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Your Friday Dose of Woo: I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic (Beam) Blues Again Mama!

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Although there’s been plenty of woo this week (Harriet Denz-Penhey, anyone?), it hasn’t been the truly entertaining woo that I so love, you know, the kind of woo of Your Friday Dose of Woo, my long-standing (albeit now intermittent) excursion into the depths of alt-med silliness so over-the-top that it requires–nay, demands!–some serious not-so-Respectful Insolence, but in a more light-hearted way. After all, it’s Friday, and what better way to get ready for the weekend than with a little visit to Dr. Orac’s Emporium of Quackery and Pseudoscience known as Your Friday Dose of Woo, as long as you aren’t someone who’s fallen for the blandishments of one of the victims–I mean subjects–of Orac’s little project.

Of course, last week I was busy deconstructing nonsense about medicine from the Three Musketeers of Woo when in reality I had wanted a dose of what only YFDoW could deliver. However, duty called when it was clear that the Musketeers were launching an all-out assault on science-based medicine, although I did find it rather amusing that Dr. Dossey demanded that his woo be treated on equal footing with science-based medicine. As they say, be careful what you wish for.

In any case, I found the perfect bit of pure silly quackery to start 2010 out right with its first installment of YFDoW. For one thing, it’s cosmic, man. No, really, it’s cosmic. I mean it. It’s something called Cosmic Beam Therapy.

Far out, man.

You know, sometimes I wish I didn’t have scruples. After all, it’s scruples that keep me from doing what these guys do, namely asking for just a picture and then claiming that they can cure you of just about any disease (or “dis-ease,” the preferred spelling of the word by quacks):

A person may be living anywhere in the world; a photograph is required to sense the AURA (energy field around body) to diagnose & heal from any distance.

This is a distance healing method for brain diseases like migraine, schizophrenia; genetic dis-eases like thalassaemia; reproductive disorders, kidney/ gallstone, cysts & other incurable dis-eases.

Amazing, isn’t it? Just send in a picture, and you can be cured incurable diseases! Of course, I’m a bit curious at this woo-meister’s choice of “incurable” diseases. Gallstones, for instance, are certainly quite curable with a little bit of surgical steel applied carefully, these days through small ports by laparoscopic instruments. Yes, that nasty old reductionist scientific medicine is quite effective against some of these diseases, and for the ones out of this list it can’t cure it can often treat reasonably well. However, before I get into the woo itself, let me just point out one thing that really amused me when I read it. It’s the healer stating:

Before any argument, discussion, suspicion, criticism, belief on the contents of this website, it is necessary that first & foremost you ring/ email us to experience the soothing effect of Cosmic Energy on your body and mind. It doesn’t matter which part of the world you live in.

I’ll pass, thank you very much. I’m certainly not making an international call, and I don’t see the point of e-mailing someone. Besides, if this particular healer can heal distantly, why can’t he sense my intent distantly and preemptively e-mail or call me? I mean, come on! He’s got the cosmic beam to detect and heal disease distantly! Why not detect and preempt nasty skeptics making fun of his woo? I must say, I do find it pretty funny that, right there on the very front page of the website, there’s a plea by the healer to skeptics not to be mean to him and harsh his cosmic buzz. Nasty, vicious skeptics, insisting on scientific evidence for claims such as “cosmic beam healing”! How could we? Why can’t we just believe? You know, believe John Edward, believe Sylvia Browne, believe, well, this:

The intense reaction in the brain on success or failure in possessing the worldly pleasures (attachment to man & material), results in an imbalance of cosmic energy. This in turn leads to the gradual closure of the vital centers (called chakras), thereby preventing the smooth flow of Divine/ Cosmic Energy. When the body is deprived of this Energy, it is prone to all sorts of physical and mental diseases, which makes our life journey painful.

As painful as the assault on science and reason this website launches? I think not. It’s also clear that the healer thinks not, as in doesn’t think:

Physicists state that there are no basic building blocks of matter, rather that the Universe is an inseparable whole. Since we are inseparable parts of that whole, we can enter into a holistic state of being, become the whole, and tap into the creative powers of the Universe to instantaneously heal anyone, anywhere. Dr. Andria Puharich was able to consistently measure an 8 Hz magnetic pulse coming from the hands of healers. He found that healers who produce a more intense signal have a greater effect of healing.

Andria Puharich? I hadn’t heard of him before; a little Googling revealed that he was a parapsychology researcher who had reported favorably on Uri Geller. Apparently, he also investigated favorably a “psychic surgeon” named Zé Arigó and a Dutch psychic named Peter Hurkos. Suffice it to say, from what little I could find out about Puharich, I’m not impressed with his critical thinking abilities. Not surprisingly, his name is mentioned on a whole bunch of quack sites, including the current topic of YFDoW today. A quick search on Google Scholar yields many books and articles with titles like “Beyond Telepathy” and “Basic Energy Systems in Acupuncture,” or credulous paeans to Uri Geller. He fits right into blithering idiocy like this:

This therapy is neither for the dis-ease nor for symptoms, but for the person as a whole – i.e. for physical, mental & spiritual health. All dis-eases manifest as a result of an imbalance in positive and negative energy (toxic matter), and as such, name of the disease is immaterial – be it Schizophrenia, Rett Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Angina, Arthritis, Cysts, Spondylitis, Migraine, fibroids, adenoids, stones, etc. Almost all dis-eases, including those, which are considered chronic / incurable, can be healed.

