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2008, Vol 28, No 2

Feature Articles

8. Vitalism Pt 2
Laurie Eddie

34. A Fundamental Question
John Stear

14. The Las Vegas Paranormal Conference
Karen Stollznow

36. So Help Me God!
Kevin McDonald

19. The Disappearing Dhow
Benjamin Radford

39. Scientology Scandals
Michael Wolloghan

19. The Paranormal Conference
Karen Stollznow

41. Missionary Takes to the Hills
Sten Bjerking

21. A Skeptic mong the Faithful
Helen Lawrence

43. Review: Art and Science on Stage
Barry Williams

25. Darwin Day in Africa
Leo Igwe

45. Review: Counterknowledge
Stephen Wilks

27. Dropping in on Aliens
Mark Lawson

46. Review: Doing God’s Work
Geoffrey Cowan

29. A Microanalyst’s Perspective on Fluoridation
Nick Ware

Regular Items
4. Editorial — Change in the Air
Barry Williams
6. Around the Traps
Bunyip
60. Letters 65. Notices

Forum
48. Faith and Induction 51. Climate Change 55. Circumcision
Cover art by Richard Saunders

Editorial

ISSN 0726-9897
Editor
Barry Williams
Associate Editor
Karen Stollznow
Contributing Editors Tim Mendham Steve Roberts
Technology Consultants Richard Saunders Eran Segev
Chief Investigator Ian Bryce
All correspondence to:
Australian Skeptics Inc PO Box 268
Roseville NSW 2069 Australia
(ABN 90 613 095 379 )
Contact Details
Tel: (02) 9417 2071 Fax: (02) 9417 7930 e-mail: [email protected]
Web Pages
Australian Skeptics www.skeptics.com.au No Answers in Genesis™ http://home.austarnet.com.au/stear/default.htm
the Skeptic is a journal of fact and opinion, published four times per year by Australian Skeptics Inc. Views and opinions expressed in articles and letters in the Skeptic are those of the authors, and are not necessarily those of Australian Skeptics Inc. Articles may be reprinted with permission and with due acknowledgement to the Skeptic.
Editorial consultants:
Dr Stephen Basser (medicine) Dr Trevor Case (psychology) Dr Richard Gordon (medicine) Dr Pete Griffith (biochemistry/microbiology) Dr William Grey (philosophy) Prof Colin Groves (anthropology)
Mr Martin Hadley (law) Dr Colin Keay (astronomy) Dr Andrew Parle (physics) Prof Ian Plimer (geology) Dr Stephen Moston (psychology) Dr Alex Ritchie (palaeontology) Dr Steve Roberts (chemistry) Mr Roland Seidel (mathematics) Dr Karen Stollznow (linguistics)
Branch correspondents:
ACT: Mr Michael O’Rourke Gold Coast: Mr John Stear
Hunter: Dr Colin Keay Qld: Mr Bob Bruce SA: Mr Allan Lang
Tas: Mr Fred Thornett Vic: Mr Ken Greatorex WA: Dr Geoffrey Dean

Change in the Air

This issue is a somewhat unusual one that marks an ending and a beginning, but first a little personal and corporate history.
I first became aware of an organised skeptics movement in 1980, when I saw Dick Smith on TV commenting on a high profile UFO sighting in New Zealand. Dick said that such cases needed an organisation containing people with the enthusiasm and the knowledge to research such incidents and to offer the media and the public with reasonable explanations, rather than irrational and often hysterical claims.
That appealed to me, so I wrote to Dick, asking that if such a group was set up, could I join. Within weeks, I received a reply from Dick, telling me that a he and others had founded a body called Australian Skeptics, and asked if I was still interested. Of course I was and joined immediately. At the time I couldn’t imagine what an effect that decision would have on the rest of my life.
Shortly afterwards the Melbourne group, largely thanks to the President, Mark Plummer, produced a four page newsletter, called the Skeptic. It had a few dozen subscribers and became a somewhat larger publication over the next four years, with the numbers slowly increasing to a couple of hundred. This was in the days when the term ‘cut and paste’ required scissors and a pot of glue.
In 1985 Mark decided to take up a position overseas and asked me if the NSW branch would take over

