Quantcast

«

»

Aug 24 2011

The fish rots from the head, the tail, and every place in between

Here’s an educational opportunity for everyone!

The Community College of Rhode Island [CCRI] has proudly announced that this fall, a “reiki master” will be holding a seminar on “crystal and mineral healing” at the college. This, we’re told, is

…a type of alternative therapy that involves laying crystals or gemstones on the body. Each student will experience a crystal therapy session and get a really good idea about how it changes your energy and rebalances you.

This instructor at CCRI also does “Cranio Sacral Therapy,” and uses such advanced quackery as “Bio Magnets,” “Light Life Tools,” “Dowsing,” and “Pendulums” She assures students that she is also a teacher and practitioner of many other alternative healing methods, and says that crystals have their own “intrinsic energy,” and will “interact with points on the body’s energy field, known as chakras, to promote balance and well-being.” “Each crystal has its own properties and attributes when laid on the body with a specific chakra,” she says. This collection of talents puts her well up in the tree with the top woo-woos, but she’s teaching at CCRI.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Colleges all over the place are peddling this nonense, and you can tell how administrators are thinking: it’s not about providing a good education, it’s all about what the students will pay for…and if they’ll pay for cheap, meaningless crap, so much the better for short-term profitability. Oh, and long-term damage to the school’s reputation? Let the next chancellor or president or board worry about that.

So someone wrote to the Community College of Rhode Island, and Richard H. Coren, Director of Marketing, Communications and Publications replied.

Let that sink in. A complaint was made about the garbage content of courses at the college, and the Director of Marketing wrote back. Marketing. Damme. Let me tell you, when the academic revolution comes, it’s the marketing drones who have the temerity to pontificate on curriculum and content who are going to get shoveled into the “B” Ark first.

Anyway, so Mr Coren, snake-buggering Director of Marketing to Morons, replies:

Students told us they wanted to further their knowledge of alternative healing methods, and the course was designed to introduce students to the practice of crystal and mineral healing. By offering the class, the college and its noncredit arm, CWCE, do not endorse the practice as science; we are simply responding to demand in the community for personal development courses such as this.

It’s not alternative “healing”. It’s not “personal development”. It’s lies and bullshit. And seriously, there’s a point beyond which what students want doesn’t matter. My students wish there wasn’t a calculus and statistics requirement for a degree in biology; tough. Some students might want a credit for watching a five-minute video on youtube; no way. We’re supposed to have standards, and an education is supposed to mean something.

But no, we’ve got marketing directors who see a fast buck in selling out academic integrity.

Let’s not blame only short-sighted bean-counters at the college level, though. Here’s what we have to look forward to: pernicious effects of NCLB, a program which neglects science and encourages mindless teaching-to-the-test, has devastated science education.

It is time to acknowledge that there has been an unprecedented and precipitous decline in science teaching and learning as a consequence of the focus and implementation of No Child Left Behind. We do not need any more commissions or studies to tell us what is strikingly evident — children of the NCLB era, who entered Kindergarten in 2003 and had little or no science education for the next seven years, are not going to do well in science in middle school or beyond. We are losing an entire generation to science illiteracy.

We’re already beginning to see the consequences.

In 2009, PISA found that 15-year-old U.S. students ranked 17th of 34 developed countries in science and 25th of 34 in math. The same study revealed that the U.S. has among the most unequal performance in the world, with achievement levels highly dependent on socio-economic status. Low-income and minority communities are especially hard-hit by lack of access to high-quality science resources. The results from the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress drive home the severity of the problem – only 18 percent of New York City’s 4th graders and 13 percent of 8th graders performed at or above the proficient level in science.

Over the next six years, as “Generation NCLB” goes through high school, we can expect banner headlines about further drops in science learning and fewer students taking advanced level courses in biology, chemistry, and physics. That will be a precursor to the hue-and-cry from colleges, four years later, about the need for more remedial science and the falling number of American students majoring in sciences of all types, and then a renewed clamor from employers who need appropriately educated workers but cannot find them.

Maybe Mr Coren and my university’s Center for Spirituality and Healing are being foresighted and wise. They’re cultivating the perfect curriculum for a generation of students who lack critical thinking skills, who know nothing about science, and just want to be pandered to with pseudoscience for the gullible.

(Also on Sb)

80 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    QuestionAuthority

    “Reiki master…” Makes me think of “Ahhh, Grasshopper. Snatch the crystal from my hand…”

  2. 2
    Quodlibet

    Sure, but does she have GRAVITYMAGNETS?