He shoots, he scores! It’s the perfect alt-med trope about “treating the whole person,” but what elevates it to truly extraordinary is the claim that the name of the disease is immaterial and that all disease can be healed. In other words, it doesn’t matter what you have, stage IV pancreatic cancer or a hangnail. These guys will fix you up! All it takes is this:

This is a powerful method of tapping the Cosmic Energy and directing it to the dis-eased, irrespective of time & space. It is a complete and exclusively distance method of healing, wherein only a photograph of the dis-eased is required. As soon as we receive the photo and the details, we sense the AURA to find out whether the patient is in a healable stage. So also the problem areas & the cause (like anger, worry, greed, tension, ego, fear, attachment, past-life effect, etc.) are assessed. Some guidelines are sent – to speed up the healing process.

Oh, come on! Everyone knows that only the Silver Surfer could manipulate the power cosmic. True, Doctor Doom did manage to steal that ability from the Surfer once, but the Surfer got it back. In any case, I have to wonder if these guys are counting on poorly adjusted and focused cameras. How else would they see “auras” in photographs. It’s a wonderful scam, though, particularly since the healer offering this “service” apparently resides in India. Not too many people are going to track him down, and if they die, if a many of those patients with incurable diseases die, who’s going to know? Certainly, it’s highly unlikely that anyone would actually track this person down.

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But you don’t have to worry about this, really. After all, cosmic beam therapy is amazing in its awesomeness:

3. How correct is the Aura sensing?
Aura has been scientifically proved beyond doubt. Aura can be photographed – which is a costly affair; it can be seen by the clairvoyants – which is a rare phenomenon and lastly, it can be sensed between the palms – which is simple, easy and accurate. Of course, the accuracy of the interpretation & diagnosis depends upon experience & expertise of the healer.

4. How is it different from other healing methods?
In Cosmic Beam Therapy, sensing of the problem areas and healing can be done if the dis-eased person’s hair, nail, photograph, blood drop, handwriting, recorded voice, or anything belonging to him / her is available. But we prefer a passport size photograph. This is a powerful method of tapping the cosmic energy, wherein normally, one can feel the effect of the therapy instantly, but feels within a day or two if the case is chronic or if sensation level of the dis-eased is low. We continue the therapy only if the dis-eased feels the effect of Energy on his/her body, in these two days. This system of healing has been developed after rigorous practice.

In other words, cosmic beam therapy is magic. It’s witchcraft. You take an image of someone or something that belongs to that person, and then you do magic on it in order to affect the person. The only thing that’s missing is a voodoo doll, except that, instead of sticking needles in it, the healer thinks nice thoughts at it and expects the person whom the doll represents to respond to those nice thoughts. I’d love to see the “rigorous practice” that led to this “healing modality,” though.

Unfortunately, something that I truly loathe about alt-med rears its ugly head once again, even in this light-hearted woo that’s so silly it’s hard not to laugh at it. This is the one part I didn’t laugh at:

6. What should the dis-eased do?
Dis-eases are our own creation. Older people are often seen relating their disease to old age. But old age has nothing to do with the disease. There are instances of people living a healthy life till the end. So, understanding the meaning of life, the cause has to be analysed and avoided by the healee. Healee is expected to follow the healer’s instructions, for faster healing. Be with the Nature. Be cheerful. Laugh and make others laugh. Drink plenty of water. Wash hands, feet & head at regular intervals. Be bare-footed, as far as possible. Let there be no conflict in what you think, do & say. Most important is the regular feedback by the healee to the healer, for continuous guidance.

7. Is there a chance of relapse?
After restoration of health, if one merely keeps a check on his/her ‘wish horses’ – like anger, worry, jealousy, lust and attachment, and if there is minimum conflict in what one thinks, does & says, then there is no reason why you cannot live a dis-ease free life. It is our uncontrolled desires, which create an energy blockage (accumulation of toxic matter in vital body channels/paths), leading to dis-ease.

Whew! For a moment there I thought these guys were actually going to admit the possibility of failure and relapse. Dodged that bullet! But notice the same “blame the victim” mentality that so burns me. Old age has nothign to do with disease? Diseases (excuse me, “dis-eases”) are our own creation? Follow all these instructions, or you’ll stay “dis-eased”! And it’ll be your own fault!

Notice one other thing. What’s most important for staying free of “dis-ease” once you’ve finally purged yourself of lust, anger, worry, jealous, lust, and attachment? Regular feedback by the healee to the healer, of course! Like a chiropractor suggesting regular “adjustments” for years and years and years that stretch into the rest of your life, our cosmic healing healer wants to keep the marks coming back again and again and again and again.

Because that’s the way things work in woo-world.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

103 replies on “Your Friday Dose of Woo: I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic (Beam) Blues Again Mama!”

Is this really any different from praying? I’m getting fed up being asked to pray for the people of Haiti, who will, supposedly, hear these prayers and feel much better about the disaster they are dealing with. Or is that I’m to pray to god so that he can help them find survivors in the rubble? This would be the same god who sent the earthquake (but I guess that’s because they made that deal with the devil).

None of this is any weirder than the nutter you describe today.

Anthro,
You have hit the nail hard on this. The reason these frauds even think they can pull this crap off is that they have billions of morons who are ready to believe them based on their religious disabilities. They already believe in a sky fairy of one sort or another. They already ascribe power to prayer. They already believe in the divinity of a book written by goatherds 2000 years ago which contains so many serious inconsistencies that an entire industry has sprung up to ‘clear things up’. Sounds like the money ought to be rolling in.

