Respectful Insolence

I wil probably lose some respect from some of my readers by admitting this, but I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Dan Brown novels. I actually enjoyed The Da Vinci Code immensely as a jolly good read, as long as you’re not too much of a stickler for anything resembling historical accuracy. Ditto Angels & Demons, although even I cringed at one of the most ham-handed bits of author foreshadowing every put into a highly popular novel. (Those of you who’ve read Angels & Demons no doubt know exactly what I’m talking about.) In fact, I’ll probably eventually get a copy of Dan Brown’s latest book The Lost Symbol, just released a couple of weeks ago. Maybe when I take my usual few days off around Christmas.

My weakness for cheesy mysteries notwithstanding, I know that Dan Brown novels are fiction. They exist for one purpose: To entertain. Well, that, and to make Dan Brown truckloads of money because people with the same weakness as I have buy his books. Apparently, however, not everyone seems to realize that it’s all a huge put on, an enormous conceit, outrageous fiction meant to see how much Brown can get the audience to suspend disbelief. I’m not sure that the same can be said of certain equally imaginative woo-meisters.

I’m referring to, of course, a young man known as Adam Dreamhealer, a young man whose name popped up on my newsfeed yesterday with a most curious press release Intention Heals: Truth is Stranger than Fiction in Dan Brown’s Latest Book.

It should be more something like “Intention Steals: The Truth Is a Lot More Boring Than the Fiction in Dan Brown’s Latest Book.”

Dan Brown’s new book, “The Lost Symbol”, addresses the power of intention as fiction, yet Adam DreamHealer has presented this as reality in his Intention Heals workshops and books for the last 7 years. Dan Brown references IONS (Institute of Noetic Science) several times and Adam shares an interesting history with the founder of IONS, Dr. Edgar Mitchell. In conferences with Edgar, Adam has presented his “Intention Heals” workshops across North America to thousands of participants on the power of our own intentions and self-empowerment in healing.

As you may recall Adam Dreamhealer started into woo as a teen, when he became famous for his claim that he could heal people at a distance. He made a name for himself in woo by having claimed to have cured aging rocker Ronnie Hawkins of inoperable pancreatic cancer. Basically, Adam claims he can simply look at a picture of someone with cancer and cure that person by “intent” over a distance, claiming it works by “Quantum Holography,” whatever that is. Actually, what it is is the same sort of “quantum” woo that so many “alternative practitioners” like to invoke as the alleged source of healing. Deepak Chopra is fond of invoking “quantum consciousness,” which sounds a lot like quantum holography, for example. Lionel Milgrom produces some of the most outrageously silly justifications for “quantum homeopathy.” Indeed, I can picture Milgrom’s buddies coming up to him after each new excursion into pure quantum woo, laughing outrageously and asking him, “Can you top this?” And Milgrom almost always can. So, too, can Adam McLeod, reborn as Adam Dreamhealer. I’ve called Adam’s show Adam and His Technicolor Woo before. I wasn’t kidding. Get a load of his description of Quantum Holography:

What is a quantum hologram? A quantum hologram is what Adam sees when he connects to an individual’s energetic system. It can consist of many different layers such as skeletal-muscular view; the body’s organs; nervous system and different magnifications on these views.

Why is it some people can heal and others can’t? No matter what modality you use for your illness the main factor for healing is your subconscious drive. Many people have the drive to explore different types of healing modalities. However not everyone has the drive to truly get better. You can fool others about your intentions but you cannot fool your body.

How is it done? Every living thing on this planet has its own Quantum Hologram (QH). Every QH is connected, therefore we are all connected. The QH holds every bit of information about you. Some individuals are able to access this information. The QH theory states that a change to local matter instantaneously affects the same change to an identical non-local object. So when Adam connects to someone’s hologram he is connecting to the energy information for that person’s body. It can be done over long distance with the use of an image of the person.

Of course. How silly of me to doubt. The only “energy” information being transmitted anywhere by Dreamhealer is the electrical impulses needed to electronically transfer the huge sums of money he’s making off of credulous marks from account to account. I’m sure he’s discovered online banking and stock purchasing.

