Please Note! Due to the high volume of irritating spam and slow-down of participation here, we are no longer accepting new comments, questions, or subjects on this Forum. We are keeping all the subjects and comments for review as there is a lot of good stuff here relating to practice-building subjects. So, dig deep! Thanks to everyone who participated here but it is time to move on to bigger projects educating the public about acupuncture! Matt Bauer
07-Aug-2013 07:51 AM
|Here’s one I bet you never heard before: Acupuncture and cloud seeding have a lot in common. Why do I say that? My main interest in making this analogy is to address the critics that are still out there insisting that any beneficial effects of acupuncture can only be due to the placebo effect and that governments, insurance companies, and the public should not be wasting their money on it. While acupuncture continues to gain acceptance around the world, this is being slowed by the ranks of “skeptic” types that go to great lengths to prevent acupuncture from being recognized as valid once and for all. This resistance means that millions of people (and animals) who could benefit from this safer form of natural therapy are instead being steered to the more invasive and dangerous therapies – especially drugs – that needlessly kill and injure scores yearly.|
So – back to cloud seeding. Most, I think, are familiar with the basic idea of cloud seeding where some sort of chemical is dispersed into clouds in an attempt to make it rain or snow. Cloud seeding, a type of “weather modification”, got started as a scientific endeavor in the 1940’s after it was discovered that certain chemicals such as silver iodine can induce water molecules in clouds to better bond together forming ice crystals that could then fall as snow or melt turning into rain. Such methods are still used today in many places around the world. In essence, these methods employ some sort of artificial manipulation to cause something “natural” to happen that would otherwise not happen on its own. That is exactly the definition of acupuncture. With acupuncture we stimulate spots in the flesh with needles trying to spark the body’s intrinsic resources to get more out of what nature makes possible.
The problem for both supporters of acupuncture and those of cloud seeding is the difficulty “proving” that these manipulations actually cause something real to happen. In addition to lots of anecdotal evidence, both groups have their credible institutional supporters citing research such as the World Health Organization for acupuncture or the American Meteorological Society for cloud seeding. Both are also then countered by critics declaring decades of scientific studies show no “convincing” evidence that those interventions do anything real. When supporters of acupuncture reference positive clinical outcomes critics say it is just placebo. Supporters of cloud seeding will point to the rain or snow that follows that procedure only to have critics say this would likely have happened anyway. When supporters of either cite scientific studies showing measurable benefits critics call such research poorly done and cite other “more rigorous” research showing little if any measurable benefit. Both acupuncture and weather modification supporters have their societies, professional groups, officials and even governmental regulatory agencies in countries spread around the world. In most all those instances the critics will be there countering claims of benefit and calling for the end of such organized efforts.
Of course, I am an acupuncturist not a meteorologist so I am not weighing-in on the validity of cloud seeding. Given the many parallels between these two practices, however, I suspect that like acupuncture cloud seeding can work but does not always work. The important point to make with this analogy though is why a practice like acupuncture or cloud seeding could legitimately cause their desired effects and yet lead to such conflicting evidence about those effects. The answer, I believe, lies with the complexity of the systems acupuncturists and weather modification specialists are trying to influence and especially the fact that both procedures seek to make those systems achieve something they already have the inclination to achieve naturally.
We all know that clouds can produce rain or snow and most would be able to understand why there could be controversy when rain or snow followed cloud seeding. Just because rain or snow followed such an effort does not necessarily prove the cloud seeding was responsible. If you really could make it rain or snow by cloud seeding, why doesn’t it happen every time? Weather modification supporters will point out that no one is claiming cloud seeding works every time but rather that it can sometimes be the critical factor making rain or snow happen that otherwise would not have happened. The same is true for acupuncture. Acupuncturists don’t claim acupuncture is a cure-all. When acupuncture works, it works because it helps the body to better manage the health issues it is already trying to manage. Like cloud seeding, acupuncture can give nature the extra push it needs to make something natural happen.
Unfortunately, little thought is given to the research challenges that exist when trying to prove that an artificial intervention was the final straw causing a natural phenomenon to happen. As all the conflicting research into cloud seeding suggests, this final straw causation is difficult enough to prove even when the mechanisms behind the desired effect are well understood. Does silver iodine attract water molecules causing the formation of ice crystals? Yes – this can be shown in laboratory experiments and yet it’s difficult to prove in nature.
The biggest complaint the acupuncture skeptics have long had is the question of how acupuncture could possibly work for the many medical conditions acupuncturists claim. This is because they are not thinking of acupuncture as a means to induce the body’s own resources. But even if one does start to think in those terms, it would still be near impossible to prove. Why? Because, with acupuncture, we don’t even know the exact self-healing mechanisms we are trying to induce. Proving the final straw causation then is even more difficult than with cloud seeding. Modern science only understands the tip of the iceberg of how the body heals and manages itself. The complexity of everything involved is off the charts. In addition, what one person’s self-management system needs to tip the scales and get a particular problem under control can be quite different from what another person’s system needs for the same health problem. How do you study that?
I believe the lesion to be learned by comparing cloud seeding and acupuncture is that we should not apply the same standard of proof one would look for when trying to prove the cause and effect of making something unnatural happen. Proving that a manmade antibiotic can kill bacteria is far simpler than proving that acupuncture can stimulate the immune system to better kill bacteria naturally. We have already begun to accept the limits in showing definitive “proof” of cause and effect in the study of environmental issues like global warming. We need to recognize that the study of acupuncture is of similar complexity.
If science ever gets to the point that it is able to definitively prove all the causes and effects that take place when complex natural systems are manipulated in a “Butterfly Effect” manner, we will then be able to explain just how acupuncture works. Until then, let’s give credit where credit is due and embrace the safer, natural alternative acupuncture represents. And skeptics – keep an umbrella handy. More rain is in the forecast.
08-Aug-2013 07:59 AM
Can anyone talk about their experience treating Sjogren’s?
Peter C Doyle
08-Aug-2013 08:01 AM
Great analogy. Life systems tend to not be easily analyzed. Walking down the street today thinking about causality. Then the thought popped up, “Does smoking cause cancer.” Guessing might not be a simple ‘yes/no’ in a human being….
Peter C Doyle
08-Aug-2013 10:19 AM
Just quickly for now Pete – as far as the dry eye aspect of Sjogren’s goes I have had some success using the protocol I describe for macular degeneration in my CEU course for Geriatric Acupuncture you can find on this site. The herbal formula I especially like to use is Internal Cleanse tea from Traditions of Tao. Otherwise you of course look for specific yin/yang imbalances but yin deficiency is the most common esp Heart yin xu.
08-Aug-2013 10:56 AM
Thanks Matt. Thought I posted the Sjogren’s question on a new thread. I have the three CE handouts you’ve made available. You’re the Best!
Peter C Doyle