An Australian "energy healer" begs medicine to take him seriously

Even though I've taken on the 'nym of a fictional computer in a 35-year-old British science fiction series whose key traits were an arrogant and condescending manner and the ability to tap into every computer of the galactic federation any time he wanted to, in reality I am just one person. That means, try as I might, I can't keep up with everything that might interest me enough to blog, much less blog it all. What that means is that occasionally something catches my attention, even though it's three months old. So it was with this article in—of all places—Elle magazine. It's about a favorite topic of mine, a form of quackery so ridiculous that it competes fairly closely with The One Quackery To Rule Them All, homeopathy, for the title of Most Ridiculous Quackery. I'm referring, of course to so-called "energy healing," which encompasses modalities such as reiki and so-called "healing touch." The concept behind such therapies is that the practitioner can either somehow manipulate his patients "energy field" or (as in the case of reiki) channel "healing energy" from elsewhere (in the case of reiki, from something called the "universal source") into the patient in order to heal. It's all nonsense, of course. No one has ever been able to demonstrate that he can detect human energy fields, much less manipulate them. Yet it persists.

So what was this article that caught my eye? It was from September and written by someone named Chip Brown, and it was about as credulous an article as I've ever seen. Basically, you can tell how bad the article is just by its title, Energy Healing Works — Many Say. But How Do You Prove It? The article itself is about someone named Charlie Goldsmith, an Australian who claims to be an "energy healer" and who really, really, really wants to prove that he can really do what he says. Don't believe me? Goldsmith is happy to tell you very early in the article:

In the 17 years since the bewildering day that Charlie Goldsmith discovered what he calls his "gift," the 35-year-old energy healer from Melbourne, Australia, has been trying to get someone in the medical world to take him seriously. He has wanted to be of use, working with the formal sanction of doctors in hospitals. He has wanted to be recognized for what he knows he can do—not simply to justify the strange turn his life took when he was 18, but to shore up the credibility of a practice long plagued by fraud and religious superstition, and to make the experience of discovering and developing a healing gift like his less traumatic for other people. It's one thing to be teased by friends; it's another to be brushed off by the medical profession as a well-meaning but deluded screwball whose results probably have less to do with energy than with the placebo effects of his kind and empathetic manner, perhaps even his salubrious blue eyes and handsome surf-side looks. (When you Google Goldsmith, up pop Australian tabloid images of him and Miranda Kerr—let's get to that later.)

In Melbourne, Goldsmith brought a sheaf of testimonials to a hospital for integrated medicine; no one was interested. Knowing he possibly sounded crazy, he e-mailed specialists in infectious disease, emphasizing his desire to participate in research. One of the few replies he got was from a prominent doctor at the University of Adelaide, who told him: "Even if you can do what you say you can do, no one will ever fund a study." Goldsmith seldom drinks, but he tied one on that day.

These testimonials, we are informed, include:

  • A former professional basketball player who had had three knew surgeries and couldn't walk downstairs claiming that Goldsmith had gotten rid of his knee pain and that he could now play pickup games without any NSAIDS.
  • A member of the Australian aerial ski team rehabbing a torn medial collateral ligament who claims she was able to bend her elbow, pain-free after a healing session. (Hey, wait. The medial collateral ligament is in the knee, but, no, the elbow has one too.)
  • A man named Andrew Waugh who claims that he couldn't eat an undercooked egg without his throat constricting in 20 seconds and his face swelling reporting that he ate an egg after a treatment by Goldsmith and had no allergic reaction.

