I’ve just returned from a 5-day cruise to Bermuda (which is why my blogs for the last few days have been brief – pay-per-minute internet service–meh!). Anyway, of course while vacationing I was on the look out for woo of all kinds. Because I was only in Bermuda a short time I didn’t have the opportunity to find anything there but there was one bit of pseudoscience on board our ship. The ship’s spa included Acupuncture.
So when the ships events included a seminar discussing the benefits of acupuncture, I figured I’d go and politely challenge them on some of their claims. Though the seminar turned out to be just a couple of people sitting in a back waiting room having one-on-one or one-on-two sales pitches by the on-board acupuncturist while pleasant, vaguely Asian instrumental music played in the background. So I overheard the acupuncturist trying to work over a middle age couple. He used all sorts of standard woo phrases like “energies” and “balance.” But at least the wife was skeptical. She said she wasn’t sure about acupuncture and wanted to do more internet research first. Now here’s when the acupuncturist showed that he’s probably not of the true believer variety but rather is likely a deliberate huckster preying on unsuspecting passengers on the ship. The acupuncturist actually was quick at that point to advise the woman and presumably her husband not to “look too deeply” into acupuncture. He made a quick statement that many people don’t understand the intricacies of Chinese medicine, clearly implying that one should disregard critics if they can be found to not know every minute detail about acupuncture.
This is of course a common tactic by pseudo-scientists to dismiss their critics because they can always make up something on the spot that their critics don’t know and then hold it against them. In my experience every pseudoscience has some version of the “you’re just not getting it” gamut. For instance, grand conspiracy theorists will go on about how a whole group or organization such as the entire government, the entire media, or all of “Big Pharma.” is evil. Then when you challenge the absurdity of it, they go, no, you’re not getting it; most of them in these organizations are just manipulated sheep who are unwitting participants in the conspiracy. So then when you challenge that argument, they go, no, you’re not getting it; most of them are evil. And because no one argument can challenge both claims whenever you attack one, they default to the other. It’s just another dodge.
Anyway, after it was clear that the woman was interested in probing deeper into acupuncture, the acupuncturist said that clinical studies showed the success of acupuncture (a lie) and then listed a couple of his own handpicked websites for her to look at. The only one I remember hearing was simply acupuncture.com, clearly an unbiased source of information about acupuncture [rolling eyes]. He might have mentioned Wiki4cam.com, which I talked about on yesterday’s blog but I hadn’t heard about that site until later that day (yesterday) maybe because I wasn’t listening for it. Anyway, I’d planned on coming up to the couple afterwards and giving them a few sites critical of acupuncture like the JREF, The NESS, Quackwatch, Neurologica blog, The Rogues Gallery blog, What’s The Harm, and the Skeptoid podcast because it has short episodes that cover one specific issue in under 10 minutes. But ultimately I chose not to bother coming up to the couple and listing all these sources for them to look at because at least the wife seemed to have a handle on it and assessing the situation felt my interference might do more harm than good. Also, because I didn’t have an audience, it didn’t seem necessary to confront the acupuncturist by criticizing his methods. So I just picked up some of their literature and left. After all, pardon the pun but I didn’t want to rock the boat.