Archive for the ‘Back-cracking’ Category

Chiropraktischer Untergang – updated with added Sturm und Drang

December 7, 2009

There seems to be something of a fashion at the moment for making “mash-ups” by splicing ironic subtitles to clips from the brilliant, if harrowing, German movie Der Untergang (Downfall), which deals with the last days in the Berlin Führerbunker in late April 1945.

The first one of these I saw is here.  (There is also this which uses a different clip to make the same point)

More recently, this hilarious one featuring the vagaries and annoyances of the peer review process has been doing the global rounds of scientists.

There are plenty more, too, dealing with every irritation you can think of, if you have a poke around on Youtube. The phenomenon even has its own paragraph in the Wikipedia entry on Der Untergang. Note, though, that the language in many of these parodies is way past “industrial” to something more like “paint-stripping”. You have been warned.

Heute Chiropraktik – morgen die Welt

Today I see, via the Bad Science boys over on Twitter, that the set-up has been “re-cast” again to cover the evidence (!) for chiropractic for infant colic.  Definitely a must-view for all those who have been enjoying watching the UK chiropractors make a laughing stock of themselves over the BCA v Simon Singh libel case.  A must-view provided you’re not easily offended by four letter words, that is. Or a chiropractor.

Update:  chiropractic Sturm und Drang ?

Rather surprisingly, I have just discovered that the chiropractic-for-colic mash-up is not the only communication on chiropractic to emerge aus dem Führerbunker.

Nor, indeed, is it the only one in which Der Führer assumed the persona of a chiropractor. Stimmt.

There is, you see, another one.

However, this other one is a bit different. It is not sceptical in the sense of  “scientifically sceptical about chiropractic”. It is rather the opposite; a satirical attack on the chiropractic regulators, the General Chiropractic Council or GCC, presumably from other chiropractors.

While we don’t know who authored this one, I am guessing it is the creation of a disaffected chiropractor taking broadly what I will call the “Richard Lanigan view”. Lanigan is a blogging maverick ex-chiropractor, ex-member and sometime scourge of the GCC. From a reading of his blog, he – and a good few other chiropractors judging by the comments there – seem to be very angry with the GCC for having actively pursued, and presided over, statutory regulation. Among other reasons, this is seemingly because they see the move to statutory regulation as having opened chiropractors up to being “regulated via complaint case-law”.

After all, once you are a statutory regulator you have clear legal obligations, including investigating complaints about your members. So if people complain – say by alleging that statements on chiropractors’ websites are contrary to ASA or Trading Standards rules, or breach the GCC Code of Conduct – then the GCC is (at least you would think) obliged to investigate, and then obliged to rule. These rulings, and any resulting restrictions, are then effectively binding upon the practitioners who wish to remain registered.

The “radical” chiropractors appear to see this as the GCC “selling out” chiropractic. They seem to think it will lead to more and more restrictions on what chiropractors are allowed to do and say.

Of course, you might think that was actually a good idea.

Anyway, in the video Der Führer seems to be being cast as the chief GCC regulator. If you wonder who the “Pricey” is who is referred to at some stage, I think I have found the answer in this blog post of Lanigan’s.

It all makes for quite an interesting insight into the internecine warfare that seems to characterise so many of the Alt.Health “professions”.

And as for the chiropractors in particular, I am tempted to add to my collection of made-up German polysyllables with this one of my own devising:

Chiro-dämmerung

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BCA v Singh – (unexploded?) literary devices

October 14, 2009

Jack of Kent has now posted his much-awaited report, giving more details of the various parts of Lord Justice Laws’ comments in today’s excellent development in the BCA v Singh case.

One of the points Jack makes is that at the brief hearing this morning Lord Justice Laws mentioned the paragraph of Simon Singh’s original article which directly followed the paragraph that ended with the much-debated (and allegedly libellous) sentence.

