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Skeptics of Tucson Message Board › Review of Wednesday December 3rd Alternative Healing Meeting

Review of Wednesday December 3rd Alternative Healing Meeting

Andrew
user 2751251
Los Angeles, CA
Post #: 85



The skeptics meeting today was centered on alternative medicine.

We had a guest speaker who had been using alternative healing methods for over 30 years. There were also a large number of his supporters present. It was an interesting time.

After that meeting I was just confused. We talked about so many different things and everyone threw their two cents into the mix, but in the end we did finish on time. Don did a great job facilitating it all. There were no major casualties, I just kept asking myself how the hell did these people end up at this place? Why are they so convinced of this stuff, that obviously lacks evidence. It wasn't even sexy or inspiring, it was just foolish. That's what was so sad about it.

The guy and his friends seemed to have some sort of 'secret' or 'banned' super substance for every ailment known to man. They will cure your cancer, insomnia, diabetes and anything else with 'all natural' xyz.

Don pointed out that the alternative healing folks would appeal to authority, which they did right away. They referred to a few obscure doctors, nobel prizes and 'scientific studies' that supposedly corroborated the fact that 'chloride' would cure all cancer. But of course the 'government conspiracy' and the 'corporations' who are only hungry for money are keeping these wonder substances away from the common man.

It was painful and confusing to listen to people make such outrageous claims. Even when the skeptics asked for clarification or began discussing things I didn't sense that I was really coming to any deeper understanding.

In the end I approached some of the alternative healing folks and asked them some questions. I asked one guy: "What do you know for sure? What are you absolutely certain about?" He said "Whatever works for me". I am cringing just thinking about it. His entire life and philosophy is based on a non-scientific and unreliable measuring device. Himself and his assumptions are very flawed measuring devices. We know from science that it is practically useless to do an 'experiment' on one person. You need a large sample size. You need to do double blind studies, where those who are administering the test don't know if they are executing the experiment or the other experimenters are. The subjects also can't know what they are being subjected to, or else the placebo effect will skew the results. Scientists need to make accommodations for their possibly wrong assumptions, their hypothesis need to be falsifiable, their experiments need to be repeatable and their experiments and research needs to be submitted to peer reviewed journals for scrutiny and further refinement. These are the only accurate and reliable ways humans have been able to advance knowledge. Science cuts out the human factor of error and self deception as best it can. These alternative healing folks thrive on the element of human error and delusion. That is what they like and exploit. The sad thing, is that they probably don't even know that they are doing it.

I asked another guy at the end of a 5 minute conversation: "What do you understand science to be?" He said: "It is a continuess process". In other words he had no clue what science is. So it is no wonder that he relies on himself and his assumptions to be the judge of all truth and information. He didn't even try to question doctors or scientific information with facts, because he didn't even know what a scientific fact is. All he knew was how he felt about something. And wow, that led him to some seriously garbage beliefs.

I asked the main guy, how he knew which one of the thousands of alternative healing techniques was a good one. How did intuition factor into his decision making process. How could he trust his intuition, develop it and/or refine it. Oh, of course he couldn't answer the question. He called me up to the front of the group to do a demonstration.

Did anyone notice the darn Kinesiology test that they guy did on me in front of the group and how bizarre it was? He had me hold out my arm and then told me to resist. Then he said: "Say Yes", I said "YES" and he pushed my arm down in a strong fashion. Then he said: "Say No", and I said "NO" and he pushed my arm down lightly while I resisted. He repeated the previous process, essentially programming me. Then he told me to answer a question telling the truth and then a lie. He asked how old I was, I said 29, while he pushed my arm in the same strong way he did for the yes. Then he asked again pushing my arm lightly like he did for the NO section and I said twenty.......eight.... as he pushed my arm as he did with the NO part. He tried to tell the group how he could tell when I was telling the truth and/or lying and how Kinesiology would tell him everything about me, how I reversed yes/no and that was bad for me. I had no clue what he was doing, while he was doing his presentation, but I figured the whole spiel was designed to confuse me. He was the leader, he was getting in my head and he was calling the shots. It was blatant manipulation. There was no way I could understand what was going on, I couldn't agree or disagree. It was obvious when I was lying. But he told me when to lie, and when I did lie, I paused totally obviously. He was messing with me by messing with my arm like that. He got me to say YES, NO, YES, NO, Truth, Lie. It's a simple pattern. I also learned from the JREF (James Randi Educational Foundation) that Dowsing and WeJa Boards mix your mind and body in a way that trips the average person out. I can't remember what the effect is called, but I am sure the guy was using the same principle. It was so un-scientific, so manipulative, but could be very convincing to a super-woo sucker.

