Believe in nothing, no matter who says it, even if I say it, if it does not agree with your own experience and your own common sense ~ Buddha

To my way of thinking, there are two kinds of knowledge — the first are things which are provable. For instance, that 11 is a prime number, or that the capital of Denmark is Copenhagen; those are the types of things I will defend to the death and get quite vocal about.

The second kind, the kind that have more to do with experience and perception, I’m almost indifferent towards, in terms of bringing out my competitive spirit. Often, I will question people on the particulars of such knowledge, but I’m not being argumentative—I’m delighting in this new experience, this new viewpoint, and I’m comparing and contrasting it with others I’ve come across.

Now, of those predicative knowings, I can become rather attached to some of them. As I’m aware of the psychological biases, I do attempt to objectively verify them. This is because, when I make a statement about this or that, I want to know the extent to which what I’m saying is defensible. I’ve always been like that, and it’s a large part of my search for knowledge–the search for independently verifiable facts, or at least, the three source rule.

As I come into the field of New Sciences (as they are now euphemistically known by) there develops a broad grey area between the facts, and their interpretation. At that point, I muster critical thinking superpowers and simply examine the evidence (and my assumptions). I am starting to find that the variety of interpretations is less a divergence from reality than (once you follow the logical train of thought) a variety of warring paradigms. And if the paradigms are what represent what’s possible, then … oh my… what a glorious set of possibilities indeed! And then…perhaps there’s something behind the curtain as well.

Interpretations of the data set…

I have a friend who believes that aliens visit the earth to leave us messages in crop circles. I even know a fair amount of the rhetoric behind that belief. But with my knowledge, as it stands, I will never repeat that claim with anything approaching endorsement. I have the highest respect for her professionally, and with several other people who share this belief, but I will not defend it. But if, as some people have told me, crop circles have a certain energy to them, and if I visited one and felt that energy, then I would report on that as eye-witness testimony (with all that entails).

That is a verifiable “fact”, since you cannot disprove that someone did not experience something they’re willing to swear to. It might not be replicable, but it’s actually impossible to disprove. However, I do frown upon Edgar Cayce and anyone else who gets their information via channelling and presents it as fact. This is akin to getting expert testimony from Ask.com — you have no idea who’s on the other end. The information has to be rated on its own merits, the same as intuition.

Moving in from mediums into the various methodologies, if you’re looking for evidence, it depends on precisely what will please you. For instance, I don’t know the science behind traditional chinese medicine or acupuncture, but I’ve seen some amazing things done with it, and you can’t beat the track record. Ditto for yoga and Ayurvedic. However, age alone is not evidence for efficacy. Even leaving aside specious “Atlantean technology”, when was the last time you heard someone rave about their trepanning procedure?

Purely intention-based modalities like reiki seem to depend wholly on the practitioner — but how could you tell if they were all doing it the same way?Again, objective measures are difficult to find, and more difficult still to tie to objective results.

The system-based modalities, applied kinesiology, homeopathy, naturopathy, chiropractic, Emotional Freedom Technique, BodyTalk, etc, etc, etc, that’s where a lot of it is grey area. There are case studies galore– and they freely steal techniques back and forth, which argues for their efficacy. But BodyTalk is the only one I’ve noticed that spends the time and effort to look at what science is doing to support their claims. But, I could be wrong, since I didn’t study any other modality very deeply, and its possible that the practitioners I talked to simply weren’t interested in the mechanics of their technique.

So what’s a person to do if they don’t want the wool pulled over their eyes? Referrals are about the only trusted method and even that— well, let’s just say that that’s another place where I hear the detested caveat: “I know this is woo-woo, but it works.”

I only care about the “it works”. Chiropractic was utterly woo-woo twenty years ago, as was massage. Now they’re mainstream, and chiropractic is even undergoing another renaissance in the fields of allergies and autoimmune disorders. I haven’t looked into it too much, but although the claims are specious-sounding, I already know and trust the principles of alignment and flow with regards to Chinese Medicine, so if chiropractic is using the same principles I see no reason why chiropractic can’t fulfill at least some of the claims they make.

Well, let’s see, did I manage to arouse the ire of most everyone? 🙂 Rest assured, you’ll all get the chance to take me to task.

The Challenge

What I would most like is a lively discussion around the issues. This article is a brief overview of my stance and general philosophy. I welcome any and all comments, but I must insist they be well-argued. But well-argued I mean that your response should show evidence of critical thought and even-handed ruminations on the subject. Speculation is certainly welcomed by me, although I would love to see more discussion on pragmatic applications of these subjects. So that this doesn’t devolve into an cerebral cluster-wank, what impact might these theories have if they were true? Similarly, if they were accepted as true, and later found to be false (a la the Ptolemic Fallacy) what impact might that have?

