UK quackery on trial

By Phil Plait | December 24, 2008 12:00 pm
Simon Singh

Simon Singh is a skeptic in the UK, and a well-known science writer. He coauthored a book called Trick or Treament, Alternative Medicine on Trial basically lambasting many forms of chiropractic as pseudoscience — this is the idea that somehow realigning your spine can fix all sorts of ailments, from toothaches to asthma.

He wrote in article in the UK newspaper The Guardian about this, and the British Chiropractic Association, unsurprisingly, took some exception to it. In fact, they sued him for libel. That lawsuit has been going on for some time, and you can find details by searching Google.

What’s interesting is that Singh could have simply argued that what he said was a free speech comment (or the UK equivalent), which is what’s usually done in these kinds of cases. That lets the paper off the hook, and everyone is happy… though it could be argued there is something of a chilling effect for journalists, who might be afraid to be sued again. But it’s an easy solution that gets the job done.

However, it doesn’t look like that’s what Singh is doing– he and his legal support have turned the tables on the BCA, and are saying that in fact what Singh wrote is true: a lot of chiropractic practices are bogus pseudoscientific quackery. This is beautiful, as it forces the BCA to defend what it does in a court of law. In other words, this goes from a simple libel case to one where an entire sector of garbage "alternative medicine" has to prove what it does is actual medicine.

The details to me aren’t clear; in America I have little doubt that a group like the BCA could bring forward three witnesses who say their cold symptoms went away just three days after having their spines adjusted, and a jury would award the chiropractors a bazillion dollars. But the UK has different laws, and I suspect if Singh is taking this strategic route, he’ll be well-prepared for such a tactic.

The entire skeptical community will be watching this case very closely, I assure you. This could potentially be huge, bigger than the Dover creationism trial. I would so dearly love to see medical quackery get the justice it oh-so deserves. Most pseudoscience has subtle ramifications, but alternative medicine quackery hurts and even kills people.

If you are on Facebook, then please join the group For Simon Singh and Free Speech – Against the BCA Libel Claim to show your support and also to keep up with the latest news on this very important case for reality.

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Comments (68)

  1. hale_bopp

    I like Simon Singh and joined the group…in spite of the fact that Phil is an officer and this is shameless self promotion (but I am used to that by now from you :)

  2. Nentuaby

    I’m not sure I share your interpretation of the legal situation… The people deciding the case may well be friendlier in more-skeptical Great Britain, but the laws are probably worse. Most notably, even objective truth is not an absolute defense in cases of libel. Thus it could be possible to convince everyone in the courtroom that it really is all a bunch of crap, and still lose the case.

  3. Thanny

    In the US, the plaintiff must prove that the statement is untrue, damaging, and believable (i.e. a reasonable person would not consider it a joke or some kind of hyperbole).

    In the UK, as far as I know, the defendant has to prove the potentially libelous statement is true. It’s the completely wrong way around, which makes such cases more hazardous on that side of the pond.

    That means that basically, Singh just has to prove that chiropractic doesn’t work. The BCA doesn’t have to prove that it does work. I’m not sure how that actually plays out in court, however.

  4. hale_bopp, I joined this morning and then someone made me an officer. Also, I don’t collect the millions of dollars of donations to the group, so I’m safe.

  5. ND

    Good luck to Simon Singh!

  6. Ramel

    Jack of Kent has a good explenation of the libel case
    http://jackofkent.blogspot.com/2008/11/on-bcas-case-against-simon-singh.html

    And a summary of the defence
    http://jackofkent.blogspot.com/2008/11/on-putting-chiropractic-on-trial.html

    Well worth a look for people that are interested in this case. British libel laws are completely nuts and put the burden of proof on the defendant to prove their claims.

  7. Oz

    I find it interesting that the author of this article automatically assumes Mr Singh is correct in his statements. Chiropractic does have more than enough of a scientic leg to stand on to support a liable claim against Mr Singh. For the rest, before assuming something is quackery, try asking big pharma for scientic documentation that most drugs on the market work and how they work. So, why call Chiropractic quarkery? Of some people Chiropractic can help them recover from ailments like respiratory disease; like everything else out in the world it does not work for everyone. Chiropractic does need to be available for those it does help. It is no more quakery than many of the treatments of the medical paradigm and it does far less harm.

  8. AJ

    “If you are on Facebook, then please join the group For Simon Singh and Free Speech – Against the BCA Libel Claim to show your support and also to keep up with the latest news on this very important case for reality.”

    Will do! I heard about this case already though, In Private Eye I think… they pick up on medical quackery quite well, as well as all sorts of other deception :-)

  9. Alcari

    Oh, brittain is possibly the worst place to hold this trial, because of the insane libel laws. Of course, it should be easy to put up a pile of papers that all show chiropractics doesn’t work, and is even dangerous. Still, this is brilliant 😀

    I don’t know the first thing about the exact claims, so he might just have to show it’s not “medicine”, which should be relatively simple, to something as difficult as showing specific harm or showing that is never works.

