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Sir Isaac Newton, Alchemist 330

Posted by samzenpus
from the philosopher's-stone dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Natalie Angier writes in The Hindu that it is now becoming clear that Newton spent thirty years of his life slaving over a furnace in search of the power to transmute one chemical element into another. Angier writes, 'How could the ultimate scientist have been seemingly hornswoggled by a totemic pseudoscience like alchemy, which in its commonest rendering is described as the desire to transform lead into gold?' Now new historical research describes how alchemy yielded a bounty of valuable spinoffs, including new drugs, brighter paints, stronger soaps and better booze. 'Alchemy was synonymous with chemistry,' says Dr. William Newman, 'and chemistry was much bigger than transmutation.' Newman adds that Newton's alchemical investigations helped yield one of his fundamental breakthroughs in physics: his discovery that white light is a mixture of colored rays that can be recombined with a lens. 'I would go so far as to say that alchemy was crucial to Newton's breakthroughs in optics,' says Newman. 'He's not just passing light through a prism — he's resynthesizing it.'"
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Sir Isaac Newton, Alchemist

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  • Science (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @07:17PM (#33889178)

    Science is not a field of study it is the approach.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @07:32PM (#33889284)

    Also, it certainly isn't pseudoscience to turn elements into other elements. Nuclear reactions can do this, just not in large quantities. Their methods were incorrect, but the idea itself is not ridiculous.

  • by Bertie (87778) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @07:35PM (#33889304)

    I mean, Bill Bryson talks about it at some length in his eminently readable Short History Of Nearly Everything. As well as being into alchemy, he "spent endless hours studying the floor plan of the lost temple of King Solomon in Jerusalem (teaching himself Hebrew in the process, the better to scan original texts) in the belief that it held mathematical clues to the second coming of Christ and the end of the world."

    Bryson also reports that John Maynard Keynes bought a load of his papers at auction, only to find that the great majority of them were about alchemy, rather than optics or astronomy.

  • by greg_barton (5551) <[moc.oohay] [ta] [notrab_gerg]> on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @07:46PM (#33889380) Homepage Journal

    You can transmute one element to another. It's called nuclear chemistry.

  • Re:Science (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lotana (842533) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @07:48PM (#33889398)

    Offtopic:

    You mentioned chiropractors in your list of frauds. I was always under the impression that all chiropractors do is pop your joins back to how they supposed to be after you been an idiot by sitting in that uncomfortable chair for several days. Nothing more.

    Is there some mystical part to the field being pushed that I am not aware of? Do they claim to do more besides physical task of setting your bones straight?

  • Re:Science (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @07:56PM (#33889446) Journal
    There likely is still a lot of mumbo-jumbo out there (string theory, perhaps?). Science doesn't mean being right. Science, in a single word, might be described as 'evidence-based.' Before science, people trusted people like Aristotle for no other reason than that he was Aristotle. Now when we trust scientists, we're not doing it because we think they have some god-given right, but because we trust that they've looked at the evidence, and we can look at that evidence too if we have the time/desire.

    This is why Galileo and Newton are still scientists, even though there was a lot they didn't know. They ran experiments, and looked at what really happened, instead of debating based on what someone said a thousand years before. In Newton's alchemy, he was still experimenting to see what could be done, not writing long dissertations without ever turning on a burner. Seriously, that's what people did before science: before the idea of basing things on evidence.

    Nullius in Verba, "On the words of no man," this is what science is; if a man is not backed up by evidence, his words are useless.
  • A bit harsh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by turing_m (1030530) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @08:03PM (#33889488)

    "He was brutal," said Mark Ratner, a materials chemist at Northwestern University. "He sentenced people to death for trying to scrape the gold off of coins." Newton may have been a Merlin, a Zeus, the finest scientist of all time. But make no mistake about it, said Mr. Ratner. "He was not a nice guy."

    There is no civilization as we know it without currency. If people start debasing the currency, they are robbing from the rest of the populace - everyone has to work that bit harder to support them. Make enough to never have to work again, and you have effectively caused the rest of the society to chip in a lifetime worth of slavery just so you can sit on your ass. The crime is not really any different to counterfeiting, and every country takes that very seriously for that reason. So meh.

    Newton may or may not have been personable, but it is difficult to argue that he contributed far more to the world than he took from it, and from that perspective he was one of the nicest guys to have ever lived.

