Articles

California Acupuncture Licensing: Sinking Lower in the Slime!

The sun shone down upon that putrescence,
As if to roast it to a turn,
And to give back a hundredfold to great Nature
The elements she had combined…
— Charles Baudelaire, The Carcase1

Trouble for the struggling California Acupuncture Board (Board) is far from being over.

After being taken to task by the California Senate less than a year ago for acting “as a venue for promoting the profession” rather than regulating it, now the Board is being petitioned for reform by license applicants after a major compromise in the California Acupuncture Licensing Examination (CALI). This is the exam that allows the graduates of state-approved training programs to practice acupuncture, herbalism and Asian massage in California. Physicians who use these modalities are regulated by the Medical Board.

Bear in mind that California is the only state in the nation that has its own acupuncture licensing examination. In other states where the profession is regulated, candidates have to take a battery of computer-based tests developed by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). The California test is designed by the Department of Consumer Affairs, and could be taken in English, Chinese or Korean. This means that an individual can get licensed and practice healthcare in California, without understanding a word of English!

The recent test compromise is so significant that the Office of Professional Examination Services (OPES)—an entity within the Department of Consumer Affairs which develops licensing examinations—was called to testify during the November 2012 Board meeting.

Bob Holmgren of OPES told the Board that following a tip, investigators discovered that test preparation seminars in the Los Angeles area were selling study guides that contained actual questions from former exams. How did this happen? Holmgren believes that a number of test takers have been memorizing questions, so that seminar organizers can reconstruct the whole examination—something that is in clear violation of Section 123 of Business and Professions Code. Holmgren called the level of accuracy of these study guides “shocking,” and added that the questions went back for years.

CAB Hearing

Bob Holmgren of OPES testified in Sacramento during the November 2012 Board meeting. The room was filled with students, school representatives and trade representatives.

Based on this finding, OPES disregarded the answers to the compromised questions in the August 2012 examination. As a result, there was a 30% drop in the passing rate of an exam that already had a low passing rate. A total of 439 candidates took the exam: 270 (61.5%) failed; 169 (38.49%) passed. A pass/ fail history of the exam shows these percentages to be at a record low.

It is not the first time that the State is dealing with cheating and corruption in its acupuncture licensing system. Back in 1980s, the chairman of the former acupuncture regulating agency (the Acupuncture Committee), Chae Woo Lew, was caught selling test questions for $10,000 to $20,000. Lew was sentenced to five years in prison. According to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, there may be over 100 acupuncturists involved in the licensing payoff scheme. Only a fraction of all the unqualified practitioners who may have become licensed with Lew’s alleged assistance were caught and prosecuted (Los Angeles Times, March 04, 1989).

Cheating and criminal behavior was a particular area of concern for the “Little Hoover Commission” (an independent oversight agency that investigates State government operations to improve efficiency, economy and service) in 2004. The Commission recommended that to prevent fraud, the responsibility of creating and administrating the licensing exam should be placed in the hands of an outside agency, preferably a national organization, such as NCCAOM.

The Hoover Commission’s policy recommendations and legislative proposals about acupuncture met stiff political opposition from the Board and professional organizations, and were never implemented.

However, on March 12, 2012, during the Sunset Review hearing, the California Senate Committee on Business, Professions and Economic Development brought up the Little Hoover Commission’s findings and expressed serious concerns about the ongoing administrative, educational, licensing and consumer protection issues that the Board has not been able to resolve for over a decade.

Added to this discontent and disconnect, is the political (and possibly legal) action by aggrieved license applicants who failed the last exam because of the removal of the comprised questions. A group of them operating under the name of CALE United Test Front (CTUF) has called upon the Board and the Dept. of Consumer Affairs to justify its recent 30% drop in the passing rate. They have also requested the institution of an exam that is “created, and administered utilizing professional methods, standards and industry input specifically from educators and acupuncturists to avoid less disconnect from exam content and what is being actually taught in the schools.”

Another group of applicants has hired an attorney who recently sent a letter to the Board, detailing the group’s concerns, in addition to charges of negligence if the Board does not respond to the test takers’ demands for the re-scoring of the August 2012 exam to a “customary 70% cut score.” He is also asking for greater transparency with respect to all processes associated with the creation, administration, and assessment of the exam.

Their attorney, Robert Sulnick, argues that the Board has a “fiduciary duty to ensure fair examinations,” and added that throughout its history, “independent oversight committees have identified breaches of fiduciary duty, identifying difficulties with the acupuncture examination (i.e. fraud and criminal charges).”

Notice that the referenced breaches of fiduciary duty that were discussed by several oversight committees were towards the people of California. Nowhere this failure to adequately protect the public is more evident than in the content of the licensing exam.

Indeed, since the Business and Professions Code Section 4926 defines the practice of acupuncture as being “subject to regulation and control as a primary health care profession,” the Board is therefore licensing traditional and folk healers so they can work as first-contact health care providers! And the licensing examination is a reflection of this regulatory lunacy.

In its current form, the exam does not assess the level of medical knowledge that provides the future practitioner with the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary to perform “primary health care.” To the contrary, the exam’s primary focus, and what is being taught in schools, is the practice of acupuncture and Asian Medicine, not “primary care,” as it is defined by the Institute of Medicine in Primary Care: America’s Health in a New Era (1996).

This immediately begs the following questions: how can individuals who do not have adequate competencies in the scientific basis of disease and evidence-based medicine, act as primary care providers? Don’t we have here an obvious disconnect between the regulation of acupuncture, and the reality of its teaching, licensing and practice? Isn’t this a legislative blunder that can negatively impact the public’s health and safety?

These are issues that the State oversight entities have actually brought to the Board’s attention in 2001, but have never been addressed–mostly due to political pressure by acupuncture organizations and training programs.

These influential training programs are by and large post-secondary vocational institutions existing as standalone schools. Some of them were actually founded as religious institutions, which exempted them from the usual post-secondary regulations. With student loan money pouring in, little oversight from the State, lax accreditation standards, and an easy pathway for international student visas, an acupuncture school is an easy start-up with big profit potentials. The key has been the sympathetic Board. Any regular attendee will tell you that at most Board meetings, the majority of attendees are school representatives or lobbyists looking after their interests by encouraging the status quo in the content of the exam and the regulation of acupuncture.

Regardless; the next exam is scheduled for February 14, 2013. According to the Board’s attorney, Spencer L. Walker, only after the completion of the cheating investigation and a review and evaluation by an independent expert, the Board will schedule this matter for discussion at a future Board meeting. A timeline for the investigation and discussion has not been set.

Meanwhile, countless Californians will continue to seek “primary care” from providers who do not have adequate training in scientific and evidence-based medicine. A few of these providers might even have obtained their license fraudulently. As for the wronged test-takers, their concerns seem unlikely to be addressed before the February 2013 exam. And it is almost a certainty that none of this convoluted mess will be cleaned up anytime soon, given that the Board has a long history of—as Robert Sulnick puts it–“kicking the can down the road.”

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not reflect the positions of the above mentioned individuals, agencies or organizations.

References:

1. Richard Herne Shepherd, Translations from Charles Baudelaire with a few original poems. (London: John Camden Hotten, 1869)

Posted in: Acupuncture, Politics and Regulation

Leave a Comment (79) ↓

79 thoughts on “California Acupuncture Licensing: Sinking Lower in the Slime!

  1. windriven says:

    “Physicians who use these modalities are regulated by the Medical Board.”

    “Meanwhile, countless Californians will continue to seek “primary care” from providers who do not have adequate training in scientific and evidence-based medicine.”

    Am I alone in finding the irony in the juxtaposition of these two statements hysterical? In fact Ben Kavoussi’s entire piece today is really funny. I was especially amused by the apparent fact that the pass rate for the acupuncture exam is 38%. (No you fool, you must twirl the needle to the left when treating athlete’s foot! Bu hao, bu hao!) I wonder what the pass rate for California’s Certified Alchemical Engineering exam is?

    _

    On a serious note: “This means that an individual can get licensed and practice healthcare in California, without understanding a word of English!” This is not as outlandish as it might seem at first blush. Acupuncture is much esteemed in the Asian American community, many of whom still speak the ancestral language. Many Asians in my experience, even those who turn immediately to ‘allopathic’ medicine when faced with a serious medical condition, still embrace (and defend vigorously) acupuncture for aches, pains and a variety of vague conditions.

  2. daijiyobu says:

    Speaking of regulation and rogues, North of California in Oregon, the naturopath crowd, a large portion of whom also are L.Ac., an article recently appeared titled

    “Measure Would Target Rogue Naturopaths”

    (see http://www.bizjournals.com/portland/news/2013/01/31/measure-would-target-rogue-naturopaths.html ) which is about a new law that aims at:

    “naturopaths who are caught earning money through fraud or deception [etc.].”

    Oh, the irony because NCNM in Portand’s School of Classical Chinese Medicine tells us TCM is “a highly sophisticated medical science and a deeply spiritual art form”

    (see http://www.ncnm.edu/academic-programs/school-of-classical-chinese-medicine/about-the-medicine.php )

    which to me is like telling the falsehood / irrationality / absurdity ‘science subset nonscience’.

    Like acupuncturists, since naturopaths’ central narrative / modus operandi is a fairy tale

    (see http://www.ncnm.edu/academic-programs/school-of-naturopathic-medicine/about-the-medicine.php )

    how can ANYTHING be objectively regulated if their baseline is, basically, not factually true?

    Seems to me L.Ac.s and N.D.s are then merely regulating deviance from some doctrinal and basically-factually-wrong core.

    I think this NCNM page says it well, if even accidentally

    (see http://www.ncnm.edu/about-ncnm/getting-to-know-ncnm.php ):

    “the study of classical Chinese medicine involves expanding one’s concept of science.”

    To quote Dr. Spaceman from 30 Rock, “science is whatever we want it to be”

    (see http://www.hulu.com/watch/95442 ).

    -r.c.

  3. Like others here, I have tried to have a rational discussion abt what empirical evidence would look like for acupuncture, and have gone down the rabbits hole of their logic of discounting “Western” scientific paradigms, uniqueness of each pt., etc.

    Yet here the acupuncturists agree that some concept exists – knowledge of acupuncture theory and practice – and that it can be reliably measured on an interval scale, and that this measurement is reliable and consistent across candidates.

    Maybe the CTUS should argue that acupuncture competency is unique for each candidate, so the board should just ask whether there is any indication anywhere of a pleasant impression from this candidate and that this person believes the candidate provides clinical benefit worth the hourly rate, and the license be based on those two criteria.

  4. Eugenie Mielczarek says:

    Ben, Thank you and the respondents for this very informative and useful post. NIH has supported naturopathic and oriental medicine schools –the total funding 2000-2012 is about $8 million.
    Eugenie Mielczarek

  5. Ben Kavoussi says:

    @ windriven:

    There are over 20,000 acupuncturists in the US (10,000 in California!), and most of them do not have adequate training in scientific and evidence-based medicine.

    The fact that a portion these practitioners do not speak English is not in the best interest of the public, even if the practitioners do miracles with their little needles. Not speaking English prevents proper communication with the patient, with other healthcare providers and with emergency services — and yes things go wrong. Pneumothorax secondary to acupuncture is rare, but it happens.

    Besides, how can HIPAA be properly implemented and enforced in another language?

    The mission of a regulatory agency is not to protect and promote something that is “much esteemed in the Asian American community.” It is to protect the public in general.

    This issue has nothing to do with being Asian or speaking one of the Asian languages. This is about not speaking English. If a healthcare professional speaks French only, he or she should not be practicing “primary care” in anywhere in the US, neither.

  6. Ben Kavoussi says:

    @ daijiyobu

    Thank you for your comments; this fuzzy attitude attitude towards what is science is mostly due to postmodernism and its attitude towards science, that it is a narrative, a language game…

    Nonsense.

  7. Ben Kavoussi says:

    @ Eugenie Mielczarek

    Thank you for your comments, I didn’t know that NIH has supported oriental medicine schools! Can you kindly elaborate on this?

  8. Ben Kavoussi says:

    @ MedsVsTherapy,

    Thank you. When acupuncturists talk about scientific or “Western medicine,” they actually have no idea what they are talking about. Most of them do not have a biomedical education beyond high school. Except, those who are foreign-trained MDs who could not pass the the US credentialing exams and have become acupuncturists just to earn a living in the US.

    California’s licensing exam is a mockery of healthcare competency measurement, and should be entirely reformed or totally discontinued.

  9. cervantes says:

    Sorry if I’m missing something here but what exactly would be the content of an acupuncture licensing exam and why would I care if somebody could pass it or not? Presumably it would be all about the locations of specific meridians and how the chi is flowing and where in which meridian I should insert the needle to heal your liver or whatever. Since it’s all bullshit to begin with what difference does it make if a practitioner knows the bullshit or not?

  10. Janet says:

    Three words kept slamming through my head while reading your post (and were pretty well echoed by daijiyobu and windriven).

    TOOTH FAIRY SCIENCE

    I cannot decide whether to laugh or cry.

    It’s like sitting around drawing up “regulations” for preventing homeopathic overdoses. What difference does it make what the test questions are, who passes or no?. Those who pass–even without cheating–are no more “qualified” for anything than those who failed. There is nothing to qualify FOR. The Emperor really is totally naked.

    I drove past a rather prominent acupuncture “clinic” today that opened a couple of years ago and noticed that it is now a “Wellness Center”. I’m pretty certain that they still do acupuncture, and the new sign probably only means that they have expanded the woo menu. These place being sanctioned by licensing bodies only makes it that much harder to talk sense to a shruggie, let alone the New Age-y types.

    —–

    I hope Eugenie M. gets back to us with more detail as I was also intrigued by her post.

  11. Quill says:

    As a resident of California, how I wish I could have been surprised by this article! Alas, alack, though, no. I agree with Janet: how he heck can you regulate pixie dust or this “practice” of acupuncture? It’s all based on the concept of chi and meridians and of course as has been shown, there is nothing to see: no one can find them. It’s not like regulating something invisible to the human eye (like electricity often is) but something no human has been able to point to and show anyone else.

    I supposed the “next step” for acupuncture is to start randomly saying “Quantum!” and “Non-locality!” get John Steward Bell to start a good graveyard spin.

