Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Naturocrit Podcast - Episode 001b Script & Annotations

here, I provide an annotated script for the second part of the first episode of The Naturocrit Podcast.  I cover the 2011 ND Sensenig presentation "The Power of Vitalism":

001. the Episode 001b script and annotations:

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

What are we even talking about?

Well, this podcast series deals with my take on naturopathic medicine.

In this Episode 1 part 2, I will cite from and comment upon a 2011 presentation by ND Sensenig from the Northwest Naturopathic Physicians' 55th Annual Convention.

The event was sponsored by the Northwest Naturopathic Physicians association and the British Columbia Naturopathic Association, since it was held in Vancouver, BC Canada.

The convention's theme was “The Heart of Naturopathic Medicine” and ND Sensenig's presentation is titled “The Power of Vitalism.”

As background, the Facebook “About” page for the NWNPC states:

“the Northwest Naturopathic Physicians Convention is the longest running annual convention and conference in the history of naturopathic medicine in the world. We are comprised predominantly of doctors from Oregon, Washington and British Columbia […] we have been gathering annually since 1957 and currently rotate the hosting of the convention between the home cities of three prestigious institutions in Naturopathic medicine: Portland, OR (home of National College of Natural Medicine) Seattle, WA (home of Bastyr University) Vancouver, BC (home of Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine) […] the Northwest convention offers the opportunity for the knowledge of our elders to be passed to new graduates. This convention should serve as a vehicle that unifies the traditional practices of naturopathic medicine with the advancing knowledge obtained through current education [...] the camaraderie and high level of education will not be compromised.”

Now, a web search of does not result in any hits for “life force”, “vital force” or even  “medicatrix”  or “vitalism”, but the ND Sensenig lecture is described there as “a timeless lecture on the classic principles of naturopathic medicine.


And we're told: “Dr. Jim Sensenig, the past President of the AANP states that this is the outstanding convention of the year.

The presentation is available for purchase from, and that is where I bought it.

My commerce with Treefarm has always been top notch, by the way.

Treefarm's description page for that ND Sensenig presentation, the title again is "The Power of Vitalism'

“based on the principles of vitalism, naturopathic medicine has a great deal to offer the world of healing and medicine […] underlying the philosophical precepts of naturopathic medicine are fundamental assumptions which define a paradigm of an organized, intelligent, and purposeful universe […] Dr. Sensenig has been teaching and practicing naturopathic philosophy for a third of a century.”

So, there's vitalism and a promise of great stuff, precepts and fundamental assumptions, and a very keystone assertion of an overarching “organized, intelligent and purposeful universe”.

What we will see, in spite of the focused name of the presentation and already can see from that description, is that vitalism actually represents, and I'll be polite here for now, a group of concepts.

I promise later though that I will state, once details emerge regarding that group of concepts, that my overall impression is that the essentially naturopathic, here by way of ND Sensenig, is a collection of science-exterior magic beans, unicorn tears, and flying carpets.

I'll be briefly citing ND Sensenig's material, not necessarily in chronological fashion, from the presentation, and then I'll do some commenting.

My transcription at the Naturocrit blog will indicate, with ellipses, that I've excerpted. 

We're told during the introduction that ND Sensenig graduated from NCNM.

ND Sensenig says:

“I want to talk to you a little bit about philosophy and the philosophy of vitalism [...] naturopathic medicine is based on an understanding of medicine from a vitalist perspective […] one of the bugaboos about the profession is this thing about vitalism [...] it's one of the places where we get beaten up [...there's a] Quackbuster website railing about this vital force idea in naturopathic medicine which has already been debunked, as if it is our Achilles Heel.  But it is not our Achilles Heel, it's our strength [...] that's what I hope to be able to show you […] you can't capture vital force and put it in a jar and punch holes in it and look at it.  You can't weigh it, you can't measure it, you can't see it, you can't smell it, you can't taste it.  You can't find it.  Maybe by vital force we don't mean a force at all.  Maybe it's an abstraction […] I don't think we have to get hung up on this idea that there's this force [...] just because you as a vitalist or you as a naturopathic doctor can't demonstrate that there's a vital force doesn't mean that the concept is invalid.”

I'm loving it.

Where does one begin?

If vitalism is the idea of something needed to explain life-activity beyond the biochemical, then yes, it is quite debunked. 

Vitalism is an explanation with no data to explain, and since when is a basic science claim not based upon any evidence or data? 

So, we're talking about a science claim that can't demonstrate its facts and such is invalid science, IMHO.

To maintain life force under the label of science – which is what I think naturopathy does explicitly, at its core –  is to maintain that such vitalism survives scientific scrutiny, which would be false.

To be claiming that science is also the science-exterior is thereby quite an Achilles heel, in my view, and quite scary particularly if that person is wearing a stethoscope around their neck.

Calling such an absurd position strength again illustrates how reversed naturopathy's values are, because the science-exterior is not the scientific, because being irrational and illogical is not a virtue.

Lets engage in some actual philosophizing. 

While he terms vital force an abstraction – which is usually considered to be a generalized idea and not a specific object in the material world of objects, and yet is a generalization of specific object types – instead of abstraction I think the proper word is figmentation, because life force is claimed to be in the human body, in the world and yet it admittedly can't be found.

