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

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