06 June 2009

British Chiropractors Association vs. Simon Singh

Today I received an email from Greg Parker (scientist, inventor, astronomer, university professor, businessman, not necessarily in that or any other particular order) urging me to sign a petition. "Rarely do I feel moved to support anything along these lines - but this one I feel is a very clear exception."

The petition is in support of Simon Singh, whom the British Chiropractors Association (BCA) sued for libel after he wrote a critical article ("Beware the spinal trap") in The Guardian in April last year.

I'll say, at this point, in case I seem to be undermining Singh's appeal, that I did sign the petition. Furthermore, I am only writing this post because I want to play a small part in further publicising that petition.

I am cautious about signing petitions; I want to know exactly what the background is, and to what exactly I am signing up. In this case, I wanted to know exactly what had been said in the original article. I am well disposed towards Simon Singh, and also disposed to support individuals sued by bodies, but this isn't about my personal sympathies.

If I sign just because I like someone (in this case someone I have never met), or on the basis of unverified third hand information, it doesn't really serve truth or justice in any way. It certainly isn't scientific, science being (and this is after all Singh's and his supporters' central point) evidence based. I frequently discover, on investigation of a petition that seems reasonable, that I really don't agree with it at all.

I don't believe that you should follow me in signing the petition until you, too, have satisfied yourself that you agree with it. Because it's a libel case, the original article is not easily available – it has been withdrawn from The Guardian's web site, in particular. I spent some considerable time schlepping fruitlessly around looking in obvious places for a copy. There are copies out there, though. Here are some links which work at the time of writing:

  1. An exact copy (apart from addition of an explanatory header) of the original Guardian web page, posted by Svetlana Pertsovich
  2. A copy of the text itself, at the Confessions of a quackbuster blog.
  3. An annotated version of the text at Gimpy's blog.

Be aware that those are all posted by supporters of Simon Singh. The web is even more able to mutate material than is print, as well as more able to protect against censorship. But, for myself, I'm satisfied that they are honest reproductions of the original.

I've more to say, but it's not perhaps appropriate to place it in this post. I urge you to read the article and then consider the petition.


Dr. C. said...

For many years, until recently, I thought that alternative medicine was a frequently silly, but probably benign practice. I thought that there might be some benefit in acupuncture, chiropracters, and herbal medicine (e.g. St. John's Wart) and that homeopathy was useless but benign. Then I started reading Science-Based Medicine and realized how insidious these groups are. Homeopathy has reared its head at our hospital and I hope to post on this shortly. It is totally bizarre.

cybermystic said...

Thank you for signing up Felix :) We will have to wait and see the outcome on this one. It certainly bothers me the way it has been dealt with so far.