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« Based On a True Story? White Noise and EVP The RantsNewdow Refiles Suit in Pledge Case »

Academic Validation of Pseudo-Science Bullshit
2005.01.05 (Wed) 21:33

Hot on the heels of our last Rant about the entertainment and media industries validating bullshit by labelling their fiction as "real phenomena" (read our Rant about the upcoming movie White Noise, and EVP being complete bullshit), something even more harmful came to our attention. From a link provided by Pharyngula to a post by Radagast, we came across an article in The St. Petersburg Times about Florida State University considering the addition of a School of Chiropractics to their university. From the St. Petersburg Times article:

A growing number of professors in the Florida State University College of Medicine are saying they will resign if FSU administrators continue to pursue a proposed chiropractic school.


The threatened resignations - at least seven to date, all from assistant professors who work part time - reflect a belief among many in the medical establishment that chiropractic is a "pseudo-science" that leads to unnecessary and sometimes harmful treatments. Professors are even circulating a parody map of campus that places a fictional Bigfoot Institute, School of Astrology and Crop Circle Simulation Laboratory near a future chiropractic school.


In recent weeks, more than 500 faculty members have signed petitions against the chiropractic school, including about 70 in the medical college...


"It should come as no surprise that no major medical institution in this country, public or private, has embraced chiropractic medicine," wrote Dr. Henry Ho, a Winter Park physician and FSU assistant professor.... "If Florida State University were to do so, its fledgling attempt for credibility as a medical institution of stature would be severely jeopardized."

The parody campus map mentioned in the article is below:

While this map is funny, and while it was meant as a joke to make a point, there could be more truth to it than you might think. Looking over the gallery of departments and buildings, we can see quite a few bullshit fields that are enjoying widespread popularity today — creationism, ESP, astrology, homeopathic medicine, and prayer healing all jump to mind. According to a 2001 Gallup poll, 54% of Americans believe in psychic healing, 50% believe in ESP, and 28% believe in astrology, to name a few, and these figures have mostly been increasing since 1990.

Radagast's post is a well-constructed, insightful dissection of this issue and of chiropractics in general, and is well worth reading. Dr. Boyle over on CodeBlueBlog also has a nice write-up on the potential FSU debacle and chiropractics in general (thanks, PZ, for that link as well).

In addition, we recommend a visit to QuackWatch for a series of posts and articles all related to medical bullshit. Dr. Stephen Barrett, the man behind QuackWatch (and the Chirobase sub-site dedicated to exposing chiropractics as crap), has this to say on the origins of chiropractic "medicine":

Chiropractic theory is rooted in the notions of Daniel David Palmer, a grocer and "magnetic healer" who postulated that the basic cause of disease was interference with the body's nerve supply. Approximately a hundred years ago, he concluded that "A subluxated vertebrae . . . is the cause of 95 percent of all diseases. . . . The other five percent is caused by displaced joints other than those of the vertebral column." He claimed that subluxations interfered with the body's expression of "Innate Intelligence"— the "Soul, Spirit, or Spark of Life" that controlled the healing process. He proposed to remedy the gamut of disease by manipulating or "adjusting" the problem areas.

Over the years, chiropractors have gone beyond Palmer's theories, although some still cling to them for dear life. Some describe subluxations as "bones out of place" and/or "pinched nerves"; some think in terms of "fixations" and/or loss of joint mobility; some occupy a middle ground that includes any or all of these concepts; and a small percentage renounce Palmer's notions as biotheistic nonsense.

Dr. Barrett goes on to debunk subluxations in this particular article, but we think you get the basic idea. The fact that modern chiropractics is based on a flimsy, ridiculous notion like the one above should be enough to make our point, and to make any rational person wonder how FSU could consider adding it to their curriculum.

