Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Naturocrit Podcast - Episode 001a Script & Annotations

here, I provide an annotated script for first part of the first episode of The Naturocrit Podcast.  I cover how I got interested in naturopathy, their claims that drew me in [induced is the legal term], and my so-wonderful experience in naturopathy school:

001. the Episode 001a script and selected annotations:

Welcome, to, as that robot voice says, The Naturocrit Podcast and thank you for boldly listening.

 What are we even talking about?

This podcast series will deal with my take on naturopathic medicine, which is also called naturopathy, natural medicine, and 'nature cure plus homeopathy'.

It is very common to hear naturopathy refer to itself also as integrative medicine, complementary and or alternative medicine, and such.

I've been interested in and involved with this subject for approximately twenty years: lets say 1992 through to this 2013.

It is most likely quite true that no other person living or dead has read and collected as many naturopathy web pages as I have over the years.

My interest began as casual, and then grew into a career goal activity, and then, over time -- with knowledge and experience -- I abandoned the ruse as a manipulated supporter and became an outspoken if even quite obscure / ignored critic and researcher. 

Naturopathy's contents – its belief set, ways of thought, and activities – fascinate me much in the same way that a researcher of a harmful sectarian group – like the Branch Davidians in Waco or Jonestown in Guyana – would be interested in what the details were.

Feeling obligated to warn others, I created the term and the blog Naturocrit in 2008, where I scribble little musings on the topic.

By Naturocrit – inspired by the medical laboratory test called a hematocrit – I mean critical analysis of naturopathy from the perspective of scientific skepticism.

It is at the blog Naturocrit where I'll post a full script for each of these podcasts, with annotations.

I will try with each podcast to stay at 30 minutes or less, and to keep my naturally gravelly and rumbly voice as audible as possible.

In this first episode, I'll be doing an overview that won't be complete, but will hit on a few major themes I'll likely later pick up in future episodes as individual topics.

To begin, I'm going to describe where my life was before I learned of naturopathy, how I learned of it, and then my experience as a doctoral student in fully-accredited, in-residence, State-endorsed naturopathy school from 1998 until 2002.

To conclude, I will cite from and reflect upon a rather recent conference presentation by ND Sensenig from 2011 and its 'heart of naturopathy' contents.

Sensenig, who will figure prominently in this first podcast episode, was my instructor in 1998 for a similar 'heart of naturopathy' first semester course in naturopathy college in Connecticut.

Sensenig also was the founding dean of that naturopathy college, and the very first president of the U.S. naturopathy consortia known as the America Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

He teaches that keystone Naturopathic History and Philosophy course, also at the Arizona naturopathy college.

Having voluntarily left naturopathy school in 2002, and now here in 2013 reflecting on his 2011 presentation regarding 'the essentially naturopathic' and still in possession of his handouts from 1998, a question arises regarding my decision to walk away from naturopathyland.

Was I wrong? 

I most likely heard about naturopathy around 1992 while I was a college sophomore. 

I remember guys I worked with over the summer house painting listening to Gary Null's radio program “Naturally Living.” 

My major began as Physical Education without public school certification, a program that eventually was renamed Exercise and Sport Science and then canceled soon after my graduation.

 Due to placement scores, I was quickly accepted as a student in the Lehman Scholar's Program, a sort of honors college within the college which had rigorous requirements and very interesting topical seminars.

I ended up taking more honors seminars, and courses based on my interests, and, with high grades and a certain diversity of coursework, I was invited into Phi Beta Kappa.

Since Phi Beta Kappa required ninety-something kinds of credits out of my 128 total B.A. credit amount, it is most accurate to say that my B.A. was both 'liberal studies in the arts and sciences' and PE.

My CUNY transcript says both Physical Education and Phi Beta Kappa and I think those two labels are quite ironic in their, shall I say, extremes of mentality.

By that time, I had received, by mail, materials from the AANP naturopathy schools that existed, and I began taking the pre-med, mainly science coursework they required.

