• Playing with words

    by  • 3/15/2009 • science • 0 Comments

    I watch a number of Wikipedia pages that I classify as pseudoscience, among them pages related to homeopathy, energy healing, crypto-zoology, naturopathy, etc. I really try to just keep things level and keep out semantic tricks like what one person has recently suggested on the discussion page for Reiki. There are two headings labeled “Scientific research”, at at the moment, this is under the second grouping. In case you’re new here, I’m the one going by “Xinit” in the following.

    Scientific research

    In regards to the “Scientific research” section, if so much of the research has been found to be flawed or insufficient to present evidence for the efficiacy of reiki, one could just as easily say that there is likewise insufficient evidence against it’s effectiveness, no? Either way, the question is unresolved and further research is necessary. I find ONLY stating that there is NO evidence for reiki is pretty unbalanced and a bit misleading. Until sufficient research IS performed, there is insufficient data for or against, and the questions remains open. A lack of evidence for is not in itself evidence against, correct? This is a basic tenet of scientific inquiry, correct? — Elgaroo (talk) 08:52, 15 March 2009 (UTC)

    While it is true that an absence of evidence for is not evidence against in and of itself, this does not mean that the issue is contentious. There have been studies done to test Reiki’s efficacy in a variety of situations, and these tests have largely shown that there is no difference between Reiki and placebo. That is, that you can’t tell by looking at the patients which have been given Reiki treatments and which have been given a course of relaxation, or of known non-Reiki practice. This is, according to the scientific method, a failure of the modality to prove itself effective. I would go so far as to suggest that there is a likely case for scientific consensus at this point that Reiki is completely ineffectual, but I’d have to go digging to find something to cite on that front.

    Think of it this way; let’s say there’s a modality out there that involves someone who’s suffering from migraines striking their head sharply with a rod of iron three times a day to drive out the demons that cause the headaches. Well, there’s not a whole lot of evidence proving that demons exist, or that they live in the human head or that a rod of iron can evict them.

    Science has tested the efficacy of the iron bar method, and found that it doesn’t significantly help the sufferer recover quicker. This does not mean that demons exist, or that bashing one’s self on the head is the way to go to effect treatment. Let’s say that different tests have tested rods of different metals, have put sufferers on elaborate scales to try to weigh the demons, focused cameras and setup magnetic fields, all to test for demons, and that these tests have gone on for decades. Not a single one has found that this method is better or worse than a placebo.

    Would you still want to word the science section in that case to read “Science has failed to disprove the iron bar cure for demon caused migraines”?

    — Xinit (talk) 23:43, 15 March 2009 (UTC)

    Elgaroo makes the assumption that Reiki is real, and that the only way that science hasn’t been able to show its efficacy is that scientists are apparently too stupid and ill-experienced at designing reliable testing methods to be able to show this.

    The question of whether I have little demons in my head, and that’s why my sinuses hurt does not remain open until science can categorically prove that there are no demons. Science has a tough enough time proving that there ISN’T a large pink elephant on stage in front of a convention loaded with scientists. Oh, science can conduct tests to prove that there IS in fact an elephant or a demon but disproving only tends to happen through an overwhelming number of negative tests.


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