Thursday, February 21, 2008

Eternal Struggles VI: "Pseudoscience makes extraordinary claims"

From the Coker article:

"Pseudoscience makes extraordinary claims and advances fantastic theories that contradict what is known about nature."

Professor Davis came on the EIM blog yesterday to defend her teaching choices. I will bring her response here a bit at a time and comment on each point she makes. There are so many points to comment on that it may take awhile just to deconstruct this single post from her. But I will take it as far as I have the stamina to.

Here is sentence one:
"The science of energy medicine, or bioenergetics is quite a huge shift from traditional science based on Newtonian physics, and thus is hard to understand and harder to believe. However, it is a major challenge to explain what we observe happening when we apply complementary therapies, whether it be Yoga, or Pilates, or Tai chi or massage or myofascial release."

Here is a wikipedia entry for an NIH definition of "energy medicine". Note that there are two kinds, veritable and putative. "Veritable" would include things like light therapy, something in the realm of regular physics. "Putative", on the other hand, is "based on the supposition that illness results from disturbances in (undetectable or unquantifiable) energies and energy fields and can be addressed via interventions into those energies and energy fields."

Oschman's book "Energy Medicine", which Davis continually refers to, tries to justify hanging on to concepts that are long past their due date. (See Harriet Hall's review of his book.)

There appears to be no sturdy definition for "bioenergetics."
I'm fairly confident that Davis is leaning away from a medical definition of the term, which is "the study of the energy transformations in living organisms" (like metabolism, etc.), and toward vitalist definitions based on belief systems.

I don't know how yoga or Pilates or Tai Chi belong in the same category as massage and MFR. The first three involve active movement by an autonomous human, while the latter two involve the patient lying still and a practitioner applying some mechanical forces into the body/nervous system. I beg to differ with the idea that "it is a major challenge to explain what we observe happening" - that's the easy part...

... What is harder is to know what someone thinks they are doing when they practice the first three items she lists or are applying the second two items to another person/patient. A practitioner involved in treating another usually has developed one kind of treatment construct or another. Professor Davis seems to think that her strange treatment construct is a better one to teach to innocent PT students than ones that are based on ordinary biology, anatomy, neuroscience. She doesn't seem to get that this is what is being disagreed with.

No comments: