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Folks -

There previously was a discussion on this site in which a skeptical attitude toward energy work was being discussed, but that discussion eventually got deleted. The reason seems to be that it was judged not to belong in the location where it was taking place, which was inside one of the energy work groups.

I was the person who introduced the skepticism to the discussion. Some people did not appreciate that, but others did. Given how many participants there are on this site, and how many threads and groups are dedicated to discussing energy work with no skepticism, I thought maybe it was time to open a discussion where such skepticism is invited and welcomed.

I look forward to seeing how this discussion might develop. Is there interest?

-CM

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Robin Byler Thomas said:
Alright, so separate issues and it's late; my mind in muddled, but, what about kinetic and potential energies?
Also, what about new models? I just finished reading an article written by Bernard Barber in 1960, in which he cites many great scientists over time whose theories were rejected for many years, because they didn't fit the current models.

Kinetic energy is unique in not being from a "field" but from an inherent property of having mass. It is the energy resulting from having velocity and can be used to do work against a field, e.g. raising an object upward against gravity. Potential energy, in day to day life, comes from positioning in gravitational and electromagnetic fields. If you raise an object and then drop it, the potential energy of gravitation will be converted into kinetic energy. Similarly, if two charged particles with the same charge are brought closer to each other, they have potential energy. On release, the field will push them apart, converting the potential energy into kinetic energy. So, potential energy is a characteristic of the four known interactions: strong, weak, electromagnetic, and gravitational.

As to a new model, it would need to be motivated by discrepancies between theory and experimental observations in particle physics. There would need to be indications that energy isn't being conserved or that some particle is acting as a carrier particle, creating an otherwise unknown force. If there were an unknown energy/force, it would be expected to have a myriad of effects, simply because of the way things connect together at very fundamental levels. So one would need a theory that explains everything observed and explained by current theory plus managing to explain something observed that current theory doesn't explain. This is an active area of research, but it's application is in trying to unify gravity within a framework consistent with the unification that has already been done. Gravity is too weak, raising possibilities of hidden dimensions (too small to be observable), or higher dimensional spaces in which our universe is but a single hyperplane -- thus gravity leaks out, causing it to be thinner than expected (brane theory). At least in this area of forces and laws, physicists are continually curious, as evidenced by this article on Seven Questions. But physics also requires that explanations be self-consistent across many levels of observation. My own projection of this is that, if some other energy/force existed, we would likely see many effects and find multiple manipulations of it .. thus creating a far different universe...perhaps like Larry Niven's concept of mana.

As an additional bit that I have running in my head (and may turn into a column), Reiki presents an additional problem of people postulating sentient energy. If that were the case, then one is no longer talking about a technique per se, but in summoning and dealing with an "entity"...some form of at least semi-cognizant elemental. Thus we've trudged far away from thinking of massage technique into aspects of summoning and spirituality. A completely different paradigm of summoning, binding, and use of mana.

Hi Vlad,
I'm not saying the belief in 'energy work' by the recipient need be here.

I am saying that the recipient and the therapist have to share a 'connection' to affect a change at an energetic level that has a measurable treatment outcome.

I do not claim to know where the energy comes from, be it from some universal source or arising directly from the physiological processes of the participants, but I do submit we are energetic beings and we can change the energetic quality of another in a way that affects the healing process.

Consider a child that is crying and stops when held by someone with loving intent.

I also postulate that we all have a unique energetic 'resonance' (that can shift) and differences in resonance can make connections more or less difficult.

I have yet to hear a method of measurement for this, (other than brainwave) because we don't know what or how to measure it. Chris wants to measure the outcomes, but would have a test to be performed under restrictions that eliminate the 'connection' and call upon some mystical energy no one has yet quantified.
Chris stated:
That's my thought too. I don't see what it does for the study, though Robin did explain how it could work as a rationale for making physical contact with all the participants. Still, I see it as extraneous if what she wants to test is 'energy.'
You are assuming there is some energy source that operates independently of the energetic beings involved. Your method of testing consistently assumes you can separate the part from the whole and get the same result as a basis for concluding something does or does not exist.

If you would eliminate touch and apparently even allowing the participants to know they were being 'worked on' it seems that you would be testing 'distance healing' rather than energetic healing treatment outcomes.

