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Author Topic: Peer Reviewing and Alternative Medicine (was: Spiritual Healing)  (Read 5068 times)

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Offline ShadaxTopic starter

Pointless Digression, I can understand the desire to test things like the various forms of spiritual healing I am quite keen on science myself. I WANT hard proof that I can show the world and help quell debates like the one that has cropped up here (related to, but definitely on a tangent to the original post BTW). The problem is finding the right people to test. Most people generally do low end stuff which is nigh impossible to test. The further up the scale you go, like with any specialist field, the less people there are and the harder they are to find. To really test this in a very definite way, you need the really high end people and I have noticed that in this field all the ones I have met are not interested in being tested, mostly because they are too busy putting bread on the table to bother with people treating them crazy lab specimens to be poked with a sharp stick regularly.

If I were to find enough people of enough ability I would set up a test myself - easy to do - but I just don't have the contacts yet. One day I hope I will.


It's true that the placebo effect derived from a false treatment can help a patient recover, but there is literally no difference from the placebo boost you get from reflexology or acupuncture and the heightening of spirits you would get from being visited by an old friend, watching one of your favorite movies, or engaging in some other mood-lifting activity.

Not true. You are not visiting a friend with the deliberate intention of being healed, as you are with a healer: Therefore there are NO placebo effects, because there is not the mental stimulus/belief that comes with visiting a healer.


Quote
The Placebo Effect does not repair your body, it simply makes your complex internal cognitive balance disregard more negative stimuli; it's basically yet another exercise in confirmation bias:  I think I should be getting better, so my subconscious filters out some of the pain.

Also not exactly true. As scientists have explored the potential of the brain in greater detail they are finding that mind and body are more closely linked then previously realised. Belief, thought, purely cantered in the mind can directly effect the functions of the body, sometimes drastically. People experiencing a placebo may show a reduction in symptoms beyond just pain filtering, even recovering from the illness altogether.
« Last Edit: May 17, 2011, 11:11:34 AM by Trieste »

Offline Jude

Re: Peer Reviewing and Alternative Medicine
« Reply #1 on: May 13, 2011, 01:40:59 PM »
Please do research before you state what you believe to be is a medical fact.  Everything you said about a supposed mind/body connection (note:  it certainly is within the scientific mainstream to accept a connection between the body and the mind, but it's a one way arrow of causation, because the best neuroscience of today holds that the mind is a function of the physical body) and the placebo effect is patently unscientific and probably false.  Check out this article, I'll even quote you the conclusion incase you don't feel like looking at it:  http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM200105243442106

Quote
We found little evidence in general that placebos had powerful clinical effects. Although placebos had no significant effects on objective or binary outcomes, they had possible small benefits in studies with continuous subjective outcomes and for the treatment of pain. Outside the setting of clinical trials, there is no justification for the use of placebos.

EDIT:  Also, your earlier discussion on "high end" experts is special pleading.
« Last Edit: May 13, 2011, 02:09:37 PM by Jude »

Offline ShadaxTopic starter

Re: Peer Reviewing and Alternative Medicine
« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2011, 04:09:29 PM »
Please do research before you state what you believe to be is a medical fact.  Everything you said about a supposed mind/body connection and the placebo effect is patently unscientific and probably false.  Check out this article, I'll even quote you the conclusion incase you don't feel like looking at it:  http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM200105243442106

That is an interesting read - hellish to get my head round admittedly, I am not a statistician and my dyslexia means reading black writing on white makes my eyes swim after a while. I must admit, while it is thorough and well set out I am a little dubious of some of the contents - Things like Re. Binary Outcomes; "Placebo had no significant effect on these outcomes, but the confidence intervals were wide.". And Re. Continuous outcomes on obesity, asthma, hypertension, insomnia, and anxiety, "There was no significant effect of placebo on the other conditions, although the confidence intervals were wide." Potential degrees of inaccuracy like this always make me doubtful and wonder what else may be causing the variants. Throw in (the) "significant heterogeneity among the trials with binary outcomes" (and contentious outcomes) and this study seems more complicated then the three sentence summery that you quoted. Given the above (and many more) signs of variance in the report, while the final summery statement may be correct on the surface, the report does, in my mind, leave the subject open to further, more detailed and specific study.

Believe it or not, I have read some information on placebos before. While I don't normally study documents like this one simply because of how my mind processes information, which slows this sort of this down too much for my liking, I have looked at several others, as well as many TV documentaries. I suppose this has not gone in my favour as articles presented in a manor more suitable to me tend to be more sensationalist and biased in that way. Depending on what I read/watch depends on how much emphasis is placed on placebos and their effect/non-effect, but there is still a trend I have noticed that seems to say there is more to this mind/body connection, much more then can be easily dismissed.

Quote
EDIT:  Also, your earlier discussion on "high end" experts is special pleading.

It is like doing a medical study on a group of people with a certain collection of symptoms/traits. If all you will study are people with only marginal or partial symptoms then your findings themselves may be partial, inaccurate, inconclusive or all of the above. To get better results you find and study people with high end symptoms - or in this case high end ability. That is all I am saying. How is that special pleading?

Please drop the attitude. I am not stupid, I am not looking to fight, just to put forward another side to what has become a very one sided thread.

Offline Jude

Re: Peer Reviewing and Alternative Medicine
« Reply #3 on: May 13, 2011, 04:32:34 PM »
I'd like to start by apologizing to you, I didn't mean to imply that you were stupid nor did I intend to talk down to you if that's how it was perceived.

