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The Weekly Waluation of the Weasel Words of Woo #9

Resurrection!

Can y’believe it? The W^5/2™, that cesspool of Afflicted Sophistry and Festering Fallacy—not to say that wellspring of Awesome and Absolutely Annoying (Cloying) Alliteration© and that Mother of all Maddening Mixed Metaphors and Sundry Similitudes®—is back! Yup, like the proverbial phoenix rising from the ashes of near-terminal procrastination, and due to overwhelming popular demand, the W^5/2 is reborn!!! Well, it also might have something to do with yer faithful servant needing some time to put together a real paper or two…naaahh! But what the hay, let’s just dive right in and pretend that nothin’s changed, shall we?

An Old-Fashioned Signal t’Noise Problem!

Cheeses, there were morna hunnert responses to the W^5/2 #8, but only a few of’em were translations. Those suckuz were as hard to find as chunksaduckliver inna 200CK potentization! Leading the Vanguard of Rationality were Michelle B and Fifi, whose heroic battle against two 4-H Club©-wielding trolls was a Homeric Epic for Our Times:

Thaz right, our brave Womyn were a coupla Big Billy Goats Gruff out there, if you’ll excuse the gender-bender! They, along with several others, nailed the problem of knowledge-starved flower children with “doctorates” making well-intended but categorically false pronouncements like

We often develop illnesses because of our own unresolved feelings and lack of love for ourselves…Deal with any unresolved maternal, nurturing, and relationship issues so they’re not lurking in your breasts.

You are What You Think!

It works both ways, f’cryin’ outloud! If you’ve tried your damnedest to deal with “unresolved feelings” but still get cancer, it’s gotta be your own damned fault!

But it isn’t your fault, because there isn’t the slightest evidence that feelings either lurk in your breasts or have anything to do with getting cancer. To convince a cancer victim of such hogwash is a form of emotional blackmail. So it is not merely justified, but is morally compelling to express disdain for pseudodoctors who make such unfounded claims (which is not, obviously, the same thing as expressing disdain for desperate cancer patients, raygee’s ambiguous words notwithstanding).

Michelle B submitted part of her translation with some gender-bending of her own, using a variation of the time-honored—in the Rarefied Atmosphere that is the W^5/2!Power of Simple Substitution, first coined by W^5/2 International Grand Master Stu (m’man!). Then she added the obligatory point about the quid pro quo, sodaspeak. Fifi just went straight f’th’juggula. In addition to these Heroines, the Honor Roll of Translators who made that simple point must include:

Jessa B, a newcomer to the W^5/2 (I think!), who way back in June divined the next U.S. Senator from the Landa 10,000 Lakes! (Sheece! Ya gotta love Minnesotans’ picks for high office, even if they shoot themselves in the foot in other elections!) To Jessa B goes the W^5/2′s Special Recognition for Precognition of a Politician on a Mission of Ambition®!!

mmarsh, for explaining the matter in the simplest possible way;

TsuDhoNimh, for a more Elaborate but Expert and Eloquent Explanation©, providing the necessary Holistic Heuristic™;

Stu (m’man!), who was understandably underwhelmed by such unchallenging upchuck, but nevertheless took one fer th’ W^5/2 Team as it were, by submitting a concise and irreproachable translation;

DLC, for rendering a similar translation in Sweet Verse;

Calli Arcale, for re-rendering it in Sweet Terse; and

Stu (m’man!) again, for directing our collective attention to this celebration of the, er, focal points of the pertinent passage.

Finally, I can’t help but rap the knuckles of Joe. I mean if this isn’t beautiful, what is???

And I dunno why the nuns forgot to put saltpeter in his milk growin’ up, but from where I sit just hearin’ the E-word means yer goin’ straight to Hell!! F’Chrissakes, hoozincharge of moderating comments around here, anyway?

