Easy-reading chiropractic libel for young readers

By Phil Plait | December 19, 2009 10:00 am

Crispian Jago may be our single greatest weapon against nonsense that exists when it comes to the public. Why would I say that? Just go and read his brilliant satirical page, "The Ladybird Book of Chiropractic Treatment and English Libel Law".


Incredible. He sets the bar pretty high for himself — he did the Skeptics playing cards (he even made one for me), a homeopathic urine video, and much more. He’s hysterically funny, with a laser-sharp wit. When most of us are grinding our teeth and fuming, he is responding with humor that cuts right through the garbage and exposes the fetid underbelly of antiscience nonsense like chiropractic.

If you liked his Young Readers book, then please Digg it! Help spread the word, and show the world that science cannot be silenced.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Alt-Med, Antiscience, Humor, Skepticism

Comments (61)

  1. PJE

    Excellent write up. Thanks for the link


  3. Johno

    I do a lot of manual work and heavy lifting. For about 10 years I suffered from lower back and hip pain. A friend referred me to another friend of his who was a chiropractor. After about 6 visits over 2 months I was about 50% stronger, or could pick up and comfortably carry about 50% more weight, and the hip problems were almost completely cured. You may say this is only anecdotal evidence, but I’m not going to deliberately injure myself to test the usefulness of chiropractic again. In my experience, it just works.

  4. “…. show the world that science cannot be silenced.”

    Silenced? Science? Whatever are you talking about? Science is heard everywhere. These other items just babble along on the edges. I realize that you might think Science should not just massively dominate the conversation but be the only conversation but don’t be so quick to whip out the crying towel.

  5. vanderleun, he is reacting to the specific instances in the UK where Dr. Singh was getting sued by chiros who said chiro could cure all sorts of non musculo-skeletal issues. Hence they were trying to SILENCE him and science.

  6. HP

    Johno, the real question is, are you still colicky?

  7. Johno,

    My take on chiropractors is that they have ONE area where they clearly do good: Lower back pain. It’s the ones who claim to be able to cure other ailments and diseases that we’re criticizing here…

  8. NewEnglandBob

    Exactly correct, Jim Seymour.

    Years ago, I had pain in my neck and went to a chiropractor who manipulated my neck over a couple of months which then resulted in excruciating pain. I had it looked at by a real doctor who took X-rays and found that the disk between 2 vertebrae was disintegrated and the disks were impinging on the spinal column nerve. The fix was an operation to clear out the disintegration, clean up the spurs and fuse the vertebrae. The idiot chiropractor would have had me coming for manipulations that would have eventually crippled me and led to loss of control of bladder and bowels. Chiropractic is mostly a joke. My wife’s brother is one and I tell him all the time that he is a quack.

  9. I’m not even sure that chiroquackers are good on back pain. It’s unscientific, but I’ve tried a regimen of Robaxisal with codeine and I’ve tried the chiro… In my experience, there’s no difference in how long it takes the pain to go away, but the Robaxisal is much, much cheaper.

  10. Antice

    A serious chiropracitioner (i hope that is a word) would never even touch a patient who does not clearly have a skeletal problem of the kind that manipulations are able to help fix.
    X-rays is a given as part of a diagnosis prior to having your neck or back manipulated.

  11. Daffy

    Palmer Method chiropractic changed my life after 20 years of chronic, severe low back pain. However, the only way I agreed to let him treat me in the first place was if he said NOTHING to me about bogus claims of curing cancer, asthma, or whatever. Which he did agree to.

    But, for the record, it did clear up my lower back pain and I have been able to keep it under control ever since by doing simple exercises at home that the chiropractor showed me. I have not seen the chiropractor again for over 5 years.

    Anecdotal, but the placebo effect was certainly not the reason it worked—I was completely convinced it would NOT work, and only tried it to shut up a friend who had been hounding me about it.

  12. Nick

    Phil, I think you would do well to distinguish between chiropractors who are selling cure-all woo and chiropractors who are addressing musculo-skeletal issues. While the efficacy of those in the latter category may be up for debate, they’re not out there making claims of miracle cures.

    I went to a chiropractor for the first time a few months ago because my hips were “outta whack” and I was having difficulty sitting. I got a massage and then he did his “adjustment”. I felt much better. He gave me some advice for orthotic soles I might want to try and some exercises I should do. Not once did he mention “subluxations” or any of the other nonsense typically associated with chiropractic.

  13. Jay

    I agree Nick. I’ve had family and friends see a chiropractors for similar problems and they all experienced a great reduction in pain and gains in flexibility, albeit only for short periods (about a month). I don’t believe they can do much more than that.

  14. Buzz Parsec

    Maybe the distinction between chiropractic quacks and “legitimate” chiropractors is not being made by the chiropractors themselves? If the “legitimate” ones don’t want to confused with the woo-peddlers, maybe they should not join the same chiropractic associations, not obtain the same degrees from same chiropractic colleges, and call themselves something else (such as physical therapists or back-pain specialists?)

  15. I agree with Nick and Jay. I had never heard of chiropractors who claim to be able to cure anything other than skeletal and (maybe) muscular pain. And then you come out, time and time again, saying how chiropractics is in the same category as as homeopathy, and I don’t see how.

    I asked you on Twitter a while back, and you never answered, so I’ll ask you again: Can you please explain what’s so bad about chiropractics?

    Thank you.

  16. Alaskana

    My wife claims to benefit greatly from regular chiropractic visits. Her chiropractor does not claim to cure any diseases or push unrelated homeopathic treatments. Of course any chiropractor who makes wild claims of curing diseases should be treated with great scrutiny and should be called out on it. I do know however that there are decent chiropractors out there that do not make these wild claims.

    I know that this is just another anecdotal example, (and it doesn’t prove anything), but the bottom line is that, placebo effect or not, her back/muscles do feel better after her visits and there is some value to that.

