Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Chiropractic: The Exception Does Not Justify the Rule

Chiropractic: The Exception Does Not Justify the Rule

In chiropractic, logic is often twisted to make things mean something other than their original intent. Arguments in support of the supposed legitimacy of the chiropractic profession (I'm not talking about spinal manipulation) often use a special spin on a truth, to justify the acceptance, and even protection, of existing nonsense.

We all know what the phrase "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater" means. It implies that something of great worth may have become dirty, but that fact doesn't make it any less worthwhile. It's just the crap that needs to be washed off of all babies every day. The baby is still a wonderful little person with great potential. Keep the baby, and throw out the dirty bathwater.

We also use another phrase "The exception confirms the rule".

Here's a good explanation:

"The true origin of the phrase lies in a medieval Latin legal principle: exceptio probat regulam in casibus non exceptis, which may be translated as "the exception confirms the rule in the cases not excepted".

Let us say that you drive down a street somewhere and find a notice which says "Parking prohibited on Sundays". You may reasonably infer from this that parking is allowed on the other six days of the week. A sign on a museum door which says "Entry free today" leads to the implication that entry is not free on other days (unless it's a marketing ploy like the never-ending sales that some stores have, but let's not get sidetracked). H W Fowler gave an example from his wartime experience: "Special leave is given for men to be out of barracks tonight until 11pm", which implies a rule that in other cases men must be in barracks before that time. So, in its strict sense, the principle is arguing that the existence of an allowed exception to a rule reaffirms the existence of the rule." - source

Chiropractors of all kinds, including reformers, often use a specious argument that would legitimize inclusion of chiropractic in the healthcare and educational systems, such as the attempt at Florida State University (FSU).

They (correctly) claim that there exist a few chiropractors who are sensible, ethical, and skilled, and who help a lot of people with their aching backs, among other problems in the neuromusculoskeletal system.

Does the existence of these exceptional chiropractors justify keeping the dirty bathwater? Of course not.

Does the fact that they help many people justify the existence and acceptance of chiropractic as a profession? No.

-- The exception does not justify the rule.

The rule is that the majority of chiropractors believe and practice various forms of nonsensical, unscientific, and unethical ideas and practices. Even though many of them may have good motives, that doesn't justify them in doing what they were taught in their schools and in their postgraduate courses. It doesn't cease to be nonsensical, unscientific, and unethical just because they have good motives.

It is also claimed that a few chiropractic schools do not emphasize the chiropractic subluxation and chiropractic philosophy.

Even if this were true - and it can certainly be questioned - does it justify the existence and acceptance of normal chiropractic education as carried on in all the other schools? No.

-- The exception does not justify the rule.

The rule is that all chiropractic schools teach and/or tolerate various forms of pseudoscientific and unscientific ideas, the most notorious of which is the nonexistent and metaphysical "chiropractic subluxation".

Even if some of them might not place much emphasis on it, it is still the very foundation of the profession, and an education to become a chiropractor is predicated on this foundational principle. Without it there is no excuse for chiropractic.

We're not dealing with a valuable baby here. We're dealing with a fiction disguised as a baby, a fiction that dissolves into so much crap when bathed in the light of scientific scrutiny.

The few upright chiropractors who are aware of the situation are struggling to keep their heads above the dirty bathwater. They would do well to leave the mess of a profession and find a more honorable way to use their talents. They are too good for the profession, and it doesn't deserve them. Their reputation will always be tainted by their association with it.

I can understand why some chiropractors consider the DC degree to be "the herpes of all degrees." It is even such a hindrance to them in attempting to get other educations and jobs, that they hide the fact that they have been chiropractors. These are honest people who are suffering because of "the 95% who make the 5% look bad."

No real need for chiropractors

No one ever really needs to go to a chiropractor. They are not the only choice. That which they can actually treat with some effect, can be treated by other professions, and the rest of what they promise to do (the prevention or treatment of organic disease conditions, or the improvement of general health) they can't. These conditions can best be addressed by the scientifically oriented professionals they so bitterly oppose, who are MDs and PTs.

People with backaches and other neuromusculoskeletal disorders should first see their MD, and then some of them should be treated by PTs; while those with organic illness need to be treated by MDs. Neither group needs to see a chiropractor.

When the dirty bathwater in the chiropractic bathtub gets thrown out, the baby that's left in the tub is what PTs already do in cooperation with MDs.

In an attempt to ignore the elephant filling their living room, chiropractors often attempt to move the focus of discussion away from the quackery so pervasive in their profession, to manipulation as a technique. They say that one shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

I once wrote this comment:

"IMHO, NACM-minded DCs need to abandon the old "ship" completely and find another name for their new "ship"."