As I read this, the one thing that kept going through my mind is that that Chip Brown is sure one gullible bloke (keeping with the Australian theme). Hedoesn't take long to prove it more by writing:

Today some 200 studies (published in peer-reviewed science journals but, for the most part, not in prominent medical ones) have detailed the apparent effects of energy healers on the physiology of humans, animals, plants, bacteria, and cells in culture, and even on the activity of enzymes. As pioneering medical researchers in the last two decades have explored how the mind can change the body—how objective physiological indices of health can be influenced by the subjective reality of emotions, thoughts, intentions, expectations, environmental conditions, beliefs, social relationships, and prayers—medical science has begun to appreciate the intricate reciprocity of psyche and soma. Standardized practices such as acupuncture, Therapeutic Touch, Healing Touch, and Reiki, which are based on the idea that positive changes can be promoted by balancing or adjusting the flow of energy in the body, are increasingly offered as complementary therapy for pain relief and other ailments in many hospitals and major medical centers, including Beth Israel Deaconess in Boston, the Cleveland Clinic, and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

Yes, and I can find 200 studies of homeopathy published in peer-reviewed scientific journals that claim that homeopathy works, too. That doesn't mean homeopathy works, and those 200 studies cited by Brown don't prove energy healing works, either. I've looked at a lot of them and I know. Most are either crappy studies in bottom feeding journals and, when taken in their totality, represent a combination of random noise in the clinical trial process that will produce a bare minimum of 5% of studies of nothing (homeopathy) appearing to be positive because we set our p-value for significance at 0.05. (The true number is actually likely to be considerably higher due to publication bias and various other problems with clinical trials.) I've also examined some of those studies of "energy healing" on cells and animals, and they are invariably risibly weak in their scientific design.

So is the "study" of Goldsmith's alleged ability cited by Brown, who seems unduly impressed by the fact that Goldsmith doesn't charge for his services because he is quite well off from his multiple businesses and because he's so anxious to be tested. He's also inordinately impressed by a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in June purporting to test Goldsmith's ability. The study is described as a feasibility study and a prospective exploratory case series, which basically tells you that it's an unblinded, uncontrolled study. Patients were selected by the research team based on their "clinical judgment," which translated means that they picked whomever they felt with no defined inclusion criteria and only one exclusion criteria, namely the judgment that the patient might have some secondary gain. There was no long term followup to assess whether the pain relief persisted. True, a ten-point pain scale was used to assess pain before and after Goldsmith's ministrations, with relief characterized as none, slight, moderate, and marked based on the change in pain scale rating. Changes in non-pain complaints were also rated none, slight, moderate, and marked, with no real definition of what constitutes these levels of relief.

The results were reported thusly:

Twenty-four of 32 patients requested relief from pain. Of 50 reports of pain, 5 (10%) showed no improvement; 4 (8%), slight improvement; 3 (6%), moderate improvement; and 38 (76%), marked improvement. Twenty-one patients had issues other than pain. Of 29 non–pain-related problems, 3 (10%) showed no, 2 (7%) showed slight, 1 (4%) showed moderate, and 23 (79%) showed marked improvement. Changes during EM sessions were usually immediate.

That's it. Seriously. That's all there is to it. Brown claims to argue that these results couldn't be due to placebo effects, but they strike me as an almost classic description of what one would expect from placebo effects, particularly given that no assessment was made of whether the effects lasted. Particularly pseudoscientific was the fact that for some patients the practitioner "energized" water, which the patient would then drink. I mean, seriously again. Lead author Francois Dufresne, who's interviewed in the story, ought to be ashamed of himself for publishing such a sorry excuse for a crap study and for being so gullible, so much so that his next "study" (not yet published) was described thusly by Brown:

In May, Goldsmith returned for a second round at NYU Lutheran and treated 19 patients. The data has not yet been published, but some of the doctors acknowledged to me that the healer's batting average did not drop. There were new wrinkles; Goldsmith noticed that the doctors were careful not to present him as an "energy healer" but as an "energy medicine practitioner," so as not to suggest a positive outcome. The second study was also qualitative; researchers were gathering data about patients' perceptions, experiences, and beliefs.

I can't help but note the contrast between this study, which will certainly just be more of the same, and co-author Kell Julliard's excuses in the article that she had to do preliminary tests to see if it was feasible to have Goldsmith work in her hospital and to get an idea of the effect sizes that could be expected before she could design a randomized clinical trial. OK, she got that. Yet, instead of doing a randomized trial she apparently just did more of the same.

