“The law has no place in scientific disputes”
Simon Singh is to appeal the absurd and astonishingly illiberal ruling made by Sir David Eady in the libel case brought about by the British Chiropractic Association. This is a brave decision by Simon, but an important one as there are issues at stake that go well beyond one case.
Today, the charity Sense about Science is launching a campaign to highlight the issues raised by the Simon Singh libel case. I am very please to support this campaign and be one of the first signatories to the following statement:
We the undersigned believe that it is inappropriate to use the English libel laws to silence critical discussion of medical practice and scientific evidence.
The British Chiropractic Association has sued Simon Singh for libel. The scientific community would have preferred that it had defended its position about chiropractic for various children’s ailments through an open discussion of the peer reviewed medical literature or through debate in the mainstream media.
Singh holds that chiropractic treatments for asthma, ear infections and other infant conditions are not evidence-based. Where medical claims to cure or treat do not appear to be supported by evidence, we should be able to criticise assertions robustly and the public should have access to these views.
English libel law, though, can serve to punish this kind of scrutiny and can severely curtail the right to free speech on a matter of public interest. It is already widely recognised that the law is weighted heavily against writers: among other things, the costs are so high that few defendants can afford to make their case. The ease and success of bringing cases under the English law, including against overseas writers, has led to London being viewed as the “libel capital” of the world.
Freedom to criticise and question in strong terms and without malice is the cornerstone of scientific argument and debate, whether in peer-reviewed journals, on websites or in newspapers, which have a right of reply for complainants. However, the libel laws and cases such as BCA v Singh have a chilling effect, which deters scientists, journalists and science writers from engaging in important disputes about the evidential base supporting products and practices. The libel laws discourage argument and debate and merely encourage the use of the courts to silence critics.
The English law of libel has no place in scientific disputes about evidence; the BCA should discuss the evidence. Moreover, the BCA v Singh case shows a wider problem: we urgently need a full review of the way that English libel law affects discussions about scientific and medical evidence.
Please visit the campaign web site at http://www.senseaboutscience.org.uk/freedebate and give your own support. As you can see, there are one or two names on the list who are even more eminent and famous than me. Every one from the Poet Laureate to Harry Hill has signed. (I believe that Harry has suggested there is only one way to settle this – FIGHT!)
Sign the Support Statement.
Also, download the campaign button and add it to your website.
The Quackometer wishes Simon Singh all the best in his appeal. He may still yet lose. The legal shenanigans involved are tough. What is quite clear though, in that appealing, the absurdity of the chiropractic position will be made public, and the injustice of the law brought to the full attention of the media. The BCA could still do the best thing and back down. At the very least they could publish the scientific evidence that they believe they have to support their position. Their silence on the matter of evidence is damning.
Good luck and here’s to greater public awareness of chiropractic absurdity and even a change in the law.
What some people have said about this:
Stephen Fry, Broadcaster and Author:
“It may seem like a small thing to some when claims are made without evidence, but there are those of us who take this kind of thing very seriously because we believe that repeatable evidence-based science is the very foundation of our civilisation. Freedom in politics, in thought and in speech followed the rise of empirical science which refused to take anything on trust, on faith, on hope or even on reason. The simplicity and purity of evidence is all that stands between us and the wildest kinds of tyranny, superstition and fraudulent nonsense. When a powerful organisation tries to silence a man of Simon Singh’s reputation then anyone who believes in science, fairness and the truth should rise in indignation. All we ask for is proof. Reasoned proof according to the established protocols of medicine and science everywhere. It is not science that is arrogant: science can be defined as ‘humility before the facts’ — it is those who refuse to submit to testing and make unsubstantiated claims that are arrogant. Arrogant and unjust.”
Professor Richard Dawkins, FRS, University of Oxford:
“This splendid manifesto hits so many bullseyes, I feel like adding my signature to every line of it. The English libel laws are ridiculed as an international charter for litigious mountebanks, and the effects are especially pernicious where science is concerned.”
Jonathan Heawood, Director, English PEN:
“You know there’s something badly wrong with the libel law when a serious scientific writer is dragged through the courts for something he didn’t even mean to say! Simon Singh’s only mistake was not to distinguish clearly enough between ineffective and fraudulent treatments – both of which might equally be termed ‘bogus’. The real culprit here is the rich English language and the arcane law of libel.”