    Still, this is very good. If he loses, the paper pays a libel charge and things are done, chiropractics is still not a science, and may even get more negative publicity. If he wins (fingers crossed), the quacks will really hate it.

  10. Apart from my recent post that Phil linked to in the article – thanks Phil – and Jack of Kent’s two posts, I have also discussed the Singh case at some length here – which includes some comments on the differences between the UK and US defamation laws.

    It seems likely a lot of the case will hinge upon the meaning assumed for the word “evidence” when used in the sense “there is no evidence for this treatment”. Singh will be arguing that this implicitly means “the balance of the reliable scientific and medical evidence” while it seems probable that the Chiros will be arguing it means “absolutely any evidence, no matter how weak, including case reports and testimonials”

  11. Shawn Shelton

    UKers are not necessarily more skeptical (sceptical, I should say in this case). The UK is even more tolerant of S.C.A.M. than even the US. This should be interesting, though. I’m sure the Prince of Wales will weigh in.

  12. The Prince of Wales will keep his big nose well out if he knows what’s good for him. Power to Simon Singh and his legal counsel – hope justice is served.

  13. Eric TF Bat

    I’m glad to see he’s not tarring all of chiropractic with the same brush, since for backaches and neck pains in the hands of a sane practitioner, it’s perfectly effective and proven. Unfortunately, that’s a bit like the way some Catholic priests give good marriage counselling advice: it’s a fluke, and not a necessary result of the larger crackpot attitudes. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day (or three times if daylight saving is involved).

    Incidentally, I had a girlfriend whose asthma was helped by chiropractic, but only because it was caused by a side-effect of a pinched nerve. No implication of magical subluxations and chakra points and all the other bullpiffle; it just happened that she was having asthma-like symptoms that coincidentally stemmed from a problem that could be fixed by a responsible, well-trained and moderate chiropractor. Anecdotes are not evidence…

  14. Reed

    Agree with others, this is less likely to be a choice of strategy, and more a product of UK libel laws.

    OTOH, good things could still come out of it if Singh wins. The flip side of the ridiculous standard of proof is that if you successfully defend yourself, the court basically affirms that what you said was substantially true, not just plausible or withing the limits of free speech.

    The libel case brought by Holocaust denier David Irving against Deborah Lipstadt ended up with a judgment that was far more damaging to Irving than if he’d just let well enough alone. It’s one thing to be called a liar and fraud in a book, and quit another to have the court agree, spelling it out in 300+ pages of precisely argued (and eminently readable) judgment.

  15. jest

    I guess I’m the only one who has benefitted from chiropractic treatment. I don’t currently go to one, but when I was 15 I had a ski accident that messed up my lower back. If I were playing any sports after that, I’d sometimes drop to one knee due to the sudden intense lower back pain. Took a couple years or so and my back isn’t exactly the way it should be, but those pains are gone.

    It should be noted that the first chiropractor I ever saw was creepy (provincial badminton champ, and had various pics of himself on the wall.. lol) and I opted to find a different one, who used a more modern technique. He also found out why I had daily headaches – an x-ray showed my wisdom teeth were coming in. You’d think my dentist would have figured that one out, but they didn’t.

    Like ALL doctors and surgeons, realtors, etc.. there will always be idiots out there who make asinine claims. I once had a doctor advise that I have surgery on my right wrist to remove an inflamed ganglian cyst. His idea was to open the wrist, remove the cyst, LEAVE the wrist open and put a cast over it. Freakin’ stoneage doctor eh? Yet years ago my mom had one, and some scottish doctor simply put a cast on her for two weeks to immobilize it and it went away.

    I agree that in some countries and “circles” there are people who claim chiropractic treatment can cure asthma or other nonesense. In my opinion, a good chiropractor won’t make those stupid claims. But it bothers me when I see people saying the whole process is pointless. I’m betting a lot of people who diss the profession haven’t even visited one before, OR they have and had the experience I had with the first chiropractor.

    On that note, I believe that Simon Singh should be able to write about whatever he wants. It’s not like his book will change the world…

  16. Charon

    jest: Read Singh’s book (or at least the section on chiropractic – this is not the entire subject of the book, by far). As Eric TF Bat said, not all chiropractic is the same (seeing one for back pain, as you did, is entirely reasonable). What you appear to miss is that there is a variety of chiropractic that is utter nonsense. It’s not a case of a few idiot practitioners, as you might find in any field (as you pointed out). The entire field is nonsense. You clearly do not understand the basis of this kind of chiropractic (“subluxations” curing, well, everything). It’s therefore rather silly to say the rest of us don’t really know about chiropractic…

  17. jest

    Charon: I’m only saying this because I’ve never seen a positive thing said about what chiropractors do for people with back/neck pain. Now, regarding the other claims made by some chiropractors, I’ve never come across the “other” chiropractors in Canada (ones who tell people they can cure anything). If they exist, they’ve never crossed my path. Looks like I’ve been sheltered from that stuff (a good thing, in my opinion). Perhaps it’s not taught the same in the US or the UK? I have no idea.