    Meanwhile, back in California, we’ll be spending money to regulate that which does not exist. Janet? I need some extra income — you want to help me setup a Board of Faery & Fabulous Creatures Regulation? We can protect the public from naughty bad fairies, bridge trolls and certify Licensed Troll Catchers (L.T.C.). The exams should be most fun and resemble some of the scenes in Twain’s “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.” We could even hold the meetings in Disneyland inside the Magic Castle — can’t think of a more appropriate venue.

  12. DevoutCatalyst says:

    Think of the human costs, the thousands of hours of study required to flunk these exams. Even if you pass you failed.

  13. Ben Kavoussi says:

    @ cervantes

    Good point, but here’s the issue: The legislator in CA and many other states has already let the proverbial camel’s nose under the tent, and we already have Board’s of acupuncture in most States. Revoking the non-physician practice of acupuncture will require legislative action and will meet very stiff resistance from legislators who have sympathy for the profession or have constituents with deep pockets to buy their vote. This is what happened to the Little Hoover Commission’s recommendations. Thousands of acupuncturists called their representatives, and busloads of them headed for Sacramento in 2004 to demonstrate in front of the State Capitol.

    In addition, the CA Senate specifically told the Board in 2012 that scope of practice issues should not be handled by the Board. They are a legislative issues. The Board has to protect the public, making sure that practitioners do not spread infectious disease, and do not cause harm, sticking needles in dangerous places.

    Therefore, all we can do is now is damage control, by making sure that acupuncturists have a minimum common competency to detect dangerous conditions and refer their patients to proper providers. I suspect that in the long-run the same thing that happened to osteopaths in the 1970s will happen to acupuncturists: the AMA intervened and forced DOs to have a set minimum competency in biomedical sciences, to the point where DOs now have the same exact didactic 4-years that MDs do, with some additional (and often optional) training in traditional osteopathy.

  14. Ben Kavoussi says:

    @ Quill

    Good point: they actually do already talk about quantum: here’s some some mind-boggling nonsense in a book called “Between Heaven and Earth” by Harriet Beinfield & Efrem Korngold (page 4):

    Chinese medicine echoes the logic of quantum physics, which suggests that we exist in a relative, process-oriented universe in which there is no “objective” world separable from living subjects. The essential questions cannot be resolved by measuring static “things”; rather, answers become stories about interactions and relationships. Which this paradigm contradictions are not only sanctioned but prevail, and truth is purely contextual. In contrast with our conventional Western tendency to draw sharp lines of distinction, Chinese though does not strictly determine the boundaries between rest and motion, time and space, mind and matter, sickness and health.

  15. windriven says:

    @Ben Kavoussi

    “The fact that a portion these practitioners do not speak English is not in the best interest of the public, even if the practitioners do miracles with their little needles.”

    I fear that I haven’t made myself clear. I do not under any circumstance believe that acupuncture should be licensed as if it were a meaningful medical art. I was also not arguing that those performing medical or pseudomedical procedures need not speak the de facto language of the country they are in – for all the reasons you mention. My point was that for many Asian-Americans, even those who seek real medical care for real ailments, acupuncturists and TCM herbalists represent a link to their ancestral culture and the failure to speak English does not represent an impediment for them but perhaps strengthens the association with the old culture.

  16. Ben Kavoussi says:

    @ windriven

    Thank you for the clarifications and sorry about the confusion. Yes, you are right, there is a cultural element here that needs to be discussed and I am glad you brought it up.

    There is also a strong element of “Occidentalism,” meaning fantasies and stereotypes about the Western world, science and technology (read “Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of Its Enemies” by Ian Buruma, Avishai Margalit). It happens that these fantasies and stereotypes — as the Korean journalist and skeptic Uiwon Hwang points out — have been tremendously fueled by some westerner thinkers. The most classical example is Jean-Jacques Rousseau’ 1750 book “Discourse on the Arts and Sciences,” in which is a manifesto for ignorantism.

    Ethnic and cultural politics, Occidentalism, plus consumerism in healthcare are all responsible for this regulatory mess, that makes healthcare based on Bronze-Age ideas possible!

  17. Quill says:

    @ Ben Kavoussi: First, I forgot to thank you for the article. In a rational universe would be a good lead at The Onion. Second, >__<. I should have looked up things first before I speculated on the next step for acupuncture. It seems not only are they already Quantum-sfuffing their speculations but also using weirdly cramped, old-Orientalist notions about things which they also do not understand. I looked over at Amazon.com for the book and note its front-cover endorsement by Deepak Chopra, that the authors are L.Ac.'s, and in the forward they gin up this gem:

    We have fused Chinese theory with outlooks from Western psychology for the purpose of transcending our cultural practice of isolating physiology from psychology so that we can begin to knit together the fracture that splits body from mind.

    They can fuse, knit and mangle physical metaphors over whatever they like but if this is any indication of the thinking to come I think I’d prefer a good gin & tonic.

  18. Ben Kavoussi says:

    @ Quill

    Thank you for your kind words. I am actually working on a post about quantum healing, Chopra and also Fritjof Capra, and would love to include any references or ideas you have about this quantum-stuffing phenomena. I will add them as your contributions.

  19. Janet says:

    @Quill
    I have been looking for a partner to set up a Phrenology practice–and of course we will need our own Board of Phrenology–and we’ll have to make up some exams too. I used to think of that as an Onion-type of joke, but if acupuncture can make it, why not the study of Head Bumps? A bit of marketing, a few busloads of people to Sacramento, PRESTO! A new “treatment paradigm”! There must be some way to fit Quantum into it as well?

    @BK
    I don’t quite get why California pols roll-over-and-play-dead because a few busloads of quacks lobby them? I don’t deny it, just don’t get why they would be so concerned over upsetting these people? I think it’s because most of them are just as ignorant as the needlers and truly feel they are acting in the interest of “freedom”. They need to hear from some of their other constituents.

    So….how many busloads of skeptics can we muster, my friends? Next time this happens, we need a counter-demonstration. We cannot let these legislators get the impression that the busload of quacks is the only voice in the room. I’m going to bring this up to my local group. Enough sitting in a bar listening to the choir, we need to be heard at these meetings! I will contact the Board of Licensing (or whatever it is–will have to find out) here in Wisconsin and see what the agenda is for a start. It’s time to do more than read blogs!

  20. Narad says:

    There must be some way to fit Quantum into it as well?

    Phrenology? Invoke the Fermi surface. Nobody will ever know the difference.

  21. boogafish says:

    You bring up a good point regarding testing in foreign languages; however, you have to remember that California is a completely different culture than most anywhere else. There are practitioners, for instance, who solely practice in Chinatown and solely see Chinese-speaking patients. Why force them to see an English speaking practitioner for their health care? I would say, though, that the board ought to seriously consider forcing Korean or Chinese speaking practitioners who have taken their licensing exam in another language to identify that they’ve done so in all advertisements, on their door, on business cards, etc, just so English-speaking patients can make the best choice for them.

    But really, if you want a serious discussion on matters like this, I suggest you drop the xenophobic and culturally imperialistic attitude. You raise good points, but when you dismiss it as mideval and unscientific, you come across as an arrogant and ignorant pseudo-intellectual. Do you not find it remarkable that Chinese medicine, as a system, has existed for thousands of years? Do you not find it remarkable that in China when entire towns were being wiped out with plague the great Chinese doctor Zhong Zhangjing recorded the various levels of illness people would experience as a pathogen progressed and was able to distribute this information, called the Treatise on Epidemic Febrile Disease, and save entire villages from being wiped out? Contrast that with the what happened in Western civilization with the bubonic plague. Are you not humbled that the first surgeon was not from the West, but rather was a “mideeevi’l acupuncturist” named Hua Tuo 2,000 years ago? When Western doctors were faced with eclampsia and women were dying postpartum left and right, Chinese doctors were treating it with–yes, acupuncture and “mideeeevi’l herbs” like musk and borneol. When Western Medicine was performing full hysterectomies as a routine for any gyn complaint, Chinese Medicine was curing cysts, fibroids, endometriosis, etc with herbs and acupuncture.

    Today, trained medical doctors treat things like flus and sinus infections (which even the CDC says is almost always viral) with antibiotics, whereas Chinese Medicine is able to offer complete recovery with antiviral herbs. Antibiotics have become the new cure all snake-oil, and this is why people are choosing to have their PCP be an acupuncturist..the same goes for the people of China. They have the choice between Western-style biomedicine or TCM at any major hospital and they routinely choose TCM for almost all their complaints. That should say something.

    I admit that the terminology seems archaic, but if you examine something like “wind-dampness in the joints” you find a considerable amount of wisdom contained in it. First, it allows for the subjective experience to be validated–people often complain their joints act up when the rain changes, etc, and this is a way of recapturing the poetic feelings of both disease and health experience, which is important–”objective” and reductionistic disease labeling like “rheumatoid arthritis” is cold, distant, and boring. Second, it allows for insights into the treatment process: people with dampness ought not to eat dampening foods, and science is only now catching up to the fact that many of the “dampening foods” Chinese Medicine has identified– such as dairy and nightshades–cause inflammation. The Chinese have been ahead of the curve in so many areas it would blow your mind. They talked about how the kidneys governed the bones and were the mother of blood production, and were scoffed at by people like yourself until the discovery of erythropoietin.

    Anyway, I really don’t want to chastise you too much because you do raise valid concerns and do make good points. Overall, though, you need to know that your piece came across as wreaking of cultural bias, and it makes it hard to take any of your good points seriously. If you really want to get your point across effectively, I would suggest that next time you write on the subject of acupuncturists you first study more into the history of Chinese Medicine, then write it from a perspective that considers that there are people in this world who experience something in this system of healthcare that they do not, and will never experience in biomedicine, due to its inherent reductionistic and materialistic nature, and they as human beings living in a free society they ought to have the free will to make their choice.

  22. Ben Kavoussi says:

    @ boogafish

    Xenophobic and culturally imperialistic attitude?! Wreaking of cultural bias?! Have seen my last name? I am a Turkmen; I was born in Central Asia and immigrated to the US in my 20s.

    You do not chastise me at all. I have a degree in acupuncture and a current license. So, I pertinently know what I am talking about. Would you like to see my degree and the license?

    I also know the level of fraud involved in this profession, because I have seen it many times with my own eyes!

    Concerning the 2000 or 3000 year-old fallacy: acupuncture with fine needles as we know today is a modern invention. The ancient books that you are talking about are manuals of lancing and bloodletting. You should read these posts:

    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/acupuncture-and-fascial-planes-junk-science-and-wasteful-research/

    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/oriental-medicine-a-tall-tale-of-outdated-lore

    I hope you appreciate the unsanitary conditions under which “wind-heat” is removed in the video, somewhere in Asia – my native continent – or perhaps right here in the US!

  23. Harriet Hall says:

    @boogafish,

    You have some of your facts wrong. Especially about the effectiveness of Chinese medicine and its popularity. Modern Chinese overwhelmingly seek scientific “Western” medicine; the only ones who choose traditional Chinese treatments are some of the elderly and those who can’t afford anything else.
    As for the ancient wisdom fallacy, astrology is more ancient than acupuncture. Do you believe astrology “works”?

  24. Ben Kavoussi says:

    @ Harriet Hall

    Thank you for bring this issue up: as you know, pre-scientific medicine both in Asia and in the West was entirely based on astrology. Do you know where Michel de Nostredame (1503–1566), also known as “Nostradamus,” got his training in astrology? He got it at the University of Medicine of Montpelier, in France!

    Here are some examples of astrology in our current medical language:
    - the word “influenza” means “influence” in Italian and originally referred to the malefic influence of the heavens on health
    - a midsagittal plane is a plane that goes through the region that was thought to influence by Sagittarius, the groin in occurrence.
    - cancer means crab and refers to the malefic influence of a zodiac with the same name, etc.

    The same thing applies to Chinese medicine:

    For instance, in the 17th-century medical manuscript by Yang Jizhou (杨继洲) called the Zhenjiu Dacheng (针灸大成), the medical and astrological narratives are inseparable. This work, which is translated as the “Great Compendium of Acupuncture and Moxibustion,” describes a medical gaze that is not directed towards the body and its anatomy, but towards the Heavens and astrology. The Zhenjiu Dacheng and other pre-scientific manuals of medicine in China are not exploratory guides about anatomical structures; they are manuals of medical astrology. This is why the original designations of the principal meridians (e.g., tae yang, jue yin) represent the angular position (hour angle) of the Sun.

  25. Ben Kavoussi says:

    @ Harriet Hall

    And here’s an acupuncturist-astrologist operating out of Colorado:

    http://www.spiritpathacp.com/Astrology.html

    The practitioner was “trained and certified in multiple disciplines ranging from acupuncture to Reiki to Chinese herbal medicine and nutrition.”

    You get a “30+ minute astrology reading only for $1/minute.”

    What a bargain!

  26. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    There are practitioners, for instance, who solely practice in Chinatown and solely see Chinese-speaking patients.

    That does not remove the state’s obligation to ensure safe (and ideally effective) medical interventions. Is it OK for an New York-living Italian to be defrauded in a Ponzi scheme if they don’t speak English? It would seem less racist to have a single standard for all citizens, rather than treating Chinese-Americans differently.

    I suggest you drop the xenophobic and culturally imperialistic attitude. You raise good points, but when you dismiss it as mideval and unscientific, you come across as an arrogant and ignorant pseudo-intellectual.

    Once again, you appear to be asking for a double-standard, one for English, white or western people, and another for Chinese, Asian or oriental people. If acupuncture works, it works. If it’s safe, it’s safe (or has a reasonable risk-benefit profile). If it is based on reality, it is based on reality. Arguing for two standards for empirical demonstration of results seems far more xenophobic, culturally imperialist, arrogant, pseudo-intellectual and above all racist since it divides people into different groups and argues for different standards for each group. No matter how old information is, if it is empirically valid, you can demonstrate it. While Chinese scholars may have come up with more effective ways of controlling disease than their peers 1,000 years ago, their knowledge and practices have since been surpassed by science. Not by “western” science, not by “white” science, not by “European” science, but by science, which can be practiced by anybody following the appropriate methods.

