Afternoon Inquisition

Afternoon Inquisition 3.23.09

You may not have heard, but the economy is bad. People are out of jobs like crazy. Recently I read a news story about a school receiving almost 700 applicants for a janitor position.

Let’s say you’ve lost your job. With the competition so steep for jobs, would you be willing to take anything? Could you take a job promoting Sylvia Browne or Jenny McCarthy’s vaccine awareness knowing that you may not see another job opportunity for months?

Where do you draw the line between your duty to skepticism and your duty to keep a roof over your family’s heads? Would you work for a chiropractor? Would you sell homeopathic cures? Would you guide a ghost hunting tour? What would you do? What wouldn’t you do?


Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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  1. I have been affected by the worldwide economic collapse.

    I’m currently considering whether to set myself up as a feng shui practitioner in the event that I’m unable to get a proper job…

  2. I wouldn’t assist someone who’s efforts will lead to dead and disabled children to feed my own. I figure I can get a good price on the open market for my own children to tide me over a few months.

  3. I suppose it’s twisting the intention of the question, but I’d like to lead ghost tours, as I already give history tours where people ask about ghosts. Of course, I have the benefit of not only getting to, but being encouraged to tell them no, there are none, but on a ghost tour I could pervert the whole thing but telling the stories as stories, not as fact. Maybe slip in some skepticism. Share some funny stories, like about the spooky “ghost” in 1800’s clothes from one of the houses I work in (which was a mannequin a smart ass left in the window, to spook silly people).

    But, to do any of those seriously, without being able to twist it to my own ends? Yeah, I’d do it. I’d rather not starve. At least I could do it badly. Or live long enough to make up for the damage I’ve done, doing something skeptical later.

  4. Hrmm – on the scale of ethical stuff, I think I’d break into Sylvia Browne’s house and steal her stuff, before I’d promote her woo.

  5. I figure as long as you’re not doing physical harm to a person (such as preventing them from getting the real help they need to cure their cancer, pimples or twisted ankle), it’s fair game. I’d work as a “psychic” or doing feng shui or whatever. Every time I was Penn & Teller’s Bullshit, I see a new career opportunity, like Feng Shui, etc.

  6. Skepticism is how I approach the world, but I don’t *owe* it anything. I have no duty to it- don’t remember signing no contract.

  7. I would host a ghost hunter show, is it so wrong to want to get paid to be on TV?

    Of course it would be cancelled because, we would not shut out all the lights, act scared and we would never conclude there was a haunting.

    Unless there was of course.

  8. It’s not so much about what I do, but about how I do it. As an unemployed student, I have just accepted a job doing dream analysis. A condition of accepting the job is that I assembled a pamphlet about what in dream analysis is backed by science (not much), and about the science of sleep and dreams. This pamphlet will be available to everyone walking past my booth and will be a recommended read to all my victims, err, customers.

    I find that most non-skeptical people really enjoy my saying, “This is how this works, and science can’t explain the rest.”

    … I feel like such a sell out.

  9. Family trumps everything.

    I’d probably have to be out of work for quite some time before I got into “willing to do anything mode”.

    If I were in a situation where I’d lost my job, all my unemployment benefits had run out, my family was unable to provide help and my child was hungry, I’d do anything to make some cash to get some food in my little one’s tummy.

  10. I have 14 weeks left to find something. I’ll let you know then. In the meantime the search is expanding to the possibility of moving yet again. Of course this would mean obliterating my savings again.
    I kind of like the idea of starting one of those post rapture services. However I keep thinking that while I would be taking money from idiots, those idiots might very well have children. No point in giving them a reason not to use thier limited funds wisely.

  11. In a hearbeat. I started out as a proper research scientist and after being made redundant I ended up teaching college, until they ran out of money and I was laid off again and now I’m doing “research” for a multinational “Personal Products Company” (Cosmetics/Deoderants/Shampoo/Toothpaste etc)

    Essentially facilitating the selling women stuff that doesn’t work to solve “problems” they don’t have. A colleague of mine from a former company who now works for the same company as me actually runs “studies” where he has to compare the smell of women’s sweaty armpits.

    I console myself by concentrating on writing my book (working title “A Practicle Guide to Good Laboratory Practice in the Modern Analytical Lab”), making sure the student learns as much as possible and looking for other jobs online on company time.

