Reiki propaganda in U.S. News & World Report



Just a week ago, I deconstructed an awful article touting how the mass of prescientific quackery known as traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) as somehow being “validated” by modern science. Specifically, some truly misguided scientists were attempting to use modern systems biology techniques to look for biomarkers associated with TCM diagnoses such as “hot” or “cold” syndromes, specifically with respect to rheumatoid arthritis. The article is an example of just how the false narrative of TCM has taken hold. Although the article acknowledged that there was little evidence to support TCM “hot” and “cold” diagnoses, arguments from antiquity and false claims that TCM is “holistic” system that views the “whole patient” according to a system in marked contrast to the “reductionistic” view of “Western medicine” permeated the entire article.

Unfortunately, with the infiltration of quackademic medicine like TCM into medical academia, along with the rise of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), a whole lot of quackery that was once properly dismissed as pseudoscience is now respectable, with major academic medical centers not only studying it but offering it to their patients as though it were scientifically validated medicine. The result are articles like the one I just described, not to mention articles like an article that appeared in US NEWS & WORLD REPORT yesterday by Anna Medaris Miller, a health and wellness reporter there, entitled What Is Reiki? You know it’s going to be bad when you see its synopsis: It's not meditation, massage or prayer. But practitioners and clients say reiki heals in ways that are hard to explain.

That’s where it starts, and the article goes downhill rapidly from there. Naturally, as nearly all examples of credulously lazy reporting on alternative medicine do, with an anecdote:

Terri Reynolds, 56, knows the exchange well. She says, “Reiki.” They say, “Huh?” She says, “Energy healing.” They say, “Hocus-pocus.”

But for Reynolds, who was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2011, reiki is anything but. The practice – which usually involves a practitioner placing his or her hands on or above a client to facilitate that person's healing energy – taught her how to quiet her mind after surgery and six months of chemotherapy.

"When you have a very stressful job and four children, and you get a diagnosis like that, it kind of really slaps you around,” says Reynolds, a certified medical assistant and managed care educator in Springfield, Illinois. “And when you’re grabbing everywhere for anything that makes the littlest bit of hope glisten, you’re apt to try anything.”

Reynolds is now cancer-free but continues to see a reiki practitioner weekly. “I’ll never stop,” she says.

Notice how this anecdote doesn’t actually indicate that reiki actually did anything for Reynolds, although it does seem to imply that reiki is part of what helped to render her cancer-free. Indeed, if this anecdote is the best one that reiki advocates interviewed for this article could come up with, that’s pretty thin gruel indeed, even for quacks.

Next up, according to the template of articles like this, comes the appeal to popularity. We learn that the Simmons Cancer Institute at Southern Illinois University's School of Medicine offers woo (as many others are “increasingly offering”) to “prime patients for healing.” This is utter nonsense, unsupported by data, of course, but it is offered as part of the evidence that quackademic medicine is embracing reiki and “biofield” quackery.

Then, of course, there is the obligatory “he said/she said” discussion of the “science, in this case framed as “Science or Hype?” There’s never any doubt which side the article will come down on, naturally. Oh, sure, Miller cites a couple of equivocal or negative studies and the ever-skeptical Jann Bellamy who, unfortunately, serves as what we call the “token skeptic” in articles of this type. It’s a role I’ve played myself on occasion. There’s no choice if you’re a skeptic who occasionally is interviewed. You do your best to get the skeptical viewpoint represented in pithy sound bites, and sometimes you end up being quoted like this. It’s frustrating.

Then we get the “supporting evidence” for reiki, but before I discuss it, I can’t help but mock this part of the article, which quotes someone named Shamini Jain, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California–San Diego. Actually, I mean to mock what Jain says:

Reiki is one of several therapies based on the biofield, or a type of energy field that “regulates everything from our cellular function to our nervous system,” says Shamini Jain, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California–San Diego.

While the biofield itself is generally accepted – it “consists of things that we can measure like electromagnetic energy that actually emanates from us,” Jain says – biofield therapies such as reiki and therapeutic touch are more controversial because they’re based on the idea of a “subtle” aspect of the biofield, which is harder to measure.