    I’ve never understood the “only white people can be racist” mindset. I’m pretty sure Chinese foreign policy in centuries past was based on cultural snobbery that viewed itself as the centre of the universe (i.e. the “middle” part of “the Middle Kingdom”) and all others as barbarians.

    Today, trained medical doctors treat things like flus and sinus infections (which even the CDC says is almost always viral) with antibiotics, whereas Chinese Medicine is able to offer complete recovery with antiviral herbs.

    This is what’s known as a false dilemma – since doctors treat viral infections with antibiotics, Chinese medicine must work. Untrue. Those herbs can be tested for their antiviral properties, and if they actually have such properties, will become part of the medical standard of care. Merely asserting they work isn’t the same thing as proving it.

    if you examine something like “wind-dampness in the joints” you find a considerable amount of wisdom contained in it. First, it allows for the subjective experience to be validated–people often complain their joints act up when the rain changes, etc, and this is a way of recapturing the poetic feelings of both disease and health experience, which is important–”objective” and reductionistic disease labeling like “rheumatoid arthritis” is cold, distant, and boring.

    Science is precise, not poetic. Science built on previous observations until they were transcended; it did not discard past clinical descriptions of diseases, it validated and extended them until more precise and correct descriptions were available. TCM has not moved out of this, it is medicine in a bottle, preserved against change.

    I’d rather have a “boring” label that leads to a treatment that reduces or eliminates my symptoms than a poetic one that means I’m basically waiting for my body to get better on its own.

    Second, it allows for insights into the treatment process: people with dampness ought not to eat dampening foods, and science is only now catching up to the fact that many of the “dampening foods” Chinese Medicine has identified– such as dairy and nightshades–cause inflammation. The Chinese have been ahead of the curve in so many areas it would blow your mind. They talked about how the kidneys governed the bones and were the mother of blood production, and were scoffed at by people like yourself until the discovery of erythropoietin.

    Question – when real medicine was introduced into China, what happened to the life expectancy? And again, while Chinese medicine might have been ahead in the past (itself a questionable assumption and really only of historical interest), real medicine is currently surpassing it with evidence and treatments that are faster, more precise, and work for everyone.

    The history of Chinese thought and science is fascinating, ironically one brought to modern awareness by Joseph Needham (a Brit) when China was far below Europe and the United States in terms of medical and scientific progress. Hopefully the world and all its myriad races can move beyond things like nationalism, skin colour, hair colour and cultural inheritance to appreciate that we all live on the same planet that obeys the same laws for everyone, and we can stop measuring ourselves in terms of what our ancestors did.

    Anyway, I really don’t want to chastise you too much because you do raise valid concerns and do make good points. Overall, though, you need to know that your piece came across as wreaking of cultural bias, and it makes it hard to take any of your good points seriously.

    Two points:
    1) My cultural bias leads me to point out you spelled “reeking” incorrectly
    2) You might consider the cultural bias your comment reeks of, which is more like nationalistic nostalgia for a time in which you were never alive. Yes, China was more advanced than much of the world 600 years ago. That has changed, and perhaps you might consider broadening your appreciation of this.

    If you really want to get your point across effectively, I would suggest that next time you write on the subject of acupuncturists you first study more into the history of Chinese Medicine, then write it from a perspective that considers that there are people in this world who experience something in this system of healthcare that they do not, and will never experience in biomedicine, due to its inherent reductionistic and materialistic nature, and they as human beings living in a free society they ought to have the free will to make their choice.

    Penicillin cures all patients with non-resistant Staphylococcus infections, irrespective your knowledge of history or cultural ancestry. A Halsted mastectomy will cure breast cancer similarly, as will the more developed lumpectomy and radiation that is the standard. Vaccination works at similar rates irrespective race or culture.

    Reductionism has a wonderful way of reducing things to the most relevant elements, and using those as levers to improve the world in extraordinarily effective ways. It led to the communications revolution which permits anyone with an internet connection to find out what the latest advances in science and medicine are. The gestalt impressions of “holism” allows too few variables to be controlled, and stalled progress for much of human history. Reductionism is also only one part of science, interactionism allows those reduced variables to be re-assembled into a truer picture of reality. Certainly TCM’s spurious invocation of elements, energies and astrology, none of which exist, isn’t very helpful these days. They’re still debating whether meridians are points of electrical resistance, connective tissue plane joins or simply the deluded imaginings of a prescientific age.

    Please, tell me again how modern science is racist because it doesn’t give a high enough place to the musings of a single culture.

  27. Ben Kavoussi says:

    @ WilliamLawrenceUtridge

    Thank you very much for summarizing what is fundamentally wrong with all CAM, including Chinese medicine: the advocacy of ignorance in the name of tradition and cultural inheritance. I see it specially in my own community of Central-Asians where people born in the US have this fantasies about ancestral culture, and every time someone from outside the community criticizes anything in that culture, people get offended and defensive, and utter out nonsense xenophobia and imperialistic attitudes. Every time I talk about Asian medicine, I get this kind of knee jerk reaction.

    I often hear this narrative from New-Agers also. They usually do not have any training in science and medicine, often they do not know anything about the history of medicine in general — even less about the history of medicine in the Far-East. They talk about a legendary Oriental medicine that is the mere fabrication of their fantasies. They have gathered a set of romantic and almost Goethean ideas about nature and natural healing, under the label of Chinese medicine, which has nothing to do with the history of medicine in the Far-East.

  28. welxquzme says:

    Boogafish relies on many of the same old tired arguments that have been used for decades to define the TCM folk medicine. Thousands of years old? Highly debatable. Chiropractors like to quote Hippocrates as a foundational source for subluxation. TCM has lasted that long? Sun Yat Sen – Mr Modern Medicine in China – outlawed TCM in the early 20th century. Mao brought TCM back to fill the provinces with so-called “barefoot doctors” because the lack of clinical workers was not only a national deficit it was politically dangerous. When TCM was reborn it was reconceptualized with a politically correct backbone. From Yellow Emperor to Red Dictator.

    My point? The thousands of years boogafish refers to is an historical fallacy. TCM has changed more often than Joan River’s face. Consider that when TCM gained a toe-hold in the USA it morphed once more, replete with New Age mystery and shiny needles that did not exist hundreds of years ago much less thousands.

    What is TCM and how does it relate to acupuncture? It is an imagined back door to getting to claim one is a physician. Pathetic. As though this is all it takes to earn the big bux. In Calif graduates of AOM “schools” that pass the licensing exam are acupuncturists. The California Acupuncture Licensing Act specifically segregates the AOM/EA/OM/TCM from acupuncture. The law reads “art and science of Asian medicine through the practice of acupuncture.” The remainder of the statute only refers to acupuncture. The limits of the scope of practice are needling, moxi and cupping.

    For a “medicine that is thousands of years old” what the heck is it? A modality or a system of medicine? The legislators who wrote the law make it clear acupuncture is a modality. The damp wind, running piglets and triple burners are add-ons that make for interesting history in the development of healthcare and, unfortunately, are used as “arguments” for licensees who want to pretend they are “physicians.” Boogahish will next argue that TCM has its own “language of health” comprehensible only to those who study TCM. Good thing Chinese medicine can cure most diseases because without having been trained in “western” medicine and without the language skill to make a referral the patient is pretty much stuck with that particular TCM practiitoner. Yeah. That makes sense.

  29. pharmavixen says:

    My first foray into skepticism was met with an attack from another member of the message board accusing me of racism. All I did was repeat Dawkins’ line, that there’s no such thing as “alternative” medicine, and this person cannonballed in the thread in a state of foam-flecked rage, saying I was discounting all culturally-specific healing traditions and therefore had to be racist. At the time, I was completely boggled by this person’s logical leap, making a weak rebuttal. But accusations of “Western imperialism” appear to be a popular technique for attempting to shut down discussions. And it does work; if someone makes a complaint and also claims to be a person of colour and, say, a psychiatric survivor, there are those white people whose default setting is feelling personally responsible for the collective sins of Caucasians everywhere (granted, these are legion), and can’t help but grovel, apologizing for the white privilege that clouded their judgement.

    I’m on a mailing list that sends me Health Canada alerts, warnings and advisories. One of the most common alerts I get regards medicines from China that contain undeclared pharmaceuticals such as furosemide, clobetasol, warfarin, antibiotics, sildenafil (Viagra), various antihypertensives, etc. So if TCM is so effective, why do they keep sneaking into these products secret ingredients manufactured according to reductionist Western standards?

  30. Ben Kavoussi says:

    @ welxquzme

    Excellent points! Acupuncture is indeed just a modality; not a philosophy, as it has become.

    What saddens me most is that fact that these license applicants were wronged 3-fold:

    (1) they now have to retake the test, incurring out of pocket expenses, just because a few cheated.
    (2) even if they pass the test, there is no employment waiting for them. A 2010 study by Stumpf et al. indicated that “over the past decade, 50% of the licensed acupuncture (LAc) workforce is working less than 30 hr weekly; 50% are earning less than $50,000 on average.”
    (3) therefore, 50% these license holding “primary care” providers must drive cabs or sell shoes to pay back their student loans. I can already see them cussing the big pharma and culturally imperialistic attitudes, while they are picking up customers at the airport or putting shoes back on the shelf.

    People are lured by schools into this profession with the promise of becoming a primary care provider. These schools then endocrine them to utter out garbage about the reductionist and materialistic nature of conventional medicine every time someone points out their ignorance about primary care.

    The only word I find to describe this lunacy is “cult.”

  31. Ben Kavoussi says:

    @ pharmavixen

    Very true: Chinese patent medicines contain pharmaceuticals, simple because the Chinese are not truing to do alternative medicine. Their goal is to provide very cheap medicines for 1.3 billion people. They mix whatever they have on hand: herbs, animal parts, pharmaceutics, minerals, etc. The result is a tea-pill that costs less than a dollar. Its only in the West that Chinese patent medicines became alternative medicine!

    As I told welxquzme, I think I finally found a word for boogafish and co.: “cult.” This is truly a cult: they have a doctrine (TCM), they think that they have found the “truth,” They think their potions and rituals have magical powers, they believe in a worldwide conspiracy against them, they feel persecuted, they have gurus with dubious credentials (think of Ted Kaptchuk), and they accuse everyone else of being intolerant, culturally biased, imperialist, racist, etc.

    Now that I think of it, in a way, they might have a point: there is a worldwide conspiracy and intolerance against ignorance and ignorantism…

  32. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Ben, you said you were a licensed acupuncturist. Do you actually practice? If so, what do you tell your patients?

  33. Ben Kavoussi says:

    @ WilliamLawrenceUtridge

    No, I am studying to become a physician assistant. I just keep my license current.

  34. GeorgeAd says:

    I agree with your points Ben.

    California is known for it’s “strict regulations” in regards to the medical industry as a whole. This doesn’t concern Acupuncture alone but other professions as well. Like phlebotomy (I know this from first hand). And many others, I’m sure. The stricter and more complex a system is, the easier it is for corruption to spread and I quote:

    “Back in 1980s, the chairman of the former acupuncture regulating agency (the Acupuncture Committee), Chae Woo Lew, was caught selling test questions for $10,000 to $20,000″.

  35. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    @ Ben again

    Did you ever practice? I’ve always found interesting the transition from believer to skeptic, such as Joshua Mather’s confessions of a former iridologist. One of the few forms of anecdote I like.

  36. Quill says:

    @Ben Kavoussi: I’m not sure I have any specific ideas about this quantum-stuffing beyond what the literature already quoted contains. I would suggest making it absolutely clear that it’s not simply a case of a group of people not understanding something in another field but rather one of simply shot-gunning words at things in an attempt to create something out of nothing. By that I mean it’s not just that they don’t understand but rather that they willfully appropriate the jargon of another (legitimate) field of study to try to bolster their own lack of understanding of their own (not so legitimate) field of endeavor. They are trying to paper over their own illegitimacy with words.

    I think the best approach may indeed be to view it as a cult, where the world outside is warped and molded to fit the view of the cult. Chi hasn’t been detected, so…quantum! Can’t specifically define things? No problem! Talk and write in pseudo-mystical language that contains code words for the insiders, sounds either innocuous or squishy to the uninitiated, and all the while work to gain legitimacy through outside imprimaturs from other organizations or the state.

  37. Quill says:

    @ Janet: I see no reason why we couldn’t combine the Board of Faery & Fabulous Creatures Regulation with the Board of Phrenology. What’s the link between trolls and head bumps? Quantum! We could use the spells in the Harry Potter books as our legitimate published references for practice. And besides, [activate quantumizer] the head bumps on trolls and the head bumps on humans contain more space than exists in the universe, are constantly traversed by free-radical neutrinos, and benefit from regular bio-spatial energy adjustments performed by a licensed Troll Catcher or Phrenologist using various modalities such as quantum acupuncture, application of organic lice, and homeopathic herbal scalp massage. How do we know all this is true? Dr. Oz had it on his show last week and Oprah uses it. [/deactivate quantumizer]

  38. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    What’s the link between trolls and head bumps?

    Ever read Terry Pratchet? One of his characters was a trollish reverse phrenologist; want less greed? I’ve got a hammer and a grid, I can shrink down that part of your brain for you, problem! This won’t hurt a bit, he said with complete accuracy.

  39. Quill says:

    I am afraid I’ve got a Pratchet Deficiency but I am not surprised fiction has already made my speculative reality moot. :-)

  40. mousethatroared says:

    @Quill – A Pratchett Deficiency can be harmful to your mental health. I recommend supplementation quickly. ;)

  41. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    I would suggest skipping the normally suggested protocol of a baseline dose of Pigmentum praecantatio and Lux Prodigialis (trade name: The Color of Magic and The Light Fantastic) and instead implement an immediate loading dose of disc-specific literature drawn from those octarine preparations with a high Pterrific quotient. In my experience, a bolus of Aequalis Ritus (trade name: Equal Rites), Custodibus custodibus (trade name: Guards! Guards!) and Messorem Homo (trade name: Reaper Man) consumed in a single dose are adequate to ensure ongoing compliance and lifestyle changes to accomodate further maintenance doses.

    Did anyone else know google translate does latin?

  42. mousethatroared says:

    I concur with “Dr” WLU’s recommendations.