  12. @russellsugden – I don’t think I’d call Toothpaste, Shampoo, or Deoderants something people don’t need (well, need may be a little strong).

    Dental hygiene is certainly important. Not sure where you are coming from on this one.

    Shampoo – Are you recommending soap instead, or just not washing your hair at all?

    Deodorant – some people don’t stink, but then again, some do. I don’t have a problem with stinky people using deodorant.

    Cosmetics? Fine, not really needed.

  13. I’ve always wondered if it’d be possible to setup a new homeopathic brand explicitly called “Placebo” and have it actually be successful.

    Do enough marketing. Get enough people to say, “It worked for me!” And it might actually fly.

    What are the ethics in that?

  14. I don’t mind separating fools and their money, but I draw the line at something that will cause actual harm.

  15. I have a small webmastering business. Over the years one friend in particular has given me a lot of business, both from his own endeavors and by recommending me to others.

    About three years ago he started doing “psychic readings,” and so forth, and asked me to set up a website. Given our friendship and our history, I couldn’t refuse. I feel bad every time I update it. But in the same way I can’t stop being friends with my accupuncturist friend (whom I’ve known since high school), I can’t tell this guy I won’t help run his website.

    Anyone wanna give me a little absolution, here?

  16. @Zoltan – I hope you have been putting in your Woo Offset Credits to make up for the promotion of these sketchy services. Make sure to donate to JREF or something.

  17. I still haven’t figured out where my line is. My husband works for the company that puts Oprah on the air. He said as long as he’s not doing anything illegal, he’s okay with it if it means feeding his family… until I asked him if he could be a recruiter for Ohio State.

    I don’t know if I could be a receptionist at a chiropractor’s office. I don’t know if I could write or distribute promotional material for anti-vaxxers. Maybe I could if I knew it was short term and I could use the information later… you know, like undercover skepticism.

  18. @noisician: check out which is a female run skeptical health and beauty blog. I agree and most of the female scientitions would too that what people need and what women “need” are two different things.

    People need a fluoride toothpaste with a ADA approval. What people “need” is a whitening toothpaste that taste like candy. ADA approval be damned.

    What they need is a shampoo product containing all of 30 cents worth of detergent. What they “need” is a fruity smelling shampoo containing thirteen botanicals that haven’t been tested on animals. (though all the individual ingredients have been by other companies) also they only need to shampoo not more than twice a week (say’s today’s NPR story of the day) but yet are made to think they “need” to do it every day.

    Unfortunately women seems to be targeted to “need” beauty supplies they don’t really need or do anything. The health/beauty industry is rife with unscrupulous con artists operating out in the open selling snake oil and making unscientific claims.

    My wife is not really into the skeptical thing but she took to beauty brains in a big way, and like how she isn’t spending $20 on a shampoo that does the exact same thing (same ingredients minus the botanicals which don’t do anything) as a $8 dollar bottle.

  19. Having visited, I am inclined to find “harm” in just about any form of woo.

    I would be inclined to pursue work which does not involve drop-kicking my ethics.

    My “family” is just my wife and I – no kids. I mention that so you understand my next comment may be of the “only someone without kids could make a comment so full of shit” variety.

    I believe part of parenting is modelling good behavior to children. One could argue that “doing whatever it takes for my family” is a good model for children. I would personally rather model “never knowingly cause harm to another person.”

    I will freely admit one reason my wife and I didn’t have children was to avoid just this sort of dilemna. It isn’t the only reason or the biggest, but it factored into the decision.

  20. Hmmm … I am unmarried and without children, in fact without the possibility of them unless I make a conscious choice to adopt (a choice I don’t see myself as likely to make). So the question only concerns me.

    I’d like to say that I’d refuse any such employment, but I’m well aware of the Russian proverb “when the belly rumbles, the conscience flees”. It’s difficult to honestly assess what you would do in a desperate situation that you’ve never experienced.

    I think that what would actually happen is that I would take the job and hang on as long as I could, eking out as much as I could until my basic incompetence at selling pseudoscience and similar credulous nonsense got me fired.

  21. @Elyse:
    I have virtually no interest in sports of any kind. Yet the idea of someone working as a recruiter for Ohio State University turns me clammy, cold, and queasy.
    GO BLUE!

  22. Well, I already work for a company with massive connections to arms manufacturers, in spite of my feelings about military (mis)adventures and the weapons trade, so my hypocrisy bona fides are well-established.