This following paragraph reads:

“I can confidently label these assertions [that chiropractic could successfully treat ailments other than musculoskeletal ones] as utter nonsense because I have co-authored a book about alternative medicine with the world’s first professor of complementary medicine, Edzard Ernst. He learned chiropractic techniques himself and used them as a doctor. This is when he began to see the need for some critical evaluation. Among other projects, he examined the evidence from 70 trials exploring the benefits of chiropractic therapy in conditions unrelated to the back. He found no evidence to suggest that chiropractors could treat any such conditions.”

(italics and underline mine)

This paragraph has been much discussed by those on Singh’s side of the argument, since it can logically be read as clarifying why Singh regarded the claims made by the BCA as “wholly without foundation” – the sense in which he has always stated he meant the much-debated word “bogus”.

Thus:

– Edzard Ernst, the expert, read the papers critically;

– he found that they did not stand up  – a view bourne out by the analysis of the BCA’s “plethora”, links to which can be found in this summary by Petra Boynton, and by commentary in places like the British Medical Journal;

– so therefore Ernst and Singh regard the claims that chiropractic can treat such things as “utter nonsense”.

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In the case of Singh’s Guardian article, the inference (“bogus treatments”) is put up front as a rhetorical device, that is, at the end of the previous paragraph (the words complained of).  It is also repeated for emphasis at the start of the subsequent explanatory paragraph (“…utter nonsense…”). However, the common origin of the debated statements (and thus, by implication, the meaning that a reader would likely take from them in this context) is obvious, I would argue, from reading the two paragraphs together.

A major effect of Eady’s ruling on meaning was to throw out – or at least, to make redundant – this kind of argument where the two paragraphs should be read together. “Happily promotes… bogus”, Eady told us, meant Singh was plainly accusing the BCA of deliberate deception. No other meaning could possibly be borne by the phrase, and thus clarifying meaning from the overall context (the rest of the article) was irrevelant.

This part of the Eady ruling, it now seems, has likely been overturned (though we will need the full judgement to be sure).

Strangely, one part of me is actually little sad – for the following rather whimsical reason.

I opined in one of my earlier posts on BCA v Singh that Simon Singh’s mistake was arguably to have put the sentence “happily promote…. bogusahead of the explanation. In journalism it is usual to give the things one thinks one knows first – for instance, Ernst examined all the trials, and they didn’t stand up scientifically. Then one moves on to inference: therefore these claims are nonsense, and therefore in turn it is extraordinary that the BCA was promoting them on its website. Arguably, had the offending sentence come at the end of the paragraph just quoted, the meaning of the phrases would have been even more obviously derived from the explanation. I would love to know whether the BCA would still have sued.

Of course, written that way round it would not have been as good a read.

Anyway, there would be something surreally and tragicomically ridiculous about a writer getting sued for putting his sentences the dangerous way round because it made for a better read. One would need Evelyn Waugh, perhaps, to do such an idea justice.

In my mind’s eye-vision of such a scene, Simon Singh stands in the dock before a bench of stony-faced red and black-robed justices. One of them intones:

“Simon Singh, you stand before us accused of the heinous Crime of the Reckless and Dangerous Use of Rhetorical Devices. How do you plead?”

Indeed, what would one plead?

Guilty?

Not guilty?

Literary?

Now, for some reason, this image in turn puts me in mind of a favourite cartoon of mine, drawn by the wonderful John Callahan.

A caveman and his wife are sitting in their living room (cave?) watching TV. The pre-programme admonition about what might be coming appears.

“Warning: The following program contains LANGUAGE.”

Dangerous things, words. Dangerous things.

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PS  Notwithstanding the above, in one place, at least, related to BCA v Singh, words are in short supply.
Can you guess where?
PS  Notwithstanding the above, in one place at least related to BCA v Singh, words are in short supply. Can you guess where?

Stop Press – Simon Singh granted leave to appeal

October 14, 2009

Hurrah!

According to Jack of Kent’s twitter feed (which you can update periodically like any webpage to get new “tweets”), Simon Singh’s petition for permission to appeal Sir David Eady’s ruling on meaning has been granted in an extremely brief hearing at the High Court this morning.

It is rumoured that the ruling (i.e. the new ruling that the view Eady had taken was sufficiently flawed that Singh would have reasonable grounds to appeal it) is, er, critical of the Learned Justice.

