Sunday, May 13, 2018

Ethical Relativism Inside Chiropractic Education.

Education has a term called the 'Hidden Curriculum' which refers to how most individuals learn how to fit context to content. For example, what we are formally taught, what appears on the syllabus, is called the 'formal curriculum'. Clarifying questions and discussions about the material which are not strictly in the syllabus are parts of the 'Informal Curriculum'. But what is hidden carries social or behavioral context and that is learned largely via example, by watching how ones peers behave. In professional education, while students will be taught the definitions of ethics they learn how to apply ethics by observing the behavior of their seniors and, regrettably, but perhaps not unexpectedly when considering human behavior, the hidden curriculum often carries a negative connotation.

It begins early in life. We learn how to act ethically as well as the 'ethics' of 'getting away' with things, our versions of ethics. And cognition, being so wonderfully malleable, can be easily taught to consider the most appalling acts as being the most virtuous - ideologically fuelled murder, for example, is one of our species most flagrant examples of it. All professional students have reported not only witnessing unethical behavior in their more experienced peers but also admit to being subsequently more likely to repeat the behavior themselves, to become easily complicit, even though they understand it to be wrong, initially that is. This is what we simply call 'peer group pressure', the need to conform or fit in. But this elevated capacity of humans to collaborate in order to accomplish a shared goal isn't evidence of the wisdom of many group endeavours, it is a mark of evolution, that we are built primarily for survival and clustering, mobbing is one naturally selected strategy that we possess. Professionals however are expected to have the capacity to operate 'out of' the mob so to speak in order to maintain objectivity. So it is that potentially positive ability to work together which also allows us to lie, effortlessly, and in short time be almost oblivious to it. This is how dynamics such as workplace bullying or generally falling ethical standards occurs, gradually and with the consent of consensus or the mob.

A few years back I was asked to teach critical thinking in the relatively newly formed course at Central Queensland University which has a campus in Brisbane. At the time, with what I believe is a rather studied opinion of my professions strengths and considerable, ideologically driven, weaknesses, I even asked my potential bosses if they were completely sure. I even went to the trouble of quoting from a philosopher of critical thinking, the American Peter Boghossian, who once said in an interview "If no one in the room is pissed off, it's probably not critical thinking." I was then told that there will always be students who complain. I then made sure that I was precise - "I meant some of the staff."

The chiropractic profession is enamoured with our philosophical warm babies blanket, a 'totalising ideology' called vitalism, the antique belief that the reason why things live (and therefore a claim to be a (magical) theory of biology to rival natural selection) is due to a spirit or life force. In order to be as brief as I can I'll refer you to this article which, along with quite a few others, examines the manner in which children and uninformed or naive people try to explain complex biological processes. Yes, I understand that to many this sounds condescending, but it is, frankly, as rude saying that water has a wet quality and fire a certain heat. These are basic facts. We all use instinct, intuition or gut feeling, but 'naive biology' or 'vitalistic causation' is what we pretend to know when we don't actually know. And I hope, dear reader, that I don't need to explain that while it is one thing for children to not understand biology (we find it quaint), professionals are not, by any standard, expected to offer advice to the public based upon wishful thinking and intentional distortions of fact. On one particular occasion I actually stood beside a person (who had been given a full time contract (I was sessional or casual (and expendable)) who told the students that "The body is intelligently designed" which is the form vitalism comes in as espoused by religious fundamentalist groups (ie creationists who pretend to know the world is 6000 years old (and evolution a conspiracy)). This was in a neurology tutorial and my colleague had offered this 'vitalistic causation' as his explanation for why signals from the visual apparatus would be received and processed in the limbic (emotional) centres before being sent to the evolutionarily newer frontal or executive regions of the brain (those we more closely associate with thinking and reason). But not only had he completely failed to understand, he told the students he "knew" that this was true. He gave the students a version of an article of faith. At the very least he should have recognised his own limits of knowledge but it was quite opposite as I found out. Not only was his 'version' correct, no member of staff had the right to point out that students were being told false, deceptive and misleading information (and they were paying for the privilege). As another reminder here, we were not standing in a church but inside a public University while students were being taught that using a faith proposition (vitalism was superseded as a plausible science over 200 years before (when we knew almost nothing about how biology functioned)) was not only factually based but, ultimately, could be legitimately used in health care, ie it was ethically sound!

Fortunately for those students at least, they had already been educated somewhat by me. One of the main focuses of my lectures was the ethical significance of contemporary theory and practice - facts, not blind opinion, when considering matters such as the provision of objective advice to the public. I'd also mentioned vitalism, it's history, the many ways people had tried to define it, that it was a supernatural or faith assertion and that it was superseded as theory a long time ago. I even remarked that it was not 'off limits' for personal 'use' and cited drinking and sex as other activities that professionals are not supposed to confuse with their duty of care. As an aside it is, in my opinion, an awful omission in professional ethics to not state overtly that articles of faith are not in our remit. If I am a catholic surgeon, for example, it is simply not my job to replace considered opinion and robust evidence with my own subjective preference to think I know that biology is magical. That is a recipe for reputational disaster and this is precisely why claiming to be a 'vitalistic chiropractor' is unethical as well as stupendously arrogant and stupid.

Not only was vitalism never a fact, it effectively broke down our ability to think and reason. It teaches this as ethics - Don't understand something? No problem, just label gut feeling as 'congruent' with your own philosophy or worldview and it becomes fact. In other words, for a health professional to tell people that they know biology is magical or to stand by while others do, is to lie to them and my profession allows it to happen, encourages and supports it. It is to replace biological theory (all of biology is the way it is due to the process of evolution and that is driven by natural selection. These are basic facts) with 'faith thinking'. It teaches young professionals that it is their right (to vitalists, vitalism is their identity (ie Vitalistic Chiropractor)) to make things up and call it science, philosophy and professionalism. And it is none of those. A simple case in point. Even those whose self absorption and hubris overrides their own professionalism want the profession to expand. Yet they will approach this evangelically, by repeating vacuous notions of holding 'sacred trusts', 'serving' through their 'mission' and other jargon. Basically, as cults do, they think that spreading the 'Big Idea' is a matter of faith, just like the various denominations who hand out pamphlets on street corners. Of course in only 3 places has expansion actually happened. In Denmark, Ontario (Canada), and Norway, the profession has managed to break through a 100 year 10% market penetration and move into the + 20%, all achieved only one way - they officially placed 'subluxation' dogma in the past and moved forward into the real world (Vitalists tell students that they have no identity unless they too call themselves vitalists whose only 'mission' is to detect and correct vertebral subluxations (physical imperfections which are always present and which always prevent a Universal Life Force from doing it's thing. It is a cult that students are drawn into (inside Australian Public Universities). Another example is that some educators are both purveyors of evidence baseless techniques as well as controllers of what should constitute evidence based continuing professional development (CPD) on behalf of the professions main association or 'peak' body - so we have a person who is scientifically semi literate (who cannot, or does not want to, recognize what underpins 'clinical validity', despite invitations to be better educated), who operates on behalf of a body that pressures other members and educators to lower their standards to suit. As a result CPD has become almost a complete farce. I can receive 30 hours of 'Formal Learning Hours' for learning Neuro organisational technique, one of the many patchwork offshoots of Applied Kinesiology (AK) which is so bereft of validity that it is taught to moms and dads as a 'Test'. Calling or even insinuating that something is a valid test in health care means that studies have confirmed that a procedure has validity (it definitely tests a particular thing) and reliability (it is a reliable way to measure that definite process). 'Test' infers a diagnostic ability. But no study exists anywhere on this planet which finds AK to have 'construct validity'. A muscle test is clinically valid for muscle and some aspects joints and peripheral nerves. The rest of what is asserted (and what I can get my 30 hours for) is invalid as well as being put forwards as a diagnostic tool to detect difficult problems such as paediatric neurobehavioral disorders, childhood cognitive problems. Under Federal Law this can constitute neglect since it can prevent a child from receiving appropriate care. Therefore, one excuse is that practitioners of AK 'collaborate' with other health providers. Well, how would I know when to refer or co-manage if I already believe I have a test that my own profession allowed me to believe was valid? Moreover, I may well have received an education which taught me, via a not at all hidden curriculum, that 'crticial thinking' could literally be used to prove that anything was 'critcially evaluated' by labelling it as such. To vitalists, critical thinking is 'whatever I call it.'

Critical thinking is not arbitrary. We are either using it and remaining aware of a consistency of thought or we fall victim to the false dichotomy in which case we change what 'critical thinking means without missing a beat:

""The other side of chiropractic relies on a healthy nervous system and the neurophysiology thereof."