In the end of the evening the dude, actually had the guts to come up to me and tell me that I have a problem. When I say Yes, I mean No and vice versa and that screws me up in life. I asked him my initial question again, that got us into this whole song and dance. I said: "How can I know what you know?", "How is it that you know, I am all mixed up?" "How can I know to know which way is the right way?" "How did you learn to know that I am all mixed up?" He couldn't answer that, because if I could learn what he knows, then I wouldn't need him. He was trying to make me feel insecure, question myself and wanted me to become his disciple. Then I told him of course that: "All the people I know, told me that I know what I know and that it is right, and that you are the one who has it all mixed up. I can teach you how to get un-mixed up, but it involves you having to listen to everything I tell you". What a load of crap. The insanity, the confusion, the manipulation and the stupidity was amazing. I was hoping to get the main guy to become my disciple, so I could charge him money, to teach him how everything he thought was wrong.








Andrew
user 2751251
Los Angeles, CA
Post #: 87
I just found out that the Ouija Board and Dowsing Effect I was thinking of is called the Ideomotor effect.

Here is a wiki article on it.

http://en.wikipedia.o...­

I found this explanation at the end, which kind of hints at my suspicions of what the guy was trying to do.

Scientific tests by the English scientist Michael Faraday, the French chemist Michel Eugène Chevreul, and the American psychologists William James and Ray Hyman have demonstrated that many phenomena attributed to spiritual or paranormal forces, or to mysterious "energies," are actually due to ideomotor action. Furthermore, these tests demonstrate that "honest, intelligent people can unconsciously engage in muscular activity that is consistent with their expectations" (Hyman 1999).[1] They also show that suggestions that can guide behavior can be given by subtle clues (Hyman 1977).

Some alternative medicine practitioners claim they can use the ideomotor effect to communicate with a patient's unconsciousness using a system of physical signals (such as finger movements) for the unconscious mind to indicate "yes", "no" or "I'm not ready to know that consciously". Scientific studies have not been conducted to support this method.[2]

I think the guy was trying to give me suggestions and trying to manipulate me into thinking he had some sort of "energy skill" that he could use to help me with. Mr. Magic Hands. Yea right.
Andrew
user 2751251
Los Angeles, CA
Post #: 88

Wow here is really some more good stuff

http://www.skeptics.o...­

Summary.

1. The ideomotor effect causes small, unconscious motor movements because of the person's expectations, preconceptions or suggestibility.
2. The person is not aware that they are causing the movements; therefore they ascribe the movement to an external force or power. The movement feels unnatural.
3. The "external forces" perceived are usually thought of as being paranormal in nature.
4. The effect is real and therefore can be repeated. This can lead to self-reinforcement of the paranormal explanation of the effect, which can create a belief in some special paranormal ability.
5. Once a belief is formed and reinforced, the believer does not usually ever give it up. Dowsers, healers, etc., who continually fail to pass objective, scientific tests do not give up their belief: they tend to make (often fantastical) excuses for their failures rather than accept a rational explanation for their "ability".

Conclusion.

The ideomotor effect has been known for over 150 years, yet it is still not a widely known phenomenon. It tends to be used, rightly, as an explanation for dowsing and the Ouija board. Its scope however, is much wider than that and it should be a more widely known explanation for delusions, especially those of medical quacks.

The ideomotor effect is a classic example of how we can be fooled by our senses and ourselves. Many people believe in things because they have experienced them for themselves; they trust in the perceived infallibility of their senses.