  3. 3
    Zeno

    In my impressionable youth, during my first stint in grad school, I was both amused and disturbed to see some of the “extension” courses offered at my university. Such well-grounded subjects as “Eckankar: The Science of Soul Travel” were on tap, as well as the more mundane astrology and numerology. These courses were relegated to the academic ghetto known as the “Experimental College” and most of us math and science majors looked askance at them, but our university community kept those courses humming along. It was embarrassing, but entailed no college credit. At least, back then they didn’t.

  4. 4
    Glen Davidson

    That’s where I find the IDiots to be so short-sighted. There’s actually nothing illegal about teaching crystal woo in schools, only good science can be used against it.

    So the only meaningful (if hardly perfect) weapon against New Age bullshit becomes their target because they resent not being able to teach Old Age bullshit at gov’t expense.

    Hey, a lot of junk exists in the sewer. Don’t open it up if you can help it.

    I actually signed up for a class called “How to Recognize the Paranormal” (something like that anyhow) last spring as a community class at the local Community College. I wanted to see what they’d teach, and I didn’t intend to be disruptive, just skeptical. Not enough signed up for the class to proceed, however, which I’m sure is a good thing.

    Glen Davidson

  5. 5
    Anthony K

    My dad proudly proclaimed that he became a Reiki master. Incredulous, as I wasn’t aware that he’d even heard of Reiki until that point, I asked him a few questions. Turns out that he’d sent $50 to someone on the internet in exchange for a certificate proclaiming his ‘mastery’. Malcolm Gladwell and others claim that it takes on average ten thousand hours to master a craft. Thanks to morons and the internet, now all it takes is the time for a PayPal charge to clear.

    My older sisters used to tease me by saying I was the mailman’s son. Some days I manage to ignore the physical commonalities I have with my paternal grandfather, and convince myself those bills were stuffed in the mailbox with something more than bureaucratic efficiency; they’re stuffed with love.

  6. 6
    TV200

    I’m a little disappointed that my own mother has given up on real medicine, and started peddling this sort of woo.
    No, the Reiki master listed above is not my mother, but it really struck a familiar nerve. This the sort of thing she does now. It really makes it frustrating when she talks about her business.

  7. 7
    teawithbertrand

    I know someone who’s always raving about reiki. She’s also an obnoxious fuckwit.

  8. 8
    madknitter

    At the risk of sounding like one of my former teachers, “Rubbish! Rubbish, rubbish, rubbish!”

    There. I feel better.

    I don’t get the whole Reiki thing. After a hard day of exhaustive yarn shopping last year, my arthritic knee was bothering me. One of the other Yarn Corsairs offered to Reiki on/for me. She waved her hands over my sore knee. She never actually touched me, and after a few moments asked, “How’s that?” I looked at her, and muttered, “Oh, it’s fine, thanks.” When I got home I took some aspirin, which did wonders.

  9. 9
    Scott

    If it was free, then a bunch of skeptics should attend and give the teacher hell, or at least pepper her with questions like “Has this been clinically tested?” or “How does this work, exactly?” and watch her squirm.

  10. 10
    Deepsix

    So…. this is a class on how to swindle the gullible?

  11. 11
    Rev. BigDumbChimp

    This instructor at CCRI also does “Cranio Sacral Therapy,”

    Cranio Rectal Therapy is more like it.

  12. 12
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    My grandmother used to believe in some kind of special internal energy (the one that directs a little spinning crystal to indicate if your questions have the answer yes or no. I have no idea how that’s called). Anyway, my mother believes in it too. Thankfully, grandfather’s friend who convinced my grandmother that she had that energy in abundance also told my mother that she didn’t have much… and I guess that’s the only reason my mother isn’t spinning a crystal (or a key on a string as a replacement – don’t laugh, my gran didn’t have a crystal at the time and that whatever energy can obviously be conducted by all sorts of things) when something is troubling her.
    So, in my grandmother’s case, she didn’t even need a certificate. Some guy grandfather met while he was working as a traveling salesman told her she had “powers”, energy.. whatever.
    Today, she could get a degree in spinning a crystal. *shakes head*

  13. 13
    Rev. BigDumbChimp

    (the one that directs a little spinning crystal to indicate if your questions have the answer yes or no. I have no idea how that’s called).

    Magic 8-Ball?

  14. 14
    'Tis Himself

    I’m reminded of the bit from Homeopathic A&E

    That’s crazy talk Simon. Okay, so you kill the odd patient with cancer or heart disease. Or bronchitis, flu, chicken pox or measles. But, when someone comes in with a vague sense of unease, or a touch of the nerves, or even just more money than sense, you’ll be there for them. Bottle of basically just water in one hand, and a huge invoice in the other.

  15. 15
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    Rev. BigDumbChimp,

    :)
    Sounds like it.
    (If your answer is yes, the crystal keeps spinning, if it’s no it just swings to and fro. Or the other way around, I don’t remember.)
    It sounds so silly, I still can’t believe she bought into it.

