Question from Lukas:
Here goes. Some time before my friend told me about Dr William Bengston. I as an agnostic of course didn’t believe in the story of this person that he cured cancer in mice but I could not give him any reasonable answer to his experiment and even could not find any skeptic information on this guy on the Internet. Therefore I am asking here if you could help me. Dr. William Bengston claims he can cure people from cancer with his energy healing. The complete info is here:


Thanks for your time reading this and if you could answer it – mostly the pdf. research that my friend send me I would be glad. Thanks very much.

Answer by SmartLX:
This is of course an atheist website, and I dabble in skepticism of the supernatural mainly because claims of the supernatural are often used to support claims of the divine. I’ll address this particular topic because it looks interesting, but supporting theism does not appear to be Bengston’s intention. In fact, he claims that even people who don’t think his healing-hands cure will work can perform it successfully, which contradicts most religions’ claims about the exclusive power of belief.

Anyway, you’re right, there’s hardly anything on Dr Bengston online by skeptics. I see two main causes for this.
1. He hasn’t been targeted as a charlatan as he does not appear to be aggressively pursuing monetary gain – until recently, with the release of his new book and audiobook, so he may soon attract that sort of attention.
2. When Dr Bengston addresses a group of skeptics, he says in the linked interview, he starts by telling them that he’s the only real skeptic in the room, and everyone else is a believer – who believes from the outset that he’s wrong or lying. Telling people right away that they can’t be persuaded is a terrible way to actually persuade them of something, or engage them at all, because it shifts the focus from the evidence to the people and puts them on the defensive. I can think of only two possible reasons why Bengston does this: either he wants a hostile, dismissive response so he can continue to claim prejudice, or he’s genuinely, obliviously bad with people and he seriously needs to let someone else present his findings.

His paper from the first link was published in the Journal of Scientific Exploration which is derided, along with the similarly-titled society that makes it, as a haven for fringe science. Apparently the experiment on breast cancer in mice has been repeatedly successful in saving the lives of the mice, and there’s nothing which obviously contradicts that. There is however something crucial which is missing from the paper: the method, the actual energy-healing technique.

The “Methods and Data” section has plenty about the mice, the cancer and the human participants, but nothing at all about how they went about healing the mice. It’s implied that the core technique is not the placement of (or clothing on) the hands but rather the mental activity of the practitioner, but there isn’t a single hint about what’s involved in that critical aspect. This means that the experiment cannot be repeated without consent and instruction from, and probably the participation of, Bengston himself or his associates. By withholding the details of the very thing which is tested in the experiments, Dr Bengston has retained absolute control of all relevant experimentation and research. If anyone tries without him, he can say they’re doing it wrong and declare the results invalid. This is not conducive to the advancement of science, and the fact that the experiment can’t be done without Bengston does not speak well for its merits.

As I said, he’s got a book out, and reviews of the book on Amazon contain plenty of anecdotes of people healing other people with its help. Any one of these, if genuine, and demonstrably not caused by other factors, could make headlines as a medical “miracle” or win James Randi’s million dollar prize if repeated under experimental conditions. Neither is happening thus far, to my knowledge. Despite all the claims and stories, Dr Bengston’s method is apparently not having an effect on the world at large, and that to me is very important. Something as amazing as a drug-free, doctor-free cancer cure should have a huge impact on the medical community, if only in the form of a huge pushback by the money-makers as Bengston claims, but as we’ve both found, there isn’t even a visible effort by any party to discredit Bengston. He’s a medical non-entity, and will probably remain so until we get more results than the endless parade of tightly controlled but apparently very fortunate mice.

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.