field of health,” with the emphasis on “overpromotion,” as at health fairs and expos.

Not all unproven methods are necessarily quackery. Those that make sense with what we know of how the world works may be considered “experimental.” Legitimate researchers and practitioners do not promote unproven procedures in the marketplace but engage in responsible, properly-designed studies. Methods that don’t make sense, that aren’t compatible with proven scientific concepts, should be classified as nonsensical or disproven rather than experimental.

--J.B., based on the definitions provided by Stephen Barrett, M.D., at Quackwatch, from http://www.quackwatch.com with permission.

“Vibrational Healing With Crystal Bowls,” a workshop presented by Crystal Hearts. --by C.W.

“Vibrational Healing With Crystal Bowls” was performed by a group that called themselves Crystal Hearts. The demonstration was held in a small room containing about 25 people and an assortment of plain frosted crystal bowls, including two very large bowls surrounded by smaller ones of various sizes. The largest of the bowls was about two feet across and two feet high.

The Crystal Hearts began the workshop with a very limited explanation of what they were going to do. They said that by causing the bowls to vibrate and concentrating on a Chakra meditation, our spirits would be refreshed and we would be made whole.

By rubbing a stick with a rubber plug on the end around the outside of the small bowl, they caused the two larger bowls to vibrate and resonate. This created a set of pure tones which filled the room with a very pleasing sound. I could actually feel the waves of resonance as they bounced around the room. The leader of the group asked everyone to get comfortable and close their eyes, and then she began speaking softly about how we should be feeling the energy from “Mother Earth” as it came in through our feet, and the energy from “Grandfather Sky” as it came through the tops of our heads. She said that we should feel the energies meeting in our Chakra Heart.

I didn’t experience any of this, but I did enjoy the sound. The leader began rubbing the smaller bowls one at a time, producing higher frequency resonation. At one point, she was describing an energy field that we were supposed to feel “around your pancreas, just below your belly button.” I don’t know about her pancreas, but mine is a little higher and to my left.

When the session was done, people talked about what they had experienced. Many said they felt refreshed or cleansed. One woman said in obvious disbelief and wonder that her arms felt heavy. I felt refreshed too, almost as though I’d just listened to a favorite piece of music. Is it possible that by taking some time out from our hectic lives, closing our eyes and listening to some pleasant tones at good volume with an open attitude, we might elevate our own moods? Your guess is as good as mine, but adding the crystal bowls to the mix cost only a suggested $25 Love Donation. That put a damper on my mood almost immediately.

Rub your crystal bowls on down to any meeting of REASON, held every first and third Saturday at 3:00 PM at the Main Library, downtown.

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This is the last of eight columns about the workshops we attended.

GHOSTS IN THE WATER

“Classical Homeopathic Medicine,” presented by Randall Bradley, ND. This workshop was attended by REASON members Anita M., a biologist in the environmental field, and Bev C., a businesswoman in the health field, but the column has been written by Jim Bechtel, with their input.

Mr. Bradley began his workshop by explaining the classic homeopathic beliefs: that “like cures like,” that tapping vials of water energizes them (a process homeopaths call “circussion”), and that infinite dilutions are effective. He implied the existence of research to back up these claims but did not identify any specific studies. He claimed he had treated a child with kidney failure last August, who was taken off dialysis. Generally, though, our attendees reported, he was modest in his claims. He said sometimes his remedies helped, sometimes they didn’t. He could do nothing for cancer and other terminal states, he admitted, but could often provide relief for chronic conditions, arthritis, asthma, migraines, and fibromyalgia (for which there is no diagnostic test, and which therefore may be entirely psychosomatic).

Dr. Stephen Barrett of Quackwatch calls homeopathy, the belief that plain old distilled water has curative powers in the hands of homeopaths, the absolutely stupidest thing ever. Harsh words. Is he right?

Thanks to N.Y. Senator (and homeopath) R. Copeland back in 1938, homeopathic preparations are exempt from Food and Drug Administration requirements. Copeland wrote the exemption into the original FDA law. Not to worry: the FDA says the materials would be exempt anyway, because they “contain little or no active ingredients.” Say what? No active ingredients? “Some homeopathic remedies are so dilute, no molecules of the healing substance remain.” Dilutions of a million trillion to one are not uncommon. The homeopathic belief is that the substance has left behind its imprint, a spirit-like substance.

Like chiropractic, homeopathy has finally been dragged kicking and screaming into the arena of the despised “scientific method” and forced to back up its claims, which it has failed to do. After all, there is no mechanism by which a molecule of water can “remember” having been in the presence of another molecule. And the profession still sneers at science, or, rather, has its own idea of what it means. “When the FDA inquires as to how the consumer knows what he is getting in a homeopathic drug, the response is ‘drug provings,’ which are not standardized with reproducible results. Normal double-blind scientific studies and testing do not, by definition, fit homeopathy’s ‘holistic’ approach.” (Other Healers: Unorthodox Medicine in America, N. Gevitz, editor.) As we have seen at these and other workshops, alternative medicine peddlers often advocate this “holistic” approach, urging listeners to eat healthy foods, practice healthy lifestyles, etc., to which no one could object, and which make it impossible to separate out any effectiveness of their prescriptions.

