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A Meeting of Incompatibles

On October 3,4, 2007, a conference at Harvard University School of medicine, the first annual “Fascia Research Conference“ was held, sponsored by a notable group of organizations. Organized by Thomas Findley, MD, Phd, Prof. of Physical Medicine and physiatrist at Veterans Administration Hospital East Orange, New Jersey. It was notable for several reasons, and is of interest to medical objectivists – also for several other reasons. First, the conference was the first research conference devoted solely to the study of fascia (a type of connective tissue) – stated to be a forgotten tissue. Second, it included scientific subjects such as intra-cellular structure and stress changes in fascial cells, but also unscientific ones such as on acupuncture and “Rolfing.”

Sponsors included pseudoscientific occupational guilds with economic and political agendas that obviously could take advantage of their association with scientific presentations – even though no scientific association exists. Included were:
Rolf institute
Massage Therapy Association
AT Still Research Inst. (Osteopathic)
International Association of Structural Integrators (Structural Integration)
University of Ulm (Germany) Anesthesia Dept.
University of Westminster (UK) Veteran’s Biomed. Res. Inst. (East Orange NJ)
(Both universities and Institute where organizers work)
Elsevier (Publisher of “alternative” med journals)

A survey of their respective web sites shows a preoccupation with licensing and insurance payment eligibility.

Thirty-two supportive organizations included chiropractic, acupuncture, “bodywork,” massage, Cranio-sacral (osteopathic offshoot) therapy, alternative medicine institutes, chronic fatigue syndrome, and osteopathic organizations.

The conference was organized by physician scientists with one foot in alternative medicine methods, and another in medicine. Some hold academic positions through which pseudo-medicines and sectarian health systems may ally themselves and gain a tinge of respectability – in academic, clinical, and popular realms.

Some speakers’ subjects had little to nothing to do with the clinical and occupational associations. Using academic institutions as sites for conferences, a technique now used for several decades – is a legal and acceptable procedure, with a reputation advantage even when faced with institutional disclaimers of non-association. In this case, the conference was held at Harvard. Why? There was one PhD individual from Harvard – otherwise there was no specific reason, other than the association with a prestigious institution.

According to Dr. Findley, the congress has seven primary objectives: 1) To create a forum in which the most current research on fascia will be presented and critically evaluated, including basic science, clinical mechanistic research and research methodology; 2) To foster interdisciplinary, inter-institutional and international collaboration among scientists active in fascia research and clinicians whose methods may impact fascia; 3) To explore developments in research methodologies applicable to complementary therapy investigations; 4) To heighten professional awareness about advances in basic sciences and the importance of formulating hypotheses and testing CAM therapeutic mechanisms; 5) To publish a volume of conference proceedings in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies and generate articles published in internationally indexed journals; 6) To foster networking among attendees, both at the conference and afterward; and 7) To enable future researchers (students and postdoctoral trainees) to strengthen their motivation and interest in a career in fascia research.

The major problem here is that the “complementary” therapy methods of the sponsors and supporters and the presenters have little or nothing to do with fascia. The leaders of the organizations have simply proclaimed such relationships.

Compounding this confusion was a two page report in Science magazine that focused on the personalities and histories of the organizers and a few presenters, their difficulties in becoming recognized and in uniting their academic and their “alternative” interests. The article’s slant was sympathetic to the personalities and their academic plights. One researcher was described as having an epiphany experience when he saw the enthusiasm of the audience – which was filled with CAM supporters and practitioners.

The Science reporter was informed about the subterfuge of sectarian and off-beat medical organizations obtaining respect and legitimacy from association with a meeting constructed to emphasize science yet introduces the quasi-miraculous personal discoveries of devotees of medical sects. Yet no reference to that issue appeared.