The ideomotor effect is just one example of why we should use objective, scientific testing rather than rely on subjective, personal experience to work out what is real and what is not.



Andrew
user 2751251
Los Angeles, CA
Post #: 89
Here this article hits it as well


http://en.wikipedia.o...­


Applied kinesiology
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Criticism

Nearly all AK tests are subjective, relying solely on practitioner assessment of muscle response. Specificity, test-retest reliability, inter-tester reliability, and accuracy have been shown to have no better than chance correlations.[8][24][31] There is no scientific understanding of the proposed underlying theory of a viscerosomatic relationship, and the efficacy of the modality is unestablished in some cases and doubtful in others.[14][8] Robert Todd Carroll has described AK as quackery, magical thinking, and misinterpretation of the ideomotor effect, and has criticized its theoretical basis.[1][32]
John T.
user 5081321
Tucson, AZ
Post #: 2
Thanks for all the links on AK. I did not know the name of the ideometer effect but had a chiropractor use it on me many decades ago to try to "diagnose" my problems. There is a lot of "cold reading" going on in these interactions and many of them are unconscious on the part of the healer because they, most of all, believe in themselves.

As to your first points in this discussion, "why do people believe this stuff?", that is something I find fascinating as well. This would be a good topic for discussion in the future.
Andrew
user 2751251
Los Angeles, CA
Post #: 90
Yea I totally agree with you. I find it very interesting to learn "why people believe in xyz". If someone believes in alternative healing, that is all I need to know about 'what they believe'. I don't want to know all the nuances of all the different forms of alternative healing methods they have come to believe. There is not enough time in the day to go into that, plus that information will not do anyone any good.

I think it definitely would be fascinating to have people tell us 'why they believe in xyz', because then we can help them analyze their logic and conclusions. We could investigate if they have double checked their beliefs, questioned them and if they would be interested in getting help to double check their beliefs. That would take some guts and that would really help the skeptics show these people how we can help them. I think it would be interesting for all parties. I think everyone is open to questioning their beliefs and holding them up to scrutiny. Or at least people would want to believe that about themselves. Personally I feel that skepticism and science are the only real tools I have to evaluate my current beliefs and to sort out the good from the bad. Most people have never studied skepticism nor have they personally applied the scientific method to their own beliefs. It would be awesome to challenge people to evaluate their beliefs based on our criteria. I think we could make these guest invitations much more interesting in the future. I know that once I started really studying science and skepticism for fun I was blown away by the ease and power with which one could analyze practically all beliefs. It doesn't take a genius. It's just not taught in school or in the movies.

The other big question I would absolutely want the guest speaker to talk about is his/her understanding of what science is, what the scientific method is and if they believe in it or use it. I guarantee you that most of these alternative healing people have no clue how science works. They won't be able to articulate it. I know I couldn't in the past and I was seriously susceptible to all this alternative non-sense. Once I learned more about psychology and science it was easy to discard the rubbish.

Oh and talking about Chiropractors. I have a family member that is a Chiropractor and although I am a skeptic I have not outright condemned Chiropractic yet. In my mind it is a 50/50. I saw the Penn and Teller BS Show about it so I know the arguments against it.

Well anyway, I seriously injured my back a few months ago. I stayed in bed practically for a week. The only reason I then visited a Chiropractor is because my family member insisted on it. I did it for him, plus I thought it might actually help. I went to the Chiropractor a few times that month and it did seem to help. He showed me some x-rays of my back and my back didn't appear to be in the greatest condition. It had a sort of S curve and you couldn't see the u-knobs / ridges at the back of all the vertebrae. So of course the Chiropractor recommended I keep returning, but I didn't like the guy and I was very suspicious of him.

Just like an astrologer he asked me: Have you noticed anything unusual in the past few months? Any sort of changes? Like pain, discomfort, ringing in your ears, lack of balance, difficulty smelling blah blah blah. Essentially he was asking me if anything, every happened..... He was fishing for anything. I was going to say "Hell No!", but it dawned on me that my eyesight seemed to have gotten a little bit worse. I noticed how it was harder to read road signs. He said 'Aha! That is a sign of a back / nerve problem and you need chiropractic!". He made another Chiro connection that seemed unfounded to me and I walked away thinking this guy was a manipulator.