Meanwhile, Goldsmith's reputation has led him to be besieged by requests for healing to the point where he's doing the quackiest of quackery: Distance healing. Behold:

Among them was Judy Murphy. She used to work as a public information officer at the National Institutes of Health. Her husband, Donald, trained in biology, had been an NIH research administrator who became interested in healing when the agency opened what is now known as the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health in 1998. Judy, 66, had been traveling when she began to suffer debilitating back spasms. Donald had been trying to heal them long distance from their home in Olympia, Washington, without success. So he texted Goldsmith in New York.

"I was lying on the floor for a couple of hours," Judy told me. "I crawled around on all fours. It was excruciating. The pain was a 10. Charlie called; he said, 'Just a minute' and did his thing, and then I could turn over. And then he did it again, and I could sit up, and after the third time, I was still in pain but I could walk."

Truly, expectancy is a powerful thing. Sadly, it doesn't really last long enough.

I was going to go into some of the individual anecdotes, but it was getting late and I was getting tired as I wrote this; so I decided to take a different tack. If Mr. Goldsmith really wants to prove that he's the real deal, he's totally going about it in the wrong way working with those advocates of quackademic medicine at NYU Lutheran Medical Center. They're very credulous, and their results are guaranteed to be unconvincing based on just how credulous they are and how bad their first attempt to study Goldsmith was.

If Mr. Goldsmith is truly serious about proving himself, here's what he should do. If this were a couple of years earlier, I'd have suggested that he contact the James Randi Educational Foundation to apply to undergo the JREF Million Dollar Challenge. However, with the Million Dollar Challenge somewhat up in the air right now, along with JREF itself—if it even really exists any more other than on paper—and the JREF no longer accepting applications from the public, I now have to suggest this alternate plan. I note that the JREF promises minimum required protocols early next year. Another, better possibility, would be for Goldsmith to contact the Australian Skeptics, who offer a $100,000 challenge similar to Randi's Million Dollar Challenge. If he wants medical cred, he could also consider contacting a skeptical physician, like me or Steve Novella, with a background in medical academia to develop an appropriate randomized controlled clinical trial. The only problem then would be funding.

If Goldsmith really wants to prove his magical energy healing powers, that would be the way to go, not doing crappy uncontrolled, unblinded prospective studies. I predict he won't do that, though, because he doesn't really want to risk failing at such a test.


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Energy healing is not ''a practice long plagued by fraud and religious superstition''. It IS fraud and religious superstition, plain and simple.

I didn't vet their science as I am unable to, so read with your usual grain of skepticism. However if true, it's even more damning of this whole slow train to woo.

Placebo effects are weak:

By Not a Troll (not verified) on 15 Dec 2015 #permalink

"One of the few replies he got was from a prominent doctor at the University of Adelaide, who told him: “Even if you can do what you say you can do, no one will ever fund a study.”

If I was that "reporter", one of the first things I would have done is to request to see that letter. It sounds phony to me, much like the claims I see online about an oncologist telling a patient "There is no cure for cancer".

I have received strange vibrations over the aether this morning telling me of a quack operating in Australia. Thanks, Orac!

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 15 Dec 2015 #permalink

Effects are stronger relative to the size of the payments made to this scammer.

It does seem to follow that once you've paid a charlatan, admitting the mistake is harder than accepting and promulgating lies.

I'll sometimes see children in my clinic where the parents will say how their child was really sick that for the last few days but now is much better if only because they made the appointment to be seen (it's often a sort of apology (I think) for bringing a not-sick-looking-child in). Someone once jokingly asked me if I had "healing fields" installed on the main doors. The answer, of course, is no, there are no "healing fields.". It's happened with my own kids as well where I will take them to their pediatrician when their illness seems to be taking longer than typical to resolve. If anything at all (and I think it's just all coincidence), I suspect a variant of Murphy's law. So forget that "Psi-man, heal my child" thing.