About the first study, they published a follow up in the Journal of Internal Medicine in 2004 with new data (stuff they didn't analyze before or that was done after the 2001 study) that basically added confirmation to the first:  http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2796.2004.01355.x/abstract

As you can see, again they conclude that the Placebo effect does nothing objective, it only serves to alleviate subjective symptoms.  In short, the Placebo Effect is "all in the head" of the person experiencing it or is the result of simply being paid attention to, distracted from your symptoms, or the euphoria of being humanized (having people show concern to you, attempt to do something, et cetera).

As far as why I called your "high-end" remarks special pleading, I did so because you didn't enumerate what you were saying exactly (though this could've been an inability to understand on my behalf).  Your response has added a great deal of clarity to your point however, but I find your characterization of the studies that have been done to be misleading.  They have measured the effect that trained, skilled acupuncturists elicit from their patients (high end practitioners as you'd put it) and compared it to random needle treatment (placebo acupuncture), and they found that the two elicit a similar result (having a very, very tiny deviation between the two of them -- barely a statistically significant one).

As such, skill probably plays no role in what happens -- it's pure placebo.  (Source:  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2769056/?tool=pmcentrez)
« Last Edit: May 13, 2011, 04:51:30 PM by Jude »

Offline ShadaxTopic starter

Re: Peer Reviewing and Alternative Medicine
« Reply #4 on: May 13, 2011, 05:55:47 PM »
*Attempts to post without messing up the quotations this time*

Thank you for the apology, and I apologise too that my earlier post wasn't clear enough in my intent - my thought patterns can be quite nebulous which can come across in my posts - for people who don't know me or who don't think like I do, this is easily confusing or misleading. Even my attempts to clarify don't always help right away. *frustrated sigh*

As far as why I called your "high-end" remarks special pleading, I did so because you didn't enumerate what you were saying exactly (though this could've been an inability to understand on my behalf).  Your response has added a great deal of clarity to your point however, but I find your characterization of the studies that have been done to be misleading.  They have measured the effect that trained, skilled acupuncturists elicit from their patients (high end practitioners as you'd put it) and compared it to random needle treatment (placebo acupuncture), and they found that the two elicit a similar result (having a very, very tiny deviation between the two of them -- barely a statistically significant one).

I admit I had forgotten about things like acupuncture - for that particular discipline, unless the tests/treatments were performed on a person of oriental decent by an expert in the field I am a little dubious because, from my own work and that of other people I know, I have found that the points they work with vary very slightly (millimetres only) in position from person to person - this is exaggerated when working with people from different racial groups. Acupuncture body maps were designed from working on orientals and transferring this to a person of a different racial, though the differences may be minute, with the accuracy involved in acupuncture this may still be enough to alter or nullify the effects to a greater or lesser degree (unless they can feel out the points themselves rather then just relying on the maps - though as far as I am aware most are not taught that). If the test was done on oriental subjects, then fair enough - but unless I can have that confirmation then I will have to take that particular test with a pinch of salt.

My experience comes from working with direct energy techniques, like Reiki. With something like this, the innate skill/power of the healer is an issue, and not something that can easily be picked out unless you can sense it yourself. Also, some practitioners do specialise in different aspects of healing - some are best working with emotional problems, some with cognitive issues, some are more spiritual, while others  (the minority as far as I am aware) are more able to effect physical symptoms. Since only one of these, the minority at that, is easily measured, then lack of results in tests is not surprising. This is why I would like to be able to put a test together myself some day - I know what I am looking for, how long it will take, ect. (Yes, I know about subjectivity in tests - I have designed double blind tests and what not before. I can be very particular about all that.).

About the first study, they published a follow up in the Journal of Internal Medicine in 2004 with new data (stuff they didn't analyze before or that was done after the 2001 study) that basically added confirmation to the first:  http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2796.2004.01355.x/abstract

As you can see, again they conclude that the Placebo effect does nothing objective, it only serves to alleviate subjective symptoms.  In short, the Placebo Effect is "all in the head" of the person experiencing it or is the result of simply being paid attention to, distracted from your symptoms, or the euphoria of being humanized (having people show concern to you, attempt to do something, et cetera).

Ah shoot, this one is even harder to read then the first, lol. Forgive me for not looking at this one is detail, it is very late now (tomorrow maybe, if only to satisfy my curiosity).

I am glad they went back to it though, the first analysis really did need a follow up. Fair enough. If they have narrowed things down more then I can go with that. Doesn't mean I am not still of a mind that the mind and body are linked, but I have other reasons for that - I can go into them if you wish, but I could be here for a while if I do, lol.

Offline Noelle

Re: Peer Reviewing and Alternative Medicine
« Reply #5 on: May 13, 2011, 06:23:56 PM »
I admit I had forgotten about things like acupuncture - for that particular discipline, unless the tests/treatments were performed on a person of oriental decent by an expert in the field I am a little dubious because, from my own work and that of other people I know, I have found that the points they work with vary very slightly (millimetres only) in position from person to person - this is exaggerated when working with people from different racial groups. Acupuncture body maps were designed from working on orientals and transferring this to a person of a different racial, though the differences may be minute, with the accuracy involved in acupuncture this may still be enough to alter or nullify the effects to a greater or lesser degree (unless they can feel out the points themselves rather then just relying on the maps - though as far as I am aware most are not taught that). If the test was done on oriental subjects, then fair enough - but unless I can have that confirmation then I will have to take that particular test with a pinch of salt.

Erm, what? Perhaps it is some gap in my own knowledge, but what you're suggesting is that there is no differentiation at all in the physical characteristics of people of Asian descent or at least they share some kind of common "thing" regardless of what flavor of Asian they are. This is also inconsistent with the very origins of acupuncture in Chinese medicine -- all other forms were descended from there, and by your own standards, would be just as nebulous and subject to nitpicking by "millimeters" of difference. The only people we could ever test on that would satisfy your standards would be the original Chinese people -- and heaven forbid we even begin to break down the different subsets of Chinese ethnicities or if something scandalous happens and we find out that Chinese person has other races/ethnicities mixed in.