  17. gopher65

    Daffy Says:
    But, for the record, it did clear up my lower back pain and I have been able to keep it under control ever since by doing simple exercises at home that the chiropractor showed me. I have not seen the chiropractor again for over 5 years.

    … so, what you’re telling us is that you went to an unlicensed, untrained physiotherapist and they gave you some exercises that reduced your muscle pain? Man, it’s too bad there wasn’t a real, non-quackish, licensed profession that does that kind of thing in a far safer, rigorously studied fashion. Oh wait… there is.

  18. Naomi

    There does seem to be two areas of thought in chiropractic. The decent ones are just for back pain and make no claims about chiro being able to cure cancer or whatever. The ones to stay away from are the ones ranting about subluxations.

    I do think Singh made a mistake in not distinguishing between the two… but I also think he was right in calling out the quack ones, and that the British Chiropractic Association behaved disgracefully by attempting to sue him. So there were mistakes made on both sides – which is fair enough, because they’re only human.

  19. Daffy


    You are assuming facts not in evidence (and being rather rude in the process). I had consulted and been seen by a number of medical doctors—both specialists and G.P.s) for 20 years, to absolutely no avail. The final straw came when they told me the ONLY solution was risky back surgery that had—at best—a 10% chance of relieving all pain. And a 20% chance of making it worse.

    Next time ask me before spouting off; you don’t know me, or anything about my life.

  20. Bad Albert

    There is only one type of chiropractic, the quack type. The anecdotal examples give earlier mean nothing. No one denies some people get better after seeing a chiropractor. The problem is we have no way of knowing if the symptoms would have gone away without treatment now that it is after the fact. The solution therefore is to conduct proper scientific studies. Funny thing, whenever this has been done, it has shown chiropractic has no effect. No surprise there since it is based on unscientific principles. If a chiropractor cures your pain, he’s not using chiropractic to do it. That is what Singh wrote about and that is what BCA is suing about. It is an attempt to silence scientific findings that will discredit its members.

  21. StevoR

    Ah, the ladybird books for kids. I grew up on those and loved them all especially the history, natural history, animal and dinosaur ones. They were the first books I ever read. I’ve still got some of these incl. one on space exploration. :-)

    The satirical takes on them – nice – I’ve read & loved that! (& signed the petition linked at the end too.)

    Except on page 7 I think there’s one blogger they’ve ommitted who should have been there! 😉

  22. StevoR

    PS. I’m looking forward to the Atheists bus signs Ladybird book one too!

  23. Daffy

    Bad Albert,

    Your post is self contradictory. You declare all chiropractors to be quacks, then say you have no way of knowing if symptoms would have gone away anyway. If you have no way of knowing, how can you label them ALL quacks?

    Then you say regarding scientific studies, “Funny thing, whenever this has been done, it has shown chiropractic has no effect.” Really? All studies have shown this? Would you care to provide references to support this? Remember, you said ALL studies.

    I am all for double blind studies about chiropractic and its effectiveness on back pain…but your blanket statements show a bias in the other direction that is equally inappropriate. I do know one thing, standard doctors told me I had to have surgery and that there was NO CHANCE my back pain would ever go away without it.

    To paraphrase Dylan, something is happening here, and we don’t know what it is.

  24. bt

    ….lasers are not sharp; they are burny!

  25. DigitalAxis

    My impression (which may be totally inaccurate, since I have only read posts on the Internet) is that chiropractors are at best unlicensed osteopaths and/or unlicensed physical therapists.

    Following from that, it makes sense that some will actually be good/lucky and capable of curing musculoskeletal problems, especially if the curative techniques they use are similar to what licensed physical therapists and osteopaths use. On the other hand, if their theories on WHY spinal manipulations work are wrong, they will fail when they try to fix something that spinal manipulation can’t actually fix, or when their diagnosis (proceeding from incorrect reasoning) leads them to the wrong (or hopefully only useless) kind of treatment.

    My limited understanding of what chiropractors do suggests to me that the difference between chiropractics and homeopathy are that chiropractic techniques mimic actual medical practices while homeopaths are using techniques that are scientifically impossible. That may be the real difference between their apparent efficacy.

    Put another way, I may have just gotten lucky and come up with the same explanation a more educated person could come up with, but that doesn’t mean the reasoning that led me here was correct.

    Somewhere along the line of what Bad Albert (#21) says, my “good” chiropractor would probably be the type with a degree in Chiropractic and physical therapy, and should only be relied upon for the physical therapy side of things… I think my mother sees (and once sent me) to one of those.

  26. MadScientist

    I’d just like to point out that lasers aren’t sharp. 😛

  27. Joel Saeks

    Firstly Chiropractors are Doctors! The y take the exact same classes as MD’s Anatomy Physiology Microbiology, Pathology, Lab Diagnosis, Physical Assessment, etc. Just as there are good and bad MD’s there are also bad DCs. How many people realize there are no scientific proof of surgeries? Many surgical procedures have no science behind them except anecdotal evidence (patient reports feeling better) Back surgery is 60% ineffective, see how many people who have had back surgery continue to have back pain or have quicker degeneration of the adjacent joints of a fusion.
    Science can be a good thing but it can’t tell you everything . Especially if there is no way to truly study something. There is also the fact that no everything follows what science has supposedly taught. Ask even a MD if they have ever seen a disease hat did not behave like the textbook says. That is where there is a degree of ART in medicine, and if you only fixate on the science you can miss something because it didn’t behave like it was scientifically supposed to.
    Chiropractic works, is safe (with few side effects) and cost much less than surgery. This is not to say there are not times for surgical or drug intervention. A patient with severe spinal stenosis or a thyroid tumor. In my mind there may be far reaching effects of chiropractic as the adjustment does impact the ANS ( the reason eyesight can improve on a Snellan eye chart after an adjustment). Lastly one of the main precepts of Chiropractic is 2 fold one which is missed by a lot MD’s though they are finally jumping on the band wagon is Prevention. How can I help a patient not get sick in the first place as opposed to just dealing with a symptom! And to treat a patient as a Whole looking at the physical aspect of their life the chemical (nutrition, and environmental chemicals , they are exposed to) and the emotional life of a patient. All of these aspect affect a patient and must be addressed to get them better.
    I am not saying that science is wrong to strive for but how many people realize it was only 30 years ago that they figured out how aspirin worked (people took it but no one knew how it worked) of course it also has dangerous side effects; more people die due to use of NSAiD’s yearly than have ever died from Chiropractic in its history.

