Simon Singh Libel Case Update

August 11, 2009

For my original post on Simon Singh and the BCA, click here.

Lifted from Science-Based Medicine

Legal Update BCA v Singh

Simon Singh announced today that he will continue the fight in his libel case with the British Chiropractic Association after his application to appeal the preliminary ruling was rejected last week. He has now has the option to try and overturn that decision at an oral appeal. If this fails his case will be tried on a meaning of a phrase he did not intend and is indefensible. This highlights the problem of narrow defences that, along with high costs and wide jurisdiction, make the English libel laws so restrictive to free speech.

Simon said today: “I can confirm today that I have applied for a hearing to ask the Court of Appeal to reconsider its recent denial of permission.  A great deal has happened since my original article was published back in April 2008 and I suspect that the libel case will continue for many more months (or maybe years). While my case is ongoing, it continues to raise a whole series of arguably more important issues, particularly the appalling state of English libel laws. I am pleased that the Culture Secretary has agreed to meet with signatories of the Keep Libel Laws out of Science campaign statement to hear how the laws affect writers. We are also pursuing a meeting at the Ministry of Justice and with front benchers in other departments to lobby for a change in the law.”

Read Simon’s full statement and more about his next steps here:

More Of The Same From The Intelligent Design Camp

August 10, 2009

08-10-09 imageThe ID blog Uncommon Descent recently reproduced a section of an article from the journal Nature Physics.  As I have not read the full article myself (and don’t plan on paying the $32 necessary to purchase it), I can’t comment on how the quoted passage fits into the author’s overall thesis.  His intentions are not the focus of this entry.  Instead, I will occupy myself with addressing the claim* being made by the luminaries at Uncommon Descent through usage of the excerpt.

Let’s get this out of the way early.  The idea that the existence of horizontal gene transfer will somehow tear down and render useless the theory of Darwinian evolution is patently ridiculous.  HGT refers to the ability of an organism to exchange genetic material with another organism and incorporate this material into its own genome.  Most of the research on HGT has dealt with bacteria, though studies do indicate this process is also important in the other prokaryotes and even single-celled eukaryotes.  The mechanism was first described 50 years ago and is among the best understood means by which organisms increase both genetic and phenotypic variation.  Despite the wealth of information that has been uncovered about HGT, the apparent Darwin killer, the past half century has not been witness to any kind of decrease in the confidence in or acceptance of evolutionary theory in the scientific community.

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Antivaxxers Under Fire

August 7, 2009

I’m leaving for the weekend, but wanted to share some good news on the anti-vaccination front before I took off.  As you may or may not have heard, the Australian Vaccination Network (an utterly misleading name) is going to be investigated by the New South Wales Health Care Complaints Commission for its dissemination of misinformation and outright lies about vaccination.  I don’t have time to write a nice long piece about the suffering this group has caused, but I will link to one particularly disturbing case.  Do some searching about the aftermath to get a real look into the AVN’s agenda.

In addition to word of the impending investigation, the Australian Skeptics ran a scathing ad in The Australian on Thursday.

Australian Skeptics Ad

Here’s a link to a story on the story behind the ad, and a link to Phil Plait’s thoughts on the subject.  Okay, I gotta run.  Have a good weekend.

Profile Of A Quack: Matthias Rath

August 7, 2009

Matthias Rath is a German physician.  At least he used to be.  As far as I’m concerned, he lost the privilege to call himself a doctor long ago.  He is, instead, a snake oil salesman, ignoring any and all scientific evidence that invalidates his claims and would hurt his bottom line.

Rath made his fortune as a vitamin entrepreneur.  Through his website, he claims to have discovered the cause to a myriad of chronic and incurable diseases, ranging from atherosclerosis and hypertension to metastatic cancer.  And, lucky us, the very vitamin pills he sells will cure you of that nasty lymphoma.  Rath’s claims (lies) have led many people to abandon genuine medical treatment in exchange for his magic pills.  Many have died.  These actions are enough to earn Rath a lifetime of contempt, but it is his claims and actions concerning the treatment of AIDS that have been the most damaging.

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Exposing A Cult: Latest Revelations About Scientology

August 6, 2009

A lot of information about the inner-workings of Scientology has come to light in just the last couple of months as increasing numbers of former Scientologists have spoken publicly about their experiences in the organization.  It has to be considered a major failure for a group that guards its secrets so closely and works so hard to maintain a specific public image.  Unsurprisingly, Scientology spokesmen and lawyers have vehemently denied the accusations being made and attempted discredit the defectors.

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Homeopathy Explained

August 5, 2009

There’s a great video featuring Ben Goldacre giving a brief breakdown of homeopathy and its (complete lack of) efficacy.  Unfortunately, I’ve only seen it hosted on Vimeo, so I can’t embed it.  While I haven’t yet touched on homeopathy in any great length in this blog, I imagine I will sometime in the future.  It is the most ridiculous of the alternative medicine modalities; pseudoscientific quackery to the extreme.  As Goldacre explains in the video, an average homeopathic ‘medicine’ is diluted to such an extreme, it is equivalent to one molecule of the original substance in the middle of a sphere of water that’s roughly the size of the distance from the Earth to the sun.  Anyway, click the link, watch the video.  It’s a good one.

Beautiful Science

August 5, 2009

Sometimes science is just gorgeous.  Case in point, this image taken by the Spitzer Space Telescope.


The picture shows a star forming region known as DR22.  Visit Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy website to hear the details from an actual astronomer.  I’m mostly just good for staring at the pretty lights.

Zombie Ants

August 3, 2009

Yes, you read that correctly.  Zombie ants.  In addition to my regular ranting and raving about all things pseudoscientific, I hope to also point out some of the cool/weird/fascinating science stories I come across.  And I couldn’t pass this one up.  Parasitic organisms that alter the behavior of their hosts for their own gain are not unknown.  However, I’m not aware of anything that exhibits this much specificity in the relationship.  Read a summary of the to be published article here.