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There’s a very interesting article in the current issue of E-Skeptic by Larry Sarner on Emily Rosa’s seminal therapeutic touch (TT) experiment that was published in the JAMA in 1998 of a study she conducted at age 9, making her the youngest person ever to publish in a peer reviewed medical journal.

Sarner addresses many of the misconceptions people have about this study and he lists the postulates (assumptions) that TT is based on, most of which also hold for the newer energy psychology therapies such as TFT and EFT. Emily Rosa’s experiment addressed postulate #3, although many people, even some skeptics, misunderstood it as addressing #1, which it was not designed to do. He makes an excellent point that many skeptics focus on #1, whether the HEF exists at all. If any of these postulates are falsified, however, the entire theory collapses. These postulates were induced and deduced from the TT literature since the TT proponents themselves seem to have resisted making any clear statements in this regard.

  1. THE EXISTENCE POSTULATE. TT is a widespread (primarily nursing) practice predicated upon a belief in the existence of a “human energy field.” This field may be too esoteric or “subtle” to be capable of measurement or detection by conventional technology.
  2. THE ETIOLOGICAL POSTULATE. The HEF is postulated as a physical reality that permeates a human body and extends beyond it. Disease, illness, injury, or discomfort are manifest in the HEF as “differences” (disturbances, imbalances, congestion, or the like). Also, the elimination of such differences in the HEF either returns the body itself to health or removes impediments to the body’s own healing processes.
  3. THE PERCEPTIBILITY POSTULATE. Each person’s HEF is perceptible by any other person, especially with the intention to do so, though it may be necessary in individual instances for the other person to be trained to recognize the perceptions as HEF-related. In particular, differences in an HEF can be perceived, thereby detecting the presence (and with refinement, the locale) of disease, illness, injury, or discomfort.
  4. THE MANIPULABILITY POSTULATE. One person can effect changes in another person’s HEF. Those changes can be controlled by the changer’s intentions, though training may be necessary to allow selection of the proper intentionality for accomplishing desired ends, such as the elimination of differences.
  5. THE MANUAL POSTULATE. A practitioner’s hand alone is an effective and reliable means for the perception and manipulation of the HEF of another person. Coupled with the proper intentionality, healing can occur through manual intervention in the HEF.

I have found this to be a useful framework for a critical examination of the assumptions between TFT/EFT. The only one that would not necessarily hold true for TFT/EFT is #3, which is the one that Emily’s experiment focused on, very important to TT but not so much, for TFT/EFT. With TFT/EFT, people finger tap on specified points on the body and so it would not be necessary for them to actually be able to feel the HEF. In other words, they can do #4 without having to do #3. All they have to do is know where and (for TFT) in what sequence to tap. My published experiment addressed and falsified the notion that sequence of tapping points mattered (the basis for Callahan’s $100,000 VT) and Waite and Holder’s experiment falsified the notion that the points mattered, since they had control conditions of sham points and tapping on a doll. Both studies were published in the peer reviewed journal, The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice.

Also, #5 is only partially applicable to TFT, although many of its proponents do hold that assumption, in full. TFT’s inventor, Roger Callahan has strenuously objected to the idea that intention had anything to do with his claimed results. His claim is that all a person has to do is to tap on specified points in specified sequences and results will occur. The person being treated must be thinking about the problem being treated, so in that sense, intention is important, but the intention of the practitioner to heal, presumably has nothing to do with it. However, many EFT/TFT proponents disagree and see intention as critically important to both successes and failures and that, of course, can be used as a way to explain away failure.

Sarner’s article covers a great deal of ground, addressing TT’s basic assumptions, correcting misconceptions about Emily Rosa’s experiment and issuing a point by point rebuttal to the criticism of that experiment. The article is well worth the read and available on the E-Skeptic website.

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In memory of Martin Gardner (1914-2010), he wrote a prescient essay  in 1950, entitled “The Hermit Scientist”. What comes to mind for me is a memory I have of a conversation with Roger Callahan in the early 2000s, where he told me he felt nobody, not even the people who studied with him, truly understood his work. He informed me that he thought that I came closest of anyone who had studied with him (at the time of his remark, of course, not anymore), but after something I had said he did not agree with, he informed me that not even I, completely understood his work.

I will present a quote from Michael Shermer’s synopsis in his Scientific American column, of the essay without further comment, since the reason it is relevant to this blog, speaks for itself.

How can we tell if someone is a scientific crank? Gardner offers this advice: (1) “First and most important of these traits is that cranks work in almost total isolation from their colleagues.” Cranks typically do not understand how the scientific process operates — that they need to try out their ideas on colleagues, attend conferences and publish their hypotheses in peer-reviewed journals before announcing to the world their startling discovery. Of course, when you explain this to them they say that their ideas are too radical for the conservative scientific establishment to accept. (2) “A second characteristic of the pseudo-scientist, which greatly strengthens his isolation,is a tendency toward paranoia,” which manifests
itself in several ways:

  1. He considers himself a genius.
  2. He regards his colleagues, without exception, as ignorant blockheads …
  3. He believes himself unjustly persecuted and discriminated against. The recognized societies refuse to let him lecture. The journals reject his papers and either ignore his books or assign them to “enemies” for review. It is all part of a dastardly plot. It never occurs to the crank that this opposition may be due to error in his work …
  4. He has strong compulsions to focus his attacks on the greatest scientists and the best-established theories. When Newton was the outstanding name in physics, eccentric works in that science were violently anti-Newton. Today, with Einstein the father symbol
    of authority, a crank theory of physics is likely to attack Einstein …
  5. He often has a tendency to write in a complex jargon, in many
    cases making use of terms and phrases he himself has coined.

We should keep these criteria in mind when we explore controversial ideas on the borderlands of science. “If the present trend continues,” Gardner concludes, “we can expect a wide variety of these men, with theories yet unimaginable, to put in their appearance in the years immediately ahead. They will write impressive books, give inspiring lectures, organize exciting cults. They may achieve a following of one — or one million. In any case, it will be well for ourselves and for society if we are on our guard against them.” So we still are, Martin. That is what skeptics do, and in tribute for all you have done, we shall continue to honor your founding command.

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