when quacks kidnap einstein’s ghost…

Alt med practitioners decided that the one of world's simplest and most famous formulas is their friend because they clearly don't understand it.

There’s something really evil about taking the profound work of scientists who spent years finding solutions to some of the complex and pressing problems faced by humans in our pursuit of knowledge, then mangling everything it represents to justify self-serving and profitable pseudoscientific beliefs. While these introductions usually invoke the Victorians’ distortions of Darwin’s theory of natural selection, the scientist I have in mind for this example is actually Albert Einstein and the most famous formula in the world today. By showing the math behind how matter and energy are related, he gave other physicists new ways to think about the dynamics of our universe. And unfortunately, he gave quacks an idea for defending their quasi-religious medical beliefs…

You see, homeopaths, naturists and faith healers like reiki practitioners, reject or just ignore the modern germ theory of disease, the whacky notion that microorganisms like bacteria and viruses attack your body and make you sick in the process. Instead, they focus on ideas dating back to ancient times. Your body has a balance so whenever you get sick, it means your balance has been tipped and must be restored with touching, needles, magical water or just plain old faith healing. Makes perfect sense, right?

I mean it’s not as if antibiotics and an advanced understanding of microorganisms save millions of lives on an annual basis and were responsible for nearly doubling the average life expectancy of people in the developed world along with sanitary conditions and better nutrition… Oh wait. they were? And the disruptions of the four humors…? Really? No such thing? So the whole thing about restoring natural balances is just taking a 300 year step back in medicine?

Now that we got the snark out of our system, let’s consider the position of today’s medical quacks. Clearly, the references to toxic miasmas and the “dis-eases” caused by either the disturbances in the balance of our four humors, the bad alignment of our chakras, or a drop in our qi, aren’t going to do it since they’re covered in any history class as outdated ideas which held sway only due to the lack of proper equipment and sound science.

If they’re going to be effective, they need something that sounds more scientific and this is when Einstein and a famous, instantly recognizable equation of his are abducted by the forces of woo and subjected to the kinds of verbal torment that would’ve probably made poor Albert swear off science for good. As we’ve seen before in a terrifying example of physics abuse by Charlene Werner, the correlation between energy and mass is used to justify that we’re all just energy and by manipulating this energy, we can cure disease, live longer, healthier lives and even prevent illness, in a manner similar to this…

“I’m a Reiki Master,” she told the crowd. “I use energy to heal. I was skeptical, too. My father’s a doctor, my brother’s a doctor, my husband’s a doctor. I was actually a little contemptuous of Reiki at first. But life is energy. The difference between those body organs over there and you is energy. Everything is energy.” Using Einstein’s world-changing equation to make her point, Mrs. Oz said, “Physics has evolved. It’s not the old mechanistic model anymore. But medicine hasn’t.”

If you’re wondering who this Mrs. Oz is, you may be in for a little surprise. She’s the wife of Oprah’s TV doctor Mehmet Oz, a surgeon who plunged deep into the profitable world of woo. So while Mrs. Oz is trying to give a scientific backing for her beliefs that faith healing that combines Christianity with Eastern mysticism into a few touching exercises and breathing methods, is somehow as effective as modern medicine, she takes a rather bold plunge into the inane territory so richly mined by the aforementioned Charlene Werner. Note that if those who trot out the “everything is energy” argument to justify their woo actually spent even a few minutes doing a little math using the very formula they want to shout from the rooftops, they would know that a rather average, 75 kilogram person would put out around 6.7 EJ, or exajoules, i.e. the equivalent of 1.6 billion tons of TNT.

Applying this fact across the global population of almost 7 billion people would yield roughtly 4.6 × 1028 J or if you prefer, 11 billion gigatons, enough to turn the surface of our planet unto an uninhabitable wasteland if we were to release it in one, huge blast. Which we’d have to if we’re all just energy as is being claimed here. The kind of power wielded by a reiki practitioner should strike fear into the hearts of generals because it would be measured in hundreds of megatons and could wipe entire cities off the map.

Then again, it could all just be a flimsy excuse for making a few ritualized gestures and telling patients that this will heal them from everything under the sun before handing them an invoice for providing nothing but technobabble and a mental placebo. I would certainly lean towards the second scenario considering what the very equation they use as proof of the great energies they control say about their claims.

Here’s the simple moral of the story. If you’re going to talk about religious notions of mystical auras flowing in and around human bodies, it’s a very bad idea to confuse them with the energy described by modern physics, that is the ability of a system to do work. All you’ll end up doing is throwing out an equation which could easily prove that you’re clueless on the topic, or explain that your remedies are actually radioactive hazmat, while blissfully unaware of what you’ve just done in your quest to justify the woo that pays your bills…

# health // energy / health / physics / quackery / woo

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