Quackery, I say! Quackery!!!
(A quick apology to the duck lovers reading this.) It’s raining outside so I’m finally writing a long overdue commentary to address those who believe science is currently able to explain all the secrets of life, the universe and everything. One of my favorite series of all time is the Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy. I’ve read it several times and one of the lessons that fantasy shows is that if you don’t file your documents properly, your planet gets destroyed for an intergalactic highway. This has nothing to do with what is right or wrong. It only deals with power and the craziness of bureaucracy. Life is a fight for power. To that end, if you’re a member of the cult of science, believing that science is the be-all-end-all, then prepare to get drenched. For the rest of the population, this criticism will glide off you like water from a duck’s back. You know where your towel is.
Have you ever heard a politician lie? Have you ever heard news reporter say something that was untrue? What about business? Do you actually believe that all the online reviews are true? Character assassination, and real assassination for that matter, actually exists. “Trust Me, I’m Lying” is an amazing book that goes into depth about the ways savvy people manipulate the beliefs of the public for their own benefit. If you think the traditional medical system is flawless, if you truly believe that taking prescription drugs to treat a symptom works perfectly and doesn’t kill people, but using nutrition and manual medicine has absolutely no value in promoting health, then go waddle to your duck friends and quack in the puddles with them.
Everyone I’ve talked to in marketing says I shouldn’t attack. I’m supposed to be the best diplomat and say things that, in my opinion, are boring, uninteresting and won’t bother anyone. That may be good advice for a traditional doctor who likes to smile and let insurance companies determine what can be billed while trying to do the best service while not being sued, By the way, even the traditional system uses nutrition and manual medicine. Have you heard of a dietician or a physical therapist? These things cure people of many things. Unfortunately, there is no cure for choosing to be stupid.
Science cultists! Yes, I’m referring to you. Don’t you know that science was different 500 years ago when many of the best minds still believed the world was flat? You laugh now (those idiots) forgetting the same thing they forgot, and not learning anything from history. In 500 years people will be laughing at you. Science found its center in the age of Copernicus, progressed ahead again with Galilei, finally pulled together with Newton, leapt into the future with Albert Einstein. During all that time it has proved one thing: the only constant is change. In 10 or 20 years, many the things you’re arguing about right now will be so far in the past that you’ll see your ideas being debunked and barbaric. If you don’t believe this, just pick up a medical book when people still went to the barber to get bled when they had a fever, then got bled to death to try and cure the infection they got from the barber’s unsterilized razor. From one potentially deadly prescription to the next, can you think of any similarities that are still going on today in our medical system?
Each new age, the latest innovations outshine those of that past. So open up yourselves to the idea that some of the “quackery” you can’t understand and can’t explain still works extremely well, but science simply hasn’t caught up to it yet. Review my article on String Theory Applications for Health and Spirituality, which chronicles how monks and yogis saw truth thousands of years ago through enlightened meditation and it’s taken many centuries for science to finally make sense of their visions. After all, it was only 80 short years ago when science still couldn’t understand how bees could fly. And science still can’t explain how to reverse the growing trend of obesity, overcome stereotypes, or instill a mass societal appreciation of disco, puns or my dry sense of humor.
So-called experts on websites such as sciencebasedmedicine.org are notoriously biased in their viewpoints, refusing to even consider that their limited ability to understand how something works hinders their ability to give a proper critique. People who experience healing in ways these “experts” can’t quantify are told they’re fooled by the placebo effect, or bamboozled by witch doctors peddling snake oil. These are simple knee-jerk reactions that equate to claiming the patient has somehow been scammed, and that their way the healing must not be real because science can’t explain it. These misguided, albeit sometimes well meaning critics, are missing the point entirely. If, by awakening someone’s belief in healing, the placebo effect activates a patient’s ability to heal, then the result is still useful, quantifiable, and valuable. Conversely, when an “expert” in a white coat tells them that it was all in their mind, they often regress to the unhealed state. Gold is gold whether or not someone says it is.
Let’s pay attention to this misunderstood concept. If the healing occurred “all in their mind” then the illness must have been there as well. Many scientists and medical professionals have long deemed psychosomatic illness to be something to push to the side or discount entirely. Fortunately, there is a growing body of evidence favoring incorporation of the placebo effect into treatment protocols. Unfortunately, it’s all too common that if someone suffers from chronic pain and a panel of doctors can’t understand the causality, they often deem the illness to be “psychosomatic.” That is simply another way of classifying the patient as being crazy, hiding the doctor’s ignorance and dissolving their responsibility to treat it.
