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Simon Singh Talks With Wired About His Libel Battle

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the slapping-back-at-bullies dept.

Medicine 239

smellsofbikes writes "Wired has a short but pithy interview with Simon Singh about his defense against a libel suit brought by the British Chiropractic Association, in which he spent more than $200,000 and emerged victorious."

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Any chance he can collect lawyer fees? (3, Insightful)

Dragon Bait (997809) | more than 3 years ago | (#33476782)

It would seem that if he emerged victorious, the other side should have to cover the $200K -- plus something for his time.

Re:Any chance he can collect lawyer fees? (4, Insightful)

rtfa-troll (1340807) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477280)

Unfortunately, that's not exactly the way it works. He lost a year of work, for which he'll get nothing. He had 200,000 pounds costs of which it seems that he'll only get 70% back. He's definitely a hero and if someone has a few thousand of pounds spare, there would be worse ways to spend it than donating it to him.

200,000 dollars (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33476794)

Sorry... I hate seeing numbers thrown around as if it somehow makes this case more important than others. I'm glad to see that Simon Singh stood up for his comments and also that he is now extremely famous and has furthered his career by this episode.

Also, can someone enlighten me if British law allows him to sue for his defense cost?

Re:200,000 dollars (5, Informative)

wiredlogic (135348) | more than 3 years ago | (#33476898)

The cost isn't a signifier of importance. It is a repudiation of a self-serving system of law that punishes innocent people by forcing them to outlay large sums of money to protect themselves from rapacious litigants. When faced by a wealthy opposition, those of lesser means very often have to cave in and accept defeat simply because they have no means of defending themselves. Hopefully the loser-pays rules will be put to effect here but that doesn't justify the need to pay so much upfront for protection from the law.

FWIW. I knew who Singh was before this case came up.

Re:200,000 dollars (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33477298)

Singh won his appeal (on the meaning of the words he used) and the BCA withdrew their claim. The issue of the libel itself was never settled by the court. Singh has said previously that he's not getting his money back so I would guess the BCA did a deal with him: we'll withdraw if you don't pursue us for costs.

The fundamental problem is that English libel actions are (literally) orders of magnitude more expensive than in other European countries.

Re:200,000 dollars (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33477456)

Singh didn't actually win, the BCA dropped their case when they could see mounting pressure from the public, high profile intellectual celebrities and politicians. A huge difference in law. The last thing the fraudsters within the BCA want is a valid examination of their cure-all claims. The only good from this case is its high profile nature and possible UK libel law reform.

Re:200,000 dollars (1)

quintessencesluglord (652360) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477610)

Indeed, the court system does seem to favor the wealthy (unless you are the deep pockets being sued), but even loser pay rules struck me as unfair.

It would seem that at the beginning of the trial, if both the plaintiff and defendant would throw the sum total of funds to be spent into a common pot (to be split equally among them for their court cost), then the amount paid would be the cost at arriving at a _judgement_ instead of paying more to win the case.

Re:200,000 dollars (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33477736)

FWIW. I knew who Singh was before this case came up.

Indeed, he wrote The Code Book [amazon.com] (which has a place of honor on my bookshelf). It's a great (and easy to digest) book on the history of cryptography. He also wrote Fermat's Enigma [amazon.com] which I believe is/was quite popular (I haven't read it). That's where I personally know Singh from. I had no idea he was involved in a libel suit.

Re:200,000 dollars (5, Informative)

cgenman (325138) | more than 3 years ago | (#33476920)

If nothing else, the story is that it costs $200,000 to defend against false libel claims in British courts. Remember, this isn't the criminal justice system where you have the choice of a state-appointed lawyer or spending the money on your own. If he hadn't spent the $200,000, he would have needed to bow down to every ridiculous demand of the the British Chiropractic Association, despite being obviously correct in what he says. Freedom of Speech doesn't mean freedom to lie arbitrarily about people. But it does need to include the freedom to critique. In England, that right does not exist.

We actually have laws on the books now in America specifically to protect Americans from being sued under the UK's ridiculous libel laws. It's a terrible system, and it has to change. That is the story.

Re:200,000 dollars (-1, Flamebait)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477392)

We actually have laws on the books now in America specifically to protect Americans from being sued under the UK's ridiculous libel laws. It's a terrible system, and it has to change. That is the story.

It's a better system than the one in place in the US, where anyone can say what they like about you and you'd better have deep pockets if you want to defend your name.

Simon Singh is an idiot if he thinks he can make libellous comments about the BCA *without having the proof to back up what he says*. There is the concrete defence against libel cases in the UK - be able to prove what you say. Simple.

Re:200,000 dollars (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33477516)

Simon Singh is an idiot if he thinks he can make libellous comments about the BCA

Except that he didn't. You must have missed the part where they had a trial and found him not guilty.

There is the concrete defence against libel cases in the UK - be able to prove what you say. Simple.

It was simple, except for the part where it put him out of work for over a year, cost him over $200,000, and had a chilling effect on press reporting of Chiropractic.

His "libelous" statement?

"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."

The BCA claimed that "happily promotes" implied that they were being consciously dishonest, and explicitly malicious in promoting chiropractic.

BTW. "Simon Singh is an idiot" is a very libelous statement, at least as libelous of what Singh was put in for ... but I assume that you can produce proof that he meets the current psychiatric definition "idiot". Simple.

Re:200,000 dollars (5, Informative)

vectorious (1307695) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477544)

He did have the proof to back up what he said - that the treatments were bogus. I.e. there is plenty of evidence that they did not work (more accurately no evidence that they do better than a placebo). The original judge decided that "bogus" meant that the supplier was dishonestly lying about it too, and that was the libellous claim, and that is the appeal he won. In any case he probably could have won the argument as he could have shown that the Chiropracters ought to have known about the studies that showed the lack of effect, and if they did not they were negligent, and if they did they were dishonest. This however was a much tougher argument, with room for scope of argument on "dishonest". Notably the BCA had to issue warnings to members to remove claims from websites and literature as there were many making claims that could not be backed up.This suggests that he probably had a point anyway. The effect is now that many people will not speak out against treatments without any medical value and dodgy medical claims for fear of being sued - even if they win they lose a few years of their life and earnings.

Re:200,000 dollars (5, Informative)

timbo234 (833667) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477692)

Simon Singh is an idiot if he thinks he can make libellous comments about the BCA *without having the proof to back up what he says*. There is the concrete defence against libel cases in the UK - be able to prove what you say. Simple.

1) The judges ruled that Sing's comments fell under 'fair comment', an expression of his opinion that was allowed under freedom of expression, whether or not what he said was actually true. See http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2010/350.html [bailii.org]

2) The BCA was asked to show the evidence it had that Sing was wrong - ie. that chiropractors could treat common childhood illnesses. The evidence was examined in the British Medical Journal and found to be a load of crap - half the studies they cited had nothing to do with chiropractic, they misrepresented the conclusions of others and the remaining had basic methodological errors making them invalid: http://www.bmj.com/content/339/bmj.b2766.full?view=long&pmid=19589818 [bmj.com]

So far from being an idiot Sing was proven completely right - not only he can make 'libellous' comments against chiropractic because of free speech laws but those comments were actually proven to be correct.