So that everybody can get primed, I’ll release next week’s topics on the preceding column. Please, darlings, do suggest topics that would be fun to cover. I’ll even take ideas in the similarly unprovable fields of psychology and philosophy, since the three are so incestuously intertwined.

Also, feel free to drop me a line or follow me on twitter… I’d love to connect with you.

Next week’s topic….

The elephant in the room.

The Secret. aka, The Law of Attraction. (speaking of incestuous couples) Let’s get this one out of the way, shall we? Because sooner or later, every metaphysical argument discussion circles back to this topic.

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Comments on: "Two Kinds of Knowledge, and, a Cerebral Cluster-Wank" (9)

  1. Science is two part: “what works” and “how it works”. That last one is the woo woo one for many “New Sciences”. Even when people can prove something gets results, no real scientist is going to take it seriously if there is no demonstrable physical mechanism for it. But I would still say, “If it works, do it.”, myself.
    BTW When my partner’s brother made us watch the “The Secret” video, his TV started smoking (true story). I whispered to Randy, “It really works; I was really hoping that would happen!”. I’m still amused by that little drama and I still really hate things like “The Secret” for giving people a completely wrong idea about how the world works.
    I’m not on twitter but I recently joined the Facebook Borg (my family kept posting photos there that I wanted to see.) Noel Patterson, Houston, if you are collecting FriendsTM.

    • That’s funny!

      Also funny is that you should refer to FB as the Borg…do you read Steve Pavlina too? I actually just disabled my account there last week. I hadn’t been on it in a year, but over the summer, they pulled my profile picture, due to indecency. It was a Titian nude. I have had that pic up since 05, been on FB since 03… And there was no dispute process whatsoever. Someone decided it was offensive, so off it went. Then my husband’s account got hacked, and it was really weird…why would you hack someone’s account and then change the personal info? And there was no complaint process there either.

      Then one day I got this inane email from FB, “Shanna, all your friends are here, waiting for you… You should log in to view your profile.” And I was like, that’s the last straw. I will not be emotionally blackmailed by the Borg.

      So far twitter is only fun if people have actual conversations, instead of saying things that will make them sound cool. (much like FB) so I’m rounding up people to have good conversations with. You definitely count! I’m really enjoying our (disjointed) conversation at Raptitude!

  2. Now they’re mainstream, and chiropractic is even undergoing another renaissance in the fields of allergies and autoimmune disorders.

    Link?

    I’m, uh, skeptical here from my own experience. As I told you before, I’ve found chiropractic useful on a level akin to massage or physical therapy. But the guy I go to, who is somehow involved in sports medicine at UVa (in other words, he’s a little more respected than the quacks who talk about subluxation), is still completely full of shit and unprofessional when it comes to making pronouncements on anything other than stretching exercises and manipulating vertebrae.

    When I was first diagnosed with RA, he brushed it off like it’s not really a disease since they don’t have a cure for it. “They’re just going to give you anti-inflammatories for it,” he said, as if I should sit there in agony rather than “pollute” my body with synthetic drugs. He tried to insist that I could break up the scar tissue by mild weight-lifting (which was completely impossible at that point; imagine trying to keep toughing out your exercise routine with severely sprained joints, for example).

    Later, he tried to claim that it was all related to diet. I asked my rheumatologist about that, and he said there were no conclusive studies, but that if something obviously made me feel bad after eating it, well, I didn’t need him to tell me not to eat it (and no, I never noticed any connection to food.)

    Then he once told me I should be taking glucosamine and chondroiton. Again, asked my rheumatologist, and he said go ahead if I want to, but as far as proof, there’s a lot of smoke, no fire, and besides, that’s more for osteoarthritis, not rheumatoid, a distinction my chiro either wasn’t aware of or didn’t care about.

    Finally, he decided that my orthopedic surgeon was to blame for performing surgeries on my hands and wrists to begin with, as if I had just walked into his office with a mild wrist strain, and he got all scalpel-happy and bundled me off to the operating room. In reality, my o.s. had been, if anything, overly cautious, giving me cortisone injections every few months for a year before even considering surgery, and the surgeries themselves had produced good results, though the scar tissue quickly grew back due to the untreated RA, of course. My chiropractor was too busy trying to pretend he had all the answers to even learn that little bit of information before badmouthing another doctor he had never spoken to, or whose treatment of me he couldn’t be bothered to familiarize himself with. Like I said, highly unprofessional, whereas the mainstream physicians I had dealt with had all been careful, open-minded to anything that would help me feel better, and familiar with actual research.

    And like I said, this guy actually has some knowledge regarding sports medicine. I’ve known other chiros who endorse subluxation, and one who told me some bizarre theory about how massaging, say, your left elbow can relieve pain in your right ankle because of how when you were in the womb, the cartilage and tendons hadn’t differentiated themselves yet…or something. He kind of lost me at that point, I admit.