But there is no 'other side of chiropractic'. The above phrase is a political statement. Another is 'The other side of chiropractic recognizes the inborn healing ability of the body" and yet another is 'The other side understands that the body is intelligently designed.' I, and philosophers at other Universities, were unable to peck our way through the dissonance and dilemmas which are due to nothing more than a particularly insistent logical fallacy, a false dichotomy and a complete breakdown in critical thinking every time the issue of 'identity' arose. One day students were being taught critical thinking and contemporary theory and practice (what constitutes 'evidence based'), how to be responsible, outwardly looking professionals in a potentially expanding field. The next moment they are being fed the 'other side' which consisted of ideological ranting (in one case the 'philosophy' of Ayn Rand (who thought serial killers were expressing a virtue of personal objectivism (ie If I reckon it's true it is or as I logically offered one day 'It makes pedophilia just the 'other side' of love', a critical thinking example which was true but not well received (and therefore instantly perceived as an attack on identity)). Some members of the staff practice techniques which are non evidence based. The same ones attend events that recommend that a chiropractors main focus is to convince people that they need care for life, especially children, and all of this is based upon the dogma - vitalism. Yet the course is advertised as 'evidence based'. If you bring these simple facts up, as one is expected to do inside a University, it is perceived as a personal attack. It's as if we were inside a creche. I sat in meetings and listened to people who did not know and did not care to know why definitions and precision were important in education, who became red faced by reality, insulted that they should, as educators, be better educated, puzzled as to why it was problematic for an educator to use faith as an epistemology (pure 'it's a miracle' guesswork as a method for determining what constitutes knowledge). This is the so called 'other side'. The only thing that could be said for the experience was that I am unlikely to ever again witness such egregious philosophical ducking and weaving and ethical relativism inside a Tertiary institution ever again, at least I hope so. I would also write nothing were it not for that fact that if I do not, the result is the production of another generation of 'innocent' frauds. An educator (my first profession) cannot simply cannot watch a university be used as an effective platform to target people for indoctrination. In this article the author points out what should be all too obvious - belief is not knowledge and we have no right to ignore the truth of this statement. The 'healthy nervous system' that the 'other side' is apparently more aware of and which my colleague refers to is the very thing that generates this considerable bias, yet I was not supposed to point this out?!

"'Who are you to tell me what to believe?' replies the zealot. It is a misguided challenge: it implies that certifying one's beliefs is a matter of someone's authority. It ignores the role of reality. Believing has what philosophers call 'mind-to-world direction of fit'. Our beliefs are intended to reflect the real world - and it is on this point that beliefs can go haywire. There are irresponsible beliefs; more precisely, there are beliefs that are acquired and retained in an irresponsible way. One might disregard evidence; accept gossip; rumour, or testimony from dubious sources; ignore coherence with one's other beliefs; embrace wishful thinking; or display a predilection for conspiracy theories..." 

This is where the hidden curriculum comes in - it isn't even hidden in the chiropractic profession, it is overt, formal or informal and the gates are held open by many of the educators themselves because they have learned how to collaborate inside the chiropractic system, through negotiating their ethics. They are actually victims of our own hidden curriculum, the very thing I was asked to warn them against. In order to make myself transparent, as a professional should, I'd tried to invite my boss to a meeting with the philosopher who runs the Critical Thinking Project at the University of Queensland. If they wanted critical thinking they needed to know what it was. Finally, after many cancelled attempts, four of us met. Within 5 minutes my mentor had deconstructed the courses dilemma. Politics, associations and technique merchants do not write the content of University courses and yet this was precisely the pressure put to bear by what was a massive conflict of interest driven by an 'identity politic' who insist that everyone be as poorly informed as they are or agree to ignore the significant problems of doing so. That is what my profession does. Like all other groups which harbour totalising ideologies (its members are right and valid by being members of it), we nurture conspiracy theorism. Such paranoia means that we expend a great deal of effort in keeping group standards as low as possible. Educators who wish to raise standards are expected to lower theirs. It is, quite simply, a disgrace.

Around 20% of the profession are 'traditionalists', people who consider chiropractic to be a quasi religion and therefore whose only weapon is political pressure. To add, many of those who hold education roles have also sat on the executive of the very associations controlled by traditionalists and their need to distort professional ethics with their 'identity.' It's a US style model, quite the amplified version of the normal levels of corruption and graft we tend to expect from ourselves. In the US, a remarkably religiously fundamentalist nation, it is an individual right not only to have your own opinion but have your own facts as well. So in this case my mentor at another institution, in the words of my boss, "Didn't understand" and, of course, what the philosopher actually did was understand entirely what our profession is like and all in under a few minutes. I felt like I'd just left a failed therapy session with my own profession. Diagnosis - denial. Chiropractic education in Australia is corrupt in principle due to our decision to abandon the very principle of ethics itself in preference to placating one 'identity' which is not even professional in nature. As a result we do ethics 'bare bones'. If you didn't have sex with, or rob, a patient, the decision as to what encompasses 'ethics' is what appeals to you personally. I once called it intellectual masturbation in a tutorial and received one complaint. The reason I used it is because I understand cognition a little. Humans are animals who depend upon rapid reflexive reactions to novel sensory stimuli. The term 'Intellectual Masturbation' attracts attention as well as being a wonderfully succinct metaphor for the cognitive bias itself, for our ability to get things wrong. It's one of the many effective ways of reflecting wisely on life and behaviour. I'd do students a disservice not to give them an effective means of understanding their own, and others, natural proclivity to spout utter nonsense. So who am I to apologise for needing to heed the begrudging voices as I pull people into the present and away from a 100 year old dogmatic legacy? We are not a church. Then why act like one?

Here's how you think about a complex biological problem - don't pretend you know then use contemporary theory. If messages went to the executive regions first it might mean better cognition but we'd be slow and very dead in the process (the lower regions of the brain are 'self processing' ie you do not need to think for them to act. Vitalists interpret this as 'intelligence' but how intelligent is it when we consider how faulty it is?). Evolution has no 'choice' but to select survivors therefore a more rapid system would be selected, hence all sensory stimuli is processed 'sub' cortically. We can think well and be knowledgeable but it is not something that comes via gut feeling and rhetoric. We are not born just tabula rasa, like a blank slate ready to be filled with wisdom, but we are actually born credulous with an array of automatic reflexes and many of us proceed no further. As a profession we want to be considered 'evidence based' but only if the 'other side' can use the same term and then proceed to re imagine or manufacture what evidence actually means. We are like self harmers, perhaps masochists, who might think that all their troubles lay outside of themselves but whose only tactic is to rent their own flesh. These same people on the 'other side' are committed to an ocean of dysfunctions - antiintellectualism, ethical slipperiness, self absorption, credulity, paranoia and perhaps the worst, rabid antivaccinationism. It was only a short while ago that our peak body was directly responsible for importing actual frauds to help 'educate' us all. Chiropractors, many of them paid up members of the then Anti vaccination group the AVN as well as the Chiropractors Association (including the executive) of Australia were involved. That level of corruption has not just evaporated, not even gone underground, but is now seeking to build a vitalist college in South Australia. And the body responsible for accrediting the courses also has a new face - the previous head of discipline at Central Queensland University (CQU) who believes that evidence based practice and critical thought involve varieties of what constitutes evidence, and a type of thought so fractured by ethical relativism that I wonder what the future will bring for this profession. Students were like sponges in my brief time at CQU, not only able but willing to learn that critical thinking and professionalism were far greater prizes than shallow allegiances to tradition and factions bent on stagnation. But without that type of education, an honest, evidence informed, contemporary and openly ethical and transparent one, free from political identities, the future looks decidedly dark.


Friday, March 23, 2018

No Way Back. 1911 - When Chiropractic Crossed Its Rubicon.

Rubicon (Idiom) - To pass the point of no return.

It’s insufficient to wonder what anything might be without understanding what it never became. In the modern age, Chiropractic is considered, first and foremost, a health care profession, an international one, which although still primarily US based (and therefore subject to it's especially polarizing culture) is less and less affected by the witheringly backward ideology of vitalism. Moreover, as one, it shares those sets of principles, those contained within codes of conduct or practice. At least 20% of the profession still hold to a different set of purely metaphysical principles headed by the Major Premise (A god concept Stephenson called a Universal Intelligence). The two sets of principles, faith and professional, contrast and collide. One is a code which reminds individuals that their allegiances are towards ethics and the patient. The other is distinctly faith based and places an irrevocable supernatural belief at the centre of ones professional life. Moreover, the 'philosophy' has become rather evangelical, with chiropractors not only mistaking faith for profession but indulging in their own 'prosperity doctrine', using a crass, and clearly narcissistic blend of faith and money. This very US driven financial faith found an odd symbiosis in New Age credulity and the authoritarian stamp of an easily offended fundamentalist minority (institutions such as the creationist Discovery Institute and my own professions Academy of Chiropractic Philosophers employ the same rhetoric, arguments and disdain for education and reason, for intellectual honesty).