  28. I posted earlier, but it probably went into the spam bin because I had a few links in it. Here it is without the links:

    It seems pretty certain that the chiropractic notion of subluxations causing problems or disease is a load of codswallop. What has to be established is whether what a chiropractor does can have any benefit. They seem, in practice, to use several techniques to varying degrees, including techniques that are really no more than physiotherapy and first aid. The placebo effect certainly plays a large part as well (you get a consultation in a nice medical-looking office, replete with spine models and with charts and diplomas displayed on the wall, with someone talking sciency language who pays attention to you for an hour or so, does something physical to you and then sends you a fat bill/check at the end). The fact that many chiros claim to be able to treat what are generally self-limiting or cyclical conditions also has to be considered.

    The question is whether the spinal manipulation of the type performed by chiros (usually involving the popping of spinal joints) does – or even can – resolve any problems or cure anything.

    As Bad Albert says, there have been trials of chiropractic and lo and behold, they show no benefit from chiropractic manipulation. Frequently mentioned, the evidence for lower back pain is, at best, minimal and hardly convincing.

    The UK NICE guidance issued earlier this year recommended ‘spinal manipulation’, but this has been taken to mean chiropractic, even though this is not stated by the (hardly unbiased) committee that wrote the guidance. Chiropractors in the UK continue to make claims that are just not supported by the standard of evidence we require in ‘conventional’ medicine. And it is clear that they are making claims that contravene their regulatory body’s Code of Practice. Hence my complaint about 524 chiropractors to the General Chiropractic Council.

    What we have is a situation, where, in the US alone 70,000 chiropractors (expected to rise to 145,000 by 2015) are making a very nice living thank you from chiropractic using a technique that has no credible evidence base, and certainly no scientific base – even after more than a century of being practiced on the paying public.

    Taking a risk-benefit analysis approach, there are some dangers of chiro, particularly when the chiros favourite ‘low amplitude, high velocity’ thrusts to the neck are performed. Since there is no evidence of efficacy, but there are known (if not fully quantified) risks, the risk-benefit analysis does not come down on the side of chiropractic.

  29. Fred

    What amuses me most about ignorance is its absolute insistence on itself in most cases. Had any of you so-called “skeptics” (what a truly ridiculous term) were interested in real learning rather than being “right” you might actually discovere the collective causew of your ignorance

  30. Bad Albert

    When I said all studies, I thought it was obvious I meant all properly done studies. I know you can dig up some studies that show evidence that chiroquacks do some good, but these have been shown to be flawed under closer scrutiny. I’m not going to bother posting any links because they are easy to find with a little searching and have been posted on numerous blogs including this one if I’m not mistaken. It would be better if you could give us one that supports the case of chiropractic and has been accepted by majority of the scientific community. But of course if you could do that, chiropractic would be considered conventional medicine and we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

    As I stated before, your case is not evidence for chiropractic. Maybe you never had any physical damage, maybe you were misdiagnosed by your standard doctor, maybe it was all in your head, maybe you were lying about the whole thing or maybe you really did have a problem and the chiropractor really did cure it. The point is we can’t pass judgement based on testimonials which is all we get from the chiropractic field. Properly designed studies eliminate the subjectivity and personal biases of the testers and patients. Even the British Chiropractic Association can’t come up with anything substantial or I’m sure they would have used that in their response to Singh’s criticism. If, as you say, “something is happening here” proper scientific testing should uncover it. So far, after more than 100 years, they’ve found nothing. That’s why I label all chiropractors, Quacks.

    Chiropractic has gotten more than its fair share of attention. Remember, it was “invented” by a grocery store owner with no scientific background. But then I suppose there is always the chance an uneducated grocer accidently discovered a miraculous healing procedure that contradicts all the things we have learned about human physiology in the last century. Maybe, but do you think something so unlikely is a worthwhile expenditure of our limited research resources?

  31. Fred

    What amuses me most about ignorance is its absolute insistence on itself in most cases. Had any of you so-called “skeptics” (what a truly ridiculous term) been interested in real learning rather than being “right” you might actually discover the collective cause of your ignorance.

    Throughout history, true science has given humanity its greatest breakthroughs. By “true”, I suggest that science must first begin with curiosity and inspiration. Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge”. He said that, I believe, because knowledge is limited and by nature always changing. Most, if not all of the greatest achievements have always begun by questioning current understanding (and were mostly met with your brand of ridicule).

    You bunch of silly skeptics, I challenge you: rather than your stimulus-response, Pavlovian, knee jerk response to something like chiropractic, get curious FIRST. Study the most cutting edge explanations for some of these phenomena (which include things like quantum physics) rather than settling for your tired old mechanistic views. Galileo was nearly executed by the Church because of his theories. Are you so different? Are you still arguing that the sun revolves around the earth?

    Quantum physics will tell you (and prove it mathematically) that we are all basically energy. That homeopathy cannot be explained by the current science indicates a shortcoming in SCIENCE, not homeopathy, chiropractic or other healing arts!

    And all of you that denounce something that you so clearly don’t understand, shame on you. Can you really be that quick to dismiss the hundreds of thousands of patient testimonials from alternative healing arts? And yes, I am referring to much more than back pain. So much more that your tiny little heads would surely explode with indignation if I told you what happened in my office every day of the week.