    I’ve long felt that when big shitpile finally collapses, I could do alright as a busker. Nothing particularly woo about being a street entertainer, but if I had to be purveyor of woo (street psychic? freelance exorcist*?), I’d just put “For entertainment purposes only” in great big letters, and then make sure I give the people one helluva show.

    * Now there’s a thought — I could be a secular exorcist for people suffering from non-denominational evil. Kind of like those Unitarian ministers who perform weddings for freethinkers all the time.

  23. I was recently in a woo-related job out of desperation. The position was at a wellness-type place that didn’t espouse any particular beliefs but presented all kinds of nonsense. My job pertained to the nuts-and-bolts operation of the place, so I didn’t have to peddle any BS myself, but it was everywhere. There was harmless stress-reduction and Eastern meditation stuff, but there was a full range of shit being sold to the gullible — tarot card readings, crystals, endless series of ‘detoxification’ therapies. Sylvia Browne’s books were for sale there, and I believe the woman who communicates with the Pleidians was on the schedule. James Van Praagh had been a recent guest. Many of the employees there were sweet and well-meaning, but the place definitely makes one feel like one needs a shower. Fortunately I’m not there any more.

  24. A ghost hunting tour? Sure! That would be fun to do. I’ve been on them as tourist. They are harmless.

    But pitching woo disguised as something medicinal , truly helpful, or inspirational? No.

    Entertainment? YES. Interventional? NO.

  25. To keep my family in a home off the streets, fed and clothed? Yes, I would do it all. I really can’t think of something I wouldn’t do to take care of them. I’m their dad and her husband. I have to take care of them.

  26. If it was really a matter of survival, I would probably have to suck it up and do it. But I would go through all of the receptionist/ street cleaner/ McDonald’s positions I could find before having to resort to that. Because I would hate and un-respect myself for it.

  27. I would hold science down and fuck it in the ear before I’d let my daughter go hungry. That said, I’d make a concerted effort to exhaust any employment opportunities that didn’t involve contributing to the collective stupidity of society before I went for my (metaphorical) zipper.

  28. @ Gabrielbrawley, Elexina, Oskar

    If it comes down to taking care of our loved ones as a matter of survival I would hope that we all would priortize THEM first over any of our own ideals.

    But Oskar … in the EAR … really … the EAR???? Resorting to aural sex? Tsk tsk.

  29. @Oskar Kennedy (LBB): COTW!

    I don’t have kids, but I’d do just about anything if it came down to survival. Less dramatically than that…I don’t know, I’m not a particularly ethical person. I’d rather sell Sylvia Browne books than get evicted. I think I’d draw the line somewhere between Deepak Chopra and Kevin Trudeau – just fleecing gullible people would be alright, but not selling bullshit to cancer patients.

  30. I wouldn’t work for any not science-based alternative medicine practitioner in my life. For me, it’s the same as stealing from people in broad day light.

    As for a ghost hunting tour, I would agree to do that, but it would have to be entirely different from the pseudoscientific ones. I’ll scare people and thn expose the the tricks. That’s how I think it should be done.

  31. I don’t think I could take people’s hard earned money for such scams, I’d feel like too much of a hypocrite after spending so much time calling the McCarthys, Brownes and Trudeaus out on their rackets

  32. Good question, I wonder how many people might work in a herb medicine shop if they were offered a 6 figure salary. I’m man enough to admit that I’d take it. This is only because my personal economy is currently reflecting the world economy and I am not due for a ‘stimulus package’ anytime soon (it’s taken me to type that before i realised how perverted it sounds). Thing is I’ve been in jobs where I’ve been ordered to lie in order to make money for my boss. Is that any different to being a homeopathist etc etc?

    Saying that, I would not take any woo woo job unless I was so poor that I could not afford bread to help fend off my diabetes.

  33. I know I can be happy with far less then I have now. In a way it’s good to be old, you know what you can handle…things don’t scare you as much.

    I know I’d be ok being creative with Ramen and at one point I actually did only have lawn furniture I found on the street as furniture. For a year I slept in a sleeping bag and honestly, I was happy. With the knowledge that what makes me happy is what I’m doing more than what I have, I know it would take being awfully poor before I would sell out. Only then I’d probably do it if I had to feed or take care of someone else. I’d happily lead a ghost tour, but only if I were allowed to write it. I’ve been on more horrible, boring, dumb ghost tours. I could also read palms, but only after meeting the wonderful mentalist on the JREF cruise to Mexico. He gets $250 an hour for Hollywood parties! But he’s GOOD. To me it would be a challenge, a writing/acting possibility.