But we prefer a passport size photograph.

Hmm…might they be making fake passports? “I’m just asking.”

As I was reading, I was wondering when you were going to get to the inevitable out they would provide themselves: i.e., “if you don’t get better or get sick again, it’s your fault, not ours.”

Isn’t this

Physicists state that there are no basic building blocks of matter, rather that the Universe is an inseparable whole.

Almost exactly 180 degrees from the truth? I’m sure the people at CERN would be fascinated to discover that they say there are no ‘building blocks of matter’.

They say it works with pets too. A girl in my office visited an aura reader when her cat had cancer. She was told it was her own aura that was making her cat ill.

Totally bonkers, these people.

You may be fed up with that, I’m fed up with people using the pleas for help in Haiti as an opportunity to complain about religious folk asking for other religious folk to pray. The Big Picture blog posting got inundated with that sort of crap.

You are making an assumption about what all religious folk believe about prayer and God. There is only one possible divine entity, eh? Either a single God is in charge of every single event and there is no free will, or there are no gods at all? All prayer is meant to invoke miracles, eh?

Your conflation of Pat Robertson-style fundamentalism with all religious belief isn’t even internally consistent. The folks like him aren’t asking for people to pray for help, because they think, in some sick way, that Haiti deserved it. (He said the same basic thing about Katrina.) The folks asking for prayer are not like this. They believe that Haiti did not deserve this. And they’re right; Haiti did not deserve it, but they do deserve our compassion.

And when they ask for prayer, that is what they are really asking for — compassion. Keep the Haitian victims in your thoughts. Do not forget them; it is easy to forget people thousands of miles away whom you’ve never met, but we should not forget about them. Search your heart (metaphorically speaking, of course). If your heart leads you to help, do so. It would be a blessing to them, in the sense that you will make things a little bit easier. How can you help? For most of us, the best we can do is to give money or at least verbal/print encouragement to the people who are going to help. (And those who go to help should be professionals; they can’t afford to cope with hoardes of random untrained volunteers at this point.)

That, in my opinion, is the real power of prayer. Done privately, it’s an opportunity for reflection. Done publicly (or at least if you tell people about it), it’s a form of encouragement. They know you’re thinking about them and that you wish them the best of luck. That sort of encouragement is desperately needed, because Haiti’s situation, already dire before the earthquake, is now best describe as apocalyptic. Whatever comes out after the earthquake will be an entirely different country; the devastation is so complete. It is a country that was on the brink of failure not too long ago; can they survive this? It’s hard to say, but I am going to pray for them, and I am going to tell people that I am praying for them, so that whatever encouragement that can give will be given. It is not all that I will do. But it is a start.

@Matty:

You are mostly correct. There is a sense in which everything is simply an excitation of a field (i.e. “electron” becomes “an excitation of the electron field”), and I can kind of see a way to twist that around to be vaguely similar to the quote.

But high energy physicists most certainly do consider that there are basic building blocks of matter, and we do not say that the universe is “an inseparable whole.”

It’s just another example of somebody who heard or read something, didn’t understand it, and dove off the deep end using it to make his BS sound sciencey.

This is way out there. In fact, it’s so far out there that I’d bet that the folks peddling it don’t even believe it. Sounds more to me like a big scam to get gullible people to send them money. I mean, it’s not like they even have to do anything other than maintain a webpage. Send money and a photo to a foreign country, and they’ll sit around in a room mentally projecting cosmic beams at you? Riiiight…

Calli – given the choice between “prayer as an expression of support” and $5, I would suggest that the Haitians would prefer the latter.

If everyone in the US gave a nickel, that would be $15 million that they could really, really use. Those prayers? Not so much.

I have an aura, but I have to keep it locked up in a specially-constructed room in my high-energy physics laboratory. It’s a monster of pure energy that would run amok if it ever got loose. The original Outer Limits did a show about it called “It Crawled Out Of The Woodwork,” but I never got my royalty check.

All that stuff about “wish horses” sounds a lot like the Buddha’s idea that desire is the cause of all suffering. Emotionally, there is something to that–desire can lead to envy and frustration (as well as to satisfaction and connection with others). But in this case, it’s a nice out for them: because the one thing that any sick person will wish for is healing. If they can convince people that wishing makes them sick, they have an out, always: they can claim that wishing, including wishing for health, makes us sick, and anyone who stops wanting to be healed won’t complain. If someone complains about being cheated, or about not being healed, they can be told to minimize conflict, i.e., stop arguing with the “healer.”

Also:

The victims of the Haitian earthquake are much better off if someone like me sends money to help, and then goes and thinks of other things (work, sex, sports, rainbows, anything) than if someone prays, or “keeps them in her thoughts,” all week and doesn’t act.

I just want to know which orifice this “cosmic beam” shines out of, and if the healers need a special room to prevent embarrassment. I mean, you wouldn’t want a cosmic-beam-out-the-butt to happen on the subway or anything.