But what about Ronnie Hawkins? If he really had pancreatic cancer and is still alive, doesn’t that mean there might be something to Dreamhealer’s claims? Well, not so much. You see, it was never actually proven that Hawkins ever had pancreatic cancer. His surgeon opened him up because, apparently, symptoms had led to a CT scan that had shown a mass. The surgeon described the mass as wrapping around important blood vessels, making it unresectable. Three needle biopsies failed to detect cancer. Here’s the problem. Because it is so deadly, pancreatic cancer is one of the few cancers where surgeons will sometimes do a big operation (removal of the head of the pancreas, or the Whipple operation) even without a biopsy-proven diagnosis of cancer. More importantly, chronic pancreatitis can sometimes mimic pancreatic cancer, even sometimes encasing arteries in a rock-hard inflammatory mass that can look all the world like a cancer on CT scan, MRI, or gross examination at the time of surgery. Even experienced surgeons can sometimes be fooled by such a process, as Peter Moran explained here. With that in mind, if a patient presents with a mass at the head of the pancreas and a tissue diagnosis cannot be established, an increasingly uncommon but still not rare scenario, given how hard it is to establish a tissue diagnosis, surgeons will still often operate to remove the head of the pancreas, because the consequences of not doing so are so dire that they outweigh considerable chance of complications due to this very large operation. In other words, surgeons (and patients) accept the risk that there will be the occasional Whipple operation done for benign disease. Just because Hawkins had an apparent pancreatic mass that a surgeon diagnosed as cancer does not necessarily mean that Hawkins, in fact, ever actually had pancreatic cancer. Indeed, given that he is still alive, the overwhelmingly more likely possibility is that Hawkins was misdiagnosed and, in fact, did not have pancreatic cancer. Certainly that is a much more likely explanation than his having been healed by Adam’s mystical magical powers.

As for Dreamhealer’s other alleged “healings,” Benjamin Radford explained well why they are not at all persuasive as “evidence” for Adam’s supposed powers.

It looks as though Dreamhealer is doing nothing more than glomming on to the popularity of Dan Brown’s book to push his latest project, in which he claims to be able to link groups of people together in order to heal them, all without necessarily ever having met any of them. He even has a “global healing” page, in which he claims to be seeking worldwide involvement in his “intention” healing. And it’s all science, maaaan! Just listen to the press release:

Adam has always sought a scientific explanation to support what he intuitively knows to be true as a healer: that our intentions influence our reality. Recently Adam graduated as a molecular biologist, B.Sc.(1st Hon). He is continuing his studies in Naturopathic Medicine to become a Naturopathic Doctor. Adam’s focus has always been influencing our health through the energy of our intentions.

Adam’s website, has hundreds of testimonials in writing and on video to support the success of healing using our intentions. The successes cover a wide range of illnesses, including cases of terminal cancer.

Apparently his classes in molecular biology and science didn’t sink in if Adam thinks that testimonials constitute good evidence to support his claims. He also shows that he doesn’t think like a scientists. Note how he says he has always “sought a scientific explanation to support what he intuitively knows to be true.” He’s not seeking to find out if what he thinks is true is in fact true. He’s trying to prove that it is true. In other words, he is not open to the possibility of falsification, and if you’re not open to the possibility of falsifying your hypothesis (in fact, if you don’t actively try to falsify it) you’re doing science wrong. Like this:

The evidence that “Intention Heals” is impressive! Since 2006 Adam has been collecting survey results about intentional healing on his website. Thousands of people have responded and participated in this survey. Astonishingly, over 75% of respondents rate their health issues as having improved significantly through the self-empowering techniques described in Adam’s books and workshops.

Using chi-square and binomial statistical testing, these results showed that a statistically significant number of people experienced health improvements. The bottom line is that people are taking control of their own health challenges and using their own intentions to make a difference. That is the power of self-empowerment.

So science-y. He said chi-square and binomial testing. Test away, woo-boy! As they say, “Garbage In= Garbage Out.” If the data you’re feeding into your statistics is crap, then you can do all the chi-squareds on it that you want. It’ll still be crap, only “statistically significant” crap.

What I’m more interested in is why Adam wants to be come a naturopath. Why would he need it? Think about it this way. If Adam really has the power to heal a person at a distance just by looking at a picture of that person and thinking really hard about it, wouldn’t that be awesome? Why would he need anything else? I wouldn’t. To me, it reeks of nothing more than expanding his empire and therefore his profits. Maybe selling videos like this just isn’t enough anymore:

Whatever the case, I remain puzzled at how anyone could believe this nonsense. And nonsense it is. Adam Dreamhealer spewing woo about merging peoples auras into “one coherent frequency” in order to orchestrate “group healings” and blathering on about combining “cutting edge science” with “mystical traditions.” I say to Adam what I’ve become fond of saying to a lot of woo-meisters these days: You keep using that word “cutting edge science.” I do not think it means what you think it means.

What it means is that Dreamhealer gets to keep separating the credulous from their cash.

Comments

  1. #1 Jud
    September 30, 2009

    The only “energy” information being transmitted anywhere by Dreamhealer is the electrical impulses needed to electronically transfer the huge sums of money he’s making off of credulous marks from account to account.

