Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Political Dogwhistles

Perhaps I should lead off by admitting that I am a conservative voter, albeit I sit just to the right of centre, as did my father. And at my age of 55 years I have to say that I have accepted the fact that I am almost a clone of him. I should also add that that is not at all a bad thing. He was one of a small group who lobbied for and implemented the pharmaceutical benefits scheme that allowed the poor and relatively so to gain access to medications they could not otherwise have. He also led a negotiating committee for over 10 years which finally succeeded in getting back the money that government stole from his profession. And it was his colleague who, at my fathers funeral, could not help but quote a line from a speech he gave at the Guilds most well attended AGM post fiasco.

"Government does not alter agreements honorably entered into. It simply abandons them."

For what it was worth, he'd said to me in private, it was a message that had to be delivered to those representatives of government he'd made sure were occupying the front tables at that AGM. He didn't suspect it would alter any future similar behavior but it was, he thought, a necessary comment about a lamentable display of human stupidity and deceit. Which brings me to the new Prime Minister and an article penned by Greg Sheridan, The Australian Newspaper senior editor and, they always have to point out, another enamoured with his own and the PMs belief and surety in Big Daddy. Their belief in a god concept rather belittles the position they hold. They do not only believe in it (as in the concept), they are convinced that what they cannot see nor touch nor objectively verify in any way at all is necessarily going to be the very belief that powers the parties 'values' and everyone else's by default. And what value is there in a belief that one is the pet of a being which is the cause, meaning and solution to all things everywhere? What is the problem with that?

Philosophy has the word epistemology which concerns not beliefs themselves, but how one manges to establish, or move, one's beliefs to the position of knowledge. Anyone making a decision about anything is using some type of epistemology or method whereby they arrange or glue together an idea, argument or belief. But can all methods help us build reliable knowledge? No they bloody well can't. If we assume to know that any supernatural concept is a description of reality it is to say precisely this - When it all boils down, we can only make the claim to know a god exists (and all of the other claims thereby attached) by merely pretending to know it does. Dressing that belief in rhetoric, metaphor and appeals to each and every logical fallacy can't move it any further than pure personal belief.

And yet no one, even the devout, actually uses faith to perform any constructive task, certainly not those we expect to be used to run a country, education, infrastructure or anything else such as keeping people alive. If faith is so demonstrably efficacious as a method of knowing something and therefore the only worthy foundation of 'values' or 'freedom' then let's put our courage into our convictions. Stand at the side of the road with your children and offer them this - dear one whom I value, and whose freedoms I respect the most, you have the choice to cross the road using an objective epistemology (look, listen, check) or you can practice your faith, close your eyes, call upon the power of the (insert whichever magical or protector friend is of your choosing) and step out into.. If we value injury, death and credulity then sure, use faith as epistemology and sell it to a secular society. If faith is hope or trust in things not yet seen then it's wise, surely, to cross a road hoping that it's safe without needing to know or pretending you do. These 'values' and 'freedoms' would argue that reason expects a child (and perhaps an entire country) to run blindfolded across a street. I'd asked my father why he was no longer so religious (he died a deist). "I asked too many questions. They didn't like that."

And this is what, along with an already natural tendency to deceive and to pulp agreements, to discard ethics altogether, can only be expanded and inflated when injected with the ramblings of men and women who believe they KNOW the all of everything but can't demonstrate any of it. It is to steal valour not earn it. There is no greater expression of a Dunning-Kruger mindset than to turn ones own ignorance into a virtue. Faith does work! There is no other means by which an individual can make oneself feel good, feel ethical and feel knowledgeable without the special need to be any of the three. Because need we remind anyone that in the Pentecostal tradition, ultimately and with what must be the ultimate value and freedom, one can do whatever one wishes provided they remember to get 'saved', eventually, and that hell is reduced to the crime of thought, or lack of belief. How is this a reliable or even a sane intellectual platform for government? Sheridan extols the virtues of the Pentecostal, therefore the faith healer and the speaker of tongues. Then why not use such credulity in parliament (and science, engineering and the health care system)?!

The religious have more than enough freedom in this sort of egalitarian country of ours. Try (go on, test it out!) being born again in 13 other countries and you'll experience a complete lack of freedom, of liberty and your life. But in this country anyone can pray to any variety of imagined beings or phantoms in their own time, without the burden of tax, perhaps even while crossing the street, with eyes wide open of course. So to hear the incessantly vague 'values' and 'freedoms' from people unable to investigate the flaws in their own epistemology, to see grown men in positions of power, not only unable but quite unwilling to think clearly and to indulge in 'values' held together by wonder tissue tends to make thinking people a little uneasy. It is the edge of the same theocracies all secular nations attempted to avoid. It is nothing but pretense dressed as piety, if there is such a difference. There is a division between states and churches for a reason - to allow the freedoms of both - one personal and the other social. One purely speculative the other objective, if possible (the former renders that impossible). If we are to take Mr Sheridan's argument as sound we should be able to run the country perfectly by doing nothing but praying and believing, from whence all knowledge comes. Until that time, in that other universe somewhere, where facts really don't matter, one would think it reasonable for our politicians to step down off their self awarded and entirely undeserved pulpits. Then, perhaps, we can actually all get to work, together.

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