Furor in China After Wikipedia Calls Acupuncture "Pseudoscience"

News of an ongoing controversy over Wikipedia's classification of acupuncture as a "pseudoscience" has finally been made it to China, prompting many to come to the defense of the ancient practice.

The People's Daily reported the news has "provoke(d) public wrath," while Beijing News reported many Chinese netizens have "become outraged" at the Wikipedia article that says traditional Chinese medicine is "not based upon scientific knowledge."

Leading practitioners of acupuncture are denouncing the "pseudoscience" label.

Du Lin, director of the acupuncture department at the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine Hospital in Dongzhimen, explained the effects of traditional Chinese medicine are hard to detect and quantify. By contrast, Du pointed out that Western medicine is often powerless to help patients who still experience pain after being given treatment. 

Li Jingxin, deputy director of the Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncture Society, said that it's not fair to define acupuncture as "pseudoscience" just because it has an ancient origin.

The controversy began three weeks ago when medical director of the British Medical Acupuncture Society Dr Mike Cummings blasted Wikipedia editors for being biased against acupuncture and “holistic health.” 

On a blog published on a website for major medical journal, Dr Cummings said Wikipedia editors refused to accept accredited sources as proof of the scientific authenticity of acupuncture. 

Dr Cummings' blog went on to inspire an online petition calling for changes to the Wikipedia entry on acupuncture has begun circulating on Change.org

Currently with the support of over 1,700 signatures, the petition alleges that anyone who "attempts to update the article in line with high-quality medical references are consistently banned from editing" by the Wikipedia editors.

Wikipedia is an open source encyclopedia that anyone can edit. In the time since it was founded, Wikipedia has had a policy that attempts to maintain neutrality in all of its entries. Called the "second pillar," the objectivity of Wikipedia would be upheld by editors who are not experts in the content they edit.

This is a point of contention for Dr Cummings, arguing that experts are needed when talking about acupuncture, even asserting that the best medical textbooks will contain errors. However, Wikipedia editors counters Dr Cummings by saying all experts of "pseudoscience" don't believe their respective fields deserve that label.

As unflattering as the label "pseudoscience" is, Dr Cummings didn't bring up scientific evidence in a blog titled "Is Acupuncture Pseudoscience?" Instead, Dr Cummings used his blog to describe his detractors as "pseudosceptics" who are "plain or scary looking bespectacled geeks and science nuts."

Like Dr Cummings, Chinese acupuncture experts aren't countering the accusations of "pseudoscience" with scientific arguments. 

Acupuncture Society deputy director Li argued that acupuncture should be accepted as a science because it is so widely practiced. As well, Li offered this defense: "Just because Western medicine is scientific is no reason to call Chinese medicine 'unscientific.'"

The Chinese netizen reaction to the news isn't quite how People's Daily is reporting it. 

The highest rated comment on one Weibo post regarding the news was "Chinese medicine is pseudoscience," while another said, "Chinese medicine is garbage; it's a trick used to fool people. Nothing to see here."

Still, other netizens could not accept the Wikipedia classification. One person asked: "(Acupuncture) is wrong just because you can't explain it (scientifically)? This simply signifies that (modern) science is not developed enough (to understand it)."

Another person lashed out at theoretical science: "Why isn't the research into the unknown by that (expletive) Hawkings and his gang of scientists labelled 'pseudoscience'?"

A compromise between the two sides was offered by on netizen who wrote: "Chinese medicine is effective and can be used to treat illness, but is absolutely not a science. If anyone wants to vent over this, you should try looking up the meaning of the word 'science,' and then see if the theory of Chinese medicine was derived from a scientific method."

And yet, to others, the news took on another significance, like the person who wrote: "I can go online Wikipedia in China???" 

Since 2004, Chinese netizens have had intermittent access to Wikipedia. After banning certain Wikipedia pages over several years, the entire site was temporarily banned in 2015.

READ: Community Hospitals Across Beijing to Use TCM as a Preventive Treatment for Disease

As much as acupuncture has its supporters in China, a number of recent local news stories have not inspired trust into the effectiveness of traditional Chinese medicine.