The Two Percent Company also has a growing section on Medical Quackery in our Score section. We are currently expanding that section, but our view on chiropractics is spelled out in brief:

Chiropractic adjustments are an interesting breed of quackery. While we certainly agree that this form of treatment can improve bone, joint, and muscle issues in a manner similar to physical therapy, the claims around the benefits of chiropractic medicine made by some practitioners are utter bullshit, and the risks are often glossed over. These are the practitioners who claim that up to 95% of ailments can be solved by chiropractic adjustments which affect a "subluxated vertabrae"; an imaginary term coined about a hundred years ago by a grocer/magnetic healer. This particular breed of quack chiropracter claims that adjustments can cure such diverse problems as allergies, high blood pressure, phobias, and a host of other ailments, by adjusting these subluxations. This is simply not true. In addition, any chiropractic adjustment — even one that does not claim to be a medical panacea — comes with the danger of moderate to severe physical injury, or even strokes. Our advice — if your back hurts, go to a physical therapist.

It's bad enough when movies and television endorse these kinds of crap, but for the academic community to jump on the bullshit bandwagon would be a major victory for the pseudo-sciences. This kind of endorsement of chiropractics would serve to promote a system that, at best, is not properly tested for potential benefits or harmful side effects, and at worst could prove dangerous or deadly. Education is the only way that we can keep this country (and this world) ahead of the massive waves of bullshit being aimed at us. If our educational institutions go over to the dark side, what hope do we have?

You can also read our other Rants on the FSU chiropractic proposal.

— • —
To clearly state our position, we do not blindly hate alternative medicine (nor do we blindly hate anything else for that matter). However, we do have a problem when untested, unproven, potentially dangerous practices are set loose on an unsuspecting public without so much as a warning. This can be complicated further when a respected institution endorses such an unproven practice, thereby validating it for people who — wrongly or rightly — count on such institutions to do their homework for them. If and when the scientific method is applied to alternative medicine, the Two Percent Company will be eagerly awaiting the results, and if any tests actually pass muster in their design and execution and prove that some aspect of alternative medicine is effective, we will be here to announce it. Don't hold your breath, though; countless studies have been conducted across numerous fields of alternative medicine, and to date, we haven't seen even one that has both shown a significant positive result and has been conducted using sound scientific methodology.

To this end, we are currently investigating a claim made in December by the NCCAM, one of the institutes that makes up the NIH, that acupuncture can help provide relief for sufferers of osteoarthritis of the knee. We are in the process of looking into this study to understand how it was conducted, and we will report back once we have further information. We haven't seen the details of the study yet, so we have many unanswered questions. Some of these include the use of subcutaneous electrical stimulation, variations on needle placement, and how the results differed based on the length of time the patient has suffered from arthritis. And if this study passes muster, does that mean that chi, yin and yang are real, and that the theory of acupuncture works? No. It means that this particular test worked for this particular ailment, and it means that more study will be needed in order to determine what did cause the target effects, because we know damned well that it wasn't chi.

— • —
[  Filed under: % Bullshit  ]

TrackBack URL for this entry: http://www.twopercentco.com/rants/tpc-trkbk.cgi/25

Comments (4)

% Trackback » 2005.01.06 (Thu) 04:59
"More on FSU Chiropractic" from Rhosgobel: Radagast's Home

I've found more information relating to the proposed FSU chiropractic school since I wrote my first post on the topic, and thought I'd share the wealth: [More]

% Trackback » 2005.01.06 (Thu) 16:05
"A Call To Arms --" from CodeBlueBlog

TITLE: A Call To Arms -- URL: http://codeblueblog.blogs.com/codeblueblog/2005/01/a_call_to_arms_.html IP: BLOG NAME: CodeBlueBlog DATE: 01/06/2005 04:05:57 PM [More]

The Two Percent Company, 2005.01.06 (Thu) 23:53 [Link] »

Here's a quick recap of solid links concerning this issue from other blogs, posts, trackbacks, etc.:

Rhosgobel: Radagast's Home
% FSU Chiropractic?
% More On FSU Chiropractic

% Remember The Seminole! FSU Docs Take a Stand Against Kook Medicine
% A Call To Arms

% FSU blog pretty much dedicated to this issue

Chirobase (a subsite of Quackwatch)
% General quackery information on chiropractics
% Chirobase Article on FSU

% Chiroquackery

william Curry, 2005.01.17 (Mon) 03:20 [Link] »

Please continue to read your oft-cited quackwatch site, and take a long hard look at the article revolving around "what a rational chiropractor can do". Remove the fringe elements from our profession, refine our methods, and continue research.....this is the goal of a chriropractic degree at FSU. Indeed, for you medical types, this must be a bit of a scare. Enjly the board vote on the 27th.

The Two Percent Company, 2005.01.17 (Mon) 17:06 [Link] »

William —

Thanks very much for your comments; we are always open to hearing others' opinions on any of the numerous issues we tackle.

As you noted, we often cite Quackwatch. In the article you mention, there is a section entitled "Tips on Choosing a Chiropractor," which says, in part:

If you decide to consult a chiropractor, try to find one whose practice is limited to conservative treatment of musculoskeletal problems.... If the chiropractor claims to treat infections or a wide range of other diseases, look elsewhere.

And this addresses one of our primary concerns with chiropractic. We "medical types" (an interesting assumption on your part; apparently, you didn't bother to read anything on our site other than this Rant) are concerned with fraudulent claims made by members of a profession ostensibly dedicated to health care. You say:

Remove the fringe elements from our profession, refine our methods, and continue research.....this is the goal of a chriropractic degree at FSU.

Refine your methods? Continue research? Perhaps your methods and research should be up to snuff, scientifically, before being validated by a curriculum at an accredited university.

It also seems odd to us that what you seem to call the "fringe elements" are, in fact, the practitioners of chiropractic as it was conceived by Daniel David Palmer about a century ago. As Quackwatch's sister site, Chirobase, mentions:

[Palmer] concluded that "A subluxated vertebrae . . . is the cause of 95 percent of all diseases. . . . The other five percent is caused by displaced joints other than those of the vertebral column."

Ninety-five percent of all diseases, Palmer says, are caused by "a subluxated vertebrae" (we won't even bother to comment on his confusion between the singular and plural, or the fact that "subluxated" doesn't even seem to be a real word). We didn't make this up. Chirobase didn't make this up. Palmer himself concluded this in his The Science, Art and Philosophy of Chiropractic (1910). And this is the foundation of chiropractic that encourages many practitioners today to claim that they can pretty much cure anything. Chirobase does mention that...

Over the years, chiropractors have gone beyond Palmer's theories, although some still cling to them for dear life. Some describe subluxations as "bones out of place" and/or "pinched nerves"; some think in terms of "fixations" and/or loss of joint mobility; some occupy a middle ground that includes any or all of these concepts; and a small percentage renounce Palmer's notions as biotheistic nonsense.

[our emphasis]

So a very few chiropractors have admitted that the "cure-all" aspect of chiropractic is bullshit. Hey, we applaud them, and you, if you're one of them; but we still don't think it's a good idea to validate the many chiropractors who claim that they possess the ultimate cure to everything, just to offer a little ego boost to those chiropractors who understand the real limits of their knowledge and skills.

That's one thing this controversy seems to be about, honestly — the ego boost that comes along with the title of "doctor," and the public perception of what that title means.

Back in middle school, we had a teacher who held a doctorate degree — we naturally called him "Doctor K." At the gym where we work out, they have a chiropractor on staff — he calls himself (as it says on the window of his office) "Doctor G." The difference here is that, with our teacher, we had no confusion as to whether he could cure us of illness or disease — he wasn't that kind of doctor, and nobody thought he was. However, there is a tremendous expectation — on the part of the public — of anyone in the health care (or fitness) industry who claims the title of "doctor."