Professor Richard Wiseman, Professor of the Public Understanding of Psychology, University of Hertfordshire, and author:
“England’s strict libel laws can deter individuals from speaking out against bad science, even when they have strong evidence for their argument. Simon’s campaign deserves the support of everyone who cares about fighting pseudoscience.”
Diana Garnham, Chief Executive, The Science Council:
“Delivery of professional health care should be based on science, not libel laws. It goes without saying that all professional health care scientists must be expected to base their professional practice on scientific methodology, encompassing both a rigorous evidence base and open peer review.”
An Impressive List of Signatories:
Professor Jim Al-Khalili OBE Professor of Physics and of Public Engagement in Science, University of Surrey
Dr Sabine Bahn Cambridge Centre for Neuropsychiatric Research, University of Cambridge
Harriet Ball Voice of Young Science network
Professor Michael Baum MB FRCS ChM MD FRCR Emeritus Professor of Surgery and Visiting Professor of Medical Humanities, University College London
Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell FRS University of Oxford and President, The Institute of Physics
Willem Betz Emeritus Professor, Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Chair, SKEPP
Susan Blackmore Visiting Professor, School of Psychology, University of Plymouth
Professor Colin Blakemore FRS University of Oxford
Sir Tom Blundell FRS University of Cambridge and President, The Biochemical Society
Jean Bricmont Professor of Theoretical Physics, University of Louvain and Honorary President, Association Francaise pour l’Information Scientifique
Tracey Brown Managing Director, Sense About Science
Professor David Colquhoun FRS University College London
Professor David Cope
Professor Brian Cox University of Manchester
Dr Tim Crayford MB BS MSc FFPH FRSA Former President, Association of Directors of Public Health
Professor Richard Dawkins FRS University of Oxford
Professor Edzard Ernst MD PhD FRCP FRCP (Edin) Peninsula Medical School, Exeter University
Professor Elizabeth Fisher FMedSci Institute of Neurology, University College London
Dr Ron Fraser Chief Executive, The Society for General Microbiology
Carlos Frenk Ogden Professor of Fundamental Physics, Durham University
Diana Garnham Chief Executive, The Science Council
John Garrow MD PhD FRCP FRCP (Edin) Emeritus Professor of Clinical Nutrition, University of London and Former Chairman, HealthWatch
Professor David Gordon President, Association of Medical Schools in Europe
Professor Hugh Griffiths FREng University College London and Chairman and on behalf of The Campaign for Science and Engineering in the UK
Dr John Haigh Former Reader in Mathematics, University of Sussex
Professor Martin Humphries University of Manchester and Chair, The Biochemical Society
Sir Tim Hunt FRS Cancer Research UK
Roland Jackson Chief Executive, The British Science Association
Professor Steve Jones University College London
Dr Stephen Keevil King’s College London
Professor Sir David King FRS Former Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government and Director, Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford
Dr Chris Kirk Chief Executive, The Biochemical Society
Professor Sir Peter Lachmann FRS FMedSci University of Cambridge and Founder President, Academy of Medical Sciences
Jennifer Lardge Voice of Young Science network
Armand Leroi Professor of Evolutionary Developmental Biology, Imperial College London
Dr Robin Lovell-Badge FRS FMedSci MRC National Institute for Medical Research
Daniella Muallem Voice of Young Science network
Professor Dame Bridget Ogilvie FRS FMedSci Former Director, Wellcome Trust
Professor Clive Orchard University of Bristol and President, The Physiological Society
Professor Ole H Petersen CBE University of Liverpool
Lord Rees Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics, University of Cambridge
Les Rose Clinical Science Consultant
Dame Nancy Rothwell FRS MRC Research Professor and President, Biosciences Federation
Alan Sokal Professor of Physics, New York University and Professor of Mathematics, University College London
Professor Beda Stadler University of Bern, Switzerland
Dr John Stevens DMS President and on behalf of The Institute of Biomedical Science
Professor Ian Stewart FRS Mathematician and Science Writer
