a trancenet.org publication
Deepak Chopra and Maharishi Ayurvedic Medicine
by Thomas J. Wheeler,
Ph.D. reformatted & cached from National Council against Health Fraud article
What is Ayurveda?, The JAMA Caper, Scientific Status of Ayurveda, Commercial Offeringsand Quantum Healing
The following article originally appeared in
BASIS, the newsletter of theBay Area Skeptics and is
reprinted with permission. It is copyright protected but may be freely
reproduced and distributed provided that is not sold and full credit is
The following is based on a response I prepared to a
question posted to the Internet SKEPTIC Discussion Group, asking for
information on the validity of the theories of Deepak Chopra, M.D. I
teach an elective course for medical students on the subject of
"alternative medicine"*, and have accumulated material in this area over
the last few years.
What follows is not an investigative report, but
rather a summary of material which I already had on hand. I should point
out that I do not have Chopra's books and have not read them; I am, for
the most part, merely summarizing statements and opinions of others. I
have focused on points related to medical claims, rather than those
dealing with transcendental meditation.
*Note: I follow the standard
set by Kurt Butler (Ref. 1, p. 2): "The word 'alternative' appears in
quotation marks because the methods it characterizes are not true
alternatives, A true alternative to an effective health-care method is
another method that has been proven effective. The methods described
herein are ineffective, unproven, or both."
To introduce the subject, I quote from a book by Kurt
Butler(Ref. 1, pp. 110-111):
Ayurvedic medicine is Indian folk
medicine with roots going back about two thousand years. It is promoted
in America by disciples of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the transcendental
meditation (TM) guru.
By far the most publicized practitioner is Deepak
Chopra, M.D., a Western-educated Indian physician who turned to Ayurvedic
medicine after converting to the TM religion. Chopra's books include
Creating Health: Beyond Prevention, Toward Perfection[Houghton Mifflin,
1987], Return of the Rishi: A Doctor's Search for the Ultimate Healer
[Houghton Mifflin, 1988], Quantum Healing: Exploring the Frontiers of
Mind/Body Medicine [Bantam, 1989], and Perfect Health [Crown Publishers,
1990]. All are dedicated to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, whose
"extraordinary insight" and "timeless knowledge" enabled Chopra to
restructure his reality.
The following summarizes some points in
Butler's discussion(pp. 111-117) of Chopra and Ayurvedic medicine.
(Comments in square brackets are my own):
The beliefs and practices
of Ayurvedic medicine fall into three categories: (1) some that are
obvious, well established, and widely accepted by people who have never
heard of Ayurveda[e.g., don't overeat]; (2) a few that proper research may
eventually prove valid and useful [herbal remedies may contain useful
drugs, but their dangers and limitations often have not been
scientifically investigated}; (3) absurd ideas, some of which are
The third category of Ayurvedic medicines includes Dr.
Chopra's advice for preventing and reversing cataracts. Each day, he
advises, brush your teeth, scrape your tongue, spit into a cup of water,
and wash your eyes for a few minutes with this mixture.
attributes many diseases to demons and astrological influences, it is not
surprising that incantations, amulets, spells, and mantras are commonly
used remedies." Some Ayurvedic remedies employ animal urine and feces
[however, it was not stated that Chopra advocates these].
words show how he has given up critical thinking in favor of ancient
dogma. He says that a good Ayurvedic physician can tell a meditator from
a nonmeditator, diagnose illness, and prescribe appropriate remedies, all
by feeling the patient's pulse." [Traditional Chinese medicine also claims
to be able to detect many qualities and symptoms from the pulse, a claim
which is rejected by scientific medicine.]