    I’d never accuse anyone here of being completely blind to anything. I hope I didn’t come across like that. It wouldn’t be a skeptic site if people just said what they were told, and didn’t find out for themselves. I just feel that the word “chiropractor” gets indiscriminantly dragged through the mud around here from time to time.

  18. Moxiequz

    not all chiropractic is the same (seeing one for back pain, as you did, is entirely reasonable)

    To me – regardless of who administers this type of treatment and what they call themselves – this falls under the category of straight physical therapy (as do the non-woo components of yoga, massage, and even tarted up relaxation techniques such as “aromatherapy”).

    I really wish we could separate the term “chiropractor” from this type of service (I know, unrealistic). I think many, if not most, people assume chiropractors are simply physicians specializing in the back and neck (similar to an ear-nose-throat doctor). I thought that myself until I started poking around skeptical sites.

  19. Jest says: “I’m only saying this because I’ve never seen a positive thing said about what chiropractors do for people with back/neck pain”

    Huh?

    If chiropractors failed for back/neck pain too, why would we still go to them? I’ve had a bad back most of my life, but a few sessions at a chiropractor helped enormously. But he didn’t claim to help my asthma.

  20. jest

    Laurie: Actually I wasn’t able to edit that bit, regretfully. When I read that part back I thought “oh great, someone will think I included the outside world.” lol. Ah well. What I meant was, on this blog/site, I can’t recall reading a positive remark on this subject.

    In the non-internet world we all live in, I’ve almost never heard someone say they don’t believe in what they do for back and neck pain. I have quite a few friends who go to them on the occasion. They swear by it.

    Heck if it weren’t for the work one did to me back when I was in my teens, I could never enjoy astronomy to the same extent (craning your neck up, or lying on the hard ground).

  21. John Phillips, FCD

    jest, but what they do for back/neck pain is simply what you could get from a good physio. The problem is not these types, who unfortunately appear to be a minority and not just in the UK, but the type who try to convince you that everything is down to a woo that is as pernicious and even dangerous as any other type of woo. Woo based chiro’s have even caused the death of clients by inappropriate manipulation. Have a look at this link and follow the other links on the page to the original article by DC about chiro woo in NZ written about by former chiro students/practitioners;

    http://dcscience.net/?p=526

  22. jest

    Alright John, thanks, it was a good read.

    Once again, I will say that the chiropractor I last dealt with didn’t act like he was a doctor. He even sent me to my dentist for a consultation on the wisdom teeth (which ended up having me go to a specialist to have them all removed). He seemed to keep things simple and not attempt to step on the toes of actual doctors. I guess I lucked out. To me, HE is the definition of what a chiropractor should be. Higher up than a massage therapist for sure, but not capable of prescribing drugs or not allowed to divert people from proper treatments (like vaccinations).

    The finger should be pointed squarely at governments that have recognize chiropractors as valid doctors, wouldn’t you agree? In my opinion, it’s pretty irresponsible for any government to allow such professions to run amok, unchecked. As that article states, the problem lies in calling chiropractors, “doctors.”

    I think that the healthiest way of dealing with this issue would be to educate the public on who they should trust as far as medical treatment is concerned. I almost never see a doctor unless there’s clearly a problem, but when there’s a problem, a chiropractor is no substitute, and everyone SHOULD know that. Makes me laugh that this is not the case (certainly, none of my friends are under that impression).

    After the pain I went through with the ski accident, my family doctor recommended I see a chiropractor for the adjustments. Nothing more.

    I defend them simply out of personal experience. Obviously I’ve never been exposed to this big picture, so I was not about to generalize. I hold a skeptical view of things until I’m given all the facts. That’s sort of why I come to this site.

    I’m pro-vaccination, and no chiropractor has told me otherwise. If one did, I’d probably laugh in their face. Anyone who is told by their chiropractors, not to vaccinate, should be reporting them to the appropriate government agency.

    Just a shame that regular doctors don’t get “outed” for the unnecessary prescription of certain drugs. Or maybe they do, but not that I’ve ever seen.

  23. Na

    Phil and Discovery Blog might want to do some checking into the Google ads… I just saw an ad for ourchiro.com.au… Not sure you guys want to be promoting chiros. 😉

  24. Hi Phil

    I added you as an officer to the FB, I hope you didn’t mind. It is really helpful to have as many emineent supporters as possible!

    I have also added a link on the FB site to a brief primer on English libel laws for the perplexed: also here http://jackofkent.blogspot.com/2008/08/on-english-libel-law-brief-guide-for.html

    The full trial should be before the summer. I understand that it will NOT be with a jury, but a judge sitting alone (as in the Irving trial).

  25. Pat

    There are several flavors of Chiropracty (or Osteopathy to use a more sciency-sounding name) – but fundamentally they all believe in body-fields or circulating body-fluids, and eschew medicine and vaccinations as poisons. If you go through a course to be “certified” as one, you will get all sorts of strange-sounding malarkey as part of the course. If it was a training course in muscle and spine manipulation, it would be called “physical therapy” and be more tightly regulated. It would also take a lot longer and a lot more money to ensure that you knew enough not to sever somebody’s carotid artery with a twist of the neck.