“It’s difficult for our Western science to wrap its mind around” because it’s not about popping pills, injecting needles or otherwise altering the body’s chemical composition, says Jain, a clinical psychologist who studies integrative medicine.

At this oint, I have a hard time not feeling like the French soldier in the castle in Monty Python and the Holy Grail mocking King Arthur and his knights, so silly is what Jain just said to me. First of all, the “biofield” is not generally accepted. At least, what reiki practitioners and believers in “energy medicine” mean by “biofield” has little or nothing to do with what real scientists mean by “biofield.” Notice how Jain characterizes two types of “biofield energy.” Basically, there’s the kind that scientists can measure, such as the electrical energy whose patterns can be measured and recorded as EEG or EKG or even infrared patterns. Then there’s the kind that can’t be measured, which she disingenuously characterizes as being “harder to measure.” No, Dr. Jain, human biofields that reiki masters claim to be able to manipulate are not “harder to measure.” They’ve never been measured. Nor are they “controversial,” at least not among biologists. Despite many attempts at measuring them, they haven’t been measured because they almost certainly do not exist. There’s even a truly annoying bit about “Western medicine” included, just to make skeptics cringe.

Perhaps Jain has some actual evidence, then? Let’s see:

Still, a small body of research shows promise for reiki and other similar therapies. In a 2010 study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, for example, Yale University researchers including Miles found that patients who received a 20-minute reiki treatment within three days after a heart attack had better moods and heart rate variability – a measure linked to post-heart attack outcome.

Another 2012 study in the journal Cancer found that fatigued breast cancer survivors who received four weeks of biofield healing therapies showed “highly clinically significant” reductions in fatigue, says Jain, who led the study. Survivors who received a fake therapy improved too, but not as much; both groups were less exhausted than participants who received no treatment. Notably, Jain says, the study showed that biofield healing improved cortisol variability – important for regulating immune function – while fake and no treatments did not.

Whoa! I immediately recognized that 2012 study because—you guessed it—I had blogged about it. In fact, I first blogged about it when it was an online publication ahead of print in 2011 and then again when it appeared in print in 2012. Let’s just put it this way. This “study” was not about reiki, although it was about a form of “energy therapy” and it was about as bad as a quackademic study comes. The “energy healing” intervention studied was something that its practitioner calls “energy chelation.” Of course the fact that it’s not reiki is really a distinction without much of a difference, because here’s how the authors described energy chelation:

The specific technique used in the biofield healing group is termed energy chelation, and was selected by 1 of the authors (R.L.B.), whose healing techniques have been incorporated in modalities such as Healing Touch and Therapeutic Touch.26,27 During energy chelation, the practitioner practices hands-on healing with standard hand positions, beginning with hands on the feet, then to the knees, hips, bladder area, stomach, hands, elbows, shoulders, heart, throat, head, and back to the heart. The practice of energy chelation is 45 to 60 minutes, with a practitioner generally focusing for 5 to 7 minutes on each position.

OK, so it’s very much like reiki. Reiki, remember, is a technique that’s represented as being ancient Japanese wisdom but in reality was invented out of whole cloth by a man named Mikao Usui in the 1920s.

In any case, as regular readers might recall, reiki is a form of energy healing in which practitioners claim that they can, by making hand motions that sometimes involve touching, sometimes not, on or over the patient in order to channel “healing energy” from what they call the “universal source.” Of course, it’s hard not to note the parallel between reiki when described this way and faith healing. Indeed, boiled to its essence, that’s what reiki is, faith healing. Think of the “universal source” as God and reiki energy as the healing power of God, and you’ll see what I mean. The only difference is that reiki substitutes Eastern mystical beliefs for Christian beliefs.