But Seriously, Folks…

For me, an event in the public domain that catalyzed my thinking about this subtle price of Woo was the death of Gilda Radner. At some point after her ovarian cancer had been brought into remission by chemo- and radiation therapy, as I recall, she subscribed to the idea that her fate was in her own hands, i.e., that she had the power to keep the cancer at bay by sheer force of will. Perhaps I’m wrong about that: I haven’t read her book (which is currently out of print, but a new edition expected soon), nor have I seen the Life Magazine article that appears to discuss that part of her life. Nevertheless, such a belief is held by many people and is nurtured by many professionals who ought to know better.

Gilda was involved with a group called The Wellness Community, which continues to ride the coattails of her celebrity. The organization’s website is less blatantly woo-promoting than are many others, and shows that a large part of what it does is provide rational, emotional support for people with cancer and for their families. Good. Nevertheless, with a little digging it isn’t hard to find promotions of all manner of quackery. Relevant to the discussion here is a Downloadable Relaxation/Guided Imagery Session, where the cancer victim is urged to

…give your body special healing messages…ask your immune system right now to be especially on the alert to right at this moment go through your body, through all parts, and to mark anything that doesn’t belong there, to send in the troops, to send in those special T-cells, that destroy anything that doesn’t belong there…[etc.]

Elsewhere the Wellness Community promotes “integrative oncologist” Jeremy Geffen, whose “7 levels of healing” program is chock full of seductive hints that similar “mind-body” exercises, “cleansing and detoxification,” and the usual litany of other quack practices may prolong survival. Ah, they have an Awesome Power to Deceive, do those Weasel Words of Woo!

This is not mere speculation. I don’t know how Gilda felt when she learned that she hadn’t kept her cancer at bay, but I’ve witnessed 3-4 unfortunate patients who felt that they had failed themselves (I haven’t witnessed any who realized that they’d been duped). I’ve also seen a particularly disturbing example of a family who, after their 30-something son/brother had died of leukemia within a few days of a surreptitious, in-hospital “guided imagery” session, became convinced—and became politically and financially active “mind-body” proponents as a result—that the young man would have lived if only he had been introduced to the guided imagery guru sooner! I’m sorry, but “we,” by which I mean the Silent Shruggie Majority of physicians, are responsible for the persistence of such lies, even if most of us didn’t invent them.

But back to the fun.

This Week’s Entry: “A Piece of Rolled-Gold Woo” and a Special Treat!

That’s because it’s the first guest submission to the venerable W^5/2™!! It was offered, along with the pithy description quoted above, by Dr. Michael Vagg of Geelong, Australia, whom you know better as wertys! The passage is an abstract of a paper in the Chiropractic Journal of Australia (2006; 36:127-36):

Palpatory Literacy and the Subluxation Complex: Developing a Model to Represent What We Think We Feel

PHILLIP EBRALL, AIDAN NEST, LEANDRA WALKER and DAVID WRIGHT
ABSTRACT:

Objective: To explore the development of a model for use as a learning object to convey to students the clinical understanding and interpretation of palpation findings chiropractors think they derive from an entity that is yet to be shown to exist.

Discussion: The model presented in this paper attempts to capture traditional beliefs within chiropractic that surround the act of spinal palpation largely in the absence of published data or even interpretative speculation. The identification and correction of the putative spinal subluxation complex seems to lie at the heart of the identity of chiropractic, yet the clinical act of identifying the lesion continues to demonstrate low agreement. The literature is even more silent on connecting the findings from palpation with the determination of the manner and characteristics of the spinal adjustment, the therapeutic intervention germane to the practice of chiropractic. While the answers to these questions may lie under the blanket of clinical experience, they present a challenge to chiropractic educators who teach palpation and spinal adjustive technique. In the absence of factual knowledge or evidence descriptive of the clinical entity supposedly addressed by the chiropractic adjustment, the question becomes one of which theoretical constructs are appropriate for presentation in the classroom.

Conclusion: A better understanding of palpatory literacy is critical to drive the optimal application of the chiropractic adjustment as the preferred therapeutic intervention to correct dysfunctional movement of spinal segments.

Phew!! I dunno about you, but just trying to slog through that makes me short of breath!