Just how far away from the subject would you demand for that wall of separation? Let me guess, far enough so it is impossible to sense the presence of the other in any way?..... Distance Healing

Chris is also a hard line proponent of RCT's as if this is a foolproof method for determining the validity of anything. Others seem to be open to the 'no touch' RCT experiments that are by nature designed to fail in reliably measuring treatment outcomes for the energetic component on healing. Everyone seems to be ignoring that RCT's are not the only tool available for research.

I believe the only method that might reveal anything of interest regarding the energy component outcomes, would be 3 treatment groups, each with subjects with similar issues to be addressed. 1 group treated conventionally by therapists who do not practice or believe in an energy component. 1 group treated by therapists with similar structural treatment skills who use an energy component as an integrated part of their practice and 1 group who does hands off energy work.

The devil, as always, is in the details, like finding therapists of equal therapeutic skills and clients with similar problems.


Vlad said:
Bert - hey there!
Are you saying that in order for energy work to "work" that the belief of the recipient has to be there (the belief leading to a connection)? In other words, taking blinding out of it to where the recipient knows they're getting the real McCoy has to happen when researching energy?
Just wondering....
I thought the whole point was to where the recipient didn''t know whether they were getting the real McCoy and you just measure outcomes.

Bert Davich said:
This is a bit behind the numerous posts but as some of you know I am currently time challenged for time.

To answer your statement:
Yes, it occurred to me that the hypothetical study we are discussing is a bit more like the Rosa study, but it's also quite different. The Rosa study was measuring the practitioners' ability to detect presence/absence of the body part, whereas here we would examine outcome.
Then you submit:
This might require every subject to place their injured limb under a screen which would prevent them from seeing whether or not they were being treated.
I submit that if the client does not know they are being treated, they have NO CONNECTION to the therapist or the treatment and therefore no energetic connection is possible, and any measurement of outcome will be void of any energy component. This method would be valid for a control group, but NOT for the treatment group which by your definition would have no energetic connection.

That model restricts connection to 'non touch' in which the treatment is independent of the client, (like magic rays). I submit the client's connection is in fact a PART of the WHOLE. Again, you cannot measure the outcome of the WHOLE or even the actual effect of a specific component by measuring the outcome of ONLY one component in this realm.

As far as your quest to measure the 'mysterious energy' that no one can define, how can a non defined (practical or mathematical) energy be separated from a process? Your criteria for measuring this energy, in effect give it a definition. To measure the outcome objectively, you cannot restrict the experiment to your definition of energy work. (detection?)

As far as a remedy for this dilemma, for a start, I would suggest a good look at the "Participant-Centered Analysis in CAM Comparative Trials" as well as Aicken-Separation Tests for Early-Phase Complementary and Alternative Medicine Comparative Trials (provided I believe, by Vlad) rather than insisting on the RCT and "Null Hypothesis Test" as the only legitimate means of testing anything. I also submit even this does not go far enough in considering factors that cannot be consistently reproduced mechanically, like pharmaceuticals.

Christopher A. Moyer said:
You have circled back to separating the part from the whole again with your control proposal.
Perhaps. In the present example, can you point specifically to where/how this is happening? And, if possible, how you would remedy it?
I'm not trying to be difficult in asking this - I really want to know your answer!

In fact this reminds me of the method used in the experiment by the 6th grader (supported by 'quackwatch') we disagreed in posts to Carl's discussion; MT Body Of Knowledge. You refer to refer to some mystical energy 'detection' which is a claim from that modality in the study, 'Healing Hands' or something like that. I don't think anyone in this discussion practices or is advocating those specific claims.

Yes, it occurred to me that the hypothetical study we are discussing is a bit more like the Rosa study, but it's also quite different. The Rosa study was measuring the practitioners' ability to detect presence/absence of the body part, whereas here we would examine outcome.
Good points Bert. This wouldn't be so difficult to set up.

We would actually only need three MT's, who would do each individual treatment as you suggested, and recruit our participants from a clinic's scheduled carpel tunnel surgeries. We measure outcomes of pain, bruising, and swelling. I still advocate we start the sessions prior to surgery as well for best results.

This could be done for dental surgery as well; say wisdom teeth extraction. Any manual work would have to be very light, of course, or distal to the affected area, if we want to measure effects immediately after surgery.