Professor Raymond Tallis FMedSci Emeritus Professor of Geriatric Medicine, University of Manchester
Lord Taverne Chair, Sense About Science
Hazel Thornton Independent Advocate for Quality in Research and Healthcare
Sir Mark Walport Director, The Wellcome Trust
Professor Robin A Weiss FRS University College London and President, The Society for General Microbiology
Tom Wells Voice of Young Science network
Robin Wilson Professor of Pure Mathematics, Open University
Richard Wiseman Professor of the Public Understanding of Psychology, University of Hertfordshire and Author
Journalism and Publishing
David Aaronovitch Columnist, The Times and Author
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown Journalist and Columnist
Wendy Barnaby Editor, People and Society
Rosie Boycott Former Editor, The Independent and Independent on Sunday
Geoffrey Carr Science Editor, The Economist
Duncan Campbell Journalist
Dr Philip Campbell Editor-in-Chief, Nature
Sir Iain Chalmers Editor, The James Lind Library
Nick Cohen Columnist, The Observer
Clive Cookson Science Editor, Financial Times
Nick Davies Journalist and Author of Flat Earth News
Kendrick Frazier Editor, Skeptical Inquirer
Professor Christopher C French Head, The Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit, Goldsmiths University and Editor, The Skeptic Magazine
James Gleick Science Writer and Journalist
Dr Ben Goldacre Writer, Broadcaster and Medical Doctor
Nigel Hawkes Director, Straight Statistics and Former Health Editor, The Times
Mark Henderson Science Editor, The Times
Roger Highfield Editor, New Scientist
Dr Richard Horton FRS FMedSci Editor, The Lancet
Alok Jha Science and Environment Correspondent, The Guardian
Rohit Jaggi Columnist, Financial Times
Barry Karr Skeptical Inquirer and Committee for Skeptical Inquiry
Dr Karl Kruszelnicki Author, Broadcaster and Scientist
Sam Lister Health Editor, The Times
Brenda Maddox Journalist and Biographer
Dr Margaret McCartney Columnist, Financial Times and GP
Robin McKie Science Correspondent, The Observer
George Monbiot Journalist
Andrew Mueller Journalist and Author
Steven Novella Editor, Science-Based Medicine; Director of General Neurology, Yale University School of Medicine and Author
Vivienne Parry Science Writer and Broadcaster
John Rennie Former Editor-in-Chief, Scientific American
Nick Ross Journalist and Broadcaster
Ian Sample Science Correspondent, The Guardian
Ariane Sherine Comedy, Writer and Journalist
Michael Shermer Publisher, Skeptic Magazine; Columnist Scientific American and Author of Why People Believe Weird Things
Rebecca Smith Medical Editor, The Daily Telegraph
Bill Thompson Technology Journalist
Arts, Humanities and Entertainment
Martin Amis Novelist
Joan Bakewell Broadcaster and Journalist
Antony Beevor Historian
Jo Brand Performer
Derren Brown Psychological Illusionist
Alain de Botton Author
Carol Ann Duffy Poet Laureate
Peter Florence Director of The Guardian Hay Festival
Stephen Fry Broadcaster and Author
Ricky Gervais Writer and Performer
Anthony Grayling Professor of Philosophy, Birkbeck College University of London
Dave Gorman Writer and Performer
Harry Hill Performer
Robin Ince Performer
Tim Minchin Performer
Dara O’Briain Performer
Penn Jillette Illusionist, Juggler and Libertarian
Libby Purves Broadcaster, Journalist and Author
David Starkey Historian
Teller Illusionist, Juggler and Libertarian
Sandi Toksvig Broadcaster, Comedian and Author
Dr Richard Vranch Performer and Ex-physicist
Skeptics and Campaign Groups
Australian Council Against Health Fraud
Australian Skeptics Inc
Peter Bowditch Editor, www.ratbags.com
Neil Denny Little Atoms podcast
Rachael Dunlop Reporter, Skeptic Zone podcast
Jonathan Heawood Director, English PEN
Narisetti Innaiah Chairman, Center for Inquiry, India
Andy Lewis Blogger, quackometer.net
Ronald A Lindsay President and CEO, Center for Inquiry, USA
Simon Perry Founder, Skeptics in the Pub (Leicester)
Dr Philip Plait President, James Randi Educational Foundation, USA
James Randi CEO, James Randi Educational Foundation, USA
Padraig Reidy Index on Censorship
Sid Rodrigues Chairman, Skeptics in the Pub (London)
Amardeo Sarma Chairman, German Skeptics (GWUP)
Eran Segev President, Australian Skeptics Inc
David Allen Green Solicitor
Jonathan Morgan Fellow in Law, University of Cambridge
Baroness Helena Kennedy QC Barrister and Labour Member of the House of Lords
So scientists are demanding to be above the law?