Chopra espouses Ayurveda's
mystical medicine the way one might believe in a religion: Ayurveda's
approach to physical disorders is not basically physical at all...Faced
with any illness, the vaidya (Ayurvedic physician) turns directly to
Nature's intelligence, where he finds the real cure. The herbs, minerals
and metals that he uses think the way we do...Ayurveda works because it
corrects a distortion in consciousness... Chopra repeatedly asserts that
'for every thought there is a corresponding molecule. If you have happy
thoughts, then you have happy molecules.'...Chopra also asserts that
masters of Ayurvedic medicine can determine an herb's medicinal qualities
by simply looking at it. Scientific study is therefore
Chopra promotes the Ayurvedic claim that certain exercises
and asanas (yogic positions) can stimulate endocrine glands to excrete
their hormones. Since he is an endocrinologist, he should not find it
difficult to perform studies to test this concept...As far as I know, he
has never conducted any such study.
The next section of the book
deals with Chopra's endorsement of claims of Maharishi Transcendental
Meditation regarding effects of TM on crime and war, etc., and the ability
to levitate. Butler challenges Chopra to produce someone who can levitate,
as demonstrated by the following test: sit on a scale and reduce body
weight by 5% for 15 sec using mental power alone.
Chopra is the
ideal propagandist for Ayurveda because, as a medical doctor, he can give
it a respectable scientific aura. He occasionally gives therapeutic drugs
and surgery their due for infections, cancers, and heart conditions. Yet
at other times he says that 'the direct nondrug cures (especially TM) are
more effective because they exhibit more complete, holistic knowledge and
more pervasive correlation.' On a 'Sonya Live' program, he said that
antibiotics and anticancer drugs don't work. He blamed chemotherapy and
radiation for 'an epidemic of immuno-compromised disease,' which is pure
In one of his books, Chopra advocates a special diet,
along with herbs, meditation, etc., for asthma, but doesn't mention the
avoidance of allergens such as animal hair and house
Chopra also exaggerates the importance of positive
thinking in cancer therapy...Although a positive attitude may help a
cancer patient feel better, comply with treatment, and have a better
quality of life, no scientific study has demonstrated an effect upon the
Nor have depressed people been found to
have a higher incidence of cancer.
Chopra was at the center of a controversy in 1991, when
JAMA(Journal of the American Medical Association) published an article
entitled "Letter From New Delhi: Maharishi Ayur-Veda: Modern Insights Into
Ancient Medicine," by Hari Sharma, Brihaspati Dev Triguna, and Chopra
(Ref. 2). The article describes traditional Ayurvedic medicine, and then
defines "Maharishi Ayur-Veda" as "a modern revival, taking into account
all of these approaches in accordance with the classical texts...under the
direction of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in collaboration with leading Ayurvedic
physicians." Included in the article are discussions of the benefits of
TM and results of scientific investigations of Ayurvedic herbal
A later issue included numerous letters (Ref. 3) both
favorable to and critical of the article, a reply from Sharma and
Chopra(Ref. 4), and a "Medical News & Perspectives" report (Ref. 5).
Because JAMA has a policy concerning disclosure of financial interests for
authors of articles and letters, we can learn that the authors of the
favorable letters all were involved in the practice of ayurvedic medicine
or TM, some with direct connections to the Maharishi's enterprises. Among
the critical letters:
- Patrick Ryan, a former
member of the TM organization and now"an educational consultant in the
field of cult exit counseling," stated, "The article has factual errors
and, by omission, paints a false picture of a rather unscrupulous
organization. Most references cited are generated by the Transcendental
Meditation (TM) 'movement.' Professional critiques of TM research state
that 'the scientific research is without objectivity, and at times, simply
untrue,' and it is 'deliberately contrived to mislead the public.'...Drs.
Chopra and Triguna offer Maharishi Ayur-Veda services for a fee. By
failing to cite the contraindications(problems with headaches, insomnia,
concentration, gastrointestinal upset, hallucinations, anxiety,
depression, and destruction of personality) of Maharishi Ayur-Veda, the
authors violate the ethics of informed consent."
- Gordon White, another former member of the TM movement, provided
additional criticisms of the alleged benefits of TM, with some literature references.
- Wallace Sampson, MD, who is board
chairman of the National Council AYURVEDA Against Health Fraud, noted that
the article contained "a collection of dubious results of 'pulse
diagnosis' and herbal and dietary treatments...Although some of the
results have been published, they have not been validated by independent
observers. They are inconsistent with scientific knowledge and method."