But faith and ones profession (as in blending god concepts, clinical education and profession) are morally incompatible, an easy invitation for corruption since ones specific aim becomes misguided. One assumes that a scientific method should be embraced while the other has no need for it and will even corrupt it and philosophy simply in order to protect the 'faith'. Faith has its ready made answers to comfort its devotees but as philosophy it is circular, purely apologetic, not a revealer of knowledge (in technical terms, not an effective epistemology and only a robust method of confusion, at best an identity for the hard at thinking). The traditional chiropractic embrace of vitalism (another brand of supernatural doctrine) is, admittedly by its proponents, aligned with Intelligent Design, a relabelling of the creationism of religious fundamentalism, a politicised fraud, and an attempt to sell garbage to children and unseat science as the legitimate knowledge builder. There is no battle between science and religion only by people obsessed with their stories who lack the bravery to confront their own fears. Why fear being wrong on a point of fact? Surely it can only mean knowing more. Crass, fearful, greedy, even, ironically, unchristian as it required considerable lying to install. Saying "I believe that a god made the world" and "We know it's true and so must everyone else" are two entirely different things. One is an expression of belief, the other credulity and expansionist aggression.

It is ultimately something explained and underpinned by biological science itself - evolution - which if ignored (and it is by most it seems) will only suffice to attract both the same behaviour and a great deal of irony. Our professional dilemmas, our ethics, a subject often considered only slightly relevant, just 'philosophical' or alternatively, the realm of supernatural dictations and other purely relativist doctrines, is the product of and only explained by understanding why science is our most successful epistemological tool. The heart of science, critical thinking and professional ethics is, in our nature as creatures, built by that process which could only select survivors who were not necessarily reliable methodologists (nature can't select the dead). Everyone has a mind which is essentially irrational and instinctive, not only easily biased but always so. What the wise do is recognize themselves and account for it's imperfections not 'pray' them away, which is to resemble the philosophy of sheep. This is never the argument for an ‘anything is just as plausible' but exactly why a robust education, free from naive ‘vitalistic causality’ is mandatory if the goal is progress. If the goal is professional marginalism then we already have the recipe for that - we say nothing, remain ignorant and confident of it at the same time.

I should add that most recently one of us was awarded an OAM for doing just this - promoting pure relativism. They were enraged by the hint that they might have colluded in keeping educational standards low by accepting compromise with idiots and frauds. This, they opined, was something people just didn't 'understand' but humans understand only too well that fear drives our decisions every step of the way. The challenge is to recognize that and still act ethically. In truth, this person would not have gained the position they did if they had been honest (and told vitalists that they are credulous fools locked in the 19th century (at best)). But they did not and the hard work is left to others, yet again. It seems we'd rather award failure if that ensures we can remain comfortably numb. I should add further (if this ever devolves to the accusation of libel) that I was present at these meetings, still have the emails and eye witnesses. We all heard the head of the critical thinking project (University of Queensland Philosophy Department), after only 5 minutes unpacking of our dilemma (the establishment of a new robust evidence based course). My own boss had avoided the meeting until, at my insistence (you need to know what it is you've asked for, I'd said, quite transparently), we sat (4 of us all). They were, it quickly emerged, afraid of third parties, basically our own professions vitalists and power brokers wanting what amounts to fraud taught within a public university as if it were contemporary education. I had offered that I would teach vitalism (it's history and why, exactly why, essentially, you do not read about it (as having anything to do with philosophy or science) unless it is interwoven with conspiracy rhetoric. I even had the opportunity to discuss, openly, with students as to why they had even been misled on the simple task of definition. Fundamentalists you see despise precision and education as a rule and my relativist colleague was compelled to accommodate that. I'll not bore you with further details but I'll leave with this - I know what it must be like to look at such an award as an OAM and know that it was gained by a vote of protectionism. Well done. As an educator myself (it was my first profession) I've never felt so disappointed. And should I add again that you are correct - there is no longer a need for my 'particualar skills' at this university. Candour has never been a human strong point.

More? I have to add that the person in question employed me (and another) and, I thank them, for the first time in my life I was actually referred to as 'an intellectual'. I wont lie that I felt vindicated but only because I'm no intellect. A wise person understands that accepting such a remark is the quickest path back to ones own ignorance and only by admitting my credulity have I been able to have a few good (always borrowed from truly brilliant minds) ideas. Yes, this person wanted to raise the standards but as I informed them well ahead of time "Are you sure?!" as in are you sure you want people to think about difficult issues? They said they were and they were wrong. 

Evolution produced the believing brain and in consequence, the god concept, an invisible causality, variously labelled, and by intelligent and well meaning people in many cases, but animals none the less. One such label for pretending to know in the face of ignorance is 'Universal Intelligence'. Essentially, a chiropractic philosophy is one of a million possible ways that humans leap to a conclusion and remain there, the antithesis of even a basic philosophical education. A professional in any field is supposed to be a giver of dispassionate advice based upon sound reasoning and robust evidence yet how many actually understand the philosophical significance of how a billions year process put us here? Or that the process didn’t include making us aware of how ourselves or the world and everything in it, ‘works’. It gave survivors the trait of fear and the snap decision (the heuristic), laden with cognitive blind spots we call biases. The definition of pain as a complex emotional experience to actual/perceived damage may as well be the definition of us and our dilemmas. We are both repelled by and drawn towards competing novel stimuli - do I go or do I stay now? But to understand such complexity, to understand what chiropractic is, we need to go beyond automatic choices as a philosophical method and ask what it, my profession, was but never became - a church.

In March 1995, historian Joseph Keating found a letter in the Archives of the David D. Palmer Health Science Library in Davenport, Iowa. Written by Palmer to P.W. Johnson D.C. in 1911, it condensed both his philosophy of chiropractic and what he considered to be it's only protection. On both counts he was correct. He identified his hypothesis as a construct of faith and then argued, with complete reason, as to why that (non professional) chiropractic would only have full protection as the religion he rightly claimed his hypothesis was.

"I occupy in chiropractic a similar position as did Mrs. Eddy in Christian Science. Mrs. Eddy claimed to receive her ideas from the other world and so do I. She founded theron a religioin (sic), so may I. I am THE ONLY ONE IN CHIROPRACTIC WHO CAN DO SO.” (D.D. Palmer 1911)

It’s unfortunate why a profession needs to explain why we should retire ideas that never helped us understand (although it is common generally, not essentially unique to our profession) and only added to our ignorance. Moreover it is regrettable that a majority of a profession would view their own indifference to it, their own ignorance (or their choice to 'negate' it (wish it away)), of the history of their own profession as somehow virtuous or ethical. In our defence, (and again, also understood via the process that built us), most are simply made uncomfortable by difficult questions, which, if one ponders, is another clear indication that such ideas as needing to spread the faith in a UI, are not professional at all. This may well be why traditional chiropractic tends to find it’s minor markets in conspiracy and envy. The paranoid anti vaccination stance seems to be a case of protesting too much, of not being skeptical of the procedure but passionately insecure about the world generally.

Being ignorant is normal. Honoring it is dysfunctional. Children are noted to use ‘vitalistic causality’ or naive biological explanations for bodily functions and so give explanations that look or feel right but are rarely more than that. So over 200 years ago vitalistic ideas made sense 'by default' as in we were yet to discover the most basic principles of how nature worked in the first place, and certainly yet to begin to understand evolution. It may be blunt but to believe that vitalism explains anything in 2017 is the critical thinking equivalent of accepting that the earth is more likely flat than spherical because that's how it looks or feels to me and one might then understand the reluctance to award such thinking the right to call itself ‘profession’. A scientific method works well as a knowledge gathering tool because it operates 'in reverse'. We pose an idea but do not automatically confirm it, even attempting to 'destroy' our own idea in the process since the better one will tend, over time, to survive the rigours of scrutiny. This doesn't mean the scientist cannot act unethically (as if) only that the method, if executed honestly, will tend to sift through observations with candour. We cannot condemn a pirouette if the dancer fails it's execution but that is exactly the 'philosophy' of credulity. If you already accept that not being able to prove or deny something is an argument for holding a positive belief ('Can't tell me that a god doesn't exist', is, to the faithful, a robust argument to hold a positive believe but then, by their own philosophical standards they must not only accept but applaud 'Can't tell me Batman doesn't exist' as the pinnacle of ideation). Making shit up is not philosophy.