    I’m not even sure Chiropractors even have malpractice insurance. When you don’t really do anything other than cause cavitation bubbles in fluid compartments, it’s hard to be sued for doing anything wrong or negligent.

  26. To Pat: a few corrections to your post:
    1)Chiropractic and Osteopathy are not one and the same.
    2)Chiropractic claimed the nerve and Osteopathy claimed the blood vessel early on as the source of health/disease.
    3)Chiropractors and Osteopaths go through far more than “certification”. In the U.S. most Osteopaths (D.O.) function as M.D.s with specialties ranging from gynecology to radiology and very few still perform manual therapy.
    4)Chiropractic eduation is now about $100,000.00 and medical eduation is about twice that. Is that enough money for you?
    5)Chiropractors cannot practice without malpractice insurance by law. They have the lowest rates of any healthcare practitioner due to the safety of the procedure. Insurance companies know their stuff when it comes to establishing rates based on risk. It’s their business to know.
    6)Chiropractors do far more than pop joint bubbles. And it is possible to sue a negligent chiropractor.

    Today’s chiropractor is well trained in the sciences (see link below) and is an expert in spinal biomechanics and in the treatment of neck and low back pain. Chiropractors are increasingly going for post graduate specialty degrees like neurology, nutrition, pediatrics, and radiology. Today’s chiropractor is increasingly seen on hospital rounds and even in the ER. In the U.S. chiropractors are now part of the VA (veterens) health system. Chiropractic neurologists see the very same neurology patients their medical counterparts see. The only difference is that the chiropractors treat without drugs or surgery.

    Today’s well trained chiropractor never does a rotary neck adjustment. There is only lateral flexion (bending to one side) without any rotation and the joint is moved the way it naturally goes. There is no compromise of the vertebral artery.

    I haven’t read Mr. Singh’s book but I have to say in this day it’s hard to believe there is still enough ignorance to include chiropractic in such a publication. While it’s true that chiropractic has not been as well researched as medicine there has been tremendous progress in the last ten years. Chiropractic historically has suffered from a lack of research funding and the inability to provide a “fake” adjustment. But that’s changing. Recently the Chicago School of Medicine ran a study that showed that chiropractic lowered blood pressure. If you really understand neurology and physiology you would understand that this is not so surprising or far fetched. (http://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/news/20070316/chiropractic-cuts-blood-pressure). The study is small and needs to be expanded on.

    I’m a chiropractor and proud of it. Most people come to me because of neck or back pain and I take care of that. I also teach me that there’s much more to health than just being out of pain. When they understand this they can be helped with many other problems. I have frequently worked with MDs, PTs, dentists, podiatrists, and acupuncturists. Each has something to offer the patient. My main goal is the help the patient, whether with something I can do or by making the appropriate referral.

    Please stop the chiropractic bashing. Chiropractors have been helping people since 1895 and spinal manipulation has been performed in one form or another for thousands of years.

    Sincerely,

    Dr. Rosenberg

    Comparison of Chiropractic vs. Medical Education
    http://www.becomehealthynow.com/article/chiroed/664/

    Waking Up the Brain: Amazing Adjustments
    Chiropractic Neurologist Ted Carrick, DC, PhD.
    http://www.pbs.org/bodyandsoul/209/carrick.htm

    Waking Up the Brain: Amazing Adjustments
    http://www.pbs.org/bodyandsoul/209/balancing_act.htm
    http://www.pbs.org/bodyandsoul/209/equilibrium.htm

  27. Woops, I caught a typo. It should say: “I also teach them…” in the next to last paragraph.

  28. Laura

    Pat, I don’t know if it’s the same policy for every state, but in Massachusetts malpractice insurance is at least required if you want to be an affiliate or member of any health insurance or local business group. Basically you need it to make a decent name for yourself, though legally I’m not sure.

    FYI, chiropractors attend more hours of medical school than physicians and being an assistant and patient of one, I’ve seen them help a lot of people and make appropriate referrals. Anything from unusual headache symtpoms which were actually high blood pressure caused by diabetes, to looking over another doctor’s x-rays and discovering calcification of arteries, probably saving someone’s life. Children are saved from having tubes put in their ears by manually draining the lymph nodes rather than with tubes/surgery. Adults are spared from back surgeries and a lifetime of pain meds.

    Every doctor is different and there are quacks and scumbags in every field. Because chiropractic doesn’t involve doling out drugs, homeopathic and holisitic types are in favor of it. What works for one person, won’t necessarily work for another. I don’t think it’s accurate though, to label all chiro as pseudoscience.

    and also Pat, they do not “all believe in body-fields or circulating body-fluids, and eschew medicine and vaccinations as poisons.”

