Simon Singh’s Bogus Journey

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  • @JamesC and @Anonymous The adverb "happily" modifies the verb "promotes", not the noun phrase "bogus treatments". Singh knew the treatments were bogus, the BCA need not have done.

    If somebody reported that I had happily danced the tango with a terminally-ill Scientologist, it would not imply that I knew about their illness, or their faith, and it certainly wouldn't suggest that I was happy that they were terminally ill or happy about Scientology.

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  • James C, I might agree with you, if Simon Singh hadn't defined what he meant in the next paragraph of the article in question:
    "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."

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  • I understand that in the court today it was argued that "happily" in this context could be reasonably interpreted as "blithely" on the basis that Dr Singh explains that a helath care professional body (which is promoting treatments for sick children) ought to be aware (not "was aware") that a scientific analysis of claims of evidence of effectiveness did not stack up. Dr Singh also defined "bogus" in his article by relating it to the scientidfic findings of "no evidence".

    I am not a lawyer but (therefore?) the above seems to be at the very least arguable, and Counsel did that effecively. The defence case does not however rely on this alone. David Allen Green has a very readable account of the hearing at his Jack of Kent blog spot. http://jackofkent.blogspot.com/

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  • "happily" = "insouciantly"
    Problem solved?

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  • JamesC and Anonymous: Take an analogy. You pay for a newspaper with a pound coin. You pay the seller in good faith that the coin is legal tender - you promote the use of the coin. The seller accepts the coin as legal tender too. Turns out the coin is not legal tender, it's made of the wrong metal. As an observer, I could call the coin a bogus coin - or a fake coin, or a counterfeit coin - and yet this would not necessarily impute malice or deliberate deception on your behalf. The coin in my analogy is chiropractic treatments used for colic etc in Simon's article - promoted, happily promoted indeed, but at base bogus.

    My interpretation of the article, one that thousands share (but that Mr. Eady does not) is that although there is evidence that chiropractic does not work for the conditions indicated (not the same as lack of evidence...), the BCA continues to promote them - not maliciously, fraudulently, but rather in good faith that they work when they in fact don't.

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  • Surely the test as to meaning, as I understand it, is the meaning that would be reached by the 'ordinary reader on the Clapham omnibus'.
    If so the words would seem to suggest to me that Mr. Singh alleged that the BCA knew there was no evidence to support its claims yet continued to do so happily.
    Arguing about what Mr. Singh meant by 'happily' defeats the purpose of this test as he would not have been on the 'bus' so to speak to explain this to the reader.
    Also why did he not apologise when he had the chance and then publish the same article but with a slightly amended paragraph confirming what he actually meant.

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  • Although my sympathies on the issue are entirely with Simon Singh, I can't accept that any reasonable reader coming cold to the relevant words would conclude other than that the BCA promotes treatments knowing them to be ineffective or, in the context of the balance of the article, worse. Attempts at semantic analysis to demonstrate otherwise really only amount to wishful thinking.
    Eady's test, however is equally flawed in that it concludes that Singh has to prove the corporate mindset. On a proper interpretation of the justification defence, it is surely only necessary to demonstrate that the comment represented the only reasonable conclusion which one could come to on the basis of the known facts. Would the position have been different if Singh had commenced that part of his article "On the known facts, the only reasonable conclusion one could come to is that the BCA...etc"?
    That would leave the BCA to demonstrate that another conclusion could be reached on the same facts, but it would be dependant on them demonstrating that they were either naive, or gullible, or that they were unaware of the facts on which Singh based his statement.

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  • If I step back a second, this is a breath of fresh air. Articulate views, no swearing, no undue posturing, a degree of restraint even, and an understanding of the issues at stake... reading the comments on this article made me proud of lawyers. This is what all public debate should be like. Well done, all.

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  • I agree with a number of posters who see the word "happily" as key. It takes a lot of squirming around to get that adverb to mean anything else than "the BCA knows there's no proof, but it still promotes it."
    But here's where it gets really fun. Many schools of alternative/complementary medicine reject (or have to reject because they have no choice) the conventional scientific method of empirical testing and proof. They argue that the dominant paradigm of scientific proof cannot explain why certain medicines work or don't work, hence also the controversy about homeopathy. My GP - an Übersceptic - admitted as much in a conversation this week.
    All dominant scientific paradigms think they're the last word, until they're proven wrong. Alternative medicine practitioners (if indeed chiropractics belongs to this group) would say that Singh may be correct, but only according to his tried, tested and temporary paradigm of scientific proof. And certainly not the basis on which to go around accusing people of deliberately and consciously deceiving people. Whether that would carry any weight with Eady is another matter. Does law have to follow the scientific paradigm?

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  • How else would anyone expect the BCA to promote treatments - frumpily, grumpily, grudgingly? Of course it promotes them happily. If it isn't happy to promote them then it's in the wrong business. How does pointing that out become defamatory?

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