    Would I like to see research on the more subtle aspects of these arts? Of course. The hundreds of thousands of dollars that it would cost is somewhat prohibitive but I am hopeful that it will happen someday. Those of you that bow down to the alter of the RCT, remember that such studies occur in a vacuum, independent of real life influences. Of course there is a place for such research, but it cannot be viewed as the only standard. How many drugs, approved under RCT standards have been recalled after causing untold death and suffering?

    All I’m suggesting here is that you attempt to open your minds just a little. It’ll only hurt for a minute, I promise.

  32. DigitalAxis

    @Fred 32:

    Quantum Physics and General Relativity tell us that matter and energy are the same and convertible, not that we are ‘energy’. E=gamma mc^2 and all that, plus the results of de Broglie, Heisenberg, Schroedinger…

    Second, we’re not denouncing it because we don’t understand it, we’re denouncing it because it doesn’t work, at least not reliably. There are three traps here:

    One: An inaccurate theory will not always predict the incorrect result; it will however be wrong more of the time than a more accurate theory.

    Two: Confirmation bias. You say there are hundreds of thousands of patient testimonials from alternative healing arts. What about all the counter-testimonials?

    Three: We’re not debating if science can explain HOW these things work; we’re debating if these things WORK. (As an example, when I took a modern physics course in college I recall hearing that modern physics has no conclusive theory on WHY ‘high-temperature’ superconductors work, but it CAN prove that they work).

    Chiropractic makes the claims that it can fix these ailments; therefore science should be able to test if it reliably does. That does involve controlled situations, but that’s to watch for a.) outside factors that might be the true source of effect/lack of effect; b.) noticing all the cases rather than just the ones that worked; and c.) making sure that the results actually meet expectations are actually honest, ie, the person came in with back and shoulder pain, the chiropractor attempted to treat both and then claimed the treatment was successful when only the shoulder pain went away.

    None of that explains why, but all of that should explain whether chiropractic b.) has a reliable effect that c.) is as described and a.) due to the chiropractic treatments. That’s what you want, and if Chiropractics can meet that standard of evidence it’ll be accepted as legitimate even if we don’t know how it works.

    On the other hand, if you want to suggest that ‘mechanistic’ science cannot expect an effect (cures) to proceed from a cause (chiropractic treatment) then you’re claiming no patient should either.

  33. Fred said: “You bunch of silly skeptics, I challenge you: rather than your stimulus-response, Pavlovian, knee jerk response to something like chiropractic, get curious FIRST. Study the most cutting edge explanations for some of these phenomena (which include things like quantum physics)”

    Fred: Instead of the ad homs, show us some explanation that is at least vaguely coherent – whether it invokes quantum physics or not, cutting edge or not. Just something plausible will do.

    Anyway, even if you could come up with something vaguely believable, there is still the tiny problem that there is not a jot of good evidence that chiropractic is effective for any condition.

  34. DigitalAxis

    Correction to my last post: General Relativity proposes an equivalence of MASS and energy; Quantum Mechanics says that matter and energy are both waves and particles at the same time. I believe quantum mechanics also has mass-energy conversion (it shows up in chemistry and nuclear physics) but I won’t say more because I’m out of my field of expertise.

    “c.) making sure that the results actually meet expectations are actually honest” should read “c.) making sure that the results actually meet expectations and are honest”

  35. Fred

    Zeno/DigitalAxis: Fair enough. One of the issues here is that chiropractic was never designed to be a treatment for any ailment whatsoever. Chiropractic is meant to be practiced as a vitalistic healing art. In other words, based on the principle that life is inherently intelligent and that the fullest expression of this intelligence through matter is the chiropractic definition of true health. The intent of a chiropractic adjustment is to remove nervous system interference because the nervous system is considered to be the vehicle through which this life intelligence is transmitted. The chiropractor does not treat a disease at all and any that actually make that claim should me held accountable. Chiropractic simply creates an environment in the body where greater healing is possible.

    While I fully understand that the supposition of this “innate intelligence” is fundamentally unscientific according to RCT standards, it is at the heart of vitalistic thinking. We cannot measure interference in innate intelligence but we CAN measure interference in the nervous system. Such tools as sEMG, Thermography, Heart Rate Variability and others have been available for over a decade. They measure the effects of nerve interference on various body systems. These are reliable and reproduceable high tech tools that can both verify the presence of a NS lesion and its subsequent reduction.

    As for research, I will direct you to one site: http://www.wiseworldseminars.com/nsa/research.html. These studies, while perhaps not perfect, definitely point to some powerful effects and benefits with this particular method of chiropractic, Network Spinal Analysis. Or how about this site for more traditional chiropractic research? http://www.jvsr.com/index.asp.

    No evidence that chiropractic is effective for any condition? Come on. There are thousands of case studies demonstrating chiropractic as at least correlated with the improvement of many conditions. Are these to so casually dismissed?

    Chiropractic as a profession is sadly misdirected. By this I mean that many of this profession have fallen into the back pain model for which, I agree, there is little strong evidence. In a world already full of mechanistic professions, we really didn’t need another one. Many people are embracing vitalistic concepts and chiropractic could be at the forefront of this charge.

    I realize that most of you will find this as incoherent babble. Sorry about that. I suggest that you focus less on empirical evidence and more on results. I see miracles every day in my office that, frankly defy current scientific explanation. Remember I don’t claim to treat any disease. What should I do with all these results? Write them off as coincidence? Tell my patients that the aren’t real? You can keep worshiping clever guys like Crispian Jago if you like but I think cleverness is a poor excuse for ignorance. I may never be able to satisfy his standards but I’ll keep practicing my “magic” anyway. Because it works.

