Respectful Insolence

The best trial of Qi Gong ever?

In responding to Deepak Chopra’s “integrative medicine” nonsense from last week that I “http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2009/01/the_three_musketeers_of_woo_meet_dartagn.php,” Derek Lowe proposes the best trial of Qi Gong ever:

“Chronic pain is one of the major sources of worker’s compensation claims costs, yet studies show that it is often susceptible to acupuncture and Qi Gong. Herbs usually have far fewer side effects than pharmaceuticals”.

Studies show, do they? Is there really a believable study that shows that Qi-freaking-Gong, of all things, is good for chronic pain? Ancient hokum about “energy fields” and “life force” does the trick, does it? My idea of a good trial of Qi Gong would involve one group of patients getting the full hand-waving treatment according to the best practitioners of the art. The other cohort gets random hand motions from a system I will gladly invent on request, and which I will have to be forcibly restrained from naming Don Ki Kong. It’ll be full of talk about holistic energies and connections to the universal flow, don’t you doubt it, and I’ll round up some impressive-looking worthies to administer the laying on of hands. Their passes and taps will be carefully screened by the Qi Gongers beforehand to make sure that none of them, according to their system, have any chance of actually having any effects on the Qi (assuming that any of them can agree). We call that a controlled trial to investigate placebo effects.

Don Ki Kong? Damn, I wish I’d thought of that. But I bet I’d be better at designing the appropriate placebo hand movements for Don Ki Kong than Derek. You see, I was (and remain) a huge fan of Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme. I could throw some really good mystical woo. By the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth and the Mystic Moons of Raggadorr, let it be so!

Comments

  1. #1 DLC
    January 13, 2009

    oooh! wait! you have to invoke Lovecraftian mythos in there too!
    By the gibbering mouths of yog sothoth, ai! Ai Cthulhlu Ftgn!

    When simply jumping up and shouting Oooga-Booga! won’t do.

  2. #2 AE
    January 13, 2009

    “Huge fan of Doctor Strange”? Pfft. If ’twere true, you’d know it’s the Mystic Moons of Munnopor, and the Roving Rings of Raggadorr.

    It’s just not Marvel without alliteration, true believer!

  3. #3 Kitty
    January 13, 2009

    I’ve just posted this over on Derek Lowe’s site. Rather long but it needs to be said IMHO.

    ‘Qi Gong is a low impact exercise system and does not need any belief in woo to be of benefit. It actually means ‘breath work’ and uses controlled breathing synchronised with balance exercises.
    As someone with arthritis, and a pathological hatred of public swimming pools, it has proved to be of immense benefit as a way to ‘wake up and oil’ stiff joints without causing pain.
    After 4 years of Tai Chi and Qi Gong my balance and strength is much improved, I am maintaining hip and knee movement, I take less medication for pain and inflammation and as a bonus the breathing exercises have improved my lung function. (I am asthmatic and had an average peak flow of 220 4 years ago, it is now 450). My physiotherapist was impressed by my muscle tone, balance and rate of work (after operations on both feet).
    As for the mystical energy Qi (Chi), I don’t believe in it, it’s not part of my exercise regime and doesn’t need to be for me to gain a better quality of life. My teacher doesn’t expect us to believe in it and never mentions it, preferring to concentrate on the practice. We even learn some self defence. I’m one of the youngest in the class and I’m 60.
    While the idea of Don Ki Kong made me laugh you show some ignorance of just how much hard work is needed to benefit from this excellent exercise regime. It is much more than just ‘hand waving’.
    Perhaps you should join a class for a term, actually learn some of the exercises and then blog about it? You never know you might actually find yourself recommending it for the less mobile among us – we can’t all go to the gym or run marathons.’