Life is comedy. The process, science, does not care what is true and only exists because it works. I used to clarify that an agnostic position, the most popular stance, is so held to avoid nothing more than offending stupidity. It sounds like the misquoted 'Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence' which has always, in my experience, been followed by them being incapable or not even interested to understand what it was they were assuming by that statement. IE they were all using it to mask their own incompetence (at thinking) by (ignorantly) supporting a 'Batman' philosophy.   

Any time we require evidence and sound reasoning before judging whether or not something is a good or bad idea we are 'being scientists' of a sort. All people use a scientific process when it suits us even if we are not immediately aware of the fact. Wanting to understand (education requires us to remain receptive to self revision not merely ready to defend out 'traditions') when we are 'suiting oursleves' or pretending our own education and knowledge building is an indication that we comprehend the principles of both science and ethics. We then understand what chiropractic is (a complex health care profession), what it never became (the founders religion) and precisely why that is a distinguishing mark - to restate the point, it is that dogma never moves, never learns because it never needs to. Dogmas and their dogmatists can be identified quite easily. Just ask this - is what you believe, hypothetically, subject to revision? Might you be entirely wrong? If the answer is no (which is at least honest) but commonly 'no response' (further platitudes, offense, veiled threat followed by casting blame and leaving) you have found the mark. Dogmatists are intellectual cowards but even those who entertain the same ideas but remain can be regarded as progressive. They're also as rare as hens teeth. Another mark of a dogmatist is that they avoid contrary opinion. It disturbs them. As such, many dogmatists are postmodernists, because that way, by endorsing a dogma that does away with the need for truth at all we impress upon our already ignorant state our adoration of it. We've all 'been there' but it is quite another thing to take up accomodation and make a living there.

This is the greatest evil. A stunning claim but consider what pure relativism is and why all dogmatists employ it's tactic. Claiming that all ideas are equal ones (whilst not believing that at all) ensures that we can defend our own useless notion by declaring that no one else can be more or less correct than we. Thus all is true (we don't believe this) and thus nothing can be known given that nothing can be falsified. It is the most enduringly, I'll say excruciatingly, circular weapon of stupidity and, for the autocrat, fraud and tyrant, excellent cover for graft. Teach the population that the only goal, indeed the greatest virtue, is to stop thinking, that they remove their own freedom of thought and speech (!) and we have any version of a totalitarian state. Roll that about in your own head. If there is any belief you hold that you have made inviolable, will not consider revising or even dispensing with, if only hypothetically, then you have made a deal a 'devil'. You have disposd of your own independance and traded it for a dream. We all have that tendancy but you should always maintain the right to negotiate, even with gods (for those so inclined to embrace those stories). Otherwise, please go away and masturbate in private. Thankyou. 

No wonder dogma sells so well, because, initially, it feels remarkably safe to think that people can never disagree with each other. It's like (I suppose) being able to masturbate in public. Not only do you still enjoy it but you can share your need to self stimulate with everyone else. It's also why dogmatists are so offended when informed that their intellectual masturbation is just as unsavoury. Relativism is the foundation of ruin. Education disappears. There is nothing to learn if everything is true. Discourse is irrelevant and the only measure is power. It is this tactic that groups such as those comprised of 20% of my profession commission. If you are not a staunch believer that is fine because you can be an easy apologist. All that needs to be done is to make sure that intelligence is replaced with baser needs. We all need food, shelter and warmth and so the 20% offer seminars devoted to anything that satisfies ones ego and inward dwelling nature. The 20% are an aggregation of the dumb even though many would have high IQ. Like the fraud Andrew Wakefield, an intelligent man drawn towards credulous people only displays their own need for adoration, not for any aspect of, or regard for, knowledge. Real professionals have no need for identity politics and prevarication. We no longer like to pretend to know and just like to know. We do not believe it's wise or moral to hold to a standard that does not care for anything or anyone provided our forgone conclusion is left intact, provided we can masturbate in public.

Merging the two ('faith' and profession) strips each one of its merits and its cultural authority

A simple barometer of professional health is candor, how prepared we are to give opinions, which might clash with our own beliefs and preferences, in a frank and straightforward manner. It's what brave people do and bullies omit. Kurt Anderson, author of 'Fantasyland - How America went haywire', in a recent interview, put faith styles of epistemology (beliefs established primarily by leaps to conclusions inside evidence vacuums) thus - "These ideas self select for credulity." It's rarely better stated. In 1910, around the same time that Palmer wrote 'The Chiropractors Adjuster', the medical profession, which at the time was suffering from it's own fragmented standards, issued the Flexner Report, which among other things advised the embrace of a scientific methodPalmer did not get the religion that fit his philosophy (a universal spiritual panacea with chiropractors as priests) but neither could we summons the courage or the collective might to embrace the same method. Too many were frightened. The founder had offered a panacea and appeals to emotions not intellect (he actually appealed to our inner ignorance (he was a spiritualist, an occultist)). He was correct about many things that even medical professionals criticized but the message was propagandized. Propaganda is a postmodern sell. It works because of that human knee jerk mind of ours. Medicine bad, me good was essentially the depth of that rhetoric. The result was to be left in a type of professional purgatory. Chiropractic is the only profession in the west to maintain both a vitalistic apologetic and marginal (but greater than other 'non mainstream professions') market penetration. But the only common denominator in authority is the cultural capital of a real diagnostic expertise, knowledge, and this is solely dependant upon a robust education, not one which will insist on the same answer every day of every year of each decade, not one which idolizes dead people and invisible powers over a profession and a public well being and a students mind and career. Where that is left to the past the profession has done nothing but expand. No. Everyone just needs to shut up and join the one true church, a self limiting, inward looking, collection of fearful and backwards folk. Hence the abundance of acussations that 'chiropractic' is a cult. More accurately (I despise any sloppy historian), chiropractic is a profession. It is the partiucualr chiropractic philosophy, that all chiropractors do not endorse and which achieves everything a cult would (including an identity), which is the issue. Cults and societies are tolerated (here at least) but what should never be is a cult within a profession.


As a profession we crossed our Rubicon as soon as we chose to ignore Palmer's advice and not classify ourselves as a church. But so inured have we all become to the idea that all opinions deserve 'respect' that we have allowed ourselves the addition of 'facts' into the formula of what is considered optional. Therefore, even those who say they do not accept the behaviour of a type of evangelical chiropractic, are infected with the same style of 'relativism' (Coulter) which only "supercharged" the idea that truth and opinion are interchangeable and so cemented the notion that faith and professionalism were indistinct. Such ideas infect academia and even the government regulators. It is in fact a population wide mind virus which takes advantage of our already restricted ability to know anything. It is our epistemic crisis and evolved tendancy to leap well before thinking and when thinking to do so most often as confirmation. It's where the term 'confirmation bias' comes from and what does one do with that knowoedge? We accept it and in doing so understand that this is exactly why we require a scientific method and robust philosophies, not credulous platitudes illustrated with the pits of cherries. These are now basic biological facts, further knowledge about which the 20% (at least) would like you to remain unaware (as are they in the first place).

People like myself could change things if humans were another species but the fact appears that to be this honest is too much for most. I am not claiming to be an 'honest person' but that the philosophies built on faith are magnets for dishonesty particularly in professions which do not, should not in principle, lend apologies to manufactured realities. If the centre of your life or being is the belief that you know something unknowable you are at the precipice of your own stupidity but that feels remarkably similar to knowing everything (a well established cognitive problem of our species). Perhaps we should just answer what chiropractic was (a band of people without a guide book) then never was (the brothers all in church together) before contemplating what it is (a profession that needs to excise rabid dogma), because despite an abundance of opinions we know that the profession never formally became a Palmerian religion, and professional ethics demands it never does. Only in Northern Europe, which refuses to allow such idiocy to infect education and profession, has the practice of chiropractic expanded in real terms (not merely numbers).

I'd only ask any chiropractor this - Are you in a bloody church or not? And since the answer is a forgone conclusion we (should) say, then go practice inside one without the privilege of registration, the illusion of cultural authority, and the right to tell damn lies to the public.

D.Scown 13/11/2017

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Philosophical Weeding

The movie inspired the Trust, to fund improvements to the slums of Kenya.

My analogy is that minds do not only require weeding but a constant attention. This is education. Knowledge must be reestablished in each generation whilst our ignorance is a billion years old, an observation reflected in the saying, attributed to many: 'The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.' So the wise go by the evidence of experience as a part of knowledge, not it's Trump, not by using the encounter as yet another form of confirmation. Know one thing first - your mind was never 'built' by processes that favored the thinker but far more so those that assisted the survivor. What exists now however is a world far different from the environments that evolution acted within. The presence of postmodernism, which became the rule of no rules, of 'alternative facts' and contradiction, the pressures of academic globalization (the (over?) capitalization of education) and the unprecedented rise of the Internet have led to the spectacular profusion, or perhaps just the recognition?, of our addiction to beliefs which are not only bizarre but unmistakably anti scientific, overtly paranoid.