  36. ND

    “That homoeopathy cannot be explained by the current science indicates a shortcoming in SCIENCE, not homoeopathy, chiropractic or other healing arts!”

    You don’t quite need to explain using current scientific knowledge. You have to be able to show good hard evidence that homoeopathy is a real phenomenon. If you can show that out of 2000 people with condition X, group of 1000 who received the homoeopathy showed a measurable improvement over the other 1000 who received just a sugar pill. Of course neither group knows whether they’re getting a sugar pill or the homoeopathic stuff. That’s what people here expect before taking any claim seriously. Not some mumbo jumbo misuse of QM without understanding the science of it.

  37. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Yes. When it’s bad you have to laugh at it.

    If you have no way of knowing, how can you label them ALL quacks?

    This IMO shows a basic misunderstanding of how science works.

    If we don’t have empirical facts on a method and someone uses it, it is a scam by a quack. (Presumably they use it for effect to make it worse, but the argument still stands in the weaker case.)

    Now we are discussing medicine, so the first concern isn’t whether it works or not, but to “make no harm”. Some chiropractic practices passes that, so they are “treatments”. Exactly in the same way that pouring water on to your head “cures” you from ill (but ask any doctor) and “absolves” you from wrongdoings (but ask any judge).

    They are all (generalized as) treatments: “Therapy (in Greek: θεραπεία), or treatment, is the attempted remediation of a health problem, usually following a diagnosis. […] A therapeutic effect is a consequence of a particular treatment which is judged to be desirable and beneficial. This is true whether the result was expected, unexpected, or even an unintended consequence of the treatment. [Wikipedia]”

    But as long as they aren’t proven to work, or work as advertised, they are non-therapeutic (non-effective) quack treatments.

    [Btw, this is the agnostic argument. It doesn’t work for religion either.

    For example, religious people claims to have “innate knowledge” of the world, in the form of supernatural claims. As they can’t back that up, in fact can’t even acquire knowledge as we understand it by “introspection” or “vision”, it is a scam by quacks.

    Agnostics, knowingly or unknowingly, support a scam by treating these claims as “unknown” or “unknowable” instead of as a fundamental lack of knowledge. But if it doesn’t work for old scam trades like organized religion, and never has, how does anyone suppose it works for modern scam commercialism? It baffles the mind.]

  38. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    @ Fred:

    Quantum physics will tell you (and prove it mathematically) that we are all basically energy.

    That is total bogus, quantum mechanics (QM) and quantum field theory (QFT) does no such thing.

    First, you never, ever “prove” things in empirical sciences! You have to work out of facts to form theories and test them.

    Second, QFT is AFAIU famously non-provable by mathematical theories, as no one has come up with an axiomatic description of 2nd quantization, an essential technique to make QFTs in the first place.

    [To be technical, AFAIU there are physical algorithms that may one day become fully mathematical in practice, extracted away from the physics as it were. But there is no, um, proof, that these algorithms will be provable by math techniques. They can remain, as I believe they are, mathematically ad hoc.]

    Third, there is nothing in QM that says that “we are basically energy”. What QFT says is that “we are basically fields”. Fields as all systems happens to have the property of energy which is known classically.

    [Then again, string theory goes one more and says that “we are basically strings” as fields turns out to be insufficient to describe all systems.]

    Fourth, besides that all systems have the property of energy, it is a property that merely expresses a symmetry, namely conservation over time. (See my heroine Noether’s work on symmetry and conservation.) That is, it tells us that systems persist and doesn’t suddenly go “poof” in and out of existence.

    Fifth, in QM objects as parts of fields do go “poof” in and out of existence anyway, because of uncertainty relations, but they still obey energy conditions. So you can equally way say that quantum physics tells us that we “are” basically more than the property of energy persistence, we also have the property of uncertainty volatility.

    Sixth, and this is the Great LOL on you, it has been a known though perhaps not generally accepted result since -04 IIRC that our type of universes are exactly zero energy. (Which is presumably why they are eternal, lower energy means longer persistence.) If that is correct we are all (together) basically no energy!

    Oh, and what DigitalAxis said.

  39. Sounds like Fred thinks chiropractic works the same way as homeopathy.

  40. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Duh! “equally way” – equally well. Well, any which way, I suppose.

  41. Fred

    Torbjörn, you make some interesting points. Especially the idea of fields taken from QFT. While there may be no solid proof for my arguments (frankly, I’m not that interested in proof), I know that there has been discussion in “quantum circles” about what those fields actually are. Intelligence? Perhaps.

    I am simply coming from the basic premise that there is intelligence inherent in all life. And that “disconnection” from this intelligence can lead to disease. This is a very hard premise to test from a strict research perspective (but I would be open to suggestion).

    Incidentally, the research that we did with NSA care was done at a very high standard through a major university. Both the longitudinal and retrospective studies showed a very high degree of correlation between care and improved quality of life across six distinct measures. Did you check the link in the previous post? The unique “self-organizing” physiological responses that NSA care produces has attracted the attention of some individuals familiar with traditional research models. There have been some very ambitious studies designed but currently unfunded.

    I am clearly not the equal of many of you in the strict mental arena. You know your subjects well and I commend you all on your integrity. You simply attempt to call them as you see them. The mind is an interesting thing in that it is oh so ready to convince itself that nothing else in the universe is its equal.

    I am interested in a science that has room for both the subjective as well as the objective. I’m sure one of you will rip this apart but isn’t there something in QM about not being able to observe something without changing it?

    Surely you are also aware of the poor science that backs most medical treatment? What of the RCTs that currently approve drugs that then kill thousands? Vioxx? Hormone replacement? Why not find a way to include subjective experience? Life does not exist in controlled conditions!

    Random thought: Where is the balance between science and art?

