Spineless

The case of Simon Singh vs the British Chiropractic Association continues apace, with the noted science writer launching an appeal against the imbecilic High Court ruling of Mr Justice Eady.

Added to this we now have a high-profile campaign supported by the great and the good of the scientific establishment, arts and media worlds. And lowly mortals such as myself. The organisers of the campaign – Sense About Science – may be a front for the bizarre political cult once known as the Revolutionary Communist Party, but it would be churlish to use this as a reason not to sign the petition in support of Simon Singh.

Writing today in the Independent, Steve Connor helpfully provides a little background on chiropractic…

“Chiropractice is the manipulation of the spine to treat a range of problems not associated with a bad back. It was invented by Daniel David Palmer of Davenport, Iowa, at the turn of the 20th century after he claimed to have cured an office janitor, Harvey Lillard, of deafness by ‘racking’ his back. Palmer, known as ‘DD’, said that Lillard had been deaf for 17 years after he had strained his back. ‘I reasoned that if that vertebra was replaced, the man’s hearing should be restored,’ he said. ‘I racked it into position by using the spinous process as a lever and soon the man could hear as before.’

“After an unsuccessful earlier career in ‘magnetic healing’, Palmer switched to spine manipulation, which his close friend the Rev Samuel H Weed called chiropractice after the Greek words for ‘hand’ and ‘practice’, meaning ‘done by hand’.

“Palmer wanted to turn chiropractice into a new religion, with himself at the helm, and openly likened himself to Martin Luther, Mohamed and Christ: ‘I am the fountainhead. I am the founder of chiropractice in its science, in its art, in its philosophy and in its religious phase.’

“He practised racking the spines on his many children – he was married six times – and his over-enthusiasm with physical punishment sometimes landed him in trouble with the police.

Palmer died in 1913 after being run over by a car allegedly driven by one of his sons, Bartlett.

Why the “ allegedly”? Perhaps Daniel Palmer’s acolytes threatened to sue the son.

“I am the fountainhead,” said the founder of the quack medicine known as chiropractic. That statement has been made by many a crank over the years.

Palmer might as well have said: “I am the dick-head.”