31 October 2011

Let me rewrite that headline for you...

Arthritic dog lays down for an hour, falls asleep, seems more calm

...or as the New Jersey Herald puts it, "Reiki expert channels energy to heal pets, humans."

No, really. I was shocked. This is journalism? I was also a little embarrassed; this is my hometown newspaper. I always thought it outperformed the newspaper of my adopted hometown, Mount Vernon, Ohio. In my opinion, this was an abominable piece of journalism.

When Cindy Nolte arrived at the home of her client for their afternoon Reiki session, Kodi was waiting for her. Walking with a slight limp because of his severe spinal arthritis, Kodi braved the discomfort to rush to greet her.
The pair walked inside and Kodi lay down on the living room floor as Nolte began to meditate and focus a positive energy flow to Kodi's aching bones and muscles.
Within moments, Kodi's labored breathing had slowed down, and he slowly began to relax into a sleep-like state. Nolte used no words, she didn't even touch Kodi during their hour-long session that seemed to leave Kodi re-energized and invigorated.

I can't believe my hometown newspaper reports this pseudoscience as if it were real, with no disclaimers or editorializing by the journalist that these practices are unproven and frequently mocked by the scientific community. And shame on that woman, Cindy Nolte of Fresh Look on Life, for taking advantage of gullible and desperate people by telling them she can make them (and their pets?) feel better just by thinking at them. Dear lord, just think of the harm she could do if she turned her healing thoughts to murderous ones! (Snake oil, anyone?)

Seriously, though, that this passes muster for journalism (or at best a fluff piece) does not bode well for the journalism profession or the New Jersey Herald. I am sad to say that I've lost respect for the paper.

Acting as a conduit for the flow of positive healing energy, Nolte uses her experience to help her clients quiet their minds and connect to the energy, which can be challenging for busy humans.
"Some people have never tried anything like this before, and trying to quiet their minds after 30 or 40 years is a challenge. Just think of contacting a friend after 30 years; there is a lot to talk about. It's the same for us. We really don't talk to ourselves, so there is a lot of chatter to get through," Nolte said. "We need to learn to go inward and accept ourselves at our own individual level."

Oh. So Cindy Nolte is some sort of life coach that teaches people how to relax. Why not just say that? Why couch the albeit mockable need for a life coach in reiki healing energy woo and weirdness? If you ignore the reiki, this sounds somewhat reasonable. Relaxation is good, and some people are bad at doing it. But she doesn't stop there:

Animals, on the other hand, seem to have a natural understanding of Reiki and the energy it uses to heal, Nolte said. This allows them to benefit from the treatment that the Reiki sessions provide.

Oh. They do? Dear journalist, where's the balance? Actually, screw balance, where is the outright mocking of this pseudoscience? Where's the scientist in the article exposing this practice for the ridiculous assertion that it is with not a shred of evidence to support it? Even a single throwaway line from a local scientist would have been an improvement, though overall the article would still be a loss for those who value logic and reason.

Yes, I realize this article was a slice-of-life in-the-community approach, but it wrongly lends the validity of the newspaper to the laughably irrational tenets of reiki practitioners, who are no more rational in their beliefs than proponents of homeopathy. Unfortunately, people with little knowledge of science could be easily convinced by this charlatan, Cindy Nolte, and her thought energy. I encourage all readers to visit Quackwatch's examination of reiki and this entertaining piece at scienceblogs for a pretty thorough debunking.

I look forward to the next article in the series from the New Jersey Herald on how someone is selling vials of homeopathic "treatments" consisting entirely of water and how it's helping relieve her client's pet opposum's tinnitus. I'm sure Betty the opposum writes excellent testimonials.

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