Pseudo Science 12/9/18

By Richard E. Bleil, Ph.D.

Let’s take a moment to explore the “natural health” movement. Before I begin, let me say that I do believe that our society is not well. We have moved away from natural products, foods and solutions towards an over-reliance on processed foods, pesticides and unhealthy habits. That being said, I also have serious misgivings about claims from so-called “organic” solutions. This discussion is about the latter. No, I don’t want to sway opinions, but rather, I would like to discuss what to notice.

For example, there is currently a commercial for some natural product that claims that it has been “clinically studied”. Be careful how things are worded in these ads. Yes, even “natural health” companies can be crooked. Notice that this does not say it was “clinically proven”, but rather, “clinically studied” without saying the results of those studies. Did it come out as useless? Worse? Even if the study shows positive results, by the way, be careful. Who funded the study? How are the statistics given? Remember that for decade, the tobacco industry spent a lot of money on what they claimed were independent studies that could somehow never prove the link between smoking and cancer, and today, anti-smoking firms claim that smoking causes cancer, rather than saying smoking increases the risk of cancer.

My favourite arguments, however, are the pseudo-science ones. Currently, there is a very well known actress that has started her own “health” company. Her claims remind me of those of the old crystal healing movement of the late 20th century. I shall use the latter to show how these movements can use real science to support their claims.

Personally, I loved the crystal healing movement. Not because I believed in the healing properties of crystals, but because I’ve always been fascinated by natural crystals. Unless they’ve been cut (and usually they are not), they actually grow in those beautiful shapes and gorgeous colors, and thanks to the crystal power movement, these crystals became readily available in their raw states.

Here is a quick rundown of the crystal power hypothesis as I understand it. Crystals have inherent energy frequencies, according to the claims. They absorb energy “from the universe”, and release it. But, one must be careful, because if it absorbs bad energy (say from somebody wearing it while in a bad mood), it remembers this negative energy forever, and it returns negative energy. As such, one should “cleanse” the crystal by letting it absorb energy from direct sunlight (and other means such as in sage smoke or with sea salt) which it will then return. This energy is then absorbed by the wearer, with beneficial health, or mental, effects.

Okay, let’s talk for a bit about what is real and based on actual scientific principles (not facts; science really does not deal in facts, but rather, models of observation that can be disproven, but never actually proven). First, let’s talk about frequencies. Yes, all matter in the universe absorbs energy from around it. But as matter is absorbing energy, it is also releasing energy simultaneously. In fact, the frequencies of energy released can be complex, but is, in fact, specific to the matter releasing it. This is the foundation of spectroscopy. The energy absorbed must be higher or of equal energy released by the matter, and sunlight certainly falls into that category.

What about remembering energy? Yep, this is also based on science. It’s a little known concept called “residual entropy”, although, frankly, you are familiar with it. Residual entroy is why things never quite go back to the exact shape that you want. For example, if you have a bent paper clip, you may try to “repair it” by bending it back to its original shape, but, much to your dismay, you’ll note that you can never quite get it back to its exact original shape. In essence, the paper clip, on an atomic level, will always have a distortion to its structure because of the damage. One can think of this as “memory” of being bent out of shape.

So far, so good. Crystals do indeed absorb energy, releases energy of modified and specific frequencies, and remembers the energy it absorbs, all based on science. So where is the problem? The real issue is that these principles are often taken to an extreme to the point where it fails. Let’s look at these claims a little bit more closely.

First, let’s talk about the concept of “negative energy”. Yes, there are different frequencies of energy, but there are not really forms of happy and unhappy energy. It’s all energy, just different frequencies. Second, let’s talk about the released energy. Yes, the crystal is continually releasing energy, but, the reality is that the energy release is of such a low energy that it cannot be detected by any but the most senstive instruments, and typically not of high enough energy to be of any known practical value. Finally, let’ stalk about the “healing power” of the released energy. Even if the energy released by the crystal were significant, that does not mean that our bodies have the means to absorb this energy in a useful manner, such as foods, whose energy we have the organs to harvest in a useful manner.

So what does this all mean? First, don’t necessarily believe all “health” companies just because they claim to be healthy and/or natural. If you distrust large corporations, remember that they were small and privately owned once as well. Be critical of anybody trying to sell you their goods; they all have a reason to deceive you, namely, your money.

But if something works for you, don’t change. The purpose here is to show the importance of critical thinking, not to change your habits. I myself had a quartz crystal with me during a very important and difficult exam, but I didn’t use it for its energy, but rather, as a reminder of those who believe in me. If you feel better using natural product, or if you have a company that you trust, by all means, keep using those products. Just be careful of the claims.

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