Respectful Insolence

free debate

Back in May many of us in the skeptical blogosphere were alarmed to learn of what British law blogger Jack of Kent termed “an astonishingly illiberal ruling” by Sir David Eady against science writer Simon Singh. Eady was the judge presiding over another bit of legal thuggery by practitioners whose feelings were hurt when Simon Singh called them out in print for their ‘promotion of chiropractic to treat all sorts of conditions for which it is utterly useless, referring to the British Chiropractic Association as promoting “bogus” remedies. When I wrote about this case nearly a month ago, I pointed out just how plaintiff-friendly British libel law is, citing the case of Holocaust denier David Irving suing Holocaust historian Professor Deborah Lipstadt for libel because she had the temerity to refer to him (quite correctly) as a Holocaust denier in one of her books. I also cited the cases of U.K. bloggers bullied into silence by the threat of a lawsuit which, given how plaintiff-friendly British libel law is, making it incredibly expensive to defend against a libel suit, would be nearly impossible for a person of average means to defend. At the time, when a technical ruling on the meaning of the word “bogus” went against Singh, in essence deciding that he said something that he did not mean and which would be virtually impossible to defend, I sadly speculated that the rational thing to do would be for Singh to cut his losses and settle. No one would blame him, and no one would buy the bogus (yes, I’m going to use that word as much as possible–thanks to the Founding Fathers for the First Amendment!) arguments from the bogus British Chiropractic Association that its winning the lawsuit was some sort of scientific vindication of their woo.

Thankfully, Simon Singh is made of sterner stuff. He is going to appeal:

Singh said he will appeal against the decision on Monday, though he concedes that the courts rarely overturn such rulings. “We think it might be worth it. The ruling is quite extreme and it’s our only hope,” he said.

The courts could take two months to decide whether it will hear an appeal, Singh’s lawyers said. The writer already faces a bill for legal costs in excess of £100,000. If the appeal fails, said Singh, he will take the case to the European courts. “We’ll fight this until all the options are exhausted,” he said.

The case has led to a campaign to raise awareness of English libel laws, which critics claim can stifle legitimate and open debate about scientific and health issues. A statement, signed by more than 100 leading scientists and public figures, said libel laws had “a chilling effect, which deters scientists, journalists and science writers from engaging in important disputes about the evidential base supporting products and practices.”

I think even Singh realizes that he will probably lose his appeal, but he is doing it to make a point and to try to exhaust all legal remedies in the U.K., which is what he has to do before he can take his case to the EU. This is as brave and principled a decision as I have seen in a long time, as it could cost Singh very dearly. Sense About Science has launched a campaign to support Singh called Keep Libel Laws Out of Science, with a statement signed by 100 eminent scientists and academicians:

We the undersigned believe that it is inappropriate to use the English libel laws to silence critical discussion of medical practice and scientific evidence.

The British Chiropractic Association has sued Simon Singh for libel. The scientific community would have preferred that it had defended its position about chiropractic for various children’s ailments through an open discussion of the peer reviewed medical literature or through debate in the mainstream media.

Singh holds that chiropractic treatments for asthma, ear infections and other infant conditions are not evidence-based. Where medical claims to cure or treat do not appear to be supported by evidence, we should be able to criticise assertions robustly and the public should have access to these views.

English libel law, though, can serve to punish this kind of scrutiny and can severely curtail the right to free speech on a matter of public interest. It is already widely recognised that the law is weighted heavily against writers: among other things, the costs are so high that few defendants can afford to make their case. The ease and success of bringing cases under the English law, including against overseas writers, has led to London being viewed as the “libel capital” of the world.

Freedom to criticise and question in strong terms and without malice is the cornerstone of scientific argument and debate, whether in peer-reviewed journals, on websites or in newspapers, which have a right of reply for complainants. However, the libel laws and cases such as BCA v Singh have a chilling effect, which deters scientists, journalists and science writers from engaging in important disputes about the evidential base supporting products and practices. The libel laws discourage argument and debate and merely encourage the use of the courts to silence critics.

The English law of libel has no place in scientific disputes about evidence; the BCA should discuss the evidence outside of a courtroom. Moreover, the BCA v Singh case shows a wider problem: we urgently need a full review of the way that English libel law affects discussions about scientific and medical evidence.

Indeed. Quacks have discovered just how useful British libel laws are for silencing criticism, and using chiropractic to treat asthma and allergies is, quite simply, quackery. There is no evidentiary basis for it; there isn’t even scientific plausibility. To get a case rolling, all a quack has to do is to show that a statement is potentially defamatory; it’s then up to the defendant to show that it’s true or was misunderstood–all at great expense. As I said before, I don’t know if I could write what I write when I blog if I lived in the U.K., and even that may not be protection, given the phenomenon called libel tourism. The only protection anyone has from British libel laws is that it is (now) fairly rare for the British courts to try to get American courts to enforce a judgment. In any case, British libel law is a tool custom made for quacks to wield against skeptics in order to shut them up, and that’s exactly what they are doing. Like the Society of Homeopaths before, the British Chiropractic Association is nothing more than a group of thugs and bullies who cannot defend themselves on a scientific basis and thus use the law to try to stifle scientific debate.

Sign the petition now and show your support for Simon Singh! Now, I didn’t see a legal defense fund to which I could donate…

Comments

  1. #1 Bob O'H
    June 4, 2009

    I don’t know if I could write what I write when I blog if I lived in the U.K., and even that may not be protection, given the phenomenon called libel tourism.

    Everything I’ve seen says it isn’t any protection at all. English libel law is rubbish. About the only good thing about it is that it doesn’t have standing, so it can’t sue me for writing that.

  2. #2 Harry Eagar
    June 4, 2009

    Our legal system protects chiropractic with antitrust rather than libel laws. See Manion’s decision v. AMA.

    English libel law, like the loser-pays practice that shuts ordinary people out of the courts, isn’t going to change. You’ll do better to fight off the plutocrats who want to impose loser-pays on Americans.

    Although medical practitioners may be conflicted. If we had loser-pays you guys would face a lot fewer malpractice lawsuits.