Dr. G. earned himself a bachelor's degree, and then an education in chiropractic. At no point has he earned a medical degree. The general public, unfortunately, would not be aware of this distinction, despite the controversy it has created within the health care industry. Because of this, it simply amounts to deception when Dr. G. calls himself "doctor" — because he works in health care, but does not have the knowledge or skills that the layman expects of someone with that title. (A competent medical specialist, such as a gastroenterologist, may not have "all" of the knowledge and skills that a layman expects of a "doctor" — but he does have all the medical knowledge and skills expected of his specialty.)

What kind of education does a chiropractor receive? As Chirobase points out, chiropractic schools are approved "by the two national chiropractic associations; none of the chiropractic schools is accredited by any recognized educational accrediting agency in the United States."

a definition of "spurious" degrees was obtained from the Office of Education of the US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. In "Academic Degrees," a publication of that Department, more than 2,400 academic degrees are listed. The Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) degree is listed under the heading "spurious." A "spurious" degree is defined by the Office of Education as one purporting to be a legitimate degree, duplicating those given by legitimate institutions, but granted by "diploma mills," or a degree not granted or offered by a legitimate institution, but unique to the granting institution.

So according to chiropractic education logic, the Two Percent Company could claim that nearly all diseases are caused by a "discomfurfalated pituitary gland," and that this can be treated by monotreme therapy; then we could set up a National Organization of Echidnapractors, and open a Two Percent School of Echidnapractic. Some echidnapractors would come to believe that rubbing a spiny anteater on someone's back is just "relaxing" as opposed to "curative," but we would continue to claim that it heals a variety of ailments by fixing your discomfurfalated pituitary gland. We would call ourselves "doctors," since, hey — we're interested in healing people, right? Then, despite a complete lack of scientific proof that attests to the efficacy of echidnapractic, we would push an accredited university to open a College of Echidnapractic in order to validate our profession. As evidence of our competence and validity, we would point to our Doctor of Echidnapractic degrees, which we earned at the Two Percent School of Echidnapractic, which is approved by the National Organization of Echidnapractors...which we founded.

Does this sound silly? Of course it does — but replace all of the echidnapractic terms with chiropractic terms, and you're describing exactly what's going on right now.

Every brand of bullshit has its advocates — from UFO abductees, to Reiki Masters, to palm readers and psychics. They all form their own organizations, which "approve" or "license" their colleagues (usually for money) — and that approval means nothing unless you already believe the legitimacy of that organization's fantastic claims. The beauty of official academia is that the accrediting entities do not have questionable ties to the schools they accredit, and they have defined standards of accreditation which can be objectively tested for and upheld.

There is an element of legitimate physical therapy to chiropractic, at least as it is practiced by honest chiropractors — but if that's what you're interested in, you should get yourself a degree in physical therapy, as offered by innumerable accredited schools (you can even get a doctorate in physical therapy, if you're still hung up on the ego boost you can get from being a "doctor").

Can chiropractors be the good guys? Certainly, provided that their "practice is limited to conservative treatment of musculoskeletal problems," and they don't claim "to treat infections or a wide range of other diseases." Until such claims are withdrawn, however, there is a cloud of flim-flammery that will taint the reputations of all chiropractors.

TimeCube CubicAO, 2006.02.18 (Sat) 04:12 [Link] »

A condensation-ghost came forth.
Imperilled fear condensed and morphed
And shifted. But inside its shell--
Its mask of gaseous molten hell--
There was a ghastly brooding core
Of singularity wanting for
Humanity to be extinct,
And Earth to be a razed precinct.
That's why Time Cube must now be sought.
For as it percolates our thought,
It will dissolve addictions base,
Propelling us to freer space
In which future's commencement's wings
Shall view an abyss of bad things
And turn it all to greater good
A Cubic vision which we should
Seek to achieve. It lies in store:
4-days, Cube-time, and so much more.

— • —

— • —

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