Posts Tagged ‘British Chiropractic Association’

Simon Singh lectures at The University of Chester, 21 October 2013

22/10/2013

SimonSinghSimpsonsHeader

I recently posted about Simon Singh’s kind thanks to me in his latest book, The Simpsons And Their Mathematical Secrets.  I saw Simon lecture on his book at The University of Chester last night at 7:30pm, Monday, 21 October 2013.

And here’s a picture of me with him:

MSP and Simon Singh

And here’s a scan of his autograph in my copy of The Simpsons:

SinghSimpsonsAutograph

The lecture itself covered many of the points that were in Singh’s book, which I have now finished and highly recommend whether you are a maths PhD or a numerical incompetent like your humble servant.

However, Simon started off with a few nifty observations at the beginning of his talk that were not in the book.  The Toblerone logo has a bear hidden in the mountain as the original makers of the chocolate were based in the Germany city of Bern (or Berne) whose symbol is the bear:

TobleroneLogo

Likewise, Parcel delivery company FedEx’s logo has an arrow between the ‘E’ and the ‘X’:

FedExLogo

And finally Amazon’s logo has its arrow going from ‘A’ to ‘Z’ to signify that they too are a parcel delivery company:

AmazonLogo

At the end of the main talk, I asked Simon whether any complimentary alternative medicines (“CAM”) are ever effective at anything beyond the placebo effect and “regression to the mean”; for example, does chiropractic actually do anything to ease back pain?

Simon replied that the majority of the evidence and medical opinion is stacked against CAM, but there is some evidence that they have some effect: meditation can relieve anxiety and chiropractic can be as effective at relieving back pain as other more conventional medical interventions such as physiotherapy.  He mentioned that he updated the paperback edition to Trick or Treatment? co-authored with Edzard Ernst to include new research that the Alexander technique has some positive effect in treating and preventing back pain.

Most amusingly, Edzard Ernst is a professor in complimentary alternative medicine; however, he does support it outright.  When this stance enraged the CAM community who though he should axiomatically be on their side, Ernst replied that if he was a qualified toxicologist, that would hardly make him obliged to be in favour of toxins!

Simon mentioned that the current bane of his life in this area is the fairly new magazine What Doctors Don’t Tell You.  They seem to be the “9/11 Troofers” of the medical profession telling the lay public that medical science is a big conspiracy, that tried and trust remedies are actually killing scores of patients and we would all be better off visiting our homeopaths instead of our GPs.

The writers of this pseudo-scientific rag have already threatened to sue Singh for voicing his concerns.  I listened to the opening segment of this edition of Radio 4’s “Inside Health” featuring the magazine’s editor Lynne McTaggart and was pretty appalled by her biased and unsupported claims.  This website also has some hilarious  photoshopped versions of the magazine’s front cover, which make the skeptic’s point crystal clear such as:

WhatDoctorsDontTellYouREALANDSKIT

Now to gear up for Lawrence Krausslecture at Liverpool University tonight…  😀

Simon Singh goes on a book tour. And mentions me in his new book!

15/10/2013

SimonSinghSimpsonsHeader

Way back in February 2010, I posted on science journalist and author Dr Simon Singh’s campaign to have British libel law changed in view of his defence of a legal action brought by The British Chiropractic Association who sued him for libel following publication of a highly critical piece on The Guardian Comment Is Free in April 2008.

My original piece bemoaned that I had signed Singh’s online petition and forwarded it to my local MP only to receive a discouraging reply that while he supported the aims of the campaign, he was not in the habit of supporting “Early Day Motions” as he felt they are a waste of Parliamentary time and taxpayers’ money.  Apparently, they are seldom debated, rarely brought to a vote and require neither recognition nor response from the government.  They are known in Westminster as “parliamentary graffiti” and can cost in excess of £627,000.

Since that post, I did not comment any further on the matter and indeed went on an extended blogging sabbatical shortly thereafter.  However, I forwarded my post to Simon Singh and received a delightful reply.  I post both my email and his reply in the comments section below.   I also followed the case with interest and am glad that my original post was proven wrong.  Firstly, Singh won the libel action in April 2010 when The British Chiropractic Association dropped the case after he was given leave to appeal using the defence of “fair comment”.