  3. #3 Petter Häggholm
    June 4, 2009

    That legal defence fund—to support Simon Singh if he needs it, to be donated to some worthy cause if he turns out not to—needs to be brought into existence. Hell, I would donate to it, and I don’t make a lot of money (nor am I as prone to charity as I should be…); not only is Singh fighting the good fight, but I have also gained both knowledge and entertainment from reading several of his books.

  4. #4 Pieter B
    June 4, 2009

    Hey, Harry — long time no see. Good to see we agree on something once in a while.

    Orac, there’s a donation link on the right sidebar of the petition page. It’s not specifically for the Singh matter, but there’s an email address in there that could be.

  5. #5 Petter Häggholm
    June 4, 2009

    That legal defence fund—to support Simon Singh if he needs it, to be donated to some worthy cause if he turns out not to—needs to be brought into existence. Hell, I would donate to it, and I don’t make a lot of money (nor am I as prone to charity as I should be…); not only is Singh fighting the good fight, but I have also gained both knowledge and entertainment from reading several of his books.

  6. #6 Marcus Ranum
    June 4, 2009

    Hopefully, Simon will write his next book – about chiropractic – when he comes to the US for a spell.

  7. #7 Marcus Ranum
    June 4, 2009

    Rule #1: never piss off the man with the microphone. If I were Singh, I’d write my next book about big chiro and how woo has corrupted the UK health system. And maybe I’d publish it in the US and make a few choice bits available as previews on Amazon.com where the google search engine would pick them up.

    Ben Goldacre’s publishing the chapter from his book, after his libel case, has gotten more people to read it than otherwise would have. These idiots need to realize that attempting to silence an opponent doesn’t work – discredit, obfuscate, ad hominem and swift boating; all of those work – but trying to silence the guy with the microphone is epic stupid.

  8. #8 noah
    June 4, 2009

    I would donate to a legal fund for Mr. Singh without hesitation. Although I am not sure of the legality in the UK of international donations for legal cases. Perhaps someone in the know about this can edify all of us who wish to donate.

  9. #9 happeh
    June 4, 2009

    Orac – “using chiropractic to treat asthma and allergies is, quite simply, quackery. There is no evidentiary basis for it; there isn’t even scientific plausibility.”

    Why is it so difficult to admit that “no evidentiary basis” or “a study verifying something”, is not the same as saying that something is untrue?

    At one time no one could prove that the sun heated the earth. But all you have to do is put your hand out to feel the heat of the sun on your hand. Someone who wanted to be trouble could say “you can’t prove the sun put the heat on your hand. Maybe it was phlogiston particles’. But most people would go ahead and stay in the sun to get warm.

    As for scientific plausibility, I disagree. I feel that many scientists do not think for themselves or think outside of specified boundaries for fear of retribution. This narrows their thinking along certain lines that they usually find it impossible to get out of.

    Have any of you considered that what you believe is the cause of asthma or allergies might not be the cause of allergies an asthma? Or might not be the only cause of allergies and asthma?

    If there was another cause for allergies and asthma, and you do not know about it, then it is possible that chiropractic could have an effect on this cause that you are unaware of.

    I implore you to think about what is going on here instead of simply dismissing it. I believe that you scientists attribute asthma and allergies to either pollens in the air or to some kind of chemicals. Chiropractic involves physical manipulation of the body.

    If chiropractic is supposed to help asthma, and chiropractic physically manipulates the body, have you ever considered there might be a physical cause for asthma?

    I doubt it.

  10. #10 guthrie
    June 4, 2009

    Justice Eady has a long history of supporting ridiculous lawsuits brought by rich and powerful people, as explained in Private Eye and various places online. SOme of which can be found on a wikipedia entry for him:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Eady

    He is a shining example of how wrong the British judiciary can be.

  11. #11 zayıflama
    June 4, 2009

    These idiots need to realize that attempting to silence an opponent doesn’t work – discredit, obfuscate, ad hominem and swift boating; all of those work – but trying to silence the guy with the microphone is epic stupid.

  12. #12 T. Bruce McNeely
    June 4, 2009

    Chiropractic was invented in the 1890’s. It’s had at least 110 years to prove its effectiveness against respiratory illnesses. We’re still waiting.

  13. #13 Rogue Medic
    June 4, 2009

    I wrote a bit about Sir Eady. Sad to say, what I wrote isn’t respectful at all.

    Piracy on the High Court

    happeh,

    Another what if that you couldn’t even manage to keep close to plausible for an entire comment.

    Have any of you considered that what you believe is the cause of asthma or allergies might not be the cause of allergies an asthma? Or might not be the only cause of allergies and asthma?

    If there was another cause for allergies and asthma, and you do not know about it, then it is possible that chiropractic could have an effect on this cause that you are unaware of.

    It is certainly possible that there are causes of asthma that we are not yet aware of. I believe that it is almost certain that we have a lot to learn about asthma.

    Suppose that chiropractic were to actually treat asthma successfully. This would be an example of this kind of omniscience you keep referring to.

    If we are supposing that chiropractic is effective, then we should also suppose that there would be some evidence of chiropractic providing some sort of benefit to patients with asthma. But there isn’t. In other words. Chiropractic is just another fraudulent unicorn medicine.

    Bogus doesn’t even begin to describe this abuse of patients.

  14. #14 Antaeus Feldspar
    June 4, 2009

    Summary of Happeh @ 9:

    “Some people got the idea into their heads that chiropractic works. Despite 110 years going by and no scientific evidence ever supporting this notion of theirs that chiropractic works, no one can actually prove beyond the unreasonable doubt of a true believer that it doesn’t work. So we should act as if chiropractic has some realistic likelihood of being true.”

    If we had applied the same standards in ages past, we never would have stopped burning witches. Using Happeh’s logic, just because there is “no evidentiary basis” for believing that our illnesses and misfortunes are due to hexes cast by evil witches in Satan’s service, that doesn’t mean it’s untrue!

  15. #15 happeh
    June 4, 2009

    Come on you people. I know that there are some scientist types who can think. Someone who can read what I wrote, and visualize and imagine something that might relate physical manipulations by chiropractors to asthma.

    Don’t give in to the urge to hate. Don’t fall back on the crutch of a study telling you what to think.