Minor correction: England and Britain different (3, Informative)

fantomas (94850) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477644)

Minor correction for you - be careful not to mix up "England" and "Britain", they are different things. There are "English" courts and English law but there are no such things as "British courts" or "British law". In Scotland, which is part of Britain, Scottish courts and Scots law prevails, a different legal structure exists. So we're talking about the situation in England here, not Britain.

cheers!

Re:200,000 dollars (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477066)

British law is "loser pays", there's usually no need to sue for defence cost.

(IANAL. There may be some nuances here of which I am unaware).

Re:200,000 dollars (1)

BitterOak (537666) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477578)

British law is "loser pays", there's usually no need to sue for defence cost.

(IANAL. There may be some nuances here of which I am unaware).

Yes, but from what I understand, the British Chiropractic Association did not actually lose the case, but rather they withdrew their suit after losing a judgment on a point in the case regarding interpretation of Singh's statements. Do they still have to pay the legal costs he had accumulated up to that point, including his appeal costs on that particular ruling? I couldn't find in any documentation any information regarding who has to foot the $200K bill, so I am assuming Dr Singh had to pay.

Re:200,000 dollars (1)

vectorious (1307695) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477706)

I understand from other sources that he will get most of the money back (although by no means all me might still be out £20-£50k, no small sum for an individual). However he did have to front £200k himself upfront, with no guarantee of recovery and lost two years of his life, which for a self employed writer is 2 years income gone.

Re:200,000 dollars (4, Insightful)

soliptic (665417) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477446)

Sorry... I hate seeing numbers thrown around as if it somehow makes this case more important than others. I'm glad to see that Simon Singh stood up for his comments and also that he is now extremely famous and has furthered his career by this episode.

You have that spectacularly backwards.

The number isn't thrown around to suggest this figure / this case is unusual, it's thrown around to suggest this is usual. Want to defend yourself? That'll cost you ~5 years of a typical wage, then. Suddenly caving in and "apologising" looks quite attractive after all, regardless of how strong you thought your principles were.

The whole reason he could afford to stick the course defending this is that he was already "rich and famous". By the time this kicked off he already had several best-selling books, a BAFTA award, Emmy nomination, an MBE and a fairly high profile career in print, radio and TV. I understand he may not be a familiar name across the pond, but within this country I struggle to think of many people in his field (science journalism / popular science) with a higher profile over the last couple of decades. Maybe Brian Cox, Patrick Moore, Ben Goldacre... it's really not a long list at any rate.

That's the whole point. If some fresh-out-of-grad-school science-interested junior journalist on £18k p.a. had written this, been sued, and faced a £100k bill, they would almost certainly have had to fold: science 0, legal bullies 1.

This man could have just retracted it and bought a Porsche but instead he used his "fame" and wealth to fight the case as a matter of moral principle, legal precedent, and a platform to explicitly draw attention to the general campaign for libel law reform. Snide insinuations he used the lawsuit for personal promotion are hardly fair.

Next target ... (1)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 3 years ago | (#33476806)

astrology,
homeopathy,
feng-shui,
graphology,
psycho-analysis?

Re:Next target ... (5, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#33476834)

You forgot economics.

Re:Next target ... (1)

cgenman (325138) | more than 3 years ago | (#33476928)

Weather Forecasting.

Re:Next target ... (4, Insightful)

thrawn_aj (1073100) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477098)

Weather forecasting seems to work most of the time (at least well enough that I know what to wear and whether to carry an umbrella that day). Back when I lived in Cleveland, the snow predictions were eerily (and unfortunately) accurate to a reasonable enough degree. Since the arrival of doppler radar, it's become even more useful.

Considering that it's based on probabilistic models and no one is stupid enough to insist that it's based on magical crystal balls that always work :p, I'd say people are far too harsh on the poor ol' weatherman :p. And no, I'm about as far removed from the profession as anyone could possibly be - just stating facts.

Oh, and here's the obligatory "ha ha, that's funny" to forestall the inevitable "whoosh" from some drive-by moron (gawd those cretins are annoying :p).

Re:Next target ... (1)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477362)

It's probably a reference to how poor forecasts any more can a few days ahead can be.

1 and 2 day forecasts tend to be pretty good.

Re:Next target ... (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477444)

Forecasting the weather is really hard to do. Especially around here in the Pacific Northwest. Where on most days you can find the weather you want, there's some limitations in that finding snow falling in the summer is tough and finding hot during winter isn't going to happen, but apart from that you can find the weather you want pretty much all year round. You make is sound like they do a poor job of it. But around here at least the science has come a really long way since when I was a kid. Back then we all pretty much knew how to judge the weather coming up in the immediate future, but it was pretty much just reports coming in from ships at sea. Predictions by meteorologists were primitive because the climate systems around here are very complicated. These days they get it right most of the time.

Re:Next target ... (1)

shawb (16347) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477522)

And weather forecasting does tend to get the big things pretty well. Exactly what day and how much the temperature is going to swing... that's got some wiggle room. When the giant storm is going to come through that you actually have to plan around and change your life for: the forecasters are pretty dang good about getting that warning out.

Actually, I have noticed a pretty common trend in the errors on the small stuff where I live. If a weather change is slated for around 2 days to a week out, the event will come through one day later than predicted. It could have something to do with living on the great lakes, or more likely be sampling error and confirmation bias on my part. Then again, it seems to me that between mid june and the middle of July major thunderstorms tend to arrive at the lakefront around 9-10:00pm. I think most of the thunderstorms I have experienced were shortly after sunset at Summerfest.

Re:Next target ... (1)

pieisgood (841871) | more than 3 years ago | (#33476836)

Fish in a barrel.

Re:Next target ... (1)

schwit1 (797399) | more than 3 years ago | (#33476874)

Faith based medicine
Lie detectors
Cell phones cause cancer
zero point energy

Re:Next target ... (1)

DMiax (915735) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477024)

You have it completely backwards. This is not about deciding science through lawsuit, but exactly the opposite.

You listed things that are controversial and/or lacking data. Those fields need serious debate and need to be free from baseless libel suits. And for the uncontroversial ones scientists need to be free to say "X is a bogus idea" without overpowerful organizations try to get their asses in court.

Re:Next target ... (1)

thrawn_aj (1073100) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477158)

zero point energy

Max Planck is pissed [wikipedia.org] and wants a word with you :p.