    Orac – As much as I love your blog and agree with your stance on alternative medicine you too could do with a little less prejudice on occasion.
    Not all of us Tai Chi practitioners are away with the fairies!
    I’d love to see the results of a proper trial, my personal experience has been good and millions of elderly Chinese also seem to benefit.
    Surely exercise which the elderly or infirm can partake in is to be encouraged not ridiculed.

  4. #4 pikeamus
    January 13, 2009

    Well said Kitty. I’m young and very active but have also found tai chi, without any chi nonsense, very helpful especially when I want to keep exercising but need to rehabilitate an injury.

    Interestingly of the five people I’ve had lessons from here in the uk only 1 of them has included any woo in the class. I gave that 1 the benefit of the doubt and went a few times but quickly realised I wasn’t getting as much out of it.

  5. #5 Kitty
    January 13, 2009

    pikeamus

    I too am in the UK. Perhaps the emphasis on chi is greater in the USA and that is why so many there see Tai Chi only as an expression of woo rather than beneficial exercise.

  6. #6 Cannonball Jones
    January 13, 2009

    I’m all for Don Ki Qong as long as the culmination of the treatment is smashing a barrel over the patient’s back. Not sure how it would tie into energies and the like but maybe you could rope in some Scientologists to say the barrel is made from splinters of L Ron Hubbards old rowing boat and will effectively render any body thetans unconscious…

    You could even have a pan-pipe version of the Mario theme music played in the treatment room :-)

  7. #7 Orac
    January 13, 2009

    Kitty,

    Are you sure you don’t mean Tai Chi, which is in deed a low impact exercise program without much woo. Qi gong, on the other hand, is full of references to “energy” and doesn’t even necessarily require motion and exercise.

  8. #8 Orac
    January 13, 2009

    “Huge fan of Doctor Strange”? Pfft. If ’twere true, you’d know it’s the Mystic Moons of Munnopor, and the Roving Rings of Raggadorr.

    Oops. They haven’t published new Strange in a few years now. Memory fades.

  9. #9 Ranson
    January 13, 2009

    Don’t let AE get on ya, Orac. The Hoary Hosts are a staple of the Doc’s vocabulary, but the fact he constantly used the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak shows that alliteration wasn’t always the rule…

  10. #10 Fitness Nerd
    January 13, 2009

    Wow, I was coming to say something much like what Kitty posted, only to find she’d done it better.

    Orac, Qi Gong and Tai Chi are both exercise programs. The amount of woo involved varies by teacher.

  11. #11 Kitty
    January 13, 2009

    Orac

    I mean both. Using the principles of Qi Gong with Tai Chi is all part of the package. As I said in my comment, it means ‘breath work’. Using the breath as part of the movement is just a way of increasing the discipline you use in the movements. There’s no “energy” involved, just concentration on breathing and movement. I think the practice of Qi Gong on its own is next to useless.
    I’ve found it really helpful with asthma as it increases awareness of shallow breathing – a real problem when breathless – and my peak flow shows the benefits of it, to the extent that I’ve reduced my steroid intake substantially.
    I just think that rather than dismissing it all out of hand because of the association with unsubstantiated claims made by the woo pedlars we need to see the real benefits that many old biddies like me can get out of it – with the right teacher.

    By the way – Cannonball Jones seems to think it is a treatment and that it is somehow applied to a patient which shows ignorance about the topic.

  12. #12 pikeamus
    January 13, 2009

    Orac:
    Qi Gong has exercise components and woo components. The exercise components are very much like tai chi and the woo components are often very silly. Some of non-moving ‘exercises’ are also useful (such as breathing exercises or static posture exercises) but I will concede that much of it is rubbish. Pragmatic minded teachers tend to not bother with the woo and give plenty of time to getting the basics properly understood. Unfortunately there seem to be fewer good Qi Gong teachers than tai chi teachers.