  16. 16
    joeyess

    Bill Hicks Was Right.

  17. 17
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    I’m not sure if that energy could do anything else. I think more “training” would have been required for that, but thankfully my grandfather was a skeptic and mocked her quite ruthlessly so she didn’t try to develop her “talent” any further. I keep thinking that she subconsciously knew he was right, because that was probably the only argument he ever won with her (my grandmother was totally the boss of the house).

  18. 18
    educatheist

    Pitiful on all counts. What’s next for colleges trying to snag an easy buck? If the standards are lowered to exactly what incoming freshmen demand, perhaps we’ll see “Scoring at a Frat Party 101″ and “Milking Your Student Loans (Advanced)” in next semester’s course catalog.

    It’s deplorable that our system forces educators into tight spaces so frequently, be it in K-12 or the college level. K-12 teachers have NCLB breathing down their necks, and as we see this leads to nothing more than kids who know a bunch of test answers but can’t think critically. Colleges face budget cuts due to the economy, which means they need to tighten belts and find ways to get more students in the door at the same time.

    If only we lived in a land where science, reason, and logic were valued over faith… ah, but I dream too freely.

  19. 19
    Michael Swanson

    My palm has just now imparted its own intrinsic energy to my face.

  20. 20
    feralboy12

    This country needs another Sputnik moment. Then again, we don’t teach history all that well, either…

  21. 21
    Sastra

    “By offering the class, the college and its noncredit arm, CWCE, do not endorse the practice as science; we are simply responding to demand in the community for personal development courses such as this.”

    Oh, I see. You’re just offering it as an option. You’re not trying to force anyone to accept it as true for everyone. The reiki course describes a reality that you can choose to accept, or not, as you please. It all depends on how you want to interpret “science.” People are sharing their wisdom and experience about healing energy, that’s all. It doesn’t have to connect with anything else being taught about energy — sort of the way a course on 20th century poetry can be taken without having any background or interest in Elizabethan poetry — or Elizabethan pottery. You’re just trying it all on for your personal development.

    Personal development into a smug ignoramus.

    Sheesh. For some strange reason (religion) people seem to have gotten the idea that reality does not hang together (religion): science has two sides. There’s the science that studies the world as it appears on the surface (mainstream physics and chemistry) and then there’s the real science that deals with the world as it really is, underneath (religion and how the world is connected deeply connected with and concerned about YOU.) Intuition as science — a science unconcerned with winning a consensus through evidence and argument, but very concerned with winning you over.

    Apparently one wouldn’t expect the deep truths of the body’s energy fields to be discovered by mainstream science using instruments and cold reason. We need the special sensitivity of special people using methods involving humility and open-ness (religion.)

    In the self-congratulating smog of spiritual holism nobody seems to notice how oddly elitist this all is.

  22. 22
    NitricAcid

    I suspect that the marketing department (which doubles as the PR department) will answer any queries sent to the college by any member of the public.

  23. 23
    Phil

    My palm has just now imparted its own intrinsic energy to my face.

    WIN. I’ll have to use this line sometime.

    I can think of a better thing to do with crystals: stick a light inside them like a salt lamp. At least it gives the room a nice glow.
    And as for gemstones: I wonder how long it takes the firms that extract them to capitalise on this? If they haven’t already, that is.

  24. 24
    Anthony K
    (the one that directs a little spinning crystal to indicate if your questions have the answer yes or no. I have no idea how that’s called).

    Magic 8-Ball?

    Which is weird, because I’ve found that it’s the other kind of 8-Ball that has the most magical effects—made my friend’s nasal septum completely disappear!

  25. 25
    barbarienne

    This kills me. A good friend of mine, who is otherwise a very loving, thoughtful, and good human with whom I am happy to share the planet, is a reiki master.

    She actually believes in it. She isn’t a scam artist. She honestly believes she’s selling Shinola.

    Unfortunately, “honest but misguided” can be as harmful as true charlatanry.

    I don’t see her often enough to be able to subtly steer her toward better information, and it’s impossible to say to a friend, “This thing you’ve devoted your life to, and spend considerable time on, is utter crap.”

    Suggestions, anyone?

  26. 26
    Jacob van Beverningk

    I just checked out their announcement of the class at http://www.ccri.edu/cwce/personal/reiki.html

    I noticed that “Students are required to bring a pillow and blanket”

    I’m sure they’ll need them! Earplugs optional, I guess.

  27. 27
    Rambling T. Wreck

    feralboy12, our next Sputnik moment looks like it will come when the Chinese ambassador presents the Apollo 11 flag to the U. S. President and says “Here, you dropped this.”

    Pro’ly too late at that point.

