Posts Tagged ‘simon singh’

For something that involves so much lying down and making sympathetic faces, looking after a girlfriend with glandular fever can be surprisingly tiring and time-consuming.

So, apologies that I’m still not very present here. However, although I’m not going to comment at length about Sally Morgan today, it’s worth mentioning that Simon Singh is one hell of a gentleman badass.

Is that a thing people say? That should totally be a thing.

Of course Sally Morgan has every right to decline an invitation to any particular event at which certain of her detractors propose to “test” her, especially in a situation which has not been arranged with her and under circumstances with which she may not be familiar or comfortable. But the point Simon Singh and others are making is that she has by no means demonstrated the validity of the numerous grandiose claims she regularly makes, and in which many people become deeply emotionally invested. If she has any interest in the well-being of her fans, or in being intellectually honest, she should really be actively seeking some way to prove her abilities beyond a level which can be replicated by a practised charlatan.

She could also do with cultivating a slightly thicker skin for criticism, if she’s so inclined to send her lawyers after any prominent figure who may be disinclined to accept everything she says at face value.

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The British Chiropractic Association happily promotes bogus treatments.

This morning, one of Simon Singh’s lawyers posted this notice:

The BCA today served a Notice of Discontinuance bringing to an end its ill-fated libel claim against Dr Simon Singh arising out of criticisms he made of its promotion of treatments for childhood ailments.

It’s over. He fucking did it.

Of course, it’s not over over. There’ll no doubt be a certain amount of wrangling about costs yet to get sorted out, but Simon should end up being largely reimbursed for his expenses. The best guess seems to be that he’ll still end up around £20,000 out of pocket, though, not to mention the loss of earnings over the past two years.

And, of course, he’s not the only one to have been screwed over by the sorry state of England’s libel laws. The need for reform is as pronounced as ever, and there’s no better time to join the 50,000 people who have already signed the petition to make it happen.

But, still. He fucking did it.

I’ll be directing you to other, more newsworthy news sources now.

Jack of Kent broke the news, to me at least, and highlights a comment about the relevant civil procedure regarding liability for costs. It bodes well for Simon. He also has some thoughts on the overall significance of this result.

Le Canard Noir has posted what looks like a great analysis at The Quackometer, which I plan to read in full when my brain’s working better.

Sense About Science rounds up some opinions well also.

BBC News got on this pretty quickly, with an interview with Simon. They also link to a statement from the BCA (PDF link), which doesn’t really say anything unexpected or do much to alter their position.

The Guardian are on this too, with some interesting remarks from his legal team. Padraig Ready also has things to say.

And, perhaps most wonderfully of all, the original article is back up on their website. They lost no time in returning it to full view. Published back in 2008’s Chiropractic Awareness Week, almost two years ago to the day, “Beware the spinal trap” is still worth another read. Well done, Simon.

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Men continue to just not get feminism. Not exactly news, but worth a regular reminder. Jezebel’s an awesome site, too. Also, I don’t really know what’s going on here, but I rofled. And holy shit their compilation of Tracy Morgan impressions is incredible.

– There’s a very interesting take on Simon Singh’s recent victory in his libel case up at Heresy Corner. “Right result, wrong reasons” sums up the Heresiarch’s opinion on the Court of Appeal ruling, and the way it’s reasoned through is seriously impressive. One I’m going to read again tomorrow and see if I can decide where my own point of view fits in. Also, Simon’s own comments in the Guardian are obviously worth reading, and contain the encouraging fact that, although he’s had to spend £200,000 of his own money just to get this far, the majority of that is likely to be covered by the BCA. Even so, the personal cost to him will be well into five figures, as well as much of the last two years of his life.

– I had wanted to comment on what seemed like a civil liberties fail, courtesy of the American Civil Liberties Union, but it turned out it was all over before I could get there. You remember that school that was sued by the ACLU, after it cancelled the prom in some hysterical panicky fit when a girl wanted to take another girl? Well, there were reports that the ACLU had rejected a $20,000 donation to sponsor an alternate prom, supposedly because it came from the American Humanist Association, and that “the majority of Mississippians tremble in terror at the word ‘atheist'”.

