Claim: Harriet Hall says that acupuncture isn't "ancient" and maybe doesn't come from China

Rory

Senior Member.
Harriet Hall is a skeptic who has written for The Skeptic Enquirer, Quackwatch, and Skeptic. In 2015 she produced a series of videos for the James Randi Foundation criticising alternative medicine. In this one she takes a look at acupuncture, and makes the claim that it's neither "ancient" nor, probably, "Chinese".

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Source: youtu.be/892oljTjaJE?t=173

You may have heard that acupuncture is an ancient Chinese treatment. That it involves sticking needles in acupoints. That it's widely used in China. Every one of these statements is FALSE. An "ancient Chinese method"? Every word of that is wrong. It's not so ancient, it may not even be Chinese, and it's not a method but many different methods.

She then goes on to claim that the earliest referencing to "needling" is from 90BC, and that it refers to "bloodletting and lancing using large needles made of stone and bone" with "early diagrams showing blood vessels, not meridians".

These claims are then followed by a confusing little section that insinuates that acupuncture is really a twentieth-century invention; that a Frenchman invented the idea of meridians in the 1930s, and that acupuncture maybe actually arrived in China from "ancient Greece via the trade routes" (which is accompanied by a map showing routes from the 1st century, which kind of contradicts her earlier claims of it not being "ancient").

It seems a curious hodgepodge of ill-researched ideas haphazardly cobbled together by someone with a pre-determined agenda. But what do others say?

Well, if I start with wikipedia - which labels acupuncture a "psuedoscience not based on scientific knowledge...quackery", and very clearly is no fan of it - I find:


And:


Furthermore, Edzard Ernst - a university professor and noted critic of acupuncture known as "the scourge of alternative medicine" (and trumpeted by Harriet Hall as "the world's foremost expert on complementary and alternative medicine") - wrote the following (in 2004):


It seems very likely that Hall read this paper, or some similar writing done by Ernst, and misremembered/confused the mentions of bloodletting using bones and stones from earlier texts, and never really went very far in her research.

In any case, it's a pretty poor effort from a supposedly respected member of the skeptical community. I'm sure there are more things that can be debunked in her talk but, to be honest, it was tough going to listen to and I found it hard to continue - especially after such a dodgy start.

(Note: I'm not saying anything here about claims made as to whether acupuncture works or doesn't: it's purely about Hall's claims.)
 
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