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The Media Censorship United Kingdom Science

In Britain, Better Not Call It Bogus Science 754

Posted by timothy
from the oh-nothing-just-dowsing-for-magnetic-vitamins dept.
Geoffrey.landis writes 'In Britain, libel laws are censoring the ability of journalists to write stories about bogus science. Simon Singh, a Ph.D. physicist and author of several best-selling popular-science books, is currently being sued by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) for saying that there is no evidence for claims that visiting a chiropractor has health benefits. A year earlier, writer Ben Goldacre faced a libel suit for an article critical of Matthias Rath, who claimed that vitamin supplements can treat HIV and AIDS in place of conventional drugs like anti-retrovirals. In Britain, libel laws don't have any presumption of innocence — any statement made is assumed to be false unless you prove it's true. Journalists are running scared.'
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In Britain, Better Not Call It Bogus Science

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  • by RIAAShill (1599481) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @05:28PM (#29446607)

    Perhaps Singh should argue that in calling the treatments bogus, he could not have libeled the British Chiropractic Association because the BCA is not a treatment, it is an organization. Thus, Singh could only have libeled the BCA (i.e., the members of the BCA) if they did not, in fact, promote such treatements (bogus or otherwise). In other words, Singh can say that he attacked the message (the treatements), not the messenger (the BCA), and therefore cannot be found liable for libel against the BCA.

    Would the British courts buy it? I have no idea (INABL). But it seems like a reasonable distinction, one that fits well into wide-spread notions of civility as well as the vigorous public discourse required for the advancement of science.

    • by techno-vampire (666512) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @06:06PM (#29447097) Homepage
      It wouldn't matter. IANAL, but I've looked into this sort of thing. Here in the US, the truth is an absolute defense against slander or libel. That is, if you can prove that you told the truth, you've won your case because that's the way the law reads. In Britain, the truth is an affirmative defense. That means that you're allowed to prove that you told the truth, but it might not be enough to save you. British law considers statements to be slander or libel if they are harmful and/or defamatory regardless of the truth of the statements.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by EvanED (569694)

        In Britain, the truth is an affirmative defense. That means that you're allowed to prove that you told the truth, but it might not be enough to save you.

        I don't know whether the second part of that is true, but I do know that's not what an "affirmative defense" means. (Well, at least in the US. But the US gets its legal system largely from the UK, so I would be very surprised if it were different.) An affirmative defense is one the defendant has to raise himself.

        Take self defense. During an assault trial, t

        • by techno-vampire (666512) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @07:02PM (#29447831) Homepage
          I've checked further since posting that. In England, the truth is considered an allowable defense, and it is, in fact, an affirmative defense because the statements are presumed false until proven true. Even then, you can still lose your case because in England, libel and slander are about defamation, and if you've defamed somebody be telling the truth, it's still defamation.
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            I've checked further since posting that. In England, the truth is considered an allowable defense, and it is, in fact, an affirmative defense because the statements are presumed false until proven true. Even then, you can still lose your case because in England, libel and slander are about defamation, and if you've defamed somebody be telling the truth, it's still defamation.

            So, if I go around Britain saying that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are murdering, blood-drinking, child molesters, I could be found li

      • by xouumalperxe (815707) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @06:44PM (#29447647)

        You got it wrong. In the US, it suffices that you believe your statements to be true. In the UK, belief isn't enough, you need to prove that what you said is actually true (it's this shift of burden of proof that characterizes affirmative defence, afaik).

        For example, if I were to say "Techno-vampire goes out to bars dressed in drag", you could sue me for slander. In the US, if I could make a reasonable argument that I believed you to be a drag queen, I'd be off the hook. In the UK, actual proof that you had been in a bar while dressing in drag would be needed to successfully defend myself.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          Not so! As I've pointed out several times, if your claim defames me, it doesn't matter (in an English court) that it's true because the truth isn't, and never has been an absolute defense there.
          • by julesh (229690) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @01:49AM (#29450809)

            Not so! As I've pointed out several times, if your claim defames me, it doesn't matter (in an English court) that it's true because the truth isn't, and never has been an absolute defense there.

            Yes, you've pointed it out several times. But, as the GP was saying, you're wrong. The truth is an absolute defence here; you were, however, correct in your OP when you said it is an affirmative defence, i.e. you have to prove it.

            See this useful summary [guardian.co.uk]. Relevant quote: "There are defences in law for libel. The publisher could prove the statement to be true [...]".

