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Chi / Qi

September 21, 2010

For the general entry on Alternative Medicine, click here

The Claims

Chi or Qi is a Chinese word used to describe a universal force or natural energy that permeates everything in the universe including human beings, much like “the force” described in the Star Wars movies. Proponents claim the ability to channel chi into specific areas of the body allowing them to heal the sick or perform feats of strength and endurance such as breaking boards or bricks with various body parts. Many martial arts, traditional eastern medical and religious practices including acupuncture and Feng Shui use chi or similar forms of vitalism as their central tenet.

The Evidence

At first glance, practitioners of chi related arts may seem to have mystical powers – much like western style illusionists or magicians – but when studied under controlled conditions no evidence has been found that cannot be explained by natural physical phenomenon, the placebo effect or pure deception and showmanship.


There seems to be no genuine evidence for chi.


The Wikipedia Entry on Chi
The Skeptic Dictionary Entry on Chi
The Quackwatch Entry on Chi

9 Comments leave one →
  1. George Veenhuyzen permalink
    June 28, 2013 12:20 PM

    The link for the Skeptic Dictionary entry on Chi is incorrect. It links to the Wikipedia entry on Chi.

  2. Dinesh permalink
    January 4, 2013 2:12 PM

    lack of scientific evidence? may b the author needs to look enough. chi effects are proved to give much better results than placebo, but not as good as a physiological phenomenon. point is, ‘it isn’t physiological’. the various experiments and claims are done with different names, purposes, rules and claims. thus difficult to relate them.

  3. November 28, 2012 7:45 AM

    I agree with Brandon too. There may be some physiological explanation to Qi. Something the Qi-masters never fully understood themselves and neither science can provide evidence for.

    Hmm, interesting. I’ll remain skeptic until I ‘feel’ it.

  4. June 15, 2012 7:13 PM

    Again, take a Tai Chi lesson from a really good teacher and see if you don’t feel the energy ball at the end of the session. My Dad is the biggest skeptic of the paranormal that I have ever met in my life, and yet even he felt it. Scared the hell out of him. It also improved his flexibility tremendously. Of course, I have no idea how you’d test the pressure of the energy ball in a lab- because machines and measurement tools don’t feel anything at all. But the simple thing to do is to just go try it yourself!
    You can attribute it to placebo and mental hallucinations, but if that were the case with me wouldn’t I have had similar placebo hallucinations with some of the other things I’ve tried. I’ve tried a lot of stuff, just to stay open minded, but the only intangible phenomena I’ve ever experienced were Reiki and Chi. And believe me, I really WANTED some of the other ones to be true.

  5. Phineas permalink
    March 14, 2011 5:58 PM

    While I don’t think Chi is exactly what the ancient Chinese believed it to be, I must admit that your basis of scientific evidence against Chi is overwhelming.

    But not really. This website also claims to refute Christ and Allah, and while I believe in neither of the two, the evidence is lacking, and demonstrates the same knowledge of what constitutes scientific evidence as a middle schooler with a grudge. This website is a fleeting, unscientific cheap shot at various phenomena, some feasible and some ridiculous.

    Leprechauns, really? The amount of people who actually believe in the existence of the mythological creatures does not in any way justify a space on a website claiming to refute the Islamic god and the Christian messiah.

  6. soundfidget permalink
    December 18, 2010 9:16 AM

    I watched a show on the discovery channel that basically proved the existence of chi. It was either that or this dude was on PCP and had skin made of steel.

  7. Hyungsup Kim permalink
    December 15, 2010 4:16 AM

    I had complete disbelief that acupuncture was some crazy men’s work but acupuncture is actually proven and it works!
    Even it’s based in the flow of chi, it works.
    I think they said that acupuncture actually stimulates the human nerve system.
    Eastern medicine has been tried and tested for thousands of years.
    It’s studied and recorded in the books to be passed on and criticized like the modern medicine.

  8. December 7, 2010 2:17 PM

    Yeah… sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t.

  9. Brandon permalink
    December 6, 2010 4:53 PM

    Chi is a good metaphor for a lot of physiological phenomena involved in martial arts. It doesn’t have any scientific backing, but using it’s principles does produce results in combat and healing arts.

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