I still possess the 1994 National College of Naturopathic Medicine and the 1996 Bastyr University catalogs.

After four years at CUNY, I graduated Summa Cum Laude as well.

By the way, if I kill Latin in terms of pronunciations, I apologize.

My foreign languages were Spanish and Japanese: lo siento mucho / gomennasai. 

I continued pre-med coursework after graduation, aiming to go to one of those naturopathy schools, and also taught part time at Lehman for a spell. 

But, I was unsure about moving so far away and being able to successfully support myself, so I began a master's program in liberal studies at New York University, with the idea that I would eventually go to naturopathy school and perhaps adjunct teach part time somewhere. 

Likely around 1997, I got word that a naturopathy program was starting up much closer to home, in Bridgeport, CT at the University of Bridgeport specifically within their Division of Health Sciences [also archived here].

The internet was up and running by this time, and I began reading AANP naturopathy's web pages describing the field as well as their schools' literature.

A very important source of information for me at the time were the pages of the AANP Alliance, pages which are to this day in tact at

There, an ND was described as “the modern science-based primary care doctor” and that naturopathy was “not a belief system.”

Those are also very specific claims, and I still possess those home computer, ink-jet printed pages too.

Coupled with the University of Bridgeport's labels of “science” and “non-sectarian”, I ceased my NYU studies, and applied to, was accepted into and began attending their ND program in 1998.

I would go through that UB program full-time until the spring of 2002, when I left truly disgusted.

My cohort of fall 1998 was the third semester of students admitted in the UB naturopathy college's history. 

The very first students started in the fall of 1997, and therefore were a year ahead of us. 

ND Sensenig, the founding dean, had quit by then and they were searching for a new dean.

 To help me with the details of my four years in the ND program, I have my transcript out in front of me and as of the January 2013 edition, it tells me I have a 3.53 GPA and 151 credits.

[Here's that transcript:


These are considered doctoral health science credits from a fully regionally-accredited university that I used federal student loans to pay for.

Typical of naturopathy, I guess, is the fact that earlier versions of my transcript, all received after I left UB, have had different total numbers and different courses and even grades for the same semesters when I compare them to the grade reports I got each semester.

I'm not sure why my transcript seems to have been altered a few times, and I hazard to guess, it's not to my advantage but to UB's.

First semester coursework included courses such as histology, embryology, neuroscience, physiology, anatomy with cadaver dissection, biochemistry, research methodology, massage, and Naturopathic History and Philosophy, which I'll call NHP.

The sciences were, simply, basic medical sciences using the typical medical science texts.

I later took and passed the naturopathy licensure exam's part 1 basic medical science exam in 2000.

The NHP was the naturopathic course for the semester.

Truly, no other course that semester was uniquely naturopathic, the others were plain-Jane mainstream material.

In my hand is the folder of all the NHP materials given to me by ND Sensenig then, or written down as notes by me.

I haven't thrown them out. 

Yes, that ND Sensenig was teaching this course in an ND college whose dean's position he recently had just walked away from.

That is something you remember being a spectator to, due to its awkwardness.

In the NHP folder, there's: the NHP syllabus, the AANP definition of naturopathic medicine [this is what AANP has up right now], the AANP ND Oath [like this one], the midterm and final exams, and the lecture notes, both pre-made by the instructor and those that I wrote down as the student.

The NHP lecture #1 handed out packet was titled Definitions and Differences.

We're told naturopathic medicine is a fusion of homeopathy and nature cure.

We're told that philosophy can be regarded as underlying principles, aka natural laws or fixed principles including vis medicatrix naturae, the healing power of nature, the body's healing power; and Hering's rules [like these].

My notes for that session record ND Sensenig telling us that naturopathy is homeopathic, vitalistic as in 'a force with intelligence', empirical, and natural; and that modern medicine is allopathic, mechanistic, rational, unnatural.