The idea of a ball is an abstraction, and a ball one just threw is an object of fact, real.

I can get from that specific ball to the abstraction of a ball because that specific ball creates an overset when its qualities are compared with other balls.

But the idea of a vital force is actually not an abstraction, it doesn't refer to anything in the world that realistically exists that can then create the overset.

I can't get from the human body to a vital force the way I can get from a specific ball to balls in general.

There's no real thing to get from, as the starting point.

And, of course, being that vitalism is at the heart of naturopathic thought, ND Sensenig has to dismiss as an inconvenient triviality the uncomfortable fact that in order for something to be realistically useful as even an abstraction, it has to actually have a specific thing it refers to.

So, being not actually there, the concept of vital force is not only invalid, it is irrelevant.

This is the same for the concept of spirit, if we're talking about something residing in the human body beyond biochemistry.

Spirit has no data to explain.

It is not a coincidence that vitalism and spiritism are coupled in Hahnemann's terminology of “the spiritual vital force”, both being a similar something supposedly needed beyond biochemistry to explain life.

Here's a citation that I think supports the fact that when naturopathy speaks of vitalism and its aliases, what they are really engaging in is spiritism supernaturalism.

The Hawaii Society of Naturopathic Physicians states in “About Us”:

“the profession of naturopathic medicine is unique because of its philosophy. We differ from conventional medical doctors in that our practice s guided by the following principles: [#1] use the healing power of nature: the body has the ability to maintain and restore health. Healing occurs as a result of the revival of our 'vital force' – qi, prana, spirit.”

Believing in such figmentation without evidence is usually termed an act of faith, and oh how far we now are from what science actually is.

Make that figmentation specific enough, and I would call the area being discussed sectarian.

All of naturopathy's specific therapeutic mannerisms are directed at that vital force, to affect that sectarian figmentation, therefore naturopathic medicine is synonymous with sectarian medicine.

So, I can't help but get hung up and I will continue to be, on naturopathy's pathillogical [!] thought process, which claims that  nonscience is science, that figmentations are operationally valid, that a liability is a strength, that the sectarian is nonsectarian.

For an NCNM grad. such as ND Sensenig though, I'm not surprised that figmentations are claimed to be factually scientific.

After all, it is NCNM's long-standing naturopathy definition page that claims that a life force and the supernatural survive scientific scrutiny.

But here, now, I'm going to answer the naturopathic false claim of what I'll call 'science subset vitalism and nonscience' with a late 20th century statement from the National Association of Biology Teachers.

The page is up at the National Center for Science Education.

I choose it because it is a consensus statement regarding the basic science of life, biology, and because it existed before the establishment of the UB program in naturopathy that I attended and that taught me in 1998 that vitalism survives scientific scrutiny.

One can come to one's own conclusions about UB's lack of due diligence, therein.

NABT states:

“the ongoing procedures and processes of science are well defined within each scientific discipline, including biology. The principles and theories of science have been established through repeated experimentation and observation and have been refereed through peer review before general acceptance by the scientific community. Acceptance does not imply rigidity or constraint, or denote dogma. Instead, as new data become available, scientific explanations are revised and improved, or rejected and replaced. Materials, methods, and explanations that fail to meet these ongoing tests of science are not legitimate components of the discipline and must not be part of a science curriculum [...] science does not, in fact cannot, study, explain, or judge, non-scientific issues or supernatural belief systems. Science is but one way of making sense of the world, with internally-consistent methods and principles that are well described. Among these principles is the notion that proposed causes and explanations must be naturalistic. Any attempt to mix or contrast supernatural beliefs and naturalistic theories within science misrepresents the scientific enterprise […] NABT has a special obligation, to promote this integrity in life science education. The data, concepts, and theories of science presented to students must meet the accepted standards of the discipline. To this end, NABT will not support efforts to include in the science classroom materials or theories derived outside of the scientific processes. Nonscientific notions such as geocentricism, flat earth, creationism, young earth, astrology, psychic healing and vitalistic theory, therefore, cannot legitimately be taught, promoted, or condoned as science in the classroom.”

So, there you go.

Also, I'll answer the UB claim of 'nonsectarian subset naturopathy' with a great quote from The Popular Science Monthly from late in the 19th century, which is available free at

And I quote: “science is never sectarian; philosophy is never sectarian.  Sectarian teaching begins when you ask a man or a child to assume what can not be proved, for the sake of keeping within the dogmatic lines that fence round some particular creed.”

Naturopathy's knowledge, at its core, I believe, is that of a religious sect posing as philosophy posing as science.

And now I will get into that religiosity by way of ND Sensenig, who states within this presentation a particular belief system that's necessary in order to be truly naturopathic.

It involves some kind of creator as supreme being and intelligence, that is equated with the god of monotheism, and vitalism, and teleology or purposefulness.

ND Sensenig tells us “there's more to the philosophy than the philosophy, a deeper level of philosophy”.

Yes, as I said, beneath one layer there's another layer, and overarching it all is a veneer of science, that we're supposed to obediently accept as representing naturopathy's contents through and through.