  13. #13 Kitty
    January 13, 2009

    I agree with pikeamus.
    The quality of the teacher is very important. If, like me, the whole spiritual and magical bit leaves you cold it can be hard to find a teacher who will tolerate your scepticism. I’m lucky that I’m in a class of godless heathens who won’t tolerate the woo and have found a teacher who is like minded.
    Any hint of woo and we all become quite militant!
    Must walk my dogs now, a daily outing that Tai Chi helps me retain and enjoy.
    It’s been a pleasure.

  14. #14 Mu
    January 13, 2009

    YOU CAN”T DO THAT! That’s cheating, like taking all the “love your neighbor” from the bible and toss the Leviticus and levitation.

  15. #15 Skeptico
    January 13, 2009

    I can think of some relevant hand gestures. But they would probably look different from the Qi Gong hand gestures. Even to a layman.

  16. #16 KristinMH
    January 13, 2009

    YOU CAN”T DO THAT! That’s cheating, like taking all the “love your neighbor” from the bible and toss the Leviticus and levitation.

    Dunno about that. I think the world would be a better place if more people did, don’t you? ;)

  17. #17 Mu
    January 13, 2009

    Guess my sarcasm wasn’t dripping enough this morning, need more coffee :)
    But yes, I agree, which is why my church wants me burned at the stake, and so do the guys over at Pharyngula.

  18. #18 Terrie
    January 13, 2009

    For those of us who take Qi Gong seriously, the woo is akin to people who think studying martial arts will turn them into a Hollywood ninja assassian. There’s a great book on Qi Gong that ends with the idea that the woo claims of miracles and healing are silly. Qi Gong improves general health and reduces stress. That should be miracle enough for anyone.

    It’s like yoga, really. Some good, some woo.

  19. #19 Karl Withaky
    January 13, 2009

    Kitty et all:

    Do a Yahoo or Google search for Qi Gong. You will find all the top hits are sites defining Qi Gong as some form of energy modality. You will be hard pressed to find sites that present your concept of Qi Gong without the mystical energy component.

    http://www.qi.org (no 2 or 3 hit after wikipedia entry on Yahoo and Google)has the following on their main page:

    QI(CHI) = ENERGY
    GONG(KUNG) = SKILL

    QIGONG = THE SKILL OF ATTRACTING VITAL ENERGY
    Qigong is a self-healing art that combines movement and meditation.

    Qi Gong is clearly inextricably intertwined with the concept metaphysical Chi/energy. If you practive Qi Gong without the energy woo, it’s not really Qi Gong.

  20. #20 Karl Withakay
    January 13, 2009

    Wasn’t Qi Gong Obi Wan’s teacher?

  21. #21 Robster, FCD
    January 13, 2009

    So some scam artists have revived (or added) some very silly concepts of a valid exercise program. I have enjoyed the exercise of Tai Chi before, completely woo free, but what Orac is criticizing here is the woo filled touch and hand waving based faith healing. Get mad at the people appropriating your exercise program, not the person pointing out the snake oil being sold under the same name.

  22. #22 Dr Aust
    January 13, 2009

    Orac – I’m pretty sure Prof Edzard Ernst did some kind of trial several years back in which he got volunteers to “observe” energy healers and then imitate them. The patients (who were blinded as to whether it was an actor or a “healer” doing the hand-waving) then rated their symptom relief using a standard pain questionnaire. The answer, as I remember, was that the actors were every bit as good as the “healers”.

    He described this a few years ago in a column here. I can’t remember the precise reference (and he is pretty prolific!) but it may be this one from the journal Pain . Or if you email him maybe he can tell you.

  23. #23 Tulse
    January 13, 2009

    So some scam artists have revived (or added) some very silly concepts of a valid exercise program.

    No, you have the history wrong — some Westerners have stripped out the original supernatural basis of a holistic health approach, and left just the exercise component. What is left is not really Qi Gong.

  24. #24 David Marjanovi?
    January 13, 2009

    DLC, those who cannot spell Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn! shall be eaten next-to-last.