This past month, a leading TCM proponent busted the myth that traditional Chinese medicine can ward off the effects of smog. Last September, Chinese actress Xu Ting died of cancer when she chose alternative therapies like acupuncture and back scraping over chemotherapy. Last year also saw a skeptic debunk a TCM practitioner who claimed to be able to diagnose a pregnancy just by feeling a woman's pulse.

More stories from this author here.

Images: A Better Way to HealthQQ TechThink AcupunctureGroupon43rd MedicalSouth Hampton Hospital


What exactly would be a proof that acupuncture, homeopathy, applied kinesiology and other are not "pseudo" i.e. fake?

By trying to evaluate them the way we would decide if a chemo concoction is therapeutic or not?

How can we expect more subtle techniques that recognize every human being as different and thus potentially needing a different approach, to have a consistent result on everyone? Even with Western medicine, we often try something that does not work and have to try something else etc. Why doesn't western medicine have consistent results and we are instead talking about percentages of success and determining what percentage and above is considered acceptable, for a treatment or a medicine?

And how can one have statistics on a large enough scale, to determine the percentages of success in procedures that are not recognized, monitored and are often prosecuted, and by creating such a framework create the conditions to keep unsuitable individuals out of the picture, the same way you would hopefully terminate an inadequate MD?

How many people have died after doing chemotherapy and it did not succeed? How many people died a few months or years later from metastatic cancer and were considered a success (and added to the success statistics misleadingly) because with chemo the initial cancer disappeared for 1-3-5 years (together with the patient's immune defences), before a metastasis became evident? Why are we still reverting to these therapies and many doctors become angry if confronted with this choice? Who else is truly benefiting out of the chemo approach other than the pharmaceuticals behind it? Are we sure the successes of chemo would not be successes with alternative therapies as well?

Why do I hear so often that when an alternative approach succeeds it was due to the placebo effect or a wrong initial evaluation and when western medicine approach succeeds it is not? Why is placebo a privilege of alternative approaches only? Why, since western medicine is tested for placebo and the medicine is actually effective, it does not work on everyone?

I personally had a gastroenterologist telling me how he opted for his elderly father for a non-chemo approach, after consulting with reknowned colleagues of him internationally, while the family of a same age patient of his chose the chemo way, for the same type of cancer, at about the same time, with both eventually living for the same length of time and his father having a distinctively better quality of life that his other patient, during those two years.

And he was not the only one giving me such feedback. I had quite a few other MDs being quite skeptical or plain out dismissive of chemotherapy when talking with them on a one-on-one off the record basis.

How many others, possibly hundreds of thousands, die daily while being under the care of Western medicine all around the world? Why don’t we blame Western medicine? Why when it comes to Western Medicine we have all the mitigating excuses to offer when it fails and our dealing with alternative medicine is the exact opposite?

How can ‘alternative’ therapies counter the vast financial resources of the medical establishment, their influence on mass media, MDs education, governmental policies, insurance coverage etc. against 'alternative' therapies, to make their case?

If we wanted to truly evaluate their effectiveness shouldn't we strive to provide the funds for it and to conduct the necessary research in collaboration with specialists from those approaches so that we have in place testing methods that make sense for those methods, instead of trying to impose them the approaches that are suitable for the evaluation of chemical mixtures? Or else aren't we risking the analog of trying to measure a liquid with a colander?

What we need is an approach of welcoming these approaches and trying to reach the best results possible for humanity and health, changing medicine's current main focus towards profits and dealing with alternative methods as the enemy. The idea is to take advantage of all knowledge for the best possible outcome, to further expand our horizons, instead of keeping a stance that eventually creates fanatics on both sides ('scientific' and 'alternative'), unwilling to see when there is something good on the opposite side.

Wikipedia's take on these matters is a joke, indicative of the medical establishment’s indoctrination, and western medicine’s prejudices and close-minded standpoint.

To get this corrected in Wikipedia, please review the guidlines to identifying reliable medical sources and ensure that your references and citations adhere to the content guideline.