running the organisation. I suddenly found myself with the grandiose title of ‘National President’ of Australian Skeptics, and publisher of the Skeptic. Tim Mendham, the treasurer of the NSW branch and editor of a professional trade journal, volunteered to edit the Skeptic. To afford our officers some legal protection we became an incorporated association at this time.
By 1990, we had bought a computer and the Skeptic had evolved into a more professionally produced journal, while subscriber numbers had increased to 1000. For personal reasons, Tim found that he could no longer remain as editor, posing the problem of finding another one. He suggested that I take over the role, and given that I had precisely no experience, I took that to be a ‘courageous’ suggestion. I agreed to do it for just one issue, Vol 10, No 2, giving me time to find someone else who could do the job. But then something strange happened — I found that I liked editing a journal and so decided to stay on for a while.
Meanwhile, I found that I was spending most of my spare time on Skeptical matters — editing, organising, appearing in the media — while also holding down a job so I could feed my family. Luckily I had an understanding employer.
Then, in 1994, we were informed that Australian Skeptics was a beneficiary of the will of Mr Stanley Whalley, of Nambour in Queensland. Mr Whalley, who had never been a subscriber, had heard about us, decided we were doing something useful and included us in his will. As

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the bequest amounted to considerably more than a million dollars, this gave the Skeptics the opportunity to do a lot of things that had hitherto been curtailed by lack of money.
We purchased new computer equipment, gave money to each of the interstate branches and advised them, for legal protection reasons, to become separately incorporated bodies under their state laws. Thus the existing loosely organised Australian Skeptics, became a de facto confederation of like-minded autonomous bodies with similar aims. It remains so to this day. The bulk of the Whalley bequest was invested with a new body, the Australian Skeptics Science and Education Foundation, with a charter to provide funding for the confederated state bodies and sponsorship for worthwhile projects.
In 1996, the work involved in producing the Skeptic and organising a the increasing subscribership, made it difficult to continue operating as a part-time activity, so the committee resolved to institute a full time position for an Executive Officer and Editor, which I was fortunate enough to be offered.
In the meantime, the Skeptic has continued to evolve, now ranking among the leading three Skeptical journals in the world. The copy you are reading is a far cry from our first stumbling efforts, both in appearance and in the quality of the contributors and contributions it attracts, and our subscriber numbers continue to grow steadily. This constant improvement is a result of the efforts of a lot of Skeptics, who have been generous with their time, expertise and advice. It would be impossible to mention everyone who everyone who has contributed, but I must make mention of just one.
In the mid 1990s I received a letter from a student who asked if she could spend some time in our office as work experience. As our office consisted of a small annexe off my bedroom, I thought it wise to advise her that it wouldn’t be an appropriate environment for a young

woman. But she was very persistent and keen on the work of the Skeptics, so she asked if there was anything else she could do for us. We found he some tasks and were delighted with the enthusiasm and maturity with which she carried them out. As a result, we asked Karen Stollznow to join the Australian Skeptics committee, a role she fulfilled with distinction.
During the past few years, Karen has managed to distinguish herself in her academic studies, culmination in the recent award of a doctorate in linguistics, while also becoming one of our most respected and regular contributors. All who know Karen through her Skeptical associations are very proud of her accomplishments, which go to demonstrate that Skepticism is not the sole prerogative of ‘old blokes with beards’.
Which brings me to the point of this editorial. Time stands still for no one, not even a Skeptic, so I decided some months ago that the time had come to retire from my fulltime positions and for new blood to take up the reins. This will happen at the end of 2008, with my 76th issue as Editor (75 more than my original intention).
Further, I am delighted to report that the Skeptics committee has decided that my successor as both Executive Officer of Australian Skeptics and Editor of the Skeptic will be Dr Karen Stollznow. I have absolutely no doubt that Karen, with her intelligence, wit, enthusiasm and common sense, will add considerable lustre to roles that have been my passion for half my adult life. I hope it will bring her both the satisfaction and the enjoyment it has afforded me and I will continue to do everything I can to make it so.
You — contributors, subscribers, advisors and friends — whose efforts have contributed so much to the success of both the Skeptics movement and the Skeptic, have all been marvellous. I thank you and ask you to continue your support for Karen in her new roles.
Barry Williams