Yes, because it is so difficult to separate energy work from other effects (as we've seen in this thread), there is a good argument for separation tests, to determine whether more studies should be funded, and participant-centered analysis, to declare individual responders and non responders, for this study.
Well, now I'm getting totally confused - but that's not hard to do :)
Bert - you're suggesting 3 treatment groups. Is that not adding to complexity here? I see your point about hands on and distance healing. And I even see your point (kinda) with applying the conventional treatment - that treatment would need to be very specifically defined in a protocol. But it still needs to be blinded, right? The recipients need to know what is going on, but they shouldn't be told whether their treatment has energy work involved. It needs to have random assignment involved too - or is there a problem with that? By the way, I do recognize the value of studies other than an RCT. Where I get confused is why do we haveto involve anything other than energy work when we're researching it.
Why do we need the conventional treatment involved at all? If the act of touch is the connection that you're referring to that creates the energetic healing, why not take other treatments out of the picture altogether? Or is the bottom line that energy work can only be done when incorporated with other work?

Your point (and Robins) about the experience of the energy practitioners is important though.

Chris - one of the questions I have with the limb in a box is: Is there not a chance that the introduction of a mega-blinding tool like a box might bring in the potential for a conform in itself? Or is that just nuts?
Vlad, you have revealed my thoughts! I simply do not believe that energy work alone will correct or heal a structural issue. I do believe that an energetic shift to healing mode enhances the clients ability to heal themselves. I advocate studies to see what practices/rituals/thoughts result or do not result in better outcomes. ( If you have pain when you abduct your humerus because inferior glide of the humerus is restricted and the humerus runs into the acromion above, no amount of energy work will remove the restriction unless someone has telekinesis. I do however, believe that the needed structural work can be greatly be enhanced through energetic connection. It is this difference that I believe to be important. I used the above example because I experienced an enhanced outcome with that exact issue. Now Chris would argue (and I would agree) that it could have been simple relaxation effect, or placebo effect, or some other unaccounted for effect..... to steal a quote from Chris's "External Validity" paper WHO CARES?

I am only interested in the actual outcome for the client. It matters not if the energy is real or imagined. It only matters if the practice of it enhances healing.

If we are looking for outcome based results, it shouldn't be necessary to be less than transparent to the client. Either the pain/restriction is improved or it is not after the treatment. I would also be interested in results if the therapists subsequently worked on the 'failures' of the other 2 therapist's group to see what results then occurred.

This is a real world testing.

However, when it comes to non-structural issues such as a clients mental state, we have another ball game with different rules, but you must consider that facilitating an energetic change in a being can change their ability to self heal.

Vlad said:
Well, now I'm getting totally confused - but that's not hard to do :)
Bert - you're suggesting 3 treatment groups. Is that not adding to complexity here? I see your point about hands on and distance healing. And I even see your point (kinda) with applying the conventional treatment - that treatment would need to be very specifically defined in a protocol. But it still needs to be blinded, right? The recipients need to know what is going on, but they shouldn't be told whether their treatment has energy work involved. It needs to have random assignment involved too - or is there a problem with that? By the way, I do recognize the value of studies other than an RCT. Where I get confused is why do we haveto involve anything other than energy work when we're researching it. Why do we need the conventional treatment involved at all? If the act of touch is the connection that you're referring to that creates the energetic healing, why not take other treatments out of the picture altogether? Or is the bottom line that energy work can only be done when incorporated with other work?
Your point (and Robins) about the experience of the energy practitioners is important though.

Chris - one of the questions I have with the limb in a box is: Is there not a chance that the introduction of a mega-blinding tool like a box might bring in the potential for a conform in itself? Or is that just nuts?
so you would be confident that if healing could be accelerated that it would show significantly in the test results... if the experiment were conducted correctly and we had enough therapists and enough patients.

In a word? Yes. It either works, or it doesn't.
I was actually thinking about entrainment on the sub-atomic level (especially with the "pacing then leading" aspect) as being a possible explanation for energy work. Could not the electromagnetic properties within our own bodies impact those of another?

Keith covered a lot of this well, but I'd like to add a few things.

Even if our molecules or submolecular parts did entrain each other (and that is quite a stretch), why would that have any effect on health? Why would it necessarily have a beneficial effect on health?