    And how do you suggest that I interpret my experiences? Since I can experience clear energetic shifts in my patients hundreds of times per day, I have decided to trust that experience. Since these same patients have claimed results in everything from lifelong migraines to depression to chronic illness, I have decided to trust their experiences as valid as well. It’s funny because, again, I am only attempting to restore natural balance and ease to their systems, not treat their diseases. Their body seems to know how to handle the disease part on its own (even without double blind studies…imagine!).

    Incidentally, sorry if I came off as sarcastic at first. I’m enjoying the exchange of ideas, even if you all think I’m a quack!

  42. DaveS

    zeno, that homeopathy video–OMG, I can feel the stupid burning from here.

  43. Keegan

    I’m no fan of homeopathic medicine or new age therapy. My mother however is. When she told me my sister and her were going to see a chiropractor I was a little miffed. After questioning I learned that they were a very gentle chiropractor that was covered fully by her insurance. My mother has had back pain for years and she says this helps considerably. My sister, who has no back problems or anything related, says she feels energized afterward, and she’s ten years old (I suppose that makes her results less then helpful, But she’s usually one to complain about things so I would think she genuinely feels good). Now I don’t think Chiropractic therapy does a lot of what it says,but, as an optimistic skeptic, I can say it seems to be quite the massage for ones bones.

  44. Tony Lloyd

    Fred said: “I suggest that you focus less on empirical evidence and more on results”

    What is the difference between:

    1. Empirical evidence and
    2. Results?

    What possible distinction could there be? Pray tell, I’m absolutely stunned by that statement.

  45. Fred ( #42 ) says:
    “Frankly, I’m not interested in proof.”

    Well, that pretty well says it all, doesn’t it?

  46. Edwin

    “Next time ask me before spouting off; you don’t know me, or anything about my life.”

    Which mean anything you said about your experiences means nothing because we can’t comment on them.
    Few months ago I commented on having vaccinated my kids and my son being autistic and was told off for poisoning my kids. And I even had a valid, science-backed argument (no autism-vaccination link). I could have said “you know nothing about my life”. That would be almost true and completely besides the point.

    As for chiropractors, the part of what they do that works is called physiotherapy. It’s just that they can do it unlicensed.

  47. ND

    “I am interested in a science that has room for both the subjective as well as the objective.”

    Science is inherently the opposite of the subjective. You do understand this don’t you?

    (Is this quote mining?)

    Zeno, wow, what a load of crap in that video. The bullkaka is strong with that one.

  48. Edwin


    Indeed. Science, I think, is distilling objective facts from subjective thought and observation.

  49. WetChet

    So, I’ve seen both kinds: quack and what I’ll call legitimate. The quack made all the claims that fixing subluxations would cure allergies, stress, acne (no kidding). A visit to his office was what I imagine a visit to a witch doctor would be. He would ask me to think about certain events in my life, while “testing” my strength — either by pushing against my arm or leg at some strange angle. Then would “adjust” something or give me some kind of supplement to taste, then “test” my strength again. I long suspected this strength testing was fakery, especially when I saw no results after a month. However, the guy I’ve been seeing for the past 5 years does none of this nonsense, and doesn’t even have the pamphets or posters in his office. He basically acts as a physical therapist who prescribes specific exercises, stretching, heat and ice as appropriate, and uses a combination of massage therapy and strategic “adjustments” in his office. I only see him when I have a specific problem and have waited a reasonable time for it to resolve itself (examples are pinched nerves, unexplained sharp pains in upper back and/or neck, inflammation or “locking up” of a joint in back or neck). Every time, within one or two visits, I’m fixed. Everything this guy does makes sense physiologically, and no hand-waving or BS. But, judging from this thread, an honest chiropractor is a rare bird.

  50. Gary Ansorge

    Science: from the Latin, Scientia, meaning KNOWLEDGE.

    Scientific Method: A method of verifying that the knowledge we’ve acquired is actually an accurate representation of the way reality works.

    Objective: The universe outside ourselves

    Subjective: what goes on inside our heads(includes, emotions, hallucinations, logical thought and imagination, etc)

    Sometimes, there’s a one to one correspondence between these.

    There are many different ways of acquiring knowledge. Roman engineers built aqueducts, bridges, roads and buildings by strictly empirical means, ie, try something, see if it works and if the bridge falls down, double everything and try again. They had no THEORETICAL understanding of the nature and properties of various construction materials, so instead of building structures with a cost effective “over design” of 10%, they ended up building these structures with at least a 100% over design(100% more material than was strictly required to maintain structural integrity.)

    The same is true for any other area of knowledge. We can acquire knowledge that lets us accomplish great things but without knowing WHY something works the way it does,(rather than just HOW), it may not be 100 % replicable or cost effective.

    We know HOW vaccines work. We also have a pretty good understanding of WHY. We know HOW nuclear bombs work(slam two pieces of sub critical fissionable material together) and we also know WHY(2.5 neutrons released per nucleon fission as the strong force binding the nucleon together is destabilized by the addition of another slow neutron).
    This allows us to build bombs of more than one yield(big boom vs small boom).

    Empirical vs theoretical. We(current civilization) developed the means to understand both HOW and WHY reality works the way it does. That’s the result of a simple Method. IF chiropathy ever develops a rigorous theory that can actually be tested, THEN it may acquire some validity. Until then, it’s merely an empirical methodology that MAY be doing something or may just be reliant upon normal physiological responses(placebo) that are not yet understood and predictable.

    Frankly, I expect it costs a LOT more to go to a chiropractor than it would to just stay home and do stretching exercises and I can learn the latter from a book on sports medicine( and from a public library, that’s FREE).

    GAry 7

  51. Fred

    Tony (#45): Perhaps I misuse the term, “empirical”. What I am saying is that patient results are the criteria in my practice. I am not a researcher and while I would be pleased to see additional studies demonstrating chiropractic or alternatives medicines’ value as a vitalistic option, I am not waiting for those studies to validate what I see every day. I apparently have confused the term empirical with hard research data. Sorry for stunning you.