*Interesting* choice: schizophrenia, being that some people with this illness may believe in a sort of “action at a distance” as a symptom-e.g. the thoughts & wishes of others *directly* affect them,others *control* their thoughts,someone *puts* thoughts into their heads,*machines* transmit ideas to them, etc.Finally! a woo-meister who can establish *real rapport* with these patients: someone who believes that the world operates in a similar way- a more fluid, cosmic way!.It gives a whole new meaning to “peer” counseling!

on the cosmic beam site, they say

“…living organisms emit energy vibrations at a frequency between 300 & 2000 nanometers and they called this energy…” blah blah blah

first, nanometer is a unit of distance. you don’t measure frequency in distance. you use hertz.

second, it is not an energy either. energy is measured in joules, not nanometers.

third, the range 300-2000 nm covers everything from the UV to infrared portion of the spectrum, including the visible. if this aura drivel were true, we could detect it with our eyes. you wouldn’t have to have any special ability to detect it.

fourth, matter (living or not) emits blackbody radiation that is a function of the temperature. it is not some cosmic aura radiation with healing powers. actually, if a body were to emit substantial radiation of 300 nm like the site claims, it would have to be very very hot, say, like THE SUN. that sort of radiative emission would not be a healing glow, it would be destructive conflagration.

rob, that reminds of a conversation I once overheard between my brother (who is a physicist) and a woo advocate.

“You have a spiritual energy”
“How many joules?”

What makes me laugh is that real cosmic radiation includes things like gamma rays, alpha particles and even relativistic iron nuclei. You know, stuff which causes cell damage and cancer?

First, let me say that I’m not disagreeing with any of your points, but I strongly disapprove of your childish name-calling.

What is the point of all your juvenile insults: magic, nonsense, pseudoscience, quackery, silliness, witchcraft, woo. Do they somehow substitute for presenting your own facts?

For that matter, how do you justify the use of impressive-sounding term like “science-base medicine.” If you’re going to claim that, then show the science, not the slurs.

You might do well to adhere to the statement from Dragnet’s Joe Friday:
“All we want are the facts, ma’am.”

One final note about your sarcastic comments about “quacks” telling people to
“send in a picture.” What do you think radiologists are doing when they study x-rays and other images sometimes transmitted from many miles away? Are radiologists quacks by your definition?

As a patient, I have had many doctors smugly disregard my complaints of serious drug side-effects. They get upset when I stop taking their drugs.

The doctors call me non-compliant.

I call them my ex-doctors.

A lot of people will choose a “quack” any day over a doctor who doesn’t listen to patients.

Now I’ll do a little name-calling of my own :

An idiot in a long white coat is still an idiot.

Do I detect the scent of concern troll? Dude, I’ve seen you around before. Do you not know what the purpose of Your Friday Dose of Woo is? It’s to take some bit of woo that is so hilariously over-the-top and nonsensical that all it deserves is a humorous demolition.

I particularly like this statement by you, though:

One final note about your sarcastic comments about “quacks” telling people to “send in a picture.” What do you think radiologists are doing when they study -rays and other images sometimes transmitted from many miles away? Are radiologists quacks by your definition?

That could win the award for most hilariously inept analogy of the year for 2010 so far. It would set a high bar for others to beat.

i am gonna send them a satellite picture of Haiti and see how many people they can remote heal.

i wonder if they can raise the 50,000+ dead too and restore power, sewers and other infrastructure.

“One final note about your sarcastic comments about “quacks” telling people to
“send in a picture.” What do you think radiologists are doing when they study x-rays and other images sometimes transmitted from many miles away? Are radiologists quacks by your definition?”

Oh FSM, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an analogy fail this hard.

Physicists state that there are no basic building blocks of matter, rather that the Universe is an inseparable whole.

Clearly, someone hasn’t heard of particle physics. If there were no basic building blocks of matter, we would have to throw away about 150 years of physics and the LHC would have no actual purpose.

wow… all that LONG DISTANCE curing going on!

several thoughts…

FAILURE of CURE: obviously due to lack of sincerity, faith, or perhaps the bounce of a check, all faults of the ill person.

PASSPORT Photo: you know, I applied for a new passport last year, and it was initially rejected because my AURA was assessed as being a security risk. I went to a different post office, and they got a pic on my GOOD AURA Day. Funny they don’t say whether I need to mail the actual photo, or could maybe just email it. Do you think maybe they could develop a COSMIC RAYBOOK and I could just friend them and share my picture?

WISH HORSE: I am curious, they say they are able to read/assess AURA’s all over the world, or send the COSMIC rays. But if I am in southern hemisphere and there are solar flares, and the horses tend to run COUNTER clockwise, can they still help me if my picture was taken in north?

“You might do well to adhere to the statement from Dragnet’s Joe Friday: ‘All we want are the facts, ma’am.'”

Kindly refrain from telling me what I want, Jim.

You want a 100% dry, facts-only blog that never has any fun or calls things as they are? Feel free to start one. I’m sure you’ll have tons of readers. Frankly, I don’t mind when a person sees nonsense and has the chutzpah to call it such. In fact, I prefer that to tiptoeing around the issue and lending it an aura (hehe) of validity.

I get my cosmic beam therapy on the golf course and chase it down with an ancient natural fermented herbal infused potion known to relieve all manner of post cosmic beam therapy distress.

KATHERINE:

if you truly don’t comprehend the difference between tele-radiology with the viewing of actual tangible, reproducible, measurable visible images (we call ’em “radiographs”) and the woo-tasia of sending in “passport sized picture” so that an invisible yet cosmically sensed aura can be assessed and then treated remotely with COSMIC rays…

then you should probably not be allowed to use the computer without adult supervision!

@27:

Perhaps you didn’t notice, but Katherine was quoting Jim Purdy. To ridicule precisely the point you proceeded to ridicule.

