The Free Inquiry Group of Cincinnati have asked me to share my enthusiasm for skepticism at one of their meetings this month. I’ll be discussing alternative medicine, specifically the variety that involves needles, chakras and herbs. Here’s a brief explanation of the presentation that I’ll give on Sunday, June 28th at a location to be determined…
An invisible force that can neither be detected nor measured flowing through invisible conduits mapped across our body – this is the outdated Chinese magic known as “chi”. It’s an ancient wisdom of unknown origin that seems to work for some people, even though it’s claims are biological impossibilities that have yet to be proven by science.
It’s perfectly justifiable to say that there is no difference in a belief in chi and a belief in a deity, and yet there are some atheists who lay down their weapons of science and reasoning in deference to this elaborate antiquated placebo.
They say that chi is a mystical force that regulates our general health, but they can’t prove their claims under blind placebo-controlled studies. They say that needles placed in specific spots will stimulate a hidden energy, though they don’t say how or why. They say humans have channels called meridians that are associated with certain organs, but they don’t say who discovered these meridians or how anyone knows they exist. Patients of Traditional Chinese Medicine are expected to take these claims on faith. Who are “they” and why should we believe them?
My wife took two years of classes in alternative medicine and acupuncture before she had to drop out due to an unplanned pregnancy. At the time, I had reservations and doubts about the efficacy of needling, but I supported my wife in her endeavors. As time passed, I became immersed in the subculture of skepticism, which is a tool for examining claims by using a combination of science and reasoning. Using the skeptic’s tools that I’ve picked up over the years, I’m now able to see the majority of Complementary and Alternative Medicine for what it is – implausible and ineffective. Needless to say, that’s made my marriage quite interesting, but we’ve been able to come to terms with our differences of opinion, to the point that she is letting me pick her brain and borrow her tools of the trade for my presentation.
I will focus on the history of acupuncture, the claims of how it’s supposed to work, the misleading science reporting about it, and why it’s “success” can be chalked up to the placebo effect. I hope you enjoy my talk, and that it stimulates your brain – not your chi.