Which is unbelievably lame, given the kind of civil liberties the ACLU exists to stand up for in the first place, and the fact that some Mississippians’ tendencies to tremble in terror at words like “lesbian” is what sparked this all off in the first place. But by the time I’ve gotten around to writing it, it seems to have all been straightened out. The ACLU have apologised to the AHA for the misunderstanding, which seems to have been more to do with one ACLU “staff member” going off message than any intrinsic discrimination in the way the ACLU operates.

The Friendly Atheist’s updated post on this has all the latest, and some choice quotes from those involved. Stand down, angry mob.

Wait, no. Get up again. There’s another thing.

– Criticism of the Catholic Church for numerous charges of child rape and the systematic covering-up of child rape is reminiscent of anti-Semitism, says some utter prick called Raniero Cantalamessa (who some choose to address by the honorific ‘Reverend’).

The Vatican, somewhat uncharacteristically, have shown some sliver of self-awareness regarding their public image, and have been quick to point out that this guy doesn’t speak for them. I really don’t see any further need to go into why these comments are contemptible, and why the Church’s response is a lamentably self-serving and tiny fraction of what would be appropriate.

Gawker has a good list of Stuff Catholics Have So Far Blamed for the Church’s Pedophilia Scandal, though I’m pretty sure it’s a longer list than is covered here. (link via @jiminthemorning by way of @DrPetra.)

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The British Chiropractic Association happily promotes bogus treatments.

The angry godless diatribe has been postponed once again, in favour of an evening watching the first Steven Soderbergh movie I think I ever actually enjoyed, and finding time to write a quick update on Simon Singh’s libel case.

Last year, the preliminary ruling on meaning did not go well for Simon. Mr Justice Eady ruled that his article discussing chiropractic therapy, which was published in the Guardian, should be classified as a “statement” of fact, not an expression of opinion.

It was also determined that, by declaring that the British Chiropractic Association “happily promotes bogus treatments“, Simon was attributing deliberate dishonesty to the BCA. The position he would have to defend, if he continued to fight the libel charge, was that the BCA were knowingly and dishonestly peddling ineffective medical treatments, even though this wasn’t something he’d meant his article to accuse them of.

That there is “not a jot” of evidence supporting certain claims, such as those regarding spinal manipulation as an effective treatment for infant colic, is entirely supported by the scientific data. Since these are claims that the BCA publicly made, Simon wanted to contribute to this public conversation, and help add to the general public understanding as to the state of affairs regarding these claims.

He requested permission to appeal this ruling on the meaning of his words; was denied it; requested permission to appeal that; was granted it; won the right to appeal; and, this morning, the Court of Appeal overturned Justice Eady’s original ruling. Simon’s claims were ruled, by the Lord Chief Justice, to be “a statement of opinion, and one backed by reasons”, allowing him to pursue a defence of “fair comment”.

So, they still have to argue the actual, y’know, case. But the tide has turned dramatically on where the goalposts are placed. Today was one step of many on a long and costly road, but it was a fantastic result, worth celebrating and rallying around.

Here’s what some cleverer people have had to say about it.

Index on Censorship, who also have a statement from Simon himself. He points out:

It is ridiculous that it has cost £200,000 to establish the meaning of a handful of words… I am still angry that libel is so horrendously expensive. That is just one of the reasons why the battle for libel reform must continue.

Jack of Kent was there, and highlights some of the more interesting aspects of the ruling, ahead of a full report to come this weekend. In particular:

Scientific controversies must be settled by the methods of science rather than by the methods of litigation.


The JREF rather overreacted – the hard part is still very much to come, I feel. Certainly for libel reform more generally, and probably for Simon’s own case too. But they did bring balloons.

Speaking of which, sign the petition here if you haven’t already. We really need this. I’m going to bed. No connection between those two things. Just didn’t feel like starting a new paragraph.

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Between laziness and a trip into London to see another of Robin Ince’s variety shows at the Bloomsbury Theatre last night, I seem to have inadvertently taken a few days off from saying anything here. Let’s get back into it.

“Disposable sleeves” introduced for female Muslim medical staff, for whom baring their forearms is unacceptably immodest. Another of those stories that makes me wary of being part of the immediate, knee-jerk anti-Muslim backlash, but my sympathies are not strongly with the religious camp either. The part that actually matters is that medical staff wash their hands and observe other basic protocols to minimise infection rates. Nobody else is obliged to care about your own personal and irrelevant set of values, so if they compromise safety regulations then your values can fuck off. However, if this is something in which thousands of staff across the country can be relatively easily accommodated, and are capable of doing the jobs to the standards demanded of anyone else in their position, it’s likely harmless enough.

