Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Science of Qigong

בן זומא אומר, איזה הוא חכם--הלמד מכל אדם
Ben Zoma says: Who is wise? He who learns from every man. (Avot 4:1)
Many American science bloggers are obsessed with disproving Chinese medicine, but good science is about data, not ideology. The jury is still out on Chinese medicine, as well as many conventional Western medical therapies, simply because experiments on people are prohibitively expensive and as a society we prefer to spend our money elsewhere (mostly guns). In fact, studies have vindicated certain alternative therapies, such as acupuncture for back pain, which is why they are covered by health insurance plans here in CA.

I've learned to keep an open mind about what's possible in the physical world. For this week's Fun Science Friday, I'll introduce you to John Chang, a master of the ancient Chinese art of Qigong. While I am dubious about his ability to light fires with his hands, I am intrigued by the possibility of sending electric shocks through the body. Brain and nerve cells throughout the body are inherently electric, and signal through instantaneous changes in voltage. With enough practice, it seems possible that a human being could focus these voltages to release energy or heat, like an electric eel.


7 comments:

Dave L said...

Just checking, but next time you get an eye infection, you are going to use antibiotics and not go to a Qi healer to balance your ying and yang? I’d hate to find that you only had one eye next time you visit.

Based on your comments, I suppose that you also have an open mind to the powers of Kabbalah healers –patients have sworn by effect of their amulets for centuries. Also, judging from this post, I bet that you also are sympathetic the potential for Christian Science.

Samurai Scientist said...

Dave, you raise an important question, which is where to draw the line? As a scientist, my gut instinct is not to draw one. We live in an amazingly wealthy society. If we are serious about health, we should fund experiments to investigate all of these possibilities. But we must also be prepared to follow the data - even if they lead us into uncomfortable or inconvenient truths.

Dave L said...

So you are willing to fund research to investigate the claims of Kabbalah amulets? Don't forget to experiment with red strings while you are at it.

Hey, I don't deny that traditional medicine may have stumbled upon some treatments that actually work. My concern here is that the guy in the video that you posted has the marks of a charlatan.

1. He can't reveal the "secret" of his power

2. After one of his tricks goes wrong, he can't do any more demonstrations because of a "dream."

3. The team that inspected him included one of HIS OWN students and the CEO of a "mind body foundation" who easily could have falsified or altered some of the data.

4. His patients "feel" his treatment and then "feel" better. Feeling the electric charge or whatever it is, might cause a strong placebo effect.

Samurai Scientist said...

@Dave,
So you are willing to fund research to investigate the claims of Kabbalah amulets? Don't forget to experiment with red strings while you are at it.


I think well-planned studies of this sort can be very useful for our society, even if it just turns out to be mythbusting. We spend a lot of money and time on stuff that is basically red strings - we may as well determine whether any of it works.

4. His patients "feel" his treatment and then "feel" better. Feeling the electric charge or whatever it is, might cause a strong placebo effect.

If that electric shock is real, I'd like to know how it works!

YZF said...

For a sec I thought this was about SW. Y'know, Qigong Jinn.

Wait, did I just think of tomorrow's joke? I think I did! Thanks, SS!

Dave L said...

"If that electric shock is real, I'd like to know how it works!"

Actually, I would like to find that out as well. I imagine that it is some sort of trick, but being that I know next to nothing about physics and engineering, I have no idea how it is done.

Samurai Scientist said...

@YZF,
For a sec I thought this was about SW. Y'know, Qigong Jinn.

Glad I could help! Interestingly, there are definite similarities between the Force and Qigong (look up some of the Qigong videos on YouTube). They are however pronounced differently.

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