A general record of my ongoing battle with all forms of nonsense.

Monday 25 May 2009

Arguments with a chiropractic quack

I'm not sure how I could offer any better example of sloppy thinking by alternative therapists. This email trail of an exchange between myself and a chiropractic quack clearly demonstrates how, when faced with a winning argument, the quack tactic is to back off and ignore the point rather than be forced to change your mind.

When she ends the discussion, it's not because I've made a specific point. It's because I've just asked her to clarify her position. Clarifying her position would almost certainly mean admitting that chiropractic is quackery.

It started with me posting something on their site, I can't remember quite what I put but I think I was accusing them of abusing public gullibility by claiming to use chiropractic to treat swine flu. The post I was commenting on is here: http://www.chiropracticlifeblog.com/chiropractic-and-swine-flu/.

You'll notice from following the link that she did not allow my comments to be posted. @Karen: I will never censor your posts on my blog.

FROM: Chiropractic Life
TO: Me.

Thankyou for your comments.

Once in a lifetime a shift in thinking that challenges the status quo comes into being. These new revelations require us to either resist the change or adapt (most of us tend to resist).

The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer did a good job of summarizing the life cycle of a new philosophy, when he said (describing the revelation of “new” truth):

“All truth passes through three stages: First, it is ridiculed; Second, it is violently opposed; and Third, it is accepted as self-evident.”

New ideas, philosophies and revelations come in all shapes and sizes. The talented ones among us are quick to spot the truth, embrace it and adapt and take advantage of it - others stay stuck in thinking that the world is still flat!!

Our own five children were born at home, all have had chiropractic adjustments since a few hours after birth and they have never been to a medical doctor for anything as they have regular (every week) chiropractic care to remove any nerve interference so that the brain and the body can communicate effectively and heal itself naturally.

The ages of our children add up to over 120 years - obviously that is a lot older than you and our philosophy is stronger than ever. People have been trying to get rid of Chiropractors for ages, ever since 1895 but it is now the third largest healing profession in the world.
Do yourself a favour and get that intellectual subluxation checked by a chiropractor...............

TO: Chiropractic Life

So to summarise your argument...

Every so often someone comes up with an idea that everyone thinks is nonsense, but in the end turns out to be true.

I've come up with something that sounds like nonsense, therefore it will turn out to be true.

And I'm so confident that it will turn out to be true that I'm experimenting with it on my children.


FROM: Chiropractic Life
TO: Me.

Maybe you like to call it an experiment - the ancient Egyptians were doing it too - how long do you need the experiment to last?
Our patients seem to be delighted as they refer their friends and family to our clinic and write testimonials as well.
Kind regards,

TO: Chiropractic Life

A test doesn't have to last long, it just has to be properly
conducted. To date, well conducted trials of chiropractic for anything
other than lower back pain have clearly shown it to be utter nonsense.
All you have is anecdotes.

FROM: Chiropractic Life
TO: Me.

What we have is a healthy family and healthy patients that love to come for their regular adjustments to keep their spine free from interference so that the brain can communicate with the rest of the body effectively and heal itself naturally, as it was designed to do.
Kind regards,

TO: Chiropractic Life

Yes, but what evidence do you have that your family and patients are healthy because of your quackery? There is absolutely no credible evidence even for the existence of a sublaxation, let alone that it is a source of ill health.

FROM: Chiropractic Life
TO: Me.

Morning Simon,

I'm glad you are enjoying our continuing conversation and learning about the things you do not understand.
I am up early to get ready to go and serve more people who want what we do, who come back and pay for our services and who write testimonials for us to share with others because they want people to know about true health too. That is all the evidence that we require to know we are doing a great job - as for our family, they do the same wherever they live in the world because they understand the power of the nervous system and how that when it is free from interference the body can heal itself naturally and you can reach your fullest potential!
We trust the wisdom of the ancients and have proved for ourselves - we require no further proof and nor do our patients.
After five years of study chiropractors are well placed to understand things that escape many but we are grateful that governments acknowledge our contribution to society.
Chiropractic is the third largest healing profession in the world. Medicine, dentistry and chiropractic.
Because of the growing number of chiropractors (the new Barcelone College of Chiropractic is opening in October) I can only assume that the number of chiropractic patients will increase.
Just this last week another one of our patients has decided to quit his job as a lecturer and study chiropractic at 49 years of age. Personal experience is a wonderful testimony.

Kind regards,

TO: Chiropractic Life

"Personal experience is a wonderful testimony."