            In your original post, you say this:

            It wouldn't matter. IANAL, but I've looked into this sort of thing. Here in the US, the truth is an absolute defense against slander or libel. That is, if you can prove that you told the truth, you've won your case because that's the way the law reads. In Britain, the truth is an affirmative defense.

            This is all correct.

            That means that you're allowed to prove that you told the truth, but it might not be enough to save you. British law considers statements to be slander or libel if they are harmful and/or defamatory regardless of the truth of the statements.

            But these two sentences are wrong. I believe you misunderstand what an affirmative defence is.

          • by Chrisq (894406) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @04:04AM (#29451297)

            Not so! As I've pointed out several times, if your claim defames me, it doesn't matter (in an English court) that it's true because the truth isn't, and never has been an absolute defense there. It is not true.

            One counter-reference [swarb.co.uk]

            Truth (justification) is a complete defence in defamation

            Or from Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]:

            English law allows actions for libel to be brought in the High Court for any published statements which are alleged to defame a named or identifiable individual or individuals in a manner which causes them loss in their trade or profession, or causes a reasonable person to think worse of him, her or them. Allowable defenses are justification (the truth of the statement), fair comment (whether the statement was a view that a reasonable person could have held), and privilege (whether the statements were made in Parliament or in court, or whether they were fair reports of allegations in the public interest). An offer of amends is a barrier to litigation. A defamatory statement is presumed to be false unless the defendant can prove its truth. Furthermore, to collect compensatory damages, a public official or public figure must prove actual malice (knowing falsity or reckless disregard for the truth). A private individual must only prove negligence (not using due care) to collect compensatory damages. In order to collect punitive damages, all individuals must prove actual malice.

            Now as I'm English I could sue you for saying that ;-)

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by c6gunner (950153)

      That wouldn't work because the courts are already against him on the definition of the word "bogus". He argued that by "bogus" he simply meant that the treatment is ineffective. The courts interpret it as meaning that the BCA is deliberately defrauding people. The first thing Singh did was try and get a higher court to accept his definition; unfortunately, last i heard, his petition had failed.

      Of course, it shouldn't really matter which definition you go by - the BCA certainly does encourage ineffective

  • Well Then (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @05:29PM (#29446621) Journal

    Well, since I'm not living in a country where kooks and liars are given the benefit of the doubt, let me say quite publicly that chiropractors are frauds, along with naturopaths, healing touch types and all the other absurd lying pieces of worthless trash out there who profit off of the superstition and naivety of those with more money than brains.

    • Re:Well Then (Score:4, Informative)

      by radish (98371) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @05:53PM (#29446941) Homepage

      20 years ago I was taking a lot of exams and kept getting really serious neck and head pains when I looked down at the desk. Doctor offered painkillers which worked a little but left me too drowsy to take the exams. He suggested a chiropractor, I went for a single 1 hour session and was cured. I don't have any clue what the guy did, and I'm sure it doesn't work for everyone, but it fixed me. YMMV etc.

      • Re:Well Then (Score:4, Insightful)

        by MightyMartian (840721) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @05:59PM (#29447007) Journal

        Why do people keep thinking anecdotal evidence has any particular value at all? Science long ago abandoned the idea that reliable and useful data could be gained by "After I did X, Y happened".

        • Re:Well Then (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @06:05PM (#29447095)

          Why do people keep thinking anecdotal evidence has any particular value at all? Science long ago abandoned the idea that reliable and useful data could be gained by "After I did X, Y happened".

          People think it because it often does. Survival of this species has partially depended upon the ability to reocgnize patterns and make decisions with limited information.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Obfuscant (592200)
          Science long ago abandoned the idea that reliable and useful data could be gained by "After I did X, Y happened"

          Really? You mean like "after the development of the automobile, the global climate started getting warmer"? Like "after I crossed one pea having quality X with another pea having quality Y, a pea with both X and Y was produced"? Like "after I mixed solution A with solution B, a yellow precipitate formed"? Like "after I dropped a small marble and a large rock from the balcony of this tilting buil

          • Re:Well Then (Score:4, Insightful)

            by blueg3 (192743) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @06:20PM (#29447305)

            That's correct -- all of those are insufficient to show causality. That's why all of the scientific theories you refer to were confirmed by substantially more thorough experimentation than you suggest.

            If Y follows X, it suggests that properly investigating the possibility that X causes Y would be a worthwhile endeavour, nothing more.