By Chris Hickie (not verified) on 15 Dec 2015 #permalink

An example of this I find interesting is in a TV show, 'Miracles For Sale' (probably blocked in the UK) in which Derren Brown' teaches a man many of the tricks of faith healing. The section I am thinking of is where he goes out on the street and 'heals' people - you will find it starting at 56:38 - the very first person who is 'healed' reports a pain in his leg reduces from a level of 10 down to zero. That's pure suggestion, but I would be willing to bet that there was no objective improvement in his leg.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 15 Dec 2015 #permalink

Chris @#5
I routinely had people present pets for limping which would NEVER limp at the clinic. They were always so frustrated and apologetic that the dog wouldn't limp on command.

Hmm, it seems I have located the apostrophe I mislaid the other day.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 15 Dec 2015 #permalink

It seems we are discussing Fetridge's Law. It was named for Claude Fetridge, a radio engineer in (I think) the 1930s. He went to Capistrano to broadcast the famous annual arrival of the swallows. He got there in good order to find that the swallows had arrived the day before.
I found this description: “Fetridge’s Law...states that important things that are supposed to happen do not happen, especially when people are looking or, conversely, things that are supposed to not happen do happen, especially when people are looking.”

By Old Rockin' Dave (not verified) on 15 Dec 2015 #permalink

Fetridge’s Law = every trip ever taken to the auto mechanic.

By Not a Troll (not verified) on 15 Dec 2015 #permalink

I wonder if he talks to his "patients" (read:victims) while "treating" them. A chat with "that nice man" (I just "love" my parentheses and "quotation marks") and his claims of healing or the news or the weather could simply distract the mark enough that the pain seemed to disappear due to inattention to it. That is a real phenomenon that I have been on both ends of.

By Old Rockin' Dave (not verified) on 15 Dec 2015 #permalink

If you ever need a "placebo" for a clinical trial of a quack treatments, I volunteer my ammonia oxidizing bacteria.

By David Whitlock (not verified) on 15 Dec 2015 #permalink

So it was with this article in—of all places—Elle magazine.

Maybe I should switch from Marie Claire.

^ Me too. I smacked my kneecap on a roller log in basic training, my face grimaced in pain and the Drill Sargent yelled at me that it doesn't hurt. For those few seconds it didn't hurt while my mind was occupied with the horror of you can't be serious and do I have to attempt straddling this thing again right now.

I was happy to be pain free for an instant but it wasn't sustainable. Nor could I get pain free by distracting myself afterwards.

By Not a Troll (not verified) on 15 Dec 2015 #permalink

Distraction in the form of TENS, meditation, water, massage, yoga ball, walking, counter pressure, it worked in labour until transition hit. Then nothing worked, it was just this vast ocean of pain, and I was angry at myself for believing that it would, despite the fact that I should know better.

An astute columnist on NaturalNews (in the course of relating the wonders of energy healing) noted that it should also be possible to direct negative anti-healing energies at people (though he of course would never do such a thing).

This would be a great way to validate the technique. Just have a large group of dedicated citizen scientists concentrate on sending energies towards deserving targets (ISIS, Donald Trump, the Progressive insurance lady etc.) aimed at provoking negative symptoms. Nothing too bad, maybe just things like itching, mild diarrhea and a tendency to shout out grotesque expletives during televised debates.

If it doesn't work, it's probably because you did it wrong.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 15 Dec 2015 #permalink

@Old Rockin' Dave #11

Mostly I've found that energy healers don't talk much during a session. Sure you may get a fairly lengthy intake discussion, but most of the healing part is lying on a comfy surface with maybe a light blanket so you are comfortably warm, head on a lovely pillow, lights dim with maybe a few nice candles flickering, soft soothing music, maybe a nice scent or two wafting around.

Gosh I could use a 1 hour nap about now, would do me a world of good. Just don't want to pay $60 or more for it. ^_^

Charlie Goldsmith is awfully naive. He's obviouly a mutant: how doesn't he know that if he goes about trying to demonstrate his abilities to the Establishment, he's going to wind in a secret black ops lab for the rest of his very short life being sliced and diced by DARPA scientists doing whatever it takes to discover the genetic secret of his gifts, replicate and weaponize it. If Charlie can heal the sick, all they have to do is reverse the code, and they'll be able to give DoD spooks the ability to give people terminal diseases just by talking to them over the phone! I hope he gets wise and goes underground, and that Professor X can enlist him before Magneto does...

