Search Results for "simon singh"

Feb 23 2012

The British Chiropractic Association Reflects on the Simon Singh Affair

Richard Brown, president of the British Chiropractic Association (BCA), has a tough task before him.  He presided over the BCA’s libel suit against Simon Singh for an article he wrote in the Guardian in which he specifically criticized the BCA, writing that it, “happily promotes bogus treatments.” The libel suit resulted in a magnification of criticism against the BCA by orders of magnitude, and the questioning of onerous libel laws in Britain that stifle free speech. The BCA ultimately had to withdraw the suit and pay for Singh’s outrageous legal expenses.

In a recent speech Brown reflected on the Singh lawsuit, now published in the Chiropractic Report with the title, “After the Storm – What Have We Learnt?” As Edzard Ernst noted in an article about Brown’s speech, “it makes fascinating reading.” To me it reads like desperate damage control, but in it there are some interesting admissions.

Regarding the Singh affair Brown writes:

Singh claimed that the BCA ‘happily promotes bogus treatments’ even though there was ‘not a jot of evidence’. The BCA was faced with a dilemma. Did it sit by and permit an assault on its reputation and good name, or did it stand up for its members and challenge the criticism? For years, chiropractic had been castigated in a succession of critical articles, but here was a published article which had explicitly named a chiropractic association and had made defamatory comments about it.

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13 responses so far

Apr 15 2010

Simon Singh Has Won

I have been following the libel case by the British Chiropractic Association against Simon Singh on this blog, so it is a pleasure to report that the BCA has dropped their case – Simon Singh has won. The Guardian reports that the BCA filed a discontinuation with the court yesterday.

Congratulations to Simon – this is a huge victory. It comes on the heals of him winning his appeal regarding the defintion of “bogus” and whether or not his statements were commentary or fact. Simon won the ability to defend his statements as opinion, which doomed BCAs case, so it is no surprise they are now dropping the case.

What remains to be seen is how much money Simon can recoup from the BCA for legal costs. Even in a best case scenario, he stands to lose a lot of money and two years of his life fighting this case.

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24 responses so far

Apr 01 2010

Good News for Simon Singh

We have been following the libel case of science journalist Simon Singh, and I am happy to report that there is a bit of good news on the case. But first, to recap: Simon was sued by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) over an article called Beware the Spinal Trap – which I and other bloggers have since reproduced.

The particular line of interest was Simon writing that the BCA “happily promotes bogus therapies.” The BCA contends that this implies they dishonestly promote therapies that they know do not work. This has become the first point of contention for the libel suit. Simon maintains, and this is backed up elsewhere in the article, that he never implied that and in fact BCA chiropractors are likely self-deluded.

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20 responses so far

Feb 24 2010

Simon Singh Update

I have been following the story of the crazy libel laws in England, brought to public attention by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) suing journalist Simon Singh because he dared to (correctly) state that many of their treatments are “bogus.”

In England (if I understand correctly, these laws apply only to England and not to all of the UK) when someone is sued for libel they bear the burden of proof that what they said was true. Further, the process is so expensive that it is easy for deep pockets to intimidate those with fewer resources into silence merely by the threat of suit.

Simon has bravely stuck with his suit, at great personal expense, largely to use it as a platform to lobby for rational libel reform.

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16 responses so far

Jun 04 2009

Singh Will Appeal – Keep Libel out of Science

Published by under Skepticism

Simon Singh was sued by the British Chiropractic Association for correctly pointing out that they promote therapies that are not backed by adequate scientific evidence – therapies which Simon called “bogus.” In a pre-trial hearing the judge ruled that was Simon meant by that statement was that all the members of the BCA know that their treatments do not work and promote them anyway, as an act of deliberate fraud.This means that if Simon is to go forward defending himself against libel, he has the burden of proof that the judge’s interpretation of what he said is true – an impossible task.

That is an absurd ruling, especially since Singh clarified exactly what he meant elsewhere in the article, that the chiropractors are simply deluded true-believers.

Simon announced today that he will appeal the judges decision and continue to go forward with his defense. This is good news for the cause of free speech, especially in the realm of educating the public about science and the fight against quackery and nonsense.

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45 responses so far

Jul 13 2017

The Fragility of Truth

homeopathy5There is a lot to be horrified about regarding the alternative medicine (CAM) industry. The industry largely trades in fraud and misinformation at the expense of the public’s health. But I often find myself most dismayed by what the industry says about the relationship between humans and reality.

I have discussed over the years the many ways, mostly revealed through psychological research, but also with many specific examples, in which people build their narratives about the world and how these narratives trump reality and often even basic logic. If you ever doubt the ability of people to erect a false narrative and worship it as truth, remember that there are people who believe, in the 21st century, that the Earth is flat.