    Sylvia, homeopathy…anything that would really really hurt or perhaps kill another human being? No way. I’m very picky about who I live with, and I just couldn’t live with myself if I was hurting others with my work.

  34. I have to agree with Oskar. I don’t think any of the parents here could sit by and watch their children starve just so they could maintain their ideals. Or for that matter go hungry yourself. I have been poor enough in my life that I ate food that I pulled out of garbage cans. You would be surprised what you are willing to do to make hunger go away.

  35. If I could find nothing in my field, until all my severance ran out…

    It would sure be tempting to go back to urban pharmaceuticals. But that is for the young and all the corners are taken, (round here-round here).

    Besides, I’ve been preaching against that sort of thing, and the violence it entails, for so long I’m practically a holy man, (round here-round here).

    What would all these kids think if I turned back now? I don’t know but I could never face any of them again, that’s certain sure.

    But I’ve got no children, of my own, to consider (unless you count “The Hounds of the Baskervilles” as they’ve come to be known, thanks to the UPS guy), and I have rooms to rent.

    Also, I could make the mortgage by working at the golden arches, even without any extra income.

    No, I’d stay noble, poor and just wait this depression out. (It’s depressin’ the hell outa me…anyway…)


  36. I have sold plasma when in dire straits, and I tried telemarketing once but decided that prostitution would be more moral: at least with prostitution the customer wants what’s being sold (actually, I have little problem with prostitution anyway, but that’s a different thread). So I guess I wouldn’t stoop to promoting lies, but I would probably take a job where I had to keep my mouth shut about my opinions because my colleagues were uncomfortable about atheism and socialism. Wait; that’s my current job!

  37. I’m actually in the middle of this dilemma myself. I work with a friend doing web design, and he just found a client who runs a yoga shop. Yoga studio? Yoga cloister? Hmm…I’m going to have to figure that one out pretty soon.

    Anyway, I had to figure out exactly what kind of yoga I was dealing with, and asked my friend about it. His response was basically “who cares, the money’s green isn’t it?” but I had to point out that although I’ve got nothing against yoga exercise and yoga meditation, I draw the line at when they try to make claims of being able to heal and cure diseases and stuff.

    I’m also very hesitant to do sites for religious organizations. And of course I won’t work for snake-oil salesmen.

  38. Just the other day I was thinking the atmosphere at Skepchicks seems to be isolated from the present economic troubles! This is an important inquisition, and it would be highly relevant if related discussions continue down the road.

    I have been mean and lean all my life, which included not having kids. I have a life partner so we have been able to assemble some assets which we would liquidate as needed. Since the tech bubble burst about 7 years ago, our income dropped sharply and has never returned, so for some people, the tightening of belts have been happening for some time.

    We discuss how we can liquidate our assets in such a way that would help others–a win win situation. There’s are lots of opportunities in the Great Recession to do good. We are focusing on relocating to a place where the offering of owner mortgages would help both us and others. We would also like to help others to eventually own their homes (rent to buy).

    I think we should be able to continue not violating any of our principles (not that we have that many!) and survive. As trite as it may sound, hardship can bring out the best in (some) people.

  39. This is really tough. As several other people have stated, it’s all a matter of severity.

    I’m lucky enough to have some very broadly marketable skills so I have never had difficulty finding work for myself that I wanted. If that changed, however, then it would depend.

    If it was just me sacrificing and living off the street? Well, I’ve lived it tough before and could do it again if required, (They haven’t outlawed fishing and trapping yet.. I know how to find food in most places if I need and shelter isn’t much harder). My wife though? My kid? No. They are never going hungry if I can help it and I don’t intend for them to ever learn what ‘comfort’ means for someone living in a lean-to.

    In that case, then sure, but even then I wouldn’t do just anything. Psychic? Yeah, sure, I’ll be psychic. I’m a dang good cold reader when I want to be and I can talk the talk when I need. I’ll happily bilk people out of money for a counseling session disguised as a ‘psychic reading’, there is even plenty of room in that to slowly train your regulars out of believing while still generating more clients.