And still more startling – Singh is not just allowed to appeal the narrow point on whether the now (in)famous word “bogus” necessarily implies “something they definitely knew was untrue”.

To quote JoK’s twitter feed:

“And it will be [a] FULL appeal, [with] Simon allowed to re-argue it [i.e. the disputed phrases of the original article] was Fair Comment”

(for Dr Aust’s amateur legal take on fair comment defence see here)

Jack’s feed also suggests the British Chiropractic Association didn’t even turn up (though I don’t know if this means they didn’t turn up, or their lawyers didn’t).

I suspect the latter, actually. This rather makes me wonder if the BCA have decided to ditch the lawsuit – though I suppose they could have simply been so sure Singh was going to lose that they didn’t think it worth paying the extra lawyers’ fees for the appearance.

Anyway, wonderful news for those who have been following the case.

And more, doubtless, across the Interwebs in the next few hours.

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Quick lunch hour update @ 1.45 pm:

There is a bit more info in an article over at Index on Censorship:

In a scathing rebuttal of Mr Justice Eady’s previous judgement in the case, Lord Justice Laws said Eady had risked swinging the balance of rights too far in favour of the right to reputation and against the right to free expression. Mr Justice Laws described Eady’s judgement, centred on Singh’s use of the word “bogus” in an article published by the Guardian newspaper, as “legally erroneous”.

Laws also pointed out that Eady’s judgement had conflated two issues — the meaning of the phrases complained of, and the issue of whether the article was presented as fact or fair comment.

Laws said there was “no question” of the “good faith” of Singh in writing the article, as the matter was “clearly in the public interest”.

“legally erroneous” – ouch.

If one can extrapolate from the legal shows – mostly American, so their relevance is arguable – then one tends to think that being a judge whose high-profile judgements get appealed, and perhaps reversed (and criticised in blunt terms) by higher courts, is not a reputation judges like to have.

Of course, some might see it as an inevitable consequence of working at the “cutting edge” of the law – “pushing the envelope”, as it were.

However, being allowed to re-argue the defence of “fair comment” is clearly excellent news for Singh, as this means all the work previously done by his defence team will be relevant in a full appeal hearing.

As, presumably, will be the work by the bloggers and commentators de-constructing the BCA’s “plethora” of evidence.

Index on Censorship also clarify the bit about the BCA not being there:

“The BCA was not represented at this morning’s hearing.”

Which means “their lawyers were not present”.

I shall be interested to see what Jack of Kent has to say about that last fact, and whether he thinks it has any implications for how, and indeed whether, the case will continue.

EDIT: Ah – a prosaic explanation. According to Tessa, who attended the Court representing the National Secular Society and has blogged about it over at The Lay Scientist, the BCA and its lawyers were informed about the decision in advance. So that’s it for that bit of tea-leaf reading.

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Update 2 – More at 4:

Jack also tells us via a tweet that Lord Justice Laws – as Jack says, rather a splendid name for a judge – held that Sir David Eady’s ruling  (or at least some part thereof) was contrary to Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

This is, of course, the article that guarantees freedom of expression:

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

And Update 2a: wholly amateur legal musing:

I find this last point about Article 10 particularly interesting. If we look, Article 10 part 2 says:

“The exercise of these freedoms [i.e. freedom of speech], since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, …for the protection of the reputation or rights of others”…

– i.e. it is clear that Article 10 accepts that there have to be some limits to what you can say about somebody, and that laws are how those limits are made enforceable.

What I am curious about is how Sir David Eady’s ruling has now been held to be contrary to Article 10. I presume the Rt Hon Lord Justice L means that Sir David’s interpretation of the law in his ruling in BCA v Singh is incorrect, and that, if interpreted in this incorrect way, the law would run contrary to Article 10.

The alternative, which seems less likely, would be that English defamation law as we now have it, and as shaped by judicial ruling and precedent, is contrary to Article 10.

Err… he surely can’t be saying that… can he?