To which a reform-minded chiropractor responded:

"They can't... it's already called 'physical therapy.' In fact, PTs represent perhaps the greatest potential threat to 'chiropractic' and chiropractors that I can think of (besides insight, that is). If they as a group ever decided to 'embrace' manipulative therapy by adding to their baseline requirements for graduation, after the battle-dust between the professions cleared, there would be no requirement for a separate profession called 'chiropractic.' IOW, whatever it is that chiropractors CLAIM is valid biomedically about what they do, the so-called (and much overrated) 'baby' in chiropractic's turbid bath-water, would ALREADY be a part of what physical therapists could offer. And that, as they say, would be that.

But, this is wishful thinking on _my_ part ;')".

I couldn't have said it better.

I think he's right. I still support all attempts to reform the profession, but I also think that it is ultimately futile effort. What such reform attempts can do positively is to make the public and susceptible chiropractors and students aware of the dangers and pitfalls of association with this misfit of a so-called "profession". Attempts at reform should be seen as a rescue mission, not for the profession, but for those in danger of being tricked into accepting it.

Chiropractic degrades manipulation

The only legitimate baby in the bathwater is spinal manipulation, and chiropractic is dirtying the water. Throw chiropractic away, clean manipulation of all the contamination associated with it, and then place manipulation in its proper and limited place. It does seem to have some value as just one of the many techniques available to PTs in the treatment of neuromusculoskeletal problems. There is no need for a whole profession dedicated to manipulation.

Chiropractic, as a profession, has no justification for its existence. It has always been a nuisance and the credibility of the profession has been tarnished right from the start. It is beyond saving.

Political maneuvering is something the chiropractic profession has become eminently experienced at, and therefore it is not to be trusted. In reality, mass marketing and political maneuvering are the major reasons, some would say the only reasons (the cultish mentality that some chiropractic patients often have, is another reason.) that chiropractic has survived. It is an unnecessary, unneeded profession, that acts more like a business. The unholy combination of belief, cultism, power, and money brings to mind similarities to Scientology.

In fact, chiropractic is to science, what Scientology is to religion.
It is just as much a pseudoscience, as Scientology is a pseudoreligion.

So far, the profession has side-stepped approved methods of seeking acceptance, having taken advantage of the fact that non medically-versed legislators can easily be pressured into enacting laws that ignore the existing, problematic differences. Thus politicians have been duped into enacting laws that fly in the face of reason, scientific thinking, and facts, thus creating confusion in the health care system, as well as with the public. Pressure, popularity, and votes - not reason and truth - have decided the issues.

Now it is attempting to sneak into the university system, without first having shown in any way that it can reform what is already going on. If it actually did reform what was going on, it would become apparent that there is nothing worth saving, and ideally the profession would simply shrivel up and die. Of course it won't, since the remaining chiropractors will continue to practice their nonsense on brainwashed patients.

Quackery will likely always exist (just like homeopathy), and the Florida State University system shouldn't help it. Establishing such a program will only make it harder to combat and eliminate quackery within chiropractic.

In fact, since chiropractic is the flagship of healthcare quackery, it will make it harder to combat all forms of quackery.

The profession and its schools need to be contained, controlled, and pressure applied for change within the existing system. Establishing a new, university-based, school will function as a pressure relief valve, lessening the profession's motivation to reform.

They will point to it as an example of acceptance being possible without any changes being made.

It would be similar to releasing convicted felons from prison before they have served out their sentence, and without any evidence of "good conduct". They should only be freed from prison after they have shown evidence of good conduct, and provided evidence that they will not go back to their former profession after being released from prison.

Likewise, chiropractic should only be freed from pressure when it has shown convincing evidence of good conduct, and provided evidence that it will not "go back to its former profession" after being released from pressure. Since there won't be anything worth saving once it has reformed, it should close shop.

Whenever chiropractic argues for acceptance, remember:

The exception does not justify the rule!



For more about the FSU chiro school scandal

Why the FSU Chiropractic School Shouldn't Happen

Chiropractic: The Exception Does Not Justify the Rule

No justification for the existence of chiropractic

So many questions....about FSU chiropractic school

Are Chiropractors "Back Doctors"?

School could prove -- or dispel -- claims: Annotated - Greg Smith, MD

FSU chiropractic school DEFEATED!

Other chiroskeptical resources



Chirotalk(SM): The Skeptical Chiropractic Discussion Forum

Chiropractic Index

Bonus material

D.D. Palmer's religion of Chiropractic - D.D. Palmer

Spin Doctors I: The Interactive Investigation - Paul Benedetti and Wayne MacPhail

Spin Doctors II: Manipulating Children - Paul Benedetti and Wayne MacPhail

Keeping Your Spine In Line - PBS

Adjusting the Joints - PBS

Adjusting the Joints: Video - PBS
Go to the "Adjusting the Joints" section. Then turn on your speakers and watch the video.