As a small technical point, François Dufresne is a French masculine name (like the English Francis). I checked the article, and it's not the female form, which would be Françoise. You might want to correct references to him in the text. I mean, his study is rubbish, but the French-Canadian in me wants to see that corrected.

NAT@14 -- our PE instructor used to say things like "Must't let it see you're afraid of it! Back on, now!"

He was English. When it comes to smiling sadism, I think the British armed forces do it best.

By shay simmons (not verified) on 15 Dec 2015 #permalink

...he couldn’t eat an undercooked egg without his throat constricting in 20 seconds…

Just the thought of eating raw egg makes my throat constrict.

Well, it makes me gag, anyway.

Even if such a thing could be cured, it seems like a really stupid power to brag about.

@21 -
Raw eggs served with rice is a common breakfast food in Japan. I quite like it ... but have seen more than a few colleagues gag and turn green across the breakfast table upon discovering it was one of those 'not for everyone' things. After trying it once and almost dying, I'm thinking not many of them would take up an offer of being cured.

By stewartt1982 (not verified) on 15 Dec 2015 #permalink

Sigh. I have some personal insight into this energy healing/ healing at a distance business. I wish I didn’t, but whatever. My parents fell into the earliest of New Age bullsh!t in a big way, the one that may’ve spawned all the others, Mind Dynamics (and its later iterations, once MDI closed under legal scrutiny for performing medicine without a license, largely due to this sort of nonsense, but also the whole “you can think yourself well” stuff—plus MLM.). Its founder, Alexander Everett, was kinda my honourary uncle, and my dad became an instructor*.

I recall small group sessions during seminars focussed on distance healing. The set-up was that only one person in the group could see details on the case (cards submitted presumably by other seminar attendees) and only first name, age and location were shared with the others. The group would then imagine what the medical issue was (confirmed or prompted toward the right answers by the person holding the card), and then collectively direct good thoughts (“white light”) in their direction. If you understand how this works, it was a cold read, but on a 3rd party, sorta. The intro prior to retiring to this exercise involved (typically 3rd party) testimonials, of course, along the lines of every other woo that’s ever existed. There was of course no way to measure results, not that distance healing has ever attempted even the slightest scientific rigour.

In another session with just kids, as I was then, I could swear at the time that we passed luminescent blue energy balls from one to another around the dimly lit circle in which we sat. Confirmation bias and expectancy are powerful things, man. And we have these amazing brains that are inclined to make meaning, even where none exists.

The danger was more that individual patients would forgo conventional medical treatment (as benign as glasses, or as dangerous as stopping insulin or psych meds), leading to the CA State pressure.

And if the “treatment” failed, it was never the fault of the implausible treatment, but always that someone (the patient or provider) was doon it rong. That’s the beauty of these positive thinking, prayer-like modalities: Heads I win, tails you lose. Plus, as I observe of late, you get to blame other people for being lazy. Or whatever.

That’s also the problem with this fellah’s approach. There’s no attempt to disprove, or even test, his hypothesis. I prefer Orac’s suggestion to engage with his local skeptic organisation and, among other things, get help in designing a proper clinical trial with randomisation, double-blinding and the like.

But hasn’t that already been done, rather elegantly, by a 12-year-old girl? Must we keep reinventing the wheel forever?

(Also, while this guy may not be charging for his services, where did he encounter these ideas? Was his “school” in the for-profit “human potential movement?” I suppose that by now, it’s common/ free/ ubiquitous on the webz, but it used to be a big busine$$. Just wondering.)

*FWIW, it wasn’t all bad. Part of the good part was learning mnemonics, really early, in Memory Dynamics (although I felt that I was cheating when used as a demonstrator, as I alread had a good memory), and possibly the inoculation to public speaking via, when 12-ish, being up on a stage before 400+ people who didn’t expect me to be able to repeat back long, random lists of stuff in random, on-demand order.By way of apology for the long comment: it's especially hard because my dad just died and our relationship was sorta complicated. I'm disinclined to place him on a pedestal, but stuff along these lines reminds me of what a complicated guy he was (an engineer, yet inclined to woo). Still processing.