            In short, you just have a poor understanding of how science is done.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Obfuscant (592200)
              That's correct -- all of those are insufficient to show causality.

              The statement was not about causality, the statement I replied to was "Science long ago abandoned the idea that reliable and useful data could be gained by "After I did X, Y happened"". There is a big difference between "proving causality" and "reliable and useful data".

              In fact, each of the examples of "I did X and Y happened" are part of "science". Mendel's genetic experiments, analytical chemistry, Galileo and gravity, experimental subat

        • Re:Well Then (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Artraze (600366) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @06:22PM (#29447323)

          > Why do people keep thinking anecdotal evidence has any particular value at all?

          Because most people don't have the time/money/resources to scientifically verify everything.

          > Science long ago abandoned the idea that reliable and useful data could be gained by "After I did X, Y happened".

          Really? Because, last I checked, that's called an "experiment". You may have heard of them, they are the basis of the scientific method, and thus, science.

          Science is based on observation. The only difference between anecdotal evidence and scientific evidence is that anecdotal evidence is not as rigorously controlled and analyzed. In particular, not all of the variables involved in the occurrence of event Y are accounted for, so X does not necessarily effect Y. However, a sufficiently diverse collection of anecdotal evidence can be quite reliable. The more cases there are, the fewer other statistically meaningful (non-X) causes of Y. It doesn't replace a proper scientific study, but shouldn't be completely ignored either.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Grishnakh (216268)

            Science is based on observation. The only difference between anecdotal evidence and scientific evidence is that anecdotal evidence is not as rigorously controlled and analyzed. In particular, not all of the variables involved in the occurrence of event Y are accounted for, so X does not necessarily effect Y. However, a sufficiently diverse collection of anecdotal evidence can be quite reliable. The more cases there are, the fewer other statistically meaningful (non-X) causes of Y. It doesn't replace a prope

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by westlake (615356)

          Science long ago abandoned the idea that reliable and useful data could be gained by "After I did X, Y happened".

          But that is where you begin. There is no other place to start.

          If you kick a dog and it bites hard into your leg - perhaps you have learned something significant and useful.

        • Re:Well Then (Score:5, Insightful)

          by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @07:04PM (#29447855) Journal

          Obligatory XKCD [xkcd.com].

          Indeed, all science is derived from inductive reasoning, which is exactly "After I did X, Y happened." It just tends to get more accurate when you do it a bunch more times, and try to control other variables.

          It's not really very hard to imagine a chiropractor working for some actual, physical, skeletal/muscular issues. Chiropractic is far from entirely bullshit. It's just that throughout its history, it's also been plagued by the stupid idea that chiropractic can do anything -- all the way back to the anecdotal story of Palmer curing someone's deafness by adjusting their back.

          It's kind of like science fiction writers explaining anything they want with "nanotech" or "quantum mechanics" or whatever the Phlebotinum [tvtropes.org] of the day is. It's clearly absurd, and could be considered pseudoscience if anyone took it seriously (which is why it's science fiction), but quantum physics is real, hard science, and we are actually trying to build some nanotech.

          Or, as Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] puts it:

          Serious research to test chiropractic theories did not begin until the 1970s, and is continuing to be hampered by what are characterized as antiscientific and pseudoscientific ideas that sustained the profession in its long battle with organized medicine.

          I find GP's story entirely plausible, and it's easy to imagine how that might be true. Now, if he said that chiropractic cured deafness, or gave him the ability to walk, or anything like that, I'd be much more cautious...

          • Re:Well Then (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Techman83 (949264) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @11:52PM (#29450195)
            Personally I use Chiropractics, and because of a birth defect, I get pretty extreme pain when I'm out of alignment. You do get some bad eggs (like any industry, bad doctors, bad mechanics etc etc) but the one I see completed a full examination, including X-rays. He was able to point out and it was very obvious why I was in pain. Prior to an adjustment (especially if I have left it too long), I'm looking at the world on an angle, one shoulder is lower than the other, I'm favouring my left leg, I feel depressed for no apparent reason (that's when I've left it far too long), I have interrupted sleep, I'm irritable.. I could go on, but at the end of the day, when I'm back in alignment, my mood changes, I'm not in pain and generally go back to being my happy go lucky usual self.