  25. #25 windy
    January 13, 2009

    Kitty – I think there’s some misunderstanding here on both sides, what Orac dismisses as “hand waving” is not the physical exercises you do, but some other forms of Qi Gong where a “healer” tries to manipulate the energies of another person.

    PS Congratulations for succesfully dealing with those muggers as you described on the other blog! :)

    QI(CHI) = ENERGY
    GONG(KUNG) = SKILL
    QIGONG = THE SKILL OF ATTRACTING VITAL ENERGY
    Qi Gong is clearly inextricably intertwined with the concept metaphysical Chi/energy.

    Arguments from etymology are not very convincing. Practitioners of aiKIdo are not required to believe in mystical ki energy, although it’s right there in the name.

    If you practive Qi Gong without the energy woo, it’s not really Qi Gong.

    That’s a matter of opinion – as Tulse said that the woo component is an original part of Qi Gong and that can’t be denied (but so is the exercise part). But apparently the Chinese government is also trying to discourage the woo/religious component, so are we to conclude that the Chinese people doing the exercise parts of Qi Gong in their parks are not REALLY doing Qi Gong? Seems a bit pedantic.

  26. #26 pikeamus
    January 13, 2009

    Tulse:
    I’m sure you are correct in some cases, though it is worth noting that there are eastern figures who also reject the energy work in chinese internal arts. A very notable one was Wang Xiangzhai who founded the Yiquan school of martial arts by stripping away the forms and the woo from Xingyiquan.

    It is also worth noting that many eastern taiji and qi gong teachers don’t bother teaching the chi element to westerners. I have trained with some of the chen style taiji family heads (Chen Xiao Wang and Chen Ying Jun) and they didn’t mention chi at any point, even in qi gong specific classes. I know that they do use this terminology when teaching in china but the impression I get is that they are unconcerned with whether or not it really exists, only with what is useful as a training tool. Since we westerners by and large don’t by into that stuff they don’t bother teaching that way, there are other ways to learn.

    I’ll reiterate that I don’t believe in any supernatural woo and I don’t much like seeing it taught as it can easily be confused and end up being misleading. In fact I’m not currently even training taiji or qi gong as I’m finding it more satisfying, for me, to focus on sports and fitness training BUT I have definitely learned a some things from the few years I did put into those disciplines which continue to benefit me and I will likely go back when my current training style becomes too much of a strain.

  27. #27 natural cynic
    January 13, 2009

    What I seem to be missing is the experimental view of qi gong that is in the proposal by Lowe. A proper experimental demonstration of qi gong would have three arms: “true” qi gong, “sham”/made up qi gong, and no treatment. The comparisons would be between the two movement modalities and not-treatment groups and between the two different modalities. The comparisons should probably show that doing something along the lines of qi gong movements is better than doing nothing.

    If there were something in “true” qi gong arm that wasn’t present in the “sham” qi gong arm such as a more positive change in pain threshold or lower resistance to pulmonary flow, this may be seen in this comparison. However, this would not necessarily mean that the “true” qi gong taps into some metaphysical healing energy since the “true” qi gong may have had the advantage of a purely rational selection process by practitioners – as in ‘this movement’ is better than ‘that movement’.

  28. #28 Karl Withakay
    January 13, 2009

    windy,
    That wasn’t an argument from etymology, that was a copy of a statement from the the Qi Gong Association of America home page (www.qi.org).

    It is how the Qi Gong association of America itself defines Qi Gong. They are one of the top 2 or 3 hits on the major search engines when searching on the term “Qi Gong”.

    How closely did you read my Post?

    Pedantic? Quite often the devil IS in the details.

    If it looks like a duck, and swims like a duck, but honks like a goose, it might not be a duck after all.

  29. #29 DLC
    January 13, 2009

    David Marjanović: Damn… I’m doomed to be the penultimate people-snack.

