The test in Los Angeles....

James Randi --- Wizard (
Wed, 11 Nov 1998 04:02:08 -0500 (EST)

Interesting indeed. Yesterday we tested Kam Yuen, the "qi gong"
healer who hired a major PR firm in Los Angeles to represent him re
the Pigasus Prize of one million dollars. It will be fascinating to
see how the PR agency provides "spin" to their story to try saving
their client's reputation, following the results of the tests.

Kam Yuen is of Chinese origin, pony-tailed and clad in black -- a true
California wheat-grass and mystic costume. His attractive and
charming Asian assistant attended to his every need, while various
flacks and admirers vied for his favor. It was all quite as expected.
Yuen, according to his business card, is a doctor of chiropractic (no
credentials listed), and practices "Chinese Energetic Medicine,"
"Homeopathic Medicine" (again, no credentials listed), and he is a
"Nutritional Consultant" as well. I, too, am a nutritional
consultant: avoid cholesterol and saturated fats, and eat lots of
fruit and veggies. Yuen is from the "Shaolin West International
Institute of Martial Arts and Natural Medicine." I'm told that he was
a consultant on the TV series "Kung Fu," and instructed Grasshopper.
His present incarnation may be the result of a falling-off of interest
in the martial arts.

As I stated in my second-last posting to this list, we'd agreed to the
protocol to be used. Since Yuen claimed to be 100% effective in
curing all diseases, instantaneously, the very failure in his
one-in-five-by-chance guessing game would be acknowledged to be the
failure of his claim. Within minutes, he had missed the first trial.
But we continued through five trials, just to see if the expected
one-in-five odds-by-chance would be attained. Bang on. He got one in

But, as I posted to you previously, the Yuen team promptly began
pointing out that -- for example -- one of the five volunteers had
shown dramatic cessation of symptoms. Yes, but that person was not
the target of the magical actions, which consisted of hand-weaving and
gesturing. Pain is a VERY subjective matter, and four of the five
participants showed variations of pain sensations, all the way through
the tests -- some more, some less. As expected -- and predicted here
-- Yuen offered various other ways of looking at his results,
questioning his target person to see if anything could be elicited
that would indicate an effect -- but not pursuing those who were not
targets of his magic, and who also had some variance. The TV team
(the "Extra" show) of course also tried valiantly to extract some
significance from the failures. Why am I not surprised?

Overheard following the failed tests: "Adjacent patients felt the
effect, the work is so powerful." "It's hard to do, with the
blindfolds." And, "He has taken traditional qi gong to a very high

Yuen's claims were not supported by the double-blind tests he
performed. In fact, the tests showed precisely what we would expect
if there were no power there at all. But watch the "Extra" show, and
as sure as people are gullible, there will be all sorts of excuses
made to provide a cushion for Yuen's failure. And be sure of this:
the program will give him a boost merely because of his participation
in it -- regardless of the failure of his claims.

Thanks to Michael Shermer for his valuable participation in the tests.
I'm off to Tulsa for a few days.


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