Whatever you think of its political reporting, no other mainstream media outlet can bring the stupid like the Huffington Post, especially with regards to medical reporting. Its most famous contributors include antivaccinationists like David Kirby and Robert Kennedy, Jr., and kumbaya therapy wackaloon Deepak Chopra.
Now they bring us an article by some dude I’ve never heard of with a title that should have him laughed out of any legitimate scientific institution: “The Science of Distant Healing“. This is one stupid article.
First of all, who the hell is this guy? According to his bio:
Dr. Srini Pillay is an internationally recognized executive coach, public speaker, psychiatrist, and brain imaging researcher who is focused on the fields of personal and organizational transformation. His aim is to help people and corporations achieve their dreams by drawing on his expertise that addresses the intersections of coaching, biology, psychology and spirituality.
Srini has also been a “brain-imaging researcher” for the past fifteen years. He has had numerous publications and has been nationally funded.
That’s interesting. A well-published brain-imaging researcher?
Hmmm…he has four publications indexed by PubMed, all of them on fMRI, a very limited technique shot through with horrid experimental designs, fantastic leaps of faith, and religious-like zeal from its supporters. We have had a number of discussions here lately about what a scientist is—he ain’t it.
Googling him isn’t that much more helpful—I get hits from HuffPo, and not much else. I did manage to verify that he is, in fact, a licensed psychiatrist.
So what about his article? It’s drivel. First, he goes on and on about a study while failing to cite it. Finally, after being berated by his commenters, he named the citation: Dean Radin PhD et al. Compassionate Intention As a Therapeutic Intervention by Partners of Cancer Patients: Effects of Distant Intention on the Patients’ Autonomic Nervous System, EXPLORE: The Journal of Science and Healing. Volume 4, Issue 4, July 2008, Pages 235-243.
It should be enough to say that the study looked at galvanic skin response as a surrogate measure of “distance healing intention (DHI)”. What is “DHI”? According to the study:
To avoid unnecessary religious connotations, the descriptive phrase distant healing intention (DHI) is sometimes used in the scientific and medical literature
And why should we fail to laugh them out of the room?
Science is beginning to reconcile with the concept of “spooky action at a distance” within fundamental physics, but so far the idea that nonlocal effects might also exist in living systems, and be pragmatically useful in some way, evokes as much contempt as it does serious interest.
While our physicist friends weep, let the rest of us remember that once you are working above the sub-atomic level, “spooky action at a distance” is irrelevant, but hey, there’s no woo like quantum woo (and if you want to learn more, go see what a real physicist has to say).
Let me sum it up for you: HuffPo prints a piece by a supposed expert with inflated credentials who cites an article from an unknown pseudoscientific journal; the said article bases its hypotheses on a near-criminal misuse of physics to explain prayer, and uses measurements from glorified Scientology E-meters as their main outcome.
As long as HuffPo continues to host fake health writers, I will always have something to blog about.