Skip to main content

BCA vs. Singh - New Scientist Comment

New Scientist article on the BCA vs. Singh libel case:

Comment: Don't criticise, or we'll sue, by Dave Allen Green


Here's a quote:

It is against this troubling background that on 7 May a preliminary hearing of a case brought against the science writer Simon Singh by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) was held in London. The case concerned an opinion piece in The Guardian newspaper in which Singh criticised as "bogus" the use of chiropractic for treating various children's ailments. The BCA complained that it had been libelled, and launched an action against Singh (but not The Guardian). The hearing went against Singh (see "Libel victory for alternative medicine").

The BCA's case is part of a trend in that many of the recent threats and actions are responses to criticisms of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). In some of these cases one could fairly argue that simply producing scientific evidence would settle the issue. Despite this, it is not unusual for CAM practitioners to threaten a libel action against anyone who publishes doubts about the scientific validity of their treatment.

In one such case, writer Ben Goldacre and The Guardian were sued by Matthias Rath, who has promoted vitamin supplements in southern Africa for people with AIDS. Rath eventually withdrew the action, but there are other examples outside of CAM.

Scientists and journals are also finding themselves on the wrong end of libel threats and actions. Peter Wilmshurst, a consultant cardiologist at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital in Shropshire, UK, is being sued for libel by the medical devices company NMT Medical of Boston, Massachusetts, over comments he made to a US online news service about one of its devices. Wilmshurst was the co-leader of a clinical trial of the device.

Comments

Paul P. Mealing said…
This is a perversion of justice, where the party making the claim doesn't have to prove anything, and is effectively immune to any challenge, because what's in dispute is their 'good name' and not the claim itself.

To quote from Green's article:

This is the notorious "reverse burden of proof" which, for many, discredits English libel law.

There is something deeply wrong that legitimate scientific criticism can be silenced in this way.

Regards, Paul.
wombat said…
More comment just in from NS/Jack of Kent

Don't criticise, or we'll sue

Popular posts from this blog

EVIDENCE, MIRACLES AND THE EXISTENCE OF JESUS

(Published in Faith and Philosophy 2011. Volume 28, Issue 2, April 2011. Stephen Law. Pages 129-151) EVIDENCE, MIRACLES AND THE EXISTENCE OF JESUS Stephen Law Abstract The vast majority of Biblical historians believe there is evidence sufficient to place Jesus’ existence beyond reasonable doubt. Many believe the New Testament documents alone suffice firmly to establish Jesus as an actual, historical figure. I question these views. In particular, I argue (i) that the three most popular criteria by which various non-miraculous New Testament claims made about Jesus are supposedly corroborated are not sufficient, either singly or jointly, to place his existence beyond reasonable doubt, and (ii) that a prima facie plausible principle concerning how evidence should be assessed – a principle I call the contamination principle – entails that, given the large proportion of uncorroborated miracle claims made about Jesus in the New Testament documents, we should, in the absence of indepen

What is Humanism?

What is Humanism? “Humanism” is a word that has had and continues to have a number of meanings. The focus here is on kind of atheistic world-view espoused by those who organize and campaign under that banner in the UK and abroad. We should acknowledge that there remain other uses of term. In one of the loosest senses of the expression, a “Humanist” is someone whose world-view gives special importance to human concerns, values and dignity. If that is what a Humanist is, then of course most of us qualify as Humanists, including many religious theists. But the fact remains that, around the world, those who organize under the label “Humanism” tend to sign up to a narrower, atheistic view. What does Humanism, understood in this narrower way, involve? The boundaries of the concept remain somewhat vague and ambiguous. However, most of those who organize under the banner of Humanism would accept the following minimal seven-point characterization of their world-view.

Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism refuted

Here's my central criticism of Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (EAAN). It's novel and was published in Analysis last year. Here's the gist. Plantinga argues that if naturalism and evolution are true, then semantic epiphenomenalism is very probably true - that's to say, the content of our beliefs does not causally impinge on our behaviour. And if semantic properties such as having such-and-such content or being true cannot causally impinge on behaviour, then they cannot be selected for by unguided evolution. Plantinga's argument requires, crucially, that there be no conceptual links between belief content and behaviour of a sort that it's actually very plausible to suppose exist (note that to suppose there are such conceptual links is not necessarily to suppose that content can be exhaustively captured in terms of behaviour or functional role, etc. in the way logical behaviourists or functionalists suppose). It turns o