Even if what you were saying is true, you're more or less marginalizing non-Asiatic acupuncture practices and saying that it probably doesn't work/work correctly on non-Asians. What makes you think Reiki is any different, then, seeing as it, too, is a largely Japanese practice -- and a contemporary one, at that, lacking the kind of history acupuncture has in the East.

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My experience comes from working with direct energy techniques, like Reiki. With something like this, the innate skill/power of the healer is an issue, and not something that can easily be picked out unless you can sense it yourself.

So what you're essentially saying is Reiki is one giant case of confirmation bias? If you can only validate something that you already believe in, it's not really looking good for you logically.

It's not really a one-sided debate so much as it is that facts fall more heavily on one side than the other. It's pretty hard to ignore that science simply has not shown any favorable evidence towards the existence of much of what you're claiming. If it has been shown repeatedly to be about as useful as the placebo effect, then I have to reason that humans are further exaggerating the actual helpfulness for one reason or the other. I'm not saying it's bad or even particularly surprising, after all, most people still choose to be parents even when evidence has pointed that it's probably not as rewarding as you think.

You can choose to ignore or dodge what's uncomfortable to hear or ration your beliefs another way, but good science is impartial, even if it is sometimes inconvenient. I'm not here to change anyone's mind or to take away something that gives you satisfaction and I wouldn't force anyone to suddenly renounce their beliefs, but it does seem to me that you're moving the goalposts around when evidence points against forms of spiritual healing, which is troubling.
« Last Edit: May 13, 2011, 06:24:59 PM by Noelle »

Offline Jude

Re: Peer Reviewing and Alternative Medicine
« Reply #6 on: May 13, 2011, 07:01:59 PM »
Why would a person of Chinese descent have different acupuncture points?  This is what I mean by special pleading; when you invent a reason why the test would not work, an ad-hoc hypothesis if you will, but don't justify why it must be so, that's special pleading.  What is it about people of oriental descent that their chakras (which acupuncture points are related to spatially) would be in different locations?  Does every race have a different chakra configuration?  And if so, why?  How do you know that?  How could you know that if we can't measure chakras (and we can't).

Moreover, how do you know chakras exist?  Spirits?  Souls?  Science can't see any of those things.  Science can't even come up with a reason why they need to exist.  Science understands human beings in terms of physical processes, and does a decent job of explaining our varied behavior in terms of those processes.  We have not found anything in our study of the human condition that necessitates a need for a soul.

As such, there is zero scientific plausibility to anything related to spiritual medicine.  Combine disconfirming, well-controlled double-blinded randomized studies with a lack of scientific plausibility and what do you get?  Something that's intensely unlikely to be true.

When the Placebo Effect can explain Reiki, Acupuncture, and Hands-on-Healing, there's no good evidence to back them up, and many of these modalities conflict with each other, why should I accept that Spiritual Healing has any validity whatsoever?  I just see no reason why a rational non-believer like myself should accept any of this; but believe me, I want to.

I'm sick right now.  I don't feel well.  Coughing my ass off about every minute and a half.  I want to spend the weekend out with my friends rather than sitting on my ass, but I don't feel like doing anything really.  I'd be great if someone miles away would link to me irregardless of time and space in order to project "healing energy" my way.  I want to believe it's true:  I just don't see any reason to.
« Last Edit: May 13, 2011, 07:03:33 PM by Jude »

Offline Pointless Digression

Re: Peer Reviewing and Alternative Medicine
« Reply #7 on: May 13, 2011, 07:16:02 PM »
I admit I had forgotten about things like acupuncture - for that particular discipline, unless the tests/treatments were performed on a person of oriental decent by an expert in the field I am a little dubious because, from my own work and that of other people I know, I have found that the points they work with vary very slightly (millimetres only) in position from person to person - this is exaggerated when working with people from different racial groups. <CUT BY POINTLESS DIGRESSION>

No. No no no no no.

There are no human subspecies.

Offline ShadaxTopic starter

Re: Peer Reviewing and Alternative Medicine
« Reply #8 on: May 13, 2011, 07:49:37 PM »
Erm, what? Perhaps it is some gap in my own knowledge, but what you're suggesting is that there is no differentiation at all in the physical characteristics of people of Asian descent or at least they share some kind of common "thing" regardless of what flavor of Asian they are. This is also inconsistent with the very origins of acupuncture in Chinese medicine -- all other forms were descended from there, and by your own standards, would be just as nebulous and subject to nitpicking by "millimeters" of difference.

Ok, let me try to explain this in more detail, see if that clears this up.

Well, I can not speak for the origins of acupuncture, because I do not know about it. All I know is what I have worked with.

The largest acupressure points I have worked with are up to 12mm across, the smallest are about 3mm but those are minor things. If a 9-12mm point moves a couple of mm due to a person's body shape/ethnicity/size/weight/ect then that isn't going to make much difference to most acupuncturists. But the more differences there are from the set map and the more chance they have of being just that little bit further from the known mark, the greater the chance to miss (you have say a 7mm circle to aim for according to your map, if the persons body type means that has moved left by 3mm and the acupuncturist hits a point 2mm within the right of the circle then they would miss the main pressure point). I have seen this when I have had acupuncture performed on myself; I gave feed back from what I could feel it doing to me and most of it was on target, but some was not - either giving a reduced effect, no effect, or a slightly different effect as intended (which may likely be down to hitting a neighbour minor point that has moved too). Same deal with some qigong exercises I have undergone - the person performing the exercise on me was following a set pattern that didn't exactly fit with the energy lines and points in my body. Adjustments were made during the qigong exercises, only of a about 5mm in the two main points and it all fell into place (a pretty nifty experience really).

