Keep the Libel Laws out of Science

Simon Singh is a brave man. He has announced that he is going to apply to appeal in his case with the British Chiropractic Association. He writes about the background to the case here.

Simultaneously, Sense About Science is launching its Keep the Libel Laws out of Science Campaign. It should be widely reported in the UK media today.

Libel Reform Campaign logo

On the website you will find a statement written by Singh and a group of people including Tracey Brown (MD of Sense About Science), Edzard Ernst (Prof. of Complementary Medicine and Singh’s co-author on Trick or Treatment) and David Allen Green (lawyer, blogger and Nature Networker!) on the use of libel to silence scientific debate and calling for a parliamentary review of the libel laws. Around here it is by now, I hope, fairly obvious why this is an important issue.

The statement has already been signed by nearly 150 of the ‘top names’ in science, journalism, comedy, literature and the law including Lord Rees, Stephen Fry, Professor Richard Dawkins (stop twitching, Henry), Derren Brown, Professor Steve Jones and Dara O’Briain. (Interesting debate to be had there about scientific authority, but I digress!)

The statement has now gone live and you can sign to show your support. I’ve already done so.

Oh, and if you can, make sure to blog, twitter or otherwise Web2.0 about this. Please send the link to your friends and ask them to sign too.

The statement has already been sent to the Prime Minister, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and the Department of Justice and it will be sent again — and again — with every 1000 additional signatures that are received until there is a commitment and a timetable from the parties for the necessary legislation.

This will probably be a long and tortuous journey.


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14 Responses to Keep the Libel Laws out of Science

  1. Richard P. Grant says:

    Huzzah. Pith helmets, everyone.

  2. Ian Brooks says:

    bq. _And Caesar’s spirit, raging for revenge,
    With Ate by his side come hot from hell,
    Shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice
    Cry “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war,
    That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
    With carrion men, groaning for burial._
    Jolly good show! They don’t like it up ’em!

  3. Stephen Curry says:

    Steady there Corporal Jones. Don’t panic. As scientists, we’re going to be measured and reasonable, as Henry was arguing only this morning.

  4. Mong H Tan, PhD says:

    RE: The Libel Law has nothing to do with Science!
    Am I an odd man out here?
    I thought the “Singh v BCA” case is a showcase of the irresponsible, libelous “fad/bad science writing” that I initially analyzed here: (Science writer waits on legal advice in libel case — RE: Simon Singh vs. the BCA — How a “big bang” jolt could be defused into a “whimper” in the current fad/bad science writing industry!?); and just now,
    I affirmed that the Libel Law is absolutely necessary so as to settle this maddening case in the UK here: (Science writer will appeal libel case ruling — RE: The “Singh v BCA” saga continues!?).
    Best wishes, Mong 6/4/9usct3:01p; author “Decoding Scientism” and “Consciousness & the Subconscious” (works in progress since July 2007), “Gods, Genes, Conscience” (2006: ) and “Gods, Genes, Conscience: Global Dialogues Now” (blogging avidly since 2006: ).

  5. Stephen Curry says:

    Hi Mong. It’s been widely reported that Singh might have been a little more judicious in his choice of words (I mentioned this in an earlier post) but his wider criticism of chiropractic in general as lacking a solid scientific base would seem to be founded on reasonable evidence. In this, he would seem to have some support from the Advertising Standards Agency.
    The broader issue here is one of powerful organisations using the law to silence critics, rather than responding — scientifically — with a robust examination of the evidence. Singh’s position is further complicated in that Justice Eadie has put an interpretation on his words that he claims is not correct. That, I believe, is the basis of the appeal. Which I support.

  6. Stephen Curry says:

    I’ve just read Simon Singh’s own write-up on the libel trial and his decision to appeal. Bit long but very well worth it – calmly and clearly reasoned.
    (Just what we’d expect from an ex-Imperial student)

  7. Eva Amsen says:

    Can only UK citizens sign it, or everyone?

  8. Stephen Curry says:

    I think anyone can sign. There’s a box to enter your country so it’s pretty transparent.
    Go on, you know you want to!

  9. Cath Ennis says:

    I signed, so you should be able to Eva!

  10. Austin Elliott says:

    Four thousand signatures and rising…!
    A perusal of their latest press statement suggests that the BCA are not keen on the direction events are taking.

  11. Stephen Curry says:

    No they’re not. Let’s hope the pressure can be kept up. I see you applied a bit of a squeeze yourself today, Austin. Bravo!

  12. Stephen Curry says:

    7000 signatures and counting…
    Follow the campaign on Twitter (@freedebate for the cognoscenti)
    I have mentioned the campaign to local staff and student newspapers to drum up more support. Perhaps others could do the same…?

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