Skeptics Around Australia
New South Wales Australian Skeptics Inc PO Box 268, Roseville NSW 2069 Tel: (02) 9417 2071 Fax: (02) 9417 7930 [email protected]
Hunter Skeptics PO Box 166 , Waratah NSW 2298 Tel: (02) 4957 8666. Fax: (02) 4952 6442
Victoria Australian Skeptics (Vic) Inc GPO Box 5166AA, Melbourne VIC 3001 Tel: 1 800 666 996 [email protected]
Borderline Skeptics PO Box 17 , Mitta Mitta VIC 3701 Tel:(02)60723632 [email protected]
Queensland Queensland Skeptics Assn Inc PO Box 6454 , Fairfield Gardens QLD 4103 Tel (07) 3255 0499 [email protected]
Gold Coast Skeptics PO Box 8348, GCMC Bundall QLD 9726 Tel: (07) 5593 1882 Fax: (07) 5593 2776 [email protected]
ACT Canberra Skeptics PO Box 555, Civic Square ACT 2608 (02) 6121 4483 [email protected]
South Australia Skeptics SA 52B Miller St Unley SA 5061 Tel: (08) 8272 5881 [email protected]
Western Australia WA Skeptics PO Box 431, Scarborough WA 6922 Tel: (08) 9448 8458 [email protected]
Tasmania Australian Skeptics in Tasmania PO Box 582, North Hobart TAS 7002. Tel: (03) 6234 4731 [email protected]
Darwin Skeptics Contact Tel: 08 89274533 [email protected]

the Skeptic, Winter 2008 - Page 5

News and Views
Around the Traps

EUseful regulations
Those Skeptics (among whom can be numbered the Bunyip) who regard the European Union as largely a massive bureaucracy, whose main purpose seems to be making incomprehensible regulations to annoy citizens of the member countries, might take heart at recent moves in Britain.
It seems that, in compliance with a EU directive, the UK has recently introduced consumer protection legislation to tighten control over ‘unfair commercial practices’.
‘Fair enough’, you might think, ‘we’ve had laws like that for ages’ and you would be right. But this time, along with aggressive and unfair sales pitches, it will include such ‘service providers’ as astrologers, fortune tellers, faith healers, spiritualists, those who claim to contact the dead, and the like.
They will now have to publish disclaimers that their services are ‘for entertainment purposes only and are not experimentally proven’. Not only will they have to publish these statements in their advertisements and web sites, but also on invoices and at the top of any list of Terms and Conditions. The penalties for breaches of these regulations will include fines of up to £5 000.
And about time too. We have never understood why claims of this

nature have not been investigated and prosecuted with similar vigour to those applying to any other commercial sleight-of-hand.
Truth in advertising
In the spirit of the above, Life Member, Ken Smith of Brisbane, tells us that when he and his wife were shopping recently, they saw a Jeans West shop displaying three large posters advertising: $99 gets you 12 minutes with a dodgy phone psychic or 2 pairs of these jeans.
This skeptical advertisement stands in stark contrast to Australia Post, which recently issued a set of stamps showing astrological signs.
We would be delighted to publish any other examples of commercial organisations who demonstrate such good skeptical sense.
Flowery claims
Thanks to reader, Gary Dalrymple from Earlwood, who brought to our attention reports of people in Ukraine who had been making annual ascents of a mountain for the purpose of “reducing their personal radiation”.
It seems this pilgrimage has, in the past, reduced this radiation by