    Use your intellect that makes you a scientist, and post anything you can think of that could connect asthma to physical manipulation of the body.

    Or will you be attacked by your fellows simply for participating in the exercise and thinking on your own?

    Is the opinion of your fellows so important that you will allow them to dictate how and what you can think and talk about publicly?

  16. #16 Azkyroth
    June 4, 2009

    Happeh: A lot of things are “possible” and they can’t all be true. Where’s your evidence that this claim is plausible, probable, or reasonably certain?

  17. #17 JThompson
    June 4, 2009

    Happeh: Well, if you manipulate someone’s neck enough, eventually you might make them forget about asthma through paralysis or stroke.

    The best way to tell if someone is selling you magic beans is to ask what those beans cure. If the answer is “Why, absolutely everything! * “, then the seller is FOS.

    *This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

    “Don’t give in to the urge to hate” Why not? Red lightsabers look way cooler.

  18. #18 HarryEagar
    June 4, 2009

    So, happeh, are you a straight or a mixer?

    If a straight, then I deny that subluxations even exist — we’ve got excellent experimental evidence for that — so if they don’t exist, then chiropractic couldn’t help with asthma.

    If a mixer, and since (see above) it isn’t the subluxations, then it would have to be the woo-centric admixtures (like nutrition etc.) and not the chiropractic that did the trick.

    So in the second case, why not skip the chiropractor and go directly to the root-doctor?

    In at least the case of chiropractic, absence of evidence (of the existence of subluxations) is, indeed, evidence of absence.

  19. #19 Rogue Medic
    June 4, 2009

    happeh,

    Come on you people. I know that there are some scientist types who can think. Someone who can read what I wrote, and visualize and imagine something that might relate physical manipulations by chiropractors to asthma.

    Being able to visualize some manipulation that might work and having some manipulation that actually works. Not at all the same thing.

    Don’t give in to the urge to hate. Don’t fall back on the crutch of a study telling you what to think.

    Studies don’t tell us what to think. Well done studies do tell us what works. Chiropractic is not in the what works column.

    Use your intellect that makes you a scientist, and post anything you can think of that could connect asthma to physical manipulation of the body.

    Why?

    Asthma is a real illness.

    Chiropractic is not a real treatment.

    Or will you be attacked by your fellows simply for participating in the exercise and thinking on your own?

    That explains everything. I am sensitive to criticism. That is why I hide from the possibility of criticism.

    Is the opinion of your fellows so important that you will allow them to dictate how and what you can think and talk about publicly?

    Already answered that.

  20. #20 Anthro
    June 4, 2009

    Heppah, dear girl (my “intuition” says you’re a girl–and I have a 50% chance of being right), why don’t you just go take some basic science courses, say biology to start, and learn what science is and how it works? Then maybe you can quit posting these silly new-agey comments at a science blog where noone will ever take you seriously. I’m sure you are sincere, but your approach serves no other purpose but to expose your lack of science basics and logic.

  21. #21 Eamon
    June 4, 2009

    One possible loophole to get around the English libel laws for UK nationals might be to first publish in the other legal jurisdictions of the UK: Scotland or Northern Ireland.

    There are differences from English law in these regions – but how different the libel laws are I do not know.

  22. #22 AndyD
    June 4, 2009

    Re: DONATIONS
    Simon has said that he’s fully able to fund his own defence but that people should consider donating to Sense About Science who have supported him and are mounting a campaign to have libel laws changed.

    From the Times link above:
    “Offers of support and money “have been flooding in”, he said, but he asked that any donations should be made to Sense About Science, the not-for-profit group that is co-ordinating the campaign.”

  23. #23 Antaeus Feldspar
    June 4, 2009

    “Come on you people. I know that there are some scientist types who can think. Someone who can read what I wrote, and visualize and imagine something that might relate physical manipulations by chiropractors to asthma.”

    And if we had solid evidence indicating that physical manipulations by chiropractors had a positive effect on asthma, said attempts to “visualize and imagine” might actually be worthwhile.

    Since there is no such evidence, however, what you are suggesting we should do is start with the conclusion we (or more accurately you) wish to arrive at and only then examine the evidence. Which, needless to say, is not how real science works.

  24. #24 Chris
    June 5, 2009

    Eamon:

    One possible loophole to get around the English libel laws for UK nationals might be to first publish in the other legal jurisdictions of the UK: Scotland or Northern Ireland.

    Hah! There is a market in the UK for libel tourism. From a Wall Street Journal article Britain Chills Free Speech:

    British libel laws claim almost universal jurisdiction, allowing plaintiffs to sue over publications that may have only a tenuous link with Britain. This in turn has encouraged libel tourism — a lucrative business for British lawyers — as foreigners jet to British courts seeking protection from public scrutiny.

    And Sir David Eady is an enabler for this behavior! Though the USA is trying to stop it from crossing over the pond. (my bolding)

    As a consequence, the U.S. Congress is considering a bill that would make British libel judgments unenforceable in the U.S. This unusual step, invalidating British judgments, is the direct consequence of another case involving Khalid bin Mahfouz. He won a verdict against American author Rachel Ehrenfeld, who examined the flows of Saudi money to Islamist terrorists in her book “Funding Evil: How Terrorism Is Financed and How to Stop It.” The judge — the same David Eady as in Mr. Singh’s case — ruled in the plaintiff’s favor even though the offending book was not available for sale in U.K. book shops and only a few copies may have been sold in the U.K. on the Internet. Ms. Ehrenfeld and her publisher had decided not to publish the book in Britain for the very purpose of escaping British libel laws — but to no avail.

  25. #25 Happeh
    June 5, 2009

    Hmmmm. This time we have hate and weird sexual questions.

    Are any of you actually scientists? None of you appear able to answer a direct question.

    Can any of you think of a reason why chiropractic physical manipulation would affect asthma?

    There is no shame in admitting you do not have an imaginative, creative, innovative, and inventive mind if you cannot think of any connection.

    Someone has to be the worker bees, and if that is you, you should be proud of it.