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PS A discussion of the possible implications for Simon Singh is already under way over at the Bad Science Forums – UPDATE: It now seems to have migrated to its own thread here.

And the Nature “Great Beyond” blog has also briefly covered the story.

As has the New Statesman.

And now the Times, in an article penned by one of the most reliably rational of the newspaper science writers, Anjana Ahuja.

Beware the spinal trap – with added amateur legal musing (updated four and a half times)

July 30, 2009

Having written some long-ish comments about it in a thread on something else, I have “promoted” them here, a bit altered, as an excuse for being the last blogger to reprint the “decaffeinated” version of Simon Singh’s now legendary article about chiropractic. So if you read my comments threads you’ve probably seen all this already. Apologies.

free debate

As ever, Dr Aust is a bit slow on the uptake, so it will surprise no-one that I am practically the last blogger in the known universe to reprint the redacted version of Simon Singh’s Zeitgeist-catching  article on Chiropractic. This version is lacking any mention of “legal entities” and is thus unlikely to stimulate parasympathetic muscarinic drive to the salivary glands of any “reputation management” lawyers. (Note the relapse into physiology – hangover from the day job).

This version, which hundreds of bloggers have re-printed worldwide in the last day or two, is de-libel-ized. But does that mean it is defanged?

Well, read for yourself:

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Beware the spinal trap

Some practitioners claim it is a cure-all, but the research suggests chiropractic therapy has mixed results – and can even be lethal, says Simon Singh.

You might be surprised to know that the founder of chiropractic therapy, Daniel David Palmer, wrote that “99% of all diseases are caused by displaced vertebrae”. In the 1860s, Palmer began to develop his theory that the spine was involved in almost every illness because the spinal cord connects the brain to the rest of the body. Therefore any misalignment could cause a problem in distant parts of the body.

In fact, Palmer’s first chiropractic intervention supposedly cured a man who had been profoundly deaf for 17 years. His second treatment was equally strange, because he claimed that he treated a patient with heart trouble by correcting a displaced vertebra.

You might think that modern chiropractors restrict themselves to treating back problems, but in fact some still possess quite wacky ideas. The fundamentalists argue that they can cure anything, including helping treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying – even though there is not a jot of evidence.

I can confidently label these assertions as utter nonsense because I have co-authored a book about alternative medicine with the world’s first professor of complementary medicine, Edzard Ernst. He learned chiropractic techniques himself and used them as a doctor. This is when he began to see the need for some critical evaluation. Among other projects, he examined the evidence from 70 trials exploring the benefits of chiropractic therapy in conditions unrelated to the back. He found no evidence to suggest that chiropractors could treat any such conditions.

But what about chiropractic in the context of treating back problems? Manipulating the spine can cure some problems, but results are mixed. To be fair, conventional approaches, such as physiotherapy, also struggle to treat back problems with any consistency. Nevertheless, conventional therapy is still preferable because of the serious dangers associated with chiropractic.

In 2001, a systematic review of five studies revealed that roughly half of all chiropractic patients experience temporary adverse effects, such as pain, numbness, stiffness, dizziness and headaches. These are relatively minor effects, but the frequency is very high, and this has to be weighed against the limited benefit offered by chiropractors.

More worryingly, the hallmark technique of the chiropractor, known as high-velocity, low-amplitude thrust, carries much more significant risks. This involves pushing joints beyond their natural range of motion by applying a short, sharp force. Although this is a safe procedure for most patients, others can suffer dislocations and fractures.

Worse still, manipulation of the neck can damage the vertebral arteries, which supply blood to the brain. So-called vertebral dissection can ultimately cut off the blood supply, which in turn can lead to a stroke and even death. Because there is usually a delay between the vertebral dissection and the blockage of blood to the brain, the link between chiropractic and strokes went unnoticed for many years. Recently, however, it has been possible to identify cases where spinal manipulation has certainly been the cause of vertebral dissection.