    Homeopathy though? Anti-vax? *shakes head* Only if it was the literal, last, absolutely only way to keep my family provided for. Even then I would be out the second I could.

  40. I have to put feeding and housing my family before my personal standards, as unpleasant as I might find that. I’ve had to swallow my pride once or twice for the sake of my kids, and while it tasted like a cold-semen-on-burnt-shit sandwich going down (and left the appropriate aftertaste), I think I’ve done the right thing by them. It could be argued that I would be setting a bad example, but I prefer the view that providing for your kids irrespective of cost to oneself is always the best example to give.

    Having said that, it would be very difficult to actively support or practice something that does others real harm, and I’d have to have absolutely no other choice before engaging in psychic surgery or the like. Financial scams (i.e. low-key psychic readings, water dowsing, lounge-room astrology) I could probably live with, on a strictly temporary basis, although I wouldn’t look at myself too closely in the mirror, and I would have to stipulate that every manual labouring job in town was gone and that no-one would ever, ever, ever want my body for sex (which is quite plausible really!).

  41. I have a part-time job cleaning an Assembly of God church. I mollify my conscience by telling myself I’m doing it for the pay.

  42. @mikespeir: That’s not an issue with skepticism, it’s an issue for your implied atheism.

    I’m not intending offense, but I thought the distinction was worth pointing out.

  43. I’ve often semi-selfjoked about “inventing” a “miracle cure” for something. Get a bunch of cheap vitamins, some ground up dried greens, and spend a grand on a pill-compressor for the basement, and 10 grand on magazine marketing, and I’d be a millionaire.

    Currently, my conscience gets in the way of actually going through with it, but if i were jobless, hell yes I would.

  44. @KristinMH:
    Yeah, there’s still definitely a line. I don’t think I could live with myself if I were hawking Kevin Trudeau b.s. or PRing for Jenny McCarthy or selling Crocs or anything like that. I would go live in the woods in a pup tent first.

    Or maybe I’ll invent a religion. That’s not immoral at all, right?

    Luckily, I don’t have children, or pets, so I don’t have to worry about THAT line.

  45. Meh. I have enough trouble with who I work for, as it is. I work for a company that has been accused (not proven) of abusing prisoners in Iraq. What I support is the medical logistics side, so I’m good with that.

    I’ve been pretty desperate when out of work, though. So far, the issue of supporting something against my beliefs hasn’t come up (gratefully). It might depend on what the specifics were. Something that was actually harmful or dangerous – no. A religion – no.

    Also – I am highly suspicious of marketing in general, as I think that marketing in the US is all about convincing people to buy things that they don’t need with money that they don’t have at high interest rates.

    “I shuda been a gigolo, like mah Mama wanted!” :-D

  46. A commercial psychic is just a hack performer with no desire or ability to entertain.

    I’d do nearly anything to help my children but I can’t imagine doing a job that I couldn’t honestly tell them about.

    I’d start busking before I’d hang a neon palm in my window.

  47. @Logicel:

    If only the Skepchicks really were insulated from the economy right now.

    I suppose it’s not an easy thing to discuss. It’s effected me personally and hard. We live in a “drive until you qualify” neighborhood on the outskirts of the burbs. Right now, you can’t find a job at Starbucks or Target or Walmart. We’ve lost $50K in equity on our home. Seems like half the houses in our neighborhood are either for sale or have little pink notes taped to the doors.

    Last year, for my husband to take a promotion (among other reasons), I left my job. His promotion involved a raise in his bonus… which was then canceled without notice (unlike the nice boys at AIG).

    I know a few of the others have mentioned money being tight, but (believe it or not) I’m far too polite to ask for details. It’s not my business… and it’s not an easy thing to talk about.

    Long story short, it sucks even for Skepchicks.

  48. I actually do have a side job leading ghost tours in Baltimore, and did it in college in Gettysburg a few years before that. Not ghost hunting tours, which disappoints some people, but tours where I take people around the neighborhood (Fell’s Point and Mount Vernon here in Bawlmer) and tell them stories, both historical fact and ghosty stuff. I’m always upfront with my tours and tell them I’m a skeptic right off the bat, and present it as the folklore of the area, which can tell you a lot about the place whether it’s true or not.

