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!