A few weeks later I took out the side effect notes on the medicine I was taking and it said that one of the first and top side effects was that I might notice a slight change in eyesight or whatever. Right then I knew that this guy was a scam artist. I had a tangible, scientific, practical reason for my eye sight difference and it was a result of the medication I was taking. He didn't even consider that. He immediately tried to scam me out of my money, by telling me all my problems are Chiropractic related, and of course who is the only one who can help me? A Chiropractor. What a scam.
Don L.
AZAtheist
Group Organizer
Tucson, AZ
Post #: 128
Wow Andrew, Great summary of the meeting and your thoughts about Alternative Medicine. We certainly did have an interesting meeting and I think that one of the reasons that it didn't get out of hand is that the skeptics realized that the people we were dealing with are victims. They didn't appear to me to be scam artists but really, truly believers in the woo associated with Alternative Medicine.
A former member
Post #: 9
Double Wow! I am really sorry to have missed this meeting, but Andrew, you just helped me to relive it. Nice work on this message board.
John T.
user 5081321
Tucson, AZ
Post #: 3
I am not qualified to comment on your back condition, especially from your written description, but I would not be surprised (from my own experience) if it was not a common problem. Your description of the interaction with the chiropractor is an example of what I call "cold reading" in AM fields. It is a curious irony to me that conventional medical practice actually needs a bit more of this to reduce the criticism that doctors are too distant and unengaged with patients. My personal experience with homeopathy is that this is one of the principal advantages that is claimed for the practice, that is, homeopaths address the patient holistically and attempt to acquire a complete view of the patient's current and past circumstance. This all sounds great if it weren't for the bogus treatments involved. Sometimes I am convinced I would "feel better" if I could just talk to a good listener for an hour or two (and not be charged several hundred dollars for the privilege!).

As to why we believe, I am less interested in a conversation with true believers that I am in understanding the views research has developed on why we believe. I suspect most true believers have armed (and armored) themselves in ways that will limit what you can learn about their defenses. Neuroscience research is discovering fascinating things about the way we reason and how these processes actually make sense from an evolutionary perspective even though they are guaranteed to be faulty. Many of them seem to be based on what are called "cognitive illusions" (similar to optical illusions but based in our thinking processes) and, curiously enough, have been used by stage magicians for centuries to entertain (and defraud).

It is my (true) belief that skeptics are the only ones who have begun to develop the instinctive suspicion of their own mental processes to always ask "does this make sense?" (and then still be suspicious of the answer!).
Andrew
user 2751251
Los Angeles, CA
Post #: 92
Thanks for the feedback guys. I know that when I left the meeting, I kind of ran off as soon as all the other skeptics left. I didn't want to get sucked into another 15 minute conversation with any of the alternative guys. I had enough confusion for the night. I couldn't get a hold of my friends by phone, so I wrote it all up on the message board.

Oh, and Don, I agree with you that these folks were definitely victims of their beliefs. I didn't get a sense from them that they were scam artists or anything. They didn't ever try to sell us anything, I really think they honestly wanted to share their beliefs with us. They really thought that they were helping people and wanted to help us. I don't fault them for that. It would be nice to see in the future, if they could recognize that we would also like to help them re evaluate their beliefs. We didn't really have any time to get into that.

When I said scam artist or scammers I was specifically referring to the particular Chiropractor I had visited. He had blatantly tried to chain me to Chiropractic for unfounded reasons for his own personal financial gains. I found that a dishonorable thing to do in his case.

The alternative healing guys, did however clearly try to manipulate me. By telling me that I am all mixed up on some deep esoteric level, and then telling me that only they can help me with their alternative magical powers, that is just wrong. It is a blatant ploy to manipulate someone. The guy might actually believe that to be true, but he was trying to get me to be absolutely insecure about myself and then to go for him as a sort of savior/master. That is the absolute hallmark of exploitation.
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