That's really the whole point of what you've been saying all along. However, personal testimony is problematic for several reasons:

-Regression to the mean (people tend to seek treatment when they are at their worse point, it is likely they will improve afterwards).
-Placebo effect.
-Availability error (patients who don't get better don't generally go back - so most of the people you see are those who did get better, so positive evidence is more "available" to you than negative.)
-The way the brain is known to pick up patterns that don't exist.

What have you done to ensure you haven't made any of these mistakes?

The only way I know is to run a proper trial with proper stats. But if you have another way, I'd be interested to hear it.


FROM: Chiropractic Life
TO: Me.

Hi Simon,
Our clinic is open from 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday and Saturdays as well, and I and our chiropractic assistants have a full-time job seeing to all our patients and everything that needs to be done.
We are happy to leave trials and stats for those who want or need them.
We are too busy taking care of people who want what we have to offer - interestingly many of those came to see us as skeptics!
I truly hope one day you give yourself the opportunity to feel what it is like to live a life with a nervous system free of interference.
Kind regards,

TO: Chiropractic Life

Hi Karen,

Sorry for the delay in replying, I've been extremely busy.

I think it makes good sense when engaging in a discussion such as this to take stock and look at the points we agree on. I think we agree on the following - can you confirm or deny?

1. You have many happy clients (Of course I can't say this is true as I haven't met them, but I think this is likely).

2. Based on testimony, anecdote & experience, you believe that your treatment is effective.

3. It is theoretically possible that reliance on anecdote or experience could lead any practitioner into believing that something works when it does not. I assume you agree with this in principle because you did not argue against it. Also, it's fairly obvious - bloodletting and trepanning used to be quite commonplace before we started testing properly. Can you confirm you agree?

4. Chiropractic has not been accepted by mainstream scientist for anything other than lower backpain, because of an absence of evidence proving its efficacy.

There isn't much point in arguing what we agree on, so I want to make sure these points are covered. Can you confirm before we continue?



FROM: Chiropractic Life
TO: Me.

Hi Simon,
Being busy is a good thing!
Chiropractic is a science, art and philosophy which continues to grow and support those who want to live a vital life.
Vitalistic chiropractic has no reliance on being accepted by mainstream anyone...........................
Deep within the body dwells innate intelligence that needs no acceptance, only Truth.
Our patients come seeking Truth and find what they have been looking for all their lives.
The sole purpose of a Chiropractor is to remove subluxations (nerve interference) to allow the body to heal itself naturally.
We ask nothing more, nothing less and embrace each challenge that comes our way.
I am glad you have an enquiring mind.
I hope it serves you well.
Kind regards,

TO: Chiropractic Life

But you didn't answer my question

FROM: Chiropractic Life
TO: Me.

Morning Simon,
Very observant! I'm a peace loving person.
Kind regards,

TO: Chiropractic Life

Hi Karen,

Yes - peace loving indeed. But I feel the conflict you are trying to avoid is an internal one.

From reading the points so far, it would be very difficult for you not to agree with them. Indeed, you've implied you do within your other emails.

And yet, you are aware if you do agree to them you will be forced to acknowledge to yourself that:
(a) You may have unknowingly been operating a practice that sells treatments that don't work.
(b) Now you are aware of this, you have a duty to your customers to check your facts.

So your tactic is to bury your head in the sand, avoid thinking about it. It's much better to carry on selling quack treatments to your patients in ignorance than to suddenly come to the realisation you have been accidentally exploiting the sick for years.

Many thanks,


FROM: Chiropractic Life
TO: Me.

Dear Simon,
Thankyou for your concerns.
Kind regards,

TO: Chiropractic Life


It is a great pity that you do not also share concern for your customer's welfare.


FROM: Chiropractic Life
TO: Me.

Dear Simon,
Thankyou for your continued interest.
Kind regards,


Andy said...

If I understand Karen correctly, the Roman Catholics must be right because there are a lot of them who are happy with Catholicism.

And she must also be saying the Muslims must be right because there are a lot of them who are happy with Islam.

And I guess she would say the Jews must be right because there are a lot of them who are happy with Judaism.

And the Buddhists must be right because there are a lot of them who are happy with Buddhism.

And the Scientologists must be right because there are a lot of them who are happy with Scientology.

And Trekkies must be right because there are a lot of them who are happy with Star Trek...

Simon said...

Interestingly, she's now removed the claims from her web site. I've emailed to ask why.

Silex said...

Dear Simon.

