Respectful Insolence

After four years and five days of nearly continuous blogging about skepticism, quackery, science- and evidence-based medicine, and a variety of other topics, you’d think there wouldn’t be much that I haven’t seen before. Certainly, lately, I’ve been wondering lately if there was anything left that could surprise me or horrify me anymore, and jaded is not a good way to be as a blogger. Indeed, in retrospect, I wonder if jadedness was why I had to stop Your Friday Dose of Woo for a while, the death of my dog notwithstanding, and why I’m happier now that I no longer feel obligated to do it every Friday. And, even now, every so often, there’s something so bizarre, something I’ve never heard of before, something that takes me by surprise.

This is one of those times.

Lately, I’ve been ragging on acupuncture–and justifiably so, I like to think. Having gone from sort of believer (or at least being somewhat open-minded about it) to realizing what that it is no more than an elaborate placebo and produces nonspecific effects that one would expect of an elaborate placebo, thanks to having actually taken the time over the last couple of years to read the clinical and scientific literature on acupuncture, I’ve yet to find compelling evidence that can convince me that I’ve made a mistake or that there is something to this woo. After all, what is acupuncture at its heart but another “energy healing” modality? Think about it. The entire basis of acupuncture is the scientifically risible claim that by sticking tiny needles into hundreds of small points along “meridians” through which qi (“life energy”) flows, an acupuncturist can “unblock” or “redirect” the flow of qi. But acupuncturists don’t make the claim that they can unblock or redirect the flow of qi but add to that claim another claim, namely that they can do this for therapeutic intent for all sorts of physiologically unrelated conditions. The only reason I used to give acupuncture a bit of a pass was because it actually involved a physical act, sticking needles in the skin.

Another reason I used to tend to give acupuncture a bit of a pass was that, like Dirty Harry Callahan, whose famous tagline from the second Dirty Harry movie Magnum Force was, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” And so it was with most acupuncturists, who (mostly) treat chronic pain syndromes, headache, or other conditions with a large subjective component, almost as if they acknowledge that what they provide is a placebo and a little TLC for patients who might be fed up with many of the shortcomings of scientific medicine. I almost never heard of an acupuncturist claiming to be able to treat life-threatening conditions, such as cancer. Indeed, such claims were uncommon enough that I can’t remember the last time I’ve heard of an acupuncturist claiming to cure fatal diseases.

Until now, unfortunately.

Behold Tom Tam, an acupuncturist in the Boston area who, based on dolls that map acupuncture meridians, has created a “healing modality” that he calls Tong Ren. Here he is on a poorly conceived and typically credulous local news report:


That’s right, it looks as though Tom Tam is using acupuncture meridians as a guide to voodoo therapy, and I do mean voodoo therapy. Watch the video to see what I mean. Or read this description of Tong Ren:

Tong Ren is based on a belief that disease is related to interruptions, or blockages,   in the body’s natural flow of chi, neural bioelectricity, blood, or hormones. Tong Ren seeks to remove these blockages, restoring the body’s natural ability to heal itself, even when illnesses are chronic, debilitating, or otherwise untreatable.

Tong Ren   combines western   knowledge of anatomy and physiology with the ancient principle of “chi,” or life force energy, to create what many consider to be a powerful new healing modality. Drawing on the Jungian theory of the “collective unconscious,”   Tong Ren is believed to access energy from this universal source and direct it to the patient.   Because no physical contact is involved or necessary, Tong Ren is often practiced as distance healing.
 
In a typical therapy session, the Tong Ren practitioner uses a small human anatomical model as   an   energetic representation of the patient, tapping on targeted points on the model with a lightweight magnetic hammer. The practitioner directs chi to blockage points corresponding to the patient’s condition, breaking down resistance at these points. As blood flow, neural transmission, and hormone reception are restored, the body is then able to heal.

That’s all there is to it. Tom Tam taps on a voodoo–excuse me, acupuncture–doll and claims that this tapping (along with “intent,” of course) treats cancer, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, and other diseases. He even runs frequent classes to teach people to use Tong Ren for cancer, emotional problems, weight loss, and even animals. But that’s not all. Tom Tam also claims to be able to treat chemotherapy side effects, surgery side effects, autoimmune disorders, and thyroid disease, to name a few more, by teleconference, even!

Is there any evidence for this? I think you know the answer to that. I had wanted to save Tong Ren for an installment of Your Friday Dose of Woo. As you will see, it definitely qualifies. However, one thing I learned from my inclusion of the German New Medicine two years ago, and that’s that I want YFDoW to be light-hearted, and I have a hard time being light-hearted about a charlatan, however well-intentioned, who is plying his quackery on people with life-threatening diseases. So Tong Ren was out for YFDoW. But it’s in for a heapin’ helpin’ of not-so-Respecful Insolence because it isn’t worthy of Respectful Insolence. Just look at this “explanation” of how Tong Ren “works”:

Tong Ren healing is not affiliated with any religion, nor should it be viewed as a mystery. My belief in Tong Ren healing is associated with the philosophy of the collective unconscious and the power of the mind. Many people accept the idea that there is an unconscious and that the mind is powerful. These philosophical views can be found in many books. When a group comes together to form a collective unconscious, as in healing meditation, this collective mind can become healing power. A leader is required for this type of healing power. When we form a group with a collective unconscious mind, we need a, just as a computer needs a font to show a letter on a monitor.

In Tong Ren Therapy we use a regular plastic acupuncture model to form the healing image. The acupuncture model becomes an energetic representation of the patient’s body. By placing the needles in the appropriate spots on the model and connecting the mind with our collective unconscious, the practitioner can give a patient a treatment. A connection between the therapist and the patient is formed. This connection can be modified by the energetic representation of the acupuncture model. Just as light shining through a slide will display an image, the Chi directed to the patient is modified by the image of the acupuncture model with needles inserted at specific points. The pattern of needles and the points selected are the same as the acupuncturist would use if inserting the needles directly into the patient’s body. Both inserting needles in the model and in the patient’s body are means to balance the patient’s Chi. The difference, of course, is that when the model is used the patient can be treated over long distance. This is similar to some Japanese acupuncture methods in which the needle is just touched to the skin but not inserted. Because Chi and the collective unconscious are not limited by space; the only thing is to establish a connection. The healing power is not from the acupuncture model–it is from our mind, and this mind transforms into a healing force. This healing energy we call Chi. In the human body, Chi has its own way to circulate. We must regulate the Chi and make it run on its track. This is the same theory that a Chi Gong master uses to make Chi circulate in a patient’s body.

There are seven pages of just that sort of woo. In fact, there’s more than just seven pages. A lot more. Just get a load of this document describing the techniques of Tong Ren. I’ll boil its nine pages of super-concentrated black hole density woo down for you. Basically, it says that you can use a hammer, laser, or pins on the acupuncture doll to redirect the flow of qi and heal. Actually, this last method makes me wonder if there is something inherent in humans that leads them to think that sticking needles in a doll can have an effect on another human being, be that effect bad (voodoo) or therapeutic (Tong Ren). But I digress. In fact, there was a fourth method, which Tom Tam calls “Discing.” I was horrified to read this description of treating breast cancer using “Discing”:

To do Discing, one requires a disc or a dish as a tool. You may use the lid of a sugar jar, a teapot lid, a teacup lid, or a small saucer. Simply set the disc or lid above the Ouch Point on the doll or directly onto the patient. Each practitioner places one or two fingers on the disc or the lid. When we use the doll, we can use the bigger acupuncture model, as it is easier to position a lid on it. If we put the lid directly onto the patient, the patient may sit down in a comfortable position or lie down and relax. When we treat cancer or tumors, we ask the patient where the tumor is located, then let the patient position the lid or disc on top of the tumor.

Before the treatment, we usually ask the patient to do self-examination by pressing on the tumor (Ouch Point) and remembering the size and level of pain. After the treatment, they should press the same area to compare the before and after conditions. Doing Discing on the Ouch Point takes about five minutes. Usually the patient feels sensations such as tingling, heat, warmth, heaviness or body aches as when other Tong Ren healing techniques are being applied. After we are done with treating the tumor or Ouch Point, we apply the same technique on the spinal blockage points.

For example, when we treat breast cancer, we first treat the tumor or lump on the breast area, and then treat T4, where the blockage causing the breast problem is located. After treating T4, the next area we can work on is on the head at BL6 and GV22. In the Tom Tam Healing System. BL6 and GV22 are the pituitary gland and 7 hormone area. The mammary gland is a hormonal organ, controlled by the pituitary gland. When we put the center of the lid on GV22, it automatically covers BL6; we do not need to separate GV22 and BL6 when we do Discing. Before doing Discing on a patient with a breast tumor, the patient should check the size of the lump first if the lump can be found. After the treatment, the lump should be checked again so we can compare the size. Very often, the lump may be smaller or may even have disappeared after the treatment.

How much easier my job would be if I could just take a dish or the lid of a sugar jar, put it on the “ouch point” of my patients, and think happy thoughts at them, visualizing healing. I guess that’s just the nasty materialist, Western, reductionist, science-based physician in me talking, though. That nasty science-based physician in me also wants Tom Tam to show me the evidence, if you know what I mean. What I would want would at the very minimum be good, well-documented case reports, but preferably such evidence should take the form of well-designed clinical trials, prefereably randomized and double-blinded. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know already Tom Tam has no such thing. You probably also know what he does have.

That’s right, testimonials.

Look at the news report above. An unfortunate woman with liver cancer is told she has only six months to live. She is still alive and feeling fairly good a year later. Never mind that she’s probably still taking conventional therapy. Never mind that he is not disease free, as far as I can tell from the news story; her tumor is still there. Never mind that she is probably just one of the lucky ones who are “outliers” on the bell-shaped curve. She attributes her good fortune to Tom Tam’s woo. The second testimonial is even less convincing than the first. It’s a guy with leukemia. Although nothing is said one way or the other about chemotherapy, it’s a good bet he got standard chemotherapy. He felt like crap and lost a lot of weight, as leukemia patients undergoing chemotherapy are prone to do. Now he feels better, and he attributes it to Tom Tam. Anyone want to guess that he started to feel better because the chemotherapy took care of his tumor and then later because his chemotherapy ended? Then there’s this testimonial:

It’s a pleasant and lovely Asian woman who had ductal carcinoma in situ. She underwent surgery and radiation (no mention of hormonal therapy), but her tumor recurred as an invasive breast cancer, after which she underwent mastectomy and chemotherapy. After that, her tumor appears to have recurred in an axillary lymph node, which was removed surgically. She then went to Tom Tam, and, of course, she attributes her continued survival to him. Of course, it’s possible–likely, actually–that the surgery to remove her axillary lymph node recurrence is what’s responsible for her current disease-free state. Indeed, her case is very much like the prototypical breast cancer testimonial that I wrote about nearly four years ago. Unfortunately, it’s also possible–likely, even–that her tumor will recur again. But it might not. If it does recur, you can bet that she won’t blame Tong Ren for failing. If it doesn’t, you can bet that she’ll give Tong Ren the credit for “healing” her.

The other thing that’s mentioned is that Harvard is supposedly “studying” Tong Ren. That’s a bit of a stretch, as you will see if you follow the link, which leads to a study entitled A Pilot Investigation of the Tong Ren Healing System: A Survey Study. It looks like nothing more than a survey of users of Tong Ren to me, and its purpose is unclear. Personally, if the people doing the survey are using this survey to see if there is anything to Tong Ren, this is about the worst way possible to find out. All it will end up doing is to collect testimonials, perhaps like this one:

In April of 2005, my life-long friend Rick Kuethe called me from Boston (I live in Omaha, Ne) to tell me about a new therapy he’d been working with called Tong Ren, developed by a wonderful Chinese healer named Tom Tam. Rick knew that for years I have suffered from fibromyalgia, lumbar stenosis, and most importantly, lung cancer in May of 2003. At that time I was lucky enough to have an operable tumor in the upper lobe of my left lung, and surgery was successful. However, at my quarterly oncology checkups over the last two years, small spots had still appeared. They were too small to biopsy, but never went away.

