Spoon-bending workshop, widely ridiculed online, pulled by university
'There is absolutely no physical way you can bend a spoon with your mind'
After a healthy dose of online ridicule, the University of Alberta has cancelled a workshop at which doctors were supposed to learn to bend spoons.
With their minds.
When Tim Caulfield first spotted a poster for the event, he didn't understand what he was seeing.
"When I first saw the post I thought it might be a magic show," said the professor of health law and science policy at U of A. "But this wasn't being presented as that, or as satire, it was being presented as a real event where you're supposed to use the power of your mind to bend spoons."
The seminar, titled simply "Spoon Bending and the Power of the Mind," was arranged by the university's Complementary and Alternative Research and Education program or CARE, as part of the Pediatric Integrative Medicine Rounds, a series of monthly seminars presenting a specialist in the field of integrative medicine to a clinical audience.
When Caulfield heard about event, he immediately tweeted about it causing many on social media to ridicule the workshop and the university.
It was to be taught by Anastasia Kutt, an Edmonton "energy healer" who specializes in reiki, a form of therapy in which the practitioner is believed to channel energy into the patient in order to encourage healing.
On her website, Kutt said she "has been studying [and] experiencing techniques such as yoga, meditation, and other energy healing techniques for over 10 years."
When I first saw the post I thought it might be a magic show.- Timothy Caulfield
Her website explains energy healing as "removing issues and stress from your energetic field, to bring it into balance and its original state of good health."
She has taught similar seminars on spoon bending, also described as PK bending — psychokinesis bending.
Kutt is also a research assistant in the CARE program and co-ordinates the education arm of the program.
The poster boasts that at the end of the day, 75 per cent of the doctors, with guidance from Kutt, would be able to bend spoons solely with their minds.
It's a notion that Caulfield, along with many others online, scoffed at.
"Spoon bending is kind of ironic because it's been debunked so often," said Caulfield.
"There is absolutely no physical way you can bend a spoon with your mind. That's why it's so frustrating that it's being presented in this legitimate way at a science-based institution."
The event poster featured the disclaimer that states, "This workshop is experiential and is meant to spark interest. This will not be a scientific evaluation of the process."
The University of Alberta released a statement saying the workshop had "been withdrawn by the presenters."
It added that the event was "about reiki and other energy therapies, highlighting how and why patients and therapists use it ... acknowledging that there is a lack of evidence about how, and how well, it works."
'Embrace of pseudoscience'
"That's my sort of umbrella concern with this," Caulfield said. "Is these kind of programs legitimize the pseudo-science. The problem is, it always sort of slides into the embrace of pseudo-science.
"It's always presented in a legitimate fashion. You don't have that critical component to it, you're working arm in arm with energy healers, reiki experts and homoeopathy practitioners."
He said he's not sure what exact role the University of Alberta played in the organization, but it doesn't matter anyway. The poster featured the university's logo, which links the event directly to the institution.
"It really does seem like they are part of academia and that, to me, is problematic."