My Oxford studies might still be kicking my ass and making me break all my blogging promises but I simply cannot let last weeks development in the Simon Singh case past without comment.
Simon Singh finally won his appeal!
Detailed analysis of the victory and what it means, as always, is available from Jack-of-Kent who has provided four excellent articles on the decision (one, two, three and four). Jack’s dependable analysis has also been joined on this occasion by a raft of coverage in the mainstream media, with articles and news segments appearing on practically every notable UK news source (a partial roundup is available here).
The impact of the coverage has particularly struck me, in that I have had friends and family who previously knew nothing about the case (and thus suffered at the hands of my diatribes), contacting me to ask if I saw the decision on the news. The coverage has also typically included discussion of the wider campaign for reform of the libel laws and has therefore increased the publicity for this excellent cause too!
Thanks to investigative blogger gimpy I was made aware of an article published in an alternative medical journal a few days back by Lionel R. Milgrom, a prominent British homeopath. Gimpy will be producing a more detailed analysis 0f the lunacy in this article and the failures it represents in the (near?) future and when he does I’ll post a link to it (here it is) but until then I couldn’t let the sheer forehead slapping stupidity of this article pass without offering some comment.
I first wrote about Simon Singh’s legal woes with the BCA back on the 30th March 2009. It’s now coming up to seven months later and with Simon we’ve been through one preliminary hearing, one refused written application for permission to appeal and now one ACCEPTED oral application for permission to appeal. The fact that it has taken over seven months just to get to a point where Simon has gained permission to question the validity of Eady’s (bogus) interpretation of the meaning of his article is a testament to just how time consuming and complex legal cases, and libel cases in particular, can be.
However, before slipping right back into depression over the UK’s libel law and their plentiful, and all too apparent, problems I think it is worth celebrating the fact that a judge, in this case Lord Justice Laws (what a name!), seemed in making his judgement to take due account of all the arguments and evidence that Eady so casually dismissed as irrelevant. At present it seems that the actual judgement has not been published, or if it has then it has not yet been presented and explained in detail to us non-law folk by the estimable Jack-of-Kent, however by all anecdotal accounts it seems that the judge considered a) the relevance of the surrounding paragraphs- the all important context and b) how it would be all but impossible for Simon to know or prove that an entire organisation was being deliberately dishonest.
This is just one judges opinion but I think it is an excellent illustration of the value of persistence and a clear indication that Eady’s interpretation of the meaning is not necessarily an interpretation that a different judge would have made. This is important because and vindicates the position that the case is worth pursuing not just for its symbolic value. Simon may still win and we may still see a court case that addresses the alleged ‘plethora’ of evidence for the BCA’s claims.
A good idea...
I’m definitely flogging a dead horse at this stage but I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention that Simon Singh has announced that he will be appealing the horrendous decision from the preliminary hearing of his court case against the British Chiropractic Association.
This great news in itself but that’s not all…
Yesterday, also saw the launching of an extensive and deeply impressive support campaign lead by the UK charity Sense About Science. The campaign is going under the straightforward title of ‘Keep Libel Laws out of Science’ and included the unveiling of a petition asking for exactly what the title suggests. The petition when unveiled already included an incredible list of signatories including university professors, renowned journalists, world famous comedians and yes even skeptical bloggers.
To drop a few names for anyone who hasn’t had a look: Richard Dawkins, Alan Sokal, David King, Stephen Fry, Dara O Brian, Derren Brown, Ben Goldacre, Alok Jha, Michael Shermer, Steven Novella, James Randi, Phil Plait, Nick Cohen, Ricky Gervais, Tim Minchin, David Starkey, Jonathan Ross and David Allen Green have all signed their support (and also all happen to be folks whose work I admire!). There are also many more impressive signatories and I encourage everyone to have a look and then provide their own signature which can all be done from here.
A big turnout made for a bit of a tight squeeze!
Now that the very special mental fog that can only be created by too many pints of Guinness the night before has begun to lift I thought I’d write a review/summary of the support meeting for Simon Singh held yesterday in the Penderel Oak bar.
I imagine everyone reading this will already be all too aware of the background of this event but just in case here’s a very short summary of events:
Over a year ago a British science writer called Simon Singh wrote a critical article for the Guardian about chiropractic treatments. The British Chiropractic Association didn’t like what it said and so sued him for libel. A year later (last week) Simon received a disastrous decision at a preliminary hearing in which the judge decided that his article meant something he never intended and could not possibly defend in court. Having effectively lost the case before it began he was thus left with the choice to settle or to appeal the decision and try and get the judge’s decision overturned. Last night was an event to show support for Simon and to get an update about what he plans to do.
There are a tonne of sources that go into the case in much greater detail and the post just before this provides a rather substantial list of them so if the above summary doesn’t satisfy then go read some of them!
Now, onto the actual event. (more…)