Rick started treating me weekly, by phone, in April 2005 with the following results: my FMS pain went from a daily 8 to about a 3 (on a pain scale of 1-10 with 10 being the worst), my general energy levels went up, and my blood pressure and weight went down. After three months, in July 2005, at my quarterly oncology checkup, my lung spots were completely gone. In October 2005, my lungs were once again completely cancer free!

If there’s one thing we in the cancer field know, it’s that “spots too small to biopsy” in the lung may or may not be cancer. Often, even in patients treated for cancer, we will watch them to see if they grow, because taking out a chunk of lung in someone who’s already had cancer to try to find such tiny lesions is generally riskier than careful observation. And guess what? Many times these “spots too small to biopsy” will either remain stable or disappear on their own. True, sometimes they will grow, but that’s why oncologists keep a close eye on them.

Such is the “evidence” upon which Tom Tam bases his claim that Tong Ren cures cancer and even disses regular acupuncture:

Most acupuncturists have a hard time believing that Tong Ren is more powerful than the use of acupuncture needles for treating cancer. In fact, Tong Ren Therapy has successfully healed many cancer cases, whereas there has not been any report about cancers having been cured by the exclusive use of acupuncture.

Well, one out of two ain’t bad, I guess.

But how does Tong Ren work? If you’ve been reading this blog and other skeptical blogs about “alternative” medicine, I bet you know what’s coming next, don’t you? (If you don’t you should.) What is a modality like Tong Ren incomplete without? How can woo-meisters “explain” a modality that involves imaginging an “energetic imprint” on a doll and then either tapping it, shooting a laser at it, or sticking pins in it? How can woo-meisters “explain” a modality that can be used for “distance healing? There’s only one way. That’s right. It’s all quantum theory:

My brain hurts. It’s all there, the dubious appeals to “energy” and “quantum theory,” along with the usual silliness about how “Western” doctors aren’t interested because they can’t understand it or sell it. There’s an absolutely ridiculous bit about how there’s “no economic benefit” how “all medicine is political,” and how this woo-meister can “treat” a woman with breast cancer over the phone. Truly, brain pain, and I don’t think Tong Ren is going to help.

But, you’re thinking: Orac, you’re such a downer. Come on, what do you have against curing cancer? After all, Tom Tam assures us this is all science, maaaan:

Yes, a high school student named Miles Sarill applied Tong Ren to mouse neuroblastoma cells ordered from ATCC and claims that they reverted back to “normal” and then underwent apoptosis. Of course, anyone who’s ever done cell culture knows that it’s very easy to get anomalous results, and it wasn’t explained if the control cells were subjected to any sort of sham treatment. For instance, he says he’s treating the cancer cells every day as shown in these pictures (1, 2, 3). Is he also taking the control cells out of the incubator in exactly the same fashion and for the same amount of time? I also wonder how he’s keeping the control cells from being exposed to the powerful woo–I mean Tong Ren–”healing” energy. After all, Tom Tam claims that distance is irrelevant and healing can occur over hundreds of miles. Is a mere incubator and maybe 10 feet of distance going to protect the control cells from the powerful woo rays emanating from the tapping of the Tong Ren doll? I think not, if Tong Ren were real. Let’s see, his video was made nearly a year ago, and our intrepid young woo investigator said he was going to repeat the experiment. On his blog, we see a picture of cells allegedly treated with Tong Ren undergoing apoptosis, but there are no pictures of the controls shown, and no quantitative data. The blog entry is dated February 15, 2008. There hasn’t been any update since then.

I wonder if later experiments showed that he had discovered nothing more than an artifact or had not used proper controls? It wouldn’t surprise me. Hopefully, if that happened, he learned a thing or two about the scientific method. Given that Miles is an inquisitive high school student who appears to have gone astray, I’m hopeful he can be brought back into the fold of science. Maybe he’ll even stop referring to himself as a “paraneuropsychopharmacologist.”

The bottom line about Tong Ren is that it is magical thinking. Indeed, Tong Ren gives homeopathy and its sympathetic magic a run for its money in terms of pure magical thinking. Moreover, I’m particularly disturbed that Tom Tam and his acolytes are selling this woo to cancer patients, especially breast cancer patients. As a cancer surgeon, I get pretty pissed off about things like that. But Tom Tam doesn’t limit himself to just cancer. Oh, no, he treats AIDS, heart disease, and a whole slew of other complaints. Truly, this is an example of combining acupuncture and voodoo dolls, two crappy tastes alone that taste even crappier together.

Comments

  1. #1 Lexin
    December 16, 2008

    That’s one for the ‘some people will believe anything’ file.

    Sigh.

  2. #2 Skeptico
    December 16, 2008

    Life imitates art – The British Veterinary Voodoo Society was supposed to be satire.

  3. #3 Blake Stacey
    December 16, 2008

    What happens if you aim the laser at the wrong point on the doll — do you get sudden sharp pains in inconvenient places? On the other hand, could the brainwashed Maharaja in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom have cured Indy’s high cholesterol by poking that needle more carefully?

  4. #4 Skeptico
    December 16, 2008

    From my The British Veterinary Voodoo Society link above:

    The principle of voodoo healing is simple. As ‘like affects like’, an appropriately manufactured and treated wax doll or cloth puppet may substitute for the patient, and manipulations performed on the doll substitute for those performed on the patient. Techniques of visualisation and channelling of healing are easy to learn, and it is possible to combine voodoo with ‘conventional’ or allopathic medicine simply by administering the medicine to the doll rather than to the patient.

    Which one is the parody?

  5. #5 Scott
    December 16, 2008

    One thing that struck me immediately is how weird it is for somebody to turn to woo for hypothyroidism (early in the first clip). I mean, it’s so HARD to take a pill every morning. OK, sure, you have to have regular blood tests to monitor TSH levels and make sure the dose is right, but that’s a lot less trouble than these sessions look like. (I know that of which I speak here; I have hypothyroidism myself as a result of radioiodine therapy for Graves’ disease.)

    The second clip was also very interesting – apparently she refused more chemo because the doctor wouldn’t give her a guarantee that it would cure her permanently. If this Tom Tam *is* giving such guarantees, he ought to be arrested.

  6. #6 Aj
    December 16, 2008

    The famed “voodoo doll” is actually a practice taken straight from European witchcraft (poppets), little to do with actual voodoo (a fun faith which the whole family can enjoy – especially once you invest in a drum machine).

    So while this type of sympathetic magic is complete and utter bullshit, it is original, nay vintage, Western European bullshit.

    This probably explains why the other acupuncturists aren’t too happy with him; they can’t have people going round pretending Western woo is equal to the Eastern variety.

  7. #7 Mojo
    December 16, 2008

    If you can combine voodoo and acupuncture, what happens to an identical twin if their twin is treated with acupuncture?

  8. #8 alyric
    December 16, 2008

    I get the feeling that cancer patients are almost pushed into woo just to get back some control in their lives. Do you think oncologists could give some thought to getting patients to look after the things they can look after. There are enough of them and some of them are essential like keeping the fluid balance right and the patient is the only one who can really do that. I thought I might help out by taking Mg supplements after I noted it was low after chemo, thinking like a biochemist of rate limiting steps in reactions. Was a nice idea but there happen to be other and obviously more essential rate limiting steps on the way to cell count regeneration so nothing much happened well, faster at any rate. Still the principle is sound and there are better things than taking megadoses of anti-oxidants that ruin the efficacy of chemo. One bloke I read about used to run his altie stuff (mainly herbals) past his oncologist to check whether it would interfere or not and they had developed a good working relationship – something of a model I suspect. Seriously oncologists need to think about what makes this stuff attractive. I think the control issue is real and there doesn’t seem to be any harm in voodoo dolls so it’s a twofer.

  9. #9 Christophe Thill
    December 16, 2008

    As Neil Young said: “I’ve seen the needle and the damage done…”

  10. #10 Dave
    December 16, 2008

    I agree with alyric regarding giving the patient some autonomy. There is a huge difference between “feeling better” (which, sure, the woo can do) and curing disease, and if they feel better using Whackupuncture ((C) Me ??), they should be free to give Master Tom Tom their cash. But he better not dare tell them to abandon their actual medical treatment.

  11. #11 MKandefer
    December 16, 2008

    Orac says,

    “I also wonder how he’s keeping the control cells from being exposed to the powerful woo–I mean Tong Ren–”healing” energy. After all, Tom Tam claims that distance is irrelevant and healing can occur over hundreds of miles. Is a mere incubator and maybe 10 feet of distance going to protect the control cells from the powerful woo rays emanating from the tapping of the Tong Ren doll? I think not, if Tong Ren were real.”

    Mojo says,

    “If you can combine voodoo and acupuncture, what happens to an identical twin if their twin is treated with acupuncture?”

    You guys just don’t understand Tong Ren, did you not catch the part about the collective consciousness, and maybe The Secret. It’s all about the energy, quantum fields, negative space, time (which physicians ignore because it’s too complex), and most important of all, directing one’s thoughts at the diseased individual in question. Therefore, there should be no problem controlling a study so long as one’s thoughts do not stray to another cell culture, the other twin, or Angelina Jolie.

  12. #12 Miles Sarill
    December 16, 2008

    Hello dear Orac,

    This is none other than the “paraneuropsychopharmacologist” Miles Sarill that you spoke of. I feel that one cannot make novel contributions to science without initial derision. So I must thank you for that. And for the most part, you are correct about my shoddy methodology, but only because my study was a preliminary one. As a high school student, one does not have as many resources and as much time as a scientist in a dedicated research laboratory. However, I have done this study a couple of times, each time with similar results. It was enough to make even the most hardcore skeptic in my classroom double-take and realize there might be something more to Tong Ren.

    Orac, please realize that if I acquired data that would contradict the tenets of Tong Ren, I would feel compelled to present them in their entirety. That is the scientist’s duty. The reason why I have posted nothing since those first preliminary experiments is that I have been busy conducting research in neuropharmacology at a laboratory in Boston. In other words the experiment on Tong Ren wasn’t my main priority. However, after I return to this work in the near future, I invite you to read the journal article I intend to submit (regardless of results) with open eyes. I intend to utilize flow cytometry to properly quantitate cell viability, and controls and variables will be moved to different incubators routinely. All will be done in triplicate.

    By the way, some doctors at Dana Farber Cancer Center have been referring their patients for Tong Ren therapy because they’ve seen regression or remission in cases of stage IV lung and liver cancer. Although one can ascribe some of these results to the placebo effect, it is also known that animals and babies respond to Tong Ren, in which case there can be no possibility of a placebo effect. Of course, one needs rigorously conducted peer-reviewed studies for such results to be accepted. With the formation of the OCI Healing Research Foundation, Inc., funding for such studies should be eventually available.

    Sincerely,

    Miles Sarill
    biotech(dot)samurai (at) gmail(dot)com

    PS. I like the term woo-meister. I just might have to refer to myself that way more often. Please feel free to email me back.

  13. #13 Orac
    December 16, 2008

    By the way, some doctors at Dana Farber Cancer Center have been referring their patients for Tong Ren therapy because they’ve seen regression or remission in cases of stage IV lung and liver cancer.

    Who, specifically, is referring patients for Tong Ren?

    I happen to know a couple of people at Dana Farber.

    Although one can ascribe some of these results to the placebo effect, it is also known that animals and babies respond to Tong Ren, in which case there can be no possibility of a placebo effect.