Everybody is different. This is not me picking on anyone, or any group of people, it just is. The problem is these fine differences aren't always taken into account or even considered. Techniques like acupuncture work through a degree of accuracy. If you are going to scientifically test that, useing a set format like the acupuncture maps, then given the individual variations why not use the model closest to what those maps were intended for - the Chinese themselves?

What makes you think Reiki is any different, then, seeing as it, too, is a largely Japanese practice -- and a contemporary one, at that, lacking the kind of history acupuncture has in the East.

Reiki doesn't function on the same technique of point accuracy as acupuncture and others similar.

So what you're essentially saying is Reiki is one giant case of confirmation bias? If you can only validate something that you already believe in, it's not really looking good for you logically.

No, what I am saying is that, it is difficult to pick out someone with a high level of skill unless you can sense energy and energy workings yourself - if you cant then one Reiki practitioner is just as good as any other, so you could just pick any old mug out of a crowd for a test, despite the fact that that person many not have the skills your test needs to get a result you can measure. If you want to pick out the ones who can you need someone who can spot them.

Anyone can experience Reiki's effect - I have given treatments to people with no prior experience of anything like Reiki and only a slight curiosity in it and they have experienced unusual symptoms during and after it which they could only attribute to the Reiki itself. They had no particular belief in it, no day to day interest, so it was not 'blind faith' fuelling it. I have experienced physical reactions both in myself and clients from energy healing which I would otherwise I have no explanation for. If I knew of a group local to me who were willing to do a reasonable experiment, over an appropriate amount of time, with a good sample size, then I would jump at it - and I would gladly try to round up as large a group of practitioners whom I though could get the results as I possibly could.

Moreover, how do you know chakras exist?  Spirits?  Souls?  Science can't see any of those things.  Science can't even come up with a reason why they need to exist.  Science understands human beings in terms of physical processes, and does a decent job of explaining our varied behavior in terms of those processes.  We have not found anything in our study of the human condition that necessitates a need for a soul.

I saw a little boy around a friends house before, only for a second. At first I thought it was her little boy, even though the hair was wrong. I asked her were he was and he had been with his mom the whole time. She said that she had seen the little boy too, as had other people. he had been killed on the sight of the house. I even mentioned this to a woman who had lived in the old building where it had happened before she had moved there, she had seen the same thing, exactly as I described. I even dug up an old photo from an old woman who lived close by. Not that I am exception people her to believe any of that, but I though I would throw it out there anyway. You all already think I am mad so, what the hay...

Oh I have seen things move on their own before. A broom handle and a rock. The broom handle stood up on it's own, stayed on it's end for a couple of seconds then slammed (not fell) to the floor. The rock was on an old TV which had a slightly sunk in screen - it flew off the TV, doubled back mid air to bounce of the middle of the glass. Not expecting you to believe that either...


Offline TheGlyphstone

Re: Peer Reviewing and Alternative Medicine
« Reply #9 on: May 13, 2011, 08:04:18 PM »
I'm not so sure about that...I think homo sapiens youtubus has diverged in average cognitive thinking ability from baseline homo sapiens sapiens to be considered a separate subspecies.

Offline Noelle

Re: Peer Reviewing and Alternative Medicine
« Reply #10 on: May 13, 2011, 10:15:50 PM »
Well, I can not speak for the origins of acupuncture, because I do not know about it. All I know is what I have worked with.

Except you can :P Acupuncture dates back to ancient China. It's not really a murky possibility, it's a fairly well established piece of knowledge.

Quote
The largest acupressure points I have worked with are up to 12mm across, the smallest are about 3mm but those are minor things. If a 9-12mm point moves a couple of mm due to a person's body shape/ethnicity/size/weight/ect then that isn't going to make much difference to most acupuncturists.

A point isn't going to move due to someone's race or ethnicity. The rest of your description is just redundant. Any alternatives in someone's body shape is due to...well, their body shape. Race/Ethnicity has little to nothing to do with this as you claim and you really haven't shown otherwise.

Quote
But the more differences there are from the set map and the more chance they have of being just that little bit further from the known mark, the greater the chance to miss (you have say a 7mm circle to aim for according to your map, if the persons body type means that has moved left by 3mm and the acupuncturist hits a point 2mm within the right of the circle then they would miss the main pressure point). I have seen this when I have had acupuncture performed on myself; I gave feed back from what I could feel it doing to me and most of it was on target, but some was not - either giving a reduced effect, no effect, or a slightly different effect as intended (which may likely be down to hitting a neighbour minor point that has moved too). Same deal with some qigong exercises I have undergone - the person performing the exercise on me was following a set pattern that didn't exactly fit with the energy lines and points in my body. Adjustments were made during the qigong exercises, only of a about 5mm in the two main points and it all fell into place (a pretty nifty experience really).

Or it just didn't work...like research has repeatedly indicated. *shrug*

Just saying, I can go receive aggressive medicinal therapy for (insert diagnosis here) and have nothing work because bodily reactions to different drug chemistry can vary (thus has been shown by science exhaustively)...or I can go on and speculate about my chi, meridians, auras, chakras being misaligned, blah blah blah, a whole host of things that has yet to be backed by anything substantial. Grumpy Mr. Science isn't always as nice to imagine as things like astral planes and spirits, but it sure is nice when you're dealing with tangibility.

Quote
Everybody is different. This is not me picking on anyone, or any group of people, it just is. The problem is these fine differences aren't always taken into account or even considered. Techniques like acupuncture work through a degree of accuracy. If you are going to scientifically test that, useing a set format like the acupuncture maps, then given the individual variations why not use the model closest to what those maps were intended for - the Chinese themselves?