Vitalism is defined via Lindlahr's definition in the book “Nature Cure”: “health is normal and harmonious vibration of the elements and forces composing the human entity on the physical, mental, moral, and spiritual planes of being in conformity with the constructive principle of Nature applied to individual life” [like this].

And via Hahnemann's definition in the Organon: “in the healthy condition of man, the spiritual vital force (autocracy), the dynamis that animates the material body (organism), rules with unbounded sway, and retains all the parts of the organism in admirable, harmonious, vital operation” [like this].

Balance is equated with homeostasis, which is equated with chi, vital force, and prana.

The NHP lecture #2 handed out packet was titled “The Spectrum of Change.”

ND Sensenig went on to equate vitalistic with vital force or innate intelligence, as opposed to explaining life via science.

A reading was attached, an excerpt from Coulter, which defines the empiricism from the previous ND Sensenig lecture as a position wherein disease cannot be understood because precise knowledge cannot be attained, and medicine should therefore include “metaphysical space for a spontaneous healing power”.

Now, the Coulter chapter is titled “The Patterns Emerge: Hippocrates to Paracelsus” [here it is at] and even if Coulter had discovered an interesting dichotomy, my judgment is still out on that, in prescientific schools of medical thought, the modes of thought being talked about are prescientific.

Science radically changed so much in terms of traditional and historical assumptions that, if anything, a chapter that's basically contextually prescientific that's offered as the basis of naturopathic thought is self-defeating in terms of naturopathy's attempts to be science.

The NHP lecture #4 handed out packet was titled “Vis Medicatrix Naturae = Healing Power of Nature.”

And here, we get the full monty in terms of naturopathy's essential vitalism.

Vis medicatrix naturae is defined as vital force, innate, life principle, prana, bioplasmic energy, the god power within you.

I'll will get back to that god power stuff a little later when I talk about the ND Sensenig 2011 presentation.

Hahnemann is quoted: “the material organism without the vital force, is capable of no sensation, no self preservation; it derives all sensation and performs all functions of life solely by means of immaterial being (vital force), which animates the material organism in health and disease.”

The NHP lecture #6 gives us more quotes from Hahnemann.

The NHP lecture #7 was titled “Science: The New Religion”.

This will come back again as well in the 2011 presentation of ND Sensenig.

Science is equated with the church and we're told there are “problems with science.”

And we're told “naturopathy is no more or less scientific than our socially dominant system of medicine, and science applied to natural medicine is the same as any other scientific method.”

The NHP lecture #10 was titled “Homeopathy: Law of Similars.”

There we were told vital force expresses itself through symptoms and that remedies stimulate the vital force.

Herring's Laws of Cure are talked about, as “from the inside out, from the top down, from the most important to the least important, in the reverse order of occurrence.”

The Oath that was handed out speaks of “the art and science of naturopathic medicine” and it obligates an ND to the healing power of nature, aka the vital force and treatments directed at it, and one must have integrity, in the service of humanity, and support naturopathic medicine, and mentions study, reflection and genuine concern for humanity, and abstaining from voluntary acts of injustice.

The Definition handed out truly is an act of coding naturopathy's science-ejected vitalistic premise.

There's “inherent self healing process, the vis medicatrix naturae” and the “art and science” claim but, nothing is specifically mentioned about a vital force.

Incidentally, I received material from UB this 2013 which stated that the ND curriculum is “grounded in naturopathic philosophy” and thanking me for my interest in UB's “division of health sciences.”

Second semester coursework mainly continued the basic science courses, and also included Naturopathic Philosophy and Therapeutics, which I'll call NPT and detail more so from the 1997 school catalog later.

Third semester coursework included a course in Public Health and Epidemiology which, strangely enough, was at Yale University in their school of medicine.

Chinese medicine 1 and hydrotherapy stand out as the particularly naturopathic courses.

 Forth semester coursework is when I started to really feel that there were two types of course content going on at the college, legitimate medical science stuff, and hokey naturopathic junk.

The trigger, though this was a change that happened over the course of the semester and not instantly, was Homeopathy 1.