    It’s not true that there can be no placebo effect in animals or babies:

    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=263

  14. #14 ebohlman
    December 16, 2008

    Wasn’t there a failed 1990s dotcom called OuchPoint?

  15. #15 delanne
    December 16, 2008

    Off topic : May I ask, what is the subject in that photo in the upper left corner of the blog? I’m assuming it has something to do with woo.

  16. #16 Karl Withakay
    December 16, 2008

    Miles Sarill steps up to the plate, eyes the catcher, shakes off the call, finally gets the sign he wants and throws the Galileo Gambit for his first pitch. Orac at the plate, watches the pitch fly by, completely ignoring it, and the umpire calls, “Ball One!”

    Miles then proceeds to throw out, in no particular order, Correlation equals causation, Preliminary results…promise to publish later/ I don’t have time to do complete tests or publish a paper now, a combined Appeal To Authority/Appeal To Anonymous Authority, and a lack of understanding of the placebo effect, and probably some other fallacious arguments I missed.

  17. #17 Orac
    December 16, 2008

    Off topic : May I ask, what is the subject in that photo in the upper left corner of the blog? I’m assuming it has something to do with woo.

    It’s a self portrait. ;-)

  18. #18 Joseph C.
    December 16, 2008

    Miles,

    You’re a bright young man. Stop doing science wrong.

  19. #19 Karl Withakay
    December 16, 2008

    delanne, didn’t you watch PBS in the 80′s?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orac_(Blake%27s_7)

  20. #20 Orac
    December 16, 2008

    Actually, in case Miles comes back, I’ll even give him a few pointers on how he should do his experiments, if do them he must (and personally I think they’re a total waste of time):

    1. Each set of cells must be treated identically. If the Tong Ren group is out of the incubator for ten minutes, then the control group must be out of the incubator for ten minutes and in the same part of the lab. An absolutely rigorous search needs to be done to account for any potential differences in how the groups are treated. Preferably, some sort of “sham” or placebo Tong Ren should be developed for the control group.

    2. The person running any assays needs to be blinded to which cell group is which. Ideally, someone else should plate Miles’ cells for him to assure equal plating density, and put a code on the flasks in a place where it can’t be easily seen. Then that person should give the experimental flask to Miles to do Tong Ren on every day. After the experiment is over, someone else should run the assays on the cells, so that the person running the assays does not know which group is the Tong Ren group and which is the control. Preferably Miles should not run the assays, because even if he didn’t see the codes he might still recognize which flask is which.

    3. Repetition, repetition, repetition. Although triplicate is fine for individual experiments, three repeats are probably not enough to establish this phenomenon. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidnece, which is why Miles also needs…

    4. Quantification. Rigorous quantification is necessary.

    5. Different conditions. A biological effect, if it’s real, should hold up over a number of cell types under a variety of conditions. If it only works if the cell density is X, for example, it’s probably an anomaly.

    6. Test several malignant and nonmalignant cell lines. If Tong Ren really is good against cancer, we might predict that it would kill cancer cell lines but not nonmalignant cell lines or cells taken from primary tissue culture. If it were to kill any cell line tested, it would be worthless. An example I like to mention is bleach. Bleach kills cancer cells dead, but it also kills normal cells at about the same rate. Preferential killing of cancer cells over normal, nonmalignant cells is essential.

    7. Dose-response. If Tong Ren has a biological effect, we would predict that it would have a dose-response curve, with a greater effect as the “dose” (frequency and/or length of treatment) increases.

    8. Molecular correlates. How does gene expression change in response to Tong Ren?

    I’m just throwing out some things that any halfway decent peer reviewer is going to ask; so Miles might as well be ready now.

    One final bit of advice to Miles: Do not submit your manuscript to the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Medical Acupuncture, or similar “alt med” journals. Such journals have notoriously low standards, so much so that it’s not unreasonable to dismiss anything published in them almost out of hand. Submit to high quality journals, like the Journal of Biological Chemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology, Cancer Research, the Journal of Cell Biology, etc.

  21. #21 LW
    December 16, 2008

    Why would tapping at locations on a human figure be effective when dealing with mouse cells?

  22. #22 flim flam
    December 16, 2008

    maybe they used a little mousey doll?. if it’s all “quantum” and stuff, why’d they need the doll anyway?. surely the super duper thought power would work on it’s own?. someone should tell the westboro crazies about this witchcraft! maybe they can finally do something useful and persecute someone that actually deserves it.

  23. #23 LW
    December 16, 2008

    No, it was a human figure not a mousey doll. If you suffered through the whole video, you would see him solemnly tapping on a human figure. Also, the audience asks deeply educated questions about which points he chose and why, but no one asks whether he verified that acupuncture points on mousies are the same as acupuncture points on people. I think that would be an important footnote in the forthcoming monograph.

  24. #24 Marcus Ranum
    December 16, 2008

    When Tom Lehrer said “specialize in diseases of the rich” he should have said “…gullible.”

  25. #25 angry doc
    December 17, 2008

    Hey, there’s a branch in Singapore!

    http://divuscara.com/tongren/tongrensingapore/index.htm

  26. #26 Tsu Dho Nimh
    December 18, 2008

    In Tong Ren Therapy we use a regular plastic acupuncture model to form the healing image. The acupuncture model becomes an energetic representation of the patient’s body. By placing the needles in the appropriate spots on the model and connecting the mind with our collective unconscious, the practitioner can give a patient a treatment.

    Sounds like voo-doo dolls and “sympathetic magic” to me. All they have to do is make the doll wax, and stick a few hairs or nail clippings into it. Black chicken sacrifices optional.

  27. #27 George Garrol
    December 30, 2008

    Apparently people with actual medical degrees affiliated with respected medical research institutions (Dana Farber, Harvard Medical School), who have presented at national oncological conferences and published in real peer reviewed magazines (versus obscure blogs written by people reffering to themselves as “Orac”) appear to disagree with you (and cite actual evidence).

    http://chp.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/1533210108329265v1

  28. #28 Orac
    December 30, 2008

    Yawn.

    If you want to play that game, I’ll wearily go along. Believe it or not, I have published in real peer reviewed journals as well, including Cancer Research, the Journal of Biological Chemistry, Genes and Development, Blood, Molecular and Cellular Biology, and–yes–even Nature (although I wasn’t first or last author on the Nature publication; so I don’t make as big a deal of it).

    But for purposes of this discussion none of that matters other than for its being fun to throw back in the face of altie apologists like yourself who make that idiotic attack. What does matter is that this study is nothing more than a survey. It’s utterly meaningless as far as determining whether Tong Ren has any efficacy whatsoever against cancer or anything else.

    But I thank you. I think you may well have provided me with blog fodder–blogging on peer-reviewed research, even!

  29. #29 Chebacco
    January 3, 2009

    I didn’t see it mentioned that Tom Tam doesn’t charge for his Tong Ren “class”. He charges for acupuncture. I’ve observed incredible results. Conditions that Boston Hospitals have called “inoperable” and “incurable”, cured. Tom Tam treated me for ocular shingles with acupuncture. Mass Eye and Ear had “no treatment”,”too late for anti virals”, and said “good luck, we’ll see you in 6 weeks”. I went to see Tom Tam with incredible pain, and my eye swollen shut. I walked out with my eye open and comfortable. My wife was a witness. I guess you would say it was imagined, but what kind of truth do you need.

  30. #30 V. Brown
    January 4, 2009

    Not usually a contributor to such a forum, I ask you to stop and consider for a moment. Claiming to be a skeptic takes little effort. Why not claim to be a scientist? What is cause and effect? If an action leads to an outcome, just because a you do not understand the cause, your lack of understanding does not make the effect any less valid. I have watched sufferers of Lyme disease, believing in the mainstream medical establishment and its truly impressive abilities, trust their doctor to the extent that they take the same ineffective and system destroying antibiotic every day for years and years and get sicker and sicker every year. That is true “woo” or hoping for faith healing. If Tong Ren does work, which it apparently does work for some people, is it placebo, or could it possibly have some basis in fact? I only ask you to cosider, “Is it possible?” Perhaps Tong Ren is based on that which we cannot understand as of yet. The foundations of this work have existed for millenia. Who are we to call these people frauds? An open mind and an acceptance of our own mental limitations, as Dirty Harry would advise, is an advantage. “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Arthur C. Clarke, “Profiles of The Future”, 1961. Full disclosure – I had Lyme disease for more than 20 years. I could no longer work, walk, drive, speak, hear and had very limited mental acuity. I was very close to being institutionalized, or, I learned later, dying. Tong Ren gave me back my life and I have returned to a very intensive work life in finance. I have my family and friends back. While recovering from Lyme, I was in a traumatic accident. I severly ruptured 5 disks in my back. MRI’s and x-rays do not allow for much “woo” interpretation. Once again, I could not work, walk, sit at my desk, or rest. Once more I am very active. No surgery. Tong Ren. “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Hamlet Act 1, scene 5, 159-167. I guess William Shakespeare suggests the same pause to consider.

  31. #31 Joseph C.
    January 4, 2009

    Claiming to be a skeptic takes little effort. Why not claim to be a scientist?

    Good scientists must also be skeptics.

    From the very page that you’re staring at right now:

    Orac is the nom de blog of a (not so) humble pseudonymous surgeon/scientist

  32. #32 Del
    January 7, 2009

    There was a time when the world was flat and everyone laughed at the idea that it is round.
    Now we are in the times of waking up and realizing what we have forgotten, that we have a creational given ability to heal ourselves without the poisons and the butchery that we were led to believe can help us. As individuals we have our thoughts yet they are combined, connected in their own sea. These thoughts travel faster than the speed of light and connect with any living being anywhere. Just like a lake in which a pebble thrown into that lake creates a ripple and a large boulder can create a disruption causing a big splash and a greater ripple. In time the water smoothes out again to a nice calm. I think to contradict a method that is helping people without any idea of how it works and without having any evidence proving us false, I believe that a boulder was thrown into your lake.

    Sincerely

    Del

  33. #33 HCN
    January 7, 2009

    Del said “There was a time when the world was flat and everyone laughed at the idea that it is round.”

    One can pretty much guess that the rest of a comment is going to be regurgitated bovine excrement when they start off with this classic urban legend. Anyone who has taken any science, history or interest in any kind of learning will know that “everyone thought the world was flat” is a myth, especially since the diameter of the earth has been known since Eratosthenes over 2000 years ago:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eratosthenes

    And, yep… it was pretty bad. Including this gem “These thoughts travel faster than the speed of light and connect with any living being anywhere.”

    Gah!!!

    Let me suggest a couple of ways for you to address your complete lack of understanding of the natural world!

    Most municipalities have these places where there are lots of books. These places are called “libraries”. I would suggest you find the closest one, and seek out the section labeled “Science”. If there is a science section in the “Juvenile” or “Young Adult” section, you should probably start there. You should look at some basic books on physics.

    Also, there are these wonderful public educational institutions called “Community Colleges”. Anyone who can pass a placement test can take courses there (one of my kids passed the English and Math Compass tests after completing 9th grade in high school). If you cannot pass the test they will still let you take classes, though usually under “Adult Basic Education” where they will help you make up the education that you seem to lack.

  34. #34 Del
    January 7, 2009

    You do not seem to lack in ignorance not one bit.

  35. #35 Orac
    January 7, 2009

    Del,

    You wouldn’t happen to be associated with Tom Tam, would you? I note that your IP address resolves to Massachusetts.

  36. #36 Prometheus
    January 7, 2009


    “…a high school student named Miles Sarill applied Tong Ren to mouse neuroblastoma cells ordered from ATCC and claims that they reverted back to “normal” and then underwent apoptosis.”

    Well, if Mr. Sarill used Neuro-2a cells (mouse neuroblastoma), it wouldn’t be too surprising for him to see them “revert back to normal”, since they typically show a mix of ameboid and neuronal cell morphologies (for a picture, see: http://www.atcc.org/Attachments/1750.jpg ).

