Harriet Hall in Slate:
The military uses some of the most technologically sophisticated machinery and innovative medical techniques in history. But a disturbing current of pseudoscience in the military is wasting money, perpetuating myths, and putting our troops in danger. I am a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, so this hits close to home. An organization I was once proud to belong to has become a source of embarrassment.*
An ongoing DoD failure is the infiltration of quackery into military medicine. It’s not as dangerous to our troops as a bomb detector that can’t detect bombs, but it’s wasting tax dollars and medical resources on unscientific mumbo-jumbo that “works” only as a placebo. In some cases, it is demonstrably harmful.
Acupuncture is based on a mythical, nebulous energy called qi that has never been detected, even though scientific instruments are capable of measuring quantum energies at the subatomic level. It is said to flow through hypothetical meridians and to be altered by sticking needles into hypothetical acupuncture points. Originally, there were 360 acupuncture points, corresponding to the days of the year, which is not surprising since the idea grew out of astrology. Now so many acupoints have been described that one wag suggested there was no place left on the skin that wasn’t an acupuncture point in someone’s system.