  26. #26 Hedgehog
    June 5, 2009

    Hi Happeh,
    While there is no shame in admitting not to be imaginative, creative etc, there’s also no shame in admitting your grasp of biology is shaky at best ;-)
    Basic experiments show that chiropractic physical manipulation does not affect asthma. So why would you expect scientists to waste time thinking up reasons it could work when it has already been demonstrated not to work?

  27. #27 Matthew Cline
    June 5, 2009

    Okay, Happeh, I’ll bite:

    1) The pinching or stretching of nerves leads to an amplification of the signal from lungs to brain, increasing reaction to stimulus in the lungs.

    2) The pinching or stretching of nerves leads to an amplification of the signal from lungs to brain, resulting in more intense coughing.

    However, coming up with that really requires no imagination, just looking up the pathophysiology of atshma on Wikipedia and combining symptoms under the control of the nervous system with the pinching or stretching of nerves.

  28. #28 Jud
    June 5, 2009

    Howdy there, Happeh.

    Short and sweet: If chiropractic cures asthma, shouldn’t there be some cured former asthma sufferers to demonstrate the fact? And if all the asthma sufferers we can find who were ever treated by chiropractic haven’t gotten better, wouldn’t you say that’s a rather large clue bat knockin’ on the old noggin that it doesn’t work?

  29. #29 Paul Browne
    June 5, 2009

    Happeh, you have misunderstood the issue entirely.

    The question is not whether there is a scientific explanation of a beneficial effect of chiropractic in asthma sufferers, though I’d certainly be interested to hear one, but whether there is a beneficial effect (beyond placebo) at all.

  30. #30 Robin Levett
    June 5, 2009

    Just a couple of pedant points.

    @Harry Eagar #2:

    “Loser-pays” tends to stop plutocrats (and Microsofts) with deep pockets forcing opponents to give up their rights by simply keeping the litigation going until they can;t afford it any more. It’s the USA’s “costs fall where they lie” principle that favours plutocrats.

    @Orac:

    The “Europe” he is talking about would be the European Court of Human Rights, not the European Court of Justice; the ECHR is a Council of Europe institution set up under the European Convention on Human Rights, not an EU institution under the Treaties of Rome (etc).

  31. #31 Antaeus Feldspar
    June 5, 2009

    “There is no shame in admitting you do not have an imaginative, creative, innovative, and inventive mind if you cannot think of any connection.”

    Sounds very much like what the Emperor was told by his tailors. “Oh, there’s no shame in not being able to see these beautiful clothes we’re charging you so much for! It’s just that anyone who doesn’t see them is stupid and dull, but no, we’re not trying to pressure you into pretending you see something that isn’t there!”

    Once again, Happeh. If there was evidence to indicate a connection between chiropractic and asthma, then it would be worthwhile to try and figure out what the connection is. Scientists collect evidence; they propose hypotheses that can be tested; they draw conclusions from the results of the testing. But what you are suggesting is that we start with the conclusion; propose hypotheses that might lead to the conclusion; then and only then sift the evidence. Talk about getting things backwards.

  32. #32 symball
    June 5, 2009

    Happeh- a basic run through of how science works

    1) testable hypothesis (in this case chiro can help asthma)
    2) test hypothesis (compare what happens to patients with asthma when they do and don’t have chiro, ensuring that there are lots of patients to smooth out random effects and to ensure that the only difference between groups is chiro (blinding etc.))
    3)look at results to see if there is a difference
    4)develop hypothesis to explain results in 3. and then start back again from 1.

    you have started backwards, you first need to find a difference (which, when you control the experiment properly to rule out other effects, has not been shown), then you can go back and look for reasons. This is why you are getting such negative responses. it is meaningless to start asking for reasons until you have an effect- you might as well say it is pixies wot dun it.

  33. #33 Paul Browne
    June 5, 2009

    You should check out Happeh’s website, it’s quite amusing, and in his/her case probably intentionally so.

  34. #34 A.J
    June 5, 2009

    “You should check out Happeh’s website, it’s quite amusing, and in his/her case probably intentionally so.”

    Wow. Just wow. That is either one very talented Poe, or one seriously screwed up individual.

  35. #35 Marcus Ranum
    June 5, 2009

    Oh, you guys just discovered happeh theory?? I think we all had a big laugh over that on Randi’s site a year or so ago.

  36. #36 happeh
    June 5, 2009

    Matthew Cline – “However, coming up with that really requires no imagination, just looking up the pathophysiology of atshma on Wikipedia and combining symptoms under the control of the nervous system with the pinching or stretching of nerves.”

    I agree it requires no imagination. So why did it take from message number 9 when I asked until msg number 27 for you to appear and answer it? That means 18 messages from people who could not or would not provide the simple response you did. Are those 18 other commenters scientists? Or just people coming by here that don’t know science?
    ————-

    Antaeus – ” Scientists collect evidence; they propose hypotheses that can be tested; they draw conclusions from the results of the testing. But what you are suggesting is that we start with the conclusion; propose hypotheses that might lead to the conclusion; then and only then sift the evidence. Talk about getting things backwards.”

    Talk about being obtuse. I have something you never thought of.

    What if I have an exact answer I am trying to lead you to? What if instead of giving children answers, I believe in making them think up the answer on their own? Maybe I am giving you the conclusion and telling you it is true, so you have the confidence to work out the solution with your own brain.

    Never thought about that possibility did you? I wonder what else you have not thought about?
    ————-

    Okay simpletons. And yes that is a provocative term. It is targetted at the people that insist on using words like idiot and stupid.

    You scientists cannot even post the most simple description of the breathing process.

    Breathing involves the physical act of muscles contracting and then relaxing to pull air into the body and push air out of the body.

    Chiropractic manipulates the physical body. So maybe chiropractic affects the breathing muscles in some way that relieves asthma symptoms.

    Now. Do you feel stoopid? You should. A first year college student taking preparatory medical classes could write that description of the breathing process. But you oh so smart college graduates could not.

    Maybe because you were too busy writing idiot and stupid?

  37. #37 happeh
    June 5, 2009

    marcus ranum – “Oh, you guys just discovered happeh theory?? I think we all had a big laugh over that on Randi’s site a year or so ago.”

    Randi is a coward. They would not let me register at the site to whup on his booty.

    Funny when his reputation is based on getting in people’s face and telling them they are wrong. I guess he can give it out but can’t take it.