Laurie Mathiason was a 20-year-old Canadian waitress who visited a chiropractor 21 times between 1997 and 1998 to relieve her low-back pain. On her penultimate visit she complained of stiffness in her neck. That evening she began dropping plates at the restaurant, so she returned to the chiropractor. As the chiropractor manipulated her neck, Mathiason began to cry, her eyes started to roll, she foamed at the mouth and her body began to convulse. She was rushed to hospital, slipped into a coma and died three days later. At the inquest, the coroner declared: “Laurie died of a ruptured vertebral artery, which occurred in association with a chiropractic manipulation of the neck.”

This case is not unique. In Canada alone there have been several other women who have died after receiving chiropractic therapy, and Edzard Ernst has identified about 700 cases of serious complications among the medical literature. This should be a major concern for health officials, particularly as under-reporting will mean that the actual number of cases is much higher.

If spinal manipulation were a drug with such serious adverse effects and so little demonstrable benefit, then it would almost certainly have been taken off the market.

Simon Singh is a science writer in London and the co-author, with Edzard Ernst, of Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial. This is an edited version of an article published in The Guardian for which Singh is being personally sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association.

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Now, my correspondent Svetlana has taken great umbrage at the reprinting of Singh’s article without the contentious phrases, an action she characterized as cowardice. She has also contended, as has American medical blogger Orac, that printing the article in this “bowdlerized” form is tantamount to seeming to accept Eady’s, and thus the BCA’s, interpretation of how people would read Singh’s words. This, remember, was that they are readable as Singh accusing the BCA of making deliberately false claims – a meaning, to repeat yet again, that Singh has always stated clearly he did not intend, or feel the article or any part of it conveyed.

Anyway, I don’t really agree with Svetlana. My rather simple minded assumption was that Sense About Science  are just trying to raise awareness – of the case, of what was actually said, and of the way in which English defamation law “acts” on such matters.

Personally I would have liked to have seen the Guardian re-publishing this de-libel-ized version. But you can’t have everything, I suppose.

In any case, anyone who reads the article now and then wonders:

“Uh-huh. And what was this supposed libel, then?”

can find out easily enough, e.g. by reading Jack of Kent’s blog, or Jack’s discussion of Judge Eady’s ruling, or even my own analysis of the case from last August.

But take care not to be found in contempt…

There is, of course, also a practical reason not to re-print it with the words in. The case is still before the court, with the watchers currently waiting to see if Singh is granted leave to appeal Sir David’s ruling.

As I understand the law (which is imperfectly, IANAL, see various caveats passim), while the case is active, and especially post Mr Justice E’s ruling on the defamatory meaning (as he sees it) of the debated words, Singh (or anyone else in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland) cannot re-publish the article in its original form without committing frank contempt of court. As well of course, as repeating the alleged defamation.

The English legal system (and other ones too) takes a very dim view of people “flouting” court decisions. This is not something confined to defamation cases. Were the Guardian, say, or Sense About Science, to try to re-publish the Singh article in its entirety, the result would undoubtedly be immediate legal injunctions to suppress the (re) publication. Further, if the republishing were done by Singh, or with his express or implied approval, this would certainly be taken as “compounding” the alleged libel (making the “damage to reputation” worse by saying it again after the judge had specifically ruled it was libel). This compounding would likely lead – in the event that Singh were ultimately to lose the case – to even higher damages being awarded against him.

However… none of this applies if the article is reprinted without the offending phrases about the original “offended entity”. The comments about chiropractic and chiropractors, and their much-demolished claims for their therapy for childhood ailments, are identical. But there is no defamation. So it seems a rather sensible measure to me.

But it’s backing down…isn’t it?  Can’t we pick a fight?

Again, the more “combative” might feel that there is being unnecessarily craven. After all, there is probably little chance of hordes of bloggers being pursued by the long arm of the libel law in the way that a newspaper probably would be were it to do something likely to be viewed as contempt of court.

Well, yes and no.

I certainly doubt individual bloggers would be pursued, unless they were very prominent and widely read – though as I understand it there would be nothing to stop the court seeking to punish such individuals for contempt. I would also hazard a guess that the more readers a blog has, the more seriously such an action would be viewed by the court. Which means I would be safe.