In fact, I’ll go a step farther. Reiki masters claim that they can send healing reiki energy over a distance. Heck, some claim they can send it over a distance to pets. Some even claim they can send it back and forth in time. What do Christians call this sort of thing? I’ll tell you. They call it intercessory prayer! There’s even a very religion-like explanation for when reiki fails and that’s that the reiki energy “knows” what you need better than you do, or, as I like to say, with reiki you can’t always get what you want, but if you try some time you just might find that you can get what you need. It was such an awful study that I was coauthor on a letter to the editor criticizing it, to which the authors could only respond with nonsense.

As for the other study, it wasn’t even a full study but rather a result reported in a letter to the editor. It wasn’t blinded, but rather compared reiki to a classical music intervention or a resting control in patients after acute coronary syndrome (otherwise known as a myocardial infarction or near-infarction). The outcomes were heart rate variability and emotional state. It was a small study, only 49 patients after screening 229 for eligibility, and it wasn’t particularly convincing, given that neither the patients nor the physicians were blinded.

At least the reiki advocates interviewed conceded:

The results suggest that “common sense things” such as rest, touch and being cared for matter, but “there’s something about the healing that seems beyond that,” Jain says.

The most compelling support for reiki, however, may be anecdotal – and a reason for more research funding in the area, experts say. “What we’re just beginning to understand is that, if we want to move forward with science, we can’t assume one philosophy is correct,” Jain says.

This assumes, of course, that there is science to “move forward with.” When it comes to reiki, there really isn’t. That’s because reiki is religious faith healing that’s not even particularly well disguised as anything resembling scientific medicine.

No wonder reiki masters can't lose.


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How does reiki work? By forcing a person to just stop and relax. Of course, there's nothing special about reiki as compared to any other relaxation technique. It won't do anything miraculous, but I can see it helping with stress relief. I wish these quacks would stop selling it as anything more than just sitting/lying quietly in the company of someone else.

They need to start trying reiki enemas. That will help with being so full of shit.

Somehow reiki always reminds me of the emperor shooting Force energy out of his hands in "Star Wars: Return of the Jedi". Maybe it´s because both these things are fictional.

By StrangerInAStr… (not verified) on 11 Nov 2014 #permalink

In 1994, when first diagnosed with tinnitus and told "live with it"-I became very involved with alternative voodoo. I didn't want to be a victim, I told myself. And alternatives? Well, they ALWAYS have something else for you to try. I also worked for an HMO and (much to my embarrassing memory) I got them to pay for 2 reiki masters to come train us in this stuff.
Fast forward 20 years, I'm living just fine with tinnitus (and the anxiety meds you'll have to pry from my cold dead fingers)-and when I teach my students a section I call "skeptics guide to complementary & alternative medicine)-I always tell them I am a level 2 reiki practitioner and" can channel the healing energies of the universe through my fingers."
Then, along with describing other forms of voodoo. I tell them why all this is a bunch of crap.

By nutritionprof (not verified) on 11 Nov 2014 #permalink

I should add the good news is that the parents were convicted of manslaughter as the death occurred last year. Hopefully more of these d-bags will be prosecuted.

Lastly, why is it always the children of these people that die? Oh that's right, because the parents bail when they realize sh!t is getting real and actually see a doctor, yet force their children to endure the full brunt of their vapid stupidity.

Ms. Reynolds could garner the same benefits from a Buddhist or Zen master. As an added bonus, she (and us for that matter) would not have to suffer the tsunami of bullshit and hocus-pocus the Reiki crowd is spreading far and wide.

Oh! And Zen Masters are considerate enough to not pretend they can heal anything...

By Francois T (not verified) on 11 Nov 2014 #permalink

Lastly, why is it always the children of these people that die?

Because the mindset of "they're my kids so they're my property" is firmly set in the heads of the dogmatic and ignorant.

By Chan Kobun, th… (not verified) on 11 Nov 2014 #permalink

Lastly, why is it always the children of these people that die?

I don't know that this is necessarily true. In general when an adult dies after refusing to seek medical attention (or seeking it from quacks) it's not news and there is no trial.

Of course, when adult snake handlers are bitten by venomous snakes and die it can make the news, but the response is typically "so what were they expecting?".