Consider the well known symptom of phantom pain. After someone loses a hand or a foot they can often still feel sensation where the lost extremity had been. There is a lot of research about this phenomenon, and its documented effects have expanded the understanding of scientists and doctors pertaining to how the brain perceives sensation. Interestingly, what we rarely if ever hear about it phantom pain inside the living body. Since we can feel phantom pain where our bodies once were, why can’t we feel phantom pain where the physical body still exists? Is the one who feels it outside the physical body completely sane while the one who feels it inside the body is somehow insane? And to clarify, it’s not truly phantom pain. Phantom is a misleading word that misrepresents what is happening. Pain occurs inside the brain. The pain is real. The sensations are true manifestations. This is similar to a bot or autoresponder. Someone on Facebook sends a message and they interact with a bot. The bot, depending on how it was programmed, can be very interactive. There is nobody on the other side actually typing the responses back, even if there is the picture of someone’s face next to the response. The brain, or in this case the question seeker, still receives feedback. They still get to make choices and feel a sense of communication. Whether the programmer lives in China or Guam or the USA, the feedback still comes and works the same way. Even if they’re dead or aren’t checking their account, the autoresponder continues to send information.
I’ve come across many patients clinically who have presented with pain symptoms that couldn’t be explained by normal traditional medicine. These patients were often depressed, frustrated, desperate and disheartened. They’d been told in different ways by a variety of healthcare professionals that there was nothing to be done. They were simply imagining their symptoms so they’d just have to live in their imaginary world of suffering. This is a barbaric way of treating people who are seeking help. Instead of looking to the root causes and accepting that there are things that laboratory tests can’t detect, the doctors demean the patient’s mental state to preserve their own egos.
Unfortunately, I’ve been guilty of similar behavior myself. In my defense, there are definitely patients who faked their symptoms in order to try and collect insurance or Workers’ Comp. These people are frustrating to work with since my job is to help people get better, not facilitate insurance scams. Dealing with people who lie or fake symptoms makes it more difficult to discern who actually has a real pathology. There have also been times that figuring out how to help the patient was simply beyond my abilities. Sometimes, I even doubted whether they were sick at all until I started incorporating more Eastern and Ayurvedic healing into my treatment philosophy. Having come from a psychology background before transitioning into physical medicine, I understand the power of one’s belief. I also understand that people say things that aren’t always true. Some people believe themselves to be right and correct and will go to any length to prove they are. Their success in this comes from their undaunted focus, not from their being correct. Because this is where they put their focus, they get proficient at it. They get good at convincing others that their views are right.
Have you ever given money to an amazing salesperson and found out that what they convinced you of was simply not true? They are tricksters who earn a living by deceiving people. It’s difficult to compete with a gymnast who trains 3-4 hours each day from the time she’s 7 years old, even if you’re gifted as a gymnast but don’t train in gymnastics. The same applies to every other area of life, including dealing with a deceiver. This is the danger of listening to a debunker, or any charismatic personality for that matter. Even though there is a lot of evidence that alternative medicine is as effective if not more effective than traditional medicine for treating a wide variety of conditions, it’s easy to make use acronyms such as SCAM (So-Called-Alternative-Medicine) and say the whole thing is a bunch of hooey. This tactic requires no evidence whatsoever to prove those claims, but does gain the attention of people who are trying to decide what types of treatments they should use for their own healthcare.
I’d like to put a stop to this nonsense right now. There are plenty of so-called educated people who will attack my position, but they are simply showing that they are ignorant of things outside of their own study. I don’t profess to know how to do brain surgery, and neither should a brain surgeon pretend to know how to fix a joint manually. What I have done is treat a number of neurologists and neurosurgeons for spinal disorders. I’ve kept some of them out of needing surgery and helped others recover enough that they could continue their careers, which sometimes require standing and bending over a patient for 6-8 hours or more. I’ve helped nurses recover from injuries from everything from slip and fall to herniations due to trying to move a patient. A nutritionist learns how to treat differently than a podiatrist and neither has the expertise of the other. It’s all too easy to attack things we don’t understand. As a holistic doctor, I’ve made it my purpose to incorporate everything that actually works. Pragmatically, that is what a doctor is supposed to do.
Let me ask you: If you came across a little girl stuck in a mud pit on the side of a road, would you simply pull her out or would you leave her because you didn’t understand the physical mechanics of what you were doing? As a doctor and a dad of two wonderful girls, I’d pull her out. I’d give her whatever help and care I could. But then, the science cultist would come in behind me and try to convince everyone that she hadn’t really been pulled out because he didn’t have the right equations or studies to prove how it had worked. She is clean and fed healthy food, but there is no double blind placebo study that can prove that she is now safe, fed and cared for. That’s one of the major flaws in relying only on science and evidence based medicine. True, this is an analogy and in this case, physics and kinesiology could do a pretty good job of accounting for the process, but no matter how many equations or double blind placebo studies they could put together, they still have absolutely no idea how the intention to pull her out came about in the first place. And how could they really do a double blind placebo study of a little girl stuck in a mud pit anyway?
Years ago, I treated an 8-year-old girl who suits as the perfect, yet extreme example of successful “non-scientific” healing. She came into my office, clutching her mother’s arm, limping and complaining that her knee hurt. During the intake, I discovered she believed that the insect that had stung her had burrowed in behind her kneecap and was laying eggs. She had just spent days binge watching a program on her smart phone (see Is Social Media Making You Stoupid? Part One of Too…) where parasites were found inside of living human beings. They were infested with things like worms in their brains, eggs in their ears, protozoa in their eyes, twelve-foot long tapeworms, even maggots in their feet. These sorts of images imprinted on her and after her own swelling was nearly gone, she’d come to the conclusion that something similar had happened to her. She whined when she walked and had nearly convinced her mother that there were baby bugs in her knee.
