When a note about an upcoming spoon-bending workshop at the University of Alberta came through Timothy Caulfield's inbox, he immediately assumed it was a joke.

After all, he thought, no actual university would promote such an event, inviting medical students and future health professionals to learn about "spoon bending and the power of the mind," right?


"At first I kind of thought it was a joke or some kind of fun gathering they were having and it was ironic or perhaps a satire, but nope it was the real thing," Caulfield, a health law professor at the university, told CTV News Channel on Friday.

The event, which has now been withdrawn, was to be presented as part of the university’s Program for Integrative Health and Healing, geared towards academics and clinicians. It promised to touch on quantum physics, positivity and "manifesting."

"This experiential workshop will teach a meditative/energy transfer technique which will have most participants bending cutlery using the power of their minds," according to a poster for the event which invited participants to bring their own spoons.

The poster noted that 75 per cent of participants can typically bend spoons using the power of their mind: "The spoons provide physical proof of what you can do when you put your mind to it!"

Caulfield is, admittedly, a critic of the integrative healthcare model which approaches medical healing through the treatment of body, mind and spirit. In fact, he is currently studying the practice as part of a research grant on the issue.

He tweeted out a link to the poster for the event with the words "spoon bending at @UAlberta. Not satire."

The responses immediately started pouring in.

"Holy cow the reaction was amazing and instantaneous," Caulfield said. "There were a lot of humourous tweets and humorous comments and emails about the absurdity of it, but a lot of other people were angry that a public health institution, a science-based institution was holding an event like this and their concern was the legitimization of bunk, the legitimization of this type of science because it's presented in a very uncritical fashion."

Caulfield acknowledged that the university administration may not have been aware of the event until it made headlines, but he said the problem is the school's logo was associated with the seminar and therefore added legitimacy to it.

"There's work that can be done I just think it needs to be done in a critical fashion, in a science-based fashion and we have to be honest about what the science really says," Caulfield said.

He said the university has not reached out to him about his response to the event.