Somehow I don't think they have a snowball's chance in Hell.
One law for scientists and one for the 'rest of us'?
Which planet are these people on? Or what drugs have they been taking? Too much Speckled Hen?
If a lot of judges are barking mad the solution is to get rid of the silly guffers. It is not to have a special system outside the law for scientists.
No Stewart, they're saying scientific debate should not be subject to libel law, an entirely different position.
Consider the following – Researcher A says Researcher B's work is rubbish, for reasons X, Y and Z.
Which of the following should Researcher B do;
i) Respond with a detailed rebutal of reasons X, Y and Z.
ii) Put their fingers in their ears and go "La la la"
iii) Sue the pants off Researcher A.
The very fact option 3 is even available would indicate something, somewhere is broken.
Stewart, scientists aren't demanding any such thing. Simon Singh's criticism of the treatments promoted by the BCA was entirely factual, rational, and science-based. Trying to shut him up for pointing this out, and entirely neglecting to provide anything that resembles actual evidence that he's wrong and chiropractic really does work, would be about as tyrannical as trying to have you locked up for suggesting that all scientists are drug addicts.
Stewart – you are typical of the alternative med community who simply do not get this.
What this is about:
1) An unjust law of libel in this country
2) Public health is more important than public reputations
3) Evidence is more important than legal threats.
Whose side are you on? Stifling and unjust law? Or debate and free speech?
Must be stressful for Simon Singh, but glad the campaign goes on. I have signed the petition in support.
Saying science should be outside the libel law IS asking for it to be given preference above other areas and will therefore be fought tooth and claw by the legal old guard. In addition, science no longer has a strong enough reputation for objectivity to pull this off.
Scientists have agendas too and need to be controlled. eg Prof Baum orchestrates attacks homeopathy and just happens to want his own empire on Great Ormond Street. How can he possibly be objective regarding the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital as he plots to turn it into a cancer hospital as he craftily expands room by room in the building? His ego is entirely involved and we must be sceptical of him.
If scientists want to be treated differently by the law they need to petition change in the the Law itself, not ask for a preferential get-out clause. As I understand it, British Law doesn't do this kind of thing. Somali Law might. Perhaps a qualified legal expert would kindly contribute? I would defer if one did.
I still maintain that you don't have a chance of succeeding. This is obviously desperate stuff now that Simon Singh is cornered.
It is a right collection of dreary, right-on 'comedians' that are supporting this. eg miserable Jo Brand, Harry Hill, Gervais, Toksvig etc. No proper comedian would support you. Only clowns. Jack Dee wouldn't be bothered. The late Dave Allen bless him would simply find the predicament amusing, if he could be fagged to follow it.
The like of Jo Brand have no influence at all and nor do scientists. Scientific people don't network with the right people. Who would invite David Colquhoun to a dinner party apart from another scientist? He's had a bus pass for years and years – It's about time he used it on a very long one-way journey. The Outer Hebrides would be ideal.
Simon still has hope at some success in this case, and even if the BCA win this case has united Skeptics, scientists and preformers together and there may be a chance that something good could come out of this – A change in the Libel laws for a start.
I hope it does, maybe we could have a new internet effect. We have the Streisand effect, maybe a Singh effect is possible.
mymy, do we have an angry troll in here, or what…
good boy, sit, sit…down…
signed it, even though I might be seen as even more unimportant than those "miserable comedians"…
as he plots to turn it into a cancer hospital as he craftily expands room by room in the building?"
Good. I hope his plotting goes extremely well and if he is looking for donations then I will contribute. Swapping 19th century superstition for genuinely lifesaving medical purposes is clearly a winner.
Having had two friends from work die of cancer in the last three years I want to use words to describe Stewart that would probably get me barred from commenting again. But he is clearly a CUNT and it is worth it.
@stewart…you are confusing matters here. How on earth is anyone possibly going to take your ´scientific´ views serious, while you seem to have a hot-line and are able to talk to-with-for the late Dave Allen? serious? Shame.
