Simon Singh’s Bogus Journey

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  • Great summary of the issue & case to date.
    I particularly hope for, and look forward to, a coutroom examination of the BCA's "plethora" of supporting evidence for the treatment. As satisfying as it was reading the thorough destruction that followed in the blogosphere, it will be that much sweeter to be part of the official record.

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  • I'm having trouble now seeing the meaning of Simon Singh's words any other way than that the BCA was consciously dishonest. It's not so much his words that they promote bogus treatments but that they do so 'happily'. The pre-amble to his argument is that there is no evidence for some of the BCA's claims to treat particular ailments, and he wrote: 'This organisation is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments.'
    I'm not sure how that could be interpreted other than meaning that the BCA is an organisation deliberately promoting treatments it knows are wrong.
    The presence of the word 'yet' implies that the words that follow it are in opposition to the 'respectability' of the organisation--that the fact that it promotes bogus treatments is something that contradicts its appearance to be a respectable organisation. The fact that it does this 'happily' implies conscious intent in my view.
    Much as I hate to agree with Mr Justice Eady, I can't see another way of reasonably interpreting those words. I'd be very pleased if someone could tell me, because I share your view of Simon Singh and his intentions and reputation, so please, could you add something to your blog explaining what Simon Singh actually meant?

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  • I find myself, like James C, having some difficulty in parsing the offending words in such a way that their primary meaning is not an attribution of dishonesty. Possibly Simon Singh subjectively knows what he intended to mean by them, and it is something other than what they actually mean. That said, he should have available to him a defence of justification, based on the evidently flaky-to-absent evidence base for chiropraxis (and especially its use to deal with juvenile ear infections). Mr Justic Eady has, of course, gone overboard in his analysis of the test that Singh would have to pass; mind reading is not required.

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  • I think the other way in which Simon Singh's words can be interpreted is quite simple: the BCA is deluded. For one reason or another, they believe in something for which there is no objective evidence. This happens quite a lot, even to scientists.

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  • Are the chiropractic claims bogus? According to Edzard Ernst they are (as stated in the article). Does the BCA happily promote these bogus practices? No doubt about that

    What I infer from the article is that the BCA is too lazy, ignorant, or biased to investigate and understand the evidence (or lack thereof). One possibility unstated reason why the BCA promotes bogus treatments is that they know the treatments are bogus, but Singh didn't say that.

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  • Have either of the previous posters read the full article? You can't just take a single line out of context and call it defamatory.

    Here's the whole thing (with some useful footnotes).

    http://gimpyblog.wordpress.com/2008/08/17/the-libellous-simon-singh-article-on-chiropractors/

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  • James,

    'This organisation is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments.'

    You agree that there is no evidence that chiropractic is useful in the teatment of the childhood conditions that Simon mentioned in his article, right? Okay, so if the BCA is the "respectable face of the chiropractic profession" and do they not know what the evidence is and they do not know that there is no evidence to support the use of chiropractic for these conditions - which is what Simon believed at the time of his article, and which was probably true at the time he wrote his article - then how is he not justified in saying that they "happily promote bogus treatments"?

    Or have you not heard the phrase "happy in their ignorance"?

    It is trenchant criticism but it is not wrong.
    And it is justifiably trenchant criticism because the BCA are the "respectable face of the chiropractic profession" and yet they either have not bothered to examine the evidence or they do not know how to evaluate the evidence for the treatments that they promote. You agree that they should know this, right?

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  • @jamesc and anonymous.
    If there is no evidence for their claims then they are being intentionally dishonest.

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  • "This organisation is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments."

    I'm sure the lawyers chased this round in circles, but to my mind, it's obviously *not* an accusation of dishonesty. If I were to say, in an argumentative context -

    "You're an intelligent man, yet you go round promoting and encouraging the crock of nonsense that is Christianity."

    - it's clear I'm not accusing the person of not *believing* in his religion, yet there is nothing grammatically or logically unsound about the sentence (so long as you take it as my opinion).

    The accusation that rings out clearly from that short extract is one of failing to be sufficiently rigorous, to therefore behave responsibly and to deserve the 'respectable' reputation. It does not so far as dishonesty and Eady J has got it wrong.

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  • For Anonymous and James C above, perhaps it would help to see the words in context, where he clearly elaborates on his use of the word "bogus":

    "You might think that modern chiropractors restrict themselves to treating back problems, but in fact they still possess some quite wacky ideas. The fundamentalists argue that they can cure anything. And even the more moderate chiropractors have ideas above their station. The British Chiropractic Association claims that their members can help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying, even though there is not a jot of evidence. This organisation is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments.

    I can confidently label these treatments as bogus because I have co-authored a book about alternative medicine with the world's first professor of complementary medicine, Edzard Ernst. He learned chiropractic techniques himself and used them as a doctor. This is when he began to see the need for some critical evaluation. Among other projects, he examined the evidence from 70 trials exploring the benefits of chiropractic therapy in conditions unrelated to the back. He found no evidence to suggest that chiropractors could treat any such conditions."

    As they appeared in the original Guardian article.

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