5X5 Episode 11

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5X5 Episode 11
Acupuncture for Portland
16th March 2008

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5X5 10 5X5 12
Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella
R: Rebecca Watson
B: Bob Novella
J: Jay Novella
E: Evan Bernstein
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The Rogues discuss an art project to give the city of Portland, Oregon acupuncture.

City of Portland to Receive Acupuncture[edit]

You're listening to the Skeptics' Guide 5x5, five minutes with five skeptics, with Steve, Jay, Rebecca, Bob and Evan.


S: This is the SGU 5x5, the topic for tonight is acupuncture for the city of Portland, Oregon. Artist Adam Kuby has a project which apparently is under way, in which he has mapped out the energy flow to the city of the Portland and is administering gigantic acupuncture needles to the city.

J: Wow!

E: It’s about time.

J: So Portland has chakras, huh?

E: All over.

S: Apparently. I have heard cities needing an enema, but acupuncture? That’s a new one.

B: And meridians.

S: This is, this is about one of the dumbest things I ever heard.

B: It's up there,

S: We’ll link to the website

B: ...top 10.

S: ...it says: think of the city as a body the way traditional Chinese medicine does. With, you know, flowing energy that's gotta be balanced and… etcetra etcetra. It just, again, just transferring all of the magic and woo from acupuncture in the body with, you know, flows of chi energy through the meridians, and just translating it to a city.

R: It’s an art project, and I can understand how… how an artist can take something that’s pseudo-scientific and get some inspiration out of it. And if you were to have taken that, like when I first saw the headline I thought: oh, well, he’s using it metaphorically to mean, you know

B: Right

R: …let’s put these needles in and it will bring people’s attention to where development needs to happen, where we need to focus funding, things like that, and get people talking. I think that’s a really good idea. And then I read it, and he’s totally serious! Like… (laughter)

S: Yeah. It seems to be serious, if there’s no hint of metaphor here.

R: He wants to bring in a team of acupuncturists. It’s it’s…

B: He seems to be serious but then, on the other hand in the other parts of the webpage that I read he seems not to be totally serious. Here’s one quote from the webpage that kind of make me not know which direction he’s going in. It says: “by pinpointing Portland’s health problems the project could increase public’s awareness of these issues, which could in turn could lead to actual improvements in the city’s health.” So what is it? Is he, you know, is he poking meridians and healing the flow of energy, or is he inspiring people to make, to make improvements, you know, the old fashioned way? So what is it? It seems bull.

S: Those aren’t mutually exclusive, he’s probably saying: oh yeah, sure, it’s all good. It’s all, it's bull.

J: Yeah. It also could be a stunt, you know? It looks more like a stunt to me.

R: Yeah, and it’s, it's not particularly...

S: Well, it’s that too. I mean, again, these are all… again, none of these are mutually exclusive. I’m sure it’s a big proj- city-wide project, I’m sure it’s gonna draw him a lot of attention. He’s certainly, you know, has it prominently on his webpage. The text of the website is certainly, you know, dead serious. There’s no hint of metaphor or irony or anything. He’s got pictures of the city, like one picture with a drawn in acupuncture needle and it says: "excess yang." Over here, we have "deficient yin."

J: Yeah, the excess yang is on the golf course.

(laughter)

S: Right.

R: I’m just… I’m also surprised from the artistic point of view that he doesn’t have a solid vision, on his website he’s asking people: well, what do you think, should we have different needles for different areas, or should it all be the same? It’s like, you came into this, you got funding for this project, shouldn’t you have your whole idea laid out? It seems very scatter-shod like, well let’s just do this crazy thing and get the attention and go on our merry way.

E: Well here’s another problem with this project. It’s called the South Waterfront Project, and this is part of a monthly art series that they do, they invite guest artists in to… to present something, to help bring awareness to part of the city, of course, that need attention and in which they want to rebuild the economic development of those parts of the city. You know, amongst… it’s privately funded, partially, but it’s also partially publicly funded by the Portland Development Commission, the Potland Parks and Recreation department. So, you know, there are some tax money going into this. And, you know, I’m… Boy, I could think of a lot better ways to spend tax money than to be sticking needles into the ground for the sake of art and promoting acupuncture.

R: And really, does the Pacific Northwest need to look any crazier?

J: You know, if this was… if this was really just an artistic stunt, I would actually think it’s funny in a way, you know, or whatever. Sure, it would bring attention and stuff, or almost even if he was making fun of acupuncture at the same time. But if he is in support of acupuncture in any way, then of course, I and, I’m assuming, the rest of you, we have to be against it. Because, there's gonna be people walking around and maybe they're gonna start buying into this crap (in a funny voice): Oh, the planet needs, you know, acupuncture and chiropractic.

S: Yeah (laugh). Yeah, I mean, it certainly seems to take a very positive, again, very promotional view of acupuncture. In this guy’s mind, this may all just be an art project, and he might not think that he’s actually treating energy flow in the city. But it’s still, and you guys are right, that the negative aspect of all this is that, at the end of the day it’s promoting acupuncture.

J: (in a funny voice) But Steve! Portland needs our help!

S: SGU 5x5 is a companion podcast to the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, a weekly science podcast brought to you by the New England Skeptical Society in association with skepchick.org. For more information on this and other episodes, visit our website at www.theskepticsguide.org. Music is provided by Jake Wilson.


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