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Dynamic Chiropractic – January 28, 1994, Vol. 12, Issue 03

Voice from the Past

By Joseph Keating Jr., PhD
Below is a reprint of C.O. Watkins' essay concerning the chiropractor's pubic image, taken from his 1944 manifesto, The Basic Principles of Chiropractic Government, which is included as Appendix A in Dr. Keating's book, Toward a Philosophy of the Science of Chiropractic: A Primer for Clinicians, published by the Stockton Foundation for Chiropractic Research, 1992.

As with so many other aspects of scientific and professional development in chiropractic, C.O. Watkins, DC, said it all long ago. Beginning in 1934, Watkins was one of the driving forces in the National Chiropractic Association's (NCA) efforts to raise educational standards. During 1938-1943 he served on the NCA's Board of Directors (equivalent to today's ACA Board of Governors), and in 1942-43 he served as chairman of the board. As a member of the leadership, he was deeply concerned with the profession's public image, and believed that scientific development was the single most important area for improvement of that image. Here is an extract from his writings.

Relationship with the Public and Its Agencies

by C.O. Watkins, DC

All we have said regarding our relationship with the channels of public information applies equally to our relations with people and their agencies. Whether we appear before a national or state legislative assembly, we should do so as representatives of a worthy science. We must reflect the scientific attitude if we are seeking the privileges which a science has reason to expect. A worthy science is highly esteemed by society and its right to govern its own destinies is never challenged. If it has a responsible government, its right to regulate its own affairs is unquestioned. No legislature would knowingly pass legislation which would interfere with the normal progress of a worthy science. On the contrary, public agencies have always befriended scientific progress, aiding both with public funds for education and research as well as with other encouragement. Because of these facts we should strive to emulate in our contacts with all public agencies the high ideals that these people associate with science. Too often we resort to cheap politics and other chicanery unworthy of men of science. We find ourselves "screaming on a street corner" and condemning public agencies for not accepting us as a worthy science.

During the past few years we have expended much effort in our national capital to obtain proper chiropractic recognition. I have studied our effort and planning there. I believe that our representatives in our nation's capital have done excellent work, especially under the circumstances. What are the circumstances? Briefly, they are these: Our representatives are empty handed without a strong demonstrable case. They are unable to prove the worth of chiropractic to the public agencies. Our representatives know its value to the people. If they could bring a thousand sick and ailing patients to Washington, treat them before every agency, and have the results recorded and correlated by a responsible organization, they would have some facts which any agency could base recognition upon. Facts which would demand consideration. Obviously, this cannot be done. The science they represent is not organized as other sciences, and they have no specific facts available upon which to base a case. Therefore, they must ask the government agencies to accept chiropractic upon a basis of faith or theory. It is too much to ask of those who have learned to expect sciences to be fortified with facts of a specific nature. Because of this we are denied much that we seek. It avails us little to resort to pressure politics. We can have anything we desire and need from public agencies when we are in a position to prove our worthiness with specific facts.

Here again we can learn a lesson from organized medicine, but in this instance we can learn what to avoid rather than what we should do. In this instance it is medicine which often takes the part of the "lady screaming on the street corner." Of course, one science cannot build a case against the rights of another science to enjoy the privileges they themselves enjoy. They cannot always belittle the other science successfully to the legislatures, so they commit the serious error of resorting to political pressure. Some of this medical, political chicanery exerted upon state legislatures would not flatter even an organization of bootleggers. Such behavior on the part of men of science is to a large degree responsible for the average legislator's loss of respect for the medical profession. I have seen the medical profession possessing much money and political pressure lose a legislative case to a few chiropractors who tried to the best of their ability to truly represent their science. In one legislature I have seen the medical doctor assume the role of a politician while the chiropractors conducted themselves as doctors, and to the bewilderment of the medical profession the chiropractors won. I have seen the situation reversed and the medical doctors won. I have also seen both medicine and chiropractic forget that they were representing sciences and become cheap politicians much to the disgust of an honest legislature and the financial profit of the ever-ready hand of the professional politician. As a matter of fact, politics is no part of science; they do not mix to advantage. The rest of society is suspicious of organized medicine in America, and medicine's participation in politics is no small part of the reason.