    I also make some skepticky jokes, like in front of one house reputed to be our most haunted: “Look at this house for a moment. Some people look at this house and feel drawn to a certain part of it: the door, a window, the attic…. Sometimes, people suddenly feel queasy while standing here, for no apparent reason. Maybe it’s all the ghostly energy coming from the house… maybe it’s the power of suggestion and I’m talking in a low, creepy voice….” Never fails to get a laugh. Oh, and I also make a Schroedinger’s Cat joke, which often fails to get a laugh.

    More to the point, though? I don’t have any children of other sort of dependents, so I guess it’s easier for me to say that I wouldn’t take anything that wasn’t purely and explicitly entertainment (like the ghost tours). It’s easier to starve for one’s ideals than to make someone else starve for them. If I did have children? I suppose I would just have to try and keep whatever harm I do to a minimum, and maybe sneak in some subversive skepticism where I can.

  49. @Elyse: I’m sorry to hear that you are one of the casualties. I know how hard it is when that happens. We’ve already been through that once.

    I don’t even know if we’re underwater on our mortgage right now. I don’t want to know, as there’s nothing I can do about it anyway. After all, you gotta live somewhere…We did the “drive ’til you qualify” thing, too. That’s how we ended up in WV. We think that we had our first foreclosure on our street over the weekend…We’re not sure yet.

    I’ve worked at low wage jobs like ‘doggy daycare’ to make ends ‘sort-of’ meet, for example. All I can tell you is that things can and do get better, even though it may not look like they ever will from where you stand today.

    All I can say is “Hang on.” You still have your family and your health, I presume. If so, that can take you a long way in bad times.

  50. I don’t have kids to feed – thankfully – so I have a lot more leeway in my options. Frankly, I draw the line at anti-vaccine work – not a fucking chance. I would, however, work in an acupuncture office or do feng shui consultation – I believe someone above mentioned a fool and his money. That being said – husband has offered to sell his body first so I think I’m ok.

  51. IMHO, anything ethical is on the table. So, as long as my chiropractor isn’t promoting it as a cure for what ails you, I’m good. I would not work for an organization that I feel is harming people.

    BTW, this may put me on the skeptical short list, but I do believe that chiropracty has SOME benefit. I put it in the same category as massage…no medical benefit, but helps you feel better if done right.

  52. I’m in this situation right now. I’ve been working on a documentary that greatly endorses the woo and it’s been a tough battle to set aside my skepticism and do the work for the paycheck.

    I won’t get into details. I haven’t signed an NDA or anything, but better to be safe then sorry. My main client was hired to work on the project, and they in turn hired me as a sub-contractor. After one viewing of the film, I knew that I didn’t want to have any part of it. It’s terrible. It’s one big psuedoscience claim and conspiracy theory after another.

    Here’s the dilemma though: If I was asked directly by the filmmakers to work on the project, I could easily say no. The pay’s not that great, so I can survive without it, and I have other clients. The reality though is that I was hired as a sub-contractor by my main client. Rejecting the job would mean stiffing the client, and potentially losing future work as well. So in the end, it came down to taking the job and living with it, or potentially going broke. If I was a little higher up the Hollywood ladder, this would’ve been a no brainer.

    I’ve asked them to keep my name off the credits (which they’ll probably screw up). I’m just glad that I have nothing to do with the content, so it’s not like I’m adding a fake expert opinion or anything.

    On the upside, I’m totally phoning it in.

  53. @infinitemonkey: You are supported in this by some studies, (apparently valid ones – I’m not a doctor, but I trust the ones I know), showing that chiropracty can actually result in improvement and pain relief for very specific types of lower back injuries. The key here is that these are the only types of injuries and the only benefit demonstrated for chiropracty so far.

    Basically, as a field, chiropracty seems to be built on one treatment that actually works for one specific injury… and lots of bull shit that is occasionally seriously harmful. For instance, several other studies, (also apparently well designed and valid), have shown increased risk of stroke* in chiropractic patients who have neck adjustments. Apparently chiropracty refers to the resulting paralysis as ‘a reaction’.

    — * I think it’s stroke.. All I remember from that group of studies was that it was a paralyzing or partially paralyzing result.

  54. @MarlowPI: Since you were up that way, do you happen to know Councilman Bob Krummerich of Gettysburg?

    @HotMoltenMagma: Not picking on you, but the term is “chiropractic.” ;-)

  55. Chiropractic clinics have at least made many of the people I know THINK it makes their problems much better. And if they say they feel better, move better, and think that their money was well spent, who am I to say that the whole thing was immoral? A bunch of crap, sure, but I don’t see such things as immoral if the consumer is happy with the product. As long as it does not do harm, I don’t see a morality issue with it.