If subatomic parts could become entrained in this way (to the best of my knowledge they do not), what would prevent all of your own molecules from becoming entrained with each other? What would prevent them becoming entrained with the toaster, or your pencil? (Remember that molecules don't know what they are a part of - they have no way of knowing if the are in a pencil, a U2 spy plane, or Elvis.)

Be thankful that your molecules are not entrained with each other! If enough of them were moving in syncrhony with each other, you could experience involuntary movement.

Finally, I wish to point out the interesting fact that expecting the activities of our molecules or submolecular particles could have a meaningful effect on our health is reductionism run amok. This is ironic given the antireductionist position some contributors to this thread may have. Though all things are made of molecules, it does not follow, at least given current technology, that we can know the behavior of objects or animals based on the status of their molecules.

Daniel Dennett has a nice phrase for that - he calls it "greedy" reductionism (the expectation that we could infer something like health, or art, from subatomic activity).
I submit that if the client does not know they are being treated, they have NO CONNECTION to the therapist or the treatment and therefore no energetic connection is possible, and any measurement of outcome will be void of any energy component. This method would be valid for a control group, but NOT for the treatment group which by your definition would have no energetic connection.

Why should this energy process be different from every other physical process that we know of?

As far as a remedy for this dilemma, for a start, I would suggest a good look at the "Participant-Centered Analysis in CAM Comparative Trials" as well as Aicken-Separation Tests for Early-Phase Complementary and Alternative Medicine Comparative Trials

I have not looked at these specifically, and to be honest I have lost track of them now. But I will say this - I have read papers like these, and their logic never adds up. Most tellingly, papers like this only ever appear in CAM journals...

Can someone provide a link to one of these again? If so, I will have a look, as it would be unfair for me to dismiss them without looking at them.

Having said that, keep in mind that ALL research rests on assumptions. Many of these assumptions go unmentioned, because they are so universally assumed that it is not worth mentioning them. For example most, perhaps even all, scientific research rests on the assumption that we are dealing with matter in motion in some way or another. If you do not believe that - in other words, if it is not one of your assumptions - you're kind of on your own.

rather than insisting on the RCT and "Null Hypothesis Test" as the only legitimate means of testing anything. I also submit even this does not go far enough in considering factors that cannot be consistently reproduced mechanically, like pharmaceuticals.

The RCT is a specific example of an experiment. If we want to determine a cause and effect relationship, there is only one research design known that is capable of doing that (in other words, that is capable of ruling out all other explanations for the observed phenomenon), and that is the experiment. This is not a controversial statement. If you disagree, it is incumbent on you to show, specifically, how a different research design could possibly control for all confounding explanations for a phenomenon.

As for the assertion that pharmaceuticals are somehow not mechanical, I'm not even sure what to say in response to that. How do they work, then? Magic?
Add this to what Rick & Vlad said:
How are you going to factor in the difference in actual underlying tissue damage?


There are at least two ways to do this. One is to use a sufficient number of subjects, combined with random assignment to groups, such that the probability of a difference between the groups in their mean level of tissue damage is unlikely to be different at the start of the study.

Another approach to minimize this undesired form of variance is to administer the tissue damage experimentally. This is sometimes done in would healing studies. Everyone receives the exact same type of cut or abrasion administered in the lab.

These approaches could even be combined, if desired.
I'll send the Aiken articles as attachments to your g-mail account Christopher.

Here they are again as attachments for those of you who can retrieve them.

Christopher A. Moyer said:
I submit that if the client does not know they are being treated, they have NO CONNECTION to the therapist or the treatment and therefore no energetic connection is possible, and any measurement of outcome will be void of any energy component. This method would be valid for a control group, but NOT for the treatment group which by your definition would have no energetic connection.

Why should this energy process be different from every other physical process that we know of?

As far as a remedy for this dilemma, for a start, I would suggest a good look at the "Participant-Centered Analysis in CAM Comparative Trials" as well as Aicken-Separation Tests for Early-Phase Complementary and Alternative Medicine Comparative Trials

I have not looked at these specifically, and to be honest I have lost track of them now. But I will say this - I have read papers like these, and their logic never adds up. Most tellingly, papers like this only ever appear in CAM journals...

Can someone provide a link to one of these again? If so, I will have a look, as it would be unfair for me to dismiss them without looking at them.

