After yesterday’s secular parenting seminar, I had the pleasure of meeting Edwin and Helen Kagin, two elder statesmen of atheism with whom I was previously unfamiliar. They were total spitfires, and meeting them was a highlight, if only because they gave the lunch so much character and cantankerous charm.
The Kagins are well known in the area for starting Camp Quest, the summer camp for children of secular humanists. They told the tale of their legal battle struggle that started after their former renters, a Baptist camp, decided to petition for a change in the discrimination laws so that the Baptists could refuse rental based on religious differences. The law was passed, vetoed by the governor, and the veto was overturned by the legislature. Edwin is also known for his rally for reason against the despicable Creation Museum in northern Kentucky.
Camp Quest is a normal camp that has the same amounts of fun and bonding that occur at other camps, but you’ll be sure to find a few things that are different. For instance, there is a long standing tradition that two invisible unicorns are wandering the property, and any child who proves that these unicorns do not exist receives a $100 bill. As the claim is unfalsifiable, the reward has yet to be claimed.
I told the Kagins that my mother kind of rolled her eyes and groaned when I brought up a humanist summer camp, and that I reminded her that I was sent to a methodist summer camp. How is it any better to send your kid off to a camp to make crucifix arts and crafts?
The lunch was rolling along fine with a friendly socialism vs. libertarianism debate until the conversation came to an abrupt halt on the topic of… acupuncture. Of course, I’m well versed on the subject because of my baby’s mama, so I started going off on the weakness of the treatment – the unfalisifiable claims of chi flowing through assigned meridians. Suddenly, Helen Kagin cut me off to correct me that there was, in fact, such a thing as chi. I was completely befuddled and agog. What did she just say? For a minute I thought she was joking until she turned and whispered to her atheist husband with amusement in her voice that I don’t believe in chi, and he actually said matter-of-factly “But I can feel the energy inside me.”
Two dedicated atheist activists were telling me that they believed in an ancient magical energy of unknown origin that can neither be detected, seen, nor measured, and that they believed this because they could “feel” it. At this point, I was wondering if they could “feel” the invisible unicorns at Camp Quest. A lot of believers insist that they can “feel” the presence of God, and yet a typical atheist would just as casually dismiss those feelings as an illusion. Yes, there is some science that confirms some of the claims of acupuncture, and that has given Traditional Chinese Medicine a boost lately, but there are many more studies that disprove the claims of TCM. And yet, acupuncturists don’t have to change their claims because they are not bound by the universal laws of science.
Who came up with meridians? How did they find them? How does anybody know they are there? Why can’t we detect them? Surely these channels of energy are physical because the treatment is a needle. How does an undetectable invisible energy react to a needle? Why are the needles put at certain spots? None of these questions can be answered by anybody but an apologetic acupuncturist trying to justify what can’t be proven.
Acupuncture meridians are the bible of TCM passed down by generations and originating from some unknown persons. Chi is the god of TCM, a mysterious power that can neither be detected nor falsified. And the patient of TCM is the true believing worshipper, who relies on nothing but faith and anecdotes for belief in the magical.
I’m not saying that I’m better than the Kagins because I’m so smart about acupuncture. I have been very accepting of TCM, have had treatments from my wife, and have defended the cultural tradition on other forums. But, when you let the claims of TCM settle to the bottom, you see that there is truly nothing there but normal responses such as placebo and endorphins. Needling does not manipulate chi because there is no such thing as chi.
There are no meridians, and if you think you can prove that there are any magical energy channels, I’ve got a $100 reward and a couple of invisible unicorns for you. Any takers?