You're shifting your point, which doesn't make sense to begin with. You were referring to Asians in general. You still haven't shown me how ethnicity has anything to do with things. You've really only covered bodily differences, which is prevalent even amongst the Chinese themselves, making your point rather moot, if I do say so.

Quote
Reiki doesn't function on the same technique of point accuracy as acupuncture and others similar.

Special pleading.

Quote
No, what I am saying is that, it is difficult to pick out someone with a high level of skill unless you can sense energy and energy workings yourself - if you cant then one Reiki practitioner is just as good as any other, so you could just pick any old mug out of a crowd for a test, despite the fact that that person many not have the skills your test needs to get a result you can measure. If you want to pick out the ones who can you need someone who can spot them.

You pretty much just defined confirmation bias.

Quote
Anyone can experience Reiki's effect - I have given treatments to people with no prior experience of anything like Reiki and only a slight curiosity in it and they have experienced unusual symptoms during and after it which they could only attribute to the Reiki itself. They had no particular belief in it, no day to day interest, so it was not 'blind faith' fuelling it. I have experienced physical reactions both in myself and clients from energy healing which I would otherwise I have no explanation for. If I knew of a group local to me who were willing to do a reasonable experiment, over an appropriate amount of time, with a good sample size, then I would jump at it - and I would gladly try to round up as large a group of practitioners whom I though could get the results as I possibly could.

Personal anecdotes do not good science make. This is all confirmation bias. You believe it works because if it didn't work, you wouldn't practice it. But you do practice it, so you do believe it works, so you're confirming that your own experiments work. The people you've worked with could be experiencing any number of things -- placebo effect included. They could be experiencing things because there is an expectation that they 'should' be feeling something. Who knows, I wasn't there to witness it, but the fact that you don't have an explanation for it means that you're jumping to Reiki or mystical things to explain it for you -- so either it's inexplicable or it's not, you need to make up your mind. Why would you jump to mysticism to explain what you don't understand? How is that more believable than something that deals with what is quantitative? If I see a light flying through the air at night, what's more likely? An airplane or a UFO? Nobody has ever confirmed a UFO sighting, nobody has ever gotten a piece of a UFO to study, and yet there are airplanes flying through our air at all hours of the day and night.

But if, in fact, you do happen to quantify your studies, please feel free to let James Randi know -- he'd be glad to hear of it, I'm sure. While you're at it, you might study the other applicants to see if you can't get a leg up.

Offline Kuroneko

Re: Spiritual Healing
« Reply #11 on: May 13, 2011, 11:28:22 PM »
I'm not an acupuncturist (though I get a lot of it for various health issues with great results) but I am formally trained shiatsu practitioner with several years of clinical experience using a form of shiatsu based on the traditional acupuncture meridian points.  Based on my own personal clinical experience, I have to say that there are no differences in the efficacy of meridian treatment by needles or pressure based on the race of the individual.  Nor is there any mention of such a bias in the classical or moderns texts on acupuncture practice.  If that were true, the argument that meridian points 'move' would also apply to persons of varying sizes.

Acupuncture points are located next to important bodily landmarks.  They are located by using a measurement called a 'cun.'  A cun is the width of the client's index finger, making it personal to each individual.  So, if I were looking for Large Intestine 4, for example, I would look one cun below the junction between the carpalmetacarpal joints of the first finger and thumb.  Alternately, I could ask the client to slip the thumb abd first finger of one hand between the thumb and first finger of the other, with the thumb on top, until the webbing between them is just touching.  Where the thumb rests on the top of the hand, is Large Intestine 4.  All of the points can be found using the cun as a reference measurement. 

There are several studies that show the efficacy of acupuncture.  A quick google search yields dozens of links to scholary articles, from places like JAMA and The Lancet.  I'm not going to link them here.  It's a 2000+ year old medical practice, and (in my opinion), doesn't  really fall in the realm of spiritual healing. 

I'd share a personal example of spiritual healing from my childhood as a Christian Scientist (I'm not one now), but I have to admit I have reservations given what's already been posted in this thread. 

Offline Noelle

Re: Peer Reviewing and Alternative Medicine
« Reply #12 on: May 14, 2011, 12:19:00 AM »
Please do provide links to the research you're referencing in particular, for the sake of clarity -- I (and I'm sure others) would be curious to see what you're drawing off of rather than doing a Google search and trying to interpret what you mean from there.

Also, do understand that it's not a matter of being disinterested in hearing about your personal experiences, it's that anecdotal evidence is not sound science and memory in particular is not always reliable, which is why it is often disregarded in terms of valid evidence for or against a point. If you'd like a further explanation as to why that is, I'd be happy to elaborate so there are no misunderstandings.

Offline Pumpkin Seeds

Re: Peer Reviewing and Alternative Medicine
« Reply #13 on: May 14, 2011, 12:28:58 AM »
Well, there is a publication produced by physicians called Medical Acupuncture which is a medical journal.  They did write an article regarding the effectiveness of acupuncture treatment in dealing with brain injury. http://www.liebertpub.com/prdetails.aspx?pr_id=900

Also, she is drawing off her clinical experience as was stated in her post. 

Wanted to also link http://www.n5ev.com/art_pilocarpine.htm
« Last Edit: May 14, 2011, 12:33:50 AM by Pumpkin Seeds »

Offline Noelle

Re: Peer Reviewing and Alternative Medicine
« Reply #14 on: May 14, 2011, 12:43:54 AM »
Thank you for speaking on her behalf. I will be reviewing your links in the morning, nonetheless.

Edit: I want to make a retraction on an earlier claim I made. Seems like acupuncture 1. may not be nearly as old as previously thought and 2. may not actually have origins in China. I'm going to be doing more research into that thought later, but I thought I would be upfront about a possible mistake in my own statements.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2011, 12:48:33 AM by Noelle »

Offline Kuroneko

Re: Re: Spiritual Healing
« Reply #15 on: May 14, 2011, 01:11:48 AM »
Please do provide links to the research you're referencing in particular, for the sake of clarity -- I (and I'm sure others) would be curious to see what you're drawing off of rather than doing a Google search and trying to interpret what you mean from there.