Or were you perchance referring to this huckster [wikipedia.org] ? (in which case I agree). I'd like to tell these idiots where to stick their zero-point wands [google.com] :p. Though, I guess, to be fair, they are quite smart. The idiots are the gullible sheep who continue to make them money by the truckload :(

Re:Next target ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33477278)

I interpreted GP's comments to refer not to the science but to the bogus consumer-oriented "products" that have as much to do with science as whatever Wesley Crusher babbled out on a rerun of TNG last night just in time to rescue the ship from rogue subspace field graviton storms that were threatening to tear the ship into Doritos-shaped chunks.

Having to post as AC in order to not undo mod points distributed earlier in the thread. Wuh woh. I'm over here [slashdot.org] and am not abusing the mod system. :P

Re:Next target ... (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 3 years ago | (#33476968)

There is a great need to root it all out and the only way that will happen is to finally eschew all faith based beliefs.

Re:Next target ... (1)

thrawn_aj (1073100) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477238)

Unfortunately, the people who swear by faith-based medicine are also the world's biggest hypocrites. They will surreptitiously resort to conventional medicine to cure their hemorrhoids and publicly laud the success of their "crystal-enriched dildo" or whatever new piece of garbage is making the rounds these days :p.

As a side-effect, this helps keep Darwin's hand at bay and these cancerous beliefs alive and thriving as a festering sore in the face of civilization.

Yeah, I know. The last line sounded too Flash Gordonesque. Just makes me so MAD >:(

Re:Next target ... (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477396)

That's ok. I feel the same way.

Re:Next target ... (1)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477774)

That's why you can never trust those claims. The proponents will claim 'I got better while taking homeopathic caffeine' or whatever, meanwhile they were also taking real medicine (or the problem just goes away naturally), but guess which one they think worked? The alt-med bullshit. Like in that Hauser case, where that kid's mom took off with hum when the court ordered her to seek real treatment. The tumor got bigger without chemo, smaller when chemo was started again, yet his mom claims it was the herbs and ionized water that did it, not the medical treatments. And the thing is, these are the testimonies that the horseshit peddlers will slap on there products' labels too. Incredible.

Your last line is almost right, but still, kinda wrong, considering that children can be the victim of their parents' irrationality, they can sucker the desperate and hopeless (even against their better judgment), that some of these people can hurt other unrelated people by buying into the anti-vax strain of bullshit, and that these people can and do form interest groups to foist their anti-scientific beliefs upon everyone else, and this expands to cover other areas of science, like radio towers & wi-fi, genetic engineering, ect. If it was just them, whatever, but it is more than just a single festering sore, it is a spreading cancer. How to stop it, how to get irrational people to listen to you, how to effectively communicate to people who are convinced they have it all figured out really haven't got a clue, I don't know, but it must be done. I want to see humanity have continuous perpetual improvement & advancement, and that's not going to happen when we have people who think the fifteen minutes they spent listening to Alex Jones means as much as the lifetime a scientist's spends on that subject.

But of course, I'm clearly being paid hundreds of millions of dollars by the Big Pharma/Shadow Government to cast doubt the amazing powers of pseudoscience based medicine, so I guess you can't trust what I say.

Great Quote (4, Insightful)

rotide (1015173) | more than 3 years ago | (#33476838)

I happen to know a few people who are really.. well, they love Jesus more than most. They seem to attack science, not to learn anything, but to merely shoot down their "adversary".

I really wish those people could understand this quote (last 2 lines of the article): "People start off with a belief and a prejudice—we all do. And the job of science is to set that aside to get to the truth."

Re:Great Quote (2, Interesting)

genner (694963) | more than 3 years ago | (#33476910)

I happen to know a few people who are really.. well, they love Jesus more than most. They seem to attack science, not to learn anything, but to merely shoot down their "adversary".

I really wish those people could understand this quote (last 2 lines of the article): "People start off with a belief and a prejudice—we all do. And the job of science is to set that aside to get to the truth."

The wrong view of science betrays itself in the craving to be right; for it is not his possession of knowledge, of irrefutable truth, that makes the man of science, but his persistent and recklessly critical quest for truth. Sir Karl Popper

Re:Great Quote (2, Insightful)

loxosceles (580563) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477030)

At some point scientific consensus on issues of public concern has to be used to shape public policy, and that's where being "right" becomes important.

The interface between science and public policy is very shifty and dangerous. It is very likely that even when good scientific consensus exists on a subject, that public policy designed to address that issue will end up being corrupted by a) special interests, b) politicians pandering to constituents and ignoring the science, and c) politicians who don't understand the issue and inadvertently render corrective legislation ineffective.

Re:Great Quote (1)

gtall (79522) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477780)

The real issue is not so much what science does, it is the outlook of politicians. They see everything as a political game. Science, in their minds, is simply something to be used for political ends. Being a suspicious lot, they assume a scientific view at odds with their political view must have been promulgated by the opposition to their political view.

Writ large, people in general are reluctant to give up their beliefs in response to contravening evidence. What makes things worse is that science, in typical fashion, is rarely 100% unequivocal about any one issue. It is in the core of what it means to be a scientist to always question and include the known assumptions. When those assumptions get violated, few recall the original assumptions. All they have heard is that science got something wrong.

In addition, politicians work on a time scale much shorter than science. This has a tendency to whipsaw science; politician make nonsense claim, science shows years later precisely why that is a stupid claim, public policy has already been made in the intervening time.

This is why an uneducated populace and an uneducated, or an educated but corrupt political class, will doom a society to always being in the position of reacting to forces they don't understand or willfully ignore until it is too late.

Re:Great Quote (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477300)

The wrong view of science betrays itself in the craving to be right; for it is not his possession of knowledge, of irrefutable truth, that makes the man of science, but his persistent and recklessly critical quest for truth. Sir Karl Popper

Never let your sense of morals get in the way of doing what's right. -- Isaac Asimov

One could also say this: "The wrong view of religion betrays itself in the craving to be right; for it is not his possession of knowledge, of irrefutable truth, that makes the man of faith, but his persistent and recklessly uncritical quest to promote a worldview in diametric opposition of what is."

Re:Great Quote (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33476938)

Replace Jesus with Jobs or Bill. Replace science with android or linux. This happens every day on slashdot.

Re:Great Quote (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33477118)

It's called bigotry and you're right it happens a lot all over. As per your example go to any android article and it's full of iPhone user's comments, quick to jump in and defend their favourite product even though it's not at all relevant to the story at hand.

Same thing with Ubuntu news here. Check out the latest news still on the front page, there's always someone that has to come and start talking about OSX or Windows, etc..

Re:Great Quote (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33477012)

Not.

These two sentences are incorrect and could indicate why he got into so much trouble. "People start off with a belief and a prejudice..." actually people start off with nothing, gain education and experience, discover their own creativity, and make judgements based on that. Granted, in a very broad sense, belief could cover all those things, but there is so much more to it.

"The job of science..." is to discover fact. Truth is the realm of Philosophers and Priests. Facts are objective and provable, Truths are subjective and not provable. Facts are what is, Truths are our perception of facts. Once scientists confuse fact with truth, they justly become subject to the same criticism as any religion.