  43. @Ben: I agree with everything you say, but you really need to stop using postmodernism (which in itself is a very nebulous term) as a boogeyman. Science illiteracy and quackery predate postmodernism. You even quote Rousseau. I’ll up you with Kant and his ill attempts at saving faith.

    As for the American Chinese population using or not using TCM and/or architecture, we can’t make sweeping declarations either. There are socioeconomical, geographical, and historical factors to consider as well. Take my grandparents, for example, who supported the Kuomingtang and were fairly uppermiddleclass, fleeing China before 1949. They wouldn’t buy into TCM or acupuncture. It would probably be the same for population originating from Taiwan or Hong Kong (pre-1999). And then, you have third-generation Chinese Americans who for all intents and purposes are essentially white people, with the same Orientalist and Occidentalist biases.

  44. And I applaud you for quoting Baudelaire, but this is a terrible translation.

  45. boogafish says:

    @William

    OOH, you’ve taken me down and humiliated me by replying to all of my arguments one by one. I must have been thouroughly–not just partially–destroyed! Yes, that’s what that arguing tactic means! What a bad-a mo-fo you are. Here, can I play too??

    There are practitioners, for instance, who solely practice in Chinatown and solely see Chinese-speaking patients.

    That does not remove the state’s obligation to ensure safe (and ideally effective) medical interventions. Is it OK for an New York-living Italian to be defrauded in a Ponzi scheme if they don’t speak English? It would seem less racist to have a single standard for all citizens, rather than treating Chinese-Americans differently.

    Well, if a state wants to mandate that its citizens learn one common language, fine. Under the 10th Amendment states certainly have that right and it’s impossible to create road signs in ten languages. I get the argument, and even agree with it. But the point was California, and I don’t see California forcing a common language on their people any time soon, and that’s also fine, as that’s their right as a state to do it. So what do you do? Throw a fit about it? Propose a solution?? I did the second…

    I suggest you drop the xenophobic and culturally imperialistic attitude. You raise good points, but when you dismiss it as mideval and unscientific, you come across as an arrogant and ignorant pseudo-intellectual.

    Once again, you appear to be asking for a double-standard, one for English, white or western people, and another for Chinese, Asian or oriental people. If acupuncture works, it works. If it’s safe, it’s safe (or has a reasonable risk-benefit profile). If it is based on reality, it is based on reality. Arguing for two standards for empirical demonstration of results seems far more xenophobic, culturally imperialist, arrogant, pseudo-intellectual and above all racist since it divides people into different groups and argues for different standards for each group. No matter how old information is, if it is empirically valid, you can demonstrate it. While Chinese scholars may have come up with more effective ways of controlling disease than their peers 1,000 years ago, their knowledge and practices have since been surpassed by science. Not by “western” science, not by “white” science, not by “European” science, but by science, which can be practiced by anybody following the appropriate methods.

    I’ve never understood the “only white people can be racist” mindset. I’m pretty sure Chinese foreign policy in centuries past was based on cultural snobbery that viewed itself as the centre of the universe (i.e. the “middle” part of “the Middle Kingdom”) and all others as barbarians.

    Well clearly the “only white people can be racist” argument is invalid, because Ben Kaviocci, who is from a minority race, can just repeat the arguments from the larger racist hive-mind that poses as science.

    My whole point was that if one denies an entire culture’s historical heritage, with regard to healthcare because you lack the ability to measure their art and would rather accuse their culture of being gullible for centuries than admit the inadequacies of your measuring tools, then, yes it’s racist. You’re succumbing to xenophobia in the literal meaning of the word because you’re scared their culture might be right. You’re no different than the arrogant European colonists who scoffed at Native Americans as “primitive” and imprisoned them on land you robbed through this rationalization and then died of scurvy. And all the while the “primitive” American Indian cut open buffalo and ate their adrenal cortex, a gland which arrogant European “science” hadn’t even discovered yet (it was just a fatty deposit atop the kidneys!) and certainly hadn’t discovered that it contained the richest concentration of vitamin C of all organs, no, you guys just wrecked the American Indians, made their lives miserable, and then died in shameful ignorance.

    Today, trained medical doctors treat things like flus and sinus infections (which even the CDC says is almost always viral) with antibiotics, whereas Chinese Medicine is able to offer complete recovery with antiviral herbs.

    This is what’s known as a false dilemma – since doctors treat viral infections with antibiotics, Chinese medicine must work. Untrue. Those herbs can be tested for their antiviral properties, and if they actually have such properties, will become part of the medical standard of care. Merely asserting they work isn’t the same thing as proving it.

    Oh I have no doubt that “science” will certainly put mother nature over the wrack and torture her secrets from her, squeezing and sucking whatever blood that reductionism can wrap its tentacles and teeth around, spit out the rest, then proclaim itself the savior of humanity while tossing mother nature’s corpse by the wayside. And the people cheer when given their pseudophed to treat the common cold, and the system arrogantly takes the credit, but then bans the herb it was derived from…a Chinese herb those foolish primitives somehow miraculously guessed right about for centuries–ma huang. Oh, it doesn’t stop there! It steals all use of the herb from them so they can claim credit, then proclaims Chinese treatments for the common cold ineffective later on, after they’ve raped and pillaged, stolen and left them with nothing.

    But that’s a side issue. My point about treating viral infections with antibiotics was really that proponents of modern, mainstream medicine have no business declaring themselves as the only valid treatment option when they do something that ridiculous…and when there’s another system actually getting it right.

    if you examine something like “wind-dampness in the joints” you find a considerable amount of wisdom contained in it. First, it allows for the subjective experience to be validated–people often complain their joints act up when the rain changes, etc, and this is a way of recapturing the poetic feelings of both disease and health experience, which is important–”objective” and reductionistic disease labeling like “rheumatoid arthritis” is cold, distant, and boring.

    Science is precise, not poetic. Science built on previous observations until they were transcended; it did not discard past clinical descriptions of diseases, it validated and extended them until more precise and correct descriptions were available. TCM has not moved out of this, it is medicine in a bottle, preserved against change.

    Agreed, science is precise. And science in the pure Aristolean sense is undoubtedly, as you say, built on previous observations until they are transcended by a greater capacity to observe. But mainstream, modern medicine is not science in this sense at all, it gives antibiotics for a virus. It gives infants Hep-B vaccinations, who are clearly high at-risk for intravenous drug use. And I know why doctors do this, too, it’s the same reason the TSA puts their hands in the pants of 80 year old grandmothers who are clearly at-risk of hijacking a plane, it’s all done to make everyone feel safe. It’s done to make people rely on the system as their daddy, even if its completely impotent at protecting anyone. That’s why the system needs to continue to exploit people with false-reality TV shows like “House” where some brilliant doctor has the answer to all their medical problems, can cure anything, because it keeps everyone entranced enough to keep from asking why their doctor gave them erythromycin for the flu. Like House, he must just be that brilliant, that he knows how to bend reality with pharmaceuticals.

    I’d rather have a “boring” label that leads to a treatment that reduces or eliminates my symptoms than a poetic one that means I’m basically waiting for my body to get better on its own.

    But what are you exactly? Reductionist “science” would say you’re a meat-machine that hangs on a skeleton because that’s all they can observe. They say you’re a confabulation of matter undergoing chemical processes until all energy is expended, and that’s it, and then “you” degrade. And this “science” can only treat what it can observe, much like it treated its early Euro-American believers to a prescription of death when faced with the “incurable” scurvy. What you fail to realize is that your boring label is a manifestation of a boring view of nature. It can’t grasp vitalism, qi, life-force because it can’t quantify it. And therefore, it can’t cure problems that arise because of it.

    As an example, I’d like you to think of all the zombies currently on SSRI’s. Now, “science” thinks it knows why all people get depressed–”a chemical imbalance”…then they propose a solution: let’s try to increase the extracellular level of serotonin by inhibiting its reuptake into the presynaptic blah, blah, blah…I’ll spare you the rest of your boring details of your boring label so that you won’t be bored by yourselves. Well, for one it’s theoretical that most SSRI’s even work that way because neurotransmitter activity isn’t easily measured…but that still doesn’t stop what you worship as science from pushing these pills onto everyone–all because you, in complete arrogance, have the innate need to act as their savior even when it’s clear you have no idea what you’re doing.

    Well, I’m sure reductionists will be shocked by this, but emotions, feelings and what ancient people felt as a “soul” exists, even though your ability to observe this fact is as impotent as all the men you put on SSRI’s. And because you lack the ability to differentiate the varying emotional hues experienced by the soul, you streamline and standardize diagnosis, medicine, and put everyone on an SSRI, and all because you have no clue what you’re doing. My point is people don’t want to be treated like a machine, they wanted to be treated like a person with an illness that happens to speak to them on the subjective level, the human level. I don’t blame you for not being able to see my larger point…afterall, you are a reductionist.

    Second, it allows for insights into the treatment process: people with dampness ought not to eat dampening foods, and science is only now catching up to the fact that many of the “dampening foods” Chinese Medicine has identified– such as dairy and nightshades–cause inflammation. The Chinese have been ahead of the curve in so many areas it would blow your mind. They talked about how the kidneys governed the bones and were the mother of blood production, and were scoffed at by people like yourself until the discovery of erythropoietin.

    Question – when real medicine was introduced into China, what happened to the life expectancy? And again, while Chinese medicine might have been ahead in the past (itself a questionable assumption and really only of historical interest), real medicine is currently surpassing it with evidence and treatments that are faster, more precise, and work for everyone.

    Question – Since you are an obvious believer in sociology, you must have heard of something called “confounding factors”? You know what those are, right? Like famine, war, urbanization, forced one-child policies, etc?

    Question – how much research have you done into the evidence of Chinese Medicine? Have you ever even had an acupuncture treatment from someone who really knows what they’re doing (not someone who is obviously pissed off at how horrible of a practitioner they are that they curse acupuncture and qi and go Judas on their tribe in hopes of being embraced by a new one.)??

    Question – what is real medicine? The kind of medicine that really gives antibiotics to treat viruses? That real medicine?

    The history of Chinese thought and science is fascinating, ironically one brought to modern awareness by Joseph Needham (a Brit) when China was far below Europe and the United States in terms of medical and scientific progress. Hopefully the world and all its myriad races can move beyond things like nationalism, skin colour, hair colour and cultural inheritance to appreciate that we all live on the same planet that obeys the same laws for everyone, and we can stop measuring ourselves in terms of what our ancestors did.

    Agreed. Because nationalism leads to interpersonal dualism, and it leads to things like Nazis. And Nazis do things like saying Jews are an inferior race, and that leads to companies like I.G. Farben Pharmaceutical Company lobbying the government to allow them to create their own factory-funded concentration camp where they can do all kinds of horrible things to them, not least of which was testing extracts of the Isatis plant (again a Chinese herb, being exploited inappropriately) on them as lab research, and then using that research to create the first commercially available antibiotic drug, sulfonamide, which is now used around the world by “doctors” to treat viral infections, wreaking havoc and destruction on the world…just as the Nazis had intended.

    Anyway, I really don’t want to chastise you too much because you do raise valid concerns and do make good points. Overall, though, you need to know that your piece came across as wreaking of cultural bias, and it makes it hard to take any of your good points seriously.

    Two points:
    1) My cultural bias leads me to point out you spelled “reeking” incorrectly
    2) You might consider the cultural bias your comment reeks of, which is more like nationalistic nostalgia for a time in which you were never alive. Yes, China was more advanced than much of the world 600 years ago. That has changed, and perhaps you might consider broadening your appreciation of this.

    Two points:
    1) Why is it that the worst of the internet pseudointellectuals always succumb to pointing out spelling mistakes as proof of their intellectual superiority? At no time did you address the spirit of my argument. At no time did you take on any of my points. It is spineless and cowardly to attack things like grammar and spelling while shirking from substantial debate.

    2) Cultural bias my comment reeks of? If defending past cultures from dismissive labels like “primitive” by people like you, then guilty as charged…but don’t expect me to agree with your label of “cultural bias” any more than I agree with your label of these cultures as “primitive” or your label of your ineffective and unproven SSRI’s as “real medicine”.

    3) You’re probably thinking right here you’ve got me again on an error because this is the third point of two points. And you can’t wait to “take me down” for making a third point of two points just like you “destroyed me” by pointing out a misspelling. OOOOHH, you’re such an amazing debater, I don’t know how I can survive this battle of the wits..I’m so obviously outmatched and overwhelmed here… Please, please, uncle, uncle, please, don’t embarrass me any further with your superior mind.

    If you really want to get your point across effectively, I would suggest that next time you write on the subject of acupuncturists you first study more into the history of Chinese Medicine, then write it from a perspective that considers that there are people in this world who experience something in this system of healthcare that they do not, and will never experience in biomedicine, due to its inherent reductionistic and materialistic nature, and they as human beings living in a free society they ought to have the free will to make their choice.

    Penicillin cures all patients with non-resistant Staphylococcus infections, irrespective your knowledge of history or cultural ancestry. A Halsted mastectomy will cure breast cancer similarly, as will the more developed lumpectomy and radiation that is the standard. Vaccination works at similar rates irrespective race or culture.

    Oh wonderful, you finally talk about antibiotics. I was wondering when I’d find an opening in the argument to address them…

    Penicillin creates a state of dysbiosis. The human being contains ten times more bacterial cells than human cells, meaning we are, in fact, mostly bacteria and “science” still has no clue what all the functions of normal human flora are, or even why states of dysbiosis occur. It was only relatively recently discovered, for instance, that obese individuals have a different proportion of firmicutes than healthy individuals, which ought to beg “science” to ask if their over-reliance of antibiotics for things like, oh say viral infections, might actually be causing an epidemic of iatrogenic obesity? It ought to beg “science” to ask the question, “What did the ancient Chinese do for people with infections? How did they cure entire villages of epidemic febrile diseases??” Oh, but drug companies, and the “science” that supports them, would rather not ask those questions, they’d rather sell things like Fen-Phen to them to help with weight loss, Vioxx to help them with knee osteoarthritis from carrying 400 lbs on them for years, and then when these worthless fatties destroy their bodies with those meds (all proven in FDA trials for safety and efficacy, btw) we’ll cut out organs, we’ll give them more toxic drugs we’ve duped the public into thinking is safe, and we’ll destroy more, more, more.

