Many believers in dowsing, applied kinesiology, and related machines that go ‘Ping’ think that they can detect parasites and poisons in the body and tell what medicines will help, all based on ‘frequencies’ of ‘energy’ which are somewhere between unproven and disproven.
Proponents dodge the pursuit of James Randi’s Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge with personal attacks and rumors. However, here’s a fellow, James McCormick, who made over $70 million selling dowsing-based gadgets to governments and militaries around the world. He claimed that by putting various cards in the machine, they could detect bombs, drugs, money, or hidden people.
He unwittingly created his own $70 million dollar challenge, with the added incentive of 10 years in jail for fraud. Unable to show that his machines work as claimed, the courts were unimpressed that he relabeled novelty golf ball ‘finders’ into bomb and drug dowsing devices, then marked up his $60 gadgets to $300,000. Iraq’s security team bought 6000 of them, and is apparently still using them.
I’m back from a fabulous Hawaiian vacation. It’s great that Aloha has several nuanced meanings, including hello and goodbye.
The ancient Taoists talked of the Islands of the Immortals in the Eastern Sea (they called them Peng Lai). Hawaii is a pretty close match. No snakes! There were no mammals until humans introduced them. The effort to combat stowaway rats by introducing the mongoose didn’t go so well, either (rats are nocturnal, the mongoose is diurnal, never the twain shall meet). After a very busy December, it was great to take a break. I highly recommend a Hawaiian vacation, especially if you live where it is cold and snowy for months.
My break gave me time to contemplate my path: my business, blog, projects, personal health… To be honest, I even considered taking down this blog to focus more on making money. I would really like to pay off my student loans and spend more time in Hawaii. Writing about Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) from a critical and consumer-protection perspective has taken much time but hasn’t increased my income at all. Probably the opposite has occurred. The thing is, I am not doing this for the money. I was very clear with myself when I chose the TCM/Taoism path 20 years ago that it was not about making money. At the time, I felt I was on a spiritual path to help people with natural medicine, help the planet through increasing humanity’s respect for nature, and grow as an individual by learning and practicing what I called “Taoist arts and sciences.”
Deep down I am still influenced by Taoist and Zen philosophy, but have become increasingly skeptical of groups, belief systems, and teachers claiming to be Taoist or Zen. I don’t really want to be seen as a “Taoist” or “Zennist.” The principles of observing nature, not being attached to ideas, beliefs, or things, and not resisting change are still core to my internal attitude. However, I identify these principles more with science and logic than a religion which seeks to avoid reincarnation or attain immortality.
Dynamo Jack’s magic tricks were the subject of an earlier post. At the time, I didn’t know that Jack (aka John Chang) was still a Big Deal to some people. A 1980s documentary showed him lighting newspaper on fire with “Ch’i,” poking a chopstick through a table, and delivering electric shocks from his fingers. I offered plausible explanations such as the Electric Touch gadget by magician Yigal Mesika. There’s more info on Yigal’s site; it looks like a new version is coming soon. Here’s a video with Criss Angel using the Electric Touch:
A “pastor” was arrested with one of these devices going through an airport. He tried to tell security that he needed it to do “God’s Work,” as he shocked people during prayer services. Fail.
I just learned that the Electric Touch’s sparks can also ignite flash paper (another magic gimmick which has been around a long time). I thought Dynamo Jack’s burning newspaper trick was done another way, but it could have been this combo.
If you’re going to fall for a Chinese magician, I recommend ‘Magic Babe’ Ning.
A comment from Tom last week showed me that some still take Jack Chang’s magic seriously: Continue reading
A brochure for a new type of Applied Kinesiology (AK/Muscle Testing) for Acupuncturists showed up in the mail recently. Any ad mailed to me is fair game as blog fodder. One would hope my posts would cut down on junk mail!
Allergy Elimination Made Easy & Applied Kinesiology for Acupuncturists
I’ve written about AK before. In fact, I’m still offering a $500-$500,000 prize for anyone who can demonstrate to me that it’s a reliable way to tell between two very different substances. My offer is a first page the top Google hit for many Muscle Testing related searches. I’ve paid to advertise it and directly contacted some proponents, like the guy who runs MuscleTestingDoctor.com (no response after 3 tries), to offer them my money and help. But I think they need a different kind of help…
Permission was granted to share this correspondence. I anonymized it and bolded a few phrases that stood out for me. The Taiwanese lady’s letters are in blockquote, my responses are normal text.