  56. @Finch: “As long as it does not do harm, I don’t see a morality issue with it.”

    That’s just it. The central tenet of mainstream medicine is “first, do no harm.” Chiropractic clinics do not hold to this. Through ignorance and lack of training they can and do cause injuries.

  57. @davew- that in and of itself is an issue, since all clinics and forms of medicine- even real ones- through ignorance and lack of training can and do cause injuries as well. If someone can reference a study or other such source that has documented cases of real and actual harmful and detrimental practices with no real gain- chemotherapy is harmful and detrimental to the body but the gain is that it can cure your cancer and thus save your life. That some of their methods can cause harm I don’t doubt- I would never let them touch me- but I have yet to see anything providing a real case against it. If the potential gain is pain relief… real or imagined… I would need to see actual sources on the harms before I can say with certainty that it is bad or immoral.

  58. @ Elyse – I don’t doubt that all of those are true, but that doesn’t convince me that it is bad because you can take any- and I do mean any- sort of medical practice and make a list of things that have gone horribly wrong with it to make it come off looking unsafe and dangerous. That’s what parents afraid of vaccines do- vaccines carry some small risks but if you look at just the risks and times when there were serious complications you can make any sort of procedure come off as looking horribly unsafe and dangerous. Enough to scare the parents away from vaccinating their children.

    My point is that simply listing cases where things have gone horribly wrong is emotionally powerful but proves nothing other than it can and does go wrong, but not that it does with greater frequency than other sorts of treatments.

    This link-
    Compared to how many who visited? And most importantly, did the “treatment” that they were undergoing mean nothing, or did it have the potential to solve their problems?

  59. I will add, though, that I do see the real potential for harm from your list. And whats worse is that this practice is universally accepted by almost everyone I know a legit and scientific. “My back needs to be realigned” is something I hear from my family when I visit often- yet I hear them claiming success after a visit. Many people do with homeopathy so… that means nothing in and of itself. But I have no clue these people claim firsthand, only secondhand. But these people cam make it worse… I don’t know. I will look it up, but are there medical trial/studies on the effectiveness of this? Or is it so much woo that they don’t bother? I actually have no clue, looks like I will hit google.

  60. I think I am done with this discussion right now, though. Anytime I start misspelling “can” as “cam”, that’s the hint that tells me it’s time to throw in the towel.

  61. @QuestionAuthority: Thanks, I thought I had spelled it wrong.

    @Finch: Interesting, so you believe that you know what is happening with my pain and lower back problems better than I, my doctors, and my family do. You must be a truly incisive observer of the world to have penetrated such an otherwise successful con.

    Or, it could be that it does have some actual, limited, use. But what do I, my pinched nerves, compressed disk, and the advice of my doctors and physiotherapist mean to such certainty as you present.

  62. @davew: Very true. It’s also why I am broadly against the practice and only support it in specific areas and cases, (and even there only with specific chiropractors who tend to work closely with physiotherapist and doctors. Yes, there are some of them).

    First, please ignore my previous sarcasm.. I’m posting from work and hadn’t updated the page properly before I posted. I see that your position is not what I thought it was.

    Second, in spite of my statement to the defense of specific applications of chiropractic techniques for specific injury cases, I do not actually support the broader practice of chiropractic. By and large, it is not regulated, the ‘training’ received by the practitioners varies greatly from one place to another, (Some chiropractors are actually fully licensed physiotherapist as a subset of their training in chiropractic. Most aren’t). Additionally, the practice is filled with bullshit supporting homeopathy, acupuncture, and a million other pieces of woo. Hell, most chiropractors claim that they can ‘cure’ actual illnesses with their ‘treatments’.

    The simple fact is that it should be done away with and the few useful bits of it picked up by physiotherapy.

  63. I have, sadly, been feeling the economic downfall. I work as a temp, and was at a job that wanted me on for a year. Then tax season came and I was let go after only 2 months. I can’t even file for unemployment because I was having problems last year with the same thing, so I didn’t make enough to cover myself.

    Keeping in mind that family comes first, there are still some things I wouldn’t do for the sake of skepticism.

    For example, I have ample experience in reception, and so would not have a problem scheduling appointments and greeting patients for a chiropractor. I’m not the one lying to them, and I would also have some say in what pamphlets were on my desk.

