I was on the ferry coming back from Bainbridge Island recently when I noticed some people offering free “Chinese pulse diagnosis.” I took them up on the offer, hoping that it would be different from astrology or foot reflexology. In other words, hoping that it wouldn’t be just vague or wrong information.
The person who diagnosed me turned out to be from the Acupuncture & Wellness Center in Poulsbo. What do you think I learned through my diagnosis? Mostly wrong and vague information. It seemed like classic cold reading. I was told that I have shoulder pain, or at least upper back pain, weakness in the lungs, lower back pain, knee pain, digestion problems, and more.
Unfortunately, lacking any positive feedback from me, she passed over the lower back pain (which I sometimes have) and instead was most adamant about inflammation in the shoulder or upper back, which is one thing I definitely do not have. “That would be my focus if I treated you,” she said. I said a silent thank you that she wasn’t treating me.
The one thing that clinched it for me regarding her use of cold reading techniques (whether intentional or not) was a comment that there is heart disease in my family. It’s generally known by psychic readers, talkers to the dead, and all kinds of prognosticators, that your odds are really good if you guess either heart disease or cancer. These are two most common fatal illnesses. You could walk up to anyone on the street and ask if there’s a family history of one of these two and most likely be right.
She was shooting fish in a barrel with this one, but happened to miss. My family doesn’t have a history of heart disease. Had she chosen cancer, she would been accurate, but as I said, choosing either of these is not exactly rocket science. And it’s definitely not medical science.
If pulse diagnosis (which is both an Indian and Chinese tradition) had merit, some eager scientist would demonstrate it and become famous. These things can be tested. There’s an unfortunate belief that if something is ancient and traditional, it must be good. Blood-letting was one of the most common medical treatments for 2,000 years. It must be good. From Wikipedia–recommended points on the body for blood-letting (click the image for details):