20 May 2009

An abundance of woo

So, on a scale of implausible silliness ranging from reflexology through Cranial Osteopathy Homeopathy to Crystal Therapy... whereabouts would you rank Chiropractic?1

(bones by kevinzim)
On Monday evening I witnessed comedian Dave Gorman bravely inform a packed meeting of anti-chiropractic rationalists that, of all the 'complementary' medicines, Chiropractic has the least woo.  I was surprised, initially, that he didn't get hissed; but the meeting was only partly a demonstration and mostly a love-in in support of Simon Singh, currently snookered in the libel courts; and it's not the done thing to heckle at love-ins, not even the comics.

The British Chiropractic Association may or may not have an abundance of woo, but it has no shortage of sharp lawyers and last week in front of a sympathetic judge (in a still little reported case with far-reaching implications) they won the first round in a libel action against Simon Singh who described the BCA as happily promoting bogus treatments for childhood asthma and ear infections.

Wait a minute, you say, ear infections? are you telling me that chiropractors are in the habit of manipulating children's spines to treat their ear infections?2   Well, yes, that's (if you will) the rub - chiropractic actually treats everything, you see. It's to do with subluxation (at so at least slightly wooy, then).

The meeting was in the basement of Penderel's Oak, a confined, confusing and noisy space designed to intimidate autists, and it was packed with an intriguing mixture of besuited lawyers, TV personalities, journalists, MPs and angry rationalists. And me. I must be getting younger: last year I went to me very first demo, this year to my very first activist meeting.

"What can we do to help?", asked an earnest young woman, with a moleskine "Write about it on your blogs!", said Chris French3 , "Tweet about it! Join our Facebook group!" Yes, this was Activism-2.0.

"I have a blog", I said to my neighbour, an equally earnest young man who was surreptitiously sharing my pint. "Yeah", he said, "we've all got blogs." and he eyed me up disdainfully, "A fiver says you still use blogger", he said, suddenly. "Am I right?".

I eyed him up right back, and next moment we got out our technorati authorities out and slammed them down on the table... his blog was bigger than mine. "I've got my own domain name!", I said "and.."
But he was updating his Facebook status and he wasn't listening..

Nick Cohen raged amusingly against the injustices of the English libel system, Evan Harris talked calmly about the poor understanding of science in parliament, and Brian Cox bounced about and grinned a lot. I wondered if it was too late to give up banking and become a journalist, an MP or a theoretical physiscist (cum TV presenter). Or best of all: a libel plaintiff 4 ?

At the end we heard from Simon Singh himself, and when he was done we all cheered and clapped enthusisatically and felt very glad that it wasn't any of us, cornered into making a principled stand.

While I whooped I gazed around the crowd: The meeing had been quite well publicised and I had no doubt that the audience would contain an undercover chiropractor or two listening out for actionable statements. I wondered if they give themselves away, by not cheering as loudly as the rest.

Looking right round I cricked my neck.

2wouldn't any normal person use reflexology for that?
3Although a large proportion of the population believes in the paranormal, the evidence presented to support paranormal claims is generally not very convincing in scientific terms" Great Stuff
4 please make defamatory comments below, being sure to leave details of where a writ may be served.


M4GD said...

Great Post. This is a catch 22 as I can easily argue for both sides. I’m for scientific evidence and freedom of expression. Disagreements and debates, done objectively, can serve the greater good. Inject comedy and law in the forum and you get a great bonus! The more we understand the better. As the saying goes: ”Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood.” Understanding brings a lot to the fore. I can also make a case for Chiropractic practices as I personally used it as a stand alone method of treatment over the years in many different countries (Germany, Canada, England, and the United States) and I attest that I had at least 95% success rate with it. So, generally, yes it works! Can this be transferred to babies and children? I don’t know but why not? The endorsement of the former AirForce person was weak. I wonder if her opinion was presented in a more scientifically appealing manner, perhaps it would have been better accepted. But again would you trust it? Would you just trust the numbers and the data? Deborah Stone in her public policy book:”Unwanted Results: the ethics of controversial research” wrote: “No number is innocent” I think It is not a case of paranormal phenomena, there are things we can’t be 100% conclusive about. It’s good to give the benefit of the doubt to all sides and after all, we all see what we want to see!:-)
PS My comment does not substantiate a writ:-)
So, no need to disclose my whereabouts!;-)

Botogol said...

I think the only difference between alternative medicine and medicine, is that the latter has been deomnstrated to work :-)