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Skeptic questions veracity of Burk's column

Larry Burk's defense of therapeutic touch in his column in the Apr. 8 edition of The Chronicle ranges from the ridiculous to the ludicrous. Therapeutic touch is a bizarre practice, (no matter how many people use it) which alleges that the body generates an "energy field." By the way, this supposed "energy field" cannot be measured by any known scientific instrument, which leads to the question: What is this energy? The therapeutic touch practitioner moves his or her hands above the patient. Somehow, the unmeasurable "energy field" from the alleged healer is able to alter the undetectable "energy field" of the sick patient, and like magic (which it certainly seems to be), the patient is cured.

Enter one Emily Rosa, an 11-year-old girl, who clearly has more common sense than many adults. She easily demonstrates that therapeutic touch practitioners are not able to determine if their hands are above a person or not. So much for the practitioner manipulating alleged "energy fields." Needless to say, they are more than willing to continue to pick up checks for their hand waving.

The explanation from Burk as to why Rosa's experiment demonstrated that therapeutic touch is a fraud was that Rosa is a skeptic (a dirty word in Burk's dictionary). His argument, which is no more than fecal matter from a steer, is that because Rosa had doubts about therapeutic touch, it will not work. She must believe! Perhaps Burk thinks that Rosa's skepticism caused her undetectable "energy field" to collapse. Perhaps her "energy field" leapt out and silenced the therapeutic touch practitioner's "energy field." Perhaps a giant, mutant stargoat is feeding on the Sun. By the logic in this explanation (the requirement for faith, not the stargoat), therapeutic touch will only work on patients who believe. Will the new-age treatment of patients now begin with an indoctrination session, so it is ensured that they believe in the healing power of snake oil, hand-waving, smoke and mirrors?

If experiments worked merely because you wish them to, it would make my life a lot easier. Although this may be the way that pseudoscience works, in the real world, that's not how real science works.

If it quacks like a duck...

Aron Silverstone

University employee


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