Chiropractic Crackup, Talking to Water, Sylvia Emerges!, Bidlack's Lumps, An MS Miracle, and a Korean Magic Stone...
UK reader Dave Nesbitt tells his story, then asks a pertinent question:
I just wanted to add to the current debate about the British & alternative medicine. I'm British (English actually), like to think of myself as reasonably intelligent and (now at least) a skeptic. However, I have tried alternative medicine. Does this make me stupid? Listen and judge for yourself.
So, not only did the "Dr." of Chiropractic miss my classic symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis, he made my condition worse by pressing down on my back and stressing my ribs, causing them to become inflamed. They still hurt now, more than four years later on.
Dave, your last sentence here, tells the whole story. Medical science isn't perfect, nor does it claim to be. But quackery such as that you underwent, not only claims to have a solution for every problem, but also claims that it is superior to real medicine. No, you're not "stupid." You were desperate, and though your GP can be faulted for not simply saying, "We have no solution for your problem," and for failing to warn you away from the quackery, real medical science is the only way to go.
I myself would certainly not be alive if it weren't for real medicine….
A UK homeopath named Liz Miller fancies that she has discovered why the BBC tests of that quackery were negative. She writes:
I think you will be amazed at the pictures on www.mercola.com/2002/may/8/prayer.htm. They show that as in homeopathy, water can take on energy from our thoughts. This proves that in the BBC program on homeopathy, Mr. Randi's thoughts could have influenced the outcome.
I answered her: "Unfortunately for this theory, (a) I was not present when the BBC tests were done, and (b) I was not even aware that they were being done…." Then I looked at that site she'd touted. Amazing.
Try this on for credibility: A Dr. Masaru Emoto, who boasts certification from the Open International University of Alternative Medicine (???), has made remarkable discoveries about "the concept of micro cluster water." Floating along in his muddy stream of awareness, Dr. Emoto began to study the effect of altering water by various factors of "vibration" and "consciousness." These words are immensely popular with quacks, though they've no notion what they mean. Are you ready? He studied water that had been altered by music healing music, classical music, heavy metal music, and so forth.
And he has "crystalline pictures" that reveal how water responds to these influences! As he says, this begins to reveal that water is alive, that it is conscious, and that it responds to applied force by a rearrangement of its inner crystalline properties. Wow! Ah, but that only got him started. It gets better….
Inspired by these revelations, he decided to study the impact of human consciousness on water and its crystalline order. Dr. Emoto believes he has demonstrated that human thoughts and emotions can alter the molecular structure of water. Now, for the first time, he says, there is physical evidence that the power of our thoughts can change the world within and around us.
We can see the distinct difference, for example, between crystals formed under the influence of the word, "prayer," and nasty hard rock music. How can we doubt?
Dr. Emoto found that water that had been consciously altered by the simple imprinting of a "word of intent," would change. Water that was imprinted by "love," "gratitude," and "appreciation," responded by the development of complex crystals essentially "snowflake" crystals obtained by evaporation and cooling and an excellent effect was produced by combining the words "love" and "gratitude," as any fool can plainly see in the illustration. But water that was mistreated by negative intentions became disordered and lost its magnificent patterning. In fact, it often took on grotesque forms of resonance, he says.
Then he really got into the swing of pseudoscience, simplifying matters by just writing words in any language, of course on pieces of paper and taping them to a clear glass container to see if anything happened. Positive words like "love" and "thank you" produced beautiful and delicate crystalline patterns, we're told. He tried "You Make Me Sick. I Will Kill You" and he observed distorted, frightening, muddied patterns. We show here the pattern produced by this last phrase. He even experimented with names like "Gandhi," "Mother Teresa," and "Hitler," and the same kind of results occurred. Wow, again!
And, not to our surprise, Dr. Emoto discovered that the water crystals dutifully form up in response to different ethnic versions of the languages impressed upon them. Here's the expression "thank you" in both Japanese and English. You can see the distinct variations, can't you?