  30. #30 windy
    January 13, 2009

    That wasn’t an argument from etymology, that was a copy of a statement from the the Qi Gong Association of America home page

    It’s both, actually. You are claiming that it’s not possible to practice Qi Gong without woo since the name derives from a pseudoscientific concept. I’m curious, would you say that it’s possible to practice aikido, yoga or tai chi without woo?

    By the way, the homepage of the American Tai Chi association links to this amusing story:

    Gary Jiang, the President of American Tai Chi Association, who has studied Tai Chi and Yin Yang for over two decades, gives an example: “when too many bad sub-prime mortgage loans failed, which is one of the Yin factors in the economic system, it triggered the negative chain reaction in our economic system, and over-powered all the healthy economic practices, which is the Yang, as the capability to originate new mortgages from the banking system diminished.”

    Is Tai Chi inextricably linked to economic woo? I wouldn’t judge all practitioners of a sport based on how much woo some webpage contains.

  31. #31 Tulse
    January 13, 2009

    I wouldn’t judge all practitioners of a sport based on how much woo some webpage contains.

    Calling Tai Chi a “sport” I think is instructive as to your view of it. Others, including most practitioners involved in the upper levels of professional practice, would probably dispute that characterization, just as Mevlevi Sufis would probably object to putting the actions of whirling dervishes in the same category as waltzes or the Charleston. In both cases, the physical activity can in principle be separated from the woo, but the original purpose of the physical practice, the reason it was developed, was woo-based.

    (To be clear, I think that the physical aspects of Tai Chi can be very beneficial — they just have nothing to do with the “Chi”.)

  32. #32 Karl Withakay
    January 13, 2009

    windy,
    I will say it again in different words, I am not claiming that “it’s not possible to practice Qi Gong without woo since the name derives from a pseudoscientific concept”. I was copying content from the home page of the Qi Gong Association of America to demonstrate how the Qi Gong Association of American proudly defines Qi Gong right on their home page. If anyone is making an etymological statement about the term Qi Gong, it is the Qi Gong Association of America, not me.

    It’s not just woo on some web page. It is woo on the number 2 or 3 hit from a search on either of the major internet search engines. (number 1 hit is the wikipedia article which must be in error because it discuses Qi Gongy as a Chi energy practice) It is woo in the vast majority of Qi Gong web pages. Anyone who spends any time searching the web will be hard pressed to find many sites on Qi Gong that don’t include the woo of energy healing.

    If I had a friend that said she practices Reiki, but doesn’t do the hand waving or energy manipulation, but only does the massage part, she’s not doing Reiki, just massage.

    I do realize that in any language, common use leads to definition. So if enough people use the term Qi Gong to refer to the process of washing their cars, eventually that will become an accepted definition of the word Qi Gong, and if enough people use the term Qi Gong to refer to a breathing and exercise ritual derived from Qi Gong without the energy healing woo, that will become an accepted definition for the word, but it’s going to confuse a lot of people in the mean time. There’s obviously not a consensus yet in regards to that use of the term.

    Your economics defense would make more sense if economics had always been intertwined as a foundation of the concept Tai Chi.

  33. #33 Karl Withakay
    January 13, 2009

    By the way, I really need to get my car Qi Gonged.

  34. #34 trrll
    January 13, 2009

    Tai Chi Chuan is a wonderful exercise, because it can be tolerated by most people regardless of age, and the intensity of the workout can be calibrated to the individual by varying how slow you go (slower is harder) and how much you bend your knees.

    It is a pleasant, relaxing form of meditation, and it is a quite effective martial art when that aspect is taught, because it teaches efficient coordination of the body and avoiding unnecessary muscle tension, which makes it possible to move really fast when you want to. And practitioners gain a deep understanding of balance that makes them really, really good at knocking people down.

    It also has a sport-like competitive exercise (a kind of slow sparring) called “pushing hands” that is quite entertaining, and while it is related to the martial art aspect, it can be practiced gently enough for people of all ages to participate.

