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.  A popular Reiki center close to my home  is located at the Winchester Medical Center,  Winchester Virginia.

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’