  29. Dr. Rosenberg, practicing in Israel, is a fraud. A careful review of his page indicates he treats for conditions which no chiropractic procedure has ever proven safe or effective. Claiming that spending $100,000 to obtain a useless degree is ridiculous comparison. Secondly, lumping ODs with DCs is equally specious. ODs are certified under medical boards of each state and are allowed to prescribe.

    Laura, chirporactors do no residency and their entry requirements to Chiroproactic college are not nearly as rigorous as medical schools (what is the chiro equivalent to the MCAT?).

    Placebo effect and some minor musculo-skeletal benefits (which a competent PT would deliver just as well if not better) are all a DC offers.

    By the way, a quick search of the three major chiro organizations will reveal a stong anti-vax / medicine bias.

    PS – Don’t confuse the good “Dr. Rosenberg” with this “Dr. Rosenberg” (http://www.petsinmotion.ca/testimonials.htm)

  30. And for another good overview of the “basis” for chiropractic.

    http://www.chirobase.org/15News/saf.html

  31. sailor

    It should be an interesting trial and I hope Simon Singh wins, I find it hard to see how he can loose. His book is a review of the science on the matter and comes to the logical conclusions. My memory is that he basically says there is minor benefit to chiropractic for back pain but also with some risks (especially neck manipulation).
    Those who have benefited from chiropractors should also remember that years ago many people swore by leeches for all sorts of conditions and felt better. Multiple anecdotes do not make data, though they can inspire it. Such it is in this case, and the overall results are not positive. The truth is our own bodies are equipped with very sophisticated systems to deal with many problems, and for many things we just get well on our own, and sometimes it can be quite sudden, so we are inclined to attribute to our cure not to our bodies, but whatever we had been trying before, be it trick treatment or prayer.

  32. Citizen Deaux: What does the fact that I practice in Israel have to do with anything? While you were at it why didn’t you also mention that I’m American? You are entitled to whatever you want to think, but what matters to me is my patients and their results.
    http://drrosenberg.net/whatourpatientssay.aspx

    You claim to have carefully reviewed my website, but this is not the case. If you had you would have noticed that I practice chiropractic as well as clinical nutrition. Most of the conditions mentioned are treated nutritionally.

    The $100,000 comment was in response to Pat’s post saying “It would also take a lot longer and a lot more money to ensure that you knew enough not to sever somebody

  33. (Previous post was incomplete for some reason. Here’s the rest)

    The $100,000 comment was in response to Pat’s post saying “It would also take a lot longer and a lot more money to ensure that you knew enough not to sever somebody’s carotid artery with a twist of the neck”.

    O.D.s are optomotrists, eye doctors. D.O.s are doctors of osteopathy. BTW, chiropractors are also certified by professional licensing boards of every state.

    Finally, who is the “good” Dr. Rosenberg? It can’t be me because you called me a “fraud” and then you provided a link to a veterinary chiropractor. Kind of confusing! If indeed the “good Dr. Rosenberg” is the veterinary chiropractor, I’ll have you know that the head of the American Chiropractic Veterinary Assoc. was a professor of mine.

    As with typical flamers you’re simply looking for the negative and you if you can’t find it you’ll concoct it. That’s part of being sick. You have ignored most of my post which I believe was rational and well expressed.

  34. Nigel Depledge

    Oz said:

    I find it interesting that the author of this article automatically assumes Mr Singh is correct in his statements.

    Which article? Phil’s blog post? Phil has made his views on alternative medicine very clear many times.

    Dr Singh claimed nothing more (in the passage to which the BCA took exception) than this:

    The BCA claims that chiropractic can successfully treat recurrent ear infections, asthma, colic (and a couple of other ailments which I cannot recall) in children despite there being not one jot of evidence. In so doing, they are promoting fake treatments.

    That seems like a pretty reasonable claim to me.

    Chiropractic does have more than enough of a scientic leg to stand on to support a liable claim against Mr Singh.

    Assuming you meant libel, no it does not – there is no evidence that chiropractic is a suitable or effective treatment for those ailments.

    For the rest, before assuming something is quackery, try asking big pharma for scientic documentation that most drugs on the market work and how they work.

    First off, don’t assume that Phil has assumed that chiropractic is quackery.

    Second, before you start comparing apples with oranges, consider this:
    (1) Most drugs on the market (such as penicillin and aspirin) have been marketed for far longer than there has been any requirement for demonstrating efficacy;
    (2) For any new drug to get to market in the present regulatory environment takes about 7 years and about $20,000,000 (very roughly) of investment in clinical trials;
    (3) For some conditions, there aren’t enough volunteers for the later-phase clinical trials, so the regulator has to make a judgement based on insufficient evidence;
    (4) Chiropractic has never had to be tested by double-blind clinical trial for the ailments that Singh mentioned;
    (5) Regulators such as the FDA sometimes permit a new drug to be “fast-tracked”, especially if it treats what they call an orphan condition (a clinical condition for which there is presently no treatment at all).

    So, drugs and chiropractic have few parallels. It is certainly not valid to make the comparison you have done as if it proved something.