    Of course, none of this depends upon woo. Some of the chi-visualization exercises can be useful in learning to do it well, but you don’t have to believe in actual circulating chi to do them. I haven’t seen anything in Tai Chi that was not consistent with physiology and physics.

  35. #35 Marilyn Mann
    January 13, 2009

    I think it’s pretty clear that Orac and Derek were not talking about a pure exercise program, no matter what name you attack to it. They were talking about the woo-filled version. I am positive that Orac and Derek would not criticize a pure exercise program.

  36. #36 windy
    January 13, 2009

    In both cases, the physical activity can in principle be separated from the woo, but the original purpose of the physical practice, the reason it was developed, was woo-based.

    Again, same goes for yoga and to some extent for tai chi and aikido. Qi gong is on the woo-heavy end of the spectrum and people are right to be suspicious, but it’s still a matter of degree. If we don’t go around correcting people who say they practice yoga or tai chi and insist that the western versions are not REALLY REAL yoga or tai chi, I don’t see why qi gong has to be necessarily different.

    And the original purpose of iaido was cutting people’s heads off so I’m not sure how far the “argument from originality” goes…

    (To be clear, I think that the physical aspects of Tai Chi can be very beneficial — they just have nothing to do with the “Chi”.)

    It’s not “chi” as in “life force”, Tai chi chuan means “supreme ultimate fist” or something like that :) You might argue that the concept of “tai chi” is still woo but it’s slightly different woo…

  37. #37 Kitty
    January 14, 2009

    I’d wanted to point out that the involvement of ch’i, yin/yang and Taoist principles are unnecessary to the practice of any of the martial arts as exercise regimes but it has been done very well for me.
    I know what the web sites say but in my practice I have had very little contact with that level of woo. I think you get what you look for and as all types of woo are extremely off-putting to me I don’t go there.
    I’ve never heard of Qi Gong being used by a hand-waving healer! The whole idea of it is that you do it to and for yourself, so if this is taking place it is not Qi Gong.
    Also it is my understanding that the Chinese (and Japanese) developed the martial arts to allow for some kind of self-defence for those who were forbidden to carry arms – most of the population. This is why the ‘weapons’ used in Tai Chi include fans and silk scarves.

    To carry on being pedantic – Qi (ch’i) means ‘breath’, which can also be interpreted as ‘life force’, as obviously without breath there is no life. The use of the word for breath has become synonymous with life or spirit in many cultures and languages. Qong (Kung) means work. Obviously if you want to make your association sound more ‘special’ to punters you can translate these words as the American web site does – The skill of attracting vital energy!
    Chi (not ch’i) comes from the root ‘ji’, I’m guilty of confusing the two spellings, and as Windy says in tai chi means boundless fist – an apt description of self defence without weapons.

  38. #38 Tracy W
    January 14, 2009

    Perhaps what we need here is a better understanding of the concept of chi in Chinese? I don’t speak or read any Chinese, but I know a bit about energy in the physics sense, and it is a difficult concept that is easy to misunderstand even for native English speakers. It is entirely possible that someone has mistranslated the word “chi” as used by Chinese practitioners, or that Chinese practitioners themselves have different understandings of what the word means.

  39. #39 BuggyBY
    January 14, 2009

    Having done some basic Qi Gong myself (it’s one of the few required items on the schedule for patients at the mental health clinic I’d checked myself into for depression twice so far), I can’t say anything about its effects on chronic pain, arthritis and the like, but I can confirm both that it’s helped get my mind out of downward spirals and that some teachers endow it with a lot more woo than strictly necessary. For example, one of the poses we were to take required crossing one’s hands in front of the abdomen. The teacher took great pains to explain that males were to put the left wrist over the right (or was it the other way around?), and females vice versa. When I was privately practising one evening, I deliberately switched the hand positions before going to sleep. The next morning, I was disappointed to be greeted by the sight of the same plumbing between my legs as I’d gone to sleep with.