Well, if that didn't convince you that Dr. Emoto might not have both oars in the water, try this, a quotation from him in answer to his thoughts on what the crystals are: "I came to the realization that these crystals are spirits." Okay. Where's the door….?
Let's spend a moment to wonder about how such a view can be brought about. Dr. Emoto might very well believe that he's doing science. But he's not. He does no double-blind procedures, for one thing, which dooms these amateur efforts, right from the beginning. If he were to be blind to which words were being used to influence the water crystals, his search through the results looking for confirmation, would be inconclusive. I'll risk the JREF million-dollar prize on that statement. If Dr. Emoto wants to win the prize, let him agree to perform his tests in a double-blind fashion, and I predict he'll get fuzzy results that prove nothing.
Ah, but he'll have to get in line behind Sylvia Browne! Yes, she's baaaaack!
On Friday, May 16th, the unsinkable Sylvia Browne appeared with Larry King yet again! and something odd happened. The careful process of screening of phone calls from listeners apparently broke down, and Dr. Bryan Farha of Oklahoma City actually got through with a question that Sylvia and Larry have been avoiding for the past 89 weeks. We had to wonder what Sylvia would come up with, after first claiming that she didn't know how to contact me (a psychic can't use the phone book or Google?) and then veered off by saying she didn't want to deal with a "godless" person like me. She swerved and skidded into another tailspin when she handled this one:
From the transcript of that encounter:
Dr. F: Sylvia, 620 days ago on Larry's show, you agreed to take James Randi's one million dollar paranormal challenge, and on a later show you even agreed to the specific terms of the test.
Randi comments: It's actually 808 days since Sylvia agreed to do the JREF test, 627 days since she agreed to the specific parameters/protocol. Directly quoted from the Application "JREF will not entertain any demand that the prize money be deposited in escrow, displayed in cash, or otherwise produced in advance of the test being performed. JREF will not cater to such vanities." Sylvia can read this, as well as anyone else, but we must remember that she's desperate to avoid taking the test. Back to the program:
Dr. F: You agreed to the terms of the test...
So there it is. She'll do it! But let's look at her fabricated excuses here. On our web page, in the official JREF challenge application, appears this notice:
One million dollars in negotiable bonds is held by an investment firm in New York, in the "James Randi Educational Foundation Prize Account," as surety for the prize funds. Validation of this account and its current status may be obtained by contacting the Foundation by telephone, fax, or e-mail.
Had Sylvia Browne or Larry King troubled to read the application, we would have promptly provided just the assurance sought, in the form of a current financial statement on that special account. Sylvia is well aware that we are not about to place such funds in escrow just to satisfy her whims; that would suspend the earnings of the account, but if Sylvia or anyone would agree to make up the loss to the JREF, we would certainly consider doing this. Also, we have never before been asked by anyone Russian or not to place the fund in escrow. That is a simple lie another one by Browne.
In summary: Sylvia Browne appeared on the Larry King Live TV show on May 16th, 2003. She offered, as her excuse for having reneged on her acceptance of the JREF million-dollar challenge, that she required us to place the prize money in escrow which we are most decidedly not going to do. She also stated that she had no way of telling whether the prize money existed, in spite of the very clear, plain-English text on our web page which she chose to ignore telling her exactly how to receive assurance of that sum's availability.
On May 19th, I sent certified mail # 7003 0500 0002 3034 8133 to Sylvia Browne with the following letter, and a certified copy of the letter to Larry King as well:
Let's see what takes place now. I may be able to retire the "cricket.wav" file on our web page! I'll keep you regularly informed...
John Kiprov, of Melbourne, Australia, informs us:
Ian Evans from Australia (Commentary, May 9th 2003) was wrong in saying than Pan Pharmaceuticals did not make prescription drugs. Just look at the top of the Travacalm packet, and see the words "Pharmacy medicine." If that ain't a prescription medicine then I don't know what is. Pan actually make a VERY large proportion of Australia's prescription medicines, upwards of 50% I've read here in Oz. Funny how only the Alternative medicines were recalled (rightly so) when the prescription stuff was made in exactly the same uncleaned containers.