    So, why call Chiropractic quarkery?

    Because there is no evidence that it works for anything other than back pain, yet the BCA does claim that it can cure a wide range of ills?

    Of some people Chiropractic can help them recover from ailments like respiratory disease; like everything else out in the world it does not work for everyone.

    The plural of “anecdote” is not “data”. If you want to extol the virtues of chiropractic, then refer to published clinical trial data that demonstrates its efficacy.

    Chiropractic does need to be available for those it does help.

    Sure, and for back pain there is some data that it works. But it is not any more effective than conventional physiotherapy overall.

    But the BCA is making claims it cannot support, and Dr Singh has called it out.

    It is no more quakery than many of the treatments of the medical paradigm and it does far less harm.

    No. Chiropractic can kill people (and has done – just read a few of the web pages that Phil’s Google link return), so failed chiropractic has done more harm than the failure of some conventional treatments. Plus, most of the treatments in the conventional medical paradigm actualy do have supporting evidence (and, IIUC, the NHS does actually use chiropractic for back pain); whereas I believe Dr Singh to be correct in his claim that there is no evidence to support chiropractic as a treatment for the ailments he mentioned.

  35. Quiet Desperation

    His book on encryption, “The Code Book”, is quite smashing.

  36. Quiet Desperation

    He even sent me to my dentist for a consultation on the wisdom teeth (which ended up having me go to a specialist to have them all removed).

    Oof. I went through that in my early 20s. All four were coming in *sideways*. Yay! Evolution! But seriously, they had me on Tylenol 2, which was insufficient, and I wound up with, like, Tylenol 17,000 or something. It still hurt, but I just didn’t care anymore. I tried playing cards with my family, and they were just random splotches of red and black. I imagined the face cards were talking to me. Good stuff.

  37. jest

    Quiet: ah yes, the pain killers.. Before I had the problem addressed, I was taking up to three X-strength tylenols at a time (non-codeine). It got to the point where I don’t think they really did much. Without even realizing it, I was craning my neck forward to relieve the pressure, which in turn was messing up my neck. I think it was about two weeks after the bastardly four wisdom teeth (which were impacted, requiring they put me out for the surgery) were removed, that the headaches subsided in a big way. I now use Advil if I ever have a headache (which isn’t veryh often). Seems to work fast.

  38. Ohmygod

    Why are you talking about yet another thing you know nothing about? You are just a Bad Astronomer. Please stick to the one subject you know very little about.

    The “Skeptic Movement” is turning into a bizarre religious cult, not an actual group interested in finding truth. All you are doing is trying to debunk anything that seems fishy. Debunking is not being skeptical. It is having an opinion and then trying to prove it without actual scientific proof, using one sided arguments and opinions. Ug, I feel dirty just having spent time here reading this. But I suppose I need to know how much social decay exists in this world so that I have a realistic view.

    And you might have a valid point in all this. But do studies, write up documents in journals that are peer reviewed by others in the field and actually have an impact, generate data from analysis of existing. You know, something that is actually useful. Nothing here is of value to anyone other than an entertainment exercise that some people will take as reality when really it’s a bunch of nonsense bullcrap that you spent 30 minutes investigating that puts money into your pocket. What’s your research?

    “The entire skeptical community will be watching this case very closely, I assure you.”

    Oh God, I just threw up in my mouth. (I’m sure this post will not see the light of day)

  39. Folks-

    Read “Ohmygod”‘s post carefully. It’s just this kind of ignorant, evidence-free, ad hominem baloney we are fighting.

  40. IVAN3MAN

    RE: Ohmygod

    Phil Plait, Euripides had the same problem in his time: “Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish.”

  41. Ohmygod

    Hehe very nice. I guess we are supposed to argue now and get a flame war going on both sides. No thank you. Your vitriol statement of,

    “The entire skeptical community will be watching this case very closely, I assure you.”

    was sufficient to let me know where you are coming from. Phil, keep pushing back on the people that are trying to prey on the rest of us by pointing out when you see something that isn’t right. But please do actual research instead of just digesting someone else’s superficial articles about the issue. I know I know, I didn’t specifically cite how and where you didn’t perform actual research and instead just digested someone else’s superficial articles. Unsubstantiated claim there. But please less vitriol and more content. Hey I actually cited the vitriol that time! No unsubstantiated claim!

  42. ndt

    What’s interesting is that Singh could have simply argued that what he said was a free speech comment (or the UK equivalent), which is what’s usually done in these kinds of cases.

    This wouldn’t work in the UK. As others have mentioned, UK libel laws are ridiculous, and “free speech” is not a sufficient defense.

  43. ndt

    OK, Ohmygod, I’ll bite. do you have any evidence that chiropractic care can successfully treat the ailments Singh lists?

  44. Ramel

    ndt! Don’t feed the trolls!!!! Didn’t you see the sign????

  45. Ohmygod

    Chiropractic care such as what is being pointed out in this blog is generally a scam. That wasn’t my point. Don’t let reading get in the way of your rant though.