Happy Waluating!

The Misleading Language and Weekly Waluation of the Weasel Words of Woo series:

  1. Lies, Damned Lies, and ‘Integrative Medicine’
  2. Integrative Medicine: “Patient-Centered Care” is the new Medical Paternalism

Posted in: Cancer, Chiropractic, Faith Healing & Spirituality, Health Fraud, Humor, Medical Ethics

Leave a Comment (36) ↓

36 thoughts on “The Weekly Waluation of the Weasel Words of Woo #9

  1. DLC says:

    Oof!
    So.. it’s Um… about back-rubs and how more people should understand them ?
    Or is it to do with how Chiropractors are a lonely, misunderstood group, who really just want to ring the bells and not pour molten metal down on us ?

  2. Joe says:

    “Feelings, nothing more than feelings,

    … Teardrops rolling down on my face,

    … Feelings, wo-o-o feelings,

    … Feelings, for all my life I’ll feel it.

    … Feelings, wo-o-o feelings,
    wo-o-o, feelings again in my arms.
    Feelings…(repeat & fade)”

    – Morris Albert

  3. Joe says:

    Copping a Feel While Playing Doctor (1)

    Objective: To develop a more convincing-sounding version of subluxation detection by palpation so chiropracty students do not resort to dowsing. (2)

    Discussion: Since the current literature and definition of “chiropractic subluxation” does not even rise to the level of speculation concerning its existence, (3) we need to develop a new model for its detection (via palpation) that is equally convincing. DD Palmer (may his vegetables never rot) hath given us the subluxation to worship all the days of our lives. Yeah, though we walk through the land of make-believe, let us be steadfast. We may never have the answers to our questions, DD works in mysterious ways. In the absence of facts, we must endeavor to persevere in our faith; and continue to act as if the proof is forthcoming.

    Conclusion: The difference between a large pizza and a chiropractor who has no faith in subluxations is the pizza can feed a family of four; thus, we must instill the faith in our students.

    References
    (1) http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=286
    (2) http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/ideomotor.html
    (3) http://www.chirocolleges.org/paradigm_scope.html

    Feelings, woo woo woo, feelings …

  4. Dr Benway says:

    Conclusion: The notion of “palpatory literacy” is scientifically meaningless, as it cannot be demonstrated in any reliable, repeatable manner.

    Fixed it fer ‘em.

  5. Dr Benway says:

    Dowsing joke made me lol.

    That entire chiro article boils down to, “We must try harder to prove that what we believe is true.”

    A frank violation of the scientific ethos. Better that they try harder to prove that they are wrong.

  6. DVMKurmes says:

    Darn it, it is hard to teach students nonsense-and even harder to get them to all agree on the same nonsense!

  7. “In the absence of factual knowledge or evidence descriptive of the clinical entity supposedly addressed by the chiropractic adjustment, the question becomes one of which theoretical constructs are appropriate for presentation in the classroom.”

    The answer is “none of them!”

    The end.

  8. Michelle B says:

    Translation:

    Agenda: To exploit the development of a model for use as an chiropractic object to convey to students the hands-on understanding and interpretation of palpating said model thusly encouraging those handy chiropractors to have an opportunity to practice ideas which exist solely in their minds.

    The Most Mind-Killing, Boring Discussion Then Follows: The model presented in this paper attempts to wear loose traditional garb that hides posture. All we ask is that the model wears transparent garb so we can see their posture. Is that too much to ask? This quest lies at the heart of the identity of chiropractic, yet model runways are set too high for the chiropractic practitioners to check out the posture of the models which is very frustrating. The literature is deafeningly silent on connecting the findings of transparent clothing with the determination of ensuring good posture because frankly there isn’t any connection. While the answers to these questions may lie under the cozy warm up blanket models use after work, they present a challenge to chiropractic educators who teach the need for transparent clothing and the role it plays in good posture. In the absence of us not knowing wtf we are saying, the question becomes one of which kind of warm-up blankets are appropriate for models.

