Friday, 15 May 2009

Stick up for Simon Singh

You may well have come across science writer Simon Singh, probably best known for writing Fermat's Last Theorem.

His most recent book, Trick or Treatment, was a superb analysis of alternative medical practices, showing just what rubbish many of them are. Singh wrote an article (as you do) along the theme of his book and made some negative comments about chiropractors. This wasn't attacking them for what they can do for backs, but rather their claims to be able to help with a whole host of conditions that having nothing to do with the spine - such as colic and asthma in children.

In response, the BCA, their UK national organization, has sued Singh. The first hearing, to determine just what he is alleged to have done, went badly for Singh. The judge decided that Singh's comments were 'statement of fact' rather than fair comment, and that his use of the word 'bogus' meant that he was accusing the BCA of deliberate dishonesty, despite Singh specifically defining what he meant by 'bogus' in the article, and it was clearly something different. Apparently this judgement, which is almost impossible to appeal, means that the actual case will be much harder for Singh to win.

Whether or not you agree with Singh on alternate medicine, it's hard not to see this as a terrible attack on free speech. If you want to follow what's going on, the best way is to keep an eye on Jack of Kent's blog, which is detailing the legal proceedings. There's also a Facebook support group - and if you're in London on Monday (18 May), there's a public support meeting (which Simon and arch-supporter Dave Gorman will be at) at the Penderel's Oak pub at 6.30pm.

I'm appalled, both by the lawsuit (anyone who uses chiropractors should really be thinking 'is it time to switch to an osteopath?' as a result of this action), and by the initial judgement. Spread the word - support this excellent author.

6 comments:

  1. You're right. This is appalling! Can you put on facebook the time of the meeting? I may be able to make it....

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  2. Sorry, Sue - forgot to put the time on. Amended above to show it (6.30pm).

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  3. hear hear. it's astonishing to me that the libel suit got further than a solicitor's desk, let alone in front of that idiot judge.

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  4. Thanks for the heads up, Brian.

    You're right - it's appalling.

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  5. This is totally outrageous. That book needed writing - we need to be able to question medical practice in all formats, especially the kind that costs large sums of money. Simon is a fabulous writer. I'll be signing anything I can to support. Thanks for the head's up Brian.

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  6. The Dark Ages snap once more at the gates.

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