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