    Conclusive Truth: A better understanding of the value of see-through clothes is critical to drive the optimal application of correct posture as the preferred therapeutic intervention is to correct that pesky slouchy posture that so many models have and which prevents them from rising to the top of their profession.

  9. Stu says:

    In the absence of factual knowledge or evidence descriptive of the clinical entity supposedly addressed by the chiropractic adjustment, the question becomes one of which theoretical constructs are appropriate for presentation in the classroom.

    Whawhawhaaaat? Is it just me, or did they just completely give themselves away there?

  10. Sastra says:

    I’ll take a stab:

    Objective: To explore the development of an elaborate chiropractic apologetics system so that its practitioners need not consider the possibility that they’re all fooling themselves.

    Discussion: The model presented in this paper will make increasingly desperate attempts to account for the fact that there is no solid physical evidence for subluxations, there is no consensus on how to look for subluxations, there is no consistency between diagnoses of subluxations, there is no coherency between descriptions of what subluxations are doing, and there is no agreement on what to do with subluxations if we think we have found them. We really should try to deal with this minor, but long-neglected aspect of chiropractry, because it makes it a bit hard to teach.

    Conclusion: A better understanding of more sophisticated rhetorical tricks and obfuscations is critical to the continuation of optimal chiropractic therapy and its instruction, as preferred interventions for dysfunctional self-doubt and second-guessing.

  11. MedsVsTherapy says:

    “In the absence of factual knowledge or evidence descriptive of the clinical entity supposedly addressed by the chiropractic adjustment, the question becomes one of which theoretical constructs are appropriate for presentation in the classroom.”

    Wow. Yes, they basically came out and admitted: “no evidence.”

  12. clgood says:

    Not to hijack the thread, but Deepak “Woo” Chopra is back, and Ann Althouse has a great smackdown which I suspect you’ll enjoy.

    (Where Chopra is involved it can’t be too far off topic for W^5/2, right?)

  13. Blue Wode says:

    Dr Benway wrote on 09 Jan 2009 at 8:39 am: That entire chiro article boils down to, “We must try harder to prove that what we believe is true.”

    …following The Chiropractic Method of investigation:

    Quote:

    1. Start with a Conclusion

    2. Propose Theory
    Only theories that support the conclusion should be considered. Little or no attempt should be made to test or disprove the proposed theory.

    3. Collect Supporting Evidence
    One single example of supporting evidence is sufficient, even if there are thousands of examples of evidence that do not support or contradict the theory. Only “supporting” evidence is considered.

    4. Reject Modify or Retain Evidence
    If the evidence is undeniably proved to be faulty, then reject it and find some evidence that does support the Theory. The Theory is not normally rejected at this point because only one example of supporting evidence is required to justify the theory. Contradictory evidence is ignored.

    If forced to abandon a theory then claim that you didn’t believe it all along and that false Chiropractors proposed it. Propose another Theory that supports your conclusion. Go to step 2

    Golden Rule:- Conclusion is always the same regardless of evidence or the theory.

    Corollary:- For Straight Chiropractors. No evidence at all is required to support a conclusion.

    The Scientific method is designed to discover the truth and eliminate falsehoods, lies, ignorance and misunderstanding.

    The Chiropractic method is self delusional. It can never uncover a falsehood or prove a truth. It only reinforces existing perceptions of the truth.

    The Chiropractic Method is simply Blind Faith and has no bearing on truth whatsoever.

    The scientific method: – base your conclusions on observations/evidence.
    The chiropractic method: – base your observations/evidence on your conclusions.

    http://chirotalk.proboards3.com/index.cgi?board=cheernon&action=display&thread=2141&page=2

  14. Stu says:

    And again, watch the power of simple substitution. I expect the fat kickbacks from the pedicure-industrial complex to arrive soon.

    Objective: To explore the development of a model for use as a learning object to convey to students the clinical understanding and interpretation of toenail clipping findings clippers think they derive from an entity that is yet to be shown to exist.