  40. #40 pikeamus
    January 15, 2009

    Hehe, thats pretty funny Buggy. Did the teacher offer any explanation as to why men and women would have to do it the other way around?

  41. #41 Kitty
    January 15, 2009

    Well, I’ve just got back from a Tai Chi class and asked my teacher about Qi Gong to see if I could understand it more.
    According to him even the Chinese teachers are less likely to push the woo as most of what is taught today comes out of the years of the Cultural Revolution not the religion based antecedents. But we should not forget that Chinese medicine (in which Qi plays a huge role) is a part of their culture which is quite alien to our way of thought and its terminology is archaic to our ears.
    He explained that Qi Gong is a meditation technique of two parts, moving meditation which is Tai Chi, and standing (or sitting) meditation which is more what we in the west would recognise as meditation. The latter is the one where the potential for woo is greatest as it involves visualisation of Qi.
    The same standing meditation can be visualised in woo or non-woo terms. Remember that Qi is ‘breath’.
    So, if I asked you to draw in the Qi (breath in) through the top of your head until your body was full and let the Qi flow out (breath out) through your skin while visualising the building of a protective wall of Qi around you to ward off illness/demons/whatever, you’d think I’d lost my marbles!
    But if I asked you to establish a comfortable and regular breathing pattern, to imagine each out breath was filling the space around you (with breath) and to visualise the expansion of this warm, comfortable space you could reap the benefit of a calming meditation. Occupying your mind with a simple visualisation task diverts it from all the other ‘noise’ in an active brain .
    It would be an easy thing to do for a couple of minutes after a stress filled day, say on the train or bus or just before sleeping.
    Let’s face it you don’t even have to call it Qi Gong. It’s ‘breath work’, pure and simple and it’s the technique which is important, not whether you believe in some ‘vital energy’ flowing in through your head and out through your skin.
    So I think Qi Gong is what you make of it, and if you have leanings towards the woo side of the tracks you’ll head for the American web sites which drip with it, if you don’t you’ll find a teacher like mine who says “You don’t need to believe any of this to benefit from Qi gong and Tai Chi”.

    Oh and no hand waving, no ‘practitioner’ and no ‘patient’.

  42. #42 windy
    January 15, 2009

    When I was privately practising one evening, I deliberately switched the hand positions before going to sleep. The next morning, I was disappointed to be greeted by the sight of the same plumbing between my legs as I’d gone to sleep with.

    Heh! A tai chi instructor used to come to my workplace sometimes and once we were doing exercises outside, and she showed us a movement called “parting the clouds” which is apparently a Qi Gong exercise (many instructors will mix and match). It was a cloudy day and I complained “but it’s not working!” She didn’t seem to appreciate the joke…

  43. #43 mbabbitt
    February 2, 2009

    Yes, there is a lot of way out nuttiness out there but don’t let you bigotry stop you from seeing other possible explanations for therapies and practices that have narratives that don’t jive with your limited viewpoints. Why is it that the so-called scientific types are sometimes the most bigoted, closed minded people around?

    I have practiced Tai Chi and studied anatomy and physiology and what strikes me is how the Tai Chi narrative invokes and develops our proprioceptor awareness. Just because you lack imagination, don’t put down other systems of physical development that have leveraged out bodily systems in creative and effective ways.

  44. #44 Chris
    February 2, 2009

    mbabbit said “Why is it that the so-called scientific types are sometimes the most bigoted, closed minded people around?”

    That sounds like a bit of projection.

  45. #45 Tracy W
    February 3, 2009

    Yes, there is a lot of way out nuttiness out there but don’t let you bigotry stop you from seeing other possible explanations for therapies and practices that have narratives that don’t jive with your limited viewpoints. Why is it that the so-called scientific types are sometimes the most bigoted, closed minded people around?