My point was simply that Prof Baum cannot be objective with his personal circumstances. If he wants to open a cancer hospital that is fine by me. If people want to be patients in a cancer hospital that is also fine. But why can't he start his OWN hospital without all these sneaky antics? It is very parasitic.
Really, was that your point? It looked like your point was that the merit of social causes is dependent upon which comedians you suspect would be likely to support them.
That said, I quite agree. The world would be a much better place without the sneaky antics of cancer doctors and similar parasites.
SS has a good case if he takes this to the European Court under freedom of expression. The very fact that he himself is punished for something quite arguable ´bogus´ meaning ´fact´ instead of ´opinion´…is disproportionate, as calling a treatment bogus, can never be seen as a fact it would mean my doctor would give me a litteral bogus if i came for a prescription.
Besides, i as a clear-thinking-rational-information-seeking human being, am Insulted and appaled that a libal law wants to think for me! and take away my view of others ´opinions.
@Stewart I think maybe you're missing the point with the comedians listed. The outcome of this case could have a knock-on effect for all comedians who work in this country, stifling their right to speak freely. Incidentally Jo Brand is an ex psychiatric nurse, Harry Hill an ex doctor, Gervais has a philosophy degree, Toksvig went to Cambridge. Your examples of Dave Allen and Jack Dee may not have as much sway with their apparent lack of formal education.
@ Stewart McOwan
Of course Prof Baum cannot be purely objective. It is impossible! In fact, he is damn well justified in being emotional about this because the FUCKING homeopaths have NOTHING to offer! PISS OFF out of that valuable working space you ARSEHOLES!
(Aaah, I feel better now – even if I do get banned as well)
Excellent answer Phil. Stewart's homeopathic bookstore will not gain business from clumsy thoughts like that.
I felt quite humble adding my name to that list, I wonder what thoughts Stewart and his ilk have? The names on that list have advanced us all in so many ways and such diverse directions, I loved seeing them all together.
It's also heartening because the "Pig Farmer" budget could never stretch to include them all, and every arrow less from their quiver is one less to counter.
Well Stewart, laws often have exclusions, even libel laws. Even England's libel laws have their limits, as I understand it.
But really, the issue is public interest and if public interest is best served by scientific discourse then such discourse should not be shut down by frivolous legal threats (like picking on a single, barely definable word from an article) in which the plaintiff has little to lose and the defendant little hope of winning.
But you're probably right, that snowball will no doubt evaporate long before English lawyers loosen their grip on the cash these laws deliver them.
Still, it does leave England as something of a laughing stock.
Apart from exposing chiropractic tweeking and education as an impressive financial wheeze (skinning paying customers and gullible chiropractic students) based on gibberish from a motley crew of 18/19th century originators (amateur motor mechanics, beekeepers, magnetic healers etc.)- it appears to captivate and delude as do many other cults i.e. obsessive, faddish, ritualistic with charismatic promoters.
Faith, propelled and galvanised by the placebo effect or god-spot, embeds itself with impunity from hard scientific evidence. There has always existed a heinous anti-intellectualism – a quick review of how hard it was (still is) to innovate better practice – demonstrates a natural reluctance to change an established viewpoint even when the evidence is valid!
The current acceptance of pseudo-medical cults by the customer who has already forked out and doesn't want to appear gullible but who is all to ready to demean scientific professional medical practice (a much easier target in the odious PC managed world of the NHS) must be brought to heel before science and conventional medicine are reduced to abandoning innovative inquiry and practising defensive medicine.
The likelihood of alternative 'medicine' filling that gap is risible. I hope the good Judge Eady is keeping well these days without the need for a realignment of his spinal processes – his thinking processes may take more time.
Here we go:
Tom Johnson: It wasn't me that dragged comedians into this in the first place. Please don't blame the dog for bringing the mice in.
I mentioned Dave Allen as someone who would take exception to modern sceptics as he hated intolerance, anti-liberalism, blind fanaticism and fundamentalism, especially in those people who maliciously seek to interfere with innocent pleasures of ordinary people. eg mad priests, sceptic fanatics.
