To shamelessly butcher a great H2G2 quote:
Biology is complicated. Really complicated. You just won’t believe how vastly hugely mindbogglingly complicated it is. I mean you may think it’s complicated to do the morning crossword, but that’s just peanuts to biology.
This may seem trivially obvious, I mean we don’t compare things to brain surgery because brains are simple. But it always seems to me that the attraction of pseudo-science and altmed modalities occurs because of our yearning for easy answers. While proponents of alternative medicine affect superiority while berating conventional medicine for only treating symptoms not underlying problems it is their own philosophy that is childlike in it’s simplicity. In addition those in the altmed camp are sometimes embarrassingly binary in their approach to medicine, either vaccines work or they don’t, they are 100% safe or toxic, science is completely trustworthy or completely corrupt.
Take homeopathy*,while conventional science based medicine determines physiology, observes interactions, makes hypotheses and tests interventions and performs statistical analyses homeopathy stagnates. One of the fundamental precepts of homeopathy, the notion of “like cures like” is the most simplistic of magical thinking. Take a substance that causes a symptom in large doses and give it to a person suffering that symptom (from what ever cause, so much for treating underlying issues) in small doses and it is supposed to cure that symptom. Sympathetic magic as it has been called.
Speaking of magic, the Natural Health Expo is once again in town this month. browsing through the exhibitor list is like stepping through the looking glass. At the other end of those links are places were the rules** of the normal world do not apply, the laws of physics are suspended and anything is possible.
The breadth of inanity is so great that it’s hard to know where to start, so I just clicked on the first exhibitor and saw where it took me. African Gems and Minerals, seems solid, what could be on a firmer foundation than rocks from the earth?
Well, until you get to the page on crystals. Now I have to admit a certain fondness for crystals, the interesting variety of shapes and sizes, the symmetry and range of colours is captivating. What bugs me is the mystical properties attributed to them and the bizzare claims made for their properties, don’t trust me here’s a selection taken directly from the website:
“Kunzite Healing Stones Removes obstacles from one‘s path. It dissolves negativity automatically raising the vibrations of the area surrounding it. Removes physical and spiritual blockages. Powerful sinus cleanser. Use on the third eye for spiritual shift.”
Vicks has nothing on this rock, soothes the soul and clears the nose. And it sounds vaguely naughty – a must have.
“Serpentine Healing Stones. Light green is known as infinite stone… Enables one to enjoy each moment and to awaken to the inner knowledge which is so patiently awaiting access. Excellent for easing pain. “
Opens the mind, and lets your brain fall right out. Good for aches and pains too.
“Peridot Healing Stones – Traditionally known as a stone that wards off evil. Regulates cycles of life: Physical Mental Emotional Intellectual as well as life cycles. Excellent healing stone and acts as a tonic to strengthen and regenerate the body. Birthstone for August. We have small rough stones and jewellery”
Strengthens and regenerates, well that’s vague. Will it help regenerate my dad’s hair?
“Rutile Quartz Healing Stones – Also called Angel Hair. Smokey with Rutile is a superior grounding stone that eliminates negativity promotes upliftment and joy and lifts depression. Banishes bad dreams. Strengthens the energy field. Counters electro-magnetic smog and radiation for example from computers. Rutile acts as an accelerator and speeds up the process while anchoring light into the physical being.”
Electromagnetic Smog, that sounds serious***. I’m curious exactly how this works, as electromagnetic fields are a three dimensional phenomenon how exactly does a lump of rock on your desk help you? I’m obviously over thinking it, that’s dangerous in these circles. Still “anchoring light into the physical being” sound handy, does that mean I won’t need a torch at night?
“Moldavite Healing Stones – Green Tektite found in the Molda Valley Russia. Supreme transformation stone. Activator of the third eye and heart chakra. Decodes the light body causing vibrational shift. This is sometimes experienced as the ”Moldavite Rush”. Best used in the guidance of a practitioner. A complete book was written about this stone “‘Moldavite – Star born stone of transformation‘”
Ah, the stone for professionals. Is this the one rock to rule them all perhaps?
In case you thing I looked around to the wackiest thing I could find to put up here, I assure you I didn’t. I had a clue what I was in for when the exhibitor description mentioned crystals but there was no other outward appearance of kookiness. This site displays no more and certainly less insanity than probably 80% of the other exhibitors listed****. Some further examples: Healing with cards(and reiki, and crystals), oh look a homeopath, Power Animal cards (and oddly, reiki again), not entirely sure what the heck this is.
For any of these things to work large swathes of known science would have to be wrong. I just don’t see the massive amount of evidence that would be required to show that this is true. On the other hand some of the claims are just so nonsensical it’s difficult to even know what is being asserted let alone how one might go about confirming or refuting it. Still, good for a laugh eh?*****.
**Especially rules of evidence.
*** Probably worth a post of it’s own.
****The craziness is confined to one portion of their website whereas the rest are devoted to it.
***** Just to be clear, it is the claims of the proponents that are amusing and worthy of ridicule, not the unfortunate people who are drawn into these claims. That is most definitely NOT funny.
- Natural Health Expo(sed)? (scepticon.wordpress.com)
- What is the Harm of Alternative Medicine? (scepticon.wordpress.com)
- Germ theory denialism: A major strain in “alt-med” thought (sciencebasedmedicine.org)
- Taking On Homeopathy in Germany (sciencebasedmedicine.org)
- The Futility of Finding Physical Explanations for Homeopathy (quackometer.net)