    The fluorescent micrograph posted on his ‘blog shows a lot of dead cells and one or two that may be apoptotic, although they are on the edge of the field. What he interprets as apoptosis may simply be cell death. Additionally, it’s not too far a stretch to see apoptosis if his culture becomes infected with a virus, since many viral infections trigger apoptosis.

    I commend Mr. Sarill on his attempt to test Tong Ren scientifically and the mistakes he made are not too dissimilar from those I’ve seen other people at his level make.

    In addition to exposing the test and control cultures to the same conditions (e.g. taking them out of the incubator at the same time as the “test” cultures) except for the “treatment” being tested, he should also have someone who doesn’t know which cultures were treated do the assessment.

    Alternatively, he could have someone hand him the culture flask to be “treated” after covering the identifying label. That way, he wouldn’t unconsciously find more “effect” in the treated cultures.

    Unfortunately, Mr. Sarill seems unaware of his own limitations, which is fairly typical of people his age. I hope that he finds the time to do his experiments properly and then finds the courage to report his new findings.

    Mr. Sarill has rather publicly claimed a significant finding (Tong Ren “cures” mouse neuroblastoma) with woefully inadequate data to support that claim. If he had tried to get these findings published – even in a peer-reviewed online journal – he would have had to correct the flaws in his experimental design prior to publication, which would have given him either better data to support his claims or an opportunity to privately retract incorrect findings. When (if?) he finally realizes his mistakes, he will discover how hard it is to eradicate embarrassing information from the Internet.

    Best of luck, Miles.

    Prometheus

  37. #37 HCN
    January 7, 2009

    Orac said “You wouldn’t happen to be associated with Tom Tam, would you?”

    So that mish-mash of uneducated gobbely-gook was a sales pitch?

  38. #38 Orac
    January 7, 2009

    Mr. Sarill has rather publicly claimed a significant finding (Tong Ren “cures” mouse neuroblastoma) with woefully inadequate data to support that claim. If he had tried to get these findings published – even in a peer-reviewed online journal – he would have had to correct the flaws in his experimental design prior to publication, which would have given him either better data to support his claims or an opportunity to privately retract incorrect findings. When (if?) he finally realizes his mistakes, he will discover how hard it is to eradicate embarrassing information from the Internet.

    You mean like HIV/AIDS denialists? :-)

  39. #39 del
    January 7, 2009

    Im sorry Orac what was this discussion about again? I have no time to waste anymore on this blog. Good luck in you quest.

    Sincerely

    Del

  40. #40 Prometheus
    January 7, 2009


    “I have no time to waste anymore on this blog.”

    Translation: “I don’t want to explain why my woo works, I’m much too busy making money off it.”

    Funny, Del had plenty of time to wax poetic with his “ripples in the pond” metaphor, but as soon as you ask for a few facts, he’s much too busy to waste time with us skeptics.

    I’ve seen variations on this theme more often than I care to recall. It’s a de facto admission that they can’t play with the big boys and girls on a factual basis. If you don’t immediately “accept” the knowledge they received from “Universal Consciousness”, they immediately move on to more “open-minded” (i.e. gullible) prey.

    Prometheus

  41. #41 ruth housman
    July 25, 2009

    I understand how you feel, namely this sure looks like voodoo and it’s inconceivable that people could be “cured in this way” or helped.

    Now years ago I would have felt as you do, and, in fact, it still seems such a stretch, even for me. I can only tell you that I am experiencing massive, visible, coincidence, otherwise known as synchronicity and have been, daily for years since this began. I keep a profound record and yes, it sounds like a science fiction story but it is true. I couldn’t possibly make up the connects as they are constantly unfolding. In addition to this, I can tell you that this is happening in my Poetry group in a visible way, and that this also has been happening in a writing group in Cambridge. Now everyone knows this is happening. Nobody is “brain dead”. What people do not stop to do, is think about how or why this is happening, and it’s in spades, meaning I seriously doubt that “chance” has anything to do with this, and I can also say, it’s brilliant, meaning these stories are amazing.

    I do know we’re all connected to each other in more ways than we ever thought possible, or I couldn’t keep this record going.

    Scepticism is healthy and keep that sceptre, until you encounter personally something that shocks you, and sends your mind reeling. The “reel world” OR the “real world”?

    I am saying there is more to all of this than you can possibly realize and what I have on paper, for those who are open minded enough to read this, might just change your thinking.

  42. #42 Chris
    July 25, 2009

    The plural of anecdote is anecdotes, not data. Personal testimonies are anecdotes, not data.

  43. #43 Virginia Marques
    December 7, 2009

    You have a typical surgeons point of view, unfortunately. Limited to only one area of thought, that which can be proven scientifically. Tong Ren, like so many other unrecognized unconventional therapies cannot necessarily be proven scientifically and that makes it quackery I suppose. I suggest that you check out what is now referred to as “Quantum Communication”, a form of communication whch many of us already knew existed for our selves, and which science has now proven it to exist. Now we can accept it as being true even though the limited-minded skeptics didn’t believe us. There is much yet that science will probably never be able to prove to it’s absolute satisfaction, but there are those of us who do not need to wait for their OK to “KNOW” the truth about that which does not conform to conventional-thinking minds and therefore to act upon it. Some day, maybe you will venture outside your safety zone, but probably not as long as you remain in the biased-surgeon mind-set. You are the WOO. Personally, I would rather be “wrong” and know the truth of anything, than be “right” and perpetrate the lie. Fear of being wrong is one of the most powerful fears and one that controls the minds of many physicians and surgeons, not to speak of the medical profession in general. Unfortunately it is seldom recognized for what it is by those who most need to be aware of it. As a surgeon, you have your value in medicine, and there is a need for your expertise, but you are out of your league here. Your focus is too limited and blinded by your bias. I leave you with this thought “Go where no man has gone before and leave a trail for others to follow.”

    And to you, Ruth, Hurray! You do not need scientific proof. You are the proof. Sorry to be so late in finding this blog. I hope to come back and find more has been posted.

    1

  44. #44 Chris
    December 7, 2009

    It took you how many months to formulate that rambling comment? Which proved you have absolutely no idea what “quantum” means.

  45. #45 Travis
    December 7, 2009

    As someone with a degree in physics I feel I can tell you, Virginia Marques, that you are ignorant. I spent years learning about quantum mechanics, actually learning about physics, and you come in here mindlessly tossing around words you do not understand, full of pride and such hubris. Sit down, learn a bit of math, learn some quantum mechanics from a real textbook, and then you can come back and let me know if you still think what you wrote makes a lick of sense.

  46. #46 Virginia Marques
    December 7, 2009

    To Orac, I am back again with another thought. Are you still there? We, the “impossibility thinkers,” as i like to refer to our kind of thinking, need your input to keep us on track; so that we don’t become complacent in our beliefs, but keep checking them out for credibility. Like torpedoes, we need your skepticism to keep us on the targot. The more I read these blogs posted since your original one in 2008, the clearer my view becomes. I was only just introduced to the Tong Ren therapy by my Doctor, who, incidentally, is no quack, a few weeks ago. He had been a practicing physician for many years, but recently joined an alternative/complementry medicine clinic. He was called by those in his conventional practice, “the weird doctor”. Give me more “weird” doctors. God bless him. He is not stuck in “Flat-earth thinking” as I call it. He is constantly seeking new approaches. I hope there will be more posts on this site as I just found this toda. As Karen Armstrong says, “Belief is the end of thinking”

  47. #47 Chris
    December 7, 2009

    Wait, Travis, you have a degree in physics and pretend to be a biologist? I am a pretend biologist, pretend physicist, a former engineer, and now after the mid-term I took this afternoon… an ex-grad student —- but am a real recreational gardener! The quantum physics of photosynthesis is fascinating to me. I am freaked out that the photons hitting a leaf power the mechanisms that turn water and carbon dioxide gas into the long sugar molecules that make up the plant!

    Now I need to go up into my little greenhouse and encourage the baby lettuce and basil to keep growing. The lemons are turning yellow (but the plant suffered from spider mites… I want it to grow new leaves!).

  48. #48 Travis
    December 7, 2009

    Wow Chris, you put my meandering life to shame!

    I wonder if you can make use of this “Quantum Communication” to help your plants grow? I sure hope it really works. Make sure to report back any results. Try to make more sense though, I really do not understand what Virginia is trying to get at, especially in that last rather random post.

  49. #49 Chris
    December 8, 2009

    Sorry, Travis, the only quantum stuff my plants are going to get is pure sunshine. Amazing what it does in a greenhouse. The outside air temperature never broke above the freezing temp of water, 32o F, but in the greenhouse it hit over 75o F (and without supplemental heat!).

  50. #50 Chris
    December 8, 2009

    Oh, and thanks for the kudos. I need it after deciding to become a grad-school dropout for the second time!

  51. #51 Virginia Marques
    December 8, 2009

    Wow, I am really glad to know tha someone was really there. I wonder just what brought you there. I am disappointed, though.

    My reference to “Quantum Communication”, as it is called and which science hss now proven to exist, has apparently been taken out of context. See the following links:
    http://www.voiceentertainment.net/movies/quantumcommunicati
    http://www.physorg.com/news108217803.html
    eve.physics.ox.ac.uk/NewWeb/Research/communication/co

    And there is more in “Search” under “Quantum Communication”, and then wipe the egg off of your faces.

    There are some things that science probably will never be able to prove, but they are still valid inspite of this. Some of us do not need to wait for the OK. Maybe Science will catch up some day.

    Incidentally, it is none of my business what you may think of me. Just pay attention to the subject of the blog referred to which was posted by Orac. Your responses are irrelevant. Silly boys!

  52. #52 Travis
    December 8, 2009

    Umm, if you look at this blog it is clear people are here. There is a panel on the left that shows the posts people have made, so people were able to see that you had posted on this old thread.

    Okay, your first link is an ad for a DVD. A DVD with a bunch of talking heads is not how you do science.

    Your second link is a popular article from physorg about real research. But that research does not demonstrate what you are talking about. This entanglement concept is not surprising to anyone that has studied quantum mechanics, grab any quantum mechanics textbook and have a look. If wikipedia has a big article about the topic it probably is not that unknown or surprising.

    No idea what the third link was, you copied it incorrectly (same with the first link but I could figure out what it was supposed to be).

    But, you did not present anything, you gave no evidence, no argument. All I saw was a mangling of quantum mechanics, and vague statements about communication via it. People throw “quantum” around like it explains everything that is weird. It does not. To quote Inigo Montoya, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    Quantum mechanics is not magic. There is math behind it, it can be tested. It is not always intuitive, but it works pretty well.

  53. #53 Virginia Marques
    December 8, 2009

    Blogging is not something a usually do, so i don’t know the ins and outs, or about the left side of the page, etc. This is not my territory anyway. My mistake. So I guess you didn’t know what post or person I was responding to so you missed the point completely and went off on some wild goose chase. My reference to “Quantum Communication” was an EXAMPLE
    of how science is slow to accept that which is outside of the scientific realm. It had nothing to do with the subject of my comment regarding Tong Ren Therapy and Oric’s surgeon’s bias and his criticism of it. Your remarks, as i have said were irrelevant.

    If I get the time and have nothing else to do except to quibble with you over words, I may post a response to your quibbling. You are out of your league. You don’t really want to “entangle”with me. But for now I have more important ways to use my time. So I am out of here Nice, to not know you.

  54. #54 Antaeus Feldspar
    December 8, 2009

    My reference to “Quantum Communication” was an EXAMPLE
    of how science is slow to accept that which is outside of the scientific realm. It had nothing to do with the subject of my comment regarding Tong Ren Therapy and Oric’s surgeon’s bias and his criticism of it. Your remarks, as i have said were irrelevant.

