I hear this argument so regularly that it might be worth analysing it (yet again) a bit closer.

It is used with the deepest of convictions by proponents of all sorts of quackery who point out that science does not know or explain everything – and certainly not their (very special) therapy. Science is just not sophisticated enough, they say; in fact, a few years ago, it could not even explain how Aspirin works. And just like Aspirin, their very special therapy – let’s call it energy healing (EH) for the sake of this post – does definitely and evidently work. There even is ample proof:

  • Patients get better after using EH, and surely patients don’t lie.
  • Patients pay for EH, and who would pay for something that does not work?
  • EH has survived hundreds of years, and ineffective therapies don’t.
  • EH practitioners have tons of experience and therefore know best.
  • They are respected by very important people and organisations.
  • EH is even reimbursed by some insurance companies.

You have all heard the argument, I’m sure.

How to respond?

The ‘proofs’ listed above are simply fallacies; as such they do not need more detailed discussions, I hope.

But how can we refute the notion that science is not yet sufficiently advanced to explain EH?

The simplest approach might be to explain that science has already tested EH and found it to be ineffective. There really is nothing more to say. And the often-quoted example of Aspirin does clearly not wash. True, a few decades ago, we did not know how it worked. But we always knew that it worked because we conducted clinical trials, and they generated positive results. These findings we the main reasons why scientists wanted to find out how it works, and eventually they did (and even got a Nobel Prize for it). Had the clinical trials not shown effectiveness, nobody would have been interested in alleged mechanisms of action.

With EH, things are different. Rigorous clinical trials of EH have been conducted, and the totality of this evidence fails to show that EH works. Therefore, chasing after a mechanism of action would be silly and wasteful. It’s true, science cannot explain EH, but this is not because it is not yet sophisticated enough; it is because there is nothing to explain. EH has been disproven, and waffling about ‘science is not yet able to explain it’ is either a deliberate lie or a serious delusion.

So far so good. But what if EH had not been submitted to clinical trials?

In such cases, the above line of argument would not work very well.

For instance, as far as I know, there is not a single rigorous clinical trial of crystal healing (CH). Does that mean that perhaps CH-proponents are correct when claiming that it does evidently work and science simply cannot yet understand how?

No, I don’t think so.

Like most of the untested alternative therapies, CH is not based on plausible assumptions. In fact, the implausibility of the underlying assumptions is the reason why such treatments have not and probably never will be submitted to rigorous clinical trials. Why should anyone waste his time and our money running expensive tests on something that is so extremely unlikely? Arguably doing so would even be unethical.

With highly implausible therapies we need no trials, and we do not need to fear that science is not yet sufficiently advance to explain them. In fact, science is sufficiently advanced to be certain that there can be no explanation that is in line with the known laws of nature.

Sadly, some truly deluded fans of CH might still not be satisfied and respond to our reasoning that we need a ‘paradigm shift’. They might say that science cannot explain CH because it is stuck in the straightjacket of an obsolete paradigm which does not cater for phenomena like CH.

Yet this last and desperate attempt of the fanatics is not a logical refuge. Paradigm shifts are not required because some quack thinks so, they are needed only if data have been emerging that cannot possibly be explained within the current paradigm. But this is never the case in alternative medicine. We can explain all the experience of advocates, positive results of researchers and ‘miracle’ cures of patients that are being reported. We know that the experiences are real, but are sure that their explanations of the experience are false. They are not due to the treatment per se but to other phenomena such as placebo effects, natural history, regression towards the mean, spontaneous recovery, etc.

So, whichever way we turn things, and whichever way enthusiasts of alternative therapies twist them, their argument that ‘SCIENCE IS NOT YET ABLE TO EXPLAIN’ is simply wrong.

4 Responses to Science cannot explain it yet, but my therapy does work!!!

  • Very true, but I fear that a ‘different or alternative science’ will sooner or later ‘explain’ these therapies – to such a degree that the public will believe them. Or let me put it differently, more and more fake scientists, journals etc are allowed to operate within the ‘traditional’ academic system where they are given free reign (because quacks are more than happy to fund their ‘research’) to pollute scientific literature with their mainly promotional research. And don’t we see this often. The scientist saying that there is no scientific evidence for therapy X which is then again refuted by the pseudoscientist who claims that there is ‘scientific’ evidence – and both provide peer reviewed scientific publications as evidence. Sure the one is rubbish whilst the other is not – but the point is, the public does not know the difference.

    The pseudoscientist is bound to win this battle simply because there is no money to be made (and hence no funding for Unis) in warning the public about ineffective (and dangerous) therapies. On the other hand, they sell stuff, any stuff, and some of that money flows back into the Uni coffers. Add to this that desperate people would rather believe someone who has something to offer, anything, (for their untreatable condition) as opposed to someone who has very little to offer, in terms of a cure, other than warning them not to use these miracle therapies.

    My little rant for today

  • According to Dr. rer. nat. Dr. phil. Walter von Lucadou head of the Parapsychologische Beratungsstelle des Landes Baden Wuerttemberg
    some very rare phenomena cannot be explained by natural sciences by now which only occur in the time of adolescence and only in situations of very strong supressed personal conflicts. They cannot be explained with the common models of natural sciences by now and they cannot be reproduced by conscious action or will. So if such situations are labelled as “energy” sitiuations they never can be used for EH healing because they only happen unconsciously in situations of very strong personal conflicts and cannot be reproduced if somebody says “please do it again” or “please show this to me”. The young persons don’t remember that something “supernatural”was happening in their enviroment.
    Knowing all of such circumstances it is clear that there will never be such a therapy like EH although there could be some very very rare so called placebo interactions but never ever a therapeutic healing approach which can be learned or done consciously everyday or reproduced for studies so forget about EH .,.

    • .. just to add … unfortunately different levels of consciousness are not differentiated in medical studies basically … but trance phenomena or sleeping or daydreaming have nothing to do with “energy” or “energy healing” and there is no “energy” in Chineses meridians because they don’t exist at all in nature. They are just an artificial construction for to learn some points. The precise translation of “meridian” is “hole-silk-thread” a thread made of silk to connect some points for needling which has nothing to do with “energy” and for which thetapeutic effects could not be shown by now …

      • ., so there are single situations and single phenomrna occuring spontaniously from time to time which might not be explained by the models used in natural sciences by now BUT that has nothing to do with any therapeutic SYSTEM or systematic therapeutic approach that is used regularly every day and definitely it has nothing to do with CAM and such rare situations and a lack of explanations for such phenomena cannot be used to “proof” any “incompetence” of natural sciences at all…

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