Wednesday, February 23, 2011

TM-Free News Brief, 23 February 2011

"Pulse Diagnosis" quackery, coming to a hospital near you? Almost twenty years ago, Andrew Skolnick's expose' of Maharishi Ayur-Veda appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association. An article co-authored by Deepak Chopra, praising the alleged benefits of these products, had previously appeared in the journal, and the authors had failed to disclose their financial association with the movement's commercial enterprises. This led to Skolnick's investigation of the movement, which included this key section:

An investigation of the movement's marketing practices reveals what appears to be a widespread pattern of misinformation, deception, and manipulation of lay and scientific news media. This campaign appears to be aimed at earning at least the look of scientific respectability for the TM movement, as well as at making profits from sales of the many products and services that carry the Maharishi's name.

It appears that after twenty years of the TM movement's hammering of the medical establishment, the coming-of-middle-age of longtime TM devotees, and the apparent acceptance of outright quackery across-the-board by the healthcare industry, the promoters of Maharishi Ayur-Veda may now be gaining unimpeded and unquestioning entry to the nation's top medical institutions.

The "Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine" - another example of the growing and inexplicable trend of medical schools and healthcare providers throwing science-based medicine overboard in favor of, presumably more profitable, quackery and pseudoscience - will be sponsoring a "training program for health professionals" in "Clinical Ayurveda™," which appears to be yet another of the TM movement's trademarked names for its products. The program is hosted by three medical doctors who are also employees of the TM movement, in its "Maharishi Ayur-Veda Association of America" (MAAA). One of the three doctors, Kulreet Chaudhary, who's prominently featured on the website of this TM front group, is also on the staff of Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, California. For some reason, John Hagelin is also affilated with these so-called "medical education programs," a man whose main talents these days seem to be wearing a gold crown and spouting gibberish.

Featured in this so-called "training program for health professionals" is "pulse diagnosis," which has been described by various critics as "a variation of palm reading" or "no more plausible than analysis of toenail clippings." It involves taking the pulse of a patient and rendering, just from that, a diagnosis of disease. Unlike much pseudoscience, this program appears to be interfering with the decision-making ability of doctors, seemingly suggesting that they may ignore scientifically-valid methods of diagnosis in favor of what they think they learn by taking the pulse.

Ironically, considering the AMA's original role in helping debunk Maharishi Ayur-Veda and its proponents twenty years ago, this "training program" now offers "AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™" for participation.

Update, 24 February: A further search of the web indicates that this program of offering AMA-approved CME credit for courses in Maharishi Ayur-Veda under the auspices of Scripps is not new; this website, operated by MAAA, announced a previous course, which began in November, 2009 and ran through May, 2010.

Another report on Transcendental Meditation in San Francisco public schools surfaces: San Francisco public radio station KALW recently produced a story on the David Lynch Foundation (DLF) program to introduce TM in three San Francisco public schools. In this report, the only hint of any evidence that the TM program in these schools is effective is a reference to the usual unscientific marketing surveys and anecdotes TM promoters regularly spew, made midway through the report: "Most of the evidence of the program is anecdotal. Students and teachers participate willingly and say it’s helpful for them, and surveys that school has done return positive feedback."

In the past, we've noted various reports about two of the San Francisco schools mentioned, Visitacion Valley Middle School and Everett Middle School, from various sources including the DLF. In 2009 TM-Free received this unconfirmed report of "a crew of 20 bullying, clueless T.M. fanatics working for the David Lynch Foundation" at Everett. This is the first mention I've been able to find of this program having been introduced at a third school, John O’Connell High.

A web page from the Everett Middle School website reads much like the same promotional materials TM salespeople have used for decades, emphasizing "a simple, scientifically proven, nonreligious technique," all points which are regularly disputed by former meditators and critics. As with many of the David Lynch programs in public schools, TM is renamed "quiet time;" the artifice of a "quiet time" of as short as 60 seconds has been known to be used by some as a vehicle to introduce, or legitimize, prayer in public schools. The Everett website also prominently features a TM/DLF front group, the "US Committee for Stress-Free Schools," which from its description is the actual corporate entity attempting to introduce the TM program into public schools.

James Dierke, mentioned in the report as the principal at Visitacion Valley, has been named as an adviser to one of the many TM organization front groups pushing to establish the TM program in public schools; the people identifed on such websites are often if not almost always longtime meditators, having started TM during its height of popularity in the mid-1970's.

David still wants to fly, really, really badly: The Sunday Times magazine (London) published a lengthy feature article on David Lynch, his foundation, and TM at the end of December, and it just found its way to my desk. Alex Hannaford wrote up a wonderful lede, quietly indicating from the start that maybe the rest of the world should assume David Lynch isn't the least bit sane, particularly when he starts talking about interfering with the education of children by teaching them TM:

David Lynch is sitting at a huge desk in his studio --a mess of boxes, bits of wood and electric cable -- telling me how he believes he will one day be able to fly. As in levitate. Take off. Vooom. For him, a champion of Transcendental Meditation, Yogic Flying would be the ultimate life-enhancing experience. The technique involves bouncing along the floor in the yoga lotus position, and practitioners are convinced that eventually the "collective cosmic consciousness" generated will be so powerful that they will be able to raise themselves into the air and soar. "Yeah, right now it's hopping, not flying," Lynch says, looking very serious. "It's intense bliss. They don't get tired. On the contrary, just more and more energy and bliss propels them up in the air." He is no doubt that, as world negativity dissolves, meditators will have lift-off. And he would like British schoolchildren to learn how to do it, too.

This silly notion that people are about to fly any second now if only "negativity dissolves" is the same kind of crap I heard over thirty years ago. Some people simply refuse to grow up, don't they? All the more reason to keep Lynch and his minions away from schools of any kind. Let's be clear, that one of Maharishi's last directives, echoed by Lynch here, was to make sure that middle and secondary school students were taught, not just how to meditate, but also "Yogic Flying" and the rest of the anti-scientific quackery - some would say "religion" - that the "Global Country" sells.

Briefly: More news from David Sieveking; his documentary/expose film on today's TM movement, "David Wants To Fly," has received three award pre-nominations, and continues to be shown in the U.S. at various film festivals... David Lynch's "online charity music label" kicks off; despite all the press and hype, only a handful of paying downloads in the first few days of the campaign... The transfer of a UK Maharishi School to state control (story in the 9 February News Brief) has come under more criticism.

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TM-Free News Brief, 23 February 2011. Published irregularly here on Wednesdays by Mike Doughney, who's solely responsible for its content unless otherwise noted.


John M. Knapp, LMSW said...

Thank you SO VERY MUCH for a thoughtful response that does not dismiss everything "New Age" as worthless. At one time, if a doctor merely washed his hands before doing surgery or delivering a baby it was considered quackery. "Germ theory" and fear of "unseen bugs" seemed preposterous chicanery to the top medical minds of the day. There is no progress unless the mind is open to new theories BEFORE they are proven with science.

John M. Knapp, LMSW said...


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