Popular Scams

The founder of chiropractic, Daniel David Palmer
The founder of chiropractic, Daniel David Palmer | Source

Is Chiropractic a Scam?

Based on a Faulty Premise

Many people would be surprised to hear chiropractic described as a scam - it is widely practiced in the community, regarded as a legitimate career, respected and even taught in some universities Social acceptance has given it credibility, yet in a very fundamental way, it is a scam, even if those who practice it believe it themselves. If the snake-oil salesmen has faith in the snake-oil, it doesn't make it legit.

Subluxation

While many chiropractic courses do teach science based anatomy, the core theory behind modern chiropractic is not science based. The theory is that "spinal area adjustment" is a means to cure a vast array of medical problems, in fact most medical problems. From a scientific point of view, this just isn't true. Magnetic healer Daniel Palmer, the founder of chiropractic, claimed back in 1895 that the spinal column contains an 'innate intelligence' which has control over all our bodily functions - a kind of guiding energy which can be interfered with by something he called vertebral subluxation. The chiropractic solution of manipulating the spine supposedly restores the energy flow and cures 95 % of illnesses. Yet the only evidence chiropractic has been able to put forward in support of this theory is 'anecdotal', which is not a scientific basis for legitimacy, is easy to misinterpret and commonly used to support many pseudo-scientific claims.

It's also true some chiropractors deal only in attempts to relieve back pain, which may supply some, often short-term, benefit [just as physiotherapy or osteopathy would], many others go much further in their treatments, in some cases causing significant harm, including skeletal damage, mis-diagnosis and the delay of conventional treatments. Chiropractic paediatric clinics, practicing spinal manipulation for subluxation are also on the increase. Hundreds of cases of complications following chiropractic "spinal adjustment' in children and babies have been documented.

Chiropractors also make-up the largest professional group in the [Anti-]Vaccination Network, a group which has been notorious in spreading misinformation and fear about immunisation and actively campaigned against mainstream medicine's attempts to raise vaccination rates.

A chiropractor performing a spinal adjustment
A chiropractor performing a spinal adjustment | Source

Freedom of Choice

Why should it matter if there is no credible scientific evidence? Shouldn't people be allowed to choose whatever treatments they want? Well yes and no. People are of course, entitled to seek out whatever treatments they wish but they should also be informed of whether a treatment is evidence-based or pseudo-science. It's also highly questionable that non-evidence based treatments should be funded by tax payers.The fact is that vast amounts of public money are spent on chiropractic treatment, with very little real return for benefit and if the Chiropractic Association had its way, this would increase. The 2009 mission statement of the Australian Chiropractic Association is as follows:

To achieve a fundamental paradigm shift in healthcare direction where chiropractic is recognised as the most effective and cost efficient health regime of first choice that is readily accessible to all people

For a treatment that does not have a sound basis for it's central theory and has not been able to demonstrate any significant medical benefit, in some cases has causing harm, that statement is downright injurious to the public health system. Owing to a decision by the Federal government in 2010, every chiropractor in Australia is now able to call themselves 'Doctor', an endorsement which will no doubt cement the public image of chiropractic as "scientifically legitimate".

Is Astrology a Scam?

Pseudoscience in Spades

Many people enjoy reading their horoscope occasionally, asking others about their star sign or having a bit of fun getting a 'reading' from an amateur astrologer. No harm in that and often it's not taken terribly seriously. However, there are others who do take it seriously...so seriously they are persuaded to part with significant sums of money to get 'predictions' or 'forecasts'. Every day, so-called astrologers are separating people from their hard-earned money in a variety of ways.

For example, a friend of mine had a few of her friends over one evening recently for a meal and a get-together and as one of them was keen on astrology, they rang an astrologer's hotline - before the evening was out they'd all had a go and my friend had run up a 75 dollar bill. That's at the low end of the scale; there are cases where people part with hundreds, even thousands of dollars to what are nothing more than charletans, claiming powers that they almost certainly do-not possess. Buyer beware? Well maybe but I do believe the snake oil salesman always should take some responsibility for selling the snake oil.

6th Century zodiac
6th Century zodiac | Source

Wired to Believe

Shouldn't I be more open-minded, some may say? Well my answer would be I am open minded and that's precisely why I believe astrology is a scam. I'm not just going to accept it and close my mind off to reasonable doubt. There is simply no evidence at all that the claims made by astrology are true. I realise it's not up to me to say what people should and shouldn't believe in and if you do believe in it, good luck to you and as I wrote in the beginning, I can see the fun part.

