Response to the Empty Force Test and Rebuttal John David Morenski, M.D.
A previous issue of Swft published an article I co-authored concerning the test of an individual who claimed on a popular martial arts web-page, www.uechi-ryu.com, that he could perform extraordinary feats through his mastery of chi 1. These included healing people of illnesses that evidence-based medicine “had failed,” halting physical attacks without touching the aggressor, and even moving individuals without touching them. Also spelled “Qi” or “Ki,” chi represents a rather broad paradigm intended to explain many different and often conflicting events.
According to proponents, chi is an energy that flows through the body through pathways designated “meridians,” which explains many complex physiologic events such as disease, balance, and strength. This broad definition renders the concept resistant to investigation. It is the fault of science, which can measure the attractive and repulsive forces of atoms, that it cannot measure this energy.
One cannot examine an “eastern” paradigm through “western” means, unless, of course, misuse of the “western” and “scientific” terminology lends respectability. Reality becomes a subject of interpretation; it becomes relative. Einstein wrote a few things concerning relativity. Quantum mechanics discusses complicated issues in the terms of “probabilities,” and there exists this principle of uncertainty. Thus, personal conceptions of reality must be scientific since they are relative and seem to have a lot of uncertainty.
The relativistic approach where opinion and belief can govern interpretation may succeed in art criticism; it fails miserably as a method to describe reality. I am aware of no evidence that the laws of physics prove geographically relative. Sadly perhaps, how an investigator “feels” or “wants” influences his results not a wit. Science attempts to remove opinion and bias from observations. Science makes observations and tries to explain them. Sometimes further observations overturn previous explanations.
Proponents of paradigms such as chi tend to work in the opposite direction. They form an explanation and then attempt to find evidence for it. This is not necessarily a faulty method; researchers can think up an explanation and search for evidence to support it. The difference is that proponents of chi accept only evidence that supports their conclusions and ignore anything else. Scientists have to explain unexpected and unwanted results.
Researchers may “believe” and “want” cold fusion to happen. Fusion of deuterium should produce neutrons. The scientists have to explain why the experiment produced no neutrons.2,3 Protesting that “western science” cannot “understand” or “apply” does not excuse the lack of results. When proponents specify an aspect of their paradigm, they provide something a researcher may test. The individual offered such a specification. He stated he had the ability to move another person without touching them. Indeed, he claimed he could move another even when separated from him physically and visually by a barrier such as a wall.
Whether or not the resources of science can detect the apparent force exerted by the individual no longer mattered; we could test the effect. As the study explained, many explanations for why a person may move exist without resorting to mechanisms that overturn the laws of physics. To remove such influences, the authors created a double-blind study. The individual agreed to the conditions and timing of the test and what would constitute a success prior to the test. That fact requires emphasis given his subsequent explanations for his failure to produce an effect.
The publishers of Swift granted permission to reprint the article on the web-site that hosted the individual and discussions concerning his claims. Publication generated a rebuttal of sorts from the individual (Mattson). By way of fairness, I feel his opinion deserves responsible consideration.
In the past twelve years of cultivating Qi, I have been able to realize a certain amount of success and have made public my results. I have been greeted with skepticism by a great many people, and have since shown that my abilities are valid in the realms of Healing (sic) and Martial (sic) use of Qi derived from the practice of Qigong. 4
Certainly, a demonstration of the “abilities” would end the matter. Yet, he offers no demonstration, no data, and nothing beyond a written claim. I can claim that I have convinced “a great many people” of my ability to fly. Unfortunately, I imagine the majority would want me to demonstrate it.
The test offered such a demonstration. It isolated a claimed effect of the existence of chi. The individual could not demonstrate his effect under conditions that he agreed he could. Thus, when he continues, “It is sad that modern technology, while advanced, is not yet up to the task of being able to detect or measure Qi. It is hoped that one day such advanced technical know how (sic) will exist, and verify that which has been known for millennia: Qi exists,” 4 he avoids the issue. He places the blame on science. Science simply is not good enough to detect the existence of his power. He conveniently forgets that he failed to demonstrate his power. I can just as well claim that my power to fly “has been known for millennia.” My audience still wishes me to jump out of the window.
A rebuttal to an argument tends to focus on the elements of the argument. One might expect the individual to attend to the details of the test in order to demonstrate how it failed to reveal an effect which occurred. Of course, he could simply demonstrate the effect under proper conditions. Prior to the test he claimed he could meet the requirements of the JREF for such a demonstration, “any time, any where.” Thus far, he has refused to provide this definitive evidence. Instead, much of his “rebuttal” wanders into claims similar to those forementioned. Despite the “sound and fury,” without any supporting evidence, it “signifies nothing.”