            I couldn't give a rats arse about the science, it works for me. But I have been priviledged enough to have benefited from the knowledge divulged from my father's Chrio back home and you know what, a lot of it makes sense. At the end of the day, the human body is a very complex machine. If your back is out of alignment and you go through life with undue pressure on certain nerves because of the misalignment, one would imagine that the signals could be interrupted and cause problems. Now I'm not going to say that it's the answer for anyone, I'm just going to say it works for me and it's a whole lot more then a bit of "bone crunching".
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Cyberax (705495)

        Chiropractice is just a massage. It can have beneficial effects if you have muscle pain or joint pain. Has nothing to do with subluxations, of course.

        I had a horrible back pain once (strained a muscle). It was cured after two sessions of massage (with a professional massager).

      • Re:Well Then (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @08:42PM (#29448797) Homepage Journal

        My own anecdote:

        I was helping a friend move, and wrenched my lower back carrying an old, heavy washing machine. I went through hell for about 3 months afterward. I'm not talking about "my back got stiff", or "I had to take 3 Advil instead of 2!" I'm talking about going to sleep at 10PM on a cocktail of naproxen, Flexeril, and codeine, then waking up at 2AM sobbing in agony as someone shoved a rusty icepick into my spine and pried it open.

        I saw my family doctor, an osteopath, and two orthopedic surgeons. They were all very nice and sympathetic, but their treatments never got me more than 4 hours of sleep. By the end of the 3 months, I understood why people kill themselves to escape the pain.

        My dad suggested that I go to his chiropractor. Dad was a healthy skeptic, but he'd had good luck with the guy and argued that in the worst case I'd be out $20. At that point, I'd have tried just about anything. I went to Dr. Palmer (coincidental; no relation to the quack) and he ran one of those debunked spinal alignment meter things up my back. I rolled my eyes when he told me he found the problem, then told me to relax so he could pop my back.

        I don't remember if I screamed or not, but I might've.

        Within 20 minutes, the rusty icepick had turned into a toothpick. That night, I got 12 hours of uninterrupted, drug-free sleep, and by the next morning I was completely pain free.

        Go ahead and write that off with a smug "correlation isn't causation!" I know that. I also know that one nearly-retired chiropractor probably saved me from killing myself with one single $20 adjustment. Again, if I wasn't clear, this wasn't some subjective case of "it kind of hurts when I do this", but a grown man waking up crying tears of pain after a few hours of tortured sleep. Say what you will about chiropractors in general, but that one specific practitioner knew exactly how to fix what was wrong with me when a lot of other doctors had failed.

        I love traditional medicine. I'm an ex-Navy surgery tech, and my wife's a surgeon. My college degrees are in science and I'm about as skeptical of pseudoscience as you can get. The scientist in me tells the naysayers to kiss my butt, because my empirical data from the outcome of that experiment holds more weight with me than the sophistic claims that it couldn't possibly have worked.

        No, chiropractors can't cure deafness or appendicitis or pneumonia, and the practitioners who claim otherwise are unmitigated quacks. Still, I'd be the first to testify that at least some of them are very skilled in treating certain very specific musculoskeletal conditions.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DragonWriter (970822)

      Well, since I'm not living in a country where kooks and liars are given the benefit of the doubt,

      Not possible if you have libel laws at all. With such laws, either:
      1) People characterized as kooks and liars accurately are given the benefit of the doubt when they sue for libel (British system), or
      2) Kooks and liars whose lying consists of defamatory lying about others are given the benefit of the doubt when they are sued for libel (American system).

      The burden of proof has to be somewhere, and whichever side

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Blakey Rat (99501)

      I have a good friend who is a licensed Chiropractor, and also licensed as a family-practice M.D. He fully understands the limitations of Chiropractic techniques and won't hesitate to advise patients go to a medical specialist for any condition he might detect. Additionally, he would never make any claims he knows to be false, for example, that chiropractic adjustments can help conditions like ulcers, or whatever other ridiculous things fraud Chiropractors claim. He advises companies on ergonomics, and frequ

  • Yeah, everyone in the world knows their legal system is busted. Why do they even have free speech, if they can silence people with lawsuits?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I'm not saying out libel system is perfect but before i take shit like this from an American can you please look at which country.
      1) has news full of rampant lies
      2) has a population where 40-45% don't believe in evolution and believe the world was created in its current form

      Oh right its the US, but yeah sure, OUR legal system is busted and cripples science journalism! You still have people on your news claiming provably false [politifact.com] things, but yeah WE are the ones with the libel problem!