Similarly, Tim Gorski, MD asked "Where is their double-blind controlled
study, for instance, wherein it is shown that Ayurvedic practitioners can
accurately 'diagnose diseases...such as diabetes, neoplastic disease,
musculoskeletal diseases, and asthma' by palpation of the radial pulse?
Just think of all the laboratory analyses, surgery, x-rays and spirometry
that could be dispensed with if they could prove such
- John Patterson, PhD (Iowa State
University) (whom some readers may know for his activities in dealing with
creationism), noted that "The TM movement is to Hinduism what the Creation
Science movement is to Christianity - an aberration. Both are best viewed
as religion in the guise of science."
- Kevin Garvey,
a "counselor and legal consultant on cases stemming from TM's abuses"
wrote, "The line describing mind as 'a physical expression of the
self-interacting dynamics of an underlying abstract field of
intelligence,' and which emphasizes this as a principle, fails to identify
its theological import. This is, however, a reference to Hinduism's
concept of Maya(matter is an illusion), Maya's integral relation to Monism
(all things are made of one substance), and the belief that this substance
is spirit. Transcendental Meditation Ayur-Veda defies all medical
knowledge because it accepts the archaic belief that disease is the result
of assault by female demons! This bit of truth, of course, is not
acknowledged to Western audiences."
Most of the reply by the
authors (Ref. 4) dealt with the evidence concerning the beneficial effects
of TM. In response to Gorski, they referred him "to the references in the
original article," but the only reference to pulse diagnosis was not to
the conventional medical literature but rather to a book published in
India entitled The Essence of Pulse Diagnosis. They did not respond to
comments by Garvey and Sampson.
The report included in the same issue,
written by associate editor Andrew Skolnick, was entitled "Maharishi
Ayur-Veda: Guru's Marketing Scheme Promises the World Eternal 'Perfect
Health'" . Skolnick also wrote a report on the episode ("The Maharishi
Caper: JAMA Hoodwinked (But Just for a While)") which appeared in the
Skeptical Inquirer (Ref. 6). A further note concerning the affair
appeared later (Ref. 7).
One of the major points of Skolnick is that
despite indicating on a financial disclosure form that they were not
affiliated with any organization that could profit from the publication of
their article, the authors "were intimately involved with the complex
network of organizations that promote and sell the products and services
about which they wrote. They misrepresented Maharishi Ayur-Veda as
India's ancient system of healing, rather than what it is: a trademark
line of 'alternative health' products and services marketed since 1985 by
the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi..." (Ref. 6, p. 255).
Scientific Status of Ayurveda
Some points concerning the
scientific status of Maharishi Ayur-Veda:
- On claims of pulse
diagnosis: "When asked if he would agree to a test of these claims made in
JAMA using a blinded protocol, Chopra declined on the grounds that a
blinded experiment would 'eliminate the most crucial component of the
experiment, which is consciousness.'" (Ref. 5, p. 1742)
- The American
Association of Ayurvedic Medicine (of which Chopra is president)
represented one of its research council members as if he were affiliated
with, and conducting research projects on Ayurvedic herbal remedies, at
institutions such as M.I.T., Harvard Medical School, and Massachusetts
General Hospital. In fact he had undergone training at those
institutions, but no longer had any affiliation with them. He apparently
was allowed to use one professor's resources for his herb studies, and
made a presentation at a scientific meeting(with a published abstract).
However, the professor stated that "I never wanted anything about this
work to be published because there was nothing to warrant publication.
His data were too few and equivocal." The professor denied supplying the
required signature on the abstract: "The abstract describes tests on a
mixture of unidentified herbs and minerals. This isn't science. I never
would knowingly put my name on such a study." (Ref. 5,p. 1745)
Lancaster Foundation, another of the interlocking Maharishi organizations,
cited research presented at a botany meeting in 1987. However, at the
meeting, "What they presented hardly resembled the two abstracts they
submitted...Instead, they gave a marketing presentation extolling the
Maharishi's meditation and herbal products," with a television news crew
on hand. According to a member of the meeting's organizing committee, "In
one presentation, they couldn't even provide the scientific names of the
medicinal plants they claimed to have tested." (Ref. 5, p.