    My whole point was that, as a free society, people ought to be able to choose the treatment best for them. Again, you failed to address my argument. Do you not think people ought to choose for themselves if they want to be touched by the hand of death that has been caught time and again lying about the efficacy of their poison,? Do you not allow them to pursue an alternative to “science” which has shown itself over and over again to be, in its application by humans, nothing but manipulated numbers, testing, and a greedy agenda that all must bow down and worship as the true, objective reality? I’m not saying science doesn’t exist, conceptually, but what passes as science today is anything but…and yet you want to shove it down everyone’s throat like it’s an antibiotic that treats viruses

    Reductionism has a wonderful way of reducing things to the most relevant elements, and using those as levers to improve the world in extraordinarily effective ways. It led to the communications revolution which permits anyone with an internet connection to find out what the latest advances in science and medicine are. The gestalt impressions of “holism” allows too few variables to be controlled, and stalled progress for much of human history. Reductionism is also only one part of science, interactionism allows those reduced variables to be re-assembled into a truer picture of reality. Certainly TCM’s spurious invocation of elements, energies and astrology, none of which exist, isn’t very helpful these days. They’re still debating whether meridians are points of electrical resistance, connective tissue plane joins or simply the deluded imaginings of a prescientific age.

    OK, I’m not saying reductionism doesn’t have its mertis. In the grand scheme of things, I actually like it because the proud scientist who climbs a mountaintop, thinking he’ll be the first to discover–through ardent trial and error–what’s at the zenith, (while he’s dreaming that he’ll make all the journals, receive all the grant-research, funding, and acclaim) and once he reaches the summit he, to his great dismay, realizes that there’s been wise men and “primitives” who have been living up there for ages. Of course, he’s able to describe, in minute detail, all of the findings they’ve known about for ages. But he was last. The primitives he dismissed, banned, and attacked beat him there.

    I gave the example of Chinese discovering erythropoetin earlier. I gave the example of American Indians curing scurvy. And ultimately, that’s what people want in a healthcare system. You talk about “what’s helpful these days” …well human beings don’t want to wait for you to arrive at the mountaintop of understanding last. They don’t want to be ruined by a prideful, arrogant system that claims it has all the answers when it shows time and again it doesn’t have a clue. They don’t want to die of scurvy until you can figure out that it’s not incurable, they need something that works now.

    Please, tell me again how modern science is racist because it doesn’t give a high enough place to the musings of a single culture.

    You said it yourself there with your word choice… Musings. Now, if I were making your racist point for you, I might have chosen ‘utterances’ or ‘growls’ instead of “musing” for maximum effect. “Deluded imaginings”, however, takes the cake. Seriously, though, I provided it in my original argument which you chose to ignore. Allow me to repeat these to you: the Chinese, in their thinking, exhibited incredible sophistication in the relationship between the kidneys, bones and blood before the discovery of erythropoetin. The Chinese, in their sophistication, cured epidemics of viral illnesses while modern science today has no clue what to do, except prescribe you-know-what, which causes epidemics of who-knows-what. The Chinese cured damp-bi of the joints, while modern medicine gives methotrexate which destroys the immune system…etc, etc, etc. I could give you a slew of fresh examples too, but really my point is to illustrate something larger: that perhaps your act of ignoring each of my prior points on the subject, then asking “please tell me..why should modern science give high enough place to some random musings..” is a question that is ironically reflective of the larger actions of “science” which continues ignoring all the curings the Chinese people have experienced through a medicinal art, and because it doesn’t understand it, dismisses them as primitive and gullible for clinging to ethereal imaginings.

  46. boogafish says:

    @ Ben

    Yeah, I know needles were once much thicker and oftentimes, but not always, bloodletting resulted. Bloodletting is sometimes used as the primary treatment method in cases of excess. But are you denying all the evidence to show acupuncture–with needles–has efficacy for many conditions. You can cherry-pick all the sham studies you want, just like you cherry picked my arguments. How do you account for the real-time brain imaging scans done which show specific centers of the brain lighting up when certain points are needled to obtain the arrival of qi?

    How do you account for the 1500 year history of Japanese acupuncture, where bloodletting is rarely performed, and where thin needles are shallowly inserted? Are you saying their people have been engaging in mass gullibility for ages?

    Hell, how do you account for the obvious mass public demand here. 10,000 acupuncturists in California alone! Surviving…with those living expenses. Maybe the masses are just smoking really good weed out there.

    I mean, the government props up “modern medicine” with a myriad of funding in order to prevent its complete collapse–meanwhile, acupuncture receives no such artificial subsidation…and somehow 10,000 acupuncturists are able to survive high costs of living in California by duping the masses and engaging in fraud. That’s your argument in a nutshell, right?

  47. Quill says:

    “Science is precise, not poetic. Science built on previous observations until they were transcended; it did not discard past clinical descriptions of diseases, it validated and extended them until more precise and correct descriptions were available. TCM has not moved out of this, it is medicine in a bottle, preserved against change.”

    Perhaps in this sense, science may not be poetic, but science relies totally on poetry as all scientific description is metaphoric. All those observations and descriptions — all metaphoric. So of course the greater precision in description the better the science and perhaps the more poetic science becomes, the better it will be able to communicate the increasing complexities and vastness of the knowledge it is accumulating.

    What I find interesting about TCM is that it seems to cling to the old descriptions, holding with the poetry of expression in the face of that expression no longer being the best available way to see and describe things. When I’m sick I think I’d rather visit a science-based doctor who speaks poetically rather than a poet who pretends to be a doctor. :-)

  48. boogafish says:

    What I find interesting about TCM is that it seems to cling to the old descriptions, holding with the poetry of expression in the face of that expression no longer being the best available way to see and describe things. When I’m sick I think I’d rather visit a science-based doctor who speaks poetically rather than a poet who pretends to be a doctor.

    Quill, what I find interesting about pseudointellectuals is that they don’t ever seem to debate anyone’s actual point. How can you say “poet who pretends to be a doctor” in the face of all the examples I presented of curings through Chinese Medicine. Oh, but they’ve never cured anyone of anything, they’re just deluding themselves, pretending to be doctors.

    Try wrestling with me in reality and I’ll snap you pencil-necked poindexters to pieces. You have no intellectual acumen, your arguments are devoid of substance, all you can do is utter the trendy transmissions of group-think.

    If any of you can squeeze a bona-fide argument from yourselves, please do so, please step up to my plate, I haven’t eaten anything today.

  49. Quill says:

    ^ That’s your pitch, ad hominems (reading more like self descriptors) and cliches? I suppose I could be insulted you put in so little effort but that would mean I care. Fortunately, the latter is true so the former shall never arise. Ciao.

  50. @boogafish: Before accusing anyone of being pseudointellectual, look yourself in the mirror. As a person of Chinese origin, like many people of Chinese origin, I don’t use TCM. Why? Because it’s a bunch of romanticized (or Orientalized) superstitions bundled senselessly together without sense or reason to make up for the dearth of actual doctors after they had all absconded to Taiwan, the US, Macao, France or Hong Kong. Ask an actual Chinese what they think about TCM, you will receive a reaction as virulent as when talking about Simplified Chinese.

  51. boogafish says:

    ^ That’s your pitch, ad hominems (reading more like self descriptors) and cliches? I suppose I could be insulted you put in so little effort but that would mean I care. Fortunately, the latter is true so the former shall never arise. Ciao.

    Translation: I know you are, but what am I? I know you are, but what am I? You put in so little effort, your reply to William which I commented on was so insubstantial, I’ve read much longer novels before. And I’m so scared of being broken by your challenge to “wrestle in reality”, in actual fact, that I’ll pretend this isn’t urine on my pants, but rather awesome juice I secreted. Now excuse me, I have to clean it off myself. Ciao.

  52. boogafish says:

    @Francois

    I’m white, American born and I choose not to be treated by the Rockefeller funded, fake Flexner report founded medicine which my home country, the United States, and my caucasian race, are at the epicenter of. Why don’t you ask the millions of Americans why they don’t get the flu shot? Who cares? Again, no substantive debate from anyone here. If someone wants to pull out real facts, real data, I’ll play, otherwise I’ll let you continue bleeding amongst yourselves.

  53. Scott says:

    You first. You’ve not presented a single bit of data, or a single fact. Nor have you accounted for the fact that “whatever some random ancient culture happened to believe” is not a valid way to tell what works (a profoundly racist claim, by the way, since you’re very explicitly elevating Chinese culture to The One True Source of Truth). Only science can accurately determine that.

    We are merely advocating that whatever can be scientifically shown to work, regardless of cultural heritage, be used. And whatever is scientifically shown to NOT work (which most emphatically includes acupuncture, and most of the other bits of TCM too) should NOT be used.

    IOW, you can only object if you want to argue one of the positions (a) safe and effective treatments should not be used if they don’t have the ‘right’ cultural background, or (b) it doesn’t matter whether treatments are safe and effective, so long as some quack claims that they were used by the particular ancient culture you choose to deify.

  54. JJ Borgman says:

    Hi, boogafish,

    So what’s your name? For someone displaying such bravado:

    “Try wrestling with me in reality and I’ll snap you pencil-necked poindexters to pieces.”,

    you feel you need to hide behind anonymity? Are you afraid of embarrassing yourself in public? By the way, the neck-snapping doesn’t really come that easy in this case. In fact, I believe you’d be the first…ever.

    I read most of what you’ve written and find it hard to believe it’s coming from the hand of a rational adult.

  55. @boogafish:

    Why don’t you ask the millions of Americans why they don’t get the flu shot?

    Americans have the right to be stupid. In China, it’s a crime to forgo your flu vaccine.

  56. JJ Borgman says:

    Hi, boogafish,

    It is a sad fact that there is a lot of ignorance and delusion in this country especially regarding religious, scientific and medical truth.

    In these areas of knowledge, “historical”"truths” are being challenged by evidence and an awful lot of people don’t like that.

    But, the sciences grind on slowly pulling the curtain away and exposing reality.

  57. boogafish says:

    You first. You’ve not presented a single bit of data, or a single fact. Nor have you accounted for the fact that “whatever some random ancient culture happened to believe” is not a valid way to tell what works (a profoundly racist claim, by the way, since you’re very explicitly elevating Chinese culture to The One True Source of Truth). Only science can accurately determine that.

    That’s all I’ve been doing. Are you reductionists such denialists of the reality before you that it causes you to be this obtuse? Here, let me repeat only a few facts I’ve already said:

    Fact: Ma huang, a Chinese herb to treat the common cold–used for centuries by these primitive savages who call it a wind-cold invasion–was so efficacious that we had to rip it off, ie pseudoephedrine, and ban its use from their medicine.

    Fact: entire villages were being wiped out in bacterial plague 1,800 years ago a man named Zhang Zhongjing complied a treatment protocol-acupuncture and herbal- that effectively cured them with acupuncture, moxabustion and herbs. Oh, but the Chinese documented this fact in their historical records, not the CDC, so again ill pretend your fact doesn’t exist.

    Fact: brain imaging studies have been conducted showing activation of specific centers when qi is obtained via acupuncture needle.

    I could go on and on, with many more, and I already have. Nobody wants to debate me on fact, you choose to ignore them and say I’m not presenting anything..that’s your pathetic debate strategy.

    Science isn’t what facts you choose to interpret, it isn’t ignoring facts and data that’s inconsistent with a predetermined result…no science isn’t that, but your argument certainly is.

  58. @boogafish: Is Zhang Zhongjing’s protocol replicable? No? Then it can be dismissed as legend.

    I’m not going to even discuss the facticity of your other claims. As a so-called intellectual, you should be suspicious of anything presented as “fact.” And since you are buying into this superstitious notion of 気, why aren’t you buying into Aristotle’s notion of humors? After all, he got it from the Chinese via the Persians. Or astrological medicine and bloodletting, since the ancient form of acupuncture are based on both.

  59. JJ Borgman says:

    Hi, boogafish,

    When you cite examples, as you did @2:31, you have to provide citations that can be reviewed. You can’t just assert them.

    On the subject of Chinese medical history, there are authors here who would mop up with you. I’m not one of them, but I have seen it in the past complete with references. Someone here is probably going to beat you with your own stick.

    Could TCM have had a hand in discovering the beginning of parts of modern medicine? Sure. It all started somewhere, right? (I wouldn’t have wanted to be the first guy to try a tomato, for example, but someone was). Did they get a lot of schit wrong? Absolutely. We still do centuries later. Point is, we have so much more knowledge and better tests and equipment to determine the truth of so many claims, much of it is no longer up for debate. Things are now known. Sorry if that disrupts your qi.

  60. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    My whole point was that if one denies an entire culture’s historical heritage, with regard to healthcare because you lack the ability to measure their art and would rather accuse their culture of being gullible for centuries than admit the inadequacies of your measuring tools, then, yes it’s racist.

    I have yet to see proof that TCM actually produces measurable improvements in health. Self-report is not really worth much here. Would you be comfortable with Big Pharma proclaiming antibiotics to be safe and effective because they asked people with bacterial infection if they felt better? If TCM including acupuncture have genuine effects they can be measured. If it’s just placebo, that can be measured too. The art of medicine should be based on the science of medicine, because otherwise it comes down to assertion and opinion and that’s a terrible way to study anything.

    You’re succumbing to xenophobia in the literal meaning of the word because you’re scared their culture might be right.

    I have no problem with TCM being right. It would be beneficial in fact, more tools for medicine to draw upon. I just don’t think there’s adequate evidence TCM is effective as an approach. Further, I don’t think the Chinese somehow managed to produce a meaningful medical system when every other culture in the world failed to do so until the advent of empiricism. Positive racism is still racism. The nice thing about science is that it transcends culture – anyone can practice it. China’s history of technological accomplishments is startling in its breadth and depth, but that history is still dwarfed by the technological and theoretical accomplishments since the advent of empiricism.

    I’ll also point to the sudden and dramatic increases in lifespan with the advent of modern medicine in China, though there are numerous confounds (Mao’s disastrous policies for instance, but also the fact that China was a geographically large, culturally homogeneous, centrally-controlled country with considerable internal transportation abilities, thus having the ability to offset regional famine).