OOPS!!!
my error and sincere apologies to you KATHERINE…
the ridicule missile should have been targeted for JIM PURDY… who sounds like the guy many in private practice would enjoy calling “ex patient”.

please pardon my marksmanship error, I always have trouble with aiming when laughing so hard I have tears in my eyes. But sometimes, if I am crying and I squint, I can see people’s aura’s (and the light bulb’s too!)

I love the idea of using a photograph to “diagnose” a person’s aura! In fact, a few years ago a friend of mine sent a photograph to one of those “aura readers” to have them diagnose it.

Unfortunately for the “aura reader”, my friend has a rather dark sense of humor and sent a (carefully cropped) photograph of his grandfather resting peacefully in his coffin (he looked so lifelike!). The “aura reader” said that my friend’s grandfather had “stomach problems” and “some kidney weakness”.

In reality, he had died as the result of two gunshot wounds to the chest (he was a Chicago city police officer in the 1930’s and died at the age of 28).

So, if an “aura reader” can’t tell from a photograph that a person is dead, how likely is it that they can make an accurate diagnosis?

Prometheus

geez Prometheus. apparently you didn’t read the cosmic beam website. their diagnosis can transcend space *and* time. it is obvious that your friends aura reader read the grandfather’s aura at a time *before* his death. surely the kidney weakness would have been a problem if the two chunks of lead in the grandfather’s chest weren’t.

*sigh* I’m sorry to have ranted here. It was just bad enough seeing that kind of stuff in a thread actually about Haiti. To see it in a thread where that hadn’t even been brought up seemed especially crass. So Pat Roberton said something mind-bogglingly cruel and heartless. What else is new? Do folks have to dump on *everyone* who happen to believe in God just because Robertson does too?

Getting to the topic….

The distance healing thing is of course another old trope in quackery. It’s funny to see another bunch presenting it as something new. Though I have to give them props for coming up with a cool new name — Cosmic Beam Therapy!!! Love the Silver Surfer pics; it fits perfectly. 😉

To be fair Prometheus I’m sure that at the time the picture was taken neither the kidneys nor the stomach were in tip top shape :p

Calli –

“And when they ask for prayer, that is what they are really asking for — compassion. Keep the Haitian victims in your thoughts. Do not forget them”

Whether you go home and cry about these poor people’s plight every night or if you laugh every time you see it on the tv is totally immaterial. You are just using prayer to validate yourself as a “good” person for your own ego. The only thing that makes a difference is the action you choose to take. To be helpful this would be sending money, sending supplies, or going there yourself to help out.
I have untold empathy for the Haitians, I cannot begin to imagine how awful it must be, but I will not be praying for them anytime soon. “Prayers” do not equal empathy and compassion, so don’t insult me by asking.

One final note about your sarcastic comments about “quacks” telling people to “send in a picture.” What do you think radiologists are doing when they study x-rays and other images sometimes transmitted from many miles away? Are radiologists quacks by your definition?

This fails on so many levels that I just have to keep reading it over and over again. Jim, thanks for giving me the best laugh I’ve had all week.

To be helpful this would be sending money, sending supplies, or going there yourself to help out.

Unless you are already part of an organization that works to help in these types of emergencies, I recommend NOT going to help out. You will only get in the way.

The organizations have plans based on their current known resources, and if you are not part of them, you won’t be helping. Their workers are specifically trained to do what needs to be done. Right now, send money. That is needed more than anything.

In the long term, absolutely consider contacting your Red Cross to see how you can help, and they will absolutely appreciate it. But right now, let them do what they need to do.

I was listening to a doctor from Doctors Without Borders yesterday, and she was saying the same thing. Even in terms of doctors, don’t just go. That isn’t helping.

(I realize you weren’t necessarily advocating everyone jump a plane to Haiti)

To be helpful this would be sending money, sending supplies, or going there yourself to help out.

Unless you are already part of an organization that works to help in these types of emergencies, I recommend NOT going to help out. You will only get in the way.

The organizations have plans based on their current known resources, and if you are not part of them, you won’t be helping. Their workers are specifically trained to do what needs to be done. Right now, send money. That is needed more than anything.

In the long term, absolutely consider contacting your Red Cross to see how you can help, and they will absolutely appreciate it. But right now, let them do what they need to do.

I was listening to a doctor from Doctors Without Borders yesterday, and she was saying the same thing. Even in terms of doctors, don’t just go. That isn’t helping.

(I realize you weren’t necessarily advocating everyone jump a plane to Haiti)

To be helpful this would be sending money, sending supplies, or going there yourself to help out.

Unless you are already part of an organization that works to help in these types of emergencies, I recommend NOT going to help out. You will only get in the way.

The organizations have plans based on their current known resources, and if you are not part of them, you won’t be helping. Their workers are specifically trained to do what needs to be done. Right now, send money. That is needed more than anything.

In the long term, absolutely consider contacting your Red Cross to see how you can help, and they will absolutely appreciate it. But right now, let them do what they need to do.

I was listening to a doctor from Doctors Without Borders yesterday, and she was saying the same thing. Even in terms of doctors, don’t just go. That isn’t helping.

(I realize you weren’t necessarily advocating everyone jump a plane to Haiti)

Whoa, sorry about that. I don’t know why that reposted. I only refreshed the screen (after the first one was already there)

first, nanometer is a unit of distance. you don’t measure frequency in distance. you use hertz.

second, it is not an energy either. energy is measured in joules, not nanometers.

