(not quite the question, but a question nonetheless)
You cannot practise in the UK as a chiropractor unless you are recognised by the GCC as being a chiropractor – irrespective of whether your qualifications or practise methodology are those that would generally be recognised elsewhere, by other chiropractors, and by most people in the UK, as those of a chiropractor. Moves by the BCA, the largest professional association for chiropractors in the UK, to seek prescription rights for chiropractors, has also led to much debate about whether this is a wise move, at all necessary and, indeed, whether it is even appropriate for chiropractic or should in fact (if realised) be termed something different like ‘medipractic’. Who is and who is not a chiropractor, and based on what, is a matter, then, of some debate.
Who is and who is not a doctor is also a matter of some debate. In spite of the fact that doctorate-level qualifications are earned by practitioners and academics in a wide variety of fields, both within and without healthcare, a number of threads have been posted on ‘’sceptic’ blogs’’ proclaiming that chiropractors should not be allowed to call themselves ‘Doctors of chiropractic’. Their main contention seems to be that by calling themselves Doctors of chiropractic, Doctors of chiropractic might mislead the ‘naive and unsuspecting public’ into thinking that they are General Practitioners. Quite why they would want to do that is beyond me, but this prospect is clearly a real and present fear for ‘sceptics’.
These shenanigans about chiropractic nomenclature got me wondering.
Should some self-proclaimed ‘sceptics’ really be allowed to call themselves ‘sceptics’ when, it appears to me from their attitudes and comments, they are not really sceptics (as sceptics were originally defined and as scepticism is properly practiced)? If so, then in calling themselves ‘sceptics’ on public forums might they be misleading the ‘naive and unsuspecting public’ who may believe that the views propounded are the views of true sceptics? And might those members of the public place greater value and trust in the views of those ‘sceptics’ as a result?
Classically, scepticism is a term derived from the teachings and traits of the ‘Skeptikoi’, a school of philosophers of whom it was said that they ‘asserted nothing but only opined.’ Its most famous adherent, Carneades claimed that “Nothing can be known, not even this”. Much of what I have seen posted by ‘sceptics’ does not seem in keeping with this philosophy or belief – that no knowledge is indisputable or absolute. In fact many seem quite confident that they are right and / or that others are wrong.
A broader definition of scepticism is the philosophical position that ‘one should suspend judgment in investigations’. Hmm, not much in evidence in some cases.
Perhaps the ‘sceptics’ in question do not subscribe to the same ancient definitions and practices of scepticism? (Hmm, interesting then that they assume all chiropractors subscribe to the same ancient definitions and practices of chiropractic…)
Perhaps the ‘sceptics’ in question consider themselves more ‘scientific’ or ‘empirical’ sceptics?
However, a scientific (or empirical) sceptic is one who questions the reliability of certain kinds of claims by subjecting them to a systematic investigation…again, not much evidence of that on some of the sceptic blogs. More of a cherry picking of evidence that suits their case and a refusal to engage with anything that doesn’t in some cases.
There is, however, quite a lot of evidence of ‘sceptics’ demanding of chiropractic (or whatever other profession they have in their sights at the time) a far higher level of systematic proof than they often seem to demand of many aspects or treatment modalities of ‘modern medicine’. And yet many do not seem to have any interest in supporting the development of a properly designed systematic investigation of chiropractic (as opposed to a limited investigation of ‘manipulation’ which is what we have thus far).
In conclusion, it seems to me that many of these ‘sceptics’ could be better described as false sceptics or pseudosceptics. False scepticism centres not on an impartial search for the truth, but on the defence or support of a preconceived ideological position. Many sceptic blogs seem to originate from the preconceived position that ‘chiropractors are quacks’ or ‘chiropractic doesn’t work’ or that ‘medicine’ is the only healthcare field worthy of the name…and proceed pretty much from that basis. Sometimes the start point of the ‘scepticism’ is an unfortunate personal bad experience with chiropractic, which is extended to a universal. Sometimes the opinions posted seem to be second or third hand, and highly selective (as a ‘Professor’ Ernst is deemed infallible, as a ‘science writer’ Singh’s view is incontrovertible, but as a ‘Doctor of chiropractic’ one is supposedly uniquely biased and deluded.)
In this respect I would say that many ‘sceptics’ engaged in the debates about chiropractic bear more resemblance to another ancient school of thought, namely cynicism:
- a person who believes that only selfishness motivates human actions and who disbelieves in or minimizes selfless acts ordisinterested points of view.
- a person who shows or expresses a bitterly or sneeringly cynical attitude.
Of course, not all ‘sceptics’ are the same and there are some that are genuinely and conscientiously helping to challenge and further debate. After all, to say ‘all sceptics are the same’ would be like saying ‘all chiropractors are the same’ wouldn’t it. And that would be ridiculous.
Stefaan Vossen, Doctor of Chiropractic
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