By Mephistopheles… (not verified) on 11 Nov 2014 #permalink

"Lastly, why is it always the children of these people that die?"

I agree I was using a bit of hyperbole. But it does seem that the children are held to a higher 'standard' quite often. Look at the picture of the couple from the story below. Notice that the wife wears glasses. So God can cure DM1, but can't cure ametropia?

"Because the mindset of “they’re my kids so they’re my property” is firmly set in the heads of the dogmatic and ignorant."

I find it interesting (in a sad way) how those who espouse that belief generally justify it by saying that they reject 'collectivism'. Yet I don't view protecting children from whacko parents as collectivism at all. It is protecting the individual rights of the children. Too many parents don't understand that their children are individuals with similar rights to what they have.

I have 3 kids under the age of 6 and that has been one of my guiding principles: they are individuals with rights I am entrusted to care for and protect.

I quoted the wrong line in my first sentence above. Meant to quote:

"I don’t know that this is necessarily true."

My understanding is that our old friend Oz the great and scammy married a Reiki master. I am totally unsurprised.

Not sure if the poor dead kid EMBOD referred to above is the same case from Philadelphia but those parents killed 2 kids before they got prosecuted and jail time. The parents claimed at trial that their congregation and pastor gave them strength to continue to abuse their children. That pastor ought to be in jail as well.

It's easy to see the faith-healing death of a child as evidence that the parents hold their children in lower regard than themselves, but I think it often tends to be the reverse. Definitely there are times when the kids are held to a lower standards, but I think most of the faith-healing deaths aren't in that camp. A true believer in faith healing will think that being weak and distrusting God by going to a doctor will harm one's immortal soul, which is far more valuable than the mere flesh that briefly houses it. When they are themselves in pain, they may be weak and succumb to the temptation, but they're damned if they're going to hurt their *children's* chances for Heaven. They want the best for their children, after all, and for their children to escape the fate which they believe awaits them. So of course they work harder to faith-heal their kids. It's not because they think less of them. It's because they think more of them.

This is why putting someone on a pedestal is actually not a good thing at all. It removes your objectivity, and you can end up doing a tremendous amount of harm in your zeal to deify them. Like the pious husband who insists on doing everything for his wife so she won't have to work or even complete her education or trouble herself with things like voting....sometimes good intentions cause serious direct harm.

By Calli Arcale (not verified) on 11 Nov 2014 #permalink

Makes sense, Calli. It is quite possible I am wrong. I do wonder if it simply a mix, for some parents it is out of ignorance laden doting, though I think for some of the real fundamentalist types, I think the comment about them being viewed as property of the parents is part of it as well.

I think that a significant part of the faith healing of children by their parents goes back to that most repugnant of tales from the western Asian religions - that of Abe (or Ib depending on the variant). The question is not so much of the child, but the problem of "youse is gonna do what youse is told or youse is gonna sleep with the fishes. And besides, I loves me the smell of dead burned bodies and I'ma gonna have some hackin and bleedin and strugglin and dyin, me dangit."

“And when you’re grabbing everywhere for anything that makes the littlest bit of hope glisten, you’re apt to try anything.”

Well, yes. Is this Reiki's motto?

“What we’re just beginning to understand is that, if we want to move forward with science, we can’t assume one philosophy is correct,” Jain says.

If you want to move forward with science, you have to use a philosophy which allows science. Importing scientific methods into philosophies which privilege "other ways of knowing" over objective measures isn't an advance for science. It's a demotion.

EBMOD: Oh absolutely a lot of them view their children as their property. Some even still view their spouses that way. I didn't mean to imply they don't. If you look in the book of Genesis, there's language giving Adam the responsibility of husbanding the Earth. It's his responsibility to take care of it, which has historically been interpreted as a mandate to basically plow the Earth under and make it bear fruit. That language also feeds right into a mindset that you have full responsibility for your children -- as in, nobody else gets to decide for your kids, not even themselves since they'll get it wrong. They probably don't call it ownership, but it's indistinguishable from ownership. And it's also scarily reminiscent of some of the Scriptural arguments in favor of slavery in the antebellum South, where slave owners in many cases genuinely believed they were doing their slaves a *favor* by helping them reach their full potential, and taking care of them. (I'm not kidding. There were actually essays written that argued it that way. And these people could not possibly have been ignorant of how slaves were beaten, sold, and executed for the crime of running away.)