Actually you can measure frequency in terms of distance. Its called the wavenumber. Its something chemists tend to do.

You can measure wavelength in terms of distance. Wavelength is inversely proportional to frequency, so related, but absolutely not the same.

Measuring a frequency in units of distance is strictly wrong. Period. (Inverse distance in natural units, sure, but never distance.)

Bleh, forgot to specifically mention wavenumber. Wavenumber is NOT ever measured in units of distance. It is measured in units of inverse distance. It’s the analog of measuring a frequency in natural units (actually identical when the wave is light in a vacuum).

The focus of the site is clear from the start. Go to their site and read the first line. It offers “Information for those who are destined to seek help”.

Notice that these people are characterized by their destiny to “seek help”. That might be a veiled reference to their gullibility. But quite honestly the site, from the first line, offers “information”, a story, for those seeking help. Notice that it doesn’t offer any actual help.

One has to wonder if this is related to the compulsion of many con men to tell you, often right out front, that they are crooks. The lines “Do I look like a crook?” or “Would I scam you?, asked rhetorically, should give everyone a clue. In the scammer’s internal dialog this is interpreted as people being warned but turning around and ‘asking for it’.

Destiny is an interesting reference. Water that flows off a cliff is destine to fall just as some people are destine to seek help. One might set that falling water to work by using a wheel. Just like one might put those “destine to seek help” to work, for fun and profit, by telling them a story and offering “information”.

One born every minute. An inexhaustible supply of suckers and rubes. We may run out of oil, and water, and land but never stupidity nor ignorance.

Personally, I have no issues with people making use of a natural resource. My objection is not that they use stupid, ignorant people. It is that they actively promote and even require that people stay stupid and ignorant. That people get trapped in recursive paths of ever deeper misinformation and misapprehension of reality.

Even worse when their inner villain fails to meet the challenge and the subject/object barrier starts to break down. They start identifying with the victims and excusing their behavior by telling themselves they are benefiting the victims. Then things get weird.

What makes me laugh is that real cosmic radiation includes things like gamma rays, alpha particles and even relativistic iron nuclei. You know, stuff which causes cell damage and cancer?

Those are cosmic rays. These are cosmic beams, which differ by being cuddlier.

Even worse when their inner villain fails to meet the challenge and the subject/object barrier starts to break down. They start identifying with the victims and excusing their behavior by telling themselves they are benefiting the victims. Then things get weird.

I’ll bet the healing is in direction proportion to the size of the check attached to the “passport sized photo”!

If you’d actually provided some meaningful points with supporting evidence, as opposed to a substanceless flame, you would have gotten a very different response.

Ya reap what ya sow.

@ Jim Purdy @ 48

You have just won the Judy award for the day, Jan 15,2010 for the following statement:

“I’m sorry I commented earlier. I mistakenly assumed this was a serious science blog. I didn’t realize this was TheOnion.”!!!

Here is the wording engraved on the virtual statue that accompanies the Judy prize:

“And the moral we learn from that last comment, Boys and Girls, is that if you can’t win an argument on its merits, take a shit on the desk and leave.”

-Someone named Jody in a thread on skeptico

(Orac, please let me know if you want me to stop posting this quote/award when somebody earns it.)

What sort of things can be diagnosed with a reasonable degree of certainty from looking at a passport-sized photograph (of what?—the face, I assume…)?

I suppose if the head is clearly detached from the body a diagnosis of “dead” can be rather confidently made. This assumes, of course, the photo hasn’t been altered.

“Cosmic Beam” has been around for a very long time, in one guise or another. There is even a New Age-y group Cosmic Beam Experience from the 70’s that actually did some interesting stuff, if you can avoid listening to the lyrics. Even this example is a repeat performance of what is generically called Aura Healing. Never done for free. I had one practitioner tell me (I was not a customer) that the act of paying was what probably had most effect on the marks. If they pay for it, it must work, or they were scammed – and that just Will Not Do!

Circe of the Godless:

I have untold empathy for the Haitians, I cannot begin to imagine how awful it must be, but I will not be praying for them anytime soon. “Prayers” do not equal empathy and compassion, so don’t insult me by asking.

I didn’t ask you to pray, and I won’t ask you to pray. I feel that would be rude. My point was merely that prayer isn’t always just whatever you happen to think it is, and that it’s tiresome to see people hijacking threads to dump on prayer, especially when it’s in the context of a horrific calamity that has claimed tens of thousands of lives already.

That’s the last I’ll say on the subject in this thread. We’ve gone off-topic quite long enough.

One final note about your sarcastic comments about “quacks” telling people to
“send in a picture.” What do you think radiologists are doing when they study x-rays and other images sometimes transmitted from many miles away?

Jim Purdy is trying to make the following analogy:

radiologists:X-rays::people who claim to read auras:photographs

As we all know, analogies only work when there are no points of significant disanalogy between the two schema being compared. In this case, there are several, and I will limit myself to only one of the largest: “auras” have not only never been shown to exist, but they have never even been shown to have inter-rater reliability.

Show ten radiologists the same X-ray, and they may disagree about what they think the shadow on the X-ray represents, but ten out of ten will point to the same spot on the X-ray and say “That’s a shadow caused by some dense mass coming between the source of the X-rays and the X-ray film.”