What I imagine might happen, let’s say if a blog was popular, would be that lawyers for the complainant could seek injunctions against the ISP and/or webhosting company that hosted a blog. These are (typically) companies with financial resources, and thus unenthusiastic about findings of contempt of court against them, or being fined large amounts of money. And the webhost would then take down the post, or even the entire blog.

We have, of course, been here before several times, e.g. with the Society of Homeopaths vs. the Quackometer, or the Quackometer vs. Joseph Chikelue Obi, and several others I could mention if I had more time. The last mentioned case is relevant because it was Netcetera, the Quackometer’s webhosting company, who insisted on taking down the post – necessitating the relocation of the Quackometer to another one, with attendant hiatus. And that was after just an utterly unconvincing threat of legal action – not an actual court ruling and the strong likelihood of being found in contempt of court.

Like it or not, once a court has started looking at the thing and made a ruling, flouting that ruling is not the same as re-publishing something that someone has merely claimed they think is defamatory (and muttered about “legal action”).

In the latter case – see the SoH vs. the Quackometer – by re-printing the piece one is showing solidarity, but also daring the offended person/organisation:

“Are you going to sue me too?”

(or yelling “Spartacus!”, if you prefer).

In the current situation one would be waving two fingers in the face of the judge, the courts and the legal system. Not a wise move. And unnecessary.

Because we are, arguably, past gestures now.  The CAM advocacy gang like to portray Badscience bloggers as a little clique of  like-minded obsessives. Things that can be portrayed as “acts of peevish-ness” can play into their hands. Far more sensible, in my view, to take things forward by mobilizing more and more people in a campaign to try and change the law, so that in future defamation suits will not be brought in such circumstances. And also to do what the bloggers have done – scrutinise the data underlying the disputed claims and show that Singh was speaking the truth about the lack of meaningful evidence for the claims made by the BCA and its members.

Ben Goldacre gives a lovely summary here , complete with Obi Wan Kenobi reference in the title. If you haven’t read Ben’s article, read it now.

It might even make you want to start a blog.

PS   – And if you aren’t one of the 15,000 people who have already signed Singh’s statement, please do that too.

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UPDATE – 31st July am: I see that Orac, who had originally reposted the original “unexpurgated” version of the article, has now changed it to the edited version, apparently at the request of Sense About Science.  Orac writes:

NOTE ADDED AFTER PUBLICATION: At the request of Sense About Science, I have removed the original version. They inform me that by reposting this I am potentially putting Simon Singh at risk for further action.

– which tends to rather bear out what I have written above.

To repeat: the solution lies in a change to the English Law of Libel.

The way in which the current law acts contrary to the public interest can also be seen in this excellent article by Nick Cohen. Cohen asks us to consider what might have happened to any academic who claimed that the financial model used by A.N. Other investment bank were flawed.  Or to take another example, what if there had been an English equivalent of Bernie Madoff, and an academic or journalist had tried to publish something claiming said hypothetical person’s multi-billion investment management business was all built on sand?

Remember that defamation lawyers in the UK do not term what they do these days “defamation”. Their preferred term is the more soothing (but actually more sinister):

“Reputation Management”.

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UPDATE No 2  – 31st July pm – STOP PRESS: Via Jack of Kent, I just saw that Simon Singh has been refused permission to appeal Sir David Eady’s ruling on meaning.  Permission to appeal had been refused at the initial hearing, and has now been refused by the Court of Appeal.

Simon can apparently still make an “oral renewal” of his petition for permission to appeal before the Court of Appeal.  This is presumably his next step. Beyond that there may be further appeals (all specifically of Mr Justice E’s preliminary ruling on meaning), to the House of Lords (or perhaps the Supreme Court of England and Wales, which I understand takes over formally as the highest English court towards the end of this year, though it will be the same old Law Lords as the “Supreme Justices”).  And  possibly thereafter as far as the European Court of Human Rights, should Singh claim that the ruling on meaning has the effect of violating his right to free speech.

Keep an eye on Jack of Kent’s blog for more information as it emerges.