Examining the bite, there was no evidence of any kind of infestation. I’m not an expert in determining that, just a doctor who has seen a number of bug bites. A slight edema was present with some redness around the front of the knee, but there wasn’t any sign of a stinger, a secondary infection or any particulate matter still embedded. I told her that I was going to get my bug pen and make sure that there were no bugs in her knee. I said that if there were any, they would all squirm out within a minute or two after I marked her with the bug grease. Bugs couldn’t live for long after I greased them, I assured her. I didn’t think there would be any bugs, but the special bug grease pencil would tell us for sure. They would either all come out or they’ve already left. If there were any eggs, the grease would turn black and then I’d have to use my bug laser (a blue light device that looked kind of space age) to sterilize them. I assured her that as long as the grease didn’t turn black, everything would be okay.
Can you guess whether the grease turned black or not? Of course it stayed red. But I watched it carefully, even using my stethoscope to listen to her knee for any sounds of bugs wriggling or clicking. I let her listen for the last half minute or so in order to let her hear that there weren’t any odd sounds. She agreed that she didn’t hear any so since the grease didn’t turn black and there were no sounds, I assured her that whatever bugs may have been there were long gone and there were certainly no eggs. I iced her knee for ten minutes and told her that she was so close to being healed that the cold would push out the rest of the inflammation and after that, the blue light would make the bite heal faster. Blue light is known for sterilization so that part of the treatment probably had some validity from an accepted scientific standpoint, but the rest was simply willfully activating the “placebo effect” in the young girl’s brain.
She got up, tested her knee and smiled. Much to her and her mother’s delight, she had no pain at all. She told me that she’d felt the last bugs leave. Her knee just felt a little stiff. That afternoon, she was running around on the playground and has not, to my knowledge, ever had a recurring problem in that knee again.
Now I want to ask you two questions, and be honest: First, considering she came to me with those symptoms and left perfectly fine, was the “placebo inducing” treatment worthwhile or not? Second, just because hard science can’t account for how this worked*, does that make the treatment “quackery?”
(Disclaimer: This was a cash based treatment with no insurance billing involved.) Bonus Question 3: Shouldn’t insurance pay for this instead of spending thousands of dollars on diagnostic tests, considering the result was the same, faster and more economical?
The problem with the cult of science is that it’s just like any other system of mental or religious indoctrination. I’m not against religion, I’m against cult religions. It’s true that the scientific method as a whole is extremely valuable in progressing the world’s knowledge. It’s also true that like other belief systems, it’s easy to take it too far. Society’s knowledge continues to progress, but we’re not nearly as advanced as we like to believe we are. Remember that at one point humans couldn’t figure out that gravity existed. Then, we also didn’t understand how to harness electricity. Now, the next revolution in improving humanity is figuring out how to keep our social media safe from hackers who want to duplicate our Facebook sites and invite people to secret disco clubs where puns are king. (I may be guilty of doing that, but I’ll never admit it.)
When people commit themselves to the fundamental belief that science holds the answer to everything, they’re also ascribing to the fact that science has progressed as far as it ever will. They go to great lengths to prove that science is the end all destination for knowledge and do their best to debunk everything that doesn’t fall into their limited world. This is also a fallacy in computer programs. Although they are extremely efficient at processing information, the wrong code leads to the wrong conclusion. Even though we’re nearing an actual unified theory, the top physicists admit that code of science is far from complete and the more they discover, the more complex the final answer becomes.
Egos are designed to protect themselves, and since the ego loves to be in charge, they blind the science cultist (not to be confused with a proper scientist, who understands that not everything is currently known) to the fact that they simply can’t know everything. This is maddening to them so when something happens that falls outside of their limited understanding, they systematically attack it using the imperfect system that they’ve thrown their belief into. Furthermore, they assume that science holds all the answers and if whatever it looks at with its limited abilities doesn’t conform to its answers, they deem it to be quackery. This process itself is quackery, and by using it with such close-mindedness, they prove that they are the true quacks.
And let’s be fair—No single system is the be-all-end-all. Naprapathy is no different. It’s great at treating a variety of conditions and like other base fields, has the scope of practice to be expanded to include different modalities. The healer is an artist and similar to martial arts, it’s the artist who prevails more than the style itself. So, since science doesn’t have all the answers and traditional medicine isn’t always what it’s quacked up to be, why don’t we put away the hate, start working together and transform healthcare into what it ought to be?
For any critics of Naprapathy, I invite you to be a guest speaker on my podcast.
In good health,
President, Ambassador, “Doctor of Scientific Quackery”
* I do account for the fact that some branches of science and medicine have mechanisms to explain how the treatment resolved the girl’s issue. I’d love to hear your comments if you’re a practitioner who uses psychology as a primary intervention for mind/body symptoms!
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