Humans are natural fools, all included, easily tricked by our own perceptions but also why we find the theatre and music so entrancing to begin with, why drugs and other behaviors are addictive and why we can revel in the simplicity of the direct experience, what to us feels numinous, magical but which is just a product of wonder, never to be confused with understanding. And, uniquely, we are also the only creature with the capacity to learn, to the extent we do, if we choose to. What learning we have achieved however did not come from wrote learning, from mere repetition of what others had already discovered. This is not learning at all, only mimicry, barely more than a chimp is able to do. Real learning is quite a different affair because it depends upon realizing the failed attempt - the test. without which we are unable to discern whether or not we have achieved success or failure. An honest process values falsification and philosophical cowardice avoids it. And it is here that most problems begin, not with the information, but with a mind that is such an efficient trickster that it would call our own ignorance and imagination real and guarantee it's immunity from reason.

The largest hole in education is actually epistemological, not informational. It is that we do not teach ourselves or our children to value thinking, nor what methods lead to a well examined life, only to value tradition and it's ability to overrule intellect absolutely. Tradition has no error correction systems or processes, being repetition only. Any claim that something supernatural for example is unapproachable by thinking alone has, if you notice, just contradicted itself. What is it that writes the words? Only fools and charlatans claim to be directed by unseen forces but one need only look around to see the armies of the similarly decent but gullible, the followers, to understand how easy it is for the anti intellectual to profit. We do not educate ourselves as to why our own minds would find themselves so effortlessly misled and why honesty is so elusive.

"If you cannot determine if your belief is false, how can you determine if it is true?"

If there was one line to recall for the budding wise person it would be this. Learn it by wrote and then apply the axiom, the truth of it, not to the speculative but the mundane, the ordinary. Try it out upon each and every question. Is there an elephant in the moon? Is there any possible way to say it's false? Then how can we determine it's true? The point is never to engage in wars of beliefs but to examine the manner in which we believe we establish reliable ones and, importantly, if we are honest enough to say we'd throw them away should they fail to meet that standard. Is it better to run across roads? Can we determine if the claim is false? Obviously yes, therefore we can determine it's truth. Is there a Universal Intelligence (the hub of chiropractic philosophy)? And the answer "We can't measure it yet", is not open minded, it is at best credulous and at worst the rule to begin prevarication - to lie that we know when all we are is ignorant. We have done nothing but avoided an honest response, an open exchange. You have witnessed the beginning of the worst of humanity - the beginning of a fraud.

So explained is the Poppers rule of falsification, what he defined as science and interestingly what he did not define as truth. He also mistook falsification for what it ultimately was - the kernel of ethics. So I disagree. Truth, as in an absolute, is as elusive as anything which cannot be determined - we do not even know if 'truth' is true, so quite the self contradiction, but we do know of many millions of true statements and we know there is only one reliable epistemology for it. So to pretend that truth is eternally uncertain is to render the whole excise one of masturbation, each in their corner going at it. Philosophers often make too much of grand visions while discounting reality. Only last night my daughter and I invented a 'dichotomous key', a way for working out problems (generally of natural classification), where each question only has two possible answers - yes or no. And so we worked through many true and false statements. Not only did we but as a result we came to understand the manner in which we begin to understand, not by jumping to the conclusion (I like to believe that Cassowaries are more closely related to Ostriches (so I can pass a test without needing to know or understand)), but by using an intelligent methodology - an honest approach, not a foolish one. So the word 'truth' is often uttered but never clarified and is always the perfect habitat or camouflage for bad ideas. "Who can say what's true?", is used by those who are afraid to learn, never those honest enough to take note that they do so all the time. "Is your name Susan?" Yes. "Then it's true?" Yes. To tie reality up in the 'truth' which no philosopher can find is finding nothing but bad arguments and lending a hand to confusion. It is not wise nor is it education. You might be more familiar with: "The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." Scientists, and those who fancy themselves as one, love to parrot this Carl Sagan quote, usually only the first half because the other: "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" is not palatable if all one wishes to do is avoid embarrassment and pretend to know something.

Most problems emerge because of our very human proclivity for making up complete bullshit and calling it science and philosophy. We don't care if what we say is sound or robust, only that we pretend to ourselves and others similarly selfish or credulous, that it is. It doesn't matter if we can determine whether or not our beliefs are false only that we claim them to be true and you might be surprised at how much utter garbage is published in clinical sciences for example for the simple reason that it's epistemology - how the ideas were put together - was largely driven by traditions of faith thinking (whether or not it felt right or was a part of a gurus anecdote). To wit - There are dozens of derivations of Applied Kinesiology for the uncomplicated reality that it was stagecraft to begin with and consists of (genuinely honest) people with a slim grasp of neuroscience and epistemology stringing together what looks like something happening, when what is occurring is the equivalent of self delusion. Even the best scientists such as the Nobel Laurette, Richard Feynman, warned us against ourselves so this is the biggest mistake - we prefer to allow our colleagues to remain ignorant and are not ethically bothered that they continue to sell it to the public. This is not unusual but what is unethical, unprofessional, is to fail to bring it up. So while I appear to be a vicious critic, I write this because we are a profession, not a Sunday school. Without trying to sound to sentimental, I care, a far more persuasive compassion than the hollow claims of 'love'. In all but rare exceptions that word is only fit for pop songs, platitudes and the genuine experience.

As I've illustrated in my daughters example, such a 'method' of justification extends well beyond opinion and anecdote leading it away from religious attempts at comprehension towards reliable knowledge. Religions are a perfect vehicle for community and a shared sense of purpose however a wise person would be asking exactly how those purposes were defined. Questions are a right. To listen is the professionals duty, otherwise our methods only lead back to our own assertions, the purely circular argument. Why bother fooling ourselves? Why not just admit to preferences and excuse them from rational discourse? Preference is what I like to wear not what a truth might be. The answer of course is that our minds evolved to be quite naturally fond of fictions, not organized methods of thinking or problem solving, so repeating errors is something we do best. The fool pretends that enthusiasm or rank insistence is the equivalent of knowledge because hundreds of millennia of dumb survival ensured that each ancestor had no real way to discern whether or not the rumbling earth wasn't an irritated and clearly enormous monster or invisible being. Confidence mixed with rapid reaction was a clear winner in the evolutionary stakes, the equivalent 'formative years' as a species there was the purely pragmatic process of selection and survival. But it is wrong to assume that this narrative is nihilistic. Quite the contrary, our common story binds us all together, beyond the tiny tribal perspective. Traditions built on faith pretend unity and practice ideological secession, such a dull, repetitive and dangerous cycle.

Being a wise and intelligent species overall is a difficult challenge but hypothetically possible if education is put to the fore, not aligned with epistemologies designed to propel us in reverse. Best to begin with teaching children how to weed their minds of ideas that were honestly tested and found lacking.  We can be even smarter gardeners and examine the parasitic idea to see what went wrong and how to build a better comprehension. Only then can we build knowledge and retain the better idea, the better ethic and perhaps a better world.


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Rewriting Professional Ethics

The paranoid have all the facts ((paraphrase) William S. Burroughs).

And the wise never will.

So often our hindsight lays clear what the better approach should have been, or at least what might not be worth repeating. This isn't unusual and is expressed and experienced so often in our lives, often to the point of exasperation. So it's a truth to say that significant discoveries are 'obvious' only with hindsight, that we wonder why on earth we never saw it. It's plain but common self deception (this 'curse of knowledge'), that many things simply appear easy to comprehend even though, when asked to expand, most are unclear of what it is they say they know is true. It just is apparently. The mind never evolved to be an epistemologist only a survivor, and it takes a great deal of effort, initially, to quiet that strong tendency to simply stop thinking altogether and revert to what we understand best - our own ignorance. If we bother to dispense with our preferences and study evolution honestly, without the need to inject cherished beliefs (whatever they might be) - the process that built us and our nature is clear for all to see. It was one of humanities greatest ideas, discoveries, facts. To attempt to understand most things without the desire to know, and just pretend to, is to repeat the error.

My focus over the past 5 or so years has been to deal with a profusion of information in an attempt to better grasp it and teach it with simplicity and clarity, and the question, although there have been so many, boiled down to this - why do we think and behave in this manner? It does not, or rather should not, dwell on the appearances of behavior as so many of the social sciences have done. It is not a problem to observe (and they do this very well), but to do so without knowledge of evolution is to have 'one hand tied behind our backs'. Reflexes, thinking, the way we make philosophy and science and social dynamics are only comprehensible by referring back to evolution, in itself revised but only to find it more robust than before. To think otherwise is to think it rational to claim that tomorrow, who knows, the earth may be flat again. And the only groups which view evolution as a threat are those built on faith, who not only have a different narrative but one built upon little but anecdote, popularity, the ease with which errors are perceived as true and the non sequitur, upon the minds own 'faith thinking'. Even the various faiths disagree most vehemently with each other, to the point of ultimate absurdity. Why any should believe that science has anything to do with any ones gods is the symptom of dogmatism generally - they all have all their own facts which are only distinguishable from each other by how far each is prepared to leap backwards into it's past.