    So let me get this straight. It’s not off-topic for you to introduce “Quantum Communication”, which would support your point if it worked the way you think it does. But then if someone who knows more about quantum mechanics than you do points out that it doesn’t work the way you think it does, and therefore doesn’t support your point, that’s off-topic.

    You are out of your league. You don’t really want to “entangle”with me. But for now I have more important ways to use my time.

    Oooh, gosh, we’re out of our league. Why, I bet that skeptics are committing suicide by the hundreds rather than “entangle” with Virginia’s mighty debating skills.

  55. #55 Chris
    December 8, 2009

    Virginia, you would embarrass yourself lots less if you actually understood what the words you are using mean. Perhaps you should go and take an introductory course in physics, especially one that lets you actually do the Young’s Double Slit experiment in a lab.

    Plus, my dear woman… not all of us are boys.

  56. #56 Travis
    December 8, 2009

    Umm, shouldn’t you pick an example that has now been accepted then? Because your example is not supported by science or evidence, you seem to be assuming this quantum communication is true and that most scientists are just slow at picking up on it. You need to actually have some evidence that it is correct to even begin thinking like that. As it stands now it is just some empty hypothesis.

  57. #57 Travis
    December 8, 2009

    On the bus I had one more thought. Even if it was just an example your link to the physorg site, to the story about entanglement, shows that you have no idea what you are talking about. It certainly does not support the idea that science was slow to catch onto these ideas. The concept discussed in that story was very well accepted for a very long time. The measurement was the new thing.

  58. #58 Doug Taylor
    March 24, 2010

    I discovered this site after I had a brother-in-law who recently became a wizard…kept finding new healing modalities and then finally, most recently this Tong Ren. I laughed when you came to the part about Quantum mumbo-jumbo, because this is his most recent take..and his “clients” are falling for it. His “powers” apparently keep expanding and now he pretty much (because of the feedback) thinks of himself a a vibrating energy diety. He’s now trying to make gold from lead using something called the purple flame or such nonsense. I can’t wait to see how this plays-out. Can’t be good. D.T.

  59. #59 Questioner
    April 12, 2010

    Question for the scientists in this discussion:

    At what point, if any, do you think it becomes appropriate for medical practitioners to support their patients in seeking out alt-med/woo therapies for a condition viewed by our modalities as “terminal” or “untreatable”? Case in point, a friend of mine was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. By the time the cancer was found it had already metastasized to the liver and lung. She went through two rounds of chemo without much success (seemingly), and (she states) that her oncologists basically had nothing else to offer her. Being a person who is attracted to “non-western therapies”, was also seeking these out. She found Tong Ren, and currently swears that it is helping her. Is it not the correct thing to do to support someone who believes that they are being helped by a “therapy” if that’s all you have to offer?

    Now, let me be clear: I don’t subscribe to woo therapies at all. I tend to be in the same camp as James Randi (http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-3396869920557391806#), Richard Dawkins (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYqQ_n2vOOI), and other science-minded folks (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIaV8swc-fo&feature=related) when it comes to this stuff. However, I haven’t had to face a person in such a dire condition before. A while ago I read “The Anatomy of Hope” by Gerome Groopman, a Beth Israel Oncologist. His approach is to work with the patient to find what s/he is hoping for, then work to make that a reality to the best of your ability. Sometimes that will be helping them try radical treatments that offer extremely slim chances of success. Wouldn’t supporting them (I don’t say “recommending”) in a decision to choose a placebo that they believe in, at times, be the most compassionate response?

  60. #60 Chris
    April 13, 2010

    First off, I am not a medical professional. I am one of the several annoying engineers that inhabit this blog as a commenter.

    As long as the “Tong Ren” therapy is not expensive or painful, it could be comforting (by the way, Tongren is a prefecture in China, not a therapy… according to Google).

    Basically, if it is comforting it is okay.

    If it is a form of torture like getting coffee shot up the wrong way, extreme diets, taking lots of supplements in the form of pills, restricting the diet to just yucky stuff and the like: then it should be avoided.

    Also (and this is a personal opinion) I don’t think she should be lied to. She should be reminded that there is no real guarantee that the therapy will extend her life, and she should prepare. She should do the things she needs from setting a will, talking to her loved ones and enjoying her last days.

    Also, from my reading of the ScienceBasedMedicine blog, modern medical practitioners are inclined not to lie. Even if it hurts the patient’s feelings.

    All you can do as a friend is to help and support her. I know two people who have died from pancreatic cancer (my first boyfriend and my next door neighbor, who died just a month ago), plus our family is still dealing with a death less than a month ago.

    At all times it is horrible.

    In my opinion providing false hope makes it worse.

    Support, love, help … but never ever lie.

  61. #61 Bev
    August 29, 2010

    i just want to know if you did the experiment yourself? its easy to ridicule something that is different, but can you prove your point?

  62. Maybe a few words about myself: I am a physician who worked for many years in the tropics[Suriname] with pure “conventional medicine”,as I was taught in medical school [Uterecht,Holland]
    For many years I am now combining in Israel conv. medicine with acupuncture and other disciplines.
    I never saw/dealt with Tongren and therefore will not comment on this. .
    Anybody who ever practiced acupuncture or even was treated by acupuncture will recognize the non-sense the writers of orac claim concerning acupuncture.
    With a small variation on a saying of prof. Bruce Pomeranz [prof. of neurobiology][Harvard?Ontario]: If acupuncture is an experimental device,then so is the Chinese language!
    Dear writers [if you are doctors] then put aside your proud and ask to sit for a few hours with a good acupuncturist and you be maybe lucky to see a frozen shoulder being treated with one single needle becoming fully functional again within a minute!! ,even if it existed for many weeks or months.
    The same nay be true for an sciatica or for many other conditions [some need a more prolonged treatment]
    Wishing you much wisdom to decide between “good and bad”

  63. #63 David
    December 16, 2010

    Someone suggested this for me (Stage 4 colon cancer mets to liver). Colon tumor removed. Currently on Avastin/Folfox. lLiver resect and radiation ruled out.
    I’m a skeptic as well. Lifelong depressed as well, and I see a correlation as well. That means I am constitutionally unable to psych myself out, which renders me difficult for faith healing. However, if one doesn’t abandon conventional treatment prematurely (in my case, given my prognosis, if chemo eventually produces inadequate results and excessive negative effects), I see no harm in people praying for me from a distance, or perhaps even in person.
    I haven’t done exhaustive research, but at least one respected layperson oriented website with a conventional medicine orientation lists depression (chronic, I assume) as a causal factor for colon cancer, presumably because it “supresses the immune system”. I don’t know what evidence based studies prove this, but it sounds plausible.
    If that sounds plausible, I can see where even intelligent people migyt believe the opposite, that anything that alledgedly improves the immune system (diets, imagery, meditation, prayer/belief system, etc) might fight cancer. Not my cup of green tea, but odd beliefs alone, if relaxing and positive, probably do more harm than not, especially compared to bizarre diets, although I’d really like to see evidence based studies on those, which should be easier than anything based on “quantum”.
    I see the biggest risk in this fad as the potential for cultic belief in the leader, however the same is often true in religious faith healing. I have less of a problem with that (if no belief), because it’s more conventional, because they also invoke a collective consciousness, except they invoke a diety rather than “quantum”.
    So, for now I’m ruling it out, even if group sessions are free (I suspect a loss leader, given the crunchy granola boutique nature of these places). It’s OK if anonymous people pray for my healing without my knowledge; it’s another if a strong personality backed up by a group tries to pressure my into a cult, whether conventional or alternative.
    I will say I agree with some perceptions about conventional medicine, especially given its dubious ties to big pharma and increasingly unsustainable costs. I can see why intelligent people try to opt out, especially as more people lose the kind of insurance required, and with rationing probably inevitable in the not too distant future.

  64. #64 David
    December 16, 2010

    Someone suggested this for me (Stage 4 colon cancer mets to liver). Colon tumor removed. Currently on Avastin/Folfox. lLiver resect and radiation ruled out.
    I’m a skeptic as well. Lifelong depressed as well, and I see a correlation as well. That means I am constitutionally unable to psych myself out, which renders me difficult for faith healing. However, if one doesn’t abandon conventional treatment prematurely (in my case, given my prognosis, if chemo eventually produces inadequate results and excessive negative effects), I see no harm in people praying for me from a distance, or perhaps even in person.
    I haven’t done exhaustive research, but at least one respected layperson oriented website with a conventional medicine orientation lists depression (chronic, I assume) as a causal factor for colon cancer, presumably because it “supresses the immune system”. I don’t know what evidence based studies prove this, but it sounds plausible.
    If that sounds plausible, I can see where even intelligent people migyt believe the opposite, that anything that alledgedly improves the immune system (diets, imagery, meditation, prayer/belief system, etc) might fight cancer. Not my cup of green tea, but odd beliefs alone, if relaxing and positive, probably do more harm than not, especially compared to bizarre diets, although I’d really like to see evidence based studies on those, which should be easier than anything based on “quantum”.
    I see the biggest risk in this fad as the potential for cultic belief in the leader, however the same is often true in religious faith healing. I have less of a problem with that (if no belief), because it’s more conventional, because they also invoke a collective consciousness, except they invoke a diety rather than “quantum”.
    So, for now I’m ruling it out, even if group sessions are free (I suspect a loss leader, given the crunchy granola boutique nature of these places). It’s OK if anonymous people pray for my healing without my knowledge; it’s another if a strong personality backed up by a group tries to pressure my into a cult, whether conventional or alternative.
    I will say I agree with some perceptions about conventional medicine, especially given its dubious ties to big pharma and increasingly unsustainable costs. I can see why intelligent people try to opt out, especially as more people lose the kind of insurance required, and with rationing probably inevitable in the not too distant future.

  65. #65 Scott
    December 16, 2010

    The cost of real medicine is one of the strongest arguments AGAINST bothering with woo. When resources are limited, it’s grossly inappropriate to devote them to garbage with no chance of providing any real benefit.

    Also, medical care is ALREADY severely rationed. It’s just rationed based on the individual’s ability to pay.

  66. #66 Vicki
    December 16, 2010

    Yes, medical rationing is inevitable. The questions is how we do it: do we say “we will cover X, Y, Z for everyone, A and B for people with these conditions, and Q and R not at all,” or do we use the US style, where it’s a combination of having lots of money, being able to lean on an insurance company, and access to publicity. At some point, someone has to decide “can we afford to vaccinate every child against this list of diseases?” and “can we afford this treatment that might get someone with cancer an extra two months of life?” If it’s rationing to say no to the second question, it’s rationing to say no to the first.

  67. #67 Calli Arcale
    December 16, 2010

    David — I, too, can see why intelligent people opt for woo instead of conventional medicine. I can also see why intelligent people buy lottery tickets. Doesn’t mean it’s a sensible course of action. It’s human nature, and we tend to put too much stock in “intelligence”. I don’t mean that intelligence is a bad thing; I mean that we overestimate our abilities. If we think we’re smart, we may actually make *more* mistakes due to a false sense of security. This, I believe, is why smart people sign up with Amway, wire money to Nigeria, and buy lunar real estate.

    As far as chronic depression being associated with an increased risk of colon cancer, I can believe this. I’ve battled chronic depression most of my life, and I can think of several plausible reasons why it might predispose one to illness. I don’t personally believe that it directly affects the immune system. However, it can definitely affect a person’s exercise habits, sleep habits, and diet, and all of these can screw with the body in many ways. It’s also pretty well established that depression is associated with an increased risk of recreational drug abuse (including legal ones such as alcohol) — either as an attempt to self-medicate or because depressed people tend to have poor judgment and could be more susceptible to peer pressure. An aggravating factor is that a depressed person will take longer to get to a doctor about nagging symptoms — if indeed they ever go at all — so cancer may be more advanced by the time it is diagnosed. So I could definitely see depression being linked to an increased rate of cancer, and many other diseases as well, because depressed people don’t tend to take good care of themselves. I wouldn’t expect it to be a very strong effect, though, and I doubt it’s a direct causal effect.