  28. 28
    Hairhead

    As of now, America no longer goes into space. That’s for Russians, the Chinese, the Europeans, and wealthy dilettantes. Seriously, for the first time in 40 years (1961 I think) the United States does not have the ability to launch a human being into space.

    What does that say about the commitment to leading-edge science and engineering (because, regardless of the metaphysical benefits of human space exploration, the spin-off technologies from solving the immense problems associated with it are innumerable and enormously valuable).

    Oops. And I forgot, too — the U.S. is basically giving up building new bridges and tunnels and other large infrastructure.

    Seriously, a couple of years ago Tennessee lost a huge Toyota plant because, upon testing, the local residents who would make up the workforce were too ignorant to learn how to do the job or to read and understand the safety and assembly instructions. So that plant went to Canada.

    Aargh! If you think an educated population is expensive, wait until you see what an UNeducated population costs.

  29. 29
    evilDoug

    Every time I see “Cranio Sacral” I imagine some sort of handywork by Dr. Nick Riviera. Perhaps poor Homer with his skull grafted directly to his pelvis.
    ~~~
    “Students are required to bring a pillow and blanket”
    I know what I’d be inclined to do with the pillow, though it tends to be frowned upon. Well, illegal, actually. And I’d bring a big plastic bag with a zipper, instead of a blanket.

    I wonder if the course outline has a Quack Miranda Warning.

  30. 30
    cyberCMDR

    My mother got into Reiki, and was convinced that it worked. I made a lot of snide comments until she took me to task for not respecting her beliefs. After that, I let her teach me how to be a Reiki master. The core concept of this woo is that someone (I forget the name) had a key spiritual insight, and “saw” a bunch of symbols with mystical powers. One represented physical healing, another spiritual. There are a number of symbols, but one visualizes the appropriate symbol while feeling the flow of energy coming in through the top chakra on your head and out through your hands.

    The thing I found fascinating was that the hands become perceptibly warmer during this. This may be simply because of the physical contact (mutual warming), or perhaps there is a some form of autosuggestion that has a physical (vasodilation) manifestation. Either way, this effect provides feedback to the practitioner that they are doing “something”, which increases the credibility of the approach in their mind.

    The bottom line is that Reiki practitioners do believe this stuff, much in the same way people believe they have ESP because they count the times they guess right but ignore the times they are wrong. People can be easy to fool, but often the easiest one to fool is yourself.

  31. 31
    Adrienne

    This crap is easy money–we’ll never be rid of it.

  32. 32
    Anthony K

    As of now, America no longer goes into space. That’s for Russians, the Chinese, the Europeans, and wealthy dilettantes. Seriously, for the first time in 40 years (1961 I think) the United States does not have the ability to launch a human being into space.

    What does that say about the commitment to leading-edge science and engineering (because, regardless of the metaphysical benefits of human space exploration, the spin-off technologies from solving the immense problems associated with it are innumerable and enormously valuable).

    Don’t be so negatory, Hairhead.

    Sure, the Americans have lost the ability to put humans into space, but they’ve perfected the ability to put space into humans.

    Look at the Tea Party. Tons of space. Right between their ears.

    I think most would agree that the American idionautics program is unparalleled in its success.

  33. 33
    Rev. BigDumbChimp

    Which is weird, because I’ve found that it’s the other kind of 8-Ball that has the most magical effects—made my friend’s nasal septum completely disappear!

    It’s made my wallet and ability to discern lengths of time disappear before.

  34. 34
    cicely

    24 August 2011 at 1:06 pm
    My grandmother used to believe in some kind of special internal energy (the one that directs a little spinning crystal to indicate if your questions have the answer yes or no. I have no idea how that’s called).

    Looks like that would be radiesthesia, according to Wikipedia’s handy dandy list of methods of divinition.
    -

    And as for gemstones: I wonder how long it takes the firms that extract them to capitalise on this? If they haven’t already, that is.

    Well…The Husband and I lived for a year up in Detroit, a bit more than 20 years ago. We’d recently bought a rock tumbler and were keen to use it, so being new to the area, we let our fingers do the walking under the heading “Rock Shops”. The very first one we went to had a small side-room with rough material, but the main counter and shelves were dedicated to “Crystal Therapy” stuff. We were astonished. While we were there, a woman was talking to the clerk who told her, in apparent seriousness, that after a stone had worked for an individual for a while, they would “outgrow” it, and need to put that stone aside for a different one. TH and I agreed that this was indeed a nice little racket for preying on the gullible with expendable income.

    I can’t imagine that the money-making possibilities have become less obvious over these last 20 years to the more unscrupulous elements among gem dealers.
    -

    I don’t see her often enough to be able to subtly steer her toward better information, and it’s impossible to say to a friend, “This thing you’ve devoted your life to, and spend considerable time on, is utter crap.”

