Qigong not real medicine

By Luke Edelman

I write this to correct what I believe are a number of gross scientific inaccuracies in your Oct. 8 piece on the practice of Qigong by the infirmed. The article claims that the ancient form of Chinese mysticism, through “very little investment,” such as regulating posture and breathing, is known to “establish optimum health of the body and mind – and even cure cancer.” It may be fair to say that, insofar as it involves some measure of physical exertion, the activity presents nominal cardiovascular or emotional benefit. But I am surprised by the fantastic and demonstrably false claims made within the story that stray far beyond this.

In the same tradition as faith healers, homeopathic medicine and snake oil, Qigong offers abundant anecdotal evidence of its therapeutic potential, and abundant scientific validation to the contrary. The ‘best kept secret in China’ does not proffer some “optimum health” and it most certainly does not cure cancer. A cursory review of the scientific literature yields vast empirical and systematic proof that, in fact, light exercise and stretching do not provide some miracle bulwark against all human disease. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator, for example, will not guard against the clap.

I appreciate that patients suffering from major illness may reach for anything that offers hope. And I understand that medicine today cannot cure every disease it confronts. But I would think that the ill are better served by treatments and research that, while imperfect, offer true benefit and not false expectations. As a student of science, I have learned that the first step to generating good ideas is discarding the bad ones. As a student of this university, I am disappointed that its chief independent written publication does not feel the same way.

Luke Edelman

Junior in Engineering