Re:Great Quote (1)

rotide (1015173) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477076)

Interesting.. The dictionary seems to disagree with you..

truth
–noun, plural truths /truðz, trus/ Show Spelled[troothz, trooths] Show IPA.
1. the true or actual state of a matter: He tried to find out the truth.
2. conformity with fact or reality; verity: the truth of a statement.
3. a verified or indisputable fact, proposition, principle, or the like: mathematical truths.
4. the state or character of being true.
5. actuality or actual existence.
6. an obvious or accepted fact; truism; platitude.
7. honesty; integrity; truthfulness.
8. ( often initial capital letter ) ideal or fundamental reality apart from and transcending perceived experience: the basic truths of life.
9. agreement with a standard or original.
10. accuracy, as of position or adjustment.
11. Archaic . fidelity or constancy.
—Idiom
12. in truth, in reality; in fact; actually: In truth, moral decay hastened the decline of the Roman Empire.

Re:Great Quote (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477140)

Well, so that elective you took as an undergrad "PH 376: Philosophy of Science" finally has paid off!

Why he got into so much trouble (1)

warrax_666 (144623) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477220)

The reason he got into so much trouble is simple: The libel laws in the UK are batshit insane.

Re:Why he got into so much trouble (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477678)

Perhaps the fact that they are in direct conflict with the EU Human Rights Convention will eventually trigger reform.

Re:Great Quote (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33477058)

They seem to attack science, not to learn anything, but to merely shoot down their "adversary".

I really wish those people

Yeah! Because there's nothing like hating people that generalize by generalizing right back at them!

Also quick comment.

"People start off with a belief and a prejudice—we all do. And the job of science is to set that aside to get to the truth."

Yes and no. The job of science is to take a specific belief/prejudice and attempt to prove it. The *desire* is that science will put aside things that are (repeatedly) proven wrong and then try other things rather than wasting time and resources on something that already seems flawed. However, occasion has shown that science, rather than swapping instantly to what we now know to be the more right answer, attempts to prove their past view just as much as religion !

*COUGH**COUGH*Ptolemaic geocentric model vs. Copernican heliocentric model*COUGH**COUGH*

What the fuck epicycles and retrograde motion.

Re:Great Quote (2, Insightful)

Kilrah_il (1692978) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477136)

Although most of what you wrote is correct and I agree with you, I have a small pedantic comment: The job of science is to take a specific belief/prejudice and attempt to disprove it. Science works by making prediction and then organizing experiments that follow these predictions. If the experiments do not agree with what the theory predicted, then the theory is flawed. If the experiment and the theory/prediction are in agreement, then the theory is strengthened, but it can never be proven.

Re:Great Quote (1)

nido (102070) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477138)

I really wish those people could understand this quote (last 2 lines of the article): "People start off with a belief and a prejudice—we all do. And the job of science is to set that aside to get to the truth."

The few lines before your quote are much more revealing:

The commonsense view is what we’re fighting against. So somehow you’ve got to move people away from that with these quite complicated scientific arguments based on even more complicated research. That’s why it’s such an uphill battle. People start off with a belief and a prejudice—we all do. And the job of science is to set that aside to get to the truth.

Mr. Singh is fighting commonsense. Fascinating. Sometimes the common's sense of an issue is distorted, while sometimes it's right on. For example, commonsense dictates that nutrition is important part of health, but people who fight commonsense think that it doesn't matter, and they sell us drugs to treat what clearly is influenced by nutritional deficiency (for example).

One of the things that makes this case so murky is that the chiropractors do have a point. Commonsense would hold that if one of the body's parts is dislocated from it's optimal position, it or surrounding structures will function suboptimally. Sometimes chiropractors do help their patients. Massage, craniosacral, etc - all help to improve the body's structure. There are better modalities than chiropractic, but sometimes they do help with conditions that, at first glance, aren't related directly to the area being treated.

Re:Great Quote (3, Insightful)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477246)

sometimes they do help with conditions that, at first glance, aren't related directly to the area being treated.

And sometimes a sugar pill works. Sometimes prayer works. Sometimes waving a dead chicken works.

I suspect the percentages are about the same, or he wouldn't have won.

Re:Great Quote (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33477366)

There are better modalities than chiropractic, but sometimes they do help with conditions that, at first glance, aren't related directly to the area being treated.

Better modalities than chirporactic what? Chiropractic therapy? Chiropractic "medicine"? If you mean "the practice of chiropracty", then go for that, but for fuck's sake, when an entire profession is collectively incapable of differentiating an adjective from a noun, I'd prefer that its practicioners stay the hell away from my body :)

Re:Great Quote (2, Informative)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477376)

The two claims that the article says Dr. Singh refuted were treatment of childhood asthma and colic. So the limited credit you seem to be giving Chiropractors doesn't really apply.

Like I tell my friends, if there's something wrong with your skeleton see an orthopedist!

-Peter

Re:Great Quote (0, Offtopic)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477466)

OTOH my sleep apnea and trouble swallowing mysterious went away when I started seeing a chiropractor. As did my migraines. But hey, why let a reasonably explainable treatment get in the way of bashing complementary medicine.

Re:Great Quote (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477598)

Going to a chiropractor for physical problems is a bat shit crazy thing to do. These people are not trained to diagnose or correctly recognize medical conditions that need real intervention and can do a lot of damage trying to treat muscle pains that arise from serious biological disease using 'manipulation'.

Go see an orthopedist and work with a physical therapist.

You will get far better results and won't put yourself in danger.

It's also a good idea to read the Wikipedia article on the history of chiropractic to understand what you are getting into when you go to one of these quacks.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiropractic_history [wikipedia.org]

From the article:

"Chiropractors historically were strongly opposed to vaccination based on their belief that all diseases were traceable to causes in the spine, and therefore could not be affected by vaccines; D.D. Palmer wrote, "It is the very height of absurdity to strive to 'protect' any person from smallpox or any other malady by inoculating them with a filthy animal poison."

Re:Great Quote (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33477708)

For example, commonsense dictates that nutrition is important part of health,

99+% of people agree with that statement. Even scientists. Even *very skeptical* scientists. Don't eat enough fresh vegetables? You'll probably get scurvy. Don't get enough iodine in your food? Goiter. Subsist solely on (non-lye treated) maize? Pellagra.

but people who fight commonsense think that it doesn't matter, and they sell us drugs to treat what clearly is influenced by nutritional deficiency (for example).

For providing an example, you are wonderfully vague. What "common sense" nutritional deficiency are you referring to? Chronic fatigue syndrome caused by gluten? Allergies caused by cooked food? Obesity caused by too much animal protein? (Or was that too much carbohydrates - I keep mixing up whether it's "obvious" from our dental patterns we're meat eaters, or it's "obvious" from our intestines that we're not.)

