|Permanent link to this comic: http://xkcd.com/882/|
Being a Massage Therapist and a science enthusiast is a very difficult position. It isn't inherently contradictory, as there is nothing intrinsic to massage that flies in the face of science; rather it is tradition and history that drives a wedge between the two fields. And if this discussion on LinkedIn is any indicator, that wedge is large, heavy, and very hard to shift. For those who can't see this discussion, here is what it looks like:
The end result of the discussion, thus far, is some feel you can say nothing at all about massage scientifically, some feel that science is just another religion, some feel that they have quantum-healing-energy-superpowers, and some feel that we should, in fact, look at the research before we tell a patient what massage can and cannot do.
In other words, there is no real consensus. This answer would be obvious in any other field; LMTs are unsure whether evidence is important in evaluating what is and isn't fiction.
My position on this is in two parts.
- The first part of me knows that there is no valid reason to avoid looking at the science. You can say it is difficult, or you can say it is biased, or you can claim that your own personal evidence is better than anything that science can offer. All of these explanations, when talked out to their logical conclusion fall flat.
- I am too busy, it is too hard: If you are offering massage, you have an obligation to understand how it works. Do you have any business ethics? I would never offer my patients something if I couldn't explain why it is worth spending their hard earned money on. This is just laziness and apathy. If you can't understand something, ask someone in the field to explain it.
- The Big Pharma Conspiracy: You think all scientists and doctors are conspiring to hide the truth and invalidate what would actually heal people? Okay, then you have to back that assertion up with evidence. A conspiracy of this magnitude would require complicity of nearly every major university, hospital, medical journal, and researcher. If that is your perspective on the world, you seem to be living in The Truman Show. For that matter, how do you know the conspiracy theorists learned from weren't a part of a conspiracy to keep you ignorant? As Christopher Hitchens said, "That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence."
- I make my own evidence: If you believe your personal anecdotes are better than all the scientific research, ask yourself if it is:
- reviewed by peer-experts?
- checked for human error, effect size, chance of coincidence?
- evaluated for significance against placebo?
- replicated by other experts?
- checked against similar reports?
- controlled and measured carefully?
- Quantum Physics is mysterious, and hard to understand: For this reason gurus have grabbed on to it, and used it to assert fiction. A simple look at Wikipedia can offer the explanation for most of these misinterpretations
- The Observer Effect: ever check your tire pressure with a pressure gauge, and in doing so let out some air? That drop in air pressure, the one caused by poking the pin inside the valve stem, that is the "mysterious" observer effect.
- Particles don't follow Newtonian Physics: True, because particles are too small to be effected by those laws, but thoughts, intentions, emotions, and the like are not that small, and neither is anything you will ever experience with your senses.
- Everything is energy: Not really, everything is MADE of energetic particles. For perspective on the difference, ask yourself this: can I breathe under water? Water is made of Hydrogen and Oxygen, you can breathe hydrogen and oxygen, but you can't breathe water. This is called the Fallacy of Composition.
- Fascia is everywhere in the body: It is the container that holds organs, muscles, nerves, and vascular tissues. This is often misconstrued to mean that fascia does all things.
- Consciousness is an extremely slippery subject: How would we measure something from the inside out? But that doesn't mean that you can say anything you want about it and be right. Also, we don't have to know everything about something to know something about it.
- Deepak Chopra said so: This is called the Appeal to Authority. He is a very intelligent man, but he isn't infallible. He is only human. His opinions are often anti-science, and he is always selling something to improve your quantum-spiritual-well-being.
- The Law of Attraction: It's a LAW right? It sounds sciencey! Too bad this isn't actual science, but a construct of New Age Philosophy. One which lacks the values of any physical science law, it can not be verified nor falsified. It also ignores a simpler and thus more plausible explanation.
So what does that leave us with? Can we leap over this divide and find a space where those of us who want to help others can do so without trying to sell them our philisophical or religious values? Can someone who is deeply entrenched in ancient tradition still reach out to science for explanations without judgement?
The Dalai Lama thinks so. "If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change. In my view, science and Buddhism share a search for the truth and for understanding reality."
Who am I to disagree?