- Costs for Maharishi products recommended just to maintain
health can run to thousands of dollars per year. However, they can rise
steeply in case of actual illness. Patients with serious illnesses often
pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars for gemstones prescribed by
Jyotish consultants (Hindu astrologers) at Chopra's Maharishi Ayur-Veda
Health Center in Lancaster.
According to former movement members, they
also may be asked to pay thousands of dollars for a "yagya," which is a
religious ceremony performed to solicit the aid of one or more Hindu
deities. Patients who pay for these ceremonies do not take part in them or
even get to see them performed, say the ex-members.
interview in June, Chopra denied that yagyas are part of the Maharishi
Ayur-Veda program. Nevertheless, there are many references in Maharishi
Ayur-Veda literature that describe yagyas as one of the "20 different
treatment approaches" available to patients. In a US Internal Revenue
Service document...signed by Chopra as a trustee, yagyas are identified as
one of 20 research activities of the Maharishi Ayurveda Foundation.
written reply to questions about their recommending yagyas, Chopra said
that while their literature may describe yagyas as one of their 20
different treatment approaches, they don't prescribe them to patients.
However, according to the July/August 1991 National Council Against Health
Fraud newsletter, and the fall 1990 newsletter of TM-Ex, a support
organization for former movement members in Arlington, Va., "a yagya
prescribed for endometriosis was priced at $11 500" for one patient,
although a "'less than recommended' yagya was also available for $8500, as
was a $3300 yagya that would suffice."
JAMA has obtained a copy of one
Maharishi Jyotish Gem/Yagya Analysis for a patient. According to the
analysis, the patient's Jyotish horoscope indicated that she needed two
kinds of yagyas for her health, one to be performed then and another
"every birthday." It also recommended that she purchase gems that cost
between $2000 and $3000. [Ref. 5, pp. 1749-50)
- "Two physicians who
are the chief promoters of Maharishi Ayur-Veda in Great Britain have been
charged with 'serious professional misconduct'" in connection with
promoting and selling herbal remedies for AIDS.
Laboratory analyses . .
. showed some of the herbal preparations were composed of plant material,
fungus, feces, and bacteria, which may have caused the gastrointestinal
problems reported by the patient...on whose behalf the charges were
brought...persons with AIDS were charged $500 a month for the herbal
remedies. In addition, they were persuaded to spend hundreds of dollars
more to learn TM. Some also were encouraged to discontinue taking the
AIDS drug zidovudine...Among other charges, they are accused of giving
dietary advice that could endanger the health of patients with AIDS and
distributing promotional literature that boasted of a weight gain of 6 kg
and other improvements in the health of a patient who was already
dead...According to Chopra, "the testimony on fecal contamination was
totally refuted to the satisfaction of all experts." He would not say how
it was refuted nor who these experts were. Sources close to the hearing
in England say they have no idea what Chopra is referring to...While the
promoters...in the United States do not openly claim to be able to cure
AIDS, they do claim that their system offers "unprecedented advances in
[its] management" and that scientific evidence suggests their herbal
product Maharishi Amrit Kalash can alleviate many AIDS-related symptoms
and protect against opportunistic infections. (Ref. 5, p. 1750)
one of his books, Chopra "claims that the practices of TM and Maharishi
Ayur-Veda are supported by quantum physics, and refers readers" to a book
by physicist Heinz R. Pagels. "In that book, however, the physicist
denounced as 'nonsense' attempts to tie quantum physics to Eastern
mysticism. He wrote, 'Individuals who make such claims have substituted a
wish-fulfilling fantasy for understanding.'" In an affidavit in a TM
lawsuit, Pagels wrote, "There is no known connection between meditation
states and states of matter in physics...No qualified physicist that I
know would claim to find such a connection without knowingly committing
fraud...The presentation of the ideas of modern physics side by side, and
apparently supportive of, the ideas of the Maharishi about pure
consciousness can only be intended to deceive those who might not know any
better." (Ref. 5, p. 1750)
- The JAMA article concludes with a quote
from a former TM teacher: "We were taught how to exploit the reporters'
gullibility and fascination with the exotic, especially what comes from
the East. We thought we weren't doing anything wrong, because we were
told it was often necessary to deceive the unenlightened to advance our
guru's plan to save the world."(p. 1750)
In the Skeptical Inquirer
article (Ref. 6), Skolnick listed several members of the research council
and advisory council of the American Association of Ayurvedic Medicine who
have prestigious academic appointments, and wrote:
With the help of such
well-placed physicians and academicians, the TM movement has been able to
project a respectable front in its scheme to market Maharishi Ayur-Veda.