  68. #68 Alan
    January 2, 2011

    Oh wow, I’m a good friend of Miles Sarill, but decidedly more skeptical than he is, and we’ve had plenty of (friendly) debates about the type of stuff he believes. He’s mentioned Tong Ren before, and I was just doing a bit of internet research to see what I might say in response.

    Imagine my surprise when the first skeptical Google hit for Tong Ren mentions him by name!

    Considering I have his ear, is there anything anyone recommends I say to him on this subject? My issue is that I’m a layman and he’s got a fair bit of scientific education, so when it comes to things like what specifically he did wrong procedurally in his high school experiment, I’m at a total loss.

    I’ve argued with plenty of believers in the supernatural, so I know it’s usually futile, but I have some hope for Miles as he is also a strong believer in the scientific method, and he keeps insisting that skepticism is a good thing. He honestly thinks there’s scientific evidence to support his worldview, and the right research just has yet to be done. I also feel that I know him well enough that I can seriously question his beliefs without offending him.

    I’ve given what arguments I can think of as a layman (if it was that easy, someone would be exploiting it already; if it was that strong a force, why has no one seen any affects of it at all ever in any scientific setting; etc.) but I’ve naturally not had much success, and I would be grateful if someone more knowledgeable in the subject than I could give some ideas for simple arguments that should help show my friend where he’s going wrong.

  69. #69 Cornelis Swarttouw
    February 1, 2011

    “The man that says he can and the man that says he can’t are both right”
    Like it or not,it is the belief you have cultivated consciously and unconsciously that determines the outcome for you.
    Woo vs. The Scientific Method really isn’t the issue here. Both can produce a beneficial outcome depending on the person and situation.
    People who are invested in either one modality or the other simply show that they cannot think outside of their own box

    I have always wondered who ultimately works more benevolently , the “Doctor” who says “You’ve got 6 months to live” and thereby unwittingly suggests this outcome to the subconscious of the patient or the “Quack” who, if even in the most outlandish of formulations gives hope to that same subconscious to empower it to overcome that patient’s condition…

  70. #70 Cornelis Swarttouw
    February 1, 2011

    “The man that says he can and the man that says he can’t are both right”
    Like it or not,it is the belief you have cultivated consciously and unconsciously that determines the outcome for you.
    Woo vs. The Scientific Method really isn’t the issue here. Both can produce a beneficial outcome depending on the person and situation.
    People who are invested in either one modality or the other simply show that they cannot think outside of their own box

    I have always wondered who ultimately works more benevolently , the “Doctor” who says “You’ve got 6 months to live” and thereby unwittingly suggests this outcome to the subconscious of the patient or the “Quack” who, if even in the most outlandish of formulations gives hope to that same subconscious to empower it to overcome that patient’s condition…

  71. #71 Namiko Hart
    March 15, 2011

    What a cynical guy who wrote this article. Maybe you should go see Tom Tam for a head tune up; that way instead of wasting your time writing all this speculative garbage, which is how I classify western medicine, you can write about your actual experience of tong ren whether it’s good or bad.

  72. #72 William Mason
    April 11, 2011

    Typically arrogant. If I can’t see it or hold the observable data it isn’t real. I’m not a believer in magic but i’m certain there is more to the universe than we are aware. Certainly more than we can explain at present. It’s unfortunate more physicians don’t share the same attitude. Never let the results get in the way of the truth. The Earth is flat, we’ve never gone to the moon, the sun is the center of the universe, there is no zero point field.

  73. #73 Beamup
    April 11, 2011

    If Tong Ren advocates had ANY credible data at all, of any kind, you might have a little bit of a point. Since they don’t, you’re in basically the same situation as a Flat Earther at this point.

  74. #74 StormDragon
    May 26, 2011

    Hi all! I have read the blog and am of the exact same general opinion that Tong Ren is all an attempt (well meaning or not) to solicit hope for those with none. So here’s my deal:

    My wife of 3 years had stage 3 Breast Cancer in 2005. It was also in multiple Lymph Nodes. After Lumpectomy to remove the tumor and removal of many of the lymph nodes, radiation and chemo, she WAS 6 years out and looking “cured”. Until 3 weeks ago when it has been determined by biopsy that she is now stage 4 breast cancer in her liver. It is diffused to multiple places, 2 doses of chemo have occurred and the size of the mass is reduced. But Current medical wisdom says it is elsewhere and it is just a matter of fighting to keep it controlled/reduced and thus a range of 3months to 3 years.. maybe some more but not likely less.
    I don’t ask this to create drama or to stir trouble. My wifes closest friend had acupuncture with Tom Tam and it helped her back. I have had acupuncture done by my trained family medical doctor (he is a doctor of medicine but also picked up acupuncture somewhere) for a pinch nerve in neck and it worked… ok.. i can buy that… acupuncture seems to work on nerves and such.
    But her friend is pushing for the Tong Ren for my wife’s metatastic breast cancer in liver. We have EXTREMELY limited money, we are 2 hours from Boston, we have great oncology support at the finest center in Rhode Island and we had come to the conclusion that “a penny is a penny no matter how many people you ask” and that her cancer was, sadly, quite textbook.
    So after all this backstory here is the dilemma: is there ANY indication that Tong Ren has ANY medical backing/support as a medicinal cure? The friend of my wife inquired and whoever she spoke with at Tong Ren in Boston said they have a 90% success rate?! Is there ANY shred of evidence from any known source that any of the Tong Ren stuff works in any way, shape or form?
    I think I know the answer but, if you were me, you understand why ANY concrete information by anyone who has been through the process would be welcomed. We certainly do not want to sabotage her treatment so if there is any negative information, please let me know that as well. We cannot afford the $80 for each “treatment” anyway but if it would cure her, I’d sell my right and left arm. But I do wonder if this is a well meaning attempt to help or simply a snake oil salesjob designed to milk the most vulnerable people (like my wife and I)

  75. #75 Liz
    June 28, 2011

    I went to see Tom Tam from Arizona for 2 sessions of acupuncture for “suspected papillary carcinoma” of the thyroid. This is a slow growing type of cancer, and I felt I had time to try alternative treatments. Not only did I see Tom Tam but utilized a variety of other treatments such as supplements, meditation, organic juicing, and minimizing stress in general, etc. Tom gave me advice about continuing self treatment since I could only attend a few times. I do believe that seeing him was a significant part of my self healing. It assisted my body in regaining health rather than being fixed by someone else. My thyroid nodule was initially 1.1 cm x 1.0 x 1.0 and has since disappeared. After facing this type of situation personally, it irritates me to see how narrow minded many people are when considering alternative treatments and physicians, like above, are shouting from the top of that mountain. I would guess that he has not yet faced this type of situation personally. I’m sure he has all of the answers, typical of the egotistical MD. If presented with anything that is not “evidence based” it must be worthless. Pretty arrogant when we are all somewhat aware that we don’t really have a clue about anything. I would recommend you see Tom Tam once or twice but not as a replacement for other treatments. I do believe he is genuine in his attempts. I wish your wife a full recovery.

  76. #76 Antaeus Feldspar
    June 28, 2011

    I’m sure he has all of the answers, typical of the egotistical MD.

    If you have to resort to personal attacks and stereotypes to sell your argument, it’s not a very good argument.

    If presented with anything that is not “evidence based” it must be worthless.

    And this is a problem because … there’s some purpose to be achieved in pursuing treatments that aren’t supported by good evidence?

    Imagine if we adopted that standard in other aspects of our lives! “Well, my future may well depend on the outcome of this court case…. I could hire a qualified lawyer, but that’s such limited thinking. I’ll hire this derelict off the street, instead! Sure, he has no idea of the law; he can barely string five words together; but I don’t want to be one of those closed-minded people who think that only people who have learned how to be lawyers are lawyers!”

    Hey, why not? It’s no sillier than saying “my health depends on the medical choices I make… let me choose something which can’t meet the standards required to be evidence-based!”

    Pretty arrogant when we are all somewhat aware that we don’t really have a clue about anything.

    Speak for yourself; the real arrogance here is you pretending that you can nullify all that has been accomplished by scientific rigor simply by including everyone else unwillingly in your false humility trip. It wasn’t people who “don’t really have a clue about anything” who put men on the moon, honey. It wasn’t clueless people who eradicated smallpox from the wild. What a nerve you have, thinking that you can bring the whole world down to your level of ignorance just by simpering “we are all … aware that we don’t really have a clue…” Speak for yourself; we don’t pretend that science has all the answers or ever will, but we’re still ahead of those who willfully embrace ignorance.

  77. #77 Liz
    June 29, 2011

    Again, narrow minded. Evidence based, scientifically proven is wonderful. What about the things that may be effective but have yet to be “proven?” I’m asking you to open your mind to the possibility that there may be treatments out there that can eradicate disease or enable self induced healing that we are not yet using. If we’re already doing such a great job then why is almost everyone affected by cancer which is on the increase? We need to continue to search for newer, better treatments IN CONJUNCTION with what we already know and just maybe look at our toxic environment. You obviously have not personally experienced cancer, and I truly hope that you do not. When I did, I looked very carefully at the evidence, the suggestions made by medical professionals, and chose a holistic approach which worked for me. I appreciate that physicians HAVE to follow protocol for fear of litigation despite their personal thoughts. Thank goodness, I did not follow your reasoning or I would be on medication for life. I still stand by my statement that we really don’t have a clue, meaning we have a long long way to go before knowing all the answers, especially in medicine. You may want to explain the placebo effect. Peace

  78. #78 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    June 29, 2011

    Liz,
    I’ll admit to being a little narrow minded when it comes to my health and body. There’s an entire universe of things that might be effective but are as yet unproven. Why these particular treatments? Why should I risk my body on things that are, as yet, unproven?

  79. #79 Liz
    June 29, 2011

    Mephistopheles,
    With the beliefs that you have, you should only utilize proven treatments. I tend to think outside the box and believe in it. Therefore, I respond favorably to alternative treatments. Sure, there is an element of risk, just like taking medication.

  80. #80 Sandra
    June 30, 2011

    I would like to pose a question. : If your Dr tells you you’re headed for a dead end (death), such as a GPS shows when you are at a dead end, what would you do? Would you follow and stay on the same course, or would you find another path? I never trusted my GPS. I would never stay with a Dr who gives me a death sentence.

    FYI I am a stage 4 breast cancer survivor.No chemo,no radiation no surgery. There was no hope until I found Tom Tam and his Tong Ren Healing System. He literally saved my life. Now I am proud to announce that I am a Tong Ren Practioner- even though it is considered to be voodoo. Enough said.

    “We are crazy but not stupid”

  81. #81 Calli Arcale
    June 30, 2011

    I’m not crazy or stupid either, Sandra. Talk is cheap, especially on the Internet. Before I’d abandon chemo and surgery to treat advanced breast cancer, I’d want evidence it actually offered me a better hope. Not just some random person’s say-so.

  82. #82 Bronze Dog
    June 30, 2011

    If I had a so-called “death sentence,” I’d read a lot of medical literature on the condition and sign up for clinical trials for new treatments that used the most plausible-looking mechanisms. Even if it turns out the treatment didn’t work better than placebo, at least mankind would benefit from knowing what not to try again.