NoNanny: The Law restricts us all in countless ways. Why should scientists be the only ones able to call anybody they decide 'bogus'? I agree that they are perfectly entitled to state their case against chiropractors but to use terms such as 'bogus' implies that a whole body of people is akin to a money-grabbing mafia. This is defamatory.
Andy is surely right that the hands of time will move very slowly if libel law is to be changed. I think we would be talking decades.
Weol: Jo Brand – control freak psychiatric nurse, Gervais – philosophy nutter, Toksvig – sickeningly smug Cambridge grad, Harry Hill – ex-doc. I know. It shows doesn't it?
Anonymous : The homeopaths were in the building first. Thousands of taxpayers have chosen to use the service for 160 years after hitting a brick wall with orthodox treatment. Virtually all RLHH patients are what homeopaths call TEETH patients. (Tried everything else, Try Homeopathy). It pays for itself. Economic arguments against homeopathy don't stand. The only arguments against it have to be ideological. Similar situations are found around the country where GPs employ homeopaths for their 'impossible' patients. This happens quite a lot now. It frees up expensive GP time and makes sense for the doctor even if it makes 'scientific nonsense'.
I have composed this letter and am in the process of sending it to as many local chiropractors as i can find listed on the web and in local phone books. Please feel free to use it, t may help:
I am writing to you, as I believe you both practice locally and are a member of the BCA.
As you are probably aware, your Association has recently sued Simon Singh. He is a respected science journalist who was awarded an MBE in 2003 for his services to Science, Technology and Engineering in Education and Science Communication.
He used the word “bogus” in describing Chiropractic and your organisation, instead of reasonably, intelligently and maturely debating the issue, used its institutional financial muscle to try to silence a doubter. This is rank bullying of the worst kind.
I suspect, and hope, that you have the decency to at least feel uncomfortable about your Association’s behaviour.
You may also recognise how this behaviour is reflecting very badly on the public’s perception of Chiropractors and will certainly backfire on your profession in the long run.
Can I urge you to call on your Association to drop this case and defend itself with truth and reason and to behave in a decent manner for the good of us all.
Don't take Colquhoun's name in vain. Or else I'll show you kuz'kina mat'… 😉 🙂
And don't consider yourself very brave. You are not brave, you are impudent. And you grew impudent because you think that the court took side of CAMists. You believe in inviolability of libel law. But when this law will be abolished (and it will BE ABOLISHED, because the law is stupid), you will shut up immediately.
And bear in mind, e.g. racists believed in inviolability of racial discrimination in USA. And it was a law in USA. Terrible, dirty, unjust law! But now this law doesn't exist. And there is racial egality in USA. So, silly laws are not eternal, they can be abolished.
At last – one question to you. You have Celtic surname, McOwan, as we can see (distorted surname. MacGowan? MacCowan?). There was the law in Great Britain in XIX century, which discriminated against Celts. Do you think that it was good law? You are crying here about justice and legality! But do you consider that ancient law of genocide towards Celts was right and just too?!!
As for BCA, that it would be really better for them, if they settle the case just now. THEY must settle, not Simon Singh.
Stewart's "arguments", such as they are, have so far consisted of veritable floods of every single BOGUS logical fallacy known to mankind.
I'm betting that he sees this comment as an ad hominem, when it is not.
It is a statement of fact about his pre-scientific responses.
Svetlana, of course laws are changed on a daily basis. That is why in Britain we have the House of Commons and the House of Lords. I simply tried to explain that changing libel laws would probably take many years. Tinkering with the libel laws for the benefit of a group of people who are no longer known to be particularly objective these days is unlikely to happen. Please refer to page 2 of yesterday's Telegraph (June 4) "Science Fails The Truth Test". This reported findings from the Public Library of Science journal exposing the extent of contemporary dishonest and fabricated 'scientific' research. Not a good time to expect science to be put on a pedestal in the eyes of the libel laws! Possibly the worst possible time IMHO.
Michael Kingsford Gray your sweeping statement doesn't any evidence attached so all I can do is ignore it as ignorant abuse like Sandy5. Abuse usually tells you more about the source than than the subject spoken of. However, this is why we have libel laws – To protect people from intimidation, bullying, malicious fabrication and false rumour. Quite why libel laws should be changed specially for you and various friends such as SandyS and the unfortunate Simon Singh baffles me.
"Scientific people don't network with the right people."