  38. #38 Antaeus Feldspar
    June 5, 2009

    “What if I have an exact answer I am trying to lead you to? What if instead of giving children answers, I believe in making them think up the answer on their own? Maybe I am giving you the conclusion and telling you it is true, so you have the confidence to work out the solution with your own brain.”

    In which case I was right: you are suggesting that we start with the conclusion; propose hypotheses that might lead to the conclusion; then and only then sift the evidence. It’s still the wrong way to go about a search for the truth, and if you tell us “But that’s the only way you’re going to understand the enormous value of Happeh Theory!” well, that’s entirely consistent; the procedure you propose is a poor way to search for the truth, and there’s no sign of truth to the idea that Happeh Theory is of value to anyone but Happeh.

  39. #39 Anthro
    June 5, 2009

    HEY EVERYBODY! Here’s a link to donate to Sense About Science:

    http://www.senseaboutscience.org.uk/index.php/site/about/9/

    There are numerous ways to do it (credit or debit card, paypal, bank transfer, etc.), and they welcome support from the US.

    Should we not bother reasoning with Heppeh? Is (s)he mentally ill? I don’t want to engage in back and forth with someone who is ill and it sounds as though some of you have previous experience with him/her, so I was just wondering???

  40. #40 Matthew Cline
    June 5, 2009

    In which case I was right: you are suggesting that we start with the conclusion; propose hypotheses that might lead to the conclusion; then and only then sift the evidence.

    I feel weird defending Happey, but I don’t think that’s what he meant. I think he was saying “You can’t prove a negative, so no matter how many studies there are that find that chiropractors had no effect on asthma suffers, it’s illogical and unscientific to say that chiropracty has no effect on asthma; at most you can say that there’s a lack of evidence that chiropracty affects astham”. (I find it interesting that Happeh thinks that studies/experiments with negative results have zero evidential value. I wonder what he thinks about the conclusion that vaccines aren’t responsible for the autism “epidemic”, since that’s based on the mere lack of any connection between vaccines and autism)

    All the rest of it was Happeh:

    1) Attempting to prove that we’re stupid/unimaginative/unscientific/etc

    2) Magnanimously attempting to teach us to think more like scientists.

  41. #41 Marita
    June 5, 2009

    That means 18 messages from people who could not or would not provide the simple response you did. Are those 18 other commenters scientists? Or just people coming by here that don’t know science?

    Right. It could be that, or it could be that none of the scientists here thought that your questions were sufficiently compelling to merit a response. Hmm… I wonder which it is…

  42. #42 Happeh
    June 5, 2009

    Antaeus – “no sign of truth to the idea that Happeh Theory is of value to anyone but Happeh.”

    It is lonely at the top. You see people claim to be intelligent and you go them, but they are just the same as everyone else. Not so intelligent.

    Antaeus – “It’s still the wrong way to go about a search for the truth,”

    Why? Do you have a real explanation, or is this just more of the mind washing “deny everything the other person says” kind of mental control statments you like to make?

    I am curious because that way works for millions of people around the world. Why doesn’t it work for you?

    Could it be that you are not as smart as you think you are?
    —————–

    Marita – “none of the scientists here thought that your questions were sufficiently compelling to merit a response. Hmm… I wonder which it is…”

    Oh yes. I am familiar with this type of response from grade school. Someone realizes that they missed the easiest most obvious answer of all, and they try to cover up by saying they never cared, which is of course the only reason such an intelligent person missed something so simple and so obvious.

  43. #43 Rogue Medic
    June 6, 2009

    happeh,

    You are the one missing the simple and obvious – wanting does not make something so.

  44. #44 Joe
    June 6, 2009

    A recent quote from Simon Singh “I have had many kind and generous offers of financial help, but at the moment I am able to fund my own legal costs.”

    http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=144820

  45. #45 Happeh
    June 6, 2009

    RogueMedic – “You are the one missing the simple and obvious – wanting does not make something so.”

    Grasshoppers sing in the summer.

    What does either one of our statements have to do with the current conversation?

  46. #46 Happeh
    June 6, 2009

    Paul Brown – “Happeh, you have misunderstood the issue entirely.

    The question is not whether there is a scientific explanation of a beneficial effect of chiropractic in asthma sufferers, though I’d certainly be interested to hear one, but whether there is a beneficial effect (beyond placebo) at all.”

    No wonder scientists can’t get anywhere. Your thinking is so confusing I am wondering if up is down.

    Asthma is a negative health condition that causes distress to a human body. That means that human body must have changed from it’s normal operating conditions in some way.

    If I say to you that chiropractic can return the body to it’s normal operating condition, thereby removing the symptoms of asthma, there is no need for any testing to determine if people feel it is beneficial. It doesn’t matter what subjective judgement a person gives you about how they feel after a chiropractic treatment.

    What matters is that before the chiropractic, that human body would be in a particular state associated with the health problem called asthma. After chiropractic, all of the little things in the body that made up the state of asthma, would be changed back to their original state, which would remove the symptoms of asthma.

    You scientists could continue to argue about whether or not people really got relief from chiropractic, but after listening to a possible explanation of a mechanism for how asthma works and how chiropractic could affect that mechanism, you would be forced to admit that there were certain measurable physical quantities in the body of an asthma sufferer, that were no longer there after treatment by chiropractic.

    That is science.

    To me, whether or not a person says “I feel chiropractic has a beneficial effect on my asthma” is a psychology question.

  47. #47 Rogue Medic
    June 6, 2009
    RogueMedic – “You are the one missing the simple and obvious – wanting does not make something so.”

    Grasshoppers sing in the summer.

    What does either one of our statements have to do with the current conversation?

    The grasshopper comment has nothing to do with this.

    You want us to encourage people to avoid effective treatments, just so they can take the snake oil you are selling. You want it to be so. Perhaps you want it because of greed (do you sell alternative medicine?). Perhaps you want it just because of hopeless optimism and a lack of awareness of the dangers.

    No matter how hard you wish for this garbage to not be garbage, alternative medicine is still garbage.

    Find some reproducible research to show that the unicorn medicine is more effective than placebo. Then try to make your point. Otherwise your pathetic wishing is just a waste of time.