    It’s better odds than signing up for anything that carries the telltale signs of quackery and dogma. Giving into that would require a defeatist attitude, abandoning the possibility of strategy in favor of random chance. Going anecdotal also eliminates any benefit to others, since it does nothing to counteract the possibility of confounding factors. Even if by some weird luck, I benefited, I still wouldn’t know if it was the treatment or something else that did it. Why? Because I know I’m vulnerable to numerous biases and cognitive failings. Quacks and their apologists arrogantly and naively seem to think they have a godlike immunity to those things.

    That is something I don’t encounter among the science-based medical people I know. We know we’re biased, which is why we need to use scientific methods to minimize those biases.

  83. #83 Sandra
    June 30, 2011

    The SBM community only favors biochemical methods for healing. That is what they are experts on. The Tong Ren community works with bioelectricty. As far as I can see, the SBM community knows nothing at all about bioelectricity for healing. Their science only knows half of the story.

    In the very beginning of SBM, where was the evidence when first treating patients? Is there any history of clinical trial drugs without any deaths? What is the success rate? Where are these drugs from ? How many people had to submit themselves as guinea pigs to prove the success or failure of a new drug? This is all biochemical practice.Clinical trials only favor drugs which the pharmaceutical companies support. Are there any experts out there who are interested in energy healing or bioelectrical healing for clinical trials? Or are they already controlled?

    Bioelectrcity is fairly new yet has a great success rate. I am one of literally thousands who have benefitted from Tom Tam’s healing system. I welcome you to attend one of our classes and talk with the people who are there. 90% of the people attending our healing classes have had great success with their illnesses. Many of them suffering from lated stage cancers. I am one of them.

    When I was diagnosed in 2009, There literally was no hope for me medically. The primary tumor was the size of a grapefruit.Surgery was not an option. No clinical trial was offered, and it was too late for chemo. Thankfully I found Tom. In eight months time, my tumor diminished by 98% and my MEDICAL DOCTOR believes that 2% remaining is scar tissue.

    Just as you believe we are doing a disservice to masses by believing we have a “godlike immunity to these things”, I believe you are doing a greater disservice by dismissing any kind of bioelectrical treatments.

    You believe in your biochemical methods only .

    We believe in bioelectricty along with biochemical. We do not deny the benfits of biochemical healing.

    That is the difference.

  84. #84 Chris
    June 30, 2011

    The Tong Ren community works with bioelectricty.

    We will assume that you pulled this out of thin air unless you support these statements with relevant and viable documentation. Testimonials do not count.

    And why do you feel the need to enlighten us on an over 30 month old article? Especially with clueless questions like “In the very beginning of SBM, where was the evidence when first treating patients? Is there any history of clinical trial drugs without any deaths? What is the success rate?”

    But to answer that question, I recently read a very good book that goes through the history of cancer and its treatments. Go to your local library, check it out and read it with an open mind: Emperor of All Maladies.

  85. #85 Giovanni
    June 30, 2011

    I am a medical doctor and I was a skeptic for more then 30 years in Italy.When I first met Tom I thought,” How can I as a medical doctor believe that the Tong Ren can work?!” Last year I decided in the spirit of open minded research to come to Boston. A real scientist must study data objectively, and not just subjectively criticize from inside the library or from in front of the computer. Be brave like Darwin, and go outside ito the field and study!! After my own study of Tong Ren Healing, I realized that what we as doctors are missing, is the bio electricity part of cellular biology which is at the heart of the the Tom Tam Healing System’s concept.

    Based on my experiences in Tom’s offices and classes in Boston, now I am a Tong Ren practitioner in Florence, Italy. We have classes in five cities in Italy practicing Tong Ren. We have more than 200 Tong Ren practitioners and 25 are medical doctors. The Tong Ren healing is getting popular in Italy. Hopefully this system will continue to grow and become more popular in this part of the world as it continues to grow in America.

    Welcome to Italy !
    Come observe our classes!
    Contact me: Dr. Giovanni Cellerini
    Giovanni.Cellerini@box.Digimusic.net

  86. #86 Vicki, Chief Assistant to the Assistant Chief
    June 30, 2011

    What does “bioelectricity” mean? Specifically, is it different from (unprefixed) electricity, and if so, how?

    The hard part of doing clinical trials on things like “energy healing” is convincing the healers to participate in the trials. There’s a reason that the investigator on the only controlled, blinded trial of therapeutic touch in the scientific literature was in fourth grade when she did the work, and it’s not that she’s some kind of prodigy. It’s that “healers” who refused to be tested by scientists at universities were willing to be part of a child’s science fair project. [JAMA. 1998;279(13):1005-1010. doi: 10.1001/jama.279.13.1005]

    However, I could be wrong. I would be delighted if you, or your healer, could demonstrate a new cure for even some kinds of cancer, especially if it has few side effects or is useful for cancers that radiation and chemotherapy can’t treat.

    Please. Design a trial. Take it to a university Institutional Review Board so they can make sure the patients aren’t being mistreated. Then publish the results.

    From what you’ve written here, it sounds as though the technique doesn’t require lots of expensive hardware or medications, so you or the other people who are promoting this therapy should be able to pay for at least a small trial. If that succeeds, I suspect the American Cancer Society would be willing to help expand it.

  87. #87 Eleanor Marks, Ph.D.
    June 30, 2011

    Hi! I am Dr. Eleanor Marks–Go to Google and get some definitions of bioelectricity–or, go to Tom Tam’s books; good definitions in both places. Or, remember your freshman classes in biology, “cells are like little power plants that run on biochemistry and bioelectricity.”
    Scientists should be fearless–but all the skeptics are afraid to come and observe our classes. We do not have 100 cancer patients–no, we have thousands and thousands of cancer patients with healing success stories. Would you like it if we were to bring our thousands of patients to your front door–or, would it be simpler, (and more functional) for you to come and do some of your own original fieldwork by sitting in on several Tong Ren Healing Classe? After all, modern Western science inched toward modernity with Newton’s empirical and comparative observations of motion and gravity–live up to his standards, do at least the same quality of observational empirical research, and apply what you discern comparatively–against your bias, and for opening your minds.
    American companies greedily look for gold mines and oil anywhere in the world…but in our own country is the solution for healing cancer with energy, yet skeptics criticize and deny it–Why? Because no pharmaceutical company or venture capital firm would benefit financially from any energy healing, let alone, Tong Ren.
    Who is willing to do the research on our empirical results?
    Who is willing to do this, when there will be no benefit on the Stock Market for them? Are the gold mines, and oil gushers “searching” for US investment or does the US, quite realistically have to go looking for them? Should the doctors be looking at us for healing cancer–or, should our results be chasing them?
    I am the principal investigator in a large pilot study of Tong Ren Healing for sleep apnea–of course, we are not funded to implement a full double-blind study, but we are adhering to well-recognized standards for the launching of pilot studies “to capture statistically significant anomalies based upon measureable and repeatable variables,” (i.e., four-channel sleep monitor data.)
    This is done in the true spirit of Newton–who launched one of the biggest scientific revolutions in human history.
    Sincerely,
    Dr. Eleanor Marks

  88. #88 Narad
    June 30, 2011

    Holy cats.

  89. #89 Bronze Dog
    June 30, 2011

    Sandra:

    The SBM community only favors biochemical methods for healing. That is what they are experts on. The Tong Ren community works with bioelectricty. As far as I can see, the SBM community knows nothing at all about bioelectricity for healing. Their science only knows half of the story.

    How nice of you to just come into this community and dogmatically declare what we do and don’t believe in. We believe whatever the evidence shows. Do a proper clinical trial. Anecdotes don’t count precisely because humans are extremely vulnerable to self-deception and other cognitive biases.

    Scientists should be fearless–but all the skeptics are afraid to come and observe our classes. We do not have 100 cancer patients–no, we have thousands and thousands of cancer patients with healing success stories.

    If we’re so “afraid,” why are you the one who’s failed to perform a proper clinical trial? Why should we trust what sounds more like the standard issue cherry-picked anecdote collection?

    I’m not going to invest in a class if you’re too lazy and/or scared to go through the same hoops we demand of those corporations before trusting anything they produce.

    Why should we give your corporation a free pass?

  90. #90 Narad
    June 30, 2011

    I find this parade of irrelevant credentials pretty amusing, to boot. Is “MRICS” actually the reference to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors that it appears to be?

  91. #91 Narad
    June 30, 2011

    Massachusetts seems to be a real hotbed for this stuff. (The good “doctor” is to be found.)

  92. #92 Narad
    June 30, 2011

    This is almost too good. Behold the doctor’s partner in gibberish:

    With a foundation in the work of William James, his research has led him to investigate the insights of Bergson, Jung, Campbell, the humanistic and transpersonal psychologists of the ’60′s and ’70′s, and more recently the supportive research of quantum mechanics.

  93. #93 lilady
    June 30, 2011

    @ Narad: And…Holy Poop, too. Oh, I’m going to miss my buddy posters while away for two weeks, but not as much as I will miss the “other” posters of alt/cam and their “theories” and the thousands and thousands of cancer patients “cured” by bioelectricity.

    Dr. Marks…why don’t you have a “few” of the multitude of cancer patients cured by bioelectricity provide some “details”?

  94. #94 Bronze Dog
    June 30, 2011

    I’m currently suspecting these are drive-by trolls only interested in rehearsing their prejudices instead of engaging in the human activity of discussion and *gasp* learning what their opposition actually believes.

  95. #95 Del
    July 1, 2011

    Hi B. Dog

    We never came to attack “your community”. In fact, it was your community that attacked ours like “MAD DOGS”! Why? Because we don’t believe your evidence. How can you require evidence from us if you yourself and “your Community” are not able to treat, and heal the diseases, cancers, etc… you can’t even cure the common cold. Can you give a drivers exam if you do not know how to drive and have no driving experience?

    The world has changed for only power and glory. Ha ha

  96. #96 Narad
    July 1, 2011

    We never came to attack “your community”. In fact, it was your community that attacked ours like “MAD DOGS”! Why? Because we don’t believe your evidence.

    “We”?

  97. #97 Del
    July 1, 2011

    Don’t be confused Narad get your facts and events straight before you babble. Scroll up to the top of this page and read to tile, never mind let me paste it here. I am a Tong Ren practitioner fighting with diseases, but you are only fighting with people you don’t agree with, like a communist.

    Tong Ren: An unholy union of acupuncture and voodoo

    Category: Alternative medicine • Cancer • Medicine • Quackery
    Posted on: December 16, 2008 8:31 AM, by Orac

  98. #98 Chris
    July 1, 2011

    So, Del, why did it take you guys two and a half years to find this article?

    And really, there is absolutely no reason to believe tapping a doll with a little hammer is going to do anything. As I said up thread, everything you say will be assumed to pulled out of thin air unless you provide verifiable scientific evidence.

    The most recent “Skeptics with a K” podcast had a lovely bit on Tong Ren. One of the suggestions to their “LetThemChoose” website was: If you have a headache, would you choose taking an aspirin or having someone tap a statue with a hammer?

  99. #99 Narad
    July 1, 2011

    Scroll up to the top of this page and read to tile, never mind let me paste it here. I am a Tong Ren practitioner fighting with diseases, but you are only fighting with people you don’t agree with, like a communist.

    What the fuck are you talking about? “Read to tile”? “Like a communist”? This is some sort of organized intellectual response from the Tong Reng disease-fighters?

  100. #100 Del
    July 1, 2011

    It is because we stayed quiet even under constant attacks by your so called expert sceptics. We tried going into the SBM for the debate from their attack, can we do it?! It is not a joke. Only one voice as in N. Korea. If you beleive in taking the drug for headache, we never say anything. In fact we take it also. Healing is a personal choice, please don’t deny each other. Have you tried tapping the doll for the headache? Try it first, then criticize – this is the spirit of science.

    We want to work together with the medical community, not against them. After all, we are all fighting for the same cause, the human life.