It's pretty creepy, and creepier still when you realize, to your horror, that they aren't bad people, or at least they don't think they are.

By Calli Arcale (not verified) on 11 Nov 2014 #permalink


One of my profs- in developmental psych- used to discuss how the concept of the child evolved during the history of Europe: it included ideas from Christianity ( unbaptised heathen / angelic child of g-d) and philosphy ( the pure child of Nature uncorrputed by society / the *tabula rasa*) or simply as a tiny adult ( thus a potential worker/ consumer) to more realistic and scientifically based ideas. Of course, ideas from psychology range from Freud to Piaget to Skinner.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 11 Nov 2014 #permalink

I should add that the concept of a child as an *individual* with rights and need for protection is recent and legal.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 11 Nov 2014 #permalink

Reiki was invented by Mikao Usui [not Maso Usui as stated in the post]. There are two basic definitions of the word "invent":

1. create or design (something that has not existed before), such as a steam engine;

2. make up (an idea, name, story, etc.), especially so as to deceive someone.

Mikao Usui taught Reiki to over 2000 people during his lifetime thereby widely spreading his deception, which was founded on anti-science, not pseudoscience as is frequently claimed.

As has been mentioned so many times before, Emily Rosa, when aged only nine, debunked "energy healing" quackery:

Appeals to alt-med inventions/antiquity/traditions/popularity are nothing other than appeals to the second definition of the word "invention". Alt-med that actually worked is now called medicine; the huge remainder of it is rightly called quackery.

The Reiki apologetics not only abuse physics and statistics, they also abuse the English language. Jain's commentary is pure gobbledegook.

If you want to move forward with science, you have to use a philosophy which allows science.

And in particular you have to embrace methodological naturalism, as it's the only way proposed explanations become falsifiable (i.e., the only way to tell a good explanation from a bad one.)

IMHO, Calli has good points about "kids on a pedestal" and folks actually imagining they're doing good for others via some ultimately authoritarian paternalism. But, again IMHO, I think when you peel back that surface layer, the underlying psychology is selfishness or self-aggrandizement via projection. Placing others on a pedestal as an excuse to your self to control them, allowing you to bask in your supposed self-sacrifice, etc. An extreme fictional example: the classic 1987 B-movie thriller The Stepfather directed by Joe Rubin and starring Terry O'Quinn.

the appeal to popularity
More of an "appeal to success". When enough people are making money from something, it stops being a fraud.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 11 Nov 2014 #permalink

I have a hard time not feeling like the French soldier in the castle in Monty Python and the Holy Grail mocking King Arthur and his knights, so silly is what Jain just said to me. First of all, the “biofield” is not generally accepted. At least, what reiki practitioners and believers in “energy medicine” mean by “biofield” has little or nothing to do with what real scientists mean by “biofield.”

Well, Orac; I guess you get to have that two ways:

(1.) Reikiyamasterful Arthur: Would you like to help us suss out our biofield?
French Oraminion: No thanks, we've already got one...
Arthur: A biofield? Are you sure?
Oraminion: Oh yes, It's very SB.

(2) Now go away or I shall insolent you a second time.

The last page of that AARP article is interesting in that Melissa Etheridge and Sheryl Crow contradict each other in several places, with Sheryl Crow being more realistic. Of course, they both underwent the proven medical treatment with success.

Not a bad article, far better than King Beck of Drama's blethering.

@ herr doktor:

That's not so startling..
Women like to dance with each other even if they're not lesbian.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 11 Nov 2014 #permalink

Beck got his brain "repaired" at Carrick Brain Centers, which boasts, "a multi-disciplinary team of Board Certified Neurologists in the disciplines of medicine and chiropractic." Which would be one MD and three chiropractors.

