Alternative Medicine

Published on August 11th, 2014 | by Rayne

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Selective reasoning: Don’t mess with my pet pseudoscience

The one thing I have learned very quickly as a full-time skeptic and part-time blogger is this: You don’t fuck with a persons pet pseudoscience. Selective reasoning will knock you on your arse every time. Fuck with a persons pet belief and their entire world blows up.

Selective reasoning stems from confirmation bias. Confirmation bias happens when people only look for points or references that confirms their belief and they ignore points against their belief. Selective reasoning happens when an individual will be quite skeptical about an baseless concept but will defend their chosen baseless concept despite – you guessed it – there being no evidence for its claims.

This handy comic may help to explain selected reasoning a little better than I:


Chiropractic seems to be a big one lately. I can mock crystal healing and woo, I can slam homeopathy but speak about chiropractic unfavourably and you’re the worst person on the planet. Or as one commenter says:

Chiropractors? Really?? Chiropractors!?? You obviously have never suffered from back/neck strain. Any manual labourer will tell you the benifits of a good chiro. 
Some soft handed, desk-driving pencil neck obviously came up with this list.
All the rest are woo woo no argument….

Soft handed, desk-driving pencil neck – it almost hurts.

Not really.

Probably could have done without the “insult” but I messed with chiropractors, they were mad, obviously this person has gotten some relief from having their back/neck adjusted after a long hard day labouring and I came in and fucked with their good experience.

It’s still alternative medicine which means it’s still bullshit.

The underlying concept of chiropractic is that it is a form of energy “medicine”, based on unscientific principles such as ‘innate intelligence‘. Apparently our bodies “Innate Intelligence”is how it heals itself. You know, instead of blood clotting assisting to heal wounds. “Innate Intelligence” was the primitive way of describing how the body heals itself. The basic idea of chiropractic is that “subluxations” are the cause of most medical problems. A subluxation is a misalignment of the spine and vertebrae that presses on your spinal nerves. Good so far? Bones can move and press on your spine – this is true. It starts to go south from here on in. Where chiropractic diverges from reality is the thought process that the pressure on your spinal nerves is the cause of disease. 

To be fair, not all current chiropractors still believe in these concepts, mainly because science and actual medicine has the answers as to have the body heals itself – the primitive woo explanation is no longer acceptable. This is generally the case with a lot of alternative medicines. As soon as medicine proves them wrong, the underlying woo framework becomes obsolete often as an attempt to gain more credibility and get out of the alternative medicine category.

While it is generally accepted that small manipulations of the spine can help with back pain (although neck manipulations have been linked to strokes), none of the claims of subluxations have ever been found to have any basis in scientific thought. Thus chiropractic is still considered woo as long as chiropractors that peddle woo stay around and until chiropractic continues to untested for safety.

But I digress.

As long as there are skeptics, there are going to be pissed off people. People don’t like when you mess with their favoured thing. Rational people can still fall prey to irrational beliefs or pseudoscience. And no-one likes to be told that their tightly held belief is a product of confirmation bias or the placebo effect – skeptics see it all the time when a theist gets defensive about having their religious beliefs questioned.

To be fair, the commenter who left the not so nice comment above probably did have less pain when seeing a chiropractor but that doesn’t make chiropractic any less woo or any less alternative medicine. The underlying framework that has no bias in science and has never been supported by science or even record by scientific means is what makes it alternative medicine and woo.

And I’m still going to question the shit out of it.

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