He goes on “we're basing these arguments that I'm making on an assumption which we don't talk about very much and that assumption is that the universe is intelligent, it's orderly, it's benign, and it's purposeful [...] duh, I knew that […] this idea of an intelligent, organized universe [...] is the basis of vitalism and of naturopathic medicine and has always been”.

So, there's this purposeful universe that is somehow intelligent, and that leads to vital force and naturopathic medicine. 

ND Sensenig states “this is Lindlahr [...] 'life [...] is an ultimate that no human mind is capable of solving or explaining […] we can study and understand life only in its manifestations and not in its origin or its real essence'.”

Tell that to the biologists!

With that attitude, Watson and Crick wouldn't have bothered trying to understand DNA's structure.

The actual basis of life would never have been discovered.

This is why vitalism, upon reflection by so many scholars, is seen merely as a pessimistic place-holder for actual knowledge and also was a barrier for advancement of knowledge in biology for so long.

Still quoting Lindlahr, ND Sensenig says “the vitalistic conception of life regards the vital force as the primary force of all forces coming from the great central source of life.  This force that permeates, heats, and animates the entire created universe is an expression of divine intelligence and will, the logos or the word of the great creative intelligence [...] it is intelligent energy [...from] the will and the intelligence of the creator [...] this supreme intelligence [...] crude matter [...] is an expression of the life force itself a manifestation of the great creative intelligence which some call god.”

Lets sum up what is being said: your body is run by a vital force which is also god force.

This is why the 1998 notes I've mentioned, from my time as a student of ND Sensenig, equated life force with “god power within you.”

One term I've devised to express this sectarian belief is antoentheism, or the belief that god is within oneself or self as god.

It is a belief that one is god the creator or just like god.

ND Sensenig tells us “consciousness can be transformed but it cannot die and it cannot end [...] conscious life is co-creating the universe […] when things go wrong, that's us [...] when you don't work with the organized intelligent energy of the universe, you need to pay the consequences.”

It seems in ND Sensenig's belief system there is no such thing as a victim.  

In other words, it was the woman's fault for wearing it, and I guess all the people in history who ever were victims of genocide or famine were to blame.

I find that repugnant.

And also, in terms of antoentheism, ND Sensenig quotes Lust, the founder of naturopathy, stating “in a word, naturopathy stands for the reconciling, harmonizing, and unifying of nature, humanity, and god.”

I don't think a better sentence exists to describe naturopathy's secret, underlying religiosity.

Let's flesh out what is being expressed by that sentence, one more time.

The founder of naturopathy, Lust, is quoted by ND Sensenig at the oldest ND conference, in the year 2011, as defining naturopathy's belief set centerpiece to be the doctrine that one is a combination of vital force and divinity or god.

I can think of no other most likely sentiment that Lust's nature refers to in naturopathy besides 'the healing power of nature' or 'only nature heals', which are ways naturopathy codes vitalism.

As I've studied naturopathy over the years, I've noticed that there is quite a diversity of contents, and here we've taken a detailed look at what one can regard as its essential seldom-discussed doctrines.

Beyond the specifics here by way of ND Sensenig, common across all naturopathic content is the claim of science subset naturopathy with the naturopathic stuff actually grossly not scientific.

So now I've got to wind down this first podcast episode and I'll answer that big question as to whether I was wrong to leave naturopathy school after four years invested.

I'll say it this way: hell no, I wasn't wrong.

If I'd  finished, and lets pretend I would have been able to complete the homeopathy sequence and been allowed to complete all my clinic requirements, I would have had to take the second part of the licensure exam and been sworn to the ND oath.

The licensure exam labels homeopathy a clinical science.

That is quite false.

The ND oath requires that one obligate oneself to naturopathy's principles, and, as I hope I have demonstrated, a specific sectarian belief set which one falsely presents to the public as science-supported.

That is quite false as well.

I wasn't wrong, it is naturopathy that is wrong in so many ways which I hope to further detail in this podcast series.

I will leave you with a two additional quotes from ND Sensenig's presentation.

First, and I quote: “I truly live in a different paradigm than conventional medicine.  I'm not trying to do what they do.  I don't care what they do.  I don't care about their literature.  I don't care about their approach to health care because it doesn't make any sense.”

Oh what a narrow, little ironic world we have been privy to is all I can say!

Second, and I quote: “the dominant science [...] you see there are still people that are arguing against the vital force [...and] the foundation for vitalist medicine [...] because they're still in the flat earth […] we have no apology to make to the flat earth medicine because we understand that there's a round earth.  There's no argument here [...] we have no apologies to make.”

To that I will answer: you should apologize to reason and rationality, science and critical thinking, commerce and academia for misrepresenting magic beans, unicorn tears, and flying carpets as anything but sectarian figmentations of an archaic cloud cuckoo land.

Again, I will have a full script with annotations at the Naturocrit blog, and therein, as I'd said, you will see that my quotations are not necessarily chronological, but I've been very careful not to falsely represent or falsely construct ND Sensenig's language.

And my care therein is quite ironic, considering naturopathy's mannerisms.
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