    You’re no different than the arrogant European colonists who scoffed at Native Americans as “primitive” and imprisoned them on land you robbed through this rationalization and then died of scurvy.

    Amusingly, the empirical study of scurvy was conducted by a European, one James Lind. The Native Americans weren’t any smarter than the Europeans, they just had better resources and experience in living in the local conditions. Also, I believe the Europeans survived scurvy once they were told that pine needles boiled in water was an effective treatment.

    And all the while the “primitive” American Indian cut open buffalo and ate their adrenal cortex, a gland which arrogant European “science” hadn’t even discovered yet (it was just a fatty deposit atop the kidneys!) and certainly hadn’t discovered that it contained the richest concentration of vitamin C of all organs, no, you guys just wrecked the American Indians, made their lives miserable, and then died in shameful ignorance.

    If we’re comparing the horrors that one nation or culture can inflict upon another, how are the Tibetans doing these days? You’ll note that Canada, Australia and America are now stumbling over themselves in an ill-fated and ill-considered attempt to right history, in large part by attempting to preserve indigenous cultures in bottles (as if there were ever a culture that survived unchanged by outside influences). All cultures have histories that contain moments of shame. Thankfully empirical research is revealing just how similar humans are to each other. Hopefully we’ll stop seeing each other as different races and start seeing each other as equally human.

    Oh I have no doubt that “science” will certainly put mother nature over the wrack and torture her secrets from her, squeezing and sucking whatever blood that reductionism can wrap its tentacles and teeth around, spit out the rest, then proclaim itself the savior of humanity while tossing mother nature’s corpse by the wayside. And the people cheer when given their pseudophed to treat the common cold, and the system arrogantly takes the credit, but then bans the herb it was derived from…a Chinese herb those foolish primitives somehow miraculously guessed right about for centuries–ma huang. Oh, it doesn’t stop there! It steals all use of the herb from them so they can claim credit, then proclaims Chinese treatments for the common cold ineffective later on, after they’ve raped and pillaged, stolen and left them with nothing.

    After all that, can you point to any evidence that ma huang is an effective treatment for the common cold? Also, naturalistic fallacy aside, note that humans are part of nature, and dying of infectious disease is also natural. The idea that living in harmony with nature is somehow better is a questionable one, certainly not one I would embrace. I’d rather not succumb to infectious disease, I’d rather have access to painkillers that don’t eat through my stomach lining, and I’d rather my wife not have a one in four chance of dying in childbirth. You are welcome to a natural life, with its blind, cruel evolution and endless struggle for survival. I’ll take purified, standardized medications, television, cars, central heating and bacon, thanks.

    But that’s a side issue. My point about treating viral infections with antibiotics was really that proponents of modern, mainstream medicine have no business declaring themselves as the only valid treatment option when they do something that ridiculous…and when there’s another system actually getting it right.

    Again, proof please. Modern medicine is a self-reflective entity that uses empirical evidence to improve itself in a public fashion. TCM is doing its best to avoid testing its ideas and having to change its practices. It’s not magically effective because it’s old, nor because it’s Chinese. Again, effective treatments can be tested for efficacy. Claiming you don’t have to because you’re Chinese is simply positive racism.

  61. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    mainstream, modern medicine is not science in this sense at all, it gives antibiotics for a virus. It gives infants Hep-B vaccinations, who are clearly high at-risk for intravenous drug use. And I know why doctors do this, too, it’s the same reason the TSA puts their hands in the pants of 80 year old grandmothers who are clearly at-risk of hijacking a plane, it’s all done to make everyone feel safe. It’s done to make people rely on the system as their daddy, even if its completely impotent at protecting anyone. That’s why the system needs to continue to exploit people with false-reality TV shows like “House”

    Medicine is art and science. There is a difference between what should be done, and what is done. It’s too bad, but doctors have to deal with HMOs, irrational and uneducated patients, and the enormous volume of scientific literature produced on an annual basis.

    The fact that you understand the difference between the science of medicine and the reality of medicine, yet still hold science accountable for the mistakes of practitioners and patients is a little…dumb I guess.

    Also, the recognition that antibiotics are ineffective for viral infections – was that observation made by science, or traditional Chinese medicine practitioners? Is science only valid when it has bad things to say about itself?

    But what are you exactly? Reductionist “science” would say you’re a meat-machine that hangs on a skeleton because that’s all they can observe. They say you’re a confabulation of matter undergoing chemical processes until all energy is expended, and that’s it, and then “you” degrade. And this “science” can only treat what it can observe, much like it treated its early Euro-American believers to a prescription of death when faced with the “incurable” scurvy. What you fail to realize is that your boring label is a manifestation of a boring view of nature. It can’t grasp vitalism, qi, life-force because it can’t quantify it. And therefore, it can’t cure problems that arise because of it.

    It’s not really energy expenditure that causes us to die, it’s either the Hayflick limit, blood loss, or infection. Scurvy is no longer an untreatable condition, in fact it’s essentially absent, because we know what causes it. Native Americans didn’t know what caused scurvy, only how to treat it.

    Yes, science can’t grasp vitalism because it can’t quantify it. Despite being able to measure the action of a single photon, or for that matter the sub-atomic particles that make up photons, it also has been unable to measure vitalism (and found no need to – vitalism has to date been completely unnecessary in understanding how biology works). The very claim that problems arise from qi is itself problematic. If it has real effects, it can be measured – initially imperfectly and gradually with increased precision. Despite efforts to do so, there is no evidence for a life force or energy. I’m sorry if this offends your preconceptions, but your offence does not change the fact that there is really no need to believe in qi aside from “someone who has been dead for a long time said it”. Do you also believe in Zeus? How about the ka of the Pharaohs? I don’t know why you find it so troubling that our ancestors may have been wrong.

    As an example, I’d like you to think of all the zombies currently on SSRI’s. Now, “science” thinks it knows why all people get depressed–”a chemical imbalance”…then they propose a solution: let’s try to increase the extracellular level of serotonin by inhibiting its reuptake into the presynaptic blah, blah, blah…I’ll spare you the rest of your boring details of your boring label so that you won’t be bored by yourselves. Well, for one it’s theoretical that most SSRI’s even work that way because neurotransmitter activity isn’t easily measured…but that still doesn’t stop what you worship as science from pushing these pills onto everyone–all because you, in complete arrogance, have the innate need to act as their savior even when it’s clear you have no idea what you’re doing.

    I have friends and family members who are on SSRIs and are grateful to be elevated out of the crushing despair they used to live in for no objective reason. One is currently learning to be a carpenter, the other visiting their grandchildren in Australia (airplanes – brought to you by science!). In both cases their doctors have supported them ceasing to take the pills. In both cases, careful follow-up found that they felt better on them, and the side effects were worth the elevation in mood. SSRIs do work for some people in some situations (generally major depression). There is empirical evidence for this. Even if it is not understood why or how it works, it still works and my friends and family members are better for them. Apparently they can’t live up to your standard for an SSRI-free life, but fortunately they don’t have to.

    Well, I’m sure reductionists will be shocked by this, but emotions, feelings and what ancient people felt as a “soul” exists, even though your ability to observe this fact is as impotent as all the men you put on SSRI’s. And because you lack the ability to differentiate the varying emotional hues experienced by the soul, you streamline and standardize diagnosis, medicine, and put everyone on an SSRI, and all because you have no clue what you’re doing. My point is people don’t want to be treated like a machine, they wanted to be treated like a person with an illness that happens to speak to them on the subjective level, the human level. I don’t blame you for not being able to see my larger point…afterall, you are a reductionist.

    Yep, emotions and feelings exist. We can tell what part of the brain creates them. Again, no need for a soul or qi, just a complicated bundle of cells.

    Incidentally, no doctor I have ever seen has ever tried to put me on an antidepressant. I’m extremely lucky in this regard. It appears you have some sort of objection to the limited amount of time and lack of attention to bedside manner that forces most doctors to be less than ideal in their standard of patient care. I agree, this is a problem. Please write to your congressperson to try to do something about it.

    Finally, I see your larger point, I just think it’s wrong. Life is fascinating enough that I feel no lack at the recognition there is no soul. We are probably just meat sacks, but very interesting meat sacks. I similarly feel no lack in my life despite not believing in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Zeus and a teapot existing in an orbit somewhere between Mars and Saturn. Or the Flying Spaghetti Monster for that matter. You are free to believe in a soul, lots of people do, but it won’t make medicine any more or less effective.

  62. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Question – Since you are an obvious believer in sociology, you must have heard of something called “confounding factors”? You know what those are, right? Like famine, war, urbanization, forced one-child policies, etc?

    Absolutely. Some can be controlled or accounted for. Incidentally, one of the reasons the life expectancy was so low was because of the massive famine brought about by Mao’s Great Leap Forward. Know why it failed? Massive numbers of Chinese people tried to exceed the steel production of the United Kingdom by creating furnaces in their backyards. Mao, an ignorant Chinese peasant who ended up as Emperor (as so many Emperors from China originally were) thought it was possible. Turns out it’s not. It is empirically impossible to produce high quality steel in a backyard furnace, and thinking you can doesn’t make it so. Mao’s many non-empirical policies resulted in massive suffering and death. Too bad he didn’t adopt a more evidence-based approach.

    And again, what happened to the life expectancy when modern medicine became widespread in China, or for that matter, when smallpox was eliminated world-wide? I bet it went up.

    Question – how much research have you done into the evidence of Chinese Medicine? Have you ever even had an acupuncture treatment from someone who really knows what they’re doing (not someone who is obviously pissed off at how horrible of a practitioner they are that they curse acupuncture and qi and go Judas on their tribe in hopes of being embraced by a new one.)??

    I’ve done a fair amount of reading on the evidence base for acupuncture (very limited studies show questionable support for pain, nausea and perhaps fertility, but no proof it is effective for any specific maladies). Unless you can provide me with some good-quality studies supporting this point?

    I’ve never died of scurvy, but some how I managed to eat enough vitamin C to avoid it. The nice thing about empiricism is one doesn’t have to experience something to study it.

    Question – what is real medicine? The kind of medicine that really gives antibiotics to treat viruses? That real medicine?

    Medicine is both art and science. The science gives a solid foundation upon which the art is built. Medicine can be badly practiced, or practiced in contradiction to what science says is an empirically justified practice. That does not indicate that the scientific foundation of medicine is flawed or worthless, only that it is complicated, that people are imperfect, and that we must improve.

    Above all, it certainly doesn’t justify TCM. Further, if a practice of TCM were ever empirically justified, it would be incorporated into medicine. This has in fact happened – with acupuncture. There is an evidence base for its use (though problematic) and it is widely used as a part of modern medicine for the treatment of pain and nausea – despite the flaws in the empirical base, the transitory nature of its effects, the risks of infections and lung punctures and the complete lack of evidence base to support its theory.

    Agreed. Because nationalism leads to interpersonal dualism, and it leads to things like Nazis. And Nazis do things like saying Jews are an inferior race, and that leads to companies like I.G. Farben Pharmaceutical Company lobbying the government to allow them to create their own factory-funded concentration camp where they can do all kinds of horrible things to them, not least of which was testing extracts of the Isatis plant (again a Chinese herb, being exploited inappropriately) on them as lab research, and then using that research to create the first commercially available antibiotic drug, sulfonamide, which is now used around the world by “doctors” to treat viral infections, wreaking havoc and destruction on the world…just as the Nazis had intended.

    It also leads to, say, the Han Chinese believing they are the only civilized nation on the planet, and believing they have a right to take over the lands of anyone they share a border with. Like Tibet. I could also point to things like the Chinese being the first to use germ warfare, or the horrors committed by the Mongol Hordes, or Qui Shi Huang who was fond of burying scholars alive, or Mao Zedong who loved to be compared to Huang and killed 50 million or more people with his stupid policies, relentless politicking and distasteful cult of personality that prevented anyone from pointing out how stupid they were. Then there’s the Cultural Revolution, where the intelligent and educated were tortured, whipped, killed or exiled for…no good reason. Yes, people have done bad things. It’s happening now, it’s happened in the past. Yes, science as a method can be used to do bad things. That doesn’t change the fact that it is an extremely effective method, or that TCM has a very poor, almost nonexistent evidence base. All things should be evaluated on their own merit. I would say that the invention of sulfonamide was good thing, and to step out on a limb, I’m going to say the Nazis were a bad thing.

    Plus, the Nazis intended to create antibiotic-resistant bacteria? Citation needed. Anyway, I’m not sure what your point is here. My point would be “humans, as descendants of chimpanzees, are very good at labeling ingroups and outgroups, and doing very bad things to the people in the latter category. Again, I hope that one day more people will realize what science has already told us – that all humans are of the same species, and should be treated with care and compassion.

    Also, you lost the argument a while ago, but Godwin’s law.

  63. Scott says:

    FACTS have references and citations, not random off-the-cuff claims. PMIDs will do. But hey, let’s give you the benefit of the doubt.

    Fact: Ma huang, a Chinese herb to treat the common cold–used for centuries by these primitive savages who call it a wind-cold invasion–was so efficacious that we had to rip it off, ie pseudoephedrine, and ban its use from their medicine.

    Completely, utterly, irrelevant. Assuming that your description is accurate, THEY DID NOT KNOW that it worked! You know, kind of like all those OTHER herbs which DON’T. Looking for herbs which can be turned into proper medicine is a completely standard part of scientific medicine, and doesn’t in any way vindicate TCM. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

    Fact: entire villages were being wiped out in bacterial plague 1,800 years ago a man named Zhang Zhongjing complied a treatment protocol-acupuncture and herbal- that effectively cured them with acupuncture, moxabustion and herbs. Oh, but the Chinese documented this fact in their historical records, not the CDC, so again ill pretend your fact doesn’t exist.

    [citation needed]

    Fact: brain imaging studies have been conducted showing activation of specific centers when qi is obtained via acupuncture needle.

    These have been discussed at length. They mean absolutely nothing, other than that people *gasp* can feel needles in their skin. That you have to resort to such claims – as opposed to, say, quality clinical trials showing that acupuncture actually, you know, DOES SOMETHING – actually is an excellent indication that it DOESN’T work.