Having said that, keep in mind that ALL research rests on assumptions. Many of these assumptions go unmentioned, because they are so universally assumed that it is not worth mentioning them. For example most, perhaps even all, scientific research rests on the assumption that we are dealing with matter in motion in some way or another. If you do not believe that - in other words, if it is not one of your assumptions - you're kind of on your own.

rather than insisting on the RCT and "Null Hypothesis Test" as the only legitimate means of testing anything. I also submit even this does not go far enough in considering factors that cannot be consistently reproduced mechanically, like pharmaceuticals.

The RCT is a specific example of an experiment. If we want to determine a cause and effect relationship, there is only one research design known that is capable of doing that (in other words, that is capable of ruling out all other explanations for the observed phenomenon), and that is the experiment. This is not a controversial statement. If you disagree, it is incumbent on you to show, specifically, how a different research design could possibly control for all confounding explanations for a phenomenon.

As for the assertion that pharmaceuticals are somehow not mechanical, I'm not even sure what to say in response to that. How do they work, then? Magic?
Attachments:
You're kidding me; wounding a participant passes current IRB?

Christopher A. Moyer said:
Add this to what Rick & Vlad said:
How are you going to factor in the difference in actual underlying tissue damage?


There are at least two ways to do this. One is to use a sufficient number of subjects, combined with random assignment to groups, such that the probability of a difference between the groups in their mean level of tissue damage is unlikely to be different at the start of the study.

Another approach to minimize this undesired form of variance is to administer the tissue damage experimentally. This is sometimes done in would healing studies. Everyone receives the exact same type of cut or abrasion administered in the lab.

These approaches could even be combined, if desired.
I am saying that the recipient and the therapist have to share a 'connection' to affect a change at an energetic level that has a measurable treatment outcome.

But Bert, isn't it telling that you put the word connection in scare quotes? It shows that you're not even sure what it is you are specifying. Connected how? And why is this essential? I can understand how various types of connection could facilitate treatment, but why would the hypothesized form of healing disappear entirely in the absence of 'connection'? And we don't even know what we mean when we say 'connection.'

I do not claim to know where the energy comes from


Well that's good, since we haven't even shown that it exists. :)

, be it from some universal source or arising directly from the physiological processes of the participants, but I do submit we are energetic beings and we can change the energetic quality of another in a way that affects the healing process.

What does it mean to say we are "energetic beings"? I'm not being facetious - we have to define our terms. What does that mean, specifically?

Consider a child that is crying and stops when held by someone with loving intent.


The same kid might stop crying when a child molester or serial killer cuddles him and gives him a lollipop. Your example could hardly be further from evidence for 'energy.'

I also postulate that we all have a unique energetic 'resonance' (that can shift) and differences in resonance can make connections more or less difficult.

I postulate that there is a pink unicorn who lives in my backyard. He disappears in the presence of humans, though. You believe me, don't you?

Postulating things is easy. Is there any evidence, whatsoever, to support your postulation?

I have yet to hear a method of measurement for this, (other than brainwave) because we don't know what or how to measure it.

How would a brainwave be a measure of it?

Chris wants to measure the outcomes, but would have a test to be performed under restrictions that eliminate the 'connection' and call upon some mystical energy no one has yet quantified.

One thing on which we agree is that doing a test under a certain set of conditions does not necessarily address a different set of conditions. Yes, I have argued for certain conditions, but if you think different ones should be spec'd, list them.

Chris is also a hard line proponent of RCT's as if this is a foolproof method for determining the validity of anything.


Hardline sounds so political. Yes, I am a proponent of the experimental method. If we want to determine cause and effect, we have to be.

Others seem to be open to the 'no touch' RCT experiments that are by nature designed to fail in reliably measuring treatment outcomes for the energetic component on healing.

Anyone who designs a trial with the outcome predetermined is obviously a fool. The whole point of doing an experiment is because you're not certain what will happen.

Everyone seems to be ignoring that RCT's are not the only tool available for research.


No Bert, they're not. There are all kinds of less powerful designs that are used when we need to maintain certain ethical standards, or have certain real world constraints. But if we want to determine cause and effect definitively, we have only one choice. This is not simply my opinion. Discuss it with any sound methodologist if you don't believe me.

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