Saturday, June 13, 2009

You're doing it wrong.

Although I don't often say too much about it, there's more forms of dangerous pseudo-science out they aside from Creationism. The anti-vaccination movement is one that seems to be growing a lot recently (or is at least getting more attention) that I've been growing pretty concerned with.

Another is the recent actions of the British Chiropractic Association (BCA). While I, nor anyone else I know has a problem with a good back rub to relieve some stress, Chiropractors and those they dupe seem to be under the delusion that spinal alignment fixes all sorts of problems. The evidence simply does not support this.

So what happens when a prominent figure points this out?

If you haven't been following the story of Simon Singh at Bad Astronomy, go do so. In short, instead of actually presenting their evidence in court when their practice was called for what it was ("bogus"), they decided to sue.

And against all reason, they won.

The decision is obviously being appealed, but the entire assault against honest inquiry via abuse of the legal system is staggering. And fortunately, a lot of people seem to be realizing it.

In response, the Vice-President of the BCA wrote an article in New Scientist entitled In Defense of Chiropractic. And boy did he bungle it.

His first claim is that no real Chiropractor actually believes they can treat entirely unrelated illnesses like asthma, digestive disorders, infant colic, menstrual pains, sport injuries, tension headaches, and migraines.
[The criticism] has the clear intention of suggesting that modern chiropractors cling to the 19th century idea that spinal misalignments are responsible for the majority of diseases. While a tiny minority retain this view, most are aware that such claims have long since been debunked.
Orly? Then why, according to they very article that the "defense" was responding to did the author point out that the illnesses I just referred to are, in most cases, believed by more than half of Chiropractors to be treatable through their profession?
A 2004 survey by the UK General Chiropractic Council revealed that most chiropractors believe they can treat asthma (57 per cent), digestive disorders (54 per cent), infant colic (63 per cent), menstrual pains (63 per cent), sport injuries (90 per cent), tension headaches (97 per cent) and migraine (91 per cent). According to a 2007 survey, 69 per cent of all UK chiropractors see themselves as more than just back specialists, and 76 per cent consider Palmer's original concepts to be "an important and integral part of chiropractic".
Oops. Either you're lying or didn't do your homework.

Meanwhile, the evidence suggests that he knows he's lying. And the BCA is hurriedly trying to cover it up. Sounds like the guys over at Uncommon Descent.

But the bungling doesn't stop there. The author then tries to justify the notion that Chiropractic medicine is safe. How? By saying it doesn't cause stroke:
Claims that chiropractic is dangerous overlook two recent pieces of research. One found no causative association between chiropractic manipulation and stroke. The other concluded that the incidence of stroke after chiropractic was no greater than after a consultation with a general practitioner
Well huzzah!

So it doesn't make things worst (most of the time). But that still doesn't mean it makes things better which is the claim that Singh was making in the first place.

But even if it doesn't directly harm people, it does indirectly by making people think that they're going to get better through this bogus treatment. They forgo treatment that actually does solve the problem. And that's when Chiropractic treatments, faith healing, and all the other "alternative medicines" stop being just silly, and suddenly turn dangerous.

Of course, the author's mouth is so big, he has to shove his foot in it a few more times. He claims:
[Critics overlook] the fact that many accepted medical interventions have little or no research evidence to support them.
Translation: "Woot! We don't have to have standards because lots of other alternative practices don't either! If we can drag everyone down to our level we can all win!"

Pathetic. Sounds just like Creationists trying to abuse the term "theory" to try to get themselves on the same level as honest science.

I'd love to see patients form a civil action lawsuit against the Chiropractic association under the notion that, aside from a placebo effect, they been hoodwinked to pay good money for a treatment which provides no discernible benefit in most cases.

So, dear BCA, if you think that's a real defense, think again. You're doing it wrong.

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