  48. #48 N.C.
    June 6, 2009

    If I say to you that chiropractic can return the body to it’s normal operating condition, thereby removing the symptoms of asthma, there is no need for any testing to determine if people feel it is beneficial. It doesn’t matter what subjective judgement a person gives you about how they feel after a chiropractic treatment.

    Asthma isn’t subjective. There are objective, quantitative measurements of how the body is affected by asthma, such as lung capacity and blood oxygen content. A chiropractor or a chiropractic researcher should be able to set up an experiment that demonstrates that to some confidence interval, subluxation increases blood oxygen or lung capacity by some amount too significant to occur through chance.

  49. #49 Matthew Cline
    June 6, 2009

    If I say to you that chiropractic can return the body to it’s normal operating condition, thereby removing the symptoms of asthma, there is no need for any testing to determine if people feel it is beneficial. It doesn’t matter what subjective judgement a person gives you about how they feel after a chiropractic treatment.

    So then how does one determine if chiropractic has a beneficial effect on asthma? According to you (so far as I can tell) any studies which show that chiropractors had no effect on asthma can’t be taken as evidence that chiropractic has no effect on asthma, but only that there’s a lack of evidence that chiropractic can affect asthma. Plus, studies carried out by chiropractors fail because they lack the scientific training to design a proper study, and studies carried out by scientists fail either because the scientists failed in their anthropological duty to fully understand chiropractic or because the sabotaged the study to protect Big Medicine.

    On the other hand, finding someone who suffered from asthma and no longer did after being treated by a chiropractor is unscientific.

    You scientists could continue to argue about whether or not people really got relief from chiropractic, but after listening to a possible explanation of a mechanism for how asthma works and how chiropractic could affect that mechanism, you would be forced to admit that there were certain measurable physical quantities in the body of an asthma sufferer, that were no longer there after treatment by chiropractic.

    It’s possible for spinal manipulation to cure asthma, therefore spinal manipulation must be able to cure asthma?

  50. #50 Happeh
    June 7, 2009

    JC – “There are objective, quantitative measurements of how the body is affected by asthma, such as lung capacity and blood oxygen content. A chiropractor or a chiropractic researcher should be able to set up an experiment that demonstrates that to some confidence interval, subluxation increases blood oxygen or lung capacity by some amount too significant to occur through chance.”

    Mr JC. Thank you for talking like a scientist and addressing the subject.

    I am not prepared to agree that a study using the factors that you have mentioned will prove that chiropractic will help asthma.

    I would like an agreed upon definition for asthma. My definition for asthma is the individual cannot breath. They feel like their muscles cannot move air into their throat or lungs. They might say their muscles or their body felt frozen.

    If you have some other definition of asthma, maybe what I am thinking about would have no effect.

  51. #51 Jimbo Jones
    June 7, 2009

    Happeh, you’re redefining asthma. If it were simply an inability to breathe, then drowning is asthma. Being winded from running to fast for too long is asthma.

    Asthma has a specific definition already. You don’t get to redefine that, and be taken seriously. It involves a chronic restriction of airways due to both the airways shrinking, and excess mucus when not in response to foreign matter. Severity of asthma can be measured, and thereby response to treatment can be measured.

    Saying that you aren’t prepared to agree that a study using this definition is evidence is saying that you aren’t prepared to agree that a study is evidence. In that way, few people will be prepared to agree to take you seriously.

  52. #52 Antaeus Feldspar
    June 7, 2009

    “Antaeus – “It’s still the wrong way to go about a search for the truth,”

    Why? Do you have a real explanation, or is this just more of the mind washing “deny everything the other person says” kind of mental control statments you like to make?

    I am curious because that way works for millions of people around the world. Why doesn’t it work for you?”

    Because it “works” for people whose ideas are WRONG just as well as it works for those whose ideas are right. If you disagree, then please explain to us how the non-existence of N-rays would ever have been established by people using your methods of inquiry.

  53. #53 Dedj
    June 7, 2009

    “I am not prepared to agree that a study using the factors that you have mentioned will prove that chiropractic will help asthma.”

    So… you then have some questions to answer:

    Do you not accept mainstream indicators of asthma severity as valid? If not, why?

    Do you not accept that posistive impact on severity indicators can be used as an outcome measure? If not, why?

    How else – except by measuring the impact a treatment has on the measurements of asthma severeity – are we supposed to measure how well a treatment affects asthma severity?

  54. #54 Happeh
    June 7, 2009

    Jimbo Jones – I plainly said we needed to agree on what asthma was. I said asthma was the inability to breathe because of muscle freezing. You say that asthma is defined as inability to breath because of airway shrinking.

    What is it that causes airway shrinking? Could it be the frozen muscles I am talking about?

    We can work together. It is easy.
    ———

    Dedj – “Do you not accept mainstream indicators of asthma severity as valid? If not, why?”

    I came here looking for this kind of thinking. It has been so long since I have encountered it, I am having trouble responding. ;)

    The factors listed by JC I think it was, are lung capacity and blood oxygen levels. I feel those are secondary factors to other primary factors it would be more useful to monitor. Those mainstream indicators are valid because they are dependent on the primary factors I have in mind, but wouldn’t it be better to just go monitor the primary factors?
    ——–

    Dedj – “Do you not accept that posistive impact on severity indicators can be used as an outcome measure? If not, why?”

    Ouch! This is really hurting! If your severity indicators are blood oxygen and lung capacity, and chiropractic fails to alter either of those, you believe that chiropractic does not work.

    But if there is some other severity indicator for asthma that scientists do not check, and chiropractic fixed that indicator, scientists would not know chiropractic really did fix that asthma indicator, because the scientists don’t check that indicator because they are unaware of it’s existence.
    ———-

    Dedj – “How else – except by measuring the impact a treatment has on the measurements of asthma severeity – are we supposed to measure how well a treatment affects asthma severity?”

    I agree with this.

    I don’t agree that scientist check everything related to all types of what I think asthma is. If there are 5 asthma factors and scientists check 3 of them, those scientist cannot claim they have checked asthma factors and determined how well a treatment affected asthma severity.

    The scientists forgot to check 2 of the factors. Their results are incomplete.

