One the greatest challenges confronting the chiropractic profession is a problem with the literature, the chiropractic background. Articles in the literature dating back at least forty years need to be reassessed, critiqued, and updated. This becomes more obvious to me every time I read a new opinion paper or an overview of the profession’s crossroad or schism.
I just started reading the new paper by a first-year chiropractic student and his mentor. It is an excellent example of this problem, which has affected a portion of the chiropractic literature today. My intent is not to be overly critical, just honest. It is time we start dissecting the literature with clarity, conviction, and the facts.
I won’t dissect the whole paper for you today. It would take too long, your time is precious. Let’s just look at the first page and the use of references to begin to understand how the literature from the past affects the profession today.
First, I sincerely commend the author, Bob Strahinjevich. To take on the task of writing an overview of the chiropractic profession’s schism as a student is remarkable. It took me three years to write my first paper as a student. I understand. It has taken me another twenty years to grok the literature and so mistakes are perfectly understandable as well.
The Schism in Chiropractic Through the Eyes of a 1st Year Chiropractic Student was coauthored by Dr. Keith Simpson. I have written about one of Simpson’s papers before. It had its own challenges.
I write this out of respect for the chiropractors that came before us and even greater respect for those that will graduate in the future. It is to them that we owe a body of literature that rests on a comprehensive accounting of the profession, not on singular viewpoints based on flawed literature.
Past and Future of Chiropractic
Let’s Focus on the Background
On the first page, the authors rely on twenty references to establish the background. The mark of a good paper is its use of references and more importantly what references it neglects. I will focus on the most obvious problems and steer away from the nitty-gritty details. After all, so few of their references have been critically analyzed in the literature.
The first two paragraphs just cite the internal divergence within the profession. However, we should take note of their use of quotation marks around the word discovered. They write, “since chiropractic was ‘discovered’ in 1895.” Perhaps this just harks back to Simpson’s 2012 paper, which does the same thing. This approach mainly says to the reader that D.D. Palmer didn’t really discover chiropractic. This is an old trope dating back to Palmer’s earliest detractors such as Smith, Langworthy, Gregory, Davis, and Forster. There is no basis in fact for positioning the invention of chiropractic like this but that is the stuff of another post.
In paragraph three, they reference some literature offering solutions to the profession’s schism. However, their references for solutions only include three sociologists (if you include Simpson) and Walker’s incredibly biased opinion paper. It would be a much stronger paper if they included a wider spectrum of the literature offering solutions.
The Straw Man Fallacy
The remaining sections of the Background include a surface analysis of the “ideological gulf” in the profession. They rely on Phillips’ flawed paper from two decades ago positioning chiropractors as either believers or questioners. This argument does not reflect how actual chiropractors engage with chiropractic theories about Innate Intelligence and vertebral subluxation, especially since Phillips’ only references were Will Durant, B.J. Palmer, R.W. Stephenson, and a Los Angeles Chiropractic College position paper.
Then they utilize Phillips’ incorrect assessment about chiropractor’s perspectives as fact and cite Keating’s biography of B.J. Palmer to suggest “entrenched ideologies, based on misunderstanding of science and marinated in the fear of losing a ‘separate and distinct’ (from all things medical) identity have prevented chiropractic from fully unifying and moving forward.” This is by definition a straw man argument.
A note about Keating’s unfortunate book: It is filled with facts that support a deep bias against B.J. Palmer. (I challenge anyone to read the book and determine whether you feel that biographer actually read B.J. Palmer’s 39 volumes. Isn’t it expected that a biographer read the books authored by their subject?)
So, the Background is a straw man argument based in part on dated and biased literature.
Straw Man Fallacy
A Deeper View
I would love to direct your attention to a few articles in the literature that do not get cited in this paper. I point this out because many of the issues have been explored in other papers. To write a paper on the schism in chiropractic and ignore a good portion of the recent literature on the topic is considered poor scholarship. You don’t have to agree with the other literature but you do at least have to review it and explain why you disagree. That would be considered good scholarship if your arguments are sound.
I published an article in 2001 in The Journal of Integral Studies. In that article, I talked about the general consensus in the profession around the concept that the body is self-healing and self-organizing. We could easily build upon that to create bridges. The article also applies cultural and psychological perspectives to viewing the historical concepts of Innate Intelligence and Universal Intelligence. But the journal was obscure so I am not surprised many have missed it.
More recent articles bridge the gaps these authors intuit but go far deeper down the rabbit hole that is the schism in the profession. The complexity of worldviews and perspectives that has always been at conflict within chiropractic cannot be simplified around a fictitious “entrenched ideology,” nor can it be simplified to those who seek “evidence” and those who don’t. Any papers you may read that imply those types of dichotomies are just creating new myths.
In one article, I explored eight different ways the profession could engage around constructing theory and philosophy. In another article, I explored the historical schism in chiropractic by demonstrating that at least five verifiable perspectives exist in the profession as developmental trajectories. Most of these perspectives will always clash no matter what profession embodies them. One key to unity is to understand what they are, develop an accurate history of how they clashed in the past, and then develop ways to dialogue across them.
The chiropractic profession is fractured. It has been since 1902 according to Faulkner’s book on O.G. Smith. The solutions to the profession’s problems are not in publishing more articles that reference the same flawed arguments from the last forty years. The solution is in viewing the profession through new lenses from other disciplines, correcting the literature of the past, and honestly confronting it through science and good scholarship.
Please watch for future dissections of the literature and quite possibly a chirowiki that highlights the literature.