    At least while keeping the friendship. It goes without saying that the same is true of telling a friend that their religious observances are crap.
    -

  35. 35
    Michael Swanson

    Brownian says:

    I think most would agree that the American idionautics program is unparalleled in its success.

    If we would launch into orbit I’d agree with you.

  36. 36
    rob

    who cares about how NCLB has affected science education in America? it’s not like science and technology have ever given us anything we couldn’t get by praying to god.

    oh, wait. television let’s us watch televangelists! praise be to god and television!

  37. 37
    Michael Swanson

    Damn it! I wish I could make corrections!

    Brownian says:

    I think most would agree that the American idionautics program is unparalleled in its success.

    If we could launch them into orbit I’d agree with you.

  38. 38
    Glen Davidson

    A few crystals really do have amazing power on humans. Of course these tend to be crystals incorporating uranium or thorium.

    And no, don’t keep a large crystal of a uranium mineral in your pants’ pocket for good luck, guys.

    Glen Davidson

  39. 39
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    [a bit off topic]
    Thanks, cicely.

    That is one long list. It’s quite interesting. Apparently, divination can be done with all kinds of things, from old shoes to a boiled donkey’s head (poor donkey).

  40. 40
    itzac

    Re: NCLB

    Standardized testing, done periodically, is an excellent tool for educators to use, but NCLB did exactly the wrong thing with the results. Poor results should indicate where more education, manpower, and money is needed, not where money should be taken away.

  41. 41
    ChasCPeterson

    It’s only the crystals shaped like pyramids that really work.
    I thought everybody knew that.

  42. 42
    Markita Lynda, healthcare is a damn right.

    Oh, you mean the Woodstock plant in 2005.

    Paul Krugman wrote

    Maybe we should discount remarks from the president of the Toronto-based Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association, who claimed that the educational level in the Southern United States was so low that trainers for Japanese plants in Alabama had to use “pictorials” to teach some illiterate workers how to use high-tech equipment. …Just two years ago voters overwhelmingly rejected [the governor's] plea for an increase in the state’s rock-bottom taxes on the affluent, so that he could afford to improve the state’s low-quality education system. Opponents of the tax hike convinced voters that it would cost the state jobs….Canada’s other big selling point is its national health insurance system… since all Canadians get government-provided health insurance in any case, the additional auto jobs won’t increase government spending…But U.S. taxpayers will suffer, because the general public ends up picking up much of the cost of health care for workers who don’t get insurance through their jobs.

    Was Tennessee in the running for that, too?

  43. 43
    Loqi

    Stuff like this is why my friends and I refer to the marketing department as the “bullshit department.”

  44. 44
    Markita Lynda, healthcare is a damn right.

    If only the under-employed editors and technologists here could ditch that pesky self-respect, they too could make a living selling scented water and polished quartz.

    Actually, I think that’s what the schools are doing: they are mining the gullible sector of the population to subsidize their academic programmes.

  45. 45
    Blondin

    Healing crystals – crockoshite!

  46. 46
    cicely

    It’s only the crystals shaped like pyramids that really work.
    I thought everybody knew that.

    Now that’s just not true!

    It’s just that the pyramid-shaped ones totally work better. Pyramids=Egypt=Ancient Wisdom (with optional Atlanteans and/or Aliens).
    -

  47. 47
    Francisco Bacopa

    Don’t they have Leisure Learning for that sort of thing. It doesn’t belong in a place calling itself a college.

    And while we are telling stories about grandparents and woo; My mother was raised in a pretty woo filled environment, mostly 19th century style Spiritualism with a little early UFO stuff mixed in. It didn’t much take on my mom and I grew up a very scieniticly disposed young kid. My grandmother, with agreement from several of her friends almost had me convinced that the pointer of a ouija board moved by itself and was controlled by mystical forces in responses to questions. Keep in mind I had never seen a ouija board in my entire life. Like I said, I was a pretty scientific kid, so I understood the implications of mystical forces moving pointers, I wasn’t just going to file it in it’s own little compartment. This was world-view changing stuff. So, ouija boards got filed into the “potential entire world-view revising stuff to think about” file.

    But here’s the kicker: Less than two months later the old Bob Hope movie Ghostbreakers was on the afternoon movie. I saw these two people pushing something around on board on a table.

    “What are they doing?” I asked my mom.
    “Oh it’s a ouija board”

    “BUT THEY’RE TOUCHING IT. I THOUGHT IT WAS SUPPOSED TO MOVE BY ITSELF!”

    Never trusted my grandmother again after that.