Furthermore, in April 2013 Parliament passed the Defamation Act 2013 which should provide more protection for individuals and organisations, including newspapers and broadcasters, which criticise big companies.  The Act also aims to end London’s status as the “libel tourism capital of the World” by stopping cases being taken in London against journalists, academics or individuals who live outside the country, denting the libel tourism industry (but not ending it altogether, as foreigners will still be able to lodge claims in the High Court).

I then received a group email from Simon Singh on 8 October 2013 announcing that he was going on a speaking tour to promote his new book, The Simpsons And Their Mathematical Secrets, and that everyone who had signed his online petition had been mentioned in his new book.  I will be seeing Simon speak at The University of Chester on 21 October 2013 and then hopefully again at Merseyside Skeptics Society – Skeptics In The Pub on 12 December 2013.   A scan of the page in his new book where I am thanked is below; first full name on the bottom line.

Singh Simpsons p 233 CROPPEDAt the time of posting, I am about one third of the way through Singh’s book.  For someone who just barely scrapped a Grade ‘C’ on the lower paper for GCSE Maths and still to this day shudders at the mere sight of numbers, I am finding it a most lucid and humorous journey in equations through one of my all time favourite television shows.  It may not transform me overnight into Good Will Hunting, but it’s a hell of a lot more enjoyable than having SOHCAHTOA drilled into my head at school ever was.

Campaign to reform UK libel law may well be symbolic only

12/02/2010

manicstreetpreacher thinks that the law is an ass!

In recent months, I have been following The Libel Reform Campaign.  I signed the online petition to Parliament to have the scope of the public interest defence widened in order to make it harder for “libel tourists” to bring actions against writers and journalists in London where they feel relatively more assured of success, since the legal costs of defending such actions can bring about financial ruin for a defendant.  The campaign has also received a fair amount of coverage on RichardDawkins.net and there is a page on Sense About Science.

The campaign was initiated following science journalist and author Simon Singh being sued by the British Chiropractic Association for publishing a highly critical piece about chiropractic on The Guardian Comment Is Free on 19 April 2008.  Singh compared spine manipulation to a drug that had “such serious adverse effects and so little demonstrable benefit, it would almost certainly have been taken off the market”.

After losing the preliminary ruling, Singh won his right to appeal in October 2009.  However, his case has highlighted the strangling effect that the UK’s libel laws have on critical writing.  As Singh wrote following his successful application to appeal:

One of the main fears… [is] the sheer cost of a libel case.  Although the damages at stake might be just £10,000, going to trial can mean risking more than £1m.  This means that a blogger has to ask whether he or she can afford the possibility of bankruptcy.  Even if a blogger is 90% confident of victory, there is still a 10% chance of failure, which is why bloggers often back down, withdraw and apologise for material they believe is true, fair and important to the public.

I received permission [from the Court of Appeal] to appeal against an earlier ruling on the meaning of my article.  The original article was published 18 months ago, the case has cost me £100,000 and there is still a long way to go.  My reason for not backing down is that I believe my article is accurate, important and a matter of public interest, as it relates to the use of chiropractic in treating various childhood conditions, such as asthma and ear infections.

Although my article was published in The Guardian, I am being sued personally. Fortunately, thanks to the success of my books, Fermat’s Last Theorem and The Code Book, I have the resources to fund my own defence. The case might seriously damage me but it will not bankrupt me.  For bloggers, such a case could lead to financial ruin.

As a lover of free thought, free speech and free inquiry, I signed the online petition and forwarded a message to my local MP.  I received a letter from the MP’s office saying that while he supported the campaign in principle, he did not put his name to Early Day Motion 423 because they are a waste of Parliamentary time and taxpayers’ money.  Apparently “they are seldom debated, rarely brought to a vote and require neither recognition nor response from the government”.  They are known in Westminster as “parliamentary graffiti” and can cost in excess of £627,000.

Talk about Catch-22.  Attempting to reform a bad law and being scuppered by the bad law-making process.  Oh, the irony!  So much for democracy in action, power to the people etc.  Time for strategic re-think, perhaps?