Innate Intelligence is a chiropractic term to describe the organizing properties of living things. It was originally coined by Daniel David Palmer, the founder of chiropractic. This vitalistic concept states that all life contains Innate (inborn) Intelligence and that this force is responsible for the organization, maintenance and healing of the body. Philosophically, chiropractors believe that they remove the interference to the nervous system (by way of a spinal adjustment) and that when the spine is in correct alignment, Innate Intelligence can act, by way of the nervous system, to heal disease within the body. The term is intimately connected with the term Universal Intelligence.
Innate Intelligence, as an explanation for the presence of intelligence in an organism is in conflict with the overwhelmingly scientifically supported evolution by means of natural selection, neuroscience and genetics. Although in it's time Innate Intelligence had the great advantage of accounting for the very important presence of intelligence in life, the location of the intelligence, the mode of inscription, the type of transmission, elaboration of this intelligence is not well explained by this vitalistic model or concept.
It was presented by early chiropractic leaders as a part of chiropractic philosophy, that life is a triune of intelligence, force, and matter. Modern chiropractors study these principles in college and these ideas are seen as historical references to early chiropractic philosophy and science. Chiropractors — in common with all other healthcare professionals — recognize that the body has intrinsic healing abilities. Describing this healing ability as an "Innate Intelligence" is unique to chiropractic. "Innate intelligence" is regarded as pseudoscience by the scientific community.
The concept of Innate Intelligence was expanded upon by B.J. Palmer (D.D. Palmer's son) in the numerous books he wrote. Note that he spelled it with capital letters and it was frequently abbreviated ""II". Originally, it was taught as the "law of life", comparable to the subconscious or the "non-conscious brain", or what causes homeostasis. "However, by not later than 1906 the father of chiropractic had converted these adjectives into nouns, more precisely, proper names":
- "Nature, instinct, subconscious mind and intuition are terms often used to carry this idea of intelligence, but they do not express the sentiment fully." Vol. 1 The Science of Chiropractic its Principles and Philosophies by B.J. Palmer, D. C., Ph. C. 1920
- "Education, so far as health problems and religious theories are concerned, works from outside in; from below upward. Universal Intelligence and Innate Intelligence work from above downward, within outward." B.J. Palmer Vol. 22 1949 pg. 56
- "The fundamental cause of all dis-ease lies between the Innate Intelligence and the body; in the interference to the normal and natural quantity efferent flow between Innate Intelligence and the body; in the interference to the normal and natural quantity afferent flow from body to Innate Intelligence. This interference between can make either sick." B.J. Palmer Vol. 22 1949
- "Various terms can be synonymously used, such as force, energy, power, electricity, mental impulse, nerve force, etc., depending upon whether we refer to the activating agent external to or the motivating agent internal to the human body." B.J. Palmer Vol. 22 1949
The following paragraph by B.J. Palmer describes his relationship to the concept of Innate Intelligence (all emphasis original):
- IT WAS HERE IN THIS ONE ROOM, the Great Teacher and Master of ALL people of ALL times, was Innate. IT WAS HERE with these retired personalities, with their every-day personal products, I learned the basic truths of Chiropractic and how to become a Chiropractor.
- Up till THIS period of MY life, I was INVOLVING MY thots, words, and acts much like so many have done and were doing. The “I” was egotistic as well as egoistic.
- After THIS period of OUR life, WE began EVOLVING like few people do or have done. From then on, WE thot, spoke, and acted. From then on, “I” was humble in the presence of Innate within as WE lived together.
- IT WAS THERE, plus time, IN THIS ONE ROOM, I found MYself. WE found OURselves—INNATE AND I—until EACH lost his or her singular and single identity and became a plural duality, to eventually walk down the byways and highways together the rest of OUR lives (1961, p. 163).
- (Palmer’s use of capital lettering as well as his unusual spelling of “thot” were his ways of emphasizing concepts.)
The concept of Innate Intelligence can have different meanings to different people for what it describes:
- Innate as synonym for homeostasis - "This is considered the most common interpretation by chiropractors".
- Innate as a label for our ignorance - There is much that is unknown about human physiology, hence, unexplained phenomena are sometimes attributed to "Mother Nature", or "Vis medicatrix naturae" (Latin for the healing power of nature).
- Innate as vitalistic “explanation” - If using a vitalistic philosophy, innate can be used to give a name to that which creates the vital force, often a "part" of God.
- Innate as metaphysical premise - "When used as an a priori assumption, rather than as a hypothetical construct".
The term "Innate Intelligence" (sometimes abbreviated "II") is still used by certain chiropractors. At Palmer College of Chiropractic the definition of Chiropractic states, "Chiropractic philosophy begins with the principle that the human organism has an innate power to maintain its own health" and includes "This unique health care approach views the body as having an innate, natural ability to adapt to changes in its internal and external environments and maintain itself in a state of health."
Similarly at Life University, they have "embraced the idea that humans are spiritual beings whose lives are directed by universal laws including the natural, vitalistic, innate ability to develop, heal and adapt as long as the body is kept free of interferences."
One of the most notable groups placing the most emphasis on the body's Innate Intelligence is the Foundation for the Advancement of Chiropractic Education (F.A.C.E.). They practice what is known as Objective Straight Chiropractic, and do not attempt to treat disease, but only to correct vertebral subluxations.
In his book on the philosophy, art, and science of chiropractic, Virgil Strang, D.C., chiropractic philosopher and the seventh President of Palmer College of Chiropractic, discusses his thoughts on homeostasis:
- "We know that homeostasis involves negative feedback. We even know some of the mechanisms entailed. But this knowledge does not really touch the deeper mystery of how the body "thinks" physiologically: sensory information must be endlessly integrated and efferent activity determined.
- The stringing together of mechanisms cannot be expected to capture the overall reality of organic, dynamic activity. Classic mechanistic thinking is rooted in the notion that the parts explain the whole. This is true of mechanistic processes such as gearing or even electronic computing. But as Aristotle observed, nature is a world of purpose. In such a world, mechanisms are merely the instruments through which superimposing purposes work their will.
- It is this marvelous, innate(inborn), purposeful nature which is the predominant, practical reality behind the mechanisms of homeostasis."
- Joseph C. Keating, III, PhD. Commentary: The Meanings of Innate. J Can Chiropr Assoc 2002; 46(1)
- Simon A. Senzon B.J. Palmer’s Model Of Consciousness
- PCC Admissions: "What Is Chiropractic" Palmer College of Chiropractic (PCC)[dead link]
- Life University - Strategic Plan: Our Vision for Life University[dead link]
- Innate Intelligence on the F.A.C.E. website[dead link]
- Foundation for the Advancement of Chiropractic Education (F.A.C.E.) website
- Virgil V. Strang, D.C., Essential Principles of Chiropractic, Davenport : Palmer College of Chiropractic, ©1984. OCLC: 12102972
- WCA paper on Innate Intelligence
- The Meanings of Innate by Joseph C. Keating, Jr., PhD
- The Awakening of Intelligence A site exploring J. Krishnamurti's views on innate intelligence.