In contrast, if you show the same photo to ten different “aura-readers”, one might say it’s pale crimson; one might say it’s sunflower yellow; one might say it’s “crystal”; one might say it’s swirling light blue. How can they all be looking at the same aura and seeing it so differently, you ask? The most obvious explanation is that they aren’t all looking at the same aura; they are all instead imagining that they see an aura, and the products of their imagination vary as widely as you might expect.

Even if we were to accept for the sake of argument the suggestion that maybe different people see the same aura differently, that only means that aura-readers asked to group photos together by the color of the person’s aura should, if auras were a real phenomenon, sort them into the same groups with a high degree of consistency. But to my knowledge there has never even been an attempt to establish inter-rater reliability in this fashion, and without it any attempt to compare the reading of auras to the reading of X-rays fails to pass even the giggle test.

This therapy is neither for the dis-ease nor for symptoms, but for the person as a whole – i.e. for physical, mental & spiritual health.

Are there ever any science-based treatments or therapies which commonly mention that they are good for “spiritual health,” or that they treat “the soul?” Does this even happen? Maybe somebody can tell me they saw this claim in an advertisement for something with real evidence behind it, as a bit of nice-sounding puff added on. I don’t know. I suppose a hospice might promote this as part of their care package.

Otherwise, it seems to me that any mention of “spirit” or “soul” in connection with “health,” is a red flag for some upcoming bit of unscientific nonsense. It’s even worse than “wellness” — and more explicit than “holistic.” I suspect it helps cue the patient to loosen their criteria, and fire up the faith-boosters. The standards of evidence have shifted. Relax. This is about you.

I wonder if the some of the people who genuinely believe they see auras (as opposed to those who know they don’t and are just scamming people) have synesthesia of some variety?

“There are instances of people living a healthy life till the end.”

What happens to them? Do they all get hit by a bus?

And if the universe is just one giant, holistic ball of energy waiting to be manipulated by these guys, why do they waste their time focusing on individual people when they could just get together and woo away all those nasty negative-energy “toxins”, holistically, of course? I mean, isn’t formaldehyde just a bit of energy too? Why not change it into lentils?

Why can’t I send a photo from my camera-phone thing and just save on the postage?

I honestly can’t believe you guys take this shit so seriously. You all sat in the front row of the bus in elementary school didn’t you? Go 5 rows back and you’d get the ass beaten out of you. Now…this is your revenge!!!

I do admit it’s quite entertaining watching you guys lather up your panties over absolutely nothing every single day. Hate to break it to you, though, but your deepest darkest fears are true…no one really cares. And the tough guy threat “As they say, be careful what you wish for” flamed out as it was being typed.

Anyway, yeah, I’m a chiropractor but I also do agree with much of what you all post and comment here (except about chiro’s and God, whom I both adore) but don’t you take this insane crap, including yourselves…oh snap!, a little too seriously?

Well Dr. Wonderful, you certainly do stick around long enough to read through all this shit so you must care too.

I think it’s a fascination/disdain for people’s lack of skepticism. It’s entertaining for me anyway. Plus seeing as I’m still a freshman in college pursuing a career in either nursing or pediatrics, it’s interesting to see people debunk this stuff.

fails to pass even the giggle test

-Antaeus Feldspar

I am going to steal that.

And Sastra nails it (as usual) at #55

Calli (6,32 & 53)

Thanks for trying. I always enjoy your comments.

I already posted my opinion of Pat Robertson’s comment on another blog and won’t repeat it here.

But, I agree that sending money is probably the best thing most of us can do to help.

And, I don’t think it is a total waste of time to express our compassion for the victims in Haiti in the hope that it will encourage others to send money to help.

Jim Purdy 19 and DrWonderful 60:

I wonder if you two were reading the same blog.

Orac 20:

I agree with your response to Jim Purdy, but I think he may have managed to hit one nail with his comment about doctors who “smugly disregard my complaints of serious drug side-effects”.

My wife has a known adverse reaction to sulfa drugs (I don’t think she is unique in that) and her previous doctor gave her several prescriptions for medicines which included sulfa drugs. (She did note that in her paperwork.)

After she got very sick for several days when she started taking one of these medicines (until she stopped taking it), he prescribed a different formulation containing the same drug.

We didn’t fill the prescription and got a different doctor.

I suppose it is not totally impossible that if he had carefully discussed why he thought the first medicine had made her so sick and why he thought a different combination would avoid that problem and why he thought it was necessary to keep trying to use this same drug, we might have kept trying.

But, since he didn’t seem to be aware of the problem, we chose to give up and look elsewhere.

But, we did not resort to Cosmic Beam Therapy or any of its cousins.

Calli wrote:

I didn’t ask you to pray, and I won’t ask you to pray. I feel that would be rude. My point was merely that prayer isn’t always just whatever you happen to think it is, and that it’s tiresome to see people hijacking threads to dump on prayer, especially when it’s in the context of a horrific calamity that has claimed tens of thousands of lives already.

Calli, I get your point about reflection and its capacity to induce compassion. But please understand, whether you ask other people to pray or not, just mentioning it in the context of what needs to be done for such a horrific disaster in Haiti cannot help but be seen as preening self-regard. No one should care if you’re praying. No one should care if I’m sitting on my couch counting my failures to do my best for the poor, and resolving to be better. No one should care if John Doe is doing Buddhist meditation to “center himself” after hearing such awful news.