The website has individual pages for conditions they treat.
Under "Autism", sub-head "Encouraging Results", last sentence: "We help the brain itself restore impaired functions by encouraging targeted activity in affected areas of the brain to build new neural pathways to restore or enhance function."


Reboot Beck's brain? As far as I can tell he never turned it on in the first place.

I'm confused. When is doing for my kids what I think is best for them the right thing to do and when is it selfish projecting and treating them like property? What criteria can I use the distinguish the two? Should I flip a coin whenever I have to make a decision? Heads I go with the best option, tails I do something I think is stupid?

By justthestats (not verified) on 12 Nov 2014 #permalink

@justthestats #37

If you're getting the map of how to raise kids from a book or paper, you're doing it wrong.

If your parents were good at it, you're probably doing it right.

By Spectator (not verified) on 12 Nov 2014 #permalink

It is true that it is very difficult to scientifically validate something like Reiki. Of course, just because something can't be scientifically validated (in a certain historical era) doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Once, after all, doctors laughed at the idea of washing their hands! Germs? Invisible things you can't see? You're kidding me?
It is true that grandiose claims for things like Reiki can be harmful to people who blindly refuse (or give up) allopathic treatments, but the problem with Orac's article is that I doubt Orac has ever tried Reiki. So yes, while it does sound rather fanciful that someone can hold a hand over you and transmit invisible energy, that is exactly what happens - and millions of people around the world can attest to it. Are all these millions of people crazy? Are they just imagining that feel better? Is it all placebo?
I'd suggest Orac tries Reiki before making a judgment. Otherwise she (he?) is arguing from a position of immense ignorance.


Reiki fails the test of scientific plausibility, as well as the Emily Rosa test (#22), because it claims to act through a force which has never been detected.

How do you tell whether someone is "really" transmitting this invisible energy or just pretending to do so?

What organ in the body manipulates and controls the direction of the energy?

How does the strength of that energy vary in three dimensions from the location of the hand that is supposedly transmitting it?

We can answer those questions for the static electric field from an excess charge on someone's hand and also for the infrared electromagnetic radiation the warm tissues in their body radiates.

Science-based medical practitioners don't claim either of those easily detected forces have healing powers, at least in the quantities emitted by a human hand. (Of course, electromagnetic energy has dozens of medical uses which are easily demonstrated and used every day.)

If there were consistent repeatable demonstrations of healing from non-reversible or self-healing medical conditions following reiki treatment (and no other medical treatment), then Reiki might merit serious study.

But, I know of none.

Can you provide a published citation for a study that successfully demonstrates such healing?

The difference between science and faith is that the evidence can be seen and verified. We don't have to settle for the merely hoped for and unseen.

By squirrelelite (not verified) on 12 Nov 2014 #permalink

Of course, just because something can’t be scientifically validated (in a certain historical era) doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Is it possible to sketch out the historical era in which reiki magic does "exist"? (Skip the ontological issues for now.) Hell, even SUSY was able to play Real Soon Now for a while.

The "wash you hands" argument is absurd. Science and technology have made colossal strides since the the days before the germ theory of disease began to take shape.
The things that are done by detection of energy are multitude. We can pinpoint our positions on Earth by receiving electrical signals on the order of femtowatts - with devices that cost twenty dollars. We can produce accurate images of the innards of living beast by detecting energy from temporarily annoyed hydrogen nuclei. We can make images of living tissues and flaws in the welds of pipes by detecting the energy of echos produced by changes in density. We can buy off-the-shelf instruments that allow us to examine the instantaneous amplitude of electrical signals of tens of gigahertz. But somehow the "energy" of reiki is beyond our ability to detect in any way. Uh huh.
"Experiencing" reiki does nothing about altering "immense ignorance" thereof. Neither practitioner nor recipient can say with one iota of genuine certainty how it works or even if it works. It comes down to "You'll feel better. Take my word for it." (Though I must admit that reiki probably would make me feel better. About 3 minutes in, I would grab one of the hands waving over me, snap it off at the elbow and beat the waver with it. I would then go away feeling much better. I may, perhaps, be somewhat atypical.)


have you heard about the scientific method?