  • by leromarinvit (1462031) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @05:31PM (#29446649)

    In Britain, libel laws don't have any presumption of innocence

    Isn't Britain otherwise pretty anal about the presumption of innocence, to the point that accusations sometimes can't be even talked about in the press? Why the huge difference for libel?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Roger W Moore (538166)

      Why the huge difference for libel?

      There is not a "huge difference". IANAL but my understanding is that the plaintiff first has to prove that they have been damaged (otherwise there is no libel) but that a defence against this is that it is the truth. It is hard to argue that it is not a writer's responsibility to ensure that what they write is the truth if they are passing it off as fact. If they are not sure that they can prove it then they can always qualify statements with things like: "it is my opinion that this is bogus science". If i

  • by jonbryce (703250) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @05:31PM (#29446651) Homepage

    McDonalds used to sue people who claimed that their food wasn't very healthy, until the McLibel two took them one, and won on most of the points. McDonalds won on a few minor points but decided not to enforce the judgement as that would just give them even worse publicity.

  • by fantomas (94850) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @05:34PM (#29446685)

    Coincidently, Ben Goldacre was presenting at the Royal Institution today on "Bad Science" - poor media reporting of science. You can view the stream from tomorrow afternoon at The Times Higher Education website: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/webcast.html [timeshighe...tion.co.uk] . Event details for the RI debate here: http://www.rigb.org/contentControl?action=displayEvent&id=948 [rigb.org]

    • by QX-Mat (460729)

      I thoroughly recommend his book, Bad Science, availible for less £5 on some sites.

  • a Chiropractor is just a masseuse with a diploma and an ego
  • This seems to be far outdated. Why don't the journalists and media companies simply lobby the legislature to pass a law declaring that the burden of evidence in libel and slander cases falls on the accuser?

    It's clearly the more just method, and it works surprisingly well in the US. It's not like there would be popular opposition to such a change. And anybody who complains is just a champagne-sipping bum, anyway!

  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @05:36PM (#29446717) Homepage
    This isn't a problem that is new for Great Britain nor is it limited to journalists. Indeed, the problem has gotten to be so bad that it has given rise to so called "libel tourism" where people who want to sue for libel go out of their way to find some connection, no matter how tenuous to Great Britain, so that they can justify suing in British courts (especially English or Welsh courts. Scotland and N. Ireland are slightly more sane about these things). See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libel_tourism [wikipedia.org]. This is having serious chilling effects on what is even published in the United States and other places far away from Britain.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    where there is freedom and democracy

    Oh wait....

    Pax,
    Philboyd Studge

  • I wonder if this (legal action from some party) is why publications usually state something along the lines of "However, X has not been shown to have any Y benefits in independent studies", rather than saying "X doesn't do Y".

    I can understand why scientific publications don't; they're scientific, after all.. maybe the studies done had flaws, or were inconclusive, etc. But popular media does the same thing.

  • I watched a riveting documentary called McLibel a few weeks ago about activists who fought a McDonalds libel lawsuit to quell their inflammatory leaflet. Next to the harassment of photographers and the public security cameras it's yet another example of Britain's hostility toward those who exercise their individual rights.

    Take the time to watch this important and humble film. [google.com] It shows how capitalism unabashedly exploits plaintiff-friendly British laws to its own ends.

  • Bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sloppy (14984) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @05:43PM (#29446781) Homepage Journal

    Penn and Teller [wikipedia.org] solved this by calling people assholes (not liars or scammers) and talking about their bullshit (not lies and scams). "Bullshit" is sufficiently (at least in US) vague and opinionated. So: call it bullshit science, written by asshole scientists.

    • by Stormie (708)
      I believe the other favoured epithet was "litigious motherfuckers". A title which the British Chiropractic Association have clearly earned through this affair.
  • by smellsofbikes (890263) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @05:48PM (#29446855) Journal
    If I were to write that Sean Connery kicks cats, that'd be libel. But if Sean Connery were to write a book about how kicking cats cures baldness, and I were to write that kicking cats *doesn't* cure baldness and anyone who says it does is a swindler, that can't be libel, can it? I can see how writing that Sean Connery is a swindler for making the claim, would be libel. But I wonder if it takes defaming a specific person to get a libel charge to stick, or if merely defaming an idea that a person is identified with is sufficient cause for a libel suit to be likely successful.
  • by 0racle (667029) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @05:49PM (#29446873)
    So only write about real science. Don't give the snake oil salesmen any time or print.
  • by Renevith (1556657) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @06:00PM (#29447025)

    "[...] is currently being sued by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) for saying that there is no evidence for claims that visiting a chiropractor has health benefits."

