The Anonymous Widower

Scientifically-Correct – Raymond Tallis

I have used the term scientifically correct several times in this blog and you’ll find out a bit more about the history of the use of this term here.

Today, Raymond Tallis in The Times has written a comment entitled, “Test medicine in the lab, not the court”.  Here’s the first two paragraphs.

A while back, I wrote a piece arguing that the retired, such as myself, had a responsibility to speak fearlessly about what we saw to be the truth and to take unpopular stands on difficult issues. After all, we no longer had any hope of advancement and the execration of ill-informed, unthinking or self-interested opponents could not touch us. Recent events have awoken my dormant cowardice to question this bravado. Speaking out on some things might mean that Mrs Tallis and I could end our days on the parish, cleaned out by a ruinous court battle with individuals or institutions with deeper pockets than us. The libel case brought against Simon Singh is one such event.

Singh is one of the most brilliant, accurate and thoughtful science writers of his generation. In 2008 he wrote a piece in The Guardian to coincide with Chiropractic Awareness Week challenging claims that spinal manipulation could be useful for treating childhood conditions such as asthma and ear infections. (Yes, ear infections — I kid you not!) The British Chiropractic Association (BCA) protested that he had defamed its reputation and threatened to sue for libel. The Guardian offered the BCA a 500-word response and an entry in its “Corrections and Clarifications” column. This was rejected, The Guardian chose not to engage in a potentially costly battle, and Singh was on his own. He courageously decided to fight on, because of the principles at stake.

Now I was married to a barrister, who did one of her pupilages in libel chambers. In those far-off days of the early 1980s, libel was all about people with massive egos and often bank balances, who felt they had been wronged in the tabloids.  Now, it seems it is being used in a much more general way to protect commercial interests.

In the next few years, how many writers and scientists will challenge the established view, if they felt that what they said despite the overwhelming evidence was against the commercial interests of a large company or professional organisation?

Raymond Tallis finishes by asking us to become a signatory on the National Petition for Libel Reform.  I have done what he asked and suggest that all those who want scientifically correct, rather than lawyer derived truth, should sign.

February 23, 2010 - Posted by | News | , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] of Libel Laws In a piece called Scientifically Correct – Raymond Tallis, I drew attention to the problems of the British libel laws.  Now one of my favourite authors, […]

    Pingback by Fear of Libel Laws « The Anonymous Widower | March 12, 2010 | Reply

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