I've split what was one post with two subjects... into two separate posts. Revisionism! Yes. That's right. Good isn't it? Only I wasn't expecting it to garner quite so much attention. But if people are linking to this because of what I've written about the Simon Singh case, I figured it would be easier if that was all they found when they got here.
So... here's that bit:
There's a science writer. His name is Simon Singh. He writes great books about science (one of which inspired a stand-up routine of mine a while back) and writes articles that I think successfully convey the beauty of science and maths to people whether or not they have a sciencey background. I like Simon Singh. He's a good man.
Now... I'm going to tread as carefully as I can here because I'm discussing a legal case. Now, while chiropractors can help with some problems there is, as far as I'm aware, no medical evidence to suggest that they can deal with certain other things... like children suffering from colic or asthma. But the British Chiropractic Association were (and might still be) making claims that their members could help deal with these and other problems.
This seems to me to be an interesting area for discussion and certainly something that a science writer (especially one who has, with the world's first professor of complementary medicine, co-authored a book on the subject) should be writing about. It's important that people know what can and can't be treated in what way. Some complementary treatments have their place in the world but they're harmed if there is obfuscation and/or misinformation about them which if nothing else only helps to bolster the view of cynics who then might overlook the genuine good than can come from other parts of what they do.
Now - I hope I'm treading carefully enough - Simon wrote about this. As I read it he was careful to define his terms. If I was the BCA and I wanted to challenge him about it I'd bring forward the evidence supporting my claims. After all, that's what should be debated. Can they help a child with colic? Are there tests that say they can? If not, why not? Etc.
Instead they have sued him for libel. Which seems like a heavy handed way of silencing a critic. And the preliminary hearing - which helps to define the nature of the case - does not appear to have gone well. It seems the judge has decided what Simon meant when he used the word 'bogus' - even though the judge's view of the word's meaning is a) different to the dictionary definition and b) different to the definition contextualised by Simon in the article. But because the judge has decided that his version of the word is what Simon meant... the case now has to proceed on that basis. Lawks.
One wonders what hope there is for journalism when a science writer cannot describe as bogus, something for which there is no scientific evidence. I mean... we'll end up with nobody able to question anything... and isn't questioning things what both science and journalism are sort of about? I mean, really?
Anyway... I fear I haven't explained this very well. There's a far better explanation of it on the brilliant Jack of Kent blog. As well as taking in that particular entry, I'm going to be using Jack of Kent to help me follow the case as it progresses. It's a free-speech thing. Worrying times.