I have encountered many articles and conversations from people such as yourself . Your attack of the chiropractic profession only reflects your blatant ignorance and stupidity. The spine is your centre. the question is more one of- How can misalignment of the spine (vertebral subluxation complex) NOT affect the entire body in so many ways. It is so blatantly obvious. its painful to read such drivle.

Alice said...

Hi Simon,

Yes, I can see why you're enjoying Silex's comments! I'd love to know how Silex thinks computers and the Internet through which s/he poses his/her comments came into being - through passionate blind faith, poor spelling (the correct spelling is "drivel", Silex), and declaring random concepts to be "obvious" rather than science, perhaps?

It is also "obvious" that a triangle really has 200 degrees in it, because one of the points is its centre. It is painful to read such "drivle" by these mathematicians who say the corners add up to 180 degrees on a flat surface. Thank you for your continued interest. Our students share our passion for 200 degrees and are very happy.

Sorry, I try to avoid personal snarkiness on the Internet, but that was just irresistable. :)

Unknown said...

Dear Alice. Thank you for responding. It does not take advanced mathematics to see when the spine is distorted and it does not take advanced mathematics to see how when the spine is distorted so many compromises can occur. Perhaps its the field of aesthetics that scientists should brush up on. It is obvious and it is science, however some scientists don't see the obvious or the science. This baffles me more than anything. On that note..the aesthetics of failure might be of some interest. A spelling mistake? please, you understood what i said no? understanding is what we are after here. and in terms of glitch music aesthetics failure is to be prized as an artistic construct to be explored. who gives a shit. as i write now i can hardly move my left hand in the process of releasing a neck injury from birth, forgive if you will a letter or two in reverse.

But pain is not understood in text books, it is understood when your in it. For the record, I don't agree with chiropractic manipulations at all. I think them as stupid as mr simon here. so much evolution and progress has been made on non force stimulation of the nervous system to address muscle tension and compression to allow subluxations to correct themselves. This is my speciality and i'm just a guy whose climbed out of pain, tension, compresion and subluxation is perhaps obvious to me cause I can feel every nuance of alignment with regards to my spine. That is an art and science

The theory however is sound.

Unknown said...

ience vs. scientism

by Dr. Christopher Kent

A perception that medicine is "scientific" and chiropractic is
"unproven" seems to pervade a growing element of our profession. This
perspective has resulted in a low perceived value of our unique
principle and practice.
Science provides investigators with a useful method of inquiry.
Scientific methods have led the healing arts out of the world of
anecdotal observation, myth, and superstition. However, doctors must
not lose sight of the fact that science may not be the only valid
method of inquiry.
Furthermore, it must be realized that while predictability may be
considered in designing clinical strategies, all that ultimately
matters is what is effective for a given patient in a specific
circumstance. Educational institutions producing health care providers
must guard against graduating practitioners who are automatons
following flow charts rather than thinking, feeling, human beings.
Although science is not an enemy of chiropractic, scientism most
certainly is. Scientism limits all fields of human inquiry to
contemporary technology. Smith states that scientism "...refers to an
uncritical idolization of science -- the belief that only science can
solve human problems, that only science has value." Holton observed
that "Scientism divides all thought into two categories: scientific
thought and nonsense." (1,2)
What's wrong with that? A practitioner of science 100 years ago would
be forced to declare cosmic waves, viruses, and DNA "unproven"

Unknown said...