One revelation experience is recorded below on the meeting’s web page : (http://www.fascia2007.com/news_comments.htm)

A reaction to the Fascia Research Congress from one of the principal speakers, Serge Gracovetsky PhD, Emeritus Professor, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada…

“That conference was one of the most productive I have been involved with. I am not a clinician, but I knew that manual therapy was effective since I witnessed the benefits that my wife received from a chiropractic friend following a car accident. Why it worked was a mystery to me, and the absence of hard data in the literature (i.e. convincing blind studies with control group) did not help. Boston 2007 changed all that. On Thursday morning, the direct impact of stress at the cellular level, including the expression of DNA targeting the build up of muscle was coolly laid out in no uncertain terms. I was mesmerized by the movie of Dr. Guimberteau which instantly obsoleted all mathematical models of tissue biomechanics that I knew. That was the evidence I was looking for. The question is no longer whether manual therapy is an efficient alternate form of medicine. The data demonstrates that the therapy intervenes at a very primitive and fundamental level in our systems. It has to have a major effect. That was a total surprise to me.”

The testimony above is by a researcher in body mechanics at a major university.

Readers of the Science article will see one skeptical comment to the effect that science really does not work that way, forcing clinical observations into a scientific forum which is used to justify inaccurate observations by association. It works the other way, organically, in which clinical methods derive from scientific observations or from accurate and repeatable clinical phenomena.

But there was no mention of the subterfuge of pseudo medicines hiding behind the skirts of unrelated scientific findings. The producers plan future meetings.

Posted in: Medical Academia, Science and the Media

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9 thoughts on “A Meeting of Incompatibles

  1. Egle says:

    What is “the direct impact of stress at the cellular level, including the expression of DNA targeting the build up of muscle”? Altering gene transcription by a massage – and with that level of precision?!

    It´s interesting how Dr. Gracovetsky was complaining about “the absence of hard data in the literature”, but later on all of a sudden “understood” chiropractics due to a particularly convincing (to him) speech. But as far as I gather, the movie by Dr. Guimberteau didn´t provide any convincing “hard data” whatsoever – why did Dr. Gracovetsky all of a sudden give up his claims for _evidence_?

    At least, they didn´t come up with a theory that somehow involved a bizarre concept of quantum mechanics. It´s quite a fashionable move in the quack industry.

    And why in the world Harvard? As far as I remember from my undergrad years, HMS was a much more scientific place…

  2. daijiyobu says:

    Regarding “pseudomedicines and SECTarian health systems [...and] the subterfuge of SECTarian and off-beat medical organizations [...these] medical SECTs:”

    I find it interesting, Dr. Sampson, that you are one of the few sCAM-critics who employs a very accurate term to entail so much sCAM stuff: sectic or sectarian.

    Flexner would be proud! (search http://www.homeowatch.org/history/flexner.html ).

    My background relates to attending the University of Bridgeport, a ‘chartered nonsectarian’ regionally accredited University that contains more than one ‘sectarian sCAM degree program.’

    This illogic would be hilarious, if it wasn’t so fraudulent.

    There, I studied the sectarian medical system known as naturopathy, after reading that profession’s labels that naturopathy ‘is scientific and not a belief system,’ and the school’s assertions that ‘naturopathy essentially survives scientific scrutiny and is nonsectarian.’

    Yet, I learned naturopathy truly is centered around obligatory nonscientific, sectic / belief premises that are, in fact, hugely science-ejected and /or nonscientific {e.g., a ‘purposeful life spirit’ responsible for states of life, health, and disease [that's vitalism, teleology, spiritism; and since directly equated with 'god power within' my first semester at that school, a form of theism called autoentheism]}. Very nonsectarian and scientific!

    For those interested in the medical literature, ‘sectarian’ — from what I glean, a medical sociology label employed early in the 20th century, and then no much used — was, in a modern sense, revived per Gevitz’s “Sectarian Medicine” {JAMA, vol. 257, issue 12, 1636-1640, 03/27/1987}.