up to 22%, however, when they take as little as four drops per day of “Electro Essence” it seems the radiation reduction is increased to 45%. Cut to ballroom in downtown Kiev. Dearest Natalya, you are looking positively radiant tonight.
Oh, Anatoliy, do you think so? Then I must rush up the slopes of Hora Hoverla (2,061m) to get rid of some.
Searching further, Gary discovered that “Electro Essence” is made in Australia, from local bush flowers. Its advertising purports that it:
Greatly relieves fear and distress associated with earth, electrical and electromagnetic radiation. It helps to bring one into balance with the natural rhythms of the earth.
Well it would, wouldn’t it? Furthermore, at $14.50 for a 30 ml bottle, Gary calculates that it is only marginally less expensive than a moderate vintage Grange Hermitage. And stop complaining about petrol prices, which would only set you back around 5 cents for 30ml.
Miracles
Then there was the case of the Sydney family who crashed their car on Easter Monday. The car caught fire, which could have had tragic results but for a couple of coura-

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geous bystanders managed to pull the family from the burning vehicle. However, according to The Daily Telegraph, the mother attributed their salvation, not to their rescuers, but to God, because they had previously sprinkled the car with Holy Water.
It’s amazing the number of times one hears of someone surviving a catastrophe in which others have died, who attribute their survival to a ‘miracle’. Well, while they have every right to believe what they wish, it can’t be denied that the corollary of this belief is that everyone else who perished were unworthy of miraculous intervention. Capriciousness of this nature doesn’t sound very God-like to us.

But, in doing so, it might have opened up a whole new field for speculation. While the original ‘face’ is no longer a plausible option, part of the formation shows a much more realistic picture, shown below.
Could it be that Mars is nothing more than the galaxy’s central litter tray? Or, as science fiction fans of Larry Niven’s work will ask, are the Kzin about to pounce?

Who’s on Mars?

With the successful landing of NASA’s Phoenix in its polar regions, Mars has been very much in the news recently, so it seemed a good time to check on the health of the old Face on Mars conspiracy.
Readers will recall the furore that emerged among the True Believer community when a picture taken by Viking 1 in 1976, showed a geological formation in the Cydonia region of the Red Planet, that bore a superficial resemblance to a human face.
It took another quarter of a century before new pictures of the region, taken by Mars Global Surveyor in 2001, showed a much less face-like image of the eroded geological (areological?) feature. With this, some (but by no means all) of the fantasies began to evaporate.
Then, in 2006, the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter (which, despite the loss of its Beagle 2 lander, has been a highly successful mission) surveyed the region in more detail. The results finally consigned the “face” theory to the dustbin where it belonged.

You can see some fine pictures at NASA’s site at:
www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/ phoenix/main/index.html
and the ESA’s site at: www.esa.int/SPECIALS/ Mars_Express/SEM09F8LURE_0.html
Above and beyond
While we’re celebrating Martian matters, lets give a couple of hearty cheers for the real stars of Mars exploration, the two doughty little NASA robot rovers, Spirit and Opportunity.
They both landed, on different regions of Mars, in 2004, with an

life expectancy of three months. They are still sending back valuable information more than four years later.
How about that for exceeding the warranty period?
Psychic idle
Very soon after you receive this, the Seven network will be screening a programme titled The One, which will seek to find Australia’s No 1 psychic. It seems that it will be similar to those ‘reality’ singing and dancing shows in which various contestants are eliminated until there is one winner. Leaving aside the fact that if there were any real psychics around, then they would know now who will win, this show will differ from the usual uncritical claptrap when paranormal ‘powers’ are the subject. This one will have a fair dinkum Skeptic, the redoubtable Richard Saunders, one of the judges.
Jargon
It would appear that now every Tom, Dick and Harriet wants to be a psychologist. It’s difficult to read, see or hear any news medium these days without stumbling across a journalist, politician, academic, commentator, ‘celebrity’ or other Sigmund-manque accusing someone else of being ‘in denial’ about something or other.
How should a Skeptic cope with all this pseudo-psychology? Might we suggest that we take a nationalistic stance and point out that it’s Egyptians who are in denial, while Australians are in demurraydarling?
Bunyip