I've never heard of *any* medical condition where it was "obvious" or "commonsense" that it was due to a nutritional deficiency. What does a swollen throat have to do with iodine? What part of having your nails and hair fall out make it "obvious" that you haven't eaten enough vegetables? How is it "common sense" that abdominal pain and cramping is caused by wheat*? We have to discover these things through trial and error (e.g. the scientific method) - you only think it's "commonsense" because it matches whatever particular set of (mis)information you've already been taught. Are eggs good or bad for you? They have a balanced set of amino acids, so it's commonsense they're a good protein source. No wait, they're high in cholesterol, which is bad for you, so commonsense dictates that they're bad. No, wait, dietary cholesterol doesn't affect serum cholesterol in the majority of healthy patients, so "commonsense" says ...

All to often "commonsense" tends to be another way of saying "confirmation bias".

*(I'm referring to actual celiac disease here.)

A Pyrrhic Victory (4, Interesting)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 3 years ago | (#33476888)

Yeah - a victory that cost him $200k of his own money - so that he doesn't have to issue a retraction or pay even more of his own money.

Or, maybe if he is lucky he might get reimbursed some or all of it - quite some time after having spent it. Of course, he won't get any interest on the money or anything like that. Most ordinary people would lose their homes in the process of trying to pay these kinds of fees, and I'm sure courts would not reimburse those costs either.

That will teach them!

Europe at least is far better than the US in this regard, but I'd go a step further. I'd envision a system where when a suit is brought a court would require an escrow of funds from the plaintiff if they had greater than a certain amount in assets. Regardless, the attorneys would be paid by the court (for both parties) - it would be illegal for attorneys to receive money from their clients. The fee rate would be set by the court, and the budget for both parties would be the same, and the budget would be based on the nature of the case and the amount at issue. Both parties would then battle it out in court or settle. Individual participants (whether defendents, plaintiffs, witnesses, or jurors) below a certain income level (moderately high) would also be paid by the court a per-diem based on their annual income. In the end the court would assess the loser of the case for the amount of court costs (which now includes all client legal costs and the cost of the time of all parties as well), plus interest sufficient to ensure the government comes out at least even. This would be a public debt that the government would have the power to collect on.

This would ensure that merely being sued would have no negative financial impact on somebody, and that people will think twice before filing frivolous lawsuits. People who are out time and money also don't have to try to badger the other party to pay - the government would pay them as they incur costs, and now the government can use all its usual methods to recoup its loss just as if the losing party didn't pay their taxes/etc.

The bottom line is that the court system needs to stop punishing people (effectively) merely for being sued.

Re:A Pyrrhic Victory (4, Insightful)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477084)

Pyrric victory? I don't think so. If money was his only concern, only then it would be Pyrric. But by winning this court battle, Singh made a huge statement, a huge "Fuck you" to the ignorance of Chiropractice, and the chiropractors that leech on that ignorance.

Maybe it's because I'm over 40, but for me, money seems less important now, compared to some greater things in life. I feel my end is coming, and I want my life to have meant something. Money is important, but less important than one's life have a meaning.

Re:A Pyrrhic Victory (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477318)

Money is important, but less important than one's life have a meaning.

In other words, it's nice to know that when you're gone you'll be remembered for something other than "I shouldn't speak ill of the dead, but my God he was a selfish prick."

Yeah. Priorities change. Well, they do in most of us, I think ... the need to acquire wealth and/or power never dies in some people. Here in the U.S. we call such individuals "CEOs" or "politicians".

Re:A Pyrrhic Victory (1)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477524)

I don't really care about being remembered. I want to, in a way, be "successful", but "success" for me is not what you might expect: if I can make my son's childhood a happier one than mine was, and if I can make our family a happy, warm, welcoming place for that little kid, make him self-confident, feel good about himself... that stuff would mean, to me, that I was "successful". My son may or may not remember me, after I'm gone (though he very likely would remember me), but that's beside the point: I would be satisfied to have been instrumental in him having a good life and being a good person.

Re:A Pyrrhic Victory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33477432)

Most importantly has been the secondary effects. Lots of people have written about this, exposing stuff that the BCA would not like to be exposed, such as The patheticness of their claims [dcscience.net] . The The Advertising Standards Authority upheld a complaint about bogus advertising for a chiropractor who said he could cure colic, and after this every UK chiropractor with a website has had that website closely examined, and if it contains anything objectionable then there have been complaints to the local trading standards and the GCC. Ultimately the McTimoney Chiropractic Association told all of it's members to totally remove their websites.

Do you really think the BCS considers this a victory?

Re:A Pyrrhic Victory (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477550)

The trouble with "Money seems less important now, compared to some greater things in life" is that it goes from being plain good sense to (depending on your position) either being Just Plain Wrong or Epic Stoicism pretty sharply at a certain level, defined by your local costs of living and social safety net, if any. Also, if whatever you have in mind requires purchasing inputs(such as legal time), there exists a point where the project goes from being possible to being impossible.

Worrying about money, in itself, is a hobby at best and a psychological condition at worst. However, a substantial majority of people don't have the luxury of worrying about money, in itself(particularly if you are talking a $200k bill and enough time in court that you'd probably lose your day job). They are worrying about "money" as a proxy for worrying about homelessness, or lack of medical care, or hunger, or their children, or fighting with their spouse all the time, or whatever.

Estimates vary; but the PPP adjusted GDP per capita of the UK is only ~$35k. If a libel defense costs ~5.5 years of that, it is essentially a certainty that most of the population simply doesn't have a choice about whether they want to mount one or not, regardless of whether they care about money or not.

Re:A Pyrrhic Victory (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477090)

Congratulations, you've just invented a system which no half-decent solicitor will touch with a bargepole if they can possibly help it. It'll be left to the newly-qualified still wet behind the ears people who are likely to do more harm than good.

Re:A Pyrrhic Victory (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33477290)

No, the system he describes is pretty similar to the German system (which has standard lawyer fees; you are allowed to pay your lawyer more than that, but why would you?). That works fine:
- on a €5,000 lawsuit, both side's lawyers are not inclined to spend more than a few hours for the low 4 digit standard fee on that lawsuit.
- if you sue somebody for 10 million, and the court later awards you €5,000, you get to pay the lawyer fees for 10 million, whereas the loser will have to reimburse the lawyer fees for €5,000. That discourages suing for frivolous amounts of damages rather than for actual damages.
- you cannot drown the other side in costs to force them to drop the case

Re:A Pyrrhic Victory (3, Interesting)

Skapare (16644) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477268)

Requiring money from plaintiffs does not solve the real problem, which is that court systems like those in UK, US, and AU, are fundamentally biased toward people with money, and hence to the positions more of those people hold.

A truly just system would not require anyone to expend any money whatsoever, to carry out a complete and thorough adjudication of the issues. Since people have to do work to carry that out, someone has to pay for it, and that leaves the state. Of course those anti-big-government people, who generally benefit from the unjust and biased legal systems we do have now, would never go for such a change. I can also understand the concerns, because a state paid system really gets opened up for so much abuse in the economic sense (excessive numbers of cases, too).