  55. #55 Rogue Medic
    June 8, 2009

    What is it that causes airway shrinking? Could it be the frozen muscles I am talking about?

    That is funny.

    Asthma is actually an illness characterized by an overreactive airway. Exactly the opposite of frozen.

  56. #56 Matthew Cline
    June 8, 2009
    There are objective, quantitative measurements of how the body is affected by asthma, such as lung capacity and blood oxygen content.

    I am not prepared to agree that a study using the factors that you have mentioned will prove that chiropractic will help asthma.

    The primary function of the lungs is to absorb oxygen and expel carbon-dioxide, and the primary reason that asthma is a problem is that it inhibits this function. If chiropractic treatment doesn’t help the asthmatic to get oxygen into their body more easily, then how has it helped?

    What is it that causes airway shrinking?

    Inflammation causes the lung tissue to swell inwards, so there’s less open space.

    Could it be the frozen muscles I am talking about?

    What leads you to believe that frozen muscles have anything to do with asthma? How would frozen muscles lead to either inflammation or production of excess mucus?

  57. #57 Happeh
    June 8, 2009

    I get the feeling someone does not know as much as they claim to know.

    Mathew Cline – “What leads you to believe that frozen muscles have anything to do with asthma?”

    Let me spell this out the child like way.

    Asthma defined as – “characterized by variable and recurring symptoms, airflow obstruction, bronchial hyperresponsiveness (bronchospasm), and an underlying inflammation”

    Bronchospasm defined as – “Bronchospasm or a bronchial spasm is a sudden constriction of the muscles in the walls of the bronchioles”

    Spasm – “A spasm is a sudden, involuntary contraction of a muscle, a group of muscles, or a hollow organ, or a similarly sudden contraction of an orifice”

    Mr scientist Mathew Cline. Can a spasmed or contracted muscle behave normally? I believe the answer is no. A spasmed muscle could be described as a “frozen” muscle, as anyone who has ever had a cramp, or a spasmed muscle in their leg while they were running can tell you.

    That Mr scientist Mathew Cline, is why I believe that muscles have something to do with asthma.

    I would suggest that you educate yourself before you join these types of discussion in the future, in order to save yourself further public humiliation.

  58. #58 Matthew Cline
    June 8, 2009

    Mr scientist Mathew Cline. Can a spasmed or contracted muscle behave normally? I believe the answer is no. A spasmed muscle could be described as a “frozen” muscle,

    Only if by “frozen muscle” you mean a muscle that can’t behave normally, or a muscle which suddenly contracts involuntarily. I interpret the term “frozen muscle” as a muscle which can’t uncontract, which would describe cramps, but not spasms (I’ve experienced both). If you don’t mean a muscle which can’t uncontract (in which case you should pick better terminology), but a muscle that can’t behave normally and/or a muscle which suddenly contracts, then yes, obviously it has something to do asthma, since that’s part of the pathophysiology of asthma.

    Also, you didn’t answer my question about how chiropractic treatment could improve asthma without affecting blood oxygen levels, given the difficulty in getting oxygen is the primary problem asthma causes.

  59. #59 Dedj
    June 8, 2009

    “because the scientists don’t check that indicator because they are unaware of it’s existence”

    Sooooo, how do we know it’s a severity indicator? How could it have been missed? Where is your reference for its existance? What aspect of asthma causes it?

    You either REALLY do not get how asthma is defined, or else you are grotesquely over-simplifying your presentation of your arguement.

    “Frozen muscles” alone do not constitute an asthma diagnosis, as your own source used in post #57 indicates. Jimbo Jones has already provided you with a decent definition. You have not read him correctly if you think it’s just about airways contracting.

    Where’s the evidence?

    We don’t have time to waste on people like you on this blog, so either put up or shut up.

  60. #60 Dr Aust
    June 8, 2009

    For aficionados of the BCA vs. Singh case, the BCA have hit new heights of surrealism with their latest Press Statement (they’re utterly against stifling scientific debate, dontcha know? Who would have thought it?).

    I’ve blogged this here:

    BCA say they want scientific debate. Bears eschew woods for proper flush toilets and soft toilet paper.

  61. #61 Matthew Cline
    June 9, 2009

    I interpret the term “frozen muscle” as a muscle which can’t uncontract, which would describe cramps, but not spasms (I’ve experienced both).

    A correction/expansion: I interpret “frozen muscle” as either a muscle which can’t uncontract (like cramps) or can’t contract (like paralysis).

  62. #62 happeh
    June 9, 2009

    Dedj – “Sooooo, how do we know it’s a severity indicator?”

    By talking and listening to me for an hour or so, instead of spending a weeks worth of time talking about how it would be a waste of time to talk and listen to me for an hour.

    Dedj – “How could it have been missed?”

    Incompetence. Good people being the victim of liars.

    There are scientists who know exactly what I talk about. They train all the rest of you scientists. They purposefully leave out what I am talking about because that way they control you. They know things you do not.

    Dedj – “Where is your reference for its existance?”

    What does this question mean?

    Dedj – “What aspect of asthma causes it?”

    This other factor has nothing to do with asthma which I feel I have been alluding to. It is some completely different health problem, and the asthma I talk about, inability to breath, is a symptom.

    Scientists act like asthma is the health problem and blood oxygen is a symptom. What I am talking about, the inability of the body to move the lungs is the health problem, and asthma, the inability to take in air, is the symptom
    ——–

    @matthew – when a conversation reaches the point where the outcome is being determined by the definition of a word like frozen, I think the subject has been beaten to death, and nothing will be gained by any further discussion.

    I think your difference in definition of cramp or spasm is a word game. The only difference I can see might be in time period. A cramp would be a frozen muscle for a long period of time, where a spasm might be a frozen muscle for a second or so at a time.

    Regardless of the time interval, the muscle cannot function for that time interval.

  63. #63 happeh
    June 9, 2009

    Let me ask you people something. You are talking like you are scientists or interested in science or scientifically educated, so I would like your scientific input on the following:

    Is there a relationship between sleep apnea and asthma?

    If there is a relationship, what is it?

    If there is no relationship, why do you believe that?