  64. pmoran says:

    Fact: brain imaging studies have been conducted showing activation of specific centers when qi is obtained via acupuncture needle.

    I assume you refer to the sensation of “de qui”? If I understand this correctly it refers to the sensation that a needle is being grasped by the tissues when you try to twirl it, or some such similar observation. Even if this was reliably associated with activation of a specific part of the brain, this could merely mean the activation of certain proprioceptive pathways. It does not automatically support TCM theories regarding the movement of “qi”.

    The ephedrine story has some basis, Herbs contain pharmacologically active chemicals, many of which, including ephedrine, have unmistakable immediate effects that any culture can observe.

    Your other “facts” are simply unconfirmed and unconfirmable claims at this stage.

    I am impressed by some of the subjective outcomes reported with both “sham” and “real” acupuncture, but these can be explained by a variety of non-specific influences including placebo responses and biased patient reporting.

  65. Ben Kavoussi says:

    @ boogafish,

    You are just repeating what they teach in acupuncture schools to endocrine people:

    -creating a false dichotomy between Eastern and Western medicine: There is no such a thing. There is only ONE medicine, just like there is only one physics or chemistry. Medicine is not literature or poetry, it a science

    - Have you read Zhang Zhongjing in its original language, or are quoting what learned from somebody else? These texts are not acupuncture texts: they are manuals of Chinese Medical astrology: read the Wikipedia article on European Medical astrology, the same thing applies to Chinese medieval medicine:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medical_astrology

    - the technology mass produce fine needles is only about 400 years old. Hua Tuo was using lancets. The word needle means many sharp objects (think of knitting needles). Hua Tuo did not do anything that he Greeks and Romans did not do.

    -you obviously do not know about the science of pharmacognosy. 1/3 of our medicines come from natural products. Nobody disputes the fact that herbs have medicinal value. What is discussed in my article is the lunacy of granting the status of “primary care” to traditional healers, including herbalists. No one talked about herbs and their efficacy.

    However, I don’t know if you are an herbalist or not; but please to not tell a post-MI patient to take boil willow bark and spoiled sweet clover-based animal feed — instead of taking aspirin and warfarin!

  66. Ben Kavoussi says:

    @ boogafish

    BTW, the brain imaging studies showing activation of specific centers after acupuncture was retracted in June 2006 by Z. H. Cho himself and a number of its coauthors:

    “Accumulating evidence suggests that the central nervous system is essential for processing these effects, via its modulation of the autonomic nervous system, neuro-immune system, and hormonal regulation. We, therefore, carried out a series of studies questioning whether there really is point specificity in acupuncture, especially vis-à-vis pain and acupuncture analgesic effects as we originally reported in our PNAS article, that had not yet been confirmed by other studies… Having concluded that there is no point specificity, at least for pain and analgesic effects, and that we no longer agree with the results in our PNAS article, the undersigned authors are retracting the article.
    Z. H. Cho
    S. C. Chung
    H. J. Lee
    E. K. Wong
    B. I. Min”

    Let me repeat the main idea, in case you miss it: “Having concluded that there is no point specificity, at least for pain and analgesic effects”

    This is the reference:
    Retraction in Cho ZH, Chung SC, Lee HJ, Wong EK, Min BI. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Jul 5;103(27):1052.

  67. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    1) Why is it that the worst of the internet pseudointellectuals always succumb to pointing out spelling mistakes as proof of their intellectual superiority? At no time did you address the spirit of my argument. At no time did you take on any of my points. It is spineless and cowardly to attack things like grammar and spelling while shirking from substantial debate.

    I kinda think my rather long post attacked the spirit (rather, pointed out the flaws in the substance) of your argument.

    Spelling and grammar on the internet are like the suit you wear to an interview. They are fleeting first impressions that can prejudice the rest. I try, but often fail, to be as coherent and error-free as possible, and appreciate correction. I thought you might appreciate the same, plus it pokes fun at your rant and definitely annoyed you so hooray! There’s only so much frothing illogic I can handle before I can’t resist. Thank goodness Google Chrome has spell-check built in or I’d look even worse.

    2) Cultural bias my comment reeks of? If defending past cultures from dismissive labels like “primitive” by people like you, then guilty as charged…but don’t expect me to agree with your label of “cultural bias” any more than I agree with your label of these cultures as “primitive” or your label of your ineffective and unproven SSRI’s as “real medicine”.

    1) The first use of the term “primitive” on this comments thread was by you, according to my search feature.

    2) The term “primitive” in comparing the knowledge and technological achievements of China before 1900 and the current knowledge base that is the collective achievement of modern science is quite accurate, particularly when discussing biology which requires a microscope. To make the roots of my criticism perfectly clear – all pre-empirical knowledge was so close to equally primitive compared to what we know now. This includes Greek/European vitalism, Chinese preoccupation with qi and Egyptian beliefs in the ka and ba. I’m not speaking of the rich cultural heritage found everywhere in the world, the myths and legends they created, the literary achievements or the spiritual heights achieved (no matter how worthless in terms of physical health), I’m speaking specifically of empirically verifiable knowledge, what ancient cultures knew about biology, physics, astronomy, geography, geology and any other hard science. Even history for that matter.

    3) You’re probably thinking right here you’ve got me again on an error because this is the third point of two points. And you can’t wait to “take me down” for making a third point of two points just like you “destroyed me” by pointing out a misspelling. OOOOHH, you’re such an amazing debater, I don’t know how I can survive this battle of the wits..I’m so obviously outmatched and overwhelmed here… Please, please, uncle, uncle, please, don’t embarrass me any further with your superior mind.

    I don’t think my mind is superior, but my grasp of history seems to be better, my grasp of logic definitely is, and I’m guessing despite my efforts through mostly civil and coherent counter-arguments, my ability to change my mind through reference to evidence is unarguably superior. I used to believe in auras, energy fields, ghosts, spirits, acupuncture and the healing power of crystals. I looked into it, read the criticisms, learned more about the scientific method, studied up on biology and came to the conclusion that it was bunk and hokum.

    I will also point out that:
    a) I did make a substantive point and
    b) you could have changed the lead in to your list from “two” to “three”
    c) I’ve made a lot of substantive points that you’ve either ignored or replied with irrelevant tangents or logical fallacies.

    Oh wonderful, you finally talk about antibiotics. I was wondering when I’d find an opening in the argument to address them…

    I hope you don’t talk about how antibiotics can’t treat viral infections, a point that science has recognized for decades now and considerable effort has been extended towards addressing antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Again, where did this criticism come from, TCM practitioners? I think it was from doctors.

    Penicillin creates a state of dysbiosis. The human being contains ten times more bacterial cells than human cells, meaning we are, in fact, mostly bacteria and “science” still has no clue what all the functions of normal human flora are, or even why states of dysbiosis occur.

    In terms of number, yes there are more bacterial cells than human cells. In terms of weight, there are several orders of magnitude difference. Science may not understand the full and collective action of bacteria in the gut and skin, but TCM didn’t even know what bacteria were, so yay for science!

    It was only relatively recently discovered, for instance, that obese individuals have a different proportion of firmicutes than healthy individuals, which ought to beg “science” to ask if their over-reliance of antibiotics for things like, oh say viral infections, might actually be causing an epidemic of iatrogenic obesity?

    I’m more inclined to say it’s over-eating, the massive increase in availability and decrease in cost for simple sugars, fatty foods and decrease in exercise that’s responsible.

    It ought to beg “science” to ask the question, “What did the ancient Chinese do for people with infections? How did they cure entire villages of epidemic febrile diseases??” Oh, but drug companies, and the “science” that supports them, would rather not ask those questions, they’d rather sell things like Fen-Phen to them to help with weight loss, Vioxx to help them with knee osteoarthritis from carrying 400 lbs on them for years, and then when these worthless fatties destroy their bodies with those meds (all proven in FDA trials for safety and efficacy, btw) we’ll cut out organs, we’ll give them more toxic drugs we’ve duped the public into thinking is safe, and we’ll destroy more, more, more.

    Ya, Big Pharma being evil doesn’t mean TCM works. How did the Ancient Chinese cure entire villages of febrile diseases? And is “febrile disease” a meaningful term when “fever” is a symptom, not a cause? Modern medicine doesn’t use antibiotics to treat a fever, it uses them to treat acute bacterial infection. Modern medicine uses vaccination to prevent viral infections, not antibiotics, Fen-Phen or Vioxx. If you’re interested in a substantive discussion, you might also try maintaining a consistent point rather than Gish-galloping a whole bunch of tangents. If you just want to vent, please let me know so I won’t bother pretending this is a civil discussion.

    My whole point was that, as a free society, people ought to be able to choose the treatment best for them. Again, you failed to address my argument. Do you not think people ought to choose for themselves if they want to be touched by the hand of death that has been caught time and again lying about the efficacy of their poison,? Do you not allow them to pursue an alternative to “science” which has shown itself over and over again to be, in its application by humans, nothing but manipulated numbers, testing, and a greedy agenda that all must bow down and worship as the true, objective reality? I’m not saying science doesn’t exist, conceptually, but what passes as science today is anything but…and yet you want to shove it down everyone’s throat like it’s an antibiotic that treats viruses

    I think the treatment that is best for a person is the one tested and proven to work. You keep asserting that TCM is effective (often on spurious grounds like “Big Pharma is evil/doctors treat viral infections with antibiotics”), but you have yet to provide any proof that it is. If TCM works, it can be proven to work. Nobody here is advocating for patients to be prevented from consulting TCM practitioners, at best it has been argued that practitioners be tested fairly and in English (because they may one day have to treat a non-Chinese speaker if nothing else). Do you object, for instance, to blatant cheating and for the selling of answers, or do you view that as a valid way of passing a test? Mostly this discussion has been about, for me, the fact that science, empirical testing and rationalism is not racist, and that the Chinese, like all cultures, knew less than we did before empiricism became the overwhelmingly successful approach to everything that it is.

    Putting science in quotes doesn’t change the fact of this beautiful, elegant idea – try to understand the world in a way that is replicable and demonstrable to anyone with the right equipment. The claim that all science is driven by a greedy agenda is quite the egregious straw man by the way, many scientists work in academia where the pay scale is far, far lower than private industry.

  68. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    OK, I’m not saying reductionism doesn’t have its mertis. In the grand scheme of things, I actually like it because the proud scientist who climbs a mountaintop, thinking he’ll be the first to discover–through ardent trial and error–what’s at the zenith, (while he’s dreaming that he’ll make all the journals, receive all the grant-research, funding, and acclaim) and once he reaches the summit he, to his great dismay, realizes that there’s been wise men and “primitives” who have been living up there for ages. Of course, he’s able to describe, in minute detail, all of the findings they’ve known about for ages. But he was last. The primitives he dismissed, banned, and attacked beat him there.

    Reductionism is merely far more successful than the random trial and error and anecdotes used previously by all cultures, including the Chinese. You still don’t seem to recognize how much more we know than the “wise” ancients. Even if those ancients knew that Thunder God vine had biochemical effects or that smallpox could be vaccinated against, they had absolutely no idea why it worked, and couldn’t manipulate, improve, stabilize, repeat, mass-produce, standardize and monitor the way we can. Can you provide me a single reference in the TCM literature that indicates it new smallpox was caused by a virus, that pneumonia was caused by a bacteria, that lactose intolerance was caused by an enzyme deficiency? I doubt it, in fact I doubt the Chinese had the words to even describe these concepts.

    I gave the example of Chinese discovering erythropoetin earlier.

    But singly failed to actually prove they “discovered” it. All you noted was that the Chinese associated some foods with “dampness”, then asserted this meant they knew what inflammation was beyond the trivial observation that heat, redness and swelling are indications of injury (and you might want to google “Calor, dolor, rubor, and tumor”).

    The actual discoverer appears to be Carnot, who isolated the molecule from the blood while Reissman and Erslev demonstrated it increased the amount of red blood cells and hematocrit.

    I gave the example of American Indians curing scurvy.

    And I noted James Lind’s role; a more accurate description might be that American Indians noted boiled pine needles treated scurvy, Lind noted that citrus fruits also treated scurvy, and a whole host of scientists (Holst, Frølich, Funk, Szent-Györgyi, Svirbely, King and Haworth) actually isolated the specific molecule. Noting an empirical claim isn’t the same thing as discovering the mechanism. It’s like claiming the discoverer of the keystone arch actually discovered the theory of relativity.

    And ultimately, that’s what people want in a healthcare system. You talk about “what’s helpful these days” …well human beings don’t want to wait for you to arrive at the mountaintop of understanding last. They don’t want to be ruined by a prideful, arrogant system that claims it has all the answers when it shows time and again it doesn’t have a clue. They don’t want to die of scurvy until you can figure out that it’s not incurable, they need something that works now.

    Scurvy has been long since cured. In fact most of the low-hanging fruit that could reasonably be attributed to the “ancients” have long-since been plucked. Science is currently working on curing patients of cancers caused by surviving chemotherapy that would have killed patients in their teens. We are building vaccines into fruits. Severed limbs can be surgically re-attached. There is no more smallpox. Tell me again about how great TCM is? What was its success rate in curing leukemia? What is the Chinese character used in 1400 AD to represent leukemia?

    Your characterization of science waiting to “get to the top of the mountain” is flatly wrong. Aspirin was used as a painkiller and blood thinner after it was proven to work but before its mechanism was understood. There are fast-tracking protocols for clinical trials where evidence of efficacy is dramatic for conditions lacking effective treatments. You’re repeatedly attacking straw men that bear no resemblance to how science or medicine actually moves forward. Science also acknowledges when it is incorrect (vis. the whole cell pertussis vaccine) and corrects itself. Can you point to an aspect of TCM that has been discarded in the face of empirical evidence, or has it remained preserved in 16th-century amber, irrespective the massive, amazing increases in knowledge in the past decade alone?

    You said it yourself there with your word choice… Musings. Now, if I were making your racist point for you, I might have chosen ‘utterances’ or ‘growls’ instead of “musing” for maximum effect. “Deluded imaginings”, however, takes the cake.