It consist of having an hypothesis and finding the maximum number of ways to disprove that hypothesis by finding other hypothesis for a given effect. Now, if all the world used the same reasoning (which eliminate bias) to find out if reiki does work, they'd have an entirely different reasoning because they could find, at least 3 or 4 mechanisms for which reiki has an effect for them and find out the most compelling but the minute they seek out if other peoples come to the same conclusion, then it will become real research and you may find out that results are different and you have to explain why and in the process, getting more hypothesis to know down and so on....

Basically, if you don't do that, you have a deficient theory of mind because you are unable to assess what are the motives of peoples telling that such and such treatment worked for them. Period.


The “wash you hands” argument is absurd.

When it's intended to illustrate the claim that some phenomena "can’t be scientifically validated (in a certain historical era)", it becomes particularly deranged, because hygiene could be and was scientifically validated at the time when the status- and appearance-centred quacks of the day were ignoring it.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 12 Nov 2014 #permalink


Saying that you have to try reiki (or whatever pseudoscientific crap someone believes in) before you can comment on it is BS. I know that jumping out of a plane without a parachute won't work without trying it and I'll sldamn sure tell people who want to try it that it won't work without having tried it myself.

In order for any claim to be "scientifically validated" ever, it must be falsifiable.

If, in the pre-hygiene era, someone had done a rigorous study of doctors who washed their hands before procedures and doctors who didn't, and there was NO significant difference in patient outcomes between the two, then it would have indicated that this hypothesis of "hygiene" and its importance was mistaken. If instead the difference in patient outcomes was meaningful, it might be several centuries before we understood the principles behind the phenomenon - but we'd still know there WAS a phenomenon.

For contrast, let's look at reiki. Or better yet, let's look at TWO versions of reiki, which we might call "anything reiki" and "something reiki".

Anything reiki is ALL the various claims made for reiki - that it can travel into the past or into the future, that it sometimes knows that what you 'need' is to NOT be healed even though that's what you want, et cetera et cetera. If we did a rigorous study of patient outcomes with reiki, and found that there was NO DIFFERENCE in outcomes - the evidence which would have torpedoed hygiene - would anything reiki be torpedoed? No; supporters could simply argue that the reiki energy had been sent to heal the experimental group in the FUTURE, and that's why no healing above placebo was detected in the PRESENT. Or that reiki realized that those patients needed a test of faith and so it withheld its healing. Or something. In short, anything reiki is NOT FALSIFIABLE. It can never be scientifically validated.

Something reiki is pretty much the minimal set of claims for reiki: that there is some form of energy transferred by proximity that has a healing effect. Jeremy himself, by invoking the "you don't know if you haven't tried it yourself" card, suggests that personal perception of the postulated energy is proof that it exists. Which means that if "people can perceive the reiki energy" is falsified, Jeremy's basis for believing "something reiki" goes away.

Well, that's exactly what the Emily Rosa experiment did. It showed that when subjects were SUPPOSED TO BE feeling the energy, but did not have VISUAL cues telling them they were supposed to be feeling it, they did not perceive it. The idea that there is a healing energy science can't detect but that people can feel is falsified, because the people who are supposed to be able to feel it can't.

Now, we could modify the hypothesis: "the energy is there, and it heals, but you CAN'T feel it." But the obvious question is "if reiki energy isn't there in the form we thought, why should we believe it's there AT ALL?

By Antaeus Feldspar (not verified) on 13 Nov 2014 #permalink

Reiki has been around for almost one hundred years since its invention in the 1920's. One would expect that over the course of that much time, if in fact was an effective treatment for non-self-limiting illnesses and injuries, its adherents would be able to point to a large and robust body of evidence demonstrating that fact.

Yet none whatsoever exists.

Why do you think that is, Jeremy?