I have a suggestion for Charlie. He should really get himself a radionics machine. These devices require only a sufficiently believing mind to accomplish healing at a distance. Those with "materialist" minds are incapable of such accomplishments.

I discovered this after reading Orac's post on the homeopathic stimulator, which inspired me (in a moment of boredom) to conduct a Pubmed search on the subject. I uncovered a gem from 1960 (Br Med J. 1960 Jul 9;2(5192):156-8) describing a court case in which the inventor of a long-distance capable radionics device was being sued by a disgruntled customer. (Note to fellow Pubmed searchers: don't confuse this with the products from the company formerly known as Radionics Inc. They used to make surgical instruments).

The problem, of course, is which device is best for him to use. Perhaps it's the RAD 2400 which, according to the PR blurb, "comes with integrated orgone generator powerful, top of the line workstation for radionic professionals features a HD serview heavy duty orgone generator with an additional sound input jack which allows users to double the output energy by connecting a sound source to drive the second internal generator. The radionic device has two well plates for trend and target and two sets of corresponding knobs for setting trend and target rates. The RAD 2400 HD radionic machine is a stand alone device, but it can also be used with the Super Manifestation Ultimate 2.0 software when connected with a structural link chi transfer diagram."

Price was rather high (over $2K), for something that doesn't even have to be plugged in. However, Charlie can always go to Ebay and pick up a very similar unit for under $200. Oddly, it seems that none of these things have much in the way of user ratings or even the usual Q&As.

However, one wonders about the possibilities of coupling a mind like Charlie's to the RAD2400 with integrated orgone generator.

Incidentally, the High Court judge, back in 1960, found in favor of the defendant (the Radionics inventor)--although the judge clearly thought the device was bogus, he determined that it's inventor totally believed in it and that was good enough.

Okay, sadmar #18, you've won some portion of the internet, or at least made my evening (in an uncharacteristically brief post, to boot). Thanks.

I remember reading Randi (Flim-Flam?) making distinctions between outright frauds and the seriously self-deluded. The most consistently self-deluded were dowsers whose confirmation bias combined with the ideomotor effect kept leading them back to the conclusion that there was something there, even after they'd failed one of Randi's blinded tests (water running through one of a series of underground pipes).

He was sympathetic with the sincerity of the dowsers, much as he was livid with the conscious bullshit of faith healers.

This guy sounds like he's sincere in the belief in his ability.

By rhymeswithgoalie (not verified) on 15 Dec 2015 #permalink

This guy's just driving down a well established road of woo. The road of energy healing has been paved and propounded to the peanut brained public by such heavy hitters as Oprah, Wayne Dyer and John of God. In fact, I heard Dyer claim that he had cancer and that was healed remotely( 10,000 miles distance) by quack faith healer john of god. More importantly Dyer actually claimed john of god uses 'electomagnetic forces' and unfortunately broke his $17,000 Panerai wristwatch. Boo- hoo!
Of course, Oprah ate up and regurgitated this 'miracle' to the masses. Well, Dyer's gone to be an ascended master on the astral plane. And in steps Charlie.…

Ugh, energy healers are so boring. It's all about wellness and making the patient feel better.

I'd like to see a Reiki master channel the universal source to sew a wound shut, or unclog an artery. Maybe perform an amputation or an appendectomy.

It's almost like alt-med practitioners seek out conditions that don't have guaranteed hard outcomes. Almost makes you distrust them.

No distance healing for me! I want hands-on therapy. In no particular order, from a competent physical therapist, a capable masseuse/masseur (not picky.), or a really talented prostitute.

By Old Rockin' Dave (not verified) on 15 Dec 2015 #permalink

@ Old Rockin' Dave #11: I like it. Reminds me of Michigan Frog in that Looney Tunes cartoon where he wouldn't sing for anyone but the guy who found him.