Also, do understand that it's not a matter of being disinterested in hearing about your personal experiences, it's that anecdotal evidence is not sound science and memory in particular is not always reliable, which is why it is often disregarded in terms of valid evidence for or against a point. If you'd like a further explanation as to why that is, I'd be happy to elaborate so there are no misunderstandings.

It's not at all about anyone being disinterested, far from it.  I just have no desire to hear how negligent or abusive my now deceased parents were in deciding not to have my broken bone set and to take me to a Christian Science practitioner instead.

I'm also not talking about anecdotal evidence, or just my memory, so no explanation is needed.  Plus, it's been very clearly stated in previous posts.  I understand.  In my particular case, there were x-rays before and after that proved that a bone that was broken, no longer was after treatment, so proof isn't the issue (though you'd all have to take my word for it cause this happened 40 years ago, lol). For what it's worth, I see it as an example of what the mind is capable of doing rather than being healed by god or other spiritual force. 

As for providing links, given just how many links to scholarly articles there are, I don't really see the need to post dozens of them here.  They're easily found, both pro and con.  I'll just link one from Medical Acupuncture regarding the efficacy of acupuncture for treating chronic pain, since that's one of the reasons I get treatments and that journal link had already been generously provided by Pumpkin Seeds. 

http://www.medicalacupuncture.org/aama_marf/journal/vol15_3/article1.html

Basically, I only posted to respond to the acupuncture point location discussion and the idea that they aren't universal to all human beings, which I know from clinical practice just isn't the case. I don't really feel the need to try and convince others that it works. 

Offline Jude

Re: Peer Reviewing and Alternative Medicine
« Reply #16 on: May 14, 2011, 01:19:57 AM »
Medical Acupuncture is not a peer-reviewed journal in the same sense that the Lancet or any real scientific publication is.  This fact is obvious to anyone who puts 15 minutes into looking around their website and googling their name.  It is not enough to link to a study that supports you.  You have to actually read the study, investigate the author, and see if the study was done in good faith.  You have to pour over the methodology, ask questions about its bias, and see how it was interpreted/received by the scientific community.  Looking for evidence to support your claims instead of looking for claims to take that are supported by the evidence is not a scientific or intellectually productive venture -- see my signature if you want a more pithy version of that.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2011, 01:35:08 AM by Jude »

Offline Kuroneko

Re: Re: Spiritual Healing
« Reply #17 on: May 14, 2011, 02:20:28 AM »
No, you're right, it's the journal of the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture, an association of pro-acupuncture physicians, which often posts reviews of articles from other peer reviewed journals, or cites them in their own articles, along with publishing articles written by their members.  Maybe you missed the 53 referenced articles at the bottom of that particular link, which included publications such as the Hong Kong Medical Journal, The American Journal of Medicine, The World Health Organization, The New England Jounal of Medicine, Rheumatology (from Oxford), and others? 

I've read plenty of studies, including the one I linked, which is up front about reporting that evidence in supporting acupuncture is inconclusive in areas other than the chronic pain study it specifically discusses.  So, it supports both my view and that of others presented here, including the idea that its ability to affect some conditions might be a placebo effect. It's pretty well-rounded, all things considered, which is a nice change from diehard pro or con articles, honestly.
 
Please read what I said in my post.  I am not here to argue for acupuncture's efficacy or to change anyone's opinion on the matter.  I posted to address the issue of meridian point location because I have some expertise in that area as a practioner.  I gave a link because I was asked to, which was the polite thing to do.  I'm really not interested in posting more because someone will always find fault with a linked study, regardless of its credentials, which is everyone's prerogative .  Frankly, if you can spend 15 minutes googling info on Medical Acupuncture, you can spend the same amount of time googling the term "efficacy of acupuncture' to find articles that will meet your standards. I'm just not really up for doing that. 

In retrospect, it probably would have been better for me to have simply stated that it seems to me that acupuncture, as a healing method with at least some scientific validation, is not exactly in the same category as spiritual healing.  Then I could have avoided the very thing I really didn't want to get into.   




Offline Jude

Re: Peer Reviewing and Alternative Medicine
« Reply #18 on: May 14, 2011, 02:36:01 AM »
No, you're right, it's the journal of the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture, an association of pro-acupuncture physicians, which often posts reviews of articles from other peer reviewed journals, or cites them in their own articles, along with publishing articles written by their members.  Maybe you missed the 53 referenced articles at the bottom of that particular link, which included publications such as the Hong Kong Medical Journal, The American Journal of Medicine, The World Health Organization, The New England Jounal of Medicine, Rheumatology (from Oxford), and others?
If you read the dates given next to the articles that are published in reputable journals, they're all old.  Much older than the current, growing consensus that both acupuncture and the placebo effect bring about no physical changes, just subjective improvements in subjective, largely psychological conditions.  Basically, it isn't hard to cherry pick data to support your conclusion, especially when you can dig back decades and pull in data from other pro-acupuncture "journals."

I think my favorite source footnoted is the NIH one -- y'know, given that the article in question was published before the NIH changed its consensus statement on acupuncture to reflect newer information.  Coincidentally the main site still links to the old consensus statement too...  It isn't that the NIH has done a 180 exactly, but they aren't quite as rosy on CAM as they used to be.
I've read plenty of studies, including the one I linked, which is up front about reporting that evidence in supporting acupuncture is inconclusive in areas other than the chronic pain study it specifically discusses.  So, it supports both my view and that of others presented here, including the idea that its ability to affect some conditions might be a placebo effect. It's pretty well-rounded, all things considered, which is a nice change from diehard pro or con articles, honestly.
 