    IMHO, that line is better than anything Dan Brown’s written.

    (After listening to a book-on-tape of most of one of Brown’s early novels in a friend’s car, the part of your description of his writing I find myself most strongly agreeing with is “ham-handed.” The car trip was a long one, enough time to complete almost the entire book. It left me so uninterested that when my friend asked if I wanted to borrow it to hear the ending, I politely declined.)

  2. #2 Bronze Dog
    September 30, 2009

    Some people might find this funny.

  3. #3 Skeptico
    September 30, 2009

    But Orac, Adam learned all the science he knows from a giant blackbird. (Seriously.) what more proof do you need?

    Wrote about it here: Adam the Healer.

  4. #4 scardanelli
    September 30, 2009

    Concerning the new Dan Brown Novel – I nearly could not finish it this time, although I found his novels quite a good yarn and very, very entertaining. This time, though, I had to force myself through the last pages of the Last Symbol. It was – one could say – very, very, veeeeeery
    woo-zy. Noetic Science and such, and the wisdom of the Ancients, and cutting-edge-sciency stuff and such.

  5. #5 abb3w
    September 30, 2009

    Orac: Whatever the case, I remain puzzled at how anyone could believe this nonsense.

    One large contributing factor is that US K-12 education stinks.

  6. #6 Paul from NH
    September 30, 2009

    “A quantum hologram is what Adam sees when he connects to an individual’s energetic system. It can consist of many different layers such as skeletal-muscular view; the body’s organs; nervous system and different magnifications on these views.”

    “Adam learned all the science he knows from a giant blackbird.”

    Oh, come on. Anyone can do these things: all you need is an appropriate setting and a sufficient dose of LSD.

  7. #7 Liz
    September 30, 2009

    Orac, you don’t have to justify your guilty pleasures – unless it’s the “Twilight” series. In that case, you just keep it to yourself.

    I read a book many years ago called “The Holographic Universe” by Michael Talbot. As I recall, it starts out with the theory that all of existence is a hologram, or the image projected by some unfathomable mass of data that holds “everything” at once and in each bit of the hologram itself. As any theory of existence, it was sort of interesting, until the book disintegrates from holograms into shamanism and the authors shameless “going tribal” type exploration of it. That might be the origin of this douche’s ideas.

    (I thought it ended up being mescaline-fueled hippie nonsense.)

    Besides, who can take a dude seriously with the name “DreamHealer”?

  8. #8 Paul
    September 30, 2009

    “I actually enjoyed The Da Vinci Code immensely as a jolly good read, as long as you’re not too much of a stickler for anything resembling historical accuracy.”

    Or a stickler for a well constructed narrative, good clear writing, good grammar, and an overall well written book.

    Just wanted to add a sentence that you missed in that first paragraph.

  9. #9 Jeff Read
    September 30, 2009

    Dan Brown’s novels are unmitigated shite. My first exposure to his work came in the form of Digital Fortress, whose depiction of cryptography is to the actual thing what the board game Operation is to actual surgery. And he still had the space to offend every single resident of Seville, Spain by depicting their fair town as a crime-ridden hellhole. I used to think that he should get some sort of literary Razzie award for the novelist who receives the most recognition disproportionate to actual talent. But then, Stephenie Meyer came along…

  10. #10 Jeff Read
    September 30, 2009

    “Adam learned all the science he knows from a giant blackbird.”

    But of course. Who knows how many ages of wisdom holds the Deep Crow, who saw the world born?

  11. #11 SimonG
    September 30, 2009

    I have fond memories of my first exposure to statistics. It was in a geography lesson when I was about 13, and my teacher demonstrated how he could show a link between the Danish birth rate and the number of storks nests in Copenhagen.

  12. #12 Squillo
    September 30, 2009

    Truth is indeed stranger than fiction if people actually buy into Dreamhealer’s crap.

  13. #13 sophia8
    September 30, 2009

    Anybody know where Adam got his BSc from? Curiously, there’s no mention of it on his website, although other woo sites are starting to refer to him as “Adam Dreamhealer, Molecular Biologist, BSc”.
    And what do you have to do to get a “BSc (1st Hons)” in Molecular Biology?

  14. #14 Joseph
    September 30, 2009

    Apparently his classes in molecular biology and science didn’t sink in if Adam thinks that testimonials constitute good evidence to support his claims.

    Or they did sink in, but as a business-person he remembered that testimonials are an excellent way to rake in the dough.

  15. #15 Calli Arcale
    September 30, 2009

    Perhaps “BSc” is “Bronze Swimming Certificate”?