  46. JGex

    I do hope that while Singh and his minions are busy trying to prove their selfish pursuits, that they do not purposefully alter the ability of people like myself to seek the alternative treatments that we wish to undertake. See, just as it is Simon’s right to freedom of the press, it is my right to pursue happiness and wellness as I see fit in MY life. These are MY decisions, not his.

    I have known and been lucky enough to have known some very good and qualified Chiropractors throughout my life, starting with my father who earned his degree from Tulane Medical College in NO, LA back in the early 1960’s.

    I watched my father’s patients come and go, including one gentleman who was in a wheel chair when he first visited. He went from wheel chair to walker and then to walking on his own through the treatments he received.

    There are things that we still do not understand about the human body and medicine of all sorts. I do know that more people die in the U.S. from allopathic medical mistakes by physicians than from gunshot wounds and that allopathic medicine treats symptoms and not the cause of disease. Did I mention my mother was an RN? I had a healthy dose of learning about each approach to wellness growing up and to this day will seek alternative treatment over allopathic when given the choice.

    Chiro is not a scam. Chiropractic practicioners are NOT MDs, they are DCs. They are not allopathic doctors and cannot diagnose or prescribe medications. I have never been to one who even attempted to do anything other than manipulate my spine just as they are taught. I believe the “quacks” referred to by Singh are the few, just as quacks in the mainstream medical community. And there ARE quacks there.

    I am not trying to change anyone’s opinion, but keep your ill feelings to yourself. Chiropractics haved helped many people and if it had not, would have already been shut down. Don’t let your selfish need to prove your misguided beliefs affect my and others’ freedom to choose the treatments we want for what ails our bodies.

  47. Er, JGex, it is the Chiropractors who are bringing the lawsuit here and seeking the injunction.

    All Singh and we are doing are writing about things and examining the evidence.

    Who is seeking to restrict the other’s freedom? The only answer to this renders your contentions as perverse.

  48. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    It’s hard to see the point in Ohmygods’ comment, as the linked posts references Singh’s case and its scientific support. Thereupon the comment collapses under its own weight, as Ohmygod later confesses to. (It’s a scam, and we know it.)

    Debunking is not being skeptical. It is having an opinion and then trying to prove it without actual scientific proof, using one sided arguments and opinions.

    Debunking is to expose false or exaggerated claims, so to try to prohibit science is non-descriptive of most debunking. Or rather, it is a crank’s wet dream about what his antagonists do.

  49. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Chiropractics haved helped many people and if it had not, would have already been shut down.

    “Scams have helped many people and if it had not, would have already been shut down.”

    Um, no, I don’t see any significance in this – scams happen.

    Don’t let your selfish need to prove your misguided beliefs affect my and others’ freedom to choose the treatments we want for what ails our bodies.

    Besides the reversal in who is actually (using misguided beliefs) trying to affect others’ freedom here, Singh is only treating proved cases of scam.

    While we are on that subject, a good practice to avoid being scammed is to use language logically. If a proposed procedure has no proved effect (or worse in Singh’s cases, have been proved to have no or bad effects) it should not be labeled a “treatment” – in medicine a treatment is used for amelioration (or even cure) of a problem.

    In modern EBM this is supposedly a requirement even. But even so it is probably better all around to think of a proposed medical procedure as “a scam” until proved effective, rather than the reverse.

  50. ND

    JGex,

    Why was that gentleman in a wheel chair? What was his condition and how did the chiropractic treatment help?

  51. JB

    OhMyGod: That wasn’t my point.

    You mean there was a point buried in there somewhere?

  52. For those who have forgotten, or for those who never knew, organized medicine spent decades and millions of dollars trying to discredit and destroy chiropractic. Today the vestiges of this suppression are still found on fringe web sites that ignore the body of peer-reviewed research supporting chiropractic care. Explore the depths of medical arrogance in this in-depth review of the Wilk case: http://www.chiro.org/Wilk/
    The US Federal court really whacked the AMA in this case.
    I personally worked as a public relations director for a local chiropractic office here in Florida and can sumarize this by saying that chiropractic assists your body in healing itself. Sickness is not caused by lack of medicine. Chiropractic restores nerve supply that has been cut off and your body then can sense and repair damage, or restore function that was compromised. For some reason there are organized efforts going on right now to attack chiropractic and various facets of the medical profession by some very professional attackers with an odd agenda. I have been discussing them with a top physicist, Dr. Jack Sarfatti, as they switched from attacking advanced propulsion systems and serious UFO researchers to attacking to medical areas and WHO operations. We can name names on this one. They are far worse than ignorant skeptics. We are talking an ex-mil intel US Army major general and a top scientist as front people, along with other scientist cohorts.
    Art

  53. ND

    Art Greenfield,

    I’m not sure I can trust this Dr Sarfatti of yours. Here’s a quote from him on wikipedia:

    “On the basis of further experience in the art of conjuring, I wish to retract my endorsement of Uri Geller’s psychoenergetic authenticity.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Sarfatti#cite_note-11

  54. Sili

    Just to set the record straight, I’m absolutely sure the British Crystallographical Society has nothing to do with this case. They’re good people.