Honestly, there’s no way to be nice about it – who fucking cares? We can all get off our pompous, navel-gazing, reflective asses and donate money, or we should all shut up. Compassion isn’t demonstrated by public pronouncements of how much we care, or how deeply, spiritually we “feel” for those poor people. It’s demonstrated with money and action.

I don’t give a shit what prayerful, spiritual thoughts you have. I don’t care what it takes for you to motivate yourself to help end concrete, human suffering in the here and now. And you shouldn’t care about my “feelings” about this either. The only thing that matters is that we act. That’s compassion; all else is smug, cheap, Oprah-style posturing.

I know you don’t mean it that way, but that’s how it reads. Anyone’s thoughts on prayer/spirituality/compassion don’t mean a tinker’s damn in this context. Just go donate.

I honestly can’t believe you guys take this shit so seriously.

Sorry? Obviously Orac and most readers here don’t take cosmic beam therapy even remotely seriously.

So I presume your concern is that Orac is interested in very deliberately NOT taking it seriously. Which is what your problem is.

You can’t have it both ways. Either this sort of woo is wrong, in which case we should fight it, like we should fight all untruth. Or the woo is right, in which case it should be taken seriously.

What it seems to me you are asking us to do is to let untruth go unchallenged. I find that morally repugnant.

I find it hard to believe that any one could fall for something so obviously bullshit yet they do.
Of all the magic based alt-med pseudoscience bullshit out there distance healing seems the most obviously ridicules. Even if you believe in that magic, distance healing still seems like bullshit.
People will believe anything.

Karl said:

-Someone named Jody in a thread on skeptico

Damn. I’d forgotten that I wrote that. I had to go track down that comment and, sure enough, ’twas me.

(Orac, please let me know if you want me to stop posting this quote/award when somebody earns it.)

Well, I don’t know about Orac, but I’m happier than a cat-with-a-formerly-unswallowed-canary that you are still using this quote. Please, please never stop. I’ll take all the nearly-unknown immortality I can get.

I honestly can’t believe you guys take this shit so seriously. You all sat in the front row of the bus in elementary school didn’t you? Go 5 rows back and you’d get the ass beaten out of you. Now…this is your revenge!!!

No, my revenge then, as it is now is to be able to spot epic stupidity. School is for learning, and the people who wasted their time with social posturing pay for it by lacking discernment and falling for every woo-meister out there.

Mmmmm, here’s a strawman for the knocking down: all atheists think that theists are smug, posturing, and kinda stupid. But based on the response to Calli in this thread, the strawman is rather lively. Calli, you are awesome. Orac and Pablo, also awesome. You define RESPECTFUL insolence for this lurker.

Dr. Wonderful is probably ticked off that this Cosmic Beam woo practitioner is poaching on a chiropractic preserve – the idea that manipulation alters energy fields to heal “dis-ease”:

“When a chiropractor removes a vertebral subluxation, he or she alters the way that intelligence expresses through that individual. By removing interference to the free flow of life force, the brain and body are able to give and receive instructions (in the form of vibrations) that keep the three trillion plus cell functioning harmoniously. As a chiropractor I do far, far more than treat disorders or symptoms, for I literally restore life….I reconnect my patients with their Source.”

Take that, you vibration-less allopaths!

Chiros have also been associated with other mysterious Healing Forces, like magnets.

Whatever keeps the marks patients happy.

Oh Bacon, Bacon, Bacon you’ve come at me enough to know that’s not the type of chiropractic I practice. You also know that website you linked is from an individual who represents an insanely small number of chiropractors. That is not the accepted behavior, or norm, in the chiropractic profession yet to try to make it seem so. You also failed to mention that absolutely no energy or magnetic healing is taught in chiropractic schools.

Being a gutless prick, you’re always able to find a stray chiro here and there so you can put up their web site and point to it as “evidence” of what all chiropractors are. Yet, because of your naturally selected superior critical thinking skills you know it really isn’t evidence at all. But as someone without a God, you are not overly concerned about honesty. As an atheist aren’t you sort of theologically bound to be on a never-ending pursuit of truth? Don’t see much of it from you.

Instead, we (yes, we) see someone who is trapped in their big brain and who makes decisions based on limited cherry picked evidence. We see someone who actually has become what they hate the most…a fundmentalist who manipulates and distorts the facts to suit their own agenda. Admit it, the cool kids regularly beat the snot out of you at the bus stop because of what little dick you’ve always been. And now behind the cloak of secrecy, and without a benevolent God in your way, you seek your big brained revenge. Bwwwahhahahahahahhahhaaaa. True, isn’t it?

DocWonderful: “…that website you linked is from an individual who represents an insanely small number of chiropractors.”

Odd then they feature treatments common to chiropractic practices, including “nutritional and diet therapy”, gadget machines, useless and potentially hazardous manipulations like the “Webster Technique”, which is supposed to prevent breech births, pediatric “adjustments” and the usual tripe about “subluxations”.

From what you say here you appear to be near the less whacked-out end of the chiropractic spectrum and your position on vaccination (unlike the antivax propaganda spread by many of your colleagues) is laudable, but in general, chiropractic is not much more evidence-based than the types of woo you’re upset at seeing featured on this blog.

Maybe there’s a hidden subluxation that’s responsible for your pointless nastiness. Have you considered a few sessions on the Active Therapeutic Movement 2 device (ATM2) featured on the chiro site linked to previously? It sounds marvelous. The mark patient removes money from his/her ATM and puts it into the chiro’s ATM2.

Genius!

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