Please read what I said in my post.  I am not here to argue for acupuncture's efficacy or to change anyone's opinion on the matter.  I posted to address the issue of meridian point location because I have some expertise in that area as a practioner.  I gave a link because I was asked to, which was the polite thing to do.  I'm really not interested in posting more because someone will always find fault with a linked study, regardless of its credentials, which is everyone's prerogative .  Frankly, if you can spend 15 minutes googling info on Medical Acupuncture, you can spend the same amount of time googling the term "efficacy of acupuncture' to find articles that will meet your standards. I'm just not really up for doing that.

In retrospect, it probably would have been better for me to have simply stated that it seems to me that acupuncture, as a healing method with at least some scientific validation, is not exactly in the same category as spiritual healing.  Then I could have avoided the very thing I really didn't want to get into.
The scientific mainstream accepts that acupuncture deals with pain -- it's a subjective condition after all, the articles we've already linked to go into that.  However, the article which you linked to claims that acupuncture deals with pain in a way other than the placebo effect, through some convoluted and fanciful nerve process -- which isn't at all accurate.

You don't want to discuss acupuncture, and that's fine, but in the context of the discussion (where acupuncture and its efficacy was already being discussed), it really wouldn't have made much sense for me not to tear that article apart for being the biased, ancient, facetious piece of garbage that it is.

Medical Acupuncture is a journal for acupuncturists by acupuncturists.  Their publishing organization openly advertises for acupuncturists on the front of their website.  They admit that they were founded to promote acupuncture, and even that they use a lot of their funding to advertise and advocate for it.  There is nothing trustworthy or "peer reviewed" about that site, unless you ignore the fact that "peer" typically means scientific researcher and not acupuncture practitioner.

They've published gems like "An Acupuncture Protocol For Treatment Of Age-Related Macular Degeneration: A Second Report" (and yes, this is saying that acupuncture helps you see better) and "A High Protein Regimen and Auriculomedicine for the Treatment of Obesity: A Clinical Observation" (Auriculomedicine is fancy speak for needle in your ear).  So yeah, needles... helping you lose weight and see better since, uh... They made that up.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2011, 02:42:59 AM by Jude »

Offline Kuroneko

Re: Re: Spiritual Healing
« Reply #19 on: May 14, 2011, 03:19:59 AM »
It's possible to cherry pick any articles about any topic in any discipline to shape the information to support any point of view, pro, con or neutral on any subject.  And I know what auriculomedicine is. I do speak medicalese ;)

Respectfully, with no iffense intended, I'm not interested in finding articles that will meet your standards, especially when the ones listed from sources that already use your standards have been dismissed as outdated garbage.  By that standard, we might was well toss out acupuncture all together, since it's a 2000+ years old modality, along with all those years of 'anecdotal' evidence of it's ability to treat illnesses.  I'm pretty convinced I wouldn't be able to find anything that would meet your standards, honestly.   Your mind is clearly already made up, and that's why I avoid these kinds of discussions.  It's pretty hard to put anything in a cup that's already filled. I know I can't change people's opinions, and that's okay.  And, I really don't want or need the stress of trying.  I sincerely respect your opinion and your right to have one that's different from mine. 

I do have to say though, that I think discounting experiences that individuals have regarding improvement in their health as being purely subjective or psychological rather than physical is incredibly invalidating, both of their experiences with alternative healing and their physical conditions in general.  It just adds to the difficulties that people have being taken seriously by physicians when all they are looking for is help, which is counterproductive.  When people have chronic pain, for example, it often takes incredible effort to be taken seriously.  Just because an individual hasn't experienced a kind of treatment personally doesn't mean it isn't a valid treatment.  Cumulative anecdotal evidence often leads to fully mounted studies resulting in emergent new therapies, modalities and drug treatments after all. 

Just to relate a personal experience with this particular healing tradition, I've received acupuncture treatments since I was 16 years old, not for 'subjective, psychological conditions,' but real, documented, physical illnesses, such as ulcerative colitis, interstitial cystitis, migraines and severe muscle spasms that made it impossible to sleep more than two hours at a time, made my belly and external oblique contract as if I was in labor, and severely limited my ability to move.  Acupuncture was my last resort in the case of the muscle spasms, after nearly a year of western medical treatment and everything it could throw at me. After one treatment, I slept for 10 hours straight with no spasms.   You can dismiss it as anecdotal if you like, but I don't really care.  Frankly, it's dramatically improved my quality of life.  I know what I felt during the treatment, and how I felt after - and it wasn't a placebo affect. There were physical changes, which were documented by my physician, such as measured range of motion and changes in my height. Make of that what you will, lol.

I also received a lot of acupuncture treatments for knee pain that werenít helpful.  Later, when I had a knee arthroscopy for a meniscus tear, it was discovered that I had a huge plica (and overgrowth of synovial cartilage) on the inside of my knee, which was a birth defect.  No amount of acupuncture was ever going to correct that, lol. Once it was removed, I was pain free.

Anyhow, Iím done.  Iíll stick to the happy fun times part of E from now on.  Carry on, everyone. ;)

EDIT: Gawd, one day I shall learn how to type.  Meh. We now return you to your regularly scheduled discussion on spiritual medicine.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2011, 03:43:22 AM by Kuroneko »

Offline Jude

Re: Peer Reviewing and Alternative Medicine
« Reply #20 on: May 14, 2011, 03:36:56 AM »
You keep bringing out the fact that this treatment is old in its defense... That's not a rational argument.  The fact that it's an old treatment means absolutely nothing at all.  If anything, the fact that it is 2000 years old taken in conjunction with the fact that we can't find a single measurable, positive effect that it actually produces on a physical, non-psychological level is evidence of how good people are at deceiving themselves to believe what they want.