Martial artists did not miss the one very critical problem. Martial arts involve martial matters and despite appearances they proves rather scientific. We are, ultimately, interested in preventing another individual from harming us. In the pursuit of this interest, we often create many wondrous techniques to defeat imagined foes. In the process, we “means test” our precious beliefs. I may believe that no one can avoid or block my kicks. Unfortunately, recent objective tests of this belief in the training halls have failed to demonstrate the invincibility of my techniques. It is hoped that one day such advanced technical know-how will exist and verify my invincibility.
Since the individual could not demonstrate his powers under rather benign conditions that he agreed upon, martial artists did wonder how effective such powers would prove in real self-defense situations. Perhaps opponents will surpass the abilities of modern technology and respond appropriately to the individual’s powers. Nevertheless, some of the marital artists who read the article and rebuttal have preferred to stake their faith in other methods.
The patient reader will eventually stumble upon an address, of sorts, of the results reported in the article. The individual protests:
On any given day a champion weight lifter cannot match his best lift, a World-Class sprinter cannot duplicate their best run, and the best fighter’s punch could fail against any amount of competitors. Does that mean that those people’s accomplishments are invalid or faked? NO. Some will even go to certain lengths to come up with various tests in an effort to validate or invalidate a specific method. Results of such tests, be they favorable or unfavorable, are insignificant when compared the results gained as a whole, and over a broader period of time than one test may allow. 4
Thus, should my preliminary flight-test for the JREF prize result in a completely unexpected personal introduction to the cement below my window, this result and any inconvenient reconstructive surgery and lengthy rehabilitation are insignificant when compared to my results gained as a whole. I suppose readers may wish I provide these results which they should consider “as a whole;” however, they are skeptics and, therefore, obliging them would waste my time.
That remains the issue. The individual offers neither results nor “accomplishments.” Anyone can claim anything. The individual tries to hide behind a truth that does not apply to his failure. The champion weight lifter may not match his best lift; one would expect him to lift two ounces. The sprinter may not break his personal best; he should make it out of the starting block. Not unfamiliar to fallacy, the individual ducks under false analogies. He apparently hopes no one will remember that he agreed to the timing of the test and the test conditions. After the fact, he offers the old excuses familiar to investigators of such matters.
I reiterate that he claimed effects with martial applications. He felt the personal and situational conditions proper to demonstrate his claimed powers. He could not demonstrate an influence, let alone a dramatic effect. If he finds his powers so capricious to a controlled and ideal situation, martial artists may wonder how reliable he will find them in an actual attack. He continues: “One such event happened with me a few summers ago in Massachusetts, at a long weekend camp given by a group of Uechi Rya [the style of karate practiced by most of the participants] people. In the venue that was picked, I did not succeed, and I view that as a “Oh Well!” kind of happening.” 4 “In the venue that was picked,” demonstrates an interesting misuse of the passive voice. He agreed to all aspects of the venue before his demonstration. Self-defense situations generally involve surprise venues, without the opportunity to agree upon the conditions. Generally, “Oh Well!” tends to falter as a response.
Yet, he continues: “Not long there after I went to England and put on a series of very successful seminars, and I was very successful in demonstrating both my Medical (sic) and Martial Qigong abilities to the satisfaction of thousands of people across the United Kingdom. “4 How capricious fortune proves! Had we only followed him across the Atlantic we would have seen all of the results he promised and more. Do not let the damage to the cement underneath my window or my altered visage dissuade you; in another country in the future rest assured I will fly. Regrettably, some will take such statements as “proof.” Properly designed and executed objective tests remove biases. Unless the individual performed under proper conditions, his claims of miracles unseen and undocumented remain as substantive to my claims of flight-just so much air.
2Dewdney, AK: Yes, We Have No Neutrons: An Eye-Opening Tour through the Twists and Turns of Bad Science. New York, John Wiley & Sons, 1997.
4Mooney, RM: The Use of Energy (Qi) in Martial Arts Applications. [http://www.uechi-ryu.com/use_of_energy%20by%20Richard%20M.%20Mooney.htm], 2000.
1Morenski, JD, Glasheen, WP: “Empty Force” Comes Up Empty. Swift 3: 4; 13-15, 2000.
3Park, R: Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud.New York, Oxford University Press, 2000.
Author: The JREF has been assured that Dr. Morenski will succeed in preliminary tests of his ability to fly for the million dollar prize as soon as he is back on solid food.