  48. 48
    eric

    She assures students that she is also a teacher and practitioner of many other alternative healing methods

    Just as a rule of thumb, being able to be a ‘teacher and practitioner’ of a lot of X Y Zs should send a warning signal to people that those X Y and Zs are probably full of crap.

    In real medicine, people spend decades to learn how to treat a single subsystem or in some cases, a single organ. I wouldn’t trust someone who said they were a teacher and practitioner of heart surgery, neurosurgery, and dentistry. If a single person can master the multiple techniques of reiki AND cranial sacral therapy AND other alternative healing treatments, there must not be much to any of them.

    Which we already knew, but the point being is that the longer the list of special treatments someone claims they can do, the more likely it is you’re dealing with a snake oil salesman.

  49. 49
    Anthony K

    And no, don’t keep a large crystal of a uranium mineral in your pants’ pocket for good luck, guys.

    Right. Like I’m gonna wear a condom.

    [Pats pocket.] Ol’ Uri here’s protected me from producing any little Brownian Juniors so far, and I’m not about risk my luck now. Besides, I think he’s making me more virile in the process. Look!—yanks down ginch]—three testicles!

  50. 50
    Sastra

    barbarienne #25 wrote:

    I don’t see her often enough to be able to subtly steer her toward better information, and it’s impossible to say to a friend, “This thing you’ve devoted your life to, and spend considerable time on, is utter crap.”
    Suggestions, anyone?

    Maybe you could ask her if she thinks it’s possible that all the “energy stuff” isn’t as important to how reiki works as the “people stuff” — the warm and caring atmosphere that your friend provides. There are so many mental and emotional aspects to how we feel, etc. etc.

    If the “energy” stuff ISN’T that important — if it’s just a hook and the real significance is in the personal and psychological part of what she does — then ask her if she’d be willing to drop it. Because that tiny little part doesn’t seem to be true — and it could inhibit the genuine good she does.

    If, on the other hand, your friend thinks that the “energy stuff” is absolutely critical to reiki — and it really matters to her that it’s supported by science and evidence as well as her own experience — then ask her if she’d want to know if it wasn’t. How important is it? Does she care? Would she be willing to change her mind? Eager to do so?

    A “yes” response might give you an opening for a real discussion. A “no” response places her firmly in the closed-minded camp and allows you to drop the subject while on the high ground. Either way, you come across — or try to come across — as someone who is on her side, as a good person.

    But it’s tricky.

    If nothing else, you can let her know — subtly or not — that you find reiki “unconvincing.” If she tries to convince you, then she started it and can’t (well, shouldn’t) play victim later.

  51. 51
    René

    I urge everyone to send James their spare scare quotes. He must have run out of them.

  52. 52
    cicely

    *snortle!*

  53. 53
    Kagehi

    The thing I found fascinating was that the hands become perceptibly warmer during this. This may be simply because of the physical contact (mutual warming), or perhaps there is a some form of autosuggestion that has a physical (vasodilation) manifestation. Either way, this effect provides feedback to the practitioner that they are doing “something”, which increases the credibility of the approach in their mind.

    This is an autonomic response, specifically the direct opposite one from what you get in “spooky places”. In that later case, blood flow decreases, as a flight/fright response is triggered, and you get a sense of cold, which can include very cold hands (those being most effected by the drop in blood flow). So, when you do things that excite, rather than scare, you get a “warm” feeling. Sadly, the clueless and/or stupid don’t understand this, and thus attribute it to magical fields, or ghosts and goblins, respectively.

  54. 54
    cicely

    (That was for Brownian, BTW.)
    -

  55. 55
    k-dub

    I need me some science!

    So I will go home and read from the Oxford Anthology of Science Writing (R. Dawkins, ed.), which I recently found in a bookstore. Although I found it in the bargain bin, which is kind of sad when you think about it.

    Nonetheless, finding it at all made me happy. Almost as happy as P.Z.’s awesome use of semi-colons. I do love a good semi-colon use-case.

  56. 56
    robro

    Yeow! That makes NCLB a double-whammy success. Not only did Bush-baby and the Neolithic herders who put him in office gut education by turning it into bean-counting “accountability” but they wrecked science and math education while they were at it. Thus creating fertile ground for the true-believers to step into the gap with their deux ex machina de jour. Awesome! You might think it was planned that way. Note that the humanities and creative arts already didn’t matter. Who needs that stuff!? Besides, it might make somebody think.

  57. 57
    'Tis Himself

    And no, don’t keep a large crystal of a uranium mineral in your pants’ pocket for good luck, guys.

    99%+ of natural uranium is uranium-238, which is an alpha emitter. Sticking U-238 in your trouser pockets is safe, because the cloth of the pocket will stop alpha particles. It’s U-235, a neutron emitter, which is the really nasty stuff.

