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: Should libel law be allowed to stifle scientific debate?
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Jun 5th 2009
If I am critical of an individual or organisation's lack of evidence-base for their (say) choice of medical treatments, should it be valid that my scepticism is countered by resort to massively financially-punitive libel laws?
Surely this is a bullying tactic, not a rational discussion about the quality and nature of evidence for particular interventions, and serves to lower the quality of healthy and intellectual freedom for everyone?
Ever since the enlightenment healthcare has benefitted from evidence-based medicine gradually learning more and more about diseases and has found cures that in previous centuries were only dreamed of. To deny the process of scepticism and rigorous unbiased testing of evidence via resort to libel laws is to my mind a denial of everything that brings progress in medicine - progress is made by discovery of the new and rejection of the unworkable, as measured by the incorruptible arbiter, nature itself. And this progress needs lots of healthy (and at times vociferous) debate. What it does not need is the threat of legal action to stifle it.
Jun 12th 2009
sorry, but what exactly does this have to do with homeopathy or the BHA?
Jun 12th 2009
Not so much with the BHA but look at this link
I can see where NotFooled is coming from to be fair
Jun 13th 2009
Hi Notfooled, I agree with Larus - this doesn't really have anything to do with either homeopathy or the BHA.
Having said that, Simon Singh is of course a strong critic of homeopathy also. Whilst I am in favour of free speech, tolerance and an open minded, critical appraisal of healthcare interventions, I think there is a difference bewteen free speech and defamation.
Although homeopathic doctors have been fasely accused, maligned and criticised, they have yet to take legal action against anyone, so I don't really see the relevance of this question to either homeopathy or the BHA.
It is interesting that those who advocate an open minded, rational discussion about these issues, can often be the most closed minded and irrational when they are asked to consider homeopathy! Many critics of homeopathy are so closed minded, they will not even tolerate the thought that homeopathy may be an effective healthcare intervention! Hypocrisy at its worst.
Jun 13th 2009
"sorry, but what exactly does this have to do with homeopathy or the BHA?"
"this doesn't really have anything to do with either homeopathy or the BHA."
Well... homeopaths, homeopathy organisations, and homeopathy researchers such as George Lewith have been defending the BCA and Lewith has claimed (incorrectly) that Alt Med practitioners prior to the BCA have not threatened critics with law suits (forgetting that blogger Le Canard Noir was threatened with legal action by the Society of Homeopaths). While I think you are both incorrect to state that this has nothing to do with homeopathy, I think you may be correct that this has little or nothing to do with the BHA specifically - as far as I'm aware, the BHA haven't commented on the Singh case or threatened annybody with libel action.
"Although homeopathic doctors have been fasely accused, maligned and criticised, they have yet to take legal action against anyone, so I don't really see the relevance of this question to either homeopathy or the BHA."
The SoH *have* threatened legal action though. I do see the relevance of this to homeopathy in general if not the BHA in particular.
"It is interesting that those who advocate an open minded, rational discussion about these issues, can often be the most closed minded and irrational when they are asked to consider homeopathy! Many critics of homeopathy are so closed minded, they will not even tolerate the thought that homeopathy may be an effective healthcare intervention! Hypocrisy at its worst."
I'm not sure what, in the above comments, you find closed-minded, irrational, or hypocritical. Would you care to expand on this point and point out where, specifically, other commenters have been closed-minded, irrational, or hypocritical?
Lewith's Alternative Memory: http://apgaylard.wordpress.com/2009/06/05/alternative-memory/
Homeopaths against Singh: http://gimpyblog.wordpress.com/2009/06/02/homeopaths-organise-mass-letter-writing-campaign-against-simon-singh-and-applaud-bca/
Jun 14th 2009
Jdc325 - I cannot speak for George Lewith, the Society of Homeopaths, Homeopathy Worked For Me, or any of the other homeopathy organisations, only the BHA/Faculty of Homeopathy. To my knowledge, they have not got involved in this issue at all, hence my original point.
"...point out where, specifically, other commenters have been closed-minded, irrational, or hypocritical?"
I am not referring to this particular discussion, Jdc325 - I am speaking more generally. I am reluctant to spend time pointing out the obvious, however do you think that the various "high profile" critics of homeopathy, one of whom has been mentioned already are being open-minded or rational towards homeopathy? They display an arrogant, closed minded attitude and ridicule and rubbish the discipline of homeopathy. Some display a complete lack of professionalism and disrespect for their medical colleagues.
With regard to hypocrisy, I think for anyone to advocate free speech and openness, but then to stifle and suffocate that free speech when the homeopaths try to speak, live and practice is indeeed hypocrisy. Another example is the "bad science" allegations - the critics accuse the homeopaths of this, yet isn't it this lack of openness and scientific enquiry a perfect example of such? Would medical science have made all the discoveries which it has made, with such a closed minded approach to life?
Although it may be difficult for many to accept, there are other therapeutic approaches outwith the conventional medical paradigm and there is evidence which confirms the effectiveness of homeopathy. The scientific, open-minded approach is not to say "it can't work, therefore it mustn't work", but rather to accept the evidence which exists so far, to scientifically explore the issue, to conduct further research and to try to elucidate the exact mechanism of action whereby homeopathic medicines exert their positive effect.
Jun 17th 2009
Re the Singh case: it was tragically inevitable that after years of goading and insults in print that some one in the Complementary Medicine world was going to take someone like Singh to court. But that was the whole point. That is the strategy. Its a depressingly familiar school-child prank: you provoke some poor soul into lashing out and then complain loudly to teacher.
Simon Singh could so easily have made the same points in less inflammatory language and the case would never have been brought against him. And in my view the Chiropractors should risen above it and simply challenged him on the facts.
The idea that this prevents the calm and considered discussion of evidence is facile.
Jun 18th 2009
I would not call Singh's comments "childlike goading" but am prepared to accept that in any debate views often become polarised to the detriment of an efficient solution. I believe both skeptics like myself (sorry for the American spelling - it has become a habit recently!) and CAM practioners have been guilty of this. I will endeavour to ameliorate these tendencies in myself while I am on these boards
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