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

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