“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 British Chiropractic Association has consistently argued that Singh's use of the word "bogus" meant that he was accusing them of knowingly lying when they claim they can cure children of various diseases by fondling them, and that he must prove the truth of that claim under England's idiotic rule that the defendant must prove the truth of the challenged statement. Appallingly, they prevailed on that view in the trial court. Fortunately the Court of Appeal was more sensible:
he written judgment said that the original decision threatened to silence scientists or science journalists wishing to question claims made by companies or organisations. It said: “This litigation has almost certainly had a chilling effect on public debate which might otherwise have assisted potential patients to make informed choices about the possible use of chiropractic.”
Asking judges to rule on matters of scientific controversy would be to “invite the court to become an Orwellian ministry of truth”, the judgment said.
Someone more familiar with English law can correct me, but it's my understanding that even under England's loser pays system, the BCA will not have to pay Singh's very substantial attorneys fees after abandoning its case. In that sense Singh's victory is Pyrrhic. The British Chiropractor's Association has successfully established that even when the legal system ultimately upholds your right to call a quack a quack, ultimately the quacks and their interest groups can inflict vast litigation expenses on you.
So, if we care about the freedom of scientific dialogue, how can we fight back against the thuggish quacks like the BCA? Well, we can fight back by writing and talking about incidents like this, and by pointing out that any "scientific" or "medical" entity that sues critics is inherently suspect and cannot be trusted. When the BCA is firmly and permanently associated in the public mind with censorious attacks on its critics, perhaps the public will be less likely to accept its junk science without critical judgment. Plus, we can urge our friends in England to agitate for reform of defamation law.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
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