@ Dangerous Bacon #16: As can be seen in this Kids in the Hall clip, clearly one can use negative energy when "I'm crushing your head":

By Chris Hickie (not verified) on 15 Dec 2015 #permalink

@ Dangerous Bacon #16

a tendency to shout out grotesque expletives during televised debates.

That's an effect of distance negative healing which is going to be difficult to measure; the background noise is quite high...
On the other hand, someone must have recently tried this negative energy stuff on Sarah Palin.

By Helianthus (not verified) on 15 Dec 2015 #permalink

No distance healing for me! I want hands-on therapy

Indeed; a little - ahem - hands-on attention from the guy pictured above would certainly make me feel better ;) As even the rather credulous article notes, this is probably a significant factor in his supposed "gift," which he most likely sincerely believes is real.

Fetridge’s Law = "Well it works on my machine"

By Rich Scopie (not verified) on 15 Dec 2015 #permalink

He looks as if he is suffering for you. Maybe that is how it works.

By Daniel Corcos (not verified) on 15 Dec 2015 #permalink

I hadn't encountered Goldsmith among our collection of cranks before.

Much of the article in Elle seems to have been re-hashed from this news article. This is probably because Goldsmith has been promoting the article in JACM about him.

By Chris Preston (not verified) on 15 Dec 2015 #permalink

Indeed; a little – ahem – hands-on attention from the guy pictured above would certainly make me feel better

I am now obliged to link to the Sensational Alex Harvey Band:

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 15 Dec 2015 #permalink

I am sorry to report that the hospital where I work is offering a community outreach class in "medical qigong,..learn how to open your body's energy channels".


By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 16 Dec 2015 #permalink

"Healing energy"
I'd like to test or I'd like to see someone test or even see some answer to some questions of testing it physically.

Does it go through vacuum? Can they heal hand in dewar/thermos bottle? Does space planket stop it ? Can it be reflected on aluminum mirror (reflects IR very well).
Can we replace human healer by machine (tubes filled with hot water or more complex vibrational-cryptional system) so that it would be cheaper for poor sick majority of globe?

By MrrKAT, Finland, EU (not verified) on 16 Dec 2015 #permalink

I wonder if it can be refracted by an aluminum-coated prism?

(From the brief history of 'N-rays', a fascinating episode in scientific self-delusion.)

By palindrom (not verified) on 16 Dec 2015 #permalink

Perhaps neutrinos are the source of "healing energy" and "healers" have found a way to channel them instead of them all just passin' on through us and the earth.

By Chris Hickie (not verified) on 16 Dec 2015 #permalink

I went into the Karl Hans Welz website... What a HOOT! Why do these sites always choose such an awful color scheme? One statement in the site was about the woo-ist I've ever seen:

"Yes! You can charge food radionically with sexual energy and intent !!!"

RobRN -- Sexual intent toward food? Eeeeeeew ..

By palindrom (not verified) on 16 Dec 2015 #permalink

@ 41 RobRN

But did you see the real advance that Karl Hans Welz has made: In 2002 Karl Hans Welz invented a water optimizer. This device not only puts water back into ints [sic] original state by removing the noxious information and enlivening it again, it also powers it up with life force. This revolutionary device opened a new dimension with to this point unknown potentials of water activation.

This clearly is a momentous breakthrough in homeopathic science!

By jrkrideau (not verified) on 16 Dec 2015 #permalink

Indeed; a little – ahem – hands-on attention from the guy pictured above would certainly make me feel better ?

Meh. We can do better.

By shay simmons (not verified) on 16 Dec 2015 #permalink

@40 - Chris Hickie

My colleagues who work on the beam-target and neutrino horn end of things will be excited to learn that they are taping into this “healing energy” (though indirectly, via the charged particles before they decay to muons and neutrinos ... perhaps that is not good enough).

By stewartt1982 (not verified) on 16 Dec 2015 #permalink

Radionically charge food with sexual energy and intent? But why!? And what purpose?? I'm not even sure what sexual intent means here. I'm pretty sure they aren't selling something that makes spaghetti sexually alluring? A food fetish bit of woo?