    Musings is appropriate, as it characterizes thought in the absence of evidence, an idle speculation without the testing that makes science so successful. “Deluded imaginings” is also defensible. “Delusion” in the sense of strong conviction despite evidence to the contrary (or for that matter, no evidence for or against). Imaginings in the sense of “making stuff up then making up more stuff under the assumption the previous stuff is true”. Vis. qi, meridians, moxibustion, the five elements and so on.

    Seriously, though, I provided it in my original argument which you chose to ignore. Allow me to repeat these to you: the Chinese, in their thinking, exhibited incredible sophistication in the relationship between the kidneys, bones and blood before the discovery of erythropoetin.

    Your original argument actually consisted of “the Chinese thought certain foods were good for inflammation”, you basically said that meant they got credit for erythopoetin. You’re going to have to do a lot better than that. For instance, could you provide the character used in 16th century China for “erythropoetin”?

    The Chinese, in their sophistication, cured epidemics of viral illnesses while modern science today has no clue what to do, except prescribe you-know-what, which causes epidemics of who-knows-what.

    Most epidemics are treated with vaccinations actually, a preventive measure that is available for smallpox, measles, mumps, rubella, influenza, pertussis, typhoid, yellow fever, hepatitis A, B, C, dyptheria, cholera, and polio, just off the top of my head. I doubt they cured anything, citations please? I know it has been argued that smallpox vaccinations originated in China, so good for that. What else is there? Note that vaccination isn’t a cure, it’s a preventive.

    The Chinese cured damp-bi of the joints, while modern medicine gives methotrexate which destroys the immune system…etc, etc, etc.

    Is methotrexate the sole treatment for arthritis? Is there any indication the Chinese appreciated the distinctions between the 100 different types of arthritis? And is there evidence that avoiding tomatoes, milk and peppers actually cures any type of arthritis?

    I could give you a slew of fresh examples too, but really my point is to illustrate something larger: that perhaps your act of ignoring each of my prior points on the subject, then asking “please tell me..why should modern science give high enough place to some random musings..” is a question that is ironically reflective of the larger actions of “science” which continues ignoring all the curings the Chinese people have experienced through a medicinal art, and because it doesn’t understand it, dismisses them as primitive and gullible for clinging to ethereal imaginings.

    My problem that you are asserting these things without any actual evidence to back it up. I can say that TCM is the result of aliens beaming thoughts into your head from space, but that’s not evidence. What evidence is there? Citations? Peer-reviewed articles? If these cures are proven, where is the proof? Surely if they’re as effective as you claim, someone has done the trivially easy randomized clinical trials to demonstrate this?

  69. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Yeah, I know needles were once much thicker and oftentimes, but not always, bloodletting resulted. Bloodletting is sometimes used as the primary treatment method in cases of excess. But are you denying all the evidence to show acupuncture–with needles–has efficacy for many conditions. You can cherry-pick all the sham studies you want, just like you cherry picked my arguments. How do you account for the real-time brain imaging scans done which show specific centers of the brain lighting up when certain points are needled to obtain the arrival of qi?

    What evidence? From what I have read, it’s basically two symptoms (pain and nausea) and a flawed evidence base for one condition (fertility).

    I would also question where those light-up spots are. From what I recall, it’s in areas basically related to where you needle, in the sensory homunculus.

    How do you account for the 1500 year history of Japanese acupuncture, where bloodletting is rarely performed, and where thin needles are shallowly inserted? Are you saying their people have been engaging in mass gullibility for ages?

    I thought we were talking about traditional Chinese medicine? What I see there is the kind of schism that comes up when a nonempirical system spreads, much like the splintering of religions over time. There’s also Tibetan, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese and other types of acupuncture. Which is correct? Are they all? How is that possible?

    Hell, how do you account for the obvious mass public demand here. 10,000 acupuncturists in California alone! Surviving…with those living expenses. Maybe the masses are just smoking really good weed out there.

    The placebo effect is not unitary. Two pills are better than one, needles are better than pills, surgery is better than needles, and it is enhanced by various factors (exoticness, “sciency”ness, drama and a lengthy consultation) and acupuncture has pretty much all of these. “Demand” is also not evidence of effectiveness, witness the demand for homeopathy, or tissue debridement for knee osteoarthritis. Upon independent testing, smoking actually appears to be ineffective.

    I mean, the government props up “modern medicine” with a myriad of funding in order to prevent its complete collapse–meanwhile, acupuncture receives no such artificial subsidation…and somehow 10,000 acupuncturists are able to survive high costs of living in California by duping the masses and engaging in fraud. That’s your argument in a nutshell, right?

    Citation needed for “modern medicine” being near complete collapse. Bernie Madoff also maintained quite the lifestyle in the even more expensive New York City, does that mean he was a good investor?

  70. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Why don’t you ask the millions of Americans why they don’t get the flu shot?

    The ‘flu shot is very much an open question. It’s not the best vaccine for a bunch of reasons, and it’s not deadly in the same way smallpox, polio, pertussis or typhoid are. Not to mention the rabid fearmongering spread by nutters about it. See also here. You appear to be mistaking an open empirical question with considerable naunce with “the entirety of the medical system”. Medicine doesn’t stand or fall on the basis of whether enough people get the ‘flu shot. For that matter, the effectiveness of the ‘flu shot doesn’t stand on the basis of how many people get the ‘flu shot.

    And again – just because science is complicated doesn’t mean TCM is effective.

  71. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    That’s all I’ve been doing. Are you reductionists such denialists of the reality before you that it causes you to be this obtuse? Here, let me repeat only a few facts I’ve already said:
    Fact: Ma huang, a Chinese herb to treat the common cold–used for centuries by these primitive savages who call it a wind-cold invasion–was so efficacious that we had to rip it off, ie pseudoephedrine, and ban its use from their medicine.

    Pseudo-ephedrine is a nasal decongestant. It doesn’t treat rhinoviruses, it alleviates symptoms. Also, Ma huang may provide an uncertain dose of pseudoephedrine, the process to produce, purify and package pseudoephedrine results in a uniform product that ensures you get enough of the product without overdosing. You should read some of Scott Gavura’s posts, they’re fascinating. It’s like claiming vitamin C “treats” the common cold – it doesn’t, it’s a decongestant, it just makes you less sniffly. You’re infected and infectious for just as long, you just don’t feel as miserable while you are infected.

    Also, the common cold is caused by a virus, not a “wind-cold invasion”. The term “wind-cold invasion” is used to situation the symptoms within a larger context of inaccurate idea about the causes of disease. It’s about as useful as the European belief that the cold was caused by an excess of Phlegm, or fever an excess of Blood. All three are about equally descriptive – all three are completely wrong. Can you show me where the literature on TCM it says “wind-cold invasion is caused by very, very, very small things that you can’t see and aren’t really alive but cause sickness anyway”? You’re mistaking a description for an understanding, an error you have made several times (vis. Aboriginal people and scurvy). Nobody understood much of anything, particularly not in biology, until the advent of empiricism.

    Fact: entire villages were being wiped out in bacterial plague 1,800 years ago a man named Zhang Zhongjing complied a treatment protocol-acupuncture and herbal- that effectively cured them with acupuncture, moxabustion and herbs. Oh, but the Chinese documented this fact in their historical records, not the CDC, so again ill pretend your fact doesn’t exist.

    Please provide the historical record. Please indicate what part of the record indicated it was bacterial. Please indicate where it was noted that bacteria were very, very, very small things, but larger than the thing that causes wind-cold invasion, that can live without a host. The Chinese may have had reasonable clinical descriptions, but then again so did Galen – and the Ancient Egyptians predated Galen by nearly two thousand years. That beats Zhang by about the same amount, so that means the Egyptians win, right? So the cause of disease is evil spirits and the cure is prayers to Thoth. Certainly safer than acupuncture.

    Age doesn’t win. Evidence wins. Get some evidence.

    Fact: brain imaging studies have been conducted showing activation of specific centers when qi is obtained via acupuncture needle.

    So…now that studies support your beliefs about acupuncture, they can be trusted? But not when they indicate you’re wrong? You’ve got your argument the wrong way ’round, it’s premise then conclusion. Also, provide the study and I’ll probably be able to explain why it might not mean what you think it means. And finally, the fact that specific centres in the brain light up with fMRI does not mean acupuncture cures any disease. Crack lights up a whole mess of stuff in the brain, that doesn’t mean it’ll make your cancer go away.

    I could go on and on, with many more, and I already have. Nobody wants to debate me on fact, you choose to ignore them and say I’m not presenting anything..that’s your pathetic debate strategy.

    Of course not. More accurately, you’ve provided precious few facts, and no citations, weblinks or other way of identifying the source of your assertions. Here’s a fact, Felix Mann, acupuncturist, has stated that “The traditional acupuncture points are no more real than the black spots a drunkard sees in front of his eyes”. That’s from Acupuncture: The Ancient Chinese Art of Healing.

    Science isn’t what facts you choose to interpret, it isn’t ignoring facts and data that’s inconsistent with a predetermined result…no science isn’t that, but your argument certainly is.

    Now here’s my problem with this. Most of your statements are quite exceptional. For them to be correct, large amounts of history, biology and physics would have to be pretty, spectacularly wrong. Further, you have provided no evidence for them, merely your own cherry-picked assertions (for instance, do you have any examples of the magical wisdom of herbs beyond Ma huang? Not that you’ve provided evidence of efficacy regarding even that one). Meanwhile your opponents have stuck to basically pointing out flaws in your logic (and occasionally facts with citations). You’re the one making rather extraordinary claims, but you haven’t provided the extraordinary evidence to back it up. So if you want to play dueling citations, we can play that – but please provide the citations.

    Also, science is a method for arriving at facts that stand a good chance of being true, or at least “truer” than untested facts. Saying science is facts is much like saying Shakespeare is letters. It rather misses the point, the origins, the context, the background and the reason why it is special. Science certainly isn’t about predetermined results, it’s about testing. TCM, and in particular your defense of it, is far more about defending predetermined outcomes from testing, or ignoring the results.

  72. Narad says:

    Yeah, I know needles were once much thicker and oftentimes, but not always, bloodletting resulted.

    Needles“? These are lancets.
    Does this remind you of anything?

  73. Narad says:

    Oh, and…

    Well, if a state wants to mandate that its citizens learn one common language, fine. Under the 10th Amendment states certainly have that right and it’s impossible to create road signs in ten languages.

    No, they don’t. Perhaps you are familiar with the amendment that comes nine earlier. Moreover, do you understand that the signage argument has nothing to do with the actual assertion?

  74. Ben Kavoussi says:

    @ Narad,

    Yes, you are absolutely right; they were lancets. Please look at the pictures I have posted here:

    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/acupuncture-and-fascial-planes-junk-science-and-wasteful-research/

  75. Ben Kavoussi says:

    @ WilliamLawrenceUtridge,

    You asked me if I had ever practiced. I used mostly transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) for musculoskeletal pain, which acupuncturists like to call “electroacupuncture.” The pain relief properties come from the electricity, not the needles. Actually, most acupuncturists routinely use TENS and attribute the main management properties of electricity to some magical healing force. Nonsense.

  76. Ben Kavoussi says:

    @ WilliamLawrenceUtridge

    Please read my post above to boogafish concerning the brain imaging after acupuncture.

  77. acudavid says:

    I am reticent to enter this fracas…
    electroacupuncture is PENS, percutaneous rather than transcutaneous–much less power focused by needlepoint accuracy. PENS is within an acupuncturist’s scope of practice, while TENS is not, at least in my state of California.
    I am the acupuncturist in a Worker’s Comp clinic. Most of my patients have low back pain. I treat them after the Md has used conventional therapy, usually for six or more months, and the patients are still in pain. Honestly, I think the only reason they come to me is their lawyers require it for their case. Many are afraid of needles and want no part of acupuncture. More than 90% return for future treatments. Around half report reduced pain, better sleep, improved mobility, return to work, and I measure and record improved range-of-motion. The other half report pain relief for a couple of hours and not any lasting improvement, except for their cases which show additional treatments to build-up their claims. Maybe some of these patients need surgery, or maybe they are faking, but I discharge them after an appropriate treatment regimen produces poor results.
    I’m not going to be able to change minds here. But I would hope to open some up. Rather than looking at the past, lets look to the future. In case any of you missed the current events, our medical system is in trouble.
    Here is a link to the NIH pertaining to the methodology of GERAC, the multi-million dollar acupuncture study funded by the insurance companies in Germany:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15959826
    GERAC has four parts, and the first part concerns low back pain, and is a comparison of conventional medical treatment vs. acupuncture. These results are available. I don’t want to be accused of listing a biased source, so you can search GERAC for results. These results obviously favor acupuncture.
    The recent history of acupuncture in the U.S. is that in the 70′s, the anesthesiologists were killing so many patients, that leading Md’s and hospitals invited Chinese acupuncturists to provide acupuncture anesthesia during surgery… obviously not a placebo!
    The venomous attacks in the above comments lead me to conclude that agendas are in play. By the time ObamaCare gets through with us, there won’t be any time for agendas. Let’s put the weapons down and look for real solutions.

  78. Harriet Hall says:

    @acudavid,

    “the anesthesiologists were killing so many patients, that leading Md’s and hospitals invited Chinese acupuncturists to provide acupuncture anesthesia during surgery… obviously not a placebo!”

    Nonsense! How many patients were anesthesiologists killing? References, please!
    And acupuncture anesthesia is a myth. See:
    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/acupuncture-anesthesia-a-proclamation-from-chairman-mao-part-ii/#more-494

  79. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Yep, pain is one of the few indications acupuncture does anything for. The results are generally transitory. Low back pain generally resolves on its own if patients maintain activity. Conventional care isn’t very good for low back pain, we don’t really have any guaranteed effective treatment, so acupuncture being better than “doing nothing” isn’t particularly surprising.

    The medical system may be in trouble, but that doesn’t mean acupuncture is the solution. It is probably an effective placebo, capable of easing pain and nausea. While it may be helpful for short-term relief of these two symptoms, it’s hardly a panacea for all disease or the entire medical system.

    Question acudavid – do you use a TCM diagnosis process? Do you needle acupuncture points or meridians? Do you explain acupuncture to your clients using qi? How much training did you get? How much do you use that training? How much did it cost? Did your training focus on anatomy and sterility? If not, what? Do you needle the low back, or elsewhere in the body?

Comments are closed.