    To me, calling pseudomedical systems that are based upon specific articles of faith, like naturopathy and all the sCAMs within it, ‘alternative, complementary or integrative,’ is hugely inaccurate: it doesn’t reflect the huge nonscientific secticity these systems are marinating in.

  3. No question that the popular euphemisms for implausible health claims are misleading distortions. That’s why we bloggers tend to enclose them within quotation marks if we use them at all.

    Regarding the University of Bridgeport College of Naturopathic Medicine, it appears to be the only school of naturopathy in the US affiliated with a “real” university. But this is no ordinary university. It’s a member of the World University Federation: a front organization for the Unification Church, ie, the cult of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, from whose name its more common designation, the “Moonies,” is derived.[1,2] The following quotations have been attributed to Moon:

    “Therefore, as individuals and families you have to absolutely follow True Parents (Mr. and Mrs. Moon). Your opinion cannot stand against TrueParents.”

    “You must understand what I have in mind and take my commands as strict orders.”

    “Let’s say there are 500 sons and daughters like you in each state. Then we could control the government…. The time will come, without my seeking it, that my words will almost sense as law. If I ask a certain thing, it will be – done. If I don’t want something, it will not be done.”

    “The true sovereign is not the American president nor the English king, but the Lord of the Second Advent (that is, Rev. Moon)”

    “… Americans must listen to me and follow me.”[3]

    “Naturopathic Medicine” itself is most usefully understood as a cult, although it has borrowed a few gurus from elsewhere. Hahnemann from homeopathy, Palmer from chiro, Still from osteopathy, Sutherland from “craniosacral therapy,” for example.

    1. http://web.archive.org/web/20010118032100/http:/wufed.org/index.php?cat=members

    2. http://www.wufed.org/index.htm

    3. http://web.archive.org/web/20010115135900/http:/www.rickross.com/reference/Unif23.html

  4. tdxdave says:

    Everyone who is rushing to buy this, it sounds great, but don’t forget your local library! Mine has this and I requested it.

  5. daijiyobu says:

    Dr. Atwood wrote “regarding [UBCNM...] it appears to be the only school of naturopathy in the US affiliated with a ‘real’ university. But this is no ordinary university. It’s a member of the World University Federation” etc.

    Yes, this I know because I live one minute off their campus and went there for four years as an ND student, but: I was never proselytized / pressured towards Moon-crap sectarianism there.

    My criticisms and warnings to others are about the naturopathy sect overall and UBCNM particularly, and must stand or fall on their own merits: the naturopathy-crap sectic pseudoscience I experienced and am aware of, which, in shorthand, I refer to as ‘Dean Huckster, Professor Guru, and Dr. Quack.’

    I observe that these days, UB is entangled with a lot of State of CT funds, particularly as regards monies from the ‘CT dormitories authority whatever’ who are funding some kind of expansion of certain programs there {dental hygiene?}, and also the City of Bridgeport, who are borrowing a UB building and renovating it into a city school while the city builds schools.

    I’m not sure if such makes them careful about not violating their ‘nonsectarian charter’ further (they do this already simply by hosting sCAM programs of essential sectic nature {literally!}), or if it emboldens them since they’re bedfellows are the State and the City.

    What I’ve learned overall is that the State doesn’t care if UB is teaching huge, unethical, sectarian pseudoscience (naturopathy) as scientific, nonsectarian medicine, and grossly misleading / menacing society through their university literature which lies about what exactly naturopathy is all about: I know this because I’ve complained for years to CT, NEASC, USDE, etc.

  6. daijiyobu says:

    And before I’m corrected, “they’re bedfellows” should be “their bedfellows.”

  7. Ex-drone says:

    Dr Gracovetsky states: “the direct impact of stress at the cellular level, including the expression of DNA targeting the build up of muscle was coolly laid out in no uncertain terms”

    Excellent! That’ll make it easy for him when he writes his peer-reviewed paper for a scholarly medical journal. Isn’t it great when research falls in your lap?

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