The material was taught as chiseled in marble doctrine from the writings of Hahnemann and Kent.

And, I must say, I've never come across something academically and clinically that in the end I so despise as homeopathy.

It struck me even then as absurd to the nth degree.

I began to realize I was in a bad position: I had two more homeopathy courses to do, and I had to treat a certain amount of patients in clinic with it in order to graduate, yet it was for me ethically untenable.

In all the crap I scribbled down during the semester in homeopathy, one sentence stands out: “disease is a disorder of the vital force.”

Fifth semester coursework included Homeopathy 2, which I withdrew from.

My excellent UB transcript, from 2013, actually lists me as registered for two Homeopathy 2 courses in the same semester, which is fittingly absurd.

I got a W for both of them.

This is also the semester when I began clinic, wherein one was supervised by NDs and treating patients with their naturopathic therapies.

I remember the dispensary ND once making a homeopathic remedy of computer monitor, the selling of herbal mixtures and of supplements, and a lot of applied kinesiology and colonics.

Now, the ND program was jammed with courses and in dropping homeopathy, I broke from a designed 4 year path, but, the dean and the assistant dean signed off on it.

This 'out of track' situation and my homeopathy refusal was well-known going forward through the program.

Sixth and seventh semester coursework don't really stand out, and I avoided homeopathy for both semesters.

Soon, in terms of clinic, I came to realize that I was basically black-balled.

I didn't get many patient contacts and sat around clinic doing nothing while other students advanced.

There was no interest from my supervising NDs one of which was that homeopathy instructor whose course I'd dropped.

 I began to calculate the rate at which I'd fulfill the clinic requirements to graduate, and it added two or three years to the four year program.

Eighth semester coursework included another attempt at Homeopathy 2, taught by the same guy I dropped earlier and even more disgusted with the whole ND school thing, I quit school voluntarily about half way through the semester.

The UB catalog for 1997-1998, which I still possess, amongst other things, lists ND Sensenig as the Dean.

We're told that naturopathy is, according to the UB and the AANP official definitions of naturopathic medicine, “a distinct system” [like this .gov endorsement].

In fact, naturopathy is not a distinct system. 

As their language tells us, naturopathy blends.

For instance, the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors states in "What is Naturopathic Medicine": "naturopathic medicine is a distinct primary health care system that blends modern scientific knowledge with traditional and natural forms of medicine".

The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians states in "Hawaii Expands Scope of Practice For Naturopathic Physicians" [archived here]: "naturopathic physicians craft comprehensive treatment plans that blend the best of modern medical science and traditional natural medical approaches".

Now, this isn't too complicated.

What's blended isn't what is distinct.

Naturopathy, in terms of knowledge, in other words, has a kind of Janus-face, it is a kind of contradiction in terms, as a distinct hodge-podge, as a huge logical inconsistency – to the point of psychosis in my view, what I call the naturopathillogical -- when you understand what its contents truly are.

[Addendum 2013-06-23: by the way, up at National Geographic's Science Blogs, 
Orac employed 'hodge-podge' in a very very concise and respectfully insolent post on 2013-06-11].

Lets talk actual philosophy for a moment.

Epistemology is the study of knowledge.

Science is a distinct kind of knowledge, and it is not interchangeable with the traditional and natural, being that those categories are quite indistinct.

So, let me be specific with naturopathy's ruse, the one I walked away from: an epistemic conflation or blending is not an epistemic delineation or distinction.

And yet, what we see with UB naturopathy, is a conflation labeled a distinction because we have naturopathy labeled science.

Also in the UB catalog, the program is labeled “licensed by the state of Connecticut Department of Higher Education” and UB mentions CNME oversight and its “national professional educational standards”.

Naturopathy's principles are claimed to be “continually reexamined in the light of scientific advances”, and we have the overall curriculum groups as basic science, clinical science, and clinical education, with clinical sciences including such things as homeopathy and Oriental medicine.

The course description of Homeopathy 1 includes “the concept of vitalism, the concept of the vital force in health and disease”.