In June, the American College of Preventive Medicine accredited Maharishi
Ayur-Veda courses for continuing medical education for physicians, for the
second time. The National Cancer Institute is currently funding 11
studies testing the anticancer potential of the concoction of herbs and
minerals called Maharishi Amrit Kalash - even though its exact composition
has not been revealed.
I have not heard of any outcome from these
In the March 11, 1992, issue, JAMA published (under the heading
"Closing the Chapter on Maharishi Ayur-Veda") seven letters(Ref. 8) in
reply to Skolnick's article (Ref. 5), plus a response from Skolnick (Ref.
9). Six of the letters were from individuals associated in some way with
the Maharishi movement. Most of the points in these, as well as in
Skolnick's reply, dealt with the validity of TM or the allegations
concerning financial interests, deception, etc.
One of the letters was
from Chopra. Two excerpts:
I would like to point out that
without an open mind no sound judgment of Maharishi Ayur-Veda can be made.
JAMA did not address the significant questions: Is this approach sound?
Do patients feel that they benefit from it? Is there new knowledge to be
gained from it? In every case, the answer is an emphatic yes." In
response to the second point, I note that it seems that any alternative
practitioner, no matter how dubious his or her methods, seems able to
produce many satisfied patients. This may be in part because such
practitioners tend to establish strong personal connections with their
patients, something which many people find lacking in modern scientific
No research exists to counter the more than 200 peer-review
articles published on TM and Maharishi Ayur-Veda. No harm against patients
of any kind has been demonstrated. Quite the contrary. More than 1
million people in this country have learned TM; tens of thousands take
advantage of Maharishi Ayur-Veda. These people form a large, enthusiastic
public for our work.
Skolnick (Ref. 9) did not address
these points, except to note harmful effects of TM.
1992, Chopra spoke in Louisville at a benefit for a local group raising
funds for a "consumer medical library"(which would stock publications on
"alternative medicine"). A newspaper story dealing with the talk noted
that Chopra and his co-authors had filed a lawsuit against JAMA. I
haven't heard anything further about this.
By coincidence, as I was
working on this material, Chopra made another visit to Louisville. Other
than a flier placed in my mailbox, I didn't see any other publicity, or
any article in the newspaper. Presumably it was publicized at health food
stores and among groups interested in "alternative medicine." The title
of his talk was Ageless Body, Timeless Mind, which is also the title of
his latest book(subtitled The Quantum Alternative to Growing Old.).
According to his promotional material (Ref. 10), this is a New York Times
#1 bestseller with more than one million copies sold. One of the members
of the SKEPTIC Discussion Group noted that in his jacket photo for this
book, Chopra "is visibly older" than his appearance on Quantum
The description of the talk begins, "Contrary to our
traditional notions of aging, we can learn to direct the way our bodies
metabolize time." As a biochemist, I was curious about what he means by
metabolism of time, but I didn't want to pay $39 to hear the talk. I am
disappointed that the talk was approved for continuing education credit
for health professionals. It seems that a variety of claims which are not
accepted by mainstream science can gain such approval, possibly because
accreditation groups are afraid of lawsuits.
As suggested by
another member of the SKEPTIC group, I called Quantum Publications and
obtained a copy of the latest catalog of Chopra's offerings (Ref. 10).
