Healing Hands? Harrumph!

Question from Marie:
I’m wondering if beyond the scope of anything “religous” are athiests open to healing methods using therapeutic touch or reiki? Energy has been proven to have healing effects based on scientific studies like that of Dolores Krieger (Wrote “Therapeutic touch”).
And all matter is essentially frequency in motion as proven by science. All these healing methods do is raise the frequencies in the body to promote healing.

Answer by SmartLX:
Yes, according to quantum mechanics (and pardon me in advance for oversimplifying) all matter oscillates at certain frequencies depending on the type of matter and the amount of energy stored in it. There is however no evidence…
1. that human bodies have anything like the cohesive “energy field” Dolores Krieger describes,
2. that the body’s intrinsic energy can be significantly or even measurably altered by the touch of another human being, or
3. that if the body’s energy were somehow deliberately affected (e.g. if the frequencies of the tissue were raised), it would assist with any known medical ailment.

People receiving therapeutic touch and other similar treatments (such as reiki) have sometimes shown improvements in their condition. This does not by itself prove a healing effect, because it must be established that the improvement is not due to some other factor. It’s difficult to test in this case, because the simple act of touching a person has positive physical and mental effects unrelated to the whole energy business, and doing anything at all to a patient can cause a placebo effect. Users of therapeutic touch might be better off getting an ordinary massage.

Krieger’s go-to anecdote is her eventual housemate Nabeela George, who broke her neck in a fall. In the two days after the accident Krieger performed therapeutic touch on her, and George regained some movement in her arms and legs. This is far from miraculous; those with spinal injuries regain the most feeling and movement in the time immediately following the injury (up to the first six months). By performing an apparently ineffectual technique on such a patient at the right time, Krieger may well have taken credit for George’s own limited natural recovery. She might also have prevented greater recovery by persuading George to submit to her in lieu of other medical treatments. If you know of a study which gives better support than this, please point us to it so we can investigate and discuss it here.

Atheists don’t believe in gods, but some atheists do believe in the kinds of undetected energies that supposedly enable such phenomena as therapeutic touch. This is not a contradiction, if they think the energies can exist without gods. This group of atheists is not a very large percentage, however, because the kind of skepticism that leads many to reject religious faith is also very inhospitable to unsupported medical claims.

One thought on “Healing Hands? Harrumph!”

  1. Its a slippery slope … you start believing in healing touch (and tie it up to quantum mechanics in a very loose way), then you start believing in positive and negative vibes, then cosmic energy (of the personal kind – not the dark energy of physics kind), then faeries and guardian angels, then leprechauns all the way down to the bottom of the slope where rests a belief in god – our father who art in heaven.
    The danger of believing in all this stuff is that is can be counter-productive – you start thinking that being positive is all that is required and the universe will help you if you are positive. So you are positive but do nothing else to increase your productivity, and of-course the universe does not help you and you end up worsening your situation (and deluding yourself into believing that “it could have been worse, the universe helped me by making something that could have been worse, better”).

    It’s a bit irresponsible to believe anything without evidence. Its best to suspend belief when there is a lack of complete, objective evidence – if there is a lack of evidence, one theoretical explanation is almost as good as another, and the most parsimonious one is best to adopt.
    In the case of Ms. George who broke her neck the placebo effect and the body’s natural healing (both medically proven to some degree and observed) are more parsimonious explanations than invoking “energy fields” (not medically proven at all, but anecdotal evidence abounds).

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