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @08:06PM (#33889504) Journal
    There is nothing wrong with seeking physical proofs for things written in the bible. In fact, there are physical proofs for some things written in the bible, such as the ruins of the city of Jericho. But that's besides the point. The problem isn't looking for scientific proof of things, the problem is when you don't accept the evidence that contradicts what you expected. Newton was living at the dawn of scientific investigation, he could have investigated almost anything and found something worth writing a paper about.

    There is nothing wrong with seeking physical proof for even astrology. The only problem is when you ignore the evidence that shows it's useless.
  • Re:Science (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kirijini (214824) <[kirijini] [at] [yahoo.com]> on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @08:08PM (#33889512)

    ...homeopathy or magical crystals or other new age clapp trap...

    Most homeopathy and new age healing methods don't actually make scientific claims (in part because they can't), they're spiritual endeavors that depend to a great degree on the belief of the "patient." If you put your "faith" in science and hard data, then, yeah, avoid new age healing. But there's nothing wrong with spiritual fulfillment and/or the placebo effect.

    Yeah, there are frauds out there who claim they can cure cancer with magic charms, and that's dangerous. But most new agey healers deal with things like joint pain, chronic pain, headaches, and other ailments that are likely stress and/or posture related, and so really just need belief by the patient that they've been healed, or some kind of spiritual fulfillment. Sometimes there are things that pills or surgery can't fix.

    The real mumbo jumbo is astrology, because it does make scientific claims.

  • Unacceptable. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BlitzTech (1386589) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @08:11PM (#33889524)
    By the modern standards of today, "alchemy" is considered a pseudoscience. Why do new "researchers" (and I use the term VERY liberally) continue to apply modern context to historical figures? Newton was a pioneer of his day. Alchemy was considered a real science, one he spent quite a bit of time furthering, and to condemn 30 years of his life for searching for a way to turn lead into gold is insulting to his memory and legacy as well as insulting to researchers and historians who actually understand that modern opinions, ideas, and knowledge don't always apply in the past.

    I am getting very tired of "researchers" making claims with unpublished data that cannot be verified for accuracy (Gliese 581 g possibly a hoax [slashdot.org]), making 'groundbreaking' claims about history without even considering historical context (this and about 50% of similar posts on /.), and a total failure to understand basic statistics (most 'shocking' studies posted on /.). These idiots give the rest of us researchers a bad name.
  • Re:Science (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @08:14PM (#33889534) Journal

    Except that even proponents of string theories admit that there's no evidence for it currently, and that it will be some time before we can even create the technology to indirectly test for these theories. As much as anything else, science is defined by how cautiously it approaches theories like super strings, brane theory, and so forth. They're intriguing ideas that physicists will be the first to state may explain the universe, or may just be delightful mathematical models that have nothing to do with reality.

    The scientific method came into existence because of guys like Galileo and Newton, but the full genesis of methodological naturalism really wasn't until the end of the 18th century. I won't say that Newton weren't scientists within the framework of natural philosophy, but as far as being modern scientists like Darwin and Maxwell, they still weren't quite there.

  • Hindu in, NYT out (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ljhiller (40044) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @08:14PM (#33889536)
    Congrats on finally getting your submission [slashdot.org] posted after going halfway around the world to find a copy not at the New York Times. Seriously.
  • by yet-another-lobbyist (1276848) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @08:16PM (#33889548)
    Of course, when you know science as we do today, it's easy to say that this was an obvious dead end. However, imagine how much was known about anything such a long time ago. How could he have known that these experiments would not lead to success? Many other experiments were done at the same time (and much later) that seem much more esoteric, and which ultimately lead to scientific breakthroughs. What comes to my mind right now are Faraday's electrical experiments with frog legs...
    So from that point of view, there's absolutely nothing wrong with Newton trying to "cook" some chemical elements seeking for new insights.
  • Re:Science (Score:4, Insightful)

    by c6gunner (950153) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @08:24PM (#33889582)

    Selling people lies is always wrong. You can dress it up in "spirituality" and "faith" and whatever other nonsense is currently popular in your society, but you can't change the fact that you're taking money from people by lying to them. The fact that you're also helping spread ignorance only adds insult to injury.

  • by turing_m (1030530) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @08:28PM (#33889598)

    Interesting how true geniuses are frequently true eccentrics.

    What else is eccentricity but deviation from the norm? There are loads of things the average person would probably do differently if he was smart enough to be in the top 0.1% of people, because the better way to do a particular task would then be obvious. Of course, his compatriots are doomed to never understand why his ways are better, because they aren't smart enough to do so. Thus, they label him eccentric.