Among the items in the 28-page, full-color brochure are the following:
- A biographical sketch of Dr. Chopra
informs us that "In 1993, he relocated to San Diego, California to become
Executive Director for the Institute for Human Potential and Mind/Body
Medicine, and the chief consultant to the Center for Mind/Body Medicine, a
unique health care facility for stress management and behavioral medicine,
offering preventive and rejuvenative therapies and complementary
treatments for people with chronic disorders."
- Herbal food
Examples include Biochavan 1, herbal jam;
OptiEnergy, "for energizing and balancing the physiology"; OptiWoman, "to
nourish and balance a woman's vitality"). These are all packaged in
containers with the "Ageless Body, Timeless Mind" logo. It is stated that
Ancient Ayurvedic texts describe each herb as a packet of vibrations that
specifically match a vibration in the quantum mechanical body. All
organs, for example, the liver, the stomach and the heart are built up
from a specific sequence of vibrations at the quantum level. In the case
of a malfunction, some disruption of the proper sequence in these
vibrations is at fault. According to Ayurveda, an herb exists with this
exact same sequence, and when applied, it can help restores [sic] the
I find it interesting that ancient Ayurvedic texts
would refer to quantum mechanical vibrations!
The last group of herbal
remedies have names such as "OptiCardio" and "OptiRheum," suggesting that
they might be useful for specific medical conditions. However, to make
claims of that nature might present legal problems, and these items have
no descriptions. It is further noted that "The supplements described on
this page should be taken only when recommended by a health professional
trained in Ayurveda."
- OptiAge Skin Care Products
In the background information, we can find that "Geranium and
rosemary stimulate the pineal gland, a hormonal secreter with many
benefits for the body, some still not understood in the West," and
"Ayurveda maintains that gems and crystals have strong healing properties
which are also cooling, calming, and rejuvenating to the skin." The latter
is given because OptiAge Cream Moisturizer contains "'essence of pearl
water'...referred to in Vedic texts as extremely pure water that has
absorbed the healing properties of pearls."
Among these are:
- Creating Affluence - Wealth Consciousness in the Field of
All Possibilities. "Blending physics and philosophy, Dr. Chopra
demonstrates the steps anyone can take to create affluence in all aspects
- Unconditional Life - Mastering the Forces that Shape
Personal Reality. "Filled with fascinating case histories, this book
shows us that the outside world - even so called 'material reality' can be
altered radically by the changing world within."
Along the edge of
these pages we can read about the three doshas (vata, pitta, kapha), "the
building blocks of human physiology." E.g., "Vata is the dosha which
governs all motion in the body- breathing, circulation, elimination and
the flow of nerve impulses to and from the brain." Exercises for the
three doshas are given, along with an "Ayurvedic daily routine for all
- Audio tapes
Some come with workbooks
or study guides. Some deal with topics such as insomnia, weight loss, and
chronic fatigue. Others are more exotic, such as:
- Magical Mind, Magical Body "Using research from the
cutting edge of today's medical science and quantum physics, Dr. Chopra
explains how our mind is located not only in our brain but in every cell
of our body. What's more, by changing the way we think about our body, we
can actually make our body itself change."
- Magical Thinking: An
Interview by Michael Toms. "Dr. Chopra expounds on the incredible power
of thought and desire giving anew meaning to the concepts of fear, desire,
enlightenment, time, medicine, DNA and more."
In two other tape
selections, Chopra reads from the ancient texts of the Bhagavad-Gita, "a
collection of primordial sound that is believed to give knowledge and
clarity by the information and energy contained in the sounds themselves,"
and from mystical poetry of Rabindranath Tagore.
- Tapes of Vedic
- Oils for the Five Senses
are to be used for inhalation, massage, or in the bath. We are told that
the three doshas each respond to one or more of the five senses, and
accordingly in "people whose body types aredominated by one dosha" we can
see preferences for thecorresponding senses. Most interesting is
OptiMarma, which comes in a version for each dosha:
are junction points between the mind and body, where consciousness becomes
the material structure of the quantum mechanical body. According to
Ayurveda, there are 107 classical marma points, which can be enlivened by
gently stimulating these sites with the appropriate essential
oils...Gently massaging these areas with the dosha specific oil can help
reduce energy blockages and re-establish the flow of energy and
intelligence throughout the physiology." (Allowing proper flow of energy
is a common theme in alternative practices, for example, chiropractic and
traditional Chinese medicine.)
