Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Philosopher?


Sherman College of Straight Chiropractic presents an annual conference called the International Research and Philosophical Symposium (IRAPS). It has become one of my favorite seminars, one in which I usually speak or present a paper. I particularly enjoy the unique opportunity to see philosophers and scientists/researchers get together and share ideas. This is probably the only program of its kind in the chiropractic profession. For the first few years, the two groups met separately and came together for one or two keynote speakers. Then some wise person decided it would be better to have both categories of presentations (philosophy and research) be given to the entire assembly. Guess what happened? Well, let me tell you first what did not occur. The researchers did not walk out when the philosophers got up to present nor vice versa. For the most part each group was respectful, attentive and interested in the other’s presentation. There were interesting questions and discussions as people attempted to integrate the philosophy and science. That is not to suggest that the usual academic disagreements that would occur at any professional presentation did not occur. However, they occurred in a civil and respectful manner, a unique phenomenon in chiropractic.

With very few exceptions, these were philosophers who had little professional interest in research and researchers who were interested only in research 364 days a year. Still, on this one day both groups come together and listen and learn from the other. Never once did I hear a philosopher say, “What do we need research for?” or a researcher say, “Philosophy is not going to advance our profession.” For one day a group of men and women come together to learn the chiropractic philosophy, art and science.

It got me to thinking. Why is it not like that all the time? Why do the researchers seem to dislike the philosophers? After all, we do define chiropractic as a philosophy, art, and science. It seems to be one of those feuds that has been going on so long that no one can remember what it started over, just that we do not like or trust one another. It clearly precedes the chiropractic profession, it is just that we have added our own little twist to it. The scientific naturalists and atheists who have animosity toward religion and toward those who embrace metaphysical concepts seem to be primarily perpetuating the schism.

It seems more than coincidence that it began in the late nineteenth century after the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species. Two source documents, Draper’s History of the Conflict between Religion and Science (1874) and White’s History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896) have been proven to be false, but their lies are still perpetuated by people like Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and the late Carl Sagan. The charge of the persecution of science by religion focuses primarily on the treatment of Galileo and Copernicus and the argument of whether the earth revolved around the sun or the sun around the earth. The events surrounding that period and those differing theories are very complicated but Galileo was not a martyr. He died a natural death. The conflict was little more than you would expect from any difference among scientists with differing theories. Examining the data of the time, there was as good a reason to accept the earth as the stationary center of the universe as any other theory. The earth does not appear to move. The sun appears to rise and set (we still use that terminology on the weather report.) A moving earth would seem to wreak havoc with birds flying or stones thrown. People would be knocked over if the earth was revolving. Ptolemy, who predated the Christian era, proposed the geocentric theory and it was accepted by some for many years. Although a Greek, Aristarchus proposed the heliocentric theory in 300 B.C. Galileo accepted Ptolemy’s theory until he investigated Copernicus’ research and became convinced of a revolving earth. It was a scientific, not religious, issue and the paradigm of that era was geocentric. (Thomas Kuhn, the historian who gave us the word paradigm, addresses this in his book The Copernican Revolution. It was not the fear that Galileo would undermine religion. A revolving earth does not contradict anyone’s theology. The Bible does not address it, except to use the language of the time, just as the weatherman does. In fact, even before Galileo, there were theologians who supported the heliocentric theory. To continue to castigate theologians and philosophers for supposed grievances even if they occurred, which they did not, would be as unfair as blaming the present Catholic church for the Spanish Inquisition, the present Evangelical Church for the Crusades, or the present government for slavery before the Civil War. Oh, wait a minute, some people still do that, don’t they? The point is that Galileo had embraced a new theory, and new theories require time to gain acceptance. I find it interesting that the same men mentioned above, Dennett, Harris and others, are persecuting the Intelligent Design Theorists who are challenging the theory of evolution. Apparently, it is acceptable for the scientists to persecute religion and metaphysics.

With regard to chiropractic, the persecution seems to be toward the philosophy. The typical charge is that chiropractic philosophy is really religion in disguise and of course, religion leads to intolerance and Galileo and Copernicus-type persecution. Perhaps, if we philosophers cross our hearts and promise not to kill off all the researchers at certain chiropractic colleges they will begin to allow us on campus.

It is time those in the chiropractic scientific community stop persecuting, demeaning, ridiculing and belittling the philosophy of chiropractic and those who pursue it as an academic endeavor. In so doing we can separate the dogma and that which is in conflict with science from the legitimate philosophy and hopefully get rid of the dogma regardless of whether it has come from Palmer or someone else. It will not happen until there are Sherman College IRAPS-type programs on every college campus where philosophers and scientists can come together and share. Then and only then will chiropractic be able to truly call itself a philosophy, art and science. v23n2

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