However, what motivates me enough to write aticles like this one, are those fakers who seek to cynically explore people's willingness to believe in the unbelievable. Astrology is not a science, it's a pseudo science.

By and large, we humans are gullible, especially when it comes to the supernatural. We seem to have a natural propensity to believe in miracles, strange phenonema and attractive impossibilities. The philosopher David Hume wrote about this in his work, Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding:

The passion of surprise and wonder, arising from miracles, being an agreeable emotion, gives a sensible tendency toward the belief of those events, from which it is derived. And this goes so far, that even those who cannot enjoy this pleasure immediately, nor can believe those miraculous events, of which they are informed, yet love to partake of the satisfaction at second hand or by rebound, and place a pride and delight in exciting the admiration of others.

With what greediness are the miraculous accounts of travellers received, their descriptions of sea and land monsters, their relations of wonderful adventures, strange men and uncouth manners...

It's because of our very fascination with the supernatural that we are so susceptible to charletans and trickery.

How do you Know Astrology is not true?

Astrology has had a long, chequered history. It emerged a long time ago, around the same time the religious/magical view of the world arose out of civilization and it combined the age old practice of searching the night sky looking for answers and a magical view of the world. Originally conceived by the Babylonians, it was developed further by the ancient Greeks, (Claudius Ptolemy) who named the planets after their Gods and invested them with character traits.

By the Middle Ages, astrology had fallen into decline and disrepute and was banned by the church but made a comeback during the less restricting years of the Renaissance. When the scientific revolution was in full swing it virtually dissapeared again and didn't make another comeback until the early twentieth century, which was a time of upheaval and change. As the decades wore on, its popularity rose and spread across many parts of the globe - and it is still, extremely popular, perhaps primarily because it makes significant amounts of money for magazines, newspapers and other forms of media. Recent research suggests that as many as one in three adults in the US for example, believe in astrology, despite the fact that it has no scientific credibility and is based only on an ancient mythology.

We've learnt more about the universe through science than we ever will from astrology
We've learnt more about the universe through science than we ever will from astrology | Source

What Astronomers Say

"Many believers in astrology have suggested that each planet issues a different variety of special as-yet-undetected radiations or "vibrations" . . . [but] there is apparently conclusive evidence that the sun, moon, planets, and stars are all made of the same stuff, varieties and combinations of atomic particles and molecules, all governed by uniform laws of physics. It does not make sense to suppose that the various planets and the moon, all with rather similar physical properties, could manage to affect human affairs in totally dissimilar fashion" - Bart Bok, former president of the American Astronomical Society

  • There is no force, known or unknown, that could possibly affect us here on Earth the way astrologers claim. Known forces weaken too fast, letting one source utterly dominate (the Moon for gravity, the Sun for electromagnetism). An unknown force would allow asteroids and extrasolar planets to totally overwhelm the nearby planets."
  • Like psychics, astrologers tend to rely on human’s ability to remember “hits” and forget ”misses” – a form of selective bias. Even an accurate predictions may be due to simple chance.
  • Study after study has shown that claims and predictions made by astrologers have no merit. They are indistinguishable from chance, which means astrologers cannot claim to have some ability to predict anyone’s life's path or destiny.
  • There is harm in astrology. It weakens people's ability to rationally look at the world, an ability we need now more than ever.

Phil Plait: Bad Astronomy


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Opinions

There's no denying there's some talented astrologers out there, only their talents lie in their astonishly adept ability to deceive...perhaps they even deceive themselves.

Some may say "oh that's just your opinion and you can stick it!", to which I reply: yes, it's my opinion but it's an opinion based on what I believe are the facts. I know astrology cannot predict the future in the same way I know the reading of sheeps entrails can not (which incidentally was another Babylonian custom). If you think you have evidence that astrology is not junk science and that indeed, it is true and is a bonified way to predict the future, then I suggest you bypass me altogether and go straight to James Randi to accept his offer of a million dollars,. The offer has been in place since 1964, for anyone who can prove anything supernatural, which thus far, no-one who has attempted it, has been able to do. In fact, very few astrologers have ever tried, which suggests to me, they don't even believe in their own spiel.

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