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In the UK, a Victory For Free Speech 130

Forget4it was one of several readers to note that British science writer Simon Singh, whose prosecution for libel we have discussed on several occasions, has won an interim victory in a UK appeals court. "The landmark ruling will allow the writer, whose battle has become a catalyst for demands for libel law reform, to rely on a 'fair comment' defense of his statements about chiropractors. It will also strengthen the position of others — from science writers and medical professionals to bloggers — who face libel suits, as the judges made clear the court was not the place to settle scientific controversies."
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In the UK, a Victory For Free Speech

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  • by pjt33 ( 739471 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @09:50AM (#31705866)

    Trolling or just not reading the previous discussions? The issue is indeed about making claims without evidence to back them up: Singh observed that the British Chiropractic Association claims that they can cure a laundry list of medical issues but that there was no evidence to support this. The BCA responded by suing him.

  • by augustw ( 785088 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @09:52AM (#31705880)

    Just to be clear, Dr Singh is not being "prosecuted for libel" - that's only for criminal offences, and libel is not a criminal offence, but a civil wrong. He is being sued for libel, in the civil courts, by the BCA.

  • by The Yuckinator ( 898499 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @09:55AM (#31705902)

    It seems to me that if you're going to run a for-pay business that purports to "heal people" then you ought to have at least a little evidence to show that what you're doing is actually working. There is currently no evidence to support Chiropractic's "subluxation" theories. I used to live above a chiropractor who claimed that he could cure diabetes via direct spinal manipulation.

    Many of them also refuse to acknowledge Pasteur's Germ Theory of Disease []. I'd say that they could use a little bit of evidence on their side instead of hiding behind ridiculous libel laws. I wonder if this post will get me sued in the UK?

  • Original (Score:4, Informative)

    by wakaranai ( 87059 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @09:59AM (#31705916)

    A copy of his original article, has been archived here: []

  • For the record... (Score:2, Informative)

    by jcr ( 53032 ) <jcr.mac@com> on Friday April 02, 2010 @10:00AM (#31705922) Journal

    Chiropractic is quackery. Of course, in the UK, they spend tax money on homeopathy, too.


  • by wjousts ( 1529427 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @10:04AM (#31705948)

    So, you had a back rub and it felt great. Great, nobody is disputing that back rubs feel great. If you RFTA you'd see that isn't what this is about.

    What this is about is claims by the BCA that a nice back rub can cure a laundry list of aliments that have no connection to you back whatsoever such as: ADHD/learning disabilities, dizziness, high blood pressure, vision conditions, asthma, baby colic, bedwetting, carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, kinetic imbalance due to suboccipital strain (KISS) in infants and menstrual cramps.

    If you can explain how a back rub can cure these conditions, then there's a Nobel prize in medicine with your name on it.

  • by BeardedChimp ( 1416531 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @10:17AM (#31706042)
    Here's the pdf of the judgement []
    It's pretty damn scathing and looks like escalating this further up the court is pointless.
  • by Vintermann ( 400722 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @10:25AM (#31706118) Homepage

    Not exactly. What he said was:

    The British Chiropractic Association claims that their members can help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying, even though there is not a jot of evidence. This organisation is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments.

    The BCA latched onto the word "bogus". They claimed that it implied intentional deception, that the BCA knew it didn't work but promoted it anyway. It's still stupid, of course. No one reading the piece by Singh will think he accuses them of not believing what they teach.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 02, 2010 @10:52AM (#31706384)

    So what? The BCA claimed its members could cure just about anything with their techniques, despite these members knowing they can't, and not having "a joy of evidence" to back up their claims. Because the UK has crazy libel laws, the BCA was trying to go after Singh personally, and not the paper that published the piece, which is the normal practice, seeing as the papers have far deeper pockets. The BCA also declined to do a rebuttal in the same paper. I.e. they know they have no evidence that will withstand the slightest scrutiny.

    Furthermore, the BCA also contacted all chiropractors in the country, telling them to remove anything advertising or suggesting they could cure what they previously claimed. Why? Because members of the public seeing what was going on started going into these places collecting evidence to demonstrate they were indeed deliverately making false claims. So yes, the chiropractors are being intentionally dishonest when they sell there services claiming they'll cure viral infections, whooping cough, ear infections, et al, and they knew it. Let's be honest, if you are an expensive professional, you have a pretty good idea what works and what doesn't in your chosen field.

    The initial judge was a disgrace, he chose to make the worst case assumption, twisted common word usage, and selected archaic disused meanings. I.e. he was buddying up with the BCA, probably via of local lodge membership (yes, the UK is rife with freemasonry favours). Any common sense in this would have had the BCA prove their methods with standard scientific methods, they're the ones making the claims of success going against current science and medical knowledge. Know any real doctors? Ask them what they think about chiropractors.

  • Re:Global warming? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Vintermann ( 400722 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @11:11AM (#31706556) Homepage

    In fact, it's the real scientists who are suppressed by lawsuits. The story of Roger Revelle and Justin Lancaster is a particularly ugly example.

    Revelle was a conservative climate scientist, who waited quite long with asserting that the world was warming as a result of human actions. He was also the one who taught the climatology course Al Gore took in university. While he lay severly ill and dying, Fred Singer persuaded him to put his name to a paper he had authored, allegedly for helping with some details. Naturally, Fred Singer's paper denied AGW. But Singer was prudent enough to wait until Revelle was dead before starting to cite it (as a Revelle paper) far and wide. Revelle's last student and assistant, Jusin Lancaster, tried to call him on it, saying that Revelle told him he hoped the paper would "sink into the ground" as quickly as possible. Lancaster also disputed its authorship at a congress.

    So what did that champion of free discourse, Fred Singer do? He filed a SLAPP libel lawsuit, of course. A student doesn't have the funds to stand up to a think tank veteran like Singer, although it wasn't for lack of trying. He tried to represent himself, and paid court costs for a while, until his wife convinced him to give up. He was forced to retract everything and forbidden from speaking on the issue. Fortunately for us, he did anyway []. (Google Cache link, maybe Singer found out as the original's gone)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 02, 2010 @03:10PM (#31709052)

    ... not the third worlders who happen to have been born here, and claim they are 'British' because it benefits THEM, not us.)

    Oh, you mean the Picts, do you ? Right you are!


    I really don't know if there were any first human sapiens inhabitants there - other then the "Picts" (general name. Comicbook "culture". Sorry.). If so, take them as those and don't fret over it.

    I do suppose good old (#31705974) was not referring to the Neanderthals or Erectus' ( Erectii ? :) ) who might have actually been there even sooner. Let alone which clan, or clan-league.

    But never mind. Better than all those 3rd world germanics (Angles, Saxons), latter Celts, oh-so-primitive Romans, Vikings, Normands (same, mostly)... You know. that rabble.


"What the scientists have in their briefcases is terrifying." -- Nikita Khrushchev