I’ve been doing a few entries on what could loosely be termed the #SciVote agenda, issues of politics relevant to science. One of these fronts has been a recent libel trial where the British Chiropractic Association sued science writer Simon Singh simply for pointing out that their field wasn’t supported by the evidence in an article for the Guardian. They argued this amounted to defamation.
The judge in the preliminary hearing at the High Court, Mr Justice Eady, said Mr Singh’s comments were factual assertions rather than expressions of opinion and, as such, he would have been forced to prove it was his assertion were true or use the defence of responsible journalism.Mr Singh’s comments were factual assertions rather than expressions of opinion and, as such, he would have been forced to prove it was his assertion were true or use the defence of responsible journalism.
However at the Court of Appeal, the Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge, Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger and Lord Justice Sedley ruled that he need only prove that it was reasonable for him to hold the opinions that he does. They adopted the US approach in deciding that evidence determines the outcome of scientific trials and the results can be spoken of freely. Further detail on the specific terminology used can be found on Jack of Kent’s blog. The Guardian’s report on the result (with a video of Singh) can be found here and the Times’ report is here. The Times points out that not only can the BCA continue legal proceedings on this matter, but other researchers and science writers also face procedings against them at this moment.
…and just as you may have thought #SciVote and related campaigns were gaining traction, some journalist in the Times thinks wouldn’t it be a nice idea if scientists campaigned for candidates in the upcoming election who are pro-science. A nice opportunity for some publicity lost there…