  16. #16 Prometheus
    September 30, 2009

    Perhaps a better title for Adam Dreamhealer’s press release would be:

    “Intention Heals: Adam Dreamhealer can’t tell Reality from Fiction.”

    Whenever someone gets their reality from a work of fiction (e.g. Scientologists), you known they’re not “all there”.

    Prometheus

  17. #17 wfjag
    September 30, 2009

    “But Orac, Adam learned all the science he knows from a giant blackbird. (Seriously.) what more proof do you need?

    Wrote about it here: Adam the Healer.

    Posted by: Skeptico”

    Skeptico, are you telling me that instead of busting my butt working through equations, all I had to do was stare some bird in the eye? There’s got to be a conspiracy theory in there somewhere.

  18. #18 Seer
    September 30, 2009

    I’ve got some Science for Adam: Make my little toe fall off. It’s in fine condition now, but if you “intend” for my little toe to fall off and it does, I’ll give you the time of day. If not, shove off.

  19. #19 John
    September 30, 2009

    Not sure why all are getting so worked up about Adam… All he promotes is self-empowerment. Maybe this flies in the face of those who would rather have people overdose on toxic drugs that the drug companies keep feeding us. Positive thoughts never hurt anyone.. but the negative vibes from most of the comments are indicative of closed minds.

  20. #20 John
    September 30, 2009

    Not sure why all are getting so worked up about Adam… All he promotes is self-empowerment. Maybe this flies in the face of those who would rather have people overdose on toxic drugs that the drug companies keep feeding us. Positive thoughts never hurt anyone.. but the negative vibes from most of the comments are indicative of closed minds.

  21. #21 Scott
    September 30, 2009

    Not sure why all are getting so worked up about Adam… All he promotes is self-empowerment.

    Well, that’s quite a ludicrous claim. Take a bit of a read of his website. He quite clearly claims far, far, more than that.

  22. #22 Pieter B
    September 30, 2009

    Positive thoughts never hurt anyone

    True. But if positive thoughts are substituted for medication or surgery in serious disease, the substitution can hurt or kill.

  23. #23 Rogue Medic
    September 30, 2009

    Dreamhealer?

    I hear that they are remaking the first Nightmare on Elm Street movie. Maybe Dreamcharlatan will use that to provide some evidence for his claims, too.

    The degree is probably from a degree mill, with a quantum holographic attendance requirement.

    I’ve been looking for a good banned book to read for Banned Books Week. While Dan Brown’s books have probably been banned somewhere, I did not have any interest in them. The Dreamquackster connection makes it even less likely that I will read one by Brown.

    It is always good to go back and read Fahrenheit 451. The book banning book.

  24. #24 antipodean
    September 30, 2009

    If he can cure cancer just be thinking about it that may imply that he’s guilty of a very large number of negligent homicides per year- Failing to provide the necessities of life to thousands of cancer sufferers he could cure just by thinking about it.

    What a bastard.

    Since he’s clearly got plenty of cash the lawyers ought to be thinking class action.

  25. #25 Anthro
    September 30, 2009

    I, too, was wondering where he got his degree–and what’s “1st hon.”? In England you get a “first” or “second” and so on, but he seems American on the video (which I could NOT finish due to content and because he’s such a TERRIBLE speaker–very poor articulation), but maybe it’s something to do with science or just something I’ve not heard of having a simple B(achelor) of A(rts).

    I don’t see any harm in Orac’s enjoying these books, but does he realize how many people take them to be scientific papers?

  26. #26 Militant Agnostic
    September 30, 2009

    Anthro – It embarrasses me to say this, but Adam Dreamquacker is Canadian. Canadian universities do award degrees with honours (not sure what the cut off is other than higher than my GPA was), but I have not heard of 1st honours – I smell a diploma mill.

  27. #27 mekei
    September 30, 2009

    Drawing on Princess Bride. Inigo and Vezzini. Priceless.

  28. #28 Skeptico
    September 30, 2009

    John wrote:

    …the negative vibes from most of the comments are indicative of closed minds.

    The negative vibe from your comment is indicative that your mind is too closed to consider that Adam is a fraud.

  29. #29 Cath the Canberra Cook
    September 30, 2009

    Militant Agnostic, I have a totally legit “first class honours” degree. (In physics, from the Australian National University, in the 80s.) Honours is not a GPA measure, but an extra year of study on top of the basic bachelors degree, in which you do coursework and write a small thesis.

    The standard grade options for honours are 1st, 2A, 2B and 3rd. The level titles historically derive from the British system, which Canada could well share. You need a 1st, or maybe a 2A and really good references, to get into a PhD program.

