18 Aug, 11 | by Iain Brassington
Right now, physicists are pondering the fallout from the collision of high-energy particles. (Probably.) And I, for my part, am pondering the fallout from the collision of high-energy nonsense.
Having had this brought to my attention, I’m led fairly quickly to this, then this, and, finally, this Mail on Sunday piece. All the links refer to a story in which a hospital is apparently using £200k or so of Lottery money to fund research into spiritual healing based on Reiki. I’m willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that the research finds that spiritual “healing” is utterly ineffective, except when it means people don’t avail themselves of real medicine – in which case, it’s very effective and its effects are undesirable. Spiritual healing is bunk; one could reasonably think that a trial into it is a waste of money. We oughtn’t to waste money, so, modus ponens, we oughtn’t really to be doing this kind of research.
In fact, there’re likely to be big problems with spiritual healing research of any sort, simply because participants may feel that there’s less need to continue using established treatments, and thereby end up worse off. And when others continue with conventional treatments, it’s going to be hard to tell which of their outcomes was attributable to which – so the research’ll likely tell us nothing. Hence I wonder whether the research will yield anything publishable: if not, then the whole thing will have been in vain, and there’s something problematic about enrolling people in trials that stand a chance of being, from a publication point of view, barren.
I’m not actually going to go down that route here, though. more…