    I say all this to make clear that when I say in general, chiropractors deserve all the scorn that gets heaped on them, I’m not saying it because I’m a closed-minded ideologue, it’s coming from a lot of experience with several different ones. So, to bring it all back to the point that began this tirade, if there’s any evidence that they know fuck-all about autoimmune disorders and can treat it through manipulating vertebrae, I’d really like to see it.

    • I actually have found that there is a huge range of competencies amongst chiropractors, but I didn’t feel it was fair to tar them all with the same brush. I actually found this week that there are a number of different sub-modalities in chiropracty…I shall have to find out what the two chiros I’m referencing do, because I thought it was just a matter of concentrating your interests. yours does sound like an ass, though. I think it would be fair to say that he probably has very little confidence in his own legitimacy. It sounds like a defensive reaction to me, anyways.

      I’ve never heard of subluxtion per se, but I use a similar technique in BodyTalk called reciprocals. It’s the act of balancing diametrically opposite bodyparts. left elbow to right knee, as you say.

      The theory as it was presented to me as resetting the circuit breakers on the electromagnetic fields within the body (the Chinese refer to it as Wei Chi, which is partially where the technique is borrowed from. I believe it also owes something to Applied Kinesiology as well)

      I won’t swear to the how, but it definitely improves alignment and mobility. It’s a fun one to do range of motion exercises with clients because the change is remarkable and immediate. It’s one of the 5 techniques we can teach to laymen, so there’s a reasonably good explanation here.

      Just like many of us in the woowoo trades there are enough quacks to give us all a bad name. Plus, when open their mouths about things outside their field there’s such a high tendency to look dumb.

      That’s why I just admit to being dumb upfront 🙂

    • (sigh) Apparently, I am too disjointed to address all your comments in one box.

      Links. I wish I had em.

      First of all, I prefer citations in actual books. Tres old fashioned of me. Second, journalistic sources are…skewed, to put it kindly. I often find that when I look into whatever study they’re chirping about it’s mostly hot air. And I don’t have a nice student library card anymore to do proper research.

      So I decided I would speak strictly from experience unless otherwise noted. Hopefully this will do two things: 1. Remind people that these are merely opinion pieces and I put far more credence in a well-reasoned and logical stance than I do a study that only sorta *suggests* an interpretation (which I find most of the do; by the time they prove anything, it’s already been accepted)
      and 2. hopefully people will show me where to get really good, accurate information on this sort of thing.

      I would never want to pretend I have all the answers. I’m just looking for sidekicks to go looking for them!

  3. There I go, looking dumb again. 😉 Didn’t see that you listed subluxation and the unnamed technique separately.

    Ok, based on my cursory research on the definition, realized that I just use a different term (around here, we refer to it as “out”. We’re real sophisticated)

    THIS is what I was talking about… In my view, which I *have not* researched, I’m just going on the rhetoric I’ve heard, chiropracty is piggy-backing on chinese medicine, which does represent illness, esp chronic illness, as being the result of misalignment and torsion of joints. As I understand it.

    I’m going to have to tap my contacts for some guest posts at this rate. I really am extraordinarily ignorant.

  4. Shanna,
    I like to try things myself. If it works for me – that’s proof enough.

    I prefer to see science backing up anecdotal claims of course, but most science is way behind the anecdotal evidence.

    EFT works – period. Reiki seems to work too. I’m hoping science will explain but in the meantime I’ll encourage people to try these modalities.

    I don’t speak about aliens, or faires, or guides, etc., because I don’t have any personal experience with these things. Maybe if I did – I would.

    I’m open to hearing about these topics, but since I have no personal experience to go by I’m less likely to follow these topics closely.

    Thank you for this interesting post!

    • Hi Angela! Glad you could be here. I agree that personal experience is the best– at least, it works for me. But I’m finding as a practitioner that people are coming to me for advice… and I want to be able to help them.

      So by examining these topics with a critical rigor, I would love to make people more conscious not only of the concepts behind energy medicine, but behind their thought processes.

      I can only say, “I like this, it worked for me”. I can’t say “This will help”. I don’t like to say “well, it might help, and it might not” (even if it is the truth).

      What I want to be able to say is, “Well, hey, there’s a lot of information here, you can start there and let me know if there’s any way I can help”

  5. You abandoned FB? Won’t the Queen hunt you down and assimilate you? When I joined I immediatly acquired 50 “friends”, some of whom were people I hadn’t seen in 30 years, and they were chattering away: “I’m going snowtubing!”, “I have 500 friends!”, “Nina Hagen has a new video.”, etc. It’s strangly connecting and disconnecting at the same time.
    I can chat with you here just fine.
    As far as your last comment on Raptitude, I wasn’t really looking for criteria, I was just trying to point out that it is often difficult to tell what the appropriate response to a problem is, even when David’s advice is taken to heart.

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