One thing that would help for lots of little cases is for thing otherwise treated as civil now should be treated as criminal (especially if there is a pattern). The state needs to bring cases against banks and big businesses for things that would otherwise require their customers to sue. If the violations are excessive, there needs to be jail time for the perpetrators, and even "death" for the "corporate person" if it keeps on happening. These cases also need to "pierce the veil of incorporation" in the extreme cases and go after those who voted in the bad guys to the board.

My big point is, that a judicial system where people must pay up front for justice just isn't a just system for those that don't have that financial means, and at best is unfair to those that do, but have to incur that to get justice. Justice should be about setting things straight (including money to those who are were losers by result of the violation, and taking from those who unfairly gained by result of the violation ... after the adjudication properly determine who and what).

Re:A Pyrrhic Victory (1)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477304)

I assume, since the article says he is a British citizen, sued under the British libel law, by the British Chiropractic Association, for an article published in The Guardian, that he was sued in an English court. And, presumably, under the English Rule [wikipedia.org] .

What am I missing here?

-Peter

Re:A Pyrrhic Victory (1)

Dare nMc (468959) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477316)

The problem that comes up every time this is proposed, is that it closes the courts to the poor. For example, if mega corp poisons a poor families water through careless activity, and they only learn after their entire family is seriously ill. They can't sue for millions, because they cant come up with thousands to start the case. If they find a lawyler/legal service to foot the bill, those lawyers are then the one taking the largest financial risk, so those lawyers will then require most of the reward, or not take the case.
That is why in the US, it is left up to the court (in most jurisdictions) so if the court (judge) decides the case should never have occurred then they can pass the fees onto whoever deserves it. If however it was a very tough/close decision their is no extra punishment set on those who started the process, especially if it were just some legal loop hole that caused them to lose.
The US system works great in the cases where a good Judge takes charge. However in the US the problem is most Judges are ex-lawyer/prosecutors who are more interested in maintaing the system that they grew up in.

In short their is nothing wrong with how the rules are setup in the US court system, except it falls onto the judges to make sure they are followed; and they don't do that, all too often.

Re:A Pyrrhic Victory (1)

Mikkeles (698461) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477438)

Any system that depends on the goodwill of an authority is not a good system.

(Now, if only I could come up with a foolproof solution!)

Re:A Pyrrhic Victory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33477616)

Actually costs awarded usually includes an amount of interest, a common amount is 4pc above the Barclays (or other hs bank) base rate.

Re:A Pyrrhic Victory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33477630)

Europe at least is far better than the US in this regard, but I'd go a step further.

Hey, genius, try reading the article before you spout off about the problems with American courts. Though they may be numerous, this whole debacle is based in the UK, not the US.

This is why it wasn't a "Pyrrhic Victory": (4, Interesting)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477754)

Quote from Wikipedia:

The publicity produced by the libel action has led to a "furious backlash",[2] with formal complaints of false advertising being made against more than 500 individual chiropractors within one 24 hour period,[3][30] with the number later climbing to one quarter of all British chiropractors.[2] It also prompted the McTimoney Chiropractic Association to write in a leaked message to its members advising them to remove leaflets that make claims about whiplash and colic from their practice, to be wary of new patients and telephone inquiries, and telling their members: "If you have a website, take it down NOW." and "Finally, we strongly suggest you do NOT discuss this with others, especially patients."[2][3] One chiropractor is quoted as saying that "Suing Simon was worse than any Streisand effect and chiropractors know it and can do nothing about it."[2]

Linky. [wikipedia.org]

Aren't the English better at, well...English? (0, Offtopic)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | more than 3 years ago | (#33476932)

"yet it happily promotes bogus treatments" does not necessarily imply dishonesty, it can also imply ineptitude or idiocy. So ruling that he was claiming they were intentionally promoting bogus treatments and knew and believed they were bogus infers something from the statement that does not necessarily exist.

People have the same problems interpreting the English language when it comes to the second amendment in the US Constitution. The "well regulated militia" clause is parenthetical but through willful idiocy or intentional sophistry some try to claim it's some kind of limiter or restriction.

Re:Aren't the English better at, well...English? (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477060)

The problem is that not everyone understands language, and the diversity of meaning. This is particularly problematic with people heavily involved in law, where the language needs to be precise, even to the extreme of being excessively verbose. So it is no surprise that some judges would misunderstand what is meant, or even dare make an assumption that a certain thing would be meant.

To be clear enough in writing to be sure all judges would understand it would be to write in a style no one else can.

Re:Aren't the English better at, well...English? (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477162)

Which is precisely what the first judge interpreted Singh to mean, and precisely what he appealed against. The Court of Appeal held that his comment was an opinion piece rather than an assertion of fact, and therefore not something the court should interfere in.

Re:Aren't the English better at, well...English? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477558)

Um it's not parenthetical. The amendment was written in a bizarre fashion even for that time period and strictly speaking, even by your interpretation it's grammatically screwy resulting in additional oddly placed commas. They wouldn't have included the language about the militia at all, if they didn't mean to require membership for gun rights. You also apparently missed the part of history class where they discussed why it is that we have a guaranteed right to form up militias. And that reason is that early on there was no military, there was basically no law enforcement in wide portions of the country, on top of which there were still Indians running about very pissed about having had their land stolen from them.

It does take a suspension of disbelief to come to the conclusion that most of the amendment is essentially just there, to be ignored, rather than a portion of the amendment. Notice that they didn't do such things with either the first,third or fourth amendments.

So to sum it up, you can't parse out precisely in that fashion language which wasn't precisely fashioned in the first place. It would be nice if they had written it correctly with normal grammatical conventions being adhered to, and with the copies being identical, but they didn't.

Re:Aren't the English better at, well...English? (1)

Arker (91948) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477676)

Actually that language was subject of much debate and very carefully written. As you've just demonstrated, it's impossible to do the job to the point that someone who really wants to read it differently cant make it work in their own head.

Usual blame scenario (0, Troll)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 3 years ago | (#33476960)

The interview touches on the possible trend of popular distrust of scientific expertise, but never mentions lousy pop-science headlines, slimey university PR releases (I won't name names like MIT), skewed incentives of private sector researches (e.g., suppressing all negative results), and the list goes on. Medical research, given all the interest and money involved, is probably the most egregious offenders.

Researchers need to look in the mirrors, too.

Re:Usual blame scenario (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33477180)

I'll just amplify that. Large swaths of current medical care are haphazard, harmful and often fatal. Poor practices frequently hide behind a culture of medical convention and a veneer of science. If there is some backlash against science, it's because wittingly or not, scientists' work has been manipulated by the huge pharmaceutical and health care industries toward profitable ends at the cost of many lost and damaged lives.