the Skeptic, Winter 2008 - Page 7

Feature
Vitalism and the Origins of
Magical, Mystical Energies Pt 2

A study of the historical roots of modern irrationality
Laurie Eddie, a psychologist, is Secretary of Skeptics SA and a Life Member of Australian Skeptics

The first section of this paper appeared in Vol 28, No 1, published in March 2008.
Magnetism
In addition, many sought to use contemporary scientific discoveries to prop up the traditional beliefs, thus we find that after 1600, when William Gilbert published his book, De Magnete, Magneticisque Corporibus, et de Magno Magnete Tellure, (On the Magnet and Magnetic Bodies, and on That Great Magnet the Earth) the “vital energy” component, which had formerly been presented as a divine, spiritual force, was increasingly represented as magnetic energy, the newest wonder of that age.
Magnetism was mysterious; apart from its physical attraction of certain objects, some even believed that it was able to exert an influence over living objects, including human beings. Even more sensationally, it was claimed by some like Jan van Helmont (1580-1644), that certain individuals were so filled with this potent magnetic energy that they even had the power to forcibly discharge this “magnetic fluid” into other humans, completely overwhelming their will.
Such ideas were not entirely new; one can find similar claims being made about certain individuals in the past, especially witches and magicians, who were said to be able

to use their sinister powers to manipulate people, to harm them with the “evil eye” or to deprive them of their “life-force” by “binding up” their sexual and procreative abilities. Now such claims were being given a degree of contemporary “scientific” validity, the suggestion being that, perhaps these individuals possessed some form of “magnetic” power rather than magical powers.
A major influence on the spread of magnetic beliefs was Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815), a scientist and a showman, who adopted many of Helmont’s ideas, and was particularly influential in spreading these new ideas throughout Europe. He believed the Earth and the universe was filled with a mysterious magnetic force, which he called ‘animal magnetism’, and that not only were humans particularly susceptible to the actions of this energy, but that all human illness was attributable to internal imbalances or blockages of this substance.
By the mid 18th Century, the advent of the Leyden Jar and a rotating friction machine to create static electricity had exposed the public to a new natural phenomenon, electricity, and very soon the concept of an electrically based lifeenergy began to replace the former magnetic theory. In 1791, Galvani had published his book, De Viribus Electricitatis in Motu Musculari

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Commentarius (On the effect of electricity on the motion of muscles), in which he proposed that “animal electricity” was the vital life-component, and that all animal bodies contained two forms of electrical energy, “ … positive in the nerves and negative in the muscles” (Hellman, 2001, p. 24). He believed that it was the discharge of positive electricity into the nerves that caused the muscles to move.
While such theories led to research into the use of electricity to move the limbs of paralysed patients, it was largely sidetracked by a horde of quacksalvers who promoted it as a miraculous medical tool. As Hellman (2001) observed, “Newspapers and rumour mills were filled with reports that electricity had been used to cure an astonishing range of maladies, from constipation to paralysis, from headaches to herpes” (p. 19). As McCoy (2000) reported, electrical gadgets of all shapes and forms proliferated to such an extent that it became necessary for warnings to be issued that, if abused or wasted, these machines could deplete one’s “vital energies” producing all manner of diseases (p. 56).
The increasingly “scientific” approach of the latter part of the 19th Century saw the gradual passing of these former concepts and the “life-force” was increasingly perceived as an electro-biological force. Nevertheless the former ideas remained popular with writers such as Bulwer-Lytton, and much of the popular fiction presented the idea that electricity could be used to reanimate the dead (The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar, by E. A. Poe), or even to create life (Frankenstein by Mary Shelley).
Solar precedents
The expansion of European powers into Egypt and Asia in the 18th-19th Centuries produced an increased interest in Eastern religious and philosophical concepts; many of which were merged with preexisting Western mystical ideas, eg, Reincarnation and karma. This had been