    It’d be neat if they’d contribute to Singh’s case, but I doubt they have the funds (haven’t been able to attend the AGM for the last coupla years).

  55. ndt wrote:

    “What’s interesting is that Singh could have simply argued that what he said was a free speech comment (or the UK equivalent), which is what’s usually done in these kinds of cases.”

    This wouldn’t work in the UK. As others have mentioned, UK libel laws are ridiculous, and “free speech” is not a sufficient defense.

    You are right, though you can actually argue a defence of “Fair Comment” in UK Libel Law, as in:

    “This was my sincerely held opinion, based on the accepted facts, and is a reasonable opinion to hold (i.e. not totally left-field and crazy) – thus fair comment”

    – this is the standard libel defence that tends to be used by UK newspapers if they get sued. One of the interesting things about the case is that Singh has apparently decided NOT to go this way and is arguing the much tougher (for him to prove) defence of “Justification”, as in

    “What I said (i.e. the stuff you claim was libellous) was in all respects true“.

    More on this on my and Jack of Kent’s blogs if you’re interested.

    The “Justification” line is a much, much, more “bring it on, we’re not giving an inch” sort of defence, but carries with it the chance for the complainant (i.e. the chiros in this case) to be wholly discredited, as their entire reputation, in the sense of “how true any of the stuff they say is”, gets hashed over point by point in court. The classic example of a case like this rebounding on the complainant is the libel action brought by holocaust denier David Irving against the writer and academic Deborah Lipstadt, a case which made Irving a pariah and a laughing stock, and bankrupted him into the bargain.

    You are right, it would be better just to have a free speech guarantee, but there you go…

  56. Hi ND, The deal about Uri Geller has been rectified. Jack is a close friend of Uri. There was a point a while back where Jack was pressured to disavow Uri’s capabilities because someo0ne had claimed that Uri was caught faking his act, and if Jack wanted to maintain his own credibility he better not vouch for Uri anymore. It was later determined that the other party was spreading lies for some reason. Additionally, Wikipedia articles can be edited by anyone and in many cases negative statements can be added to the articles and never get corrected.
    Check out:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Jack_Sarfatti/Archive_2#Comments_by_Art_Greenfield
    You will see what I personallty had to do to defend Dr. Sarfatti on wikipedia from the wiki staff who were attacking him and his advanced work and theories. I got wiki to close down his article to any further editing under penalty of Federal Law.
    Art

  57. Hi ND,
    For further proof of Uri Geller’s abilities, check out this post of mine in my Yahoo group:
    http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/marssouthpolereturns/message/20268
    This is about what theoretical physicists like Dr. Sarfatti call Signal Nonlocality and Quantum Entanglement. The electrical power generated by the mind can be used to accomplish actions on matter without physically touching it. Einstein called it, “Spooky Action At A Distance.” This also ties in with Remote Viewing. Are you familiar with any of these concepts? Funny thing is, I can send you to a website that explains how to do some of this yourself, it’s called “Cloudbusting.” You can use your mind to punch holes through clouds. If you get as good as Neil Slade, you can punch square holes through clouds. http://www.neilslade.com/

    I haven’t even started on Time Travel. It is real.
    Art

  58. Jim

    Chiropractic as taught in it’s leading institutions is even more scientific than it’s competitors, and certainly more scientific than modern guess work medicine is in many ways. My recommendation to the detractors of chiropractic is to visit several chiropractic colleges and universities in several different countries ( there are 18 in the US ) and all are accredited by the same organizations that accredit the major universities and colleges. Many of the programs are 7 to 8 years from starting out in pre-chiropractic programs at the university level. Enough nonsense from these no nothing ninnies !

  59. Dark

    Yeah, it’s so much easier to attempt to defend an argument if it affects you, isn’t it? I’m sure that if this “chiropractic” crowd didn’t just read “chiropractic is bad” they’d have realised that you’re on about liars who say that their “practice” is the touch of Jesus.
    Chiropractics aren’t all bad, but this substantially dangerous group convince people to use these mad ideas to cure ailments. If they don’t help for definite, they’re as bad as the man who sold vitamins in Africa and claimed they would cure AIDS. Yes, it might do the person good, but it won’t actually affect what they need to get rid of.
    It’s just like leeches. Sure, they have some effect, but it won’t fix every problem. We’re supposed to be progressing people, not going back to the days of “If you have a problem, throw more leeches at it”.

  60. Carolyn

    From the Nature website:

    http://blogs.nature.com/news/thegreatbeyond/2009/05/simon_singh_loses_first_round.html

    I read about the origins of chiropractic in “Suckers – How Alternative Medicine Makes Fools of Us All” by Rose Shapiro and found it difficult to believe it could be taken seriously at all. Seems it’s all due to one person being good at PR.

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