for example, some critics of chiropractic claimed
that it was impossible for subtle disrelationships termed
"subluxations" to produce enough pressure on neural structures to
alter their function. Through a process of "rationalism" based on
animal studies, and a poorly designed study using human cadavers, it
was concluded that chiropractic theory was false. (4)
The point is simple. Bad science leads to faulty conclusions. And any
scientific inquiry is limited by the technology available to the
investigator, the design of the experiment, the analysis of the data,
and the conclusions drawn from the data. In short, if you can't
reliably measure something, you can't investigate it scientifically.
That's fine, unless you are trying to investigate something for which
reliable and valid measurements have not or cannot be devised. For
instance, we cannot measure innate intelligence. Does this mean that
it is not "real" and that we should abandon the concept merely because
we have no technology to detect or quantitate it? I think not.
Baruss wrote, "If we are serious about coming to know something, then
our research methods will have to be adapted to the nature of the
phenomenon that we are trying to understand. The purpose of science
should take precedence over established methodologies...Similarly,
belief in a universal, inflexible scientific method that can guarantee
truth belongs to scientism. If one is authentic, one's effort to
develop one's understanding by changing opinions into questions may
cut so deeply that traditional research methods themselves are called
into question and are replaced by others that serve one's purpose
better. One may need to draw on the totality of one's experience and
not just on that subset that consists of observations made through the
process of traditional scientific discovery." (5)
Our profession has very limited research resources. To our credit, we
have done a phenomenal job with what we have. Unfortunately, there is
a growing trend in chiropractic to embrace allopathic research designs
emphasizing symptomatic rather than physiologic change. A plethora of
projects are attempting to determine if "manipulative therapy" is
effective in ameliorating back pain and other symptoms.
Many of these designs are inherently flawed in that they fail to
adequately define the nature of the intervention applied (a basic
adjustment is quite different from an atlas toggle or a lumbar roll).
Worse, from a philosophical standpoint, symptoms are used as outcome
criteria rather than the correction of subluxations.
It is sometimes argued that in the absence of reliable and valid
indicators of subluxation, subluxation-based outcome evaluation is
impossible. Indeed, this is where our initial research efforts must be
directed. Developing technologies to reliably assess the clinical
manifestations of vertebral subluxation is a high priority item. It is
not an excuse, however, for failing to use existing technologies which
can reliably evaluate manifestations of the vertebral subluxation.
Fortunately, social scientists have developed "paper and pencil"
instruments to assess patient-perceived wellness and quality-of-life
issues regardless of whether specific diseases or identifiable
symptoms exist. Such tools may not find favor with mechanists who
idolize the randomized clinical trial.
Chiropractic research is in very real danger of succumbing to the
scientism so pervasive in the allopathic community. And by copying the
experimental designs of the symptom-oriented allopathic model,
chiropractic's unique non-therapeutic approach may be lost.
I have heard many chiropractors parroting the misconception that
patients and insurance companies will only pay for care rendered to
symptomatic patients.

Unknown said...

Ignorance and Stupidity. This is disease. And you got a healthy dose of both my friend.

Unknown said...

But on the note of obvious. How many mathematical breakthroughs occur when the mathematician gets it and curses himself in not seeing the obvious for so long. like a good magic trick, you kick yourself when you are shown its true simplicity and are amazed at how you were tricked by it. But sometimes you get those kids who are shown the tricks secret and still don't get it. Simon right here. is one of those stupid kids, who just doesn't get it

Unknown said...

hahaha. simon. I do wonder how much you will actually put up on your site my furry friend

Yogzotot said...

Wow, were to start to deconstruct this mess. All I see is a complete misconception what science and medicine really are about, only to save a loophole for bogus practices. "Science is bad, and we are good".

There is no "alternative medicine". If it is proven to work reliably, it is medicine. All the rest is "a set of practices which cannot be tested, refuse to be tested, or consistently fail tests." (R. Dawkins)

Unknown said...

quack finger pointing is more about the economics and politics of medicine. some things work and we have no freaking idea how they could work or do work. we have to create a whole new paradigm of thinking. you cant solve the problem with the same thinking paradigm that the problem resides. I think einstein said something along those lines. Take Dr Eric Pearl as case in point and all those russian intuits. And to prove something works is a long hard job taking lots of time and MONEY. In the meantime people are suffering. To often medicine is about guilty until proven innocent. until it is seen to work beyond all doubt then it doesn't. Thats fine for scientific documentation and literature clarification, but in practice, sometimes its not feasible to wait for science to 'catch up'. What simon here wants people to do is wait in pain while scientists play catch up. something he doesn't see at all that willing to do himself or pay for. ie. STUPID

Unknown said...

A three-dimensional model of vertebral subluxation
Vertebral subluxation represents the heart and soul of chiropractic.
It is our "raison d'etre" as a profession. Yet, to many chiropractors,
it remains a clinical conundrum. I believe that the controversy and
confusion surrounding the chiropractic concept of vertebral
subluxation is due to the lack of an operational definition which is
compatible with most techniques.
A review of models of vertebral subluxation has been published
elsewhere (1). However, regardless of the elegance of a theoretical
model, it must be capable of being operationalized if it is to be used
to develop clinical strategies.
The three-dimensional model was developed as an initial step in the
operational definition of vertebral subluxation. It incorporates
traditional chiropractic constructs, and serves as a bridge to
contemporary technology.
As Lantz noted, "Common to all concepts of subluxation are some form
of kinesiologic dysfunction and some form of neurologic involvement."
The 3-D model of vertebral subluxation has three components. Each
component may be reliably measured using appropriate instrumentation.
These measurements provide objective evidence concerning
manifestations of vertebral subluxation. The three components are:

Unknown said...

