THE LAYMAN'S GUIDE TO ACUPUNCTURE

Yoshio Manaka and Richard A. Urquhart

Weatherill, New York, 1972.


This guide has been regularly reprinted at least until 1995, the date of this copy, without being updated to include any research findings since 1972. Indeed, the only properly cited research dates from 1937!

"A crucial question in any consideration of acupuncture is whether energy, in the sense of the Chinese ch'i, exists." (p.132)

They mention an experiment using semiconducting germanium wired up between two points as among the indications that there is such a thing as ch'i, but seem unable to relate this possibility to the familiar phenomenon of electricity. Neither do they seem able to grasp what a meridian is, suggesting that geographical meridians are constructed by joining the dots to make up lines:

"In English they are called meridians, a word borrowed from geography that indicates an imaginary line joining a series of points. This is an apt term in that, like geographical meridians, the acupuncture meridians exist not as continuous lines but rather as series of points following linelike patterns." (p.41)

Those old favourites, the elements, shine their usual light on things. We see again the parading, with no critical comment, of their ludicrous relationships:

"The five elements are generated and destroyed according to a law of cyclical interaction: fire produces earth, earth produces metal, metal finds water, water produces wood, and wood becomes fire." (p.39)

Conversely, and perversely:

"On the other hand, water is without effect on earth, earth does not affect wood, wood does not effect metal, metal does not affect fire, and fire does not affect water." (p.40)

Obsessed by these botched symmetries, nobody thinks to question daft claims like "fire does not affect water", and yet we are told that acupuncturists follow,

"a long line of ancient practitioners, belonging to a people noted for meticulous visual observation." (p.22)

Notwithstanding all this, the question of the efficacy of acupuncture is still unclear. A useful discussion can be found at Robert Todd Carroll's Skeptic's Dictionary.



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Paul Taylor 2001