    If you are a genius, even the conventional wisdom of "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" can be flouted, because then you would be smart enough to figure out exactly what sort of un-Romanlike things you can get away with. The extent to which you do the un-Roman things depends on how much you value social approval. The thing is, someone recognized as a genius will care more about implementing a better way of doing whatever it is they want to do, than social approval. When that better way catches on, that is how they get recognized as a genius. So it is no accident that perceived geniuses are eccentrics, some just hide it better than others.

  • Re:Science (Score:5, Insightful)

    by UnknowingFool (672806) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @08:33PM (#33889622)

    It's obvious because of the stability of lead that you won't be able to do it by chemical means (which is, I guess, often implied). However, with nuclear transmutation is definitely possible to change bismuth into lead and lead into gold. For now, it will cost you more than the gold is worth, but once energy becomes almost free..

    It is obvious now after hundreds of years of rigorous theory and testing. In Newton's time, it wasn't clear whether some new, unknown chemical would turn lead into gold. We know now from atomic theory that lead and gold have different number of protons and simple chemical change would not convert one to another. Chemistry at the time was in its infancy. The law of conservation of matter wasn't stated by Antoine Lavoisier [wikipedia.org], which many historians consider the father of modern chemistry, until 1789 (some 60 years after Newton died). Even then Lavoisier proposed that heat was caused by a weightless fluid called caloric so he wasn't right about everything.

  • Re:Science (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kirijini (214824) <[kirijini] [at] [yahoo.com]> on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @08:35PM (#33889632)

    The new age healers I've known are 1) nice people who want to help you, and 2) honest about what they can and can't do.

    Don't forget that many people voluntarily give money to their church every sunday, and are happy to do so, and feel that it's the right thing to do. You could call that "taking money from people by lying to them," but you're ignoring that people are getting spiritual fulfillment and moral satisfaction from it. It's the same thing with spiritual healing. A lot of people do feel better afterwords, and in fact feel better served by spiritual healing than from whatever treatment a doctor gives them. Bear in mind that I'm talking about treatment for things like chronic pain and headaches, not cancer or infectious diseases.

  • by Fantastic Lad (198284) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @08:38PM (#33889642)

    A couple of things:

    1. Alchemy has little to do with chemistry. It's about the purification of the soul through repeated heatings and coolings, and as Newton was learning Hebrew, I'd guess he'd probably figured out some of the fundamentals in play re Gnostic Christianity and similar. "Lead into Gold" is a metaphor, as was much else about alchemy. But I don't know much about Newton, so whatever. Maybe he really was trying to generate a money mill.

    2. Not knowing something isn't a crime. Exploration of ideas and the world should never be punished if the person searching is doing so out of an honest desire to learn and isn't hurting anybody in the process. People are far too hard on each other for being ignorant, and too defensive when their ignorance is pointed out. Learning shouldn't be a punishable offense.

    -FL

  • Re:Science (Score:5, Insightful)

    by c6gunner (950153) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @08:52PM (#33889700)

    Don't forget that many people voluntarily give money to their church every sunday, and are happy to do so, and feel that it's the right thing to do. You could call that "taking money from people by lying to them," ....

    And I do. Many people, likewise, voluntarily give their entire life savings to the Church of Scientology, or give their 13-year-old-daughters to the head of their cult. Saying that people do it "willingly" is meaningless when the problem at hand is that people are being manipulated and lied to.

  • Re:Science (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blahplusplus (757119) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @09:02PM (#33889738)

    "Science is not a field of study it is the approach."

    I think one forgets that human beings start at near ground zero as well, it's easy after the fact to know things are errors then it is to know them during the time one lives. How many errors in science today will look just as bad as alchemy in the future?

  • Re:A bit harsh (Score:1, Insightful)

    by deodiaus2 (980169) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @09:17PM (#33889804)
    Well, we have perfected the art of scraping off gold and selling it.
    Isn't that what most financial analysts do. They have gotten so good that they don't need to deface the physical currency.
    Now, we have taken it to a new high in that we will bail out AIG or banks [more so in 1993 for pushing laws which allow them to get into ever moreso highly speculative and highly rewarding endeavors] if they fail. But we let them keep their nice profits when they are successful.
    Prior to money, goods and services were exchanged by bartering. Money and financial contracts is the media which allows governments to play this game on its society and to everyone who deals with its currency, and to centralize the decision making to a few individuals. By issuing more money then they collect, governments are able to finance projects which might have been unobtainable in the past.
    Gold held its value. If you scraped off some or mixed it with lead, you had less gold.
  • by LongearedBat (1665481) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @09:28PM (#33889852)
    Some things may wrongly appear to be mumbo jumbo, because we have not researched them properly yet.
  • Re:Science (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mr_mischief (456295) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @09:47PM (#33889960) Journal

    Actually, gold has more inherent worth than lead. Gold's not as likely to poison you. It's an excellent conductor. It doesn't oxidize and corrode to the same extent as other metals (lead doesn't either). Gold is highly reflective. It is more attractive to look at according to most people. It's (like lead) very malleable and ductile. It is even denser than lead, meaning that it would be preferable for shielding material if it was more affordable.

