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November 21, 2015 / Ab Cdef

Persuading the skeptics about magnetic therapy

bras-46-wmpsThe word skeptic is probably one of the most grossly overused – not to mention misused – words in the English language. Thus, people who dispute the overwhelming evidence in support of man-made climate change are said to be “climate change skeptics.” In reality, they are of course “deniers” rather than mere skeptics. They do not just challenge the overwhelming opinion of meteorologists and climatologists, they flat out deny it, latch onto every piece of pseudoscientific garbage and even attempt to traduce the reputations of the most prestigious of scientists.

Not “pseudoscience” is not a word I feel comfortable with as it is a word that thrown about a little too freely by orthodox medical practitioners with regard to something dear to my heart: magnetic therapy. The article about it in a certain well-known online encyclopedia, for example, effectively equates the use of magnets for treatment or pain relief as if it were the equivalent of tea-leaf reading (for those old enough to remember what tea leaves are) and phrenology. Now I don’t know about you, but I think that comparing an old “grandmother’s” superstition like tea leaf reading to a scientifically-based therapeutic technique that takes advantage of oxygenated blood’s diamagnetic properties and deoxygenated blood’s paramagnetic properties, is not only incredibly insulting, it’s downright stupid.

MPS™ EUROPE Titanium Magnetic Therapy Bracelet

MPS™ EUROPE Titanium Magnetic Therapy Bracelet

What is particularly galling is that one person seems to “own” the page – or at least thinks he does. But I did a little digging and discovered that he had been somewhat disingenuous in what he wrote. Specifically, he cited an article that supposedly reviewed many case studies and concluded that magnetic therapy does not work, or at least that there is not enough evidence to show that it does. However, I followed the link to the article and read it and guess what? It turns out that the article he referred to (but conveniently didn’t actually quote from) said that in the case of  osteoarthritis there isn’t enough evidence to rule out the possibility that wearing magnets can help alleviate the pain.

I would take it further and say that the studies the article looked at in its review showed perfectly well that such treatment does work. But I think the point he was trying to make was that the studies that support the use of magnets treatment tend to use small samples. And of course small samples weakens the results. It doesn’t undermine them, it just renders them inconclusive.

As the Wiki entry was plainly misleading, I tried to change it by adding the relevant sentence from the article. As the article had already been cited, it seemed perfectly reasonable to add a direct quote from it. But our champion of skepticism didn’t like the way on which his frontal assault on magnetic treatment had been compromised, so he reverted it back to the misleading way it was. Then, he added another more recent review of the literature, this one from only three years ago, claiming that it too supported his disbelieving position.

So again I checked the source article to see if there was anything he wasn’t telling us. And again, a brief look confirmed what I had suspected all along: namely that the new article also stated not that the use of magnets couldn’t help people suffering from osteoarthritis, but only that the evidence was inconclusive.

But why is it inconclusive. The only reason given is that the people in the experiment can check if the magnets are real or fake. But in practice it is extremely unlikely that they are doing so. So this is really just an excuse by the orthodox scientists to reject evidence that a disruptive medical technology – not an unscientific one- can actually make a difference.

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