    I think this can be explained by that engineers often tend to be even more “closed minded” than scientists. It’s all very easy to pursue “possible explanations” if you don’t actually have to produce anything that obviously works, but if you’re an engineer that builds a bridge that falls down, it’s awfully embarrassing at best. This drives engineers to focus on “does this work in reality”. Engineers in turn have a tendency to turn to the hard scientists and ask difficult questions if they can’t get a scientific theory to work. This in turn drives scientists to focus on empirical realities. And this has led to incredible successes in the fields of physics and engineering.

    If you are not working in a field where there is an obvious connection between what you do and what happens, it is of course far easier to fool yourself with merely possible explanations, and narratives, without troubling your head about whether something really works. But this is a bad tendency to get into for anyone trying to do something with effects in the real world. For example, there are possible explanations and narratives for the practice of bleeding in response to umpteen different medical problems, but the empirical evidence is that for the vast majority of medical problems bleeding actually makes the patient weaker with no beneficial effects. The close-mindedness that engineering encourages, with its focus on “what works” has been imported into medicine to try to protect patients from the dangerous tendency of people to believe possible explanations without properly testing them to see if the possible explanation is true.

    If you wish to describe this mindset as bigoted, that is your choice. But would you volunteer to be the first person drive over a bridge designed by an engineer who was happy to build something based merely on “possible explanations” or narratives?

    To put it another way, “Keep an open mind, but not so open that your brain falls out”.

  46. #46 Anthony Nguyen
    June 14, 2010

    Qi or Chi is real. Some people are sensitive enough to attend to its existence and make it grow, and while others think it is not real. You cannot use something that you don’t know you have. It takes a still heart, attentiveness to know the chi and interact with it. Don’t think but try to aware or to feel chi all around you, and you will develop your ability to feel chi. If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again until you do. How should I describe chi? It feels like air, but it is not air, because air cannot penetrate your hands. Qi does. It has a low voltage current, but it is not electricity because electricity cannot run under a surface. This energy runs deep inside a body below a skin. It moves your blood, and clear blockage as well as get rid of pain and give relaxation. It is in all life form but absent in the dead.

  47. #47 Anthony Nguyen
    June 14, 2010

    Qi or Chi is real. Some people are sensitive enough to attend to its existence and make it grow, and while others think it is not real. You cannot use something that you don’t know you have. It takes a still heart, attentiveness to know the chi and interact with it. Don’t think but try to aware or to feel chi all around you, and you will develop your ability to feel chi. If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again until you do. How should I describe chi? It feels like air, but it is not air, because air cannot penetrate your hands. Qi does. It has a low voltage current, but it is not electricity because electricity cannot run under a surface. This energy runs deep inside a body below a skin. It moves your blood, and clear blockage as well as get rid of pain and give relaxation. It is in all life form but absent in the dead.

  48. #48 Calli Arcale
    June 14, 2010

    How do you tell the difference between your sensation of qi and a hallucination? I’m not saying you’re hallucinating; I’m genuinely curious. You are quite certain that qi is real, so you must have ruled out hallucinations or other forms of unintentional self-deception a long time ago. Have you also ruled out proprioception? Sometimes called the “sixth sense”, this is your body’s sense of positional awareness. It’s how you intuitively know, for instance, where your hand is. With practice, the brain can begin modeling things outside of your body as well, adding them to the proprioceptive map. A skiier will eventually perceive his skis as part of his body, for instance, and we all experience it with pens as we learn to write. It’s also why coaches will tell players to “be the ball”.

    Have you ruled all that out? I presume you have, since you are so certain, and I’m very curious to know how you have done this. It sounds fascinating.

    Minor point: electricity most certainly can run under a surface. It’s just usually easier to run on the surface. It depends on how much electricity we’re talking about, and the capacity of the medium. A lightning bolt, for instance, will not harmlessly travel across the surface of your body; it will go through you, and depending on the path it takes, may cause considerable damage along the way.