The course description for NHP includes the “philosophy of vitalism in therapeutic practice”.

NPT includes “an emphasis on vitalism” and the “philosophical principles of empirical medicine.”

The course description for Chinese Medicine includes “spiritual materialism” and “the basic philosophical concepts of vitalism which are found in Chinese medicine”. 

AANP principle number one is “the healing power of nature, vis medicatrix naturae” with no mention of vitalism, also stated as 'a person's inherent self-healing process'.

We also get the overarching claim of “non-sectarian”, a demand from students for “personal integrity and social conscience”, and for honest “scholarship and research”.

The 1999 student handbook for UBCNM speaks of student's being required to adhere to “professional and ethical standards”, the “highest standards of honesty and integrity”, without “fraud, misrepresentation, or deception”, without “any violation of the rights or dignity of a person”. 

I find these strictures quite ironic.

The UB catalog for 2002-2004, which I still possess, was titled on its cover “Division of Health Sciences” and included the words naturopathy, chiropractic, and acupuncture.

The Dean is UK ND Peter Martin [archived here].

It states that the University does not discriminate, and is committed to the overall welfare of every student.

It speaks of “qualities” desired of candidates for admission.

They include “initiative and honesty”.

It states “students at the university of Bridgeport are expected to assume responsibility for making their own decisions and forming their own judgments concerning personal, social and academic activities” and that “the University retains high expectations of appropriate behavior.”

It speaks of a lifelong learning and “nonsectarian” and that the University “does not ignore the ethical and moral ideas common to all religions.”

It speaks of “the required sciences to enter the the doctor of naturopathic medicine degree program” and “a rigorous scientific and technical program for the pre-naturopathic student” is offered as “suitable for students majoring in the sciences.”

It speaks of naturopathy as “an independent profession”, and of “the ayurvedic physicians' recognition of the importance of spirit to health.”

It speaks of “highest national standards”, “insightful scholars and researchers”, “men and women of personal integrity and social conscience”, of “providing comprehensive healthcare through the integrated health science center”, of “science based natural therapies”.

The AANP definition is stated, as in the 1997 catalog, again with no mention of “vital force” so therefore again the essential vitalism of naturopathy has been coded.

I have a printed version from 1997 from that also states naturopathy's principles without mention of a “vital force” and that claims that the principles survive scientific scrutiny.

Now, that print version also states naturopathy includes “empirical methods.”

That's interesting, because empirical there is not being used in terms of its general meaning, but instead is the Coulter context of metaphysical and vitalistic which is actually quite the opposite of what empirical means in modern thought.

Again, homeopathy and Oriental medicine are termed “clinical sciences.”

Now, the curriculum had changed for first semester students, with the addition of a course titled “History Taking / Critical Thinking.”

Homeopathy 1 states “the principles set forth by Hahnemann in his Organon are the bases of the course” as well as “Kent's repertory.”

Vitalism is not mentioned any more in the homeopathy descriptions, but the NHP course mentions “the philosophy of vitalism” and “shamanic and entheogenic healing.”

The “fundamental roots” of naturopathy are described as including homeopathy and ancient healing systems from around the world.

Oriental Medicine 1 no longer mentions vitalism, either.

One thing to note is that the acupuncture institute is stated as being housed within the naturopathy college.

Course descriptions include a lot of qi vitalism, and medieval pre-scientfic ideas and methods.

Point location, meridian theory, and auricular acupuncture course descriptions are a hoot to read through, as those things don't exist.

And this is all within naturopathy within a division of health sciences within a regionally-accredited university.

In the second part of this episode, I'll detail that 2011 ND Sensenig presentation and reflect upon its contents in terms of how it represents or doesn't represent collective naturopathic thought processes.

I will also answer the question I posed earlier: was I right to leave naturopathy school?

I'd like to thank my fellow band mates in spaceScat for allowing me use of and alteration to the track “What Are You Even Talking About” from a 2013 improv session.
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