    If energy were free, it's still not likely everyone would be owner of equipment that could perform this task. Gold may then be only marginally higher in price than lead, but its greater desirability would still account for some premium.

  • Re:Science (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mr_mischief (456295) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @10:02PM (#33890020) Journal

    Gee, it's pretty clear to me that when an MD or a DO puts someone in traction for neck or back issues or sciatica, they are manipulating the spine. It's pretty clear to me that anti-inflammatory pills and muscle relaxants stopping spasms in the muscles of the neck, back, chest, groin, and buttocks work the same when an MD, DO, or chiropractor recommends them.

    My MDs, DOs, and my chiropractors all recommended either pilates or yoga for helping keep the back in shape. They all told me that ice is good, massage is good unless there's a particular injury, and that a temporary heel lift could help with sciatica.

    Both my MD at the time and my chiropractor at the time wanted to wait the exact same amount of time for me to have any adjustments or massage therapy for my neck after a car accident, and both recommended the same treatments for it once the inflammation in the joints had settled down except for one part: the MD wanted me on ibuprofen for the inflammation and Valium for the muscle spasms in the meantime, while the chiropractor wanted me on the ibuprofen for inflammation and some mineral supplements which are widely regarded as useful for helping with muscle spasms.

    Now, I'm not saying all chiropractors are great people and that there's no quackery in the field. It's been my experience, though, that a reputable chiropractor will tell you up front when you can be helped and when you should go to an MD or DO instead.

  • Re:Science (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @10:17PM (#33890098) Journal

    I won't say that Newton weren't scientists within the framework of natural philosophy, but as far as being modern scientists like Darwin and Maxwell, they still weren't quite there.

    It would be interesting if you explained why you consider Darwin to be more of a scientist than Galileo.

  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @10:39PM (#33890206) Journal

    If there's no evidence for it, then it isn't science. What's more, if there's alternative explanations that are simpler and demonstrable, then there's little point for the claim at all. Specific claims of ID have perfectly reasonable explanations that do not require aliens, gods or anything of the kind.

    I know what you want, you want science to support your superstitions. It doesn't work that way. You may want to believe that Thor causes thunder, but that does not bind science to your explanation, nor does it give you license to redefine words to try to win debates or make points.

  • Re:A bit harsh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dbIII (701233) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @11:35PM (#33890396)

    we should string up all the quants and financial engineers?

    If some accountant is calling themselves an engineer, then maybe follow it up with their head on a pike as a warning. MSCE was supposed to be the ridiculous thick edge of the wedge.

  • by mcornelius (1007881) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @12:54AM (#33890668)

    Or because they're bullshit, well researched (and debunked), and spuriously claimed anyway by malevolent or ignorant and naïve charlatans.

  • this is stupid (Score:3, Insightful)

    by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquar ... m minus language> on Thursday October 14, 2010 @01:27AM (#33890788) Homepage Journal

    alchemy is laughable, in 2010

    alchemy is respectable, in 1710

    what exactly is the point of applying 2010 standards to 1710?

  • Re:Science (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ultranova (717540) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @01:40AM (#33890842)

    Don't forget that many people voluntarily give money to their church every sunday, and are happy to do so, and feel that it's the right thing to do. You could call that "taking money from people by lying to them," but you're ignoring that people are getting spiritual fulfillment and moral satisfaction from it.

    Most churches don't claim that giving money to them will bring you health or good fortune. They are asking for money for running costs and charity without any promise of a return. Making such promises - selling indulgences - was one of the abuses that launched Protestantism, you know.

  • Re:Science (Score:5, Insightful)

    by IICV (652597) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @01:47AM (#33890864)

    Uh huh, you lucked out - a good chiropractor is basically a physical therapist without that accreditation, or an actual physical therapist going by another name for some reason. It doesn't really matter that the fundamental chiropractic theory is complete and utter unsubstantiated bullshit equivalent to Chi or ghost stories; if the treatment works, after all, it works (though I and I'm sure many other people have philosophical objections to that, it's hard to come up with pragmatic ones).