part of ancient Greek philosophy, taught by Plato, Socrates and Pythagoras and was also part of the Jewish kabbalistic literature, (gilgul or “cycles of life”), while the Eastern concept of karma had many similarities to the Christian concept of predestination. One group in particular, the Theosophists, wholeheartedly embraced many mystical and traditional Hindu and Buddhist teachings, especially the concept of a vital, life giving energy, prana.
Vitalistic theories proposed that the “vital energy” was a divine, heavenly, or cosmic force. Very early in time the Sun and its rays had been identified as its source and this continued to be accepted by many, “…the vital force which emanates from the sun…” (Powell, 1925, p. 2). As Hall (1928) observed, the worship of the Sun “ … was one of the earliest and most natural forms of religious expression” (p. 49), the Sun being revered by many primitive races, “… as the proxy of the Supreme Deity” (p, 49). Indeed it appears that most religious beliefs were simply variations of the solar theme of the eternally reborn god, and everywhere, humans acknowledged their dependence upon the Sun.
In temples, past and present, the ubiquitous eternal flame burned as a symbolic representation of the Sun’s eternal life giving energy. The presence of such a flame in the Jerusalem temple strongly suggests that even Judaism was originally a solar religion, and that the Yahweh concept originally represented the life-giving energy of the Sun. Likewise many Jewish myths indirectly refer to solar worship, eg, Samson’s hair was a representation of the rays of the Sun, “Why did Samson (name derived from Shemesh, the Sun) lose all his strength when he lost his hair?” (Carpenter, 1920, p. 27). Christianity too is based upon solar myth, for, just as the Sun was thought to enter a vast subterranean cavern each night, whence it emerged the following morning, so too Jesus, the “light of the world”, was born in and emerged in his glory from a subterranean cave.

The concept of the Sun’s rays as the initiator and sustainer of human life led to a belief that the body must possess certain physical attributes to “receive” this energy from within these rays, and allow it to flow through the body. The idea of the subtle vital force (prana) and the channels (nadis) along which it flows, are first mentioned in the earliest Upanishads dating from circa 7th-8th Centuries BCE. The heart was said to be the centre of 72,000 nadis, and the place into which the senses retreated during sleep. In many ancient civilisations, eg Egypt or Homeric Greece, the heart was also considered to be the seat of waking consciousness.
Eastern philosophies
In ancient Egypt similar imaginary channels, known as metu, were believed to carry, “ … blood … air, mucus, urine, semen, diseasebearing entities and also malign or benign spirits…” (Nunn, 1996, p. 44). In Ayurvedic these channels are known as srotas, in Chinese Acupuncture, meridians. Over time the concept became increasingly more complex with Ayurvedic evolving a system of sixteen separate channels that existed on both a visible, and invisible level, it even included one channel for the flow of intelligence, and another for the flow of thoughts through the mind.
Around the second century BCE, we find the first references to the Tantric concepts of chakras and mantras, (spiritual channels created by words or sounds). The chakras (Sanskrit “wheels” or “circles”), were defined as centres of energy, able to receive the various forms of normally undetectable, non-physical forms of energy, especially prana, which was claimed to enter the body through the Crown Chakra (the seventh chakra or Sahasra, located at the top of the head) and then to “flow” through invisible “channels“ — in a fashion similar to the flow of blood. According to Krieger, (1997) the chakras are, “… of major importance at the supraphysical level where they act as the principal

the Skeptic, Winter 2008 - Page 9

Vitalism

agents for focusing energy to the

ludicrous since all substances, both faulty eating, drinking, breathing or

physical body” (p. 58).

organic and inorganic, contain

elimination), mechanical (spinal

As these various Vitalistic con-

chemicals. Even something as

malalignment, muscular tension,

cepts evolved in the various cul-

natural as an orange contains some stiff joints or bad posture) …” (p.

tures, it gradually came to be

one-hundred and forty different

105).

accepted that:

chemical compounds.