John, just because I read something on a box, doesn't mean that I'll believe it. However, I think you're right, and I thank you for the correction.
Reader and JREF member Paul Schultz, of St. Louis, has thoughts on last week's page:
This week's commentary citing the 6 reasons that homeopathic claims are paranormal made me think again about last week's comments about the Skeptical Deist by Hal Bidlick. Religious beliefs, despite Hal's claim otherwise, also meet all those 6 tests. Why theistic belief should get a free pass not afforded other paranormal claims is beyond me. That "need to believe" that Randi so often cites seems to be the only reason.
Hal Bidlack responds:
My concern is that the folks who have posted/written in, etc., and insist that I cannot be a "true skeptic," miss an important point, I think. To argue that there is only ONE true and correct view is to commit the same sin as those they would condemn. If I were claiming, say, to be a TMer who can "fly," I would certainly think it reasonable for that claim to be testable. But to have some sense that there is a cosmic clockmaker that uses the laws of science, that never interferes, seems to me to be a different sort of thing.
Hal closed his comment there, but went on to observe to me:
And thanks again for taking a chance on my column. If nothing else, it did create a certain buzz and discussion.
Yes, Hal, it did. And that's one of the intents of this page. The more fuss, the better...!
Hal was cheered by a comment received from Fred Durant, an old friend of mine, former head of the Air & Space Museum in Washington, DC. Fred was an enthusiastic attendee at The Amaz!ng Meeting, where he met and heard Hal. He comments:
Your column substituting for Randi's I have just read and am delighted to sample again your splendid prose. Further, I, too, am a non-denomination believer in God AND a skeptic. I was particularly pleased to read Randi's comments. His remark about "resounding" was true to form. Too much emphasis on accepting your premise, would lead a reader to the conclusion that this was his Personal position.
At a remarkable and vigorous 87, Fred is a feisty advocate of real science and skepticism. With allies like this, Hal has little to fret about….
Reader Dave Mackey tells us:
An interesting thing happened the other day, four days before this writing. My wife has MS. She is about 70% paralyzed below the waist, and about 10% in the hands. She shuffles around the house using a walker, and needs a wheelchair away from home. We were talking about her condition and how much we missed just going for a walk around the block. We also talked about the latest research with human stem cells (no longer done in the US, thank you Mr. Bush) that has such promise for MS sufferers. We talked about our hopes for the genome project.
Just think what a "believer" would say about this fortuitous event. With a little encouragement, it would find its way into the tabloids, "scientists" would ponder over it and start looking for grants to investigate the wand, and maybe a new religion would be born. Thanks for being rational, Mr. Mackey. And we're very happy for you, Mrs. Mackey.
Kerris Ellis, architect of Vancouver, BC, tells us that a large housing project there was stopped in mid-construction to do a search for plywood patterns in installed doors, that might offend buyers. Here's a photo of one that certainly would alarm me. Yeah, sure….
Maybe I left South Korea too fast. We're told that North Korea is now mass producing a "stone'" it has developed, that when heated emits "infrared rays'" that are good for the human body, as the state-run Korean Central News Agency reports. They say that the rays can remove smells, be used as a sterilizer and as a treatment for heart disease, hypertension, arthritis and other illnesses.
Well, any heated stone will emit infrared, but those curative powers sound a bit far-fetched. No, they sound like simple quackery. "The long-wave infrared rays emitted from the stone penetrate deep into the human body, giving no side effects to the heart, and help the human body absorb energy,'' said an official N. Korea report. They said that the stones were being "mass produced'" in various sizes, colors and patterns, branded with the name "Kumgang" [diamond].
Let's remember that North Korea's communist government is cash-strapped and has even been accused of resorting to selling narcotics and missiles to raise money. Seeing that quackery is not only easy to sell, and popular as well as lucrative, and knowing that health care in N. Korea is poor, the government there has taken a leap in the direction of capitalism by bringing in the moola with pseudoscience. Hey, it works everywhere else!