    Discussion: The model presented in this paper attempts to capture traditional beliefs within toenail clipping that surround the act of clipping largely in the absence of published data or even interpretative speculation. The identification and correction of the putative hangnail complex seems to lie at the heart of the identity of toenail clipping, yet the clinical act of identifying the lesion continues to demonstrate low agreement. The literature is even more silent on connecting the findings from clipping with the determination of the manner and characteristics of the toenail clipping, the therapeutic intervention germane to the practice of toenail clipping. While the answers to these questions may lie under the blanket of clinical experience, they present a challenge to clipping educators who teach clipping and filing technique. In the absence of factual knowledge or evidence descriptive of the clinical entity supposedly addressed by the clipping, the question becomes one of which theoretical constructs are appropriate for presentation in the classroom.

    Conclusion: A better understanding of clipping literacy is critical to drive the optimal application of the toenail adjustment as the preferred therapeutic intervention to correct dysfunctional nail segments.

    The sad part is that it actually makes more sense than the original. I am in the wrong damned racket, I tell you.

  15. mmarsh says:

    “Dudes! Shh! Dudes! The cops are coming, we gotta get our story straight!”

  16. mandydax says:

    …give your body special healing messages…ask your immune system right now to be especially on the alert to right at this moment go through your body, through all parts, and to mark anything that doesn’t belong there, to send in the troops, to send in those special T-cells, that destroy anything that doesn’t belong there…[etc.]

    If true, then done wrong, it could induce an auto-immune disorder. It’s always lupus! Oh, wait… it’s never lupus.

    “Subluxation Complex” sounds like a disease that an energy being from the Star Trek universe would come down with. Humans get hepres simplex, Beta XII-A entities get subluxation complex.

  17. wertys says:

    I’m very concerned about what else might be lying under that stinky blanket of clinical experience !

  18. Jurjen S. says:

    I think Stu nailed it: the authors openly acknowledge that chiropractors can’t agree on what a “subluxation” is, let alone demonstrate to non-chiropractors that such a thing exists. Kudos also to the Perky Skeptic for providing the right answer to the question “so what do we teach our students?”

  19. Hee, thanks Jurjen S. ! I love everyone’s answers thus far, but I have to nominate wertys as Winner Of Teh Internets for this–

    “I’m very concerned about what else might be lying under that stinky blanket of clinical experience !”

    –which is my new favorite phrase ever. :)

  20. Joe says:

    Jurjen S. on 10 Jan 2009 at 6:10 am wrote “I think Stu nailed it: the authors openly acknowledge that chiropractors can’t agree on what a “subluxation” is, let alone demonstrate to non-chiropractors that such a thing exists.”

    I must disagree.

    Stu’s contribution was lacking in imagination (a simple substitution). Michelle B was more imaginative; but should be disqualified because she got her idea from a movie (Ready to Wear, 1994) in which the postures of the runway models were clear.

    I, alone, have offered a hackneyed portrayal of real chiropracty (although, Blue Wode comes close); wertys’ stinky blankets notwithstanding.

  21. Michelle B says:

    As much as I missed Kimball’s agitated alliterative activity, I missed even more getting routinely disqualified by Joe. I am content as I now filled with the disqualification love shown by Joe. (Such love is akin to the kind girls suffer why boys stick pens in them in class to show their interest.)

    I won this weekly waluation because my aim was to get disqualified by Joe.

    Anyway, if I wasn’t high on several cups of Vervein Menthe herbal tisane (yes, I am a cheap date), and therefore being in a giggly and silly mood, I would have done what Sastra did. It’s a laborious slog, but someone had to do it.

    BTW, Sastra, would you be interested in joining the stable of writers at http://asktheatheists.com/ ? I have reading your stuff all over the web at various sites, and we would be delighted if you joined us. The questions get sent to you via email; it is really not very time-consuming to answer the questions you wish.

  22. Joe says:

    Michelle Bo n 11 Jan 2009 at 7:23 am wrote “As much as I missed Kimball’s agitated alliterative activity, I missed even more getting routinely disqualified by Joe. I am content as I now filled with the disqualification love shown by Joe.”

