EPISTEMOLOGICAL REHABILITATION

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A good deal of the problem with the extreme differences within the chiropractic profession today is rooted in the thinking of the chiropractor. Obviously what you think the objective of the chiropractor should be will affect your practice. The straight has a “vertebral subluxation correction objective,” the mixer has a “disease treatment objective.” But perhaps it would benefit us to go back a step, for it seems some of the cause lies in how we think. How you think determines to a great degree what you think and as we stated above what you think (of the objective) of chiropractic will affect your practice.
Epistemology according to Webster is “the theory or science of the method and grounds of knowledge, especially with reference to its limits and validity.” Very simply, epistemology deals with how we know what we know. The three basic ways in which we learn are faith, empiricism, and rationalization. Society seems to think that empiricism is the superior manner in which knowledge is gained. Yet the majority of knowledge we gain in life is by the other two methods. All methods are equally valid. As a child you are told “The stove is hot, do not touch it.” You believe your mother’s warning. “Belief” is the key word. The validity of this type of learning, faith, is dependent upon the object of faith. In this case, the object is your mother and her veracity. You may also use empiricism to determine whether it is hot. Empiricism is the scientific method and utilizes the senses. You can touch it! Good way to learn, a little painful, but effective. I don’t recommend it in this case! The third method, rationalization, involves reason. You can reason that there is steam coming from the pot on the stove and that things like your soup when they come off the stove are hot, therefore, the stove must be hot. This method utilizes the ability to think, the quality of your mind. Each of these methods is valid. With each you will come to the correct conclusion. Which is the better method? If you do not like pain, empiricism is not. Most of that which we learn is better suited to one method than another. In the above example probably faith was the superior method primarily because a young child has not developed the mind sufficiently to deductively reason the correct answer.
We have a profession that was established primarily through the rationalization method of perception. We have begun with a Major Premise. “There is a universal intelligence in all matter…” From that point we have deductively drawn conclusions which are just as valid as if we demonstrated them in a laboratory. Ned Herman of the Whole Brain Corp. who teaches applied creativity talks about one mode of thinking, blacking out another, and as a result inhibiting potential creativity of an individual. We seem to have a similar situation here. One mode of thinking, empirical, inhibits the ability of an individual to think rationally. It must be proved via their senses to be fact. This type of individual has a difficult time understanding, accepting, or even giving a hearing to the deductive philosophy of chiropractic. The medical doctor is the perfect example of this. The only type of reasoning that he understands is inductive as a precursor to empirical proof. Many times I have heard a chiropractor explain reasonably and logically the simple truth of chiropractic in a radio debate. The M.D. invariably responds “Well, that sounds fine but can you prove it?” He not only cannot think outside the empirical frame of reference he does not even acknowledge that there is another legitimate way of thinking, that truth can be arrived at by means other than laboratory or clinical experiment. The truly successful people, those that we commonly refer to as geniuses, are the ones who can think equally well in each area. Edison was one of these. Although he was a scientist and functioned in the empirical realm, he used his deductive abilities and his faith in himself and his ideas to carry him through many a laboratory failure that would have caused the strictly empirical thinker to quit. Einstein was another in this category. He was as much a philosopher as a scientist. B.J. Palmer was a third. It amazes me how the empiricists or “clinical chiropractors” can mock B.J.’s philosophy and even the man as a cult figure. Yet this “scientific” group ignores the fact that B.J. alone did more scientific research, observed, evaluated and categorized more empirical data in chiropractic than the rest of the profession combined has done before or since. B.J. combined the ability to think in the empirical and rational areas with the ability to go with what has been variously described as intuition, gut feelings, right brain thinking, inner creativity. B.J. described it as “innate thought flashes.” Whatever you call it, it is a characteristic of the geniuses in history. Perhaps this is what B.J. talks about in some of his writing when he says that everyone has the potential to be an Edison, Fermi, Bach, or Gershwin. It’s a matter of properly utilizing what you’ve got. Much of our problem in chiropractic lies in the type of student that is attracted to chiropractic school. His or her pre-chiropractic education has almost entirely been in the empirical arena. He has learned his chemistry, physics and biology in an empirical lab. But more important than just learning these subjects he has learned a way of thinking empirical thinking. He has learned that it is the only accepted mode of thinking. It is strange how we reject the medical model but accept medical thinking. The medical model was arrived at by inductive reasoning coupled with empirical study. It results in conclusions, procedures, and data that are accepted as truth one day and will be rejected as false the next by the very same medical thinking. You cannot examine chiropractic by way of medical thinking. I am not saying we should reject programs and research to empirically prove chiropractic tenets but the fact remains that certain tenets cannot be demonstrated empirically. A perfect example occurred recently in a second quarter philosophy class. I spent considerable time deductively explaining a concept about innate intelligence. A student raised his hand and said “but you really can’t prove this.” I responded “I just did prove it!” Deductive reasoning is as valid a “proof” as is a laboratory experiment. When it comes to innate intelligence, deductive reasoning is the only valid proof. The problem with the student was he could not see a method outside of the empirical thought system as being a valid method of proving something. The student is not an unusual case. The majority of students think empirically. They even try to squeeze the chiropractic philosophy into an empirical frame of reference so that it becomes the “theory of chiropractic.” There is a big difference between the philosophy of chiropractic and the theory of chiropractic. The philosophy is something that has been “proven” beyond a shadow of a doubt deductively. A theory is something that kind of hangs around until someone proves it, empirically.
We must begin to stop thinking of ourselves as second class citizens or second rate health practitioners because we think deductively. Many of our profession go around with a hang-dog expression saying “I’m sorry we can’t prove our philosophy but we’re working on it. One day we’ll be able to. Meanwhile let’s look, act, and pretend to be the epitome of empiricism, the medical doctor, and hope that nobody challenges us until we can prove chiropractic empirically.”
We should not go to the other extreme and become as arrogant (because of our ability to think philosophically) as the empirical chiropractor does because of his ability to function in the “scientific” framework. That is non-productive. But that is highly unlikely. The philosopher deals in principles and abstract concepts; these tend to promote humility. The more the chiropractor understands the philosophy of chiropractic, the greater his/her respect for the innate intelligence and the less his feelings of self-importance. The empiricist, on the other hand, thinks inductively. Inductive thinking deals with theories and experimentation. That glorifies the individual, hence the arrogance.
If we could begin to turn around the thinking of this profession or at least get the profession to begin to think, we could make great changes in the attitudes and understanding of chiropractic.   V2n4

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