[EAS] No to Science, Yes to Qi
Peter J. Kindlmann
pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Fri Apr 11 23:08:57 EDT 2008
Dear Colleagues -
I thought I'd just forward you the last issue of the long-running
(over 20 years) newsletter from physicist Bob Park. [Apologies to
those who already get their own copy.]
Despite valiant efforts by Shawn Otto and his collaborators (see
significant attention from various public forums, our political
candidates just don't see any payback in talking about science.
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WHAT'S NEW Robert L. Park Friday 11 Apr 08 Washington, DC
1. NO SCIENCE DEBATE: CANDIDATES WILL DEBATE JESUS.
It seemed to be going well for efforts to arrange a debate on science
issues. The National Academies, the Council for Competitiveness and the
AAAS had agreed to serve as official cosponsors; the plan was endorsed by
all major research universities and scientific societies. However, in a
world faced with the threat of global warming, dwindling fossil fuel,
continuous warfare, disease and starvation on the rise in Africa,
spiraling food prices world wide, the candidates must focus
on "solutions." They have therefore chosen to attend "The Compassion
Forum" instead, a "wide ranging and probing discussion of policies related
to moral issues." It will be held at Messiah College somewhere in central
Pennsylvania. Founded by the Brethren in Christ Church in 1909; Messiah's
motto is "Christ Preeminent." It has not been decided whether the
candidates will remain on their knees during the debate.
2. QI: "I DON'T KNOW HOW, BUT ACUPUNCTURE WORKS."
You will not be surprised to learn that WN got a lot of disagreement about
the item on acupuncture last week. As one reader pointed out, "millions
of people have been treated with acupuncture and say it works; scientists
should be trying to find out how it works rather than ridiculing it."
Look at it this way, an even larger number of people around the world say
astrology works. If you think they're right you're beyond help. What we
need to understand is why people think acupuncture works. If you ask an
acupuncturist how it works, the answer is "qi." What's qi? I refer you to
http://www.csicop.org/sb/2000-03/qi.html for a full discussion. Briefly,
dissection was forbidden in ancient China, as it was in the West before
about 1500 AD. Beheadings, on the other hand, were common. The carotid
artery and jugular veins sticking out of the severed neck looked like
empty tubes, and were assumed to be passageways to let air flow through
the body. Blood was thought to fill the body cavity. As recently as the
late Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644) the arteries were thought to carry air.
Qi is the word for air.
3. WHY NOW? IT'S NOT JUST HAPPENING AT MARYLAND.
And it's not just acupuncture. In the waning days of his administration
Bill Clinton created a 20-member White House Commission on Complementary
and Alternative Medicine, perhaps as a gift to Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA),
a true believer who had been a loyal supporter. The commission members
advocated homeopathy, acupuncture, touch therapy, magnets, reflexology,
crystals, chelation, craniosacral manipulation, echinacea, aromatherapy,
yohimbe bark and more. Incredibly James Gordon, who had been a follower
of the notorious Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, was chosen to head the
commission. A Georgetown professor, Gordon predicted the Gordon Report
would replace the 1910 Flexner report that established medicine as a
scientific enterprise. It could happen. With the candidates talking up
some form of National health coverage, the push is on for CAM therapies to
maneuver to be included. How better to look scientific than to be on a
THE UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND.
Opinions are the author's and not necessarily shared by the
University of Maryland, but they should be.
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