Traditional Chiropractors, those who view their work as the opportunity, their mission or service to spread the faith of chiropractic philosophy do so within an ethical void. Even the US Central Command contains within it's rules the directive to avoid using the services to "proselytize any religion, faith or practice..." even though the rule is often broken. In Australia however, the current ethics codes are being re scrutinized and in my opinion the simple adoption of this phrase would achieve two things simply. It is easy to insert while revision is largely waste and it sends a simple message - in democratic countries, anyone has the right to practice and believe any of the thousands of faiths (such as the faith of Universal Intelligence, the Major Premise of Stephenson's Green Books), but that no one in a professional capacity has such a right.

Where I sit in my office I see no stained glass, no crucifix, no Dreamtime, no statue of Buddha but I admire and respect a secular law which allows all to be practiced personally, tribally. Those objects and images might matter to me in some way but my office is it's own sanctuary of professional ethics, and here the rules are clear. In the Australian code it says that while I may "hold personal beliefs and values" they do not transfer over to those held by a professional. The state has no right to demand that I stop believing in a Dreamtime for example but neither do I have the right to recast, revise or rework professional ethics to suit my own personal Universal one. Giving humans so much philosophical leash only leads to them feathering their own nests, we see our worst. As a result, Vitalism has morphed into a distinctly fundamentalist and repellent US style evangelism. If it were ethical to dispense with rules altogether (which is what a chiropractic faith desires) so then all rules of professional conduct are reduced to anecdote. If, in principle, it were philosophically moral to use cultural preference as profession and science then it would be ethical to allow a child to die if I thought it best to administer dance instead of proper care. No one would be offended if culture accompanied, but not informed, modern professional practice, but this is never the objective of fundamentalists. Theirs is a particularly Trojan horse, complete with it's own parasites, it's merchants and charlatans, and it is for them that the codes of conduct must state the obvious, not be indifferent to the fatuous comeback of "That's about personal belief" as if it was just fine and dandy that a professional used the same epistemology. And this comment came directly from the keyboard, to me, from the minister for health. If I can use cultural anecdote as professional collateral then why do we believe that such a rule applied 'equitably' doesn't allow the professional to manufacture lies relabelled as expert opinion? It happens all the time. Anecdote is not a measure of a professional standard but something which must be understood as a potential, and commonly significant, bias. But what if I claim my anecdote to be truth? Then we have the rule of anarchy posing as profession. A dunces cap on a well dressed person, the emperor with new clothes.

The code is not direct enough. We have a significant problem in my profession because humans easily confuse their own tribes with what a fact is and then foist it, their own unwillingness to know, only to pretend, upon an unsuspecting public. And with this lack of interest in knowledge, their credulity, consequently comes a low standard of care. Predatory behavior, clutching at children and families 'for life', taking advantage of fear and uncertainty to trigger a lifetimes 'need' for care. No one ever suggested that a chiropractor not practice in a 'family' setting but this is not that. To the evangelist a family is not people, just a flock for the faith - to feed or fleece or fuck. People who hold political positions advertise themselves as miracle workers and teach others that they too can perform miracles through faith alone, directing them away from, never towards, learning only some illiterate imitation. Their 'miracles' are not some colloquial aside but as an article of their faith in the UI, as a professional service. Professional development points are awarded to people known to be conspiracy theorists, taking donations from some of the worlds most credulous and paranoid ringmasters who believe that subluxations are Satan's work, the proceeds of which have funded a hijacked research body, now a vehicle for creationism, for the teaching of vitalism (spirit worship) as if it still represented a science which it failed to do over 300 years before. It is fraud and the ethical codes have allowed it to happen because ethics (a subject I still manage to teach) is, if taught well, offensive to frauds. Other professionals still have quite the tendency to deal with corruption by shooting it's whistle blowers, not correcting the problem. I even had the CEO of the board advise me that it was "my job" to correct the damage done to students (who attend a publicly funded University) by offering basement level external 'education' which included indoctrination into the faith of UI, sealed by the implementing of the siege mentality. A major tactic of  fundamentalist 'education' is to repeat the same thing, play music, and try to generate a few tears, basically invigorate the individuals desire to intellectually masturbate and stop thinking altogether. People demand 'rights!' as professionals while the bulk of the profession chooses to remain indifferent and the only expansion in the profession has gone along legitimate lines - by publicly stating that the past belongs to itself, by releasing ourselves from the ideological servitude of paranoia.

We are professionals.

We are neither religions, faiths or practises.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Chiropractic Philosophy And Gun Control

Intelligence or ethics is no prerequisite for power.

The world always provides fodder for war, intrigue and black humor. As I was listening to the radio this morning, I heard a US politician apologize (excuse) for the most recent gunning down of civilians. 26 lay dead, 20 more injured, as the 'tactically dressed' man opened fire on a congregation inside a small Texas church. Just as predictably as gun violence in the USA, any perceived threat is met not with reason but primitive reactions. People might tell you that they are complex creatures (we are) but that doesn't extend to complex thoughts, to well reasoned actions, at all. 

The right screams for rights and the left for what appears to be the same, the right to life, but what is apparent is the inability of people to learn. When Obama brought in laws that sought to restrict gun ownership the US responded with such paranoia that the gun industry expanded. Laws that looked as though they would achieve one thing, established quite the opposite.

Similarly, although the figures are not nearly as clear, or present at all, the growing vocal opposition to the religion called chiropractic philosophy (unethical by professional standards), may well aid it. Ideological wars are as common as breakfasts as far as human society is concerned, since the human mind evolved to be an excellent tribe member not a wise rational thinker. So although the church of the Universal Intelligence (chiropractic philosophy) is only an effective tool for attracting our worst qualities (narcissism, creationism, fundamentalism, fraud, stupidity), those traits are widely shared by humanity. While we all hope that our species will exceed it's most base desires we cannot escape the fact that we are first and foremost a species, creatures, not a collection of magically driven beings destined for enlightenment. But the fact is that the later non explanation is more intuitively popular and is far more easily believed if education is crippled, faith thinking elevated, professional boundaries breached and ethics slaughtered. Humans only learn by finding out they were wrong not by pretending to be right and spending a life perfecting ignorance. This is exactly what happens when you live through an identity which, in your mind, is utterly irreversible, dogmatic, a fundamentalism, a 'true belief' that is it's own absurdity. If we cannot test anything, we do not have a 'yet' we have a 'nothing yet' and to pretend otherwise is to ossify any intelligence we ever had. We may just as well be back 'in the cave'. So a dogmatic profession will continue to exist but it has never expanded unless local associations have chosen to respect learning, not use it to promulgate it's faith.

Does this mean that we should abandon oppositions to ridiculous gun laws (I personally have a license so the matter is not one of extremes) or the intrusion of religion into education and professionalism (the stupid claim that creationism can replace evolution), faith into education, hubris into candour? While it will always be easy to offend people one need not try, one need only point towards the honest answer and wait for the outfall so the decision is easy - remain indifferent or press on. I suggest the later. If a god was found lurking, hand held high, if there was anything at all except insistence from 'philosophers', then we would honestly include a god as fact in the record and teach accordingly. But to inject dogma into education (as if it were fact) in the absence of anything but force, nothing but a persistent philosophical whining, is to practice nothing more intellectual than swinging a club. It may well bring you comfort to believe all sorts of things but it never amounts to education and certainly not a profession.

So you may be interested to learn that when the politician from the USA rationalized the murder of 26 people in a small town in Texas he used the only logic that paranoia knows - he never mentioned the issues of mental health or firearms, he said it wasn't as bad as Hitler. Similar logic is the sine qua non of the paranoid gun owner and traditional chiropractor. But one need not give up a belief to hold a more ethical position. There is nothing wrong with believing in spirits only pretending you know. After all, Martin Luther still believed in a god concept but pressed for reformation. He agreed on a god but disagreed with the rules and so contradicted his own god (apparently). No one on earth can show the former as a truth only the later - that the religions practiced in a void of reason and ethics are even worse than the weak apologetics that remains, but at least it is not the pure totalitarianism that having a single tribe at the helm would give although that is easy to achieve. One need only ensure that the subject is never brought up, that the need to remain 'civil' to stupidity is more important than ethics and life itself. This is our problem.