  101. #101 Narad
    July 1, 2011

    After all, we are all fighting for the same cause, the human life.

    You are fighting for access to the human pocketbook.

  102. #102 Doug Lack
    July 1, 2011

    I have Avascular Necrosis in both hips due to years of Prednisone use to treat an autoimmune disease. My let hip was replaced last year. I have been receiving Tong Ren for several months now and have no pain in my other hip. Supposedly Their is no cure besides surgery. I canceled surgery this summer due to the healing I have received from Tom Tam.

  103. #103 Chris
    July 1, 2011

    Actually, I believe this page probably ended up on some Tong Ren fan page on Facebook or some forum because someone saw it from a Google Search.

    Oh, yeah. This two and a half year old article must be a very strong “attack.” Our laughter must be very potent.

  104. #104 Del
    July 1, 2011

    Hi Narad

    Yes if you believe that surgery to the hip is cheaper and more effective than Tong Ren VooDoo Healing, then you win. In fact the Tong Ren Healing is FREE to the public for the past 11 years. Hopefully you guys can let us make the money from the patient as you make the money from the surgery. Please leave us alone.

    Peace on Earth
    Thank God [which you don't believe in]
    You Win again.
    So Long

  105. #105 Narad
    July 1, 2011

    Hi Narad

    Yes if you believe that surgery to the hip is cheaper and more effective than Tong Ren VooDoo Healing, then you win.

    Why are you bringing up somebody else’s testimonial that came after my comment in any event? TINW?

  106. #106 Narad
    July 1, 2011

    Apologies for the quote fail. I am the last graf.

  107. #107 Bronze Dog
    July 1, 2011

    This Del guy really gets on my nerves. He doesn’t see our arguments, he only sees an enemy he can condescend to, so he can stroke his ego and martyr complex.

    Try learning something about our actual positions, and WHY we don’t believe you over all the other quacks.

    As for cures, are you seriously suggesting that because modern medicine isn’t perfect, it’s therefore worthless? Funny, that makes your stuff even worse off than that, since you’re making excuses to not have to prove it with clinical trials. Do you want us to give you a free pass, and, in the name of equal treatment, give Big Pharma a free pass?

    Don’t focus on the ridicule, focus on the meat of the arguments. Control for confounding factors. Find a way to double-blind the experiment so that you can prove to yourselves that you’re not being mislead by your biases.

    Try making yourselves different than all the other cookie-cutter quacks we encounter.

    You know what’s funny about testimonials and anecdotes?: They were used to support homeopathy’s sister discipline, allopathy. Allopaths of ancient times never performed statistical analysis or clinical trials. Why do you think skeptics like to compare quackery to bloodletting and leeches? Modern quacks use the same epistemology as the bloodletters did.

  108. #108 Narad
    July 1, 2011

    In fact the Tong Ren Healing is FREE to the public for the past 11 years.

    Horseshit. The part where the marks get drawn in is free. Shall we take a gander at Tom Tam’s site? (This is edited down, and the final tilde was inserted for parallelism.)

    ~ Ryley, AB Canada – Tui Na Massage Workshop (April)
    Cost: $300 Cdn (plus $15 GST) cash or cheque only

    ~ Quincy, MA – (2) Tong Ren classes in April
    Cost: $125 prior to March 10 / $150 after March 10

    ~ Hands On Training With Monica Calvo

    Here’s a chance to learn some great techniques useful for finding blockages and how to remove them.
    Course Fee: $300 ($50 deposit required)

    And so on and so forth.

  109. #109 Orac
    July 1, 2011

    Can anyone explain to me why people think anyone cares about comments they make on a post that is over two and a half years old? It’s times like these that I wish the Movable Type installation here at ScienceBlogs allowed for the automatic closing of comments at a predetermined time after the post. For instance, at my other blog, comments close 90 days after the post goes live. Here’s a hint, people: Look at the date of the post before commenting. Any post that’s years old, it’s likely that no one will much care what you have to say.

    My guess here is that somebody posted a link to this at some acupuncture or Tong Ren discussion forum.

  110. #110 Sandra
    July 2, 2011

    Narad

    ” You are fighting for access to the human pocketbook”

    This couldn’t be any further from the truth. All Tong Ren Healing classes are FREE.

    Perhaps you should do some research before posting such statements.

  111. #111 Scottynuke
    July 2, 2011

    If the classes and/or the treatments are free, at least the cost is equal to the value. *shrug*

  112. #112 Chris
    July 2, 2011

    How difficult is it to learn how to tap a doll with a hammer?

  113. #113 Bronze Dog
    July 2, 2011

    So, got anything along the lines of a placebo-controlled clinical trials for us, Sandra, or do you just have false bravado and anecdotalist apologia?

  114. #114 Chris
    July 2, 2011

    Sandra, have you gone to the library to check out the book I recommended?

  115. #115 Narad
    July 2, 2011

    Perhaps you should do some research before posting such statements.

    I actually did in a small amount of detail, but the comment wound up in the moderation queue, and doubt that our gracious host is inclined to bother with it. The upshot is simply the assertion that the free portion of the rigmarole serves the purpose of drawing in the marks.

  116. #116 Sandra
    July 3, 2011

    In reference to post #92 by Orac:

    “Any post that’s years old,it’s likely that no one will much care what you have to say.”

    I beg to differ.

    Case in point: Entry #74:
    stormdragon made an entry on May 26, 2011

    That is the reason for some of the recent posts. People were voicing their opinion concerning this matter.

    I understand all this the banter and bickering must be somewhat entertaining to you. After all, it’s food for thought.However, when someone comes in here and makes a plea such as stormdragon’s, both sides should be heard.

    Stage 4 breast cancer is not something to be taken lightly.

    I am a real person with feelings and emotions. Not just a name on a computer screen. I know what it’s like to be diagnosed with a terminal disease and realize that the medical community has absolutely nothing to offer except a death sentence. I believe faith, hope, and the Tong Ren Healing System is what saved me.

    You can dispute it all you want. You can sit behind your computer and demand scientific proof, you can insult and ridicule Tom Tam and his supporters till the cows come home…but the bottom line is, just like the hundreds if not thousands of people that he has helped, I am still here, and I will continue to tell my story to those who will listen.

  117. #117 Sandra
    July 3, 2011

    PS. @ Chris,

    I did look up the book “Emperor of all Maladies” in Amazon.com and read an excerpt. I have to admit it caught my attention!

    I ordered it am looking forward to reading it.

    Unlike some people, I have an open mind :-)

  118. #118 Sandra
    July 3, 2011

    Narad,

    Again. Do your reasearch.

    All Tong Ren Healing Classes are FREE.

    What you posted are seminars and training classes. These are available for those that want to either become practioners or learn how to treat family members and loved ones.They are NOT required. They are NOT healing classes.

    If you looked further, you would have seen a list of FREE healing classes available online (live broadcasts) or live classes which are being held all over the world.

    Again,Tong Ren Healing Classes classes are FREE.

  119. #119 Krebiozen
    July 3, 2011

    Sandra and other Tong Ren advocates,
    If you sincerely believe you have a cure for cancer there are steps you can take to get it properly researched. Firstly find three or more cases of cancer that have been cured by this method, preferably not cancers that frequently spontaneously regress. Since you say you have thousands of cases, this should be relatively easy.

    Gather together good documentation that these patients had cancer, preferably a biopsy result, staging and grading information, and good documentation that they no longer have cancer, and evidence that they have not had conventional treatment that could be responsible for the cancer regressing.

    OCCAM or NCCAM would be very interested in any alternative treatments that can provide this standard of evidence, and get over $200 million in grants every year between them. This webpage has more detailed suggestions from Dr. Moran who takes an interest in this area.

    If you cannot provide evidence to this standard, perhaps you should reconsider making claims like this.

  120. #120 Sandra
    July 3, 2011

    Krebiozen,

    Thank you. Finally somebody out there is offering some useful information.

    I am not in the position to provide the information you required. As I stated before, I am a patients of Tom’s, not and administrator of any sort.

    However now that there is a map to follow, hopefully some progress can be made concerning this matter.

    I would like to clarify something. I am sharing my own personal experience only to let people know that there are alternatives out there that do work.

  121. #121 Narad
    July 3, 2011

    Again. Do your reasearch.

    All Tong Ren Healing Classes are FREE.

    Do you mean the two- to five-minute “Guinea Pig” part of the scheme? Because it took about 30 seconds to find this counterexample to the general contention.

  122. #122 Sandra
    July 3, 2011

    Narad,

    Once again, Do your research.

    Online classes last one hour. You can stay online as long as you like to receive the healing energy. 30 seconds, 15 mins, 1 hr…it’s up to the individual. The same goes for live classes. And yes, it’s FREE.

    (what part of FREE don’t you understand?)

    PS Joseph Lucifer is an independent Tong Ren Practioner who does offer personal healing services for a fee. Some people request private sessions.

  123. #123 Narad
    July 3, 2011

    (what part of FREE don’t you understand?)

    The part where it strongly resembles vacation offers that are ultimately about hard-selling timeshares.

  124. #124 Sandra
    July 3, 2011

    Narad,

    No offense, but you are barking up the wrong tree.

    You should come to a class and check us out in person. Talk to the people. Then see if you feel the same way.Or maybe you already have? Either way, I think you are giving the wrong impression- infact, you couldn’t be any further from the truth.

  125. #125 Narad
    July 3, 2011

    You should come to a class and check us out in person.

    Might I have the opportunity to buy some videos or pay to attend an introductory qigong session afterward?

  126. #126 Sandra
    July 3, 2011

    That’s up to you. They offered, but not required. So what is your point?

    Bottom Line:
    Healing classes are FREE.

  127. #127 Narad
    July 3, 2011

    They offered, but not required. So what is your point?

    That it’s a cynical MLM scheme with a strong component of preying on the sick, of course. You missed that part? I’m also insinuating that your allegation of having evaded stage 4 breast cancer by means of a doll and magic hammer is a deliberate falsehood, just by the by.

  128. #128 Sandra
    July 3, 2011

    It really doesn’t matter what you think. I know what the truth is.

    You certainly are an angry little creature aren’t you?

    It’s interesting how your fangs came out whenever you are proven wrong.

    Insinuating that Tong Ren is a MLM scheme is hilarious. Thanks for the good laugh.

    As they say, “laughter is the best medicine.”

    (Thank you, you just gave me a free healing!)

    I am done with this conversation. Over and out.

  129. #129 Angèle
    December 31, 2011

    Discount Belief and the Human Mind. That’s always helpful.

  130. #130 Tina
    January 18, 2012

    If it helps people why do you care? Yes, it is strange, everyone thinks so, including Tom, but it works and it is free, so why are you so involved in defending your point of view. I just do not like to see your very negative comments, such a downer.

  131. #131 James Stevens
    January 26, 2012

    I suggest you read The God Complex, not because you suffer from it, but because it’s an amazing account of a patient who was repeatedly failed by Western doctors. And, guess who healed him. That’s right … Tom Tam. You can read a review of The God Complex on our website. Article: Thriller Novel Puts Acupuncture On The Map.

    James Stevens
    http://travelnovel.com/

  132. #132 Millery
    February 1, 2012

    This site almost makes me ashamed to be a scientist. Yup, Ph.D. in physics AND chemistry. Being a skeptic is one thing, trashing everything with neither hard evidence nor without providing an alternative is quite another. Acupuncture, like global warming, is the real deal. Tong Ren, no opinion, but if placebo effect works, why piss on it? Surgeon? Puleeze, where would you possibly find the time to engage in posting this nutterguff if you were actually practicing medicine.

  133. #133 Chris
    February 1, 2012

    Millery, so your graduate degrees in physics and chemistry is what makes it okay to lie to patients?

    Seriously, why does hitting a doll with a little hammer do anything but make others laugh?