- Seminars and
For $395 (early registration) one can participate in
a "Journey to the Boundless" weekend with Chopra, and discover such things
- "The Quantum Mechanical Body - understanding the
human body as a network of energy, information, and
- "How to create balance in the physical, subtle and
- "Where and how time is
- "Time-based awareness, versus timeless awareness -
the path to immortality."
For those with less time or money, there
are full-day seminars entitled "Ageless Body, Timeless Mind"; Quantum
Sound Workshops, in which you get a 1-1/2 hour lecture by Chopra and a 2-3
minute private instruction in a Mantra technique; and short
The catalog includes the 1994 schedule for these events, and
notes: "For additional events in California please call the Sharp
Institute at 800-82-SHARP."
I will conclude with a discussion of the idea of "quantum
healing," summarizing some ideas presented by Stalker and Glymour (Ref.
11). Their chapter does not refer specifically to Chopra, but some of
their general points may be relevant to his claims:
- Reference to
"quantum" phenomena is just the latest in a trend in which new scientific
developments are used to "justify" pseudoscience. In previous eras
magnetism and electricity were similarly invoked by pseudoscientific
- Concerning the role of consciousness: there are
observer effects in quantum physics. However, while the observer may
determine which variable is measured, he or she cannot influence the value
which is measured. Physicists do not have to consider the conscious state
of the observer.
- Proponents of "quantum medicine" reject the idea of
reductionism (that things can be understood in terms of their component
parts),since everything is related. However, science recognizes that
distinct entities can have relationships, yet "some relationships are more
important than others. Some forces and some effects are too small to be
of any practical consequence." Reductionism works quite well at all
- It is alleged that quantum mechanics shows that everything
causes everything else. But indeterminate events in quantum mechanics are
not caused by everything; they are caused by nothing. Quantum mechanics
gives no results that contradict our ordinary ideas of causality. The
effects are rarely important at scales higher than the subatomic, atomic,
or molecular; when they are important, they are recognized by science.
(As a biochemist, I find that molecular and cellular events of interest
can be explained in terms of conventional chemistry.)
- The authors
state that the claim that "orthodox medicine is in error because it is not
consistent with" physics can be dealt with by the following challenge:
"Give us a single quantum mechanical calculation that contradicts our
biomedical findings. Holists cannot and do not do it, exactly because -
save in rare cases - quantum mechanics simply cannot be applied to the
levels at which biomedical researchers work. No one knows how to apply
the theory, or approximations of it, to bacteria and viruses."
- Butler, Kurt (1992) A
Consumer's Guide to "Alternative Medicine." Buffalo: Prometheus
- Sharma, H., Triguna, B.D. and Chopra, D. (1991) JAMA
- Greenwood, M.T. et al. (1991) JAMA 266,
- Sharma, H. and Chopra, D. (1991) JAMA
266, 1774 (letter).
- Skolnick, A.A. (1991) JAMA 266,
1741-2, 1744-5, 1749-50.
- Skolnick, A.A. (1992) Skeptical Inquirer
16, 254-259)(Spring, 1992 (reprinted from the Fall 1991 issue
- Frazier, K. (1992) Skeptical
Inquirer 16, 355.
- Singer, M. et al. (1992) JAMA 267,
- Skolnick, A.A. (1992) JAMA 267,
- The Quantum Catalog, Spring/Summer 1994.
South Lancaster, MA: Quantum Publications
- Stalker, D. and Glymour,
C. (1989) In: Examining Holistic Medicine (D. Stalker and C.
Glymour, eds.), pp. 107-125. Buffalo: Prometheus Press.
Thomas J. Wheeler is
Associate Professor of Biochemistry, University of Louisville School of
Medicine, Louisville KY 40292.
Member of the Internet Link Exchange
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