As far as what sort of research I would accept?  Anything double-blinded, reproduced, and published in respectable scientific journal by a scientist in good standing within the past 10 years.  Also known as, science.

EDIT:  To explain a bit, the reason why the age of the articles is relevant is because 20 years ago -- even 10 really -- this was a very contentious issue.  Clarity has only come recently in the form of many meta analysises and additional studies which have been linked to in this thread.  Using studies done in the 90s and before is about as fair as using studies done before Einstein to cast doubt on his theory of relativity.

As far as your personal anecdotes go, if I swore up and down from personal anecdotes that I know that spiritual healing and/or acupuncture doesn't work, would you find that to be fair and/or convincing?  If you wouldn't be persuaded by my behavior in the negative, then it isn't fair to be making arguments from the point of view of the affirmative either.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2011, 03:45:10 AM by Jude »

Offline Kuroneko

Re: Re: Spiritual Healing
« Reply #21 on: May 14, 2011, 03:44:30 AM »
There's no need to be sarcastic.  I have been polite with you, it would be nice if you could extend the same courtesy.

Again.  Done.

Offline Kuroneko

Re: Re: Spiritual Healing
« Reply #22 on: May 14, 2011, 03:47:15 AM »
There's no need to be sarcastic.  I have been polite with you, it would be nice if you could extend the same courtesy.

I think you're misunderstanding me.  By your own argument, anything over ten years old is 'garbage' or outdated, ergo, so is acupuncture itself, because it's more than ten years old.   


As far as your personal anecdotes go, if I swore up and down from personal anecdotes that I know that spiritual healing and/or acupuncture doesn't work, would you find that to be fair and/or convincing?  If you wouldn't be persuaded by my behavior in the negative, then it isn't fair to be making arguments from the point of view of the affirmative either.

I'm not making an argument for acupuncture at all, I was just relating a personal experience.  Period.  End of story.  No persuasion intended.  I'm sorry if it came off that way. I'm just very happy it helped me when western medicine failed.

And yes, I would be interested in your personal anecdote that was negative.  I would find it both fair and convincing in that it didn't work for you.  My husband got acupuncture during his last cancer treatment and he didn't find it useful at all.  However, his experience does not invalidate mine with acupuncture.  I would believe what you said, because it is your experience, and everyone's experience is different.  I don't expect everything to work for everybody any more than I expect everyone will like the same foods.

Again.  Done.  Really, really done. 

annnd, again, edited for my total lack of typing skill *sigh*
« Last Edit: May 14, 2011, 03:58:04 AM by Kuroneko »

Offline Kuroneko

Re: Re: Spiritual Healing
« Reply #23 on: May 14, 2011, 03:50:26 AM »

As far as your personal anecdotes go, if I swore up and down from personal anecdotes that I know that spiritual healing and/or acupuncture doesn't work, would you find that to be fair and/or convincing?  If you wouldn't be persuaded by my behavior in the negative, then it isn't fair to be making arguments from the point of view of the affirmative either.

I'm not making an argument for acupuncture at all, I was just relating a personal experience.  Period.  End of story.  No persuasion intended.  I'm sorry if it came off that way. I'm just very happy it helped me when western medicine failed.

And yes, I would be interested in your personal anecdote that was negative.  I would find it both fair and convincing in that it didn't work for you.  My husband got acupuncture during his last cancer treatment and he didn't find it useful at all.  However, his experience does not invalidate mine with acupuncture.  I would believe what you said, because it is your experience, and everyone's experience is different.  I don't expect everything to work for everybody any more than I expect everyone will like the same foods.

again, edited for my total lack of typing skill *sigh*
« Last Edit: May 14, 2011, 03:56:08 AM by Kuroneko »

Offline Jude

Re: Peer Reviewing and Alternative Medicine
« Reply #24 on: May 14, 2011, 03:59:13 AM »
That isn't really taking my point, though.  If I had experience that shows that acupuncture does not work, and you continued on unphased in your belief that it can, then you're not taking my experience seriously.  I was trying to illustrate one of the biggest problems with anecdotes:  they're often contradictory.  This illustrates the fact that human beings are incredibly fallible, both in perception and memory.

As far as the sarcasm goes, I don't feel I've been particularly sarcastic?  I'll double-check my wording to be sure it doesn't come off as snippy from here on out though.

EDIT:  The bit about over 10 years old, well, you're completely mischaracterizing my argument.  I'll restate in case my previous attempts were not very clear.  The reason why old research on acupuncture is no longer convincing is that as the technology, methodology, and rigor of clinical testing has improved, studies have shown the opposite.  Newer research which is better structured and controlled shows that acupuncture is nothing but placebo -- science advances over time and you can't ignore advances to cherry pick old data which suits your point.

Lets assume we were discussing evolution and we were analyzing a creationist's paper.  Wouldn't you be worried if all of the data they cited was 20 years old?  Wouldn't you readily push that data aside in favor of newer research if it was presented?

EDIT2:  I'd like to apologize to you.  Acupuncture is clearly an important part of your identity, and I just want to make it clear that it isn't my intention to attack your identity or you as a person in the criticisms that I present.  You seem like a nice person, I don't know you obviously but from our conversation I gather that your heart is definitely in the right place, and I mean you no ill-will.  We have a disagreement on this matter that probably isn't going to be settled, but I just want to make it clear that that alone hasn't led me to be hostile towards you, and even if we don't find any points of agreement I find the intellectual challenge of discussing things like this with an intelligent, articulate person like yourself who happens to be diametrically opposed to me on this issue very mentally stimulating.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2011, 04:15:34 AM by Jude »