    In that case, I will not seek disqualification in the future. As the sadist said to the masochist: “No.”

  23. Michelle B says:

    I enjoyed your conclusion (It’s hard to displease a masochist.)

  24. Fifi says:

    mandydax – “It’s always lupus! Oh, wait… it’s never lupus.”

    You must watch House! ;-)

  25. Fifi says:

    clgood – Great link! It seems the Summit is about advancing politics not science! Clearly the whole point is to try to get some of the public healthcare money they think is going to come from Obama (apparently the bloodbath has commenced, I expect corporate interests of all kinds – these wooful ones, but also Big Pharma, the corporate medical industry that run clinics, Insurance companies and so – to be lobbying their fat asses off and corrupting the process to serve corporate interests rather than human ones in a flurry of propaganda and astroturf marketing online to new agey types and via churches to evangelical ones). That link would be well placed in the discussion about the Surgeon General – perhaps the new appointment is really only there to sell the pseudoscience to a public that may not feel like public health care should be paying for “yoga therapy” or spa treatments. (Yoga therapy and woo are upper middle class things for the most part.) Seriously – there’s rehab and then there’s spa treatments, no one goes to rehab just to “feel better” or for added “wellness” because real injury and rehab is a bitch! Americans are going to be forced to accept all kinds of woo and religion in the name of “health freedom” that would never fly in other nations with public healthcare and that make a distinction between Church and State!

  26. Fifi says:

    And I say this as someone who recognizes the utility of meditation in some situations and who has worked in a multidisciplanary clinic!

  27. Stu says:

    Joe, I am crushed that I have disappointed you. Because of your disapproval, my life no longer has meaning.

    Ahem.

    I’ll see if there’s an honesty++ version in my fingers if I have a bit of time later on today.

  28. Mojo says:

    The Emperor’s Subluxations

    Once upon a time there was a Great Emperor who was greatly concerned about his Health. One day he heard about some Doctors who could Cure All His Ills by Cracking His Spine. He decided to call together all the Spine-Crackers in his realm to see if they could agree on a Course Of Treatment. Each of the Spine-Crackers examined him, and took an X-Ray, and each of them then announced that there was a Terrible Subluxation in his spine. When the Emperor asked why his own Physicians were unable to detect these Terrible Subluxations, the Spine-Crackers told him that it was because only Very Clever People could see them, and his Physicians were lacking in Palpatory Literacy. When the Emperor asked why all the Spine-Crackers were saying that his Terrible Subluxations were in Different Places, they replied that the Spine-Crackers were similarly lacking in Palpatory Literacy, but that nevertheless, the Terrible Subluxations must be real, otherwise everything the Spine-Crackers did would be Nonsense. And that would be a Terrible State Of Affairs.

    The Emperor was persuaded to fund a Major Program to increase the Palpatory Literacy of all the Spine-Crackers in his realm, and all the Spine-Crackers lived Happily Ever After.

  29. Stu says:

    Actually, come to think of it, Joe & Sastra have already done that quite capably. I think this well has run dry.

    dysfunctional movement of spinal segments.

    What are they doing, driving a U-Haul to see Jerry Springer? In pieces? Dirty Dancing? Stomping The Yard?

  30. Those spinal segments are totally codependent! They’re moving in to enable each other!

  31. Stu says:

    Dysfunctional movement… I think I saw some in a Britney Spears video a while back.

    *Ba-dum ching*

  32. visitor says:

    Seriously, if the article was a waste of time, why on earth are you persisting in wasting more time making childish comments about it? Do you not have anything else better to do with your lives? Guess not

  33. Joe says:

    @visitor,

    I guess we should thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to remonstrate us.

  34. AppealToAuthority says:

    Umm.. it seems to me that everyone here is missing the joke.

    In only slightly obtuse language, Ebrall, Nest, Walker and Wright seem to have summed up the problems with conventional chiropractic, and got them published in a chiro journal for all to read.

    Has anyone actually read the article? Was it submitted on April 1?

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