  30. #30 george
    September 30, 2009

    Ist class if above 90% overall average. So at least Adam has a brain.. unlike most of those making stupid comments.

  31. #31 JD
    September 30, 2009

    My aura just merged and it will be coming out of my ass in a few hours. There may be a fecal trace of the quantum hologram found in my stool. I can’t wait!

    Thank you Adamhealer!

  32. #32 antipodean
    September 30, 2009

    George

    1st class honours degrees mean that you can regurgitate information accurately. The fact that it’s in an irrelevant field of study makes it funnier that anybody would bring it up.

    Hons 1 don’t imply that you are now qualified to make shit up and sell it to willing dupes. Half the people commenting here have that qualification (or equivalent) and/or higher. It doesn’t qualify us to make shit up either.

  33. #33 G.D.
    September 30, 2009

    John: please see this very basic, mostly one-syllable instruction video on open-mindedness before you use “close-minded” and “open-minded” again:

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2009/04/on_open-mindedness.php

    Currently your comments suggest that you skipped most critical thinking classes. Here’s a chance to get the basics on one of the topics.

    George at #30 is apparently a lost cause, however.

  34. #34 Prometheus
    September 30, 2009

    Whether Adam Dreamhealer got his degree with “first class honours” or got it out of a cereal box matters not. He clearly – from his own writings and statements – is not in touch with reality in this universe.

    Perhaps his degree was in Philosophy?

    Prometheus

  35. #35 T. Bruce McNeely
    September 30, 2009

    Some comments on georges comment:

    Ist (1st or first class) if (is) above 90%(80% when I was a lad) overall average (What is a non-overall average?). So at least Adam has a brain.. (Ellipsis uses 3 dots…) unlike most of those making stupid comments. (Thanks for demonstrating what a stupid comment might look like)

  36. #36 sophia8
    October 1, 2009

    More digging has failed to find the Dreamster’s awarding university. But several woo sites have referred to him having to take time off from his seminars for studying. Plus, google-fu has thrown ups some mentions of an Adam Mcleod, possessor of a BSc (1stHons) in Molecular Biology, doing research at Simon Fraser University in Canada; he even gave a talk to the Vancuover Astronomical Society last month, on the subject of possible alien lifeforms.
    Although Mcleod is a common surname in parts of Canada, I wouldn’t entirely dismiss the possibility of this Mr Mcleod having a secret identity as the Dreamster. From reading about Adam, it’s clear that his parents groomed him for the role of being a miracle healer from an early age – just how much choice did he have in that? Playing the role has made him (and, probably, his parents) very wealthy and getting a (real) degree nowadays takes money. Perhaps, just perhaps, we’ll see an announcement one day that Adam Dreamhealer has decided to go into indefinite retreat and will no longer be available for appearances, seminars and talks.
    (Oooh, wait, did I just hear pigs squawking overhead…..?)

  37. #37 Christophe Thill
    October 1, 2009

    Dan Brown ? Hey, “Da Vinci Code” is great ! Not as a novel, I mean. As a game. Whenever a new riddle comes up, try to get it solved before the characters. And then count your score. Mine wasn’t bad at all. Actually, it didn’t give me much esteem for the characters…

  38. #38 Green Eagle
    October 1, 2009

    I work on a rather successful TV show, which I will not name. There are a whole bunch of websites providing detailed philosophical or theological analyses of elements in our plot and sets that were totally casual, or just done to provide a little interest. No matter what, these fantasies go on, episode after episode.

    With all the babble about death panels, and Obama’s communist Muslim takeover of the country,and how Iran is about to kill us all, I guess it’s harmless enough. At least it doesn’t kill anyone like, say, laetrile or conservatism.

  39. #39 Patrick
    October 2, 2009

    The University of Victoria, in Canada, offers 1st class Honours as a distinction on an Honours degree. The GPA cutoff is B+/A- for Honours, and an A-/A average gives 1st class Honours, I think.

  40. #40 Uncle Glenny
    October 2, 2009

    I really shouldn’t post this. Really I shouldn’t. But if you go to

    http://www.dreamhealer.com/category/image-galleries/workshops

    and click on the “December LA workshop 2006″ pic to enlarge… All that psychic healing must really drain him; totally drain him so that he appears as a hulking zombie.

  41. #41 Ana Observer
    October 5, 2009

    Adam’s doublespeak reminds me of a classic exchange between two characters in a Terry Pratchett novel:

    “How does it work?”

    “I dunno. It’s probably quantum.”

  42. #42 bocafit
    October 6, 2009

    I think that if Adam truly is a dreamhealer it would be quite amazing…

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