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E is for Energy

Loretta Marron BSc
From a Skeptics Perspective

Issue 74: August 2008
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On one particularly cold night last winter my back ached, my big toe hurt and I woke up shivering.  With bedclothes tightly wrapped around me I managed to slip one hand out of bed to turn on my electric blanket.  I soon felt warm, the pain went away and I went back to sleep.  In the morning I noticed that the blanket was unplugged from the wall and clearly had been all winter.  Is my blanket possessed with magical powers or was it ‘mind over matter’?   For this article, I’d like to talk about healing energies.

Day after day, dark clouds moved across the cold winter skies, drenching the landscape with life giving water.  As the months passed clear blue skies pushed away the rain and the bright sun of springtime bathed the ground in light and warmth, melting the snow and bringing forward new life.  All around seeds split their hard shells and plants pushed their way through the fertile ground.  In their fight for survival they reached skyward and grew quickly bursting into flower as they prepared for life to come.  As the weeks past, the air buzzed with life and newborns of every species frolicked and feasted in the bounty that nature provided. 

Primitive man may not have understood the seasons, but he knew that his wellbeing depended on living in harmony with everything in his small world.  He also knew that somehow he was totally dependant on the sun.  He couldn’t see ‘light’ but he could see shade and could feel its warmth and, as life flourished, he could see its power.  He knew that something amazing, an ‘energy of the universe’, must be flowing from the skies.   

The belief that the sun is interlinked with God flows across every civilization and is the basis for and part of many religions and traditional health paradigms.  It is not surprising that many believe that the God or Gods who seemingly control life and death could be called upon to bring good fortune and healing.  People who claimed to communicate with these Gods held positions of power and influence and were revered as the ‘chosen’.  Healers and ancient priests believed that they could absorb and control the transfer of this universal power to those around them. 

Physics has come a long way since those early times.  A hundred years ago, Einstein came up with his remarkable formula E=MC2, the most famous equation in the world, which describes the relationship between energy, matter and light.  This discovery forms the mathematical basis for the development of the Atom Bomb, nuclear power stations, and even early Linear Accelerators (for radiotherapy).  To put it simply, in a closed environment, energy cannot be created or destroyed, but it can change to mass and vice versa.  Theories and knowledge gained in quantum physics continue to bring a deeper understanding to the behaviour of mass and energy at the molecular level.  Making more efficient ways to produce, store and transmit energy now and in the future depends of this science.  When it comes to energy there is not much we don’t know, can’t measure and can’t prove. 

Reiki practitioners claim that they can tap into their own ‘life force’ and transmit healing energy from distances across the planet.  I can’t even get my mobile phone to work where I live, so what energy source are they using?   And how many Reiki practitioners does it take to thaw out a couple of frozen peas?  When put to the test, Reiki practitioners, working with blindfolded participants, produce zero energy when measured and the participants feel nothing.

When I stand in the sun, all I get is a dose of sunburn, but Reiki practitioners claim to be able to ‘channel’ energy through solid walls to find their patients.  With more accuracy than a GPS and a stronger signal than a transmission tower why haven’t they been awarded the Nobel Prize for physics?

According to Prof Edzard Ernst, Professor of Complementary Medicine, Exeter Uni, UK (1) therapies such as Reiki don’t work and carry risks.

 A few pharmacies offer in-house energy healing (2), so perhaps I could cut up my unplugged electric blanket to sell the pieces on EBAY as a “Reiki blanket” and they might like to bid; they can put them next to their homeopathy, magnetic jewellery and ear candling products, after all, spiritual healing is becoming more and more popular. 


1.     Ernst E, Pittler MH. Wider B. The Desktop Guide to Complementary and Alternative Medicine. An evidence based approach. 2nd Ed. Elsevier Mosby. 2006

2.     One of the many pharmacies offering scientifically implausible energy therapieshttp://www.cranespharmacy.com.au/services.php





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