But we are a profession.

We are not a faith.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Legitimate Questions - A letter to a Young Colleague

"Hey guys I'm a 1st year Chiro student and I have 2 question that I am struggling to find the answer to. Why do we put ourselves into boxes? Mechanistic or Vitalistic! And what do the people in the middle of the spectrum call themselves?"

This question was recently posted on a large (roughly 2,600 member) Facebook page populated by a collection of students, practitioners, researchers and educators. I've been all these at some stage or another in some shape or form. Overall the environment, of this particular forum, is supportive but also supports or promotes objectivity as a fundamental axiom or 'law' considering that we are inside a profession. Professional bodies hold a 'social contract. That assumes that not all ideas are equal and that environment is, in itself, the only one which supports the ethic of professionalism, that despite personal preferences, we all exist primarily for the benefit of others, the public, our patients, and must subject our own opinions and those of the profession to the scrutiny of high intellectual standards - we assume that learning is lifelong and can only proceed if we accept that some ideas will be shown to be forlorn, wrong, and should be discarded, again, for the benefit of society. We accept that the process of being a professional means you may well be wrong, that there are ways to determine this and that we will all follow evidence and good reason above personal belief and speculation.

The query itself is quite possibly the first natural, legitimate, brief and significant question posed by all students as they grapple with what is often a remarkably shallow chiropractic philosophical pool. And the reality is that efforts to expand the profession and truly make it 'Great' are hampered not simply by external pressures (common to all) but the insistence by many that 'Unity' can be achieved by demanding that people 'choose' which un-unified end of a false philosophical spectrum they inhabit.

It's a mouthful. But wait. It is important to understand ourselves if we are to sort out such common (and philosophically falsely based) schisms.


My experience is that most staff members, let alone students, can't exactly define either term (vitalism, mechanism (and a dozen or more others)) and therefore what they mean when those terms are applied to the world around us. Yet many identify strongly with something they appear to understand rather poorly - and that question is a matter of IDENTITY or TRIBALISM. Once a human has identified with a tribal belief it is generally resistant to new or contradictory information. 

We might consider a profession to be a type of tribe but it has quite specific rules and expectations (see above) which are not shared by other ideologies or belief systems.

The minds we have, evolved to be very good at socialisation and re-confirmation for the reason that it seemed to aid our survival if the group 'stuck together'. Sticking together can be enormously beneficial. For professionals, the question should always be - "What exactly are we sticking together for?" That intuitive tribal urge however also means that the beliefs we form are resistant to alteration. Habit's stick whether 'good' or 'bad' and it's also why science (testing hypotheses) has been such a reliable system of knowledge gathering whereas personal faith or revelation is not as neither one can actually be tested beyond opinion.

So tribalism is real and can be very useful. Unfortunately it doesn't necessarily mean that the tribal principles or ethics or information are necessarily sound or true.

Vitalism was a mechanism

A chief (perhaps the only argument) in favour of vitalism is it's assumed difference from mechanism (literally "what makes this 'go' or 'work'? What's it's mechanism?). Something which seems entirely glossed over (by adherents of vitalism) is that Vitalism was a scientific theory ('science' was called natural philosophy back then) over 200 years ago. Most straightforwardly 'Vitalism' was defined as a soul or spirit (later elan vital), basically the quality or process that was thought to make the non-living into living. It was, and here is an irony worth pausing upon, the proposed mechanism that explained why there was 'life' or 'not life'. It was the asserted or claimed mechanism for biology and living systems.

So despite many still believing that something like a soul might exist, no one on the planet has actually found evidence of such a phenomena but, importantly, this is where we need to stop and dissect the issue a little more else we will assume that people are being told that they have to stop believing in something like a spirit, a soul or any of a thousand other forms of supernatural belief.

No middle ground

One responder to the question simply said "What do you call people in the middle of the spectrum between astronomy and astrology? The point being of course that there is no middle between explanations since found to be false (technically superseded) and explanations which actually do work. Imagine measuring the success of Usain Bolt by constantly referring back to the guy who came last, or suggesting 5th place (middle) were both just as 'winning' as first place.

In physics, Newton broke through a conceptual barrier with the theory (the explanation for why his observations worked) that gravity was an attractive force. Einstein came along and leaped out of the conceptual box again and now we understand that a theory which uses a 'magical attractive force' to explain gravity isn't as good an explanation as that mass distorts the geometry of space/time. The FACT is that the explanation is better. The FACT is that vitalism only explained things when the human understanding of biology was 'naive'. To understand 'vitalism' listen to a child explain how living things work - that is as far as we could get when we knew almost nothing about the natural world (circa 1800).

Another way to think of vitalism is that it's one of thousands of labels for our ignorance. Instead of saying "I don't know" we say "that must be what vitalism is" in which case we fool ourselves into believing that we just understood something whereas we have just reinforced a childlike view of the natural world.

Similarly there is no legitimate 'middle' between a flat OR spherical earth, we know it's one and not the other at all. There is no halfway, or 'box', between preformationism and what's really inside a sperm. Preformationism was the theory, plausible at a time when we knew very little about biology, that humans grew from fully formed miniatures housed inside the sperm. If you think about it (and try to strip away what we do know about cellular biology) it actually appears as though a 'miniature' human just 'inflates' inside the mother, pops out and keeps increasing in size. We simply found that this didn't explain anything once we could actually see inside a cell. What clearly happened was that preformationism wasn't anything at all except an idea which was wrong.

Preformation - It seemed perfectly logical to assume that within each sperm was a fully formed human which expanded as it grew. It was never found. So can it still be there but we can't measure it "yet"?

Always "not yet"

I've been in quite a few conversations with vitalists and they will often say "Ok, I know we can't measure it yet" but they appear unaware that there is no 'it' to measure. Perhaps 'it's' something else entirely. On the balance of probabilities we will continue to discover more about how the universe naturally works. (which immediately means it's natural not supernatural (since we can't ever seem to find anything supernatural)).

The most that can be said about the supernatural is that it's a popular word for things no one can seem to verify. Anything we have no evidence for might be called supernatural. Santa is technically supernatural but of course we accept it as myth. Similarly, devoted Muslims don't run about praying to the Greek pantheon of supernatural beings just their own. To them (and every other devotee of another faith) all the other faiths are myth. It all becomes absurd. Confine this to personal belief and not much trouble occurs but inject it into a profession and the sky falls.

The list of discarded or superseded theories is long and full of concepts we didn't see then discard, they were simply wrong, never found, and now populate the history of mistakes. Vitalists can never actually agree on what it is they're talking about except to agree that they'll keep assuming it means something else which can't be measured "yet". It's also why discussing vitalism with someone who doesn't want to understand it's history will prefer to be perplexed, exchanging that natural sense of awe and wonder we all experience for it's facsimile, ignorance itself. They will use awe and wonder (which is our basic human ignorance (not a bad thing)) to reassert their own need to pretend that vitalism is an explanation.

That has quite serious consequences as it simply becomes a reason to stop thinking.

Flogging a Dead Horse

People have invented 'neo-vitalism' more recently in an attempt to reinvigorate or bring back to life something which never worked in the first place. 'Neo' is attached to 'emergence' and even 'quantum mechanics' but in all cases it's assumed to still be there, as yet unmeasured. That sounds slightly plausible and 'open-minded' until we realise that we can't yet measure anything we can't measure but we can claim we can't measure anything! We can make anything up and assert or claim that it's there but we can't measure it yet. Dragons, gods, ghosts, magic teapots, anything, yet!

Mechanisms - Understanding or Incomprehension?

Other complex physical processes (often termed mechanisms or mechanistic) were found but let's remind ourselves again that vitalism WAS a purported mechanism. The most that can be said for vitalism comes from dualism (the very real sense or feeling that 'me' or 'I' is somehow different from 'my body') but even that is explained rather well via the mechanisms of neuroscience and evolution (more on that below). The mind evolved with the quality of imagination. It is possible to imagine being in two places, imagine what might be around the corner or imagine that someone is in your house, but that is a real process inside the brain not the actual ability to project consciousness across a room. Dualism and cognitive neuroscience is a whole other discussion, I mention it here to demonstrate, again, that vitalism as a mechanism never helped explain anything at all.

Epistemology - The thinking behind beliefs.

Having once seriously believed in something like vitalism I understand how compelling the notion is. Just imagine being able to use The Force, because as ridiculous as that sounds the philosophy (the thinking) behind behind every supernatural belief out there is fundamentally the same type of epistemology, that something I can imagine is also felt to be real (that's how the mind works). What we can imagine can be real but a mind does not readily distinguish between real/not real. Intuition only feels that what we imagine is true by default. This is how all beliefs are initially generated and we also know that as far as understanding complex things (like biology (and generally everything really)) intuition is not reliable, it just feels very reliable. it also reminds us that ethics, the sense that we better check our guess (for the benefit of others) against reason and evidence is essential for professionals.

