rich emollient used in the management of eczema, psoriasis and other dry skin conditions.


Sometime ago I posted a series of articles here covering off my skeptical world view and position on non-scientifically based medical treatments. Please feel free to review them at your leisure.

In ensuing months there have been several critical comments but the most recent one (below) spurred me to think about a response :

Here’s the comment (although you will be able to read my original articles and comments if you’d like)  :

“Having read your’ scam’ listing, I find your ignorance in the lumping together of hobbies such as Reiki and actual licensed professions such as Chiropractic and Osteopathy offensive. In fact, I think you seek to influence thoughts and behaviors of the general public in a way that attempts to reflect an education that you do not have. There is no doubt there is ‘junk’ medicine by the score hanging around cyberspace and critical thinking is necessary in making the decision to see any type of physician, but what you are doing is not education but an attempt to influence people over to your point of view; which is short sighted to say the least.:

Here’s my reply :

Thanks for the comment.

First of all ad hominem attacks aren’t particularly helpful so in my ‘ignorance’ I’m going to adopt a more consultative and educative response than possibly your comment deserves. I agreed that Reiki and the like could easily be classified as ‘hobbies’ although in all likelihood, a Reiki ‘practitioner’ would probably be equally offended to be described thus.

However let’s apply critical thinking to chiropractic and osteopathy. What is the background of these medical ‘sciences’ ? What is the medical literature (not anecdotes) upon which their administration to patients is based and importantly taking this into account what is the biological basis of action of those therapies, what realistically are they intended to do.

Well Chiropractic was ‘invented’ in 1895 by DD Palmer and Osteopathy in 1874 ish by Andrew Taylor Still. Both are manipulative therapies that seem able cure a miraculous range of conditions without bothering to gather evidence on their own efficacy. For example chiropractic treatment involves subluxation – the idea that issues with the spine are the root cause of ailments and that manipulations of the spine and other areas of the body can resolve this. Can’t seem to find much in the way of research that suggests either modality works in context of anything other than anecdotes. During and since their devastating libel lawsuit loss at the hands of Simon Singh and the skeptical movement a year or two ago the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) haven’t been able to come up with proof of efficacy for this modality.

Any modality invented by one individual and never tested against modern medical standards has to be viewed as suspect but I would ask the person who commented to throw me across a couple of citations on well put together studies or double blinded trials that demonstrate the rigorous nature of their chosen modality and I will, after having evaluated the data be prepared to change my opinion if the evidence is compelling. Perhaps there’s something that’s been peer reviewed in a medical journal with a high impact factor ???

This is  what science is, you review your opinion based on actual fact and solidly produced  evidence not hearsay, anecdotes and appeals to authority and time immemorial. Perhaps it’s not me that is ignorant of scientific method after all ?

In short my aim is not to convert people to my ‘view’. It is to highlight the worldview of critical thinking and skepticism more generally. Science and science based medicine is not my ‘opinion’, nor is it something that practitioners and users of SCAM therapies can or should simply ignore. Science tells us that medical treatments should have a means by which they work and be based on real science not the notional ideas of cranks, long since disproven however much you might want to invoke logical fallacies and straw men arguments or just insult me outright.

So don’t take my word for it, commenter. Take the word of the majority of scientific establishment. Instead of telling me that I’m ignorant and shortsighted, look at the evidence or lack thereof yourself.



Phil Knight started work in the National Health Service in Leeds in 1989 before going to Hull University to read American Studies and then moved into private medical sales and marketing in 1994. He now owns two business focused in the private medical sector and works with senior clinicians and healthcare providers on a daily basis advising on a variety of healthcare issues. He is also a Member of the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. He is interested in all aspects of healthcare and regularly blogs on related medical, business and technology issues and also hosts the only podcast in the country focusing on private medical insurance. He is lives in Leeds, West Yorkshire but has clients across the UK and internationally. He is married to Hazel, a Senior HR Manager with two children : Megan aged 13 and Ryan, 7. His interests include technology, podcasting, science fiction and martial arts - he is a Second Dan Black Belt in Tai Sabaki Do Karate and 2nd Kyu Brown Belt in Shukokai Karate so health and fitness dominate both his business and personal life. Read his blog at and visit his websites : and

3 Responses to Alternative Medicine modalities – should we just accept them ?

  1. Kay

    If you want to read research articles by the score, the Logan University Library (my alma mater for example) – has what you claim to be looking for. Dr. Arlan Fuhr’s research on Activator Methods has some exposure to the general public; you will need to pay for the papers, aside from the abstracts. A full online library membership costs a yearly fee. Most of those memberships are open to doctors only, so you would not have access on the very thing you pretend to be able to ‘comment ‘ on. Further, I personally am not interested in changing your opinion as it is obvious to me that it doesn’t mean anything. Again, all I see in the structure of your text is an attempt to influence people in a false light; looking up who DD Palmer was on Wikipedia is not much ‘research’, what you claim to be so impressed by, on your part . This brings to mind another point, I believe the moderators of this site ought to screen their participant’s credentials more thoroughly to maintain site standards.

    As for you, he who is so ‘fascinated’ by whole bodies of research, perhaps you would like to
    peruse the research of Dr. Robert Hare, Paul Babiak or Martha Stout. They have publications in the popular press so you will be able to access some of their work!

    • Hi Kay,

      Thanks very much for your comment. We do take seriously any feedback from any of our members about the interactions on our site.

      We carefully moderate our bloggers’ credentials and we certainly prohibit the posting of any content that is intentionally inflammatory, rude, or in any other way in contravention of our own code of ethics.

      That said, we happily encourage our members (including our bloggers) to voice their opinions and to debate important health topics in a respectful way. In this particular case, we would like to encourage everyone concerned on both sides of the debate about alternative medicines to continue the debate in a friendly manner.

      If any talkhealth member is ever concerned that content they find on any part of the website contravenes a reasonable code of ethics, we ask that they report the comment to us via email –

  2. Phil Phil

    Hey Kay, no need to become aggressive. I’m as capable of perusing PubMed as well as the next person and intelligent enough, with sufficient knowledge of the scientific method to be able to understand a scientific paper. so I’m not frightened off by your appeal to authority, although I am feeling slightly talked down to by your assumption that i don’t know what a pay wall is nor that only clinicians can break through them.

    Don’t worry about the ad hominem attack again, you don’t seem to have really read or understood my point. I’ll review some of your suggested experts work but my base point remains – medical treatment should be based on evidence, I will listen to that evidence and amend my opinions but at the moment you seem to be intent on rubbishing me and my viewpoint rather than engaging on the material facts.

    Watch out for my next post on Talk Health when I will cover off the following :

    Dr. Arlan Fuhr’s research on Activator Methods + Dr. Robert Hare, Paul Babiak or Martha Stout


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