So it's not what you know, it's who you know, huh? This approach hardly lends strength to you argument.
"to use terms such as 'bogus' implies that a whole body of people is akin to a money-grabbing mafia"
I assume you haven't read the article. Singh explained exactly what he meant by the term "bogus" in the paragraph following the one in which the word appeared. And that wasn't it.
Singh deliberately and calculatedly used the word 'bogus' and attached it to an ORCHESTRATED, widespread written campaign against a group of people who consider themselves a profession in his attempt to damage their standing and reputation. Clear libel. I think he was asking for trouble. ANY profession would defend itself. He should have avoided inflammatory words in a systematic campaign. Bogus is an extremely loaded term which has its origin in counterfeit currency. Not very clever of him as judges may well construe this as MALICIOUS libel. Singh should simply have stated that his case clearly, factually and sensibly as I'm sure he is perfectly capable.
We have just added your latest post "Simon Singh to Appeal Bogus Decision" to our Directory of Science . You can check the inclusion of the post here . We are delighted to invite you to submit all your future posts to the directory and get a huge base of visitors to your website.
What a spin! And what a "spinner" is this Mac ! 🙂
That is why I didn’t become CAMist, though I had such chance. I can’t shift so and never will learn this “craft” 🙂
So Stewart do you think that all cam practitioners really believe the nonsense they peddle.
I think we both know that there are a ridiculous number of 'alternative therapies' with claims that have yet to be (and may never be) substantiated by the mainstream. Like you I am sure some of these therapists are not serious. Many of these 'therapies' have no claims of being scientific and are more recreation. eg shamanic healing
I can only really speak for the therapy that I am most familiar with and can only count on one hand the number I believe practising cynically. All of these appear to have hit hard times or are dead. I am certain that some people get carried away with their own favourite theories eg the latest 'advances' from India for instance. However I think it is illiberal to impose blanket bans and persecutions on these people. By all means, try to educate them. Many are also a little paranoid about 'big pharma' to the level of paranoia which is sad.
I approve of Andy's campaign to force homeopaths to provide more scientific evidence. They urgently need to prove that a remedy can be recognised from a blank. Unfortunately research is expensive for a cottage industry but funds urgently must be raised.
In regard to homeopathy I believe much of the current opposition to it is because of an unfortunate accident of fate. It was lumped into a 'science' by universities. There is a simple reason why this happened and that is because science modules had to be tacked on eg A & P. Obviously homeopathy should have been classified as an arts degree. If it cannot to date demonstrate to the world that it can recognise to some extent, the materials that it claims that it is working with then it must not call itself a science.
PS Hope my printer gets working soon! This is why I am spending too much time here.
I thought that Singhs use of the word bogus was not implying the deliberate deception of Chiropractors. Do you really doubt that most chiropractors believe in what they are doing?
Dont Singh and most of the skeptic bloggers accept that most CAM practitioners believe in what they are doing but were concerned about the following?
Non evidence based claims not just for conditions such as Aids and Malaria but also for less serious conditions such as Colic.
Government funding of non evidence based treatments.
Science degrees for CAM because of the non evidence base.
Possible harm of some CAM treatments due to the treatment or due to any delay in seeking evidence based treatments.
Explain CAM away using terms such as delusion and logical fallacy if you like but yes CAM practitioners and millions of the general public really do believe.
cottage industry my arse
what with a turnover of 313 million they didn't have enough left to do some research and that's just one company.
Stewart, to pick up on some of your lamer points – homeopathy is not a cottage industry. I'm sure you'll have heard of Boiron? Homeopaths could easily construct small trials for minimal costs. In fact they could start by taking the Quackometer $100 challenge.
I find it slightly ironic that you accept there are holes in homeopaths claims, yet you are happy to sell books on the subject. Maybe you could promote the $100 challenge to your customers?
Oh, and homeopathy is 'lumped into science' because it is making scientific claims.
I also hope your printer gets working soon 😉
Anonymous, are you absolutely sure that Boiron turnover is THAT high? I will check for myself. If it is that high, then of course they should be doing more. I am aware some research is conducted by them but obviously it is inadequate.
Turnover of British homeopathic pharmacies is miniscule by comparison. eg Ainsworths, Helios. The largest British homeopathic company by turnover is Nelsons which makes more on Bach Flower Remedies than homeopathy.