Re:Usual blame scenario (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477340)

You went off my point slightly - the researchers themselves, being the principals, must own up to fair share of the blame. They are aware of the incentives and environments in which they work, and "wittingly or not" is no excuse.

Condemnation of the UK legal system (2, Interesting)

Skapare (16644) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477018)

Actually, it is the UK legal system that doesn't work. Neither does the US legal system, or the AU legal system. But for this we can focus on the broken UK legal system.

Basically, what is broken is that the truth is effectively restricted to people with money and wealth. It's good that we have people like Simon Singh who have enough money to make it work, and make it work the right way. Unfortunately, the vast majority of those with money and wealth also tend to be those who perverse and corrupt the system with lies and untruths. So it is a very biased system, even if it might well be balanced and just when those facing off are well moneyed. In other words, it's not a system for ordinary people. So unless we can find a new system to replace it, or at least supplement it, there is no justice, and no truth, for ordinary people most of the time.

Re:Condemnation of the UK legal system (5, Informative)

cgenman (325138) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477082)

Amusingly enough, the US actually has laws protecting US Citizens [bbc.co.uk] from UK libel laws. IANAL, but in the US you need to show that the defendant was malicious or reckless, and the claimant has to prove that the claim is false. In the UK, it is on the defendant to prove that the claim is true.

So while the problem of buying justice in civil actions is true across the board, the UK is particularly egregious in this respect. Supposedly the UK government will propose a libel reform in March of next year, though details have not been forthcoming.

Re:Condemnation of the UK legal system (2, Insightful)

Skapare (16644) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477190)

Yes, that is a great US law. But it does not change the fact that the US legal system has most of the same issues the UK legal system has, with respect to fairness for those who don't have the means to even spend $5000 on a case, much less $200000. The fact is, these systems are biased towards those with money. And being able to countersue to recover that money (where it can be done) doesn't help very much. It's a good thing that rightful people like Simon Singh do have some money. It's unfair even to him that he has to spend all that (I hope he has a means to recover it). But at least he was in a position to get some of the fairness at some point that most other people would never be able to get.

Re:Condemnation of the UK legal system (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33477498)

Many US states now have anti-SLAPP laws that minimize the costs of recovering attorney's fees in frivolous libel cases. You don't need to countersue -- you just file a motion and if it's granted, the case is dismissed and you get fees right away. These were unheard of not so long ago.

So the system is changing for the better, albeit slowly.

"experts" (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33477022)

Simon Singh: Don’t come up with a view, find everybody who agrees with it, and then say, “Look at this, I must be right.” Start off by saying, “Who do I trust?” On global warming, for example, I happen to trust climate experts, world academies of science, Nobel laureates, and certain science journalists. You have to decide who you trust before you decide what to believe.

The guy makes a great point although at the same time if applied everywhere is totally wrong. I'm sure some of those chiropractors are "experts" in their "field". Why wouldn't we trust them over some journalist. After all, the journalist isn't an expert!

The point being everyone seems to be labeling themselves as an expert these days, even when they're not (social media experts, haha). There was an artist on a TV program I watched the other day labelling himself a "climate expert" demanding that everyone should stop flying, right now! Regardless of how people feel about global warming I start not giving I shit when it turns into the big circle jerk that it has become and everyone starts the "look at me!" game.

Re:"experts" (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477202)

The point being everyone seems to be labeling themselves as an expert these days, even when they're not (social media experts, haha).

That's why you have to say it with a German accent if you want to be taken seriously: "Yessss, I am ze expeeeert."

So Singh Believes in Global Warming (-1, Offtopic)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477182)

So Singh believes in Global Warming, and that anyone who is against it isn't credible because by his numbers 98% of Climate Scientists believe in it being Real and Dangerous. Here's my take on that:

I remember the 1970's plenty well enough to recall that the great fear then was, are you ready for this, Global Cooling! The Earth was going to freeze in 30 years and we were all going to die through mass starvation because crops wouldn't grow. And yes, the Climate Scientists of that time were all behind that farce as well. How quickly things change.

Before you take Global Warming as your next panic attack, answer the following 3 questions:

1: Is the Earth getting warmer?
2: Even if #1 is true, is it human caused?
3: Even if #1 and #2 are true, can humans actually do anything about it?

Unless you can answer all three of the above questions with an unqualified YES, don't panic and don't suddenly feel that the only solution is the spending of hundreds of billions of dollars in wealth transfer (to enrich those in the environmentally blessed Green Industries), and don't buy into the radicals who believe that the only solution is to take us back to the Stone Age.

Singh, you may be right about Chiropracticy and I agree with you there, but you aren't even close to selling me on Global Warming as being anything other than natural cycles that we've gone through at least 8 of in recorded geologic history well before humans could have had any effect on it at all. Until you can explain the equally obvious global warming on Mars at present as somehow caused by human activity don't ask me to destroy my lifestyle over something I can't actually affect anyway.

And one last point. Despite claims to the contrary, we do not have wonderfully accurate temperature records over the last 100 years. This is my field and I know how even the most modern temperature sensors in common use are often biased and surprisingly inaccurate. Yet Climate Scientists are relying on manually read thermometers, often improperly placed initially or in areas now recently developed, to bolster their cause. And they throw out entirely the 33% of the data that doesn't support their cause at all. Tell me that you have devastatingly accurate temperature data from even 50 years ago and I'll call you a Liar right to your face. Singh may need to learn a bit more on just how inaccurate most of our historical readings truly are -- but that's not his field.

Re:So Singh Believes in Global Warming (2, Interesting)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477274)

I remember the 1970's plenty well enough to recall that the great fear then was, are you ready for this, Global Cooling!

Hate to snow on your parade, but that's a myth.

Re:So Singh Believes in Global Warming (1)

Grapplebeam (1892878) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477292)

So the global pollution that shut down Moscow isn't an issue at all? Even if global warming is nothing more than a scheme to get us to pollute less, isn't it time we started doing so anyways? Think of a law that received widespread support BEFORE anyone died from it when we didn't have any regulation. Especially here in America, we need a catalyst to get anything done. So while you may be right about global climate change being fake (which I still believe it's real especially since you didn't quote anything empirical), I still think the obnoxious hippies have a point for once. One other thing, I notice you didn't mention how we're due for an ice age and how that might affect the way our climate change is. Global warming is misleading as a term.

Re:So Singh Believes in Global Warming (1)

Arker (91948) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477636)

Even if global warming is nothing more than a scheme to get us to pollute less, isn't it time we started doing so anyways?

Unfortunately the issue isnt so clear-cut as this. You see, CO2 is a naturally component of the atmosphere - not a pollutant. Unless, of course, the currently fashionable AGW dogma is taken to be true and correct. In that case, and in that case only, it makes some sense to consider carbon emissions as something like pollution.

