The San Francisco Chronicle has an uncritical article today about a supposed test of “energy healing” at Stanford University:
Anne Broderick believes she can use her hands to alter the energy fields of others to help them heal, taking away fatigue, stress and nausea.
A clinical trial at Stanford University aims to prove it.
And there, perhaps unknowingly, the writer demonstrates the problem with this test. A clinical trial should be designed to determine if something is true or not. A test that is designed to prove something true, will probably do so regardless of whether it is true or not. This is an un-blinded test, and so is uncontrolled for placebo. The allocation to treatment or placebo groups is non-randomized. Regardless of the result, this “clinical trial” will prove nothing except that Stanford supports quackery.
Let’s recap. Ten years ago a study published in JAMA demonstrated that Therapeutic Touch (TT) practitioners couldn’t even detect the energy field they claim they can manipulate, when they don’t know if a person is there or not. This was a true blind test – the (TT) practitioners didn’t know if the experimenter’s hand was there or not (see drawing). If they can’t even detect the energy field, how can they manipulate it to make people well? Or as the JAMA study concluded:
Twenty-one experienced TT practitioners were unable to detect the investigator's "energy field." Their failure to substantiate TT's most fundamental claim is unrefuted evidence that the claims of TT are groundless and that further professional use is unjustified.
Unjustified. But they keep doing it anyway.