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UPDATE No 3  –  1st August:

Jack of Kent has now posted a must-read post for all those following the case, in which he briefly sets out Simon’s options. The main one is, of course: quit or persevere?

Jack thinks that permission to appeal (PTA) is unlikely to be granted by the Court of Appeal, even on a further application. This would mean that “persevering” would imply either:

(i) a trial fought on Judge Eady’s interpretation of the contentious words, or

(ii) an appeal ultimately to the European Court of Rights, as happened in (e.g.) the McLibel case.

Neither of these options is exactly attractive, for different reasons – though both have in common that they are likely to be expensive.

The other option is to settle, perhaps with a very limited acknowledgement by Simon that he did not intend the meaning Eady and the BCA put on his words, and is sorry if anyone took them that way (a strategy termed by Jack the “Heresiarch Manoeuvre”, after the blogger who first suggested it) .

Importantly, Jack is soliciting opinion from the blogosphere. What do you think Simon should do? It Though ultimately the decision is Simon’s, it is commonly understood that he and his legal team read the blogs, and your opinion matters to them. So pop on over to Jack of Kent and have your say.

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UPDATE No. 3A

– more on the reasons for the Appeal Court’s decision- or more precisely, the decision handed down in writing by a single Appeal Court Judge who read the Singh team’s submission  – can be found over at Jack of Kent. In a classic piece of impenetrable egal-ese the judge refers to:

“…the length of the applicant’s [ i.e. Simon Singh’s] skeleton”.

Essentially the decision is as Jack had predicted; despite the extended arguments produced by Singh’s legal team (this is the aforementioned “length of the applicant’s skeleton”, i.e. his outline argument) the judge does not find anything of great legal import, or any obvious errors, in Sir David Eady’s ruling on meaning (yes, the words “happily….promotes….bogus” again).

This is as expected, Jack tells us,  since Eady was  asked to rule on the meaning, and such rulings on the meaning of words and phrases are rarely, if ever, reversed by the Court of Appeal.

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UPDATE No. 4 – 17th August

As probably all readers will all know, Simon Singh has decided, as of last Tuesday the 11th, to press on with the case. He has therefore applied, notwithstanding the earlier ruling against him by the Appeal Court Judge, to make an oral submission to the Court of Appeal.

Jack of Kent summarises succinctly:

Simon Soldiers On

Simon Singh has today confirmed that he will ask for an oral re-consideration of his application for Permission To Appeal.

Simon Singh also outlines his current thinking, including a full response to The Heresiarch’s Open Letter.

In practical terms, all this means that there will be a public hearing at the Court of Appeal in London on 14 October 2009.

This oral hearing will deal with whether Simon Singh can have a full appeal hearing against the adverse ruling on meaning.

Did you catch that last bit? The hearing will not, repeat, not, be an actual appeal against Eady’s ruling on meaning. It will be a hearing to argue that Singh should be allowed to contest the ruling on meaning at a subsequent full hearing.

Once again I am inspired to pinch the line:

“Confused?  You will be….”

Thus we are on hold again until mid-October. Though in the meantime Singh’s legal team will doubtless be busy; and there remains a good reason to keep exhorting people to sign the petition.

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SELF-PUBLICIST CORNER

Since no self-respecting blogger misses a chance of a bit of “Self-Biggin'”, here are links to the previous Dr Aust coverage of the case, from the beginning:

Back Quack crack attack – it’ s a legal matter baby – detailed amateur legal analysis from last August, plus some musing on libel tourism.

It’s Quiet – too quiet – an end-of-2008 round up, wondering what had become of the case and discussing Singh’s proposed defence and the nature of CAM belief.

Truly Much Bogosity – some thoughts on the Eady ruling, the much-debated word “bogus”, and the chilling effect of English Libel Law.

Back Crack Quack Attack – the song – sadly as yet unrecorded, though it did gain me the scorn of a rather serious person styling themself “Cochrane Reviewer” over at Science Punk.

BCA say they want scientific debate – bears eschew woods for proper flush toilets and soft toilet paper – Dr Aust’s lower mandible almost dislocates under the jaw-dropping effect of a startling BCA press release