I found your article Dr. Yan Xin’s Qigong: Top Secret Scientific Superweapon or Fraudulent Scam Artist? when I googled “Yan Xin Qigong Fraud”. My sister joined the group about 15 year ago, and yes, I have heard all the miracles this group claims.
Now, my concern at this point is, I have strong feeling that this group is taking a lot of money from my sister. From what I heard 10, 15 years ago, they already charged a hefty fees to participate in events. Over the years my sister became more and more secretive about her financial situation and at this point she does not discuss much about their qigong activities. This is so far only my speculation, and I do not yet know if it’s the organization, or certain individual taking advantage of her.
I tried to google but don’t seem to find anything about people complaining about giving money to this group. Have you come across this when you were doing your research?
Many thanks if you could shed some lights here. I am still in the very beginning on this research project, and any help would be greatly appreciated.
Yeah, fairies wear boots and you gotta believe me
Yeah I saw it, I saw it, I tell you no lies
Yeah fairies wear boots and you gotta believe me
I saw it, I saw it with my own two eyes,
All right now!
So I went to the doctor
See what he could give me
He said “Son, son, you’ve gone too far.
‘Cause smokin’ and trippin’ is all that you do.”
–Black Sabbath, “Fairies Wear Boots”
The Coming of the Fairies, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The story of the Cottingley Fairies is a fascinating tale of a creative childhood prank which spun out of control into an international deception less than one hundred years ago. Two English girls, Elsie and Frances, used Elsie’s father’s darkroom to develop pictures they took of paper cutout fairies propped up in their forest. Swearing each other to secrecy, they playfully claimed the pictures were authentic. They didn’t expect the famous author of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, would encounter and promote their photos as real proof of fairies. He was certain two little girls wouldn’t be able to fake such convincing photographs.
Chinese research is apparently getting better. In fact, China is taking first place, ahead of the USA and UK, in publishing scientific papers. With the amount of people China has and the emphasis on being good students, it is hard to see anything stopping China from leading the scientific world other than bad methodology. I suspect most Chinese scientists have recognized the importance of quality in research and are working to repair the poor reputation that Chinese research has developed. Having read plenty of abstracts on Chinese medicine research, I’m well aware of the low quality that has given TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) research a bad name. As an American acupuncturist who is determined to provide safe, effective, and responsible treatment in my clinic, I don’t feel the need to hide the fact of research problems in the TCM field. On the contrary, being honest and open about the problems and limitations in my field has won me more respect from intelligent patients, doctors, and scholarly acupuncturists than just parroting the Party line about TCM.
So how bad was Chinese research? In pouring through dozens of abstracts on external Qi Gong energy healing looking for convincing evidence that the ability to project or detect a human energy field has been verified in decent research, the results were stunningly disappointing. Often it’s hard to learn about the actual research methods used from the studies written by the researchers themselves. This is where James Randi’s trip to China with CSICOP (The Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, now just CSI, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry) takes the cake. I know plenty of psychics and New Agers hiss when they hear these names, but the best way to shame the skeptics would be to rigorously prove psychic abilities in a controlled setting and then take Randi’s million dollar prize (see my recent book review about _Randi’s Prize_) or expose them as closed-minded frauds. Unfortunately for paranormalists, there are far more documented frauds and closed minds on the psychic and religious side of the fence.
As I was reviewing _Randi’s Prize: What sceptics say about the paranormal, why they are wrong and why it matters_, I bought _The Hundredth Monkey and Other Paradigms of the Paranormal: A Skeptical Inquirer Collection_, edited by Kendrick Frazier.
The Hundredth Monkey and Other Paradigms of the Paranormal
Along with a nice introductory essay by science hero Carl Sagan, there are thought-provoking pieces by Martin Gardner, University of Oregon professor Ray Hyman, and other usual suspects from the skeptical movement. An unexpected gem was the chapter “Testing Psi in China: Visit by a CSICOP Delegation” which details a 1988 trip by a group including James Randi. It really hit home when they visited the Shanghai College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, as that esteemed TCM school is the publisher of several textbooks I used in my acupuncture education. I’ve recently been shaking my head over some of the acupuncture point functions given in _Acupuncture: A Comprehensive Text_ put out by the Shanghai College of TCM and translated by Dan Bensky and John O’Connor, which was a good warmup for the head shaking _The Hundredth Monkey_ produced.
Acupuncture: A Comprehensive Text