Randall Bradley and others have accused me in print of practicing a “religion of Scientism,” by which they mean a blind, dogmatic defense of current beliefs. This is a non-issue. Contrary to popular opinion, science is not a body of knowledge, so there is nothing to defend. Instead, it is a method of testing ideas against facts, and as such is self-correcting. For every scientist “X” who makes a mistake, there is a scientist “Y” who will cheerfully enhance his own reputation by pointing out X’s mistake. As Darwin put it: “false views do little harm [to science], for every one takes a salutary pleasure in proving their falseness.” Scientific journals exist for this open competition of ideas. (Incidentally, careful readers or those of a philosophical bent will notice that this important feature of science, self-correction, contrasts it with dogma, which is static in nature, and makes “the religion of Scientism” a contradictory, incoherent concept, a nonsense term.)

Science is impossible without this open exchange of information. Look at the discussions about evolution and sociobiology, for example, between Lewontin and Gould on one side and Wilson and Dawkins on the other. Unfortunately, their honest debates provide lots of fuel for dishonest creationists and others. By the way, it is this stress on open debate that links science and democracy. For example, as quaint as it sounds to our ears, “Science and Democracy!” was the rallying cry of the student movement in China in 1919, and was repeated recently by dissident Wang Dan on his release. It seems less quaint if we think of an example of a mirror-image opposite to “science and democracy,” such as a closed, dogmatic system like “creationism and theocracy.”

The most important publication on homeopathy in recent years is a meta-analysis of over a hundred previous studies, in the prestigious peer-reviewed journal, The Lancet. Bradley had publicly referred to it, so I searched out the journal, but Lo! It readeth not as Bradley sayeth! He neglected to quote this statement by the researchers: “we found insufficient evidence from these studies that homeopathy is clearly efficacious for any single clinical condition.” One commentator noted, “a randomized trial of ‘solvent only’ versus ‘infinite dilutions’ is a game of chance between two placebos,” with minor variances unavoidable. Previous studies in The Lancet, in 1986 and 1993, and studies done since the 9/97 meta-analysis, likewise “found no effect of homeopathy over placebo.”

So, caveat emptor. The best study ever, and it finds “insufficient evidence.” Sales of homeopathic material topped $200 million in 1995 and are growing at over 20% a year. As Business Week put it (10/23/95): “Cure? Well, .... Profit? Sure!” Consumers can go on paying their dollars for tiny vials of distilled water if they wish, but they should be aware that there is still --after a century of extravagant claims-- there is still no solid evidence that it works. And after all, how could there be?

Alternative medicine practitioners try to distract us from their lack of good evidence by the entertaining allegation that their problems stem from a shadowy conspiracy, by either an incoherent “religion of Scientism,” or an inexplicably hostile “boycott” by mainstream medicine. Now, folks, think about it: this would have to be one humdinger of a conspiracy, encompassing the highly contentious scientific community and persisting across generations! Using Occam’s razor, we have to ask ourselves, which is more likely, this X-Files scenario, or a simple lack of good evidence?

Homeopaths are fond of telling us that, like homeopathy, the germ theory of disease was also ridiculed when first proposed by Ignatz Semmelweis. They don’t mention the rest of the story. Research showed Semmelweis was on to something. It could be proven. So, what convinced the medical profession? The evidence! And then, what about viruses? Martinus Beijerinck first proposed something organically active but small enough to pass through a porcelain filter! Preposterous! What convinced the medical profession? The evidence! Alfred Wegener was ridiculed for proposing continental drift. How on Earth could continents move? Ridiculous! Overwhelming evidence convinced geologists, and now plate tectonics is at the core of the discipline. Galileo proposed that the earth moves, contrary to the Word of God (I Chronicles 16:30, Psalms 93:1, et al). Overwhelming evidence prevailed, and heliocentrism is now standard astronomy. Madame Curie proposed particle radiation (as contrasted to wave radiation). Impossible! Overwhelming evidence convinced physicists, and now particle physics is at the core of the discipline. Need I go on? Show us your convincing evidence and we will believe. In fact, devise a testable theory to go with it, and you’ll be short-listed for a Nobel Prize.

Science is not the body of knowledge we possess, since it constantly changes as we learn more; it is the very process of learning itself, a system of testing ideas against reality, of testing hypotheses against the evidence. If you lack evidence, you will fuss and fume and invent your own definition of science, claim there is unspecified evidence somewhere, and postulate sinister conspiracies. What else can you do?