  58. 58
    Anthony K
    And no, don’t keep a large crystal of a uranium mineral in your pants’ pocket for good luck, guys.

    99%+ of natural uranium is uranium-238, which is an alpha emitter. Sticking U-238 in your trouser pockets is safe, because the cloth of the pocket will stop alpha particles.

    Right. Like I’m gonna wear pants without holes in the pockets.

  59. 59
    'smee

    Brownian says:

    And no, don’t keep a large crystal of a uranium mineral in your pants’ pocket for good luck, guys.

    99%+ of natural uranium is uranium-238, which is an alpha emitter. Sticking U-238 in your trouser pockets is safe, because the cloth of the pocket will stop alpha particles.

    Right. Like I’m gonna wear pants without holes in the pockets.

    We kinda assumed you had holes in your pockets… ’cause of the frequent and repetitive hand motion, and all…

  60. 60
    Josh

    But . . . but . . . the decline in education is the fault of the evil unions! I read it in a book about it that I saw and looked at!

  61. 61
    TGAP Dad

    Can we have a frank discussion now, as a society, on the value of properly-funded higher education? Maybe then colleges and universities can mitigate this type of taint, which has its origin in “Oh Noes, teh deficit!” (See also “read my lips… no new taxes,” “tax and spend libruls,” “drag it in the bathroom and drown it in the tub,” and “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”) Tea, anyone?

  62. 62
    Anthony K

    We kinda assumed you had holes in your pockets… ’cause of the frequent and repetitive hand motion, and all…

    Yep, I do find it comforting to hold and stroke Ol’ Uri in times of stress, like someone might rub a rabbit’s foot or a kombolói.

  63. 63
    Lycanthrope

    By offering the class, the college and its noncredit arm, CWCE, do not endorse the practice as science; we are simply responding to demand in the community for personal development courses such as this.

    NO. Don’t you DARE abdicate this responsibility. Proclaim all you want that you “do not endorse the practice as science”, but your actions speak louder than words, as well they should. And your actions say that you do endorse it.

    @eric, #48:

    And yet it’s always the alties who claim they treat the whole person, body and soul, as opposed to those evil allopaths who only see a bunch of organs and symptoms. Well shit, yeah, I bet it’s easy to think you’re treating the whole person when you don’t grasp how complicated the human body actually is!

  64. 64
    carolw

    Beatrice @ 39 – But did you ever see a Rubik’s cube as a tool of divination?
    A while back I picked up a little book called “The Oracle of Light” that claims to teach this obviously ancient skill. It’s a great little piece of 80′s ephemera. Maybe I need to hang out a shingle and corner the market on divination by cube. Damn my scruples, I just can’t do it!

  65. 65
    piranhaintheguppytank

    This must be why humankind didn’t invent medicine. Because we discovered we could heal ourselves with magic rocks.

    * * *

    Maybe Mr Coren and my university’s Center for Spirituality and Healing are being foresighted and wise. They’re cultivating the perfect curriculum for a generation of students who lack critical thinking skills, who know nothing about science, and just want to be pandered to with pseudoscience for the gullible.

    Foresighted and wise in the sense that otherwise all the Republicans would die off.

  66. 66
    Glen Davidson

    99%+ of natural uranium is uranium-238, which is an alpha emitter. Sticking U-238 in your trouser pockets is safe, because the cloth of the pocket will stop alpha particles.

    Two beta particles are emitted shortly after the alpha particle is. Not that you’d be getting much beta radiation even so. But then U-238 is safer than rich uranium ore, because the latter has plenty of daughter products, most of which are a lot more radioactive. U-238 decays and becomes the relatively long-lived U-234, and even its daughter product is fairly relatively long-live Th-230, so you have two fairly slowly decaying daughter stages at which it “stops.”

    It’s U-235, a neutron emitter, which is the really nasty stuff.

    It’s said to be more of a gamma emitter than U-238, which makes it worse. Still, not that much worse, and highly enriched U-235 is considered to be a problem for customs, since it’s not very radioactive compared with, say, Pu-239. But neutron emitter? Not really, so long as it’s under critical mass–and it had better be. Both isotopes spontaneously fission and release neutrons that way, but spontaneous fission rates are very low.

    Glen Davidson

  67. 67
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    A paper from JAMA where a 13-year-old refutes reiki/therapeutic touch. The practitioners can’t determine if it is a real body part or not…Maybe this “Master” should undergo the test before the class starts…

  68. 68
    Niblick

    Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Colleges all over the place are peddling this nonense…

    No, it doesn’t sound familiar: one is an actual, empirically-studied psychotherapeutic intervention, existing studies of which support an effect size of 0.5 (as compared to 0.33 for SSRI’s) and the other is a bit of woo invented by non-clinicians with no empirical support whatsoever that has been disproven by those studies that anyone bothered to do. You claim some familiarity with how science works, so this distinction shouldn’t be too subtle for you.