So what does decreasing pollution mean? To the skeptic it means decreasing things like particulate pollution and noxious gasses (including carbon monoxide but not carbon dioxide, which is a normal and necessary part of the biosystem) in the air, along with all the nasty poisonous stuff that can get in our water, and so on. But to the true-believer, all those traditionally recognised pollutants take a back seat to the new boogey-man, CO2 emissions. So the skeptic and the true-believer can both agree that we should pollute less, without actually agreeing on what that means.

Re:So Singh Believes in Global Warming (1)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477306)

You're an excellent example of exactly what Mr. Singh speaks about at the end of his interview. Science isn't about finding support for your belief or absolute proof some other belief has no possibility of being correct. It's about using a formal, methodological process for deciding what to believe. I don't think anyone who has objectively decided who are credible experts in the field then looked into what the most supported scientific theories are, has not concluded that the scientific answer so far is that global climate change is happening at rapid and unexpected rates, most likely due to the influence of humans including gas emissions.

Sure you can go out and pick studies and people to attack or quote to support any opinion you've already formed, but that isn't science nor is it reasoned. And that's where you and the majority of our society seems to be failing.

Re:So Singh Believes in Global Warming (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33477342)

I remember the 1970's plenty well enough to recall that the great fear then was, are you ready for this, Global Cooling! The Earth was going to freeze in 30 years and we were all going to die through mass starvation because crops wouldn't grow. And yes, the Climate Scientists of that time were all behind that farce as well.

So how many times has this falsehood been tossed out as the truth? Numerous posters on /. have cited the scientific literature from the '70s and yet folks still get modded interesting for giving their recollection of what the got from the mass media. Sigh, just go back to listening to what Faux News wants you to believe.

Re:So Singh Believes in Global Warming (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477384)

Singh may need to learn a bit more on just how inaccurate most of our historical readings truly are -- but that's not his field.

Well, as someone who's spent most of his career developing data acquisition systems, I tend to agree with you, and even the most well-designed instrumentation can (as you say) suffer from deployment and installation issues. Want another example? Human body temperature [harvard.edu] . 19th century research was dependent upon 19th measuring technology: making crucial public policy decisions on old data that is likely flawed is very dangerous. Yet, that's exactly what we're doing in the case of global warming.

Re:So Singh Believes in Global Warming (1)

medlefsen (995255) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477496)

Well, the consensus among climate scientists seems to be yes, yes, and we really hope so. I'm merely a lay person and I don't know what "your field" is, but I do know that current research that is published in climate journals is way past the point of arguing about whether it's happening or not. There are a lot of very intelligent climate scientists who believe in global warming so if the entirety of argument is that they are missing something obvious (like the inaccuracy of thermometers, or global warming on mars) it makes me wonder if you have actually ever asked a climate scientist about it or if you're just looking for some reason to reject their results.

Based on your paragraph on "radicals" and "wealth transfer" I'm assuming you're a libertarian or something along those lines. Perhaps some of your resistance to accepting the current consensus is that the consequences don't fit into your political ideology. Maybe you have better/different ideas on how we should go about dealing with the problem, but please don't pretend it doesn't exist just because it's considered a "liberal" issue.

Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge (1)

tomhath (637240) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477378)

That seems redundant. But I'll probably get sued for saying it.

trust authority? (3, Insightful)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477386)

Wired: What about nonscientists? How are we supposed to know what's true?

Simon Singh: Don't come up with a view, find everybody who agrees with it, and then say, "Look at this, I must be right." Start off by saying, "Who do I trust?" On global warming, for example, I happen to trust climate experts, world academies of science, Nobel laureates, and certain science journalists. You have to decide who you trust before you decide what to believe.

This makes me very uncomfortable. I believe that global warming is real and anthropogenic, but the reason I believe it isn't just that somebody with a Nobel prize said, "global warming is real and anthropogenic." Authoritative scientists told us that margarine was better for us than butter; in that miscegenation laws were necessary for public health; and that electromagnetic waves were not quantized (Bohr's school said this) and that they were vibrations of a luminiferous aether (most textbooks said this, decades after Einstein published relativity). All of those claims turned out to be false. Some of them were extremely harmful to large numbers of people.

I teach physics at a community college for a living. The hardest thing to get my students to do is to think for themselves. Some come in already doing it, some will do it with encouragement, and others are incapable of doing it. Some will do it and come up with conclusions that I consider incorrect. But despite all these difficulties, we're far better off as a society if 10% of the population can think for themselves than we are if 100% accept authoritative opinions on faith.

Re:trust authority? (3, Insightful)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477510)

I agree that faith and belief in authority are crappy things to base belief on. So now the question is how to decide? Methodological naturalism works great, but most people don't have the capacity to go through that process every time they have to make a decision.

So then you have to look at sources that have applied methodological naturalism and go with the answer they got. I don't think that's faith, but rather it's a rational basis for making a decision based on the process that was used having a great track record over the past couple of millennia.

Re:trust authority? (1)

Cabriel (803429) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477682)

what you've just said is that everyone should test every assertion ever made. Let's start with you: Did you personally test Anthropogenic Global Warming? 'Cause I'm willing to bet you trusted someone else's assertion. While your point that we should be critical thinkers is valid, your assertion that we shouldn't trust authoratative sources is misdirected. We should test the source, but if they prove to be authoritative, we don't need to distrust everything out-of-hand. If they make mistakes, other authoratative sources will correct them.

Singh is quite right: We should be critical thinkers in deciding who to trust before we decide what we should believe.

internet wisdom (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33477402)

"You have to decide who you trust before you decide what to believe."
- Singh

This pearl becomes even more meaningful in the Internet Age.

This is a useful article (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477416)

I like the last answer given by Singh:

Science has nothing to do with common sense. I believe it was Einstein who said that common sense is a set of prejudices we form by the age of 18. Inject somebody with some viruses and that's going to keep you from getting sick? That's not common sense. We evolved from single-cell organisms? That's not common sense. By driving my car I'm going to cook Earth? None of this is common sense. The commonsense view is what we're fighting against. So somehow you've got to move people away from that with these quite complicated scientific arguments based on even more complicated research. That's why it's such an uphill battle. People start off with a belief and a prejudice--we all do. And the job of science is to set that aside to get to the truth.

When people use things like "common sense" as a weapon to call you an idiot, I will have to keep the view described by Singh in mind. After all, it's perfectly correct to question common sense and even fly in its face if evidence to the contrary is available. It common sense needs to be tested to strike out the impurities and leave us with the truth. So every time "the official story" seems a bit wrong or even unnatural, it needs to be tested. Unfortunately, it will not stop people from thinking you're some form of nut for going against the generally accepted truth. The world isn't flat but I wonder how many people were attacked or even killed for asserting otherwise.

GMO (2, Insightful)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477638)

I'm glad Singh brings up the issue of GMOs in his interview. It's my opinion as well that the vast bulk of the evidence sited by GMO opponents is pseudoscience at best.

It is high time start recognizing what is going on with the anti-GMO campaign.

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