@toddrc Thanks for sharing, and I think you bring up a great answer I overlooked when addressing...
Simply stated, hope. Like you said, medicine doesn't have all of the answers, so I think it is natural to look elsewhere. The trouble is, as you noted, the only thing that gets cured is the dangerously low levels of cash in David Wolfe's bank account.
I also know people who, taken as a whole, are very decent, and also happen to sell woo. A gal I know is a reiki practicioner and massage therapist. I think massage is pretty legit, as long as you don't go making magical claims about what it does (i.e. detoxify the GMO's in your chakras). I go pretty regularly and I find it helps keep me feeling good while I beat the crap out of my body with barbells. If nothing else, it is a peaceful, relaxing hour that feels great.
This gal I know doesn't, to my knowlege, make any special claims about the healing power of reiki other than it will make you feel better. I don't think she's marketing herself to cancer patients or anything like that. But would she take their money for treatment? Probably. That's just my guess though.
Reiki practicioners, as a group, make some pretty bold claims. This is from a Reiki FAQ.
Reiki heals by flowing through the affected parts of the energy field and charging them with positive energy. It raises the vibratory level of the energy field in and around the physical body where the negative thoughts and feelings are attached. This causes the negative energy to break apart and fall away. In so doing, Reiki clears, straightens and heals the energy pathways, thus allowing the life force to flow in a healthy and natural way.
Bullshit, but mostly harmless bullshit. I boil most of this down to "getting attention from someone else usually feels good". Sounds a lot like what the gal I know does.
Click over to the anecdotes about Reiki, and you're getting into some troubling stuff.
Heart healed. Reiki helps Hodgkins Lymphoma. Reiki and Prostate Cancer. Reiki heals infection. Reiki heals a stroke. Reiki heals depression and back injuries. Ligament healed by reiki. Collarbone grows back with reiki. Cancerous tumor healed. Multiple sclerosis healed. Tumor dissapears.
Are you fucking kidding me? I understand feeling desperate and hopeless. Medicine couldn't do anything for my father except give us about 9 more months with him alive. How many people in that situation look to reiki and other types of woo when doctors tell them the harsh truth?
That's what makes it so predatory. You have a lot of very nice, friendly people who put up a front of being all about love and light and positive energy. Maybe they really believe that they are doing good, like the nice Jehovah's Witnesses I have next door. Unfortunately, by any objective measure they're just taking your money and waving their hands around your body. People believe in this stuff and that's fine, sort of like getting a tarot card reading if that's what you enjoy. But the moment someone starts accepting money from people who are looking for real, tangible results for serious medical conditions, they join the ranks of bottom feeders.
So much bullshit out there, and it sells.
If people think Big Pharma is bad, they should really take a closer look at Big Alternative Medicine.