There's noxious information in water?

By SelenaWolf (not verified) on 16 Dec 2015 #permalink

@ Chris #40

Energy healing doesn't channel neutrinos. It's all about tcontrolling the Higgs-Boson. The healers can communicate with it directly in one of the alternate universes it goes to when it winks out of existence in our plane, and convince it to fall it line with the proper qi when it winks back into this one.

"There’s noxious information in water?"

Sounds like a fart in the bath

By Charlotte (not verified) on 16 Dec 2015 #permalink

@ shay simmonds:


By Denice Walter (not verified) on 16 Dec 2015 #permalink

^ "mapo dofu"

That one works.

Narad @54 --Well, there's always "Portnoy's Complaint", or if that doesn't work, Zappa's dueling guitar masterpiece "Stevie's Spanking".

By palindrom (not verified) on 16 Dec 2015 #permalink

I'm not sure I buy into this "...he may be deluding himself, but he's sincere ..." bit. If you follow the links you see he revels in the publicity. And like Ainscough, his youthful good looks are a part of the scam. One perhaps shouldn't be too hasty to make judgements about peoples' motivation, but that applies to assuming positive motives as well.
OT, but this is garnering a lot of publicity right now:
"Cancer is not just 'bad luck' but down to environment, study suggests" :
Some context might be needed here.

By Peter Dugdale (not verified) on 16 Dec 2015 #permalink

Woo woo

By Roxanne Porozinski (not verified) on 17 Dec 2015 #permalink

“Cancer is not just ‘bad luck’ but down to environment, study suggests” :

The argument seems to be
"Number of cell-line divisions on its own does not explain all the variation in cancer rates between tissues. Therefore all the remaining variation must be due to environmental causes. We have no idea what those causes are (despite looking at lots of possible causes), but never mind, we get to browbeat the population for unhealthy lifestyles!! Woo-hoo!"

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 17 Dec 2015 #permalink

HDB @59
When the cancers which are currently known to be significantly affected by environmental factors (smoking, alcohol..) are taken out and we look at the rest, does their analysis still apply? For breast cancer, for example, at the moment there isn't any significant association with environment, AFAIK. Are they suggesting there is? Without a plausible candidate factor, that could cause enormous upset if the idea gets around.

By Peter Dugdale (not verified) on 17 Dec 2015 #permalink

When the cancers which are currently known to be significantly affected by environmental factors (smoking, alcohol..) are taken out and we look at the rest, does their analysis still apply?

The paper doesn't bother with known environmental factors. It was a response to earlier work looking at the higher risk of cancers in cell-lines with multiple divisions (e.g. skin, colon cells) which suggested that mitosis was a particularly dangerous phase of a cell-line's history. The paper argues that this leaves a lot unexplained. The authors chose to label "mitosis" as the only *internal* contribution to cancer rates, so everything else must be *external*.
That is, any endogenous factors that damage DNA during non-mitosis phases are *environmental*; that is the way the authors have chosen to redefine words.
So the paper is meaningless wibble, and I get the impression that the clickbait press release was written (and self-blaming advice was sought from censorious diet police) before attention turned to preparing the manuscript.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 18 Dec 2015 #permalink

Goldsmith is either a charlatan or a deluded fool. Or a mix of the two. And anyone who seriously entertains his claims is an idiot.

Hi, sites like 'The Skeptic's Dictionary' and 'Respectful Insolence' are to thank for my understanding and appreciation of well designed and controlled testing and what we may fairly assess from it. Thank you, Orac.

All the best,

Charlie, in addition to being a 'energy healer' makes and hawks Pumpy Jackson candy bars! Of course they are not your regular candy bars. They are recommended by a leading natropath, whatever that is?

Dang, I really wanted to hear more about Miranda Kerr!

Thank you for your article on this fruitcake. I worry this scammer's good looks will and have worked in his favor (Elle wouldn't have done an article on him otherwise) so it is good to see a proper critical article out there. Does he know he's scamming or is he so dim and lacking in self-awareness?