    ND (#48): Except that I don’t believe that the distinction between the two is so clear. A purely objective science is too sterile in many cases (especially in healthcare) to be of tremendous value if utilized exclusively. Face it, there are many variables in life that are inherently unmeasurable. That should in no way detract from their validity. And to be handcuffed because there elements of any vitalistic model that are unmeasurable is unacceptable to me.

    Sadly, I think many alt. practitioners do make claims that can’t be verified. I cannot speak for studies on homeopathy but I can tell you that there are plenty of good, properly done studies describing chiropractics’ benefit in a multitude of areas.

    Is is really so hard to accept that there may be causes of disease that are based on dysfunction of the basic regulatory system of the body (ie: the nervous system)? How else would you explain my results? As pointed out earlier, NS interference can be measured (or at least the effects of such interference). As a previous post pointed out, there is virtually NO evidence supporting nearly any surgical procedure practiced today. How can you do a double blind study for heart surgery? Do you all accept these procedures as valid? If so, why?? I hear not one whit of sneering at the medical profession which with the slightest bit of study, will turn out to be based on far more faulty research than chiropractic. And the stakes are far higher in medicine. C’mon people…where’s your “objectivity”?

    Are we having fun yet?

  52. ND

    “Are we having fun yet?”

    Well we seem to be playing a game of “Say what?!”, which is more amusing than fun.

    You seem to be saying that you don’t know too much about how science is done, nor much of any medical background, but that your subjective gut feeling should be taken on par with proper scientific research, oh and don’t bother me with facts and critical thinking.

    Please read Gary Ansorge post.

  53. Fred

    Gary (#51): “Scientific Method: A method of verifying that the knowledge we’ve acquired is actually an accurate representation of the way reality works.” And do you really think we have an accurate representation of the way reality works? See, this may be where I differ from most of you in that I don’t believe that you can measure but the smallest fraction of “reality”. Consequently, when you speak of Objective as representing “the universe outside ourselves”, I must respectfully disagree. This may hurt a bit, but I am of the philosophy (maddeningly unverifiable) that inside and outside are inextricably connected in ways that we will never begin to understand. Dig deep into that atom and eventually, you won’t find more “stuff”. It’s that point, where matter appears to blink on and off that I’m interested in…even if you can’t currently graph it.

  54. ND

    ” As a previous post pointed out, there is virtually NO evidence supporting nearly any surgical procedure practiced today. How can you do a double blind study for heart surgery? Do you all accept these procedures as valid? If so, why??”

    You’re kidding me right? Wow! Does this include organ transplantation? Quadruple bypass? Please tell me how you would treat someone that doctors have decided need bypass surgery?

    I think the post you were referring to regarding surgeries was talking about back surgery, an area of surgery that the medical and chiro overlap and not all possible surgeries. I hope you’re not trying to treat patients with a history of heart attacks to prevent future one.

    Note: yes there are some surgeries that have been noted (via scientific research) that do not have any benefit. There was one from a few years ago about a knee surgery that appeared to give no benefit. They had a control group that went through the operation, incision and all but not the final critical step. I believe this may hold true for some slipped disk surgeries as well (not 100% sure here). But you’re talking about *all* surgeries.

  55. Tony Lloyd


    Let’s admit (‘cos you’re right) that surgery isn’t double-blind tested and that medical researchers have a bit of a “thing” about double-blind. (This is because they confuse methodology with the logical structure of theories. They’d probably fail important stuff like “Philosophy of Science” and should stick to mundane, trivial, things like “Figuring out What Cures People”.)

    But, and here’s a huge BUT, we are all agreed that what is important is results. People getting better. Not people getting better in a “subjective”, “whole earth” or “scientifically acceptable” way. Just that they get better.

    That’s objective. You have someone with asthma, you later have someone without asthma. It’s pretty clear cut. You can have your vitalism, we’ll all have our reductionism and we’ll still agree on the important stuff: whether patient A can breathe. That’s why I was so stunned: “results” are “empirical”.

    So we can see if someone is “cured”. If people are “cured” after Chiropractic and, importantly, not cured if they don’t have Chiropractic then that is evidence that Chiropractic cures. Lovely objective, empirical evidence. Chiropractic can be tested.

    Personally I think that if person A sells product B to person C saying “this cures people of disease D” then person A had better have tested (or know test results) that product B really does cure disease D. If person A hasn’t made sure that the claim to cure disease D has been sucessfully tested and yet still charges money for product B then person A is a quack.

    Has Chiropractic been tested? Simon Singh tells me (via his article: I don’t want to pretend that he’s told me personally) that there has been some testing which suggests that Chiropractic can help with lower back pain. He also tells me that there is “not a jot” of evidence that Chiropractic does anything for non-back-problems. The BCA tell me that there is a “plethora” of evidence that it does. But I’ve seen that “evidence” and even I can see that it’s rubbish.

  56. Fred

    Had a great post about all of this then lost it. Damn…spirits must not be with me today. (!)

    Tony, I agree completely. Keep in mind that there have been some limited studies where chiropractic care was shown to impact specific disease conditions (ie: asthma, blood pressure, infertility, etc.). They are not the rigorous studies that most of you would require but, unfortunately, those types of studies are very expensive. Much medical and drug research is funded either by the government, donation or huge profit. There is significant politics at play here. Give a decent chiropractic organization a million bucks and I am quite confident that we would produce “stunning” (sorry) results. And I am not talking about back pain either. I have seen what can happen when someone’s body is brought back to balance. It is not research but they sure as hell are RESULTS. Aren’t any of you at least curious as to how that might happen? Can all of it really be placebo? You can refer back to post 36 for my link to some current research.

    Whenever I hear some MD saying that chiropractic just gets results because we’re nice or that we touch people (tho both are true!), it turns my stomach. What an ignorant/arrogant answer.

