Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Which is the Parody?

Posted in Skeptico by Skepdude on December 18, 2008


Poe’s Law states that a good parody of religious fundamentalism is hard to tell from the real thing.  I’m starting to think there is a similar law that applies to alternative medicine.  For example, read the two pieces I’ve quoted below and see if you can guess (no cheating!) which one you think is of the real claimed to be real healing modality, and which is the parody.  They are both similar in that they propose healing techniques that are applied to a doll, rather than to the actual person under treatment.  It’s a bit like voodoo – you treat the doll not the person.  Except I think voodoo spells are supposed to make the person ill, while this is supposed to make the person better.

Here they are.  I have changed the names of the two therapies to example 1 and example 2.  Here’s the first:

In a typical therapy session, the [example 1] practitioner uses a small human anatomical model as an energetic representation of the patient, tapping on targeted points on the model with a lightweight magnetic hammer. The practitioner directs chi to blockage points corresponding to the patient’s condition, breaking down resistance at these points. As blood flow, neural transmission, and hormone reception are restored, the body is then able to heal.


And the distance between the patient and the therapist makes no difference. The patient and therapist connect when they are on the phone together, in the same room together, on the same planet together, or on different planets together. The togetherness is the constant, because we are all “connected” by an invisible energy field in our universe. We are all swimming in this energy field together. Quantum physics simply calls distance healing a “non-local event.”

And the second:

The principle of [example 2] healing is simple.  As ‘like affects like’, an appropriately manufactured and treated wax doll or cloth puppet may substitute for the patient, and manipulations performed on the doll substitute for those performed on the patient.  Techniques of visualisation and channelling of healing are easy to learn, and it is possible to combine [example 2] with ‘conventional’ or allopathic medicine simply by administering the medicine to the doll rather than to the patient.


The image may be identified with its subject by the embedding of ousia – items connected with the subject such as a hair or nail clipping, or even a blood sample.  This greatly enhances the therapeutic effects of [example 2] procedures, and in particular allows the practice of [example 2] at considerable distances from the patient, even over the telephone or the Internet.

Well?  Personally I find it hard to believe they aren’t both parodies.  In fact, example 2 is from the The British Veterinary Voodoo Society – a spoof site started by some veterinarians in the UK who were incensed that the British Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) sanctions treatment of sick animals with homeopathy.  The joke is that if you think homeopathy works, you might as well try voodoo.  I wrote about The British Veterinary Voodoo Society before.

However, example1 is a therapy that its proponents seriously claim to be real – Tong Ren.  Click that link if you must but be warned – the stupid on that site will kill your brain cells.

I don’t need to write any more on this because fortunately Orac already delved into this in much more detail that I would have had the patience for, and this morning posted Tong Ren: An unholy union of acupuncture and voodoo.  I have to say, after reading the first part of Orac’s post, I got the feeling the Tong Ren site was a parody, and I clicked over there convinced that Orac had been fooled into debunking a spoof site.  After a while though, I decided it was genuine, incredible though that is.  I guess we do need a Poe’s Law for SCAM.



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