The same principle applies to attracting the attention of the patient in the office. One can use either the philosophical or the scientific approach. Use of the philosophical approach calls attention to chiropractic as a remedy rather than as a science. To contrast the two approaches we shall cite another example. Suppose a patient with goiter consulted a chiropractor who used the philosophical approach, explaining his philosophical conception of the cause of goiter and the way he would correct the cause. Upon a basis of theory or faith the patient must decide whether or not chiropractic is what he needs. If the treatment proves successful, the patient's confidence in chiropractic is increased. If it fails, the patient considers the chiropractor's philosophy merely a sales talk and he is very likely to feel that he has been duped.

If the patient had gone to the medical doctor he would have met the scientific approach, which would be based upon demonstrated facts. The medical doctor could cite a thousand cases treated by one method by Drs. Jones and Doe, five hundred cases treated by another method by another doctor, and he would give the general laws which were found in the these cases. He might use some theory to explain the results, but never does he use the philosophical approach or infer his treatment is based upon theory.

To contrast the effects of these two types of approach -- in the case of the philosophical approach, many patients will trust the honesty of the doctor. If the patient takes treatments and obtains good results he becomes convinced that this doctor and his remedy are capable of successfully treating goiter. In the case of the scientific approach quite a different impression is made. The patient is not asked to accept theory but is given facts which have been demonstrated. Consequently, the patient feels that here he has a treatment based upon demonstrated facts in thousands of cases, one which has proven best in his type of case, and that everything else being equal this scientifically-tested treatment is more reliable. If the patient follows a course of treatments without getting the expected results, he feels that all has been done for him which science affords. If his goiter is removed and he feels generally worse he accepts it as a general consequence which is to be expected, and he begins searching for some other medical treatment which might help him. The scientific approach used by the medical doctor conveys to the patient the impression, and it is an honest one that this doctor's knowledge was based upon scientific facts established in the treatment of thousands of cases not by himself but by members of his profession, and that he has at his fingertips all the knowledge revealed by these cases -- that, as a matter of fact, the knowledge used in his case was the tried and tested knowledge of the whole science of medicine, not that of one individual. The result is that when the patient again needs a doctor he will conclude that if the medical physician has such knowledge available in cases of goiter, he will have similar facts available on other conditions and that his methods were not based solely upon theory or philosophy. It is true that the patient may have done a foolish thing if he decided to have the goiter removed surgically; no doubt he would have been much better off both physically and financially if he had had the chiropractic physician treat him. However, the patient did what his impressions told him was best, and certainly the patient cannot be blamed.

The writer has not used a philosophical explanation of chiropractic as an approach to the patient for several years, but in recalling the early use of the supernatural philosophy (Universal Intelligence, Innate Intelligence, etc.) a parallel situation always comes to mind. If one called an electrician to repair an electric motor and he conjured some supernatural philosophy of electricity regarding its source, its makeup, and its transmission in an effort to "sell" you on the marvels of electricity, would you not think his approach unusual? It is altogether possible that you would consider him more of a preacher than an electrician.

So it is, whether the legislature, the channels of public information, or the public in our offices are concerned. As chiropractic physicians we should represent the scientific attitude by adopting the methods used by science. It is the only way by which we can obtain for chiropractic the full and unqualified respect of the rest of society.

Though the situation is somewhat different the same facts apply in the courtroom. Chiropractic can base its legal claims upon chiropractic as an art, a philosophy, a theory, or a science. By far the strongest case can be built upon chiropractic as a science. As an art, chiropractic may be subservient to regulation by man-made laws, but even courts admit their inability to regulate the progress of science and no attempt is made to do so.


Joseph C. Keating Jr., PhD
Portland, Oregon

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