    There is something incredibly powerful in letting a body heal itself. What I’m saying Tony is that people DO get better. Chiropractors differ as do MDs. Some are better than others. There is a huge philosophical split in the profession which dilutes our message. Some would be ever so happy if we just dropped the whole vitalistic thing and just behaved like good little second rate physical therapists. Not me.

  57. Tony Lloyd

    I am fortunate in that I have good health but lets pretend I have illness D. I want to get better and I need to choose between treatments. If someone comes along and says “product B” will do that then I am going to read that as a statement that claims:

    – If I take/use product B I will be more likely to get better than if I don’t

    That is to say the chances of getting better with the treatment (P1) are greater than the chances of getting better without the treatment (P2).

    “What I’m saying Tony is that people DO get better.”

    Which is simply not enough, I have no idea from that how effective the treatment is. That only shows me P1, I need to see P2 to compare. People DO get better with no treatment. As revolting as you find it people DO get better when people have been nice to them. People DO get better because of one treatement taken at the same time as another treatment.

    As I said, I’m not an MD. I’m not constrained by any “biased” or “authoritarian” preconceptions about what testing is. Just show me a group of people who had product A and got better next to a group of people who did not have treatment A and did not get better. Just show me both P1 and P2 so that I can see that one is bigger than the other.

    Then I looked at your recent research. You guys can’t even show me P1!

    “(S)elf-rated perceptions of “wellness.”” (“Network Spinal Analysis: A Research Perspective”)

    “Quality of Life Improvements and Spontaneous Lifestyle Changes in a Patient Undergoing Subluxation-Centered Chiropractic Care”

    “What I’m saying Tony is that people DO get better.” This research tends to show that people don’t get better, but they “sort of feel better”.

    As I said I came to the whole Chiropractic thing after Simon Singh was sued. I’m the public mate: not an elitist medical practitioner. I have made up my mind about Chiropractic on the basis of the evidence shown to me by the Chiropractic profession.

    1. They sue rather than defend
    2. They duck questions of testing
    3. Their best evidence shows that Chirporactic makes people feel better without actually fixing the problem.

    My conclusion: Chiropractic is full of it.

  58. Fred

    As I have mentioned before, I am all for more research being done. Also pointed out that chiropractic is not really designed as a treatment of disease. While there are many stories of people getting well with “disease D”, the point of an adjustment is to simply allow the body to restore its own balance. The majority of my patients (and there have been many…poor misguided lot that they are) have seen enough benefits to continue care long after symptoms are gone. Why? You don’t show enough respect for the NSA research IMHO. Those people didn’t feel “sort of better”. They experienced statistically significant improvements across a wide spectrum of Quality of Life variables. QoL is a strong direction in research today; the idea being that patient x may have their disease cured but experience a DECREASE in QoL as a result of the treatment. See, we’re back to Objective vs. Subjective again. QoL research argues that the patient’s experience IS important. And while we were one of the early pioneers in this field, others are following.

    I’m trying to help you see that, while your points are completely valid from within one perspective (ie: the removal of a symptom), I am interested in a broader “result” (ie: what I would unscientifically term “wholeness”). People want this even more than the removal of their symptoms. But when they can have both…now we’re talking about a powerful tool for healing. If you look at the research, people did have reduction of many symptoms under care. And I do realize that there was no control group so you can dismiss it if you like.

    On some level, I also realize that you’re speaking of an economic decision. Do I spend the money on this care, see someone else or do nothing? I don’t have that data for you so you’re on your own there. People in my practice vote with their wallets. If they don’t find what I’m doing valuable, they stop coming. Some do, most don’t. BTW, I practice in a highly educated area. I’m not pulling the wool over anyone’s eyes. I’m not that smart.

    As for the BCA behaving as they did. I think everyone involved behaved badly. Mr. Singh seems smug beyond words in his dismissal of an entire profession. My issue with the “skeptic” movement is not their quest for understanding. It’s their (to my mind) lack of curiosity. They tend to criticize, in a such a superior way, rather than truly inquire. Singh made a public statement about something that he poorly understood. So be it. The BCA, probably nervous about their public image (due largely to chiropractic’s sad lack of a coherent, unified message), attacked back using your own libel laws. Apparently a judge ruled in the BCAs favor but that’s hardly the point. They are all acting as children and should have been sent to their room.

    Your conclusion that chiropractic is full of it? Well, based on your logic, you are entitled to that conclusion. But you know what? One positive experience with the right doctor and all of that logic is out the window. Get help from one when no one else can help you and you will become one more example of unscientific, untested results. Another victim of quackery.

    Sadly, I doubt this will ever occur. And I suppose, as pointed out earlier, we are much to blame for not providing sufficient evidence. So I wish you continued good health because if you ever are in need to venture into the medical realm, you are going to be dealing with a whole lot more of that unscientific stuff that you abhor. The potential consequences are far higher here but at least you have the comfort that it is widely accepted.

  59. DaveS said (#43): “zeno, that homeopathy video–OMG, I can feel the stupid burning from here. ”

    I think she alone could be the sole reason for global warming…

  60. Nes

    I’m catching up on my RSS feeds here and so I’m a bit late, but in the off chance that anyone comes back here…


    I haven’t had the chance to read it yet, but quite frankly, if that “study” — by your own admission — doesn’t have a control group, then it is entirely worthless (and, thus, not worth my time to read anyway). There is absolutely no way to know if the alleged QoL improvements happened because of the treatment or not, because there is nothing to compare them against.

    Also, please watch that video that Zeno linked to (I happened to be thinking of the exact same video when I read your bit on QM and was going to link to it myself) and realize that everything she says is horribly, laughably wrong. (Hell, she can’t even get the name of one of the scientists right!) If you’re betting on chiropractic working on similar tooty fruity QM ideas as she has, well… don’t hold your breath.


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