    Congratulations, though: after getting your ass handed to you in the other thread (and again right here), you dishonestly misrepresented the claims made for the intervention and then left the discussion–only to allude back to it, now, as if your statements there were not disproven. Why does this merit congratulations? Well, it’s sounding like you’ve converted to religion, and it’s considered polite to congratulate people after big decisions like that. You’re reasoning like a creationist, so I’m guessing you’ve become one.

    If it weren’t for my natural politeness, I’d admit that I’m actually very let down to see you abandon reason like that.

  69. 69
    Charlie Foxtrot

    Just read up on Cranio Sacral Therapy so I could add an informed comment to this discussion.
    The Wikipedia article is quite extensive and well referenced, I must say.
    Also interesting to note that “Craniosacral Therapy for babies” is one of the top suggested Google searches.

    So my comment re Craniocacral Therapy is…

    “I’ve got my head stuck in the cupboard!”
    “I can’t see anything!”
    “I can’t see anything!”
    “Hello!”
    “Ohhhh… my brain hurts!”
    “Sorry!”
    “Sorry, my brain hurts! My brain hurts!”

  70. 70
    harbo

    We have these courses in Australia too.
    Every small community college was turned into a “university” by an “education” Minister called Dawkins, a few years ago, and thus degrees in woo, tapestry and ballroom dancing have cheapened the “real” ones.
    We call them “Dawkins degrees”, And watch as our higher education exports achieve Junk Bond status.

    Also barbarienne @ 25 Why can’t you just say those words? All the woomiesters I have met have no hesitation to deride and pillory the “closed minded” scientific community. I say aim straight between the eyes.

  71. 71
    mikmik

    the course was designed to introduce students to the practice of crystal and mineral healing. By offering the class, the college and its noncredit arm, CWCE, do not endorse the practice as science;
    [...]
    …a type of alternative therapy that involves laying crystals or gemstones on the body. Each student will experience a crystal therapy session and get a really good idea about how it changes your energy and rebalances you.

    Sure endorsing that it works, though, unless “get a really good idea about how it changes your energy and rebalances you” is in reference to your bank account.

    BTW, I find that carrying an 8-ball of cobalt60 in your pocket(it is a very pleasing crystal to behold) is a very effective birth control plus it has the added benefit of increasing sensitivity of the birth controlled organs by promoting swelling and flushing(redness).

  72. 72
    Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD

    I used to sometimes hang a weight on a string and sometimes it would go back and forth, and sometimes it would circle. At no point was I under the delusion that it was actually in touch with any sort of cosmic woo. I’m fairly sure which way it went was due to subconscious flexing of muscles on my part depending on which way I expected it to go.

    I suspect the crystal on a string is a similar thing.

  73. 73
    Minnie The Finn, Fluffy Pink Bearer of Loose Morals

    We used to do the ring-on-a-string and hang it over someone’s pregnant belly to determine the sex of the child. Back&forth = boy, circle = girl.

    And you know what? We we’re right practically half the time!

  74. 74
    Minnie The Finn, Fluffy Pink Bearer of Loose Morals

    Ah, the rogue apostrophe season is here.

  75. 75
    desert froglet

    Harbo @71

    The ‘Dawkins Revolution’ was almost 25 years ago. It’s probably time to let go of the rage. (BTW, I don’t know of anyone who uses the term ‘Dawkins degree’, but, unlike me, you might move in circles both rarefied and possessed of elephantine memories.)

    The woo phenomenon is hardly restricted to former CAEs and Insititues of Technology. The Go8 are happy to peddle nonsense if there are dollars in it. Sydney Uni, for example, offers postgraduate units in complementary therapies. And as for the almost ubiquitous use of the term ‘wellness’ …

  76. 76
    drbunsen, le savant fous

    And what have you got against the noble craft of tapestry?

  77. 77
    Swans

    If only Americans wouldn’t be so scared of paying taxes, as is normal in developed countries…

  78. 78
    Snowshoe the Canuck

    I can’t get to Rhode Island, just too far away from Alberta. But I wonder if I can do the gemstone course via correspondance.

    I did some research and it seems if one uses the birthstone of an injured person, healing is both accelerated and enhanced. My daughter’s birthstone is diamond. Please send lots. She is starting rugby practice next week.

    It will have the added bonus of assisting in the reducing the trade balance.

  79. 79
    puppygod

    What is an enhanced healing? Is it when you lost your fingers and six regrow?

  80. 80
    cyberCMDR

    Perhaps we should call institutions that offer these courses, “Woo-niversities”.

Comments have been disabled.