Note that secondary sources that are literature or systematic reviews are the most authoritative. From WP:MEDRS:

  • A secondary source in medicine summarizes one or more primary or secondary sources, usually to provide an overview of current understanding of the topic, to make recommendations, or to combine results of several studies. Examples include literature reviews or systematic reviews found in medical journals, specialist academic or professional books, and medical guidelines or position statements published by major health organizations.

The most respected journals for Wikipedia medical references tend to be found in the following list at the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Yes, this may be biased towards Western mainstream medicine, but that is the status quo.

  • Abridged Index Medicus (AIM) is a list created over 20 years ago of about 120 core clinical English language journals. It corresponds to the "Core clinical journals" subset in PubMed Limits.

Once you have secondary sources that are literature or systematic reviews that demonstrate efficacy for acupuncture, post and discuss the citations at the following discussion page before attempting to introduce them to the Acupuncture article.

It will be best if you can create an account and can edit from your location.

Alternative facts!

Books by current and former Beijinger staffers


Evidence-based medicine and research will never define Acupuncture as the unit of measure is based on reduction to common denominators. Although EBM was intended to improve decisions by individual physicians about individual patients, it has been subverted to an approach that emphasizes the use of quasi-evidence in the design of guidelines and policies that apply to groups of patients and populations. Sadly if that approach as now practiced were applied correctly and fairly to most "science based medicine", none would succeed in in passing the evidence based criteria and gauntlet. As to Acupuncture, it is it's centuries old practice of individual physicians learning about individual patients that has marked it's continued success. That is why pattern based diagnosis and its equivalents well rule the day in both the East and West in future centuries.

Naturalism and empiricism are the foundations of proper scientific and medical research. You cannot base the efficacy of a therapy (such as acupuncture) which will be used on many patients by citing its suspected or supposed therapeutic effects in one case. That is why a proposed therapy will be tested on a variety of people (randomization) within both a control and experimental group of subjects. This eliminates placebo and other effects which would render any investigation into a therapys efficacy useless.

Read this: http://icbseverywhere.com/blog/2014/10/the-logic-of-causal-conclusions/

So after reading L of C.C. , it would seemingly beg the question as to was it due to placebo that some rats did not get cancer? Tongue in check, yes of course. As well, if Naturalism and Empiricism were truly and fairly applied, how are we assuming vaccination is valid on large populations. This when the larger non vaccinated population my have a statistical advantage as to survival from any disease to which some were vaccinated. As well, from my view, we must consider, yes scientifically, that vaccination practically is a pure evil for some individuals.

I do not poke too much fun or say this lightly of your link. When the wrong queries are investigated, the relevant variables ignored or discounted, clinical science confused with pure or ideal science, along with a failure to understand a uniqueness of living organisms and the terrain in which they exist, then we see why this method is flawed with regard to healthcare. If not in the ideal, certainly as a practicality when applied to living organisms or the cosmos at large for that matter. Perhaps as applied by a Geologist reductionism is more absolute. But perhaps also, not so in healthcare or physics. If one applies the science of statistical analysis to the vaccination issue, one could conclude there is a very real link within that scientific analysis to autism. I do not propose to win any argument of some form here in. But I do propose a questioning of absolutes that just are not so, dare one say, absolute.

To come back to the topic of Acupuncture. It is it's fundamental practice of integrating the uniqueness of the individual and the terrain in which that individual exists to a method of pattern diagnosis that makes Acupuncture a centuries old successful healthcare practice for humankind. This very basic difference in it's applied clinical science is why it will continue to survive and blossom in coming centuries. That unique practice as yet has not been factored into any science method to which you allude. Food for thought for some, cause of outright dismissal for others.

One day perhaps, when our analysis becomes a little more acute and a lot less circumspect by cultural or any scientific bias, we may see further into this quantification dilemma. Yes some day soon one would hope.

This has been tried and tried, by several people with knowledge in the area. Any attempts to change the page are treated as hostile and the users are banned by Wikipedia editors who have no knowledge of acupuncture, and they cherry pick their sources to suit their own point of view. See www.abetterwaytohealth.com/blog for the full tale of one such effort.

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