1. DYSKINESIA. Dyskinesia refers to distortion or impairment of
voluntary movement (3). Spinal motion may be reliably measured using
inclinometry (4). Alterations in regional ranges of motion are
associated with subluxation (5).
2. DYSPONESIS. Dysponesis is abnormal involuntary muscle activity.
Dysponesis refers to a reversible physiopathologic state, consisting
of errors in energy expenditure which are capable of producing
functional disorders. Dysponesis consists mainly of covert errors in
action potential output from the motor and premotor areas of the
cortex and the consequences of that output. These neurophysiological
reactions may result from responses to environmental events, bodily
sensations, and emotions. The resulting aberrant muscle activity may
be evaluated using surface electrode techniques (6). Typically, static
SMEG with axial loading is used to evaluate innate responses to
gravitational stress (7).

3. DYSAUTONOMIA. The autonomic nervous system regulates the actions of
organs, glands, and blood vessels. Acquired dysautonomia may be
associated with a broad array of functional abnormalities
(8,9,10,11,12.13). Autonomic dystonia may be evaluated by measuring
skin temperature differentials (14). Uematsu et al determined
normative values for skin temperature differences based upon
asymptomatic "normal" individuals. The authors stated, "These values
can be used as a standard in assessment of sympathetic nerve function,
and the degree of asymmetry is a quantifiable indicator of
dysfunction...Deviations from the normal values will allow suspicion
of neurological pathology to be quantitated and therefore can improve
assessment and lead to proper clinical management." (15) Skin
temperature differentials are associated with vertebral subluxation

Unknown said...

This three-dimensional model may be used with any technique which has,
as its objective, the detection, management, or correction of
vertebral subluxation. Correction of vertebral subluxation facilitates
the restoration of proper tone throughout the nervous system.
Health is dependent upon maintaining appropriate tone in the nervous
system. As D.D. Palmer explained, "Life is action governed by
intelligence. Intelligent life, the soul, depends upon the execution
of functions. Functions performed by normal energy is health. Disease
is the result of the performance of functions above or below a normal
degree of activity. Impulses properly transmitted through nerves,
result in functions being normally performed, a condition which
results in health." (17)
The ability to maintain tone requires a nervous system free of
interference. Restoration of tone is dependent upon correction of
vertebral subluxations. Alterations in the tone of the somatic system
may be objectively evaluated using surface EMG. Altered autonomic tone
may be evaluated using skin temperature measurements. Changes in
ranges of motion may be measured to assess dyskinesia.

Unknown said...

OI! Master Simon. how bout a nice response my furry friend. After all, it is your hickery dickery website is it not?

Sean Ellis said...

A practitioner of science 100 years ago would
be forced to declare cosmic waves, viruses, and DNA "unproven"

By "cosmic waves" I presume you mean "cosmic rays". Initial readings indicating extraterrestrial ionizing radiation were taken in 1910, almost exactly 100 years ago.

The initial discovery of the tobacco mosaic virus was by Martinus Beijerinck in 1898.

DNA was first isolated by the Swiss physician Friedrich Miescher in 1869, well over 100 years ago.

Silex said...

yay for some intelligence on this site. nice one brother. :-) its a different thing tho these things being known and these things being known widely and accepted as common knowledge.

Anonymous said...

Now correct me if I'm wrong but in looking at the history of this profession as I have it seems that the credible proof of this statement is lost because the person describing it had no real formal education that allowed the type of implicit understanding of human physiology needed to make a statement of that nature.

"The ability to maintain tone requires a nervous system free of
interference. Restoration of tone is dependent upon correction of
vertebral subluxations."

Now for this statement to be true or valid one has to assume that there is a difference in "nerve tone" that would need alteration through a treatment. But since one cannot verify that a problem with the "tone" exhists due to the fact that normals for "nerve tone" have not been given the the need or value of the adjustment performed becomes moot because one has no ability to verify if anything was achieved because you do not know what you are even measuring for in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Yup....quackerpractory for the ma$$e$ is more profitable than snake oil.

Anonymous said...

Its bullshit Ronis get your head checked by a real doctor. It must suck to know that you devoted your life to a lie That you must retell over and over again trying to convince people on the web that your career choice is not horseshit is not a good way to live. Honestly what kind of professional spends his time trying to convince skeptics to beleive oh waite thats exactly what the snake oil salesmen did everytime they came to town or the tent preachers or televangelists. Your just an infomercial trying to sell a product thats been repackeged over and over. Go to med school

magx01 said...

Wow, the way she just turned tail and ran is infuriating. She's knowingly profiting off of nonsense.