In general, most alternative

• Life would be sustained only
whilst this energy continued to flow within the body;
• Good health depended upon the
unrestricted flow of this energy through the body, and;
• The energy must be maintained
in a state of “balance” neither too much or too little.

Alternative therapies tend to deny, or at least ignore, the existence of such things as disease and infections. They claim that what orthodox medicine perceives as “diseases” are merely indications of physical or mental “disharmony” in the body; internal “imbalances” or “blockages” to the natural energy flow, with the

therapies use one of the following therapeutic approaches:
• The use of indirect treatments
that are said to encourage the natural healing processes;
• Direct bioenergetic therapies,
that claim to use life-energies to restore a positive balance and revitalise the internal life-energy balance, so as to cure
any dysfunction.

In earlier times, when negative health had been primarily attributed to divine punishment or the malicious influence of evil spirits, treatment was primarily of a religious character, prayers, incantations, fumigations and herbs were used that were antagonistic to the evil spirits. However, as more secular vitalistic theories began to evolve, the emphasis changed towards developing treatment regimes that would ensure an unrestricted flow of the lifeenergy. As each culture developed their own methods, the end result was to be the

... claims by alternative therapists that natural, herbal
medicines do not contain chemicals ... are either deliberate

The second category primarily comprises those alternative forms of treatment which are designed to manipulate those “… numerous forms of energy alien to physics …” (Raso, 1995, p. 33). Generally referred to as “bioenergetic” or bio-electromagnetic therapies, these are based upon the alternative belief that the human body is actually “… a localized dynamic interaction of several principal force fields that span a spectrum of vitality, life-force and creative living energies” (Krieger, 1997, p. 36).

proliferation of numerous and diverse forms of so-called “alternative” and “complementary” vitalistic therapies.
“Natural” therapies
Most of these emphasise a holistic approach, using only

falsehoods, or products of sheer ignorance

Auras
In the past the vital lifeenergy was often associated with the aura (aka the aureole, nimbus or glory). Said to be discernible as a field of radiance surrounding the bodies of certain individuals,

“natural” principles and

in particular, those who were

medicines to maintain or restore a

particular location of the “problem” “chosen” or were exceptionally holy,

normal unrestricted flow of life-

being indicated by its effects upon

the aura was believed to be a mani-

energy, for, it is claimed, “artificial” those organs that lie adjacent to the festation of the divine “glory” that so

drugs interfere with the body’s

“blockage” (Drury, 1981, p. 118).

filled their body that it burst forth

natural energy potential and restrict

Accordingly, unlike orthodox

as a radiant glow. Thus we find for

the flow of this vital energy. A

medicine, which treats a specific

instance, the example of the enlight-

common claim by many alternative causal agency, vitalistically based

ened Moses, of whom it was claimed,

therapists is that natural, herbal

therapies seek to use a variety of

“the skin of his face shone” (Exodus

medicines do not contain chemicals! different approaches to discover and 34:29).

Such claims are either deliberate

remove the many possible causes of

There was a long-standing belief

falsehoods, or products of the sheer the interference with the energy

that these “special” people had the

ignorance of alternative practition- flow. As Stanway (1979) observed,

ability to heal by transferring some

ers. Such claims are completely

these might be “… chemical (from

of this divine power into the sick,

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the Skeptic Volume 28 Number 2