    That alone is not why Mr. Singh is being sued. The issue is specifically driven by his use of the word "bogus." The judge has taken it to mean "consciously dishonest." Not just peddling an ineffective treatment, but knowing that it's ineffective and still claiming otherwise. If Singh just claimed it was an ineffective treatment, he would not be criticizing the BCA directly, so it wouldn't be actionable... However, the judge and the BCA took him to be saying that the BCA are knowingly and intentionally dishonest in their promotion of the treatment.

    I wouldn't think to interpret "bogus" in this way, but that seems to be the original meaning. I hope the judge realizes Singh was using it in a more modern sense, but if it's interpreted as the BCA claims, then it certainly explains how far this lawsuit has gone, and invalidates many of the comments here so far including the inflammatory summary. Singh can criticize the effectiveness of the treatments to his heart's content, as long as he doesn't accuse the BCA of fraud! You can read some more linguistic analysis of this lawsuit and the evolving meaning of "bogus" over at the Language Log [upenn.edu].

  • by oneandoneis2 (777721) * on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @06:08PM (#29447131) Homepage

    Having RTFA, I can't help but consider it to be sadly biased.

    e.g. One of the criticisms it makes is "in English libel cases, the burden of proof is effectively on the defendant. In other words, the defamatory statement is presumed to be false unless the defendant can prove it is true."

    Maybe I missed something. Isn't this just a perfectly sensible extension of "innocent until proven guilty"? If I call you a thief and you sue me for libel, why should the burden of proof be on *you*, exactly?

    What's more, it makes it sound like Singh has made the claim that chiropractors are completely bogus and can't help you with anything. When in fact, what they quote is that he argues there's no evidence to back up claims that getting your bones cracked can help with things like ear infections. Well, that's fair enough. I've been a chiropractor a few times for joint pain. They helped. Would I go to one for ear infections? Like hell would I.

    In Britain, if you say "This person is a fake", you have to be able to prove it or you're liable for libel. If you say "I believe this person is a fake", that's a statement of opinion and not fact, and is held to a less rigorous standard. What, exactly, is wrong with this?

    If this NY times article is an example of how good the journalism is outside of the UK, I'll stick to the current 'scared British journalists', thanks.

  • The minister for science and innovation, Lord Paul Drayson, has praised the high standards of science journalism [today.com] at the sixth World Conference of Science Journalists in London yesterday. About 900 delegates attended the conference to congratulate each other on the remarkable quality of their press release transcription skills.

    "The public relies on dependable science journalism to understand the forces shaping the modern world," said Lord Drayson. "Your work covering the things that really matter, such as pseudo-evolutionary explanations of current fashion trends, what will give us cancer this week, scaring the crap out of people over the MMR vaccine so their kids die of birth defects from measles instead and why fellatio is required for female health helps people make important choices about their lives and builds a vital gap between scientists and the public. I mean bridge."

    He dismissed claims that typical science reporting primarily results in sensationalist and misleading headlines. "I wish more journalists would follow your example. The ones covering MPs' expenses certainly should have been working the way you do."

    The speech was delivered to a backdrop of A-level students in lab coats. And bikinis.

    Professor Gene Hunt of the University of Metro calculated that Lord Drayson's speech could power all of Britain for six months purely from harnessing the steam coming out of Ben Goldacreâ(TM)s ears.

  • Premature judgement (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AlecC (512609) <aleccawley@gmail.com> on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @06:27PM (#29447405)

    Note that Goldacre won against Rust. To me, and to most of /., I am sure that the case is obvious. But anybody is entitled to their day in court: you sould not be able to say that someone's claim is "obviously" false, no matter how much you respect the person being claimed against, as I respect Goldacre.

    And the Singh/Chiropractors case is still in the courts: the chiropractors have not won.

    I am afraid this is an example of the cost of Free Speech: the Black hats have as much freedom as the White Hats - and so it must be.

    The case here is for a common defence fund for the White Hats. Private Eye, when it was fighting Sir James Goldsmith, had such a fund, known as the Goldenballs fund. Lots of people chucked in a tenner or so to support the defence costs of the good guys. And if anybody is running such a fund for Singh, or for any future complants against Goldacre, I will chip in. It would be good if their attackers knew that the defence was well funded.

All the evidence concerning the universe has not yet been collected, so there's still hope.

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