Humans, however, also have science, philosophy, logic, and reason. We have managed, especially in the last few centuries, to collectively crawl out of a deep pit of self-deception and slowly accumulate real knowledge about the universe and how it works. As a species we have this weird dual nature, at times rigorously rational, and at others hopelessly gullible and ideological.

What is perhaps most concerning about the CAM phenomenon is what it tells us about the balance between reason and deception. Sitting on top of the last few centuries of scientific progress, it certainly seems like science and reason are winning. But perhaps this vantage point gives us a biased perspective. Over this period we have largely shifted from a pre-scientific view of the world to a scientific one. Science then showcased its power by picking a lot of the low-hanging fruit – answering the easiest questions to answer.

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214 responses so far

Nov 13 2015

Homeopathy on the Ropes

The British National Health Service (NHS) is considering blacklisting homeopathy prescriptions from general practitioners. While this would have an overall small effect on the homeopathy market, it is politically potentially very significant.

The NHS currently spends about £4m on homeopathy each year, of which only £110,000 is from GP prescriptions. The rest is from homeopathic hospitals (yes, hospitals). The real market, however, is in over the counter homeopathic products.

In the UK, Europe and the US homeopathy has ballooned into a multi-billion dollar industry. It is now potentially, it seems, the victim of its own success. When it was smaller it essentially flew under the radar – regulators and politicians didn’t think it was worth spending political capital to reign in a fringe treatment that people either wanted or did not know or care about.

In the US the FDA specifically decided to let the homeopathic industry regulate itself, because it was simply too small for them to spend their resources on. That has now changed.

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22 responses so far

May 04 2015

Homeopathic Rant

Every now and then we get a public peek into the mind of a crank or pseudoscientist. This is not to say that they don’t utter complete nonsense often, but usually in public they try to put a sanitized and rational face on their quackery. An unfiltered rant can be refreshing and illuminating.

Recently a homeopath, Mary English, wrote such a public rant against Simon Singh, who is a science communicator and promoter of rationality. What has English so riled is the fact that Singh is threatening to sue the National Health Service (NHS) for wasting taxpayer money by funding homeopathy.

Singh is an open critic of so-called alternative medicine. He has written about homeopathy before, explaining why it is complete unscientific lunacy. He famously was sued by the British Chiropractic Association for daring to say that they embrace “bogus” therapies (because they do).  He works for a charity, the Good Thinking Society, which has challenged the UK powers-that-be to reconsider their support of homeopathy:

In February 2015, The Good Thinking Society, working with Bindmans LLP, wrote to Liverpool CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) in order to highlight and challenge the CCG’s decision to approve spending on homeopathic treatments – a decision we believe to be unlawful, and contrary to the best interest of local patients. In April 2015, Liverpool CCG conceded our challenge and agreed to make a fresh decision on the issue.

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29 responses so far

Mar 12 2015

Libel Reform – In the US

Published by under Legal Issues

After Simon Singh was sued by the British Chiropractic Association for libel, he used the opportunity to rally for libel reform in the UK. Simon won his suit, but defending his free speech was tremendously expensive. Fortunately for him, he had the resources to go the distance. Libel laws in England are especially bad, favoring the plaintiff and are ridiculously expensive – so much so that they motivate “libel tourism” in which someone sues someone else specifically in England for maximal effect.

At the time I thought I was lucky for the fact that the US has more rational libel laws. The burden of proof is heavily on the plaintiff, as it should be. In the US we take our first Amendment rights to free speech seriously.

Then, of course, I was sued, and I realized how wrong I was.

The problem with libel laws in the US is that the legal battle is more about who has money than who is right. If you want to shut down someone’s right to free speech all you have to do is sue them for defamation. There is no barrier to doing so. The defendant then has the option of either taking down their blog post, article, podcast, whatever and giving in to the demands of the person threatening to sue them, or face tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees to defend their free speech. What do you think most people are going to choose?

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20 responses so far

Jul 15 2014

BBC Fail on Acupuncture Documentary

Alternative Medicine’s best friend, and in my opinion largely responsible for what popularity it has, is a gullible media. I had thought we were turning a corner, and the press were over the gushing maximally clueless approach to CAM, and were starting to at least ask some probing questions (like, you know, does it actually work), but a 2006 BBC documentary inspires a more pessimistic view.

The documentary is part of a BBC series hosted by Kathy Sykes: Alternative Medicine, The Evidence. This episode is on acupuncture. The episode is from 2006, but was just posted on YouTube as a “2014 documentary.” Unfortunately, old news frequently has a second life on social media.

First, let me point out that Sykes is a scientist (a fact she quickly points out). She is a physicist, which means that she has the credibility of being able to say she is a scientist but has absolutely no medical training. It’s the worst case scenario – she brings the credibility of being a scientist, and probably thinks that her background prepares her to make her own judgments about the evidence, and yet clearly should have relied more on real experts.

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24 responses so far

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