Quackery is often accompanied with grand associations with complex science, the harder the better. Usually, quantum theory is the science of choice: it has plenty of counter-intuitive results, is riddled with deep mysteries, and most importantly, you (the quack’s target) are very unlike to understand it. The recipe is simple. My quack theory is mysterious; quantum theory is mysterious, therefore quantum theory helps back up my own theory.
In addition, the quack explanation can expect to be long and superficially plausible, backed up with many obscure references and valid science. Checking this lot is often tedious and time consuming, and can be very hard if you are not familiar with the underlying science anyway. Giving up straight away is usually a mistake as the first dib into examining the explanation usually reveals a castle in the air.
We saw abuse of quantum theory in my last blog entry, where life after death was being ‘proved’ by recourse to ‘complex’ quantum ideas. Anyone who has really studied physics will know that links between the microscopic world of quantum theory and big chunks of matter (like people) are riddled with difficulties, but fortunately for the quack those people are few and far between.
Occasionally, more obscure areas of science are recruited to explain a piece of quackery. I was recently debating the merits of Reiki (healing by the ‘energy’ in hands) and had a ‘proof’ thrust upon me. I was told that Toni Bunnell was a lecturer in physiology at Hull University and had written a paper on A Tentative Mechanism for Healing. (10 Canards)It was difficult to know where to start with this tentative mechanism, but one area caught my attention. Here are a few important bits…
Studies have also shown that during healing the healer’s alpha brainwaves synchronise with those of the healee, so both will be resonating at the same frequency (sympathetic resonance). In other words, channeling energy through the healer and to the healee involves both being in the a state.
Alpha is also the home of the window frequency known as the Schuman Resonance, which is the vibrational frequency of the earth’s electromagnetic field (emf). This means that the brain waves of a person in the alpha state will resonate in sympathy with the earth’s emf producing constructive interference which amplifies the vibration. This might explain how healers (having tuned into the healee) are able to draw on energy (universal energy source?) from outside themselves i.e. channel energy through them to the healee.
What was this Schuman Resonance? Could there be anything in this? I had never heard of this resonance before. So a quick google returns some startling results – thousands of quackery pages all going on about amazing things like the Earth loosing its magnetic field as predicted by prophesy. However, despite the mumbo-jumbo, the resonace is real and describes the way the Earth’s atmosphere between the ground and the ionosphere acts like a huge cavity where standing radio waves can be set up. The frequency of the resonances depend on the height of the ionosphere on any particular day.
So what has the Schumann Resonance got to do with Reiki? Well nothing as far as I can see. Bunnell’s mechanism only works if the radio-wave resonances really area ‘universal energy source’ that has real healing affects on the human body, and any suggested evidence or theoretical reason for this to be true is completely absent. The reader, as far as I can see, is just supposed to be impressed with all the talk of alpha waves and resonances and ‘tuning in’ and not to appreciate that all this is just random scientific words strung together meaning nothing.
The whole article is full of such stuff and could keep a blog going for weeks. One of my other favourite passages was,
As the body is thought not to consist of dense matter but rather vortices of energy spinning continuously, the boundary between the physical body and the etheric body becomes less distinct.
Spinning energy vortices? They ought to be easy to detect! And how does this ‘fact’ make my ‘etheric’ and ‘physical’ body boundaries less distinct? No idea what that means.
I also have no idea whether Dr Toni Bunnell PhD knows this is nonsense or is sincerely trying to explain something she is interested in. No responses to my email.
I hope Dr Toni uses slightly more conventional techniques than Schumann enhanced reiki on her main passion – the healing and rehabilitation of injured and sick wild hedgehogs. I wish reiki really could be used here – a hands-off approach to healing hedgehogs is surely going to reduce injuries from those nasty prickles.
Time to shnuffle off.