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Simon Singh versus… the chiropractors?

August 19, 2008, 9:21 am

British science writer Simon Singh has a special place of respect here at Casting Out Nines for his outstanding  crypto survey The Code Book and for personally helping my upper-level topics students get their hands on a copy back in 2003. One usually associates him with high-quality intellectual discourse on science and its impact on society. So I thought I was not fully awake this morning when I read this in his email newsletter:

As some of you may have heard, I am being sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association. I cannot say much at the moment, but I will return to the subject in due course. In the meantime, thanks for the emails of support and the various blogs backing my position. I have not had time to reply – as you can imagine, I am fairly busy at the moment – but the support is much appreciated.

Huh? Well, evidently, Singh wrote an editorial in The Guardian called “Beware the Spinal Tap” critical of the scientific legitimacy of chiropractic medicine. That article is no longer at The Guardian, but others have reprinted, and the full article is here. Here’s a snippet:

You might think that modern chiropractors restrict themselves to treating back problems, but in fact they still possess some quite wacky ideas. The fundamentalists argue that they can cure anything. And even the more moderate chiropractors have ideas above their station. The British Chiropractic Association claims that their members can help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying, even though there is not a jot of evidence. This organisation is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments.[...]

I will leave you with one message for Chiropractic Awareness Week – 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.

I can see how the BCA would find this sort of thing objectionable, but how about, you know, just objecting to it rather than suing the pants off of the person who wrote it?

And don’t these chiropractors realize that going after Singh in such a public way is only going to increase the propagation of his article and ideas exponentially (witness this blog post)? Sheesh.

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