    However, if I were asked to promote for them (or any other woo-based institution), I would decline. Or maybe if I was already employed by the chiropractor, I would take the info they wanted handed out and just toss it in the dumpster and say I handed them out.

  64. @mrsepp: You could always fight to educate the Chiropractor too. There are good ones, and the good ones are interested in learning more actual medicine within the scope that they can practice, (eg.. mostly physiotherapy).

    As an industry, it is filled with crap. As individuals, there are actually a fair number of good people who are chiropractors and they do have some cases for which their brand of therapy is very good.

  65. There were some that wanted (and still insist) on trying to send me to a chiropractor for my spinal problems. Unfortunately, even if chiropractic worked and I believed it, that wouldn’t work for me for a simple reason: My problems are caused by physical damage to my spinal column and discs. “Adjusting” my back would be like trying to keep a worn out car in alignment – the parts are too worn out to keep any “adjustment” for long. Basically, I’m worn out past the tolerances and nothing except surgical replacement of the worn parts will change that. Luckily, I have managed to avoid that option, though it appears inevitable.

    There are some physical manupulations that work – like putting limbs back in their sockets or setting broken bones. I really don’t think those qualify as chiropractic, though. People I know have gone to chiropractors for allergies, etc. I think that’s highly unethical – we know how allergies work and manipulation is only going to cause a patient’s “wallet-ectomy.”

    @Finch: re: I suggest the placebo effect for your family members that have claimed a cure. Besides, if they were cured, why do they keep having to go back over and over again? ;-)

  66. @QuestionAuthority: “My problems are caused by physical damage to my spinal column and discs. “Adjusting” my back would be like trying to keep a worn out car in alignment – the parts are too worn out to keep any “adjustment” for long. ”

    That’s how chiropractic “worked” for me, addressed the symptom and a couple of days later I couldn’t walk. It wasn’t until I saw a physiotherapist (who also was a chiropractor) that my over all condition improved until eventually I didn’t need his services.

    That to me is the reason Chiropractic is wrong (in a general sense) even when it’s patients say it makes them feel better. It’s not a treatment with an end in sight, unless you consider the yacht the chiro keeps in the harbor an “end”.

    If the yardstick for treatment is making a person feel better then drug dealers have the right idea. Low overhead, competitive pricing,… hell, the good ones still make house calls.

  67. My fiance and I were actually talking about something like this last night after seeing “Religulous”. He has been unemployed now for 6 months, and can’t find anything! We’re lucky if there are 5 new jobs in the newspaper each day in the entire area, and he is always too over-qualified. Not to mention that hundreds of people show up to apply for each job. We are in serious trouble. He has such amazing charisma with people that there is no doubt in my mind that he would make an excellent religious leader! Move to some small town and start a new church…
    But yeah, I already feel really bad for people who waste their entire lives obsessing over religion..and it would really suck to have to be around them all the time. Plus I’m a terrible liar. =P

  68. If I was hungry enough, I’d eat your pet cat (I don’t have one). Ethics are useless if dead, and I don’t believe “ooh psychics aren’t real, it’s all a scam!” is a principle worth dying for.

    That’s the extreme end of the scale. Few are actually starving to death because of the credit crunch, at least not in Britain where we have a generous welfare system.

    So, we’re talking about sacrificing principle in order to maintain the lifestyle to which I have become accustomed, at which point one has to measure the worth of one’s ‘stuff’ against the principles in question.

    I can probably put a scale to it depending on what impact I think each woo has on society or actual life and death:

    Promote dowsing services: yep, if I was out of work and desperate I’d have no issue with this.

    Promote psychics: yep, if the price was right, I would do this.

    Promote creationism: unlikely, I’d either have to be starving, or they’d have to offer me enough money for me to counter the badness with my own education programme. Like, millions.

    Promote alternative medicine: almost for no amount of money. In a starvation scenario, yes, probably would turn to prostitution or drug pushing or being an assassin if it’s ‘me or them’ (hypothetically, of course. Who knows how I’d actually act?). But in a general “I have no income, it’s this or welfare” scenario, I would absolutely not work in alternative medicine. If they offered me £100million I would, though, as I could use that to promote scientific literacy and counter the effects of my work once I was released from my contract, but that’s as silly as the starve-or-work-in-homeopathy scenario.

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