Dialogue, Debate, and Dissolution


I recently had the opportunity to view the video of the Great Debate held in Chicago between two members of the faculty of Sherman College and Joseph Keating, Ph.D. and Craig Nelson, D.C.  The topic of the debate was whether a vitalistic philosophy hinders the advance of chiropractic science.  The debate quickly evolved into vitalism versus mechanism.  I will not go into the argument but confine my remarks to the debate.  I am not sure anybody ever “wins” a debate.  Most of the time each side thinks they got the better of the argument.  In this case, I am convinced the Sherman side did not.  I do not think the other side did either.  Further, I believe that no one replacing the Sherman faculty could have done any better.  In other words, the debate was a draw.  Which brings up the point, is there any benefit to debating if  noone has the possibility of winning?  But, of course, the argument can be made that perhaps some in the audience could be convinced of the superiority of a position which they did not formerly hold.  I did not see many in the audience, but it appeared that those who got up to the microphone to speak were of the vitalistic persuasion so I doubt that there were many mechanists in the audience to “convert.”  I seriously question whether people can be changed in this type of debate.  The person that comes to this debate, comes with either a vitalistic or mechanistic world and life viewpoint.  Rarely will an individual come with no world and life viewpoint.  Frankly, I have never met a person who had no world and life viewpoint.  Further, I have only ever seen a few people who have made a 180 degree turn from a mechanistic world and life viewpoint to a vitalistic one, and that usually occurs through some sort of religious experience.  What often happens within the chiropractic community is that we straights convince a vitalistic thinking person that they have been practicing chiropractic in a mechanistic manner (usually because that’s what they were taught in chiropractic college).  When they see the logic of practicing straight chiropractic consistent with their basic metaphysical assumption (universal intelligence, God or a similar concept), they change.  But that is not converting someone’s world and life viewpoint.  It is merely getting them to begin to practice consistent with an already held view.

Meanwhile, back at the debate.  There are some important concepts to be addressed.  First, when those of a mechanistic persuasion and that of a vitalistic persuasion sit down to debate, it presupposes there is a common ground of discussion and from that point we can discuss our differences.  Very simply put, naturalistic science (which has become the accepted model in the latter part of the 20th Century) and the vitalistic chiropractic philosophy are diametrically opposed.  The question is, are they so opposed that there is no place for debate or dialogue?   I believe they are.  The fact of the matter is that we have nothing in common with those chiropractors, except a name, which is only an unfortunate quirk of a licensing system.  A mixer and a medical doctor could conceivably get into debate over their two approaches to the treatment of disease but we have no more grounds for debate with the mechanist than we do the medical doctor.   We (in the OSC community) appear to have matured past the point of debating medical doctors.  I cannot understand why we want to have any type of dialogue with the mechanist.  Keuhner puts it clearly when he says we are not speaking the same language.  When we speak to people of different mindsets, how can it be understood?  If the listener or reader is “positivist, materialist, idealist, atheist, theist, etc.,” we have no means of communication.  In my opinion, it is merely arrogance on our part to believe that we can sit down with these people and have a meaningful conversation. 

Their basic metaphysical assumption is that the human organism is a purposeless evolution of random activities of matter.  That is their reality.  They base their values, action, their practice and science on that assumption.  We, on the other hand, base our reality on the metaphysical assumption that “there is a universal intelligence is in all matter and continually gives to it all its properties and actions, thus maintaining it in existence.”  (The Major Premise)  With a starting point so far apart there is no common ground for discussion.  We have a principle, they have luck.  We have a cause, they have chance.  We have something, they have nothing.  The only thing that can happen is that they can convince us to compromise our principles, change our philosophical concepts to gain scientific acceptance or set them aside for the sake of science and do research without a vitalistic basis.  When that happens, we lose something and that something is too precious to give up.  It is the reason for our existence.  We may have to live with these people.   We may have to be accredited by them, we may have to share a common title (chiropractor) but we do not have to dialogue with them.  No good can come from it.v12n3

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This article has 1 comment

  1. David Suskin 10/06/2014, 11:09 am:

    We are now 18 years into the future. With perhaps your various purposes for writing many more scholarly blue books, hope and change, and the present moment we all live in, does this posts’ subject and analysis warrant any altered conclusions and if so what are they, Doc Joe?
    And if not then I ask you, what drives people towards or away from truth and what is that truth.
    Respectfully with admiration,
    Dave 😉

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