(New-age) Energy policy

I may be a scientist with a keen skeptical eye, but even the most casual critical thinker will be amazed that this particularly laughable nod to pseudoscience and medical quackery was recently enshrined within the NH RSA chapter that details licensing regulations for massage providers:

Section 328-B:10

III. Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to prevent or restrict the practice of any person in this state who uses energy or superficial touch to affect the energy systems of the human body while engaged within the scope of practice of a profession with established standards and ethics, provided that their services are not designated as or implied to be massage or massage therapy. Such practices include, but are not limited to, polarity therapy, therapeutic touch, and reiki.

http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/xxx/328-b/328-b-10.htm

(This was recently (2009) added by HB-52, sponsored by Rep. Millham; Rep. P. Preston; Rep. D. Ryder)

One of the most common indicators of pseudoscience is the term “energy” used to describe some mysterious force, life essence, etc.  I will not comment further on this because I feel its ridiculousness is obvious.  If you are interested in learning more, Brian Dunning has some excellent essays on this topic and spotting pseudoscience in general.  Here is a relevant one: http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4002

Polarity therapy is an “alternative energy medicine system” that “proposes that health benefits can be achieved through manipulation of complementary (or polarized) forces, a form of energy currently unknown to science.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polarity_therapy

Therapeutic Touch a.k.a. Non-Contact Therapeutic Touch is “an energy therapy which practitioners claim promotes healing and reduces pain and anxiety.” Practitioners “state that by placing their hands on, or near, a patient, they are able to detect and manipulate the patient’s energy field.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Therapeutic_touch

Reiki is a Buddhist spiritual employing “a technique commonly called palm healing or hands on healing”.  Believer claim “they are transferring universal energy (i.e., reiki) in the form of ki through the palms, which allows for self-healing and a state of equilibrium.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reiki

No credible evidence exists for either the effectiveness of any of these techniques, or the fundamental mechanisms claimed to comprise them.  It makes no more or less sense than, “This shall not apply to Jedi masters who correct disturbances in The Force by adjusting midi-chlorian levels in a person’s body.”

To avoid New Hampshire further embarrassment, I suggest this subsection be repealed and replaced with this simpler and functionally identical alternative:

Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to prevent or restrict the practice of any person in this state who does not physically: touch, contact, or otherwise manipulate another person’s body.

I see that as being a realistic and easy change to make.  Of course, I would rather see Chapter 328-B repealed entirely, as I feel that these licenses and regulations on massage therapists and massage establishments do nothing to benefit or protect the public, and only increase state expenditure and the prices of these services in the marketplace.

UPDATE April 21st, 2012:

This exemption within the massage therapy chapter exists, not to free these scam artists from regulation, but because an entire chapter, RSA 328-H, exists to fully regulate and license their quackery:

CHAPTER 328-H REFLEXOLOGISTS, STRUCTURAL INTEGRATORS, AND ASIAN BODYWORK THERAPISTS
http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/xxx/328-h/328-h-mrg.htm

This chapter, 328-H, should be fully repealed, and I would be interested to know if the legislators who introduced it own, or are otherwise financially connected, to any of these scam-artists.

When the state licenses and regulates non-science-based medicine, it sends the signal to those with poor critical thinking skills that these forms of “treatment” are legitimate.  It can be considered a police-enforced argumentum ad verecundiam.