Monday, November 10, 2008

Is that a duck? It sure sounds like one!

Only a few days ago, my former TIGR colleague Steve Salzberg wrote about Johns Hopkins University's plans to open an "Integrative Medical Center" where herbalism and other "alternative" (that is, unscientific) treatments will be offered. That was disturbing enough given the great stature Johns Hopkins has in medical science. 

But today I received an e-mail that the East Coast branch of the JCVI, the institute where I work, as part of their "Lunch & Learn" series, is inviting a speaker from the "North Adams Wellness Corner" to talk about

"how pressure points can help relieve cold and flu symptoms. Learn easy and effective pressure points on the hands, face, and feet to relieve sinus congestion and boost your immune system".

I've only taken one immunology course and I didn't recall "pressure points" being mentioned, so I was a bit curious. Looking them up on the web, I find out that they are part of the mysticism behind martial arts! Quoting from that page, I find that 

"The Eight Brocades, an ancient Chi cultivation technique that help heal the body, prevent illness and boost your immune system while activating special pressure points. These exercises have been practised for over 1,000 years by Chinese martial arts practitioners."

Not very promising. I'd be far more convinced by peer-reviewed articles rather than the anecdotal experience of Bruce Lee and his predecessors. Why is it that nonsense sounds more profound when it is from China or India? The West also had its pre-scientific medical theories. Why not return to the Four Humours of Hippocrates? This is even older than the "eight brocades", and according to the above logic, older is better, right? I guess the reason why I'm angry about this quackery is that I have too much yellow bile ("choleric").


Steven Salzberg said...

Well, what happened at the seminar? Did you challenge the speaker? Did anyone? Was the audience skeptical or credulous? I'm curious to know how this talk was received at a scientific institute.

Jonathan Badger said...

Actually the seminar took place at the Rockville JCVI (the old TIGR), and nobody here (despite the stereotypical association of Californians with Newage woo) requested that it be transmitted here via video conference, so I don't really know how it went. I haven't seen any other bizarre seminars advertised since, so hopefully it wasn't particularly well attended.