Quackery discussion about Chiros via Quackometer June 11, 2009Posted by larry in Medicine.
Tags: chiropractors, evidence, logical fallacy, quackery, Quackometer, science, Simon Singh
A fascinating discussion has been taking place on Quackometer, specifically about McTimoney Chiropractors who have advised those in the profession to take down their web sites entirely or revise them to ensure that no claims are made that can not be supported by chiropractic research. The letter is itself bizarre. The comments are lively and in good spirits – no personal vitriol.
Those who mentioned the Singh case and the judgment of justice Eady may be interested to know that, November of last year, Eady was attacked for trying to bring in a privacy law “by the back door”.
“QCs defend Mr Justice Eady as newspapers accuse him of privacy law rulings” – Francis Gibb, legal editor, Times Online.
Some of the commenters have referred to various logical fallacies, so I thought it might be helpful if I defined a few of those for you. Logical fallacies are committed all the time, and recently by Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England. He committed the fallacy, in an interview, of affirming the consequent, which is high on the ‘oh dear’ list.
Fallacies & related matters:
a) Affirming the consequent: (King) [simplified discussion]
Hypothesis under test (ceteris paribus): Policy P will lead to desired results R; in short, if P then R.
¡ Policy implemented & desired results are not observed:
- Can argue from not observing desirable results following implementation of the policy that the policy failed the test;
- This is a valid inference – [(if P then R) & not-R, then not-P], justified by appeal to the rule of modus tollens.
¡ Policy implemented & desired results are observed:
- Can NOT argue from simply having observed desirable results following implementation of the policy that it passed the test;
- This is a fallacious inference – [(if P then R) & R, then P] = the fallacy of affirming the consequent.
b) ceteris paribus: all else being equal.
c) tu quoque: you too. Considered to be a comment ad hominem where an attack is made on the person rather than on the position or argument.
allopathic: other suffering. An allopathic treatment is a traditional medical treatment that is used to oppose or suppress the symptoms rather than directly treat the cause. There does not appear to be a generally agreed consistent usage of this term.
iatrogenic: doctor induced. A cult reference to this is Ivan Illich’s Limits to Medicine, Medical Nemesis: The Expropriation of Health (1976).
Godwin’s law (Mike Godwin, 1990): the longer an issue is discussed, the more likely it is that a comparison will be made to the Nazis or Adolf Hitler. (Meme, Counter-meme)
scientism: used pejoratively to indicate an improper use of science or scientific claim.
consilience: the unity of knowledge. The most recent salient advocate of this doctrine is Ed Wilson in his book of the same name. But this position goes back in the modern era to the unity of science movement of the first half of the 20th century advocated by many logicians and philosophers of science.
post hoc ergo propter hoc: after this, therefore because of this; sometimes referred to as the ‘correlation, not causation’ fallacy. No one mentioned this fallacy, but it crops up in arguments in such discussions all the time – either committed or rejected as fallacious. (See the hypothetical test above.)
Some fallacies, while logically fallacious, may not be rhetorically fallacious. And the Hellenic Greeks, who first systematized this approach, often thought rhetoric was superior to logic. Certainly rhetoric was viewed as being more influential in changing minds than logic.
Singh (in the THE) is mistaken that the only key issue in the libel law debate is cost. Also at issue is the character of the libel laws themselves. The libel laws here are so bad that the US Congress is intending to pass more legislation protecting US citizens from UK libel laws. They would not be considering this did they not think that the situation was unreasonable and serious – they view such laws as inconsistent with freedom of speech, guaranteed by the Constitution. Brown should have put forward a written constitution by now. The libel laws here are dangerous and need to be substantially revised.
Some think that McTimoney taking down information on their web site is “proof” that they know that what they are providing is bogus. This is logically incorrect. All it shows is that they feel threatened or are paranoid. It is not an indication of guilt. This kind of inference is not justified. A claim that their treatments are bogus must be justified on other grounds. Having said this, I agree that secrecy is not the best policy and that it would be better for them and their associates to reconsider this action at the earliest opportunity.