    Unfortunately, not all chiropractors are as good as yours, and not all people who go to chiropractors are as lucky as you. There's definitely bad chiropractors out there, who say that their manipulations can cure literally everything. I mean, don't you remember the three or four Slashdot articles about the British Chiropractor Association suing Simon Singh for libel [slashdot.org]? They sued him because he said that a lot of their claims were bogus (literally, they sued him for using that word), and they eventually dropped the case because the claims are bogus.

    Here's the problem, though: you can't tell which kind it will be before you go to them. Sure, you can look up reviews and ask your friends, but that is pretty meaningless; unless your friends are trained medical professionals, they're not really going to have a good idea of whether or not the chiropractor knows wtf they're doing. If you were designing a house, you wouldn't just find a random architect on Yelp - you'd make sure you found one who had a good reputation and was a licensed architect. The problem with chiropractors, though, is that there's very little if any regulation on who can call themselves a chiropractor, and there's almost no educational requirements; Joe Random off the street can basically just decide he's a chiropractor one day and open up shop, which is not how it works for the MD you so casually disregard.

    "Fine," you say, "it doesn't really matter! From a pragmatic standpoint, they're not really hurting anyone, right? Either they cure you, or they send you off to a real doctor who does." Unfortunately, it often doesn't work like that; in terms of actual medical problems, the time a chiropractor spends trying to fix you by adjusting your sublaxations and crackin' your bones is time that's wasted unless you actually had certain classes of muscular or skeletal problem. If you had, say, severe joint pain and spent a couple of weeks going to a chiropractor instead of going to a doctor, the chiropractor might not even know to look for lupus. In the worst cases, unethical chiropractors might refrain from referring a patient with problems they can't handle to a doctor, simply because there's really no standards of conduct for them.

    And even then, the contention that what they can only harm you by delaying treatment might not even be true! It's been argued (quite convincingly, I think) that certain kinds of chiropractic manipulations on the neck can cause stroke. [quackwatch.com]

    So yeah, it boils down to this: the actual art chiropractors practice (i.e, chiropractic) is a sham and a scam with absolutely no medical backing. Though there are actual chiropractors that know enough to heal you out there, there is no way of guaranteeing that any specific chiropractor won't try to adjust your neck and potentially give you a stroke, or give you bad advice that doesn't work, or string you along and delay effective treatment.

    If you don't believe me, check your chiropractor's website or pamphlets - if they're in the USA, I bet you anything that they have something like the Quack Miranda Warning [rationalwiki.org] somewhere in there. And if they don't, they're not just a chiropractor - they almost certainly have some sort of real medical certification, which means that they don'

  • Re:Science (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 14, 2010 @03:16AM (#33891074)
    "Worth" is relative to needs. If through some act of magic I did not need food to survive, then food would be worthless to me, food would just "be". Gold's properties have many industrial applications and therefore has worth for these applications and the people who need it to accomplish those tasks. So yes gold, does in fact have inherent worth.
  • Re:Science (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tehcyder (746570) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @03:55AM (#33891220) Journal

    If you've read Anathem by Neal Stephenson, you'll find many ideas of science and math that are informed by this tradition.

    Never, ever take a science fiction story or novel (let alone technothriller or any other genre) as the sole source for something technical or historical

    GP was merely suggesting a fictional work as a more approachable introduction to some of the concepts. He did not say "Anathem is the ultimate technical and historical guide to Alchemy and Philosophy."

  • Re:Science (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 14, 2010 @05:42AM (#33891612)

    That's not the only questionable source he has. I hardly consider Manly P. Hall's work to be historically accurate, it's essentially a compilation of various esoteric Freemason rituals mixed with some excerpts from the Hebrew Kabbalah regarding mysticism. It was published during the early 20th century when "magick" rituals were a matter of fashion in 'high' society, and was most likely inspired by the 'work' of Alister Crowley.

    The transmutation of metals was most certainly NOT a 'ruse' to throw off the Inquisition; the Inquisition was opposed to science and Alchemy would have been just the type of Devil's Work they were seeking to destroy. If anything, the idea of spiritual transformation would have been what was used to 'throw off' the Inquisition.