  64. #64 Rogue Medic
    June 9, 2009

    happeh,

    Frozen is a word with a specific definition when discussing medicine. You want to deal with metaphors, which you can redefine to mean anything you want, when it is pointed out that you do not know what you are writing about.

    How does hyperresponsive, even in a metaphor, mean frozen?

    I think your difference in definition of cramp or spasm is a word game. The only difference I can see might be in time period. A cramp would be a frozen muscle for a long period of time, where a spasm might be a frozen muscle for a second or so at a time.

    Regardless of the time interval, the muscle cannot function for that time interval.

    Your definition of frozen as something very active (for a second or so at a time) is just double talk.

    Try getting somebody to lie down for spinal adjustment during an asthma attack. See how much they improve.

  65. #65 Michael Ralston
    June 10, 2009

    Happeh: Not all scientists are alike. I have some scientific training, but not in medicine.

    That said, I do not KNOW, but I SUSPECT, that sleep apnea and asthma are unrelated, but my primary evidence is anecdotal – I know two different people with sleep apnea but no asthma.

    I could easily be convinced that there is a relationship, and I could easily be further convinced that there is none. I’d just want to see some evidence either way – like, say, a scientific study.

    That said, Happeh, what is the severity indicator of asthma that science does not know but you do?

  66. #66 Matthew Cline
    June 10, 2009

    For the sake of the discussion, Happeh, I’ll for this discussion accept your definition of “frozen muscles”.

    That said, what do you think the connection is between frozen muscles and asthma (more than one may apply):

    1) The bronchial spasms are what initiate the lung inflammation and production of mucus.

    2) Not all of the narrowing of the air-passages is caused by inflammation, but some of it is caused by frozen muscles.

    3) Frozen muscles make it difficult for the lungs to expand and contract.

    Scientists act like asthma is the health problem and blood oxygen is a symptom. What I am talking about, the inability of the body to move the lungs is the health problem, and asthma, the inability to take in air, is the symptom.

    If chiropractic treatment of asthma makes it easier for asthmatics to taken in air during an asthma attack then they’ll necessarily have an easier time of taking in oxygen, unless their lungs are so choked with mucus that the air can’t get to their alveoli (or if the chiropractic treatment has some weird side effect of making the alveoli less efficient at oxygen transfer, or it has a side effect of tricking the brain into think the blood is more oxygenated then it really is, so the brain causes the lungs to not work as much).

  67. #67 Matthew Cline
    June 10, 2009

    3) Frozen muscles make it difficult for the lungs to expand and contract.

    Clarification: frozen muscles make it difficult for the lungs to expand and contract in a manner which would decrease air intake even in the absence of shrunken/constricted air passages and an excess of mucus.

  68. #68 Happeh
    June 10, 2009

    @Matthew Cline – Frozen muscles make it impossible for air to be taken into the body.

    Michael Ralston – “That said, Happeh, what is the severity indicator of asthma that science does not know but you do?”

    The Yin part of the body freezes up.

  69. #69 Matthew Cline
    June 10, 2009

    Frozen muscles make it impossible for air to be taken into the body.

    Frozen muscles make it impossible for air to be taken into the body because:

    1) The muscles which need to contract and/or the muscles which need to uncontract in order for the lungs to expand are frozen.

    2) The frozen muscles are responsible for the lung’s air passages being shrunken/tightened.

    3) The frozen muscles are responsible for the lungs being clogged with mucus.

    4) Something else.

  70. #70 Dedj
    June 10, 2009

    “Dedj – “Sooooo, how do we know it’s a severity indicator?”

    By talking and listening to me for an hour or so,”

    Uh, no, you were asked a question.

    Provide your answer.

    “Dedj – “Where is your reference for its existance?”

    What does this question mean?”

    It means that you need to provide your evidence. If you had some, you would already know what the question means

    “Dedj – “What aspect of asthma causes it?”

    Scientists act like asthma is the health problem and blood oxygen is a symptom. What I am talking about, the inability of the body to move the lungs is the health problem, and asthma, the inability to take in air, is the symptom”

    WTF , this is probably the most confused grable I’ve either seen, bearing in mind I’ve worked in mental health. Asthma – as you have already been told – is defined by more than just inability to breath.

    You have been pointed in the direction of the mainstream defintion several times.

    You are not an infallible authourity and it’s arrogant of you to make the statements you have without the proof you have been repeatedly asked for. You should give some time to consider that maybe you are the incompetant one.

    Prove that you are not, or start paying attention to Matthew Cline, who clearly knows far more than you do.

  71. #72 Joe
    October 18, 2009

    I hope this is not considered excessive, I am not certain of the overlap in blog readership:

    A quick recap- Simon Singh wrote an Op-Ed piece saying the British Chiro Ass’n (BCA) saying they offered “bogus” treatments* and the BCA sued him for libel. The judge (Eady) in the case found Singh’s comments were meant as fact, not opinion, and that “bogus” meant fraudulent (as-in, chiros know their methods don’t work).

    He was “barred” from appealing Eady’s findings. Except, under British law, he could ask the higher court for permission to appeal.

    Last Wednesday (Oct. 14) the appeals court granted Singh permission to appeal Eady’s findings.

    Then, the spit hit the fan and we await the repercussions. The BCA posted a press-release saying that Singh had written a malicious attack on them. According to a lawyer involved peripherally with the case, the BCA has libeled Singh by saying he was “malicious” and now Singh can counter-sue. http://jackofkent.blogspot.com/2009/10/bca-defame-simon-singh.html In fact, the judge on Wednesday noted that malice was not involved. The BCA quickly changed the wording in the PR statement; but they were too late make it like it never happened.

    The lawyer has noted that it is up to Singh to decide how to proceed; but it gives him a good option.

    * Singh mentioned specific, bogus treatments (for colic, ear infections, etc.), not everything they do.

  72. #73 Deltron
    March 29, 2011

    That legal defence fund—to support Simon Singh if he needs it, to be donated to some worthy cause if he turns out not to—needs to be brought into existence. Hell, I would donate to it, and I don’t make a lot of money (nor am I as prone to charity as I should be…); not only is Singh fighting the good fight, but I have also gained both knowledge and entertainment from reading several of his books.

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