Vitalism simply never explained any part of biology however, the founder, DD Palmer, was a spiritualist who believed that the teachings of chiropractic were given to him from the "other world". His hypothesis was that subluxations interrupted the communication between 'god' and 'soul' (Universal and Innate) via the nervous system. The neurological system is, of course, biology, so vitalism doesn't explain it, evolution via natural selection (which is biological theory) does. In fact if you replace any legitimate theory with 'false explanation' you'll get incomprehension. Again think back to preformationism and ask yourself how that would play out in science and health care today (if all professionals used preference as the chief epistemology in their decision making)?


Vitalism shares an uncomfortable relationship with creationism, the move by religious fundamentalism in the USA to inject the teaching of biblical genesis into public education. When early efforts to do this were blocked by the Supreme court, creationists manufactured 'Intelligent Design', called it a 'theory' and popularised an invention by the Tobacco Industry in 1979 to teach 'The Controversy' to combat the "body of fact" within the minds of the public (basically sow confusion when explanation was required in order to avoid the actual explanation and protect the preferred version/sales). We now see this played out in US politics and the re-emergence of fundamentalism and blatant church state boundary crossing into education and politics. Think 'Alternative facts'.

'Mechanism' is never a valid criticism

Mechanism as a philosophical opposite to vitalism is a red herring, a decoy, a non argument. Creationism/Vitalism repeats the same false dichotomy, and error of reasoning, that any issue ONLY has two possible outcomes. In this case it is that you MUST choose either vitalism OR mechanism. The first is generally associated with being open minded, inclusive, loving, kind, etc, while the later is dismissed as 'reductionistic', limiting, dehumanizing, etc. Again, there are valid points if the discussion is well played out but as presented it's worthless rhetoric, as valid as listening to the worst political monologue. 

These days I'm technically an 'atheist' (don't believe in a god concept) however I was a Buddhist for 12 years (which is technically a-theist) so what did it mean? First of all it meant I was remarkably arrogant. I found theistic explanations of the supernatural to be wrong but was quite happy to embrace other explanations which, although more sophisticated, were just as 'not actually there'. These days I'm quite happy to defend the useful aspects of religious traditions as well as criticise the downright dangerous aspects. If you allow your mind to fall victim to a false dilemma/dichotomy you wont be able to think too much about anything just the old 'whose side' do I take schtick.

This is reflected in the first big opposition movements to the teaching of evolution last century when Darwinism was accused of being immoral and dehumanising despite the fact that critics had never bothered to comprehend it in the first place (the same has always occurred when facts clashed with theology). People of all persuasions, used to the supposed sanctity of faith, simply were not used to such an obvious 'assault' on their scripture by basic facts, in this case (natural selection) a fact of astounding philosophical import - that humans were another species of animal and there didn't appear to be any one's version of a god present in the process. Not even Buddha or Vishnu or a thousand other revelations seemed invited either but all faiths fumed in unison and ran about trying to manage the problem. They were all wrong again, no one had asked their permission to have their traditions down graded and by gum the legitimate authorities of a million disparate celestial dictatorships had to be reasserted no matter what.

It didn't help that people such as HL Mencken (who was 'anti-religion' and probably anti-Semitic as well) spread the dogma that evolution meant we were all just savages who had to forget about the 'weak' in order to prosper - that shit has nothing to do with the theory of evolution or science or mechanism or philosophy at all. It only has to do with human nature and our ability to be selfish, narrow minded, poo flinging apes when there's also an opportunity to create art, literature, science and philosophy. 

It's just true -M'kay?

Basically, both 'Vitalism' and 'Creationism' contend that their explanation is true, M'kay?, and simply don't care that only 0.05% of biologists in the USA accept Creationism as a 'theory' (because they are creationists) while 99.85% do not (and many of those are also religious). But if your self image/identity as a professional is sold as being dependent upon an essentially faith based position we have both philosophical, scientific and significant professional issues because while it's fine for ME to believe whatever, in my own mind, in my own home, I can't just waltz into my office, with the responsibility to others, and claim that science or philosophy proves that my adjustments allow Jesus, or whatever explanation I prefer, to flow about the body chomping up bad things. That's the 'chiropractic philosophy' we can all do without.

Are Vitalists, Vitalists? OR Please shit on my floor OR Silence is Consent.

I find that most who like the idea of vitalism are actually drawn to holism and humanism which have nothing directly to do with faith based beliefs. Humanism (that individuals deserve rights or a 'say') was a response against centralised theocracy (god based governments). That point of confusion (The Incessant 'Controversy') is used by people such as Billy DeMoss, organiser of Caljam 2017 'The Love Tour'. Caljam has hosted some of the planets dizziest conspiracy theorists and they have zero room for anything approaching discussion, scrutiny, disagreement or objectivity. Those who constantly preach the greatest love generally display the worst passive aggressive tendencies (you do get this sort of thing in other industries by the way so don't think it's just chiropractic. I say that as reassurance to you not as an excuse for us or anyone else). Billy's latest offering, posted up on YouTube was titled 'Nazi Vaccine Regime' in Australia. Pure crazy. Apparently vaccination is "Satan's Work" (yes he did say that!) and apparently this demonstrates the level of 'love' held by Principled Vitalistic ChiropracTORs. Something to reflect on. So when anyone insists that everyone, regardless of their behaviour, should be offered a due respect I say bugger off. If a person defecates on your floor you don't say "Oh, goodness, perhaps you'd prefer the living room?"

So note particularly those who say they disapprove (the 'moderate vitalist') of the 'Billy's' but never publicly call for their de-registration. Such types will hold up a banner of 'Individual rights' and never reflect on the fact that they are basically saying 'rights' means sitting on a fence with your 'freedom' banner while people have the right to lie through their teeth and defraud and intellectually disable a population. That is not any right but the right to leverage stupidity and danger. Simple solution - make a stand. Silence is just consent.

The 'innocent bystander' is not a protection for a professional. If you don't want to get involved that's fine but don't expect to be able to 'preach' love or reason while others get run over. That level of dumb will be pointed out pretty quickly. If it does happen then the best approach is to remember that this is why we bother creating these types of groups, because we are responsible for others. I often use the example of teaching children to safely cross a road and another was my younger self learning how to use guns. One day I showed my Aunt how to check the barrel of a rifle by looking down the sharp end (I'd taken 'lessons' from a movie I think, much like an 'education' from Sherman College). My 'freedom' to express myself was met with a slap over the head and "Don't ever do that again!". I was ashamed and hurt (the whole family was watching). My Aunt said "Don't ever check a gun like that!" 

It seems like a ridiculous example but it's ethically very sound. We are responsible to others - Vitalists will argue that the bullet can come out sideways or backwards or invisibly. (Note that 'subluxations' are discussed like this as well because faith never wants to be bothered with facts). They want the freedom to tell the public, that the public has the right to choose whatever their version is, etc. That's how stupid and unethical vitalism has become.

The reason we don't speak up is that most humans avoid trouble, naturally. We are easily indoctrinated into believing that a chiropractor just has to be kind of 'vitalistic', and are told that a strong profession must band together in UNITY. Policing unprofessionalism has fallen directly on those who choose to speak up because, again, our job is to protect the public good, not use this profession or science or philosophy as a personal platform for faith. We are bound by codes of ethics not personal satisfaction.

Here's another irony - vitalists will argue that criticism only comes from 'outside', from medicine, etc and that 'good' chiropractors must always support each other. It's bullshit. Much of our professions problem is that we are not seen to effectively self regulate. When colleagues go 'rogue' we stay silent, the tribe demands wagon circling, and that is professionally disastrous. The public sees us covering up and not acting in a manner they expect from 'experts' so this inward looking stance simply backfires on us.

If you end up swallowing Vitalism as anything like an explanation for biology or clinical reasoning or ethics this is precisely the level of thinking you'll have to adopt. Any supernatural or paranormal explanation as either science or serious philosophy requires you to STOP thinking because none of those claims can be investigated to begin with, therefore any 'evidence' or 'proof' is distortion or just personal opinion, pure conspiracy, not science or philosophy and certainly not professionalism.

If you are religious and have taken immediate offence, or if this all appears rather too 'heavy' then don't worry too much. It's all easy to ignore but I'd offer this. You can ignore it in your personal life just not inside a profession. In that sense the Tribe has spoken. We have no right to mess around with the facts and pretend that 'evidence based' is just a matter of preference, politics or personal faith.

Scientia est potentia - Knowledge is power.


Douglas Scown