The Quackometer challenge is entirely unrealistic unfortunately as it seems to require almost instant recognition of remedies. To attract takers it would be necessary to be more flexible. It would require large co-ordinated groups over a few months. They would conduct what homeopaths term 'provings'. A further problem would sadly be trust.
One thing we agree on is that homeopaths need to stop pretending that it is 1760.
I also hope the ink-jet cartridges to my new machine arrive soon! Five days first class post is not good.
I promise to stop posting for a while anyway.
Professor Edzard Ernst has blogged on the Singh case and chiropractic in general, asking whether chiropractors are destroying their own reputation by promoting the technique for conditions for which there's no good evidence, and for dragging Singh into the libel courts.
I get pretty sick of homeopaths misrepresenting my challenge in order not to take it. Stewart, in what way could my challenge be more flexible – I leave all the details up the the homeopaths ho want to take it. All I insist on is six remedies, correctly identified and blinded. Take as long as you like, use whatever methods you like, use as many people as you like.
The trust issue is easily fixed and I have describe it. An MD5 hash of the blinded remedies would be publicly posted online before the trial. This would allow anyone to verify the integrity of the remedy coding.
All homeopaths can do is think of weak excuses not to take the trial rather than ways to demonstrate that their magic is real. The fact that so few actually engage and think about how they might do it is indicative of an intellectually vacuous community.
Oh, and Boiron is that big – it spends nearly 20 times as much on marketing as it does on research. For comparison, a typical real pharmaceutical company will as a proportion spend 10 times as much.
My $100 test of homeopathy would not be expensive. All it needs is willing volunteers, a little thought and about $100 worth of remedies or so. That is why it is called the $100 challenge. Expense is not an excuse. The claims of homeopaths are grand – it should be easy to do.
Calling a homeopathy degree an arts degree would be a cop out and misleading. Homeopaths make truth claims about the world that are testable – science. Hiding behind a BA rather than a BSc does not let them off the hook. It just shows them to be intellectual cowards.
Weol, I must add that nowhere on my website do I (to my knowledge / recollection) state that homeopathy is a science. I am well aware that various homeopaths have claimed this. There are even a few homeopathic books with 'science' in the title. I cannot personally be held accountable for this.
There is more than a hint that my integrity is being questioned here which I object to. This is because I have personally seen many homeopaths perform excellent work on many very happy and grateful patients. To hound and defame these people is completely unacceptable to most members of the public.
If homeopathy is placebo as most contributors here insist, it follows that there is inadequate research on how this is best achieved. Some homeopaths appear to be performing miracles with absolutely nothing at all and must be doing something right.
Andy, I don't think that you do make it clear at all on the simple challenge that GROUPS of any size are allowed to spend a long unspecified period, months etc mulling over the identity of the six bottles. It would be better if it could be re-worded.
I don't think it reads as a flexible test at all. Also it would be great if you would reassure potential interested people regarding your method of maximising trust.
I also think it would actually be better if there was no prize money since the sum is so small that it makes it all look like a wind-up.
The ideal place for finding people to do this would be India where there are over 100 homeopathic colleges and many are quite large.
I will construct a new challenge page since there are so many confusions.
For example, I have never mentioned any prize money. I have no idea where that idea comes from.
Thank you for that.
Obviously, many people assumed 100 Dollars was the prize for guessing the remedies which was akin to giving a waitress a 2p tip.
@ Stuart McOwen
"to hound and defame these people is completely unacceptable to most members of the public."
You still seem not to have understood that Simon Singh was not referring not to the chiropractors themselves but to their treatments.
"Some homeopaths appear to be performing miracles with absolutely nothing at all and must be doing something right."
Please find one "miracle" performed by a homoeopath.
Homoeopathy (read "a placebo") may make you feel better but they do not actually cure disease. A "miracle" would be something akin to using homoeopathy (ie a placebo) in place of insulin in the treatment of diabetes.
Good luck with your search.
"For example, I have never mentioned any prize money. I have no idea where that idea comes from."
Homoeopaths (and other CAMsters) seem to have trouble with the concept of doing anything without a financial incentive. See, for example, their repeated claims that anyone who criticises homoeopathy is being paid to do so.