Category Archives: Pseudoscience

Scene from an Acupunturist’s Office

Patient: So, I’ve never done this before. Can you tell me how this goes?

Acupuncturist: Well, first I clear an hour for your appointment. We spend a lot of time sitting and discussing your problems, your life, and what you’re looking for in treatment. I try not to talk too much, but just to listen to you.

Then I have you get comfortable and completely relaxed in our treatment room. It is decorated in a serene theme, and has scented candles and soft, tranquil music. You lie down on our padded table and close your eyes.

In my practice, I focus on respecting you as a complete person. I don’t treat you like a broken machine with one part that needs fixing; rather, I concentrate on supporting your total wellness, including mental and emotional health.

I provide caring, supportive human touch in a professional context that is all about you and what feels good for your body.

Oh, and I also stick needles in you.

Patient: Maybe we could just skip that last part?

Why am I here?

I’ve been toying with the idea of a skeptical parenting blog for a while now.  I tend to associate with a crunchy crowd, and I see a lot of woo being flung around as a result.  It can be really frustrating to feel like the only rational person in a conversation!

Today I just couldn’t help engaging someone on Facebook, and the conversation was so emblematic of discussions with woo-believers that I was inspired to finally start writing about this kind of thing.

Here’s an outline of the arguments presented by the believer, to support her belief in Reiki:

  • Chemo fails 97% of the time.  Touch therapy is safer than that radiation!
  • Scientific studies can’t assess Reiki because it uses energy that can’t be measured.
  • Look, this scientific study shows that it works!
  • There’s a conspiracy to keep positive studies from being published.
  • It works for me and my clients.
  • How can you say you know about it when you haven’t personally experienced it and I have?
  • “Its [sic] all perspective. This idea that someone is right and someone else isn’t is the elite’s way of dividing and conquering us.”
  • I came to this belief through rational, evidentiary means, but you won’t be swayed by them because you’re too narrow-minded.
  • (After I asked to see this evidence, promising to be open-minded) OK, go read this 500 page book, and review all the citations in it.  The author is David Wilcock.
  • (After being asked to just provide the 3 most convincing citations) I’m not going to search through a 500 page book just to find the one citation involving Reiki!  (But she expects me to.)
  • Not accepting my personal anecdotal experience as convincing evidence is hurtful, you skeptical meanies!

Now in this case, there were two other skeptics in the discussion, so at least I didn’t have that sinking feeling that the whole world is crazy and I’m alone.  But I was truly gobsmacked at how blind this woman was to the flaws in her reasoning.  If I ever lack for something to write about, I can just go through that list of arguments and pick each one apart, for a pretty comprehensive overview of woo-rationalization!

So anyway, my motivation for finally blogging about this stuff is to express my frustration, to offer arguments against particular pseudoscientific  practices, and to give a picture of what it’s like to be a skeptic and a parent, trying to raise skeptical children.  I’ll surely also talk about more general parenting topics from a skeptical angle, and just brag about my kids and share their more overwhelmingly adorable moments.