This is what’s wrong with Conservatives in America. Pretty much all of it, extensively researched and referenced. And like the author seems to, I really want to see right-wing politics actually start being about right-wing politics again, not the insane bullshit that’s come to represent it lately. A lot of the responses in the comments thread show a head-deskingly painful tendency to miss the point. There’s not much attempt to repudiate any of the points made; much more common is the argument (and I use that term in the Monty Python sense) that “oh, the Democrats do bad stuff too”. If you want to make a list as comprehensive as this one of examples of left-wing hypocrisy, hyperbole, and hatred, then go ahead – I’d be fascinated to read it. Doesn’t change anything about how irrational and douchetastic the representatives of the GOP have acted in recent years.

– A hearing this Thursday will determine the fate of Simon Singh’s appeal against the preliminary ruling on meaning, in his ongoing legal battle with the British Chiropractic Association. Actually quite nerve-wracking at this point, but there’s a real chance it may go fantastically well. Many of the usual bloggers and activists will be present at the judgment and reporting on the proceedings. I imagine I’ll be reporting on their reporting not too long after.

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Links! Mostly gathered from Twitter, I’ll be more careful to note down attributions in future.

Could talking to an apple help you become more beautiful? Sometimes the Daily Fail headlines really don’t need any elaboration. People are literally just making stuff up and getting it in the papers. My favourite leap of logic:

When you consider our bodies are approximately 60 per cent water, too, it begins to make sense that positive feelings are going to affect our mind and bodies.

Yes, I can totally see how it begins to make sense to go from the scientific fact to the wishy-washy newage half-idea in a way which somehow ties in to apples decaying faster if you say nasty things to them. It’s slightly worrying that many people really do think we live in a world that works like that.

Robin Ince writes about libel reform and why it’s still important, in the context of his friend Simon’s adventures with the spine-wizards, and the Big Libel Gig that I missed over the weekend. More and more examples of how the libel laws in this country are stifling free expression keep coming in; the Peter Wilmshurst situation is particularly dispiriting. You can and should still sign the petition to get things sorted.

– A Jobcentre have had to apologise to a Jedi for failing to respect his religious rights. Can I just call everyone idiots and move on, for this one?

– Oh yeah, and The Pope is coming. For an official four-day state visit to England and Scotland (suck it, Wales and Northern Ireland, you’re just not Catholic enough). They’re taking donations to fund the trip, even though A) it’s apparently being paid for by a large chunk of UK taxpayer money anyway, and 2) the Catholic Church is pretty fucking loaded.

And if that weren’t enough we’re now hearing that, once he’s here, he’s going to be offering our country moral guidance. Yes, my countryfolk and I are going to be given “guidance on the great moral issues of our day”, by the guy who’s spread disinformation about condoms and AIDS prevention, opposed gay rights and abortion, and covered up cases of child rape. Sorry to keep harping on about that last one but, well, some children got raped and some other people tried to hush it up, so excuse me for occasionally trying to bring it back to the fore.

The National Secular Society aren’t thrilled about this state of affairs, and nor are these guys.

– And on a lighter note, this has nothing to do with skepticism or science but is clearly the most awesome thing on the internet. Night night.

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Today seemed to rather get away with me, so there’s just time for a quick round-up of important Simon Singh news.

If you’re not familiar with the backstory, it shouldn’t be hard to catch up. He’s being sued and it’s all bollocks, basically.

Several of the big names in skepticism were in the court with him today, reporting continuously on the proceedings. The overall gist is that it went very well for Simon, with all three judges on the panel appearing sympathetic to the arguments of his team. Full write-ups have appeared from:

Crispian Jago
The Heresiarch
Jack of Kent
Padraig Ready for Index on Censorship

And, as well as supporting Simon’s personal plight, it’s all being used to help highlight the importance of libel reform in general. Even if you’re not from the UK, you can sign the petition to support that campaign.

So, this is one of my more coldly functional and less sparklingly entertaining days, blog-wise. I’m off to liven up my evening by eating some yoghurt now.

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