    The fact of the matter is that nobody really knows why any one individual studied alchemy. We do know that it was the direct predecessor of Chemistry, and you could say that it was an infant version of Chemistry much like Astrology could be said to be an infant version of Astronomy. Back then 'Science' and Religion (along with Mysticism and anything you might consider as part of the Occult) were intertwined, you couldn't really do either one without the other. So it stands to reason that most people who seriously pursued it did so for the same reasons people have studied any subject- knowledge. Just as in Physics we can say the ultimate goal is to develop a single unifying theory, but in practice most people who study it do so in order to develop theories which lead to practical applications. So depending on who might take issue with the specific experiments an alchemist might be doing, they would tell them the goal was either spiritual transformation (playing into the acceptance by the Church) or else monetary gain (obviously playing to the greed of the Secular). Or in other words, they'd tell you whatever would keep them out of trouble and get you to help pay for the research.
    We can pretty safely say that the goal of alchemy is the same as the goal of chemistry, which is the study of how chemical reactions work. Being able to turn lead into gold was just one practical application, but specifically an application that held VERY broad appeal to those in positions of authority.

    The problem is that little is really known about alchemy, and what IS known has been very heavily polluted by the "esoteric" Occult movements (which is where most of the claims of spiritual transformation come from).

  • Re:Science (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mr_mischief (456295) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @11:13AM (#33895680) Journal

    I didn't get a diagnosis from the chiropractor. I got a diagnosis from an MD (an orthopedist in one case) who sent me to a chiropractor. The MD asked which school of chiropractic he went to and which state he was licensed in before he'd let me settle on which chiropractor to go to.

    Some of them actually study things like kinesiology and tell you never to have anyone adjust your spine without x-rays telling them what is actually wrong. Some of them actually claim only to be able to help with the spine being out of place and the muscle, nerve, and disk problems that can directly cause. They want you to see a medical GP regularly and come to them if you need the type of therapy they can offer. I've had this type of chiropractor, and will only see this type.

    Others believe in reflexology and all sorts of hokum. These are dangerous. I've heard of people like this actually advising against seeing an MD. That's even more dangerous.

    So yeah, it's a troubled field. So is mainstream Western medicine in some ways, too, though. Some MDs will give you pain pills and never send you to physical therapist, chiropractor, orthopedist, or even a radiologist to find out what's actually wrong with your back, neck, or hip. Sometimes it takes six months to get an appointment if you decide to change GPs. Sometimes you end up in a hospital for a week in traction twice a day because they didn't want to do traction outpatient (although there are outpatient traction programs some places). Sometimes the MDs, DOs, and PTs cost four or five times as much and take two or three times as long to break down and give you the same relief -- sometimes the same way -- as a good chiropractor.

    Would I go to a chiropractor for foot pain, the flu, a rash, or anything other than joint and muscle pain in the back, neck, hips, and maybe thighs or upper arms? No. Am I careful to find one who believes his niche of treatment is small and in conjunction with an MD or DO? Yes. Has this worked for me? Yes.

    I'd invite more scientific investigation of the field. If I had to make my own hypothesis for a study, it's that within the very narrow issues of the muscle spasms, out-of-place joints, and stretched or compressed nerves and the pain and mobility problems those can directly cause, careful chiropractors who don't violently pull the body out of shape to adjust it are just as effective and safe as a manipulative DO or a physical therapist. I'd also hypothesize that any other issue a chiropractor might claim to treat is far better handled elsewhere even if they have some small record of success with it.

    I treat chiropractors as a very particular specialist. They are back and neck care specialists, and only those who realize that themselves will I go to. I can get in and out from the chiropractor faster and have relief faster for very specific issues.

    Osteopaths were once thought of very much like chiropractors are today. You might also remember that your dentist, if you see the common DDS, is not an MD or DO, although there is a medical dentistry degree called the DMD. A DDS or DMD can be qualified in certain surgeries, too, but a good one who isn't very confident with surgery or who is busy with more standard dental care will not be afraid to refer you to a maxiofacial surgeon for dental surgery. An optometrist is not an MD or DO, but an opthamologist is. A physical therapist is not an MD or DO, although they can get a PhD. Most clinical therapists are MS in psychology or MS in counseling and not doctors specializing in psychiatry.

    If you really want to talk about a field with difficulty proving its methods scientifically with a lot of quackery in the history of the field, ho about those therapists and analysts? Why is it that people jump on chiropractors all the time but not on psychologists?

  • by TapeCutter (624760) * on Friday October 15, 2010 @10:10PM (#33915182) Journal
    A sane researcher would stick pins in other people's eyes. ;)

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