Guest Post by Eugenie V. Mielczarek
Science-Based Medicine continually informs about the scientific knowledge and controls required to provide successful medical protocols. The need for a joint effort with major scientific societies is crucial. Neither the the American Physical Society nor the American Chemical Society have lent their expertise communicating ‘science for the general public’ to dispel claims for homeopathy and ‘energy healing’ obvious violations of the laws of science. The founding of Society for Science Based Medicine came as I was reviewing my failed four year effort to have the American Physical Society, APS, recognize this healing protocol as a medical misconception.Some background:learning that healing claims for an undefined field emitted by certain human practitioners, was being taught in nursing schools medical schools, used as a source of revenue by hospitals, and had been funded by NIH’ s NCCAM, I with Derek Araujo and Brian Engler, exposed the claim, practices and NIH’s funding, with articles in the Skeptical Inquirer. The ‘healing’ protocol appears under several pseudonyms: Therapeutic Touch, Reiki, Jorei, and Qigong. NCCAM grants for these protocols total about 11 million dollars.
Because claims for ‘energy healing’ relied on the concept that healing was accomplished by an interaction of biomagnetic fields of patient and practitioner, in 2010 I brought these medical claims to the Division of Biological Physics of The American Physical Society. The division responded with a statement intended for public outreach. (See end of text for statement) APS requires that ‘official’ ‘outreach statements’ must first pass its Panel of Public Affairs before being forwarded to its ‘The Executive Board and Council ‘ before release as official ‘Statement’. For over 30 years the society issued over 40 official statements. These tackled a wide range of problems: climate change, perpetual motion machines, the teaching of creationism in schools, science education, and the need for civic engagement of scientists.
Most Americans, including many scientists, are unaware that this healing myth, an obvious violation of the laws of physics is available as a medical protocol. Through the 1980’s and 1990’s claims for successes of these ‘hand waving’ medical protocols were usually confined to Complementary and Alternative Medicine journals and nursing school curriculum and remained under the radar of scientists. Claims for this were so ridiculous most of assumed they would disappear quickly. Instead of disappearing, the claim appeared in the Journal of the Orthopedic Research Society, a peer reviewed medical journal. (J Orthop Res 26:1541-1546, 2008’.) “Therapeutic touch, --- increased the growth of normal bone cells in culture dishes, but decreased the growth of bone cancer cells”. The authors’, faculty at the University of Connecticu , were funded as part of an $1.8 million grant from the NIH’ s Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, NCCAM. In an interview in March 2009 the Josephine Briggs,director of NCCAM shared this news with a Washington Post reporter as an example of the success of NCCAM Research. Because fields generated by humans are thousands of times less than the earth’s magnetic field, and billions of times less than an MRI scan the claim should have been immediately recognized as ridiculous. All efforts to have the Journal of Orthopedic Research retract this article failed.
Because I had served as an Officer of the Division of Biological Physics and on committees of the American Physical Society I felt very confident that the society would be appalled that this claim could be part of a medical protocol and taught in medical schools. Several months after the division’s request was endorsed by the Panel of Public Affairs the statement was placed on the agenda of the Executive Board and Council of the Society. At this point progress for outreach was halted. The minutes of the Panel on Public affairs are a public, those of Board and Council are not. Persisting in the effort, I naively thought this matter of scientific integrity would be of interest to members of the society. The editor of the Society’s monthly newsletter agreed it would appear as a letter but he never followed through.
The Society which constantly calls for educational outreach abdicated an educational outreach which protected less scientifically educated. The result is that the alternative medicine industry can continue to sell violations of the laws of science as medical protocols. SSBM is needed to convince societies of chemists, physicists, chemists and biologists that outreach is needed by scientific societies to expose violations of the laws of science which masquerade as medical protocols.
The fields generated by physical processes associated with human physiology are of the order of 0.004 milligauss. There is no evidence that these fields can be manipulated or tuned to affect human biochemistry for healing purposes. Furthermore there is no evidence to support claims that certain individuals can emit fields large enough for healing purposes. The postulate of an unsubstantiated biomagnetic medically healing energy field, of 2 milligauss which can only be generated by certain individuals, (Therapeutic Touch, Reiki, Qiqong, practitioners) fails all tests of science. This misconception, that an unsubstantiated, biomagnetic energy field which eludes all science based investigation but nevertheless transmits energies large enough to create healing flies in the face of all scientific reasoning and the laws of physics. Thus the Division of Biological Physics of the American Physical Society deplores attempts to mislead the public based on claims by practitioners of Therapeutic Touch, Reiki or Qiqong that they can generate fields which are sources of healing energy. This claim has no basis in physical theory or experiment.
Washington Post March 17, 2009 David Brown
Eugenie V. Mielczarek and Derek C. Araujo. 2011. Power Lines and Cancer, Distant Healing and Health Care. SKEPTICAL INQUIRER 35 (3) (May/June): 40-44;
Eugenie V. Mielczarek and Brian D. Engler. 2012. Measuring Mythology: Startling Concepts in NCCAM Grants. SKEPTICAL INQUIRER 36 (1) (January / February): 35-43
Eugenie V. Mielczarek and Brian D. Engler. 2013. Nurturing Non-Science :Startling Concepts in Physician Education SKEPTICAL INQUIRER 37(3) (May /June) :32-39.
Professor Mielczarek is a former officer of the Division of Biological Physics, her research focused on using Mossbauer Spectroscopy to study hemoglobin and the transport of iron into a pathogenic organism. She chaired the subcommittee of the Division of Biological Physics tasked with exposing the claim of ‘distance healing’