Gorski on Quantum Quackery

Dave Gorski has an article at Science-Based Medicine about the use and abuse of quantum mechanics to justify pretty much any form of flim flam and quackery anyone wants to sell to the ignorant and the credulous. And as he points out, Deepak Chopra may be the worst at this:

Among the favorite real science term that quacks love to appropriate is “quantum.” I blame Deepak Chopra. Although I highly doubt he was the first promoter of alternative medicine and various New Age thought to use and abuse the term “quantum” as a seemingly scientific justification of what in reality is nothing more than ancient mystical thinking gussied up with a quantum overcoat to hide its lack of science, Chopra has arguably done the most to popularize the term among the science-challenged set. In Chopra’s world, the word “quantum” functions like a magical talisman that explains ™everything because in the quantum world anything can happen. Actually, I should clarify. While it’s true that many bizarre and wondrous things can be explained through quantum theory (such as quantum entanglement), it is not, as Chopra and his many imitators would have you believe, a “get out of jail free” card for any magical thinking you can imagine, and quantum effects do not work the way people like Chopra (say, Lionel Milgrom, who seems to think that homeopathy works through quantum entanglement between practitioner, remedy, and patient) would like you to think.

He also highlights a new and hilarious bit of lunacy from QuantumMANtm, which bills itself as “the world’s first downloadable medicine.” All you have to do is sign up, and pay your money of course, and medicinal “data” will “transfer[] from a remote quantum computer to your brain’s neural network for the benefits desired.” And did I mention that this is “extraterrestrial technology” that was “provided by an advanced civilization” and it will turn your cell phone into a “personal medical tricorder to instantly diagnose and treat your pet”? This is weapons-grade hooey.

19 comments on this post.
  1. Moggie:

    the world’s first downloadable medicine.

    Didn’t Jacques Benveniste make a similar claim years ago? His promotion of homeopathy extended to supposedly digitising “water memory” and sending it via email, as I recall.

  2. slc1:

    Quantum entanglement is not “explained” by quantum mechanics (actually, quantum field theory), it is a consequence of quantum mechanics.

  3. Kevin:

    You have no idea how popular this “quantum means anything goes” argument is.

    When I point out that quantum theory provides explanations only for things that happen in the natural (ie, not supernatural) world, I get criticized as being a “sheeple”.

    Right. Quantum totally explains Jeebus.

  4. Nick Gotts (formerly KG):

    Didn’t Jacques Benveniste make a similar claim years ago? His promotion of homeopathy extended to supposedly digitising “water memory” and sending it via email, as I recall. – Moggie

    He did. A fine example of the phenomenon of crank escalation: when the original pseudoscientific claims remain unconfirmed, lead to nothing useful, and interest starts to wane, the crank typically raises the stakes by making new and even more absurd pronouncements.

  5. Jared Asay:

    Yyyeeecckkk…why must all the quackery sites look like they belong on Geocities?

  6. John Hinkle:

    Chopra’s woo is way too concentrated. If only one person out of one hundred billion read him, imagine the increase in his potency.

  7. Sastra:

    They love quantum for many reasons. It’s mysterious, it’s counter-intuitive — but most of all, it seems to make “consciousness” an irreducible force of the universe.

    If you examine every supernatural claim — from God to ESP — it will always involve fundamental mind features. So of course they will grasp at something which looks like cutting-edge science is finally “proving” or supporting what the mystics have been saying all along.

    The fact that actual physicists who deal with QM and quantum theories almost universally reject their interpretations only feeds into their paranoid delusions about conspiracies against the Special Folk who aren’t afraid of spirituality.

  8. egrets:

    This is nothing new. Those who sell reiki, acupuncture and other such woo claim to manipulate a form of energy. even though the ‘energy’ they claim exists cannot be detected and apparently does not conform to the laws of thermodynamics. The term ‘energy’ was simply appropriated from physics to make their quackery sound ‘sciency’. They now use ‘quantum’ in the same way.

  9. F [disappearing]:

    the use and abuse of quantum mechanics

    It’s mostly just misuse of the word quantum, and the oh-so-mysterious baggage it totes about. Very few have the necessary brain cells to rub together to actually abuse quantum mechanics and friends. There are the few that do actually completely pervert QM concepts and their interpretation in common human language. Some of them are actually mathematicians and physicists, which doesn’t help. (Like the “nothing exists unless you are looking at it” theorists.)

  10. slc1:

    Re F @ #9

    Something of that sort of argument was made by the late John Wheeler who posited that the universe doesn’t exist if nobody is observing it. I have no idea whether he was serious.

  11. vmanis1:

    Am I the only one who remembers William Reich and his `orgone energy’? He got away with pretending this energy existed, but when he started claiming his `orgone accumulators’ had therapeutic value, the FDA busted him.

    Orgone energy was somehow generated by sex, or sexual desire or something, which, if true, would mean that light bulbs would spontaneously glow when a teenager was nearby. It gave one a ready-made excuse for a less-than-satisfactory sexual experience: `Oh, I’m sorry, I guess the second law of thermodynamics got in the way’.

  12. markr1957:

    Anyone want to buy a quantum London Bridge? Honest, I just diluted it down to 10^12 to 1 so it’s really really strong….. Yours for just $10000000000 :)

  13. mildlymagnificent:

    Yet another opportunity to dust off the old chopra words of wisdom generator. http://www.wisdomofchopra.com/

    I have to say the quantum word makes me shudder a bit. As a moderator on a science site, anything that turns up, especially the dreaded walloftext, with sprinkles of resonance, vibrations and quantum liberally scattered about is an automatic candidate for trashing. Which I suppose makes me a sheeple. Oh dear. How can I bear it.

  14. dingojack:

    mildlymagnificent – Cheers.
    Dingo
    ——-
    ‘The Higgs boson unfolds into species specific possibilities’
    ‘The future gives rise to quantum happiness’.

  15. dingojack:

    Or how about:

    ‘Quantum physics relies on ephemeral photons’
    ‘The Higgs boson is inherent in self-righteous force fields’.
    Your consciousness embraces quantum potentiality
    ‘Quantum physics illuminates irrational experiences’.
    ‘Experiential truth opens an abundance of precious space time events’
    .
    :D Dingo

  16. dingojack:

    Help, i’ve been sucked into Depak World…
    .
    ‘The unexplainable relies on the mechanics of quantum potentiality’.

    Dingo
    (OK I’ll stop now…)

  17. Raging Bee:

    I guess “tricorder” will be the next buzzword after people start to get tired of hearing “quantum.” then maybe the estate of Gene Roddenberry can sue, and we can all start buying quantum popcorn…

  18. The Lorax:

    Quantum theory suggests that electrons are/can be everywhere in the universe at the same time (double slit experiment), and since electrons vibrate, it stands to reason that properly vibrating electrons can take the place of properly vibrating water molecules in homeopathic remedies. If we can match these vibrations, we can cure all the diseases in every living thing in the universe in an instant. We just need to figure out how to isolate the properly vibrating electrons from homeopathic water molecules.

    Kickstarter, here I come!

    Also, quantum quantum quantum.

  19. kermit.:

    egrets: The term ‘energy’ was simply appropriated from physics to make their quackery sound ‘sciency’. They now use ‘quantum’ in the same way.

    And before that, magnetism. Before that, balancing humors.

    For the hoi polloi, it’s all magic. Science, Christian miracles, black magic, earth magic, astrology, alternative medicine are all rival systems of mysterious ways of getting things done, and they all want our money. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. Of course they all hate each other; they’re competitors.

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