A sign of an intellectually healthy institution is transparency and openness to criticism. After all, if one is intellectually honest and rigorous there is nothing to fear from honest and rigorous examination and criticism. In practice this is an ideal that is often difficult to live up to – egos tend to get in the way. But it is at least an ideal, and something worth striving for.
By contrast, a feature of an insular and methodologically flawed system is extreme sensitivity to criticism. In an individual this is a feature of narcissism. In an institution it is a feature of intellectual dishonesty, or at the least valuing the beliefs themselves more than whether or not the beliefs are correct. It is a feature of cults and pseudoscience.
I was therefore not surprised to see this headline: Get the Chiropractic Skeptics Out! In this article Donald Petersen of Dynamic Chiropractic complains that when a Google search is performed on the terms “chiropractic” or “chiropractor” that chirobase and the skeptic’s dictionary come up on the first page of hits. These are sites that are skeptical of chiropractic, and Petersen doesn’t like skeptical criticism.
Petersen’s solution is to cheat – to attempt to game Google’s system. He writes:
Google has launched a new system that lets us decide which Web sites should be “starred results.” And while the folks at Google are not saying if these starred results will have an impact on search result rankings, my bet is that they will.
His bet is almost certainly wrong. Google uses this system to customize the individual’s results, not the results overall. So you can only affect your own search results. Think of how dumb it would be to allow voting by clicking to affect Google rank results.
But more significant than the fact that Petersen is likely wrong in his guess – is his intention to shield chiropractic from public criticism, or at least hide that criticism as much as possible.
The chiropractic profession would be better served if they took scientific criticism to heart, rather than trying to dismiss and conceal it. But that is not their history.